Louie Giglio and the New State Church By Russell D. Moore , Christian Post Guest Columnist

President Obama kicked up some controversy by announcing that  evangelical pastor Louie Giglio would be praying at the inauguration. Sexual  liberationist groups quickly identified Giglio, as they did Rick Warren under similar circumstances in 2009,  as “anti-gay.” After a couple of days of firestorm from the Left, Giglio  announced this morning that he would withdraw.

Here’s why this matters. The statement Giglio made that was so controversial  is essentially a near-direct quotation from the Christian Scriptures.  Unrepentant homosexuals, Giglio said (as with unrepentant sinners of all kinds)  “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” That’s 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Giglio said,  “it’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.” The Bible says God  “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), the same gospel, Giglio  says, “that I say to you and that you would say to me.”

The Christian faith in every expression has held for 2000 years that sexual  immorality is sinful. This same Christian faith has maintained, again in every  branch, that sexual expression outside of conjugal marriage  is sin. And the Christian faith has maintained universally that all persons are  sinners and that no sinner can enter the kingdom without repentance. This is  hardly new.

The “shock” with which this so-called “anti-gay” stance is articulated by the  Left is akin to the Pork Producers Association denouncing a Muslim Imam’s  invitation because he is “anti-agriculture” due to Koranic dietary  restrictions.

In fact, by the standards of this controversy, no Muslim imam or Orthodox  Jewish rabbi alive can pray at a presidential inauguration.

When it is now impossible for one who holds to the catholic Christian view of  marriage and the gospel to pray at a public event, we now have a de facto  established state church. Just as the pre-constitutional Anglican and  congregational churches required a license to preach in order to exclude  Baptists, the new state church requires a “license” of embracing sexual  liberation in all its forms.

Note, this now doesn’t simply exclude harsh and intemperate statements or  even activism. Simply holding the view held by every Roman pontiff and by every  congregation and synagogue in the world until very recent days is enough to make  one “radioactive” in public.

As citizens, we ought to insist that the President stand up to his “base” and  articulate a vision of a healthy pluralism in the public square. Notice that the  problem is not that this evangelical wants to “impose his religion” on the rest  of society. The problem is not that he wants to exclude homosexuals or others  from the public square or of their civil rights. The problem is that he won’t  say that they can go to heaven without repentance. That’s not a civil issue, but  a religious test of orthodoxy.

As Christians, we ought to recognize that the old majoritarian understanding  of church/state relations is outmoded. Our situation today is not to hold on to  some form of American civil religion. Our situation today is more akin to the  minority religions of America‘s past: colonial Baptists, nineteenth-century  Baptists, early twentieth-century Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are  appealing simply for the right to exist at all, in the face of an established  religion armed with popular support and, in the fullness of time, state  power.

It turns out we’re circling around to where we should have been all along:  with the understanding that religious liberty isn’t “toleration” and separation  of church and state isn’t secularism.

We don’t have a natural right to pray at anyone’s inauguration. But when one  is pressured out from a previous invitation because he is too “toxic” for simply  mentioning once something universal in the Christian faith, we ought to see what  we’re looking at: a state church.

And as one old revolutionary-era Baptist said, as he went in and out of  prison for preaching: “There is nothing so offensive to an established church  than the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

http://www.christianpost.com/news/louie-giglio-and-the-new-state-church-88151/#GXs0iVRzxQOKDj2y.99

Survey: Fewer Americans Believe Homosexuality Is a Sin; Nation’s View ‘Evolving’ With Obama’s? By Alex Murashko , Christian Post Reporter

Fewer Americans believe homosexuality  is a sin than a little more than a year ago, according to a survey completed by  a faith-based research group just 14 months after a similar study. Ed Stetzer,  president of LifeWay Research,  said the reason for the substantial shift is most likely the result of President Barack Obama‘s “evolved”  view of gay marriage.

Stetzer points out that halfway between the two polls Obama changed his  pre-election (prior to first term) position concerning gay marriage.

“There is little doubt that the President’s evolution on homosexuality  probably impacted the evolution of cultural values,” Stetzer states in  his recent blog about the survey’s release on Thursday. “This is a real and  substantive shift, surprisingly large for a one-year time frame – though this  was hardly a normal year on this issue.”

A November 2012 survey of adults in the United States found 37 percent affirm  a belief that homosexual behavior is a sin – a statistically significant change  from a September 2011 LifeWay Research survey asking the same question. At that  time, 44 percent answered, “Yes.”

In contrast, the percentage of Americans who do not believe homosexuality is  a sin remains nearly the same between the two surveys – 43 percent in September  2011 and 45 percent in November 2012 indicate this belief, with an increase in  the percentage of those unsure of what they believe. Seventeen percent in the  November 2012 survey said, “I don’t know,” an increase of 4 percent over the  September 2011 survey.

These findings from LifeWay Research come as Pastor Louie Giglio withdrew on  Thursday from giving the benediction at Obama’s upcoming inauguration program in  the face of criticism over a 15-year-old sermon referencing homosexuality as a  sin. Stetzer noted the connection, saying, “The culture is clearly shifting on  homosexuality and this creates a whole new issue: How will America deal with a  minority view, strongly held by Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and  so many others?”

The November 2012 survey also reveals Americans in the South (40 percent) are  the most likely to select “Yes” to the question “Do you believe homosexual  behavior is a sin?” as are Americans who attend religious services at least  about once a week (61 percent), and those calling themselves “born-again,  evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian” (73 percent).

Americans who never attend religious services are the most likely to say they  do not believe homosexual behavior is a sin (71 percent).

“The issue at hand is an important one for many reasons,” Stetzer said.  “First, as I mentioned in my last post, there is a sizable minority in the  United States holding to traditional religious beliefs. As I stated earlier  today, this is also an important moment as Americans consider a simple question:  are people of faith no longer welcome as they continue to hold the beliefs they  have always held?”

Stetzer said he believes the trajectory toward greater acceptance of  homosexuality will continue. However, he said, “There will always be a sizable  minority of people, often people of faith, who hold minority views.  Increasingly, Americans will have to wrestle with how to be tolerant in more  than one direction.

The Inaugural Committee’s decision to side with gay activists who are  intolerant of Giglio’s position referenced in his sermon 15 years ago may have  emboldened others to push the Bible even farther out of the ceremony.

MSNBC‘s Lawrence O’Donnell told his viewing audience on Friday that he is  urging the president to not include the Bible in his inauguration on Jan. 21,  The Blaze reported on its faith blog.

“After discussing Pastor Louie Giglio’s recent decision to remove himself  from Obama’s choice of benediction speakers, O’Donnell launched into a tirade  against the Bible and its presence at the historical event,” Blaze editor Billy  Hallowell reported. “In addition to defending the gay rights movement against  Giglio’s nearly-20-year-old sermon, the MSNBC host dismissed the Bible as an  antiquated book that virtually nobody can agree with in its entirety.”

http://www.christianpost.com/news/survey-less-americans-believe-homosexuality-is-a-sin-nations-view-evolving-with-obamas-88141/#qheIIvMFilAsS0gj.99

Love on Display

“Love your neighbor as yourself” Mark 12:31

A few years ago my wife Martie and I had an opportunity to travel to Hong Kong for a ministry trip. One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with some fascinating people who are actively engaged in ministry.

One evening, I spent time with a graduate of Moody Bible Institute who happened to be in Hong Kong on a brief furlough from his church-planting ministry in the Philippines. He and his wife and two children, one of whom has Down’s syndrome, work among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Manila.

Another Moody graduate, whose husband died suddenly after just a few years of marriage, had stayed in Hong Kong as a missionary. She was on her way to Mongolia (on an airline that serves yak as the entrée!) to spend a week with some other missionaries so that she could be a resource and encouragement to them.

We also had lunch with Dave and Theresa Magee who, along with their two teenage children, had only been in Hong Kong for 3 months. Dave had just left a lucrative legal career in Chicago, attended seminary, and then become the pastor of an English-speaking church in Hong Kong.

We also met a veteran missionary couple who had served Christ in Hong Kong for over 35 years and were preparing to retire from the mission. When we asked what they would do after retirement, they beamed, telling us their plans to go into Mainland China to plant a church.

I couldn’t help but think that Jesus knows He is loved deeply by these people. I was struck by the fact that they are driven by what drives Christ, and they are committed to what He is committed to—the needs of people.

Not long after I returned from Hong Kong, a pastor friend told me of a couple in his church who, after deciding they had made enough money, sold everything to open an AIDS clinic to reach out in Christ’s name to some of the neediest people; and of a businessman who turned down a lucrative and much-sought-after promotion because the amount of travel required would take him away from his children too much.

Not all of us will be called to such radical and risky expressions of love for Christ, but He is always interested in our love for Him. A quick glance at our day-timer planner, checkbook ledger, or social calendar will probably reveal whether Christ feels truly loved by us—or not.

When one of the Pharisees asked Jesus which Old Testament commandment was the greatest, I find it interesting that He didn’t limit it to just one. He began with the “most important one”—namely, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” He continued, “The second one is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The point is clear. We prove our love for God by giving of ourselves to the needs of others. That’s why Jesus connected the two commands. You can’t do one without the other. You can’t say you love God and ignore the needs of people. And you can’t really get fired up to love people until you are deeply committed to loving God. That’s exactly why Jesus interrogated Peter three times and said, in essence, if we truly love Jesus we will care about what He cares about—the needs and nurture of people (John 21:15-17).

Like the friends I met in Hong Kong, I want to be regularly, actively loving the “neighbors” in my life as a way of putting my love for God on display. I wonder what that would look like in your world?

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Do you know someone whose life and ministry displays a deep love for Christ? If so, take a moment to write them a note of appreciation and encouragement today.
  • Would others say that you are one of those people? Why or why not?
  • Who are the “neighbors” in your life, and what can you do to display your love for God by loving them? Remember, some of your “neighbors” might live in your house and be in your extended family.

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/love-on-display/

Called By God

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ’Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ’Here am I! Send me’ —Isaiah 6:8

God did not direct His call to Isaiah— Isaiah overheard God saying, “. . . who will go for Us?” The call of God is not just for a select few but for everyone. Whether I hear God’s call or not depends on the condition of my ears, and exactly what I hear depends upon my spiritual attitude. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). That is, few prove that they are the chosen ones. The chosen ones are those who have come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and have had their spiritual condition changed and their ears opened. Then they hear “the voice of the Lord” continually asking, “. . . who will go for Us?” However, God doesn’t single out someone and say, “Now, you go.” He did not force His will on Isaiah. Isaiah was in the presence of God, and he overheard the call. His response, performed in complete freedom, could only be to say, “Here am I! Send me.”

Remove the thought from your mind of expecting God to come to force you or to plead with you. When our Lord called His disciples, He did it without irresistible pressure from the outside. The quiet, yet passionate, insistence of His “Follow Me” was spoken to men whose every sense was receptive (Matthew 4:19). If we will allow the Holy Spirit to bring us face to face with God, we too will hear what Isaiah heard-”the voice of the Lord.” In perfect freedom we too will say, “Here am I! Send me.”

http://utmost.org/called-by-god/

Come with Me!

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them.’”—Exodus 10:1

This Torah portion for this week, Bo, is from Exodus 10:1–13:16 and Jeremiah 46:13–28.

The name of this week’s Torah portion is Bo. It comes from the words: “Go to Pharaoh . . . ” While the word Bo is translated as the word ‘go’ in this verse, the literal translation of the Hebrew word is ‘come.’ The verse would literally read, “Come to Pharaoh.” Certainly, “Go to Pharaoh” makes more sense. So why doesn’t the verse use the Hebrew equivalent of the word ‘go’? What’s the meaning behind the word ‘come’?

Jewish tradition teaches that at this point Moses was hesitant to continue on his mission. He was growing weary, and Pharaoh was still very powerful. Doubts began to creep in. Could he really complete the task that God had given to him?

God understood how Moses felt. So He says to him, “Come with me and together we will go to Pharaoh.” The Scripture records an abbreviated version of this statement which hints to this behind-the-scenes insight. It says, “Come to Pharaoh.” God was telling Moses that he was not alone, that God was right there with him. All Moses needed to do was come and follow Him.

Did you know that according to Jewish tradition only one-fifth of the Israelites left Egypt? That’s right! Four-fifths of the Israelites (2.4 million of them) never made it out. In fact, according to tradition, they chose not to leave!

These people weren’t interested in leaving the only place they knew for some unknown destination in the future. In this week’s Torah portion God says to Moses and every Israelite, and even every Egyptian, “Come with me!” Some Egyptians joined the Israelites and chose to follow God. But sadly, four-fifths of the Israelites chose to stay behind.

Friends, if you listen closely you can still hear the call of God saying, “Come with me!” He puts it out there every single day! Every man, woman, and child has the opportunity to follow God wherever He may lead them each day. But it’s scary and uncomfortable, and we don’t know where God will take us.

Many of us choose to say, “No, thank you,” and we stay right where we are. We don’t take that risk that our hearts say we should. We don’t speak up when we know that we should. We don’t take the actions that we know are God’s will. But where does that path lead?

Remember friends, the ones who played it ‘safe’ in Egypt got left behind. Let’s choose to follow God, wherever He may take us. For wherever He goes is the only place to be.

http://www.holylandmoments.org/devotionals/come-with-me

A Rich Man Who Was A Thief

One evening, while Joab was besieging Rabbath Ammon, David rose from his bed and walked upon the roof of the royal palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing; and she was very beautiful. And David sent to ask about the woman; and some one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers to bring her; and she came to him, but later returned to her home.

Then David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by Uriah. In the letter, he said, “Place Uriah in the front line where there is the fiercest fighting, then draw back from behind him, that he may be struck down and die.” So Joab, in posting guards over the city, sent Uriah to the place where he knew there were brave men. When the men of the city went out to fight against Joab, some of the soldiers of David fell, and Uriah the Hittite was killed.

Then Joab sent to tell David all about the war, and he gave this command to the messenger: “If, after you have finished telling the ruler all about the war, he is angry and says to you, ‘Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone upon him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go near the wall?’ then say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.'”

So the messenger of Joab went to Jerusalem and told David all that Joab commanded him. Then David said to the messenger, “Say to Joab, ‘Let not this thing trouble you, for the sword takes one and then another. Go on fighting against the city and capture it,’ and encourage him.”

When Bathsheba heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for him as was the custom. When the mourning was over, David sent for her, and she became his wife and she had a son.

What David had done displeased Jehovah and he sent the prophet Nathan to David. Nathan went to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he had bought. He fed it, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his own small supply of food and drink out of his own cup, and it lay in his bosom and was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveller came to the rich man; and he spared his own flock and did not take an animal from it nor from his own herd to make ready for the traveller who had come to him, but took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the guest who had come.”

Then David was very angry, and he said to Nathan, “As surely as Jehovah lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall repay seven times the value of the lamb, because he showed no pity.”

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Jehovah the God of Israel declares: ‘I made you ruler over Israel and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives to be your own, and I gave you the nations of Israel and Judah. If that were too little, I would add as much again. Why have you despised Jehovah by doing that which is wrong in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword shall never cease to smite your family, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.'”

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against Jehovah!” Then Nathan said to David, “Jehovah has also put away your sin so that you shall not die. Yet, because by this deed you have shown contempt for Jehovah, the child that is born shall surely die.” Then Nathan went to his house.

And Jehovah smote Bathsheba’s child so that it fell sick. David prayed to God for the child, and ate no food but went in and lay all night in sackcloth upon the earth. The older men in his house stood over him to raise him up from the earth; but he would not rise nor eat with them. When on the seventh day the child died, the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “While the child was yet alive, we spoke to him and he paid no attention to our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead, for he will do some harm!”

But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, he knew that the child was dead, and said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They replied, “He is dead.” Then David rose from the earth, washed and put oil on himself, changed his clothes, and went into the temple of Jehovah and worshipped. After that he went to his own house; and he asked for bread, and when they set it before him, he ate.

His servants said to him, “What is this you have done? You ate no food and cried for the child while it was alive, but when the child died, you rose and ate bread.” He replied, “While the child was yet alive, I ate no food and cried aloud, for I said, ‘Who knows whether Jehovah will have mercy, so that the child will live?’ But now that he is dead, why should I eat no food? Can I bring him back? I am going to him, but he will not come back to me.”

http://kids.ochristian.com/Childrens-Bible/A-Rich-Man-Who-Was-A-Thief.shtml