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Ben Sasse Decries Russian Attacks on Religious Liberty

“In some ways, this isn’t a surprise. There’s a lot wrong with Russia — we are witnessing a rising authoritarianism in a declining state.”


 

5 Signs America Has Gone Totally Nuts

americanbarbed-wire-If-they

1. In New York City, Cooper Union College has decided to remove all “gender markings” from its bathrooms.

As reported by The Guardian, “Last fall, the oldest building on the Cooper Union campus underwent a sudden renovation. A group of students, agitating for their transgender classmates, stripped the words ‘men’ and ‘women’ off the doors of the Foundation Building’s restrooms.”

But rather than discipline the unruly students, “the Cooper Union administration this month moved to remove the gender designations from all the bathrooms on campus by taking down the rest of the men’s and women’s signage from bathrooms.”

Goodbye men’s and women’s bathrooms!

The school’s website is actually boasting about all this, with the homepage headline declaring, “DE-GENDERED RESTROOMS ATTRACT INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION.”

2. In Illinois, a Christian businessman has been fined $80,000 for his faith, and that’s just the beginning…Read More

Pastoral Thoughts on Legalizing Homosexual Marriage

White_House_rainbow_colors_to_celebrate_June_2015_SCOTUS_same-sex_marriage_ruling

(Voice of the Persecuted) So many emotions have flared since the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all states across the U.S. Outside the court on Friday, June 26, hundreds of people waved rainbow flags and chanted, “Love has won” in celebration of the decision. Others celebrated across the country.

President Obama hailed the ruling as a victory for America and stated,

“This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.” “In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law, that all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.” “Today, we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we have made our union a little more perfect.” He added, “I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition, in some cases, has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact and recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.”

In disagreement with the decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. shared, “If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

The list goes on of those for and those against the ruling. Scathing arguments, hateful words and name calling have been witnessed by many on social media sites. Even Christians have been seen spewing hate. How does this edify anyone? Can we effectively shine the light of Christ while screaming “God hates you” in their ear. Did Jesus come for sinners or the righteous? How can a Christian react, without compromising our Christian values? We believe Pastor Chad Roberts, the Lead Pastor at Preaching Christ Church in Kingsport Tennessee, makes some solid points on how to deal with the issue.

Pastoral Thoughts on Legalizing Homosexual Marriage

There are several things I want to say about today’s Supreme Court ruling over same sex marriage. Because part of my responsibilities are to marry people, I believe I have a unique perspective on this complex issue. I want to clarify what I would say to three groups of people…Homosexuals, my congregation and our government officials.

#1. What I want to say to my Homosexual friends

I have several friends who are gay. They have never been rude, disrespectful or unkind. I believe they could say the same about me. I have sat down with several gay couples who have asked me if I believe their lifestyle is wrong and if I think God would have created them gay. This is a serious issue and it needs a clear response.

Does it matter to you?

Some people will never care what God thinks or how God feels.  Perhaps you’re different and it does matter to you if God is pleased with your life. If you are concerned if your lifestyle is right or wrong, then I want to encourage you to pray and talk to God about the choices you’re making. Do you know what Psalms 139:17 says? It’s really an amazing Scripture that can bring a great deal of clarity to this difficult issue. It says, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God…” Do you know what that is saying? It means we should care how God feels and what He thinks.

If you are someone that you could care less how God feels, then go on and live your life. But if you do care and it does matter to you, then you should humbly say to the Lord, “I may be confused how I feel. I may not have all the answers. But I care what you think and I want my life to be right in your eyes. Show me what is right and wrong.”

God loves honesty. If you are honest with the Lord, He will show you what is right for your life. Don’t let other people shape how you feel. Allow the Lord to shape how you should think and feel. I know there will be more questions. You’re always welcome to contact me (even if I don’t know you personally).  [Pastor Roberts then sent out an invitation to contact him any time to talk through these issues.]

#2. What I want to say to my congregation

There are people attending PCC who are gay. There are also many family members who their loved ones are gay and they care for them deeply. What are we to say to this issue as a Church?

First, homosexuals are welcome at PCC, the same as drunkards, gluttons, fornicators, adulterers and all the other types of sinners we have all been. Here is what we are not going to do. We are not going to pick something like homosexuality and crusade against it. Sin is sin, period. We are all sinners. We all need grace. We all need Jesus. You’re not going to hear me railing from the pulpit each week on homosexuality. I would preach against our lack of prayer and our own sin of pride before I crusade homosexuality.

Second, we the Church, must take our own sins seriously. Did you know that homosexuality was not the only sin that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Listen to Ezekiel 16:49, “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.” Did you know that verse was in the Bible? Shocking isn’t it?

My facebook newsfeed has blown up with Christians saying, “God is going to judge America.” Indeed He may, but I have not seen one single post that reminds us of 1 Peter 4:17, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

Preaching Christ Church, let us examine ourselves. What pride, gluttony and laziness exists in us? I don’t need to judge homosexuals…I need to judge my own self. These are the “wicked ways” 2 Chronicles 7:14 speaks of, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

Third, this is a not a time to hunker down and circle the wagons. These are spiritually dark days in our nation and yet God calls us to be light. What a time for the Church to show love and preach the Gospel! This could be one of the greatest opportunities the Church has ever had to pray together in unity and seek the Lord for the direction of our country. Will we seize this opportunity or continue to argue over secondary doctrinal issues and keep ourselves divided?

#3. What I want to say our government officials

Here is what I would like to say to my government officials who have made the decision to legalize gay marriage.

First, you have decided to legalize gay marriage, but you should never force me to marry a couple that violates my conscience. If I sit down with a couple whom I deem is too young to get married, I do not have to marry them. They can go to the courthouse, but that doesn’t mean I have to officiate the ceremony. In the same way, don’t force me to do violate my conscience.

Second, you are above your pay grade in this decision. Marriage was created by God. You do not have the authority to “redefine” what He has already established. Of course, this thinking goes against popular thought and society. CS Lewis masterfully described the way modern men views God. Read how he described our view of God…

“The ancient man approached God as an accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge; God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the Bench and God is in the Dock.” (CS Lewis Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces p. 236).

Final Thoughts

I’m not concerned with what people think who scream their views, protest and argue their points (no matter what side they are on, I don’t like people who argue). I don’t need to argue with anyone. I heard an old man say one time, “People will hit their heads against the wall just to enjoy the noise.” I don’t want to be that type of person and I don’t want to debate that type of person.

This writing is intended to give a clear response on where PCC stands on legalizing gay marriage. I hope that those in the homosexual community will know that I love them and weep over their salvation in the same way I weep over my own salvation. I hope those who have family members who are gay will know that I would never want to alienate someone or make them feel less of a person.

I believe my point is very clear. People need Jesus. I need Jesus. You need Jesus, we all do. However, you cannot accept Him without accepting His Word. The Bible is very clear on these issues. That’s why if you care how God thinks and how He feels, that will matter to you. If you don’t care then you are free to live your life however you like…that’s America! But one day, you will give an account. We all will.

So for those who are reading this who are Christians, you and I will stand before God one day. We’ll give an account for our pride, our gluttony…our laziness. We’ll give an account for lust, affairs, greed, lies hate and unforgiveness. Let us cleanse ourselves and repent from our wicked ways!

Sincerely,

Pastor Chad Roberts

10952261_10153013848146276_8428864933977136016_n-Pastor Roberts is also involved in mission work with friends of the Gospel. And he has a heart for the Persecuted. The mission has traveled to many nations that experience persecution and they try to encourage the suffering church. They will be hosting their 5th annual conference for the Persecuted Church on Saturday, Aug. 29th called Stand: A Call for Endurance at Pastor Roberts’ church.

See details below.

Stand- A Call for Endurance Conference

Christians Can’t Trust Chariots or Horses

underpressureThe people of God seem always to struggle with exactly how to relate to powerful governments. Israel hated her slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh, but promptly wanted to go back to Egypt after landing in the wilderness. At least in Egypt she could have melons. This longing to go back to Egypt and trust in her chariots and horses haunted Israel of old. Thus, the prophet Isaiah later warned (Isaiah 30),

1“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the LORD,

            “Who execute a plan, but not Mine,

            And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,

           In order to add sin to sin;

      2Who proceed down to Egypt

            Without consulting Me,

            To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh

            And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!

      3“Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame

            And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.

When the cultural vessel of our existence becomes pressurized by the heat of persecution or political oppression, faith will rise like the steam of boiling water seeking the quickest, most natural outlet. The question for us is what is most natural? Where does our faith rise? What is our outlet under pressure? Two recent responses to the crisis in Mosul, Iraq have me thinking about this question.

On the one hand, there has been a call from the Italian Bishops Conference to pray for the persecuted church.  And, on the other hand, there has been a sizable protest in Australia specifically on behalf of Christians in Iraq. Without being critical or cynical, we might clarify what is our faithful response to the crisis of Christian persecution in Iraq and around the world.

In Italy, the bishops have drafted a plea for the Church throughout Europe to pray on behalf of suffering saints around the world. The statement is powerful in its indictment of slothfulness concerning our suffering sisters and brothers:

‘If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him ‘(Rom 6:8). These are words that we should also shake the conscience of our Europe, which has become distracted and indifferent, blind and dumb to the persecution which today has claimed hundreds of thousands of Christian victims”.

While the document rightly focuses attention on Christians in Iraq and Nigeria—two of the absolute worst places for Christians right now—it perhaps wrongly appeals for Christian action on the basis of human rights, history, and culture.  From the Italian bishops,

Faced with such an attack on the foundations of civilization, human dignity and human rights, “we cannot remain silent. The West cannot continue to look the other way, under the illusion of being able to ignore a humanitarian tragedy that destroys the values ​​that have shaped it…

This statement is not at all false. In fact, Christians must engage culture and improve (like salt and light) the civilization in which it exists. Yet, Christians must own as first priority the fame of Christ and the spread of His kingdom. Our appeals, then, should first be for Christ’s reputation instead of western values. While we can and should join as co=belligerents with the Italian bishops advocating for aid on the basis of a “humanitarian tragedy,” we must pray for Christ to be exalted through the witness of His faithful saints. We must pray that our suffering sisters and brothers would hold fast to that which has been given to them because Christ is coming quickly and bringing his reward to those whose garments are not stained with the sin of the surrounding society.

forchristiansiraq-e1406679964240While Christians should advocate politically for religious freedom for all, we should also remind each other to recognize the difference between religious freedom and persecution. The Constitution speaks of religious freedom; the New Testament speaks of persecution. One is a human right, the other a divine blessing.

As Christians continue to feel the pressure of persecution in Nigeria and Iraq, the steam of faith should rise up through the prayers of believers to Christ in heaven.  Our hope is anchored there, in Him—not in America’s chariots or the U.N.’s horses—not in Europe’s civilized past nor in the present “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who lives to make intercession for us.

(To be continued…)

Gregory Cochran

About Greg Cochran

Gregory C. CochranA pastor, professor, and advocate for the persecuted church, I want to encourage us to love Christ’s church as He does and give ourselves for her.  My official title is Director of the Bachelor of Applied Theology program in the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University. However, my heart beats as a pastor. Genuine biblical shepherds are my heroes. Together, we can encourage both shepherds and the sheep.

Imagine Living as a Christian in Nigeria

Religious Freedom Down, Hostility Up

Religious Freedom Down, Hostility Up

I hosted a World Cup party. About 25 people crowded into my living room to enjoy the epic battle in which the U.S. Men’s National team fought against the highly-touted, Ronaldo-led squad from Portugal.

Yes, the last-second cross from Ronaldo to the head of Varela sent shockwaves down all 25 spines in the room, causing us—at least momentarily—to lose both our will and our ability to speak.  But, all in all, we enjoyed the football, the food, the fellowship, and the fun of the World Cup event. Many people around the U.S. enjoyed similar parties in similar settings.

But World Cup parties played out differently in Nigeria. Nigerians—including Nigerian Christians—also had World Cup viewing parties. Sadly, in the Mubi area of Adamawa state, Muslim extremists bombed a party of football watchers gathered (just as we were) to enjoy this global spectacle that, by design, hopes to bring the world together.

According to this Reuters report, the attack left 14 people dead and 12 injured, some of those are critically wounded.  Most people suspect Boko Haram, a terrorist group working to rid Nigeria of all but the purist form of Islam. In April of this year, this terrorist group kidnapped 200 schoolgirls possibly to keep as brides for Muslim men. The girls are still being held. And, since the kidnapping, Boko Haram has killed more than 500 innocent civilians in settings similar to World Cup watching parties. The majority of those being targeted by Boko Haram are Christians.

We have taken much for granted in the U.S.  Even while our freedoms are shrinking daily, we still have not come to a place where bombs are expected at “futbol” parties. We can be thankful for that, of course, but we also can be more sober about the world in which we live.

Islam is a force of intolerance with no equal right now. A couple of Islam scholars I have read have argued that groups like Boko Haram spring up in countries where Islam is almost a majority. Their hope is that through violence and intimidation and an appeal to Islamic heritage they can tip the Lady Justice Judge othersscales nationwide toward Islam and Sharia law.

I’m certainly no expert on these matters, but I will say that Nigeria fits that description. Nationwide, they are 50% Muslim and 50% Christian or traditional African religion.  The area targeted in this recent attack is a Fulani area (I think). That would make sense because Boko Haram has been slaughtering Christians and any who don’t appear Muslim enough. The Fulani people, I believe, are mostly Muslim, but they hold to a tradition all their own.

Regardless of the particulars at play in Nigeria, the case is certain that it is not safe to be a Christian there, especially in the northern parts of the country like Adamawa state (where this attack occurred).  Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nigeria need our continued prayer and support. Our concern for humankind and for individual liberty calls us to care for the fate of the Fulani people in Nigeria, too.

To contemplate the reality that while we were joyfully watching a game for its entertainment value other people were being mercilessly slaughtered in the name of religious conformity is, at the very least, sobering. It is an almost unbearable reality.  We can’t just ignore it for that would make us cold, indifferent, and almost culpable.  We also can’t be debilitated by it. We must continue both to express our own freedom and work so others can enjoy theirs. Both in Nigeria and in California, people should be free to watch the World Cup together without fearing an Islamic invasion.

More thoughts about religious liberty

Gregory Cochran

It’s About to Get Real

 

persecution-getting-realvia Gregory C. Cochran It’s About to Get Real.

The news story from North Korea this week is making its way around the blogosphere and through social media outposts, and I am very glad that folks are realizing more and more that Christians are the most persecuted group of people on planet earth. Thank you, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, for your recent post concerning the execution looming for 33 of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Washington Times reported (3/6/14) that Kim Jong Un will execute 33 Christians soon because of their activities on behalf of the underground church in North Korea. On the one hand, it is further confirmation that there are believers in North Korea. On the other hand, of course, it is further confirmation that Christians in North Korea are in grave danger.

Sadly, not enough leaders around the world seem concerned about the persecution of Christians. As I noted months back, when leaders to speak out (see Angela Merkel story), they are mocked and ridiculed. Most leaders choose—as our current White House has done—to remain quiet in the face of atrocities committed against Christians in North Korea. –To be fair, the White House might be conducting a lot of business behind the scenes. We don’t know for sure that they are not; however, the message is clear that standing up for the rights of suffering Christians is not a high priority.

So Christians in North Korea continue to suffer in silence. In many ways, we are rightly shocked by this grotesque display of disregard for human life. In other ways, however, we must admit that this has been normal through human history. Eric Foley, a missions strategist working out of South Korea, makes two great points in response to the situation in North Korea.

First, he clarifies that the actions of North Korea are nothing new. This is no new “war against Christians,” Foley asserts. This is business as usual. The current plan to execute 33 Christians is merely a reflection of the everyday attitude the North Korean government holds against Christians.

This is simply the West being able to see what North Korean underground Christians have always known, which is that the Christian faith is not welcome in any form in North Korea.”

Second, Foley notes that the gospel is a life-or-death matter for North Korea’s Christians. As Foley says it,

There is no back door for the gospel into North Korea. The only way the gospel can advance is at great personal cost.”

What Foley is admitting is what Jesus taught His first followers:

18“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you… (John 15:18ff).

What’s new in all of this? Nothing, really. Jesus called those who would be His disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow him

Christian Persecution

Source: Reuters

(Luke 9:27).  Basic discipleship includes a willingness to die—like a grain of wheat—in order to produce a new harvest of gospel fruit. Jesus has never been confused about the cost of discipleship.

But we have lived in privileged conditions in the (formerly) Christian west. We have grown accustomed to protections which, in the future, we likely will not have. The times are changing, and the reality of persecution is looming more severe on our horizon, too. The concept of human rights is no longer rooted in the justice of the God of the Bible. So, what is real today in North Korea is what has been real throughout history. Nero burned Christians to light his garden at night. Bloody Mary burned hundreds who refused her catholic faith. And Kim Jung Un is scheduled to execute dozens in a futile attempt to eradicate Christ’s presence from North Korea.

The persecution of Christians in North Korea is real. And, if history is a reliable indicator, it’s about to get real for us, too.

About Greg Cochran

Gregory C. CochranA pastor, professor, and advocate for the persecuted church, I want to encourage us to love Christ’s church as He does and give ourselves for her.  My official title is Director of the Bachelor of Applied Theology program in the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University. However, my heart beats as a pastor. Genuine biblical shepherds are my

heroes. Together, we can encourage both shepherds and the sheep.

Pastors Believe Religious Liberty on Decline in U.S.

declining-RL

By Bob Smietana

NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Americans have always had mixed feelings about religious liberty. Most say it’s important, but they don’t always agree how much liberty is enough or too much.

That’s the issue at the heart of the upcoming Supreme Court hearings between Hobby Lobby and the Obama Administration over the HHS contraceptive mandate.

It’s a dispute that is unlikely to go away, no matter what the Supreme Court decides.

American preachers, it turns out, are more than a bit uneasy about religious liberty these days.

A survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research found seven out of 10 senior pastors at Protestant churches say religious liberty is on the decline in America. About seven in 10 also say Christians have lost or are losing the culture war. The telephone survey of Protestant senior pastors was taken Sept. 4-19, 2013.

Seventy percent agree with the statement, “Religious liberty is on the decline in America.” Twenty-seven percent disagree. Self-identified evangelical pastors (81 percent) are more likely to agree than mainline pastors (47 percent).

Researchers also asked pastors to respond to this question: “Many Christian leaders have talked about society being in a culture war. Regardless of how you feel about that terminology, how would you explain the current situation?”

Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) say Christians are losing. One in 10 (11 percent) say the culture war is already lost. Few (10 percent) say Christians are winning the culture war.

Evangelical pastors (79 percent) are more likely than mainline pastors (60 percent) to say Christians are losing or have lost the culture war.

Mainline pastors (30 percent) are also most likely to say they “don’t know” when asked about the culture war. By contrast, 13 percent of Evangelicals say they don’t know. Overall, one in five pastors (19 percent) say they don’t know.

culturewar-RL

Culture shifts

Some of the unease about religious liberty is due to shifts in American culture and church practice, said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

In the 1960s, nearly two-thirds of Americans were Protestants. Today, they make up less than half of the population, according to the General Social Survey.

Fewer Protestants means less cultural power, says Stetzer.

In the past, he says, Christians – and Protestants in particular – took it for granted that Americans would look to the church for guidance on moral issues. Churches, he said, were seen as being good for society and so they were given special privileges – like exemptions from taxes and other laws. “Even if people did not go to church, they looked to the church,” explained Stetzer.

That’s no longer the case, as the government and culture no longer defer to Protestant Christians, which makes pastors and their congregations nervous.

“They feel like in some ways there was a pact made at the founding of the country — between God and America,” he said. “That pact has been broken.”

Read More at Life Way Research

 

Protect Religious Freedom in the Military

soldier Bible

There are ominous signs the U.S. military is turning its back on religious freedom.

On April 23, Pentagon leaders met with Mikey Weinstein, an anti-Christian extremist who decries “fundamentalist Christian monsters” and calls Christians “pitiable unconstitutional carpetbaggers.” He compares Christians to racists from the civil rights era.

If he said these things about Muslims, he’d never be permitted in the Pentagon; but now military leaders are actually consulting with him – relying on his input – as they create new policies that may roll back religious liberty – especially for Christians. This must stop:

Petition to Protect Religious Freedom in the Military

To President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

Cut ties with anti-Christian extremists who seek to redefine tolerance to include every religion but Christianity. Protect the constitutional rights of all soldiers, including Christian soldiers. Anti-Christian extremism has no place in the military.

sign-petition

VOP message: Please pray for Mr. Weinstein. Ask God to soften his heart and lead him to the love of Christ. Also pray the Lord will have mercy on the U.S. for the sake of His elect!

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