I must admit: I was reluctant to publicly share my views on
President Obama's recent same-sex marriage statement. His presidency has caused separation within the ranks of
African-American leadership too often.
And yet, what does an African-American pastor do when his
African-American president makes a decision that eventually will destroy
the foundation of not only the African-American community, but the
nation as a whole?
Does that pastor take a risk that he will be misunderstood and
labeled as an "Uncle Tom," a Republican Party pawn, or someone "the
white man has bought out?" If I do not take the risk, knowing that
mentality in itself is as discriminatory as it gets, I become a
co-conspirator in keeping us in bondage to our culture; suggesting that
none of us is free to think or speak outside of what we are told. read more
Although Valentine's Day is meant to celebrate love, it
can bring bittersweet memories and pain.
For kids, Valentine's Day is a time to exchange funny cards and eat boxes of
chocolate. For adults, it's often much more than just a time to send flowers
and buy heart jewelry, chocolates and cards—it's a time to rededicate your love
to one special person. But when you're a widow or widower, or have lost your
love due to an unfortunate life circumstance, Cupid's arrow can pierce your
heart in a very different way. What was once a holiday of "warm
fuzzies" can turn into a sorrowful day to overcome.
It's true that Valentine's Day holds significance for most couples, but it was
particularly special for my husband Gordon and me. After losing my father in
February, the whole season had become fraught with painful memories. Then a
young man with a lot of heart came into my life, and it just so happened that
Valentine's Day was right after our first date. When I got home from work,
Gordon had left a bouquet of pink carnations on my front porch. So, it became a
yearly ritual for us to use Valentine's Day as the anniversary of our first
date together. read more
Each December I urge my congregation to focus
on the true meaning of Christmas. The worry my fellow pastors and I share is
that the solemn message of Christ’s birth gets overshadowed by the
commercialization, jingle bells, and Santa-fication of the yuletide season.
As we turn the calendar’s pages to yet another
Memorial Day, I feel compelled to issue a similar challenge, one I offer not as
a clergyman but as an American. Simply, let’s not lose focus about what this
most solemn of national holidays should really be about. read more
regret, my family was unable to attend the homecoming celebration of our dear
friend, David Wilkerson. Due to my own personal sickness, Jeri and I and our
family could not be present to pay tribute to this man who so radically changed
story of Teen Challenge is the story of Steve and Jeri Hill. Christ was brought
to us and nurtured in us through this ministry. It’s with
tears in my eyes that I say, thank you brother Dave, for being there for us. read more
Everyone has heroes--or at least people they respect. David
Wilkerson was one of mine, along with John the Baptist and a few others. So I
was deeply saddened when my daughter called and said that he had been killed in
a car accident. Of course there was the sweet knowledge that he was with the
Lord, but there was also the bitter reality that we no longer had him here on
His passing brought back a flood of memories. Back in 1980, I
screened the movie that was based on his best-selling book, Cross and the
Switchblade. It starred Erik Estrada (from the television series CHiPs) as
Nicky Cruz, the hardened gang member who mocked the naive country preacher who
had come to his rough neighborhood. read more
Christian evangelist Ray Comfort explains why natural
disasters, such as earthquakes, only confirm God’s existence rather than deny it.
“I was actually in
this earthquake ... I live in Tokyo and it was the scariest thing that I have ever
been in. I was in Kitasenju teaching English when it struck and after the
initial shock we all ventured outside. I saw a mother of about 27/28 clutching
her newborn to her chest in fear as the temperature got colder and colder and
colder. Fallen creation? What are you talking about? I will NEVER accept this.
NEVER. Do you hear me Ray? You can SCREAM this in my face for the rest of time.
I WILL NEVER ACCEPT WHAT YOU SAY.”
Creation is absolute
evidence of a Creator. It didn’t make itself. So to suddenly say that God
doesn’t exist because we have killer earthquakes and horrific tsunamis (such as
the March 2011 tragedy) is to be in denial of something we all intuitively know.
The question is rather, “Is God impotent?” Did He have the ability to create
this infinite universe, with suns that dwarf ours massive sun, and yet He can’t
stop a tremor on this little earth? The question itself is rhetorical, but it’s
covered in Scripture when we are told, “With God, nothing is impossible.” So it
then becomes, “Why did almighty God allow it, and its terrible train of
unspeakable suffering and death?”
Atheism has no
consolation for us, other than to say that such pain is the result of an
indifferent “nature” that created itself, and is still in the process of
creating. Richard Dawkins said, “Nature is not cruel, pitiless, indifferent.
This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that
things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply
callous -- indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.” [A Devil's
Chaplain & Other Selected Essays,
by Richard Dawkins]
the Bible has the consoling answer. It says that we live in a “Fallen Creation”
(see Genesis 1-3). We are like an alcoholic who is in denial, adamantly saying
that all is well, and yet the symptoms of alcoholism are clearly evident as he
staggers toward you.
Here is just some of
the evidence that humanity has a serious problem–earthquakes, tsunamis,
hurricanes, tornados, disease, suffering and death. The Bible says the
whole of creation “groans in travail” under the Fall (see Romans
8:22)—the “curse” of Genesis. Those who understand this don’t lose faith in God
when terrible tragedies shake a world in denial. Each one of them instead
reminds us that all isn’t well. For the world they should be a wake-up call—a
slap in our drunken face--a reminder that we are not apes with no moral
responsibility, as so many are trying to have us believe. All is far from well
between sinful man and a holy God. We have a problem. A big one, that is more
serious than a heart attack.
someone to accept that we live in a fallen creation means that they have to
accept that we are sinners—that we aren’t the good folks we say we are. It means
that we have moral responsibility—that when a man rapes a woman and slits her
throat, God will hold him accountable. It means that Hitler will face God on
Judgment Day for the mass murder of so many innocents. It means that God is
just, and that Hell therefore is a real place of punishment for the wicked.
These are not pleasant thoughts when we realize that God is morally perfect,
that he sees the thought-life and considers lust to be adultery and hatred to be
murder. That puts all of us, with our unquenchable thirst for (and addiction to)
sin, in deep trouble.
Earthquakes tend to make us tremble. They show us that we don’t have total
control. In the Book of Acts, there was a big quake that caused a
hardened Philippian jailer to cry out to his prisoners “Sirs, what must I do to
be saved?”(see Acts 16:30). He wasn’t talking about the quake (that had already
happened). He was talking about his relationship to the One he had angered by
Fortunately, God has
more than a 12-step program for the hopeless alcoholic. When Jesus suffered in
our place and rose from the dead, He balanced the scales of eternal justice. He
paid the fine so that we could leave the courtroom. The cross is an expression
of the love and mercy of God. He is “rich in mercy,” and can make us clean and
sober with a new thirst for righteousness, and the ability to walk the straight
I contacted a friend
early in March of 2011, whom I hadn't seen for twenty years. He lived in my
hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand, had always mocked me for my faith, and so
I was surprised that he emailed back. He said that "god" greatly scared him in
2010 (he used profanity) with a 7.1 earthquake. When I then shared the gospel
with him, he wrote back and mockingly said that he was guilty of breaking the
Commandments, and that he going to Hell to “party.” The next day a killer quake
hit, taking over 165 lives. When I contacted him again to see if he was okay, he
soberly replied, "Tell your God I am sorry and please don't do that again." This
time he used a capital for "God."
Tragedies have a way
of putting the fear of God into those of us who are still living. Most of us,
that is. Sadly, some may stay in denial and say, “Fallen creation? What are you
talking about? I will NEVER accept this. NEVER. Do you hear me Ray? You can
SCREAM this in my face for the rest of time. I WILL NEVER ACCEPT WHAT YOU SAY.”
I hope you are not one of them.
(WNS)--While the nation watches to see how the new House leadership flexes its Tea Party-enhanced muscles, the legal campaign to strip the public square of any reminders of America's Christian heritage continues apace.
On Jan. 4, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 57-year-old cross atop the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego is unconstitutional. The decision runs counter to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case at the Mojave National Preserve, as well as a district court ruling that said the Mount Soledad cross was not unconstitutional because it "communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice."
In finding the cross unconstitutional, Judge Mary Margaret McKeown, a 1998 Clinton appointee, wrote: "The history and absolute dominance of the Cross are not mitigated by the belated efforts to add less significant secular elements to the Memorial."
Perhaps the memorial keepers should have erected a 40-foot Frosty the Snowman next to the cross. Oops. That applies only to Nativity scenes and Christmas trees on public land. I'm getting the sops to secular bullies mixed up.
The problem seems to be that the cross is just too big and obvious. That makes it ipso facto offensive. The 43-foot concrete structure can be seen from Interstate 5, for instance. It's a wonder that the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit, hasn't claimed that the cross has caused multiple accidents as atheist, Wiccan, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim motorists clutch their hearts and keel over their steering wheels upon spying it. Given that the hillside has sported a highly visible cross since 1913, it's safe to conclude that millions of motorists have made it through that scary stretch without incident. It's probably less safe to claim this in areas with noxious billboards for "adult" services, but I haven't checked accident statistics, so let's not go there.
The key aspect that the court ignored in its tortured finding of the First Amendment's secret intent to wipe out Christian symbols on public land is the element of coercion. Allowing mere expression is quite different from using government power to force observance.
As American Civil Rights Union General Counsel Peter Ferrara points out in his friend of the court brief in Jewish War Veterans v. the City of San Diego, "With a clear, simple standard rooted in the text of the Constitution and its surrounding history, this case is easily resolved. The cross at the federal Veterans' Memorial atop Mt. Soledad does not involve an unconstitutional establishment of religion because it does not involve coercion of any sort. It just sits there, without any specified message.
"Each visitor to the memorial is free to decide what the cross, and the memorial overall, means to them. They can take the cross as an expression of reverence for the nation's veterans, including those who suffered the supreme sacrifice. They can take it as an expression of hope that these lost loved ones will be seen again in some unknown future. They can take it as an expression of some religious message. However each visitor interprets the cross, they are also free to then accept or reject the message that they each discern."
Ferrara also notes that in 1776, Thomas Jefferson led the adoption of Virginia's Declaration of Rights and that the religious freedom clause in that Declaration states, "That religion, or the duty we owe to our creator, and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason or conviction, not by force or violence;and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience."
It's been tough sledding for public crosses. Even after the Supreme Court in April refused to order the removal of a 7-foot cross made of metal pipe at the Mojave National Preserve, where veterans had maintained a cross since 1934, vandals cut it down. In May, a court ordered a replacement also torn down pending further appeals. Previously, a court had ordered the cross covered in a plywood box, an apt expression of the death wish that secularists have for public religious symbols.
In Arizona, at the behest of an atheist group, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that 14 roadside crosses, each 12 feet high and memorializing fallen Arizona Highway Patrolmen, are unconstitutional. On Jan. 6, the full court issued a stay of the order, giving the state 90 days in which to appeal.
The common thread in these cases is the confusion of expression with coercion. It would be nice if the new Congress found some way to coerce federal judges into living up to their oaths. The jurists should be upholding real constitutional rights instead of twisting the Constitution into a battering ram against any public edifice with religious underpinnings.
Robert Knight is a senior writer for Coral Ridge Ministries and a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.
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This weekend our
nation experienced a horrible attack by a deranged man in Arizona. My thoughts
and prayers go out to the victims and their families in their time of need and
the American people grapple for answers to the question of how something as
senseless as this shooting could happen, we need to be measured and cautious
before we place blame.
Hasty accusations have already been made before much information is
known and an investigation has occurred. I believe this is counterproductive
and could in itself incite hatred. This is not a time for political
because we disagree with someone from another political party does not mean we
wish them harm. Furthermore, if something horrific happens to a person, it does
not mean those who hold differing views are responsible for the actions of a
frightens me is that our country has accepted murder, violence and rape as
entertainment that we see portrayed every day on TV, movies and video games. I
agree with Sheriff Clarence Dupnik when he alluded to the fact that this country
needs some serious soul searching. If we as a nation are not careful, we could
see the destruction of the foundation upon which this nation was
Clearly our politicians and pundits on the left and right must also
be careful. Their leadership and rhetoric must set an example for decency and
prayer is that God will put His loving arms around the families and victims in
their time of loss and great suffering, and that they would sense His presence
and comfort in their lives.
Franklin Graham is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham
Evangelistic Association and international relief organization Samaritan's
Purse. Photo courtesy of Samaritan's Purse. read more
The end of the year is fast
approaching. It is a time of Christmas trees, Yule logs and year-end giving. But
as millions of Americans prepare to get out their checkbooks, the decision of
where to give has rarely been more difficult. In tough economic times,
nonprofit organizations are vying for decreasing resources and facing an uphill
battle in attracting the all-important year-end donor.
(Rob Hoskins pictured left; Lamar Vest
For decades, year-end giving has often been driven by the
stirred passions of a donor’s heart. We give
because we genuinely care. Our hearts are touched by images and stories of
children in poverty. Families living in
squalor. Individuals that have never heard the
good news that God loves them. Driven by these heart tugs, Americans currently give more than $3 billion to
charitable causes each year according to the Giving
USA. read more