Please Continue to Pray for the Ukrainian People
Friday, March 21, 2014, 11:17 AM

The First Lady, the First Children, and Mrs. Robinson, the First Grandmother, arrived yesterday in China for some “soft diplomacy.” Accompanied by an entourage of 70 persons, no reporters were allowed to join this troupe, and the trip was touted as a “weeklong feel-good tourist event.” (In other words a taxpayer-paid junket.) But this left Mr. Obama free to work on important issues facing our nation and world. Media reports have informed us that Mr. Obama and his staff have started planning a vacation for the Obamas on Martha’s Vineyard during the week of August 9th. Further, the Basketball-Fan-In-Chief also found time to opine the 2014 Men’s Final Four picks to ESPN. (His selections include the Louisville Cardinals, the Florida Gators, the Arizona Wildcats, and the Michigan State Spartans.) With the family away, he can now enjoy the remaining basketball games. He also found time to appear recently on television, including the Ellen DeGeneres television program (where she observed that “everyone’s very grateful” for Obamacare), and the hard-hitting and widely-viewed Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis (who?). The situation in Ukraine, and the relationship among Russia and the former Soviet states grows more dangerous and contentious each day, as Russian forces seized a Ukrainian naval base, as well as Ukrainian naval ships.  But, never fear, things are all well in hand at the White House. Mr. Obama has now imposed new and even greater sanctions on Russia, including an Executive Order compelling Netflix to cancel Mr. Putin’s subscription.

Many are praying that God will use the recent events in Ukraine to bring others to Himself.  I received an email from “Ilya,” a lawyer and brother in Christ in Ukraine.  I wish to quote at length from his email as it was an encouragement to us, and also a plea to pray for the suffering people of Ukraine:

The events of the last month in Ukraine have become a vivid demonstration of the power of prayer of a global Christian community.  Numerous statements, trips, letters of support and phone calls of Christian Alliances, organizations, and leadership of many of the democratic countries have demonstrated that Ukrainian people are not alone in this strife for a better life, true democracy and rule of law.

These challenges showed the unity of Ukrainian people and the activeness of the church which responded to crisis though words and deeds. The chapels opened their doors for the wounded and injured, the sanctuaries served as shelters and safe houses, the priests stood like a live shield between angry demonstrators and riot police. Ordinary people left their jobs and volunteered in the churches, hospitals, field kitchens, while others provided free overnight lodging for those in need. The Revolution united all: East and West, young and old, rich and poor.

God has changed the situation dramatically. The new majority in the Parliament have committed to work tirelessly to implement the reforms and pass the laws that would improve the lives of ordinary Ukrainians and take the country out of poverty and corruption. Although the President fled to Russia, the Parliament voted for a Baptist minister, Dr. Turchynov, to serve as an acting President of Ukraine until the presidential elections take place on May 25. Under his leadership the country has started to make steps towards closer ties with European Union and United States.

Among the first steps to bring back the trust of the people was the order to tear down the high solid fence which separated the people and the Parliament building.  People welcomed this decision and applauded the fall of the Ukrainian “iron curtain,” which symbolized the new era of transparency and accountability of the new government. When it was obvious that people have won the battle for Kiev, the battle for Crimea has just started. While Ukrainians were celebrating the victory in Kiev, the armed groups of people at Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea were stirring up the population, the majority of which are ethnic Russian, to turn the region back to Moscow.  . . . People in Crimea are scared to death of such help and those who can, leave the peninsula in fear of war.

The Ukrainian government has been very reserved to such invasion and uses the language of diplomacy rather than language of war. Meanwhile Russia fueled the Referendum in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea while the world biggest democracies say they will not recognize the poll that is used to legitimize Russian occupation. Ukraine had asked the international     community to send observers to Crimea, but Russian military do not let them into Crimea. . . .  [Ukraine and Russia] are two friendly nations which share a lot of cultural, geographical and linguistic similarities that make us close to each other.  Evil powers and dishonest leaders through provocations, lies and greed set us against each other.  Nobody wants a war and one     way to stop is to repent before God and each other and love your neighbor as yourself.  I ask you kindly to pray for God’s intervention in this situation.  Only He is mighty and capable to stop the aggression and violence, and grant Ukraine unity and peace. —Ilya

Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, and while our leaders fiddle while Ukraine burns, let us never forget that it is only a miracle from God that can save that part of the world from the evil brutality of aggression and repression.



Abortionist Gosnell Claims Another Victim
Monday, March 17, 2014, 9:37 AM

On these pages, I have written about Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist, convicted last May of first-degree murder for the deaths of three babies at his abortion mill.  He murdered them by cutting their spinal cords with scissors.  He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of his patient, Karnamay Mongar, a Nepalese refugee, who died at his “clinic.”  Fearing the death penalty, Gosnell, then age 72, waived his right to an appeal.  In exchange, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Last Thursday, one of his employees, Sherry West, 54, was sentenced to serve five to ten years in prison for her role in Ms. Mongar’s death.   District Attorney R. Seth Williams laid out the case against Gosnell, his wife, Pearl, and their employees, in a 2012 grand jury report that revealed Gosnell profited $10,000 to $15,000 a day at his abortion mill.  Mr. Williams also informed the court that Gosnell also made $200,000 from writing 2,300 illegal prescriptions for OxyContin and other addictive drugs.

Ms. West pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy, and admitted that on Nov. 19, 2009, she administered “some” of the Demerol overdose that killed Ms. Mongar.  According to media reports, after Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner imposed the sentence, West sobbed for five minutes.  West said, “Nobody believes the truth anymore, nobody,” and asserted that she “treated patients like family” and “didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”  In fact, she said that she didn’t believe she did anything wrong during the 18 months she worked at the clinic.  In an attempt to mitigate her sentence, West’s attorney told Judge Lerner that Gosnell had a “Svengali influence” over his client, who was dealing with personal problems at the time.  (It’s not much of a defense, but if that is all he’s got, what can he do?)  West is one of nine Gosnell employees charged in 2011 for performing illegal late-term abortions at the abortion mill; two more are awaiting sentencing.  Steven Massof, 51, an unlicensed medical school graduate who worked for Gosnell from 2003 to 2008, was sentenced in February to six to 12 years in prison for his role in the killing of two babies born alive.  According to court testimony, Massof earned $200 to $300 in cash per week paid under the table.  (Not much, was it, to aid and abet murder, especially as compared to Gosnell’s $10,000 to $15,000 per day?)

Yes, Ms. West sobbed for five minutes.  As she said that she did nothing wrong and treated the clinic’s victims as her family, I presume she sobbed because she was going to prison.  But I have a hunch that she will be out of jail in no more than a few years.  But we, both as Christians and as members of our society, should truly weep for Ms. Mongar, and all of the babies murdered by Gosnell and his gang of sadistic butchers.  Please pray for Gosnell, West, and Massof that they will see what they have truly done, repent of their sins, and turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  As I wrote last week, the Father of the Lord Jesus is a God of second chances if we are only willing to listen to God’s voice.  And yet, we must never forget the heinous barbarity of the abortionists’ craft.



Tragic Events Can Turn Into Second Chances
Friday, March 14, 2014, 9:46 AM

One of the greatest truths and encouragements in the Bible is that God uses deeply flawed men and women to accomplish His purposes.  The clear teaching of Holy Scripture is that man’s sinful nature must be battled moment-by-moment in our lives.  As one example, the flawed man Moses was used by God to lead the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt.  The Washington Post reported this week that Bill Gothard resigned from the ministry he founded, the Institute in Basic Life Principles, after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at the ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.  According to the website, Recovering Grace, 34 women said that they had been sexually harassed, and four women have alleged molestation.  I have read many of their stories on that website, and each story is tragic.

Some of my readers might not be familiar with Bill Gothard.  During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Gothard regularly filled 20,000-seat auditoriums with Christians (mostly), but also non-Christians, who attended his weeklong seminar focused on applying Biblical principles to modern life.  During those years, more than 2.5 million people attended, and his seminars were particularly popular with home-schooling families.  I confess that I did attend on a number of occasions, first in college, and then several times after college.  I was first invited by an Eastern Orthodox sister from my college dormitory Bible study.  I found the seminar to be a transformative experience for me.  After attending, I remember that I stood before a large group of several hundred college students, most of whom were Christian believers, and encouraged them to attend an upcoming seminar.  To “close the deal,” I offered those who came that if they didn’t find it to be an important seminar for them, I would give them double their money back.  Of those in attendance that night, about 80 came to the seminar at McCormick Place in Chicago.  Fortunately for me, no one ever asked for their money back.  Further, some would later return to other seminars with their friends and family.  (One would pay the attendance fee the first time, and then you could attend subsequent seminars for free.)  One dear brother in the Lord, a college classmate and a close friend to this day, attended and later brought his father, a devout Christian believer.  His father later would bring his friends, some of whom were not Christians, but they became Christians at the seminar.  (Mr. Gothard would invite people to follow Christ on Thursday evening of the seminar.)

As I look back upon my life, besides my parents and Rev. Rosheger, my beloved youth pastor, there has not been a greater and more positive influence in my life than Mr. Gothard.  Of course, I never met him personally, and have no personal knowledge of the allegations against him.  While I have been blessed to sit under the teaching and ministry of some exceptional, godly clergy throughout my life, Mr. Gothard furrowed deep a path for me as a Christ-follower.  During times of youthful sturm und drang with my parents, I would remember his teachings on what it meant to obey practically one’s parents, and his teachings brought me very close to my parents until the day they died.  At a time when many churches were silent and confused about the so-called sexual revolution, he stood for sexual purity, and clearly articulated why God established His standard against promiscuity.  He taught me how to be a good employee, serving my employer with a Christian attitude, as Joseph served his pharaoh.  Mr. Gothard encouraged his attendees to study and meditate upon the teachings of the Book of Proverbs, and I believe that inculcation of those principles contributed to some modicum of success in my professional and business life.  His teachings on tithing and gifts, as well as avoidance of debt, influence me to this day.  On the bookcase in my home office still sit the seminar’s manual, and a number of his books.

Moses, the Bible teaches us, was someone who became nobody.  God took that nobody, and then made him someone for God’s glory and for His purpose.  Mr. Gothard, at 79, is almost the same age as when God called Moses at the burning bush.  We don’t know what the future holds for Mr. Gothard.  But we do know that our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is One of second chances.  Such has happened before.  God took a murderer, Moses, and made him the much-loved leader of the Israelites.  Ironically, it was Bill Gothard who taught me that about Moses.



North Korean Brutality
Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 10:21 AM

For the past twelve years, North Korea has topped the Open Doors World Watch List as the most repressive regime against Christian believers.  The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the “Commission”) conducted a systematic investigation of the ongoing atrocities in North Korea.  (The recently released reports in both the 35-page summary and the 372-page detailed report are available here.

The detailed report is difficult to read because of the brutality described therein.)  The Commission stated that “there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association.”  The report concluded that the dictatorship of Kim Jung Un “considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat,” and as a result, “Christians are prohibited from practicing their religion and are persecuted.”  Well, of course, the use of the term “persecution” by an agency of the usually sanguine United Nations is diplomat-speak for horrific abuse.  Severe punishment is inflicted on any person caught practicing their Christian faith.  The Commission noted in its report that between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners are currently detained in four political prison camps, “where deliberate starvation has been used as a means of control and punishment.”  The actual number of those trapped in the hellish North Korean prison camps is likely to be much higher.

Last week, South Korean newspapers reported that North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, had ordered the deaths of 33 people alleged to have received money for building 500 underground churches from South Korean missionary Kim Jung Wook.  As is customary in North Korea, the executions will take place publicly.  (You may recall that late last year, Kim Jong Un’s uncle and mentor, Jang Song-Thaek, was executed, along with his brothers, children, and grandchildren.)  The background of the South Korean missionary Kim is still unclear, as some sources claim he was arrested in North Korea last October, while others said he was kidnapped in China by North Korean secret agents.  Poignantly, North Korea Freedom Coalition Chairman Suzanne Scholte reminded the U.S. Congress just last week that the international community promised after Nazi Germany’s treatment and murder of six million Jews to never allow such atrocities again.  And yet, such atrocities continue unabated in North Korea.  In fact, it is a stunning reality that North Korea’s satanic political prison camps have been in existence 10 times longer than the Nazi death camps, and three times longer than the Soviet gulags.  Open Doors USA President David Curry said in a statement issued this past Monday, “Usually when persecution increases in a country, the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is rapidly spreading.”  Please pray for the lives of these 33 Christian believers awaiting execution, and please pray for the at least several hundred thousand secret Christian believers of North Korea.  Please also pray for the freedom of the American missionary, Kenneth Bae, who remains in North Korean prison.



The Plight of Pastor Behnam Irani
Monday, March 10, 2014, 8:44 AM

IMG 0080 150x150 The Plight of Pastor Behnam IraniBehnam Irani is an Armenian-Iranian Christian currently in prison in Iran.  He became a Christian believer in 1992, and has served as a pastor since 2002.  In December 2006, he was arrested for the first time for “crimes” against Iranian national security.  Such “crimes” involve holding house church services and inviting Moslems to follow Jesus Christ.  At his first trial, he was given a five-year suspended sentence.  On April 14, 2010, he was arrested a second time on the same charges as he continued to minister.  On that occasion, police officers broke up a house church service, and took him into custody.  Each in attendance at the church meeting was interrogated by security officers, and the police confiscated Bibles, Christian literature, and other materials, as evidence against him.  Following his arrest, Pastor Irani was imprisoned for two months, and then released on bail in June 2010.  At his trial in January 2011, he was convicted for his crimes, and sentenced to one year in prison.  As he approached the end of his prison term, as part of their psychological torture against him, prison officials told him that his sentence would be extended until at least 2013.  He is still in prison today.

During his imprisonment, Pastor Irani was subjected to sleep deprivation, and was beaten regularly by his fellow prisoners under the watchful eye of prison officials.  His health is failing.  He is losing his eyesight, has untreated Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is suffering from a serious ulcer, and is barely able to speak, and has great difficulty walking.  Under international pressure, Iranian authorities allowed him to undergo surgery on February 22, 2014.  According to media reports, the surgery was successful, and he returned to prison on February 26th.   His wife, teen daughter, and young son miss him very much.  If you, your church or study group, want to send him a letter of encouragement, please write to him at the following address:

Pastor Behnam Irani
Ghezel Hesar Prison
Karaj, Albourz State
Islamic Republic of Iran

Please do not send him any money or gifts.  I encourage you to quote Holy Scriptures in your letter, but please do not disparage the depravity and utter evil of the current government of the Iranian mullahs.  Pastor Irani wrote a deeply moving and powerful letter at Christmas 2011, reminiscent of St. Paul’s letters.  I commend the study of his letter, which is available here.  (I have also linked to a second letter by Pastor Irani describing prison life, and encouraging Christians to return to their first love of Christ, available here.)  Please pray fervently for our brother in the Lord, of whom this world is unworthy, and for his family who also suffer terribly during this difficult time.



International Day of Prayer for Burma is March 9, 2014
Friday, March 7, 2014, 9:30 AM

In the past week, I have been in correspondence with Wunna, a young man who is a new Christian believer from Burma.  This coming Sunday, our friends and colleagues at Christians Concerned for Burma have designated March 9th as the Global Day of Prayer for Burma.  (Please see www.prayforburma.org and read the uplifting report of Rev. Franklin Graham’s visit to the internal refugee camps in Burma.)  Most of us know little about Burma.  Burma, the largest nation in Southeast Asia, is desperately poor due to decades of mismanagement and corruption by an oppressive military government.  Although richly blessed with natural resources, such as natural gas, most Burmese live on $1 or less per day.  Two-thirds of Burma’s children are malnourished, and Burma has been afflicted by more than 60 years of civil war.

Although 80% of Burma’s population is Buddhist, many are also in bondage to spiritism and the occult.  Approximately ten percent of Burmese are Christians.  Of those, most Burmese Christians are found among the ethnic minorities, and they face great persecution for their faith.  The Karen, Kachin, Shan, and Chin ethnic groups have been singled out for the harshest treatment by the national government.  The importation of Bibles printed in indigenous languages and worship in house churches is prohibited.

Since an election in 2010, there has been some hope for change.  On the positive side, many political prisoners were released, and Burma Army leaders have signed an agreement to end forced labor.  Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, and now holds a position in parliament.  Although since that election, there have been reductions in the fighting and displacement of ethnic minorities, but new attacks, indiscriminate killing, and displacement of innocent villagers from a number of the ethnic groups continue.  The Free Burma Rangers, who provide relief, mobile medical assistance to as many of the displaced as they can reach, as well as a Christian witness, report that 100,000 Kachin people have been displaced since 2011.  In November and December 2013, the Burma Army attacked a Kachin refugee camp, and burned shelters, looted rice stocks, and displaced over 2,000 people who now had to flee again.  Attacks continued in this area into January 2014.  In northern Shan State, fighting and displacement continue against the Kachin, Shan and Ta’ang people throughout 2013 and into 2014.  In Karen State, the Burma Army continues to use forced labor, and in December 2013, soldiers fired on villagers on nine different occasions in Luthaw Township, Muthraw District, in Northern Karen State.

This coming Sunday, I ask that you pray for the people of Burma.  Please pray for my new friend Wunna as he begins his new walk with Jesus Christ, and also pray:

For peace in this war-torn land with genuine democracy and an end to the authoritarian military regime.

That the oppressed people not be governed by fear, but that they would receive faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to overcome the evil that ravage them, including forgiveness towards the evildoers.

That innocent Burmese villagers would finally receive relief from relentless persecution, both religious and otherwise.

That the Holy Gospel would continue to spread throughout Burma along with relief efforts.



A Day of Great Rejoicing
Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 8:13 AM

It is said that the night is darkest before the dawn.  On these pages, I have written a number of blogs about the plight of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike.  The Romeikes, an evangelical couple from Germany, wanted to home school their six children in Germany as they had grave concerns that the German government schools taught non-Christian values.  In Germany, homeschooling has been banned continuously since the Nazi era.  It is the only European nation where homeschooling is banned outright.  Because they homeschooled, the Romeikes faced significant fines, imprisonment, and the loss of custody of their children.  As a result, the family fled to the United States in 2008, and applied for asylum.  In 2010, Judge Lawrence O. Burman (God bless Judge Burman!) granted political asylum in the U.S. for the Romeikes.  The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) then appealed Judge Burman’s ruling, arguing that German laws banning homeschooling do not violate the family’s fundamental human rights, and DHS withdrew the family’s asylum status.  In late April of last year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on appeal from the Romeikes, and then upheld the Obama Administration’s reversal of asylum granted to the Romeike family.  Following that loss, the Romeikes then appealed the appellate court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  This past Monday, our Supreme Court rejected the family’s final appeal.  At that point, they had lost every step of the legal process, and had no more options to remain in the United States legally.  So, despite the 30 to 40 million illegals in the United States not living in the shadows, the Romeike family could now be deported.

But less than 36 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case, late yesterday afternoon, the Romeike family received a reprieve.  In a surprise move, the DHS granted the Romeikes “indefinite deferred status,” allowing them to remain in the United States as long as they want.  Michael Farris, the Home School Legal Defense Association attorney representing the family, wrote the following on the group’s Facebook page:

This is an incredible victory that can only be credited to our Almighty God.  We also want to thank those of [you] who spoke up on this issue—including that long ago White House petition. We believe that the public outcry made this possible while God delivered the victory.

Today, we rejoice with the Romeike family and thank God for His miraculous provision and victory, and I thank my readers who prayed and wrote letters on the family’s behalf.  Now we can continue to work and pray for the Wunderlich family of Darmstadt, Germany, about whom I have written on these pages.  The Wunderlichs are not allowed to leave Germany because they also desire to homeschool their children in violation of their fundamental human and legal rights.



“Tim” and I Discuss Religious Liberty and Arizona
Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 8:35 AM

Since I posted my recent blog about the proposed legislation in Arizona about amendments to Arizona’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), vetoed by Governor Janice Brewer, I have also received a number of emails from friends and colleagues regarding this topic.  One was an email from a dear friend and brother in Christ, “Tim.”  Tim and I worked closely together a number of years ago, and we also worked on some community activities as well.  Over the years we have been friends, I have enjoyed watching him embark on marriage to his beautiful wife, watched him help to start an urban church, and then to raise a lovely family.  If I had a younger brother, I would wish that it was my dear friend Tim.  Over the years, I have deeply appreciated his many kindnesses to me and his friendship.  He and his family live in Arizona, and so he told me how he followed both his local and national news sources on the raging debate regarding the proposed RFRA amendments.  He expressed his belief that enactment of the proposed law would be very bad at many levels.  Although we have not spoken often about political matters, my sense was always that Tim was liberal, and I have merely attributed his liberalism to the fact that he grew up in Massachusetts.  And so in an email exchange with Tim this past weekend, I wrote this in pertinent part regarding Governor Brewer’s veto of the proposed amendments to RFRA:

Dear Brother Tim,

It is always so good to hear from you, and thanks for reading my blog. . . . As to the Arizona proposed law on religious freedom: yes, there was a lot of stupid stuff said about the proposed law.  According to ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, if Arizona allows bakers to refuse to bake cakes for gay couples, gays may have to wear “yellow stars” like the Jews of Nazi Germany.  It was an outrage to me that wedding cakes and wedding photographs for homosexual couples would be equated with the Holocaust.  This was particularly disgusting to me as my father was a prisoner of the Nazis, and Mr. Kornheiser ignorantly trivialized the Holocaust.  Moreover, it was said that if Governor Brewer signed the law, it would be Jim Crow for gays, according to too many people to list.  So, I did expect Governor Brewer to veto the law.  As others have noted, the media and institutions of influence sought to condition the public with some success into automatically equating religious faith with bigotry.  To make religious faith in the public square illegal and dangerous, homosexual activists need lawsuits against small, powerless business owners based upon the notion that those who act on genuine, sincerely-held religious faith are bigots per se.  So, Governor Brewer was under a great deal of pressure to veto, and had little incentive to sign the bill.  After all, even the tax-exempt NFL apparently threatened to take the Super Bowl away from Arizona if she signed the legislation.  (Why, as one of the commenters to my blog asked, is the NFL tax exempt anyway?  Did you know how much the NFL Commissioner is paid annually?  Look it up, you might be surprised.)  As I wrote in my blog, the intention of the proposed law was to clarify for the Arizona judiciary what the burdens of proof should be.  So, someone claiming a defense against a lawsuit, such as the baker/florist/photographer, as to why they should NOT be punished for refusing to work at a homosexual or lesbian wedding, could give evidence of their sincerely-held religious belief.  And then, after the baker/florist/photographer has asserted their defense, then the government must show to the court why it is a compelling interest to force that business owner be punished.  So as I asked in my blog, does Jesus have to build the bedroom set for a homosexual couple?  Can He be compelled to do so?  Does the Jewish deli owner have to serve pork, or must the deli be open to serve me on Saturday?  Can the government compel a Moslem restaurant serving halal meat to also offer me non-halal meat, or even a pulled pork sandwich?  Does the Moslem taxi-driver have to transport people who carry alcohol or pork products, or even dogs?  Going onto even more egregious examples, can a gay baker be required to bake a cake for the Westboro Baptist Church that has asked that the icing on the top of the cake say “God Hates Gays.”  Does an African-American baker have to bake a cake for the Ku Klux Klan?  Or can an African-American photographer be compelled to photograph a KKK rally?  As messy as it might seem under our constitutional system, the members of Westboro Church and the KKK also have rights, just as the Christian baker and florist do.  And the Arizona bill would simply have affirmed the legally-recognized rights in the First Amendment “free exercise of religion” clause of our Constitution.  So, I supported the proposed legislation because it sought to make sure that people of all faiths would not be forced to violate their religious beliefs in the event someone demanded that they do so.  I find the idea that any state or the federal government that can force people to violate their conscience without a compelling reason beyond repugnant.  So, I hope that makes some sense, my dear friend and brother!!

With respect and love to you all,

Michael

Thus, with the veto of this proposed legislation by Governor Brewer, the homosexual bullies and their allies have diminished the liberty of each person of faith in our nation.  As Dr. Billy Graham observed in his broadcast on the occasion of his 95th birthday, the reason that the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is so offensive to many people is because the reality of the cross demands a new lifestyle, and it is only the cross of Christ that can heal the disease of sin in the human heart.  Please continue to pray for the eternal salvation of homosexual activists and their allies, and that their eyes may be opened to the true meaning of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.



Jesus, Would You Build Our Bedroom Set?
Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 11:09 AM

I had a dream yesterday morning about the ancient Roman world.  (This past weekend, I have been re-reading Michael Grant’s The Twelve Caesars.)  In my dream, two men, Caligula and Nero, go to a small business owner, who is an excellent and highly-regarded carpenter in Palestine.  The carpenter is a young man in his late 20s, and works in Nazareth.  He is well-liked by everyone in his community.  When the lads come to Jesus, they announce triumphantly that they love one another and want to marry, and ask Jesus to build them a really nice bedroom set.  However, Jesus, a Jew, holds a sincerely-held belief in the teachings of the Bible.  So, does Jesus build the matrimonial bed for the newlyweds?  And if He doesn’t want to do so, should He be compelled to do so?

Governor Janice Brewer of Arizona is considering signing a bill that would amend Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), a law originally passed in 1999.  She is under great pressure to veto this bill.  Currently, under Arizona state law, it is legal for a business to deny service to someone because they are homosexual.  Although some towns in Arizona have ordinances against this, there is no state law against it.  This is also the case in many other states.  RFRA provides Arizonans with religious freedom protection, but not everyone who claims that their religious freedom is violated will win a court case using RFRA as a defense.  (Incidentally, there is also a federal RFRA.)  Late last year, on these pages, I wrote about a case involving a wedding photographer in New Mexico who refused to work at a homosexual wedding because of her religious beliefs.  In that case, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the state’s RFRA law only applied when the government is a party in the case, and concluded that she should be punished.  However, the legislative history of RFRA makes clear that the law was never intended to be so limited.  To avoid this New Mexico problem, the Arizona legislature wanted to make the Arizona law more specific and protective of religious liberty.  You might be mildly surprised to know that businesses can legally refuse to serve heterosexual, Christian breeders because the owner dislikes Christian values.  For example, David Cooley, owner of Abbey Food and Bar in West Hollywood, California, recently announced that he would deny entry to any legislator from any state who has voted for “bills to allow for discrimination against LGBT people.”  Mr. Colley stated, “I want to send a message to all those out there who conflate Christian values with discrimination; we don’t want your kind here.”  (Emphasis added.)  The Arizona bill clarifies that any business would be covered by RFRA, and that government does not have to be a party in the case.  However, to prevent frivolous RFRA claims, the bill requires that any person claiming a religious freedom violation show that there is a strongly-held, sincere religious belief behind their actions, and that the government has placed a substantial burden on their religious belief.  You may recall that beginning in 2007, following the issuance of a fatwa by the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society, numerous Moslem taxi drivers in both the United States and Canada refused to transport persons carrying alcohol or dogs (including dogs helping persons with disabilities), and such actions continue.  (You know the important, but simple, principle of Western progressive governance: Christians bad, Moslems good.)

Mere Comments readers know that a few Christians have refused to provide services for homosexual “weddings.”  These cases have involved wedding photographers and bakers.  In those cases, the Christians said that they would gladly serve homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons, but only outside the context of a homosexual “wedding.”  So, I woke up from my dream before hearing whether Jesus would build the bedroom set for the lads.  But I do think that He would not have built an altar or a chuppah for their homosexual “wedding.”  And He would be proper not to do so.  We should do the same in our country as well.



Ukraine’s New Interim President May Surprise You
Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 10:12 AM

In recent weeks, I have asked for prayer for the upheaval in Ukraine.  An agreement was signed on February 21st and endorsed by mediators from France, Germany, and Poland.  Under the new agreement, the Ukrainian parliament voted this past Saturday to impeach and remove from office Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Moscow ally, by a vote of 328-0.  Parliament also voted to free jailed opposition leader and former president, Yulia Tymoshenko.  Mr. Yanukovych then fled Kiev, the capital, vowing that he was the nation’s rightful president and that he would not resign his office.  A warrant has now been issued for the arrest of Mr. Yanukovych on murder charges related to his orders to fire upon protestors.

The geopolitical turmoil between Russia and the West will continue as Russia questions the legitimacy of Ukraine’s new interim government.  The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the agreement that curtailed Mr. Yanukovych’s power was being violated “with the tacit consent of its external sponsors.”  As a result, the Foreign Ministry concluded that the February 21st accord “is being used only as a cover to promote a scenario of forced change of power in Ukraine.”  Serial liar and National Security Advisor Susan “No Regrets” Rice warned that Russia would make a “grave mistake” if it sent military forces to Ukraine.  She did not elaborate on the consequences, but I am sure that President Putin was appropriately frightened.  Nevertheless, intelligence reports indicate that there were no outward signs of such a move by the Putin government.  However, at this time, the situation continues to be fluid and dangerous.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian Parliament named Oleksandr Turchynov as the interim President.  Dr. Turchynov, 49, a leading and well-respected opposition lawmaker, served as interim prime minister in 2010 after the resignation of Yulia Tymoshenko, the predecessor of the ousted president.  Dr. Turchynov also served as the Deputy Prime Minister from 2007 through 2010.  Of particular interest to Mere Comments readers is the fact that Dr. Turchynov is also a devout brother in Christ, and serves as one of the ministers in a Baptist church in Kiev, where he occasionally preaches.  In my prior blog about the upheaval in Ukraine, I reported on how Orthodox priests and other Christians, including physicians, nurses, cooks, students, and others helped both security forces and protestors in the face-off at Kiev’s Independence Square.  Many churches throughout Ukraine united in prayer and fasting for peace, asking for God’s intervention and protection in this crisis.  As a result, people cried out to God, and many news and media reports in Ukraine focused on the role of the Church and Christian believers in resolving the crisis.  Even Ukrainian television news frequently quoted the Holy Scriptures in informing viewers of developments.

Although many lives were lost in the past three months of this crisis, I want to quote from an email I received this weekend from a friend who is Christian attorney in Ukraine.  He wrote the following:

Unfortunately, many people have much anger and hatred for opponents.  People are disappointed in all politicians and do not want to forgive anyone.  Many are determined just to revenge, burn and bring about injuries.  But we need to face this challenge with Christ.  What Ukraine needs is not just a change of people in authority, but a change of the system and the relationship of the authorities to ordinary citizens.  Ukraine needs love, mercy and forgiveness.  Ukraine needs Christ!

Indeed!  God is using many to provide assistance to the suffering people of Ukraine.  If you or your church want to help any of the wounded, the sick, the families of those killed, or with other social projects to begin restoration of Ukraine, please leave me a message at the Fellowship of St. James offices at (773) 481-1090.  I will then put you in touch with channels to assist some of the Ukrainian victims of oppression.  Please continue to pray for the situation in Ukraine, and for their upcoming elections, presently set for May 25, 2014, that God will continue to work mightily in this great, but suffering, nation.


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