“Are we In Danger of Losing Our Religious Freedom?”

Jun 30

“Are we In Danger of Losing Our Religious Freedom?”

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s narrow 5-4 decision to legalize same-sex marriage, there have been a rash of predictions and dire warnings about the impact this will have on religious freedom. The majority opinion seeks to appease such fears. “Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.” However, in his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote, “Today’s decision, for example, creates serious questions about religious liberty,” Also dissenting was Judge Clarence Thomas who opined, ” Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect.” There have been numerous newspaper articles, facebook posts, blogs and examples given from other countries that suggest our religious freedom is going to be restricted. Everything from muzzling the mouths of preachers who dare to condemn homosexuality, to churches losing their tax-exempt status, to actual fines or imprisonment are suggested possible consequences. The truth is no one, not even the legal scholars, can predict with certainly the potential fallout from this ruling. However, let me suggest that religious freedom is NOT going to be restricted for true disciples of Christ. How can I know that? Because our real “religious freedom”is not based on the United States Constitution. It is founded in our faith in Christ in obedience to His Word. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8:32). Jesus’ words were spoken to the Jewish people who were in Roman bondage. Politically and socially they were fettered with certain restrictions. Yet, Jesus’ focus was on spiritual freedom. He further elaborated by affirming this divine Truth. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin...

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“Thoughts on Memorial Day”

May 25

“Thoughts on Memorial Day”

“Memory is the way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose” ~ Kevin Arnold. As I sit here in the early morning , sipping a cup of  coffee, I am alone with my memories on this Memorial Day. Memory can be a wonderful blessing. It can bring smiles, laughter or even tears of joy as we look at pictures, share stories, or just think about the good times of by gone days. I remember as a boy going the cemetery in the  mid-western community of Mansfield, Ohio, , on Memorial Day. There my Great Grandfather, Arnold Lemon, and an Uncle Jack, both I never knew, were buried. My Grandmother, like many of the older generation, always called it Decoration Day. I recall seeing her gently putting flowers on the grave. Moments of silence. A memory shared. A tear wiped away. Unfortunately with Memorial Day sales, backyard bar-b-ques, and various sporting events, the history and significance of Memorial Day is lost on many of this generation. It’s good to remember why we have Memorial Day. It is a national holiday to honor those who have given their lives in war. There is no clear record when or where this holiday began. Over two dozen cities and towns lay claim to the birth place of Memorial Day. There is evidence that women’s groups in the South began decorating the graves of Confederate Soldiers before the end of the Civil War. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan and first observed May 30, 1868. In 1971 Congress changed the official celebration to the last Monday in May. It has become in time not only to honor those killed in war, but to remember all of our loved ones who have died. My wife Kim and I live in the Pacific Northwest, and each Memorial Day weekend Kim and her Mother, Sister and  sometimes myself and our granddaughters   visit the grave of Kim’s Dad Robert Anderson, who was a Signalman in the Navy in WWII.  Our parents, grandparents, and siblings that have passed on hold a special place in our hearts. These relatives and other...

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“Stewardship, The Greater Responsibility”

May 23

“Stewardship, The  Greater  Responsibility”

It is commonly taught in churches that Christians should tithe (a word meaning the giving of “a tenth” of their income) to their local church. Christians are sometimes told that they owe the first ten percent of their income to the church where they attend, and that any giving to other needy persons or ministries falls into a separate category called “offerings” and should be given only after the first tenth has been given to the church. Preachers sometimes speak as if the Bible actually teaches such a thing, although the Bible nowhere mentions what we today call a “local church,” and the New Testament never applies any duty of tithing to Christians. Tithing was commanded to the children of Israel for the support of the Levites (Num.18:21). The Levites, who were consecrated to full-time ministry and could not be profitably employed, would enjoy a standard of living that approximated or was slightly higher than the national average. The Levites, in turn, contributed a tenth of their income to the priests for their support (Num.18:26-28). The system was designed to free-up a large number of men to minister in things of the tabernacle/temple and to teach the law to the people. The fraction “a tenth” was not arbitrary, but corresponded to the needs of the number of full-time ministers requiring support. Ever since God abolished the temple and the Levitical priesthood, there remains no obvious reason why the tithe should continue to define a Christian’s measure of giving to God. The church generally does not release one full-time minister for every ten families (though this ratio would not be excessive), so there is no biblical or logical reason why the same percentage of the Christian’s income should be devoted to the church’s coffers as was required of the Israelites in their support of the temple clergy. This is, no doubt, why neither Jesus nor the apostles ever so much as suggested this duty to the disciples. The tithe was for the support of the ritual system of Israel. These ceremonial aspects of the Law were done away with in the coming of a better covenant. Sometimes it is argued that tithing did not “go out with the Law” for...

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“More Than Conquerors”

May 22

“More Than Conquerors”

Octavain, the nephew of Julius Caesar, was one of the greatest conquerors of all time. He was granted the title Augustus, meaning exalted, by the Roman senate During his rule, the Roman empire expanded into Hungary, Croatia and Egypt as well as securing Spain and Gaul. He added more land than Julius Caesar and was worshiped as a god in Rome. Into this conquering culture, Christ came into the world and Christianity was born. The Jewish people were well aware of the Rome’s power, since they were subjugated under their dominion. However, in juxtaposition to Rome’s rule, the promise of the gospel message was a unique power. A spiritual power. Conqueror. The word is used only once in the Bible in Romans8:37. Paul, a Roman citizen, boldly affirmed “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” It is a compound that not only means to conquer, but as Lindell and Scott put it “to prevail completely over.” Vine says it means “to gain a surpassing victory.” Hendricksen says “we are super-conquerors. We are winning a sweeping, overwhelming victory.” In a world filled with pain. Suffering. Sickness. And death. When Every day somewhere relationships are ruptured. Spirits are disquieted. Souls as distressed. Hearts are broken. We may not feel like we’re “super conquerors.” But we can be! Here’s how! (1) Live in God’s Presence. James said, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Jesus promised “I am with you always even to the end of the world. Mt 28:29. When we suffer temporary set-backs, we can know that we are in the presence of God. What a great encouragement, comfort and consolation. One man said, where was God when my son died?” The answer is: The same place he was when His son died. If you feel forsaken, Jesus knows how you feel. God is not a spectator of our pain, we are in his presence. And in the end, we will win! (2) Learn from God’s Promises. The Psalmist affirmed that God would be with us. That he is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” God promises help. Comfort. Hope. He says, “I...

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“Vapors of Blessing”

May 15

“Vapors of Blessing”

  JOURNAL Thoughts:  Friday 8:45a.m. 02/15/2015 Vanity. In the book of Ecclesiastes   the Preacher or ‘Searcher’ ; Solomon uses this simple word over 25 times in this short introspective book.  He opens his writings with this phrase. “Vanity of Vanities” Ecclesiastes 1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; ALL is vanity. And even in the last chapter of the book he concludes with the same phrase. “Vanity of Vanities” (Ecclesiastes 12:8) Solomon’s view of life at this time was one of deep and troubling soul-searching. The man was the ‘Bill Gates’ or ‘Warren Buffett’ of his day, for in chapter 2 He tells us  whatever  his eyes or Heart desired he obtained it (Ecc. 2:10). He was in a desperate search for the meaning of Life by purchasing and buying all the material things plus experiences he could have—He held NOTHING BACK in this frantic pursuit for ‘The Meaning of Life’. All of life is VANITY was one of Solomon’s major conclusions in this book. A better translation of the Hebrew word VANITY, here , (Ha-bel) , would be literally ‘BREATH’. In other words Life is but a mere vapor or Breath, exhaled  and dissipating quickly with hardly a thought of that passing. In that regard, that LIFE PASSES QUICKLY I would agree, especially as I approach my 60th year. Twenty  years ago to me, seems to have ‘flashed by’ like the snap of ones fingers .It  is as if with each passing year my life spins by faster and faster. The Apostle James said it this way… ‘Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.’ With all this in mind today I am learning more and more to be grateful for the ‘Small things’; those small blessings that come my way each day . For me, the biggest source of ‘small blessings’ are my two granddaughters; Jeslyn, age 7  and Natalie  age 10.  As an example, It just dawned on me this past week what a joy it is each weekday to escort my granddaughters down the street to get on the bus for school. I...

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