The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Month: November 2015 (page 2 of 2)

Atlanta Persecution

O PreacherI publish this to keep us informed of what’s happening in the land of religious freedom.   This article from The Wall Street Journal, speaks for itself.

Christian Belief Cost Kelvin Cochran His Job

Atlanta says it terminated its fire chief because he published a book without permission. The real reason is because of what’s in it.

Kelvin Cochran, right, with his attorney, David Cortman, at a Feb. 18 news conference in Atlanta.   Kelvin Cochran, right, with his attorney, David Cortman, at a Feb. 18 news conference in Atlanta. Photo: Ben Gray/Associated Press

Kelvin Cochran has led a remarkable life by any standard. He was born into a poor family in Shreveport, La., in 1960 that became even poorer after his father walked out and left his mother to raise six children alone. “After he left, we couldn’t afford to live in the projects anymore,” he once told an interviewer.

Mr. Cochran aspired to be a firefighter from age 5, and he eventually was appointed Shreveport’s first black fire chief in 1999. In 2008 he became the fire chief of Atlanta. And In 2009 President Obama appointed him U.S. fire administrator, the top position in the profession.

At the urging of Democratic Mayor Kasim Reed, Mr. Cochran returned to his post in Atlanta in 2010 and continued to impress. In 2012, after more than 30 years of service, he was given a Fire Chief of the Year Award by Fire Chief magazine. In a related press release, the mayor’s office said that “under Chief Cochran’s leadership, the department has seen dramatic improvements in response times and staffing.” Mr. Reed added: “Chief Cochran’s pioneering efforts to improve performance and service within the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department have won him much-deserved national recognition.”

But a year ago, Mr. Cochran was suspended for 30 days without pay, pending an investigation into his behavior. On Jan. 6, at the end of the suspension, Mr. Reed sacked him. Mr. Cochran’s fireable offense, according to the city, was publishing a book in violation of the city’s ethics code and without permission from the mayor. The reality, according to a lawsuit filed in response to the firing, is that Mr. Cochran no longer has his $172,000-a-year job because of what’s in the book. The suit accuses the city of firing Mr. Cochran for his religious beliefs.

It turns out that when he’s not fighting fires, Mr. Cochran spends a lot of time helping black men turn their lives around and stay out of trouble. He does this under the auspices of Atlanta’s Elizabeth Baptist Church, where he is a deacon and leads a men’s bible study.

Mr. Cochran self-published a book in 2013, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” The book, written on his own time, is a compilation of lesson plans for his bible classes and explains how the teachings of Christ can help men fulfill their purpose as responsible husbands and fathers. What earned the ire of Atlanta officials is that the 162-page tome includes a few passages criticizing homosexual conduct as “perversion.”

In response to the lawsuit, the city has maintained that Mr. Cochran was terminated for violating protocol, not for his religious views—as if he would have been fired for publishing a cookbook. But comments from the mayor and other city officials at the time of the suspension suggest that the book’s content is what drove the decision.

“I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran’s book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race and religious beliefs,” said Mr. Reed. Alex Wan, a member of the City Council who is openly gay, said “I respect each individual’s right to have their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but when you’re a city employee, and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.”

So the mayor fired someone who disagreed with him in the name of inclusivity and tolerance. And Mr. Wan believes that government employees are entitled to their own views but not entitled to share them with anyone. If this is true, the Constitution’s protections of free speech and freedom of religion are meaningless in practice.

David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group representing Mr. Cochran, says the city is now using protocol arguments to cover its tracks after wrongly terminating someone for holding and expressing religious views that city officials didn’t like. There is no official requirement to notify the mayor before you write a book, Mr. Cortman told me, and Mr. Cochran sought and received permission from the city’s ethics department to pursue the book project.

“The ethics rule concerns moonlighting, other employment or outside work,” said Mr. Cortman. “It doesn’t apply to writing a book, religious or otherwise, on your own time at home. And if they had such a rule in place it would be unconstitutional. You don’t need the government’s permission to do that.”

Despite the left’s efforts to paint Mr. Cochran as some kind of hateful bigot, the city’s own investigation of the former fire chief’s work history found no complaints of discrimination.

Many Americans—and polls show their numbers growing—don’t agree with Mr. Cochran about sexual behavior or same-sex marriage, but all Americans have a stake in religious freedom. Consider: Would it be OK for a mayor who holds traditional views on marriage to fire an employee who wrote a book that expressed support for same-sex marriage?

“Our nation was founded on the principle that everyone should be free to not just believe what they want, but to live their lives according to those beliefs,” said Mr. Cochran in a statement last month following a court hearing. “I’m here today not just for myself, but for every religious person in America who does not want to live in fear of facing termination for expressing their faith.”

Mr. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor, is the author of “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (Encounter Books, 2014).

 

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Birthday Love Letter Lesson

O PreacherLois and I celebrated my 72nd birthday Monday.  The number almost takes my breath away.  (So does walking up stairs.)  My body feels 72, but not my mind.  (You may diagnose me differently if you regularly read what I write.)  Anyway, we enjoyed a wonderful day together—brunch and dinner out (not at the same time), Lois’ card and letter to me (I cried) and the movie “The Notebook” (more tears).  Unusual all-day rain kept us from the beach (original plan), but it was just as well.  We enjoyed being quiet together appreciating having each other.  I’m more in love than ever.

At the risk of sounding egotistical, here’s one line from Lois’ letter:  “Your ability to persevere and continue to show Christ’s love is witness to the power of the faith you have taught—and lived—all your life.”  (Ah, yes.  Love is blind.  Is that in Leviticus?)  I shared her sentence only because I’ve struggled recently with the Lord’s answer to Paul’s pleading prayers to be freed from his “thorn in the flesh” . . .

“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness”
(2 Corinthians 12:9a).

I read those words and wonder where the Lord’s gracious perfected power is in me.  I limp in pain leaning on my walker.  My faith fights feebly against my disability.  Some days I’m angry or depressed.  God’s promises seem to mock me.  No divine power-surge in this old body!  No spectacular signs of God’s sufficient grace in me!  Not only do I not boast of my weaknesses, I hate people seeing me this way.  No contented sighs coming from this mouth.  Where’s the Lord’s power?

Then Monday I read Lois’ letter.  “Your ability to persevere and continue to show Christ’s love is witness to the power of the faith you have taught—and lived—all your life” (and other such statements).   There it is!  There’s the Lord’s perfected power in my weakness! 

Lois sees me persevering and continuing to show Christ’s love.  She sees me as a witness to faith’s power.  (She sees many other virtues I won’t point out for fear of sounding like Donald Trump.)  These virtues that she sees are evidence of the Lord’s perfected power of grace in me. 

I realize again that his power doesn’t displace weakness; it shines in weakness.  It doesn’t turn a disabled body into Superman; it displays Jesus in the attitude and words and ways of the disabled.  His power doesn’t rescue me from the Calvary road; it inwardly renews me on the Calvary road.  (And one day, just as God’s power exploded in the resurrection of the crucified Christ, it will explode in this rotted, worm-eaten body and resurrect it imperishable and immortal.)

This is how, of course,  God’s power was perfected in Paul.  It’s impossible to read 2 Corinthians, other Pauline letters and the book of Acts and not know that Paul suffered for Christ.  Just read 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 11:23-29.  Only in 2 Corinthians 12:9 did Paul pray to be spared suffering.  And when he didn’t receive what he wanted, he wrote:

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content
with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.
For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9b,10).

That’s the Lord’s perfected power in a mere sinful mortal who trusts his saving grace!

I’m not saying the Lord never delivers.  Read Hebrews 11 and realize there are times he does and times he doesn’t.  But when he doesn’t,  his power isn’t absent—just demonstrated in different ways.

Listen!  There’s no need to run to “healing evangelists” or to send money for an “anointed prayer cloth.”  Our Father never turns a deaf ear to his children.  Our Lord never ignores his redeemed.  He just asserts his gracious power in different ways according to his sovereign and good will.

That means I am as much a miracle as I would be if the Lord physically healed me!

 

 

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No Resurrection Marriage?!

O PreacherSee that pretty lady next to the old guy?  That’s Lois, my wife  of 53 years.  Besides being my best friend, mother to our three children, and grandmother to our eight grandchildren, she was my partner in pastoral ministry for 44 years.  I can’t imagine life without her as my wife.  That’s why this is my least favorite Scripture text.

When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Jesus in Mark 12:25).   That takes some shine off the new creation for me.  If it weren’t for ” . . . they will be like angels” I’d interpret Jesus to mean no weddings.   Alas!  I can’t twist the text!

Okay,  I feel a little better with that off my chest.  (Transparency, right?)  So let’s get to the full text . . .

Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.  “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother.  Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children.  The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third.  In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too.  At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”  Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?  When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.  Now about the dead rising– have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:18-27).

It’s Tuesday after Jesus’ triumphal entry Sunday into Jerusalem.  Wave after wave of Jewish authorities verbally attack him in the temple courtyard hoping he’ll incriminate himself.  They want him silenced; they want him dead.

Now it’s the Sadducees.  Little is known about this short-lived Jewish sect, but this much is—they didn’t believe in the end-time resurrection of the dead.

Nor do 54% of Americans (+10% undecided) according to a 2006 poll cited by Dr. Albert Mohler in one of his blogs.  Yet, according to a “USA Today” poll in 2009, 74% of Americans believe in heaven.  Americans are confused because they think heaven is Christians’ final destination when the new creation is.

The Sadducees pose an extreme situation (7 husbands?); yet this remarriage practice was biblical.  If a husband died leaving no heirs, one of the surviving brothers was to marry his widow to provide an heir so the brother’s name and inheritance would be kept in the family (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  Therefore, even though the motive is dishonest, the question isn’t:  “At the resurrection, whose wife shall she be?”

Jesus (not so “meek and mild”) replies:  “How wrong you are!  And do you know why?  It is because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power” (TEV).  Jesus says the Sadducees are wrong for three reasons.

First, they don’t know the Scriptures.  I’m afraid the same may be true of  people today (including Christians).  And when we don’t know the Scriptures we’re wrong or ignorant about some of life’s most important realities (like knowing whether or not there will be an end-time bodily resurrection).  Listen, it doesn’t take a post-graduate degree to know the Scriptures!  All we need is to prayerfully, regularly and thoughtfully read them.  Think how deep our knowing of God if every year of our life—or even every two years—we read through the Bible!

Second, they don’t know God’s power.  Admittedly, bodily resurrection of everyone who’s ever lived (some to eternal judgment, some to eternal life) seems a bit “out there”.  I can’t imagine the scene!  But that’s because I have limited knowledge of God’s unlimited power.  God’s power in my life is quiet and barely discernible.  I believe in it because I see its evidence in creation and in changed lives.  Yet it doesn’t explode like a computer-generated movie scene, so many choose ignorance of it.  I choose to believe it, because I repeatedly read of it in Scripture and I figure that, since God created my body, surely he can resurrect it.  

Third, they don’t know God.  Remember how God introduced himself to Moses at the burning bush.  “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (12:26).  Jesus draws the implication:  “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.  You are quite wrong” (12:27). 

Significantly, God didn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham . . . ” but “I am the God of Abraham . . . “.    And Jesus said, “He is the God . . . of the living.”  In every generation, God is “I am.”  Therefore, his people are never dead, but always living.  And in his time dead bodies will be raised, as Paul later wrote, ” . . . imperishable, in glory. in power, a spiritual body . . . ” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).  

“To him who by means of his power working in us
is able to do so much more than we can ever ask or think of
(even making Lois’ and my relationship something better than husband and wife);
to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
for all time, forever and ever (Ephesians 3:20-21, TEV)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carson Vs. Media

O PreacherI was shaken yesterday when I first read of Dr. Ben Carson’s “fabrications”.   I read further reports and  became confused.  What was said when?  Did the media get it right?  Did Carson make misstatements?

All this concerned me because I believe Carson’s honesty and integrity are key to his campaign.  And while I’d love to see debates between Carly and Hillary, I’ll be voting for Carson.  (I still can’t believe people are taking Trump seriously.  If he or Hillary become president I may move to Sweden.)

Gradually, as I continued to read and hear reports, I came to the conclusion that this was another case of media bias on the attack.  Take, for a small example,  the top line of the video:  “Ben Carson Goes Off On Reporters . . . ”  Goes off?    (Trump goes off every time he opens his mouth!)  Please note:  “goes off” is subtle media commentary.

By the way, the Democrat party has a shoo-in for the presidential nomination being investigated by the FBI.  Where is the media feeding frenzy over that?

America is in trouble.  When the media is so blatantly biased we don’t know who or what we can we believe and often are subconsciously swayed to believe a lie.  The media are as liable for division in this country as people who always cry “racist”.

Thank God we belong to a kingdom not of this world!  Yet we’re called to live in the kingdoms of this world and to influence them for righteousness and justice.  The video above is my tiny attempt to do that in this case.

 

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Law: Nude Male in Girls’ Locker Room

O PreacherThis is the world in which our children are growing up.  It should shock us (if anything can anymore) and move us to vote for whomever the Republican party nominates.  Hopefully then all this socialistic ideology will be destroyed with a presidential or congressional stroke of the pen.

The blog below is from “National Review” staff writer David French.  Mr. French is an attorney, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and author or co-author of several bestselling books.  He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the past president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and a former lecturer at Cornell Law School. He has served as a senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom. David is a major in the United States Army Reserve (IRR). In 2007, he deployed to Iraq, serving in Diyala Province as Squadron Judge Advocate for the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He lives and works in Columbia, Tennessee, with his wife, Nancy (who is also a New York Times bestselling author), and three children.  This post appear in the blog “The Corner” on November 3rd.

Feds: Schools Must Grant Mentally Disturbed Boy Unfettered Access to Girls’ Locker Room

The Department of Education has lost its mind:
Federal education authorities, staking out their firmest position yet on an increasingly contentious issue, found Monday that an Illinois school district violated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a transgender student who identifies as a girl and participates on a girls’ sports team to change and shower in the girls’ locker room without restrictions.
Let me get this straight—if the school district allowed someone to post pictures of a nude man in a classroom, that would be blocked as sexual harassment, but if a nude boy changes next to women in a locker room, that’s equality?
Apparently so:
In a letter sent Monday, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education told the Palatine district that requiring a transgender student to use private changing and showering facilities was a violation of that student’s rights under Title IX, a federal laws that bans sex discrimination.  The student, who identifies as female but was born male, should be given unfetter access to girls’ facilities, the letter said.
And you have to love the anti-science sanctimony from the ACLU:
“What our client wants is not hard to understand:  She wants to be accepted for who she is and to be treated with dignity and respect—like any other student,” said John Knight, the director of the L.G.B.T. and H.I.V. Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, who is representing the student.  “The district’s insistence on separating my client from other students if blatant discrimination.  Rather than approaching this issue with sensitivity and dignity, the district has attempted to justify its conduct by challenging my client’s identity as a girl.”
“Identity as a girl?”  This poor kid doesn’t have a chance.  He’s surrounded by people who are indulging his mental challenges, lying to him—as social-justice warriors do—for the sake of a sexual revolutionary ideology so radical that it now even trumps the rights of girls to be free from involuntary exposure to male nudity at school.  This won’t end well for the boy, for the girls in the school, or for the use of the law as a rational instrument of justice.
Nor should it end well for the Department of Education.  Last year, the DOE issued a memorandum that purported to amend Title IX to add protections for “transgender” students.  The use of memoranda to change the law is a favorite tactic of the Obama administration, and it also happens to violate the Administrative Procedure Act.  Colleges—in the grips of the radical Left—have been too cowardly to challenge the administration’s legal abuses, but I suspect that public-school districts will be a bit more eager to go to court.  They have less to lose and more to gain.  Would you want to be the school-board member in a conservative district who meekly acquiesced to Obama-administration lawlessness?
But litigation shouldn’t even be necessary.  If the GOP wins the presidency in 2016, a conservative secretary of education can simply revoke all the Obama administration’s lawless Title IX directives, eliminating in one stroke the entire educational system’s legal pretext for its sexual hysteria.  New rule-making can narrow Title IX to its intended scope, and schools and colleges will find that they operate in a radically changed landscape.  A smart GOP candidate would do well to call out the Obama administration’s radicalization in the primary and promise to rescue schools from the ideologues.  We’ll see who makes the first move.
 ( I APOLOGIZE FOR THE BUNGLED WAY MR. FRENCH’S BLOG APPEARS.  MUST HAVE BEEN PRINTED IN WASHINGTON!)

 

 

 

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Taxes and the Two Kingdoms

P.AllanIs it lawful to pay taxes?  Of course; it’s unlawful not to.  Jesus was once asked that question; but he answered differently.  Here’s Mark’s report of how it all started . . .

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians to trap him in his talk .  And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion.  For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.  Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not.  Should we pay them, or should we not?”  But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”  They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied (Mark 12:13-16).

Commentary on the text.  “They”  who did the sending were members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish
Supreme Court.  “Pharisees”  were a sect within Judaism that had begun with deep devotion to God and his law, but over time became self-righteous legalists.  To them, oral tradition about God’s laws was as weighty as the laws themselves. “Herodians”  were primarily a political group in Judaism that supported the rule of the Herods.

Since 3:6 the Pharisees and Herodians had been plotting how to kill Jesus.  Here they’re looking to maneuver Jesus into an anti-law answer that will give them grounds to arrest him.  (Arrest is possible, because Israel was a theocracy where “church” and state were one.

First, they flattered Jesus, hoping to establish false-friendly feelings.  Jesus was no fool.  Neither was the gathering crowd in the temple courtyard.  Mostly saw through their flimsy approach.

Second came the “gotcha” question.  “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar” was a “hot button” issue.   Taxes were no small thing.  Since Rome “annexed” Israel, Jews were forced to pay a 10% grain tax, a  20% wine and fruit tax,  a 1% of-all-other-earnings tax and a one-denarius poll tax.  That was especially egregious because Caesar’s image glared from one side of the coin and his titles “High Priest” and “Son of God” emblazoned the other.

They smugly assumed Jesus was snared.  Answer “Pay taxes” and a riot would erupt.  “Don’t pay taxes” and the Court would be sure the Romans heard the treason Jesus was spreading.

But Jesus knew—and let them know he did.  When he asked for a denaius, a few sweat drops must have formed in their foreheads.  And when he asked,  “Whose portrait is this?”  and they answered, “Caesar’s”, their stomachs must have shuddered.

Jesus’ Answer.  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him (12:17).  The denarius was Caesar’s; his image marked it as his property.   However unjust the tax, his government had a right to it.

The crowd was amazed; Jesus was a verbal Houdini.  More stunning than his escape tactics was Jesus’ affirmation of two kingdoms (governments) in the world.  The government of man (Caesar’s) and the government of God.  Jesus’ well-versed-in-Scripture audiences would have recognized that.   And each government had its due.  That leads us to a few  final questions . . .

What Is God’s?  The Roman coin obviously belonged to Caesar.  What belonged to God?  His audience would have thought sacrifices, obedience,  worship, tithes, thanks, praise and worship.  Pay Caesar his taxes, but give God your devotion!

Now let us be the audience.  What is God’s?  As followers of Jesus, what is God’s that we’re to give him?
We could correctly repeat the Jews’ answers.  But that might be like thoughtlessly mimicking the answer we know the Teacher wants to hear.

How casually we repeat familiar Christian terms!  How unmindfully we mouth weighty biblical words!  We’re losing the ability to think deeply, so our lips speak religious jargon.  We don’t even want to think deeply about biblical things.  We want sermons that give us simple steps and lessons that  quickly distill doctrines debated for centuries in the church.

Maybe Jesus knew his audience would immediately and rightly identify what was God’s to be given him.  Or maybe he wanted them—and us—to think deeply and definitely about what is God’s to be given him.  Here are four Scriptures to guide us.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;  for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters (Psalm 24:1,2).

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19).

But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine (Isaiah 43:1).

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19b,20).

One Final Thought.  The last two Scriptures above  and Jesus’ question, “Whose image is on the coin?”, lead us to this:  Whose image is on us?

foto of denarius - Hand holding a single coin - JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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