Archive | June, 2014

The real issues behind the Hobby Lobby case and why you should care

30 Jun

Social media has been abuzz today with the decision handed down by the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case.  Many conservative Christians (like myself) hailed this ruling as a great victory for religious liberty in our country.  Many of us in Christian leadership have prayed and followed this case very closely. Perhaps you have not “kept up” and you are wondering what all of the fuss is about.  Perhaps you are confused with why the owners of Hobby Lobby and so many others care so deeply about this case. As with most issues, the real issues run far deeper than just a particular dispute or court case.  It is only by understanding these issues that one can understand why so many of us care so deeply about the Hobby Lobby case.

(1)  The sanctity of human life. Lost in much of the reporting on this case is the fact that Hobby Lobby did not object to providing 16 out of the 20 required contraceptives in the ObamaCare law.  Why did the Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby, object to those four drugs?  Because those four drugs actually cause a drug induced abortion. They work after an embryo (human life) has already formed in the mother’s womb.  Think about that for a moment. Hobby Lobby agreed to provide contraceptives to their employees under their company health plan.  They only drew the line when the government tried to require them provide drugs which they believed to cause the taking of a human life.  The Green family’s deep and decades long Christian faith would not allow them to be part of ending human life.  Make no mistake, this case is not about any type of “war on women” but at the heart of it lies the sanctity of human life.

(2)  Our constitution guarantees “freedom of religion” not just “freedom of worship.” It’s important to weigh very carefully the words that people use. They matter.  In recent years, there has been a trend among some leaders to talk about “freedom of worship.”  The position of some in our government today is to attempt to basically draw a line at the church door and say, “Keep your beliefs in there. Don’t bring them out here.”  The government’s arguments in the Hobby Lobby case made clear that it believed the Green family’s deep religious beliefs should be set aside because they operate a for profit business.  In other words, the government said that they were free to believe whatever they wanted to believe – when they were at church.  However, when they came to the company they started and owned, then their personal religious beliefs should be set aside for what the government thought was best or what some employees might desire to have.  Our constitution guarantees every person the right to the “free exercise” of their religion.  That means far more than just the freedom to worship where we choose in the way we choose. It means the freedom to express our faith and live out our faith.  In his concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy spoke to this issue…

In our constitutional tradition, freedom means that all persons have the right to believe or strive to believe in a divine creator and a divine law. For those who choose this course, free exercise is essential in preserving their own dignity and in striving for a self-definition shaped by their religious precepts. Free exercise in this sense implicates more than just freedom of belief… It means, too, the right to express those beliefs and to establish one’s religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community.

(3)  Religious liberty is for all or it is for no one.  If the government can bulldoze over the rights of the Green family and ignore their deep Christian beliefs, then it can do that to anyone.  Think about it. For instance, I am certainly not a Hindu and it would be difficult to get much farther apart on the religious spectrum than a Bible believing, Christ following Christian and a Hindu.  However, I would fight for the rights of any Hindu to be able to practice their religion and live out their faith publicly even though I agree with none of it. Why is that?  Because the day the government says that a Hindu’s convictions aren’t legitimate will be the day before it says that my convictions aren’t legitimate.

(4)  Which definition of “tolerance” are we using now?  Until recent years, America has been a country where tolerance meant I could respect you as a person and your right to your views without sharing them.  A new definition of tolerance is now running rampant in America.  It says that I must see your beliefs as equally valid and even celebrate them or I am a bigot.  At the heart of much of the arguments against Hobby Lobby is the belief that they should not be allowed to hold these convictions because they aren’t legitimate in “the modern world.”  On one of the rare occasions that I have listened to talk radio recently, I heard one commentator make the statement that the Green family “doesn’t want to join the rest of us in the 21st century.”  That is barely concealed code language for “they better get with the program because their views are illegitimate.”  Who decided they were illegitimate?   Those who cry “tolerance” the loudest in our day tend to be extremely intolerant of anyone who will not go along with their agenda. Think about it.

(5)  Elections matter and Christians should vote their convictions.  This ruling was a 5-4 decision. Think about that. We were one vote away from the government requiring a privately owned company to violate its conscience and convictions.  One vote. Elections matter because they have consequences. The justices who ruled in favor were consequences of elections in years past.  However, so were the four justices who dissented.  Some of those elections took place many years ago, but they still affect our lives today.  We are privileged to live in a country where we get to participate in choosing our leaders by exercising our right to vote. Today should remind us all of just how serious we should take voting.

(6)  Christians should pray daily for revival to come in America. Today should remind all of us of just how much our country needs revival. Our hope is not in the Supreme Court.  It is the Supreme One! While we should rightly be encouraged by the ruling today, it does nothing to change the rapid decline of our country in so many important ways. We need a great revival and we should pray for it every single day.


Further thoughts on Jonah

27 Jun

It may surprise some readers to learn that one of the great challenges of preaching is not deciding what to say – it’s deciding what to leave out or only mention in passing.  This fact may actually startle some who feel that I preach too long!  The fact is that every preacher mines more gold than he is able to adequately bring out in the pulpit.  During the month of June I have been sharing a series of messages through the Old Testament book of Jonah.  You can watch or download each message in this series here….

While I have covered a lot of territory in these messages, here are some further thoughts on Jonah and how studying & preaching this book has spoken to me…

(1)  God is sovereign over circumstances, nature, and all things.  At various points in the book of Jonah, the Bible says that God sent a storm, prepared a fish to swallow Jonah, made a plant grow, and even caused a worm to chew on the plant and kill it!   Over and over again, scripture affirms God’s sovereignty and while the book of Jonah doesn’t use that word, it clearly teaches this truth.  As believers, we can take great comfort in the Biblical truth that our lives are in the hands that hold this world together. God is not up there guessing!  He is at work and engaged.

(2) When we serve God, our failures aren’t final.  Think about all of the ways that Jonah failed.  First of all, he ran from God’s will for his life – literally in the opposite direction.  He failed to be a witness to the pagan sailors on the ship and only did so after they inquired about his faith. He failed to love lost people.  Even after he got right with God and obeyed, his heart was still filled with bitterness and a lack of concern for the people of Nineveh.  He was more concerned about his own comfort than he was about a city of at least 600,000 people who were far from God.  Certainly, Jonah was an imperfect messenger, but isn’t it great that over 2700 years after the events of the book of Jonah took place that we are still challenged, encouraged, and instructed by his life? God used Jonah in spite of a myriad of ways Jonah was not everything he should have been.  This fact certainly doesn’t excuse our sin, but it does remind us that no servant of God is perfect in this life. Jonah struggled and God still used him.  If you struggle, God can still use you too.

(3) God loves those who are far from Him.  I will not write in this blog some of the barbaric atrocities that I have read were committed by the people of Nineveh. They are literally that bad. Suffice it say that the people of Nineveh were the most brutal, most godless, most pagan people in the known world of that time.  Nevertheless, God loved them and sent a prophet to give them an opportunity to repent before they were destroyed. Think about that. In the same way, God still loves those who are far from Him today.

(4) God’s people must share the message with those who are far from Him. Jonah reinforces another great principle of scripture:  God uses His people to share His message.  That is clear all through the Bible.  My friend Sammy Gilbreath likes to say, “It’s only Good News if it gets there in time.”  It got to Nineveh in time and they responded.  Today may the day that God wants to use you or me to get the gospel “just in time” to someone who really needs to hear it or hear it again. Let’s share the gospel with someone today!