Tag Archive | First Amendment

The Lost Art of Reading Billboards

Motel SignBillboards have long been a fixture across the landscape of our country. Just drive down nearly any state highway or interstate, and you will be witness to massive advertisements for any number of businesses, products, services, or causes. From ads for fast food to political candidates to massive marriage proposals, people use billboards to communicate any number of products and ideas.

And in my 70 years on this earth, I don’t ever recall a single time I passed a billboard and witnessed an individual standing on the side of the road, screaming at that billboard while waving a picket sign. A billboard must meet certain community standards in order to be erected in the first place. I see any number of billboards on a daily basis that are advertising something I don’t necessarily agree (or disagree) with.

When I see these, I do what all normal people do… I just keep driving. I don’t stop and scream at the billboard. I stay in my car, maintain my speed, and have probably forgotten about it within a mile.

Wouldn’t it be great if people viewed what they see on the internet and social media the same way they view billboards?

It never ceases to amaze me, the time and energy people put into running something down that they disagree with on the web. In a letter he wrote in 1946, Albert Einstein said something almost prophetic…

“I believe that the abominable deterioration of ethical standards stems primarily from the mechanization and depersonalization of our lives — a disastrous byproduct of science and technology. Nostra Culpa (our fault)!”

Even in 1946 — long before home computers, digital technology, and the internet — Einstein saw technology “depersonalizing” our lives as individuals, and the way we interact with each other. Today we witness people say and do things on the internet — and when I say ‘internet’, I am including social media — that they would never have done even 25 years ago. We see “digital courage” on display on a regular basis; people hiding behind a computer screen, espousing their particular brand of hatred and vitriol from the safety of their bedroom… things they would never dream of saying to another person’s face.

Recently, our church had what we called All American Day. Our church has a long history of patriotic events, dating back over 30 years. I love this country, and I am thankful for the grace God has shown us over the last nearly 250 years. I believe the blessings of God on our nation are worth celebrating. This year, we invited former presidential candidate Governor Mike Huckabee to be our guest speaker. Subsequently, we did a little advertising on social media to promote the event. The text of the ad read…

Governor Mike Huckabee will be speaking this Sunday at Abba’s House in Hixson! Join us for patriotic music and an inspiring message by Gov. Huckabee! The service begins at 10:30am. Abba’s House is located at 5208 Hixson Pike.

No political agenda. No partisanship. No campaigning for a candidate. A former governor, who happens to be a Christian, was speaking about our nation.

What ensued over the next few days was a series of ill-informed, uneducated, judgmental, and even vile posts by people who disagreed with or disliked the idea Governor Huckabee was speaking at our church. While there were many posts that were positive and/or neutral, many crossed the line into absurdity and profanity that we would not even allow on the page. People launched into uninformed and unfounded personal attacks on Governor Huckabee. Others launched into attacks on President Trump. Still others became “Constitutional scholars”, and launched into arguments about the First Amendment, separation of church and state, and the Johnson Amendment (calling into question our church’s tax-exempt status).  I even had one person who proceeded to attack a speaker who spoke at our church several years ago (in an event that was not even sponsored by our church) who has no affiliation to politics, Mike Huckabee, or President Trump.

But what was probably the most disheartening were the attacks commentors made on other commentors, calling them childish and profane names, and belittling total strangers for being hopeful about our nation and our future.

Now normally I don’t respond to comments and criticisms, particularly on my blog. This “conversation”, however, goes to a bigger issue: Decency. I am used to criticism; I’m a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so in a world that is hostile to Him, it comes with the territory. What gets me, though, is the way people instantly become experts about everything they disagree with, which amplifies the idea that, as a believer in Jesus Christ, trying to “fit in” in such a world is not possible.

Here are a few fast facts pertaining to these posts…

  • Former-governor Huckabee is no longer a political candidate. The fact is, before he was Governor Mike Huckabee, he was Pastor Mike Huckabee. More than a decade before he entered politics, he was the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. One of his former bosses, evangelist James Robison, once said of him…

“His convictions shape his character and his character will shape his policies. His whole life has been shaped by moral absolutes.”

  • The Johnson Amendment (regarding political speech from a pulpit), has to do with the endorsement of a political candidate. Since Mr. Huckabee is neither (at this writing) a political candidate nor endorsing one, this really was a non-issue. In fact, all one has to do is a simple YouTube search, and you will find a variety of politicians (and candidates) who have spoken in churches, from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and President Donald Trump.
  • There were several comments about the First Amendment and “separation of church and state.” The fact is that the term “separation of church and state” is not in the First Amendment, or in the Constitution at all for that matter. The phrase separation of church and state came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Baptist Association of Danbury Connecticut. The actual text of the First Amendment of the Constitution reads as follows…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Jefferson quote 1

While the First Amendment was never meant to keep the Church out of the State, but in fact, to keep the State out of the Church, liberal interpretations of the First Amendment, combined with a mis-interpretation (lack of context) of Jefferson’s words have led us to where we are today. The fact is, Jefferson’s own writings (as well as the writings of many of the founding fathers) bear witness to not only his belief in God, and to his belief that our liberties as a nation are a gift from God. Does it really stand to reason that we should eliminate, from our public life, the very God credited with making our public life, as we know it, possible?

 

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
~ Thomas Jefferson

 

  • In the social media posts, the word “hypocrite” was bandied about quite a bit. The fact of the matter is, hypocrisy is, by definition, the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. The fact is, nearly everyone exhibits hypocrisy in some form or fashion (if you claim to be a law-abiding citizen, yet you speed, you are, by definition a hypocrite)Monitor 4But here again, for the believer in Christ, fighting against the labels the world attempts to put on us is an untenable position; if we stand unwavering on the tenants of Scripture, particularly with regard to issues of morality, we are labelled “intolerant, bigots, homophobic, judgmental,” etc. But the same people who use such terms to describe people who stand on their Christian moral standards and beliefs are as equally unforgiving of any Christian who appears hypocritical in any way, form, or fashion. Essentially the argument is, “You are going to criticize me if my Christian belief system is counter to your political, social, or moral ideology (ie: if I am NOT a hypocrite), but you are going to criticize me for being a hypocrite if I don’t live my life perfectly in keeping with what I claim to believe.” Are you seeing the absurdity here, in trying to please those who you are never going to please?

I could go on for days, but I would like to bring this all back to the bigger issue I alluded to…

Decency.

While there will always be critics and naysayers, regardless of the topic, there should be an understanding that such “dialogue” is not the acceptable norm. There should be a way, in civil society, that we can “disagree without being disagreeable”, and respond to each other with dignity and respect. It seems that the more tech-saavy we become, the less decent we act. We should be able to have public discourse without the need to go to verbal war. We should be able to have honest debate without vitriolic hate. In the Bible, James implores the believer…

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~ James 1:19-20

In Proverbs, we find this truth…

A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. ~ Proverbs 15:1-2

Someone much wiser than me wrote that. It seems like pretty good advice for all of us. We can be uncompromising in our beliefs without being uncharitable in our speech. We should all strive to be passionate about our convictions without being profane in our words and attitude. It is possible to strongly disagree, but do so with unquestionable love, or at least civility.

Maybe it’s time to view social media the same way we view bilboards…

Read… and keep on driving down the road.

Have a great weekend!

Pastor Ron

Ready… FIRE… Aim…


So I’m perusing my news feed on social media the other day when I see this headline…

“Chip and Joanna Gaines Under Fire for Maybe
Having the ‘Wrong’ Views on LGBT Issues”

“Maybe”…

Please, take a moment and let that sink in.

“Maybe.”

Chalk outline - crossThe story, posted in The Daily Signal, discussed how the HGTV stars of Fixer Upper were in hot water with some outlets such as BuzzFeed and Cosmopolitan over the fact that they attend a church where the pastor still believes that homosexuality is a sin. Now, bear in mind that the Gaines couple, who happen to be born-again Christians, have never spoken publicly (that anyone seems to know of) about their position on homosexuality and/or gay marriage.

Cue the sirens of the “Thought-Police“.

So, if I’m getting this straight, now we have gone from…

“You are a horrible and despicable person if you speak out against what the Bible calls ‘sin'”, to…

“You are a horrible and despicable person if you think something is a sin”, to…

“You are a horrible and despicable person if I think that you think that something is a sin.”

Folks… we, as a society, have officially jumped the shark.

First_amendment_engraving,_Washington_DCPolitical correctness has indeed reached a tipping point, and for the left-wing crowd that wants to be able to say, express, and champion every progressive, “enlightened”, offensive, and ungodly idea under the auspices of “free speech”, well… here’s your First Amendment at work.

Our nation is sorely divided over LGBT issues. According to The Daily Caller article

According to Pew Research Center, as of 2016, 37 percent of adults in this country still oppose same-sex marriage, while 55 percent approve. That means over a third of Americans are still against same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, among Christians, 54 percent thought that homosexuality should be accepted in society, per a 2014 Pew study—which means that up to 46 percent thought it shouldn’t be. Among Protestants, 44 percent believe that homosexuality should be discouraged in society.

However, as a minister of the Gospel for the vast majority of my life, I will continue to stand on the truth of the Word of God, and its definition of sin. In our day and time, with cultural forces being brought to bear on those who believe in the inerrancy and timelessness of the Bible, it would be far easier to go with the flow, follow the crowd, and preach an “I’m ok, you’re ok” doctrine that marginalizes holiness and righteousness in the name of a twisted and corrupted definition of “love”. But that isn’t how it works. The laws and principles laid out in God’s Word are sovereign and unchanging. What God says is sin is sin, for He is not bound to bend to the whims of culture and political correctness. He is God Almighty, unchanging from eternity to eternity.

In I Corinthians 13 (The Love Chapter), Paul says…

    Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (v. 4-8a NKJV)

As a minister of the Gospel, I speak out against things that the Bible calls ‘sin’ — not in spite of love — but because of love…

… Love that puts up with being called a bigot or a homophobe because of my love for the souls of men and women who are without Christ.

… Love that is willing to risk ridicule and derision for the sake of truth.

… Love that wishes, as Christ did, that “none should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)

But I digress… a little.

The fact is that political correctness in America has reached a point of toxicity, hypocrisy, and absurdity that warrants a long, hard look by the next administration into the injustices and persecution of conservative individuals who have simply stood on their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and faith, while other — more politically correct — individuals are given a pass on the basis of those same rights.

And for the “who are you to judge me?” crowd to now begin persecuting people because of what they MIGHT believe??? Is that not the very essence of being judgmental? (I wish I could say this is a joke, but you really can’t make this stuff up.)

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. ~ Hebrews 4: 12-13 (NKJV)

In the end, God is the Judge of all. Until that time, whether conservative or liberal, right or wrong, we must all be ready to be offended in some way by some person who has a differing viewpoint from our own. That is the whole essence of discourse or having a conversation — to share differing ideas and opinions. 

And who knows… in the process, we might actually learn something about ourselves, about others, and about what it means to live and exist outside of the bubble of our own ideas. As Christians, we might actually become better informed to make the difference that Jesus called us to make, in the lives of others and in our world. We might start changing minds and hearts because of, not just a message of love and forgiveness, but a lifestyle and attitude that uncompromisingly walks the talk.

 

With Liberty and Justice for All.

UTDDOA2

Freedom of speech is soon to be a thing of the past in America.

The recent incident in Garland, Texas where Muslims tried to murder a group of people drawing cartoons about Mohammed is blazing the trail for laws against so called hate speech. Even some conservatives are railing against Pamela Geller’s gathering in Garland.

As distasteful as what she did may seem to some..this is America.

KS77787As a believer in Christ, I obviously disagree with the majority of what Bill Maher has to say. However, I will defend his right to say it in America. People have the right to ridicule and criticize Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other religion or ideology they choose in America. The First Amendment was not adopted so we would all have the opportunity to agree, hold hands, and live in harmony. The First Amendment was meant to guarantee the right to worship as one believes, to have the right to have a dissenting and/or unpopular opinion, and to peacefully assemble and seek the help of the government without fear of retaliation or retribution. As believers in Jesus, we must remember that the same laws that give us the right to speak and worship freely also protect the rights of those who say offensive and abhorrent things in direct opposition to our faith. However, If we say some cannot speak freely no matter how abhorrent, it is just a matter of time before the government attempts to silence Christians. We are beginning to see it happen now. Yes… today our voice is free to speak out against gay marriage, immorality, and even poor government. However, that will soon be called hate speech as it is today in Canada and parts of Europe. Liberals and Islamic extremists believe only their opinions are protected. But while the voices of “intolerance in the name of tolerance” continue to force their agenda down the throats of the American people, we must be diligent in standing on our identity as Christians, and our rights as Americans. We must be wary of the schemes of the enemy to silence the Church through physical threats, legal intimidation, and popular opinion / mob rule mentality.

CoffeeFreedom of speech, like freedom of religion, protects the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of my teachings are already unwelcome in certain venues. It is important that Muslims realize that the freedom that enables them to worship and speak in this country is because of our Judeo-Christian American heritage. Islamic nations restrict freedom of speech, religion, and women’s rights.

German theologian Martin Niemöller famously said…

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is America and we must guard freedom of expression for all.

Wake up America!

Pastor Ron

A Time To Stand

Sometimes I feel like a man born in the wrong time in history…

BibleThere was a time in this nation when preaching mattered. There was a time when newspapers would print sermons, and preachers would not fail to take stands for Biblical truth. There was a time, not too long ago, when congregations could gather and count on hearing an unapologetic, Bible-based word spoken by a pastor who had spent time on his face before God.

Fast forward to 2014…

Today, we have preachers being harassed and scrutinized by public “servants” (I use that term loosely). Just recently, we have pastors in the Houston area being ordered (via subpoenas) to turn over their sermons, notes, and a host of other types of correspondence for legal review. In Idaho, a couple— both ordained ministers — is facing potential fines and jail time for refusing to perform gay marriages. An Oregon baker was forced to choose between shutting down her business or being fined into bankruptcy for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

I could go on and on… you get the picture.

ConstitutionWhile roughly 77% of the population of the United States claims to be Christian, less than 4% claim to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender*. Yet, in spite of this wide disparity, the silence on this matter by pastors and preachers in our nation is deafening. Our “leadership” in Washington is trampling on the very Constitution they swore to uphold and protect — the one that plainly states in its First Amendment…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In spite of this very guarantee of freedom of speech and worship, the church has allowed itself to be cowed into the corner of silence and insignificance. The pop psychology pablum running off the pulpits in our country is challenging and changing no one. The problem has become that we have confused a crowd for a true church, and popularity for real ministry. We have sacrificed being righteous for being “relevant”, and “speaking the truth in love” for beating around the bush with psycho-babble that never gets to the heart of what is killing our nation and world today.

Where are the voices crying “prepare the way of the LORD“?

Where is the prophetic call to repent?

Where are the Elijahs, the Daniels, the Isaiahs, and the John the Baptists of our day?

With an end-time scenario in the Middle East, and the resurrection of the beast of the Ottoman Empire with its philosophy of genocide toward Jews and Christians, believers in Christ are fast asleep. The horde known as ISIS is sweeping across Syria and Iraq, destroying lives at will. The plague of ebola is sweeping across West Africa, infecting and killing thousands as the numbers continue to rise. Both of these calamities have spilled onto our shores, and while our leaders posture and preen in their attempt to appear effective while basking in their political correctness, the Churches of America fiddle while the nation burns.

It is time for the Church to stand… Stand with the poor. Stand with the persecuted. Stand with the voiceless and oppressed. Stand with those on the front lines of the war for our culture.

At our church — Abba’s House — we have made a decision: We will not be silenced. We will stand on the Word of God. We will stand for traditional marriage. We will stand for Israel, and its right to exist as a nation. We will stand for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We will stand for America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. We will stand on the FACT that we are still a Christian nation. We will confront Islamic terror with the Truth. We will stand on the battlefield of Spiritual Warfare, ready to fight.

I look around the city in which we live, and see nearly 1,000 churches constantly swapping members, while 230,000 souls won’t darken the doorstep of our houses of worship. Yet, I have a deep conviction that there are 7,000 in our county who have not bowed their knees to Baal, and that remnant will arise, cross over the barriers, and end the indifference. I believe that God is going to show up and awaken our cold and callous hearts once again.

Some of you reading this, for one reason or another, are no longer in church. If you are in the Chattanooga / North Georgia area, and are looking for a church that preaches the Word of God unreservedly, I invite you to visit us at Abba’s House. I’d love to meet you. We are a truth ministry that operates in grace and mercy. If you have stumbled along the way, and are looking for a place to call home, you can visit us and find welcome and restoration. If you are living out of town, I encourage you to find a church that stands on the truth of God’s Word, and get plugged in. If you can’t find one, you can join us online at www.abbashouse.com for our online streaming during worship times.

The time for complacency is long-since past. It is time that we once again believe that we are, without question – “One nation under God”.

 

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/08/137057974/-institute-of-medicine-finds-lgbt-health-research-gaps-in-us