Religious Persecution… In the USA???

Diana FurrI am re-blogging this from my dear friend Diana Furr’s blog/website. She has been a spiritual mentor, prayer partner and dear friend for years! Please visit her website to read her previous post here about her blog’s new focus and plan to start following her series on Championing Religious Liberty: Kingdom Purpose/Kingdom Persecution/Kingdom Power. I’ve previously posted about her first book written about her Victory in the Valley after a five year battle with breast cancer.  She’s sold out to the Lord for His Kingdom Purpose in her life!

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Yes. Right here. Right now.

Two days ago, I introduced my new Monday-Wednesday-Friday blog format: Championing Religious Liberty.  (See November 20, 2017). Here’s my first Wednesday post under the NEW category of “Kingdom PERSECUTION.”

Some say we are at a Tipping Point in America… that our Religious Liberty — the free expression and exercise of our faith in any and all areas of life — is at stake…. that Religious Persecution — “hostility or ill treatment because of religious beliefs” — is significantly on the rise.

Each Wednesday, I will share cutting-edge facts about who is opposing Religious Liberty and why, and how they are going about it. As a lifelong businesswoman, my focus will primarily be the marketplace.

Why? Because I (and others, including Billy Graham) believe it is the next great mission field for Christ. It’s the place where we ALL interact daily — as business owners, employees, suppliers and/or customers.

These posts are meant to be a source of LEARNING and LEVERAGE.  So we can all become…

1) more aware of what’s actually happening today (not usually reported in traditional news sources); and

2) empowered to take effective and fruitful action as Ambassadors for Christ, within our respective spheres of influence… in the midst of a culture of increasing compromise.

In the future, I will post about specific business owners and employees whose workplace expression of faith has provoked “hostility or ill treatment” — from bullying or harassment to firings, regulatory and/or legal action. Today, here’s an overview of religious persecution in America.

The International Christian Concern (ICC) — a respected global monitor of persecution — assists international Christians victimized by it. (http://www.persecution.org/) ICC’s annual “Hall of Shame” report citing offending nations included the United States for the first time in 2017, noting America’s alarming rise in hostility toward Christians.

“… the courts, in defiance of the Founders, are pushing religion out of the public square, and into the small space of private expression… deciding that you only have full religious freedom and expression in the church and your home. In the public domain, your religious views and thoughts must be restrained and controlled… While there is no comparison between the life of a Christian in the U.S. with persecution overseas, ICC sees these worrying trends as an alarming indication of a decline in religious liberty in the United States.” http://www.persecution.org/persecutionnl/2017-01/ICC%202016%20Hall%20of%20Shame%20Report.pdf

In the 2017 edition of its annual report, Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America — 420 pages long! — First Liberty Institute cites more than 1,400 religious liberty incidents… up more than 15 percent over 2016, and 133% in the past 5 years. https://firstliberty.org/rights/undeniable-the-survey-of-hostility-to-religion-in-america/

Sociologist Dr. George Yancey published in October 2016: “… with the increase of [progressive] economic power, individuals who dislike conservative Christians are able to harm them in ways they were not able to accomplish in 1988.” https://www.christianpost.com/news/anti-christian-hostility-hasnt-risen-but-has-changed-secular-progressives-hold-more-wealth-power-201806/

In September 2016, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent a 306-page report to President Obama — Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties — declaring that “the phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ are nothing but ‘code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.’”  http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/Peaceful-Coexistence-09-07-16.PDF

Really? Is this what YOU mean when you advocate for religious liberty and religious freedom? Please post your comments!

Diana Furr (a.k.a. Abba’s Girl)

This blog may have raised questions for you. If you’d like to connect, engage, or get further help from me, you can…  EMAIL me at diana@championsofdestiny.com; CALL me at 863-446-1660; or request a complimentary initial CONSULT with me at  http://tinyurl.com/DianaFurr.

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Blind, poor and relationship problems?

We had a substitute Pastor today (October 22, 2017 at Pirateland, Myrtle Beach, SC). He didn’t actually name the sermon from Mark 10:46-52 this but it is the best I can do. Although the heading in my Bible says, “Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight.” It spoke volumes to me. Continue reading

Hatred….

There isn’t a “reblog” connected to this blog post on the Gentle Reformation site by Kyle Borg, but here is the link and here is the text. EXCELLENT post!

Many of us woke up this morning to the absolutely tragic news of a mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip. Videos show the fear and horror as gunshots can be heard breaking through the noise of the crowd. So far, reports indicate a lone gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel into a crowd. The initial numbers are nothing short of devastating. Fifty-eight dead and more than five hundred injured. Fifty-eight people. Fathers. Mothers. Sons. Daughters. Brothers. Sisters. Friends. Almost sixty people who will not walk past the threshold of their homes today because their lives have been snuffed out by an act of violence. Events like these trigger our collective memory—Pulse nightclub, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and the list goes on. My heart is broken and so is the heart of this nation.

Hatred. Yes, that’s what it is. Hatred. There’s no other word for it. We can see it. We can feel it. We can hear it. To deny its presence or pretend it’s something less is to willingly ignore the obvious. It would be like closing your eyes and insisting that the sun—bright and warm as it is—doesn’t exist. To admit hatred is to admit that something is very wrong. In response, Country star Jake Owen said: “This isn’t what our America is supposed to be like.” No it’s not. But more, it’s not what our world is supposed to be like. There’s a big problem.

And, in displays of hatred like this, many well-meaning people want to find a cure for the hatred. Gun control. Less political rhetoric. Stricter laws. Statements of solidarity. Positive feelings and well-wishes. Are these cures? Well, a cure depends on knowing the source. When doctors deal with sicknesses they don’t simply treat the symptoms they have to treat the source. Without knowing the source a cure for hatred can only address the symptoms. So, what is its source?

The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus taught, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of a man come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). What if that’s true?

If it’s true then it means we need a cure that goes more than skin deep. We need a heart cure. Politics can’t change hearts. Laws can’t change hearts. Psychology can’t change hearts. Positive vibes and well-directed thoughts cannot change hearts. Rather, the Bible says, only the gospel of Jesus Christ can—only it can address the problem of the heart. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). The gospel offers a cure for the sickness of the heart. The gospel is a message that does heart surgery and gives a heart transplant, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

Today, I grieve the hatred I see and hear. Even more, I grieve the hatred that is in my own heart. But I’m also reminded why we need the Great Physician, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). So let us mourn with those who mourn, and do so for as long as it takes to bring the heartsick to the Physician and the life-giving medicine of the gospel.

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Speak Life – Live Like You’re Loved!

LifeLikeYoureLovedFinally, I finished the four day – stretched out to two weeks – devotional, “Speak Life” by Brady Boyd. I have relished each day, over and over, hoping it is finally entrenched deep in my soul. I’ll give an update in a month or two. I can say, I feel myself holding my tongue more and more and working on “Speak Lord” on my lips. I’m grateful I have a few role models. If you missed the previous three posts, you can click and start them here.

So here is the final devotion followed by Hawk Nelson’s “Live Like You’re Loved” – a great way to end this!

Speak Life Day 4
Self-Talk That Is Tuned Into God

I want to return to the scenario of the negative-self-talk morning, the one where you find yourself waking after a restless night saying, It’s going to be a long day. What if instead of indulging gloom-and-doom tendencies, you were to say to yourself, I’ve had better nights of sleep, but it’s a new day, and I’m grateful for it. I have everything I need for life and godliness this day. Let’s see what unfolds?
I’m guessing things would go better for you.
I know they go better for me when I do that.
When we make a habit of communicating with God, we start believing that what he says about us is true. When we don’t, we allow the other, louder voices to capture our attention and frame the course of our days.
I distinctly recall when my kids were twelve and ten that parents of teenagers would eye me pityingly and say, “Hope you’re ready for what’s coming, Brady. The teen years are tough.” Once Abram and Callie were bona-fide teenagers, new acquaintances— also parents of teens—would discover the ages of my kids and the naysaying would escalate: “It’s like aliens come down and inhabit them, right? Like, what happened to my sweet, loving kids? All of a sudden they’re selfish, entitled brats who just want money! I bet you know just what I mean!”
I never really understood this tendency to declare awfulness over a seven-year-long period of time. That’s a long time to eat the bitter fruit of negative self-talk, don’t you think?
Instead, as my children entered their teenage years, I meditated on thoughts like these:
This is going to be our best era yet. Pam and I are going to love parenting teenagers. Abram and Callie are smart and funny, and our family is going to have an awesome time while they’re teens. Whatever challenges we face as we parent teens, we will overcome together, and with love on our side.
Today Abram and Callie are seventeen and fifteen, respectively, and proof positive that experience flows from expectation. If we expect awfulness from life and loved ones, awfulness shows up every time, but if we expect greatness, then greatness tends to emerge instead.
So far the teen years have been great.

Scripture references:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When I heard this song, I knew I was ready for this final post! 

Speak Life – Remedial Training

HeartI did say I was going to post each day, one of four devotionals which are from Brady Boyd’s Speak Life Devotional. But I’ve had to slow down really meditate on each message I am trying to get into my heart, mind and spirit! So let’s review before we conclude with Day 4. For the full daily devotional, click on each “day.”

Day 1 I will speak words that are relevant, authentic, life giving, and wise, and I will rarely—if ever—stick my foot in my mouth. I will be someone who blesses, not curses, with the words I speak …

Scriptures: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 ESV

“pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV

Day 2 I want to speak words that gladden the heart of God.

Scriptures: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6 ESV

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven….” Luke 6:37 ESV

Day 3 When we walk through our days with a “Speak, Lord” on our lips, leaning in to hear the whispers of heaven, longing to fulfill the wishes of God, God looks at us and says, “You’ll never go hungry from this moment forward. You’ll always be satisfied in me.”

Scriptures: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This week, I’ve been a bit obsessed with TobyMac’s song, Speak Life (it’s on Day 1) as well as wanting to learn more about Brady Boyd. I have reached out to Pastor Boyd, but haven’t heard back from him. He’s over a huge church, so it’s no surprise. While looking at what motivated these two men to write about Speaking Life, I found a short YouTube video with TobyMac explaining why he wrote this song. It’s helping me and I hope it helps you:

 

Speak Life Day 3 of 4 Devotional 

This devotional made me look up the author, Brady Boyd. He is the senior Pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As a child, I lived in Colorado for six years – so I have a bit of a connection without knowing it when I picked this devotional. My husband and I flew there twice for vacation and to visit relatives. Now I want to go back and go meet him! He has not only authored this book, Speak Life (devotional contains excerpts), but several others. He is used by God in a mighty way! But he knows his shortcomings….so today, this starts with a humble experience. My prayer is if he figured out how to control his gunslinger tongue, there is hope for me based upon this one little testimony:

Connection

When I was stepping down from the platform that Sunday morning, and that man laid into me before so much as saying hello, my first inclination was to power up over him, telling him he had no right to speak to me that way. My second was to patronize him, refreshing his understanding of the counseling services our church offers people—like him—with anger issues.

What I rarely feel like being in the face of someone’s rage is a person of peace, a person connected to God and therefore hitched to nonaggression and steadiness and joy. And yet that’s exactly what God drew out of me that day when I turned to him instead of giving in to my own inclinations.

Then I remember the thief turned toward Jesus with humility and placed his life in the Savior’s hands. “[And] Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43).

Over and over again we have to do this if we plan to walk humbly with God.

Over and over again we need to tell God, “I’m the sheep, and you’re the shepherd. I’m listening for your input. I’ll do what you say.”

When you and I choose to stay intimately connected to Christ—determined to hear from him, ready to serve his purposes whenever he calls—we get handed opportunities to convey truth to the people God loves. Yes, there are times when God shows up directly and communicates firsthand to his followers—in various places in the Bible his words came in a whisper, in a shout, in a burning bush, in a storm—but more often than not, God looks to ordinary people (and even an occasional donkey, as in Numbers 22:28) to deliver extraordinary truth. 

He looks to you and to me, even as he overlooks our inadequacies, and says, “You be the one to speak on my behalf. You go say what I’m asking you to say.”

This is the whole enchilada right here. What I’m about to tell you will change your life. When you press into the presence of your heavenly Father, you’ll speak with pertinence, passion, and power. What you say will matter. What you say will stick. And what you say will call upon others to live well.

When we walk through our days with a “Speak, Lord” on our lips, leaning in to hear the whispers of heaven, longing to fulfill the wishes of God, God looks at us and says, “You’ll never go hungry from this moment forward. You’ll always be satisfied in me.”

Scripture references: 
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭5:6-8 ESV‬‬

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

OH, here is the secret:  “….When we walk through our days with a “Speak, Lord” on our lips, leaning in to hear the whispers of heaven, longing to fulfill the wishes of God….”

Previous Devotion

Next up, Speak Life – Remedial Training

Speak Life – Day 2 of 4 Devotional

I hope and pray others will benefit from this devotional as well. As we learned in the last post, found here, this devotional contains excerpts from a book by Brady Boyd. I don’t really know anything about Mr. Boyd, but I sure can relate to him where he claims he is a self proclaimed “gunslinger of painful words.” I can relate….

If you know me, you probably would not think of me in those terms, but ask my husband, Bill! He’s seen me at my worst and he has been the recipient of some of my gunslinging painful words. Fortunately, today (August 19, 2017), we are celebrating our 28th re-marriage anniversary! You see, after 13 years of marriage, I divorced Bill. You can learn more here if you aren’t familiar with our story. Suffice it to say, we have now been married, on and off, for 42 years. We both changed a lot and our second marriage is now WAY better than we could have ever imaged marriage. So there is hope for me after a decade or so of us practicing the BEST Principle for our marriage. Now to practice a few steps from this devotional

Please be patientBut still, God isn’t finished with me yet….I am still in need of better control of my emotions/words/thoughts/deeds and actions! My mother in law has a picture with this quote on it – she kept it on her dresser for as long as I remember. While she had a few quirky things about her, she was about as perfect of a person (or at least mother in law) as I know. So I never got it, but in recent years, it is starting to ring true for me!

Let’s get back to the devotional:

The Four Conversations: Part 2

Conversation 2: Between You and Yourself
Come on, admit it. You talk to yourself too. The real question here is whether that self-talk is false or true.
Once you’ve checked in with God, it’s wise to run some quick diagnostics on yourself. Is your self-talk helpful or harmful as you approach this exchange with someone else? Are you believing the best about God, about yourself, and about the person you’re talking with? Or are you falling prey to lies?
This second conversation—the one that happens in your heart and head—is crucial. If your self-talk is laced with disparagement and denigration, then you’re better off heading back to conversation number one and giving God an opportunity to recast that inner dialogue.
Conversation 3: Between You and the Enemy
Third, it’s absolutely critical to acknowledge that you have a very real enemy, and he is very interested in how you use your words. He loves it when you use them to hurt people rather than heal them, to promote yourself instead of God.
After checking in with God and getting your self-talk truthfully reset, you’ll do well to get into the habit of assessing the Enemy’s level of access in a given situation. Are you about to communicate from a place of anger, hunger, exhaustion, exasperation, desperation, resignation, or fear? These postures are ripe for Satan’s picking, so you might be better off keeping your mouth closed—at least until you’ve chilled out, settled down, eaten a snack, taken a nap, and moved in your attitude to a place of peace.
Conversation 4: Between You and Me
The fourth and final conversation is the one between you and me. Even after researching this book and practicing its tenets for more than two decades, I still find it astounding how kind, timely, and wise the words I speak to others can be when I’m faithful to steward the other three conversations well. Of course, that’s probably because those words aren’t completely my own but carry the weight of a higher influence—the One through whom all true healing and wisdom really come.
I want to speak words that gladden the heart of God. If you do too, then I invite you to read on.

Scripture references:
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6 ESV
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven….” Luke 6:37 ESV

WOW, LOVE this: “I want to speak words that gladden the heart of God.” I don’t know about you, but this is speaking clearly to me….now to put it into practice!

Next up, Day 3 of 4