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Posts from October 2014

Vote "NO" on the Florida Pot Amendment

This prayer guide has been provided to pastors in the Florida Baptist Convention to share with our congregations. I share it via this posting in its entirety. I have great concern over Amendment 2 (Florida election) being passed (the "Marijuana Amendment".) Please vote NO on 2 and encourage others to do so as well.

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, Florida Baptists will have a unique opportunity to exercise their responsibility as Christian citizens to make their collective voice heard on the issues and candidates.  Fortunately our hope and trust is not in the results of elections! And the reality is that the spiritual and moral issues facing this nation will not be resolved in the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court or even in the state Legislature. What the United States desperately needs is another Great Awakening!

“The Church must experience a revival that awakens her to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ in her midst,” declares David Butts, chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee.  “Such a spiritual awakening within the people of God has the power to bring about true cultural transformation in this nation.”

Of great concern is the proposed Amendment 2 on the November general election ballot which seeks to bring about is unnecessary cultural change to Florida.  It is the so-called “Florida Right to Medical Marijuana”  This proposed “Medical Marijuana” law is a proverbial “smoke screen” which seeks to legalize marijuana by making it available to anyone and everyone who does not have medical needs. 

It is imperative that Florida Baptists vote to defeat Amendment 2!

Check out additional resources available on the website: www.DontLetFlGoToPot.com 

Infographic

Also share with your church members the highlights of the following

2014 Election Prayer Guide

  • The Church must experience a revival that awakens her to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ in her midst. Such a spiritual awakening within the people of God has the power to bring about true cultural transformation in this nation. So why pray for the elections? There are a number of compelling reasons:
  • The Bible commands us to pray for those who are in leadership. This includes those who are vying to become leaders.
  • Godly leaders can help slow the erosion of religious liberties in our land. This can provide an increased window of opportunity for the Church to pray and evangelize.
  • According to Scripture, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34). The selection of leaders who understand and lead according to God’s righteous standards can bring great blessing to a nation.
  • Scripture also says in Proverbs 11:14, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisors make victory sure.” The determination of who leads our nation will also determine who advises that leader and how we are guided.

We Need to Pray Now

As you pray through this brief guide to the elections, there are several ways you can maximize its usage:

  1. Let others know about it. Distribute it widely to your friends and to your church.
  2. Pray with others about its content. Perhaps a weekly prayer meeting held in your home or your church could focus completely on what God desires to do in this upcoming election.
  3. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you beyond the content of the prayer guide. There will be many times in which this guide simply jump-starts your prayer time. The Holy Spirit will take this beginning point and lead you into deeper times of intercession for our nation.

Seven Ways to Pray for America

1. The Church—The Church is often relegated to the sidelines, considered irrelevant and out of touch. Though we sometimes deserve that critique, God has a completely different perspective on what His people are to be and how we are to function. In Ephesians 3:10, the Apostle Paul writes, “His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known….”

Though seemingly powerless in the eyes of the world, the Church—through righteousness, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit—releases the wisdom of God into any and every culture. Pray today for the Church in America, that:

    • Our eyes will be opened to see the hope to which we are called (Eph.1:18).
    • We will experience in a fresh, new way the Presence of Christ in revival.
    • Believers will be given the faith to believe that their votes will make a difference.
    • A spirit of repentance and humility will be poured out upon the people of God.
    • [Believers enter open doors to share the Gospel and how Jesus impacts every level of living.]

2. The Voters—The Great American Experiment in representative government for more than 200 years has depended upon voter involvement. From the very beginning of our nation there has been debate on who should be allowed the privilege of casting a vote to select our governmental leaders. The weight of history has increasingly opened the ballot box to more and more individuals.

This requires an educated electorate who will examine the issues and the candidates and vote in a way that is best for the nation, not just their own well-being. Much prayer is needed for this critical process. Pray today for voters in the United States, that:

    • Wisdom will be sought from God (James 1:5).
    • Self-interest will be laid aside for the common good.
    • Discernment between truth and falsehood will be clear.

3. The Candidates—In the early years of our nation, it was thought to be in bad taste to even be seen wanting an office, much less actually campaigning. Oh, how things have changed! Now candidates for public office, especially at higher levels, put themselves and their families through a rigorous process that brings every aspect of their lives into public view. It has become so intense that many good individuals have chosen not to endure the sort of public scrutiny that is an integral part of the campaigning process today.  Praying for candidates does not mean praying just for those you agree with or support. All are leaders and potential leaders in our nation—and as such, all need our prayers. Pray today for candidates for office in the United States, that:

    • They will take brave stands for righteousness, even when it may not be well received.
    • Their families will be protected from harm and unnecessary scrutiny.
    • They will surround themselves with godly advisors.
    • They will focus on the issues we face as a nation and not on personal attacks on other candidates.

4. The Media—In our day of 24-hour news coverage, the media have taken on a huge role in our election process. Handling media correctly sometimes seems to take precedence in a campaign over actually dealing with issues. The media themselves often forget their role of informing and reporting and have become endorsers and supporters, even while they try to deny that role. Increased prayer for the media is an essential way for Christians to impact an election. Pray today for the media in America, that:

    • Truth in reporting and election coverage will become a high value.
    • Media bias will disappear.
    • Christianity will receive fair coverage in all reports.
    • Hope will become a part of the message of the media.

5. The Impact on the Nations—In our rapidly shrinking world, what happens in one country has an effect on others. This is especially true for the United States. The individuals who hold the presidency and Senate and Congressional seats will make decisions that impact the rest of the world. Whether those decisions help or harm the people of the world is largely determined by the choices that Americans make at the polls. We need to pray that our choices will serve to bless the world. Pray today for the election and its impact on the world, that:

    • Voters will consider the foreign policies of candidates and how they fit with biblical principles.
    • The activities of other nations will not have an undue influence on our elections.
    • The result of U.S. elections will serve to spread the gospel around the globe.
    • The U.S. will stand firm in its commitment to Israel’s right to exist as a nation.

6. Spiritual Warfare Surrounding the Elections—Nothing is achieved in the Kingdom of God without warfare. That includes the election of righteous individuals to the leadership of one of the key nations on the planet. As we pray, we must expect the enemy to attack in many ways. There will be attacks on candidates and their families, on the media, the Church, and perhaps the nation itself. Some will be clearly spiritual, while other attacks may have physical manifestations. Our call is to have great discernment as we pray and stand in the strength of Christ’s victory. Pray today around the spiritual warfare issues involved in the election, such as:

    • Great awareness and discernment for the Lord’s praying people as they pray over the election.
    • Physical protection for all candidates and their families throughout this campaign season.
    • A strong hedge of protection around the nation itself during this time of decision.
    • The unleashing of the sword of the Spirit throughout the nation, judging the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

7. The Purposes of God—Ultimately, whatever the area of prayer emphasis, we must always come back to the purposes of God. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). As we pray for something as important as national elections, we must lay down our own desires and take up the desires of God. What we really desire is for the Lord’s purposes to be achieved in and through our nation. All of our requests must be couched in words and thoughts that focus our hearts on the Kingdom of God. Pray today for the purposes of God to be accomplished in the U.S. elections:

    • Pray that the U.S. will turn and seek first the Kingdom of God.
    • Pray that God will be honored in the midst of this election campaign.
    • Pray for opportunities for Christians to share their faith and their values in the midst of this election process.
    • Pray that the results of the 2014 elections will please the Lord and release His blessing over this nation.

Developed by: By David Butts, chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee and founder/president of Harvest Prayer Ministries. © 2011 Harvest Prayer Ministries, PRAYERCONNECT magazine. Used by permission.

[Bracketed material [--] added by Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team, Florida Baptist Convention


"Reverend Camden" Falls and It Will Impact Real Lives

The news blew up yesterday with reports of actor Stephen Collins' alleged admission to child sexual abuse. The recording, said to be made secretly by his ex-wife, actress Faye Grant, during a therapy session years ago has gone viral over the web and has elicited numerous reactions and responses.

Many who grew up watching the family-focused television show, 7th Heaven have responded with  despair, frustration, anger and confusion. Some state that their childhood has been ruined. Some have found this an opportunity to state that no "pastors" should ever be trusted.

 

It's unfortunate, especially since Reverend Camden is a fictional character played by an actor in a television show. More unfortunate is that there are enough real pastors in the real world who have fallen into the same sinful situations.

Collins' is a dreadful story and is leading to numerous reactions and false follow-up stories.

  • 7th Heaven has been removed from syndicated view by numerous television stations.
  • Collins has resigned from the SAG Board.
  • He has been removed from the cast of Ted 2.
  • Neighbors haver erroneously tweeted that he committed suicide earlier today.

Sadly, in the midst of this story, regardless the reason for the leaked audio tape, there is indication that at least three children were sexually molested. The NYPD is continuing to investigate, so at this point everything is alleged.

Yet, in this story of depravity is a marriage that was lost and a skewed identity of manhood. As prognosticators and entertainment analysts attempt to create fodder for conversation along with explanations and justifications for such behavior, the root of all such behavior continues to be ignored.

SIN.

Yeah, it's now a term that is not politically correct and in a culture that has excised absolute truth from its vocabulary, the term seems to be relegated to a small sub-group known as the church. It has become offensive to refer to anyone else's actions as sinful, especially in a world where "what's true for you may not be true for me."

In the strange version of church presented in 7th Heaven, I'm not sure the biblical view of sin, justification, redemption and repentance was every clearly shown. Those seeking their theology from such a show will always be sadly lacking. A liberal, feel-good, tickle-the-ears, message was often presented in an imaginary church that was always way too full to be an accurate representation.

As for Stephen Collins, people are irate that their imaginary pastor has apparently fallen.

Personally, I never viewed Collins as a pastor. He was the adventurer from "Tales of the Gold Monkey" and Commander Decker from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Ultimately, he was none of these characters and perhaps that's a revelation of a deeper problem in our culture.

Behind these false worlds and imaginary characters in film and television is a man. A real man. A man named Stephen who at this juncture must feel as if his world is falling apart. This is a man who seems to be caught in a sin that cannot just be "personal" because it impacts others (the three alleged victims) and a multitude of fans.

What should happen? 

Justice. There's no debate on this matter here. Accountability for such heinous acts is not something to be ignored. At this point, the police and legal system is involved and must do their jobs. The court of public opinion has already spoken, but, as always, there's most likely more to the story than has been made known.

In the midst of this, the young girls need healing as do their families. The girls are unknown to the public (and should remain so) and yet, they need to know the healing touch of a loving God who is true and pure. This is my prayer for them. Sadly, as the story cycle ends and everyone has forgotten this instance, these girls will not have, so join me in praying for their hearts.

Stephen needs help as well (in the midst of his consequences.) I pray that he will encounter the true God (not the imaginary one who plays a character on a television show) in a very real way. May he gain identity not in characters, roles, titles or even accusations (even if true) but in Jesus Christ.

While some would say this is just an "entertainment" story and does not impact the church, I beg to differ. For some, the imaginary "Reverend Camden" was the father they always wanted, the pastor they always desired and the image of hope and right. Now that this story has come to light, these images are gone and many have been fooled by the Enemy to believe that all is hopeless and that no one offers Truth.

May we offer clear images of Christ, not skewed ones. 

May we offer true church, not imaginary ones.

May we be obedient to God as we wear His name. We are his ambassadors.


Pastors: Be Encouraged & Don't Come Down

TO MY PASTOR FRIENDS:

There will be times when you will distracted.

There will be times when the work you have been called to do will be sidetracked.

There will be times when, under stress from various places, you will want to quit.

There will be times when those who are opposed to you will desire to create busy work for you.

Look at Nehemiah and how he responded to such. . .

And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3 (ESV)

Stay the course.

Press on.

There will always be a Sanballat and Tobiah. They may even be members of your church.

Just remember - "The wall cannot be completed if you keep coming down."

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Cross Dressing Christians

For years, comedians have garnered laughs by dressing up as the opposite gender. It's a comedy tool as old as the art.

Whether Milton Berle, Flip Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams or even Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari (Bosom Buddies) the dramatic and humorous move to dress men as women always seemed to work for a laugh.

Even in the church, this has happened. I remember a small group party that was held at our church where the men in the class put on a "talent" show dressed as some of the ugliest women imaginable. It was all in fun, and drew laughter, but as I reflect back. . .not exactly something that should be done in a church, or by Christians.

Over the years, the humor in this has dissipated for me. This is based on an incident years ago at a youth camp where I was serving, a meeting with a former transvestite at a ministry network gather, and the most recent trends in our culture regarding widespread acceptance of "alternative lifestyles" and the normalizing of such abherrant behavior and its impact on loved ones, friends and family members.

CROSS DRESSING AT YOUTH CAMP

Years ago, I was given the task of creating a relay game at a youth camp. I had seen relays involving numerous students at camps in the past and borrowed a themed idea from a friend. I thought nothing of it, other than it involved dozens of students, was fun, messy and would fit our timeframe. The name of the relay was "A League of Their Own" and was based, loosely on the film with that name. 

Each station in the race involved something to do with baseball and women playing it. So, one station had a designated male student who would be dressed in a women's skirt and ball jersey by teammates. The uniform was just thrown over his current clothes. Then the next station, this boy would have a wig placed on his head, a baseball cap and lipstick, all done by teammates who were blindfolded. This made it maddening and fun. The relay race went on and eventually the boy dresssed as a girl was swinging a bat trying to hit water balloons. There were other steps as well, but you get the idea.

After having the relay run, one of the youth pastors at the camp came to me concerned. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, so his concern took me off guard.

He informed me that he had a young man in his youth group struggling deeply with gender identification. He had been abused as a young child and had numerous problems, but one was that he would often dress up like a girl and pretend he was someone other than who he was. 

They were counseling him and his family. He was only about 15 years old. He was an outcast of sorts in the group, but even the other students showed concern for him and were working to help him personally and help him see the love that God has for him and the hope through Jesus Christ.

He was a long work in progress and then, at a Christian camp, we had a cross-dressing game for all to participate. It was a step backward and I never saw it coming.

"It was just in fun," I thought at first, but soon realized how the Enemy had warped even our game and good intentions. 

MAN LIVING AS A WOMAN

611943_85016721Another incident took place at our area network office. Pastors and church leaders gathered to hear testimony from a guest who had experienced an amazing transformation through Christ. This gentleman shared how he had struggled his entire life with same sex attraction. His story was not unlike many others I have heard.

He put a picture up on the screen of a beautiful woman and everyone in the room expected to hear how a story about his female friend. However, we were told that the picture on the screen was not of a woman, but of him. It was years old and was strangely amazing. The picture on the screen appeared to be a woman and when he dressed as such, he was very convincing. He shared how he would speak differently, walk differently, create the appropriate facade of anatomy and hide other distinquishingly male marks. His story was deep and eye-opening.

He then shared of his rescue by Christ. 

It was clear, evident and true. However, as he shared, he was still being daily rescued from a false identity as he would often, as all believers do, forget who he was in Christ.

TRANS, TRANS, TRANS OR JUST DRAG?

Within every alternative sexual lifestyle, there are variations. This is evident in the ever-growing acronym of LGBT to LGBTQ2IA and beyond. 

So, to be clear, there are apparent differences in transvestites (A person who dresses at times in clothing identified as for the opposite sex. These are most often males dressing as females.), transgenders (One who identifies as the opposite sex than their physical gender, such as Laverne Cox), and transsexuals (One who has changed or who is in the process of changing his/her physical sexual gender to be the opposite.)

Then, there are Drag Queens, who are male entertainers and performers who do so as women (RuPaul, Dame Edna, Courtney Act and others.) There are "blurred lines" between these designations, no doubt.

IS IT REALLY THAT BIG OF A DEAL?

This is the question that often is asked and on the surface it seems that I'm just another Christian making a mountain out of a mole hill, another Christ-follower without a sense of humor. Believe me, there are many that fit that designation, but my concern goes deeper. 

Cultural identifiers, such as television shows, movies, music and media emphases, reveals that this subject is not only mainstream (as evidenced by the Time magazine article about Laverne Cox, the popularity of "Orange is the New Black" and shows on LOGO such as "RuPaul's Drag Race") but to consider this issue as anything but normal will place you in a category of out of touch, hate-mongers who just aren't progressive. Even Facebook backtracked and apologized to drag queens after initially refusing their us of  character names as their Facebook names. Now, "he" can be "she" on Facebook with the social media giant's approval.

Culture shifts never happen overnight. It is always a slow turn. Then, when some declare the turn to be wrong, or most likely, the current state of things to be "too far gone" it is often too far gone.

Where Flip Wilson would don his Geraldine costume for a sketch on a variety show and your parents and grandparents laughed when he said "The Devil made me do it," we now find ourselves celebrating parents who dress their little boys up as Disney princesses and laugh when teenage boys are lipsticked, glammed up and made "sassy" by their girl-friends (not to be confused with girlfriends.) 

And, in this case, the slow turn now leaves us asking "When did this shift take place?" 

Not in the 1990s, 1980s, or even the 1960s, but thousands of years prior as God's enemy worked to deface the cream of creation, the image-bearers of God.

When it comes to male and female, each person is created intentionally and strategically in the image of our Holy God. Males with a distinctly masculine heart. Females with a uniquely designed feminine heart. Both as image-bearers of God.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 22:5 (ESV)

The word "abomination" draws much ire from the tolerance police. The Hebrew word translated to "abomination" means "a disgusting thing, abominable, a wicked thing as it relates to rituals and ethics." So, this is a very strong word.

To be clear, and to avoid the legalistic understanding often attributed to this verse that has led to a proliferation of jean skirts and button down shirts, this verse is not about a certain item of clothing (i.e. women wearing pants) but about women dressing in such a way as to present themselves as male and men dressing to present themselves as female. 

Appaently, even when the intent is just the punchline of a joke, these are things to be avoided. You never know when there will be a young man or woman struggling with personal sexual identity who may end up even more confused through this. 

For more on this subject from a biblical perspective, check out this article on GotQuestions.org.