"He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Luke 14:35b

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Devil's In The Details

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” Acts 5:29

In 2010, health care “reform” was discussed in the United States Congress and then a bill was proposed with the intention of providing healthcare to all Americans. California Democrat Representative Nancy Pelosi implored Congress to pass the 2,000+ page bill and then we could read it to see what it contained. That was the first indication the bill was chock-full of garbage some Americans wouldn’t find palatable. Obamacare (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) was ramrodded through Congress at breakneck speed, and now we’re suffering the consequences. 
On January 1, 2013, the Obamacare mandate goes into effect. Part of this mandate includes abortion inducing drugs most Christians find appalling. If you’re a Christian and you don’t, that’s a whole other issue. 
Among private sector business-owners objecting is the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby. They applied for an emergency injunction based on their Christian beliefs. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer turned them down. It seems that if you’re a Christian who runs a for-profit business (unlike a Christian university or school), you’re expected to put aside your beliefs. Apparently, Ms. Sotomayer believes Christianity is something you put on when you enter the church building and then take off again when you leave. She’s sadly mistaken. Christianity is who you are and what you are 24/7. Or at least it should be. 
Hobby Lobby’s Statement of Purpose (from HobbyLobby.com)
In order to effectively serve our owners, employees, and customers the Board of Directors is committed to:
Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.
Offering our customers an exceptional selection and value.
Serving our employees and their families by establishing a work environment and company policies that build character, strengthen individuals, and nurture families.
Providing a return on the owners' investment, sharing the Lord's blessings with our employees, and investing in our community.
We believe that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured. He has been faithful in the past, and we trust Him for our future.
According to EastonPatch.com: "A statement from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a law firm representing Hobby Lobby, explains that 'covering these drugs, as the government is forcing them to do under the threat of $1.3 million penalty per day, would violate [the Green family's] most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception, when an egg is fertilized.' The statement adds that Hobby Lobby has 'no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees.'"
The Greens have decided not to comply with the government mandate. With over 13,000 employees, this will cost them $1.3 million a day in fines starting January 1. 
[David] Green maintains that Hobby Lobby, "[b]y being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith, or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow. We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate." Sounds like Hobby Lobby's David Green believes verbatim the Scripture verse that asks "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (American Thinker)
Interestingly enough, Justice Sotomayer previously upheld a Muslim prisoner’s first amendment religious rights, as cited in The Independent Sentinel’s December 28, 2012 article:
Justice Sotomayor, however, did have a similar First Amendment experience prior to becoming a Supreme Court Justice in which she showed unusual deference to Muslim inmates when she found in favor of the Ramadan Ruling of 2003 [Laura Ingraham] In that case, she found that a MUSLIM PRISONER, who was denied Ramadan meals, must be provided with the meals on a feast day even though it was not a religious requirement…Sotomayor ruled that the inmate’s First Amendment rights were violated because the feast was subjectively important to the inmate’s practice of Islam. [Ford v. McGinnis]
If the Greens stand by their courageous decision, and the Obama administration and the judicial system continue to disrespect their religious rights, by the end of January, the Greens will owe $40 million dollars in penalties. 

What say you, Mr. President? As a professing Christian, will you continue to turn a blind eye to your fellow Christian Americans and their equal rights under the law? Last time I checked, your job is to represent all Americans.

As secular progressives seek to marginalize Christians, this will become more commonplace. The Green family didn’t just wake up one day after being informed of this mandate and decide to fight it. Their moral compass is set by Christian principles ingrained in them through seeking Christ in their daily lives. Like I said in paragraph three above, Christianity is who and what you are. If it’s not, when the challenges come, and they will come more often and more intense in the years ahead, the narrow path won’t seem so clear. The Greens' courage begs the question:

What am I willing to sacrifice to uphold the Apostle Peter’s command in Acts 5:29? 

If you’re a Christian, please add the Greens to your daily prayer list. Do you have a few dollars left from Christmas? Find a local Hobby Lobby and give them your business. If not, visit one just to browse and show your support.  

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 

© Laura Hodges Poole
Photo Courtesy of Microsoft.com free clip art

Monday, December 10, 2012

Let's Get Real, Folks

Fiscal cliff
I’m hard pressed to find any authenticity coming out of our nation’s capital. The looming fiscal cliff hasn’t been solved, yet Congress plans to adjourn at the end of this week, and the President will jet off to Hawaii for Christmas.
The arrogance displayed at the beginning of the President’s first term has re-emerged. Somehow he believes he has a mandate—or worse, sovereign powers. He hands Congress a proposal chock-full of new spending with the only plan to raise revenue is taxing the top 2% of American wage earners, and he’s unwilling to negotiate.
The famous Warren Buffett smoke-and-mirrors analogy of taxing millionaires to pay down the debt is just that. Buffett paid $6+ million in taxes last year. If we doubled his taxes and he paid $13 million, it wouldn’t put a dent in our national debt.
In fact, even if we tax the top 2% at 100% rate, it wouldn’t put a dent in the nation’s debt! The suggestion to raise taxes on the top 2% is a feel-good tactic designed to placate the President’s base
The wealthiest Americans will continue to find loopholes and deductions to avoid paying higher taxes—which is why the Republicans have proposed closing the loopholes and limiting deductions on the top 2%. 
Consider these figures*: 
66.1 million Americans receive welfare, food stamps, and/or Medicaid
21.2 million Americans work for the government
109.3 million Americans are employed by the private sector
This means 87.3 million Americans draw checks from the government. This doesn’t include the Social Security, Medicare, and disability debacle. 
Let’s get real. It’s not rocket science. To raise revenue to help balance the budget and start paying down the debt we need to add more private sector tax payers. To do this, we must create an environment that will enable job growth. Raising taxes on those making above $250,000 (many are small business owners), will stagnate job growth even more.
The other thing in the President’s proposal? Eliminate the debt ceiling. 
Just like when the President erroneously stated last spring the Supreme Court didn’t have jurisdiction to rule on Obamacare, he once again shows his ignorance of the Constitution. Three branches exist for a reason—for times like these when one branch tries for a power grab and refuses to negotiate. The debt ceiling is controlled by Congress to force the country to live within its means. 
Could you imagine if we didn’t have a debt ceiling? 
Part of the problem is we refuse to take the bitter medicine we should have four years ago. No one wants to tighten the purse strings. Yet, like the person who runs up credit card debt and lives overextended all of a sudden finds their world crashing down around them, our nation will suffer the same fate if our leaders don’t get serious about debt control. 
It’s ridiculous that, just like during the election, polls reflect anger and blame toward Republicans when they are working toward financial responsibility. I’m under no illusion that their plan is perfect or that we don’t have pork barrel addicts in Congress. However, it’s time to take the ideological blinders off just because you support the social programs of the President. He’s unwilling to negotiate! 
Where’s the leadership?
President Reagan worked across the aisle with House Speaker Tip O’Neill, and President Clinton worked with House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Both of these administrations enjoyed economic success, which in turn, benefited the American people. 
The sad, ironic thing is that once again the President has taken to the campaign trail to sell his proposal. He implores Americans to tweet or call Congress to show support for his plan. This isn’t a popularity contest, Mr. President. The election is over. I don’t care one whit who gets the “blame” if we go over the fiscal cliff, despite the mainstream media trying to pin it on John Boehner and the Republicans. Neither am I surprised by that. The media helped re-elect what we have now. 
Roll up your sleeves, Mr. President, and get to work! The costs are too high, if you fail to lead. Our country and our children’s future depend on it. 
© Laura Hodges Poole
*Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare
Photo courtesy of Microsoft.com free clip art

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Founders' Key

Join me in welcoming Christian author TC Avey as she shares her review of “The Founders' Key: The Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It” by Larry P. Arnn, published by Thomas Nelson in 2012.

Upon reading "The Founders' Key" by Larry P. Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, I am even more convinced America is at a crossroads.  We are a nation divided, with one side endeavoring to preserve our constitutional heritage and the other seeking to change it.
But what is our heritage?
What is the foundation we are built upon?
Do we even know and understand what our founding documents mean?
Arnn takes the reader step by step through the dilemma Americans face as both sides war over the meaning of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  He also breaks down the language found in those documents so we can understand how the founders intended them to be read and utilized.
He addresses common arguments employed to discourage Americans from preserving our foundation for a more progressive path leading toward bigger government. 
An example of this perversion of history is taking the issue of slavery out of context from the reality it was in 1776.  The “modern” WORLD, not just America, utilized slaves and profited off slave trade during that time.  The fact that some of our founders owned slaves does not diminish the bold steps they took to, at first slow slavery in America, and ultimately lead to its extinction.  Abraham Lincoln used the founding fathers own words to pursue emancipating slaves! 
Arnn highlights the truth surrounding the fallacy that the founding fathers did not mean “all men are created equal.”  I only wish he would have gone into greater detail about the history of slave trade in America and the founders’ views of it. However, he gives the reader enough information to formulate a solid opinion. 
While his book is not all inclusive to every argument that currently is being debated (who has time to read the volumes of books that would entail) he provides the reader with a basis for understanding our heritage and what is at stake if we allow our founding documents to be distorted by the progressive message. 
Not only does he lay the ground work for the reader to do further research, he also provides many helpful documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States of America, many of the Federalist Papers, an article by James Madison and other supportive notes. 
I recommend this book for anyone weak on American history and our founding government. It is a great start to learning about our nation: where we’ve been, where we are and where we are headed! 
This book was provided complimentary by the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through BookSneeze for the purpose of honest review.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft.com free clip art.
TC Avey blogs at Wisdom of a Fool. If you enjoyed this post, take a moment to visit her blog and sign up for her monthly newsletter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Consequences Of Idols In The Church - Part II

In Part I yesterday, Pastor Mike Gonzalez discussed the presence and consequences of idols in the church. In Part II today, he gives practical solutions for the Christian to combat these idols.

In Jeremiah chapter 16, Judah asked, “What sin have we committed against the Lord our God? The Lord said to Jeremiah, tell them, “It is because your fathers forsook me. . .and followed other gods (idols) and served and worshiped them” (Jer. 16:10-11). The sin of the church is that it has exchanged the One true God for idols (Jer. 2:13). If the church cannot rightfully discern what is righteous and what is not, then it cannot affect the world around it as the salt and light it has been called to be.

What are we to do?
· Ask God to help us identify the idols (gods) in our hearts and renounce them.
· Repent and give ourselves fully to the Lord.
· Surrender to the Lord and let Him fill us with His Spirit.
· Dedicate ourselves to knowing God through prayer, studying His Word and obeying it.
· Make disciples of Jesus Christ (which also includes government officials, Acts 9:15).
· Live holy and separate ourselves from what contaminates body and spirit, purifying ourselves, out of the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).
· Pray for our leaders. 

Scripture says clearly that we are to pray for our leaders giving thanks (1 Tim. 2:1), showing respect and honoring them (Rom. 13:7, 1 Pet. 2:17) and ultimately to be subject to them (Romans 13: 1, 5).

As the Church we are to pray for our leaders, and we are also to take the gospel to every facet of society because we have been made to be light and salt (Matt. 5). As the Church we understand that changing legislation and seeing righteousness rule in our society will not be accomplished primarily through politics or by any other means but by preaching the gospel to a lost world. 

As William McDonald has said, "Politics has proved singularly ineffective in solving the problems of society. Political remedies are nothing but a band-aid on a festering sore: they do not get at the source of the infection. We know that sin is the basic trouble in our sick society. Anything that fails to deal with sin cannot be taken seriously as a cure." 

We pray for our leaders and will pray for President Obama.

In the three passages of Scripture that address how we should respond and deal with our leaders, I see three emphases.

1. PRAYER: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

The reason for praying, intercession and giving thanks, for leaders was so the saints could live peaceful, quiet lives (without persecution) in their pursuit of godliness and holiness. The goal was so that the saints could effectively win the lost, which would please God "who wants all men to be saved."

Hence, this prayer is not intended to wish the president well and success in his presidency (since we should stand opposed to policies and ideologies that oppose God’s Word), but to pray that in his leading the nation it might be done in a righteous manner which would allow the saints the opportunity to preach the gospel and further a Kingdom agenda. If "righteousness exalts a nation," then that should be the target of our prayer. 

This is my prayer for President Obama and what I have instructed our church is to pray for President Obama:

a. That his eyes will open to be able to see the gospel and believe so that he might be saved. 2 Cor. 4:4
b. That God would direct his heart to do what is righteous (whether he would want to or not) for the Word of God says in Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is like streams of water. Both are under the LORD's control. He turns them in any direction he chooses."
c. That President Obama would protect those he has sworn to serve. Romans 13:4

2. HONOR & RESPECT: As Christians we are to honor (to value) those who watch out for our good and protection. (Romans 13 & 1 Peter 2:17). We value them not because of their policies or their ideology but because it is commanded of us to "Honor all men. . .Honor the King" (1 Pet. 2:17).

3. SUBMISSION: As Christians we should be obedient to the laws of the land and be the best citizens. We should uphold the law (as long as it does not violate God's Word) and be in submission to those in authority. We should always show respect and yet always speak the truth, even if that goes against what the president stands for.

As Christians we should always seek to pray according to the will of God, because that is the prayer that will be answered and the prayer that pleases God (1 John 5:14-15).

I believe the Lord is sickened by the level of compromise He continues to see within the church. 

Today it is all about tolerance and fitting in and a "let's just all get along attitude" which is mixing the leaven of the world with the church. I am trusting God to keep us from deception and to always love the truth. (2 Thess. 2:11-12).

Keep your heads up and do the work of the Kingdom, for our redemption draws near!

Pastor Mike

Mike Gonzalez is the senior pastor at Columbia World Outreach Church in South Carolina. He is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Consequences Of Idols In The Church - Part I

The Lord said: People of Judah, your sins cannot be erased. They are written on your hearts like words chiseled in stone or carved on the corners of your altars. One generation after another has set up pagan altars and worshiped the goddess Asherah everywhere in your country—on hills and mountains, and under large trees. So I’ll take everything you own, including your altars and give it all to your enemies. You will lose the land that I gave you, and I will make you slaves in a foreign country, because you have made my anger blaze up like a fire that won’t stop burning." (Jeremiah 17:1-4, Contemporary English Version, emphasis mine).

As I read these words today from the Prophet Jeremiah written to the people of Judah thousands of years ago, I could not help but see confirmed in these words what has happened and is happening in the church today, which has a direct effect on our nation. We somehow live and go on with our lives as if the sins committed in our own lives and in the lives of others in our nation really do not affect us and have no consequence.

Notice the words of Jeremiah to Judah in verse 1, “People of Judah, your sins cannot be erased. . . they are written on your hearts.” The sins that have been committed have an “engraving” effect upon our hearts and carry with them serious generational consequences. Jeremiah continues by saying, “One generation after another has set up pagan altars and worshipped the goddess Asherah. . .” 

The results of the Presidential election across our nation confirmed what many in the body of Christ have been sensing, talking about and preaching for many years: that a people who turn away from God and fail to teach their children (the next generation) to fear the Lord, is a people who will reap a godless generation who will in turn not only follow in the footsteps of their parents but will reproduce an even greater godlessness among their children.

In the book of Judges we see this clearly in the generation that came after Joshua.

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress” (Judges 2:10-15).

The result of turning away from God in one generation resulted in a generation “who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.” Today we have a generation within “the church” that does not know God and His ways. This is made clear in how they reason and make choices. These choices are not made from a true biblical perspective rooted in biblical principles but rather with a worldly perspective rooted in the ways of the world – love of self and the worship of idols.

The results of the Presidential election can be directly traced to the fact that the godliness in our nation has shrunk. Ron Luce from Teen Mania Ministries said years ago (based on studies he conducted) that our nation was in danger of going from 35% born again believers within the baby boomer generation to 4% born again believers in Generation X to the present. Our present course will lead us the way of the Netherlands and Europe and other godless countries that have become bankrupt wastelands spiritually and in every other way.

Why is godliness shrinking in our nation? Because the church has turned away from God to idols and instead of passing on a Godly heritage to the next generation we are reaping what our sins have produced – a godless generation who does not know the Lord. Think about it: We elect our leaders in America, which means our leaders reflect who we are!

The reason I believe the church is most accountable is because the church is the only people group who have the Light of Christ and the message of the Gospel (1 Peter 4:17).

My thoughts are bombarded with questions today like:

· How can people who call themselves “Christians” ignore what is obviously clear in Scripture? 

· How can we justify voting and choosing a president who, though claiming he is a Christian, believes the complete opposite of what the scriptures clearly say concerning the sanctity of God-given life? (There are 3,000 abortions each day in the US, and we give money to other countries to support their abortions.)

· How are Christians able to align themselves with and vote for a political party and a president that embrace and endorse same sex marriage? (3 more states approved same sex marriage in this election - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/06/gay-marriage-results_n_2074188.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular - and the first Lesbian Senator in our history was voted in - http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/11/07/democrat-tammy-baldwin-wins-wisconsin-senate-seat-becoming-first-openly-gay-us/?test=latestnews .)

· How can a Christian stand with a party who voted to remove “God” from its platform and stand opposed to Israel? (Gen. 12:3 states, “I will bless those who bless you [Israel] and whoever curses you [Israel] I will curse?) 

· How do people who call themselves Christians stand with and elect people who will continue to bind our nation with enormous debt that will cripple generations to come? (“..the borrower is slave to the lender” – Prov. 22:7). 

There are idols present in our camp.

In Jeremiah chapter 16, Judah asked, “What sin have we committed against the Lord our God? The Lord said to Jeremiah, tell them, “It is because your fathers forsook me. . .and followed other gods (idols) and served and worshiped them” (Jer. 16:10-11). The sin of the church is that it has exchanged the One true God for idols (Jer. 2:13). If the church cannot rightfully discern what is righteous and what is not, then it cannot affect the world around it as the salt and light it has been called to be.

What are we to do?


Join us tomorrow for Part II as Pastor Mike discusses strategies for the Christian to combat idols in the church and in our hearts. 

Mike Gonzalez is the senior pastor at Columbia World Outreach Church in South Carolina. He is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blog Launch!

What does it cost?
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?... So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:28, 31, 33 (NKJV)
Welcome to Count The Costs. The primary mission of this blog will be to discuss social issues and current events within the framework of Christian principles. Although healthy discussion is encouraged among readers, comments will be monitored to ensure they stay within this framework. This blog will host many guest bloggers with expertise in the field they write. 
Jesus is clear in the above passage about what it takes to follow Him. He doesn’t sugarcoat the consequences of being His disciple. Since Jesus’ resurrection, Christians have been persecuted and martyred worldwide. In modern America, we’ve erroneously embraced the idea that we’re immune to such persecution. This has changed within the last few years. Christians are a minority, and our beliefs are ridiculed as old fashioned and intolerant. Though expected to show tolerance to groups who hold different belief systems, we’re not shown the same tolerance. 
Our country needs spiritual awakening and not just among the lost. Professing Christians should seek to discern God’s message through prayer and His written word. For those who think the Christian’s character should morph with societal changes, God’s character hasn’t changed from day one. That’s our model. As you read through the Bible, God’s nature is consistent from Genesis to Revelation.
God established the definition of marriage between one woman and one man in Genesis 2:24 and reaffirmed it in the New Testament in Matthew 19:4-6. God established the definition of murder in Genesis 9:6 and the consequences therein. Yet marriage is being threatened in this country while we wink at the legal murder of 3,000 babies a day. 
It doesn’t stop there. Collateral damage exists in the form of defining a viable baby. Do you realize most states have an age of viability for pre-term babies they will extend “extraordinary medical care?” You might be surprised how many weeks this is and which politicians have pushed such bills. Abortion is not really about choice, folks, as the left would have us believe. The women seeking abortions are afforded choice but not the mothers who fight for the life of their pre-term live babies. 
These are examples of social issues impacting society, the church, and our future as a nation, as well as slow erosion within the body of Christ of basic Biblical principles. 
I opened this post with Jesus’ words. As Christians, we must count the costs of how we live, what we model for the world, and the battles we choose to wage. No matter how involved you are (or aren’t), the costs continue to mount for Christians.
Please join me tomorrow for the official Count The Costs launch with a two-part series, “The Consequences of Idols in the Church,” by Mike Gonzalez, Senior Pastor of Columbia World Outreach Church in South Carolina. If you are inspired by what you read, please consider becoming a follower or e-mail subscriber. I look forward to your feedback. 
Above all else, I appreciate your prayers for this ministry.  
Meanwhile, if you don’t follow my other blog, A Word of Encouragement, would you take a moment to check it out? I blog weekly prayer posts and occasional writing tips/encouragement intermixed with fun posts like Lessons From Mayberry and Lost? Not Me!  
God bless,
© Laura Hodges Poole
Photo courtesy of Microsoft.com free clip art