A 7 Year-Old, Bible Verses and Freedom of Speech

This week in Palmdale, California a school not only forbid a boy from sharing Bible verses with his classmates, but forbid him from bringing Bible verses into the school, and finally sent the Los Angeles county sherif to his house to tell him to stop handing them out after school and off of school premises as well.

Here is a link to an article in the Washington Post about the events.

Here are some highlights from the article:

The student, identified as “C,” would regularly read aloud the Bible verses that his mother, Christina Zavala, would pack away in his lunch. The verses became so popular that other students started asking the boy for their own verses. Ms. Zavala then started providing additional Bible verses for her son’s friends that included short stories for context.

“However, when one little girl said ‘teacher — this is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen,’ ‘separation of church and state’ was the response, and the notes were banned from lunchtime distribution,” the Liberty Counsel said. “C was told that the school gate was the only location at which he could give the Bible verses to his friends, and only after the bell rang.”

The group said Ms. Zavala and her son complied with the order and started handing out the verses after school at the gate in late April. The activity became increasingly popular, with at least 15 students showing up every day. On May 9, Principal Melanie Pagliaro reportedly approached C’s father, Jaime Zavala, and demanded he and the boy move completely off school property and onto the public sidewalk. The family immediately complied, the Liberty Counsel said.

Later that day, a Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff reportedly arrived at the Zavalas’ home to tell the boy to stop sharing the notes, because “someone might be offended,” the Liberty Counsel said. It was then that the family decided to seek legal help.

My favorite part of the story is what the little girl said: “Teacher, this is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen.”

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, that statement, from the lips of an innocent child brings tears to my eyes. The story of Jesus, God’s love for us, is the most beautiful story the world has ever known.

I also love the part about how 15 kids would gather daily to receive Bible stories.

What a shame when such a thing is banned out of fear that someone might be offended by it. What a shame that there are so many things pushed on our children which do offend me, but often no action is taken in the name of freedom of expression.

This little boy and his mom planted some seeds in this community. Let’s pray they bear much fruit and that the litigation from the Liberty Counsel succeeds and sets a precedent which allows for freedom of expressing in sharing the Gospel.

 

 

When You Can’t Decide Who to Vote For

This week this obituary appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

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It seems like something from the Onion, but it’s not.
From CNN:
Her husband Jim Noland told NBC12 that one of her sons wrote the obituary and it was meant as a joke, a way for her family to continue her sense of humor.
“This isn’t the first time a paid death notice has been used to send a personal message to the world,” The Richmond Times-Dispatch said in a statement.
For the rest of us who are still here, well – I guess we just have to pray and trust God. Good thing is: He’s sovereign.

Dynel Lane, the Media and a Contradiction of Terms

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Almost a year ago, a tragedy happened here in Longmont: a pregnant woman responded to a Craigslist ad for free baby clothes, only to be attacked and to have her baby cut from her womb and abducted.

The baby did not survive, and the assailant, Dynel Lane is currently on trial this week in the Boulder District Court, however she is not being charged with murder, but with suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and child abuse knowingly and recklessly resulting in death and unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

Colorado law does not count the death of an unborn child as murder, only if the child lived outside of the womb for some time. The issue in this case is that it’s not possible to prove how long the child lived outside of the womb – so Colorado’s wording of the law will not allow a murder charge in this case, even though wrongful death is obvious.

Dynel Lane has pleaded not guilty to these charges and has come back saying that it was Michelle Wilkins who attacked and tried to stab her, and that she was only trying to defend herself, and the reason she cut the baby out of Michelle’s womb was because she thought Michelle was dead and was trying to save the baby. This however, gives no explanation for why Dynel Lane told medical personal at Longmont United Hospital that the baby was hers, until they realized that she hadn’t given birth and the baby couldn’t be hers.

You can read Dynel Lane’s testimony here.

Today closing arguments are being presented by both sides.

This case presents a conundrum, not only for the wording of the law, but for the media in telling the story.  As one friend pointed out: The Denver Post reported that Dynel Lane “…cut out Wilkins’ fetus before taking the baby to Longmont United Hospital…”

Did you catch that?  She cut out a “fetus” and then took the “baby” to Longmont United Hospital.

It’s a very careful choosing of words which reflects a fundamental belief: that unborn children are not actually children.

The word they’ve coined to help create this false dichotomy – which this case so painfully exposes – is “fetus.” What’s ironic, is that this is based on a failure to grasp the fact that the word fetus is simply Latin for “young person.”

Fetus is Latin for “young person”

Did you catch that?  Young PERSON.    Not “young mass of tissue, akin more to cancer than to a human being.”

This case presents a conundrum for lawmakers and the media, because it shows that a fetus and a baby are not two separate things. Everyone knows that what this woman did was wrong, because she killed a baby… But if we stick with strictly considering the unborn unhuman, then why is this crime so heinous?

Is a baby only a baby if its mother wants it?   Clearly the answer is no.

I will be interested to see what happens in this case. Hoping for justice for Dynel Lane’s crime and mercy for her soul.

 

A Seal from King Hezekiah found in Jerusalem by Archaeologists

CNN posted this today, that a seal from King Hezekiah has been discovered by archaeologists in Jerusalem.

Here’s an excerpt:

It is believed to be the first-ever seal — also referred to as a “bulla” — from an Israeli or Judean King to be discovered by archaeologists.

“The seal of the king was so important. It could have been a matter of life or death, so it’s hard to believe that anyone else had the permission to use the seal,” Eilat Mazar, who directs excavations at the City of David’s summit, told CNN.

“Therefore, it’s very reasonable to assume we are talking about an impression made by the King himself, using his own ring.

“This the greatest single item I have ever found,” added Mazar — a third generation archaeologist.

Archaeology continues to confirm the trustworthiness and historicity of the Bible.

As king of Judah, Hezekiah enacted reforms and brought the people back to the worship of Yahweh and put an end to the worship of idols in the temple.

You can read about the reign of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-20 as well as 2 Chronicles 29-32 and Isaiah 36-39.

Advent Meditations: 3 – Paradoxes and Promises

In an article for Christianity Today, Michael Horton began with a captivating introduction:

“It was confusing to grow up singing both ‘This World is Not My Home’ and ‘This is My Father’s World.’ Those hymns embody two common and seemingly contradictory Christian views of the world.” One sees this world as a wasteland of godlessness, with which the Christian should have as little possible to do. The other regards the world as part of God’s good creation to be enjoyed and redeemed.

Which is correct? Well, to some degree both.

Here’s another one for you: God is sovereign, yet “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)

Which one is true? Is God sovereign, or is the whole world under the power of the evil one?  It would seem that the answer is: both.

These are paradoxes, things which seem that they should be mutually exclusive or contradictory, but yet both are true at the same time: this world is part of God’s good creation for us to enjoy and redeem AND this world is a fallen broken place, which is not our home, and from which we long to be set free. God is sovereign; God is in heaven and He does all that He wants (Psalm 115:3), AND the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

Yesterday I watched the news unfold as multiple shooters entered a holiday party in San Bernardino, California at a center for people with disabilities and proceeded to open fire, killing 14 and wounding 17 more. And like most people, my response was a mixture of grief, sadness and exasperation that events like this have become so commonplace in our country and in our world.

At times like this it’s easy to believe that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one, and perhaps harder to believe that God is sovereign over all things. When you see the reports that there have been more mass shootings in the United States than days this year, it’s easy to conclude that this world is a dark place from which we hope to escape – and it’s harder to believe that the world is beautiful and good and that our focus should be on redeeming it for the flourishing of people to the glory of God. And yet, both are true.

These paradoxical statements are at the same time promises. And the hope of Advent is that the true light which gives life to all people has come into the world, and the darkness has not – and will not – overcome it.

Both sides of these paradoxes are true. Both sides of these paradoxes are promises – but only because of Christmas! Only because God became a man in order to redeem us can we have confidence that our redemption is nigh, and that though the darkness is real, the new day will soon dawn and the darkness will be fully abolished.

Making the News

The past 2 Sundays White Fields Church and yours truly have been mentioned in the local newspapers in Boulder and Longmont.

Last Sunday I was honored to be featured in the Times-Call's annual 100 People of the St. Vrain Valley, in which I got to share about mission work in Hungary as well as what I enjoy about being a local pastor here in Longmont. You can find that article online here.

This past Sunday, White Fields' annual Easter Outreach in Roosevelt Park was reported on by both the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Times-Call. Check that article out here.

Sometimes you can't be sure how what you say to reporters will actually get reported, but I was very pleased with how the Camera and Times-Call reported what I said.

 

Longmont Baby Abductor Will Not Be Charged With Murder

I was talking to a friend in Romania the other day and he said it feels like he is always seeing Longmont in the news.

It’s true. Longmont has made national (and apparently international) headlines a lot in the past few years, and not for good reasons: catastrophic floods, carjackings involving kids, and most recently a fetal abduction in which a woman who was 7 months pregnant responded to a Craigslist ad for free baby clothes was beaten, stabbed and had her baby cut from her womb and kidnapped.

For what it’s worth – crime rates in Longmont have actually decreased in the last year, as opposed to Boulder, which has higher crime rates which haven’t decreased, but this kind of stuff, although not characteristic of this fine town, gets a lot of publicity – as it should.

The suspect’s arraignment will be today at 1:30, but the Times-Call reported that the DA has already stated that murder will not be among the charges brought against this woman, the reason being that Colorado law does not count the death of an unborn child as murder, unless the child lived outside of the womb for some time. The issue in this case is that it’s not possible to prove that the child lived outside of the womb, and if so, for how long – so Colorado’s wording of the law will not allow a murder charge in this case.

People in Longmont were protesting this and picketing on Main Street last week when it was first announced. The charges expected to be brought against the suspect are: suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and child abuse knowingly and recklessly resulting in death.

The problem with those charges are that even all together they will not lead to as strong of a sentence as if murder or manslaughter had been part of it. Since the mother survived, and there is no proof that the baby lived outside of the womb, Colorado law has no way to charge her with anything stronger.

What do you think?  Is this justice?

The sad part of this is that if this attack had not happened, this baby would have lived. The baby’s life was clearly taken by this attack. I find it hard to accept that we have no way to prosecute that.

When Misinterpreting the Bible Leads to Tragedy

On Saturday, an apartment fire in NYC claimed the lives of 7 children. When you find out why it happened, you realize just how dangerous it can be to misinterpret the Bible…

Recently at White Fields church I have been teaching on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This past Sunday I taught Matthew 5:17-30, where Jesus refutes the misinterpretation of the Law of Moses by the Pharisees.

The Pharisees made 2 basic errors in regard to their interpretations of the Law of Moses. On the one hand, they would add rules to the Law of Moses, to make sure they didn’t accidentally break any of the commandments. On the other hand though, they created a system of loopholes to circumvent the very rules which they themselves added to the Law of Moses. The purpose of this was so that they could claim that they had “technically” kept the Law, while still making sure they had ways to do all the things they felt the need to do.

Modern day Judaism has had to deal with technological innovations, such as electricity and motor vehicles, which has greatly complicated the question of what constitutes “labor” on the Sabbath. In broad terms, they have landed on the definition that the breaking or building of anything constitutes “work”. So, practically, they have determined that it is not permissibly to drive a car, since combustion happens in an engine, nor are they allowed to turn on or off electricity, because it breaks an electrical current.

To circumvent this rule, especially in cold places, modern ultra-orthodox Jews, have tended to turn on a hot plate or an oven the night on Friday afternoon, before the start of the Sabbath, and that way they can heat food and keep their residences warm without technically doing “work”.

During my sermon this past Sunday, I mentioned a news story about an apartment fire in Jerusalem in an orthodox neighborhood, where – because people considered it not forbidden to use a phone on the Sabbath – the fire spread to 2 surrounding buildings before fire fighters were alerted and got to the scene to put it out.

Right after church, someone told me about the tragic events which had happened for very similar reasons the night before in New York City, in which an orthodox Jewish family had left a hot plate on in the kitchen, a common practice for those who adhere to the “Talmudic fence” which Pharisaical Judaism put around the Law of Moses; when the hotplate malfunctioned and caused a fire in the middle of the night in the apartment which left  7 children dead and the mother and oldest child in critical condition.

This is a tragic example of how misinterpreting the Bible can lead to tragedy…

One of the saddest parts of the news report was the final line:

“We believe that being buried in Israel is important because all of your sins are then absolved,” [Rabbi Alon Edri] said.

These Jews, who take the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament) seriously, understand that the fundamental need of the human soul is for our sins to be dealt with and wiped away. The problem is that they have no way of obtaining this, especially since for almost 2000 years now they have had no temple in which to make the sacrifices of atonement prescribed by the Law of Moses. The idea that being buried in Israel will absolve one’s sins is not found in the Bible; it is something they have created to deal with the problem that they deeply feel and see: that they need their sins to be forgiven, yet they have no way of having their sins atoned for. They have done something similar with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), on which, according to the Law of Moses, a sacrifice was to be made to atone for the sins of the nation – but instead of doing that, modern Judaism has settled for telling people to make “sacrifices of contrition” (read: feeling really bad about yourself and your sin) in order to make atonement. However, this, according to the Law itself, is not enough, for we know that “life is in the blood” and “there is no atonement of sin apart from the shedding of blood.”

Oh that they might come to see that Jesus came to fulfill all of the Law and the Prophets! That He is the atoning sacrifice which God provided for them.

We pray for this family, for the community and for the mother and daughter still in critical condition, that God would comfort them and that they would come to know the righteousness that God has provided for them apart from the Law, since “by the works of the Law, no one will be justified”.

Brett Felton: US Veteran Fighting ISIS and Defending Christians in Iraq

60 Minutes aired a report this past weekend on the Christians of Northern Iraq, and how they are being persecuted by ISIS. It is terrible and tragic, and something the whole world needs to hear about. Take a few minutes to read this report. This is an event of historic proportions: books and churches which have existed since the early days of Christianity are being destroyed. A Christian community is being eradicated.

If we think back on the actions of Hitler in Europe and reflect on what Christians should have done, we must open our eyes to realize that something similar is happening in our day in the Middle East to Christians. What will the world do? What can be done?

One American Christian, Brett Felton, came to the conclusion that the right thing for him to do, as a former US soldier who fought in Iraq, was to return there to help the Iraqi Christians defend themselves. 60 Minutes posted this video report about him. Check it out.

Brett is over there, not hunting ISIS, but training the Iraqi Christians on how to defend themselves if and when ISIS attacks, and he is standing beside them to fight if and when that day comes.

What do you think about a Christian taking up arms to fight against ISIS?

ISIS is clearly doing something very evil – something that should not be tolerated from any group of people, no matter who they are persecuting.

Considering the circumstances, and the fact that ISIS is functioning as a military group, terrorizing largely unarmed, untrained civilians, I think that what Brett Felton is doing is praiseworthy – putting his life on the line to help civilians protect their families and their ancient civilization from an evil assailant.