Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The New Witch Hunt: Banning Christian Volunteers, Hurting Inner City Kids

By: Eric Metaxas.
If you hear the words “witch hunt,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Well, you might think of the Salem witch trials, when mass hysteria gripped colonial Massachusetts in the late seventeenth century and twenty people—most of them women—were executed on charges of being witches. Another five died in prison.
But the era of the witch hunt is far from over. According to Merriam-Webster, a witch hunt is “the act of unfairly looking for and punishing people who are accused of having opinions that are believed to be dangerous or evil.”
And of course, at the top of the dangerous and evil opinion list these days is believing what the Bible says about human sexuality and marriage.
While public shaming and fines against Christian business people and academics have become so commonplace as to be almost non-newsworthy, I do want to share with you a particularly egregious example of the most recent politically correct witch hunt.
Ironically, or, might I say, tragically, this new witch hunt is also in Massachusetts. For the last eleven years, Gordon College, a well-regarded evangelical institution, has sent volunteer student teachers into Lynn, Massachusetts, an old industrial town of 90,000 people about ten miles north of downtown Boston.daily_commentary_09_12_14
Around nineteen percent of Lynn’s racially mixed population lives below the poverty line. And what were these volunteers doing? According to Mary Moore of the Boston Business Journal, they provided “a range of volunteer services—including formal student-teaching help … and mentoring and tutoring programs.” What else did Gordon College do, free of charge, for the city? Well, each year Gordon has been inviting 80 to 100 fourth-graders on campus for a college day and had planned to expand the program this fall to help 500 youngsters from elementary schools in Lynn.
Of course, none of that’s going to happen now. “Why not?” you ask. I’ll tell you—because the witch hunt has come to Gordon College. It’s not that the academically and socially stellar institution has changed anything. It remains a place where all are welcome, as long as everyone abides by its well-established community standards.
Gordon’s “sin,” at least in the eyes of the Lynn city fathers, is that its president, my friend Michael Lindsay, signed a letter requesting that President Obama include a religious exemption in his expected executive order concerning the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA for short. ENDA would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or “gender identity” by employers with at least 15 employees.
Lindsay and Gordon College are simply requesting that the President provide the same religious exemption that was passed by a U.S. Senate bill last year with bipartisan support. By requesting that ENDA not discriminate against them, Gordon is now on the receiving end of a new witch hunt.
The leaders of Lynn, in their wisdom, have ended the volunteer program with the kids, saying in effect: We can’t let those bigots near our school children. As Rod Dreher, writing in The American Conservative says, one school official has said that “Gordon needs to say, ‘I’m sorry for the request in the letter.'” As in, sorry for being true to its Christian faith and heritage.
And just who’s hurt in this latest witch hunt? You got it—the kids of Lynn, Massachusetts.
Friends, if you have not been praying about the assault on religious freedom in this country, today is a great time to start.
And here’s another suggestion: Consider attending the Religious Freedom Summit at Cedarville University with my colleague John Stonestreet and a host of first-rate Christian leaders and thinkers. Learn what you can do to stand up for religious freedom in this country. Come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary, and we’ll have all the details for you.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Elijah: Intense Faith & Deep Depression

Let's set up the context of Elijah's ministry by looking at God’s people in 870 BC.

1 Kings 16:29-33   "In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him."

Things were not good in that relativism was the order of the day and everyone pursued their own set of values, regardless of how destructive they might be. Into this mix came Elijah, who was very well connected to God and had a reputation for speaking the truth -- which generally meant he was in opposition to the King. For this he was not welcome at the palace.

Several supernatural events happened in Elijah's life, and the climax centred around a showdown with 950 prophets who were, in reality, spiritual charlatans. The essence of the competition revolved around whose god would show up and respond with fire from heaven. Of course only Yahweh does respond, and the results are dramatic. You could even say all consuming, as the water-soaked altar and sacrifice are consumed to the last. Then, as he prophesies the return of the rain, he outruns a horse and chariot! A super-human feat to be sure.

Now comes the turn of events. Queen Jezebel puts a death warrant on Elijah. Following this amazing set of events, he crashes emotionally, spiritually, and physically -- and flees for his life. He is overwhelmed, discourage, suicidal, and convinced he is all alone. Into this time of dark despair, God speaks healing and restoration.

Elijah is supernaturally given food and water for his weakened state and impending journey. He is led out of hiding into a time of spiritual retreat to reconnect with God. He deals with his failings and God renews his sense of purpose. And finally, Elijah is set on a new course where he disciples a prophet (Elisha) for the next generation.

Elijah's dark time -- call it a break down, crash, depression, burn out -- is connected to his genetic make up, personality, and the nature of the activities in which he was engaged. He gets completely overwhelmed and needs time to get in balance. You and I can be in the same place as well. It's not unusual. Recognizing our condition and what needs to happen is part of our mental health.

When we are faced with that sense of hopelessness and despair, we need the following:
Proper Self-care -- eating right and exercise
Proper Activity -- getting out of hiding (connecting with God and others)
Proper Awareness -- knowing what is going on inside and taking responsibility for it
Proper Direction -- having a plan to engage with our goals and include others.

Elijah faced mental health challenges and so do we. For some helpful information go to http://baptist-atlantic.ca/our-convention/departments/public-witness-and-social/ and click on "The Rapha Network".