Archive for November, 2008

Hello Congress, I Am Here For My Bailout!

            I have to confess at first I was against the bailout, but I have changed my mind.  So, like John Kerry I was against the bailout before I was for the bailout and that should make my views better received.  I think we should stop fighting Congress on the bailout and get together and put our names in the hat.


            The only thing separating most of us from the Wall Street crowd is the amount of bad debt.  So now we are going to be punished for not borrowing enough money to create real debt!  If only I had known.


            The problem is where does it stop.  This bailout program is a system for rewarding bad management.  Men and women who have run some of the largest companies in the world, taken out huge salaries and perks, are now being rewarded with our tax dollars.


            This problem is bigger than an economic issue.  It is a sign of the times.  Not a sign of tough financial times, but a sign of how devoid of morals we really are as a culture.  The problem is that capitalism like democracy only survives and thrives when it the people who are making the most money have a moral core that understands the end goal is not about money.


            Unfortunately, for us we now live in a culture that values money above everything.  Nothing is more important than the bottom line.  What we are now experiencing is the loss of faith in our national psyche.


            We have gone from being a nation filled with Christians who held great sway in the moral debates of our culture to a nation where Christian thinking is outdated and no longer a driving force in our national debates.


            The past couple of generations have seen us go from a nation that pays tribute to God—as a Christian God, to a nation that does not acknowledge God except as a source of profanity.


            Our lives no longer tell the tale of faith—even those proclaiming to be Christians.


            This is not a problem that we can blame on the removal of the Ten Commandments from our public schools and public buildings.  The removal of the Commandments was merely a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.  Thus, the problem is not solved by simply placing the Ten Commandments back on the walls of our public institutions.


            The problem is much deeper.  We are a people who have lost their way.  Our word is no longer our bond.  Our faith no longer motivates our activities.  We separate God from our daily lives until there is a crisis and then we wonder why God is not faithful.


            The writer of Hebrews made it plain, if it seems God is not faithful the problem is not God, the problem is us.  Unfortunately for us, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, yes, and forever.


            Clearly the problem is the people of God, not the God of the universe.


Help Me Stand With Larry Keffer

When American missionary Larry Keffer began street evangelism in Oslo, Norway he knew the cost would be great!  He knew that he could be arrested!  He knew that he could find himself in court and possibly even in jail! 


He went anyway!  And he shared his faith in public places.  He did this because he knows how important it is to continue to try and reach the world with the Christian faith.  Larry also knows the importance of bringing the Gospel message to Europe—the spiritually dark continent. 


In the midst of calmly sharing his message Larry was arrested.  I represented Larry at trial.  He was convicted because the Norwegian police law actually carries more weight than the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  In America Larry might have been arrested, but as soon as we went to court he would have been found not guilty.


Now Larry has lost his case at the Norwegian Court of Appeals and we are preparing to take his appeal to the Supreme Court of Norway.  From there, if we lose we will go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France in our quest for justice for Larry.


Stand with me as I stand with Larry in the courts of Europe.  Together we can make a difference!  Together we can keep the door open for the proclamation of the Gospel in Europe!


You can stand with Larry, the IHRG, and me by going to our website.  Your tax deductible gift will help keep the door open for Christians in Europe who are fighting to bring freedom.

Why Europe Matters To America

We live in an increasingly smaller world. Information travels at the speed of the Internet. One of the questions I am asked as I speak to people in churches around the country is why does Europe matter to us at all?  People are genuinely concerned that any attention we give to Europe keeps us from solving the problems of America.  I believe that many people in the church are guilty of seeing the pie as already made with no possibilities of a new pie or increasing the size of the pie.  We have to understand that in the spiritual world we have barely scratched the surface of our potential.  This means that we must be concerned with more than one country at a time.


Europe and America are tied together in a number of ways.  I want to look at our ties.


Patriotism is a great emotion.  It is important for us to feel good about our country.  It is important for us to bloom in the land where God has planted us.  At the same time, it is important for us to align ourselves with proper Christian principles for living.


There is no doubt that America plays a great role in world events.  It is even more true that America plays a great role in spiritual events.  This is why we must be vigilant in our pursuit of spiritual matters in America and around the world.


There are a variety of important reasons why what happens in the rest of the world, most particularly in Europe, matters to the church in America. Perhaps the primary reason that must be central to our thinking is that as Christians we have a charge to reach the world.


Jesus commanded us to reach the world by beginning at home.  He was not telling us to only work at home when he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”  (Matthew 28:19.)  Jesus made sure we understood the details of His commandment in Acts 1:19.  “You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”


While it is great to love our country and commit ourselves to the spiritual awakening of our country, we must look further than our own doorsteps.  We must work in the remotest part of the earth as well.


The late Keith Green summed it up well, “Jesus commands us to go; it should be the exception if we stay.”


As a group of lawyers and legally-minded lay people, we stand on the front lines against the tide of secularism that is growing stronger around the world. We fight to maintain the open doors for the proclamation of the Gospel. This fight often involves battling with government officials to keep public places open for the expression of religious belief. We can no longer afford to look at our world as only America. We live in a larger place and this larger place must include the entire world and the legal work that must be done there to protect religious liberty.


A simple example of why it matters is found in an exchange I had with a lawyer and local Parliamentarian in Holland in 2001.  We had just fought off the push of the same-sex marriage agenda in Hawaii and Alaska.  In both of those states the voters voted against legalizing same-sex marriage by near equal percentages in the general election—this is the most liberal and most conservative state.  As a result the battle was withdrawn from America and taken to Europe.


In May of 2001 I was working in Holland.  One day we were talking about the fact that Holland was going to legalizing same-sex marriage.  When we walked away from the conversation my wife turned to me and said, “Thank God we will not have to fight that fight in America.  There is no way same-sex marriage will ever be legal in America—our Christian foundation is too strong.”  We were not naïve; in fact, we had been very involved in the fight in America.


The most amazing fact of all is that less than two years later the fight for same-sex marriage returned to America and the results have been harmful to our culture.


America is a world leader in a number of fields. We must lead in the field of religious freedom. To do that, we must help train and develop a network of Christian attorneys, around the world, who are capable of standing up for repressed minorities in their own countries. If we do not do this, one day we will find that our own freedoms are shrinking further in the tide of lost religious freedom elsewhere.


            This principle has become truer since the Supreme Court of the United States has recently turned to the European Court of Human Rights to find the legal answers to questions of moral importance to us all.  If Christians do not fight for the same religious freedoms in Europe we will find the courts here using legal precedents that are not influenced by Christian morals to reshape our Christian foundations.


We live in a circular world, spiritually and legally.  What happens in America will eventually happen in other key areas of the world.  Just as true is that what happens in key areas around the globe will eventually happen in America.  We cannot simply turn our back on what happens in the courtrooms and parliamentary halls of other countries and hope that we will not be affected by the outcome of their debates over the moral and legal issues of our day.  We must be proactive around the globe, just as we are proactive in America.


In both the United States and in the rest of the world, the clear end goal of many political forces is a purely secular society that is based on the acceptance of all lifestyle choices, except Christianity, and the concept that science should be the determiner of the national moral structure rather than religion. These views include the belief that the government is in a better position to determine what our children learn than are parents.  Therefore we cannot wait until the change comes and hope to battle the forces of change.  We must begin to stem the tide now.


            Europe cannot be ignored.  We have a great relationship with the countries of the European Union and many within the Council of Europe.  To begin with, we come from similar political philosophies.  American concepts of freedom and individual responsibility were born from the Age of Enlightenment which was sweeping through Europe at the time of our founding.  Additionally, we have treaties with the countries of Europe for security purposes—NATO is the key to these treaties which bind us to the common defense of the western world.


            More importantly, Europe is one of our greatest trade partners.  The past few weeks have shown us that we live in an economic system that is truly global.  While we remain one of the most vibrant economies in the world, our economy is still tied to the rest of the world.  Life as we know it is determined by Europe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world.


            We owe a great debt to Europe.  Europe is the birthplace of the Evangelical Church.  It was in the 1500s that the Protestant Reformation began in Germany.  From the Reformation most of our religious traditions were birthed.


            Now Europe stands in need of America for spiritual awakening.  We need to see new churches planted in Europe.  We need churches that bring real change to the lives of their people; change to the countries where they minister. 


            Additionally, we need to bring legal change to Europe; legal change that respects the religious freedom that is guaranteed by the laws of every country in Europe.


            We cannot afford to be passive in our approach; that is why we are standing for religious freedom in the courts of Europe.  

American Jurisprudence Under Obama

The photo above shows you the new seat of power in America, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.


I do not believe in conspiracies—it takes too much human intelligence to carry them off, especially when moving from one generation to the next.  They make for great novels and great movies, but reality is far from conspiracies.


            Now that the election is over I think the whole country is in for a rude awakening.  Though there is no conspiracy, we are set for liberals in the government to drag us much further to the left than most of us find comfortable.  I believe we are country just to the right of center—not far to the right.


            At the same time, we are country that prides ourselves on our independence.  We are not moved by cries that other countries are not doing things the way we are.  For years now we have lived in a world where we are the lone voice in a variety of matters.  One of the most negative consequences of the Iraq War is not that the rest of the world is not happy with our role in Iraq.  The reality is that the world does not like our power, the Iraq War is just a great way to put a title on the hatred.


            I think the most negative consequence of the Iraq War is that from it we have come to believe that we should learn to live according to the dictates of world opinion.  This past election was partly about getting in step with the world.  How many times did Obama tell us that he would restore our favor around the world?


            “Restore our favor around the world,” that seems a fairly tall order.  How did we loose our favor?  What was our favor before we lost it?  The fact of the matter is that for decades now Europe has been drifting from God at such a rapid pace that it is probably more accurate to say that they are racing from God.  Europeans have looked at the American world as old fashioned and mind-numbingly moral.


            The only way we are going to find Europe aligned with America is for us to move to their view on same-sex marriage, religion, free speech, catering to Islam, and government entitlement programs.  We will only find ourselves the object of European affection if we become part of the European Union, a European State.


            In other words, we will find favor in Europe if we surrender our sovereignty to the European Union.  If we become a nation of no consequence in the world we can be seen favorably by the world.  That is hardly what we are accustomed to as a nation.


            One of the places where this will show up first in an Obama world is in our courts.  One of the purest powers of the presidency is the appointment of judges to serve lifetime appointments in the federal courts.


            In recent years we have Supreme Court Justices who have started turning to our more enlightened brothers in Europe to help them determine the best way to rule in cases of moral consequence like same-sex marriage issues.  They actually ruled against American legal precedence based on the holding of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.  This is particularly troubling because the American Court acknowledged that they were ruling against our law based on the enlightened view of the older culture of Europe.


            The federal courts, thus, are surrendering our sovereignty to Europe.  We can expect more of that under Obama.  We should not expect it to be a slow turning, but a rapid turning.


            I personally think America being more internationally minded is a good thing.  I do not however, believe that we should surrender our sovereignty to the rest of the world. One of the greatest gifts we offer the world is the gift of freedom; freedom is never found in surrendering your sovereignty.

Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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