First published at Townhall.com: http://townhall.com/columnists/joyoverbeck/2014/12/23/barack-obamas-contradictory-christianity-n1934141
“The greatest glory of the American Revolution was this: It connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” John Quincy Adams, 6th President
Barack Obama has a strangely inconsistent view of Christianity. At the same time he scolds that Christian belief dictates we must not “oppress the stranger” if those strangers happen to be four or five million illegals who are new potential Democratic voters, his enforcer Attorney Eric Holder oppresses The Little Sisters of the Poor into court. Obama’s administration thinks it’s more important to force this group of Catholic nuns to violate their religious beliefs by providing Obamacare abortion-inducing drugs than to allow them to help the elderly poor and dying unmolested by an autocratic government.
There is perhaps no group on earth more deeply ministering to others than these nuns who for over 175 years have been caring for the poorest of strangers – the elderly, sick and dying in 30 countries worldwide. Their founder, Jeanne Jugan, was born during the French Revolution. One cold night in the winter of 1839 she took pity on a blind, paralyzed old woman in the snow and carried her home to sleep in her own bed. Soon people began bringing destitute old women to Jeanne’s doorstep and she cared for them too, assisted by pious friends.
The Little Sisters had founded dozens of homes in Europe by the time a small group crossed the sea to America to establish a home in Brooklyn in 1868. Since then, over 30 of their homes minister to the impoverished elderly in the U.S., and care for over 13,000 needy worldwide. Last January the Supreme Court delayed the fines which would be imposed by Obamacare on the Little Sisters which could amount to as much as 2.5 million a year. In response, the government displayed its callous indifference to the poor by doubling down. Recently government attorneys in Denver’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals argued the Little Sisters must comply with Obamacare mandates.
Following the hearing, Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, said, “…we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to Himself. But now the government demands we choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith… to either violate our conscience or take millions of dollars that we raise by begging for the care of the elderly poor and instead pay fines to the IRS.” The Little Sisters seem to be singled out by an administration that already exempts many corporations and businesses from Obamacare mandates.
Clearly, Jesus’ instruction for Christians to care for the poor and the sick doesn’t carry as much weight for the Obama administration as the Biblical command to take in illegal immigrants. Oh wait, there isn’t one.
The Obama administration tends to choose their command and control birth control ideology over the needs of the poor. In 2011 they ended a relationship with Catholic bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services Office to help refugees, immigrant families and trafficking victims because the bishops refused to provide contraceptive and abortion counseling.
It’s also apparent that Obama’s Christianity fails to heed Christ’s final words as he prepared to leaveit the planet, known as the Great Commission to: “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Incredibly, two Baptist chaplains say they were forced out of a one-year Veterans Affairs chaplain training after their instructor pounded the table, insisting they stop quoting the Bible and praying in Jesus’ name. According to the federal lawsuit the Conservative Baptist Association of America filed in 2013, the Christians were ridiculed and harassed for their beliefs, leading to one leaving the program while the other was kicked out. The course is required to work as a chaplain in a VA hospital so this anti-Christian bigotry also deprived them of their right to make a living.
Their attorney John Wells called the treatment a violation of federal law and the religious freedom of the First Amendment. The training was led by Nancy Dietsch, a Department of Veterans Affairs employee with a history of antagonistic behavior towards evangelicals, Wells said. “She’s been very, very critical of Christians…Instead of teaching anything dealing with faith issues, she’s dealing with a holistic, humanistic approach…that the spirit comes from within.” Wells added that it seems the government is trying to establish “a secular humanist-based religion free from any influence of Christian dogma.”
Christians were actually branded terrorists at a 2013 U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training in which the instructor presented a slide with the headline “RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM,” listing “Evangelical Christians” as the number one extremist threat. Published in the UK Daily Mail and elsewhere, the slide claims Christianity is more dangerous than the Muslim Brotherhood which comes in at number two. “Ultra-orthodox Judaism” is listed as the number three terrorist threat, and anyone with “Christian identity” in the U.S. comes in at number four, more dangerous than the murdering terrorists of Al Qaeda and Hamas which are five and six.
Calling terrorists the nearly 80% of Americans who say they’re Christian awoke the ire of the Archdiocese for the Military Services which complained to the Army, noting that Catholics were number 10 on the terrorist list. The military brass said they had no clue how this happened and denied it was condoned by the Army.
Anti-Christian harassment at veteran funerals at the Houston National Cemetery also led three veterans service organizations to sue the federal government in 2011. According to court documents, Veterans Affairs officials ordered volunteers to stop telling families 'God bless you' at funerals and said that the words 'God bless' had to be removed from condolence cards.
Ominously, more is on the way with the government threatening to court-martial soldiers or make them face criminal punishment such as imprisonment for merely talking about their faith or sharing the gospel. So now the government is banning not only freedom of speech and religion, but the Great Commission itself.
The president who declared America “no longer a Christian nation” seems to be intent on validating his claim. For now, we can thank God we can still worship Him and say Merry Christmas to all.
The Christmas story of God, Creator of the Universe, putting on a fleshly baby outfit and coming down to earth to be born in a dirty stable disguised as an infant, then eventually giving his life to save humanity, doesn’t make any sense to unbelievers. This frankly boggling account sometimes doesn’t even make sense to devoted Christians who pray, attend church, and search the Bible to discover how and why God does what he does.
Atheists like to mock Christians, saying we worship the invisible sky fairy or the great flying raccoon deity or whatever. They call themselves “brights” in contrast to Christians who they insist are ignorant rubes and dunderheaded Neanderthals who believe in fairy tales.
Human objections to Christ’s saving mission seem to multiply every Christmas. They range from lapsed Christians who think God is a child murderer to the New York-based Satanic Temple that sets up an hilariously amateurish mural in the Florida capitol rotunda to compete with the traditional manger scene of the sweet baby Jesus and his parents. The primitive artwork shows the devil tumbling into a lake of fire under the friendly banner “Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple.” That firey lake sure makes for a compelling recruitment ploy, Satanists.
Atheists’ main objection to God (who is one with Christ) seems to echo that of Bertrand Russell, the iconic 19th C mathematician, philosopher and atheist who complained that God hadn’t given him enough “evidence” to believe: just fork over The Ring if you’re really God.
Physicist Albert Einstein, one of the brightest of the brights, was more humble. He said, “I want to know how God created this world…I want to know His thought, the rest are details.” Even as he said this, Einstein was smart enough to realize even his genuis could glimpse a mere sliver of how God constructed the physical creation.
Still, modern atheists act like spoiled kids annoyed as if God is deliberately withholding information, like a dad forbidding them a favorite toy just to wield parental superiority. But God is too big for us to comprehend. If we knew His secrets, our heads would explode. We would be on His level; we would all be gods and goddesses. The obvious fact that God is supernatural and we’re not hasn’t occurred to the “brights.”
God answers insolent atheists as he answered Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!” Job 38: 4-5 Don’t you love God’s sarcastic side?
Most important, if God “proved” Himself in the scientific, indisputable NCIS way, leaving no doubt, there would be no room for faith. Everyone would believe on the “evidence.” But God wants belief based on faith, not evidence, though ample evidence there is.
It takes faith to accept that the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Creator of the heavens, the earth and the entire Universe is so crazy about little us that He actually longs for a personal relationship with you and me. The only way to have that connection was to send His own Son to endure human pain so God can fully understand the hurting of humanity. He thought that certainly if His own Son (who is one with Him) died to bring us into reconciliation with Him, we would be convinced of His love.
And many do believe. After all, the daily headlines should convince everyone that we are quite a mess, fallen creatures in desperate need of God’s grace. There’s a reason Christianity is the most popular religion on the planet, with nearly 80% of Americans declaring themselves believers.
As for evidence, as academia learns more about the intricacies of the cosmos and the breath-taking biology of nature, more scientists are coming face- to-face with the only reasonable explanation: a supernatural intelligence must be behind the curtain.
Since the discovery of the Big Bang that exploded the cosmos into being, scientists have been having an inescapable run-in with the God of the Bible, specifically the Creator God of Genesis. Here are some of their observations:
“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos…God to me is a mystery, but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.” Astronomer Allan Sandage (celebrated for his exacting measurements of the size and age of the universe)
“To me, the concept of God is a logical outcome of the study of the immense universe that lies around us…God exists as the Supreme Being who started this creation...the evidence is all too pervasive for me to think otherwise.” Thomas C. Emmel, Ph.D. in population biology, Stanford University
“How such already quite complex structures may have come together, remains a mystery…the possibility of the existence of a Creator, of God, represents to me a satisfactory solution to this problem…” Prof. Werner Arber, Nobel Prize winner for physiology/medicine, on the vast complexity of molecular biology
“The existence of the universe requires me to conclude that God exists.” Robert A. Naumann, Prof. of Chemistry and Physics at Princeton University
“The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.” Arno Penzias, Nobel Prize winner in physics
“It would be very difficult to explain why the universe would have begun in just this way except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.” Stephen Hawking, physicist, A Brief History of Time, now an atheist according to the film ”The Theory of Everything.”
And my personal favorite:
“I think only an idiot can be an atheist.” Professor Christian B. Anfinsen, Harvard University, Ph.D. in biochemistry, and Nobel Prize winner for chemistry
Welcome, baby Jesus!
First published at: http://townhall.com/columnists/joyoverbeck/2014/10/31/if-christians-dont-vote-more-christians-will-be-persecuted-n1911516
by Joy Overbeck Mike Huckabee said on his show recently that only about 40 million of the 80 million evangelical Christians in America are even registered to vote. Only about half of those actually vote in presidential elections and only half of them, about 10 million, vote in midterms like the important election coming up Nov. 4. His numbers seem pretty accurate according to various sources, yet nearly 80% of Americans say they’re Christians.
As is often observed, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. If Christians don’t vote in this election and help turn this country back to our Founders’ faith-based values we can’t whine when the government steals more of our religious freedom like this:
· * Ordained ministers like Donald and Evelyn Knapp, owners of Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, sued by the government and now at risk of up to 180 days in jail or $1,000 in fines for each day they refuse to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
- An administration and “Department of Justice” that sues a group of Catholic nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor because they refuse to provide birth control and abortive drugs to employees. The Little Sisters were founded in 1839 and provide loving care to over 13,000 needy elderly in 31 countries, with 30 homes in the U.S. alone. They subsist entirely on donations; wouldn’t that money be better spent on the poor than on a government lawsuit forcing them to violate their religious beliefs?
- The lesbian mayor of Houston directing city lawyers to subpoenas pastors’ sermons and their private communications with parishioners because they oppose a new “equal rights” city ordinance that would allow gender-confused men to enter women’s bathrooms and vice versa.
If Christians voted in greater numbers for principled Christian leaders, from school board to Senator, these abuses of our religious liberty would cease. Here’s what George Washington had to say about it: “I earnestly pray that the Omnipotent Being who has not deserted the cause of America in the hour of its extremist hazard, will never yield so fair a heritage of freedom a prey to "Anarchy" or "Despotism."
- The government threatening to court-martial soldiers who talk about their faith and military chaplains who pray “in the name of Jesus.” Court martial could mean that soldiers who share the Gospel or even discuss their faith with their friends could face criminal punishment such as imprisonment or be dishonorably discharged.
- Fresh from their success in stifling liberty and Tea Party groups (where Christians predominate) prior to the 2012 election, the IRS and the militant atheist Freedom from Religion Foundation reached an agreement in July to monitor churches and other houses of worship for “electioneering.” This is a twofer for the renegade IRS and the atheists: a violation of First Amendment freedom of speech plus freedom of religion. But “political” issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, sanctity of life, and even taxes are also biblical and religious issues. And should the IRS be telling us how to talk about these issues in our churches?
- Continued government persecution of Christians living their faith, like the Colorado cake baker prosecuted and fined for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a “gay” wedding, and the couple who runs Elane Photography ordered to pay $6,637 in fees because they refused to photograph a same-sex ceremony with which their religious faith disagrees. In the photography case, New Mexico Supreme Court justice Richard C. Bosson claimed that requiring the couple to relinquish their religious convictions was “the price of citizenship.” And there are more examples, too.
- Schools that cave to threats of expensive lawsuits from atheist groups, and are intimidated into telling students not to mention God or Jesus in graduation speeches, banning Christian clubs from meeting after class, forbidding prayer before football games and other activities, and scrubbing every mention of the baby in the manger from “Winter Solstice” events.
Washington and the Founders had had enough of despotism; it’s the reason they revolted against England. From the beginning, ours is the only nation in the world ever to declare in its founding documents that the fundamental rights of man come from God, not government or any king.
Anyone who doubts America’s foundation as a Christian nation has only to read the Declaration of Independence, written by Jefferson who liberals actually claim as an unbeliever. The Declaration calls upon the Deity three times and at the end declares upon “a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence” another word used for God at the time.
I wonder if some Christians have a “conscientious objection” to voting because they see Jesus as more involved in the next world than this one. But Jesus said he came into the world to change it, and that required some aggressive worldly action such as taking a whip to the corruption of the money lenders in the temple. Jesus was a very political guy: he boldly confronted the “government” of his time, the Jewish religious leaders of the Sanhedrin ruling council. He engaged in civil disobedience and strongly criticized these rulers for ignoring the people and caring only about their self-interest. If he could have voted, he would have voted to throw the Sanhedrin out.
Many Christians may think there’s no need to vote because the Lord is coming soon through the clouds to sweep us out of here and into his holy presence. But Christians have believed that ever since Jesus departed through those same clouds, over 2,000 years ago. Christ himself told us that “nobody knows the day or hours” but the guessing game continues.
Other Christians believe that since “God is control” we should stand passively by and let God work things out. But if the Christian founders of this nation would have believed that misinterpretation of scripture, they would never have revolted against England, the mightiest power of their time.
They did it in order to establish a new nation, one that would give its citizens unique privileges: freedom of religious belief, freedom of thought, freedom to worship, and freedom to speak out against rulers’ oppression. All of these are under fire today. Keeping those freedoms means being “the light of the world” as Jesus instructed his believers; it means voting November 4.
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado journalist and author published at The Washington Times, Townhall, The Daily Caller, American Thinker, Breakpoint.org, www.mycoloradoview.com and elsewhere. Twitter: @JoyOverbeck1
Father’s Day, that wonderful day when we celebrate our dads, is a time when all of us who have terrific dads need to feel sorry for atheists. It’s not such a happy day for them. That’s the take-away from a book called Faith of the Fatherless: the Psychology of Atheism by New York University psychology professor Paul Vitz, who says that what often lies at the core of militant atheism is a disappointing and sometimes abusive experience with the atheist’s earthly dad.
Vitz, who was himself an atheist until his late 30’s, examines the lives of over two dozen famously influential and often belligerent nihilists and atheists from the 18th Century to the present, like Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, David Hume, Albert Camus, Voltaire, and Mr. God Is Dead himself, Friedrich Nietzsche. Ironically, these were the “fathers” of the atheist movement, cheerleaders for Sigmund Freud’s theory that belief in God is an illusion, just wishful thinking invented by the childish part of our psyche that craves security and protection: in short, Big Daddy to the rescue. Freud’s theory over the years has evolved into the writing and ranting of today’s atheist God debunkers who like to brand religious believers as fools, ignoramuses, and Neanderthals.
But Professor Vitz does a neat switcheroo on Siggy: he finds that non-believers are the ones who are prisoners of their psychology because their personal bad dad experiences have led them to reject the ultimate Father. (Freud too!) Having felt no love from their own dads, they just can’t believe in a God who loves them. Of course, Vitz is not contending that every single atheist out there is a result of a problem with pater. But there’s lots of fascinating evidence in the biographical sketches he presents that a relationship with dad is a strong influencer.
For example, many of these big-time atheists had no father in their life at all. Sartre’s father died when he was only one, as did Camus’ dad. Hume’s father passed away when he was two, and Russell, one of the really notorious atheists of all time, lost his father when he was four. H.G. Wells, Josef Stalin, Freud himself, and others all had very difficult and troubling relationships with their fathers.
Intriguingly, the book also covers the lives of a similar number of prominent believers from the same eras, including Soren Kierkegaard, Blaise Pascal, Edmund Burke, G.K. Chesterton, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The bio sketches reveal that while the atheists had weak, mean, or absent fathers, the theists had strong relationships with their good fathers or father substitutes.
This book can serve as a warning to parents: if you want your children to have a strong, secure faith, make sure that they have a strong, secure relationship with a loving father. Pew research also shows that the single most determining factor in a child retaining religious faith in adulthood is whether the father has an active faith. The book also suggests that militant atheists’ rejection and even hatred of the very idea of God may be largely rooted in their childhood psychology and dad-deprivation rather than in any rational or intellectual basis, as they would have us believe.
So while you’re celebrating Dad this weekend, find an atheist and give him or her a big hug – they need it!
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4: 7, 8
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado author and journalist; her site with a sampling of her magazine articles: www.joyoverbeck.com
Tweet her: @joyoverbeck1
This was first published at breakpoint.org: http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/25348
I've been reading some blogs about Nature in the first blush of springtime. The writers rhapsodize about blossoms bursting forth from winter’s gray shroud, and the dry bones of the trees overnight breaking out in their green chiffon prom dresses. Or something like that.
What’s amazing to me is the writers never attribute any of these wonders to God. But where does all this marvelous bursting forth, this prodigious display of glory, come from? As intelligent secularists, they must know that everything must have a cause; nothing has ever come from nothing. One day the branches are bare, and then we see the tiny dabs of green that in a little while unfold into a leafy explosion. How does that happen? Where does all this surging life come from?
This is what humanity has pondered from the very beginning. We only know that the invisible stuff that makes the leaves is cunningly hidden in those barren sticks that have been frozen for the last many months. This is the mystery that turned ancient humans into nature worshippers and the reason why pantheism, or nature worship, was the very first religion. People saw the annual awakening of winter’s death into spectacular new life and recognized it for the miracle it is. For them, God and nature were one and the same. Instead of a personal God, they saw multiple gods everywhere; trees and rocks and streams had their own spirit-souls. Everything in the universe was a little slice of god, spiritually alive.
Pantheism is undergoing a modern religious revival in today’s nature worshippers, New Agers and earth worshippers, for whom the Creation and nature, rather than the Creator, is god. They seem content to believe the spectacular display all around us comes literally from nothing. There’s no design or supernatural cause or great eternal mind behind spring’s marvels – they all just happen. But isn’t belief in something-from-nothing more unlikely than believing in God?
Nature worship is appealing precisely because it allows one to feel “spiritual” without the pressing ethical demands of “religion.” There’s no moral force known as “God” to answer to, just a beautiful world to appreciate. No pressure, no expectations – everyone can be comfortable with their own personal revelation.
Unbelievers demand proof of God, but if they would just look around they would find God saying “hi” everywhere. The problem with God is he’s so good at what he does that his miracles seem unremarkable to us; just everyday stuff like the marvels of springtime. Miracles become dumbed-down when there are too many of them, much like the word “awesome” today is used to describe everything from a brilliant meteor shower to a tasty dill pickle.
As an experiment in perception, try to think about the following phenomena as if you didn’t know they were all just common, ordinary occurrences. Try to see the supernatural hand of God hiding behind what seems completely routine.
Can it be random chance that Earth is an all-you-can-eat buffet brimming with plentiful free food and drink, so the animals – from giraffes and gazelles and hippos to cows, sheep, and pigs – have everything they need to thrive? And that somehow another happy accident has given the meat-eaters this well-fed menu of critters to subsist upon?
How can it be a coincidence that Earth happens to be packed to the very crust with exactly the stuff that we humans need to power our complex civilization of convenience and comfort: coal, natural gas, oil, even sunlight, water and wind energy, all free for the taking?
Or in a world without flowers, if a rose appeared on a bush, seemingly from nowhere, wouldn’t it be acclaimed as a wonder and a miracle? They’d put a fence around it and charge admission, then create a TV reality show based on it.
Or imagine that every human appeared fully grown as adults and there was no such thing as a fertilized egg or gestation. Then one day, there’s headline news around the world: the birth of the first baby! What – a couple of microscopic cells began to grow in a woman’s body and after a few months suddenly popped out as a miniature human? What a phenomenon - think of the sensation! And it happens every day.
Speaking of the egg --a single fertilized human egg the size of a pinhole has enough information to fill a thousand books, each 500 pages thick, with print so small you would need a microscope to read it. And if we were able to print in books all the DNA information in the entire human body, it has been estimated that they would fill the Grand Canyon 50 times. Has there ever been even a single book without an Author?
He sends the springs into the valleys;
They flow among the hills.
They give drink to every beast of the field…
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth…
Psalm 104: 10, 11, 14
Many emails the last couple of weeks reminded me to send Norma the flowers and candy I usually send her on Mother’s Day. But I didn’t order them. I haven’t spent that 45 minutes or so picking out the exactly-right Mother’s Day card. And I’ve made no Mother’s Day phone call to tell her how much I love her and talk about my next visit. There will be no next visit in this life because my Mom, Norma, went to be with her Jesus on December 19.
How I miss her: her mischief smile that came at special times, her Delft blue eyes and the sudden surprise of her laugh!
I don’t think I will ever get used to using the past tense with her. How to describe her, the one who inspired my major passions for God and country? All her life she’s been known as a whirlwind, a firecracker – feisty, totally unstoppable, completely irresistible. She radiated her bright spirit and love of her Lord wherever she went, even on her answering machine: “Leave a message, I’m out spreading the Word!” Even with the debilitating health problems of the last year, ask her how she was and she’d flash a grin and chirp, “My cup runneth over!”
She was born Norma Louise Nordlund, second child of Karl and Selma, two hard-working Swedes who immigrated here in their teens. They instilled in their daughter their fierce love of America, their proud work ethic, honesty and integrity. These values guided her all of her life and she passed them on to her family. I learned from watching Mom how to become a voice for those values as she lobbied for phonics in the schools when we were kids, later demonstrating at Tea Party rallies for smaller, more responsible government, and writing so many letters to the editor that she was at one time actually banned from the paper in Naples, Florida where she lived -- but only temporarily.
Her reverence for the English language and expressing oneself well she passed on to me and to the other writer in the family, my daughter Meredith. Mom’s views were never restrained by political correctness and I’m the same way – that must be a gene because most of her children and grandchildren share that frankness. She and I also shared a love of skiing—she learned when attending Colby Junior College in New Hampshire, getting an education uncommon for women in that era.
But her major passion was Jesus. “The Lord will provide” wasn’t just a Bible verse she constantly stressed to us, we could see it every day in her life – even to the mysterious way she always found the best parking space nearest wherever she was going – so predictably it became a family joke. Whenever a child or grandchild had a disappointment or didn’t get a desired job, Mom would always say, the Lord has something better in mind for you, sweetheart and she was always right. And when I was just a girl, she was the very first person to tell me that I could be anything I wanted to be and do anything I wanted to do.
What a talent she had for people. She visited every week at the Care Center in her community and used the saving Gospel of Christ to lift the spirits of those who were ill or lonely or depressed. She befriended strangers in the grocery line or at the next table in a restaurant and touched their hearts. Throughout her short illness we heard from so many she encouraged and prayed with through the years. How comforting it was to hear these people talk of how Mom had helped them.
Her energy often seemed supernatural and was surely God-given. For years she walked about three miles around her community daily, at a pace so brisk that her neighbors said their dogs never barked at her because she had sped past before they even knew she was there.
She was a force of nature in so many ways. But even though she had many saintly qualities, she was as fully human as any of us. She could be difficult and prideful, insisting on her will. She never let any of her three grown daughters drive her car – only her son. How annoying! And she was sometimes prickly about little things, inflating them into big things. But these sticky wickets, common in all families, never lasted long.
Mom acted out Jesus in her giving spirit and taught us so much about what it looks like to have him as a best friend. We knew she had special clout with him because her prayers were so powerful. We laughed that she would outlive us all and we half believed it.
But written in her worn Bible in her tiny perfect hand is this: “Death is moving day.”
Mom’s moving day came much too soon for us. On this first Mother’s Day without her I have many tears and so very many memories that my heart hurts with them. But then I think of her glorious entry into God’s presence – greeted by the love of her life, our Dad, along with her Mom and Dad, her brother -- and the crowd, the enormous crowd of souls she actually helped to save and the people she touched with her love. I see them all coming toward her hands outstretched to clasp hers, huge grins on their faces, and the choir of the heavens singing their sweet rainbow harmony – and I can hear the trumpets sounding. Mom looks just over the heads of the crowd and sees a golden glow, a spectacular radiance full of power and grace and there suddenly is -- Jesus. God says hi.
This was first published at the Chuck Colson Ministry website:
The boy just kept singing. He was singing words full of praise for God, a catchy, infectious song he had learned in Sunday school at his Baptist church:
Every praise is to our God
Every word of worship with one accord
Every praise, every praise is to our God Sing hallelujah to our God
Glory hallelujah is due our God
Every praise, every praise is to our God
The kidnapper who had yanked the boy out of his own front yard yelled at him to shut up, cursed him and swore at him. The boy just kept singing his praise song. After three hours of the sweet-voiced nine-year-old’s nonstop God-praising, the angry kidnapper just couldn’t stand it another minute. The man opened the car door and threw the boy into the street. Soon he was back in the arms of his grateful Mom.
You probably have heard about this. It was all over the media recently, and many hailed it as a miracle. Indeed, how amazingly does Almighty God prove his love in this rescue. But there’s even more here for believers. Without knowing it, this beautiful Atlanta boy, Willie Myrick, was summoning the same spiritual power that 2000 years ago the Apostle Paul had called upon when he was locked in a Greek prison for preaching salvation through Jesus Christ. Acts 16: 25-26 tells the story: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.”
Just like Paul, little Willie Myrick continually worshipped God even though he was in terrible danger. While adults often blame God for their troubles, Willie’s young heart turned instinctively to praising his Lord. I can imagine his fear and total helplessness, imprisoned in that car as the kidnapper yelled curses and threats at him. Still, somehow he knew his God had not deserted him and, knowing that, Willie never deserted his God. He never stopped singing.
The singing of praise is a sacred act with power to summon the spirit of the living God. The Psalms are literally songs of praise that uplifted and sustained King David and the nation of Israel in their trials throughout the centuries before Christ appeared.
What a lesson for us all in this precious boy’s faithfulness. What if we were to joyfully praise our God even in the midst of our pain and uncertainty, even through the deep despairing times of our lives? We could tap into the freeing power of Jesus Christ, the same power that opened the doors of Paul’s prison and made Willie’s kidnapper open that car door and release him. Our chains would be loosed and the very foundations of our personal prison shaken.
Souls can come to God through our praising him, too. Not only were Paul and Silas freed from prison, but in witnessing their supernatural rescue their jailer came to believe in Christ, and he and all his family were baptized. It’s a certainty that the whole city heard about the miraculous story, and many more pagans were saved.
Similarly, God has used Willie’s incredible story to reach millions with his message of love and rescue, and we can be sure that many will be led to Christ. Although the boy’s kidnapper hasn’t been captured yet, wouldn’t it be just like God to save him too?
There was even a happy ending for Willie when Hezekiah Walker, the singer-songwriter who wrote and performs “Every Praise,” was so touched that he traveled to Atlanta to help the boy celebrate his tenth birthday. Walker, along with Willie, his friends and family and the whole congregation at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church sang the song together as tears rolled down Willie’s cheeks.
Said Walker, “I really believe that God spoke through me to save that young man’s life.”
Sing hallelujah! What do you have to sing hallelujah about even in your darkest moments?
(first published in The Washington Times 4/18/14: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/17/overbeck-easters-message-to-the-secularist/)
Now that a CEO can be forced from his job because he once contributed to a pro-heterosexual-marriage campaign, and a baker cannot legally refuse to bake a cake celebrating a "wedding" that he believes violates God's law, don't look for secularists to pause from their labors on Good Friday. Rather, expect them to continue to pummel a
religion they think rejects diversity, not only by upholding bride-groom
marriage, but also by insisting there's only one way to God. That would be
The defining event of the faith takes place at Easter, when the God-man Jesus voluntarily gave His life to mend the love bond between a fallen humanity and its perfect Creator. The Christian Bible many times plainly states that belief in Jesus’ sacrificial act is the one and only way to reconciliation with God. Jesus himself said it: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 His disciple Peter said it: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. His disciple John said it: “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” I John 5:10, 11
But the secular world asks: how can a loving God be so mean-spirited and elitist as to limit His favors so narrowly? Wouldn’t a fair and forgiving God welcome into His heaven anybody whose personal bad behavior falls short of murder, rape or theft? Shouldn’t God join in the modern moral crusade to give everybody a trophy just for showing up, and an “E” for effort even if they don’t complete the test?
Many voices, even from the pulpit, today agree that God needs a lesson in tolerance from our all-accepting culture. They’re editing and often eliminating the words of Jesus and his disciples to make Christianity more marketable by making it more inclusive. If God’s requirement for salvation through Jesus Christ seems too harsh, it’s gentled down to some mellow version of “God’s grace accepts everyone,” or “All God asks is that you try to be a good person.” And in the pews of the Church of Anything Goes, all the people said, “Amen!”
Just one problem: if Jesus’ death and resurrection aren’t absolutely necessary for humanity’s salvation, then Easter Sunday becomes one big hideously purposeless bloodbath. If there are many ways to God, the deity is either a fool who made a terrible mistake or a sadistic child-murderer. We can probably agree that the Creator of the Universe is not a fool. And why would God put His only child through a horribly cruel death if indeed there were any other way to bring humanity back to reunion with Him?
Obviously, there must be no other way than to accept that: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Despite secularists’ complaints, God’s invitation is not sexist or ageist or genderist or nationalist or restricted in any way; in fact He generously offers it to the entire world. Still, many who say they believe in the Christian God find Jesus to be a deal-breaker.
But why? Certainly most of us would rather think we’re not so bad that God’s Son had to die in agony to save us. And for today’s enlightened secularist who believes that man is basically good and utopian perfection just a few more government edicts away, the idea of a Redeemer is not only unnecessary, but highly insulting. Yet simply consulting the headlines from around the world on any given day should dispel the notion that humanity has no need of God’s rescuing love. Now, more than ever, we need Easter.
First published in The Washington Times 12/23/13: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/dec/23/celebrating-christmas-without-christ/
Every year we Christians look forward to the cherished Christmas tradition of atheist groups buying gigantic billboards around Times Square to openly advertise their Jesus envy. They just don’t get why they can’t have their jolly little Christmas minus Christ. This year the American Atheists has a towering sign whose lit-up graphics ask, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” A giant hand crosses out “Christ” and writes “Nobody.” Of course most people who celebrate Christmas without Christ are atheists or agnostics. So here they are admitting to all the world on a colossal 40x40 foot sign that they are actually nobodies. Poor atheists -- even when they think they’re insulting Christians, they’re really insulting themselves.
Though it seems impossible for them to top this unwitting self-mortification, it gets even better with the next message on the billboard. “Celebrate the true meaning of Xmas,” it says and lists helpful suggestions of how to do so. These include ice skating, charity, fun, parties, Chinese food, and the Rockettes. Although one of my favorite Yuletide films, A Christmas Story, indeed features Chinese food I always thought of it as a fallback to be used only in emergencies like when the local dog pack makes off with the turkey.
Yet David Silverman, the president of AA, is endearingly intent on making his case. “This season is a great time of year for 100 reasons – none of them having to do with religion,” he asserts. “This year, start a new tradition: don’t go to church. You hate it, it’s boring; you probably only go because you feel guilty or obligated…”
Guess he’s describing the new “atheist churches” that reportedly are sprouting up in dank basements practically nowhere. What is the world coming to when atheists go to church? Sounds like more evidence that they yearn to be just as religious as we, but without the actual religion part. They’re even trying to co-opt our day of worship by calling their day of non-worship “Sunday Assembly.”
And just what do they do in these assemblies? According to a Washington Post article, at one meeting they had a rock music sing-along with a live band. How derivative of them: we do that in today’s Christian churches, too. They also watched an atheist poet perform a piece on his idea of life after death. But how entertaining is some guy stretched out in a box clutching a bunch of daisies? Or did he magically disintegrate himself and Become One with the Cosmos?
Obviously atheists are looking at happy church-goers and asking, how can we get some of that? They’re tired of being isolated and angry and much more likely to attempt suicide than God-believers (according to the American Journal l of Psychiatry.) They think that getting together and singing some tunes and maybe eating Chinese food and watching old Rockette videos will make them less miserable. Maybe they’ve read the studies -- hundreds of actual scientific studies and surveys over the last 40 years or so -- that say practicing Christians are mentally and physically healthier, live longer, and are twice as happy as unbelievers. And so naturally much less likely to commit suicide.
When people are asked, “how happy are you, really?” the folks sporting bigger grins than anyone else in America are Evangelical Protestants, committed Christians who attend church weekly. A hefty 49% of them declare themselves “very happy”, while only 26% of the seldom-to-never churchgoers – like atheists and agnostics -- checked the “very happy” box. Numerous Pew Research studies have confirmed these numbers for a very long time.
It’s doubtful that the non-religious will reap these very real benefits even if they become atheist “church-goers.” Because it’s really not about the singing or the pot stickers, it’s about the Jesus. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson in his book Darwin’s Cathedral, theorizes that religion provides people with a sense of transcendent purpose that those with a secular mindset simply can’t match. Seems that God-believers enjoy a zest for life and hopefulness about their future that translates into better health and happiness.
It should come as no surprise that believers are enjoying life more; think about it. If Christianity didn’t improve the day-to-day lives of believers and bring them help and comfort in their darkest hours, would there be over two billion of them making it the most popular religion on the planet? Would nearly 80 percent of Americans declare themselves Christians? (Pew Research) Who in our modern enlightened and pragmatic age would believe in a God and a spiritual system that just doesn’t work?
So good luck atheists, trying to scrub Christ out of Christmas. That baby in the manger has proven far more powerful than you for over two thousand years now .
I didn’t actually see my first episode of this much-awarded mega-hit until a few days before the finale. One episode and I was tragically hooked. Having never binged on a TV marathon before, I’m embarrassed at all the hours I watched, unable to turn the thing off. It became an epic overdose that reduced my eyes to tiny red stinging slits. But it was worth it to see ancient Biblical principles of right and wrong hiding in plain sight, brilliantly worked out in this contemporary morality play that was so adored by our increasingly amoral culture.
Breaking Bad follows the descent into hell of one Walter White, an everyman, blend-into-the-crowd kind of Walter Mitty-esque (gee what a coincidence) guy who over five seasons becomes a raving psychotic murderer and criminal rock star presiding over his very own methamphetamine empire. As Walter says in the opening of every episode, “chemistry is the study of transformation.” Yes indeed.
This show resonates with its huge audience because its creator, Vince Gilligan, and his fellow writers are strumming an ancient universal theme that we all recognize in our bones. It’s the story of Lucifer, the beautiful angel who challenges God for dominance. It runs throughout Greek tragedy and most of Shakespeare’s plays, echoes of a story first set in motion in the Garden of Eden as the fount of man’s endless struggles with his Creator. In Eden’s paradise the serpent hissed, “You can be like God!” tempting Adam and Eve to defy the deity’s supremacy. In Breaking Bad it’s decent-guy-turned-monster Walter White hissing at his long- suffering wife, “All of this is about me!” Everyman trying to be Superman.
Like Walter, most of us act like little gods, arbiters of our own highly fluid, guilt-and-judgment-free morality that’s ruled by the code of feel-good and hubris. Breaking bad is all about the destructive power of this most original sin: human pride.
Walter starts out as a sympathetic character, even more so after he learns he’s got advanced lung cancer and only two years to live. A high school chemistry teacher who moonlights working in a car wash to support his family, he’s desperate knowing he has no funds for expensive cancer treatment and nothing to leave his family after his death. But his pride won’t let him accept a lucrative job at the firm he helped found because he thinks he was dissed by his former partners. Walter decides that a better course of action is to cook meth, first in an old trailer, and later in a sophisticated lab supplied by a maniacal drug overlord.
That initial decision triggers the downward spiral of the entire epic. Walter’s first murder victim is Krazy-8, a drug dealer who Walt and his young assistant, Jesse, keep in the basement chained to a post. Walt just can’t stomach killing him, and delays the inevitable. He brings Krazy-8 sandwiches and as they chat, finds out Krazy-8’s family owns a furniture store where Walt and his wife Skyler bought the crib for their new baby. Walt’s ethical aversion to homicide plus this growing personal connection stay his hand, until he discovers that Krazy 8 plans to stab him to death the moment he’s unchained. Angry and betrayed, Walt brutally strangles the man in the basement. There’s a kill-or-be-killed aspect here that justifies Walt’s savagery, and then too, the guy was a p.o.s. drug dealer. So the audience is still rooting for Walt even as he crosses over to killer.
As he realizes he can make mind-boggling millions with his chemical expertise, Walt gets high on the drugs of power and greed. The bodies and the unintended consequences pile up. When instead of saving Jesse’s heroin-addled girlfriend Jane, he watches her die choking on her own vomit, he’s protecting his money stash and thus protecting his family from ruin. But now he’s killing for reasons disconnected from his own survival. His cruelty leads to Jane’s grieving air traffic controller father making a mistake that results in two planes colliding, killing 167 people. Walt stands looking up as flaming parts of planes and bodies plummet into his back yard, much as the Lord rained fire and brimstone down on the sinful inhabitants of the wicked city of Sodom.
Decades ago the enlightened high-foreheads of Western culture rejected stuffy Biblical morality for the “it’s all good” philosophy prevalent to this day. If bad behavior such as alcoholism, drug addiction, even gambling, or homicidal tendencies couldn’t be rationalized away by an errant gene, it was the fault of a toxic environment or uncuddly parents. Guilt and shame weren’t just downers, but unfair punishment because our lives are determined by fatalistic forces beyond our control.
Jesse, the druggy punk who’s so much smarter than Walt in all the important ways, is the only character showing remorse over his dastardly deeds. At his addiction group therapy meeting, feeling guilty after murdering on Walt’s orders, Jesse invents a story about killing a dog. When the group’s I’m-okay-you’re-okay leader trots out the need for self-acceptance and non-judgmentalness, Jesse angrily calls bullshit, reminding the leader that he accidentally killed his own daughter when high on cocaine and vodka. How can we really accept anything and everything we do?
Walt’s evil acts place him squarely in the grim crosshairs of – not fate, not destiny -- but the results of his own vicious behavior. This also is biblical – you reap what you sow. At the end, Walt gets the illusion of control by forcing the Schwarzes to funnel his ill-gotten $80 million to his family. But he doesn’t win. In the end, his family despises him and he dies alone, caressing a cold steel meth-making tank. In the ultimate irony, the bullet that finally finds him is shot by a machine gun of his own clever devise. At the end, Breaking Bad rejects conventional moral squishiness to say: your life is what you do to yourself.
This piece was first published at Breakpoint.org: http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/23567