Ross McGinnis

Our pastor used an analogy this morning that makes a lot of sense. I want to share it here.

President Bush gave a Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously to a soldier by the name of Ross McGinnis. During the War in Iraq, he jumped on a grenade that had been thrown through the gunner’s hatch into his vehicle. His actions saved the lives of four members of his crew.

If you were one of the crew members whose life he saved by his death, how would you feel about him?

How would you talk about him?

If you visited his parents house, would you enter solemnly? Or would you go in being loud, kick your feet up on the table and demand they feed you?

Is your attitude toward Private McGinnis different than your attitude toward Jesus, who also died so that you can live?

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Love One Another

We are a deeply divided country, and the hatred rages on social media. It’s in politics, on Twitter, and even our President is not immune to the constant bickering.

How much different would the world be if we took it upon ourselves to actually love one another? I don’t mean giving lip service to the idea. I mean actually doing it.

Jesus said, as recorded in the Book of John, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

As I have loved you…Think about that.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son…”

Jesus also said, “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Who are “the least of these”?

Your neighbor? Mow his lawn.

The person behind you in the drive thru? Pay for his meal.

The person who cut you off in traffic? Ease up on him. You don’t know what his day was like.

We CAN make a difference.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

History

You’ve heard the cliche: “Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.”

There is truth to this, but there are many more reasons to learn our nation’s history. As we approach Independence Day, let’s look at some facts about our nation and the dangers we put ourselves in by not learning accurate history.

The United States was founded on several principles as expressed in the preamble to our Declaration of Independence:

All men are created equal.

Our right to be free comes from God, not from the government.

Government’s power comes from the consent of the governed.

It is clear our nation’s founders believed in God. Their ancestors came to America in search of a place where they could freely live out their faith without oppression.

As a result, our founders wrote the Free Exercise Clause into the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

“Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise (of religion).”

Fifty-one of the fifty-five delegates to the Constitutional Convention were practicing Christians. And yet, they knew the importance of being free to practice whatever religious beliefs one may hold. Hence, the Establishment Clause.

“Congress shall make no law respecting (one particular) establishment of religion (over others)…”

These days, however, there are falsehoods being spread that our founders intended a complete separation between the government and religion.

Christians are told they are intolerant when they refuse to participate in a wedding acknowledging a practice they believe to be sinful.

Christians are accused of hate speech if they call homosexual behavior sinful, something the Bible clearly teaches.

Christians are told by the State they are not eligible for funding available to other secular organizations solely because of their religion.

In each of these cases, the ability of Christians to fully live out their faith is restricted.

Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it…

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Supreme Court on Church and State

The United States Supreme Court released several decisions today, one of which received considerable attention.

In a win for religious liberty, the court ruled that a Christian school, Trinity Lutheran, cannot be denied materials from the State of Missouri based solely on the fact that it is a religious institution, adding clarity to the meaning of the term “Separation of Church and State”.

A few quotations from the 7-2 ruling, written by Chief Justice Roberts:

“The State in this case expressly requires Trinity Lutheran to renounce its religious character in order to participate in an otherwise generally available public benefit program, for which it is fully qualified.”

“…the Department offers nothing more than Missouri’s policy preference for skating as far as possible from religious establishment concerns.”

“As we said when considering Missouri’s same policy preference on a prior occasion, ‘the state interest asserted here–in achieving greater separation of church and State than is already ensured under the Establishment Clause of the Federal Constitution–is limited by the Free Exercise Clause.'”

“The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has not subjected anyone to chains or torture on account of religion. And the result of the State’s policy is nothing so dramatic as the denial of political office. The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”

It is refreshing to see an opinion from the Supreme Court that appears to support the intent of the authors of our Constitution in this matter. After all, and as previously noted in this space, the phrase “Separation of Church and State” originated in a Thomas Jefferson letter. Jefferson then, as President, authorized the use of federal tax dollars to support Christian missionaries.

Therefore, with that information in mind, how can the Court justify the following statements from the dissenting opinion?

“This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government–that is, between church and state. The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church. Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.”

While the majority opinion focused on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the two member dissenting opinion took issue with the Establishment Clause:

“The Establishment Clause does not allow Missouri to grant the Church’s funding request because the Church uses the Learning Center, including its playground, in conjunction with its religious mission. The Court’s silence on this front signals either its misunderstanding of the facts of this case or a startling departure from our precedents.”

And:

“Within its walls, worshippers gather to practice and reaffirm their faith. And from its base, the faithful reach out to those not yet convinced of the group’s beliefs. When a government funds a house of worship, it underwrites this religious exercise.”

And yet, President Jefferson evidently did not see this as a violation of the Establishment Clause. After all, in the context of his letter to the Baptists in Danbury, the intent of the Establishment Clause is to keep the government from “establishing” a State religion or denomination or becoming involved in the decisions of the Church. At issue in this case is whether Missouri’s strict view of the Establishment Clause is justification for its violation of the Free Exercise Clause.

The clarity on this, presented today by the Supreme Court, is very much needed and long overdue.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Is the Bible Hate Speech?

A scary, but unsurprising, event took place last week of which all Christians should be aware.

It happened at the Senate confirmation hearing for Deputy OMB Director Russell Vought, who had earlier authored a paper defending Wheaton College, a Christian school, for firing a professor who misstated Christian doctrine, saying she believed Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

At the confirmation hearing, Senator Bernie Sanders questioned Vought on this paper, but not so much about Vought’s opinion, but Biblical doctrine. You see, in the paper, Vought quotes John 3:18.

“Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

Vought writes, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his son, and they stand condemned.”

Sanders asked, “Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews, do they stand condemned, too?…In your judgement, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”

Sanders has already stated he will vote no on Vought’s nomination.

This is serious, and here is why.

In the words of Jesus, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man shall come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Christianity holds you must believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, sent to Earth and born of a virgin to die for your sins. He lived a sinless life which he gave up willingly for you on the cross and rose again three days later. This is how you get to heaven. You don’t work for it. You just receive it through belief. It’s a free gift because of God’s love for you.

We also believe we are called to love one another. The Bible teaches to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

This country was founded by Christians who believed these very things.

But based on Senator Sanders line of questioning, no Christians should be qualified to serve in government because of these very beliefs.

This is wrong and contrary to our founding. It’s a hijacking of the country.

We’re headed down a path that will ultimately lead to the Bible itself being regarded as intolerant hate speech.

I pray we never get there.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

It Is Well with My Soul

For a Christian, one’s relationship with Jesus Christ provides, not an avoidance of turmoil, but rather peace in the midst of life’s storms. In many ways, one’s life will be more tumultuous because of a decision to follow Christ.

Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi, “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.”

Here is an example:

Horatio Spafford lived in Chicago in the 1800s. He was an attorney, a family man with a wife and five kids, and a follower of Christ.

In 1871, his youngest son died of pneumonia. That same year, his place of business was lost in the Great Chicago Fire.

In November 1873, his wife and four daughters were crossing the Atlantic on the ocean liner, Ville du Havre. Mr. Spafford was to join them but was held up in Chicago by an unexpected business problem and promised to join them within a few days.

On November 21, the Ville du Havre collided with another ship, the Loch Earn, and sank within twelve minutes. Spafford’s wife, Anna, sent him a simple telegram nine days later, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”

Mr. Spafford climbed aboard the next boat to join his wife. At one point, the captain called him to his cabin and told him they were over the location where his four daughters drowned.

Mr. Spafford, on this journey, wrote the following words that has become a well known Christian hymn. We sang it this morning.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
 It is well with my soul,
 It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Do You Believe in a Creator?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The United States was founded based on the belief that our rights come not from the government but from God.

Of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, 28 were Episcopalians, 8 were Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, and 3 Diests. (One religious preference is unknown.)

Today, it is estimated 23% of the United States population is religiously unaffiliated. Of that, 7% are either atheist or agnostic.

Do you believe in God?

Let me suggest one reason why you should.

It’s called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Developed by Islamic medieval theologists and later professed by philosophers John Locke and Immanuel Kant, the argument is simply this:

Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

The universe had a beginning.

Therefore, the universe has a cause.

If the universe has a cause, then that cause is a creator.

That creator is God.

Think about it. Modern science points to events like the Big Bang Theory, evidence that the universe is continuously expanding, and the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy – or disorder – is always increasing, as evidence the universe is not infinite and had a beginning of some point in time.

It’s something to consider. We can’t believe our rights come from God without first believing God exists.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

USA: Founded on Prayer?

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding?”

These are the words of Benjamin Franklin, five weeks into the Constitutional Convention in the midst of probable failure.

Yes, the United States of America was founded on prayer.

Ben Franklin continued: “In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection…I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”

Have we, as a nation, forgotten this? I surmise the answer is yes, and our leaders need prayer as much now as ever before.

1 John 5:14 says that if we pray according to God’s will, He will hear us.

1 Timothy 2:2 tells us we should pray for our political leaders.

According to John 14:21, for our prayers to be effective, we must live in accordance with God’s will.

(This is different than salvation, which is a free gift from God for those who believe Jesus died for your sins and rose again on three days later.)

We, as Americans, should be in prayer for wisdom for President Trump and our Congressional leaders.  We should pray, as Benjamin Franklin urged, for Congress and our President to have the ability to recognize and distinguish political truth when it presents itself.

We’re so quick to complain. We talk at our fellow citizens rather than with them. We’re swiftly losing the ability to have civil political discourse and we rarely admit fault or grow in our beliefs.

It appears we all could use a little political wisdom right about now.

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG

Are You Praying for Our President?

Whether you are a Never Trumper or an Always Trumper, Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal, Capitalist or Socialist, you need to be praying for our political leaders. 

We all have our opinions about how the world should be and the direction our country should go, and many choose to voice their opinions regularly, some more loudly than others.

But can we agree on one thing?

Our leaders need wisdom!

We voice our opinions because we desire to be influential, but one area of influence that is often overlooked is that of prayer.

Paul writes to Timothy in 1st Timothy chapter 2 that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings (should) be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions”.

In the United States, the act of praying for our leaders dates back to our founding.

George Washington said in his first inaugural address: “It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States.”

So, with both history and scripture as our guide, let me encourage you to be in prayer for our political leaders.

Pray for wisdom President Trump.

Pray for wisdom for your Congressman.

Pray for your local leaders.

Pray for their safety and the safety of our country.

Remember, “the fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much!”

(James 5:16)

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG

Separation of Church and State

So about that other wall…

Following President Trump’s executive order relating to the Johnson Amendment and the subsequent criticism about it, it occurs to me the subject of the “wall of separation between church and state” is worthy of review.

“Separation of Church and State” is a phrase that does not appear in the Constitution.  It was first used in an 1802 letter that Thomas Jefferson sent to a group of Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut who had written to him expressing a concern that his administration would be hostile toward certain religious denominations.

In Mr. Jefferson’s response, he states: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Mr. Jefferson’s reference to the language in the First Amendment immediately prior to using the phrase “wall of separation” gives context as to his intent.  The First Amendment places restrictions on the government, not on the Church. 

Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the intent of the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” was intended to explain how the government will be kept out of the functions of the Church. It was not an explanation as to how the Church must be kept free from the functions of the government.

As further proof of Jefferson’s intent, during his presidency he supported the use of federal funds to build churches and support Christian missionaries.

Supreme Court rulings over the years have gotten this one wrong, thus setting legal precedent that continues to this day and sending the nation down a path the Founders, and the Constitution, never intended us to travel.

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG

References:

Heritage Foundation

http://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/the-mythical-wall-separation-how-misused-metaphor-changed-church-state-law