Easter Reflections 2017

I began Easter by posting the following message to FaithInspires’ Facebook page, and to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

” Today we celebrate the fact that Christ went to Calvary, also known as Golgotha (Hill of Skulls.) He went there to be executed in the most demeaning, inhumane way the Romans had at their disposal, crucifixion ! As the Son of God he could have avoided it all without an once of effort. Yet he willingly submitted to what was about to happen.

He did so for a very good reason. He did so so that EACH one of us could be freed from death, and from our sins. For only the Son of God could die for each person who lived, or would ever live.He was born, lived a sinless life only to spill his own blood for each person. To claim his victory and eternal life we need only to claim his sacrifice and believe in it.

What would seem like a sad tragic day is actually a happy one of great victory ! The cost of Easter has nothing to do with the price of candy. The price of Easter is beyond calculation and was paid for each of us on that far away hill, long ago. Happy Easter !”

 

After what seemed like a very successful Easter Sunday service I returned and posted this, about what I am sure will become a treasured Easter memory.

” I just got back from preaching Easter service at the nursing home. One of my regulars from among the residents got a rare treat, which played out in a way which blessed me mightily.

His daughter who lives out of town came to get him because the family had gathered locally for Easter. She actually apologized to me because with the preparations involved in getting him ready to go out etc. he was going to miss my service. She made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed my service and sermons when she was in town.

I actually got to speak for a moment with the resident as they were leaving. The man was practically in tears at missing my service and literally kissed my hand. I told him that he should go and enjoy his family because they are precious gifts from God.

I know many appreciate my ministry and preaching. But I was touched by the appreciation this man and his family made a point of showing me today. I wish more people understood how much a word or small gesture of appreciation means to those of us in pastoral ministry. Especially those of us who are bi-vocational. Sometimes a simple act such as this one is all that keeps us going when we want to just give up.

This frail, old nursing home resident, and his family gave me a gift of kindness today that will endure as one of my favorite Easter memories.”

 

It has for me been a mostly quiet Easter. I have had the opportunity to get some much needed rest and relaxation. However Christ and his sacrifice have been very much in my thoughts as they are most days. Having the opportunity to  contemplate what our savior did for us on Calvary is a blessing in itself.

International Award winning Christian Writer/Blogger Issues Statement Strongly Condemning Egyptian Church Bombings.

Katy, Texas) In response to ISIS’s claim of responsibility for the bombing of two Egyptian churches, Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield, Founder of FaithInspires.Org and an international award winning writer and blogger issued the following statement.

“ In attacking two churches on Palm Sunday, the Islamic State did not just attack two churches, but attacked the ideals that all people of faith share. They have shown us again that they have no respect for human life, or any faith but their own. Their actions are a disgrace to their faith or any other, and cannot be condoned for any reason or at any level. “

Crutchfield turned his attention to compassion for the victims adding, “ I begin by thanking God for the mercy he showed Coptic Pope Tawadros II, and all those who were spared from the attack. My heart is crying for those who were killed and injured. I encourage fervent prayer for those killed and their families, the injured, and those who were called to assist them all.”

The statement was issued through the FaithInspires.Org website, and released to the media Sunday afternoon following the attacks.

Crutchfield is the founder of FaithInspires.Org an internationally known Christian news and information blog. He was winner of the Author of the Month Award at Scriggler. Com in October of 2016. He also won the Article of the month title there both in October and December of 2016. He also is a Christian Growth and Healing Expert at Selfgrowth.com. He and his work have been seen in GoogleNews, MotivateAmazeBeGreat.com, Katy Christian Magazine, and elsewhere.

Air Force Colonel Punished For His Religious Beliefs Fights Back

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, March 29, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, First Liberty Institute, a national religious freedom law firm, sent a demand letter to the United States Air Force on behalf of its client, Colonel Michael Madrid, USAF.

First Liberty attorneys say the Air Force discriminated against Col. Madrid because of his religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality. They are asking the Air Force to rescind Madrid’s punishment or face further legal action.

“Colonel Madrid is the latest victim of the extreme political correctness that is destroying our military,” Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute, says. “The military should never discriminate against a service member because of his religious beliefs.”

Col. Michael Madrid is a decorated Air Force veteran, a former Naval aviator, and a flight surgeon who has served in the military for 26 years. As a Christian, he holds the traditional belief that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman.

In 2014, an openly gay Airman was court-martialed and found guilty of serious misconduct. During the court-martial process, the Airman, who worked with Col. Madrid, accused Col. Madrid of having made derogatory comments about homosexuality.

Col. Madrid denied making such comments and submitted to a thorough Air Force investigation, where he explained that he holds traditional Christian beliefs about marriage. The Air Force found the allegations unsubstantiated, cleared Madrid of the charges, and closed the investigation. (Read more about the court-martial and investigation)

However, more than two years later, Col. Madrid was placed under a new commander, Major General John E. McCoy. Soon after, without any new evidence or new investigation, Maj. Gen. McCoy arbitrarily decided that Madrid had lied during the investigation and was guilty of the Airman’s accusation of making derogatory comments about homosexuality.

As a result, Maj. Gen. McCoy placed a Letter of Admonishment in Madrid’s permanent record. The letter virtually guarantees that Madrid, who has an otherwise stellar record and who is only one promotion away from the rank of Brigadier General, will never be promoted.

Today, First Liberty sent a demand letter to the United States Air Force, saying that Col. Madrid has been denied due process and demanding that the Letter of Admonishment be rescinded.

“Colonel Madrid submitted to an extensive military investigation and the Air Force cleared him,” Berry says. “Major General McCoy has no right to ignore the rule of law and arbitrarily decide, more than two years later and without any new evidence, that he can punish Col. Madrid.”

First Liberty attorneys say that although Maj. Gen. McCoy never provided reasons for his actions, they are consistent with a growing trend of extreme political correctness and hostility toward traditional religion in the military.

“At First Liberty Institute, we’ve seen multiple cases in which military officials have refused to tolerate service members’ traditional religious beliefs,” Berry says. “Colonel Madrid doesn’t hide the fact that he is a devout Christian. We are concerned that Major General McCoy judged and punished Madrid – a decorated Air Force officer – because he became aware of Colonel Madrid’s traditional religious views. If so, that not only harms the military, but it is illegal.”

“I feel like the full power of the Air Force is coming down on me because of my faith,” Col. Madrid says. “Now, after more than a quarter century of service to this nation, I feel like I constantly have to look over my shoulder. It’s incredibly intimidating.”

“Religious intolerance and discrimination against anyone in the military is inexcusable,” Berry says. “We ask the Air Force to take immediate action to hold Major General McCoy accountable and to provide justice and due process for Colonel Madrid.”

Read more about Madrid’s case at MadridCaseFacts.com

Texas Attorney General Releases Statement Supporting Justice of the Peace in Dispute with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

 

March 23, 2017) Montgomery County, Texas includes many of the suburbs north of the City of Houston in the Southeast part of the state. A Justice of the Peace there, Wayne Mack has a guest chaplain program. These volunteers offer support and counsel at the scene of death investigations. These volunteers are also called upon to lead a brief prayer at the beginning of Judge Mack’s court proceedings.

Last year Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick asked the Attorney General for a legal opinion on Judge Mack’s practices. It is worth noting that Lt. Governor Patrick has always enjoyed a large amount of support from Texas’ Pro Family/Christian Conservative movement. So it is likely that he requested the opinion to grant Judge Mack a degree of legal cover, not to stop the practices. In August of last year AG Paxton released opinion KP-0109. In this six page opinion AG Paxton held that Judge Mack’s actions were in line with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece V. Galloway, and other precedents, and therefore were not in violation of the state of federal constitutions.

On this past  Tuesday March 21st.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit against Judge Mack seeking to end his use of chaplains. Paxton responded the following day with an official statement saying

“Judge Mack is fully complying with the Constitution by adhering to the model for opening prayers the Supreme Court endorsed just a few years ago,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The Freedom from Religion Foundation’s quest to expunge any vestige of religion from public life flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s holdings. I am confident our courts will follow years of precedents and not indulge a litigious group’s plea to rewrite the Constitution.”

Government Claims First Amendment Protects Only The “Right To Choose A Religion”

DENVER, March 21, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit heard oral arguments in a case filed by Ms. Mary Anne Sause, a Catholic former nurse who was ordered by police officers to stop praying in her own home.

In court briefings, government attorneys defended the police officers’ actions by arguing that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause only “protects an individual’s right to choose a religion.”

Attorneys for First Liberty Institute, a national religious freedom law firm representing Ms. Sause, say the government’s argument could set a dangerous precedent for how the First Amendment protects religious freedom.

“The Free Exercise Clause protects an individual’s right to do exactly that – to freely exercise his or her faith,” Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “The government’s attempt to redefine the First Amendment through this case could set a dangerous precedent for religious freedom.”

The case, Mary Anne Sause v. Timothy J. Bauer, et al., was heard before a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit. Bradley G. Hubbard, Associate with Gibson Dunn, argued the case as co-counsel with First Liberty Institute.

“Prayer is essential to my faith and everyday life,” Ms. Sause said following the arguments. “Not a day goes by when I don’t pray. It is concerning to see the government claim the First Amendment protects my right to choose my religion, but not my right to pray in the privacy of my own home.”

“The First Amendment guarantees the right for all Americans to freely exercise their faith,” Taub says. “First Liberty Institute is committed to defending that freedom for every American.”

Read more about the case and view legal documents at FirstLiberty.org/Sause

Statement by Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), Following President Trump’s Address to Congress

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — “The nation watched with anticipation tonight as President Donald J. Trump gave his first address to Congress. Americans are hoping for a change of direction, for real solutions to the many issues plaguing our country and for a better, stronger and more prosperous future. President Trump’s speech reflected that hope, and now we wait to see what can be accomplished by both the White House and Congress toward these commonly shared goals.

“For Latinos living in the United States, the issue of immigration reform is of obvious concern and is being carefully watched and monitored. Further, it was not only a part of President Trump’s speech but was evident by the guests invited on both sides of the aisle and by one of the individuals chosen to give the Democrat response. It is evident that immigration reform continues to be a divisive issue that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive way.

“Our hope is that Congress will make it their utmost priority to immediately pass comprehensive immigration reform. The legislative process is the best way to respect the people living within our borders and better protect the sanctity and security of our country’s founding ideals.

“While immigration reform is important, it is not paramount to the Latino community as evidenced by recent polling and through our daily conversations with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s (NHCLC) member churches. Tonight we heard the president address strengthening education, boosting the economy to create jobs and building a better America for ALL Americans. These are areas in which we have common ground with the president’s vision and in which we are hopeful that real progress can be made through his administration.

This speech set the stage, not only, for this session of Congress, but for the next four years. During this time, the NHCLC will continue to work with the administration to make progress on the priorities of Latino Evangelicals including the issues of life, religious liberty, education equality, immigration reform and racial unity.”

The NHCLC serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and hundreds of thousands of additional congregations spread worldwide throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. Seeking to reconcile evangelist Billy Graham’s message of salvation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march of prophetic activism, the NHCLC emphasizes “7 Directives” of Life, Family, Compassionate Evangelism, Stewardship, Justice, Education and Youth. For additional information, visit http://www.nhclc.org.

SOURCE National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Long-Time Consultant Named Director of 24-7 Pregnancy Helpline

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 20, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ — The first and only fully-staffed 24-7 pregnancy helpline in the U.S., Option Line, has named long-time consultant Nafisa Shamsher as its new director, with former director Bri Laycock receiving a promotion to head Heartbeat International’s new Ministry Solutions department. The change was effective Feb. 1.
Shamsher takes Option Line’s reins on the heels of the second-busiest month in the helpline’s history, where consultants–including Shamsher–answered 16,999 calls and over 5,700 chats as part of 23,660 total contacts. The number was just short of a record month in 2008, where Option Line consultants answered 24,000 contacts.
Started as joint venture with Care Net in 2003, Option Line became the sole project of Heartbeat International in 2012 and celebrated its 2.6 millionth direct contact in early February. Since joining Option Line as a consultant in 2006, Shamsher has personally answered over 237,000 contacts.
“To say it would be impossible to find a person more qualified to lead Option Line would be a vast understatement,” Heartbeat International president Jor-El Godsey said. “Nafisa’s experience and heart for this life-affirming mission made her the obvious choice for her new role, and we couldn’t be more confident going forward into our next season of life-affirming work.”
Laycock was hired on shortly after Option Line began in 2003, and was named to the top leadership position in 2012. In her new role, Laycock now oversees Option Line, as well as Heartbeat International’s website and local search arm, Extend Web Services.
A certified expert in Google advertising, Laycock has trained pregnancy help leaders on five continents, including in Italy, where Heartbeat International’s joint affiliation partner, Movimento per la Vita, operates a 24-7 contact center–“SOS Vita”–similar to Option Line.
One of six key goals of Heartbeat International’s founders, the 24-7 helpline answers an average of 650 contacts per day and up to 250,000 each year. Serving a network of 2,100 pregnancy locations in the U.S. and Canada, Option Line serves as a vital connection point between callers and nearby help. Option Line staff can directly schedule appointments for callers at 600 locations throughout North America.
“The very best alternative to abortion is another person,” Godsey said. “Every caller who connects with Option Line is talking with a real person in real time, and we’re able to direct many of these to help near them.”
About Heartbeat International
Heartbeat International is the first network of pro-life pregnancy help organizations founded in the U.S. (1971), and the largest network in the world. With 2,100 affiliated pregnancy help locations–including pregnancy help medical clinics (with ultrasound), resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies–Heartbeat serves on all six inhabited continents to provide alternatives to abortion. For more information, see www.HeartbeatInternational.org.  

Pro-Faith, Pro-Family Legislators form new Texas Freedom Caucus

(Austin, Texas) Texas is a very large powerful state so at least the broad strokes of what is going on here should be of interest all over the country. The new Texas Freedom Caucus formed by a dozen members of the Texas Legislature definitely fit in the category of things worth watching nationally.

The Texas Freedom Caucus’ mission is to amplify the voice of liberty-minded grassroots Texans who want bold action to protect life, strengthen families, defend the bill of rights, restrain government and revitalize personal and economic freedoms in Texas.

The Texas Freedom Caucus (TFC) will be focused on first principles that are the hallmark of liberty-minded Texans.  The policies supported by the TFC will be developed thru collaboration with grassroots leaders to identify priorities that are often dismissed in Austin.

“Go five blocks in any direction from the Texas Capitol, and you will see what interests are hard wired into the Austin establishment,” Caucus Chairman Rep. Matt Schaefer (Tyler) said. “The mission of the Texas Freedom Caucus will be to hard wire liberty-minded grassroots into policy making in Austin.”

The TFC will engage grassroots Texans on matters before session, during session, and long after session when policies are implemented at the agency level. The caucus is committed to restoring first principles – the right to life, liberty and property that are at the core of the freedom of America and the exceptionalism of Texas. The caucus will outline a set of legislative priorities after it holds a series of discussions with grassroots representatives from all across Texas. Thereafter, the TFC will support or oppose legislation in accordance with those principles.

“We don’t want our priorities to be determined from Austin down, but from the grassroots up. That includes taking things like the Texas Republican Party platform seriously,” said Schaefer. “There are thousands of people too busy working and raising their families to embed themselves in the legislative process. Their voices matter too, and we want to make sure they are heard, and their efforts are multiplied.”

The Texas Freedom Caucus will share many policy goals with other existing conservative organizations and caucuses, and it will buttress and complement rather than compete with those groups.  The TFC will distinguish itself by providing a specific focal point for grassroots Texans interested in conservative policy-making in Austin.

The Vice Chair of the Caucus will be Rep. Bill Zedler (Arlington). The Policy Director will be Rep. Jeff Leach (Plano), the caucus Grassroots Liaison will be Rep. Matt Shaheen (Plano) and the Secretary-Treasurer will be Rep. Tony Tinderholt (Arlington). Other members include representatives Kyle Biedermann (New Braunfels), Briscoe Cain (Houston), Matt Krause (Fort Worth), Mike Lang (Granbury), Rep. Matt Rinaldi (Irving), Jonathan Stickland (Bedford) and Valoree Swanson (Spring).

James Bernsen will serve as Executive Director for the Texas Freedom Caucus.

Catholic Group Warns Rauner: Support for Abortion Funding Will Sink Re-Election

CHICAGO, Feb. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — CatholicVote.org, a national Catholic advocacy group is warning Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner that support for new legislation forcing taxpayers to directly fund abortion will effectively doom his re-election bid in 2018.

CatholicVote.org President Brian Burch issued the following statement:

“We have been following the developments surrounding H.B. 40, a new spending bill pending before the Illinois General Assembly that, if passed, would authorize the use of state dollars to fund abortion services for qualified Medicaid recipients. Should Governor Rauner sign the bill as it is currently written, pro-life voters will be left with no choice but to oppose his candidacy next year.

“We have been in conversation with pro-life groups around the state.  The overwhelming consensus is that support for any legislation that would coerce Illinois taxpayers into directly funding abortion would disqualify him from receiving their support.

“We understand Governor Rauner has been unfairly blamed for the budget crisis and financial catastrophe created by Democrat political leaders in recent decades. The state owes $10 billion in unpaid bills, with tens of billions more in unfunded liabilities.  Yet now politicians want to spend scarce state resources to pay for abortions.  Rauner’s support of this reckless bill would rip apart the Republican Party and destroy any chance of his re-election.

“Let me be clear.  If Governor Rauner signs the bill as written, we will urge our members along with every pro-life voter in the state to support an alternative candidate — or to abstain from voting for his re-election.  And we won’t be the only group doing so.

“Governor Rauner pledged to remain neutral on social issues.  He repeatedly said he does not have a social agenda yet is already defending himself in a lawsuit for breaking this promise.  If Bruce Rauner signs his name to this abortion spending bill, he cannot be trusted with another term as Governor.”

CatholicVote.org, a national faith-based advocacy group with over 600,000 members and is based in Madison, WI.

150 Timeless Movies: A Review

Any list of how ever many timeless/best is sure to be heavily dependent on the opinions of one or more people. Susan Granger the author of this book has the background to give strong foundation to her opinions. Granger grew up as the daughter of acclaimed director S. Sylvan Simon ( From Here to Eternity.) Susan herself even held minor parts in several movies during her childhood. Acting legend Jane Powell had this to say about Susan, “I have known Susan since she was four years old. She was bright then-she’s even brighter now-in every way. And she knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff.”

The book itself is an encyclopedic collection of easy reading, but detailed, informative reviews of a wide range of films. Some of the films reviewed include, Avatar, Saving Private Ryan, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, All the King’s Men. True film buffs will want to read this book from cover to cover, Susan’s insights are that good. At the same time it makes a great addition to the reference shelf of anyone who needs a go to source on popular movies. In fact Gary Cooper’s daughter Maria Cooper Janis said “ Susan Granger has given us this guide, 150 Timeless Movies, which should be an important addition to the library of anyone who love4s film.” I myself found Granger’s reviews helped me learn new things, even about movies I had seen before. As Christians it is important that we make deliberate informed choices, especially when it comes to movies and other elements of “Pop culture.” Granger’s book makes that task much easier.

If you can’t find this book on the shelf of your local library, it would be a good one to recommend to them. If you prefer your own copy it is available in hardback, trade paperback and e-book versions. It can be found at Amazon.com, Booksamillion.com and most other online and bricks and mortar booksellers. You can also order directly from the publisher Hannacroix Creek Books at www.hannacroixcreekbooks.com.

This review was based on a copy of the book provided by the publisher.