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Recently a Baptist Pastor in Illinois received a visit from the FBI. They came in response to an anonymous caller who took issue with something the Pastor said in his sermon. According to the Baptist Press news service, “Nov. 23, 2004, started out like any other normal morning for Randy Steele, senior pastor at Southwest Christian Church in Mount Vernon, Ill., a town about 80 miles southeast of St. Louis… [until]… the phone rang. It was the FBI. Steele said they wanted to meet with him personally…. When two FBI agents arrived at the church, Steele said they traded small talk for a few minutes before the suspense got to him and he asked about the nature of their visit. Their answer stunned him. “One guy opened a file,” Steele said. And he said, “’This is pertaining to a sermon that you preached on Memorial Day.’” On Memorial Day 2004, Steele was in the middle of preaching a sermon series he called Life Issues dealing with controversial cultural issues from a biblical perspective. One such sermon was about abortion and Steele chose Memorial Day to preach about it. “I shared the number of people who have died in wars versus the number who had died through legal abortion since 1973, Steele said. “I stated that we are in a different type of war that is being fought under the ’presupposition of freedom.” Steele said that he went on to name an abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., a city just outside St. Louis, and pointed out that they perform as many as 45 abortions per week. Somebody in the church that day apparently misunderstood Steele’s different type of war comment to mean that he was actually calling his congregation to a physical war against abortion clinics, so he or she placed an anonymous phone call to the FBI. (Now, don’t any of you get any ideas) This informant allegedly told the FBI that in addition to Steele calling for a war against abortion clinics, he also said he was willing to go to jail over such a cause. Steele said that he had spoken about his willingness to go to jail, but that he made those remarks in a different sermon that dealt with homosexuality from the same sermon series. “I had mentioned a pastor in Canada who had been arrested for speaking about homosexuality in his church,” Steele said. “The pastor said he went on to tell his congregation that if speaking the truth means that we go to jail, then by golly, that’s where I’m going to be and I’m going to save you a seat next to me.” “That was the major gist of why [the FBI] felt like they could come here and look through my sermons,” Pastor Steele reported. ….Steele said that after the two FBI agents examined his two sermons in question, they realized he was not a physical threat to abortion clinics and apparently dropped their investigation. …Pastor Steele said he was initially a little irritated that the FBI would ask to see his sermons, especially since he had to take time away from the grieving family in his congregation to answer questions, but he said he has no plans to stop preaching messages that are culturally relevant. “As a pastor I believe that as Christians we are called to speak the truth no matter what,” Steele said. “And we have to continue to speak that truth in love to all people and to share the message of Christ because it’s the only message that’s going to change the lives of people.” Like this Pastor, the message of Jesus was controversial in his day. If Jesus were around today I am certain the FBI would question him about some of the things he said.
Josh McDowell writes, in his book, Answers To Tough Questions Skeptics Ask About The Christian Faith;
Lest anyone think this isn’t something marvelous, we’d like to give you this challenge. Find ten people from your local area having similar backgrounds, who speak the same language, and are all from basically the same culture. Then separate them an ask them to write their opinion on only one controversial subject, such as they meaning of life.
When, they have finished, compare the conclusions of these ten writers. Do they agree with each other? Of course not. But the Bible did not consist of merely ten authors, but 40. It was not written in one generation, but over a period of 1,500 years; not by authors with the same education, culture or language, but with vastly different educations, many different cultures, from 3 continents and 3 different languages, and finally not just one subject but hundreds.
And yet the bible there is unity. There is complete harmony, which can not be explained by coincidence or collusion. The unity of the bible is a strong argument in favor of it’s divine inspiration.
A NATIONAL PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer.
The controversy didn't end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wright's prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.
Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Here’s what he prayed:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the airwaves with profanity and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your
Alan Redpath once formed a "mutual encouragement" fellowship at a time of stress in one of his pastorates. The members subscribed to a simple formula applied before speaking of any person or subject that was perhaps controversial.
· T - Is it true?
· H - Is it helpful?
· I - Is it inspiring?
· N - Is it necessary?
In 1957, Lieutenant David Steeves walked out of the California Sierras 54 days after his Air Force trainer jet had disappeared. He related an unbelievable tale of how he had lived in a snowy wilderness after parachuting from his disabled plane. By the time he showed up alive, he had already been declared officially dead. When further search failed to turn up the wreckage, a hoax was suspected and Steeves was forced to resign under a cloud of doubt. His story was confirmed, however, more than 20 years later when a troop of Boy Scouts discovered the wreckage of his plane.
Another “survival story” from centuries ago is still controversial. A man by the name of Jesus Christ walked out of the wilderness making claims a lot of people found difficult to believe. he was later executed and pronounced dead. But 3 days later, He showed up alive. And there have been skeptics ever since.
But consider the facts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. His integrity is well-founded.
▸ Prophets foretold His coming.
▸ Miracles supported His deity.
▸ Eyewitnesses verified His resurrection.
▸ And today the Holy Spirit confirms that Jesus is alive to anyone who is seeking to know the truth.
Yes, you can believe it! Do you? THE RESURRECTION IS A FACT OF HISTORY
THAT DEMANDS A RESPONSE OF FAITH
Millard Erickson says, “Next to the resurrection, the most debated and controversial event of Jesus’ life is the virgin birth.”
"You can live on bland food so as to avoid an ulcer; drink no tea or coffee or other stimulants, in the name of health; go to bed early and stay away from night life; avoid all controversial subjects so as never to give offense; mind your own business and avoid involvement in other people’s problems; spend money only on necessities and save all you can. You can still break your neck in the bathtub, and it will serve you right."
Eileen Guder, God, But I’m Bored, quoted in Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 48
JAMES DOBSON ON HALLOWEEN
Mr. Dobson’s reply to the question: "What about Halloween?"
"Halloween is a rather different story. Whereas it can be argued that Christmas is a Christian holiday with Christian origins that has suffered the effects of growing secularism, Halloween can be traced to distinctly pagan sources. It is reasonable, then, that many believers would find some aspects of its celebration disturbing. I agree with them in that regard. The traditional emphasis upon the occult, witches, devils, death, and evil sends messages to our kids that godly parents can only regard with alarm. There is clearly no place in the Christian community for this "darker side" of Halloween.
Even here, however, there is a place for some harmless fun. Kids love to dress up and pretend. If the Halloween experience is focused on fantasy rather than the occult, I see no harm in it. Make costumes for your children that represent fun characters, such as Mickey Mouse or an elderly grandmother, and then let them go door-to-door asking for treats. This side of Halloween can be thoroughly enjoyable for the little ones.
Eileen Guder, author of God, But I’m Bored:
“You can live on bland food so as to avoid an ulcer; drink no tea or coffee or other stimulants, in the name of health; go to bed early and stay away from night life; avoid all controversial subjects so as never to give offense; mind your own business and avoid involvement in other people’s problems; spend money only on necessities and save all you can. You can still break your neck in the bathtub, and it will serve you right.”
Standing on a small platform, a reader calls out names, “Michael Hyde. Donald Jackson. Jose Munoz.” The names being read were those engraved on “The Wall.” No one calls it anything else. It was once highly controversial. This was not a statue, no soldier on horseback, but a black granite gash in the earth containing the names of 58,183 men, each name representing on dead or missing man from the Vietnam War. (Jonesboro Sun, p.4a)
This past Veteran’s Day marked the 24th anniversary of the erection of this monument to the great and gallant men who fought in defense of their country, in an effort to stem the tide of communism; the men who bravely stood, offering the sweat of their brow and the blood of their bodies – standing as a wall between the evil empire and their families back home, praying they would be able to stop its advance before those back home had to suffer.
President Eisenhower took office in 1953, at a time of great international tension. Communism’s influence seemed to be expanding everywhere. Secretary John Foster Dulles, articulated the now famous Domino Theory. He said that if the Soviets could get a foothold in the peninsula of Indochina, if that area fell to their domination, the world would follow.
America took a stand. John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address said America would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty” (Vietnam, p28).
From Gene Gregory’s Sermon: Our Call to Take a Stand