Author archives: Worth Loving

Thinking Biblically About Grief

by Worth Loving

April 5, 2022

A few months ago, one of my best friends moved away, and I was plunged into some of the deepest grief I have ever experienced. It sent me spiraling into a season of depression and provoked one of the deepest questionings of my Christian faith. At times, I cried out to God, pleading for an answer that would give me the peace and closure I needed to move on. At other times, I was filled with pride and arrogance, demanding an answer from God and refusing to trust Him again until I got one.

In the following paragraphs, I am going to be very open about my struggles because I believe that is what the church needs. For too long, we have kept inside what we should be sharing. In Galatians 6:2, Paul commands us to “bear one another’s burdens.” Most relationships in the church barely scratch the surface, either because we are too afraid to share with others or because we don’t know how to respond. My hope is that this article will help both those who are grieving and those who want to minister to others.

As I wrestled with my feelings, naturally I looked for others who had experienced something similar. I stumbled across C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed one day and decided to give it a read. I have read several of C.S. Lewis’ works in the past, most of which are either allegories or apologetics. A Grief Observed was very different, almost like a deeply personal journal that was not intended for public reading. Originally published under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk, Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after his dear wife Joy died of cancer. They were married for only four years before she passed away.

Now, I have certainly not experienced the death of my friend. Nonetheless, there is still incredible grief from his absence. Growing up as an only child, I always wanted a brother. The Lord most definitely filled that desire through my friend. For the past four years, we spent nearly every day together. And through my friend, I repeatedly experienced the unconditional love of God as he forgave me when I was wrong and saw past all my many faults. And now, suddenly, he is gone. I am thankful that we still have the ability to communicate and visit each other. But the fact is that my friend no longer lives close by, and things will never be the same. That void is often overwhelming.

As I read A Grief Observed, I found myself identifying with many of the feelings this giant of the faith experienced so many decades ago. At the start, Lewis addresses God’s apparent silence in our grief:

But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

Thankfully, these are only thoughts that crossed Lewis’ mind and not anything he actually came to believe. I know such thoughts have crossed my mind during the last few months, and I’m sure they have crossed yours as well during a time of grief. Later, Lewis acknowledges that grief is one of God’s methods to test our faith, to show us who or what our trust is really in:

God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.

Now, I admit, my suffering pales in comparison to that which so many others have experienced, for which I am very thankful. But I have often wondered why a good God would allow some of His choicest servants to experience such indescribable suffering. I have seen families lose loved ones in tragic car accidents. I have seen godly people endure excruciating pain from cancer. I have witnessed individuals forever scarred by years of abuse. In The Problem of Pain, Lewis describes our suffering not as punishment from God but rather as a loving act from our Sovereign Creator:

Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. We’re like blocks of stone out of which the Sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect. The suffering in the world is not the failure of God’s love for us; it is that love in action. For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial, is no more than the shadowlands. Real life has not begun yet.

As I’ve stumbled through this grieving process, I did some research on how Christians deal with grief, looking for similarities to what I was experiencing. My research concluded that there is indeed a cycle of shock, denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance—all of which I have experienced in this process and which C.S. Lewis experienced as well. He described grief as “not a state but a process. Grief is like a winding road where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” He also goes into detail describing the stages of grief and how they repeat, manifesting themselves differently in every person:

For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often—will it be for always?—how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.

It’s also important to realize how grief can cloud our judgment. Sometimes, we are so overwhelmed that we can’t receive the help we really need. Lewis described it this way:

The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.

While C.S. Lewis experienced a deep and terrible questioning of his faith in his time of grief, similar to what I and many others have experienced, thankfully, Lewis had the hope of Heaven just as we do today:

Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

I confess that I still don’t have all the answers that I want from God. I still don’t fully understand why He called my friend to move away, and I’m still not completely at peace with His plan. The life that we lived together was incredibly special, and the reality that this stage of life is over is very difficult for me to accept. But I have been reminded of three precious promises as I’ve grieved over the last few months:

  1. God loves me unconditionally despite my doubts and lack of peace.
  2. God’s ways are higher than mine. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
  3. I know God is close to those who have a broken heart. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

For five months, I prayed that my friend wouldn’t leave. I begged God every single day that He would allow him to stay. But that was not His plan. And then came the day I prayed would never come; it was not the answer I had prayed for, wanted, or understood. I was devastated, and I still am. I’m not sure when I will stop grieving. I still don’t understand, but I know that I have a loving heavenly Father who has plans so much more than I can imagine, holds my broken heart, and wants me to trust Him completely.

One of my favorite quotes from John Piper describes how to grieve well: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” That’s a choice we will all face at some point. We have only two options—trust God or lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). This is certainly not the life I hoped would be. At times, I still weep deeply and continue to grieve, but I am desperately trying to trust God’s sovereign plan. Grieving is completely natural, but I want to do it well. I don’t want to waste this time of suffering and miss what God is trying to teach me. My prayer is that, like Job, I will submit to God’s will and “come forth as gold” (Job 13:15; 23:10).

Whatever trial you are facing today, know that God has a purpose for your pain beyond your understanding. Know that He holds your broken heart in the palm of His hand. Let Him use your trial to refine you and minister to others. Better days are ahead, if not here, most assuredly in Heaven where all crying, sorrow, and pain will be gone (Rev. 21:4). And then, we will clearly see the purpose of what today seems so mysterious.

Remembering America’s Pastor

by Worth Loving

March 2, 2022

As the nation focuses on inflation crises and the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, perhaps it would do us good to pause and reflect on the life of Billy Graham, whose heavenly homegoing happened four years ago on February 21, 2018.

As a young boy, I remember well watching some of his last crusades on TV with my grandparents. For 76 years, God used a country boy from Charlotte, North Carolina to change the world. During his ministry, Billy Graham preached the gospel to nearly 215 million people in 185 countries. He met with every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Donald Trump as well as countless world leaders. Wherever he went and with whomever he met, his message was simple: We are all sinners in need of a Savior, and Jesus died so we might have eternal life. Even after his death, Billy Graham’s legacy continues to live on.

Humble Beginnings

Born on November 7, 1918, just four days before the end of World War I, Billy Graham was raised on a dairy farm just outside Charlotte, North Carolina. His parents instilled in him the value of hard work as well as a love for God. When he was 12, Graham gave his first speech in a school pageant. The speech made him so nervous that he vowed to never become a public speaker. A few years later when he was 16, Graham attended a tent revival where Rev. Mordecai Ham was preaching. Although Graham had been raised in a Christian home and attended church, he suddenly became aware of his need to accept Christ as his personal Savior. From then on, Graham marked this time in his life as the moment when he trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior.

After graduating from high school, Graham attended Florida Bible Institute near Tampa. Though he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life preaching, he often found himself preaching in trailer parks, street corners, and jails, with many people responding to his sermons by turning to Christ. One night while on the golf course, Graham fully surrendered to God’s call on his life to preach the gospel. Over the next two years, Graham received many requests to preach at churches, missions, and camp meetings, further confirming God’s call on his life. In 1940, he graduated from the institute.

Upon hearing him preach, one of Graham’s friends offered to send him to Wheaton College in Illinois for a year. In 1941, while still taking classes, Graham became pastor of United Gospel Tabernacle. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Graham attempted to become a military chaplain but was turned down by the War Department because he lacked a college degree and the necessary seminary courses. But God had other plans. Graham soon met Ruth Bell, a missionary daughter from China, whom he would eventually marry.

Sensing God’s Call

In January 1943, Graham became pastor of Western Springs Baptist Church near Wheaton. In June, he and Ruth graduated and were married in August. At first, it was difficult for them to manage Graham’s already busy schedule, especially for Ruth as he was away much of the time. But they quickly adapted, no doubt through the grace of God. Soon thereafter, a minister named Torrey Johnson asked Graham to take over his 45-minute Sunday night radio program. Graham soon convinced a well-known voice named George Beverly Shea to begin singing on his new radio program.

As Graham became more and more popular, he grew increasingly restless and sensed God calling him into evangelistic ministry. Around this time, Torrey Johnson asked Graham to take over a new initiative called Chicagoland Youth for Christ, where Graham would preach at Christian rallies for soldiers and young people who poured into Chicago every weekend. On May 27, 1944, Graham preached to nearly 3,000 people at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall; 40 people gave their lives to Christ. Johnson eventually started Youth for Christ rallies in other cities, and Graham preached at those as well.

Although Graham received many offers to pastor churches, he never felt God was calling him in that direction. As World War II continued, he was finally accepted into the army chaplaincy program but was forced to withdraw due to illness, yet another sign God was leading him toward a specific type of ministry.

In 1945, Graham began working again with Torrey Johnson, as he renamed his ministry Youth for Christ (YFC) International and expanded his rallies across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Realizing that Ruth would be alone while Billy traveled, the couple moved to Montreat, North Carolina to be near Ruth’s parents as she was expecting their first child. In 1946, Graham spent several months holding rallies in war-ravaged Europe and found desperate young people very receptive to the gospel. In 1947, Graham preached YFC rallies across the United States and continued to believe God wanted him to be an evangelist.

An Unparalleled Crusade Ministry

Graham was catapulted to national fame in 1949 when he preached his first crusade at the “Canvas Cathedral” in Los Angeles, an event organized by 200 churches calling themselves Christ for Greater Los Angeles. Although the initial results were disappointing, Graham’s crusades quickly gained more traction after Stuart Hamblen, the most popular radio host on the West Coast, was saved at one of the rallies and talked about it on air, urging others to attend. The renowned publisher William Randolph Hearst also encouraged his Los Angeles editors to give Graham good press. After the publicity, some 350,000 people attended this crusade. In the final week of his Los Angeles crusade, Olympic runner and WWII POW survivor Louis Zamperini was saved.

In 1950, Graham formed the non-profit Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and began his weekly Hour of Decision radio program. As the civil rights movement heated up, Graham declared that seating at his crusades would not be segregated, even inviting the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to offer a prayer at one of his crusades.

In 1954, Billy and Ruth traveled to England for a 12-week crusade. By the end, over two million people had heard the gospel. Before leaving to vacation in Scotland, Graham was invited to 10 Downing Street to meet with Prime Minister Winston Churchill. There, Graham was able to pray with Churchill and offer him the hope found only in Jesus Christ. It was the first of many meetings Graham would have with prominent political figures. Graham returned to Europe the following two years and even preached in the same Berlin stadium where Adolf Hitler had delivered his maniacal speeches just two decades prior. Queen Elizabeth even invited Graham to preach at Windsor Castle. This was the first of a dozen friendly meetings between the monarch and the minister.  

After the success of his 1955 London crusade, Graham began preaching all over the world—ultimately in 185 countries. He became acquainted with many world leaders and at times even hand delivered letters from U.S. presidents to them. In 1956, Graham preached crusades in southeast Asia, where he spoke hope into the hearts of many people weighed down by unjust caste systems. He spoke about Jesus, “a Man who was born right here in your part of the world… where Asia and Africa and Europe meet. He had skin that was darker than mine, and He came to show us that God loves all people.” While here, he also met with several heads of state and returned to southeast Asia many times during his decades of ministry.

In 1959 and 1960, Graham conducted crusades in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and the Middle East. By the end of this tour, over three million people had heard the gospel. In 1967, Graham preached in Yugoslavia, his first visit to a communist country. In 1973, Graham preached to one million people in Seoul, the largest live audience of his entire ministry.

In 1972, Graham visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, where a bitter war was occurring between Protestants and Catholics. Though he couldn’t hold a crusade for security reasons, he did preach at one church. He even visited the Catholic area of the city and ministered to anyone who would listen. He even risked his life as a bomb went off close to where he was. Rather than fleeing, he ministered to the injured and to those who had lost loved ones. During this time, a Catholic woman told Graham that he was the first Protestant minister she had ever met.

In the late 1970s, Graham began preaching behind the Iron Curtain in eastern Europe, speaking in Czechoslovakia, Germany, Poland, and Russia. Many credit Graham’s ministry as one of the many factors that brought about the fall of the Soviet Union. When Graham returned to Moscow in 1992, crowds of 45,000 gathered each day to hear him, with a quarter of them being saved.

In 1980, Ruth’s long-desired wish to return to the country of her birth—China—was fulfilled. She and Billy had prayed that he would one day be able to hold a crusade there. That prayer was answered in April 1988 when Graham preached in five cities and ministered in many house churches as well. Graham was even able to preach to students and government leaders in North Korea in 1992 and 1994 as well.

More Alive Than Ever Before”

During his decades of ministry, Billy Graham met with every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Donald Trump. Dwight Eisenhower twice called for a meeting with Graham to ask him his beliefs on the afterlife, once while he was president and just a few months prior to his death while he lay in a bed at Walter Reed Hospital. Lyndon Johnson asked Graham to preach his funeral, which he did. Richard Nixon invited Graham to speak at a number of services held at the White House. Ronald and Nancy Reagan shared a warm friendship with the Grahams. Reagan invited the Grahams to several state dinners during his presidency. The Grahams were also close to George H.W. and Barbara Bush. The Bushes invited them to the White House for prayer the day before launching Operation Desert Storm. The Bushes also invited Billy to host Bible studies with their extended family at their vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine.  Graham also had a warm relationship with Bill Clinton, stretching back to Clinton’s time as governor of Arkansas (Clinton first heard Graham speaks as a young boy at a Little Rock crusade). George W. Bush recalls meeting Graham as a young man at a family gathering when Bush was struggling with a drinking problem. Graham offered to send Bush a Bible, and this marked a turning point in the future president’s life.

Billy Graham’s one regret was the amount of time he spent away from home during his ministry and the toll it took on his wife and children, especially his two boys. Near the end of his life, he warned Christians who were just starting their careers to learn from his mistakes. Fortunately, all five of the Graham children turned out well and serve in his ministry. The best known of these is Franklin who runs Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  

Graham’s health began declining in the early 2000s. Franklin took over the BGEA in 2002, and Billy preached his last crusade in New York City in July 2005. Just two years later, Graham grieved deeply when his wife of 64 years was called home to Heaven.

On February 21, 2018, God called his servant home as he passed peacefully in his sleep at his log cabin in Montreat, North Carolina. His casket, a simple wooden box made by prisoners at Angola Prison, lay in repose in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. I had the privilege of paying my respects in-person and was impressed by how several members of the Graham family personally greeted every person in line. I’ve also had the privilege to visit the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte where the evangelist was laid to rest next to his dear wife Ruth. At his funeral, Billy’s son Franklin gave a gospel message, inviting those in attendance to repent of their sins and turn in faith to Christ. Graham chose the Scripture reference John 14:6 to be engraved on his tombstone. The passage, which reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,’” embodied the message he preached for decades.

Of death, Billy Graham, paraphrasing D.L. Moody, often said, “One day you’ll hear that Billy Graham has died. Don’t you believe it. On that day, I’ll be more alive than ever before! I’ve just changed addresses.” Graham spent his entire adult life proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Although he was born from humble roots, he rose to fame and prominence; but he never let that get to his head. No matter who he met, his message was the same. He saw all men, women, and children as sinners like himself in desperate need of a Savior. That is the same message we must proclaim today. Amidst all the turmoil in our world, Jesus is the only answer.

The Filibuster: Guardian of the Republic

by Worth Loving

January 31, 2022

Many items on President Joe Biden’s agenda have already passed the U.S. House of Representatives only to be dead on arrival in the Senate. This is due to the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to move any piece of legislation. Recently, many Senate Democrats have been pushing to eliminate the filibuster in the hopes that some of Biden’s more partisan agenda items will finally reach his desk. But because two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have refused to go along with their party’s prevailing narrative, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) cannot get the 50 votes he needs to change the Senate rules and do away with the filibuster.

What follows is a brief explanation of what the filibuster is and why it is so important.

Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution gives the House and Senate the broad authority to “determine the rules of its proceedings.” This allows the House and Senate to determine how bills will be voted on, how committees will be assigned, how long a bill may be debated, and much more. Although the House does not allow for unlimited debate on a bill, the Senate does through a tactic known as the filibuster.

In its early days, the filibuster manifested itself through long speeches from senators on the floor. As long as a senator could stand and talk, voting on a bill or nomination would be delayed. The filibuster was used in the very first session of the U.S. Senate. Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay wrote that the “design of the Virginians was to talk away the time, so that we could not get the bill passed.”

It wasn’t until 1917, at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, that the Senate adopted a formal process for a majority to end debate and force a vote, a concept known as cloture. Senate Rule 22 required a two-thirds majority to invoke cloture. In 1975, the threshold was lowered to three-fifths (i.e., 60 votes of 100).

Fortunately, the legislative filibuster has been preserved so that a simple majority cannot ram through legislation from the House. Last week, thanks to the efforts of Senators Manchin and Sinema bucking their party leadership, the filibuster lived to see another day. But you can count on Democratic leadership to continue berating these senators with the hopes of breaking their resolve so they can change the rules and push their agenda through the Senate with the barest of majorities.

America has a bicameral (i.e., two-chambered) legislature in order to protect two valid, competing interests. The House allocates representation based on population in order to reflect the will of the majority, while the Senate gives each of the states equal representation so that larger, more populated states would not have complete control of the legislative process.

The U.S. Senate is a fundamentally different body than when it was created in 1789. In a conversation with Thomas Jefferson, George Washington reportedly said that the Senate was intended to “cool” legislation from the House of Representatives, just as a saucer cools hot tea. The Founders realized that the directly-elected House of Representatives would be subject to sudden changes from the will of the people every two years. Therefore, they set up the Senate differently in order to “cool” those passions. Senators were originally selected by state legislatures for six-year terms with the intent that they would thoughtfully deliberate legislation to come up with something mutually beneficial to all the states rather than constantly focusing on reelection. That process lasted for over 120 years until 1913, when the ratification of the 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of senators. With the 17th Amendment, the U.S. Senate was fundamentally changed and began to resemble the House of Representatives more and more. Yet the filibuster remained as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Senate.

The Senate has long been described as the world’s greatest deliberative body. The Founding Fathers never intended legislation and nominations to be rushed through. Rather, they envisioned a body of thoughtful and deliberate debate, a sometimes long and arduous process that would prove frustrating for both political parties but nonetheless a process that would eventually produce a mutually beneficial result for the entire country. It might be tempting for a majority party to eliminate the filibuster for short-term political gain, but to do so would remove one of the last tools that makes the Senate different from the House.

In 1831, a young French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville took a nine-month trip to the United States to discover what made America unique from other nations. He compiled his observations in his book Democracy in America. In it, de Tocqueville spoke highly of the American form of government and the national culture. However, he warned of what he called the “tyranny of the majority,” the inclination of whatever political party happens to be in control to push their will on the entire country. For 233 years, the U.S. Senate has mitigated the tyranny of the majority. And although the 17th Amendment significantly diluted the uniqueness of the Senate, it still remains distinct from the House, in part because the minority are given a voice through the filibuster.

In the current Senate, the legislative filibuster is the one thing preventing a radically different America. It is the one thing that will keep President Biden from signing key parts of his radical agenda. It will continue to block Democrats from passing the Equality Act, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and codifying Roe v. Wade. In short, it will stop Democrats from fundamentally transforming American government, which could then fundamentally transform America. If minority voices are to continue being heard and respected in the U.S. Senate, we must protect the filibuster at all costs.

The Prayer That Saved America

by Worth Loving

May 12, 2021

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a now-famous speech to the Illinois Republican Party as he accepted their nomination for the U.S. Senate. In this speech he referenced Matthew 12:25, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Indeed, the nation would quite literally split in half a little over two years later. But less than 100 years prior, we nearly ceased to be a nation.

The United States was a mere six years old and was on the brink of collapse. Our first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, proved to be an abysmal failure due to a weak central government that failed to keep the young nation united. In May of 1787, the states decided to send delegates to Philadelphia to draft a new governing document—what is today known as the Constitutional Convention.

The convention dragged on for weeks amid the stifling heat and humidity of the Philadelphia summer. There was fierce debate among the delegates regarding representation in the new Congress. Delegates from the small states favored equal representation, known as the New Jersey Plan. Delegates from larger states, on the other hand, favored a more proportional representation based on population, known as the Virginia Plan. Apparently, there was such vigorous debate that it sometimes descended into a shouting match. Some delegates left and never returned. By late June, it was an open question whether an agreement could be reached to save the young nation.

It was at this point that the aged delegate from Pennsylvania offered his sage advice. Benjamin Franklin, now 81 years old, was a frail figure compared to his younger self who spent years frolicking in France as the U.S. ambassador. In fact, he was now so weak and feeble that he often had to be carried into the convention on a sedan chair. Additionally, he would write out his speeches and have a fellow Pennsylvania delegate deliver them in his stead. What makes this speech unique is that Franklin actually rose from his chair and delivered the speech himself.

Mr. President:

The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

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 understandings? 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.—Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

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? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service. 

As a result of Franklin’s speech, the rest of the Convention proceeded smoothly. Although a chaplain was never appointed, likely because the Convention couldn’t afford to pay one, the delegates gathered a few days later on the anniversary of our independence at the Reformed Calvinist Lutheran Church for a sermon and prayer. A few weeks later, the delegates reached a compromise, known as the Connecticut Compromise, that gave birth to the House and Senate prescribed in our Constitution today. On September 17, 1787, the U.S Constitution was signed by 39 of the 55 delegates. While there were still great disagreements among the delegates, they chose to put aside those differences for the greater good. The “miracle at Philadelphia” was birthed through prayer. The new Constitution also honored Franklin’s request—a chaplain was appointed for both the House and Senate. To this day, both houses of Congress are opened in prayer by a chaplain before they proceed to business.

While Franklin was publicly a professed Christian, privately he did not believe in Christ’s saving work on the cross. Franklin believed he could live a virtuous life and perform enough good works to gain Heaven. Again, this makes his call to prayer at the Constitutional Convention even more unique. 

Over 240 years later, Benjamin Franklin’s call to prayer is just as relevant today. Perhaps we are even more divided today than we were in 1787. Have we forgotten “that powerful Friend” who gave this nation our independence? Have we thought of “humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings”?

James 5:16 says that “the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” We need Christians to offer up prayers for our nation, that our leaders would set aside their differences for the common good. Prayer literally saved our nation, and it can do so again today.

Holy Boldness: The Uncommon Courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

by Worth Loving

March 2, 2021

Even though George Orwell’s 1984 is a work of fiction, the last two years might lead one to believe that it is a true story—just with the wrong title. In his book, Orwell writes of a government that dictates its own version of the truth and silences anyone who dares to challenge their approved groupthink.

Mere days after the major networks called the 2020 presidential race for Joe Biden, many who questioned the integrity of the election were quickly banned from major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. What started with former President Trump being banned turned into much more. Even groups like Focus on the Family have been banned by Twitter for proclaiming biblical truth about gender and sexuality, not to mention the many Christians and Catholics who have been persecuted in America over the past decade for running their businesses and ministries according to their deeply held religious convictions. For example, take Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, the Little Sisters of the Poor, or dozens of others. None of these people wanted the battle they were given, but they were not willing to sacrifice truth and justice on the altar of political correctness.

In the midst of a raging “cancel culture,” it might be tempting for many Bible-believing Christians to keep their faith to themselves and not speak up against governmental policies that are antithetical to biblical teaching. But, throughout history, God has called His people to stand up against the rising tide of antibiblical teaching and policies, no matter the consequences. One of the greatest modern examples of this kind of courage and heroism is the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I recently finished Eric Metaxas’ brilliant biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. If you’ve never read any of Eric Metaxas’ works, I cannot recommend him enough. His biographies read like novels, and it’s hard to put them down. Ironically, I finished this incredible biography on what would have been Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s 115th birthday, February 4, 1906.

Born into an affluent German family, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a prominent and well-respected theologian of his time. He graduated from the University of Berlin in 1927 and went on to receive a doctorate in theology for his influential thesis, Sanctorum Communio (Communion of Saints). After graduating, Bonhoeffer spent time in Spain and America, broadening his horizons and allowing him multiple opportunities to observe worship practices of other denominations. He spent a year in Barcelona, serving as a pastor to a German congregation. He then traveled to New York to complete a fellowship at Union Theological Seminary. During this time, he met an African-American student named Frank Fisher who invited Bonhoeffer to attend church services in Harlem. Bonhoeffer was greatly affected by this and spent much time interacting with the congregation and listening to Negro spirituals. In particular, Bonhoeffer was greatly displeased with the racism against African-Americans in the United States at that time, which further influenced his hatred of Hitler’s atrocities against the Jews in Germany.

The early 1930s were especially tumultuous for Germany. After World War I, the League of Nations had imposed crushing economic penalties on the country, leading to mass unemployment. Coupled with the instability of the Weimar Republic and the lack of leadership from Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany was ripe for a charismatic leader to take over. Bonhoeffer returned to Berlin in 1931 and was ordained as a pastor in the German Evangelical Church at age 25. Ironically, Bonhoeffer came to prominence at the very time another leader was rising to power—the infamous Adolf Hitler. At noon, on January 30, 1933, Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany.

Hitler’s election was widely praised by the German population, who were desperate for hope of an economic turnaround. Even a majority of the German Evangelical Church supported Hitler. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not one of them. In fact, two days after Hitler was elected chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address criticizing “The Fuhrer” concept. In his address, Bonhoeffer said the following before his broadcast was cut off mid-air, a tell-tale sign of Hitler’s intent to silence any opposition to the Third Reich:

The fearful danger of the present time is that above the cry for authority…we forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here is infringing eternal laws and taking upon himself superhuman authority which will eventually crush him…The church has only one altar, the altar of the Almighty…before which all creatures must kneel. Whoever seeks something other than this must keep away; he cannot join us in the house of God…The church has only one pulpit, and from that pulpit, faith in God will be preached, and no other faith, and no other will than the will of God, however well-intentioned.

Mere days after Hitler became chancellor, he began planning his takeover of Germany. His first step was to take over the government. The Nazi Party held a fraction of the seats in the Reichstag, but Hitler knew his opponents were divided and unable to unite against him. A few days after assuming the chancellorship, Hitler and the Nazis staged a burning of the Reichstag building and blamed it on the Communists. It was a perfect plan. Now, the German people, who were already in a desperate situation, would give up just about anything to preserve their nation. The next day, Hitler convinced President Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Edict. It decreed: “Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.” Within days, Nazi storm troopers were storming the streets, beating and arresting their political opponents. A month later, Hitler convinced the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act, effectively abolishing its lawmaking power. In less than two months, Hitler had become a dictator.

In April, Hitler’s merciless persecution of the Jews had begun with the boycotting of Jewish businesses. Bonhoeffer spoke up against these atrocities and urged leaders of the German Evangelical Church to reject the infiltration of Nazi philosophies. But his cries fell on deaf ears as most Germain Evangelical Churches capitulated to every single one of Hitler’s demands, including barring “non-Aryans” from becoming ministers and replacing the Bible with Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto. As a result, Bonhoeffer joined forces with another prominent Berlin pastor, Martin Neimoller, to form the Confessing Church. The Confessing Church held true to the doctrine that Jesus Christ was supreme over the Church, not Der Fuhrer.

Later that year, Bonhoeffer took a bit of a sabbatical and accepted a two-year appointment to serve as the pastor of a German-speaking Protestant church in London. But he soon felt the call to return to his native Germany and returned to Berlin in 1935. By this time, Hitler’s persecution of the Confessing Church had begun. One leader had already been arrested, and another had fled to Switzerland. The next year, Bonhoeffer had his teaching credentials revoked upon being accused of being a pacifist and an enemy of the state.

In 1937, Nazi occupation of Germany intensified. The SS shut down the seminary of the Confessing Church. As a result, Bonhoeffer began to travel throughout the country, leading private seminaries for his students. It was during this time that he wrote one of his most famous works, “The Cost of Discipleship.” In it, Bonhoeffer gives the following challenge:

It is high time we broke with our theologically based restraint towards the state’s actions—which, after all, is only fear. ‘Speak out for those who cannot speak.’ Who in the church today realizes that this is the very least that the Bible requires of us? The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.

In June 1939, fearing he would be required to swear an oath to Hitler, Bonhoeffer fled to the United States. But, once again, he soon felt a call to return to his beleaguered country. After less than two years in the U.S., he returned to Germany.

Upon returning to Germany, Bonhoeffer’s rights to speak and publish were revoked. He soon joined forces with the Abwehr, the German military intelligence agency. Within this agency, he found many military officers who were opposed to Hitler’s regime and learned of numerous assassination plots. During the next few years, Bonhoeffer actively worked undercover for the German resistance movement and helped smuggle Jews to neutral Switzerland.

In April 1943, the Gestapo learned of Bonhoeffer’s involvement with the resistance and arrested him. He was confined to Tegel Military Prison for the next year and a half but was treated well compared to many other prisoners who were in concentration camps. Sympathetic guards helped to smuggle his writings out, including his magnum opus, Ethics. A few months before his arrest, we catch a glimpse of Bonhoeffer’s courage in his essay entitled “After Ten Years: A Reckoning Made at New Year 1943.” In it, he boldly declared the following:

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God—the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.

On July 20, 1944, the most famous attempt to assassinate Hitler—“Valkyrie”—failed when the Fuhrer escaped with only minor injuries. Coupled with the Allied victory at Normandy a month earlier, Hitler felt his grasp on power slipping and subsequently mounted a ruthless campaign to rid Germany of anyone working to undermine the Reich. As a result, Bonhoeffer’s involvement in other attempts to assassinate Hitler were uncovered. He was later transferred from Tegel prison to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Bonhoeffer spent the next eight months at Buchenwald. But rather than being overcome with despair at his misfortune, he continued to minister to his fellow prisoners through prayer and Bible studies.

On Easter Sunday, April 7, 1945, Bonhoeffer was transferred to Flossenburg and given a court martial. The next morning, he was hung by his Nazi captors, likely ordered directly by the Fuhrer himself. Just before his execution, Bonhoeffer told his cellmate, “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.” The camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s execution later wrote, “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer … kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

A month later, the Allies liberated Germany and its concentration camps. Hitler committed suicide with his wife Eva Braun in their underground bunker. It was Victory in Europe Day. Four months later, World War II was over.

Bonhoeffer did not fear death. In a sermon delivered in London in November 1933, he said: “No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence…Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.”

II Timothy 3:12 (KJV) tells us that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” As I have studied this passage recently, two distinct points have captured my attention. First, Paul writes of those who “will live godly.” I do not believe Paul is speaking here of a private faith, one that allows for a comfortable Christian life. No, Paul is referring to Christians who will take a stand for Christ, risking relationships, jobs, incarceration, or even death. Second, Paul writes of persecution at the end of the verse, not as a possibility but as a certainty for all who choose to take a public stand for Christ. It is not a question of “if” but “when.”

Like Paul, Dietrich Bonhoeffer realized the weight of this verse and accepted it. Bonhoeffer knew the consequences that he, his family, his friends, and his colleagues might face if he chose to speak up against the Nazis. But his desire to speak truth against injustice was greater than his fear of the repercussions. In the end, he faced death as boldly as he had spoken out against the Nazis for the past 12 years. And while Bonhoeffer did pay the ultimate price for standing up for justice, his sacrifice and example live on. A month after his death, Germany and the Jewish people were liberated from Nazi oppression. Many today are still learning about his life, reading his works, and gaining inspiration.

The day may be coming in the United States when Christians who dare to speak up will be persecuted for their faith. In fact, a number of Christian-owned businesses and ministries are already being targeted and harassed. And while I pray we never have to give our lives, we may face broken relationships, lost jobs, and even prison time. God has given each of us a choice. We can either cower to the demands of a tyrannical government or we can risk everything for the cause of the truth.

May we all remember the remarkable life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the days, weeks, and years to come as we each are faced with similar decisions. And may we all be reminded that no matter what persecution we face, it is only temporary compared to an eternity in Heaven: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV).

Lessons in Perseverance from the Life of William Wilberforce

by Worth Loving

July 29, 2020

The abolition of slavery. Women’s suffrage. Civil rights for black Americans. None of these reforms happened quickly. They only came about through years of dedicated efforts from people who refused to give up, despite overwhelming odds.

As we fight to protect life, family, and religious freedom, we can find inspiration in the lives of men and women who never gave up fighting for causes they believed in. One such individual was the great statesman William Wilberforce. Wilberforce played a central role in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, but he did not see his reforms implemented within a few weeks or months. In fact, it took decades for Wilberforce’s ultimate goals to be accomplished. He experienced many crushing defeats yet remained steadfast in his pursuit. As we work toward reforms in the present, we can learn much from the life and example of William Wilberforce.

Born into an affluent British family, Wilberforce attended St. Johns College in Cambridge, where he became close friends with future prime minister William Pitt. Raised in a Christian home, Wilberforce drifted away from his religious upbringing as a young man. In 1780, at the age of 21 and while still a student, Wilberforce was elected to Parliament. Pitt followed his friend to Parliament, becoming the youngest prime minister in British history at the age of 24.

The first few years of Wilberforce’s parliamentary career were mostly uneventful, although he was known as an eloquent speaker who frequented bars with drinking and gambling. It wasn’t until 1785 that things began to change. Influenced by his friend Isaac Milner, Wilberforce rediscovered the Christianity of his youth. Over the next few years, Wilberforce’s newfound faith sparked a strong desire for humanitarian reform. Yet Wilberforce wrestled with whether he should leave Parliament and devote himself to full-time Christian ministry. He reconnected with his childhood pastor John Newton, a former slave trader who became an influential adviser to Wilberforce. Around this time, Wilberforce was also approached by Thomas Clarkson, co-founder of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, about taking up the cause in Parliament. Through the counsel of Newton, Pitt, Clarkson, and notable antislavery groups like the Clapham Sect, Wilberforce was persuaded that he could still do God’s work while remaining in politics. Around this time, he wrote the following in his journal: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners” [i.e., society].

At the time, calling for the abolition of the slave trade was deeply unpopular, given the strong economic interests many influential businessmen and members of Parliament had in the British West Indies. Over the new few years, Wilberforce and Clarkson embarked on an unprecedented public awareness campaign across Great Britain. Clarkson visited the ports where slave ships docked, taking detailed notes from crew members about the deplorable conditions slaves endured aboard ship. He also took measurements of the small quarters in which slaves were housed and gathered shackles and branding irons to demonstrate to the public how slaves were being treated. In 1787, Clarkson published a booklet titled A Summary View of the Slave Trade and of the Probable Consequences of Its Abolition, detailing the horrific conditions slaves endured while aboard the ships. Clarkson began traveling the country, distributing leaflets describing these conditions. In 1789, Wilberforce used Clarkson’s evidence in a powerful speech before the House of Commons to present his first bill for the abolition of the slave trade. While Parliament did not act on his bill, public opinion was starting to change. In 1791, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade distributed leaflets calling upon the public to boycott sugar produced by slaves in the West Indies. Consequently, around 300,000 British citizens stopped buying the sugar, resulting in a significant loss of profit to companies that used slave labor in the West Indies.

Across the English Channel, trouble was brewing in France. Parliament was soon consumed with protecting Britain from the violent revolution engulfing France. That revolution resulted in an overthrow of the French government and eventually culminated in Napoleon’s rise to power. The British political establishment often viewed abolitionists like Wilberforce in the same light as the radicals leading the French Revolution. During this time, Wilberforce was slandered, libeled, and even received death threats. To compound his difficulties, Wilberforce battled an intestinal disease (believed today to be colitis) that prevented him from fulfilling his parliamentary duties from time to time. Despite these setbacks, Wilberforce remained resolute in his quest to end the slave trade.

Year after year, Wilberforce would present a motion in the House of Commons calling for the abolition of the slave trade. Although some of the margins were narrow, his motion was defeated every single time. Wilberforce’s motions were often defeated by fellow members of Parliament who had strong economic interests in the slave trade. In a 1791 speech, Wilberforce boldly reminded his fellow members: “Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.” But Wilberforce remained unfazed by the defeats and continued his fight with public awareness campaigns, bringing to light the horrors of the slave trade. Wilberforce and Clarkson gathered thousands of petition signatures from enraged British citizens who demanded an end to the slave trade throughout the Empire.

By 1807, public opinion was squarely in his favor, and Wilberforce had persuaded many members of Parliament. After nearly 20 years of fighting, the Slave Trade Act was passed, and Wilberforce realized one of his two “great objects”—the end of the slave trade.

Because this bill did not free currently owned slaves, Wilberforce began calling for the immediate emancipation of all slaves in the British Empire. In 1825, Wilberforce resigned his seat in Parliament due to health reasons but continued his quest to abolish slavery. On July 26, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the House of Commons, effectively freeing all slaves in the British Empire. William Wilberforce died three days later with the satisfaction of knowing that the cause to which he had dedicated his life had finally been accomplished.  

Wilberforce had also worked hard on his second “great object”—the “reformation of manners.” When Wilberforce began his Parliamentary career, British society was incredibly corrupt and immoral. Workers suffered poor conditions, animals were abused, and prostitution was rampant. Wilberforce had a special place in his heart for the poor and those rejected by society. By the time he died, Great Britain was a completely different place.

For more than 50 years, Wilberforce dedicated his life to building a better Great Britain. While advocating for Christians to be involved in politics, Wilberforce once said that “a private faith that does not act in the face of oppression is no faith at all.” As Christians, we are called to engage our culture and influence others for Christ. Wilberforce never attacked his opponents but instead appealed to their conscience.

Now, 187 years since Wilberforce’s death, we can draw many parallels between Wilberforce’s battles and our current ones over abortion, religious freedom, pornography, human trafficking, and many more. Since 1973, we’ve been fighting to correct the flawed decision in Roe v. Wade. While the pro-life movement has experienced many victories, hundreds of innocent unborn children are still killed every day. The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges undermines the sacred institution of marriage. And the religious liberty of Christian business owners and government employees is under increasing attack, most recently in Bostock v. Clayton County

Despite recent setbacks, we must never give up. We can find inspiration in William Wilberforce, who faced crushing defeats and vicious attacks from his opponents but never relented his fight for what was right.  We can learn much from Wilberforce’s tenacity and his unwavering commitment to the cause to which God had called him. The fight may be long and grueling, but the ultimate reward we are seeking is well worth any struggle we face now.

Befriending Our Opponents: A Tale of Two Presidents

by Worth Loving

July 2, 2020

In the midst of the current political divisions gripping our nation, it’s difficult to find close friendships between people with opposing viewpoints. It seems we are divided on every issue, with each side digging their heels in more and more and little hope of solving America’s greatest problems.

In such times, many are asking if there is any hope of finding common ground. I have often found it difficult to form meaningful friendships with people whom I disagree with on fundamental issues like life, family, and religious freedom. But may I suggest that friendship is exactly what we need to bring us together? What if we could form genuine relationships with those on the other side to make our nation better together? Two of our most famous Founding Fathers had significant political differences that nearly ended their friendship. Yet they persevered, giving us the beautiful story of reconciliation that we have today.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson first met in Philadelphia at the Second Continental Congress of 1775. A year later, they worked together on the committee tasked with drafting the Declaration of Independence, whose 244th anniversary we celebrate this weekend. In the 1780s, Adams and Jefferson worked together on diplomatic assignments in England and France, managing to find some time for leisure during their demanding duties as ambassadors. Over the years, they became close friends, corresponding by letter often when they were separated.

On politics, however, the two could not be more opposite and frequently debated their differences. In fact, their disagreements sometimes became personal and often tested their friendship. Adams, a devout member of the Federalist Party, favored a strong central government, a national bank, and close relations with Great Britain. On the other hand, Jefferson, an ardent Democrat-Republican, favored states’ rights, reduced government spending, greater relations with France, and westward expansion. Despite their passionate political differences, their close friendship continued for many years.

However, circumstances changed in 1801. Adams was still president but had just lost his bid for reelection in a bitter battle against Jefferson. In the final hours of his presidency before Jefferson took office, Adams made a number of last-minute judicial and bureaucratic appointments—appointees who were loyal Federalists and would oppose the incoming administration, making it extremely difficult for Jefferson to govern effectively. In fact, Jefferson later wrote that they “were selected from among my most ardent political enemies.” This political disagreement proved to be the severest test of their friendship, and the two ceased correspondence for the next decade.

After Jefferson retired from the presidency in 1809, Dr. Benjamin Rush took it upon himself to act as an arbiter and rekindle the friendship between Adams and Jefferson. However, it took two years until he was able to convince the two to resume their friendship. When one of Jefferson’s neighbors visited Adams in 1811, Adams is reported to have said: “I have always loved Jefferson, and still love him.” Upon hearing this report from his neighbor, Jefferson wrote Dr. Rush: “This is enough for me. I only needed this knowledge to revive towards him all the affections of the most cordial moments of our lives.” At Dr. Rush’s persuading, he convinced Adams to renew his correspondence with Jefferson. The two continued to write each other often until their deaths 15 years later.

Reconciliation often makes broken relationships stronger than they were before, and so it did with Adams and Jefferson. In the years following their renewed friendship, a rich correspondence commenced between the two, reminiscing about the past, discussing current events, and looking forward to what lay ahead.

On July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson died at Monticello in the rolling hills of Virginia. A few hours later, John Adams passed at his home in Massachusetts. His family reported that the last dying words he spoke were “Thomas Jefferson lives,” not knowing that his dear friend had died hours earlier.  

In today’s polarizing political climate, it’s easy to see the “other side” as enemies, with the strong desire to convince those on the fence that our ideas are better. That is not to diminish our differences in worldviews. Without a doubt, liberals and conservatives both have two very different ideas for the future of America. But, on this July 4th, perhaps we can learn a lesson from two of our greatest Founding Fathers. They didn’t ignore their differences as if they didn’t exist, but they didn’t allow those differences to interfere with forming a lifelong friendship. Likewise, we don’t have to set aside our differences either because that won’t make them disappear. Being friendly isn’t abandoning your principles. Perhaps this July 4th can be different if we don’t let those differences get in the way of crossing the street and talking to our neighbor. After all, we are celebrating our nation’s independence and the freedom we have to be different.

Furthermore, as Christians, there are several biblical commands that are easy to forget in the divisive times in which we live. First, we must remember that those with whom we disagree are not the enemy. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Second, Christians are commanded to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:44). Third, Scripture tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, whether we agree with them or not (Matthew 22:39). Last, wherever God’s spirit is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). By embracing reconciliation with others, we not only encourage freedom but we also invite God’s spirit to dwell among us.

We often quote the first sentence of the second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence: “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.” But we miss the weight of its last sentence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” The signers of the Declaration no doubt had significant political differences and widely varying ideas for the future of the young nation. But they did not let those differences hinder them from forming friendships or from their ultimate goal—independence and freedom for all. These 56 men, firmly trusting in God, were willing to give up everything—their careers, possessions, and even their very lives—for the sake of freedom. Two of our future presidents—John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—both put aside their differences when they signed their names to that sacred document.

What we need in America right now is a good dose of civility and genuine friendships. Sure, there is a time and place to discuss the future of our great republic—a discussion we will continue to have and fiercely debate. But, this weekend, maybe we can take a break from debating on social media, protesting, or grasping for the next news hit and simply focus on loving our neighbor.

Let’s remember to celebrate our independence this weekend and the freedom it gives us to debate and be different. But let’s also not forget the opportunity we have to reach across the aisle and love our neighbor.

Online Outreach: How to Continue Fulfilling the Great Commission During the Coronavirus

by Worth Loving

April 21, 2020

Over the last month, most churches in America have been forced to cancel all of their normal services and activities due to the coronavirus outbreak and government-imposed lockdowns. Because pastors and churches rely very much on face-to-face interaction to effectively minister to their congregants, the current crisis has presented a unique challenge unlike any we have ever faced in modern times.

With most churches closed to the public, many are opting to livestream their services online through their website or through platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Pastors are giving messages from their living rooms or simply broadcasting their sermon from an empty church auditorium. And while it’s certainly not the same as meeting in person, online outreach has proven to be incredibly effective.

Allow me to give a personal example. I’m privileged to attend GraceWay Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., just east of Capitol Hill. After being forced out of our rented facility due to the coronavirus, online outreach has become our only means of airing our services. Our pastor, Brad Wells, says, “The apostle Paul brought the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an ancient marketplace. So whether it’s an ancient marketplace, a modern marketplace, or a virtual marketplace, Christ’s disciples need to have the gospel prominent.”

Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed our online outreach explode. We’ve been developing our online ministry over the past few years, particularly with livestreaming services through our website and Facebook. Before the coronavirus pandemic, our livestream averaged reaching anywhere between 500-1,500 people on a given Sunday. Now, over a month into completely livestreamed services after the virus forced us to cancel in-person services, our reach has soared to 6,000 as of Sunday, April 6th! Similarly, our peak viewers on March 8th, the Sunday before the lockdown began, was only five on our Facebook page. On Sunday, March 29th, that number surged to 64! At the start of the quarantine, the livestream of our morning service was shared just eight times and received only 17 comments. On Easter Sunday, April 12th, our Facebook livestream was shared 42 times. The following Sunday, April 19th, saw 251 comments! We have received comments from people watching all over the country and around the world. We have even had people call in to request prayer.  

Another example of the effectiveness of online outreach comes from my home church, Parkers Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in Greenville, North Carolina. Like GraceWay, Parkers Chapel has been gradually developing their online ministry as well. Before the coronavirus pandemic forced them to cancel regular services, the number of people who engaged with the Parkers Chapel Facebook page averaged around 100 or fewer. As of Sunday, April 12th, that number had surged to 2,000! Similarly, Parkers Chapel’s Facebook livestream reached around 100 or fewer people before the pandemic. But on Sunday, April 12th, the reach peaked at over 12,000! Pastor Gene Williams praised the effectiveness of Parkers Chapel’s online ministry: “It has been amazing to watch the opportunity that the Lord has given to us through this adversity to reach so many. It is not the size of the audience alone, but their appetite to know the truth that has been changed. Our online platform has enabled us to stay connected not only with our church but also with our community and even beyond that.”

I share these examples to encourage other pastors and churches who may be discouraged about not being able to meet in person. Yes, our present circumstances are far from ideal, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to continue fulfilling the Great Commission. Just because we are not able to meet like normal does not mean we still cannot spread the gospel. God has provided us an incredible tool in the form of livestreaming that previous generations never had. In fact, we are likely able to reach even more people now than ever before because so many more are watching services online. Facebook usage has soared by over 50 percent since mandatory quarantines have forced so many to stay at home.

We each have our own social media networks that no one else has access to. It’s likely that many of the people in your network look up to you in some way and value what you post. What an incredible opportunity to reach them by sharing your church services on your personal page. For example, after sharing GraceWay’s services over the past few weeks on my personal social media, I’ve had numerous friends and family members, some who are unsaved, reach out to me to say what a blessing the service was to them. These are people who likely never would have been reached had I not shared the service on my own page.

Consider this also. One of the most disastrous implications of the virus is the tremendous toll that mandatory business lockdowns are taking on the economy. Some people are becoming desperate and hopeless because they have lost their jobs. In fact, the most recent numbers from the Labor Department show that more than 22 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in just the last month, likely bringing the unemployment rate close to 20 percent. Domestic violence is increasing as well. Many families that are not typically together during the workweek find themselves at home all day, which is leading to more arguments and abuse. We are also seeing an increase in drug and alcohol abuse as people become more depressed and isolated. Pornography use is up as well as many in isolation seek an outlet for their anxiety and depression. Perhaps most concerning of all is the increase in suicides.

With many people in desperate situations spending so much time online, now is the time appointed by God to develop your church’s online ministry. We are living in unprecedented times. But with that comes an unprecedented opportunity to reach thousands of unbelievers through social media with the lifesaving power of the gospel. There will be hopeless people mindlessly scrolling through their Facebook feed who need to hear your message!

So pastors, be encouraged. Yes, these are far from ideal circumstances, but God has provided us an incredible opportunity to spread the gospel. In fact, this is an opportunity that previous generations have not had. So take advantage of whatever God has given you this Sunday. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Even if you just livestream singing a few songs on the guitar with your family or giving a brief devotion from your living room, I promise you God will bless it. There are people out there who are more desperate now than they have ever been before, people longing for the hope that is found only in Jesus. God has promised that His Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11), so boldly proclaim the truth that God has given you with whatever means He has given you.

We have not been given the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), so may we always be able to give a reason of the hope that is within us! (I Peter 3:15)

If you need help developing your church’s online outreach, here are some practical guides and websites to help you get started:

Margaret Sanger and the Racist Roots of Planned Parenthood

by Worth Loving

February 10, 2020

Recently, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R-N.C.) came under fire for comments he made regarding Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger. Speaking to an MLK Day breakfast at Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, Forest said this: “There is no doubt that when Planned Parenthood was created, it was created to destroy the entire black race. That was the purpose of Planned Parenthood. That’s the truth.” Forest later defended his comments to McClatchy News: “The facts speak for themselves. Since 1973, 19 million black babies have been aborted, mostly by Planned Parenthood. I care too much about the lives of these babies to debate the intent of Sanger’s views when the devastation she brought into this world is obvious.”

Margaret Sanger, her sister, Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell opened the first birth control clinic in the United States in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York on October 16, 1916. The clinic was later raided by the NYPD, and all three women were arrested and charged with violating the Comstock Act for distributing obscene materials. After laws governing birth control were relaxed, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921, which was renamed the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.

While Lieutenant Governor Forest was attacked by many on the Left for pushing an uneducated, insensitive agenda, history backs him up. The fact is that Margaret Sanger strongly believed the Aryan race to be superior and that it must be purified, a view that finds its roots from Charles Darwin’s defense of evolution in The Origin of Species. Darwin argued that a process of “natural selection” favored the white race over all other “lesser races.” Sanger advocated for eugenics by calling for abortion and birth control among the “unfit” to produce a master race, a race consisting solely of wealthy, educated whites. Sanger said she believed blacks were “human weeds” that needed to be exterminated. She also referred to immigrants, African Americans, and poor people as “reckless breeders” and “spawning…human beings who never should have been born.”

Sanger once wrote “that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.” In an effort to sell her birth control and abortion proposals to the black community, Sanger said: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” In 1926, Sanger was also the featured speaker at a women’s auxiliary meeting of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey.

Sanger opened her clinics in largely minority neighborhoods because she believed immigrants and the working class were inferior and needed their population controlled so as to purify the human race. That trend continues today where almost 80 percent of Planned Parenthood facilities are located in minority neighborhoods. In fact, although only 13 percent of American women are black, over 35 percent of all black babies are aborted in the United States every year. Abortion is the leading cause of death for blacks in the United States. According to Students for Life of America, “more African-Americans have died from abortion than from AIDS, accidents, violent crimes, cancer, and heart disease combined.” Black babies are about five times more likely to be aborted than whites. On Halloween in 2017, Planned Parenthood’s “Black Community” Twitter account tweeted: “If you’re a Black woman in America, it’s statistically safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term or give birth.”

While Margaret Sanger tried to portray Planned Parenthood as a merciful organization that helps needy families, the facts speak for themselves. In her testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in September 2015, former Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards openly admitted that over 80 percent of her organization’s annual revenue comes from performing abortions and not basic health care for poor or disadvantaged women. When you dive deeper, well over 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s annual revenue comes from performing abortions.

Despite this sordid history, Margaret Sanger is almost universally recognized as a pioneer for women’s rights rather than the racist she actually was. When accepting Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she “admired Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision…I am really in awe of her.” Those like Hillary Clinton are ignoring the explicitly racist statements that Margaret Sanger made throughout her life. The fact is that Sanger normalized birth control and abortion in the United States as a means to accomplish eugenics. Her ultimate goal was to eliminate non-white races, people with sickness or disabilities, children born to felons, the poor, and immigrants, to name a few.

Margaret Sanger is no heroine, and Planned Parenthood is not some merciful health care provider as the Left paints it to be. Margaret Sanger repeatedly stated her racist intentions for the whole world to see and hear, and Planned Parenthood was and still is the manifestation of those racist ideologies. America was founded on the idea that no matter your race, creed, national origin, disability, or station in life, everyone who comes here or is born here has the opportunity to live a successful, fulfilling life. Margaret Sanger didn’t believe that.

As pro-life activists, we must do our part to expose Margaret Sanger for who she really was. We must also expose the racist history of Planned Parenthood and how that history is still relevant today. For more information on Margaret Sanger and the racist roots of Planned Parenthood, check out these FRC resources: Planned Parenthood Is Not Pro-Woman and The Real Planned Parenthood: Leading the Culture of Death.

Pornography: America’s Hidden Public Health Crisis

by Worth Loving

October 30, 2019

Many public health crises are clear and easy to detect, manifesting themselves in the form of disease, food contamination, or biological warfare. At one time or another, the United States has faced similar crises head on and overcome them with swift action. However, for several decades, there has been a growing health crisis that is far more subtle but with devastating effects. It begins within the privacy of one’s home, but its effects reach across the nation. 

Not too many years ago, pornography was often difficult and costly to obtain. In fact, pornography use was so frowned upon that people went to great lengths to conceal it. Laws strictly controlled the sale and display of pornography. People would have to go to XXX stores or order through the mail to obtain it. Today, however, we face a far different scenario. With the advent of the internet, pornography is available for free to anyone at the click of a button. Untold millions have been enslaved by addiction to pornography, and many others have been indirect victims of its effects. The negative effects of pornography have reached a point where legislative and prosecutorial action is needed. It’s time for Congress and the DOJ to step up, acknowledge the obvious effects of pornography, and enforce the obscenity laws that were put in place years ago to protect the American public.

The statistics are overwhelming. A recent study found that in the United States, approximately 98 percent of men and 73 percent of women between the ages of 18-35 have viewed pornography in the last six months, for a total of 85 percent. In 2018, porn videos were watched over 109 billion times on one porn site alone. These statistics are just a sampling of the growing pornography epidemic in the United States.

Proponents of pornography often argue that it should be protected on the grounds that it harms no one, but research proves otherwise. One study found that “when men consume violent pornography (i.e. depicting rape or torture), they are more likely to commit acts of sexual aggression.” And as FRC has written about previously, there is a strong link between porn, sex trafficking, and abortion. In addition, porn “fuels child sexual abuse, compulsive sexual behavior, sexual dysfunction,” and more.

There is more than enough evidence to warrant action. In fact, pornography and its destructive effects have become so widespread that many states are moving to declare it a public health crisis. In fact, 16 states have passed resolutions declaring pornography a public health crisis. While these resolutions are non-binding, they do serve to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of pornography. Furthermore, the goal of such resolutions is to curb the pervasiveness of pornography and provide resources to those who are struggling.

Contrary to popular opinion, the First Amendment does not automatically protect all pornography. In fact, federal obscenity laws passed by Congress prohibit the distribution of hardcore pornography in print and digital form. However, since the Clinton administration, the Department of Justice has failed to enforce these laws and prosecute those guilty of distributing hardcore pornography.

With enough evidence now available to the public, it’s time for Congress and the DOJ to take action. Pornography is not a free speech issue. In fact, it takes away the voices of so many who are silently screaming for freedom. It is harming individuals by fueling addiction, destroying families by increasing sexual dysfunction and aggression, and ruining countless lives by exploiting victims of sex trafficking. It’s time that we demand President Trump direct Attorney General Barr to enforce existing obscenity laws and that Congress pass stricter penalties for those who illegally distribute or produce pornography.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville brilliantly describes the secret to America’s greatness with this simple statement: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” There is nothing good or wholesome about pornography. Granting so-called “freedom” to one group, knowing that it could lead to the violation of other’s rights, isn’t freedom at all. Let’s work together to protect our homes, our local communities, and our great nation from this scourge. 

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