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Religious Freedom
The Home Front

October 18, 2006

While Christians in some parts of the globe are being tortured and killed for their faith, it feels almost embarrassing for us even to raise the question of religious freedom here at home. The hardships Christians face in this country pale in comparison to those endured by our brothers and sisters abroad. Condoleezza Rice was right when she told the Southern Baptist Convention, "As we celebrate our freedom here today . . . we're mindful that too many people of faith can only whisper to God in the silent sanctuaries of their conscience because they fear persecution for their religious beliefs."

Nevertheless, if we are to be a country that champions the cause of religious freedom internationally, we must make sure that our own house is in order, that we are protecting those freedoms here within our own borders. And that means bringing the issue of religious freedom into the public debate this campaign season and pushing our candidates to know where they stand.

I am firmly convinced that the American government was right to speak out on behalf of the teacher in Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to forty months in jail and 750 lashes for "mocking religion." The charge was that he discussed the Bible in his class and dared to say that "the Jews were not always wrong." But what about the case of the pharmacist in the United States who had to choose between his job and dispensing morning-after pills? Now, admittedly, the severity of the repercussions is different, but the core issue—freedom of religion—remains exactly the same.

As the case of the pharmacist points out, the workplace is a key battle zone for religious freedom in this country. One bill before Congress, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (S. 677 and H.R. 1445), would provide much-needed safeguards to protect the religious freedoms of people of faith. The bill has brought together leaders from more than thirty faith groups and has drawn support from both sides of the political aisle, including Republican Senators Rick Santorum (Penn.) and Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Democrat Senators John Kerry (Mass.) and Hillary Clinton (N.Y.).

The provisions of the bill fall into three broad categories: scheduling issues, clothing and appearance questions, and conscience issues. It asks employers to make a true effort to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of its employees. Had this law been in effect in the past decade, it would have protected the rights of a Catholic woman who was fired for refusing to work on Christmas day because she believed that she ought to be at Mass. It would have helped the Muslim woman who was denied the right to work at the New York City transit system because she wished to wear a head-covering. And it might have saved the job of the website developer who refused to help build a pornographic website for one of his company's clients.

Strangely, however, despite the wide base of support among liberals and conservatives, Congress has yet to pass the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. Find out where your candidates stand on this bill, and tell them you want their support when they go back to Congress in January.

Remember, when you enter the voting booth, you can play a major role in safeguarding religious freedom—not only for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, but right here at home.

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Listen with RealAudio!

Your child's social life has officially begun when they get their first
invitation to a friend's birthday party. Our kids have been to parties in
the party room at fast food restaurants, at pizza places, homes with
swimming pools. When our youngest son had his 16th birthday, we knew we'd
have a hard time surprising him because he had watched us surprise his
brother and his sister on their sixteenth. But I tricked him into going with
me to check out a riding stable several days before his birthday - and that
is where we surprised him. So his party was where the horses live. Lots of
parties are often made special by the place where they're held.

We often told our children the very best place of all to have a
party going on. So does our word for today from the Word of God. It's in
Proverbs 15:15. The Bible says, "The cheerful heart has a continual feast."
You see, if you carry the party inside you, then life can be a pretty joyful
experience - for you and for the people around you. A "continual feast" God
calls it.

This cheerful heart approach to life can be summed up in a word the
Bible uses to describe one of the benefits of belonging to Christ - joy.
Nehemiah said, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) Jesus
described what should be the effect of our belonging to Him in John
7:38-39 - "'Whoever believes in Me ... streams of living water will flow
from within him.' By this He meant the Spirit.'" A little earlier in John,
Jesus told a Samaritan woman at a well that He would place a spiritual
spring inside us that would mean we didn't have to keep going back again and
again to life's happiness wells to fill us up. (John 4:13-14)

Put it all together and you've got an inner source of joy and
positiveness that has nothing to do with what's going on around you. It's
about God's Holy Spirit inside you, producing that stream of "living water"
that's supposed to bring joy into every life around you. I wonder if that's
the effect you have on other people - joy. If not, you're probably focused
on something or someone other than your great Savior.

When you stay very close to Jesus, when you turn your anxieties over
to Him, when you believe His promises that He's working everything out for
your good - well, you can live as a joyful person. No, I don't mean laughing
all the time, not always feeling all bubbly, but with that inner poise ...
that inner positiveness that belongs to someone who isn't running their own
life, but letting Jesus run it. With that kind of relationship, you'll look
for ways to encourage people instead of dragging them down - for things to
praise God for rather than things to complain about. You look for the big
picture instead of the little frustrations that seem so big.

When you lose the joy, the party's over. But joy is not the result
of everything going your way. Joy is a choice - a choice that defies our
natural tendency to get down and discouraged when hard things happen. And
Jesus is the source of that joy. That's why Paul can write from a prison
cell that we should "rejoice in the Lord always." (Philippians 4:4) When you
concentrate on Jesus and stay amazed by Him, you don't go to a party - you
carry the party in your heart!
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Why are the books of the Bible placed in the order
they’re in? Are they listed chronologically?

The books in the English Bible follow a subject arrangement and are not in
the order they were written. The arrangement mirrors that of the Septuagint,
a Greek translation of the Old Testament made a few hundred years before Christ.

The Hebrew Old Testament follows a slightly different order than the
English. If you compared a Hebrew Old Testament with our English Bible, you
would see that the table of contents lists only twenty-four books. At first
glance, you might think some books are missing, but those twenty-four
contain the same material as our thirty-nine.

The Jews arranged the books according to the official status of the writers:
Moses; the prophets; and the other writers. If that arrangement sounds
familiar, it should, Jesus mentioned it in Luke 24:44, "These are the words
which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be
fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the
Psalms concerning Me."

Here's the order of books in the Hebrew Bible:

a.. The Law of Moses:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

b.. The Prophets:
The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings
The Latter Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and "The Twelve" (Minor Prophets)

c.. The Writings:
Poetical Books: Psalms, Proverbs, and Job
The Five Rolls: Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther
The Historical Books: Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles

The New Testament order is also based on subject categories. First come the
historical books-the gospels and Acts. Then come the epistles-first those
from Paul, then those written by the other writers. Revelation comes at the end.

The early church always grouped the gospels with Matthew first, followed by
Mark or Luke, then the gospel of John. It also arranged the Pauline epistles
in two categories-first the epistles to the churches, then the personal
letters. It typically arranged those epistles according to size or length.
The personal letters and general epistles (non-Pauline writings) appear to
follow that arrangement-Hebrews first, followed by the writings of James,
Peter, John, and Jude.
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The Gospel of John gives an account of a fascinating conversation between
the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and Jesus. Pilate stood face to face with
one who claimed equality with God—a comment deserving of execution
according to those who placed Him in Pilate’s hands.

With preconceived notions of kingship and power, Pilate mockingly questions
Jesus, “Are you a king?”

Disclosing Pilate’s real predicament in his response, Jesus answered, “You
are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born and
for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the
side of truth listens to me.”

Pilate muttered, “What is truth?” and walked away.

Such words spew forth from the modern mindset, don’t they? The definition
of truth lives cynically in the heart of muddled boundaries and the
re-definitions in which the modern mindset has engaged. The language game
our society plays is a brilliant sleight-of-hand move, designed to obscure
truth and celebrate falsehood. Tolerance sounds better than anti-truth.

In our current context, Jesus’ words and Pilate’s reaction are instructive.
Jesus was exposing to Pilate not the paucity of available truth; but what
is more often the hypocrisy of our search. Truthfulness in the heart, said
Jesus, precedes truth in the objective realm. Intent is prior to content.
The most provocative statement Jesus made during that penetrating
conversation was that truthfulness or falsity of an individual’s heart is
revealed by that person’s response to Him. The implication is
uncompromising. He was, and is, the truth. What you do with Him defines
the truthfulness of your search.

Was this statement made in a vacuum? Not by any stretch of the
imagination! You see, from Jesus’ birth to his death; from the way he
lived to what he taught; from the wealth of prophecy to the completion of
fulfillment; from the historicity of the Scriptures to the transformation
in lives by His death and resurrection—whether we are skeptics, or among
the devout who follow Him—it may be safely said: No one ever spoke like
Him or lived like Him. But if the heart is not truthful, then the very
Truth of Christ is missed.

The Scriptures claim that truth is fully embodied in the person of Jesus
Christ. It is not so much that He has the answers to life’s questions as
much as that He is the answer. Friend, may you find the truth not merely
in abstractions or in creedal affirmations, but in knowing Him.

A Slice of Infinity is a daily radio by Ravi Zacharias program aimed at
reaching into the culture with words of challenge, words of truth, and
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Spurgeon's Morning & Evening Devotions

"Sanctified by God the Father."
- Jude 1

"Sanctified in Christ Jesus."
- 1 Corinthians 1:2
"Through sanctification of the Spirit."
- 1 Peter 1:2

Mark the union of the Three Divine Persons in all their gracious
acts. How unwisely do those believers talk who make preferences
in the Persons of the Trinity; who think of Jesus as if he were
the embodiment of everything lovely and gracious, while the
Father they regard as severely just, but destitute of kindness.
Equally wrong are those who magnify the decree of the Father, and
the atonement of the Son, so as to depreciate the work of the Spirit.

In deeds of grace none of the Persons of the Trinity act apart
from the rest. They are as united in their deeds as in their
essence. In their love towards the chosen they are one, and in
the actions which flow from that great central source they are
still undivided.

Specially notice this in the matter of sanctification. While we
may without mistake speak of sanctification as the work of the
Spirit, yet we must take heed that we do not view it as if the
Father and the Son had no part therein. It is correct to speak of
sanctification as the work of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit.

Still doth Jehovah say, "Let us make man in our own image after
our likeness," and thus we are "his workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that
we should walk in them." See the value which God sets upon real
holiness, since the Three Persons in the Trinity are represented
as co-working to produce a Church without "spot, or wrinkle, or
any such thing." And you, believer, as the follower of Christ,
must also set a high value on holiness-upon purity of life and
godliness of conversation.

Value the blood of Christ as the foundation of your hope, but
never speak disparagingly of the work of the Spirit which is your
meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. This day let
us so live as to manifest the work of the Triune God in us.

"His heavenly kingdom."
- 2 Timothy 4:18

Yonder city of the great King is a place of active service.
Ransomed spirits serve him day and night in his temple. They
never cease to fulfil the good pleasure of their King.

They always "rest," so far as ease and freedom from care is
concerned; and never "rest," in the sense of indolence or
inactivity. Jerusalem the golden is the place of communion with
all the people of God. We shall sit with Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, in eternal fellowship.

We shall hold high converse with the noble host of the elect, all
reigning with him who by his love and his potent arm has brought
them safely home. We shall not sing solos, but in chorus shall we
praise our King. Heaven is a place of victory realized.

Whenever, Christian, thou hast achieved a victory over thy
lusts-whenever after hard struggling, thou hast laid a temptation
dead at thy feet-thou hast in that hour a foretaste of the joy
that awaits thee when the Lord shall shortly tread Satan under
thy feet, and thou shalt find thyself more than conqueror through
him who hath loved thee. Paradise is a place of security. When
you enjoy the full assurance of faith, you have the pledge of
that glorious security which shall be yours when you are a
perfect citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem. O my sweet home,
Jerusalem, thou happy harbour of my soul! Thanks, even now, to
him whose love hath taught me to long for thee; but louder thanks
in eternity, when I shall possess thee.

"My soul has tasted of the grapes,
And now it longs to go
Where my dear Lord his vineyard keeps
And all the clusters grow.

"Upon the true and living vine,
My famish'd soul would feast,
And banquet on the fruit divine,
An everlasting guest."
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Four important things to KNOW:

1) For ALL (Americans, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist,
Asians, Presbyterians, Europeans, Baptist, Brazilians, Methodist, etc.)
have sinned & fall short of the glory of God.

2) For the wages of above (see #1) are DEATH (Hell, eternal separation
from God, & damnation) but the Gift (Free & at No Charge to you) of
God (Creator, Jehovah, & Trinity) is Eternal Life (Heaven) through (in
union with) Jesus Christ (God, Lord, 2nd Person of The Trinity, Messiah,
Prince of Peace & Savior).

3) For God so greatly loved & dearly prized the world (Americans, Muslims,
Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist, Asians, Presbyterians, Europeans, Baptist,
Brazilians, Methodist, etc.) that He even gave up His only begotten (unique)
Son, that whosoever (anyone, anywhere, anytime - while still living) believes
(trust in, relies on, clings to, depends completely on) Him shall have eternal
(everlasting) life (heaven).

4) Jesus said: "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, & THE LIFE. No one (male/female
- American, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Asian, Presbyterian,
European, Baptist, Brazilian, Methodist, etc. ) comes (arrives) to the Father
(with GOD in Heaven) EXCEPT BY (through) ME (no other name).

This wonderful loving GOD gives you the choice - - -
(Rev. 3:20)

{Please note that church membership, baptism, doing good things, etc. are
not requirements for becoming a Christian however they are great afterwards!!!}

Jesus said, "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction
(Hell, damnation, eternal punishment), and many enter through it. But small
is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life (Heaven, eternal happiness,
forever with God), and only a few find it. --Matthew 7:13-14
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* * * Four Important Things To KNOW: #1) For ALL (Americans, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist, Asians, Presbyterians, Europeans, Baptist, Brazilians, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc.) have sinned & fall short of the glory of God. #2) For the wages of above (see #1) are DEATH (Hell, eternal separation from God, & damnation) but the Gift (free & at no charge to you) of God (Creator, Jehovah, & Trinity) is Eternal Life (Heaven) through (in union with) Jesus Christ (God, Lord, 2nd Person of The Trinity, Messiah, Prince of Peace & Savior of the World). #3) For God so greatly loved & dearly prized the world (Americans, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist, Asians, Presbyterians, Europeans, Baptist, Brazilians, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc.) that He even gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, that whosoever (anyone, anywhere, anytime - while still living) believes (trust in, relies on, clings to, depends completely on) Him shall have eternal (everlasting) life (heaven). #4) Jesus said: "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, & THE LIFE. No one (male/female - American, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Asian, Presbyterian, European, Baptist, Brazilian, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc. ) comes (arrives) to the Father (with GOD in Heaven) EXCEPT BY (through) ME (no other name). *** This wonderful loving GOD gives you the choice - - - (Rev. 3:20) {Please note that church membership, baptism, doing good things, etc. are not requirements for becoming a Christian - however they are great afterwards!!!} *** Jesus said, "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction (Hell, damnation, eternal punishment), and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life (Heaven, eternal happiness, forever with God), and only a few find it.

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But these are written so that you may
believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the
Son of God, and that by believing in
Him you will have life. Jn 20:31

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call on Him while He is near. Let the
wicked forsake his way and the evil
man his thoughts. Let him turn to the
Lord, and He will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for He will freely
pardon. "For My thoughts are not
your thoughts, neither are your ways
My ways," declares the Lord. "As the
heavens are higher than the earth, so
are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow come down
from heaven, and do not return to it
without watering the earth and making
it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed
for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My word that goes out from My
mouth: It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and
achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth
in peace; the mountains and hills will
burst into song before you, and all the
trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the
pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle
will grow. This will be for the Lord's
renown, for an everlasting sign, which
will not be destroyed." Is 55

O Lord, you have searched me and you
know me. You know when I sit and when
I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying
down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know
it completely, O Lord. You hem me in -
behind and before; you have laid your
hand upon me. Such knowledge is too
wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where
can I flee from your presence? If I go up
to the heavens, you are there; if I make
my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide
me and the light become night around
me," even the darkness will not be dark
to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. For you
created my inmost being; you knit me
together in my mother's womb. I praise
you because I am fearfully and wonderfully
made; your works are wonderful, I know
that full well. My frame was not hidden
from you when I was made in the secret
place. When I was woven together in the
depths of the earth, your eyes saw my
unformed body. All the days ordained
for me were written in your book before
one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts,
O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would
outnumber the grains of sand. When
I awake, I am still with you. Search me,
O God, and know my heart; test me
and know my anxious thoughts. See
if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Ps 139

But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up,
that I may show My power in you, and that My
Name may be declared in all the earth. Ex 9:16

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
- - Isaac Watts

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