Monday, August 13, 2018

The Battlefield of School Choice in the Culture War

Conservative families have long been accustomed to funding a public education system that teaches values contrary to their own.  Now, a Florida program that uses public tax credits to support private scholarships for low-income students at parochial schools is under fire because Christian schools are, well, Christian.

Having failed to defeat school-choice programs on the merits, the Left is turning to anti-religious bigotry to attack Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FL-TCSP) … which serves more than 100,000 children.

Florida’s initiative, the nation’s largest school-choice program, has faced a sustained assault from the press for the Christian curricula of some of its participating schools.  The Huffington Post created a chart chronicling the “offensive” views that Christian schools teach – creationism to Biblical distinctions between the sexes.  The Orlando Sentinel called what students learn at private schools “hillbilly science” and “a 12-year sentence to some anamorphic Sunday school class from hell.”  

The Left’s anti-school-choice hysteria increasingly echoes Senator (CA-D) Dianne Feinstein’s chiding of Judge Amy Coney Barrett last year: “the dogma lives loudly within you.”

Media attacks on the curricula and values in schools of choice rarely include an examination of the values of taxpayer-funded public schools:
  • In 2016, a Palm Beach high school teacher’s final exam included the question, “If Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, we are: A. Screwed, B. Screwed, C. Screwed, or D. Screwed behind a really YUGE wall that Mexico pays for.”  
  • Another school took its cheerleading squad and band to perform at a Hillary Clinton political rally as a field trip.  
  •  A third Florida school required students to recite “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the prophet of God.”  None of these incidents got much play in the Sentinel
  • In Albuquerque, New Mexico, an elementary school instructed teachers not to refer to students as “boys” and “girls” in order to make transgender students feel more welcome. 
  • In California, a teacher was placed on administrative leave for suggesting that if students were allowed to walk out of class without consequence to protest for gun control, they should also be permitted to cut school to oppose abortion.  
  • In Vermont, a high school flew a Black Lives Matter flag to celebrate Black History Month.
  • And hundreds of public school districts across the country partner with Planned Parenthood to teach a sex-education curriculum that many parents find objectionable.  
Disagreements among parental supporters and critics of the aggressively secular public school curriculum are unlikely to disappear soon.  America is not only an ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse nation, but also a place where families often disagree on what a good education should look like.  

Those who want to yank scholarships out of the hands of low-income kids because they object to public support for Christian education don’t think twice about forcing deeply religious parents to pay taxes to teach progressive values … even as many of those parents pay double freight for their own children’s private educations.

Any potential solution should follow the model of higher education: Fund the student, not the school.

Public investment in education is vital in a republic, but there’s no reason why taxpayers must bankroll a monolithic agenda.  It’s time to empower parents to take back their role as directors of their children’s educations.  In Florida, the TCSP is doing just that. 

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Friday, August 10, 2018

Modern Parable of the Good 'Samaritan' Muslim Imam

A Muslim religious leader is honored for saving close to 300-Christians from Fulani herdsmen who wanted to kill them.

83-year-old Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, a Nigerian imam from the village of Nghar in Plateau State, received a national honor from President Muhammadu Buhari for his actions on June 24th.  “I hid the women in my personal house and after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there,” Abubakar explains in an article in The Eagle Online.

The Christians, who have been slaughtered in mass this past year in Fulani raids, sought refuge from the armed radicals, who invaded 15-communities on that day.  When the Fulani arrived at Abubakar’s house, however, the imam claimed that the people inside were all Muslims, leading the herdsmen to move their search elsewhere.

BBC News earlier reported that the herdsmen strongly suspected that the Christians had been sheltered by the imam, but still he did not allow them entry, despite fears they might burn down the mosque and his house.

Abubakar even prostrated himself on the floor in front of the radicals, crying and wailing, demanding that they leave.  And while the Fulani did agree to leave, they set two nearby churches on fire.

Simon Lalong, Plateau State governor, said, “Although he is already in his old age, God knows why he did it at that age for us to study and also know how to maintain peace, not only in Plateau State but in Nigeria in general.”  “What he did not only saved the people of Barkin Ladi LGA, not only Plateau State but I think the whole of this country because 300 lives is not a small number,” he added.  “So, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, only God will reward you for what you have done.”

David Young, the deputy chief of mission at the United States Embassy in Nigeria, also hailed the imam’s actions as heroic.  “Those who work for peace do not belong to one group or another, they are not just Muslims or Christians, they are individuals who give up their lives for goodness and fight evil,” Young said.

Some Christian leaders, such as Bosun Emmanuel, the secretary of National Christian Elders Forum, have warned that Christians, who make up close to half of Nigeria’s population, could be wiped out by 2043 … if the widespread massacres continue.  “Realistically speaking, Christianity is on the brink of extinction in Nigeria.  The ascendancy of Sharia ideology in Nigeria rings the death toll for the Nigerian Church,” Emmanuel said.  “In 2018, we can say in 25-years from now, we are facing the risk of being the last Christians in Nigeria.  Therefore, Christians should be in the frontline of defending democracy in Nigeria,” Emmanuel urged.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Polls Reveal Americans Significantly Agree on Limiting Abortion

In order to properly understand how Americans feel about abortion, one must take into account that their views are more complex than simple up-or-down polls about the U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling suggest.

Of late, polls about Americans’ attitudes toward abortion primarily have to do with support for Roe v. Wade itself.  Some suggest that Americans are extremely polarized when it comes to the issue.  Take, for example, 2018 polling that shows Americans are evenly divided in terms of self-identifying as pro-life or pro-choice.  But equating support for abortion rights or dividing Americans into two opposing camps is highly misleading and unhelpful.

Polls that dig a little deeper into Americans’ views when it comes to restrictions on abortion provide more nuance and insight into where the public truly stands.  Polls that do delve more deeply show that support for unfettered abortion, which Roe allowed, just isn’t there.  That SCOTUS ruling legalized abortion throughout all 9-months of pregnancy.  It left to the states, however, regulating abortions during the second and third trimesters. So, Roe was in effect the beginning — not the end — of a national conversation about the legal limits of abortion, especially in the second and third trimesters.

Today’s polls show that Americans generally do not support the right to abortion later in pregnancy.  The Marist Poll asked specifically about later abortions and found Americans heavily favor restrictions during the last two trimesters.  76% of Americans said they would like to see abortion restricted to the first 3-months of pregnancy — and even a majority (60%) of those who self-identify as pro-choice favor such restrictions.  Those numbers have been more or less consistent for the past decade.  So, there is in fact a lot more consensus on abortion than what is generally reported.

A recent Gallup Poll shows consistency in American attitudes towards limits on abortion. 81% of respondents said that abortion should be generally illegal in the third trimester, while 65% said it should generally be illegal in the second trimester.

Polls also reveal how Americans feel about different circumstances surrounding the decision to abort a child.  Broadly speaking, a majority thought the procedure should be legal only under certain circumstances.  The Gallup Poll asked about several specific circumstances ranging from “when the woman’s life is endangered” to “when the woman does not want the child for any reason.”  Gallup found that 77% thought abortion in the third trimester for any reason at all should be illegal.  68% thought abortion should be illegal in the third trimester when the child would be born with Down Syndrome.

American laws are not just out of step with public opinion on the matter, they are out of step with the rest of the world as well.  The United States is just one of seven countries, including China and North Korea, that permit abortion on demand after 20-weeks’ gestation.

If we look closely at polling data that does more than scratch the surface, we can find large majorities in agreement about whether and how to limit abortion.  The vast majority of Americans would like to restrict — at a minimum — late-term, elective abortion.

It seems to me, it’s time our laws catch up to the American consensus.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Monday, August 6, 2018

Pew Poll Finds People Still See Differences Between Genders

The mainstream media and the liberal academia are certainly blurring the differences between men and women; but most Americans aren’t buying it, according to a recent Pew poll.

The Pew Research Center released a little referenced report on July 24th showing that adults still use traditional words to describe the two genders.  “Protective,” “provider,” “father,” and “honorable” were the positive words used most often to describe men; while “multitasking,” “brain,” “beautiful,” and “maternal” were the positive words used most often to describe women.  “People said traits related to strength and ambition are especially valued for men in society and that compassion, kindness and responsibility are particularly valued for women,” Pew added.

The report was based on data Pew released in 2017 that also found that most adults see key differences between the genders:
  • 84% of men and 89% of women said the genders express their feelings differently.
  • 69% of men and 67% of women said the genders are basically different in their hobbies and personal interests.
  • 76% of men and 75% of women said the genders are different in their physical abilities.
The reports were based on surveys of 4,573 people conducted Aug. 8-21 and Sept. 14-28 of 2017.

You’d never know this if the progressive media and schools of higher learning were your only source of data on the matter.  The truth is, this reputable polling organization has the greater finger on the pulse of the American people’s sentiments.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Friday, August 3, 2018

Attorney Defending Client Needs His Own Defense

A discrimination complaint in Alaska filed against a women’s shelter took a bizarre turn when a second complaint was filed against the attorney hired to defend the shelter.

The legal stand-off began in January at Downtown Hope Center (DHC), located in Anchorage, when Timothy Coyle was turned away from sheltering at the faith-based facility. He identifies as a transgender woman, named Samantha, and ‘Samantha’ filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission (AERC).

DHC lawyered up and hired veteran Anchorage attorney Kevin G. Clarkson.  As attorneys are accustomed to do, Clarkson filed a response on behalf of the DHC, defending its actions on the grounds that a shelter for battered, traumatized women shouldn’t be forced to accept a biological male under its roof.

Benjamin Bull, an attorney for First Liberty Institute (FLI), tells OneNewsNow that the discrimination claims became “truly bizarre” when the AERC then filed a complaint about Clarkson after he was quoted in a local newspaper about the legal fight.

Clarkson is now being represented by FLI, which is asking the AERC to drop its complaint against the Anchorage attorney.

The AERC’s executive director, Pamela Basler, wrote that Clarkson has been “identified as the source” of published statements – a newspaper article – in which he claimed in the article that a biological male should not be allowed to be sheltered in the DHC, an Anchorage newspaper reported in June.

According to Bull, the AERC has “tried to basically separate the Hope Center’s lawyer – disqualify him from representing the Hope Center - by filing essentially criminal charges against him for violating the law and in turn trying to censor him.”

Bull tells OneNewsNow that AERC’s legal action raises an obvious legal question: How can an attorney represent a client if there is no allowance to publically defend the client’s action in a newspaper article?

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Judge Rules Against OAG-NY in Pro-Life Case

Christians News reports that a federal judge has ruled in favor of 13 pro-life Christians in a lawsuit filed by the Office of the Attorney General of New York (OAG-NY) claiming that the demonstrators had “harassed” women at an Albany NY abortion provider.

Judge Carol Bagley Amon ruled that former NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office failed to provide evidence that “Christians outside Choices Women’s Medical Center engaged in conduct that would rise to the level of willful harassment.”  She wrote, “The interactions on the sidewalk outside Choices were generally quite short, and there is no credible evidence that any protester disregarded repeated requests to be left alone over an extended period or changed his or her tone or message in response to requests to be left alone in a way that suggested an intent to harass, annoy, or alarm.”  “The OAG-NY has failed to show that any defendant had the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm a patient, companion, or escort; thus, it has failed to show that any defendant has violated NYCCAA [the New York City Clinic Access Act], as interpreted by the OAG,” Bagley Amon added.

However, Judge Bagley Amon did rule that one protester engaged in illegal behavior by blocking the entryway to the facility.  “As long as a protestor does not blockade a clinic entrance or exit, he or she is free to stand or pace with a sign unless and until he or she interferes with another person’s passage to or from the facility,” Amon said.  “The OAG-NY argues that most of the defendants in this case have physically obstructed patient, companion, and escort access to Choices.  A careful review of the video, photo, and testimonial evidence presented at the preliminary injunction hearing and reveals that only B. George illegally obstructed access to Choices,” she added.

Schneidermann alleged that the pro-lifer demonstrators engaged in a pattern of harassment for repeatedly using signs, making statements such as “You have the blood of dead babies on your hands” and “They are killing babies above your heads,” as well as passing out pamphlets and literature.

According to Christian News, the demonstrators are members of local churches.  One pastor and defendant in the case stated his thanks to God for the ruling.  “We thank the Lord that our life-affirming work to counsel women considering abortion was upheld in federal court,” Kenneth Griepp, senior pastor at Church @ The Rock told media.  “As Christians who seek to honor Jesus, like Him, we will continue to offer compassion to those who see abortion as the only way out of an unexpected pregnancy.  We said from the beginning that the charges against us were baseless and an offense to the First Amendment.  We are grateful for the court’s thoughtful and detailed opinion that vindicates our rights.”

Praise God for this good judgment from this judge!

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Monday, July 30, 2018

Christian Family Sued to Stop Religious Activities on Their Farm

The owners of a Pennsylvania farm have been ordered by the Sewickley Heights Borough (near Pittsburgh) to cease and desist holding Bible studies on their private property.  Borough leaders accused Scott and Terri Fetterolf of improperly using their 35-acre farm as a place of worship, a place of assembly and as a commercial venue. 

They were served a cease-and-desist order in October 2017, the Post-Gazette reported.

The Independence Law Center (ILC) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the farmers against the borough alleging an egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution.

According to the lawsuit, the Fetterolfs were threatened with fines of $500 per day plus court costs for having Bible studies at their home, having meetings where religious songs are sung, conducting any religious retreats for church leaders or seminary students or conducting any religious fundraisers.

The property’s previous owner, Nancy Doyle Chalfant, who is one of the founders of the nonprofit Verland, “opened her home, and her beloved Dundee Farm, to church retreats, seminary picnics, youth groups and many other organizations she supported … for many decades,” quoting from her 2012 obituary.  The Fetterolfs, who attended church with Chalfant, bought the property in 2003, “to carry on the traditions started by Chalfant,” the lawsuit states.

“The borough has no business overseeing a group of people reading and discussing a book together on private property — even if that book is the Bible,” Randall Wenger chief counsel for ILC said in a statement.  The lawsuit accuses the government leaders of violating religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and equal protection.

“Government should not target religious activities for punishment, particularly when similar secular activities are permitted,” Jeremy Samek senior counsel for ILC said.  “In America, no government can categorically ban people from assembling to worship on one’s property.”

Todd Starnes of FoxNews says, “To that point, the lawsuit alleges the borough allows other activities and gatherings — ranging from political rallies to a Harry Potter event.  So if government leaders allow muggles to cavort in Sewickley Heights Borough, they should afford the same rights to Christians gathering for Bible study on private property.”

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Friday, July 27, 2018

Turkey Moving Brunson From Prison to House Arrest Isn’t Good Enough

American Pastor Andrew Brunson has been moved out of prison and put under house arrest in Turkey.  It’s the first sign of hope for the pastor who had been imprisoned by the Turkish regime for nearly 2-years.

Brunson faces up to 15-years in prison on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups.”  The 50-year-old evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, NC strongly denies the accusations.  He wrote earlier this year that he’s in prison not for anything he’s done wrong, but because he’s a Christian pastor.

With international outrage rising against Turkey for holding Brunson hostage, some observers had thought Brunson might be released by Turkey at a recent hearing earlier this month.  But the court did no such thing.

Aykan Erdemir, a former member of Turkish Parliament and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, talked about the development on Twitter.  “The prosecution, however, disappointed the optimists by bringing additional witnesses to the court, who presented unsubstantiated claims and hearsay.  Meanwhile, Turkey’s pro-government media continued to smear the pastor, denying him any possibility of a fair trial,” Erdemir says.

President Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson’s release and US lawmakers like Sen. Thom Tillis (NC-Republican) have rallied with over 60-senators signing a letter to the Turkish administration calling for Brunson’s release.  “I’m convinced that this is a risk to every single American,” Tillis said back in April on the Senate floor.  “Pastor Brunson needs to know that he has the backing of the US Senate.”

Let’s pray for Pastor Brunson’s soon release and return to his home in the U.S.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dems Don’t Fear Kavanaugh, but the Constitution

Some of the anger aimed at President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is partisan bluster meant to appease the activist base.

Fact is: The liberal Democrats were going to get hysterical about any pick; because any conservative Republican pick was going to take the Constitution far too literally for their liking.  For those who rely on the administrative state and coercion as a policy tool – forcing people to join political organizations, forcing them to support abortion, forcing them to subsidize socially progressive sacraments, forcing them to create products that undermine their faith, and so on – that’s a big problem.

Some, such as former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, indulged in the dramatic rhetoric we’ve come to expect in the Trump era, claiming that Kavanaugh would “threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.”  But almost none of the objections coming from leading Democrats have been even superficially about Kavanaugh’s qualifications as a jurist or – for that matter – his interpretation of the Constitution.

“Specifically,” prospective Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris argued, “as a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy, his nomination presents an existential threat to the health care of hundreds of millions of Americans.”  Surely, the former attorney general of California comprehends that “health care” is not a constitutional right but rather a policy concern whose contours are still being debated by lawmakers – and probably will be for decades.  What Harris probably meant is that Kavanaugh is an existential threat to the practice of forcing Americans to buy products in the private marketplace against their will. [Incidentally, Kavanaugh, upheld Obamacare as an appellate judge for jurisdictional reasons even though it displeased him on policy grounds.  He wrote that the law is without “principled limit.”  He did this because he has far more reverence for the law than Harris does.]

Leading Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders, whose collectivist doctrine clashes directly with the Constitution’s goal of restraining the state and empowering the individual, worries about “workers’ rights, health care, climate change, environmental protection and gun safety.”  He should.  Kavanaugh (with Justice Neil Gorsuch) is a critic of Chevron deference – the practice that allows administrative agencies to ignore their legal charge and have free rein to interpret statutory authority in virtually any way they please.  Few things undermine the socialist agenda more than limiting our regulatory agencies’ ability to lord over the economic decisions of Americans.

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another potential presidential hopeful, said Kavanaugh “can’t be trusted to safeguard rights for women, workers or to end the flow of corporate money to campaigns.”  To “safeguard” the rights of women, liberals mean keeping abortion legal on the federal level – without any genuine restrictions.  For Gillibrand and others, invented rights are sacramental; whereas other precedents, such as stopping the “flow of corporate money” – which is to say, the right of free expression codified by the Citizens United decision – should be conveniently discarded.  There is absolutely no guiding principle to any of this other than political preference.

With another originalist justice in Kavanaugh, we inch closer to a time when the majority of the left will simply dismiss the SCOTUS as an antiquated impediment to progress.  We already see this happening – not only from progressives but from supposed moderates. It’s why flip-flopping partisans such as Ezra Klein are now lamenting the “anti-democratic” position of the court.  By “anti-democratic,” he doesn’t mean the SCOTUS legalized abortion or same-sex marriage without the consent of states; he means it has recently stopped the federal government from compelling individuals to act in ways he and many others approve of.

Normalizing the idea that the Constitution should be subservient to the fleeting will of politics and progressive conceptions of “justice” goes back to Barack Obama, who promised in 2008 to nominate justices sharing “one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.”  The left hailed this position as proof of a thoughtful and moral temperament, when in reality it’s an ideological position that allows judges to arbitrarily create law and subordinate their constitutional duty to their personal worldview.

Of course, there are a number of legitimate debates about how we should interpret the Constitution.  And all justices aren’t political on all issues; nor are all conservatives pure. But it’s the left that now embraces relativistic arguments about the intent and purpose of the Constitution.

As much as we might wish the SCOTUS to be less important, right now, it’s one of the only institutions preserving constitutional order … and that’s why the left is going nuts over this nomination.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Monday, July 23, 2018

Fact Is: Public Opposes What Roe v. Wade Did

If you tuned in to the mainstream media outlets, most reporters would lead you to believe that the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) means the legal loss of a woman’s right to abortion as ruled in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  This is absolutely false – Fake News!

While 61% of the public agree with Roe, they don’t really understand what Roe did.

For instance, Roe prohibited states from passing abortion laws aimed at protecting unborn babies before 24-weeks.  A recent Quinnipiac poll shows about 50-60% of the country would support a state or federal law barring abortion after 20-weeks.

On the constitutional matter, voters seem to reject Roe as well.  Roe, again, took the matter of abortion totally out of the democratic process.  [There are some matters where our Constitution does that … such as states not permitted to institute slavery.]  But only through absurd linguistic, philosophical, and legal contortions was the Roe court able to detect – emanating from the penumbras of the Bill of Rights – a right to abortion.

Most legal scholars who have spoken up on Roe contend it is horrific legal thinking.  “As a matter of constitutional interpretation,” wrote Harry Blackmun’s clerk, Edward Lazarus, “even most liberal juris prudes — if you administer truth serum — will tell you it is basically indefensible.”

And the public thinks state legislatures, not 9-justices, should set abortion policy.

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List polled voters in 5-states with competitive Senate races — Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia — and asked them who should make the law.  Voters in Florida, for instance, were asked, “Do you think that the U.S. Supreme Court should decide abortion policy for Florida, or do you think abortion policy should be decided by the people of Florida through their elected officials?”  In all states, including the swing state of Florida, voters preferred letting their own legislatures handle the issue.  In North Dakota, the ratio was two to one.  Voters, then, seem to reject Roe’s expansive view of abortion rights and Roe’s removal of abortion from the democratic process.  In short, most voters don’t support what Roe does in any regard.

If the Senate confirms Kavanaugh, and then if the conservative majority of the SCOTUS overturns Roe, it will in fact be arranging abortion policy — legally and constitutionally — as most people seem to prefer.

For these reasons, the Democrats are treading lightly in the opposition to Kavanaugh regarding overturning Roe v. Wade for fear the public might find out what Roe actually did.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Friday, July 20, 2018

What Is the Kingdom of God?

Suppose someone asked you the question: What is the kingdom of God?  How would you respond?  The easy answer would be to note that a kingdom is that territory over which a king reigns.  Since we understand that God is the Creator of all things, the extent of His realm must be the whole world.  Manifestly, then, the kingdom of God is wherever God reigns, and since He reigns everywhere, the kingdom of God is everywhere.

We see this when John the Baptist comes out of the wilderness with his urgent announcement: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  We see it again when Jesus appears on the scene with the same pronouncement.  If the kingdom of God consists of all of the universe over which God reigns, why would anyone announce that the kingdom of God was near or about to come to pass.  Obviously, John the Baptist and Jesus meant something more about this concept of the kingdom of God.

At the heart of this theme is the idea of God’s messianic kingdom.  It is a kingdom that will be ruled by God’s appointed Messiah, who will be not just the Redeemer of His people, but their King.  So when John speaks of the radical nearness of this breakthrough, the intrusion of the kingdom of God, he’s speaking of this kingdom of the Messiah.

At the end of Jesus’ life, just as He was about to depart from this earth, His disciples had the opportunity to ask Him one last question.  They asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6b).  He said: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority… But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).  What did He mean?  What was He getting at?

When Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” was He indicating that His kingdom was something spiritual that takes place in our hearts or was He speaking of something else?  The whole Old Testament called attention not to a kingdom that would simply appear in people’s hearts, but to a kingdom that would break through into this world, a kingdom that would be ruled by God’s anointed Messiah.  For this reason, during His earthly ministry, Jesus made comments such as, “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).  Similarly, when Jesus sent out seventy disciples on a preaching mission, He instructed them to tell impenitent cities that “The kingdom of God has come near you” (Luke 10:11b).  How could the kingdom be upon the people or near them?  The kingdom of God was near to them because the King of the kingdom was there.  When He came, Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom.  He didn’t consummate it, but He started it.  And when He ascended into heaven, He went there for His coronation, for His investiture as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

So Jesus’ kingship is not something that remains in the future.  Christ is King right this minute.  He is in the seat of the highest cosmic authority.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to God’s anointed Son (Matthew 28:18).

When His disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He said, “Your kingdom come.”  What does this mean?  What are we praying for when we speak this petition?  Each of the petitions is connected to the others.  The first petition Jesus taught us was, “Hallowed be Your name,” which is a plea that the name of God would be regarded as holy.  Manifestly, unless and until the name of God is regarded as holy, His kingdom will not and cannot come to this world.  But we who do regard His name as holy then have the responsibility to make the kingdom of God manifest.

John Calvin said it is the task of the church to make the invisible kingdom visible.  We do that by living in such a way that we bear witness to the reality of the kingship of Christ in our jobs, our families, our schools, and even our checkbooks, because God in Christ is King over every one of these spheres of life.  The only way the kingdom of God is going to be manifest in this world before Christ comes is if we manifest it by the way we live as citizens of heaven and subjects of the King.

Note: The content of this posting is largely attributed to the scholarly work of R.C. Sproul in his article entitled, “What Is the Kingdom of God?” dated June 25, 2018.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Warring Against False Prophets With the Truth

The spiritual war often involves taking on forces outside the church; however, there is another front – opposing enemies inside the church.  It is this aspect of the fight which the apostle Paul highlights in his writing to a young preacher.  After noting in Titus chapter 1 the qualifications for those who would be bishops or elders, Paul warns Titus (vs. 10-11) with respect to false prophets.  Paul identifies these false prophets as “many rebellious men”— those who are disorderly, unruly, and uncontrolled.  He also writes that they are “empty talkers and deceivers.”  The idea of “empty talkers” is that of “vain talkers”— those who do not preach properly.  They disguise the Word rather than preach it plainly.  They are deceivers.  They flatter men with regard to their sins— tickling the ears of sinners. These false prophets suppress the truth rather than exposing corruption.

Paul goes on to describe the activities of these false prophets.  He says that they were “teaching things which they should not.”  This is a general description of false teaching.  It can include anything which takes away from the glory of God, which undermines the truth, and which promotes loose morals.  Paul also says that these false teachers were “upsetting [or overturning or bringing ruin to] whole houses.”  The verb connotes the raging of the sea which causes the filth and mire at the bottom to float to the top.  This stirring up of matters was causing destruction to whole households.  

But notice that there is a particular reason for these actions by false prophets— it is “for the sake of filthy lucre.”  Religion, power, and money is quite intoxicating.  This is one of the reasons why honest preachers must be content with their wages.  If you are in the ministry for the money, you have the wrong motivation and most likely the wrong doctrine. Those who teach falsehood are greedy.  2 Peter 2:3 declares: “By covetousness they [false prophets] will exploit you with deceptive words.” Philippians 3:19 says that those teachers who are enemies of the cross of Christ are those who “set their mind on earthly things.”  2 Corinthians 2:17 condemns those who were “peddling the word of God.”

Paul concludes this section by instructing Titus as to the action to be taken regarding these false prophets: “it is necessary to silence” them.  It is necessary to shut their mouths.

Of course, this silencing is not to be done via physical means.  Rather, the true man of God engages in spiritual warfare— “pulling down strongholds” and “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).  To silence the false prophets, one must meet their arguments head-on.  And the way to be successful in this intellectual warfare is to read expansively, to think carefully, to write clearly, and to speak persuasively.  He proclaims the heavenly reign of King Jesus; he protects the people; and he neutralizes the opposition.  And all of the members of the church are to support the church and her ministers in this prophetic enterprise.

But in addition to proclamation of the truth in order to silence the opponents, there is another way by which to render them ineffective, and that is through church discipline. Those who refuse to repent are to be cut off—that is, excommunicated—by the leadership of the church if they persist in their error.  But even then, the aim of discipline is always the recovering of those who are in error.  Spiritual warfare is never merely intellectual, but must always be fought by those who are humble and loving— humbled by God’s grace and willing to love.  The silencing of those who oppose the truth is with the hope that they, too, can be saved.

Pastors are engaged in a life-and-death battle— it’s a matter of eternal life or eternal death.  Pastors proclaim the gospel as the only way of salvation, and Jesus as the only Savior, and faith as the only means of salvation.  Opposition must be fought, and enemies must be silenced.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Beale, Jr.
Chaplain (Colonel-Ret), U.S. Army
Pastor, Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel