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5 Great Resources That Help Kids Keep Christ in Christmas

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 07:39:51 -0600

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung Kevin DeYoung covers the entire Bible in ten amazingly succinct and beautifully illustrated chapters. DeYoung created the book to be the one resource you use to tell your family about how Christ came to us as a baby to bring us back to Eden by dying on the cross. I encourage you to read this book with your young children during the days leading up to Christmas. You could also cuddle up by the fire and read the entire volume in one sitting with kids of all ages. All members of your family will enjoy reading The Biggest Story. And if you want to watch the story, you can buy the animated video of the book. A Family Christmas Treasury by Adrian Rogers Adrian Rogers desires for everyone to experience the joy of Christmas found through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He begins each devotion with reflections on a Bible verse and ends each devotion with a family activity such as writing a Christmas card to someone you love or creating a jar to collect money for church. Each devotion is designed to engage both you and your children. If you are looking for a Christmas devotion for you family, I encourage you to try A Family Christmas Treasury. The Expected One by Scott James Scott James wrote this great little book specifically with your kids in mind. Each devotion contains a Scripture passage, a small explanation of the verse(s) and 2-3 questions (with answers) to prompt some family discussion. The chapter also features a small question to help you apply the passage to your life. This book begins on December 1st and ends on December 25th so it does not follow the traditional Advent calendar and does not come with song suggestions. But if you are a touch creative and have young children with short attention spans, I think you will really like The Expected One. Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski Marty Machowski shows your kids the beauty of the Christmas story by having you light candles, look at nativity scenes, and reflect on Scripture. He built each week’s devotion around key passages from the Christmas story. He placed a chapter from his original Christmas story about the orphan Bartimaeus at the end of each Advent week. In addition to being biblical and easy to understand, the devotions are also infused with object lessons, Christmas carols, and crafts. Marty Machowski has helpfully planned out your entire family’s Christmas devotional calendar. Moreover, you can download the music mentioned in the book here. And you can buy a teacher’s guide here if you want to bring this study into your Sunday school class room. If your family likes Christmas traditions, grab a copy of Prepare Him Room. All Is Bright by Nancy Guthrie Nancy Guthrie created a devotional that your kids can do. Each day features a one page devotion and a coloring page that accents the lesson. If you have a child who loves to color and who wants to explore the Christmas season on their own, you will want to grab a copy of All Is Bright. Peter Witkowski is the Associate Pastor of Preschool and Children at First Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.[...]


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5 Great Resources that Help Keep Christ in Christmas

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 07:45:08 -0600

The Christmas season can be a stressful time filled with a barrage of parties, shopping trips, and community events. Christmas is often crazy busy for families, but it can and should also be a time of great refreshment. Is there better news than Christ has come to save us from our sins? If we hope to focus on spending quality time with our families and reflecting on the gospel this Christmas, we must first focus our hearts on the beauty of Christ. We must first bolster our walk with the Lord and then bolster our family worship times. In Deuteronomy 6:1, parents are told to keep God’s word in their hearts. To teach our kids about God, we must be learning about God and growing in our faith. Finding good devotional resources for Christmas can be taxing. Below are five great options. While not an exhaustive list, I hope my reviews will get you started in the right direction. If you have a favorite Christmas devotion, I encourage you to mention it in the comment section below. Come Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp Paul David Tripp masterfully interacts with the Christmas story, providing his readers with a wealth of practical applications. His book seeks to help keep us from losing sight of Jesus during the holiday season. Derived from a series of Christmas tweets, each devotional includes a scripture reference and ends with a parent’s section that will help mom and dad bring the devotional into family worship times. If you are seeking to warm your heart and your family’s heart towards the gospel, I encourage you to grab a copy of Come Let Us Adore Him. From Heaven by A.W. Tozer A.W. Tozer’s book reflects on his love for the Lord and for poetic expression. The author masterfully paints pictures and shares illustrations that help readers understand that the Scriptures associated with Christmas are plum with meaning. The devotions which have been compiled from Tozer’s sermons and editorials cover all 28 days of the Advent season. I encourage you to read From Heaven this Christmas. Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller Timothy Keller beautifully reveals how the Christmas story pierces our dark and broken world with the light of the gospel. Though not designed as a devotional, the 145-page book will help you grasp the major themes of the Christmas story and will fit nicely into your devotional life with heartwarming reflections on the gospel. If you want to refocus your heart this Christmas or desire to be a better witness during the Christmas season, I encourage you to read Hidden Christmas. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper John Piper helps his readers grasp the important themes of the Christmas story by focusing on the secondary or theological texts of Christmas found in Acts, Hebrews, and the Pauline Epistles. It is a great resource, highlighting the beauty of our savior in short, two to three-page devotions. My wife and I have found Piper’s works encouraging and thought provoking. You will greatly benefit from reading The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer Dietrich Bonhoffer’s words point the readers’ hearts to the true meaning of Christmas. Featuring the martyr’s sermons, poems, and personal letters, the book challenges readers to grapple with the Christmas story for the purpose of knowing God more. Arranged according to the traditional church calendar, the first four weeks are devoted to the themes of waiting, mystery, redemption, and incarnation. The final section features devotions for the twelve days of Christmas. If you are looking for a new and thought-provoking devotion, I encourage you to grab a copy of God is in the Manger. Peter Witkowski is the Associate Pastor of Preschool and Children at First Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.[...]


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Planned Parenthood's Tacit Support of Physical Assault

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 09:31:11 -0600

Planned Parenthood, much like the Left in general, has always had a problem with consistency. Call it a professional hazard of purporting an ideology that relies on feelings rather than reason. Here are some examples: A child is a “clump of cells.” Unless it’s wanted, then it’s a baby. A woman is empowered to make her own choices, unless she makes the wrong one; then she’s coerced, misguided, or manipulated. A woman’s rights are to be protected zealously, unless those rights conflict with Planned Parenthood’s prized cash cow of abortion on demand; then they’re to be silenced at all costs. Hitting a minor is never okay, unless that minor is protesting abortion outside one of their clinics. Then it’s fair game to punch her in the face. Admittedly, that last one sounds far-fetched. But, alas, that’s precisely what occurred outside of Planned Parenthood Roanoke this past Saturday. Purity Thomas, a local pro-life high school student, was standing on the public strip of land across the street from the clinic with students from nearby Liberty University. The group frequently congregates outside the clinic on Saturdays, when most such centers perform their surgical abortions, to provide prayerful witness and counseling outside of the clinic. Shortly into their vigil, a woman approached and began heckling the group. That heckling escalated until she stole a sign bearing the claim that “All people are made in the image of God.” Thomas called out to the woman, saying that she would pray for her. That proved too much for the abortion vigilante, who turned and walked back towards the group, this time attempting to rip Thomas’s sign out of her hand before striking her across the face, knocking her down. When a minor is punched by an adult, it should not be a difficult action to condemn. Unless of course, you’re Planned Parenthood, and thus privileged with the ability to turn any situation into a rabid defense of a woman’s right to have her unborn baby killed. Planned Parenthood put out a statement clarifying they were not affiliated with the woman. However, at no point did they condemn the violence inflicted against Thomas, a troubling—though not surprising—inconsistency given their determination to paint themselves as heroes of downtrodden women everywhere. Instead they wrote: “Planned Parenthood adheres to a strict non-engagement policy in the presence of members of the opposition. Consistent with that policy, the person involved in the December 2nd incident was not a Planned Parenthood staff member. Oppositional protests are designed to intimidate the many patients who seek basic health care services from Planned Parenthood...” (emphasis added) Thank goodness they were here to clarify that the 15-year-old girl, who suffered a concussion from the blow, was an “intimidat[ing]” “member of the opposition.” In other words, she had it coming. Planned Parenthood doesn’t make the claim that they adhere to a policy of respect or non-violence (except of course the violence inflicted on the children in the womb). They only have a policy of “non-engagement.” They fail to mention that the so-called intimidator was holding a sign that called for a prayer to end abortion. Apparently they’d already determined that simple prayerful request to be more offensive and insidious in nature than the woman telling Thomas and her peers that she would “f*** them up.” Planned Parenthood may not be directly responsible for what happened to Purity Thomas last Saturday, but if the situation were reversed, with a conservative assailant attacking a progressive victim outside of a church, there is little doubt that they would be calling for an utter repudiation of the senseless violence, regardless of affiliation to the church itself. But then, the standards have never been the same when it comes to our nation’s largest abo[...]


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Can American Higher Education Be Salvaged?

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 13:38:51 -0600

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American higher education is in crisis.

At an FRC Speaker Series event on December 5th, this important issue was explored in a discussion with Dr. Richard Bishirjian Dr. Peter Wood entitled “The Anti-American Bias of American Higher Education.” Here is a summary of some key points that were made during this event:

  • College education costs have increased exponentially over the past 30 years. Tuition debt currently stands at over $1.2 trillion. Yes, that’s trillion. About half of students default or fail to pay down their debt within seven years of graduation.
  • Sixty percent of college faculty are politically on the Left, while less than 15 percent are conservative, displaying a disturbing absence of intellectual diversity.
  • Core curriculum requirements at most universities have been drastically slashed. This means that a large percentage of students are not exposed to courses in history, western civilization, economics, American government, English literature, and foreign language.
  • There is a huge disparity in how conservatives and liberals view higher education. A recent Pew study found that 58 percent of conservatives think that colleges and universities “have a negative effect on the country,” while 72 percent of liberals say that higher education has a “positive effect on the country.”
  • College presidents are initiating programs for students to become community organizers so that they can eventually engage in political activism for the Left.
  • Higher education has from the beginning set out to serve four public functions: (1) The pursuit of truth; (2) Shaping the next generation with the knowledge and values already obtained by civilization; (3) Preparation for a career or vocation; (4) Preparing students for public commitment to become citizens. These goals are difficult to accomplish when much of higher education is centered on the idea that America is bigoted and colonial, and whose foundations must be completely changed.
  • A recent survey found that 44 percent of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country.
  • A study found that 78 percent of American history courses at Texas A&M were race/class/gender related.
  • The $600 billion higher education industry built almost entirely on borrowed money is not sustainable.

Despite being in dire straits, the speakers also made it clear that they are hopeful for the resurrection of American higher education. The growth of online courses is a means by which people can opt out of the higher education paradigm and experiment to other tracts. Another hopeful sign is the enduring popularity of biographies and other historical books (much of which is ignored in modern higher education), which indicates peoples’ continued thirst for expanding their knowledge outside of the college paradigm. The expanding popularity of publically available online lectures and podcasts may provide a glimpse as to what the future may hold for higher education.

View the entire event to learn more about this important issue.

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Will the Supreme Court Recognize Consumable Beauty in Wedding Cake Case?

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 15:08:38 -0600

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On Tuesday, December 5, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The latter agency ruled that baker Jack Phillips, a Christian, had violated a state law against discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations when he declined to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

One of the key arguments being made on Phillips’ behalf is that the creation of (or decision not to create) a custom-designed wedding cake is quite different from simply buying a product off the shelf, because it is an act of creative artistic expression—and is therefore protected by the First Amendment.

In light of that, one of the more fascinating briefs filed in the case came from a group of “cake artists as amici curiae in support of neither party.” While taking no position on the other arguments in the case, this brief does assert that “this Court should make clear . . . that cake artists are indeed practitioners of an expressive art and that they are entitled to the same respect under the First Amendment as artists using any other medium.”

Among the unique aspects of this brief are that it includes full color photographs of a number of unique, creative, and beautiful cakes for both weddings and other events. However, I also thought that this paragraph (on p. 33)—challenging the argument that cakes are not “art” because they are designed to be eaten—was a work of beauty in itself:

For example, cakes are perishable, designed to radiate beauty but for a moment, and then to be consumed. But the fact that any given cake is a vanishing work does not distinguish it from artistic performances on the stage (or, indeed, protests on the street). Nature’s beauty is no less revealed through the flower that blooms for a single day than through the tree that lives for a thousand years; likewise, an ice sculpture is not inherently less artistic than one carved from stone. The same is true of cakes—they are made from a canvas designed for consumption rather than permanent display. And like other vanishing works of art, cakes can be given a measure of permanence by being recorded—as with the pictures in this brief. Cake is not the only “art” than can be consumed—but the consumption of cake merges more senses (sight, taste, touch, smell) than the consumption of a speech or a song.

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Remembering Mike Penner

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 07:29:05 -0600

On November 20, LGBT activists observed this year’s “Transgender Day of Remembrance.” For the most part, they call upon people to remember those who identified as transgender who have been murdered in anti-transgender hate crimes. Such crimes deserve clear condemnation—like that offered in May by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who declared “the importance of holding individuals accountable when they commit violent acts against transgender individuals.” More numerous than those murdered in hate crimes, however, are those who have identified as transgender but died by their own hand. So on this Day of Remembrance, I was remembering Mike Penner. Mike Penner was a well-respected sportswriter at the Los Angeles Times. On April 26, 2007, Penner became the story instead of the reporter, by announcing to readers in his column that after a vacation, he would return to his work as a woman. He adopted the name Christine Daniels. In some ways, Penner’s “gender transition” went as smoothly as he could possibly have hoped. The Times—both management and his colleagues—were supportive. He was anxious the day his column (headlined “Old Mike, new Christine”) appeared, but his editor had urged him to write it in order to control the release of the news. In advance of the article, Penner’s editor reportedly shared the news individually with 45 other members of the staff, and “not one person expressed discomfort.” According to an account in the Times the next day, “by day’s end, Daniels said she had received only two negative responses out of 538 e-mails.” Nearly a thousand readers commented online, and the responses “were overwhelmingly positive.” Penner/Daniels told a staff writer that “a day I dreaded all my life has ended up being one of the best days I’ve ever had.” It didn’t last. Penner’s last column under the name Christine Daniels was published on April 4, 2008, after which he went on disability leave. When he finally returned to work in October, it was as Mike Penner. Penner wanted every trace of his female alter ego erased from the Times’ website. He was told it couldn’t be done, that it violated their policy on archived material. But eventually, the material disappeared. Christine was gone. A little over a year later, so was Mike. On the day after Thanksgiving in 2009, Mike Penner took his own life. There have been at least three long feature articles on the tragic story of Mike Penner. Christopher Goffard wrote one for the Times, Nancy Hass for GQ, and Steve Friess for LA Weekly. This post is based primarily on information drawn from those three articles. Of course, every person’s story is unique, so there are limits to how much you can generalize about a group of people from what happened to one individual. Nevertheless, Penner’s sad story should serve as a cautionary tale to those—whether transgender or not—who assume that a “gender transition” is automatically the best solution for someone experiencing “gender dysphoria” (an unhappiness with their biological sex at birth). According to the Friess account (told mostly from the perspective of others who identify as transgender who knew Penner as “Christine”), Penner’s feelings of gender dysphoria began in childhood, when “[h]e would sneak into his mother's closet in their Anaheim home to try on shoes and dabble with her makeup, then scrub it off shamefully before vowing never to do it again.” According to the Hass account, “Christine” told friends about “playing princess dress-up with her male cousins as a child.” However, the transgender community in Los Angeles was unaware of Penner until 2004, when he first showed up at “Countessa’s Closet”—essential[...]


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Social Conservative Review - December 1, 2017

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 13:17:32 -0600

Dear Friends, The great season of Advent, a time of waiting and preparation for Christians in anticipation of Christ’s birth, is about to begin. One beautiful way of reflecting on this season is to think about the first Advent, when an expectant Mary and her husband Joseph awaited the birth of God’s Son. For expectant mothers and soon-to-be fathers, pregnancy is often a time when careful preparations are made around the house for the coming baby—the nursery is rearranged to accommodate cribs and changing tables, diapers and wipes are stockpiled, baby clothes are carefully organized in drawers, linens are freshly washed, etc. In the same way, Christians should spend Advent carefully preparing their hearts and minds for the coming of the Savior. This can take on the form of a kind of spiritual reinforcement and house cleaning—spending a little extra time in prayer each morning to prepare ourselves to live for Christ in the day before us, and to make peace with anyone we may have ill will toward and repent of our sins. Just as soon-to-be parents desire to make their home as clean and comfortable as possible for their newborn, Christians should desire to prepare and cleanse their hearts to fully welcome the coming Christ child. This may require us to detach ourselves from worldly attachments to obtain the true freedom that God desires for us. Is a nightly TV-watching habit cutting in to our prayer and family time? Is a regular habit of eating out cutting in to our budget so that we have less for gift-giving and those in need? Thinking about the first Advent is also to contemplate the Holy Family traveling from Galilee to Bethlehem, and the difficult journey that must have been for them. Imagine the exhaustion that Mary must have felt in her third trimester on such a long and arduous journey over rough roads on the back of a donkey, with Joseph enduring mile after mile of dust and rocks in leading her and the animal along. Amongst this shared suffering and journeying, the Holy Family must have grown ever closer to each other. In the same way, Advent is an opportunity for us to draw ever closer to our own families. Maybe this could take the form of creating hand-crafted gifts for loved ones, baking Christmas cookies, assembling care packages for those serving in the military, or perhaps joining a Christmas carol troupe that your church has organized—the point here is to spend quality time together as a family doing acts of service and growing in virtue. The season of Advent points to the coming of our Lord. Let us make the most of this wonderful time and prepare our hearts to receive the perfect gift of Christ. Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family. Sincerely, Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council   FRC Articles LGBT advocates seek to scuttle a vital Constitutional right – Travis Weber ACLU: Forcing Faith Out of Adoption – Travis Weber Love to Give: An Adoption Story – Alison Contreras Adoption: Multi-Racial, Multi-National, Heaven-Blessed – Rob Schwarzwalder The Unexpected Blessing of Adoption – Harold Harper 10th Circuit Lets Police Officers Off the Hook After Telling Woman She Could Not Pray in Her Own Home – Travis Weber and Natalie Pugh Why It Is Unnecessary to Force Jack Phillips to Bake a Wedding Cake – Travis Weber   Religious Liberty Religious Liberty in the Public Square 2 Gay Men Explain Why They Support Baker’s Refusal to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cakes – Ian Snively and Peter Parisi, The Daily Signal Stop Misrepresenting Masterpiece Cakeshop – David French, National Review Designated haters – Juliana Chan Erikson, WORLD UNL campus not ‘safe’ for conservatives, public records reveal – Conservative Review Why the Conscience Protection Act is critical – Jeff Pick[...]


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Love to Give: An Adoption Story

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 10:26:58 -0600

We weren’t a couple that “always knew they wanted to adopt.” It’s not something that we discussed before we were married. What we definitely did discuss was our desire to be parents. I married my husband because he helped me be the better person I’d always wanted to be. In fact, that was the thought that made me giddy on the night we were engaged. This was the man who would father my children! Yes, children, plural. We both hoped to have a large family. I do remember, however, the first time we discussed adoption. We were living in Mexico City, sitting in the pink living room of our tiny apartment that would shake every time a truck drove by, momentarily causing us each to wonder if it was actually an earthquake. The sunlight was streaming through the windows and I brought it up. “What do you think about adopting?” Like many couples who first have this conversation, we were waiting for children. At that point it had been over a year of trying to grow our family, which for NFP (natural family planning) teachers, we knew signaled something might be wrong. “What about international adoption? Do you think we could parent a child that didn’t look like us?” Those were some of the first overwhelming questions that we pondered. We didn’t exactly come to any conclusions, but I do remember my husband’s response. If we have love to give, why wouldn’t we adopt? Fast forward a year. It was the summer of 2011 and we were back to living in the states. I was able to receive medical care to remove endometriosis. Three months after that surgery, during a dark and hopeless time if I’m honest, we conceived. Our son, Samuel, is now five. He was a blessing from God, a healing balm for my soul. It was when I was holding him in our rocker when he was just days old that I had one of the most profound spiritual moments of my life. “Enjoy this child I sent you and this moment, right here. You do not love him because you bore him, but because he was meant to be your son. You will love your other children in the same way.” In that moment the message I heard was blindingly clear. I’ve gone back to savor the peace that moment brought me many times during our adoption journey. God is faithful. He could be trusted, completely. We were called to adopt. Now, if only God would have told my husband that so clearly! What was so evidently a call from God needed more time to grow in my husband. And its not as if anyone “just adopts,” as our story is evidence of. He was right to see the many logistical hurdles to reconcile. So we began pursuing adoption as we do most things: researching as much as possible. Over the next few years we attended several in-person sessions and orientations of local agencies, trying to figure out what would be the best avenue for our family. Foster to adopt? Domestic adoption? International? If international, what country? Through a long process of elimination, including a desire to honor birth order, we eventually decided to adopt a toddler from China. I had lived in China during a summer in college and was always drawn to the country. Plus, I already spoke some Chinese. Then, in August 2015, just a week after we made the decision to adopt from China, my husband was unexpectedly let go from his job. Fortunately, he found another one rather quickly and just three months later, within a week of starting his new job, we began our homestudy. It was November 2015, and we were beyond excited to finally be starting the adoption process. Then came a massive swerve in our plan. In January 2016 we got the sudden call about a potential domestic adoption situation from a friend. Here was a woman making an adoption plan. Would we be willing to adopt a baby to be born in two months? This was much faster than we’d planned, but God wouldn&r[...]


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Adoption: Multi-Racial, Multi-National, Heaven-Blessed

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 07:33:08 -0600

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from “National Adoption Month: My Family’s Adoption Story,” published in The Stream November 26, 2017. On Thanksgiving this year, gathered around our table were people whose ancestors came from Africa and Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia. I’m talking about my wife’s and my children. Our multi-racial sons and daughter were adopted. Race and ethnicity are acknowledged in our family, but as benign issues. Love and laughter, firmness and faithfulness: these have been the integrating factors of our family life, not hair texture or skin complexion. Children create family. Whether adopted or biological, children bring disparate people together into a small human community of affection, support, enjoyment, and wisdom. About 110,000 children are adopted every year in America. About 52,000 are adopted from the foster system, the others through private agencies. Most adopted privately are Americans, but a significant but shrinking percentage are adopted from other countries. Of those 110,000, about 18,000 are infants. Thousands of loving and committed American families have sought to adopt from abroad, but it’s become tougher in recent years. The State Department provides troubling numbers: In 2004, 23,000 children born abroad were adopted by Americans. In 2016, that number had fallen to just under 6,000. Why? Because the five countries from which American families adopted the most—China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea, and Ethiopia—have revised and tightened their adoption policies. There are a variety of reasons, ranging from stupid national pride (“we can care for our own!”) to bureaucratic corruption. There are more than 400,000 children in foster care. Of them, roughly 112,000 await adoption. Children with developmental problems languish in foster care or orphanages. Older children, virtually all of whom have been abused in ugly home environments, await loving homes. Often, they wait in vain, as potential adoptive families are wary of bringing into their homes children who might bring serious problems. This is where the church needs to step in. If a family adopts a particularly needy child, be he six months or 16 years, the local church must do more than just hold a dedication ceremony and bless the family with prayers and smiles.  Those families need help. They need the services of professional counselors, therapists, remedial educators, developmental experts, and health caregivers. Churches need to be prepared to support, financially, families whose children need that kind of help, possibly for years.  Churches are not banks—resources are limited, admittedly. But when “bigger and better” church buildings are under construction in every state in the union, surely some money can be dedicated to help with needs far more profound than another 30 spaces in a parking lot. Thankfully, the adoption tax credit ($13,460 per child) has been restored to the new Republican tax reduction plan. In 2015, about 64,000 American families used the tax credit to help them adopt. The tax credit has been a blessing to hundreds of thousands of middle-income families throughout the country—including mine. The credit helps, a lot. But it still leaves a lot to be done. The churches need to be front and center in helping families adopt children who need homes.  One of the many blessings my wife Valerie and I experienced when we adopted our children was receiving financial assistance from the adoption fund my church had set up. This remarkable ministry comes alongside church members who adopt and helps them pay the substantial up-front costs. There is so much more to say, but for now, a final note: Valerie’s and my children are no[...]


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The Unexpected Blessing of Adoption

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 09:07:56 -0600

“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” – Excerpted from Radical by David Platt It is not surprising to me that the month we celebrate Thanksgiving is also the month that is recognized as National Adoption Month. Our call to adoption is one of the things I am most thankful for in my life. As unexpected as our adoption assignment was, I remain grateful that we were attentive to the voice of God and the call to adoption that he had for our family. We are forever changed by that invitation from the Lord! The holidays are also a time to reflect on another gift that I am so very thankful for and that is the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I can’t imagine how Joseph must have felt when he found out that he was invited by God to take Jesus into his life and family. God’s plan was for Jesus to have an earthly father and mother in Joseph and Mary. This special couple had the privilege of joining God to provide for and care for Jesus until He was old enough to start His earthly ministry. In 2010, after much prayer and research, God confirmed His plan for our family to move forward with international adoption and specifically, special needs adoption in China. We learned of so many waiting children with medical needs that needed the love of a family and medical care. After many months of prayer and mountains of paperwork, we found ourselves matched with an incredible little boy living in China that needed a family. As crazy as it sounded at the outset, it was God’s plan that we adopt him and bring him back to the United States as a member of our family. We soon learned that we were set to travel and that he would become a part of our family on Valentine’s Day of 2011—a plan from God we could never have foreseen or imagined. When adoption day arrived, we found ourselves surrounded by Chinese government officials, travel guides, interpreters, nannies, and a dozen other children waiting to be adopted. Squeezed tightly in a small government office, we signed page after page of official papers to become the parents of Josiah James Harper. A translator interviewed my wife and I, asking numerous and sometimes odd-sounding questions, such as why we would want to adopt this child. Why wouldn’t we, we thought? We were asked to promise never to harm or abandon him—a commitment we could easily make. Fingerprints were taken, as well as a footprint of Josiah. After signing the papers with a notary official at our side and completing the extensive questioning, we were finally finished. Josiah James was our son. The meeting lasted less than an hour, but God’s assignment had been many, many months in the making. What an awesome privilege to receive and complete God’s “Josiah James” assignment. The more I watch God at work in Josiah’s life, the more I understand why God sent us to China. His plan was clear. God has especially great things in store for our son just like He had for the Josiah we read about in 2 Chronicles 34. What an honor for us as a family. Josiah has brought so much joy to our family and to all those who know him. We expected to be the ones blessing Josiah, yet it is Josiah who has quickly proven to be a profound blessing to us. God has done a great work in our midst, and we are humbled and grateful as He pours out His love on our family. What might God be asking of you and your family? Is He inviting you to join Him and embrace a child in need? I encourage you to follow His leading. You will be forever changed. Harold Harper is Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at Family Research Council.[...]


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10th Circuit Lets Police Officers Off the Hook After Telling Woman She Could Not Pray in Her Own Home

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 07:21:40 -0600

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First Liberty, a non-profit law firm, recently filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court on behalf of their client, Mary Anne Sause, after the 10th Circuit ruled that the police officers who told her she could not pray did not clearly violate her rights. As recounted by the court, and alleged in her complaint, the police officers entered Sause’s house to investigate a noise complaint. When one officer left to search the house, an action he did not provide a valid reason for, Sause became frightened and asked the officer with her if she could pray. The officer said she could and Sause knelt on her prayer rug and began to pray. Once the other officer returned to the room he allegedly ordered Sause to get up and stop praying as he and the other officer began to mock Sause for praying and tell her that she should leave the state since no one liked her. As recounted, the behavior of these officers is reprehensible in multiple ways. Yet it is also troubling that the 10th Circuit let the officers off the hook for their actions in this case.

In its opinion, the court held that even assuming the police officers violated Sause’s First Amendment rights when they told her to stop praying, the officers had qualified immunity and therefore could not be held responsible.

Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects public officials, such as police officers, from liability if their actions did not violate a clearly established law or constitutional right. Because the specific circumstances of this case had never been presented to the 10th Circuit before, that court claimed the officers did not violate a clearly established law and were protected by qualified immunity.

Yet the right to exercise your religion, in this case the right to pray, is clearly established—in the Constitution. While it is difficult to expect police officers to perfectly understand the legal dynamics of every possible situation they might encounter with a civilian, and thus qualified immunity may be necessary in some contexts to allow police officers to do their jobs effectively, the violation in this case is nevertheless obvious and the officers responsible should not be allowed to hide behind qualified immunity.

It is essential that officers understand basic rights—including our First Amendment rights—named in the Constitution, which every student learns in public school. To claim that a police officer shouldn’t be expected to know that an American citizen has the right to pray in a context like that alleged in this case is a dangerous turn.

The Supreme Court should take up this case and declare to the nation that religious freedom is a vital constitutional right which should be respected by all public officials. No individual in a country which claims to protect the religious liberty of its citizens should ever be told that they cannot pray.

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Why It Is Unnecessary to Force Jack Phillips to Bake a Wedding Cake

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 10:21:48 -0600

There are actually a number of answers to this question, but one of them is quite simple: because there are so many others nearby who are happy to do so.

One amicus brief filed in support of Jack Phillips by numerous law and economics scholars, including the esteemed Richard Epstein, makes this point quite nicely.

That brief points out that according to a search on Gayweddings.com, there are 67 other bakeries in the Denver area alone that are willing to create a same-sex wedding cake, including one that is only 1/10 of a mile from Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop. Forty-two of these bakeries are shown below; notice where they are compared to Jack’s shop, marked by the orange circle:

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Given all these shops that are happy to create a wedding cake for a prospective same-sex couple, is it really necessary to force Jack Phillips to be the one to do so?

While the prospective customers may be offended at Jack’s beliefs, part of living in a free country is that we interact with people who believe differently than us.

Yet they can easily travel nearby and obtain the cake from someone else—someone happy to help create it.

Meanwhile, forcing Jack Phillips to create the cake comes with the heavy cost of forcing him to violate his conscience or stop designing wedding cakes (and potentially go out of business).

Regardless of our personal views on the issue, that is not a vision of American “freedom” that any of us should want to be a part of.

 

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Social Conservative Review - November 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 13:30:49 -0600

Dear Friends, In our current cultural age of distraction and brokenness, it’s important to remember a fact of life that is often ignored: actions have consequences. This essential principle becomes startlingly obvious in light of FRC’s newest publication, “The Link Between Pornography, Sex Trafficking, and Abortion.” As this paper establishes, a single click of internet pornography by the public indicates to the pornography producer that their material is in demand, which will then fuel the continued production of porn, which then fuels the continued exploitation of women who are often pressured into being filmed doing sex acts, which then fuels the lustful desires of the pornography consumer to seek paid sex from women who are often being sex trafficked themselves, which often leads to them having forced abortions. This is just one example of the horrific chain of consequences that can happen as a result of one poor choice. Happily, however, good deeds also have consequences, or more fittingly, fruits. When we give of ourselves generously, the person who receives this gift (or even someone who just observes the good deed) will often feel grateful and humbled, and even feel inspired to act generously themselves in response. This reflects the nature of God—He exists in the form of gift. In other words, everything that we have—our lives, our breath, our material possessions—are a gift from Him. Therefore, we are all called to give ourselves away, just as God has done for us. May we always remember this principle and live by it, that selfish actions have dire consequences, but selfless deeds bear plentiful fruit. Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family. Sincerely, Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council   FRC Articles The Link Between Pornography, Sex Trafficking, and Abortion – Arina Grossu The First Amendment Protects a Dissenting Cake Baker, Not State Coercion – Travis Weber School Worker Was Told She Could Be Fired If She Offered to Pray for Someone Again – Tony Perkins Sen. Cassidy Was Right: Most Planned Parenthood Businesses Are in Urban Areas – Arina Grossu Atheists, Courts Mark Veterans Day While Demanding Demolition Of Veterans Memorials – Travis Weber ObamaCare 2018: Unaffordable, fewer options, still covers abortion – Arina Grossu What This Disabled Navy Veteran Told NFL Team When They Tried to Honor Him – Tony Perkins 66% Don't Believe Bakery Should Be Punished for Not Baking Cake for Same-Sex Wedding – Tony Perkins Conservative Group Claims YouTube Is Censoring Its Videos – Tony Perkins Judge Usurps Power, Ignores Real Issues in Transgender Military Injunction – Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin Religious Freedom for Bakers is Common Ground for Most Americans – Natalie Pugh From Zero to Zelie: Our Adoption Journey and What We’ve Learned – Daniel and Bethany Meola Concern for “Rights” Is Nothing New for Social Conservatives – Peter Sprigg Following God’s Call to Adopt in Ethiopia – Maggie Banga Did the ACLU Hide the Ball and Rush an Abortion? – Travis Weber Scalise Shooting Declared to be an Act of Terrorism Under Virginia Law, So Why is the FBI Confused? – Chris Gacek   Religious Liberty Religious Liberty in the Public Square Poll: 71% of Americans Say Political Correctness Has Silenced Discussions Society Needs to Have, 58% Have Political Views They’re Afraid to Share – CATO Institute Most Americans Believe Christian Bakers Should Not Be Forced to Make Cakes for Gay Weddings – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post Atheist Group Demands School District[...]


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Religious Freedom for Bakers is Common Ground for Most Americans

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 12:30:48 -0600

The Cato Institute published their Free Speech and Tolerance Survey for 2017 at the end of October. In their research, they asked over 2,000 United States citizens about their opinions on free speech. Their study revealed that 50% of Americans think businesses with religious objections should still be required to serve those who identify as gay and lesbian as a general rule (which the wedding vendors who have been sued are happy to do), but 68% believe a baker should not be required to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. These results show that, at least on this issue, Americans can identify and support a genuine desire to live according to one’s religious beliefs. The survey also revealed that most Americans feel that political correctness is preventing important discussions (71%) and feel afraid to voice their opinions (58%). Additionally, while an overwhelming majority (79%) of Americans find hate speech “morally unacceptable,” only 40% believe the government should prevent public expressions of hate speech. If most Americans believe in the value of free speech, even to the point of allowing hate speech, why is there so much outrage over speech in our society? The problem lies in the conflicting ideas of what Americans find offensive. In the survey, people’s answers followed closely to party values. Despite their support for free speech as an idea, most strong liberals (51%) think it’s acceptable to punch Nazis; and most conservatives (53%) support revoking citizenship status of individuals who burn the American flag. While both sides of the political spectrum would like to punish specific speech that they find offensive, they need to recognize that taking away free speech would hurt each other equally. There is no clear consensus on what classifies as “hateful” or “offensive” speech among Americans. A majority of liberals (59%) think saying people who identify as transgender have a mental disorder is hate speech, however the majority of conservatives disagree. While 39% of conservatives think saying the police are “racist” is hate speech, only 17% of liberals agree. Given the highly partisan viewpoint that individuals are placing on speech, any laws to censor speech would be completely dependent on which political party was currently holding a majority on Capitol Hill. This would destroy the basic principle of free speech. The right to speak freely is a foundational right of our nation. It allows citizens to voice their displeasure with our current government, society, or situation, and through dialogue, devise a plan for improvement. Without this right, citizens would lose the ability to hold their government accountable or merely express their opinions, as the party in power could suppress the spread of any ideas they disliked. This could have devastating effects on Americans’ right to assemble, right to protest, freedom of the press, and religious freedom. Has society already destroyed the acceptance of free speech? A majority of Americans are afraid to publicly voice their opinions. It’s not hard to imagine why when 59% of Democrats believe employers should punish their employees for offensive Facebook posts. However, freedom of speech is still a constitutional right for every American citizen. While an argument for censorship can sound convincing in today’s divisive climate, it is important to remember the equality that freedom of speech gives to each citizen. Ultimately, we need to remember the origin of the Bill of Rights that our Founding Fathers fought so hard to achieve. Being occasionally offended is a small price to pay to ensure freedom of speech fo[...]


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From Zero to Zelie: Our Adoption Journey and What We've Learned

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 09:18:50 -0600

November is National Adoption Month. To recognize this important issue, we are publishing personal adoption testimonies this month. Adoption is very near and dear to our hearts. After six years of marriage, and many prayers for a child, earlier this year we welcomed our daughter Zelie-Louise Layla Rose into our family through adoption. This experience has been a profound journey of faith for us—a pilgrimage—and God has taught us so much through it, and through the people we’ve encountered along the way. Our adoption story, in a nutshell: we were married in 2011, experienced the heartache of infertility, and in 2015 discerned a call to adopt. Adoption is a calling; not every couple without children is called to pursue it, but all couples should discern it. We then completed our home study (the state’s approval process for pre-adoptive parents) for domestic, infant adoption and after a year and a half of actively waiting, we were chosen by our daughter’s birthparents in February 2017. Zelie was born on April 6, 2017, and we were blessed to be with her from her very first moments after birth. She is a beautiful, energetic, delightfully happy baby who brings immeasurable joy into our family! Being so personally close to adoption, and being such a new adoptive family, there is both so much to say and at the same time no way to adequately capture all that adoption means to us. Nonetheless, here are a few things we have learned about adoption so far. Adoption is… …an act of heroism. And by that we are not talking first about adoptive parents like ourselves, but of birthparents. Selfless love means putting another’s needs ahead of your own desires, and that is exactly what birthparents do. It’s crucial to say that birthparents don’t “give up” a child for adoption, but rather “place” a child or “make an adoption plan.” The latter speak to the proactive love and generosity shown by birthparents in choosing a family for their child, despite the pain and heartache that it can mean for them. We will always teach Zelie that her birthparents are her heroes for their loving decision to place her in our family. …a response to a loss. This truth is necessary to acknowledge, that adoption happens because there is some crisis or difficulty so grave that a child cannot be raised by his or her birthparents; this is undeniably a tragedy. In a perfect world, we’d have no need for adoption (nor would infertility exist), but in this actual world, adoption is a loving response to a difficult situation, and a powerful example of bringing hope and beauty out of very hard circumstances. It’s important for all involved in adoption to be mindful of the losses involved, especially as an adopted child grows and processes his or her feelings about it. Here, open adoption (some level of ongoing contact between the adoptive and birth families) can help answer a child’s questions, provide connection with his or her heritage, and offer an opportunity for the child to stay connected to the birthparents. …a powerful act of hospitality. Borrowing from this beautiful piece by adoptive father Timothy O’Malley, adoption expresses great hospitality and welcome. There is a reason why Scripture speaks so often of us as God’s adopted children! “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son . . . so that we might receive adoption” (Galatians 4: 4-5). Zelie will always have her precious heritage from her birth family, including genetic connections, her looks, and so forth, and we will help her cherish that part of her identity[...]


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