WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - AUGUST 19, 2020
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Appeals Court Overrules Judge's Decision in California Church Case, Church Meets for Sunday Services Anyway
The legal battle continues for Pastor John MacArthur and his Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. The Los Angeles Health Department filed the last-minute appeal following Friday's Superior Court ruling in favor of MacArthur's church. The California Court of Appeals issued a stay of the judge's order late Saturday. But the megachurch met for in-person worship services on Sunday anyway, despite the appeals court ruling against the church. MacArthur said they were meeting in obedience to God's word which tells Christians to assemble together and worship. "They don't want us to meet, that's obvious," MacArthur said from the pulpit. "They're not willing to work with us. They just want to shut us down. But we're here to bring honor to the Lord." read more
The California Court of Appeals said in its emergency ruling late Saturday, “As between the harm that flows from the heightened risk of transmitting COVID-19 (namely “serious illness and death”) and the harm that flows from having to conduct religious services outdoors instead of indoors, the balance at this early stage favors issuance of a stay.” MacArthur said he doesn’t know “exactly what the city is trying to do with us and to us,” and clarified that the indoor service was not aimed at being “rebellious.” “We’re meeting because our Lord has commanded us to come together and worship Him.” MacArthur filed a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials over ongoing restrictions for churches amid the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition to suing Newsom, Grace Community Church has also named Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D). The lawsuit pointed to the double standard that has been applied to Black Lives Matter protesters, who have been allowed and even encouraged to flood the streets by the thousands while churches have been forced to keep their sanctuaries closed over concerns worship services could cause spikes in Coronavirus infections. A full hearing for the case is set for September 4. It’s becoming clear that the effects of lockdowns are devastating on so many levels. In the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data released Thursday, more than one-quarter of American adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they have thought about suicide in the last 30 days because of the coronavirus pandemic. For adults ages 25 to 44, that percentage is 16%. The data also shows more than 40% of those surveyed said they had some type of mental or behavioral condition connected to the ongoing coronavirus concerns. Johann Hari, in his book “Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs,” writes: “Human beings have an innate need to bond and connect. When we are happy and healthy we will bond with the people around us. But when we can’t because we’re traumatized, isolated or beaten down by life, we will bond with something that gives us some sense of relief. It might be checking our smartphones constantly. It might be pornography. It might be gambling, etc. but we will bond with something because that is our human nature. The path out of unhealthy bonding is to form healthy bonds – to be connected to people who you want to be present with. Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that’s happening all around us. We all feel it.” And the amazing thing he discovered was, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.” New research shows that weekly worship attendance can save lives, significantly lowering the risk of “deaths of despair,” attributed to suicide, drug overdoses, or alcohol poisoning. The church is Christ’s “body” (Colossians 1:24). And the nature of our relationships with other Christians is described in the New Testament as koinonia, a Greek word often translated as “fellowship.” It means that we as Christians have communion with one another and participate in life together. Not only that, but we also have communion with Christ and participate in his life and mission. We are members of his body. We were created for community. While physical health and safety are important, are we (and the government through their actions) forgetting that we were not meant to live life alone?
Pray fervently and consistently for our local churches. In scripture, Paul prays rich, kingdom-saturated prayers for the church that can serve as our guide (2 Thes 1:11; Col 1:9-10; Eph 1:16-17; Rom 15:14-33; Phil 1:9-11). And pray for an opportunity to bring hope to those in your sphere of influence, that no one would feel alone, and they would be able to experience true community.
There is no doubt that the virus has negatively impacted so many churches and the people they serve, especially those located in urban and low-income areas. An organization called Churches Helping Churches is stepping in to help by offering grants to churches in need. You can learn more here.
Trump announces 'Historic Peace Agreement' between Israel, UAE
President Trump on Thursday announced what he called a “Historic Peace Agreement” between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, saying they agreed to “full normalization of relations.” “HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. The president, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed released a joint statement Thursday, after the three spoke “and agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.” The statement said that the “diplomatic breakthrough” was at “the request of President Trump,” and that Israel will “suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.” Israel and the UAE also said they will continue their efforts to “achieve a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” read more
Israel and the United Arab Emirates are establishing full diplomatic ties in a U.S.-brokered agreement—the first Arab country to formalize a relationship with Israel in more than 25 years. It represents dramatic changes in the Arab world. Under the agreement announced by President Trump from the Oval Office, Israel has agreed to “delay” annexations in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed will commence bilateral agreements to exchange ambassadors and open their countries to tourism and trade. After Egypt's peace treaty with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan's in 1994, this makes the UAE only the third Arab country to normalize relations with Israel. It is the first of the six Arab Gulf states to do so. Oman, Bahrain, and possibly Morocco are widely expected to follow. Just days after the announcement, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave an unprecedented and historic first-ever interview on Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia. Netanyahu commented on some of the expected benefits of the normalization of ties with the UAE saying, “We are now working on enabling direct flights over Saudi Arabia between Tel Aviv and Dubai,” Netanyahu said, noting that he believed an agreement would be reached. “This will change Israeli aviation and the Israeli economy with a huge amount of tourism for both sides and investments,” he added. In the past, the UAE did not allow Israeli citizens or those suspected of being Israeli citizens entry into the UAE, including Israeli passport holders. The UAE is a unique place with a very significant expatriate community, which makes up 80% of the total population. Of the people living in the UAE, the vast majority are Muslim. Christians are free to worship privately, but evangelism is illegal and punishable under the law and Islamic education is compulsory for all students within state schools. Last fall, it was announced that a massive first-ever interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi, encompassing a mosque, a church and a synagogue would be built and completed by 2022.
As Christians, we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and pursue after peace with all men. This pursuit of peace takes on a variety of forms, but our pursuit of peace should never waver. (Ps. 122:6, Heb. 12:14). Pray for the very few Emirati believers, that they would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and be able to have opportunities to continue to share the Gospel.
In other news regarding President Trump, he announced Saturday evening that his younger brother, Robert Trump, had died. In a statement, he said, “It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight. He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.” Pray for the President and his family, as they grieve the loss of his brother.
Austin City Council Slashes Police Funding by $150M, Shifts Portion of Money to Fund Abortion
The City of Austin, Texas is doubling down on its stance as a sanctuary city for the abortion industry while simultaneously going woke with plans to defund the police. The city's 2021 budget, approved unanimously by the all-Democrat Austin City Council on Thursday, cuts $150 million from the Austin Police Department, or roughly a third of their funding. Millions of dollars will be redirected to other public services, and the city council feels that should include subsidizing abortion access. "Today I hope that the community feels hope," said Councilmember Greg Casar. The council's move makes Austin the first of Texas' four biggest cities to drastically cut police department funding. The share of the police department budget that was cut is among the largest percentage decreases in the nation this year, according to the Texas Tribune. Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a law prohibiting state and local governments from using taxpayer dollars to support abortion businesses and their affiliates. However, as CBN News reported, the City of Austin circumvented this law by including a line item of $150,000 in the city's budget for abortion logistical services. While the funding cannot pay for the abortion procedure directly, this money is earmarked for expenses related to abortion, including transportation to the appointment, lodging, childcare, and legal services. read more
On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a legislative proposal to discourage other cities from defunding their police departments as well. “Any city that defunds police departments will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current level,” he stated in a press conference. “Cities that endanger residents by reducing law enforcement should not then be able to turn around and go back and get more property tax dollars from those same residents whose lives the city just endangered.” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said he is ready to make this bill a priority in the Texas Senate during the next session. The impact of city council elections cannot be overstated. As we see in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-14, one of the main duties of government is to protect its innocent citizens. However, if an elected official believes that humans are basically good, and therefore society is mostly to blame for their crimes, they may believe that the best way to prevent crime is for the government to provide more social services. Sadly, the Austin City Council apparently believes the killing of unborn children is a vital social service. However, the pro-life group Texas Right to Life accurately stated, “Abortion does nothing to improve the safety or wellness of our communities. A procedure that always ends in the death of a preborn child and leaves women spiritually, mentally, and oftentimes physically scarred cannot be said to promote safety and care."
As you pray for your governing authorities, remember your local city council members.1 Timothy 2:1-3 instructs us to pray for all who are in high positions. Pray that they would have wisdom and be guided by a realistic, Biblical worldview.
There are over 50,000 local municipal and school board seats up for election across the nation. That’s a lot of impact Christians can have...if they show up to vote. Local elections statistically have low voter turnout, yet local elected officials make decisions that determine how we live in our communities every single day. Make sure you don’t miss a local election by getting election reminders for your address here. Or simply text the word VOTE to 73075 on your mobile phone to get started.
Texas Judge Reverses ‘Save James’ Decision, Gives Mom Who Wants ‘Gender Transition’ for Child All Rights
In the continuing legal saga of little James Younger, a Texas judge has now taken away the father’s rights when it comes to his son’s well-being. LifeSite News reports without a proper hearing, a Dallas judge on Monday took away Jeffrey Younger’s claim to his son’s medical, psychological, and psychiatric care, giving that power solely to James’ mother, Dr. Anne Georgulas. As CBN News has extensively reported, little James is in the middle of a legal battle between his parents that made national headlines in 2019 after it was revealed the boy’s mother intended to publicly gender-transition him into a girl against the father’s wishes. Even the eight-year-old boy has reportedly been conflicted about the transition, too. The #SaveJamesYounger hashtag went viral on Twitter last year as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), US Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Gov. Greg Abbott, and Attorney General Ken Paxton, commented on the young boy’s case. Monday’s ruling by Judge Mary Brown reverses Judge Kim Cooks’ October 2019 ruling that included both parents when making joint medical decisions for James and his brother Jude. Georgulas now has the sole authority to enroll James in school as a girl named “Luna” and have him undergo transgender medical procedures. Court documents show Younger wanted to take both boys out of public school and homeschool them instead, according to LifeSite News. Georgulas’ attorneys filed a motion to have Judge Cooks replaced in November of last year after Cooks shared a Facebook post in which she shared an article from The Dallas Morning News, writing: “The governor nor any legislature (sic) had any influence on the Court’s Decision.” Georgulas’ motion was granted and Cooks was removed from the case in December. read more
This is a disappointing turn for James’ case, which we have been following for the past year. However, a special evidentiary hearing has been scheduled in September, so we will continue to watch for developments. The consequences of medically transitioning James would be extremely grave. One of the likely side-effects of administering puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to young children is the permanent loss of fertility, something a child can’t possibly grasp the full ramifications of. Yet, in California, the State Senate is moving forward with a bill to fund experimental gender-transition procedures, including cross-sex hormones and body-altering surgeries for both minors and adults. The California Family Council is actively fighting against this bill, and many people are already calling their senators and urging them not to use their tax dollars to effectively fund the sterilization of children. However, the war of worldviews is not simply relegated to our tax dollars. Young Life, a worldwide parachurch organization that ministers to teens and young adults, including teen moms and teens with disabilities, is facing pressure from LGBT activists to open up leadership positions to people who are in same-sex relationships. A petition that has garnered over 6,900 signatures demands that Young Life, among other changes, must, “Normalize asking for and using correct pronouns” and “Fully affirm queer relationships and queer sexuality.” The movement’s organizers are former Young Life staffers who were not allowed to stay in leadership positions because they were engaging in same-sex relationships. As is common when personal sin conflicts with Biblical reality, many have also walked away from the faith. This, and the California bill, are valuable lessons for us all. People who practice such sins are not content; they also want to redefine Biblical truth.
Pray that James’ father, Jeffrey Younger, will be strengthened as he fights to protect his son from such harm. Pray for wisdom for his lawyers and for an eventual victory. Also, pray that AB 2218 in the California Senate will not pass, and that the lawmakers will listen to the people opposing it. Finally, pray that Young Life will not compromise the truth and will remain faithful to God and His Word.
If you or someone you know lives in California, the California Family Policy Council has the tools and information you can use to contact your state senator and urge them to vote NO on Assembly Bill 2218. We also encourage you to contact Young Life and thank them for upholding Biblical standards regarding sexuality in their leadership criteria, and encourage them to continue to do so.
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