WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - DECEMBER 2, 2020
In this week's Intersect, read about:
New Arkansas Bill to Criminalize Nearly all Forms of Abortions
A new bill in Arkansas seeks to make nearly all forms of abortion a crime, with up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Sen. Jason Rapert and Rep. Mary Bentley are sponsoring Senate Bill 6, which will be taken up by lawmakers in the general legislative session beginning January 11. The bill seeks to only allow abortions when the mother's life is threatened or to remove an ectopic pregnancy. "This law does what most people in Arkansas have been saying should be done," said Family Council President Jerry Cox. "The polling that's been done in the last several years indicates the majority of people in Arkansas, if you ask them, they tell you, ‘We believe abortion should be illegal.'" Family Council is a faith-based advocacy organization in Little Rock, Arkansas. Arkansas already has limitations on abortions, including the types of procedures that can be performed, limiting the reasons women can obtain an abortion, and the gestational age after which the procedure cannot be completed. Arkansas currently has a so-called "trigger law" in place, which would automatically make abortion illegal if the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is overturned; however, Senate Bill 6 would expedite that process. read more at Disrn News
If passed, the Arkansas bill could give the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to overturn its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, according to Family Council President Jerry Cox. “It is time for the United States Supreme Court to redress and correct the grave injustice and the crime against humanity which is being perpetrated by their decisions in Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Boton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey,” the bill states. Arkansas already has some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country, according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights and tracks regulations that block access to the procedure. The state has three abortion providers, one of which offers the procedure past 10 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. In 2017, 3,200 abortions were provided in Arkansas. There was a 30% decline in the abortion rate in Arkansas between 2014 and 2017, from 8.0 to 5.5 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation. In contrast, according to the CDC, New York City and Washington D.C.’s abortion rates were the highest, where roughly one in three unborn babies are aborted in these two cities. These numbers are hard to fathom. We must remember that a number represents a precious life. May we take to heart the words of Psalm 139 which says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Pray for the legislation being considered in Arkansas, that lawmakers would see it as an opportunity to save life. Pray that the Massachusetts legislation expanding abortion, which is sitting on the Governor’s desk to be signed, would be stopped. Pray that God opens eyes to the moral truth about abortion. Pray for those who are blinded to see clearly. Millions of Americans have accepted abortion without thinking about it. Pray for opportunities to persuasively challenge that mindset with thought provoking questions and biblical truth. Pray that the world will see abortion for what it is. We have been handed an opportunity to shine the light on darkness, pray for the courage to boldly stand for life.
The Massachusetts pro-life community is urging Gov. Charlie Barker to veto the newly passed legislation that expands access to late-term abortion and removes protections for babies who survive an abortion. At issue is the House and Senate passed state budget, which includes a controversial pro-choice amendment that expands access to abortion after 24 weeks and removes parental consent for minors ages 16 and 17 who want an abortion. The amendments also eliminate specific protections for late-term babies who survive an abortion. Massachusetts law allows governors to “line-item veto” specific parts of a bill. You can call the Governor’s office at 617-725-4005 and tell him to veto these amendments to the budget. Even if you can’t get through to a live person, you can leave a message. Tell him to oppose ROE Act Amendments #759 and #180 that will expand abortion in MA.
Supreme Court: Pandemic No Excuse to Discriminate Against Religious Groups
A gigantic victory for religious liberty late Wednesday night at the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices told New York Governor Andrew Cuomo he can’t discriminate against religious groups when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions. Newest justice Amy Coney Barrett gave the majority in this ruling its fifth vote. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissent. The ruling said, “Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.” The religious liberty defense group Becket represented Orthodox Jews asking for relief from Cuomo’s restrictions. Becket Senior Counsel Luke Goodrich reacted, stating, “Biggest takeaway: The Court resoundingly rejects blind deference to Covid-related restrictions on worship. Instead, all governments must recognize the Constitution still controls during a pandemic.” The Court labeled the restrictions Cuomo has slapped on attendance at religious services “very severe,” pointing out “In red zones, no more than 10 persons may attend each religious service, and in orange zones, attendance is capped at 25.” The justices said the Covid-19 restrictions certainly aren’t neutral towards religion, “Because they single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment. ”While religious gatherings in a red zone are limited to 10 or fewer worshippers, the Court pointed out, “Businesses categorized as ‘essential’ may admit as many people as they wish. read more at CBN News
While many have differing opinions on group gatherings, the question that every judge and elected official must first ask is, “What are the Constitutional freedoms that I must not violate?” The First Amendment clearly states that government cannot “prohibit the free exercise” of religion. The next question is, “Are there any exceptions to this?” The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bipartisan bill passed in 1993, states that the government can only place a burden on someone’s religious exercise if it can prove: (1) it is necessary to advance a “compelling governmental interest”, and (2) the government must use the least restrictive means possible. The Supreme Court stated that Governor Cuomo’s harsh restrictions violated both those requirements: “Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services….the State has not claimed that attendance at the applicants’ services has resulted in the spread of the disease. And the State has not shown that public health would be imperiled if less restrictive measures were imposed.” Additionally, the Court recognized the damage resulting from such restrictions: “The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury….If only 10 people are admitted to each service, the great majority of those who wish to attend Mass on Sunday or services in a synagogue on Shabbat will be barred. And while those who are shut out may in some instances be able to watch services on television, such remote viewing is not the same as personal attendance. Catholics who watch a Mass at home cannot receive communion, and there are important religious traditions in the Orthodox Jewish faith that require personal attendance.” While some may view the churches as selfish, those who truly investigate this matter will find the very opposite. 1 Peter 2:15 instructs Christians to keep our conduct among unbelievers honorable, for God’s will is that “by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” The churches who filed the lawsuit were found to have already implemented numerous safety protocols and have “admirable safety records.” Similarly, religious schools in Kentucky are fighting for their freedom to be able to administer in-person learning to their students. Many have taken on significant financial expenses to keep their children safe, and yet the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled against the schools. It is possible that this case will come before the U.S. Supreme Court soon
Praise the Lord for the encouraging ruling last week. Continue to pray for other cases in courts around the country. For churches, please pray that we will walk in faith and obedience toward God, continuing to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13-16)
While we are facing growing challenges to religious freedom in the US, many of our troubles pale in comparison to millions of Christians around the world who face daily persecution and have limited access to the Gospel. One of our ministry partners, Every Home for Christ, is working to reach every home on earth with the Gospel. Learn more about their incredible work and partner with them for Christmas in bringing Bibles to more people around the world.
Iran plans ‘calculated’ response after nuclear scientist killed as newspaper calls for revenge on Israeli city
Iran is plotting a “calculated and decisive” response to the assassination of its top nuclear scientist, according to an adviser to the country’s supreme leader, as calls for a retaliatory attack escalate. An opinion piece published in a hard-line newspaper suggested that Iran attack the port city of Haifa, causing “heavy human casualties,” if Israel carried out the killing. “Undoubtedly, Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh from the Iranian nation,” Kamal Kharrazi, the adviser who also leads Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said in a statement, according to Reuters. Fakhrizadeh, who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the early 2000s, was killed in a military-style ambush Friday in the outskirts of Tehran when a truck bomb exploded and gunmen opened fire. Israel has not commented on the attack, but Iran’s clerical and military rulers claim the Jewish state is responsible, pointing to a string of killings of other Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade. The opinion piece written by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei and published Sunday in the Kayhan daily argued Iran's previous responses to suspected Israeli airstrikes that killed Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria did not go far enough to deter Israel. Zarei said Iran should retaliate with an attack on Haifa that destroys a large number of facilities and "also causes heavy human casualties.” Striking Haifa, which sits on the Mediterranean Sea, and killing a large number of people “will definitely lead to deterrence, because the United States and the Israeli regime and its agents are by no means ready to take part in a war and a military confrontation,” Zarei wrote. read more at Fox News
Former Obama administration CIA Director John Brennan stated his opinion that the assassination was “criminal,” while a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department affirmed support for Israel in a statement: “We condemn any threats against Israel and reiterate our support for Israel’s right to self-defense.” After Fakhrizadeh’s death, the Iranian parliament chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”. It is also considering a bill to stop inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. While we do not know who carried out the attack, Iran blames Israel. While Iran has denied using its nuclear program to build weapons, Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israel's military, told reporters that Iran has two sides to their nuclear program -- the public side, which is watched by the UN, and a secret military program headed by Fakhrizadeh. “The damage to the covert, weaponization program is huge," he explained. “No doubt that he was the core source of authority, knowledge and organization of this program.” While the nations of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates both condemned the assassination, their relations with Israel continue to improve after the signing of the Abraham Accords. A delegation from Bahrain will meet in Israel this week to discuss cooperation to achieve mutual economic improvements. Additionally, Saudi Arabia granted permission for Israeli airlines to now fly over its territory, dramatically shortening flights to the east and finally allowing the airlines to offer direct flights to Dubai. When it comes to the death of an evil person, Ezekiel 33:11 reveals God’s merciful heart: “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” May we search our own hearts first. Here is a simple prayer if you have not yet placed your trust in Jesus to save you: Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross to save me from sin and death and to restore me to the Father. I choose now to turn from my sins and from my unbelief. I receive your forgiveness and ask you to take your rightful place in my life as my Savior and Lord. Come reign in my heart, fill me with your love and your life, and help me to become a person who is truly loving—a person like you. Restore me, Jesus. Live in me. Love through me. Thank you, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
The political tensions in the Middle East are symptoms of a long-standing spiritual war. Long ago, the Persian royal advisor Haman attempted to exterminate the Jewish people living in Persia (Book of Esther). Today, that same country, Iran, is openly calling for the extermination of Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as Psalm 122:6 says. Also, pray for the millions of Christians in Iran who are persecuted under their oppressive government.
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry is a worldwide organization whose mission is, “proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.” We encourage you to visit their website and consider how you can take opportunities to bless the Jewish people in the name of Jesus.
'It's God Who Touches People's Hearts': Franklin Graham Says 1.7 Million People Accepted Christ Through This Year's BGEA Efforts
Around the world, people are continuing to cope with economic challenges, a crushing pandemic, and political turmoil, but millions of weary souls are finding hope in our Heavenly Father. Evangelist Franklin Graham, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan's Purse told The Christian Post that 1.7 million people gave their lives to Christ in 2020 through their online ministries - over twice as many as last year. Graham explained that people are stunned by the recent turn of events and they're drawing towards Jesus Christ for discernment. "I think there's nothing normal about 2020," Graham said. "We've never gone through a pandemic in my lifetime. The world has never been locked down before. It's God who touches people's hearts and opens up people's eyes. The pandemic hasn't stopped it. If anything, it's advanced it." And this year marks the first time that BGEA has bought national television time with a targeted message and also managed a Gospel hotline that's available around the clock. Graham connected with viewers, and prayed with them during the one-minute commercial. The evangelist pointed out that many people have become more merciful as we maneuver through each obstacle together. "The people's hearts have been softened a little bit," Graham pointed out. "People who have not listened before are listening now. For evangelism, it may be one of the better years we've had." read more at CBN News
This encouraging report brings to mind 1 Peter 1:3-7, which applies to all believers in Christ Jesus: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Notice the adjectives Peter used to describe the permanent status of our future, in contrast to the instability of our present situation. Despite tragedy and confusion, God’s redemptive work has not and will not stop, and the gates of hell will never prevail against the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know someone who has recently placed their trust in Jesus for salvation? My Faith Votes has started a 24 Days of Luke Challenge: Beginning yesterday, December 1, read one chapter a day of the book of Luke. By Christmas morning, you will have read the entire account of the life of Jesus and will wake up with a true understanding of why we celebrate Christmas. You may want to encourage your new Christian friend to take the challenge as a first step towards getting to know their Savior more deeply.
Pray that those who are lost, hurting, and grieving will open their hearts to the God who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows when he took on human flesh. Pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ who are grieving a loss this year will be comforted. And pray that new believers in Jesus will be discipled in Christian community and walk in maturity.
Discipleship is vital to the growth and development of Christ’s Church. In the Great Commission Jesus calls his followers to make disciples. Did you know BGEA offers online discipleship training? If this is something God has placed on your heart, consider taking one of their courses at billygraham.org.
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.