The death toll from a tornado in Mississippi last Friday has risen to twenty-six people as of this morning. The pictures are horrifically tragic; among the victims were a one-year-old and her father. More severe weather struck the region last night, including a likely tornado in Georgia that injured multiple people and caused significant damage.
In better news from nature, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Uranus will align and display themselves tonight in a row on the western horizon. The best time for viewing will be twenty to twenty-five minutes after the sun has set.
Meanwhile, researchers report that shifting tectonic plates are splitting Africa into two continents. The shift has been ongoing since the East African Rift—a thirty-five-mile-long crack in Ethiopia’s desert—emerged in 2005. However, we’re told the continent will not completely split for another five to ten million years.
A "scaled secession" is happening in the United States
If you’re looking for another continent dividing in real time, you could focus on the United States. Professor Michael J. Lee writes in The Conversation that a “scaled secession” is already taking place within the United States. This is not the “national divorce” that has been recently in the news but “soft separatism” in which communities are distancing from one another in a variety of ways.
Wealthier areas are separating into parallel school districts. Eleven states calling themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” refuse to enforce federal gun restrictions. Eleven counties in Eastern Oregon support seceding and reclassifying themselves as “Greater Idaho”; Idaho’s state government supports the move. Over two dozen rural Illinois counties, seeking to be free of Chicago’s political influence, have passed pro-secession referendums.
Momentum toward secession is growing on the “left” as well: “Cal-exit” is a plan for California to leave the union. “Sanctuary” cities and states refuse to enforce what they consider to be unfair immigration laws and policies. Some prosecutors and judges refuse to prosecute women and medical providers for newly illegal abortions in their states.
California punishes Walgreens over abortion
Are we dividing over biblical morality as well?
In a recent New York Times column, David French chronicles a host of recent events that impinge on our basic constitutional freedoms. For example, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that his state would not renew a multimillion-dollar contract with Walgreens because the company responded to Republican legal warnings and chose not to dispense an abortion pill in twenty-one “red” states.
In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a California rule requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to publish information about free or low-cost abortions. An appeals court recently ruled that legislation in New York prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their “reproductive health decision making” may violate the rights of pro-life organizations that require employees not to have abortions and to refrain from extramarital sex.
Public schools sometimes withhold information from parents about a child’s gender transition. California has enacted a statute granting the state broad authority to permit children to receive “gender-affirming health care” in the state, even potentially over the objection of a custodial parent. And the list goes on, in “red” states and “blue” states alike.
Legislation in Israel would jail Christians for evangelism
The Easter season is a great time to discuss the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection and to invite friends to Easter services. So, here’s a thought experiment: What cost would you pay to make your faith public?
In Israel, a bill was introduced in January that would punish Christians who “solicit conversion of religion” with jail time. If they seek to lead an adult to Christ, they would serve a year in jail; if they share their faith with a minor, they would serve two years. Prime Minister Netanyahu announced last week, “We will not advance any law against the Christian community,” indicating that the bill has no chance of becoming law.
But what if it did? What if similar legislation were to pass in the US? What price would you pay to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) as his witness where you live and around the world (Acts 1:8)?
As the Mississippi tornado demonstrated, we are all one moment from eternity. We have only today to turn to the One who made the planets (Colossians 1:16) and in whom “all things hold together” (v. 17) in our broken world (Romans 8:22). And we have only today to help those we influence turn to him as well.
"Gratitude offered by the saved to the Savior"
The next time it could cost you to share your faith, remember how desperately people need your Lord. The night before he died, Jesus prayed: “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Evangelism does not “impose” your personal beliefs – it shares the only path anywhere in the universe that leads to eternal life.
The more people reject our Savior, the more they need our Savior.
And the next time it could cost you to serve your Lord, remember the price he paid to serve you. Max Lucado wrote: “Worship is a voluntary act of gratitude offered by the saved to the Savior, by the healed to the Healer, and by the delivered to the Deliverer. If you and I can go days without feeling an urge to say ‘thank you’ to the One who saved, healed, and delivered us, then we’d do well to remember what he did.”
If we can “go days without feeling an urge” to serve him by sharing his grace, we’d do well to do the same.
Publication date: March 27, 2023
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Priscilla Dupreez
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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