Supreme Court rules ObamaCare provision can’t force some employers to cover contraception | Fox News

Supreme Court rules ObamaCare provision can’t force some employers to cover contraception | Fox News.

hobby_lobby_300x225Since we have been following the case of Hobby Lobby (owned by the Green family who are Christians) against the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), I thought it good to report that yesterday the Supreme Court of our land ruled in favor of the company by a 5-4 vote. This vote also affects other Christian-owned companies who were fighting this mandate, including AutoCam here in Grand Rapids.

In this news report, Fox News reports on the meaning and significance of this decision. For the full story, follow the link above.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain “closely held” for-profit businesses can cite religious objections in order to opt out of a requirement in ObamaCare to provide free contraceptive coverage for their employees.

The 5-4 decision, in favor of arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby and one other company, marks the first time the court has ruled that for-profit businesses can cite religious views under federal law. It also is a blow to a provision of the Affordable Care Act which President Obama’s supporters touted heavily during the 2012 presidential campaign.

“Today is a great day for religious liberty,” Adele Keim, counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented Hobby Lobby, told Fox News.

Thousands Flee as Terrorists Take Over Iraq’s Christian Heartland – Gleanings

Thousands Flee as Terrorists Take Over Iraq’s Christian Heartland | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

Persecuted church - Heb13In the midst of all the turmoil surrounding the renewed, radical Muslim advances in Iraq and the peace we enjoy in our own country we sometimes forget that there is a long-standing Christian presence in Iraq and that these Christians are suffering greatly for their faith.

Christianity Today’s “Gleanings” section (“Important Developments in the Church and the World”) recently carried this story (June 16, 2014) and it ought to have our attention.

May we remember to pray for these persecuted believers (see the image here), as well as for the entire persecuted body of Christ throughout the world.

Thousands of Christians have fled Iraq’s second-largest city as an Islamist terror group solidifies its control over Christianity’s main remaining stronghold in the struggling nation.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an Iraq and Syria-based Sunni offshoot of al-Qaeda, took over Mosul (pop. 1.8 million) earlier this month, the BBC reports.

Most of Mosul’s remaining Christian population of 3,000 fled for safer areas, according to World Watch Monitor.

…”Things are so bad now in Iraq, the worst they have ever been,” writes Canon Andrew White, vicar of St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad. “The Islamic terrorists have taken control of the whole of Mosul which is Nineveh the main Christian stronghold. The army [has] even fled. We urgently need help and support. … We are in a desperate crisis.”

You’ll Be Shocked At How Much Time Young People Spend Reading Each Day

You’ll Be Shocked At How Much Time Young People Spend Reading Each Day – Mic.

SofareadingHere is another alarming report on the reading habits of young people in general (posted June 20, 2014). I try not to be an alarmist, but you also know that I share the concern that our young people are not reading as much as they ought. And the same applies to all of us, though, as you will see from the report, time spent reading does increase with age.

I would like to think that Christian young people do better, and that PRC young people do even better. But I also do not want to have my proverbial head in the sand.

What can we do to encourage greater and better reading among our teens and young adults? We have looked at and proposed lots of ideas here. What do you find profitable and effective?

Here is the dismal news in brief; for the rest, visit the link above – complete with graphs and charts.

Love Game of Thrones but worry about spoilers from those who have read the books? Your fears may be overblown — chances are your friends don’t read enough to ruin any plot twists for you.

A new study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American reads only 19 minutes a day (a rate at which the George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series would take more than a year for most readers).

Young people spend even less time with the written word, according to the study. Americans ages 25 to 34 spend about eight minutes a day on weekends and holidays reading, while ages 20 to 24 spend about 10. Teenagers, meanwhile, spend just four minutes a day reading on their days off. (The overall average is bumped up by older folks — Americans over 75 spend more than an hour a day reading over weekends and holidays, the study found.)

Screens instead: When it comes to leisure times, the big winner is television. The average American watches for almost three hours a day, according to the study. That’s more than three times longer than the next highest activity, socializing (which makes us all sound a little pathetic).

Cubs go all out to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary

Cubs go all out to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary | cubs.com: News.

Wrigley Field -100th-1This past Wednesday, April 23, was the date of the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, the home of baseball’s Chicago Cubs. And they threw quite a party!

MLB.com captured the anniversary moments in video and story, to which I link you here. If you care at all about motherhood and apple pie, then you care about baseball, that great American pasttime. And even if the Cubs are not your team, they are one of the originals and Wrigley Field is one of few remaining ballparks from the original era of baseball.

At Wrigley the game is still played the way it was meant to be played, with fans close to the field, ivy on the walls, afternoon games, and a hand-turned scoreboard.

I made it home from work Wednesday in time to see the final outs of a classic game – the two teams in throwback uniforms – the Chicago Federals (Cubs) and the Kansas City Packers (Arizona Diamondbacks) – and the Cubs with yet another meltdown! Leading 5-2 going into the ninth inning, they gave up five runs and lost 7-5. Just another day at Wrigley. But, O, what a day it was!

Here is the the story as told by MLB.com’s Joe Popely. Be sure and read it all and watch the video. This is U.S. history too; you don’t want to miss it! :)

 

 CHICAGO — Talk to former players, regardless of sport, about Wrigley Field and they’ll tell you the same thing: Let’s do another 100 years.

Perhaps Hall of Famer and Cubs legend Billy Williams summed it up the best by noting the field’s significance beyond baseball. It’s as much about life and culture in Chicago as it is about the Cubs.

“They built this ballpark to host baseball. … But it has been the background for so many adventurous times,” Williams said. “The history. Everything that happened here — you had some great ballplayers that passed through here, and the history they made here at Wrigley Field is still housed here and this old ballpark.”

From prime boxing matchups to NFL championship teams, Paul McCartney and the Wings to Cubs pennant chases, conventions to a six-touchdown game, Wrigley Field has seen it all. The Cubs pulled out all the stops Wednesday for one of baseball’s most beloved and cherished ballparks. It truly is the Party of the Century at the iconic stadium, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first Major League game between the Chicago Federals — who called Wrigley home for two years before the Cubs moved in — and the Kansas City Packers.

National Library Week! What You Need to Know and Do

National Library Week Fact Sheet | News & Press Center.

NLW14_poster_120x180Yes, it IS once again National Library Week this week (April 13-19), and you should join me in celebrating our libraries – national and local, public and private (such as our Seminary library)! The following is taken from the American Library Association website, and includes some basic facts about this annual event.

National Library Week will be observed April 13-19, 2014 with the theme, “Lives change @ your library®.”

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries – school, public, academic and special – participate.

Celebrations during National Library Week include: National Library Workers Day, celebrated the Tuesday of National Library Week (April 15, 2014), a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers; National Bookmobile Day, celebrated the Wednesday of National Library Week (April 16, 2014), a day to recognize the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities; and Celebrate Teen Literature Day, celebrated the Thursday of National Library Week (April 17, 2014), aimed at raising awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens.

I find the background to this annual celebration to be quite interesting – and still quite relevant:

History
In the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments. Concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954. The committee’s goals were ambitious.   They ranged from “encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time” to “improving incomes and health” and “developing strong and happy family life.”

In 1957, the committee developed a plan for National Library Week based on the idea that once people were motivated to read, they would support and use libraries. With the cooperation of ALA and with help from the Advertising Council, the first National Library Week was observed in 1958 with the theme “Wake Up and Read!”

acl-logo-transThe Association of Christian Librarians, of which I am a part, is also marking the week, asking for special prayers on behalf of its staff and on behalf of all the member libraries which serve such a significant role for the institutions to which they belong.

So join us this week in noting the important place libraries have in our lives, for the access they give us to books and magazines and many other resources, to the internet and digital libraries and archives, to the world of knowledge – not as an end itself, but so that we might know God and His works, and might love and serve Him in all we do in life.

And by all means continue to support your library – especially by your presence there and by the reading of good books! And don’t forget to take your children and grandchildren! :)

Unions Getting Creative in Election-Year Struggle

Unions Getting Creative in Election-Year Struggle.

Unions-1In our culture watch and Reformed worldview items we like to keep our eye on the worldly labor unions. They may not have the power and influence they once did (former President Ronald Reagan had much to do with busting their unquestioned power), but they still wield much of these. In fact, under our current President they are once again flexing their muscles.

With that in mind, this “Foundry” (Heritage Foundation) report from last week (April 2, 2014) caught my attention. Though brief, it is an interesting glance at both union advances and setbacks.

Here is the opening of the report; read the rest at the link above.

If it seems like unions are making a fuss lately, it’s because they are.

It’s an election year, and they need money.

Just one in 15 private-sector workers is a union member—in 2013, union membership was at its lowest rate since 1916.

That might explain why they’re grasping for new members in stunts like unionizing college athletes, especially as their influence in the workplace is being challenged in the courts.

As Kevin Mooney reported for The Foundry:

Lawyers with National Right to Work Foundation…argued before the high court that it is unconstitutional to compel Illinois residents to fund SEIU’s political activism. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, payment of union dues by personal caregivers no longer would be mandatory but become voluntary.

“They’re trying to lock people into paying dues while they still can,” said Linda Dobbs, a dues-paying California union member who questioned a visit she received from some aggressive union representatives.

“Sing Psalms Unto Him” – Special Issue on Psalm-Singing – April 1, 2014 Standard Bearer

The latest issue of The Standard Bearer is out, and it is another excellent special one! The April 1, 2014 issue is devoted to the Reformed practice and tradition of Psalmody or Psalm-singing. Prof.B.Gritters, one of the editors, includes this descriptive note before his own fine article “In Praise of Psalm-Singing”:

You have in your hands a special issue on the church’s long-treasured practice of singing psalms in public worship. Although our Psalter’s anniversary was not in view when we planned the issue, 2014 does mark 100 years since our fathers adopted the 1912 Psalter for use in the churches. God’s faithfulness explains our continuing in psalm-singing.

The logic of the articles should not be missed. First, Rev.James Slopsema, one of our long-time writers of meditations, helps us reflect on God’s Word in the psalms. The editorial encourages us in the use of this songbook called ‘the Psalms’ and the great blessing of them. Three articles look at the rich history of psalm-singing. Rev.Brian Huizinga’s moving article traces the history of psalm-singing from the earliest times of the New Testament church. Rev.Kenneth Koole writes a fascinating history of the use of the 1912 Psalter in the PRC. Rev.Martyn McGeown, whose churches use the Scottish Metrical Version of the Psalter, writes about the present use of the psalms in various Reformed and Presbyterian churches. That all the psalms should (and can be!) sung by New Testament Christians is the purpose of Rev.Ronald Hanko’s article on the imprecatory psalms. Then there is careful reflection, by Prof.Russell Dykstra, on how the PRC’s Psalter might be improved.

SB-Psalm Issue-April 1-2014_Page_1

Fittingly, the cover of this special issue contains this wonderful quote from the Reformer John Calvin:

There are in brief three things that our Lord has commanded us to observe in our spiritual assemblies, namely, the Preaching of his Word, the public and solemn prayers, and the administration of his sacraments. As to the public prayers, these are of two kinds: some are offered by means of words alone, the others with song…. We know by experience that song has great force and vigor to move and inflame the hearts of men to invoke and praise God with a more vehement and ardent zeal. It must always be looked to that the song be not light and frivolous, but have weight and majesty as Saint Augustine says, and that there is likewise a great difference between the music one makes to entertain men at the table and in their homes, and the psalms which are sung in the Church in the presence of God and his angels…. Wherefore, although we look far and wide and search on every hand, we shall not find better songs nor songs better suited to that end than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and uttered through him. And for this reason, when we sing them we may be certain that God puts the words in our mouths as if he himself sang in us to exalt his glory.

You are urged to obtain and read this significant and edifying issue of the “SB”. To receive your copy if you are not a subscriber, visit the “SB” website at the link given above. If you are a subscriber, and the issue has reached your home, I pray you devour it completely!

Christian Book Notes » The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible

Christian Book Notes » The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible.

Terry Delaney at his book review blog “Christian Book Notes” calls our attention to and offers a brief review of the forthcoming KJV (Reformed) Study Bible. The study portion of this Bible is the work of many Reformed and Calvinist men (Delaney lists them all in his post) and will be published by Reformation Heritage Books here in Grand Rapids.

KJVStudyBible-RHB-2014There is a real need for such a study Bible in the Reformed community and I look forward to seeing and reviewing this study Bible. The only other Reformed study Bible of which I am currently aware is the Reformation Study Bible (ESV) published by Ligonier.

Below is a portion of Delaney’s review. For much more, visit the blog at the link above.

The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible seeks to incorporate the rich history and tradition found in the Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries.  This study Bible will not only emphasize the deep theological truths rediscovered and promoted during the Reformation, but will also exhort the reader to the personal standard of holiness the Bible calls for and was lived out by the Reformers and later the Puritans.

They have used the King James Version for this study Bible to keep with what was basically used by the Reformers and Puritans.  Furthermore, they have added a dictionary to explain the antiquated words to a new generation.

Book Alert! RFPA Releases “1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church” by M.Kamps

1834-HdeCock-MKampsLast week the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) released its latest publication, and it is a unique and significant volume. 1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church by Marvin Kamps is the story of a godly Dutch Reformed churchman who seceded from the apostate state church in the Netherlands in the early 19th century to form the church anew according to the Word of God and the Reformed confessions.

It is a story that needs to be told, not only because it is not well-known (much of it being hidden behind the Dutch language and limited English resources), but also because it set the stage for subsequent reformation in the church in the Netherlands and beyond (America, e.g.). Much of the present Reformed church world with its roots in the Netherlands can trace its heritage back to Hendrik De Cock and the secession he led out of the Dutch state church. And of course, because many Reformed churches have long-departed from this heritage, the story of De Cock and his restoration of a truly Reformed church needs to be uttered as a call to return to the “old paths” of the gospel of sovereign grace and true worship.

Here is part of the author’s conviction as expressed in the “Preface”:

The Reformed churches today that are faithful to their name are the continuation of the reformation of 1517 and 1834. These reformations of the church were a return to the Bible. Often it is said that the significance of 1834 is that it constituted a return to the Canons of Dordt. Although this is true, it is an incomplete statement. My thesis is that in 1834 De Cock and his congregation returned to the Bible and therefore to the Reformed creeds. Many will disagree with this understanding of 1834. Let the reader judge.

And then he issues this challenge to us:

Do we share in the Secession fathers’ confession, witness, struggle, and walk before God? Do we today treasure De Cock’s spiritual legacy as our spiritual father? Are the Reformed creeds still our heartfelt confession? Or have we consciously rejected that confession of the fathers and returned to the apostate teachings and way of life championed by the false church?

This is a beautifully-produced book (490 pages), complete with pictures from the age as well as seven appendices containing significant translations of original documents relating to the 1834 reformation in the Netherlands.We take the opportunity to thank Mr.Kamps for his diligent work resulting in such an important book.

We hope this book is widely received and welcomed, not only by those of Dutch Reformed heritage but by all who have come to know and love the Reformed faith and by all who love and want to learn from the history of Christ’s church in the world.

Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – Baptist Press

Baptist Press -Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – News with a Christian Perspective.

Today, as the Supreme Court returns to its work, our justices will begin treating the cases of two companies owned by Christian families who are opposed to the unbiblical and unethical demands of the Affordable Healthcare Act (unaffectionately known as “Obamacare”). Baptist Press carried this report about the significance of these cases, and indeed, as Christians we ought to be informed and concerned about the outcome of these cases (Read the full report at the link above.).

Which means that we ought also be in prayer today for our SC and those defending these Christian businesses. The AFA (American Family Association) offered a sample prayer in its mailing yesterday, which I thought was appropriate to use as a guide (see below).

hobby_lobby_300x225WASHINGTON (BP) — The fate of religious freedom for Americans, especially business owners, could hang in the balance when the U.S. Supreme Court convenes March 25.

The justices will hear oral arguments that day in challenges by two family owned corporations to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their workers. Hobby Lobby, a nationwide retail chain based in Oklahoma City, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business, contend the federal regulation violates their owners’ consciences and a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.

Religious freedom advocates predict the Supreme Court’s decision will be far-reaching.

The high court’s opinion “will determine the next 100 years of church/state jurisprudence,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Joshua Hawley, a lawyer assisting Hobby Lobby, described it as “a landmark case.”

“It has major significance for religious liberty” and “for what constitutional rights business owners can claim,” said Hawley, a member of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s legal team and an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, explained to Baptist Press the consequences for not only the Green family, the evangelicals who own Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, the pro-life Mennonite family that owns Conestoga Wood, but other people who seek to exercise their religious beliefs.

“If the Hahn and Green families lose, the door would be open to allow the government to force people of faith to pay massive fines threatening jobs and health coverage just simply because they are choosing not to violate their faith and conscience,” Bowman told BP in an email interview.

“If the Hahn and Green families win, it will protect religious liberty as promised in the Constitution and American law, and people of faith will not be subject to massive fines just because they don’t want to help destroy human life.”

P.S. You may also be interested in this infographic on the Hobby Lobby case.

The AFA offered this prayer as a guide for Christians today (You will want to adapt some of the wording to match your own convictions, but I hope you can appreciate its emphasis on the sovereignty of God.):

Lord God, Our Father, you are the Righteous Judge over all the earth. We pray that you will have mercy on the United States as the Supreme Court hears a case that will shape the balance between government power and freedom of religion.

Give words to the attorneys for Hobby Lobby as they argue that our free exercise of religion includes how Christians live and work, not just what we do when we gather for worship, so that whatever we do in word or deed, we may do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

God, enlighten the Justices of the Supreme Court to acknowledge that you alone are Lord of our consciences. Give the Court humility to recognize that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that you have instituted human government so that your people may serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before you, all the days of our life.

And Lord, give us grace and boldness to use the religious liberty that we still have to make your truth and mercy known. Amen.

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