Tag archives: Religion

Why Christians Should Make Goals for 2021

by Molly Carman

January 15, 2021

The start of a new year can be both exciting and intimidating. It is an opportunity to reflect on the successes and shortcomings of the previous year and the personal growth that took place. For example, this last year I had the goal to read roughly 25 books, or at least 5,000 pages. It was so encouraging to add up the page count in December and celebrate that although I only read 23 books, I did surpass the minimum page count reading nearly 5,500 pages. This goal revived a love of reading and learning on a variety of topics, in addition to encouraging a habit of diligence.

A new year is a time to set new goals, or resolutions, for the next 12 months. But goal setting can be extremely intimidating. So much can happen in a day, much less an entire year. In addition, whenever a goal is made, there is opportunity for failure which dissuades many from making goals in the first place. However, by setting resolutions for the year, a vision is cast for where we want to go, what we hope to accomplish, and how we desire to grow. Without vision it is unclear where one is going, and if one does not know where they are going, they neither accomplish nor fail at anything.

Setting goals gives us the opportunity to step back and consider different facets of our lives and how to pursue growth in each area. Rather than look at life as a whole when goal setting, it can be helpful to think in terms of categories such as spiritual, ministry, physical, educational, relational/family, financial, travel, work, and fun. Order allows for thoughtfulness and well-rounded goal setting.

Further, after determining the categories one wants to grow in, it is important to craft goals in a way that sets one up for success. To this end, it is helpful to pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals. This acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. By thinking and planning along the lines of this framework, it is possible to formulate goals with a higher probability of success.

For example, it is common for Christians to have a goal like, “read the Bible more this year.” However, consider how this broad goal fails the S.M.A.R.T. test and is therefore difficult to track. For example, this goal is not specific about how it will be achieved. It lacks measurable guidelines. Moreover, while the goal is generally achievable, it lacks clarity or direction. Further, while the goal of reading the Bible more is realistic, it is so undefined that it is impossible to know what constitutes success. Finally, the general goal of simply reading the Bible more lacks a time mechanism by which it can be tracked and there is no inherent accountability for gauging progress.

All these deficiencies can be relieved by simply thinking in terms of the S.M.A.R.T. framework. For example, consider this revised goal: “Read 2-3 chapters of the Bible every morning before breakfast for at least 30 minutes with the goal of reading through the Bible in two years.” FRC has made it easier for you to start your day immersed in the Word. Check out our two-year Bible reading plan which you can sign up for to receive a free daily email with the readings and reflections.

If you are struggling to make goals for resolutions this year, or maybe you have never made goals or resolutions before, do not be discouraged or overwhelmed. This process takes time, prayer, courage, and diligence.

FRC has several ways for you to start this year by resolving to be more up to date with cultural issues and current events in our country, in addition to setting a goal to walk with us in prayer and the reading of Scripture. These opportunities include subscribing to the Washington Update, listening to the Washington Watch radio program, or downloading the FRC Stand Firm app on your phone. You can subscribe to these resources and more here.

Even if you only make one or two goals this year, pray and ask God to give you wisdom as you start 2021 and consider the words of Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Each of us has been given the gift of life. May we all be good stewards of our time and the journey ahead. 

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of January 3)

by Family Research Council

January 8, 2021

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: In Disappointment, Buoyed by Hope

Disappointment has been a familiar friend to a lot of Americans these last several weeks. More than anything, we just want something to go our way. As Christians, we have the gift of an eternal perspective that teaches us there’s a tomorrow. And no election, no power of man can take that from us.

2. Blog: Year in Review: 10 Stories From 2020

In a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic which brought unprecedented changes into our lives, it is easy to forget what else took place. But there were other significant stories from this past year that deserve our reflection. From the perspective of two Christians working in public policy in our nation’s capital, here are 10 encouraging stories from 2020.

3. Blog: In This New Year, Let’s Be Attentive To Those Persecuted for Their Faith

Religious freedom—the freedom to choose and live in accordance with one’s faith—is foundational to human dignity. God has called Christians to care for the persecuted and oppressed, and that obligation stretches beyond our national borders. At a time when religious oppression is on the rise around the world, it is more important than ever to consider our responsibility to the persecuted.

4. Washington Watch: Rep. Mark Green Describes the Capitol Chaos from Inside the Congressional Lockdown

Congressman Mark Green, U.S. Representative for the 7th district of Tennessee, joined Tony Perkins to discuss members of Congress being evacuated as protestors stormed the Capitol building during the electoral count proceedings.

5. Washington WatchPhill Kline Explains How the Virus & Big Tech Helped Liberals Manipulate the Presidential Election

Phill Kline, Director of the Amistad Law Project of the non-partisan Thomas More Society, joined Tony Perkins to explain how the coronavirus and Big Tech helped liberals manipulate the presidential election.

6. Washington Watch: Jack Hibbs Shows Christians How to Process the Frustration of the Election and Find Hope

Jack Hibbs, Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, joined Tony Perkins with biblical insight. Also discussed is CNN’s Chris Cuomo mocking Florida Senator Marco Rubio as “Bible boy.”

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Pray for the Nation

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Louie Gohmert, Jody Hice, Jack Hibbs, Steve Riggle, and Michele Bachmann to join him in a special time of prayer for the nation.

What the Church Needs From Singles

by Molly Carman

January 6, 2021

We have all experienced a season—no matter how short or long—of loneliness. When you are single, it can be easy to dream about a season of life when you might not be single. It can also be easy to fall prey to the lie that you are owed a relationship or even guaranteed an amazing marriage.

But we are not guaranteed such things. Our culture commonly associates singleness with loneliness, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Tragically, some people are lonelier in marriage than they ever were when they were single. In any case, we are guaranteed that God is good all the time and that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Ps. 145:9, Heb. 13:5-6).

Another common misconception, especially in Christian circles, is that marriage is godlier than singleness. But Scripture shows us that this is simply not the case. Marriage and singleness both provide unique opportunities for sanctification, and both come with their own associated trials, temptations, sacrifices, and freedoms. As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35:

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Because Paul was single, he was able to devote himself fully to the ministry of spreading the gospel and discipling others. However, Christian ministry is not strictly the job of single people. We can intentionally serve Christ and the church no matter our situation in life. For example, Priscilla and Aquila were married and likely had the marital concerns Paul described in 1 Corinthians 7, but nevertheless served the church fervently alongside Paul to disciple young believers and build up the early church (Acts 18:2,18, 26; Rom. 16:3; 1Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19).

Being single is not easy, especially when it feels like all of your friends are getting engaged, married, or announcing that they are having a baby; meanwhile, you feel like the most exciting thing that has happened in your life lately is that you got a free coffee last week. But I have learned that my present singleness provides opportunities that most of my married friends will never have, or at least not in the same way. I can more easily go wherever God is calling me, meet new people, and get connected to a community. I can foster my dependency on the Lord, free from the temptation to depend too heavily on my spouse. I can say yes to various service opportunities without the worry of family concerns. Paul is clear that the married are concerned with the things of the world and the unmarried are concerned with the things of God, not because married people are less spiritual but because marriage requires things of a husband and wife that can take time away from the work of ministry.

Today, it is often said that the church needs to be doing more to serve its single members. However, singles often have a greater capacity to serve the church and its members and be involved in ministry to their greater communities than married couples do.

It is always easy to want what we do not have. My recently married friends have told me that, as much as they love their spouse and being married, they realize that I have greater opportunity to say yes to things like going to grad school, going on a mission trip, or volunteering in a ministry program. While I am sometimes envious of their marital companionship and parenthood, I am learning the secret of being content in Christ (Phil. 4:11). Comparison is always the thief of joy and contentment.

If you are single, consider how you can serve the church and what a blessing it is to be able to say yes to ministry and the spread of the gospel. And even if you have no children of your own, you can still invest in children by giving hard-working parents the night off from their kids or serving in the nursery or the youth group at your church. Every season of life is an intentional gift of God to sanctify you and draw you closer to Him so that you might become more like Him. So, instead of selfishly thinking about how the church can serve you in whatever situation you are in, I encourage you to go and serve the church. After all, Christ—our ultimate example—came not to be served but to serve (Mat. 20:28, Mk. 10:45).

Year in Review: 10 Stories From 2020

by David Closson , Molly Carman

December 31, 2020

Under normal circumstances, the last week of December provides an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the last 12 months and a time to dream about the possibilities ahead in the new year. But 2020 was challenging for most Americans, and many likely want to turn the page as quickly as possible. However, before ringing in 2021, it is worth reflecting on some of the highlights from this unique year.

In a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic which brought unprecedented changes into our lives, it is easy to forget what else took place. But there were other significant stories from this past year that deserve our reflection. From the perspective of two Christians working in public policy in our nation’s capital, here are 10 encouraging stories that caught our attention from 2020.

1. Churches Rise to the Challenge

When the coronavirus upended the rhythms of life that most of us had taken for granted, people had to change their modus operandi for almost everything. This included churches across the country that were forced to adapt quickly to how they served their congregations and communities. For example, when they were no longer able to gather, many churches began using live-streaming technology such as Zoom, YouTube live, and other streaming platforms to ensure members could continue receiving weekly encouragement from God’s Word. Some churches held “Drive-In” services where members could stay in their cars and listen to messages delivered by their pastor from a small stage (or even a forklift!) near the front of the parking lot. Many churches looked outward, seeking ways to serve their communities in tangible ways despite limitations on public meetings. Some churches delivered meals to nurses and doctors serving on the front lines; others provided meals and opportunities for people in the community to pray while others turned their facilities into virus testing sites. In an otherwise turbulent year, the faithfulness of churches in 2020 was a bright light.

2. Confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett

In September, President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the Supreme Court. She accepted the nomination and sat courageously through an intense confirmation hearing where she was drilled and questioned by senators. Just two weeks before Election Day, Barrett was confirmed and became the youngest of only four women ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Barrett is also the first mother of school-age children to serve on the nation’s highest court. Throughout the confirmation process, Barrett faced opposition to her faith, physical appearance, and judicial philosophy. But as Tony Perkins noted, she showed “calm, poise, and decency” as she navigated the process. Since joining the Court, Barrett has already made an impression, casting the deciding vote in a major religious liberty case involving churches facing unfair restrictions and discrimination.

3. After Difficult Year, Religious Liberty Wins in Court

The coronavirus pandemic affected nearly every aspect of American life in 2020 including school, work, and even church. While many elected leaders tried to navigate the public health challenges of the virus and protect religious freedom, overzealous authorities took advantage of the situation by unfairly discriminating against churches. Although 99 percent of churches ceased in-person gatherings (many before they were even required to), as the pandemic wore on, it became apparent that some officials were holding churches to unfair standards (such as arbitrary attendance caps that businesses, casinos, and other organizations were not required to follow). This prompted several lawsuits. Unfortunately, several of these early lawsuits went against churches (such as Calvary Chapel v. Steve Sisolak), however, the Supreme Court stepped in this fall and issued multiple favorable rulings for churches. This is a welcome sign that courts are safeguarding religious freedom.

4. Trump Administration Accomplishments

Building on accomplishments from the previous three years, the Trump administration advanced a number of policies to protect life and religious liberty in 2020. For example, on January 16, the Departments of Justice and Education issued new guidance for prayer in schools, ensuring that the First Amendment rights of students are protected. Similarly, in September, the DOE published a rule to make sure First Amendment rights are protected on college campuses.

In January, the Department of Health and Human Services approved a family planning waiver for Texas to implement a state-run Medicaid program that excludes abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. This makes Texas the first state to receive Medicaid funding for a family planning program that does not include abortion providers.

On February 5, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched the International Religious Freedom Alliance. The Alliance will unite government leaders from like-minded nations to strategize ways to promote religious freedom and protect religious minorities around the world.

On June 24, President Trump issued an executive order to strengthen America’s foster care and adoption system. Among other things, this action seeks to increase partnerships with faith-based organizations to care for children and preserve families.

For a more comprehensive overview of the Trump administration accomplishments (2017-2020) see this list.

5. Major Supreme Court Cases (Good and Bad)

In 2020, the Supreme Court issued several decisions affecting faith, family, and freedom. In one, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court ruled in favor of religious schools, finding provisions excluding religious schools solely because they are religious violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. This ruling was a major win for religious liberty. Additionally, although several churches lost religious freedom cases in court this summer, last month, the Supreme Court, in Roman Catholic Diocese v. Cuomo, ruled that New York’s governor could not unfairly discriminate against churches. Since then the tide seems to have turned in favor of protecting the religious freedom of churches.

Unfortunately, not all the Supreme Court rulings were positive this year. In June Medical Services v. Russo, the Court struck down a pro-life law that required doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital before performing abortions. Further, in June, a 6-3 majority ruled that employment discrimination “on the basis of sex”— prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be understood to include actions based on sexual orientation and gender identity. By reinterpreting the statute in this way, the Court essentially rewrote civil rights law.

6. Pro-Life Lawmakers Make Historic Gains in Congress

Decades from now, the 2020 election will be remembered as one of the most unpredictable elections in American history. And while many conservatives were disappointed in the outcome of the presidential election, there were historic victories by pro-life candidates across the country. In fact, 89 percent of candidates backed by FRC Action (104 out of 117) won their races. Ninety-eight of 100 incumbents won their races, including all 74 “True Blue” candidates who ran for reelection (“True Blue” is the designation given to legislators who receive 100 percent on FRC Action’s scorecard).

Another noteworthy achievement was the 18 pro-life women who won seats in the House of Representatives. Ten of these women flipped seats formerly held by pro-abortion Democrats. The 117th Congress will have a record 29 pro-life women in the House. Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) continues to refuse even a vote on the Born-Alive Survivor’s Protection Act (a bill that would provide protection to babies who survive a failed abortion), the new pro-life members will continue to fight for pro-life laws that protect women and babies.

7. Launch of Worldview Resources

According to recent research by George Barna, only seven percent of Americans have a biblical worldview. This means that most of our friends and neighbors—as well as many in our churches—are not thinking about today’s major issues from a perspective rooted in God’s Word. To address this need, FRC launched FRC.org/Worldview, a new worldview resources page in 2020. This page includes FRC’s “Biblical Worldview Series” which covers the topics of life, religious liberty, human sexuality, and political engagement. There are now summary versions and prayer guides for each publication; most of the publications are in Spanish as well. Looking forward to 2021, FRC will continue producing resources to equip Christians to faithfully engage the culture from a biblical worldview.

8. FRC Pro-Life Map Resource

In 2020, Family Research Council released a new resource illustrating the progress in states on key pro-life laws. This resource helps inform lawmakers and citizens of the various pro-life bills in their states, in order that communities can stand together in the fight against abortion. The maps feature summaries of bills dealing with born-alive protections, late-term abortions, fetal dignity, and defunding abortion providers.

Since the release of these maps, we have already seen progress in some states. For example, this summer, Nebraska passed a law that banned dismemberment abortions. Remarkably there was a strong concurrence among lawmakers and the final vote came out to 33-8. This demonstrates that the majority took a strong stand to prohibit this brutal form of abortion. By passing this bill, Nebraska joins 11 other states who have also banned dismemberment abortions, which is limiting the number of abortions that occur pass the second trimester. Additionally, West Virginia passed a “Born-Alive” law which shifted the law from “no protections” to “strong protections” on FRC’s pro-life map.

9. A Win for International Religious Liberty

Christians and those of other faiths across the world have faced grave hardships this year as the challenges to religious freedom continue to mount. In China, all religious beliefs are tightly restricted by the government, but this year Uyghur Muslims experienced some of the most extreme persecution from the Chinese Communist Party. This fall, FRC supported an effective bill to address one major aspect of the problem—the widespread use of Uyghur forced labor. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act requires companies that produce goods in Xinjiang, China and import them to the United States to prove with clear and convincing evidence that the goods are not made with forced labor. This bipartisan bill passed the House of Representatives in September. Earlier this year, FRC hosted one young Uyghur woman who shared her story, illustrating just how important it is to speak up for the persecuted in China, and around the world.

10. Honoring Our Nation’s Heritage Through Monuments

When rioters took to the streets this summer, many monuments representing historical figures were vandalized, defaced, and destroyed. While monuments honoring the Confederacy were the initial targets, memorials honoring abolitionists, Union generals, and black soldiers were also razed. 

President Trump was determined to preserve the history of our nation by protecting these monuments and memorials. He called on the National Guard to protect the monuments in the nation’s capital (including the Freedman’s Memorial honoring Abraham Lincoln) which have thankfully stood to see another day. The story of our nation’s values and history are engraved in many of these monuments and memorials. Rather than capitulate to the worst impulses of cancel culture, we should continue to strive toward more fully realizing our founding ideals. For a more in-depth look at D.C.’s monuments, check-out FRC’s summer blog series that focuses on the spiritual heritage depicted in many of these memorials.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of December 13)

by Family Research Council

December 18, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Northam Exposure on Virus Hypocrisy

While California, New York, and other states have gone off the deep end on coronavirus restrictions, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) has been unusually quiet. That changed recently, when the radical leader broke his silence with a slew of new rules. And, like every other liberal leader, he didn’t mind shaming churches in the process.

2. Update: COVID Vaccine: A Promising Start, But Freedom Must Be Paramount

In our current hyper-political climate, the recent release of the first coronavirus vaccination has created hope for some and caused moral, ethical, and medical concerns for others. Chief among these concerns are: was the vaccine ethically created? Is the vaccine effective? And finally, will taking the vaccine be mandatory?

3. Blog: China’s Bride Trafficking Problem

Countries that surround China have fallen prey to widespread bride trafficking issues. China’s former “one-child policy,” imposed from 1979 to 2015, along with a cultural preference for sons, has created a skewed male-female ratio and a significant shortage of women. This imbalance fuels human trafficking and prostitution within China.

4. Blog: A Christmas Carol for Life

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a story is told of a callous man named Ebenezer Scrooge who at one point in the story, when referring to the poor and needy, retorts, “If they would rather die … they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Unfortunately, we see a very similar ideology playing out today when it comes to the unborn.

5. Washington WatchSec. Mike Pompeo Warns About the Network of Chinese Operatives Infiltrating American Institutions

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined Tony Perkins to discuss China’s infiltration of American colleges and universities and the State Department’s designation of Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern for the first time.

6. Washington Watch: Rep. Doug Lamborn Explains that His Love for America & Its Christian Values Motivates Him Every Day

On this special “Faith & Freedom” edition of Washington Watch, Congressman Doug Lamborn joined Tony Perkins to share how his father demonstrated to him what it is to be a good leader. He also shared his journey of faith and how his biblical worldview has informed his values and policy decisions.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: A Call to Prayer for Georgia

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Larry Jackson, Emir Caner, and Mark Harris to join him in a special time of prayer for the Georgia runoff election.

Christmas Future: Resting in the Hope and Peace of Christ

by Molly Carman

December 17, 2020

This is the final part of a 3-part series. Read Part 1: Christmas Past and Part 2: Christmas Present.

This year has been hard on us all. No one could have predicted the anxiety, disappointment, and uncertainty that seem to permeate 2020. Because of the struggle that this year has been, it would be easy to lean into fear, despair, and hopelessness during the holiday season. Furthermore, it is all too easy for us to fall prey to the hustle and bustle that distracts us from resting each Christmas. However, Christians are called to rest in the peace of Christ and not despair like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Christmas is the perfect time to re-center ourselves on biblical truth and learn to rest.

The night before Christ was crucified, He reassured his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In other words, we should not be surprised or discouraged by the trials we have and will face in this year and the next. None of us could have predicted the events of 2020, and no one can predict what 2021 has in store. However, we can have confidence that God knows what the future holds, is still on the throne, and forever in control (Ps. 45:6, Lam. 5:19).

This season of Advent and Christmas is an opportunity to remind ourselves of God’s promises and rest in the knowledge that He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23). Though the seasons may change, our God never changes (Heb. 13:8). Although Christmas is primarily a celebration of the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ’s first coming, it is also a time to renew our hope in His promised second coming. As the Nicene Creed states: “He [Christ] shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and His kingdom shall have no end.” Difficult years like this one serve as reminders that this world is temporary and not our ultimate home; we are called to look forward and await the second coming of Christ and the restoration of all things (Heb. 13:14). This Christmas, our souls can find rest in the hope of His second coming.

Rest is something with which many of us struggle. We want to rest but cannot seem to find the time to feel rested. As my dad reminds me, we often think that rest’s opposite is work, but the opposite of rest is actually restlessness. The Christmas season can often feel like a restless and busy time rather than a restful and peaceful time. We can counteract the restless feeling by pausing to reflect on Christ’s first coming, His presence with us, and the hope of His second coming when all will be restored and made new. As Augustine famously said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Each Christmas season is an opportunity to intentionally practice resting. We wait and pray for Christ’s second coming, His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and we do so with hope and patience. We must endure hardship and opposition for the hope set before us (Heb. 12). The Jews waited for hundreds of years for the messiah to appear and save them from their oppression. But the way Christ chose to come surprised many of them. He came not as a political conqueror but as a humble child, on a donkey, and a suffering servant to save His people from their sins (Is. 52:13-53:12). In His second coming, Christ will come as the righteous judge, on a white horse, and as the King of kings (Rev. 19:11-16).

When we gather together this Christmas and sing carols about peace, joy, and rest, may we begin to implement these themes into a way of life and not just a season of life. The words of “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” all teach us these themes. Consider the words of one of these carols: “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day. To save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!” As you celebrate Christmas with those you love, remember to rest in the hope of these words.

When you feel restless, remember the admonition of the writer of Hebrews, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest of the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Heb. 4:9-11). Remember that true rest is found in Christ and our eternal home with Him in the new heavens and earth at His second coming.

While we are here on earth waiting for Christ to return, may we celebrate Christmas with hope and peace. Psalm 4:8 says, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Do not be afraid, for God has promised good news of great joy (Lk. 2:10-11); not only has the Savior of the world come, but as Christians have confessed in the words of the Nicene Creed ever since A.D. 325: “We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and to life in the world to come. Amen.”

Christmas Present: Choosing Joy and Proclaiming the Good News

by Molly Carman

December 16, 2020

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Read Part 1: Christmas Past.

We have all experienced disappointment, tension, and fatigue in 2020. These emotions and circumstances can leave us feeling exhausted and make it tempting to gloss over Christmas this year. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Christmas is an opportunity to pause and remember Christ’s presence in our lives as Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Throughout Scripture, God’s people are repeatedly commanded to remember who God is and what He has done. The command to remember might seem obvious, but it does not come naturally to humans. We are prone to forget God’s nature and His goodness to us, which is precisely why Scripture repeatedly commands us to remember. While we are not commanded in Scripture to celebrate Christmas in particular, we are commanded to remember what God has done for us, and Christmas is a traditional time to remember the grace and gift of Christ’s first coming to earth.

After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Moses commanded the people of Israel, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). You would think that after 40 years, the Israelites would not forget all that God had done for them in the wilderness. But despite frequent reminders from Moses and other leaders, the people did forget.

You would also think that it would be hard to forget how God humbled himself and was made a man to die in man’s place (Philippians 2). However, Christians continue to forget, regardless of God’s gentle and frequent reminders. Christmas is a time when we remember and celebrate the first coming of Christ, proclaiming this good news to the world and encouraging one another. However, it is easy to forget this good news in the hustle and bustle of the season or amid the trying circumstances of a year like 2020. Therefore, it is good to remind one another—this year and every year—of the true meaning of Christmas and all that God has done by sending His son, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 103:2-5 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all you diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” We can easily become distracted by the pain of this year and all that could have been, but even our worst circumstances pale in comparison with the blessing of all that Christ has done by saving us from eternal separation from God.

There are three things that we can do to practice remembering God’s goodness to us this Christmas. First, we can refocus. The chaos of the world, especially in a particularly challenging year like 2020, is overwhelmingly distracting. The only remedy to distraction is focus, which requires self-control, discipline, and determination. Focus on the beauty, joy, and goodness of Christ. “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Second, we can choose joy: “Rejoice always, I will say it again, rejoice” (Philippians 4:2). Complaining and focusing on our less-than-perfect earthly circumstances distracts us from the blessings of the Lord, both present and promised.

Third, as we refocus and choose joy, we can then encourage those who have forgotten and share the good news with those who have not yet heard so that all may rejoice and share in the presence of Christ. “But exhort one another every day, as long it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

The good news of the gospel starts at the birth of Christ, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). May we help one another remember and not forget the sacredness of Christmas and the beauty of the season.

Christmas Past: Reflecting on the Origins of Yuletide Traditions

by Molly Carman

December 15, 2020

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series.

Christmas is the most widely celebrated holiday in the world. With all the associated traditions, music, decorations, and food, it should come as no surprise that many children and adults consider it their favorite holiday. Unfortunately, due to our culture’s increasing biblical illiteracy, many people who celebrate Christmas are unaware of its true meaning and origin.

Traditionally, Christmas (“Christ’s mass” or the Feast of the Nativity) is a Christian holiday that was originally a Catholic mass service memorializing the birth of Jesus Christ. The early church did not initially celebrate His birth. However, in the fourth century, Pope Julius I chose December 25 as a dayfor celebrating Christ’s birth and the day was formally established by emperor Constantine when he declared Christianity the formal religion of Rome. The tradition spread to Egypt by the fifth century, England by the sixth, and Scandinavia by the eighth.

Although the Bible does not specify the exact date of Christ’s birth, there are various reasons why December 25 may have been chosen for its observance. First, the Roman Catholic Church traditionally celebrates the annunciation of the Angel to Mary nine months earlier, on March 25, during the spring equinox. Also, December 25 was already a major Roman feast day honoring the sun god, set during the winter solstice. This darkest time of year might have been chosen in order to symbolize God bringing us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). While most biblical historians now believe that Christ was most likely born in either the spring or fall, the traditional December date has remained the same.

The precise date of Christ’s birth is not the point of Christmas. Neither are evergreen trees, sleigh rides, cookies, and presents. Christmas ultimately celebrates the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to save us from our sins. Unfortunately, as the holiday has been popularized and marketed to a consumeristic culture, various secular traditions have taken over, distracting us from the sacred intent behind the holiday. Our culture has slowly forgotten that Christ, not material and earthly things, makes Christmas the joyful celebration that it is.

Our behavior during the Christmas season betrays what we truly believe and value. When we believe and value the first coming of Christ, we cease chasing after earthly goods and worship Him alone. Let us take some time to remember why we celebrate Christmas and the remarkable, humble entrance of our Savior into the world:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Since the fall of mankind, God had promised and foretold of a coming Savior who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15) and save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Throughout the Old Testament, this is God’s greatest and most emphasized promise to His people Israel. This promise found its fulfillment in a humble manger (Luke 2:11-12). The King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16) miraculously entered the world as a baby born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25), with stable animals as witnesses. Imagine that! Despite God foretelling that Christ would come to them as a lowly, suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), His coming was nothing like what the Jews imagined or envisioned. Nevertheless, it was exactly how God intended it to be, for His wisdom is foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:25). Jesus, the Son of God and second person of the holy trinity, came to a sin-corrupted and broken world to save a people who would reject Him.

The way that Christmas is celebrated—the traditions, music, decorations, and food—has changed over the years, but the ultimate meaning of Christmas has not changed. The holiday is an opportunity to consider the significance of Christ’s first coming and remember that He will be coming again—this time not as a baby and a suffering servant, but as a conquering King (Psalm 2, Isaiah 9:7, Revelation 19:11-16). Reflection is God’s gift to us, helping us learn from the past so that we can live more faithfully in the present and future. Reflection requires intentionality, honesty, and courage.

The best part about Christmas is not the presents, but the ultimate present of Christ’s presence in the world. When Christ came, the promise of Isaiah was fulfilled: “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (32:16-17). May we all grow in the knowledge of Christ as we remember His incarnation and commit to renewing our minds with a biblical worldview this Christmas season.

Molly Carman is a Policy and Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council whose research focuses on developing a biblical worldview on issues related to family and current events.

A Christmas Carol for Life

by Mary Jayne Caum

December 14, 2020

When approached on Christmas Eve to make a donation to the poor, Scrooge asked, “Are there no prisons? … And the Union workhouses? … Are they still in operation?” The philanthropists in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol sadly informed Scrooge that these wretched institutions were still running. Scrooge stated that the poor should look to these institutions instead of looking for a handout. When the philanthropists informed Scrooge that many would rather die than go to the prisons or workhouses, Scrooge retorted, “If they would rather die … they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Every Christmas season since I was a small child, my family inevitably watches A Christmas Carol together (the George C. Scott version, of course). Every Christmas season, I am shocked by Scrooge’s callous and inhumane response to poverty and suffering. Sadly, despite Dickens’ efforts, there are still those among us who would rather decrease the “surplus population” than help the less fortunate. In fact, these modern-day Scrooge’s tell us we will be helping the less fortunate by decreasing the surplus population.

Since the 1960s, abortion supporters have argued in favor of using abortion as a means of population control. To legitimize abortion as a method of population control, abortion supporters argued that we should not allow “the unwilling to bear the unwanted.” This popular phrase perfectly encapsulated their willingness to kill off the surplus population, and to this day abortion is used by prominent politicians as a solution to the world’s economic problems.

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in an interview the link between abortion and decreasing the surplus population, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” It is unclear from her comments exactly which population Justice Ginsburg was referring to, but it is clear she believed abortion could be used to decrease the surplus population.

In an effort to transform Scrooge before it was too late, a deceased friend of Scrooge, Jacob Marley, visited Scrooge to warn him of his apparent destiny and of the ghosts who will soon visit Scrooge. While trying to explain to Scrooge how the old miser will likely suffer the same fate as Marley if Scrooge does not cease being selfish, Scrooge continued to prattle on about finances and business without recognizing his own selfishness and Marley’s warnings. Frustrated at Scrooge’s narrow mindedness and callousness towards humanity, when Scrooge commented on what a great businessman Marley was, Marley shouted, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”

Jacob Marley was right. Mankind is our business. We should not work to decrease the “surplus population”—whatever that means—through abortion. Instead, we should welcome every life with love and charity. Each life has inherent value and dignity. Since each person is made in the image of God and is designed by God for a purpose, no baby is unwanted or worthy of death. This Christmas season, let us dedicate ourselves to life. Let us again make mankind our business. We must admonish the Scrooges in our midst who advocate for decreasing the surplus population, and instead commit to caring for those around us in need.

To accomplish this goal of caring for the unborn, please consider donating to your local pregnancy resource center or the Human Coalition to help end abortion and encourage women with unplanned pregnancies to give life to their precious child.

Mary Jayne Caum is a Government Affairs Research Assistant at Family Research Council.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of December 6)

by Family Research Council

December 11, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: The COVID Bait and Snitch

In the middle of a global pandemic, you’d think health officials would have better things to do than mask checks at empty churches. Well, think again. Many states are turning neighbors into government informants with absolutely no way to screen phony or politically-motivated tattling.

2. Update: New ’Woke’ Denomination is a Warning Sign to Christians

Over the weekend, the formation of a new Methodist denomination was announced during an online worship service hosted by former and current Methodist church leaders. According to organizers, the Liberation Methodist Connexion (LMX), as the group will be called, is a socially progressive denomination that will reimage what it means to follow Jesus.

3. Blog: Nigeria Is Officially Declared a “Country of Particular Concern”—and Not a Minute Too Soon

In a year when bad news seems to be relentless and unstoppable, there is still good news to report. Very good news, in fact. At long last, broken and bloodstained Nigeria has been declared a “country of particular concern” by the U.S. State Department.

4. Blog: 3 Alarming Developments for Religious Freedom in China This Year

Family Research Council has released an updated publication on the state of religious freedom in China, which, in just one year, have noticeably worsened. Bob Fu, President of ChinaAid and Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council, knows well the dangers that the Chinese government can pose to people of faith.

5. Washington WatchRep. Mike Johnson Explains Why State AGs are Calling Out Election Abuse in a New SCOTUS Case

Mike Johnson, U.S. Representative from Louisiana, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Texas lawsuit contesting election results in four battleground states—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

6. Washington Watch: Cleta Mitchell Talks About the Thousand Pages of Testimony That Prompted the Trump GA Lawsuit

Cleta Mitchell, Election Law Attorney, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Trump Campaign filing a lawsuit challenging the Georgia election.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Call To Prayer for our First Freedom

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Ryan Tucker, Jack Hibbs, and Carter Conlon to join in a special time of prayer asking God to move on the hearts of elected officials and judges to uphold our first freedom.

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