Top 7 things Christians must do after Election Day

During this election season, many Christians have been discouraged by discord in the Body of Christ. The enemy has been working overtime to fester divisiveness, distracting Christians from being salt and light to a desperate culture.

But the election is over now. What’s next?

The free handout you can read and download by clicking here is our first step toward healing and hope in the aftermath of Election 2016.

Church and State Moment: Church and city work together for healing

161104dsmpdAt 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, four separate Des Moines metro pastor networks gathered together at Zion Lutheran Church in Des Moines. These pastors were from churches of different denominations, theologies, and races. Some were from the suburbs, others from the city. But that morning they gathered together as one to pray for and support leaders of the Des Moines Police Department, the mayor of Des Moines, and the city’s city manager.

It was events of the past week that led to this miraculous meeting …

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, Christian community leaders gathered for a Faith At Work luncheon, which opened with a devotion from Des Moines Chief of Police Dana Wingert. They heard a moving account of how the community and the police department were coming together to strengthen the city of Des Moines. Little did the chief and those attending know how much this would be true just a few, short hours later.

Early the next morning, Officer Justin Martin of the Urbandale Police Department and Sgt. Anthony Beminio of the Des Moines Police Department were shot and killed. The City of Des Moines woke up the next day in shock. This was the first time an officer had been killed like this since 1977. This was not supposed to happen in a city like Des Moines.

With two police departments mourning the loss of their own and a city full of grief, anger, and confusion, what an opportunity this was for the church to rise up and bring comfort to the people of Des Moines!

Churches across Des Moines held worship services on Wednesday night, providing a place of comfort and prayer for many in the community, including many police officers. Police chaplains, as well, have put in long hours, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association sent four chaplains who are experts in disaster response to Des Moines.

Congregation members across the city sent letters of support, delivered flowers, prayed, and one little girl gave all her Halloween candy to the Urbandale Police Department. Christ’s love and comfort were poured on the city of Des Moines.

Christ’s love and comfort were poured on the city of Des Moines.

Which brings us back to Zion Lutheran Church. On Thursday morning, Nov. 3, the church in Des Moines was one. And it was there to be a help and support to God’s ministers of the state. These pastors and ministry leaders shared tears, hugs, prayers, grief, and ideas with the government officials of the city. They were working together to begin the healing process for the City of Des Moines and its police department.

This would not have been possible if it were not for the pastors’ years of hard labor building favor with the city, leading up to this moment. They have served in the police department, in the public schools, and in the city hall. They have poured their hearts and lives into Des Moines’ government officials. They did not know what God was preparing in advance for them, but because of these years of ministry, Des Moines’ leaders knew where to turn in the city’s dark hour.

As we see a nation in desperate spiritual need, not just in Des Moines, but across the country, we must remember that God designed His institutions of the church and state to work together. In Des Moines they need each other. And together in Des Moines, they will bring healing to a city plagued with violence, mourning, anger, grief, and confusion. The same can be true for our whole nation.

Man of God: Martin Luther King Jr.

Commentary by Greg Baker ~

Cultural transformation does not come through winning arguments, legal battles, or elections. It does not come through hateful rhetoric or violence.

As a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that if you want to transform a nation, it must be done through spiritual transformation. He changed the world by boldly speaking truth and refusing to return evil for evil. If we want true transformation today, we must do the same.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist minister. His original name was Michael, but his father changed both he and his son’s name to Martin Luther after a moving spiritual visit to Germany in 1934. Martin Luther King Jr. attended Crozer Theological Seminary and later received his doctorate from Boston University. In 1954, at the age of 25, Martin Luther King Jr. was called to be a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Just one year later, life began to change for Dr. King. In March of 1955, Claudette Colvin, a pregnant 15-year-old black woman, refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man, violating Montgomery city laws. She was handcuffed and arrested. That same year, in December, Rosa Parks would refuse to give up her seat on a city bus and was arrested. These, and other events, led Dr. King and other community members to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The boycott took an economic toll on the bus system, but the city would not go down without a fight. City leaders persuaded insurance companies to refuse to insure any cars that were being used to carpool African-Americans and they forced all cabs to charge a uniform $.45, rather than the $.10 rate that had been charged by drivers supporting the boycott.

But that didn’t stop the black community. They walked, rode bikes, and some even rode horses and mules. Sidewalks were packed and buses were empty. Black churches across the nation raised money to buy new shoes for those who were participating in the boycott.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that if you want to transform a nation, it must be done through spiritual transformation.

When it became clear to segregationists that they were not going to win, they resorted to violence. King’s home was firebombed, along with four Baptist churches. The boycott did not come to an end until June 4, 1956, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional.

Martin Luther King Jr. became known for civil disobedient acts, such as the boycott, and through them this Baptist preacher would change the world. Malcom X and others claimed these efforts would be fruitless, arguing only through pain could America be changed. But Martin Luther King Jr. never believed that. He had a respect for man and believed that people would be won over by love rather than violence and hateful rhetoric.

“By opening our lives to God in Christ, we become new creatures. This experience, which Jesus spoke of as the new birth, is essential if we are to be transformed,” Dr. King said. “Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.”

Darkest before the dawn

In the darkest hour of the Civil Rights Movement, King and fellow activists shined the brightest. In April 1963, black people in Birmingham, Alabama, occupied public spaces with marches and sit-ins, openly violating segregation laws they viewed as unjust. Though these protests were peaceful, Birmingham Police Chief Eugene Connor used high-pressure water jets and police dogs against protestors, including children. Many protestors were arrested, including Rev. King.

Following his 13th arrest, Rev. King wrote the famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he said, “Wherever the early Christians entered a town, the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But they went on with the conviction that they were a ‘colony of heaven’ and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be ‘astronomically intimidated.’ They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. Things are different now. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”

Dr. King’s labor in Birmingham was not in vain. What happened in Birmingham shined a light on the terrible atrocities happening to blacks across the nation. Just a few months after Birmingham, King would give the famous “I have a dream” speech in front of 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial.

Just prior to the speech, Rev. King met with President Kennedy to discuss a national civil rights law. He would contact President Kennedy to discuss civil rights 13 times throughout his presidency.

In their final communication King wrote: “I will sincerely plead with my people to remain non-violent in the face of this terrible provocation. However, I am convinced, that unless some steps are taken by the federal government … my pleas shall fall on deaf ears, and we shall see the worst racial holocaust the nation has ever seen.”

Dr. King’s words and endless efforts were heard, and in July 1964 the Civil Rights Act passed, just over a year after Birmingham. King’s efforts of civil disobedience motivated not by hate or bitterness, but rather by love, had worked.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor that changed the world. He was a good shepherd. Like all men, he was not perfect, but he was committed to serving Christ. Just as the prophets Nathan and Elijah stood up to kings who did wrong, so did Dr. King. He stood up against injustice in government and corrected the “king.”

Yet King’s stand did not come without sacrifice. Like many men of God before him, it cost Dr. King his life. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

We can learn much from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We must stand up to injustice that we see in the world. As the church, we must correct our government when it is walking away from the heart of God. We must not do so with violence and hatred. Rather we must do so with the love of Christ.

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies,'” Dr. King said. “It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals.”

Wanted: Shepherds on a mission to guide our nation


by Greg Baker

Across all of His creation, the divine nature of the Good Shepherd can be clearly seen (Romans 1:20). From businesses to schools, governments, families, churches, sports, and even entertainment, when leaders are good shepherds, their organizations thrive. Why? Because God designed the world to have shepherds. That is why changing a head coach can turn a failing football program into national champions. Or why a new CEO can save a company.

The world needs these good shepherds. And yet, shepherds in every facet of our society have fallen under attack, with many missing and our nation suffering. If we are to restore our nation, it must include the return of good shepherds to all facets of our culture, including our government.

Why are shepherds under attack? Because Satan knows if he gets the shepherd, he can get the sheep. We saw this when Jesus died on the cross: After His death, His disciples fled and cowered, and it wasn’t until the Chief Shepherd was resurrected that we began to see the building of the church.

In God’s institution of government, the shepherd is the head of state. The head of state sets the example of what it means to be a citizen of a country, and the people will rise and fall with that standard.

In America, presidents serve as our heads of state. They have what President Roosevelt called “the bully pulpit of the nation.” The American president is the face of America, and people watch and follow their presidents’ examples.

A good shepherd in this role doesn’t merely reflect the character of the people, but leads it, setting a standard of righteousness that inspires the people toward greater things. For example, under the poor leadership of King Ahab, the people were led to worship Baal; while King Josiah worshipped only the God of Israel, and the people responded and tore down their idols. In the kingdom of God, the heads of state matter. They matter greatly.

And I’d argue the head of state is perhaps the most important job of the president of the United States as well. Yet we too often overlook it. We focus instead on the commander in chief and chief executive components of the position. Not only the voters, but the candidates lose sight of the power of the shepherd.

If Satan truly wanted to tear our nation down, he could hardly develop a more effective strategy.

President Abraham Lincoln, however, understood the significance of his shepherd position as head of state. Throughout his presidency Lincoln called America to prayer and repentance. He understood that the Civil War was far more than a physical war, but a spiritual battle raging in the spiritual realm as well.

America needs a head of state today who understands the shepherding components of the position. As Christians, we must not choose chief executives only, but remember the importance of the shepherd and seek to elect men like Abraham Lincoln: heads of state who not only fear the Lord, but who are setting an example in pursuing righteousness.

An even wider battle

Unfortunately, shepherds are not only under attack in government, but in all of God’s institutions, including His church. Satan has filled denominations and seminaries with all manner of false doctrine and teaching, compromising the shepherds of the church, the pastors. In too many congregations today, rather than standing up and protecting their flock from false teaching that undermines the Word of God and proclaims salvation outside of Jesus, pastors defend it and teach it. Rather than warning their congregation from sin and defending them, they encourage it. Rather than correcting the sheep about to enter a raging river, the pastors not only help them get in, they join in. Satan knew if he took out the pastors, he could get the church. Imagine the millions of Americans who go to church on Sundays but who will never hear the gospel. Why? Because their shepherd has no clue how to guide them to it. The church must have its shepherd in order to be strong and healthy.

Francis Asbury, one of the founders of the Methodist Church in America, understood this when he was sent to America in the 1700s by John Wesley. He knew the poor spiritual condition of the American church was a direct result of not having good shepherds. Asbury gave his life to raising up pastors in America, and by the time of his death, he had ordained over 4,000 ministers.

America needs men like Asbury today, men committed to discipling future good shepherds in God’s church. If good shepherds return to churches in America, the church will be revived.

God’s third social institution, the family, is similarly hurting in America, and again, one of the main reasons is the physical and mental absence of fathers, the shepherds of the family. Either dad is gone, or if he is present, he is doing little to lead his family. Rather than being the visionary, guide, and primary example in the family, dad has taken the back seat. Many men now do not know how to be fathers and some feel they are not even needed. Satan has fed lies into our culture and into our men. He understood that if fathers were out of the picture, he could devour the family.

The church must engage in raising up and supporting fathers again. The church must train men to be leaders in every facet of their life and to start in the home. If the American family is to be restored, it will be restored by fathers returning as shepherds of their families.

Our world today is in desperate need of shepherds. The sheep are lost, sick, and being ravaged by wolves. Without the shepherd they will perish. We must pray for the shepherds of our nation. If you have good shepherds in your life, be thankful. Honor them, and do not make their job more difficult. Pray that God would protect them and that He would raise more of them up. Pray for the good shepherds to return.

‘Victory for churches’ in Iowa religious liberty case

Pastor Michael Demastus (in gray), and attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom
Pastor Michael Demastus (in gray), and attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom

“This is fantastic news,” says an Iowa pastor, following a U.S. District Court judge’s order in a key case for religious liberty in Iowa, “a victory for churches all over the state.”

Pastor Michael Demastus of Ft. Des Moines Church of Christ filed the case, with the aid of Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, after a pair of vague brochures from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission suggested the state has authority over churches when they’re deemed “public accommodations” or when the church’s activities are not “religious” in nature.

“The commission’s interpretation,” ADF explained, “could censor church statements on biblical sexuality in certain contexts and force churches to open their restrooms to members of the opposite sex under conditions that the government dictates.”

But in her order, U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose torpedoed that idea. Furthermore, she denied the state’s attempt to have the case dismissed.

“In its decision allowing the suit to continue,” ADF stated, “the court found that … churches have never been public accommodations subject to government regulation, and state officials have no business trying to decide which church activities are religious and which ones aren’t.”

The judge’s order marks a significant victory in the case, but it’s not a final victory. Pastor Demastus, in a Facebook post, warned, “The case will be further litigated. There is more to come! Continue to pray!”

Chuck Hurley, vice president and legal counsel for The FAMiLY LEADER, commended Demastus and Ft. Des Moines Church of Christ for bringing the case forward.

“It’s a brave thing, going to federal court,” Hurley said. “It’s time consuming and stressful, but they are taking a stand for all of Iowa’s 5,200 churches. They’re trying to keep a window for the gospel open by preventing so-called ‘civil rights’ codes from chilling biblical speech and ministry.”

Demastus also told The FAMiLY LEADER he has a message for his fellow pastors: “Be encouraged! Don’t be scared to stand up when there is wrong. It’s OK to speak out when there is an injustice being done, and this attack on religious liberty is definitely an injustice.”

Church and State Moment: How a candidate forum honored God

161013charlescityforumOn Sept. 15, candidates for the Iowa House, Iowa Senate, sheriff, and county supervisor gathered at New Life Church in Charles City, Iowa. Both political parties were represented, but this was not your usual candidate forum. It was a far cry from what we’ve seen in the 2016 presidential debates.

In fact, the Charles City Press said, “The cyclone of anger and division marring national elections seemed far away.”

In a time where the partisan divide could not possibly get any wider, how was such an event possible? It was done in the Spirit of the Lord with a respect for His institution of government. Three churches came together to lay aside their differences and focus on what they had in common. These brothers and sisters wanted to serve their community, honor their governing officials, and communicate the love of Jesus. They accomplished all of these by hosting a candidate forum.

Discover more about how the church can be the church during election season through Honoring God 2016!

The forum was hosted by New Life Church, Charles City Evangelical Free Church, and Faith Bible Chapel; and Pastor Michael Downey of Charles City E.Free served as moderator. Pastor Downey stated the Iowa Capitol Project, a daily gathering of pastors at the Iowa Capitol hosted by The Family Leader, played a role in bringing these churches together. Their day at the Iowa Capitol inspired these pastors to work together, and to do so in the civic arena. These churches also wanted to honor their commitment they made to Franklin Graham during his visit to Des Moines and ensure that they were doing their part in God’s institution of government.

Pastor Downey commented that the churches knew this forum had to be different. It had to be civil. It was going to be hosted in God’s church, and it would be a reflection of Him. Therefore, the forum was covered in prayer and humility, and the format ensured that all of the candidates received honor, as commanded in the Scriptures in 1 Peter 2. The forum aimed to honor God and bless people.

Pastor Downey also reported the candidates were very willing to attend, in large part because they knew the pastors, who had been building relationships with members of their community over the years and treated everyone with honor and respect. These churches and their pastors were not strangers to these candidates; they were trusted friends over years of developing real relationships.

Together these churches kept their commitments to God and each other to be servants of their community and to elect godly leaders who are best qualified to serve their community. By doing these two things together, God was glorified.

We can learn an important lesson through the churches in Charles City. No matter what we do, even in a political forum, we can bring God glory by doing things His way. So as you watch the partisan divide continue to heat up this election season, remember the good people of Charles City. Remember how they came together to make a difference in a world looking for answers this election season. They made a difference by loving people and showing honor to those in authority.

To learn more about this candidate forum check out the story from the Charles City Press by clicking here.

And learn more about how the church can be the church during election season through Honoring God 2016!

4 things you can DO about school bathroom policies

160513bathroom2As school starts across the nation, parents and students are discovering their local districts implementing new policies that not only affect transgender students, but also have shocking effects on the entire student body.

According to federal guidelines issued in a May 2016 Dear Colleague Letter, public schools should no longer provide single-stall, unisex facilities for transgender students, but MUST now allow any boy who “identifies” as female (or vice versa) to use the opposite sex’s bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, sports teams, and even hotel rooms on overnight field trips.

Needless to say, this is an alarming invasion of privacy, safety, and dignity for many of our schoolchildren, especially those who have been victimized by sexual abuse.

But what can you DO about it? Four things:

1. Get informed

2. Act locally

School districts all over Iowa are agreeing to the administration’s guidelines, hook, line, and sinker. Inform your school board that neither common sense, nor the law, nor the courts, nor the governor of Iowa support the notion that schools must open their intimate facilities or athletic programs to members of the opposite sex.

Download and freely use this sample letter to your school board members, which demonstrates they don’t HAVE to endanger children with wide open bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and hotel rooms.

3. Support state-wide efforts

The FAMiLY LEADER isn’t just a source of information and voice for your values: We are actively working at the State Capitol to stop this madness. The FAMiLY LEADER is bringing pastors to Des Moines to speak with state education officials, the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office, state legislators, and more, representing your concerns in places you may not have access. Our lobbyists meet regularly with lawmakers, informing and equipping them to make a positive difference, and one of our key priorities right now and in the coming year is giving parents greater local control over schools and more freedom and choices in education for the children.

When you ask, “Who is going to DO something about this?”, the answer is The FAMiLY LEADER. Please consider donating to our work today by clicking here.

4. Think bigger

The reality is that this is just the latest battle in our culture’s mad dash away from the heart of God. We have lost sight of truth and morality, and there’s more garbage ready to come down the line.

Yes, concerned parents and Christians across the state need to work together to safeguard our children, but even more importantly, we need to unify together in prayer that God would change the hearts and minds of our leaders across this country. We need to pray for nothing short of cultural transformation, nothing short of revival … because nothing else will do.

Join the growing, global prayer movement for revival in America. Over 20,000 people have already signed up, in 30 countries around the world. Come, join us in unified prayer today, simply by downloading the free If 7:14 prayer app.

Visit to learn more and download the free app today!

Christian Political Engagement 101: Value people

160914handby Greg Baker

“Value people” – These two words have been in my head ever since I heard them spoken by John Maxwell at the Global Leadership Summit hosted by the Willow Creek Association. This really challenged me. Do I value people? Do I see people as Jesus did?

I do not want this lesson to be like so many, where I get excited when they are fresh, but I largely move on. I want to love people like Jesus loved people. I want to value people like Jesus valued people. And these two are largely the same. I want to give my life to it. And as a believer called to be a missionary in the political arena, I want to value all people, even those I disagree with.

And now I want to invite my fellow believers to join me in valuing people.

Throughout the Gospels, we hear the story of the Apostle Matthew, a tax collector whose original name was Levi. Jewish tax collectors were reviled. They were seen as traitors who often robbed their own people. Pharisees and rabbis would eschew these “scums of the earth.” But not Jesus. He went directly up to Levi and asked him to leave his life behind and follow Him. Levi followed and became Matthew. Why did Levi follow? Because Levi knew that Jesus valued him, even though he was a miserable tax collector. Jesus valued him, because Jesus valued people.

Jesus valued people when He fed the 5,000, while the apostles just wanted to send them away. Jesus valued people when He had compassion for them. Jesus valued people when He wept with Lazarus’ family. Jesus valued people when He healed them. Jesus valued people when He spoke to the woman at the well, defended the woman caught in adultery and the woman at His feet. Jesus valued people when He healed on the Sabbath. Jesus valued people when He stood up to the religious elite, who did not value people, but rather valued religious works and recognition. Jesus valued people when He took their place on the Cross.

Jesus has commanded us to give our lives to valuing people. In a way you can sum up the two greatest commandments in valuing people. Love the Lord your God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love God by obeying Him. Obey God by valuing people.

In the heat of the culture war and the great partisan divide, this can be so hard. We have been trained in our boot camps from the very beginning that those who disagree with us are our enemy and we must defeat them. “This is war for the heart of our nation. This is war for America. We must win for the sake of our country and future generations.” So we grab our weapons, and every two years we go to war. We too often say whatever needs to be said in order to ensure our side gets the upper hand in the war for power. We treat rules as negotiable, as long as they benefit our side.

We must do a better job of demonstrating that we value people, specifically in the political arena.

But we must do a better job of demonstrating that we value people, specifically in the political arena. We must have the mindset of Christ and see that there is value in every person’s life, even those who disagree with us. In our church walls we are doing this, but we struggle in the political arena.

When the Prophet Nathan rebuked King David, David was willing to listen and accepted the rebuke because he knew Nathan legitimately cared about him. He knew that Nathan loved him and valued him. If we are ever to truly speak into the culture, the culture must know that we care about them. That we genuinely love them and value their lives. And because we value them, we know these things that the Lord said are unrighteous will only harm them and lead to death. We don’t want that for people who we love and value. God doesn’t want it either. Jesus valued people, even as He spoke the truth.

Truly valuing a person begins with getting to know them at a personal level. Get beyond the politics, and get to know the person. Engage in conversation with them. Seek to understand who they are and why they believe what they believe. Listen. We may be surprised where their heart is coming from. As we listen, we will see many pour their hearts out to us. We will have real opportunities to speak into their lives. Why? Because they know that we genuinely care about them.

Ultimately, everything we do should be about valuing people. Every person we vote for must value people, or our message is compromised. Only then will these partisan walls begin to come down. Only then will we see people saved. When they see that we really value them, they will know that we are looking out for what is best for them. They will better hear the gospel and how God saved us and how He can also save them. Then we will be engaging the culture like Jesus did, valuing people.

Think bigger! Join in prayer for the election

Before Election Day comes November 8, let us all take a step back from politics and presidents and remember that our greatest hope is not in an earthly prince, but in the King of Kings.

For something tragic has happened, particularly in the church, during this contentious election season. Sharp rhetoric and bitter division over politics have turned Americans, even brothers in Christ, against one another.

The reality is, when our eyes are focused on the kingdoms of the world, we lose focus on the things that are truly important.

So let’s think bigger than just one election. Let’s take time to acknowledge that America needs God most of all. In fact … let’s take 40 days of time.

For 40 days, beginning Sept. 30 until Election Day Nov. 8, thousands of Christians around the world are already committing to focus their hearts not on politics, but on prayer.

It’s called #Focus4Forty, an intentional initiative of the If 7:14 movement. Because we’re completely serious: Without prayer this election, America doesn’t have a prayer. We need real change, real cultural transformation, revival change in America. No one else and nothing else will do.


The good news, however, is that joining #Focus4Forty is easy, it’s free, and it’s uniting believers in prayer for revival.

To join #Focus4Forty:

    • Click here to visit the #Focus4Forty page of
    • On the page you can download the free If 7:14 app, which will remind you twice daily, every day, to pray for revival in America. For the 40 days from Sept. 30 to Nov. 8, it will focus our prayers on seeking God during election season. (If you’ve already downloaded the If 7:14 app and are praying with us, there’s nothing more you need to do to join #Focus4Forty. On Sept. 30, the daily prayer reminders you’re already getting will focus intentionally on America’s revival and our true hope this election season. After Election Day, the daily prayer reminders will continue encouraging you to pray for revival in the many different areas of your life.)
    • Encourage others with your prayers by using the hashtag #Focus4Forty on Twitter and Facebook.

ShareOn_FB1 ShareOn_TW1

And if you’re a pastor or want to encourage your church to join in #Focus4Forty, here are some resources to help:

  • A bulletin insert inviting YOUR church to join #Focus4Forty
  • A paragraph blurb for your church’s announcements, inviting people to join #Focus4Forty
  • PowerPoint slides in both standard and widescreen formats introducing #Focus4Forty
  • To download the video above to your computer for playback, click here.
  • Preview the upcoming #Focus4Forty prayer reminders by clicking here.

Look … knowing who to vote for this election might not be easy. But it shouldn’t incite battles between brothers either. It’s time for the church to unite again around its higher calling, around its true hope. It’s time for the church to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and unite in prayer.

And let’s acknowledge one other truth: After 40 days of prayer, we’ll all be much better prepared for what to do when we DO enter the voting booth.

Bathroom debate invades church walls in ‘unprecedented’ case

160901courthouseDES MOINES, Iowa – Dozens of supporters and pastors across denominational lines sat in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa yesterday, in what lawyers for both sides called an “unprecedented” case for religious liberty in America.

“Iowa really is an outlier,” explained Steve O’Ban, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney representing Fort Des Moines Church of Christ in his opening remarks, “where a government enforcer is seeking to regulate the building of a religious organizations in violation of its religious beliefs.”

At stake in the case of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson, argued O’Ban, is whether sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, provisions in state civil rights codes could grant government a “green light to regulate churches.”

The core of the argument is whether or not churches can be considered “public accommodations” and therefore be guilty of “discrimination” if, to borrow language directly from Iowa Code 216.7, they make a person feel “unwelcome” or “not acceptable” because of their gender identity.

In other words, can the state deem a church a “public accommodation” and therefore compel the congregation to open its womens’ bathrooms to biological men who “identify” as female? Or, more liberally applied, could the government charge churches with “discrimination” if their signs, literature, or even sermons make a homosexual person feel “not acceptable”?

How is a secular court qualified to determine which church activities are protected by the First Amendment and which are not?

Lawyers representing the City of Des Moines and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, on the other hand, argued the case should be dismissed because there are no churches in Iowa currently under investigation for violating the public accommodation laws. Assistant Attorney General Molly Weber argued Fort Des Moines Church of Christ’s case is “hypothetical” and based on “fear.”

The Iowa Civil Rights Code already has an exemption, Weber said, for church activities with, according to the Code’s language, “a bona fide religious purpose.”

“If [an activity is] protected by the First Amendment it’s exempt,” Weber argued, “[and] if not protected by the First Amendment, it’s not exempt.”

But that, the ADF attorney said, is exactly the problem: How is a secular court qualified to determine which church activities are protected by the First Amendment and which are not? And are we to give a civil rights commission the authority to force churches to violate their religious beliefs and practices because the commission doesn’t think some of the church’s activities are “religious enough”?

“You don’t sift through the activities and weigh whether one is religious and one is not,” O’Ban said to U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose. Besides, he continued, “[His client’s] church does not allow any use of its building inconsistent with its religious purpose.”

Weber, however, wasn’t willing to concede O’Ban’s argument.

“Church autonomy is not without limits,” she said, suggesting some church activities may require a test of whether or not they are “rooted in sincere religious belief.”

But as for what that test may be, or who would have the ability to make that determination, Weber could only say it would have to be determined on a “case-by-case” basis. Des Moines City Attorney Michelle Mackel admitted there was “no test except common sense measuring.”

Yet as the very controversy over open bathrooms in schools – and now churches – reveals, what qualifies as common sense isn’t commonly agreed upon in America today.

“That is precisely the problem,” rebutted O’Ban.

“That vagueness [in the law] is in itself a constitutional violation,” O’Ban said.

O’Ban argued his client is left wondering whether a potluck has a “bona fide religious purpose” and thus is protected by the First Amendment or not. What about a movie night where the public is invited? Will a court have to sift through the movie to determine whether its content is Christian enough to be deemed “bona fide religious”? What about offering community child care or feeding the homeless? Could a church be found guilty of “discrimination” if a transgender, homeless man came in for a meal and found a pamphlet on human sexuality that made him feel, according to Iowa Code, “not acceptable”?

Yes, there’s a religious institution exemption in the Iowa Civil Rights Code, O’Ban conceded, but its “impossibly vague” language opens the door for government enforcers to start “sifting through church activities to determine what are religious or non-religious activities,” a measure of government intrusion on the freedom of religion he called “deeply concerning.”

“That vagueness [in the law] is in itself a constitutional violation,” O’Ban said. “That vagueness has had and continues to have a ‘chilling’ effect on [the church’s] First Amendment rights.”

Fort Des Moines Church of Christ and Alliance Defending Freedom are asking Judge Rose to issue an injunction to prevent the city and state from dictating bathroom policies within the walls of the church and from regulating the church’s public communications, to legally free churches to once again exercise the freedom of speech and religion without having to stop and evaluate whether every activity is “religious enough” to be exempt from government enforcement.

Judge Rose offered no timeline for her decision but suggested it would be forthcoming as swiftly as possible.

Learn more about the case and find out how you can support Alliance Defending Freedom by clicking here.

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Man of God: The king whose humility saved a nation

160830keepcalmsmallby Greg Baker

When we think of World War II leaders, we think of men like FDR, Charles de Gaulle, Dwight Eisenhower, and Joseph Stalin. World War II Britain, specifically, brings to mind the strong, bold leadership of Winston Churchill.

Too often overlooked, however, is King George VI, Britain’s head of state. As the symbol of the nation, the head of state is a very different responsibility than the chief executive. Heads of state set the standard on what it means to be a citizen of that nation. They provide an example of who we should be, rather than who we are. The culture of a nation rises and falls with the standards put forward by its head of state.

The British people most certainly rose to the standards of King George VI. In fact, it is hard to see how Britain would have been victorious in World War II without the humble, servant example set by King George VI.

The British people learned what truly mattered in a head of state: that charisma isn’t nearly as valuable as character.

King George VI came into power in an improbable way. He was not the direct heir to the throne of King George V. His older brother, King Edward VIII, was. Yet King Edward VIII did not hold the throne for even a full year before he abdicated it. For Edward wanted to marry an American woman who already had a husband. As king and the head of the Church of England, to marry an already married woman compromised his role. Rather than sacrifice his lustful desires, Edward abdicated the throne and married the woman. His brother, Prince Albert, took the throne in his place and was crowned King George VI.

King George VI did not have a smooth start. His brother was very much beloved by the British people and many wanted his return. George VI also suffered from a severe speech impediment that limited his public communication, a major problem when you serve as the head of state.

Yet the people of Britain drastically changed their feelings toward King George VI after war broke out in Europe and the Nazis threatened to invade Britain. For the British people learned what truly mattered in a head of state: that charisma isn’t nearly as valuable as character.

King George VI was a man that led by his faith in Jesus Christ and Christ’s example of being a humble servant: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)

King George VI was keenly aware of who he was and who God is, and that knowledge led him to unprecedented – and absolutely essential – humility. For King George VI was the first British king to visit the United States of America since the War for Independence in 1776. He knew that an alliance with America was important to ensure that freedom would survive the fascist expansion in central Europe. George VI would not let pride get in the way, but rather he and his wife humbly came and visited with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt at his residence in New York. They shared a humble meal of hot dogs and discussed the dire international situation.

During the bombing of London, King George VI was encouraged to stay in Canada for his own safety. Yet the king refused to leave Buckingham Palace. He did not believe it was right to leave his people. Even though the palace was bombed nine times, the king never left. He knew that if he left, it would send a message that there was no hope, that the war was lost. Rather the king and his wife decided to set an example that declared London was worth fighting for, and he joined his people in the streets, helping them after the bombings. Even when the Allies had major military setbacks in 1942, the king called for multiple national days of prayer.

During this dark, difficult hour, a well known phrase was born, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The phrase encapsulated the spirit of the British king, and the people followed. In Britain’s darkest hour, the people joined their king in keeping calm and carrying on.

The recently popularized signs carrying the “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan were originally printed with the purpose of being posted if the Nazis did in fact invade Britain. King George VI wanted it to be his last message to the people, a message that in essence said, “In this dark hour, do not conform to the ways of the darkness. Rather persevere. Persevere in the most difficult of times. My people, keep calm and carry on.”

Thankfully those signs never had to be used. One of the primary reasons was the British people never gave up. Unlike some of their European counterparts, the British were willing to sacrifice anything, even their lives. King George VI led by example, risking his own life every day as he stayed with this people.

Leadership is not found in fame, power, glory, charisma, glamor, or wealth. Rather a good leader is a person of high character.

Furthermore, King George VI wanted to make sure he communicated that he valued the service and sacrifice of the men a and women in uniform. He frequently visited the troops, even in some hostile areas, to show his appreciation. He founded a new award called the George Cross to clearly communicate how much in debt the nation was to the men and women’s bravery during the war.

But perhaps the greatest thing the king did for the British people was show that he valued them. Motivated by his Savior, the king did not use his authority to lord over his people. Rather the king was humble and he served, his example sparking a spirit of service throughout the British Empire. This spirit made it possible to survive one of the darkest hours the nation ever encountered. The people kept strong and followed their head of state, their king.

When remembering King George VI, we must remember that leadership is not found in fame, power, glory, charisma, glamor, or wealth. Rather a good leader is a person of high character. King George VI is an excellent example of how God often uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Great Britain owes much of their nation’s survival to this humble, ordinary servant of the Lord’s. King George VI showed what it truly means to be a head of state, and the example he gave should be the expectation all nations have for their heads of state. After all, it is God’s expectation.

Transgender school policy leaves town terrified

160817fairfieldhighVandalism. Black armbands. A “hit list.” Death threats. Bullying. Parents afraid of losing their jobs. Girls leaving campus just to go to the bathroom. Students telling law enforcement they’re scared to go to school, afraid the high school in Fairfield, Iowa, may soon erupt in violence.

The situation in Fairfield is a lot worse than the media has reported, in large part, because parents and students are afraid to tell the story – or at least, afraid no one will tell their story fairly.

Fairfield Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Laurie Noll told KTVO-TV the majority of students are accepting of new policies put into place at the end of the last school year in compliance with a “Dear Colleague Letter” issued in May by the Obama administration, which dictates schools allow students who “identify” as transgender to use the bathroom, locker room, sports team, even overnight hotel room of the opposite sex.

Noll told KTVO that outside of a vandalism incident, there was no verifiable misconduct happening at the school. End of story.

Only it isn’t. Not even close.

The Des Moines Register then blew off the situation in Fairfield in yet another glowing piece about transgenderism in Iowa.

But the students of Fairfield High tell a different tale. In private, to parents or youth pastors, students are reporting shocking stories:

  • Within 24 hours of the Obama administration’s Dear Colleague Letter, a Fairfield girl “identifying” as a boy left on a school music trip to St. Louis and, in accordance with the new guidelines, bunked in the boys’ hotel room for the trip. After she returned, her car was vandalized.
  • Shortly thereafter, two female students were in the girls’ locker room changing clothes when male students walked in, boasting, “This is how it is now. We’re going to do what we want.”
  • A boy reported using the urinal in the men’s room, when a biological female entered, stood next to him, pulled down her pants, and used the adjacent urinal.
  • LGBTQ students began passing out black armbands to support the mandate and the girl whose car was vandalized. Those who chose not to wear them were shunned and taunted as “haters,” “bigots,” and “rednecks.”
  • A girl posted a “hit list” on the Internet, listing Fairfield students she deemed as “homophobes” who needed to be “hit.”
  • Many youth uncomfortable with bathrooms being a political “war zone” and opposite biological parts in their bathrooms tried to hold their restroom needs until they could get off campus. Hy-Vee employees reported that many high school youth came there at lunch or immediately after school and rushed to the store’s bathroom.
  • While pro-LGBTQ students wore color-coded T-shirts indicating their support for the bathroom policy, students wearing Christian-themed T-shirts, including one that read, “Love the person, hate the sin. Jesus loves you,” were told to change out of them. When a mother (who asked TFL not to be identified) confronted the school about her son’s legal rights and asked why her child was forced to change his Christian-themed shirt, she said, the principal told her that her son “needed to learn to be tolerant.”

Dr. Chris Meador, a local chiropractor, father of two Fairfield Junior High students, and chairman of the Fairfield concerned parents and pastors group Citizens United for Students’ Rights and Liberties, told TFL these are only the stories that have been “verified,” but there may be more.

“Lots of people say [about these new policies] that you don’t have to worry about transgender kids abusing them,” Meador said, “but this policy opens the doors to so many different things that could happen, and these are just some of them.”

Why the fear?

It’s clear that Fairfield’s transgender policy, which extends to the district’s middle school and three elementary schools as well, endangers the safety and privacy of schoolchildren. Girls hesitant to use the restroom or change in the locker room in front of biological males is understandable. Boys uncomfortable with dropping their drawers while a girl is using the adjacent urinal makes sense.

But in Fairfield, the fear runs much deeper.

Simon Spalla, a junior at Fairfield High when the new policies were put into place, told TFL the policy created an instant divide in the school, where the pressure to support the LGBTQ cause became a hotbed for bullying.

“The policy was changed on Friday, and by school [the following] Tuesday, if you didn’t have one of the black armbands on supporting the gay/lesbian side, you were harassed,” Spalla told TFL. “I was called a ‘devil,’ ‘bigot,’ and ‘homophobe,’ because I wore an armband of the other side, red and white for keeping the bathrooms the same. But I know people who wore no armbands, just trying to keep out of it, were harassed, too.

“On the Internet, a girl made a ‘hit list,'” Spalla continued, “saying, ‘Here are some people on my hit list who are homophobes.’ There were kids who saw it and saw their names, asking, ‘What are they going to do to me?'”

“I fear for these kids,” said a law enforcement officer who spoke to TFL on the condition of anonymity, concerned his job could be jeopardized for speaking out. “I’ve talked to these kids, and they said there was never a problem until Obama sent that letter out and the superintendent made it policy. The next day, there was a big conflict. There was a lot of bullying going on, both sides.

“I was approached by a Fairfield student who is scared there will be shooting at school,” the officer said. “But he doesn’t want to tell his parents, because, he said, ‘I don’t know where my parents stand [on the bathroom debate].'”

The officer recalled he also had a girl approach him and say, “One thing that scares me is with today’s technology, somebody could take a picture of me and send it on web, and it would ruin me mentally for the rest of my life.”

“I didn’t know how bad it was until they came to me,” the officer explained. “Rumors get started, people talk, but when you’ve got young kids going up to law enforcement officers saying they’re scared to go to school, we have a problem. You can’t argue that.”

But the officer has a problem of his own. His superiors have warned him not to make public statements because other government officials have lost their jobs for speaking out.

“When you’ve got kids running to law enforcement because the school is failing them, because they’re not sure they can talk to their parents, that tells you how bad it is. And I can’t speak up. Because I’m a law enforcement officer, I want to speak up for them, but I can’t,” he said. “My hands are tied. I’m here to take bullets for them, and there’s a good chance I may have to, because we don’t have enough common sense to stand up and say this is not right.”

A community silenced

Citizens United for Students’ Rights and Liberties garnered nearly 1,000 signatures (in a town of 10,000 people) on a petition urging their school district not to adopt the Obama administration’s guidelines, and instead ensure “the safety, privacy, and modesty of all of our students.” They presented the petition at a school board meeting.

But the board welcomed Drew Bracken, a lawyer at Ahlers & Cooney, which represents about half of the state’s districts, and Nate Monson, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Iowa Safe Schools, who both poo-pooed the petition in the Des Moines Register.

And after months of hand wringing, in a school board meeting earlier this week, the Fairfield School District decided to ignore the petition and voted 5-2 to adopt the federal guidelines as policy.

Furthermore, Meador told TFL, “Nate Monson referred to [the Citizens group] as a ‘hate group’ on Facebook. He called the Alliance Defending Freedom a ‘hate group.’ We had gotten 1,000 signatures of people in town opposed to this policy, and he referred to all of those community members as a ‘hate group.'”

And therein lies the rub: It’s not only the students of Fairfield who feel they’re being bullied into silence, but the adults as well.

TFL spoke to multiple parents, a teacher in the district, and the aforementioned law enforcement officer, all of whom oppose the school district policy but asked not to be named for fear of their jobs or public shaming. Furthermore, after feeling burned by unfavorable local press and distrusting the Des Moines Register, which Meador accused of writing “puff pieces” in favor of transgenderism, even the leaders of the Fairfield Citizens group are refusing to speak to the media.

“People in the community are worried about saying anything because their words get twisted around,” said Angela Fulton, communications director for the Citizens group. “They say you’re bullying, you’re hateful, you’re old-fashioned. I don’t feel like it would be beneficial to speak with [the media]. I absolutely don’t want anyone to twist our words around, because KTVO did that.”

“There’s fear at all levels,” Meador added. “Unfortunately, this has really affected families and friendships. I know several people who have wanted to step up, but several work for the school, and they’re afraid their jobs would be in jeopardy if they stuck their necks out too much. I know business owners who are afraid to be vocal, too. Are we going to lose business if we take a stand?”

“Too many people are trying to just mind their own business,” Fulton said, “For instance, a grandmother told me a few weeks ago, one of these incidents happened to her granddaughter, but the girl doesn’t want to think about it, because she’s going to college this year. She just wants to put it behind her. But it’s gotten to the point where if parents don’t say something, it’s going to get worse.”

Can anything be done?

In communications from the school district, Meador said, lawyers keep insisting “the law is clear,” that all students have a right to use the facilities consistent with their gender identity, and that schools just need to get on board with the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX in the Dear Colleague Letter.

“But when you look at the latest case in Burlington, the court ruled against [the administration’s interpretation],” Meador said. “There have only been three or so relevant civil cases in Iowa, and they were split. It’s certainly not ‘clear.’ The [schools are] not going off the law, they’re going off an interpretation of the law.”

In fact, the Alliance Defending Freedom, an national legal alliance defending religious liberty, conducted an analysis of current case law and concluded, “Both federal and state courts have almost uniformly rejected arguments suggesting that Title IX requires schools to give students access to opposite-sex restrooms and changing areas.”

Even Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad called the Dear Colleague Letter a “federal overreach” that “does not have the force of law” and an “unnecessary threat.”

For more on what YOU can do in YOUR school district, read TFL’s “4 Things You Can DO about School Bathroom Policies” by clicking here.

Meador hopes that come next September, when three of the board members are up for re-election, they can be replaced with candidates more responsive to the community’s concerns.

For Fairfield parent Nicole Spalla, however, she’s not waiting until next year. She’s part of a community prayer group hoping God will bring about a change of heart that can transform Fairfield.

“Long before this controversy erupted, we started praying for the school, for churches to unite, for revival for the city,” Spalla told TFL. “We kept feeling something big was going to happen, but didn’t know what. Since this happened, we meet twice a month – or more when there’s board meetings – and we pray for what’s going on and for all those who are speaking publicly.

“This is so much bigger than just the transgender issue,” she continued. “We’re seeing churches, pastors, and parents coming together. Too many churches have such a spirit of complacency, and there’s still an awakening that has to happen for people to stand up and stand strong. It’s time for people to realize you can’t just go to church and sit. We’re praying for people to be set on fire to do the work needed to take back our community spiritually.”

Join the over 20,000 people praying like Nicole for spiritual revival in America today! Visit and download the free prayer app today!