- Monday, May 20, 2024

May 19 is Pentecost Sunday, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and the “birth” of the Christian church, when Peter’s outdoor sermon netted 3,000 converts that day.

This year, Pastor Mark Francey of Oceans Church in Southern California is hoping to exceed that headcount many times over. He’s working with nearly 300 churches across the state to coordinate baptisms that day and is praying for 15,000 to 30,000 statewide. Many of those will be immersed at Huntington Beach, made popular in the 2023 hit movie “Jesus Revolution.”

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Power of positive speaking: Joel Osteen’s 1,000th sermon

Joel Osteen worked behind the scenes at Houston’s Lakewood Church before preaching his first sermon in 1999. On May 19, 2024, he’ll deliver his 1,000th sermon in the megachurch’s pulpit. (Photo courtesy of Lakewood Church)

He never expected to be a preacher, but Joel Osteen stepped up to lead Lakewood Church in January 1999, when his father, church founder John Osteen, died. On Sunday, Mr. Osteen delivers his 1,000th sermon from the pulpit in Houston. He addresses a congregation of 16,000 attendees at each service and millions via television and satellite radio. His books have sold tens of millions of copies, and the ministry’s “Night of Hope” events pack venues such as Yankee Stadium.

But he says it’s God’s blessings that made the difference, a positive message Mr. Osteen now shares weekly.

“It’s the amazing goodness of our God, of how he puts things in us that we don’t know we have,” he told The Washington Times. “That’s why it’s been so easy for me to encourage people that [they] have gifts and talents and God knows how to open doors that we can’t open.”

A county’s library-related ‘fine’ for blocking free speech

Moms for Liberty founder Tiffany Justice speaks at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit, Nov. 4, 2023, in Kissimmee, Fla. Moms for Liberty has recently reported $2.1 million in total revenue in 2022. That's more than five times what the conservative “parental rights” nonprofit made in its inaugural year in 2021, according to tax filing provided to The Associated Press on Friday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) **FILE**

Yolo County, California, will fork over $70,000 to settle a free-speech lawsuit filed by Moms for Liberty and other organizations after a staff member at the public library in Davis, California, shut down a women’s sports forum over charges of “misgendering” transgender athletes, The Times’ Valerie Richardson reports.

The county will also revise policies to make sure workers don’t interfere with presentations in reserved meeting rooms based on the “content” of expressed views, and staff will be told to “curtail” disruptive behavior during such events. The Moms for Liberty hailed the settlement as a free-speech victory.

‘Don’t call us evangelicals, even if we are!’

Church and steeple (Associated Press) ** FILE **

The word “evangelical” has become a political, rather than a religious, label to some in America — so much so that many Protestants who hold to key evangelical beliefs don’t want that word applied to them.

A study released this week showed that only 27% of those who hold those beliefs want the “e-word” applied to them; more than half of the 73% who passed on the term said it is either “misused or misunderstood” or “has too much negative baggage,” according to the survey from Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts.

Presbyterians pull polarization panel over polarizing guest

Shown at the offices of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is President David French, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2005, in Philadelphia. FIRE, an upstart advocacy organization, has become the go-to group for college students and professors around the country who believe their free speech rights have been violated. (AP Photo/George Widman) **FILE**

The Presbyterian Church in America has yanked a panel discussion on “Supporting Your Pastor and Church Leaders in a Polarized Political Year” from its annual convention schedule after one participant, New York Times columnist David French, a former PCA church member, was deemed too polarizing. The group will hold a prayer session during the time slot instead.

To some critics, Mr. French’s support for same-sex marriage and drag queen “story hour” presentations to children, were enough to dissuade them. Also cited, the comments of Nancy French, an author and Mr. French’s wife, that their last PCA congregation was “brimming with neo-Confederates.”

No room at Nashville ‘inn’ for pro-Israel Christian group

Israelis opposed to a contentious government plan to overhaul the judiciary wave Israeli and American flags during a protest in support of President Joe Biden, who criticized the plan this week, outside of the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 30, 2023. As Biden prepares to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week in New York, a new poll finds that while Americans generally view Israel as a partner or ally, many question whether his far-right government shares American values. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

The Sonesta Nashville Airport hotel may face a federal civil rights lawsuit over its cancellation of a contract with pro-Israel Christian group HaYovel for a late May meeting where 500 were expected to attend. Attorneys say the hotel — which claimed security concerns over the event — is violating federal and Tennessee civil rights laws with the sudden termination of the contract. 

A HaYovel official said they are determined to have the conference in the Nashville area and will find another venue if necessary.

Maryland parents lose appeal over religious opt-out for elementary students

Classroom, desks, chalkboard. (Photo credit: miya227 via Shutterstock) ** FILE **

federal appeals court told Muslim, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish parents in Maryland this week that it won’t back their efforts to remove their young elementary school children from classes where storybooks with LGBTQ themes are used.

The judges said the parents hadn’t demonstrated that Montgomery County Public Schools have violated religious free-exercise rights. Attorneys for the parents say they’ll appeal the decision.

In our opinion

Two pastors have been imprisoned in the African country of Eritrea for 20 years. More than 80 Christians have been arrested and detained in the first five months of 2024 alone. Photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs.

Hallowell: Profane outburst triggers unusual reaction at church service

Columnist Billy Hallowell tells the story of a church in San Antonio, Texas, where a homeless man’s profane outburst during a service set off a chain of responses that helped turn the man’s life around.

“For the Christian, this story is a clarion call to step up to the plate, to follow God’s promptings and to act in accordance,” Billy writes. And “it shows what can happen when one person steps out, looks outside themselves, and acts on behalf of others,” he said.

Nettleton: Eritrea must free pastors, Christians

Two Christian pastors in the East African nation of Eritrea remain imprisoned after 20 years, alongside 350 Christians also locked up, solely for being believers, Tom Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs writes

After two decades, pastors Kiflu Gebremeskel and Haile Nayzgi — never charged with a crime and never tried in a court — deserve to be freed and Christians should lobby Eritrea’s government for their release, Mr. Nettleton says.

Dr. E: Are collegians no longer ‘coachable’?

A Walla Walla, Washington, reader queries contributor Everett Piper, in his “Ask Dr. E” column, whether today’s college students are “coachable.” Our columnist says this is a central issue at the heart of chaotic campus protests and “cancel culture.” He says, “A good dose of ‘coaching’ by the local police would go a long way in correcting the problem.”

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