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INTRODUCTION

A November 27, 2020 email from Matt Staver at the Liberty Counsel presents a list of instances where certain state governments have targeted churches.[i]  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo characterized as “irrelevant” the recent (November 25, 2020) decision by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Romans Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York putting on hold the enforcement of his overreaching anti-religious mandates on religious services.[ii]  A November 27, 2020 article in The Washington Times[iii] describes New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reaction to the decision reads [in part]:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the Supreme Court’s ruling blocking his restrictions on religious gatherings as an “irrelevant” political statement.  The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled 5-4, with newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority, to temporarily block Mr. Cuomo from enforcing capacity limits at churches and synagogues in certain state-designated coronavirus hot spots.

In California, as recently reported by the Western Journal, Governor Newsome has issued very restrictive orders on worship services:

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that “for counties in high-risk areas, which covers most of the state, the governor is forbidding all indoor worship services … while allowing 25% indoor attendance in moderate-risk counties.”

According to the paper, a California church group, including “Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena and Harvest International Ministry, which is affiliated with 162 California churches,” has filed a request for “immediate court intervention” against the new state restrictions on religious gatherings.

Newsom refuses to lift his restrictions and has, in fact, doubled down. The state attorney general’s office, led by Xavier Becerra, has issued a filing to the Supreme Court arguing that, due to the surge in coronavirus cases and the “perils of lengthy indoor gatherings with singing and chanting,” the new limitations are warranted. [iv]

These state governments have targeted churches with draconian restrictions on assembling to worship God.  Among certain liberals, there is a concerted effort to silence, if not eliminate the influence of the evangelical Christina church, through these lockdowns.  God’s Word teaches that believers are to assemble to worship per Hebrews 10:25 (ESV):

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Government restrictions on evangelical Christians assembling for worship may only be the first step in a series to essentially remove the moral influence of the evangelical Christian church in America. 

A disturbing article by Steve Warren on December 8, 2020 entitled “Norway Expands Trnsgender ‘Hate Speech’ Law to Include Private Comments in One’s Own Home” {link: Norway Expands Transgender ‘Hate Speech’ Law to Include Private Comments in One’s Own Home | CBN News ) reports that Norway’s “hate speech” law will encompass both public and private speech against transgenders.  The article references an article by constitutional law Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University entitled “Norway Criminalizes Hate Speech Against Transgender People . . . In Private Homes or Conversations.”  The link is: Norway Criminalizes Hate Speech Against Transgender People . . . In Private Homes or Conversations – JONATHAN TURLEY).  The article reads [in part]:

The most chilling fact is that European-style speech controls have become a core value in the Democratic Party. Once a party that fought for free speech, it has become the party demanding Internet censorship and hate speech laws. President-Elect Joe Biden has called for speech controls and recently appointed a transition head for agency media issues that is one of the most pronounced anti-free speech figures in the United States. It is a trend that seems now to be find support in the media, which celebrated the speech of French President Emmanuel Macron before Congress where he called on the United States to follow the model of Europe on hate speech.

 Looking at 2021 and beyond under the dark shadow of a Biden-Harris administration, which no doubt will be supportive of liberal anti-Christian state and local governments, I firmly realize that as a Christ-follower who proclaims the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, who stands for biblical morality, who holds to a biblical view pertaining to the beginning of life, and who desires to assemble to worship God, my life in 2021 and beyond may very likely be tumultuous.   

In a very recent article in Christian Headlines (link: “We’re Not Ready” – Pastor Urges US Christians to Prepare for Persecution – Milton Quintanilla (christianheadlines.com)), Pastor Andrew Brunson, who served as a missionary in Turkey for over 20 years and was unjustly imprisoned for two years beginning  in 2016 warns:

“On my return to the US just over two years ago, for the first time in my life—most of my life I’ve been focused overseas—for the first time in my life, I really, I have an urgency for this country, for the United States,” Brunson explained. “And not just with this election. It’s not precipitated by this election, but it has been growing in me these last two years.”

He warned of increasing pressures in the U.S, especially towards people “who embrace Jesus Christ and his teaching, who are not ashamed to stand for him. My concern is that we’re not ready for this pressure. And not being prepared is very, very dangerous on a number of levels.”

Since I have advance warning that difficult times are ahead for evangelical Christians, the logical question becomes: what should a genuine Christ-follower do to prepare himself or herself or what is ahead?   1 Peter 1:13 (NKJV) gives some advice:

13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

In Part Two of this “Gird Up the Loins of Your Mind” series, I’ll examine what I plan to do in light of what God’s Word says in 1 Peter 1:13 in light of its literary context.

If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell.  But, your destiny can change.  Today can be the day of your salvation.  Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved and a more concise description at my (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/10/20/there-is-hope-even-when-there-seems-to-be-no-hope-2/ ).

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[i] These situations are described below:

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, along with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, towed and impounded the cars of neighbors who live around Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, blocked the church parking lot, and even threatened to destroy church buildings through “Summary Abatement” if they worship with more than 10 people. This case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down ALL WORSHIP for much of California, which included home Bible studies and fellowship with anyone who does not live in the home. Violators face up to one year in prison and huge fines. Our client Pastor Ché Ahn of Harvest Rock Church, the staff and parishioners face daily criminal charges and fines any time they enter the church for a religious meeting. Our case is pending at the Court of Appeals. And an emergency injunction, which would prevent Newsom from taking any further action against our client until the courts rule, has been requested at the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam established a hotline urging people to report fellow citizens who violate his illegal orders. Our client, Pastor Kevin Wilson of Lighthouse Fellowship Church, was criminally charged for having 16 people in a 293-seat sanctuary on Palm Sunday. The case is ongoing.

In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills banned parking lot and in-person worship. Violators, like our client Pastor Ken Graves of Calvary Chapel, face criminal charges, fines and jail time for opening church to serve the pastor’s flock. This church has an incredible substance abuse ministry where men and women stay onsite for 12 months. Bible study and worship at the church is essential. The case is pending at the Court of Appeals.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear put every attendee of Maryville Baptist Church’s Easter Sunday stay-in-your-own-car parking lot service under 14-day involuntary, forced home confinement. Beshear continued his tyrannies, despite warnings from his own Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney General and three separate courts. Beshear continues to insist he, and he alone, is the arbiter of religious freedom in his state. The case is ongoing.

[ii] Link to opinion: 20A87 Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo (11/25/2020) (supremecourt.gov)

[iii] The article is entitled “Andrew Cuomo blasts Supreme Court ruling on religious gatherings as ‘irrelevant’ political statement” (link: Andrew Cuomo blasts Supreme Court ruling on religious gatherings as ‘irrelevant’ political statement – Washington Times ).

[iv] See a December 2, 2020 article by Elizabeth Stauffer in the Western Journal entitled “Newsome Ignores SCOTUS, Doubles Down on Religious Gathering Restrictions” (link: Newsom Ignores SCOTUS, Doubles Down on Religious Gathering Restrictions (westernjournal.com) ).