Archives For February 2013

cherry pieCOMMENTARY | On one special day every year, the Illinois State Capitol fills with the aroma of fresh-baked pie. Dubbed “Cherry Pie Day,” the event draws homeschooling families from across the state to Springfield, where they deliver the homemade desserts to legislators. It’s their way to thank lawmakers for their service, and to “sweeten the deal” while lobbying them on behalf of homeschooling interests.

Recently, a different group of volunteer lobbyists headed to the Capitol in support of a traditional definition of marriage. As the temperature outside hovered in the mid-20s, they prayed together under the gaze of a statue of Abraham Lincoln, and then streamed into the building to lobby their legislators to vote no on HB 10, the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois.

A few steps from the gathering, a debate rose between a handful of the rally attenders, and two lone protesters who had come in favor of same-sex marriage. The dialogue bounced back and forth, intense but not ugly. Just each side having their say.

The speakers were eloquent, and each spoke directly from his or her experience. These were obviously well thought-out opinions, and deeply rooted. And, while they answered each other so quickly that they couldn’t have been listening very well, it was the very definition of a civil disagreement.

But it was still uncomfortable, especially compared to the rousing unity of the rally. As people walked by the small debating group, most of them kept a safe distance.

This is likely true of most conflicts, and it’s certainly been on display in the same-sex marriage debate in Illinois: It’s easier to express opinions – elegantly, even – with people who agree with you. But there’s nothing as messy as staring eye-to-eye with an opponent who fully believes he or she is right, on the very topic on which you believe they’re dead wrong.

That’s what the group on the Capitol lawn was doing. Both sides stared down the uncomfortable notion of disagreement and faced into the awkwardness of expressing an opinion, when someone was waiting to refute it with their next breath.

As Christians are navigating the difficulties of same-sex marriage in Illinois, surely many have wondered how they can “sweeten the deal” when they talk to their friends and families and acquaintances about the issue. Without the comfort of cherry pie, what can they add to their argument to help others see that it’s a valid view? How can they hope to turn the cultural tide with their words, when there are so many voices saying the opposite?

The answer was on display that day on the Capitol steps: It’s clear-eyed, unwavering, thoughtful, calm, prayed-through debate. And it will require courage and humility and a willingness to examine long-held beliefs. The only chance opponents of same-sex marriage have to add any sweetness to these conversations is to actually have them. Maybe over pie.

BREAKING_NEWSSpringfield | Lisa Sergent

Illinois lawmakers took another step on Tuesday toward legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. Members of the House Executive Committee voted 6-5 to move the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” to a full vote on the House floor. The committee was scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but vigorous floor debate on concealed carry law kept the hearing from taking place until after 9:30 p.m.

The vote by the full House is expected as soon as proponents feel they have enough votes for passage, according to Capitol watchers, but it is believed they are still just short of a majority. Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign the law if it makes it to his desk.

A Crain’s/Ipsos poll released in February reported 50% of people in Illinois say they’re ready to become the tenth state to allow same-sex marriages. Only 29% are opposed, while 20% were unsure or reported mixed feelings on the issue. But many church leaders have continued to speak out against the legislation, even as the General Assembly inches closer and closer to final approval.

Christian leaders have expressed doubts that the religious liberties of churches will be protected if Illinois legalizes same-sex marriage. Some say the marriage bill could result in a “chilling effect” as churches seek to do effective ministry in their communities.

Read our Capitol coverage in the newest issue of the Illinois Baptist, online Thursday evening at

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Members of the House Executive Committee will vote today on whether to send the same-sex marriage bill SB 10, officially known as the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act”, to a vote on the House floor. Approval by a majority of the House members would be the final step before Gov. Pat Quinn signs the law, making Illinois the tenth state to allow same-sex marriages.

The committee action today culminates two busy weeks in which the State Senate passed the legislation Valentine’s Day by a vote of 34 to 21, with two Senators voting present. Opponents of same-sex marriage, including some from IBSA churches, were present during the Senate vote, and later at a marriage rally and “lobby day” at the Capitol.

This is important for me today simply because it’s God’s will as Scripture tells us that marriage consists of one man and one woman,” said Don Full, pastor of Havana Southern Baptist Church. “I’m here to support that part of my faith and the doctrine that God has established for the home.”

Christian leaders are discussing their next steps before the House vote, and have expressed doubts that the religious liberties of churches will be protected, should Illinois legalize same-sex marriage. Some say the marriage bill could result in a “chilling effect” as churches seek to do effective ministry in their communities.

Check back here this evening for an update from the House Executive Committee hearing, or go to for the latest news.

Reported by Lisa Sergent

Other news:

Tebow cancels FBC Dallas appearance
NFL quarterback and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow withdrew from an April speaking engagement at First Baptist Church, Dallas, after some media outlets expressed outrage that he would speak at the church pastored by Robert Jeffress, who has made controversial comments about other religions and homosexuality.

Tebow faced immediate backlash from some Christian leaders, but Boyce College (Ky.) professor Denny Burk urged people to give him the benefit of the doubt. “…I don’t think this move should be interpreted as an expression of support for gay rights or some liberalized distortion of Christianity,” Burk wrote on his blog. “I have a hunch that he’s probably just trying not to get entangled in the culture war.” Burk also defended Jeffress’ views as “not the innovation of a single pastor but are the established consensus of the Christian Church.” Read more at

Warren advocates liberty for all
California pastor Rick Warren said American Christians should repent for no supporting the religious freedom of people of other faiths, during a recent forum hosted by Georgetown University. “Seventy-five percent of our world lives in societies in which there is no religious liberty,” Warren said, adding that freedom is religious doesn’t just concern worship, but the practice of beliefs and values, and the freedom to convert. Read more at

Christians at the movies
Evangelicals go to the movies more often than the average American adult, according to a new Barna survey. Respondents identifying as evangelical reported seeing 2.7 movies at the theater in 2012, one more movie than the national average. Their top five movies of 2012: The Avengers, The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, The Hobbit, and Les Miserables. Go to for more.


pull quote_RAHTJEN_feb25HEARTLAND | Jim Rahtjen

As a pastor, it was one of those moments I lived for. This particular Saturday was a work day at the church. Members were busy cleaning, fixing, and generally spiffing up the building. Laura, an older woman who had attended our church for a while, had never come to understand fully and embrace the Good News of Jesus. She asked if I would explain to her again the message of salvation. We went to my office and I gave her a pamphlet I had written for the purpose of communicating the Gospel. We began to talk through the pamphlet together.

Laura was engaged in the conversation, and very intent on understanding who God is and what Jesus had done for her at the cross. I explained the necessity of Jesus’ death for her on the cross, that He paid the penalty for Laura’s sins, and that three days later He rose from the dead, proving that He is who He said He was. As I explained each point, she pored over the pamphlet, asking questions to make sure she understood.

As I began to explain the importance of believing what Jesus had done for her, I read a phrase that I had read many times over the years. “It is important to believe that Jesus died, was buried, rose again, and is alive today.”

Laura grabbed my arm and said, “Say that again.”

I repeated, “It’s important to believe that Jesus died for you and was buried—“

“No,” Laura said, still grasping my arm, “the other thing you just said, say it again.”

Confident I knew what she wanted to hear again, I said, with emphasis, “Jesus rose again!”

Squeezing my arm tighter, she said, “no, the other thing!”

Surprised, I thought, “What other thing?” I looked again at the phrase I had just read to her. I slowly read the whole thing, “It is important to believe that Jesus died… was buried… rose again… and is alive today.”

“That’s it!” She shouted. “He’s alive today? Are you serious? Is He really alive today?”

Amazed at her revelation, I said, “That’s what you wanted to hear again? That He’s alive today?”

Suddenly, like flipping a switch, I saw the lights of understanding illuminate her mind, “He’s alive today?”

“Yes!” I said, “He’s alive today!”

“I had no idea,” she said. “That changes everything! That affects my whole life. My husband needs to hear this! I’m certain he doesn’t know it.”

Then, hearing someone in the hallway, she rushed to the door. “Kristel!” she said, pulling the door open. “Did you know that Jesus is alive today?”

“Well, of course,” the teenager replied.

Seeing another girl down the hall, Laura called out, “Loree, did you know that Jesus is alive?”

“Uh, yeah.”

She ran up to the girls’ mother. “Sue,” Laura said breathlessly, “Did you know that Jesus is alive?”

Sue, sensing that Laura finally understood, said, “Yes! Oh, Laura, He is alive! Isn’t that wonderful?”

The two of them grabbed hands and jumped up and down with excitement. Laura kept saying, “He’s alive! He’s alive today! And everything is different!”

I stood there in wonder, thanking God for the miracle that just transpired. And I realized again how important it is to communicate the resurrection and its impact on our daily lives. I almost missed the moment, but Laura persisted, insisting that I “say it again.”

When she realized that Jesus is still alive, the resurrection became real to her. A truth that is at once simple and profound, the resurrection makes our faith real and alive – like Jesus. And yet, we run the risk of missing that life-altering truth, and its joy, when it becomes so familiar.

Ever since my encounter with Laura, I seek to make clear the truth of the resurrection when I share the good news of Jesus with others. The resurrection sets Christianity apart from all other religions. With Laura I say, “Because Jesus is alive today, everything is different!”

Jim Rahtjen is a pastor living in Glen Ellyn.


The Illinois Senate voted Valentine’s Day afternoon to pass SB 10, which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, by a vote of 34 to 21, with two voting present.

Now the bill has moved to the House where Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the sponsor of the Same-Sex Marriage bill, will be calling SB 10, the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act”, for a vote in the House Executive Committee on Tuesday, February 26, at 3 p.m. in Room 114 of the Capitol building in Springfield.

Christian leaders throughout the state are concerned that this bill will not only legalize same-sex marriage, but also infringe upon the religious liberty of all Christians in Illinois.

Pastors and other church leaders are encouraged to attend the hearing to support those testifying against the bill and to show their disapproval of the bill through their presence. However, space will be limited, but those who cannot get into the committee room can sign a witness slip expressing their opposition to the bill.

The bill is expected to be passed by the committee and would then be ready to move to the House Floor for a vote where it must have a full majority to pass. If the House does pass the bill, Governor Quinn has stated he will sign it into law. That date for a House vote is still to be determined.

Nearly a week after the Senate vote, February 20, Illinois Baptists and other Christians brought their concerns to the Illinois House as thousands of people rallied on the steps of the Illinois Capitol in support of a traditional definition of marriage. The security lines to get inside the building were long as the opponents of same-sex marriage waited for a chance to lobby their representatives to vote no on SB 10.

To read this bill, visit, and enter SB 10 into the search box on the left.

To read more about last week’s Senate vote and this week’s rally and lobby day, visit

Please make Tuesday’s House Executive Committee vote a matter of prayer.



Rally attenders brought homemade signs proclaiming a traditional view of marriage. Photos by Meredith Flynn

SPRINGFIELD | Lisa Sergent

Hundreds of people rallied on the steps of the Illinois Capitol Wednesday, February 20 in support of a traditional definition of marriage.  They gathered in front of the statue depicting the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and listened as speakers urged them stand up as Christians and to make their voices heard inside the Capitol Building. The speakers included a Chicago pastor, a former lesbian and State Representative David Reis (R-Olney).

The crowd was at the Capitol both for the rally and for an opportunity to lobby their representatives to vote no on HB 10 when it comes to a vote in the House. Altogether an estimated 4,000 people stood in lines that snaked across the sidewalks as they waited to get through security and inside the Capitol.

Last week, the Senate passed the bill which would legalize same-sex marriage, by a vote of 34-21-2. The House is expected to vote the bill as early as the next few weeks.

Several Illinois Baptists were on hand inside the Capitol. The Illinois Baptist spoke with some of them, including Pastor Don Full, Havana Southern Baptist Church. Full told the newspaper he was in attendance because, “This is important for me today simply because it’s God’s will as scripture tells us that marriage consists of one man and one woman. I’m here to support that part of my faith and the doctrine that God has established for the home.

“I reminded my church this past Sunday that evil prevails when good men and women do nothing. I found it necessary to be here to honor what God has established as far as the home.”

Pastor Alan Newman, Faith Missionary Baptist Church, Christopher, called marriage our “first institution that God created.”

Newman shared he felt it was important to be at the rally because, “It’s becoming more and more evident that if the church does not stand up and let their ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and their ‘no’ be ‘no’ we are definitely heading for more and more family meltdown.”

The rally and lobby day were sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute.


Representative David Reis (R-Olney) speaks to the crowd under the gaze of Abraham Lincoln on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol.

Nine-year-old Denzel Brown of Aurora snaps a photo during one of the speeches. Brown wore one of the yellow buttons supporting "Marriage: One Man One Woman."

Nine-year-old Denzel Brown of Aurora snaps a photo during one of the speeches. Brown wore one of the yellow buttons supporting “Marriage: One Man One Woman.”


Organizers estimate more than 4,000 people attended either the rally or an organized “lobby day,” where opponents of same-sex marriage were encouraged to visit their representatives and ask them to vote no on HB 10.

Rally attenders pray together to close the event.

Rally attenders pray together to close the event.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Leaders are hoping thousands of Christians will rally on the steps of the Illinois Capitol this week in support of a traditional definition of marriage.

The Illinois Family Institute (IFI) is sponsoring a marriage rally Wednesday, Feb. 20, in response to last week’s vote in the Illinois Senate to approve SB10, which, if passed by the State House, will legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

“I don’t think that we can legislate morality, but we’re called to be salt and light, and if we’re salt and light, we will influence this world, this country, this state,” said David Howard, director of missions for the Capital City Baptist Association in Springfield, after last week’s vote.

“And sometimes we have to be seen in the public square.”

Rev. Bob Vanden Bosch is executive director of Concerned Christian Ministries in Wauconda, Ill. In a press release, he urged Christians to stay at the Capitol after the rally and visit their legislators to lobby for traditional marriage. “It may be inconvenient to come to Springfield to lobby for a day, but it will certainly be more inconvenient if we do not stand up for our religion freedoms.”

The rally will begin at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Lincoln statue at the Illinois State Capitol. Read more here.

Students spend Spring Break cleaning up in New York
College students will again partner with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in post-Hurricane Sandy clean-up along the east coast. Students first took part in the effort during their Christmas vacations, including a team of Illinois volunteers who served in Staten Island early this year. Read more about the Spring Break opportunities at

Twitter uses weigh in on Lent
Swearing, soda, and social networking topped the list of what Twitter users pledged to give up for Lent, according to a list compiled by blogger Stephen Smith at The most mentioned thing to give up for Lent was tongue in cheek – more than 5,500 Twitter users said they were giving up “being pope” in the wake of Pope Benedict’s resignation. Swearing (4,944), soda (2,648), social networking (2,264) and alcohol (2,217) rounded out the top 5.

Millenials are stressed
Those happy-go-lucky twenty-somethings don’t feels especially happy. Or lucky. In fact, they report feeling more stressed out than their parents or grandparents: 39% say their stress levels have increased in the past year, 52% say their stress level is keeping them up at night, and a growing number say stress is getting them down. The findings are from a Harris Interactive poll of 2,020 U.S. adults, reported in USA Today.

Young adults’ top stressor? Work, followed closely by money. Relationships, family responsibilities, and the economy also add to their overall stress level. Read more at USA Today. Reported by Eric Reed

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

Meredith Flynn —  February 18, 2013

pull quote_BRIDGESEditor’s note: This full version of this post by Erich Bridges first appeared on

HEARTLAND | Regret is a painful thing. We look back on the foolish things we have done and the good things we have left undone. We lament wasted years, wrong attitudes, hurts inflicted on others, missed opportunities.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, spent years caring for patients in their last days. She identified the most common regrets they expressed about their lives in an article, and later a book, titled “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” They are:

1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

I’ll add a few more regrets that I have experienced. Perhaps you have some, too:

I wish I had spent more time glorifying God and less time cursing the darkness.

The world stinks. People are evil. Terrible things happen all the time. This is not exactly news. Constantly bemoaning it is a waste of time. Praising the Lord, His greatness, His grace and mercy and His salvation is time better spent — both now and in preparation for eternity in His presence. It’s also a better way to eliminate darkness. Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32, NASB).

I wish I had spent more time serving God and people and less time serving myself.

God created you and me to love Him, not to squander our brief time on earth loving ourselves only. The Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1647 is a far better guide in this regard than all the pop psychologists and phony priests of self-worship: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

 I wish I had told a lot more people about Jesus — and helped other believers to do so.

If Jesus meant the words He uttered in Matthew 28:19-20, when He told His followers to make disciples among all nations (peoples), this is our agenda. Nothing else comes higher on the priority list. And we have more resources to do it on a truly global scale than any previous generation of believers.

What are your regrets? If you’re still alive and alert enough to read this, you can change the habits and patterns that caused them.

“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality,” Ware says of her experiences with the dying. “I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal.”

We are all dying. Some of us have a few days left; some of us have many years. Make every day count.

Erich Bridges is a global correspondent for Southern Baptist International Mission Board,

By Lisa Sergent

SPRINGFIELD | The Illinois Senate voted Thursday afternoon to pass SB 10, which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, by a vote of 34 to 21. The bill now faces a vote in the State House.

David Howard (center) speaks to Illinois Baptist reporter Lisa Sergent directly following the Illinois Senate's vote to legalize same-sex marriage. Howard, director of missions for Capital City Baptist Association, and John Keyes, pastor of First Baptist Church, Riverton sat in the Senate chamber's gallery during the vote. In the hours leading up to the vote, Christian groups had urged pastors and other Christians to come to Springfield in an effort to sway senators who were still deciding.

David Howard (center) speaks to Illinois Baptist reporter Lisa Sergent directly following the Illinois Senate’s vote to legalize same-sex marriage. Howard, director of missions for Capital City Baptist Association, and John Keyes, pastor of First Baptist Church, Riverton, sat in the Senate chamber’s gallery during the vote. Photo by Meredith Flynn

A few Illinois Baptists – who were vastly outnumbered by supporters of same-sex marriage – were present in the gallery for the vote and the debate which preceded it.

Many supporters compared their perceived right to same-sex marriage with the U.S. Civil Rights Act. Emotions ran high with Senators who shared stories about family members and other loved ones they felt were being discriminated against by not being allowed to marry.

John Keyes, pastor of Riverton First Baptist, who was present in the gallery, told the Illinois Baptist he was disappointed by what he heard. “We’re rushing headlong into doing it, without really being alert to what’s going to happen as a result of all this, but I also got the distinct feeling that for many, they didn’t care about that, because it’s what they wanted.”

Lawmakers who spoke against the bill did so mainly due to fears of the erosion of religious liberty.  While the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), said the amended wording would protect religious freedom, many others did not agree.

Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) expressed concern that the passage of the bill would have a chilling effect on religious organizations that might worry they would be sued if they denied same-sex couples use of their facilities.

Righter asked Steans several questions about what would be protected from public accommodation and what would not. In her answers, Steans called his questions “red herrings.”

Righter argued, “There are two issues represented in this bill – one is same-sex marriage … and the other one is the degree to which we value the principles of religious freedom set for forth in the constitution both here in Illinois and in the federal constitution. This bill doesn’t strike that balance …

“The religious organizations [parochial schools and healthcare systems] back home we all represent … are all going to have to be asking these ‘red herring’ questions.  They’re not ‘red herring’ questions, they’re very real questions. The pastor back home with the small room in the basement is going to have to ask him or herself or the board, ‘What keeps us clear in the category of a religious facility as opposed to an educational facility?’”

Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) cited the position of Illinois Baptists and other religious groups while speaking against the bill. IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams wrote to all Illinois lawmakers last month explaining that in 2011, churches approved a resolution at the IBSA annual meeting registering their support for the traditional definition of marriage.

Democrats were confident going into Thursday’s vote; approval in the House, which could come as early as few weeks, is not as certain.

David Howard, Capital City Baptist Association director of missions, was also in the gallery. After the vote he shared, “I really don’t think there was a lot of thought in many of the senators’ stances. They went with the caucus; they went with whatever pressure was put upon them. But I don’t know that any of them really thought for themselves, and I’m disappointed in that.”

BREAKING_NEWSSPRINGFIELD, Ill. | Pastors and other concerned Christians are being encouraged to go to the Illinois State Capitol Thursday to sit in the gallery during the Senate’s vote on the “Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” If passed, the act would make same-sex marriage legal in Illinois.

Leaders of Christian groups believe the presence of so many Christians opposed to the legislation could influence senators who are still “on the fence.”

Christian leaders throughout the state are concerned that this will not only legalize same-sex marriage, but also infringe upon the religious liberty of all Christians in Illinois. If the act passes the Senate, it will go to House where it would be expected to be voted on in the next few weeks.

Last month, Illinois Baptist State Association Executive Director Nate Adams wrote a letter to all members of the Illinois General Assembly citing Illinois Baptists’ ongoing support of traditional marriage, most recently in passage of “The Resolution on Reaffirmation of the Defense of Marriage Act” at the 2011 IBSA Annual Meeting in O’Fallon. A full version of the letter is available here, or click here to read the resolution.

Today’s Senate session began at noon, and Thursday’s schedule has yet to be released. Check the Illinois General Assembly’s website,, this evening for Thursday’s session start time..