Sky Links, 7-27-20

Key excerpts:
Therefore, in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.
Said another way, it has never been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship. When, how, and how often the church worships is not subject to Caesar. Caesar himself is subject to God. Jesus affirmed that principle when He told Pilate, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). And because Christ is head of the church, ecclesiastical matters pertain to His Kingdom, not Caesar’s. Jesus drew a stark distinction between those two kingdoms when He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar\’s, and to God the things that are God\’s” (Mark 12:17). Our Lord Himself always rendered to Caesar what was Caesar\’s, but He never offered to Caesar what belongs solely to God.
As pastors and elders, we cannot hand over to earthly authorities any privilege or power that belongs solely to Christ as head of His church. Pastors and elders are the ones to whom Christ has given the duty and the right to exercise His spiritual authority in the church (1 Peter 5:1–4; Hebrews 13:7, 17)—and Scripture alone defines how and whom they are to serve (1 Corinthians 4:1–4). They have no duty to follow orders from a civil government attempting to regulate the worship or governance of the church. In fact, pastors who cede their Christ-delegated authority in the church to a civil ruler have abdicated their responsibility before their Lord and violated the God-ordained spheres of authority as much as the secular official who illegitimately imposes his authority upon the church.
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Below we want to answer the primary question we have received in response to the statement: Why did you submit to the original government order, citing Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2?
The elders of Grace Church considered and independently consented to the original government order, not because we believed the state has a right to tell churches when, whether, or how to worship. To be clear, we believe that the original orders were just as much an illegitimate intrusion of state authority into ecclesiastical matters as we believe it is now. However, because we could not possibly have known the true severity of the virus, and because we care about people as our Lord did, we believe guarding public health against serious contagions is a rightful function of Christians as well as civil government. Therefore, we voluntarily followed the initial recommendations of our government. It is, of course, legitimate for Christians to abstain from the assembly of saints temporarily in the face of illness or an imminent threat to public health.
When the devastating lockdown began, it was supposed to be a short-term stopgap measure, with the goal to “flatten the curve”—meaning they wanted to slow the rate of infection to ensure that hospitals weren\’t overwhelmed. And there were horrific projections of death. In light of those factors, our pastors supported the measures by observing the guidelines that were issued for churches.
But we did not yield our spiritual authority to the secular government. We said from the very start that our voluntary compliance was subject to change if the restrictions dragged on beyond the stated goal, or politicians unduly intruded into church affairs, or if health officials added restrictions that would to attempt to undermine the church’s mission. We made every decision with our own burden of responsibility in mind. We simply took the early opportunity to support the concerns of health officials and accommodate the same concerns among our church members, out of a desire to act in an abundance of care and reasonableness (Philippians 4:5).
But we are now more than twenty weeks into the unrelieved restrictions. It is apparent that those original projections of death were wrong and the virus is nowhere near as dangerous as originally feared. Still, roughly forty percent of the year has passed with our church essentially unable to gather in a normal way. Pastors’ ability to shepherd their flocks has been severely curtailed. The unity and influence of the church has been threatened. Opportunities for believers to serve and minister to one another have been missed. And the suffering of Christians who are troubled, fearful, distressed, infirm, or otherwise in urgent need of fellowship and encouragement has been magnified beyond anything that could reasonably be considered just or necessary. Major public events that were planned for 2021 are already being canceled, signaling that officials are preparing to keep restrictions in place into next year and beyond. That forces churches to choose between the clear command of our Lord and the government officials. Therefore, following the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we gladly choose to obey Him.
-Mark Tapscott
Newsom issued revised restrictions July 13 aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus novel that barred until further notice in 30 California counties indoor dining at restaurants, church gatherings at outdoor and indoor facilities, closing of bars, gyms, hair salons and barbershops, and all other businesses deemed non-essential by state officials.
MacArthur and Grace’s elder leaders earlier this year counseled members of the congregation to comply with Covid restrictions after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Newsom’s directives, including those limiting church gatherings.
Other California churches that have defied or filed legal challenges to Covid directives include Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, River of Life Church of Oroville, Destiny Christian Church in Rockland, and South Bay United Pentecostal in Chula Vista.
A civil liberties lawsuit was filed this month by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Harvest Rock arguing that Newsom’s order is a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom, especially the order’s ban on Bible studies meeting in private homes. First Liberty Institute has also gone to court in defense of several congregations in California and elsewhere.
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The problem is that government too often abuses its authority or is inconsistent in its administration. As  Judge James C. Ho wrote in a recent decision:
“At the outset of the pandemic, public officials declared that the only way to prevent the spread of the virus was for everyone to stay home and away from each other. They ordered citizens to cease all public activities to the maximum possible extent—even the right to assemble to worship or to protest.
“But circumstances have changed. In recent weeks, officials have not only tolerated protests—they have encouraged them as necessary and important expressions of outrage over abuses of government power. For people of faith demoralized by coercive shutdown policies, that raises a question: If officials are now exempting protesters, how can they justify continuing to restrict worshippers?
“The answer is that they can’t. Government does not have carte blanche, even in a pandemic, to pick and choose which First Amendment rights are ‘open’ and which remain ‘closed.’” 
-Bill Muehlenberg

Would Jesus have worn a mask? Probably not. Should Christians? I would say if you prefer to, then you have that right to make that choice. I would also say that if you prefer not to, yet can maintain some social distancing while in public, you also have that right to make such a choice.

-Josh Blackman

In Nevada, restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms are allowed to operate at 50% of their capacity. However, houses of worship are capped at fifty people, regardless of their capacity. On May 22, 2020, the Calvary Chapel Church in Nevada challenged the Governor\’s emergency directives. The district court denied a TRO on June 11. The church appealed to the Ninth Circuit. That appeal was denied on July 2. On July 8, the church filed an application for injunctive relief with the Supreme Court. The briefing on that case concluded on July 16. Eight days later, the Supreme Court denied the application in Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak, an unsigned per curiam opinion. Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh dissented, and would have granted the injunction. By the process of elimination, we can conclude that Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan voted to deny the injunction. 


I’ve lost count of the number of Christians who’ve told me they either stopped attending church or left their church to join another one because they couldn’t make any friends there.

They report that the church people were friendly enough. They were hospitable and welcoming.

As one person told me, “They’re nice to you, but no one becomes your friend.”

And it hurts when all that friendliness leads only to friendlessness.

-Mollie Hemingway

The FBI official who ran the investigation into whether the Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election privately admitted in newly released notes that a major New York Times article was riddled with lies, falsehoods, and “misleading and inaccurate” information. The February 2017 story was penned by three reporters who would win Pulitzers for their reporting on Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia.

-Jonathan Turley
It is astonishing that the media refuses to see what is one of the biggest stories in decades. The Obama administration targeted the campaign of the opposing party based on false evidence. The media covered Obama administration officials ridiculing the suggestions of spying on the Trump campaign and of improper conduct with the Russia investigation. When Attorney General William Barr told the Senate last year that he believed spying did occur, he was lambasted in the media, including by James Comey and others involved in that investigation. The mocking “wow” response of the fired FBI director received extensive coverage.
The new document shows that, in summer 2016, FBI agent Joe Pientka briefed Trump campaign advisers Michael Flynn and Chris Christie over national security issues, standard practice ahead of the election. It had a discussion of Russian interference. But this was different. The document detailing the questions asked by Trump and his aides and their reactions was filed several days after that meeting under Crossfire Hurricane and Crossfire Razor, the FBI investigation of Flynn. The two FBI officials listed who approved the report are Kevin Clinesmith and Peter Strzok.
Clinesmith is the former FBI lawyer responsible for the FISA surveillance conducted on members of the Trump campaign. He opposed Trump and sent an email after the election declaring “viva the resistance.” He is now under review for possible criminal charges for altering a FISA court filing. The FBI used Trump adviser Carter Page as the basis for the original FISA application, due to his contacts with Russians. After that surveillance was approved, however, federal officials discredited the collusion allegations and noted that Page was a CIA asset. Clinesmith had allegedly changed the information to state that Page was not working for the CIA.
 
Urgent information on C**** Vacc!ne
-Dr. Carrie Madej

Dr. Carrie Madej, DO is a Internal Medicine Specialist in McDonough, GA and has over 19 years of experience in the medical field.  She graduated from Kansas City Univ Of Medicine Bioscience College Of Osteopathic Medicine medical school in 2001.  She is affiliated with medical facilities Piedmont Fayette Hospital and Southern Regional Medical Center. 

-Matt Margolis
Harvey Risch, professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, says that hydroxychloroquine is “the key to defeating COVID-19” in a Newsweek op-ed published this past week.
“I am usually accustomed to advocating for positions within the mainstream of medicine, so have been flummoxed to find that, in the midst of a crisis, I am fighting for a treatment that the data fully support but which, for reasons having nothing to do with a correct understanding of the science, has been pushed to the sidelines,” Risch wrote. “As a result, tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily. Fortunately, the situation can be reversed easily and quickly.”

My Opening Electoral College Prediction Map
-Bill Still

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Top photo, \”Let Us Worship\” gathering, Pasadena, CA; 7-23, 6 pm, by Sean Feucht

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