By Lillian Kwon
Globally recognized pastor Joel Osteen has been drawing some flak from the press and the public in the past few months over his comments on homosexuality.
His remarks last year on “The View” and “Larry King Live” that “homosexuality is not God’s best” drew fire from the gay rights community and from Christians for avoiding to identify the behavior as a sin.
More recently, his participation in the inauguration of Houston’s first openly gay mayor has also drawn some – but less fiery – attention.
Pastor of America’s largest church, Osteen was invited to offer the opening prayer at the inauguration of Houston’s elected city officials on Monday. While praying for the 14-member City Council, he also specifically thanked God for the new mayor, Annise Parker, a partnered lesbian.
“She’s our mayor. Joel doesn’t view Annise through a gay lens,” Don Iloff, Jr., spokesman for Lakewood Church in Houston, told The Christian Post. “He sees her as a person.”
And the Bible instructs believers to pray for and respect those who govern us, he added.
“If you ask Joel he’ll tell you ‘when I can pray at an event over government leaders and in Jesus’ name it’s hard to resist,’” Iloff said. Osteen prayed for the previous mayor, Bill White, at his inauguration.
The spokesman also pointed out that Parker has never pushed or highlighted any kind of gay agenda during her time in government and during her campaign.
“She’s an all business kind of gal,” he said.
During the swearing-in ceremony Monday, the former city controller addressed the economy, public safety and education. She also briefly addressed the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community saying, “I feel your excitement and your joy, your apprehension and your longing for acceptance. I will gladly carry you forward. But today is simply one step toward a tomorrow of greater justice,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
If Parker begins pushing a homosexual agenda, Iloff said Lakewood Church and Pastor Osteen are likely to distance themselves from her.
“Annise says she’s a believer. Let her stand before God; that’s kind of where Joel is,” Iloff noted. “He’s not going to tell homosexuals they can’t come to our church. If the Holy Spirit convicts them, then they’ll change.”
Osteen does not affirm homosexual behavior. Though the pastor himself has never specifically called it a “sin,” his spokesman Iloff says they believe homosexuality is a sin. But sin is sin and homosexuality is no worse a sin than others, such as adultery, Iloff pointed out.
Lakewood Church maintains good relations with city officials, some of whom attend the megachurch. Two of the City Council members are regular Lakewood attendees. Politicians, however, are not allowed to speak from the pulpit.
‘The day that story broke people bought half a million’
By Bob Unruh
Million dollar Gospel tract
The Way of the Master, a Christian ministry run by evangelist Ray Comfort and former child actor Kirk Cameron, is reporting a sudden rush by people getting the million-dollar bill Gospel tracts its Living Water Publications produces.
Todd Friel, a spokesman at Way of the Master Radio, told WND that while “Gospel tracts usually turn out to be litter faster than a candy wrapper,” the opposite is true with these Gospel messages.
Even an event such as the recent incident in Pittsburgh when police arrested a man who handed a $1 million bill tract to a grocery store cashier generates a way for the biblical message to be spread.
Officers in that case reported the bill originated with the Dallas-based ministry, but the man was arrested after he flew into a rage, slamming an electronic funds-transfer machine into a counter and reaching for a scanner gun after the clerk refused to accept the tract as money and the manager confiscated it.
Friel said he sometimes wonders why a Gospel tract with a picture President Grover Cleveland and a message of salvation gets so much attention.
“That’s exactly the question we’re asking ourselves,” he told WND. “And with all the different phony bills out there, why does this particular one seem to get so much attention?
“Maybe it taps into that human desire for money,” he said, but whatever the reason, the ministry is happy to print and distribute them as fast as possible, based on its ministry mission statement.
Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron
“One hundred fifty thousand people die every 24 hours – most without the Savior,” that statement says. “We are deeply concerned that so few Christians reach out to the lost. Statistics show that this is as low as five percent. One of the reasons for this is that many don’t feel equipped. As a ministry, our sole purpose is to inspire and equip Christians – to teach them how to share the gospel simply, effectively, biblically … the way Jesus did.”
The million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell. That’s not God’s will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you. Jesus took your punishment upon Himself -”For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.
The publishers hope the demand for the tract is because of the message. At a minimum, they know the message is getting distributed.
“The day that this story broke – God has a funny way of working things – people bought half a million of these tracts,” Friel said. “Maybe they were afraid they’d all be confiscated.”
He said the ministry, which produces more than 24 million of all of its tracts annually, has discovered that the million dollar bill has staying power.
“At a baseball game, I’ve almost been mauled when I start handing them out,” Friel said. “People actually want them. I’ve been stopped at Customs and they see them in my luggage and everyone wants one.”
He said he’s also seen them posted in bank windows, stashed in tip jars and he’s heard from Muslims in Pakistan who have gotten them and seen a positive change in their lives.
The tracts have been in the news before: About a year ago the U.S. Secret Service seized a stock of the tracts in Texas, alleging they were counterfeit, even though since 1969 the highest legal denomination in the United States has been the $100 bill. That case currently is on appeal.
Friel said the message will continue, no matter what the outcome.
“If the government takes these million dollar bills, the ministry has a Billion Dollar bill tract that is in full color, and very popular. If those are seized the ministry has plans to get a Brazilian Dollar Bill printed, with a picture of the Brazilian president on it,” he said.
So far, they’ve also been subjected to confiscation in Nevada and California.
Jim Thomas, who with his wife Charlene had just finished an evangelism training program at their church, told WND he was handing out the tracts near an escalator at a downtown Los Angeles mall “and everything was going very well.”
Then, he said, a man approached him and told him that “there’s a problem here.”
He introduced himself as a Secret Service agent.
“He began to ask me questions, like ‘have you read the rules and regulations about bills similar to currency?’” Thomas said. “So he just kind of informed me what I could do to be in compliance.”
Story from WND
Public school students at Friendswood Junior High in the Houston area have been roped into Islamic training by representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations during class time, prompting religious leaders to protest over Principal Robin Lowe’s actions.
Pastor Dave Welch, spokesman for the Houston Area Pastor Council, confirmed the indoctrination had taken place and called it “unacceptable.”
“The failure of the principal of Friendswood Junior High to respect simple procedures requiring parental notification for such a potentially controversial subject, to not only approve but participate personally in a religious indoctrination session led by representatives of a group with well-known links to terrorist organizations and her cavalier response when confronted, raises serious questions about her fitness to serve in that role,” the pastors’ organization said.
According to a parent, whose name was withheld, the children were given the Islamic indoctrination during time that was supposed to be used for a physical education class.
“I am simply trying to get the word out to those whose kids may not have told them about an Islamic presentation that all kids were required to attend,” wrote the parent, who was working to assemble protests to the school board.
WND previously has reported how public school textbooks being used across the nation have begun promoting Islam, teaching even the religious doctrines.
WND also has reported on several other school situations in which Islam has been taught as a required subject, and when administrators have defended those decisions.
In the Texas case, a school e-mail to parents provided only a half-hearted acknowledgement that such mandatory religious indoctrination might not have been the best decision.
“In hindsight, a note should have been sent home to parents indicating the purpose and content of the presentation in time for parents to contact me with questions or concerns or requests to exempt their child,” the school note from Lowe said. “This will be our practice in the future, should we ever have another presentation of a similar nature.”
School officials also said the “Islamic Awareness” presentation was “to increase understanding of the Islamic culture in response to racially motivated comments that have been made to students on campus.”
The pastors said in a statement: “According to students who were forced to attend these sessions, these Islamic evangelists taught them:
- Adam, Noah and Jesus are prophets
- There is one god, his name is Allah
- The 5 Pillars of Islam
- How to pray five times a day
- Islamic religious garb”
The pastors noted that the principal’s claim there were “comments” to students on campus was unverified. Nor does that excuse or justify “this infringement upon the religious beliefs of students and parents of the community nor the violation of school policy and possibly state and/or federal law,” they said.
“We do not believe that this unapproved action by Principal Robin Lowe represents the school district and certainly not the majority of students or parents in the Friendswood community. Our commitment is to support all appropriate administrative, legal and political remedies to assure that this will not happen again and these Islamic activist organizations are kept out of our schools,” the pastors said.
The parent reported the presentation was 30-40 minutes long and handled by two Muslim women from CAIR’s Houston office. CAIR, as WND has reported, is spinoff of the defunct Islamic Association for Palestine, launched by Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook and former university professor Sami al-Arian, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide services to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Among the convicted CAIR staffers are former communications specialist Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges he trained in Virginia for holy war against the U.S. and sent several members to Pakistan to join a Kashmiri terrorist group with reported ties to al-Qaida; and Bassem Khafagi, who was arrested in January 2003 while serving as CAIR’s director of community relations and convicted on fraud and terrorism charges in connection with a probe of the Islamic Assembly of North America, an organization suspected of aiding Saudi sheiks tied to Osama bin Laden. In October 2006, Ghassan Elashi, a member of the founding board of directors of the Texas branch of CAIR, was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for financial ties to a high-ranking terrorist.
The parent reported that Lowe told students her sister, niece and nephew were Muslim.
But the parent complained the Muslims “were given full attention of our kids, during academic school time, to present their religious beliefs … This was put right at the end of the school year … which will most likely prevent a Christian response.”
There also was no parental notification and students were required to attend.
“The kids did not even know they were having an assembly or what topic it pertained to until they entered the gym,” the parent wrote. “I send my kids to school for academics … I teach them religion at home.”