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Mario Diaz, Esq.

For America (Day 90)

By | Legal, News and Events, Prayer | No Comments

foramericaprayerjournal

Praise, glory, and honor be unto You, Jehovah Jireh!
Speak to us, as You spoke at Mt. Sinai.
May our songs, declaring the goodness of Your works,
Be heard in all the earth, now and forever more.
 
We worship through obedience, oh God;
Help us in our weaknesses.
We strive to live, as our ancestors said,
“All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
 
Yet, we know this is impossible in our own strength.
We are in desperate need of Your anointing –
Your loving guidance and stern rebuke.
Abba, Father, hear our earnest prayer.
 
Blot out our transgressions, and
Let Your Holy Spirit guide us and
Sanctify us to be more like You
In everything we do.
 
We yearn to be the salt and light
You have called us to be here in our land.
We hurt for our brethren, our compatriots,
Who seek after that which is not.
 
Our hearts move with compassion as we see
Their need and desperation.
Help us to bring Your life-giving water
To those who thirst insatiably for something they know not.
 
Open the doors that we may come to the aid of all in need,
From the man in the street to those in the highest positions of government.
Touch the hearts and minds of millions, Father;
May revival break out in America, once again.
 
May we re-learn the truths we have forgotten,
Compel us to trust in You again.
May we love each other with genuine affection;
Let the sacrifices of praise be spontaneously heard in our public squares.
 
In the Holy name of Jesus,
Through Whom all things were created,
We pray,
Amen.
 

Good Work on Judges Must Continue in 2018

By | LBB, Legal, News and Events | No Comments

The work on the confirmation of constitutional judges was by far the best news of 2017. Not only did we confirm an exemplary candidate in Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, but President Donald Trump also set the record for federal appellate court appointments in the first year of a presidency with 12. He also confirmed six impressive district court judges.

But the reality is that, though impressive, this is but a drop in the bucket coming out of the previous eight years of President Obama’s radical judges.

In his eight years in office, President Obama appointed a total of 334 judges.  He appointed two Supreme Court Justices, 55 appellate court judges, 268 district court judges, and nine others to lesser known court, like the Court of Federal Claims.

Recall that, as a pre-requisite, President Obama wanted judges who did not focus on the law but on empathy towards specific classes of people. This type of liberal judicial activism on such a big scale will not be easy to counteract. It most certainly won’t happen if the Senate loses focus and relents, instead of building on, the work they started in 2017.  Rest assured, the liberal side of the aisle will not relent on its obstruction of judicial nominations.

But given the Senate’s current makeup, and former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s petulant rush to abolish the filibuster for judicial nominees, they should be able to overcome every obstructionist tactic thrown at them. Consistency and endurance will be the majority’s biggest challenge.

That’s where you and I can make a difference by remaining engaged and reminding our elected officials how important it is that they continue, and perhaps increase, the current pace on judicial nominations.  It is also important for us to consider this issue as elections for the U.S. Senate approach this November.

The good news is that, up until now, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have shown no sign of fatigue.  Following up on their extraordinary work in 2017, they confirmed four more district judges last week, holding hearings for another four.

 

The Secret to MLK Jr.’s Hope

By | LBB, Legal, News and Events, Religious Issues | No Comments

It was a hope that captivated a nation. Still does. In classrooms all over America, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, speech, “I Have a Dream,” still helps weave the dreams of many young minds. We all know (or should know) them by heart:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. …

But Martin Luther King, Jr., experienced a dense social injustice that seemed insurmountable to many. Did you know that, according to the King Center, he was unjustly arrested 30 times? In Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956, he was arrested for driving 30 mph in a 25-mph zone.

Living under these circumstances, many had understandably become bitter. How did Martin Luther King, Jr., remain so hopeful? How did he keep his dream alive, as he was ridiculed, harassed, and systematically targeted because of the color of his skin?

The answer is in his name.  He was born Michael King, not Martin Luther, as he is known by all of us. His father, Michael King, Sr., pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, changed his name, and that of his eldest son, to Martin Luther after he was inspired by the great protestant reformer on a trip to Germany.

So, the answer to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, hope comes from his deep faith —a faith he most definitely received from his father, but which he embraced and acknowledged as the sustaining power of his entire effort.  Ironically, this is the part that is specifically and systematically ignored by our public schools and popular culture.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, Christian faith contains the whole of his hope and effectiveness. To those who have experienced that faith, the fruits that flowed from such sufferings are of no surprise. The Apostle Paul wrote about it centuries before: “[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us,” (Romans 5: 3-4).

My wish on this Martin Luther King, Jr., Day 2018 (marking the 50ht anniversary of his assassination) is that we may re-discover the truths Dr. King knew so well. For, though we face our own sufferings, our own challenges, our own hope is still the same.  As the old Baptist hymn writer put it, “Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

The miracle of the Christian faith is that our sufferings, through Christ, are nothing but gain. As His suffering and death on the cross brought us salvation, so, too, we can remain hopeful in the middle of whatever difficulty we face. That was the source of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, hope.

“All other ground is sinking sand.”

Mississippi Conscience Protections Stand

By | Legal, Marriage, Mississippi, News and Events | No Comments

This week, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear two cases (Barber v. Bryant and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant ) challenging Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523). The development leaves in place a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that dismissed challenges by several homosexual individuals and pro-homosexual rights organizations. Mississippi’s conscience protections will stand, for now.

HB 1523 provides that, “The state government shall not take any discriminatory action” against a religious organization or person when they act in very specific areas upon the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” that:

(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and

(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

The act protects religious organizations and individuals from the attacks we have seen around the country where, for example, Catholic Charities has been forced to shut down adoption or foster care services, because they hold on to the Biblical model of marriage and sexuality, or a government employee is fired for his faith, or a Christian baker, photographer, or business owner is forced to choose between their livelihood or a violation of conscience.

As predicted, the Supreme Court’s imposition of same-sex marriage on the country by judicial fiat has only encouraged liberal elites to go after (to punish, as they have said) anyone who does not actively affirm and celebrate homosexuality, transgenderism, and beyond. Mere silence on these issues is offensive. The champions of tolerance will never tolerate what the Bible has to say about marriage and sexuality.

The homosexual groups and individuals challenging the law decried it as a violation of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The Fifth Circuit dismissed their challenge, because the plaintiffs did not even have standing to sue.  That is to say, they had suffered no harm.

They only claimed, “stigmatic injury,” which again highlights their demand for active affirmation of their lifestyle under threat of law. HB 1523 does not target homosexuals. Polygamists can complain in the same manner these groups are complaining. Yet, somehow, the media and the homosexual lobby have created a narrative that they are specifically being targeted for discrimination, despite the simple truth that all other sexual relations outside of God’s model for marriage are not allowed in the Holy Scriptures.

The promise of the Obergefell same-sex marriage decision was that, “those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” But we are finding out (again, as was easily predicted) that many elites do not believe that. The Court said emphatically then that, “Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.” But what we continue to hear from the homosexual lobby is that everyone who supports laws like this one, to allow all to coexist in peace and harmony in a pluralistic society, are simply bigots who are using religion as an excuse to harm homosexuals.

We heard it chanted over and over by famous politicians and noted commentators on the steps of the Supreme Court as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case was recently heard. The rhetoric was actually used to punish Jack Phillips in that case. Justice Anthony Kennedy picked up on it, calling it “despicable.” He said that one of the commissioners saying, “religion [is being] used to justify discrimination [was a] despicable piece of rhetoric.”

So, it is. But, so what? Liberal tolerance is a farce. It doesn’t matter what rhetoric they use as long as the Court continues to treat sexual preferences as race and people of faith as bigots. Justice Kennedy himself was the author of the Obergefell decision and other opinions which have been major contributors to the attacks on people of faith.

He did it knowingly. Our current religious intolerance was predicted by Chief Justice John Roberts in Obergefell, writing:

The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses. Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage — when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today. (Citations omitted).

And “no comfort” we’ve had.

Similarly, although we should be grateful that the Mississippi law is left to stand, we can take no comfort in it.  Another challenge will surely rise, and another and another after that. Perhaps what would be most helpful is for the Supreme Court to issue a strong opinion in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, signaling once and for all that it takes seriously the words of the First Amendment protecting the “free exercise of religion.” For that to happen, Justice Kennedy must live up to the promises he made (alone, it seems) in Obergefell.

We can only hope.

Back to Reality in 2018

By | LBB, Legal, News and Events | No Comments

Strong sentiments about 2017 overwhelmed my social media feeds over the break. As with Dickens’ tale, it seems “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” If I had to summarize the overall sentiment, I would say 2017 was disorientating for many.

It was the year of the unexpected – the surprising and unforeseen. Good and bad, both unpredictable.

It was, of course, the first year of President Donald J. Trump, which is emblematic of the whole concept.  I still remember that New York Times graph giving Hilary Clinton an 80% chance to win the 2016 presidential election and Donald Trump just 20%, just hours before they had to flip the whole thing around, ending up with Donald Trump at 95%, Hillary with just 5%. Amazing.

President Trump’s first year followed suit. Far from the doom and gloom predictions, President Trump’s first year was overwhelmingly positive.  The economy has improved dramatically, ISIS is on the run, he signed a $1.5 trillion tax-cut bill into law, and (my personal favorite, of course) he confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s an impressive year.

But it was not a simple as that, as we all know. A deluge of distractions — from Russia investigations to surprising firings to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un antics — definitely kept the President busy and the public overwhelmed with information and misinformation, unfortunately. “Disorienting” is an understatement.

That’s just one aspect of 2017. We also had the Las Vegas shooting, which left 58 people dead and 546 injured, and that eerie silence about the details of the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock. The fact that we don’t know more about this incident still today brings a chill down my spine. What are we to think of this?

Of course, we had Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hitting parts of the U.S., causing incredible devastation.  Millions of our friends and families were stranded, and many are still dealing with the consequences of the damages.

Those are just the top stories, but we could keep going for hours, and a definite picture of something like a whirlwind inevitably emerges. That was 2017.

How do we handle this? As we prepare to tackle 2018, what should be our approach?

May I suggest we grab a hold of truth?

When you are disoriented, you need a point of reference. You need a stake on solid ground from which to measure everything else. Without that we are lost. If all we have are randomly moving objects around us, we have chaos. You can’t rely on anything, because they are there at one point but gone the next.

Many of you know this. Our chief of staff, Caroline Aderholt, expressed a similar sentiment in our staff devotional time. She said, “When I feel like I don’t know what is going on, I look around and say, ‘Alright, what do I know is real?’”

That’s exactly right. What do we know is real? What is true?

Whatever the chaos is around us, whatever the pain, the blessing, the struggle, the rest, the test, or achievement, only truth and reality can give us the proper perspective to remain grounded and secure, the opposite of disoriented and unstable.

For us as Christians, the answer is simple but profound, because the answer is not a place or a thing but a person. That is what puzzled the Apostle Thomas in John 14, as Jesus tried to console the disciples about the chaos of their times. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said to them, “Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Do you know the way? As you look at your life, do you see where you are going? Or are you rattled and anxious about the future? As you look at our country, where do you feel we are going? Which direction we should go?

Perhaps you feel as Thomas did when he answered Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

I confess, perhaps to no one’s surprise, that this is exactly how I feel sometimes. When I focus on the news and social media, on the latest outrage of the mainstream media, I get disoriented and pessimistic. When I focus on the struggles and challenges of my personal life, my vision gets blurred.

But do you remember Jesus’ answer to Thomas? It’s like a spiritual balm that soothes my soul in the deepest sense. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

“I am the way,” Jesus says.  He, the man, the person, Jesus Himself is the way. He is the stake in the ground. He is what we know is real and true. He is what we must get back to.

I know the human temptation is to think of this as some sort of deeply spiritual and philosophical point too high for mere mortals to comprehend. And perhaps there is some truth to that at one level. But at another level, at the level Jesus showed us, to go to Him is incredibly practical. When we go to Him, we find teaching upon teaching that will reorient our entire lives.

Jesus’ parables are about real life, with real practical applications as to how we are to act towards God and toward others.  They apply to our personal and public lives. They apply to policy and the structures of our society.

He is the way. He is the truth. He is the Life. And He should be our aim.

So, in 2018, let us take ahold of Christ and His teachings. Let us reject the smoke screens of this world with their false promises and hold on to what we know is truly real. Clinging to His words, we will move through 2018, not disoriented and perplexed, but with full lucidity and prophetic vision. That is what we need. It is what our country and, indeed, the world needs: salt and light.

For America—Day 88 (A Prayer for the New Year)

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foramericaprayerjournal
Sovereign Lord,
There will be a new year
Only if You allow it
In Your mercy and goodness towards all.

Glory to Your Name;
For Your ways are perfect.
Your wisdom beyond comparison,
You are the Truth for which we thirst.

Quench our thirst with Your presence among us.
Do not leave us to our own understandings.
This new year, be ever present in our thoughts,
And direct our every deed.

We pray against the spirit of this age;
We pray against the schemes of the Enemy
Who seeks to lead us astray with the old,
“Has God really said?”

The answer is, “Yes!”
Yes, You have spoken, and we obey.
We obey for our own good and
To Your glory, Lord.

So, we surrender our lives,
Our ambitions, desires and passions,
To You in this new year.
All our plans commence with, “If God wills, we will…”

For we know we can do nothing apart from You.
Indeed, we do not want to do anything
Apart from You, even if we could.
You are what we treasure most.

Forgive us when we behave as if You were not.
We do it, often, we confess,
To our shame …
We are but foolish men,
Still Your servants, nevertheless.

This new year is to You (for You),
As all the years of our lives should be.
We recommit ourselves to Your service,
Forsaking all others,
To trust You — to Love You and You alone.

In Jesus’ name we pray these things,
Amen.

Click here for more prayers from our For America Prayer Journal.

For America— Day 87 (A Christmas Prayer)

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foramericaprayerjournal

Oh Lord, Our God,
Your Majestic Holiness
Fills us with joy
Throughout the Christmas season.

Your wondrous works displayed
On that day in Bethlehem
Keep our hearts and minds engaged still today,
Amazed at the extent of Your Love.

The sounds of that “Silent Night,”
Are forever on our lips.
Let the people hear us sing,
“Gloria, in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest!)”

Let the “thrill of hope” be felt
In the midst of our weary world.
“Born is the King of Israel,”
The babe — the King of the whole world.

Glad tidings, You brought,
A Gospel of Truth, salvation for all,
If we only believe.
What joy; what peace!

Immanuel — God with us.
God with us.
How can this be?
You, here, for me?

There is no other comfort,
Apart from this —
Apart from You: the Prince of Peace,
Eternal Father, Mighty God.

Of Your kingdom, there shall be no end.
We stand as a testament,
Moving and breathing, hoping and longing
In You, through You, and for You.

May Yours be the glory and honor,
Majesty and power,
Forever and ever,
Amen.

Click here for more prayers from our For America Prayer Journal.

Christmas Celebrates the Unborn; We Should, Too

By | Legal, News and Events, Sanctity of Life | No Comments

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” So begins the story of Gabriel’s visit to Mary in the Gospel of Luke. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” the angel said to her.  “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

Mary is puzzled, to say the least, but after the angel explains that the Holy Spirit will come upon her to enable the miracle, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” Mary opens her heart in adoration. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” she reverently says.

Things are set in motion then.  Things foretold long ago. The Word will become flesh. Him through Whom all things were created will become part of His creation, taking the form of a man for love. The light of the world, coming to His own to be rejected and crucified for the sins of the world.

But before all that, as Mary heard the news, she went to visit Elizabeth her cousin, who was with child (with John the Baptist), in the hill country in a town in Judah.  And there we witness a very special encounter that serves as one of the most compelling pieces of evidence pointing to the value of the unborn child. It is a joyous occasion leading to that glorious Christmas Day, so it is good and appropriate to remember it as we prepare to remember the day this year.

[W]hen Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Can you believe it? One unborn child leaped as he recognized the presence of another unborn child.

Yes, Jesus was Lord, the Christ coming to offer redemption and salvation to all who believe, inside his mother’s womb. He was not a blob of tissue. He was not a choice.  Sure, it would have been better for Mary to wait until a more opportune time to have a child, but she recognized, as did Elizabeth and her unborn child, that what she carried within her was valuable.

And so does every mother pregnant with her unborn child. If you are one, struggling at this very moment, I want to offer the peace of Immanuel — God with you.  What you carry within you is valuable.  You are valuable.  And though things may seem bleak at the moment, God will see you through it all.

The prospects for Mary were also bleak on the personal side.  She was not married yet. Her husband could leave her after hearing the news.  She could be rejected by the community.  Where would she go? Who would receive her?

As things went, you may remember, she ends up giving birth in a stable! That is not how she envisioned it. It is not how anyone envisioned it. It must not have been easy.

But it was all according to God’s plan.  He will use every single detail for our benefit.  And today, we celebrate Christmas with glad tidings of great joy, for the Savior of the world is born!

The unborn child. The Christ. Our Lord.

Better than the Twelve Days of Christmas

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The United States Senate has now confirmed the 12th circuit court judge under President Donald J. Trump. Just yesterday, they confirmed the nomination of James Ho to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  He joins 11 others who were confirmed for the appellate level:

Stephanos Bibas to the Third, Don Willett to the Fifth, John K. Bush, Joan Larsen and Amul Thapar to the Sixth, Amy Barrett to the Seventh, Ralph Erickson and L. Steven Grasz to the Eighth, Allison Eid to the Tenth, Kevin Newsom to the Eleventh, and Gregory Katsas to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

This is simply an impressive display of judges, all seriously committed to the Constitution and their limited role as judges. President Trump has now set the record for appellate court confirmation in the first year of a presidency.

That list, as you may have noted, does not even count the “morning star” of the Trump Era appointments, Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Add to that six more nominations to the district court: Donald Coggins Jr. to the District of South Carolina, David Charles Nye to the District of Idaho, Scott Palk to the Western District of Oklahoma, and Dabney Langhorne Friedrich, Timothy Kelly and Trevor Neil McFadden to the District Court for the District of Columbia.

President Trump and his team are to be commended for their commitment in this area that often goes overlooked once the innumerable pressures of a young presidency take hold of a new president’s calendar.

Also to be commended are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who have faced a wide array of tactics from the other side of the aisle to try to slow down the process.  Yet their commitment to a fair and dignified process has been exemplary.

Personally, I would like to commend you, the supporters of Concerned Women for America, for your support of the efforts to confirm constitutional nominees. There is no question in my mind that you have had a considerable impact in making sure the Senate did not play into the liberal media’s hand by getting distracted with the latest talking points.

The attacks on Judge Barret, because of her faith, were particularly disturbing, and your voice was crucial to making sure things didn’t go down a wrong path, establishing an embarrassing and regrettable precedent for future nominees.

But the battle is not over, as you know. The early success of the Trump Administration only means we can expect increased opposition to future well-qualified, constitutionally minded, principled candidates. As we celebrate today, the left is furious, and we can expect them to increase the pressure on liberal senators to obstruct nominees for any or no reason.

Let us continue to pray and remain diligent as the new year approaches.  Talks of a possible vacancy at the Supreme Court continue here in Washington, D.C., and we must be ready at any minute to demand and support a candidate committed to the Constitution as written, instead of someone embracing a so-called “living Constitution” that they can manipulate to fit their preferred policy choices.