Sermon title: Insisting on Our Legal Rights
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, April 18, 2021
A number of years ago, my wife Penni and I
were invited to Japan,
in connection with the release of a translation
of one of my books in the Japanese language.
The book publisher,
together with Japanese churches & missionaries,
paid all our expenses,
as I spoke through interpreters
to groups in Tokyo, Osaka and Atami.
But I learned to speak a few words in Japanese myself,
to help us when we traveled around on our own.
Some time after returning home,
we purchased a newly-hatched baby bird—
a peach-faced lovebird we named “TohRee.”
means “bird” in Japanese.
The pet store had hand-raised him,
feeding him baby bird formula by hand.
And we took him home with us,
as soon as he could reliably feed himself,
which was when he was around 6 weeks old.
This is one of his baby pictures, taken right after that.
And, now, he’s around 17 or 18 years old.
To avoid severe emotional and physical distress,
a lovebird needs to be with another bird all the time—
or with a human who gives him a lot of attention.
Hand-fed lovebirds will bond with humans
just as easily as they would bond with another bird.
That’s because God made a distinction
between wild animals and domestic animals—
between creatures meant to live on their own in the wild,
and those that easily adapt to being with humans.
And we humans often develop close bonds
with domestic animals we keep as pets.
An example, is found at 2 Samuel 12:3
where the prophet Nathan spoke of a man who had
“one little female lamb that he had bought. He raised her, and she grew up in his home with his children. She would eat his food and drink from his cup. She rested in his arms and was like a daughter.”
And this little lovebird named TohRee is like that with us.
He spends much of the day on my shoulder or Penni’s,
often napping snuggled against our neck.
He picks through my cereal bowl at breakfast,
looking for his favorite sliced almonds.
And he sits on the back of my hand during lunch,
taking small bites out of my sandwich.
But the most amazing thing about this little bird
is how he communicates with us.
Lovebirds don’t learn to talk like larger parrots,
but they do learn the meaning of what we say
when we talk.
Experts say they have the intelligence
of a 3-to-5-year-old child.
This is amazing, when you think that, without his feathers,
he’s only a bit larger than my thumb.
And his brain is the size of a pea.
But he’s no “pea-brain.”
TohRee responds to his name,
lifting his head and making eye contact if he’s nearby,
or answering us with a loud chirp
if he’s in another room.
He also responds to the word “bird”
and even perks up when we say “he” and “him.”
I started to list the words he recognizes
and had to stop after 2 or 3 dozen.
If you ask him, “Would you like a cup of seed?”
he’ll come flying over to you, chirping enthusiastically.
He also knows how to communicate his needs to us,
through various sounds and gestures.
For example, even though he has a water dish in his cage,
and can fly to and from his open cage
whenever he wants to,
he prefers fresh cold water from the faucet.
So, he’ll fly over to the sink and chirp to get our attention.
I’ll walk over and ask him, “Do you want a drink?”
If that’s what he wanted, he’ll jump onto my hand,
But if what he wanted was really to take a bath,
he’ll respond to my question with a negative cackle.
Then, if I say, “Do you want a bath?”
he’ll jump onto my hand with that enthusiastic chirp.
We leave TohRee’s cage door open most of the day,
and he flies back to it and goes inside
whenever he wants food.
In the late afternoon when Penni is about to cook supper,
with TohRee perched on her shoulder,
where he could be in danger
by the hot oven or stovetop,
I’ll say, “TohRee, fly to your cage!”
and he goes right to the cage.
We never trained him to do it.
He just knows the meaning of the words,
and he’s eager to cooperate.
So, he can fly to his cage when I ask him to,
or whenever he wants to.
But every evening around 7 o’clock,
he wants to be put to bed
and to have his cage covered up with a blanket.
So, instead of just flying back to the cage,
he’ll fly to the stair rail opposite his cage,
and sit there facing the cage,
chirping until I come.
I’ll ask if he wants to go to bed,
and he’ll chirp and
jump onto my hand,
and allow me to put him into the cage.
After I cover the cage for night,
he thanks me with a Tisk-Tisk sound
that he uses to say Thank You.
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But this brings me to the point
of why I’m telling this story about the bird.
It’s because he also exhibits another behavior
where Penni and I say,
“Look! He’s doing like the Apostle Paul.”
Well, how could a little bird do something
like the Apostle Paul?
It’s the way Paul reacted
when he was arrested illegally
and put him into a jail cell—contrary to Roman law.
We read about it in the 16th Chapter of Acts.
Paul & his companions were being followed around town
by a demon-possessed slave girl
who brought in a lot of money for her masters
by telling people’s fortunes.
This girl didn’t know anything
about those Christian missionaries,
but the demon inside her knew who they were.
And the demon, had the girl follow
Paul and his companions.
Verse 17 says she kept crying out,
17... “These men are servants
of the Most High God,
who proclaim to us
a way of salvation!”
The Apostle Paul ignored it for a while,
but then he put a stop to it
by casting out the demon.
That stopped the girl from following Paul,
but it also took away her ability to tell fortunes.
Her masters still owned her,
and they could use her to cook meals, clean house,
and do whatever else a slave girl would do.
But she could no longer bring in paying customers
for her owners’ fortune-telling business.
They were furious! Verse 19 says,
19 But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 When they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men, being Jews, are agitating our city, 21 and advocate customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”
The slave-girl’s owners knew better
than to file a legal complaint
about losing the fortune-telling demon.
The Roman court would have laughed at that claim,
and dismissed the case.
So, instead, they charged them with
creating a disturbance
and promoting illegal behavior.
And they persuaded the magistrates
to punish Paul and Silas right then and there.
Verse 22 says,
22 The multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates tore their clothes off of them, and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, 24 who, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and secured their feet in the stocks.
Rather than be discouraged and downhearted
by such treatment, Paul and Silas turned to the Lord
in prayer and in song—
and the Lord responded miraculously.
25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were loosened. 27 The jailer, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, “Don’t harm yourself, for we are all here!”
The jailer now had a changed view
of the Christians who had been put into his lock-up.
He must have been listening to their songs and prayers,
because he knew how to respond
to the miracle he had just witnessed.
The next Verse says,
29 He called for lights, sprang in, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, 30 brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all who were in his house. 33 He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized, he and all his household. 34 He brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his household, having believed in God.
What a miraculous turn of events!
The jailer and all who lived in his house
were now believers—filled with the joy
that comes from knowing Christ’s salvation.
Now we come to part of this story
where our little lovebird TohRee
acts like the Apostle Paul,
prompting Penni and me to say,
“Look! He’s doing like the Apostle Paul.”
Verse 35 says,
35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 The jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go; now therefore come out, and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, without a trial, men who are Romans, and have cast us into prison! Do they now release us secretly? No, most certainly, but let them come themselves and bring us out!” 38 The sergeants reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, 39 and they came and begged them.
Paul refused to leave the jail,
because he had been locked up unjustly—
without a trial, and without respecting his rights
as a Roman citizen.
And this is what our little bird does,
if he feels he has been locked into his cage unfairly.
Penni and I may have been in a hurry to go somewhere,
and before leaving the house,
we may have grabbed TohRee
and stuck him in his cage.
He is unhappy with being treated like that,
so, when we return and open the cage door,
he remembers what we did to him.
So, instead of happily coming right out, as he usually does,
our little bird refuses to come out.
He goes to the bottom of the cage,
and stays there with his head down,
showing his disapproval of how we treated him.
That’s when Penni and I say to each other,
“Look! He’s doing like the Apostle Paul.”
The reason I’m telling that story about our little bird,
is because it should lead us to appreciate
that we, too, should act like the Apostle Paul
when we are treated unfairly
for our Christian beliefs.
As we continue to go through the Book of Acts
in coming weeks,
we’ll see that Paul used his rights as a citizen
to defend the faith on other occasions, as well.
We, too, should demand our rights as American citizens,
just as Paul demanded his rights as a Roman citizen,
and just as our sweet little bird
demands his rights,
and objects when he feels he’s been
If the authorities try to push us around
illegally or unfairly,we should push back.
As this country slides into
unbelief and immoral behavior,
are trying to force Christians
to adopt their corrupt standards
and to follow their false beliefs.
Gender-confused men who masquerade as women
demand that we refer to them as “she” instead of “he.”
And Christians who refuse to do that
are being fired from their places of employment,
for sticking to our Bible-based beliefs.
Genesis 5:2 says God created us
“male and female,”
and Genesis 2:24 says a man would marry a woman.
Our Lord Jesus reinforced that teaching
at Mark 10:6 where He quoted from Genesis and said,
6 “...from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.’”
This world around us now rejects that Bible teaching,
and the devil is trying to force us Christians
to join in rejecting what God said.
So, Christians who refuse to call a man “she” and “her”
are facing punishment in the workplace.
Happily, though, there are many believers who,
instead of bowing to the evil transgender movement,
are insisting on their rights as American citizens—
following the example of the Apostle Paul.
And we often succeed, as Paul did.
A news report at the end of last month said this
about a Christian college professor in Ohio:
An Ohio college professor, who resisted his school’s orders to go along with transgender students’ preferred pronouns, has won his First Amendment case before a federal appeals court. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, March 26, ruled in favor of the “devout Christian” and said that Shawnee State University officials and a lower federal district court failed to recognize the professor’s First Amendment rights to free speech and to the free exercise of his religion.
Christians are forming legal defense groups
to fight for our right
to live by our beliefs in such cases.
Among these groups are:
The Alliance Defending Freedom,
which represented the Ohio college professor.
That group—Alliance Defending Freedom—is also currently
helping a wedding photographer in N.Y.
fight for her right to photograph only
traditional one-man, one-woman wedding,
and to explain her Christian beliefs
on her own web site.
New York laws currently threaten our sister with
loss of her business license,
tens of thousands of dollars in fines
and even jail time,
if she keeps running her business
according to Christian principles.
Alliance Defending Freedom is also working to defend
Christian colleges against a lawsuit
brought by homosexuals and lesbians
that would force the schools to
abandon Christian beliefs—
using federal tuition grants and
student loans as leverage.
Another organization defending persecuted Christians
is Liberty Counsel, which successfully defended
Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis
when homosexual activists tried
to force her to violate her biblical beliefs
by signing her name
to same-sex marriage certificates.
She was jailed for several days by a judge
who ordered her to sign and issue those certificates.
Liberty Counsel got her released from jail
and got the lawsuits dismissed.
Liberty Counsel has also won victories in several cases
where authorities tried to stop Christians
from demonstrating outside abortion clinics,
including one case where a pastor was
arrested and jailed for holding a sign
stating that abortion kills children.
When the ACLU took legal action
to block graduating students at a Florida high school
from expressing their faith or including a prayer
in their graduation speeches,
Liberty Counsel intervened in court
to uphold the religious freedom of those students.
That case went to the Appeals Court three times,
and twice to the United States Supreme Court,
but Liberty Counsel finally won,
and secured the right of those students
to express their faith and to pray.
My wife and I have been sending
personal financial support
to help Liberty Counsel defend Christians
in these and many other court cases.
And we are encouraged to see Christians like them
following the Apostle Paul’s example
in using his citizenship rights
to protect Gospel preaching work.
Even a sweet little lovebird the size of my thumb
instinctively imitates Paul
when he feels he’s been caged unfairly.
The little bird stands up for his rights.
We can certainly do the same.
So, we believers can feel confident
that we are following the Apostle Paul’s example,
when we stand up for our rights
to preach the Gospel of Christ
and to live as Jesus taught us.