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HGTV's Flip It Forward Firestorm

Update:

On Friday, May 16, 2014, SunTrust Banks unlisted all the Benham Brothers real estate listings with no explanation as to why. At the least, this could have severely crippled their business or even bankrupted both families and numerous associates. Several hours later after an outcry of thousands of pro-life and pro-family SunTrust customers, the bank reversed their decision. Here is the Benham Brothers’ response to the roller coaster ride:

These two brothers have been in the midst of a media firestorm for the past week. They are the twin sons of pastor and evangelist, Flip Benham, whom I’ve known and worked with over the last 20 years. Providentially, the social media driven controversy has shown the spotlight on Operation Save America at a crucial juncture in the pro-life organization’s history.

Although I don’t know them as well as Flip, I have spent some time talking to both Jason and David in the last few years. I am impressed with their Christian character and ministry. They have a love of people and a fire in their hearts for God that is unusual to find among “preacher’s kids.” They are a great testimony to the ministry of their dad. I have always said that if you want to evaluate the character of a minister, look first at his children.

The show’s premise is described this way, “In each episode, the guys help a deserving family find a fixer-upper and transform it into their forever home – with a healthy dose of sibling rivalry between the brothers along the way,” HGTV announced.

I heard about HGTV dropping the Benham’s reality show last week through social media. What surprised me is that every major national news outlet has covered the story. Most networks reported in a sympathetic manner recognizing that they are being bullied by the far left for their biblical faith. It’s not surprising to me at all that they were targeted by far left homosexual activists — it’s similar in every way to the Phil Robertson debacle — except they never got to have their own show in the first place — at least not yet.

The lesson in this for the Christian who truly wants to please God is profound and at the same time scary.

An interesting story about the Benhams is that Jason was injured and ended his minor league career in baseball, while David’s career ended when he was confronted by his irate coach, who said that if the young ballplayer led one more prayer or conducted one more Bible study in the clubhouse, he’d send him down a level. He said he’d have to choose between being a minister and being a professional baseball player. It would have been easy to compromise for a time in hopes of making the majors, but David chose to leave his baseball career behind.

That opened the doors to start the Benham real estate business. Together, the brothers had business contacts through their Major League Baseball experience that they were able to parlay into financial success. Their mode of operation has been to turn failure into an open door. When you rely on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you understand that all things in life work together for good -– for those who know Him and are called according to His purpose.

The “cancellation” of the HGTV Flip It Forward show will most likely open doors to a larger audience than if it had been birthed as just another one of hundreds of reality shows that plague the fiber-optic universe.

Law and Gospel

In the political and social climate of 2014 America, most Christians who achieve success and fame will be sorely tempted to shy away from any association with a Gospel message that includes the Law of God. I’ve known many Christians, pastors included, who shrink from any preaching about sin and repentance that involves hot button “social issues” — simply because the truth is anathema to the humanistic culture at the moment.

In 2011, a few friends and I invited Flip Benham and Operation Save America (OSA) to Orlando to confront abortion in our city. We are also bringing them back to Kissimmee this from June 11-14, 2014 specifically to confront a new Planned Parenthood abortion mega center. Every evangelistic outreach I have ever done with Flip has been an adventure to put it mildly.

In the spring of 2011, I sat across the table from a pastor who liked the pro-life message of OSA. But he said could not endorse or help us with our event because he discovered that Flip also preaches against Islam and the homosexual political agenda — even going as far as to preach at mosques and Metropolitan Churches.

This pastor truly believed that he had worked hard to build a reputation in the city of Orlando as being a church that received Muslims and homosexuals in a spirit of love and acceptance. To be fair, he was gracious enough to hear us out. He also had to submit to two elders who were skeptical to begin with.

Such deception is not surprising to me, but it is ironic. It is not surprising because I’ve encountered the same spirit at work in dozens of other pastors who allow gross misconceptions about pro-life street ministry to discourage their involvement. It is ironic because the same “tolerance” preached by the left often becomes the most intolerant spirit imaginable whenever a preacher of truth opens his Bible and begins to expose the sin of abortion, the lies of Islam, the homosexual agenda or any other sin that vexes our nation.

The Benham media firestorm also demonstrates that the average Christian has no idea how the Gospel of grace is 100 percent dependent on the Law of God to be relevant. The enemy’s weapon honed for battle is the leftist idea of “equality.” Homosexual activists have used “equality” — or “egalitarian humanism” — as a wedge against Christianity. They have tried to show that a biblical message calling for repentance from sin cannot co-exist with their feigned ideal of equality, tolerance and love. The contradiction here is that you can’t have a concept of love and tolerance without first having a consciousness of sin.

To be clear, we don’t hate abortionists, homosexuals and Muslims — far from it. But we do believe that in order to be set free, the lies of the devil need to be exposed and repented of. To preach that God “loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is meaningless to the non-believer who has not confronted the blackness of his own heart. Without the Law of God to be the mirror that exposes the darkness, it makes no sense to tell anyone that they “need Jesus.”

The smearing of the Benham twins brings an opportunity to show the fallacy of a Gospel that does not call sinners to repentance. Why would Christians need to love and be tolerant of others, if there were no knowledge of sin? The Law brings knowledge of sin. To preach the “good news” without first emphasizing the “bad news” is meaningless. However, that is where the majority of American evangelicals are at in 2014. We want acceptability and to be known as those who love and tolerate sinners, without ever preaching about the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

Martin Luther purportedly said: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

I submit that most who call themselves Christians are flinching at every point where the battle rages.

Meet the Benhams

Here’s the trailer for proposed reality show. By way of disclaimer, I should say that I hate reality shows. Most reality TV shows are so fake, that the term is an oxymoron. In this one, we do see some staged events. The cop car, for instance, is probably staged, but this is who the Benham brothers are. With the firestorm, I predict some network is going to pick this up, buy the footage (most of the first season is already shot) and get great ratings — at least for a time.

I have many friends who were addicted to Duck Dynasty, even prior to the Phil Robertson “suspension” of December 2013, who constantly told me I had to watch it. Prior to Robertson’s GQ interview that ignited a similar tempest over homosexual politics, the show had its many detractors. There are many who were convinced that the beards were grown for the show. It is obvious that for beards to be that long, they would have to have preceded the show for several years. These aren’t beards you grow in a few months. These are Rip Van Winkle slept-for-20-years-and-missed-the-revolution beards.

This commentary isn’t to disparage the Robertsons, but to say that unlike nearly all reality TV, the Benhams are the real deal. This is who they are. I’d say that about the Robertsons too, but their unsophisticated hillbilly image is a big show. It’s a schtick — an “inside joke” to those who know the show. That’s part of the appeal.

Cities4Life

The Benhams used their business connections to help found Cities4Life in Charlotte. They took their dad’s pro-life activism in a different direction. Now instead of merely being confrontational at abortion mills, they got local businesses to unite in support of all the pro-life ministries in the city. The idea is that the child is cared for through an already existing network of ministries from the time of the first ultrasound after the woman knows she is pregnant — through childbirth and providing support through college.

The following is my favorite video in the Cities4Life series. It was produced in part by the Benhams. It is 15 minutes long, but if it does not move you to tears, I’ll give you your money back! The video was made in 2013 and marked the 40th anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that forced abortion on demand on all 50 states in America. The video is a wonderful message of hope to show what the Christian community in a city can do when obedient and united.

40 Years Smallest Stories Left Untold from cities4life on Vimeo.

In 40 years, America has aborted over 55 million babies. “40 Years of the Smallest Stories Left Untold” is the story of one life that began the same as so many others, but through the love of many different people, ended very different.

The following videos explain different aspects of effective pro-life ministry.

Provide Life from cities4life on Vimeo.

Proclaim Life from cities4life on Vimeo.

Pray from cities4life on Vimeo.

CitiesForLife from cities4life on Vimeo.

Cities4Life – Who Will Answer The Call from cities4life on Vimeo.

Sidewalks4Life from cities4life on Vimeo.

Will You Answer the Call from cities4life on Vimeo.

Introducing Cities4Life from cities4life on Vimeo.

Here’s a playlist of earlier videos from before the time of the firestorm.

So you might be wondering … Why was the show really cancelled?

The cancellation of the Flip It Forward show has been noted by all the major networks with some irony. All news networks have included comments that the same homosexual political lobby that preaches tolerance and equality becomes rabidly intolerant and inequitable when faced with a contrary opinion. The Benham twins simply believe that all sex outside of marriage is a sinful lifestyle.

Although the media has unfairly portrayed the Benhams as “anti-gay,” they have also recognized the duplicity of the gay activist movement in punishing Christians who dare to openly disagree with their agenda. CNN went as far as to say there was a gay “agenda” that “bullied” the network.

The strategy of buying low and selling high in real estate is called “flipping houses.” The title is a play on words. Phillip “Flip” Benham is the father of Jason and David. “Flip it forward” also speaks of the inheritance of the Benham family, who stand in the tradition of several generations of Protestant ministers. In biblical terms, this is the doctrine of covenantal succession. That is, properly trained sons and daughters are “as arrows are in the hand of a mighty man” (Psalms 127:4).

The very fact that the Benham show is called “Flip it Forward” was the problem for HGTV. It was Flip, not Jason and David in isolation. If the show were to become popular and successful, at some point Flip would have to make an appearance. Flip makes the Christianity of Phil Robertson look like Lamb worship. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but Flip knows the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

It’s difficult to believe that HGTV had no inkling that the Benham twins would not be associated with their father at some point during the show — even if he didn’t make an actual appearance.

My first meeting with Flip

I had the privilege of meeting Flip Benham in a 90-minute ride from Orlando to Melbourne, Florida in 1993. As we rode in an cargo van with my then pastor, Keith Tucci, I learned that Flip would be taking over as director of the pro-life organization Operation Rescue National (ORN) within a few months.

Founded by Randall Terry in the late 1980s, the leadership of Operation Rescue had passed to Keith Tucci in 1990. Keith revitalized the movement when he led the “Summer of Mercy” in Wichita, Kansas in 1991. The planned week-long event lasted six weeks. The local abortionists made the mistake of announcing that they would remain closed for the whole time Operation Rescue was in town. When this statement was covered in the national press, busloads of Christians began streaming into the besieged city. Churches all over the Midwest came together to make Wichita an “abortion free city” at least for part of the summer. With over 2,600 arrests in front of abortuary doorways, the Summer of Mercy became the largest single civil resistance campaign in American history. The event culminated in a rally that filled Cessna Stadium with 30,000 in attendance.

A Christianity Today article (“Wichita’s Long Hot Summer,” 9/16/1991) criticized Operation Rescue for it’s tactics of non-violent resistance even while lauding the movement for uniting churches that had never worked together before. Although critical of the arrests, the article credited ORN with bringing a spirit of revival to the city changing the political and spiritual landscape of the state. The article states that the pro-life event had woken a “sleeping giant.” In fact, a book and documentary, What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank, credited (or perhaps from a liberal point of view, blamed) the Summer of Mercy for turning Kansas from a blue state to a red state in six short weeks.

Keith tried to duplicate his strategy in Wichita in several other cities, but never had the same degree of success. Then after the shooting of an abortion doctor in Pensacola in 1993, Keith tried to reunify the regional Rescue leaders at a conference in Melbourne, Florida to sign a pledge of non-violence. When several leaders refused, the national movement splintered. Keith decided it was time to resign. Rather than cut and run, he put the existing resources into the hands of Flip, who has continued as director for over 20 years.

As we drove along Highway 192 on that fall day in 1993, Flip told of how he had been converted not far from there in a small Free Methodist church on Thacker Avenue in Kissimmee, Florida.


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The Free Methodist church where Flip was converted to Christ

As the owner of the Mad Hatter Saloon, Flip had found faith in Jesus Christ. The power of God brought him back from alcoholism and the brink of divorce. His sons had been conceived at a point when Flip’s reckless lifestyle led him to push for an abortion, but his wife Faye refused and bore twins, Jason and David, two of the five Benham children.

Flip went on to graduate from Asbury Theological Seminary and took a pastorate in the Dallas area with the Free Methodist denomination. In Dallas, Flip joined with Operation Rescue organizing non-violent sit-ins at abortion clinics and evangelistic outreaches using the pro-life issue as a flash point. Flip was one of the regional leaders who understood that the abortion issue is just part of a larger cosmic battle that is as old as Adam. While for many, the pro-life standard is all about stopping abortion, Flip’s pro-life message is a simply part of the Gospel he preaches.

When we met in 1993, Flip had recently been “not reassigned” as a pastor after having been arrested several times as the leader of Operation Rescue Dallas. Although he was not given an explanation, this apparently did not sit well with his denomination’s superintendent.

It was fitting that Flip took over as the national director at a time when some Rescue groups were drifting from their ethical moorings. ORN’s motto under Flip became “Jesus is the Standard.” Flip changed the organization’s name to Operation Save America in the late 1990s in order to focus on broader cultural issues, such as the threat of militant Islam and the homosexual political agenda.

At 66-years-old, Flip has decided to turn the reigns of a stressful ministry over to Rusty Thomas, a former St. Petersburg area pastor who has been working with ORN/OSA for 20 years. Rusty, who is now based in Waco, Texas, will be heading up the OSA national event in New Orleans from July 19-26, 2014.

Flip will be here from June 11-14, 2014 in Kissimmee for his last regional event as the director of OSA. The focus of this event is to counter a proposed Planned Parenthood mega center from opening less than a mile away from the church on Thacker Avenue where Flip was converted to Christ.

Your comments are welcome!

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