Category Archives: In the News

The Gospel, or Politics?

Matthew 28:18-20

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”

Last night on the television I watched a conversation between a conservative Christian and the minister of a very liberal congregation from the same denomination, which I choose not to name but will say that it is an older, mainstream denomination. The heart of the debate was the fact that the liberal minister and his church were openly pursuing a very liberal social and political agenda to the point of posting harsh political signs in front of the church, while at the same time the congregation was in decline. I won’t burden you with all the back and forth, but I did see a very important comparison in the story, relative to my own personal experience. The minister’s church, like so many in our time, had wandered from a Biblical presentation of Jesus and into a pursuit of social and political change, while the number of people attending was dropping significantly. Meanwhile, I know a church that had been crawling along seven years ago with only twenty members, but when they got a new pastor who preached Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected, the Lord grew that church and today they have an average attendance of over 1,000 people spread out among three services. What is the difference? One church preaches politics, the other preaches the gospel. One follows a humanistic philosophy loosely based on the teachings of Jesus, the other teaches the great love of Jesus expressed in His setting aside the glory of heaven to come among us and die a horrible death to pay the price of our sins. Now the shifting of focus within churches from the eternal to the temporal is not limited to the liberal, theologically muddy branches of Christianity although it is most apparent there. There are many reasonably conservative Christian churches that have also strayed into the elevation of politics and social change. When I first became a Christian in the mid-80s one of the big subjects of debate within the church was what to do with the new-found political power that evangelical Christianity had discovered. For the majority the answer was clear: politics must always take second place to the work of carrying the gospel of salvation to a lost world. Yet, decades later, many in the church seem to get that order of importance backwards. Being politically aware and active is important, but it has not been lost on me that nowhere in Scripture does it exhort us to put politics first, to make social change the whole point. We are encouraged to obey the authorities so long as they are not trying to force us to disobey God, and we are told to pray for our leaders that we may have peace. But the notion that the church must use politics to bring about the Kingdom is heretical and became popular during the 19th Century. Jesus didn’t come among us to start a program of social justice, although if we follow Christ and preach His Word society can improve; compare the “anything goes” madness of today with the relative social stability of earlier ages when the faith was more important to the majority of people. But the whole purpose of His coming was to atone for our sins and turn our hearts back to God in repentance. Jesus changes lives, you bet, He changed mine in some very dramatic and fundamental ways; politics mostly just changes who governs us and how. Jesus saves our souls, politics does not. So always put sharing the Biblical truth of Jesus Christ before trying to change the world through human effort. Keep politics where it belongs, and promote the gospel of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. For only Jesus can changes the world in the ways that matter.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Jerusalem the Capital of Israel? Yes!

2nd Samuel 5:6-10

“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here, even the blind and the lame can ward you off.’ They thought, ‘David cannot get in here’. Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. On that day, David said, ‘Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water water shaft to reach those “lame and blind” who are David’s enemies. That is why they say “the blind and lame will not enter the palace.”‘ David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the supporting terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.”

King David captured the ancient city of Jerusalem around 1000 BC, and that city remained the Jewish capital until the Roman sack in 70 AD and, in a sense, beyond. The Israelites were in possession of Jerusalem for slightly more than 1000 years before the Roman sack; since then the city has been at the heart of the Jewish religion and an important city for the Christians. From the time of the Muslim conquest in 638 AD until the end of World War I the city remained under Islamic control by various caliphates and then the empire of the Ottoman Turks. From World War I until the creation of the modern Jewish state of Israel in 1948, the city was governed by the British authorities. Since the war declared by her Muslim neighbors immediately after Israel’s independence, the Israelis took possession of West Jerusalem and then in 1967 they captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War.

Today President Trump acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced plans to begin the process of moving the American embassy there. Making a rare political statement of my own, I fully support this move. For almost 2,000 years the Jewish people have longed to return to Jerusalem, and now the city is once again recognized as the capital of Israel, at least by the American government. Israel’s claim to Jerusalem is 3,000 years old, while Christianity has revered the city as the location of where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God Among Us, suffered and died for our sins, for 2,000 years. Islam has revered Jerusalem as one of their holy sites for 1400 years. The Jewish people have a definite historical precedence in claiming the city. The Palestinian Authority has for decades seen East Jerusalem as their capital; now, thanks to their intransigence in refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace, East Jerusalem is lost to them. So be it. In the 69 years since Israel has controlled the city (at least the western part), they have peacefully given Christians and Muslims full access – in a peaceful manner – to their holy sites within the city, to the extent of even restricting Jewish activity, including prayers, on the Temple Mount in deference to their Muslim population. They will continue to do so; can the Palestinian Authority state honestly that they would do the same if they had full control of the city? Very doubtful. I fear that given the chance they would follow the example of the Taliban and ISIS and destroy all non-Muslim sites.

So in short, hurrah for Israel and well done to President Trump for making a difficult and unpopular decision that was long overdue. Of course the Jew-haters of the world will condemn this move, they are already starting to. But perhaps the apparently now permanent loss of even East Jerusalem will wake up the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to the fact that Israel is there to stay and that further refusal to come to the table and negotiate in good faith with the Israelis will just cost them more in the future. And since Islam claims at least parts of the Old Testament as valid (the parts they agree with), perhaps they would do well to remember what was said in Numbers 24:9, “May those who bless you be blessed, and those who curse you be cursed!” Jerusalem will forever be the Holy City, the center of the Kingdom of God and the seat of a returned Jesus Christ, ruling the nations with an iron scepter.

To borrow a phrase from the fictional Borg, “resistance is futile”.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. And to all my Jewish friends, a heartfelt shalom!

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A Look at “The Benedict Option”

Romans 12:1-2

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

“I have written the Benedict Option to wake up the church and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time. If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith, both in thought and practice. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs.”

– Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option

Recently I read one of the most talked about books in the Christian community of 2017, titled The Benedict Option, written by Rod Dreher. I will start by saying that I recommend this book highly to any and every Christian of any denomination who watches the news at night and is apalled and worried for the church. Dreher points out clearly that we are now living in a post-Christian world that is trying to drag Bible believing Christians down with it. As he says, don’t be fooled by the number of churches that you see. He provides much evidence showing that even in the Christian churches there are more and more people who know little about the teachings of the Bible, who go to church because they feel that they should, but somehow fail to live the kind of lives that our Lord and Savior and His apostles taught us to live. Dreher suggests that to preserve our faith intact we need to prepare ourselves to disengage with the mainstream of modern society and form our own tightly bonded communities of believers who can count on each other as we live in an increasingly hostile world.

Critics of Dreher have claimed that he is advocating a return to monasticism or something like it, citing his drawing on the inspiration from the Rule of Benedict, a monk who was very influential in defining what a religious community should be like. While Dreher does recommend insulating ourselves against the pervasive influences of consumerism, moral laxity in society, and the humanistic self-centeredness that has risen since the Enlightenment in the 1700s, he is not saying we should all become hermits or go to live in modern monasteries. What Dreher is saying is that as the world strays further and further from the ways of the Lord we have to pull ourselves back, to stand for our morals and beliefs in the face of severe opposition. We have to become a people separate, living in the world but not being of the world, firm in our commitment to stand for righteousness even in the face of highly motivated and determined opposition. We can no longer afford to live compromised lives.

Really the only aspect of The Benedict Option that I disagreed with was the implication that this age of moral and spiritual decay is a passing phase and that the world will one day want to turn back to the truth and need us to help them along. I think this may in part be because a widespread belief in Christianity is that we will keep going and convert the world. That is not what the Scriptures say. Our world is in a death spiral of rebellion against God and no amount of human effort will be able to correct it at this point. We are now in the last days and Bible believing Christians are in the minority, and that will not improve; look at all the churches that follow false doctrines and other gospels. It is imperative that we be aware and focused on our Lord and on the teachings of Jesus and the apostles as recorded in the Bible, for our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for those of us that he can devour.

My friends, we need to return to the kind of humble, loving but uncompromising faith that the early church had, the kind of faith that conquered the Roman Empire from within and spread over the face of the earth. We need to return to the kind of faith that enabled our spiritual forebears to enter the arena singing praises as they faced lions armed with only a prayer. We need to return to the kind of faith that will not compromise our principles in the name of career, that will rely on God and not politics, that will stand for good morals and Christian ethics even though they are no longer accepted in our society. It is time for us to make our stand against a rising evil that the world calls good, because if we don’t we are lost. We need to pray and study the Scriptures and help each other along and stand, and then, as Paul said in Ephesians 6:13, “after you have done everything, to stand”. The time for half-measures and going along to maintain acceptance is over.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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At the Heart of it All…

Romans 1:28-32

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

I don’t think it takes a lot of imagination to see this at work in the world around us today. Look at the news lately. It has become a seemingly endless litany of murder, hatred, perversion, rampant immorality, greed and wickedness of every kind. People get murdered going to church on a Sunday; hate-filled jihadists slaughter hundreds for the crime of believing a little differently. Sex scandals in the halls of power fill the news daily, simply because some are unable to control their own lusts; and those are just the natural lusts, I’m not even going to dignify the unnatural ones by detailing them here. Materialism and greed are now the norm, and unfettered consumerism has grown from it’s beginnings in the 19th century and earlier to become the apparent goal of billions. People glut themselves while half the world starves. Madmen in horrid totalitarian regimes threatens others with nuclear destruction (yes, I’m talking about Rocket Man in North Korea). Old fashioned paganism is on the rise along with the occult and eastern mysticism. Cults flourish while apostates fleece their flocks for billions and turn away from the truth of Scripture. What is the answer? The world around us has been telling us for over three centuries that the answer is science and humanist philosophy, but it doesn’t seem to me like that is working out very well. Atheists say we should do away with all religion, but in practice it seems they want to abolish Bible-believing Christianity and leave groups like Islam and the Satanists alone. Humanism tells us that we if we can just become enlightened enough, or educated enough, or sensitive enough, or collectivist enough, we can solve the world’s problems by our own efforts. That is utterly impossible! The truth of the matter is that the problem at the heart of all of the world’s ills is a rebellion against the God who created us and a rejection of the Savior who died for us. Period. People who ignore God and reject Jesus Christ are the real problem. Yes, I’m fully aware of the sins of the religion of Christianity, my avocation is a study of history from the earliest times on, but I can show you in every case that those excesses and sins were caused by those who chose to do it their way in the name of religion instead of following the teachings of our Lord. I could go on for hours, but the bottom line is very simple: humanity cannot fix our own problems by our own efforts for we are flawed and marred by sin, every one of us. No matter what new scheme we cook up we will never fix the world on our own. Not even by “converting” everyone to the religion of Christianity can we bring about the Kingdom of God as some claim. All we can do is submit to God, trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, and follow His teachings to do the best we can. And wait, for He will return as promised and put an end to all the evil that fills our world to the brim. As Scripture says, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord and Savior, so we are all faced with the choice of following Him now or acknowledging His Lordship under protest when He returns, but choose wisely. If we follow Him we enter into an eternity in the presence of God in a world no longer ripped apart by the wickedness of this age. If you continue to reject Him and try going it on your own you will receive only an eternity of suffering. The choice is yours, but as Joshua said so long ago, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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A Response to the Texas Shooting in a Wider Context

John 15:18-19

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Most of you have heard by now of the horrific shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, this past Sunday, November 5th. May God grant comfort and peace to the families in that small town, a village really, who lost their loved ones when that man walked into the church and opened fire during the service, and may God rapidly heal those who still fight for life in area hospitals. I don’t intend to go through all of the details of the vicious attack on Christians during worship by a self-avowed atheist; we all as believers know what kind of evil fills this fallen world and the hearts of people. (I do however want to take a moment to thank God for the neighbor of the church who laid his own life on the line by taking his rifle, and running barefoot go to the church and shoot the murderer twice; everyone is convinced that many more would have died if he had not been a good Samaritan and intervened to try and protect his neighbors and friends.) I do want to address the general rise in anti-Christian sentiment and the persecution being perpetrated around the world. After the vile attack many took to social media expressing their shock and asking people to pray for those affected. Almost immediately they came under fire from the godless, especially in the priveleged elites, who publicly mocked the faith of the victims and attacked their beliefs in some of the ugliest and sometimes profane ways. In my mind, they are the true “Deplorables” for their heartless mockery in this heartbreaking time. But I’m not surprised in the least. Here in America, and in other developed nations, or nations that are predominently Christian, we have enjoyed decades if not a couple of centuries of peaceful practice of our faith. True, with the rise of secular humanism and more and more people rejecting even the idea of God, let alone the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it has become more common that we are mocked. Sometimes the godless resort to legal pressure to try and get Christians to violate their beliefs, such as in the Hobby Lobby legal case over abortion or the multitude of cases involving lawsuits because a Christian baker or florist refused to participate in a homosexual marriage ceremony with their products. For years Christians have been mocked and ridiculed publicly in films and on TV, and it is rarely that movies that are Christian-friendly, such as “The Case for Christ” or the new film “Let There Be Light” are produced and made. But that is really to be expected. We know from the Bible that in these last days Christians who stick to their Biblical faith will be persecuted and killed for our faith, but we mostly manage to push that thought into the future or devise un-Scriptural doctrines that conveniently make it somebody else that will be hounded to death for we won’t be here. I understand completely; I certainly don’t want to have to face imprisonment or execution in a persecution like that of Roman Emporer Diocletian at the end of the third century. But, my friends, this war against the saints has already begun, for there are Christians around the world who are being hounded and killed, often in horrible ways, for proclaiming the Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ. In the Middle East ISIS rounded up many Christians in the territory they had seized and killed them, often publishing the videos of these executions online. In many parts of Asia and Africa this is happening and so few seem to notice. Even when it is talked about, the anti-Christian forces in this world mock and revile and attack, such as the backlash against Laura Ingraham for talking about global persecution and actually mentioning God on her TV show. (If you want to look further into this persecution of Christians for their faith, I suggest you get in touch with a nondenominational organization called the Voice of the Martyrs at http://www.persecution.com; I’ve checked them out and they are a good organization that works around the globe helping persecuted Christians in need.) My point is simply this, brothers and sisters: this hateful attitude of so many people toward those of us who hear and do the Word should come as no suprise, for Jesus and the apostles prophesied it 2,000 years ago. We need to cast aside the misguided assumption that we as Christians can somehow bring about global peace and tolerance and the Kingdom by our own efforts, and cling in faith to the Lord God who has promised to return and set things right. Yes, we have to go through terrible things on the way, and sadly it is only going to intensify as we get closer to return of Christ. But like the Christians of old, we must remain true to our Lord and never surrender. Jesus Christ has already won the victory, which means that we who follow Him have the victory as well. Pray, and help each other through the horrors, and never turn away from our faith. Remember our Lord’s words…look up, for our redemption draws near.

Peace and grace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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A Christian Response to Halloween

2nd Corinthians 6:15

“And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”

Here in America at least, you can’t go into a store without being confronted with Halloween decorations and costumes, and an amazing number of adults are excited about this event. But what should a Christian’s response to this pagan holiday, revered by many modern witches as the holiest day of the year, be? Is it wrong to mix our Christian faith with an occultic celebration? My personal feeling is that we should not as believers take part in this celebration; I’m not even very comfortable with having a harvest type festival as an alternative, a position thankfully echoed in my church. But I found a good article on the subject of Halloween written in 2009 by Hank Hanegraff, President of Christian Research Institute, and I think that Mr. Hanegraff explains it better than I ever could. So I hope you enjoy this article and that it helps clarify your own position:

Halloween for Christians: Oppression or Opportunity

A myriad of questions have been raised about Halloween. Should Christians participate in Halloween? What should our attitude be towards Halloween? Should we simply ignore it? Should we vigorously attack it? Or should we, as Christians, find ways in which to accommodate it?

Before offering some suggestions on how we as Christians might best relate to Halloween, I think it would be appropriate to first consider the pagan origin of Halloween.

The celebration of Halloween, also known as the witches’ new year, is rooted in the ancient pagan calendar which divided the year into Summer and Winter by two fire festivals. Before the birth of Christ, the day we know as Halloween was part of the Celtic Feast of Samhain (sah–ween). This feast was a celebration of Druid priests from Britain and France and commemorated the beginning of Winter. It was a night on which the veil between the present world and the world beyond was pierced. The festivals were marked by animal sacrifices, offerings to the dead, and bonfires in recognition of departed souls. It was believed that on this night demons, witches, hobgoblins, and elves were released en masse to harass and to oppress the living. For self-preservation many Druids would dress up as witches, devils, and ghouls, and would even involve themselves in demonic activities and thus make themselves immune from attack.

In direct response to this pagan tradition, the early Christian church moved a festive celebration called All Saints’ Day from May to November 1st and renamed October 31st All Hallows’ Eve, from which we get the word Halloween. This was an overt attempt on the part of believers to infiltrate pagan tradition with the truth of the gospel.

It was a bold evangelistic move designed to demonstrate that only the power of the resurrected Christ could protect men and women from the destructive ploys of Satan and his minions. This was a time in which they boldly proclaimed the marvelous fact of the resurrection and the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Believers in post-Christian America today should do no less. Halloween can be for us, like the early Christian church, an open door for evangelism. The deception of Halloween, with its witches, demons, skeletons, and allusions to death, can become a powerful springboard to demonstrate the dramatic power of Christ to redeem us from death, to fill us with His Spirit, and to give our lives meaning, purpose, and direction.

There are three specific things which I would suggest that you and your family plan for next Halloween: First of all, I would use Halloween as an opportunity to communicate to your children, your family members, and your friends that although death and the grave are very real, we are more than conquerors over the powers of darkness through Jesus Christ.

Second, this is an appropriate time to consider the saints who have gone on before us — those loved ones who make the thought of heaven sweet. Even now my mind goes back to precious moments of days spent with Walter Martin. When I think of heaven, I think not only of what it will be like to meet Jesus Christ, but I think of what it will be like to be reunited with this marvelous saint who has had such a significant impact not only on my life but the lives of countless others as well. This is also a great opportunity to share with my children the life of a saintly grandmother who prayed earnestly for me night after night while I was engulfed in a life of sin. Although she is no longer with us, the answers to her prayers live on.

Christians, this is not a time to look the other way as we do so often when passing by a graveyard. Halloween is not a time for avoidance; this is an opportunity, so seize the moment! Death, demons, pain, and suffering are real in a cursed creation. All of us have to struggle with it, and so will our children. This is not a time for glib and superficial answers — this is a time to build intimate and lasting relationships with those whom God has entrusted to our care. This is the time to reach them and to nurture them in the rich traditions of the Christian faith. Let your children know that Satan is not a character dressed in a red union suit with horns and a pitchfork; instead, he is a very real and powerful adversary whose goal is to steal, kill, and destroy.

Finally, let me suggest that this would be a time to share some of the great classics of the Christian faith with your children. Perhaps you could curl up on the floor with them before a roaring fire and read to them from Pilgrim’s Progress, or from C. S. Lewis’s masterful work The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Yes, this is not a time to curse the darkness, but a time to light a candle. If we are indeed serious about making an impact on a lost and dying world, Halloween represents not just satanic oppression but a strategic opportunity.

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Storm Warning

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen Harvey hit Texas with massive flooding, an 8.1 earthquake in southern Mexico and now hurricane Irma is getting ready to rip Florida a new one. But in just the last two days I’ve heard everyone from a pampered movie star to people interviewed on the street to news anchors refer to this as the wrath of “Mother Nature”. To me that touches on one of the root causes of the problems we’re getting hit with, and that is a complete denial of God. These events are occuring because God is trying to get our attention and turn us away from our sins. (They are not, as some misguided people have claimed, happening because we elected Donald Trump as President.) Now I know all the meteorological explanations for storms like Harvey and Irma, but you have to remember that science can only describe the mechanics of how God does things. He is still sovereign and in control of events in the marvelous universe He created. He is using these storms to shake us out of our complacency, to get us to stop relying on ourselves and our technological cleverness and military might and start relying on Him. He is trying to get us to turn away from our humanism and our arrogance and our false belief systems and turn back to Him. He wants us to repent of all the wickedness that has become so prevalent and turn to Him through faith in His Messiah, the risen Jesus Christ. Time is running out, my friends. Events are happening exactly as prophesied and will continue to do so with increasing frequency. Don’t be one of the untold billions who will stubbornly refuse to heed His warnings. Jesus loves you, He died for you, and He stands before you with open arms wanting you to turn to Him and find eternal life. Don’t harden your hearts to Him.

May God comfort all those who have suffered in these disasters, and may He protect His children in Florida who stand in the path of this storm.

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