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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Deceiving the Elect?

Matthew 24:24

“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.”

I know that I quote often from the 24th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, but I do so because it is the clearest and most detailed prophecy from our Lord Jesus Himself regarding the signs and events leading up to the end of the age and the return of Christ in power and glory. Verse 24 is a clear and strong warning to those who claim Christ. In the Last Days the Beast/Antichrist and his false prophet will do many things that can lead poorly informed Christians astray. Now many will claim that would be impossible for believers to be led astray like that. My answer is that if it weren’t possible Jesus would not have bothered to warn us against it. But how can this be possible? If they are the elect then they are the chosen ones of God, aren’t they? That is based on the assumption that everyone who claims Jesus is truly saved, but Jesus Himself says otherwise in Matthew 7:21-23, where the Lord rebukes and rejects those who protested that they had prophesied in the name of Christ and driven out demons and performed many miracles. So for whatever reason, these members of Christianity are false believers, but that would be a subject more appropriate to some other time. It is one thing to say “I am a Christian” and quite another thing to be a disciple of Christ and submit to Him all of your life. As Jesus stated, those who persevere to the end will be saved. But back to the question at hand – how could Bible believing Christians be deceived like that? My brothers and sisters, it happens all of the time even today. There are many people today who believe the Bible who have been led astray by various cults and heretical sects. Heresy abounds in these last days and we must know what the Word teaches so that we don’t fall under the sway of false prophets teaching the doctrines of demons that tickle men’s ears. But again, Christians falling for the lies and wonders of the Antichrist and the False Prophet? Here is an example from relatively recent history that shows it’s possible. Germany, 1933; Adolf Hitler has just become Chancellor of Germany. Within weeks of taking office he turned on the Christian church, largely Lutheran. He issues proclamations stating that all churches must swear loyalty and obedience to the Fuhrer only and complete submission to the Nazi Party. The penalty for disobedience is the seizure of church property and imprisonment for church leaders. Seminaries are closed. Christian publishers are shut down. Many churches in Germany give in and swear their utter submission to Hitler in all things, but some bravely refuse. Men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer resist the establishment of a new German state church operating as a wing of the Nazi party, but they are voices in the wilderness and many pay with their lives for standing up to Adolf Hitler. The new state church supports the Nazis right up to the end of the war, and in the difficult post-war period the church overall is rejected for having lost their effective witness of Jesus Christ. My point is this: prior to Hitler’s coming to power, the church in Germany was thriving and vibrant and produced fine pastors and teachers. Yet they were swayed by totalitarian political power and turned from Jesus Christ to accept Hitler as the new Messiah. They were led astray. I believe strongly that this is how it will be at the end of the age. Many apparently legitimate, Bible believing congregations will fall for the power and humanist appeal of the man who will turn out to be the most vicious dictator ever to rule the nations. That, my friends, is why we must be aware. That is why we must test everything against the Scriptures. If we fall for a charismatic personality, or seeming miracles, or fine sounding arguments that have no basis in Biblical truth, we will be led astray and be led into perdition by evil men and women. If it violates Scripture and leads away from complete faith in Jesus and the grace He won for us on the Cross, reject it and run the other way. Don’t fall for a lie.

Grace and peace 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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The Importance of Finding the Right Church

Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Today I’m led to speak about churches in general. When Jesus called us all to follow Him we became one flock under Him, one family of believers, His brothers and sisters in grace. While some are led to lead lives of isolation, they are very few. But just as wolves will try to separate a sheep from the flock to have a more vulnerable prey, I believe that when Christians allow themselves to be separated from the Body of Christ they become more vulnerable in many ways. We are meant to be a part of a group of fellow believers, brothers and sisters in the Lord, so that we can encourage each other and help each other and hold each other accountable. But this isn’t always easy for some of us. While humans are hardwired to be social, to be a part of a group, be it a family or a clan or a tribe or a nation, for some of us it can be challenging. For instance, due to issues I’ve struggled with all of my life I find it hard to be among large groups of people; I’ve never been comfortable in social settings, except of course in years long past when various substances were involved, and so when a part of a larger group my defenses tend to go up and I remain amazingly isolated in the midst of a crowd. The Lord has brought me a long way with this, and now I’m fairly comfortable being in the midst of a crowd of people at church on Sundays. So sometimes people have issues that tend to separate them from the Body of Christ. Many times the isuue is not so much being in a large group of people as it is an issue with some teaching or practice of a certain church. This is very understandable; there are a number of churches that I would not attend because they promote false teachings or they have practices I disagree with (and I’m not even including cults or pseudo-Christian groups). Fair enough. We are warned repeatedly to watch out for false prophets and teachers of lies. As our dear brother Paul wrote, we are to test everything against the Word of God, and that should include churches too. We should avoid places where they teach anti-Biblical doctrines or practice things that aren’t right. But then, at the same time, what does that leave us? No church or denomination is 100% correct all of the time; after all, every Christian who has ever lived has been a flawed, fallible, mortal being who can make mistakes no matter how faithful they may be. I think that one of the great sadnesses in Christianity today is the fact that so many denominations and churches avoid or even revile everyone else instead of accepting our differences and learning from each other. Now do not make the mistake of thinking that I am promoting the modern ecumenical push to unite all churches and reconcile with other religions such as Islam. I am not. A truly Christian church should teach the whole Word of God and teach a Biblical Christ, God in human flesh, Who died on the Cross for our sins, rose physically from the dead and ascended into heaven and is returning soon in power and glory to claim His throne over the nations. I will not participate in a church that practices the worship of anyone but the Lord, for instance. But I do not hate or revile those who do, I merely present the truth in a spirit of love and humility and practice Christ’s love for others. Jesus said we would be known by the love we have for one another and we should always keep that in mind when dealing with people who fellowship differently. So what should we look for in a church? First, it should be a church that teaches the entire Word of God without avoiding the parts that might make someone uncomfortable; it’s ok to have differences of interpretation regarding peripheral issues, but the core truths such as what is contained in the Apostles’ Creed need to be present. Second, that body of believers should live the Word they teach. They should be committed to lives of discipleship for Jesus, which means obedience to God instead of living in any way we please. Third, it should be a church that is committed to reaching out to the billions of lost souls around us; this can be done in a variety of ways, not just in traditional missionary work. And fourth, it should be a church that is not focused on fundraising and building big, beautiful places to worship; I know of churches overseas that meet in what most Americans would consider a cow shed. The early church was at its best meeting in humble places before it became obsessed with gathering wealth and power. You may not find a church that meets every criteria you have chosen perfectly, but find one that at least gets the essentials right, that lives by the Word of God. Then join the family under Christ and love each other with a holy love, not condemning each other because you disagree about small things like someone’s appearance or how they word something. My pastor has often referred to Christianity as a team sport and he has it right. We can still be a child of God and have salvation in Jesus when on our own, but it is a lonely path that cannot compare with being a part of a body of believers who are of like mind. I know, for I have walked that path before.

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

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Whose Side are You On?

GODINTEREST - Christian magazine covering faith, culture and life

There’s a battle going on and you’re in the midst of it, whether you know it or not.  It’s a world war.  I call it LOE (Life On Earth), and lo and behold, you are in it every waking hour.  You restless sleepers may even be experiencing it in your sleep!  There are only two sides in this war, and if you’re not on one side, then you’re on the other.  Do you need some help choosing sides if you haven’t done so already?  Do you want further information as you reconsider whose side you want to be on?

Frances Ridley Havergal wrote a hymn based upon David’s call to commitment given to his army in I Chronicles 12, and his army’s response to him.  Verse 13 says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said: “We are yours, O David, and…

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Rejoicing in Affliction

Romans 5:1-5

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

Rejoicing in the midst of suffering seems so unnatural to us; how can we rejoice when we are afflicted with illness, with calamity or with persecution? Yet, as counter-intuitive as it seems, we can rejoice in our sufferings. Paul wrote a lot about suffering, particularly suffering for the Gospel of Christ. Jesus Himself told us that we would suffer in this world and face many trials. When faced with suffering of any kind we must remember that we live in a fallen, corrupted world, and that suffering through various trials is a part of life. It is our response to it that we have some measure of control over, and our response will be determined by the amount of our faith and our closeness to the Lord. Once when presented with a blind man (who Jesus healed), the religious authorities asked Him who sinned, the man or his parents, that resulted in the man’s blindness. Jesus answer was very revealing: neither’s sins caused the blindness. Illness can be used by God as a means of chastising us or training us in faithfulness, but it is also a natural result of living in weak, mortal, sinful bodies in the present age. Illness is NOT a sign of a lack of faith as some teach; if a believer suffers through illness due to a lack of faith, what does that say about Paul and his thorn in the flesh? I have seen the faith of some destroyed because people erroneously teach that a believer should never be sick. Our bodies age and are attacked by illness due to our own mortality. As we age we develop aches and pains, and frequently our aches become chronic pain that in some cases can really interfere with our activities. We get cancer, we get diabetes, we get any number of diseases and medical afflictions. But even though we get hit with such things, we can still have an attitude of joy and even thankfulness. Not at the fact that we are sick, but in the knowledge that in Christ we have Salvation and eternal life. The sufferings of this present life are as nothing compared to an eternity of joy and peace and health with Jesus; our lives may seem long, but compared to eternity they go by like the blink of an eye. So when you wake up in the morning stiff and sore and having a hard time moving, be at peace and joyful in the Lord. Give thanks because you woke up and draw breath and are able to feel that pain. Give thanks to God for His mercy and love in giving us eternal life through Jesus Christ. Just don’t fall for the lie that you are sick or in pain because you lack faith.

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

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Are we Under the Law of Moses?

Galatians 3:1-5

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believed what you heard?”

There has been much said over the centuries concerning the issue of observing the Law of God as given to Moses in the wilderness some 3500 years ago or more, and there is much being continually said on that subject today; it seems to be one of those subjects that Christians will be arguing about until the Lord returns, which will thankfully be soon. Now I’m not a theologian, but I am fully capable of reading and understanding the Bible and the Lord reveals through His Word what the truth is. So let me throw another log on the spiritual fire and give a Scriptural view of the relationship of Christians to the Law.

The Bible is clear: as Christians we are no longer under the judgement of the Law, for Jesus fulfilled the Law on the cross. Period. Does this mean that we promote lawlessness and rampant sin as some charge? Of course not, that is a ludicrous claim and Paul dealt with the same attacks in the middle of the first century. As Christians we uphold the Law, meaning that we view it as it should be viewed: as a tutor to lead us to repentance and faith in Christ. No one has ever been saved by obedience to the Law, or to the Commandments if you prefer to call them that. No one. The only person in the entire history of humanity that was sinless and in perfect obedience to the Law is Jesus Christ, and He achieved that only because He is God in human flesh. For everyone else the Law stands as proof that we are sinners in need of Christ, no more, no less. If a law could be given by which we could be saved, then Christ would not have had to die on the cross.

The reason we are unable to meet the requirements of the Law is simple: humans are flawed with sinful natures and we mess up. To keep the Law, to obey the Commandments enough to win justification before God, you would have to keep every law perfectly for all of your life. That is an impossibility for mere mortals. If you break even one commandment, even slightly, you have broken the entire Law. When Jesus walked among us the first time, He expounded on the Law and showed how difficult it was to keep it. If you hate anyone you have violated the commandment not to murder; if you look at someone lustfully and wish you could sleep with them you have committed adultery. Who could possibly maintain such a rigorous level of perfection? Only Jesus Christ, and that is what made His death on the cross for our sins effective.

If we are in Jesus Christ we walk in a new way, by the Spirit, and the condemnation of the Law no longer hangs over us. Will we make mistakes? Of course we will, we are mere humans with sinful natures. But as John wrote in 1st John 1:9, if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us. Grace is not a license to sin, it just means that when we do sin we can be forgiven through faith in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Even if we sin a dozen times, if we fight it and turn to our Lord and seek forgiveness, He will forgive us. Yes, we should honor the Law and even preach it as a way to lead people to repentance and faith, but we no longer have to live under the Law. Do not let those who teach legalism lead you astray or bewitch you with their teachings: no one could ever follow perfectly any code of behavior, including the Law of Moses. For with the slightest mistake you have put sin between you and a holy and perfect God, and without God’s grace given freely through Jesus Christ that one sin will doom you to an eternity of suffering.

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

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