Tag Archives: Bible

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Divine Economics 101

“Give and it will be given to you…” (Luke 6:38).

The way the world works when it concerns money or the use of any material resource is this: Get as much as you can. Invest in whomever or whatever will bring you the most profit. Giving is foolish. Why give your money to someone who hasn’t earned it, or who will do nothing for you?

The way God’s Kingdom works is different. Giving is investing. It is investing in a person who needs help, or in a church that promotes God’s love and preaches the Good News. The person who gives from a cheerful heart to a holy cause relies on God, not human beings, to bring the increase.

I believe that when I represent Christ and tip a waiter or other service person, I will receive an increase from God. When I give assistance to a person in genuine need, God will reimburse me and bless me over and above my gift. When I tithe to my church, I am demonstrating my trust in God’s provision and promise regarding money.

Many people follow the worldly model. I’ve experienced this firsthand in driving for Uber. Uber is a ride-sharing platform, kind of like a tool for independent taxi drivers to use in order to find passengers. Uber doesn’t encourage tipping, and riders are happy to oblige. I think I’ve been tipped a total of three times in 53 rides I’ve given so far. Passengers express gratitude on occasion, but they don’t tip. Now, in part, this may be due to the fact that many people don’t carry cash and Uber provides no mechanism within the app to tip via your credit card. Uber understands how many people think. They don’t want to tip, so they aren’t encouraged to do so. Sad. Lyft is the other ride-sharing service. Lyft provides the opportunity for passengers to tip within the app. I’d say about 1/4-1/3 of my passengers on Lyft will tip. So, even when prompted, the majority of people don’t tip.

If human beings were in touch with God allowed their hearts to be their guide, there would be no need for government welfare. There would be less poverty. People would do what the primitive Christians did: they sold their property and gave their money to help the genuinely poor among them. It was a sort of voluntary communism. They weren’t forced to do this; they chose to do so to help their brothers and sisters.

Now, I’d say there would be no poverty if we all followed the leading of our hearts and listened to God, but I realize that what Jesus said remains true. “The poor you will always have with you.” Why is this? Not everyone can handle wealth. Not everyone will work. People make mistakes with money. So, there will always be a need for giving to help the poor. That is good. It teaches all of us what is important.

So, do you follow the worldly model for money, or God’s economic plan. God’s plan means you will be a consistent, persistent giver. Following his plan means you trust God and not people to bring you the increase and meet your needs. What you do with your money says everything about what, or who, you believe in.

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Slanderer

The Devil is a slanderer; that is what the name means and that is what he does well. Have you ever been at the receiving end of a slanderous accusation, or a malicious rumor? Many of us have at one time or another. It is not possible to control what others may say about you. It is possible to control what you do about it.

You may be innocent, but unstable, angry people may attack you or your character anyway. The internet has made this very easy. Social media, in particular, provides a pipeline for slander. In the privacy of their own home, and with the ease of a few keystrokes, anybody can say anything about anybody anytime. Facts are unnecessary and truth is rarely sought. People enjoy seeing conflict; it doesn’t matter if there is a basis in truth. As Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” In our day truth is the casualty of our culture of self-interest. Too many think of truth as whatever the majority says it is, or what the loudest and most convincing voices say it is. By this definition truth is the story people believe.

However, that is not truth. Something is true when it corresponds to reality, and absolute truth is what corresponds to ultimate unchanging reality. Jesus Christ called himself the embodiment of truth. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). We may come to know the Truth when we follow Jesus Christ and live by his teaching and commandments. “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). When you understand that truth is not just an opinion, but, rather, what is taught and embodied in Jesus, then you are on the way to living a healthy, reasonable, stable life.

Truth comes from God, who made the world and holds it together. God is behind existence, or reality. What is true is based upon objective reality, not subjective perception of it. In order to understand—or even properly perceive—reality, you have to believe that there is a right way and a wrong way of looking at things. When I choose only to see what pleases me, benefits me, or agrees with my preconceived understanding of things, I will inevitably be blinded by my overwhelming self-interest. If someone hurts me, for example, whether they intended to or not, I may not be able to look at them reasonably or objectively any longer. Anger, fear, resentment, hostility and the like, are all emotions that produce a fight or flight response. The one who hurt me has become the enemy, and I cannot see or say anything good about them.

An example of this may be observed when a couple divorces. Former lovers, partners and parents become mortal enemies. Children hear (or overhear) each parent accuse the other of various crimes and character flaws. Kids are caught in the middle and forced to choose sides. They become casualties of war, victims of friendly fire. Wisdom would lead parents to respect one another as a model for their children, even when they feel compelled to divorce.

The Devil is a slanderer. He uses slander to divide and conquer. He seeks to steal, kill and destroy all that God loves (John 10:10), and that means you and me and our relationships. You may be angry because of some offense or past hurt, but the Bible says clearly, “Human anger does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). You may want to get back at someone for something that they’ve done to you (or what you think they’ve done). However, the Bible teaches that we must leave payback to God. He is the one in charge of judgment; not you, not me. Jesus could have called down legions of angels to destroy those who were crucifying him, but instead he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The Apostle Paul quoted from the Proverbs and from the Law when he said, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19-20). Jesus clearly commanded, “Do not judge or you will be judged. With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). It is the devil who urges you to seek payback. This is a distorted form of justice.

Above all, Jesus ties our forgiveness from God to our willingness to forgive others. If you refuse to forgive, you will not be forgiven for your sins either. At first, this seems difficult to reconcile with grace, but it is what Jesus clearly taught. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15, NIV) If I am not willing to forgive, then I am also unwilling to repent of my sins and be forgiven as the result of faith in Jesus.

You may not be the one who has been wronged, and you may have no consciousness of having wronged another, but that will not save you from being accused eventually. What will your response be? Even if you’ve never been unjustly accused of something, you may be fascinated by reading or watching people argue and fight. What should your response be? The answer to both of these scenarios is the same when you are a follower of Jesus.

Our fist reaction must be love, and our first action must be prayer. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Pray for wisdom in dealing with the person(s) or situation(s) you face (James 1:5). “Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) when dealing with people who are obviously allowing the devil to use them as tools of hostility and destruction. Fight them in prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their lives and upon their consciences. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). If your reputation is being harmed, read the Psalms and pray for vindication from the Lord. If you must act to protect yourself or your family, do so with restraint and in love, which means seeking only to stop the slanderer’s actions, and lead them to realize their wrong attitudes. Again, be wise. Forgive, but be wise about restoring trust.

I’ve waited to the end of this essay to give a real world example because I wanted to lay out the problem and the principles first. I’m also not interested in inciting the very thing I’ve warned against here. So read the example with that in mind.

Recently one of my social media connections left highly slanderous posts about a person in our church. The accusations they made were emotional, untrue, and libelous. I don’t know if I was able to delete these posts quickly enough to keep them from doing harm to the reputation of our church and the person they accused. I have banned them from all social media over which I have control. However, the slanderer went to a site I don’t control and left a horrible, libelous review of our church, filled with accusations and lies. This person has never attended our church. If the review was read only those who know this person and their history, the damage would be minimal, but anyone may read a review and few people doubt what they read.

I wrote this person a reasonable and honest email, asking them to remove the review. After some consideration they did. I cannot guarantee that their feelings have changed. In fact, a recent email indicates that they are still hostile. So, I continue to pray. I will be seeking wise counsel, and, if necessary, we will take appropriate action to protect the reputation of our church and its members.

What should you do? If we all stopped reading and sharing gossip, rumor, accusation and slander, it would serve to change our communities and our culture. When you encounter something like I’ve described, immediately begin to pray. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom, and open your heart to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, then you will know if you are to confront someone about slandering or gossiping. Show love and compassion toward all, and refuse to be the judge in any situation. May truth, justice and love prevail among Christ’s followers at all times. Amen.

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Payback Is Foolish

I am not a pacifist. I am a follower of Jesus. The Lord taught his us to “turn the other cheek,” and that’s more than a metaphor for being nice. It represents a way of life. Love people, even your enemies, and trust God as your loving Father to protect and reward you. Trouble is, we don’t really follow Jesus. Oh, we say we do, but when it comes to the hard stuff we don’t really. And that’s why the world is unimpressed with Christians, so much so that they’re turning away in droves.

Let’s look at this idea of turning the other cheek and apply it to a recent sports incident, or series of incidents. So, apparently, there’s “bad blood” between the Texas Rangers baseball club, and the Toronto Blue Jays. Near as I can tell this is the result of an arrogant Toronto player named Jose Bautista who performed an infamous “bat flip” last season during a playoff game with the Rangers. Nobody was injured, well, not physically injured, but Rangers pride was evidently hurt by this example of arrogance. So, fast forward to the current season, seventh game of a seven game series. A Rangers pitcher (Matt Bush) appears to intentionally throw inside to hit Bautista with a 96 mph fastball. Presumably this is payback for Bautista’s unforgivable bat flip. Bautista didn’t wait until next season to deliver his version of payback; he slid hard into second, and past the bag in order to hit the Ranger second baseman Rougned Odor. Now payback is applied immediately upon the offense, and to the offender. Odor throws a right cross and nearly decks Bautista. Texas and Toronto benches clear, players run onto the field ready to fight (or stop the other guys from it). Foolishness. Turning the other cheek, at any point, would have stopped this series of events, which may well continue to play out at a later time.

If the Rangers had been more secure as a ball club last season they wouldn’t have allowed the arrogant celebration of one player to affect them so. If the Rangers leadership (players or coaching staff) was wise, they would have let this go and ensured that lesser players wouldn’t retaliate (such as the pitcher who hit Bautista, during only his second major league game). You want to get back at Toronto? Beat them fair and square.

Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek is not a rule against self-defense; it is teaching us not to seek revenge. A slap in the face is an insult. That was the case in Jesus’ day; it is still the case today. If someone hits me and then stops, I have no need to hit them back. They are seeking to offend me, to demean me, to hurt my pride. What if I have no pride to hurt? What if I am so secure in my identity that a slap in the face from someone cannot diminish me or alter my self-worth in any way? What if I have inner strength that keeps me from being concerned about the opinion of the crowd around me? THAT is what a genuine follower of Jesus possesses.

So, Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek. The Apostle Paul quoted from the Old Testament Law when he taught against seeking payback. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, see also Deuteronomy 32:25). The wisdom book of Proverbs speaks to this too. “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you” (20:22). So, Christians have no business seeking payback.

Ah, but I can hear some of you say, “We can’t expect those Rangers players to live like Christians!” Perhaps not, but I CAN expect YOU who claim to be Christians to refrain from supporting or promoting revenge, violence and poor sportsmanship. My timeline on Facebook is FULL of pictures of Odor clocking Bautista (I took the pic with this blogpost from one of them). If you watched the video, Odor was ready to keep hitting him. DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT IS RIGHT? Is it self-defense? No, it is not. It is a man saying, “You hurt me, I’m going to hurt you back.” In fact, it is a man doing exactly what the Old Testament principle of eye for eye and tooth for tooth was intended to PREVENT: injustice. That’s the trouble with vengeance. It is rarely just and it never ends. In fact, it escalates. That’s how wars start. World War I began as a murderous offense, and escalated until 65 million people were dead. This may be multiplied further if the unfair treatment of the German people after World War I is taken into consideration as a motivation for their willingness to follow Hitler into World War II.

I believe we have the right, indeed the responsibility, to protect ourselves and our families from serious harm. If, instead of a “bat flip” a baseball player went after another in an attempt to do more than hurt his feelings, then I would uphold the other’s right to stop the offender. That doesn’t mean kill or destroy or seriously injure the offender. I taught martial arts for many years, and I always led my students to cause the minimal amount of damage necessary to the opponent to stop or escape a fight. I believe that is what Jesus would do. If you follow Jesus, I believe that is what you must do. However, I assure you, payback is not a Christian’s response to offense or harm.

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Male or Female Is Reality

You may not realize it, but the current controversy concerning gender, which has expressed itself as a debate over what bathroom a person should be permitted to use, is actually a philosophical and theological issue. In fact, scientific fact is proving to have impact only if interpreted with a subjective bias. It is a fact that someone born with XY chromosomes is male, and a person with XX chromosomes is female. The subjective bias enters when we attempt to look at exceptional cases and apply them as a general rule for everyone. As many as one in one-thousand persons are born with a degree of genetic abnormality, which rarely affects physical characteristics but may arguably impact some behavioral traits. The case is made by LGBT advocates that this is evidence of gender fluidity, and is applied to everyone. The result is, the puzzling separation of gender identity and physical sexual characteristics. In other words, a male who believes he is a female as we’ve seen showcased by the media in Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. The LGBT lobby is promoting this concept successfully.

Philosophically this is an ontological issue. Ontology is the study of reality. What is real, and what is the fundamental nature of the real? It is also an issue that concerns epistemology, which is the study of how we know what we (think) we know. More recent philosophy has shown no interest in ontology, preferring to make the case that everything is limited by our epistemology in any case. In fact, since Wittgenstein many have simply given philosophy up as little more than word games. That is to say, if we cannot really know anything for certain, how can we talk about what is real? Everything is what I or we say it is? We tell stories to make sense of reality. These stories are called metanarratives. There is no truth, at least in the traditional sense of absolute truth. There are just stories. When a community agrees to a particular metanarrative, then that story becomes their truth. Do you see why I’m making the case that the current controversy over gender is philosophical?

The progressive/liberal/left believes in and supports the type of thinking I’ve outlined above, which has been labelled “postmodernism”. When I was a young person in church, this was called “relativism,” but we applied it to morality. Now it is being applied to all of reality. In the case of the gender issue, many of those who support transgenderism fail to recognize that a person is fundamentally male or female. Rather, the person is what they say they are. In so doing, they ignore biological reality in favor of personal choice and subjective perception. Now, when I say “they” I am not referring to a person who presents a genuine exception to the biological norm. As mentioned earlier, there are persons who are born with genetic, and even more rarely with physical, abnormalities. Those born with both male and female physical traits are now called “intersex.” These persons must discover for themselves whether male or female best describes them, and how they wish to proceed with their public lives. However, the LGBT community, and those who support their political ideology, promote the idea that this is the case for everyone.

The exception is not the rule. There is actually a fallacy of logic on full display here. My introductory logic text from college, written by Dr. William Kilgore, calls it “Converse Accident.” It is illogical to make the exceptional case into the rule. The left commits this fallacy regularly.

It is a titanic expression of egotism to presume that there is no reality other than the one I, or my community defines and describes. It is arrogance on the highest level to make reality as your community has defined it the rule for everyone else. This is precisely what is occurring in the United States today under the influence and political control of the left. It was reported today that President Obama will mandate all public schools permit a child to use the restroom or locker room of their choice, depending upon their self-identified gender. Nobody else gets a say in this. That is not democracy.

There is an essential reality, though. When a person or community lives in accord with reality, they are healthy and sane. The alternative is what we see increasingly on display in the United States today, unhealthy thinking and moral insanity. There is irony in the rationale used by leaders like President Obama, or the U.S. Supreme Court, when issuing undemocratic directives. They appear to truly believe that they are upholding the civil rights of minority groups. Many people have been persuaded that this is the case, and that is why the normalization of lifestyles and behaviors once considered abnormal, even immoral, continues unabated. However, framing this as a civil rights issue doesn’t change reality. From birth a person is either male or female, regardless of personal feelings, identity or lifestyle choices. This is a scientific, biological reality for the overwhelming majority of persons.

There is also a spiritual reality, which underlies the material one. This is where theology becomes important to this debate. God created persons male or female. That is true even for those who have been born with some degree of biological abnormality. In this life, you are created and born male or female, and you are destined to be either a woman or a man.

Jesus Christ responded to a question about divorce with the following reinforcement of the creation account found in Genesis of the Bible’s Old Testament.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Mark 10:6–9, ESV)
From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. That is to say from the beginning of the creation of humankind, but it also applies to your creation as a person in the image of God. You are either male or female. This doesn’t depend upon how you feel about yourself. It doesn’t depend upon whether you enjoy activities that our society or culture has typically associated with men or women. It doesn’t depend upon physical characteristics such as body hair or muscular size. You are a man, or you are a woman. God created you to take on that special role and responsibility. I’ve written and spoken about this extensively elsewhere. Here’s a link to a recent Mother’s Day message about what it means to be a woman. How Women Are Like God

There is a great deal of concern expressed over the high suicide rate among the transgendered (and rightly so). Suicide and bullying of transgendered persons are often cited as important reasons for changing our policies and attitudes toward this population of persons. Public acceptance of the transgendered person, it is presumed, would limit suicidal behavior. That is possible. It woudl certainly seem to limit bullying. However, I would like to make the case that the transgendered person is struggling with something deep within themselves: their own identity. For a person born with normal chromosomal and sexual characteristics who feels strongly that they are actually supposed to be the opposite gender, there will always be an internal conflict. This is cognitive dissonance, an ongoing war between what this person is in reality, and what this person is striving to be by choice. That war will not end with surgery, hormonal therapy, or public acceptance. It will not end until the person embraces who they really are biologically and spiritually: a man, or a woman.

There is a way things are supposed to be. However, we are living in a broken world in rebellion against God and his created order. The only way to find health and sanity is to agree with God as he has revealed himself in his inspired book, the Bible. The only way to find life and fulfillment, the only way to discover whom you have been created to be, is to believe in and follow the One who called himself Son of Man, Jesus Christ. He is the perfect human; all that God intends for us to be is found in Jesus.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, ESV).
Receive (believe in, fully embrace) Jesus the Son of God and Son of Man, and be what you were created to be.

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Fight the Good Fight

I have studied, trained and taught karate’ and martial arts for nearly 30 years. It’s been a few since I’ve actively taught, but I have some insight I’d like to apply to Christian faith.

I taught my students to defend themselves. We never attack anyone else. We are not seeking to maim the opponent, but to protect life, friends and family from an aggressive attacker. Sadly, if you present weakness, there will inevitably be a perpetrator who seeks to take advantage of you.

Therefore, it’s important to train, to be aware of your surroundings, and to always be ready to defend yourself and your family. Now, this is true whether you apply it to faith, as I am about to, or not. The assumption that you’ll never be a victim of violence is foolish and unfounded. However, avoiding situations where violence may occur, maintaining 360 degree awareness at all times, and having a plan for self-defense and escape will minimize damage and potentially avoid conflict altogether.

If you are a genuine follower of Jesus, then you need to be prepared to defend your faith. Historic, biblical Christian faith is under sustained attack today, from Muslims, atheists and even nominal (not biblical) “Christians”. Sadly, too many supposed Christians are simply compromising or capitulating. They refuse to fight, or they give ground and hope they’ll be able to continue to live a comfortable life.

I don’t want to boil this all down to politics, because it’s deeper than that. However, in the last eight years, since the left gained control over the Presidency, this nation has moved farther from its Christian roots. Atheism is on the rise. Inordinate lifestyles and sexual choices have been normalized. Islamic extremism and it’s militant hatred for Christians has grown worldwide. What are Jesus’ followers to do? Certainly, those in free lands need to vote for candidates with biblical values. However, it appears so many in the USA are deceived that that may not be an option this election cycle. In fact, it appears we are in for four to eight more years of godless policies.

Fellow believers, our hope is not in this world. We must do more than provide ourselves and our families with comfortable lives. We must begin to live out our convictions, even and especially when that is not convenient, comfortable, or even safe. The reality is, our world is more dangerous than ever, and ignoring this fact does not change it. Confronting danger may seem scary, but it may actually be wiser than avoiding it until it becomes worse. We must learn to fight the good fight of faith.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). I hope, fellow believers, that we too may say what the Apostle Paul did here at the end of his life. For your own sake, that of your family and friends, and for the sake of our great nation, Jesus’ followers must learn to defend their faith against the attacks of the Enemy.

This begins by affirming that your faith is genuine, biblical and Jesus focused. The Apostle Paul challenged the Corinthians with this statement at the end of his second letter to them in the Bible. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV) The essence of being a Christian is not in the externals, but whether or not the Spirit of God is living within you. The mystery of the Gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Is Jesus Christ alive in you? This isn’t a metaphor, friend. Do you have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within your innermost being. Is Jesus really and truly in your heart?

If you doubt, then you need to stop where you are, at this moment, right now, and call on Jesus Christ in prayer. The Bible says, “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Talk to God and ask Jesus Christ to enter your heart and take control of your life. Do that sincerely and with all of the faith you can muster. “that if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). “To has many as received him, to them he gave the right to be children of God, even to those who called on his name” (John 1:12). Call out to Jesus right now. Affirm that he is Lord, and give up your rights and give yourself to him.

So, is your faith real? Is Jesus really living within you? The next step is to learn and train to defend that faith in the face of opposition. We don’t attack people, we enter into spiritual warfare. That begins in your own mind. Combat doubt and ignorance by exposing yourself to the truth of the Bible, and by listening to believing teachers. Popular Bible teachers, even those with sound doctrine are not enough. As AW Tozer wrote, “I take my help where I find it and set my heart to graze where the pastures are greenest. Only one stipulation do I make: my teacher must know God, as Carlyle said, “otherwise than by hearsay,” and Christ must be all in all to him. If a man have only correct doctrine to offer me I am sure to slip out at the first intermission to seek the company of someone who has seen for himself how lovely is the face of Him who is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. Such a man can help me, and no one else can.”
(The Pursuit of Man, xiv).

We are instructed to be ready to defend our faith, and to do so with gentleness and respect for the person to whom we are making that defense. That begins with setting apart Jesus Christ as the one in control in your heart, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do ti with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:15-16a). We are also told to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Our purpose is not to prove ourselves right and the other person wrong, nor is it to defeat or humiliate our opponent. Our purpose is to defend the truth of the Gospel before all people, and, if possible, to win our opponent over to faith in Jesus Christ, in order that they may be saved.

The real battle is against God’s great Enemy and our adversary in this life, Satan. You and I are not so significant that we’ll be fighting the Devil himself. We will encounter his lies and those influenced by him through those lies and through interaction with other fallen angels, whom we call demons. Once again, this battle begins in your own mind. Faulty assumptions, half-truths and outright lies comprise the basis of bad thinking. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Change your thinking; change your ways.

You must renew your mind with the truth found in the Bible, and that must be illuminated, or properly interpreted and applied to your mind by the Holy Spirit. Read the Bible, or listen to it read, daily. You must take captive any thoughts that are contrary to the truth of the Bible. You must change any opinion that is contrary to the Word of God. You must not elevate any value or ideal above Jesus Christ and the clear teaching of the Bible. Consider what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, marriage, gender, the sanctity of human life. Don’t permit those who have been programmed with lies propagated through the media, the school system and government to sway you. Have compassion on those who are caught up in sin, but don’t compromise, accept that sin as God’s will and plan. Start with the sins of your own heart, though. Stop justifying, excusing or lying to yourself about them. Satan’s original lie to Eve in Eden was, “Did God really say…?” Yes, he did. It’s wrong. Cry out for strength, mercy and forgiveness. Repent.

Pray for understanding. Pray about what you read. Pray for yourself and others. Pray against the Enemy. Pray in preparation to speak with anyone about your faith. The battle is spiritual and we wrestle and win in prayer. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:12-13).

Finally, engage others in the marketplace of ideas. Give personal testimony of your faith and what God has done and is doing in your life. No one can contradict authentic personal experience. Read and prepare to provide solid, reasonable answers for your faith and the truth of the Bible. Do not fear to talk to those who disagree. Remember, God will give you the words when you are speaking for him, “for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict” (Jesus speaking to the disciples in Luke 21:15).

Take action to protect your family and your friends against sin and evil. Limit what you expose your children (and yourself!) to through the media and online. The news media is biased against Christians. The entertainment industry promotes godless lifestyles and violence, colleges and public schools actively oppose the Bible and orthodox Christian faith, advertisers use sex and violence to sell their products, much of corporate America stands behind perverse values. It is time to stop supporting what is destroying faith in America!

Forewarned is forearmed. Learn to defend yourself, Christian. It’s only going to get worse. The good thing is, you’re not alone. God is your defender. “For you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy” (Psalm 61:3). We will win because Christ has overcome sin, death and hell. “If God is for us, who can stand against us? …No in all these things we are more than conquers through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31 & 37).

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Identity and Purpose: Male or Female

“He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Jesus speaking in Matthew 19:4-5)

God made you either a male or a female. Your physical body demonstrates this clearly. If you are male, you have male body parts. If you are female, you have female body parts. Biologically, if you are male you have XY chromosomes. If you are female, you have an XX chromosmes.

This is a fallen world. As a result, deformities and abnormalities exist. Some studies indicate that there may be as many as one in 1,000 babies born with some type of genetic abnormality. This may or may not result in a physical deformity. In rare instances a person may be born with both male and female body parts. These are exceptions, not the norm. However, Jesus’ authoritative and inspired teaching about sexuality and gender apply, even to those who have to deal with such a challenge. 

Jesus’ teaching should be a comfort to anyone who must deal with gender confusion. You are either a male or a female. God has created you, in spite of any apparent contradictions that arise in a fallen world, apart from God’s immediate care and control. You don’t have to live apart from God’s care and control, though. Affirm that Jesus is Lord, and believe his teaching. Give your life to him. Recieve his Spirit and be transformed from the inside out.

Once in the care and control of God, once filled with his Holy Spirit, you will be convicted of the truth. Follow those convictions; they are Jesus Christ’s teaching being made real to you. You are a male, and Christ will work by his Spirit to make you a man of God. You are a female, and Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, will raise you up to be a woman of God.

Your identity is in Christ, not the world. The world is deceieved by the god it has chosen to believe in, and that god is a liar, a thief and a murderer (John 8:44, 10:10). “…the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). If you look to the world, if you listen to the prevailing voices in our culture today, you are going to be deluded into belieiving in a distorted image of personhood and humanity. If you identify with anyone or anything in the world, you will be kept from realizing your true identity.

You have been created in the image of God. In this fallen world, the divine image in you is damaged; it is broken. Jesus Christ is one with God, and he became a human being to restore the image of God in us. The natural tendency of every human being in this fallen world is to sin. Sin is falling short of God’s design and standard for human life. It is logical that apart from God we cannot be what he wants us to be. How would we know? Why would we care? Apart from God, I just make it up as I go. I choose my own identity, follow my own path. The problem with that approach to life is, human beings are created for the purpose of fellowship with, and service to, their loving Creator. Apart from that purpose, we are lost.

Jesus is “the image of the invisible God,” and “the exact representation of his (God’s) nature” (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the only one who can restore the broken image of God in you. He will not do that without your permission. You see, as a person made in God’s image, you have something that only persons possess, something that proves you are made in God’s image. You have free will. God will not violate your free will, not even to keep you from living a self-destructive life, not even to keep you from being ultimately destroyed in hell. Will you give Jesus that permission?

In fact, the reason the world is fallen, deceived and headed for destruction is due to human beings rejecting God’s care and control over them. God gave us the earth (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 115:16), we turned away from him and chose to believe the Father of Lies, who is also “the spirit now at work in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). That is how Satan became god of this world. Human beings believed him and gave up their rights to him. You don’t have to continue to believe his lies, however. 

The lie we are being told today sounds like good news: “You can be whatever you want to be.” The trouble with this truism is, it dooms those who believe it to failure. Why? Most adults, if they are honest with themselves, realize it just isn’t true. Perhaps as a youth you were told this and believed it. You wanted to be a professional athlete or singer or actor. You tried. You tried out. You were rejected. You aren’t talented enough, or attractive enough according to cultural standards. You were disillusioned. That’s not bad when you’ve been living an illusion, so long as you realize you can do many great things. However, many experience more than disappointment; they fall into depression.

Another result of believing this lie extends to sexuality and gender. “You can be whatever you want to be.” So, in some places children are now being taught to choose their gender. This in spite of the fact that the American College of Pediatricians has called the practice child abuse. “The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex… Facts – not ideology – determine reality.” Nonetheless, it is gaining support as the result of a militant group that fervently believes the lie, and is transforming our culture accordingly.

Then there’s this principle, which on the surface seems reasonable: “Be true to your feelings.” The problem with this principle is, feelings may decieve and be deceived. Feelings are dynamic, even erratic. Making decsions, especially life-altering ones, based upon feelings is, at best, unwise. I’ve heard children express a desire to be the gender opposite their own biological sex. I’ve heard the same child express a desire to be a dog. It is interesting that, biologically speaking, the regions of the brain that generate emotion develop very early, logic and reason come later. It is inherently childish and foolish to rely on feelings to determine reality, or identity. Better to discover the facts and follow the evidence.

Here’s a better principle for you to live by: “God made me for a purpose.” And here is something you can believe in and not be disappointed: “I can be whatever God created me to be.” God created you for a purpose. Spend your life discovering and accompishing that.

God designed and created the universe, and that includes our planet and our amazing bodies. Therefore, there is a way things are supposed to be. It is my responsibility to live according to God’s purpose and design for my body and life. The Bible contains God’s revelation, and the Spirit of God will enable me to understand it if I approach him with a willingness to learn and do his will. Everything I’ve written today comes from the Bible

You must realize that clinging to the values you’ve received and opinions you’ve derived from the world puts you at odds with the Lord. In fact, the Bible uses stronger language than that. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). I invite you to turn away from the world and toward God. Change your thinking; change your ways. Follow Jesus Christ and his teaching, and that includes his teaching about gender and identity.

Open your heart and invite the Spirit of Jesus to enter. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and be at peace with God and yourself. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). In Christ, there is neither male nor female, only children of God. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

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Coexist.

This world is a place where life with God and without God must coexist.

This is the case in order that people may clearly see the difference and decide whether they want to live with God for eternity. Those who live by faith in God and those who do not live side by side in this world.

The primary choice we are making over and over again every day is whether or not to believe in God.

If we believe, we live in light of that faith (James 2:14-26) and we seek to have a relationship with God. If we disbelieve, we incline to our own understanding of the world and live accordingly (Prov. 3:5). Unbelief is wrong because it separates us from the one who is good and right. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Unbelief has disastrous consequences, since it cuts us off from our Father and the hope of eternal life.

The contrasting lifestyles and states of wellbeing of genuine believers vs. unbelievers are clear indicators of the relative value of having a relationship with God. For example, a scientific study recognized that people who pray regularly are psychologically healthier than those who do not. The strength possessed by believers in the midst of tragedy and suffering is testament to the value of faith in God. Those who tithe their income are less materialistic, less controlled by money or the constant yearning for it.

So, why aren’t more people turning to faith in Christ? Don’t they see that this offers a better life and life after death? Are believers failing to show this to them convincingly? Or are they being deceived? Satan is the deceiver, and he is called god of this world.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV)
I believe Satan has effectively deceived the world, including increasing numbers of Christians (Matthew 24:24).

To understand how Satan has accomplished this you must recognize that there are two worldviews at war in our nation today. The Christian worldview and secular utopianism. Currently, the delusion of secular utopianism is spreading. The Christian worldview has been under sustained attack by the proponents and leaders of secular utopianism since the 1800’s.

The Christian worldview is based upon the Bible. It is centered upon a faith in the God who created the universe, and made human beings in his own image. Its morality is based upon the will of God, who will judge the world. Its hope is in a coming new world where Jesus Christ will reign.

Secular utopianism, simply stated, is the godless pursuit of personal happiness in this world.

It is humanistic and seeks to make earth into heaven, and each human being into a god. It is based upon Satan’s ancient lie spoken to Eve in Eden.“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4–5, ESV). According to this worldview the only god who matters is you. It has adherents in every religion, but it denies the authority of the only real God and Creator of the universe. Yes, there are many who would call themselves Christians who are actually believers in this worldview. The Apostle Paul warns that these apparently religious people are, “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. Avoid such people” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Secular utopianism is a materialistic worldview, giving no credence, or at least no significance, to a real heaven beyond this world. Karl Marx is perhaps its most powerful proponent. Marx famously called religion opium because he believed it kept people from realizing they needed to fight to make this life and this world the only heaven there can be.

Marx wrote:
“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

Communism and Socialism promise to create a secular utopia by enforcing income equality and then by abolishing private property, but ultimately what is sought is the abolition of any personal opinion that does not conform with the ideology enforced by the state. We saw this in the failed USSR and we see it prominently in China and in North Korea. This is the direction the liberal/progressive movement is taking the USA.

However, the left is not alone in it’s pursuit of secular utopianism. It is the same on the far right. The free market capitalist’s favorite philosopher is Ayn Rand, who formulated the philosophy known as Objectivism, which is an intellectual justification of the self-centered pursuit of happiness. The reason capitalists love her is due to her support of a laissez-faire approach to capitalism, which permits market forces to work. However, unbridled free-market capitalism inevitably results in the abuses of which many  were victims during the 2008 financial crisis. This is the grist for Bernie Sanders’ popular grind against big corporations and income inequality.

So, neither the left or right have the answer to our problems, and neither can offer human beings what we really long for: love, purpose, lasting peace, fulfillment, the reason for our existence, which is God himself. Oh, but they try. You and I must follow the radical route, the narrow path, which will make none of our political and worldly friends happy.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14, ESV).

Our culture has become toxic. It is imperative that we repudiate its godless values and protect ourselves and our children from being inculcated and indoctrinated. In order to do this our minds must be renewed by daily reading (or listening to) the Bible. We must be active in church. Jesus himself established the church, not a building or an institution, but communities set apart from the world to worship the One True God. The time in long past when a Christian could sit at home and rely on their own self-discipline and understanding of the Bible and expect to grow. Now, not only will you not grow, you will regress; you will fade into the light of common day; you will become more and more like the post-Christian culture, which has an inescapable influence on all of us.

Do you need examples of this influence? There is the obvious proliferation of pornography, available on every phone, tablet and computer. Our entertainment is filled with sexual immorality and violence. There is wide acceptance, even enforcement of the so-called rights of people to participate in perverse sexuality and distorted views of gender. Far more dangerous is the marginalization or outright rejection of Christianity in favor of the unbridled pursuit of self-satisfaction, pleasure or personal happiness. This is secular utopianism at work, and it is most dangerous when people believe that it is good, virtuous and right to pursue godless and distorted practices. Those who reject these practices as wrong and/or speak against them are considered evil and kept from expressing their offensive opinions in the public square, which was once a marketplace of free ideas.

The Western world is build upon the foundation of a Christian ethic and philosophy. The current preoccupation with secular utopianism has been labeled “post-Christian culture” by some observers. Author Mark Sayers, in his book Disappearing Church gives insight.
“Post-Christianity is not pre-Christianity; rather post-Christianity attempts to move beyond Christianity, whilst simultaneously feasting on its fruit.
Post-Christian culture attempts to retain the solace of faith, whilst gutting it of the costs, commitments, and restraints that the gospel places upon the individual will. Post-Christianity intuitively yearns for the justice and shalom of the kingdom, whilst defending the reign of the individual will. Post-Christianity is Christianity emptied of its content” (Kindle loc. 200)

This may help to explain why, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, people still pursue heaven on earth. There is continues to be enough of a Christian remnant, and the remnant of its ethic, to keep us from descending into the outright evil of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, and there is still enough temporary prosperity to keep us well fed and entertained. However, the widespread addiction to alcohol, illegal and prescription drugs (painkillers and anti-depressants) is testament to the fact that the pursuit of happiness is failing.

People who have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, must genuinely follow him. “Let your light so shine before people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). What if you don’t reflect that light? What if you don’t shine? Then people cannot tell the difference between a Christian and a secular person. If that is the case, why would anyone want to waste time and energy devoting themselves to something other than themselves?

Worldly churches have little influence and lose members because they are no different from the culture. This is the case with churches where the Bible is distorted and disbelieved. Today many formerly large denominations are a shell of their former selves and a tithe of their former size because they have reinterpreted the Bible, rejected it’s authority and embraced contemporary cultural ethics. Then there are churches where relevance has taken precedence over the Bible. They may technically agree with orthodox Christian teaching, but they don’t emphasize anything controversial or counter-cultural. They teach practical advice and preach personal happiness. Some of these are churches where style and slick production is more important than biblical substance. In both of these types of churches—-the liberal, heterodox, or the surface conservative where relevance trumps all—people are unaffected by the truth of Christ. People leave, attend sporadically or live lives that are no different than their neighbors who do not go to church.

Those of us who are saved, are saved from this cursed world. We have been given hope in a life beyond our earthly existence. I am a new creation, set free from the three forces that kept me blind, lost and spiritually dead: the world, the flesh and the devil. The life I live on in this body on earth, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and proved it when he died on the cross to save me. I must live this out daily. Then sinners will see and change their minds about God and about this world (Psalm 51:13).

The church of which I am Senior Pastor is called Lifewell for a reason. Jesus promised to make within each believer a wellspring of water overflowing with eternal life (John 4:14). That is God-quality abundant life. We want people to see this life lived through us and to be drawn to the God who gives it.

There is no good life apart from God, even non-believers benefit from the faith of God’s people. That is what is holding this rebellious, increasingly godless nation together at this moment.  Maybe what held your life together when you were in a state of rebellion and practical atheism was the prayers of a faithful grandma, or friends who refused to give up on you.
Believers are by no means given material advantages; in fact, the opposite may be true in many cases. However, the internal wellbeing produced by spiritual life within is its own reward far above wealth. God himself is the reward to his people (like the Levitical priests, cf. Deut. 18:2)

“Those who come to him must believe that he exists and he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek after him” (Hebrews 11:6).
See also, Isaiah 40:10, 62:11, Gal. 3:14, Col. 1:27, Eph. 3:16-21.
“As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?”
(Psalm 42)

We live in a world where life with God and apart from God coexist. If you claim to know God, it is imperative that you live that life to the fullest, and live it openly. People who have no faith need to see the difference. Is there a difference in you? If not, you don’t really believe in this good and loving God, who sent his Son to give eternal life. Jesus promised to give a rich an satisfying life.

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come to give abundant life” (John 10:10).