Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

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).

America Will Get What She Deserves

America, you are on the path to electing a President who will lead you farther away from your founding ideals of life, librerty and the pursuit of happiness. You are enamoured with leaders who show open contempt for their opponents and, thus, for you the people who would freely chose to support their opponent. These are women and men whose values include deception, cheating, character assassination, turning a blind eye to injustice in favor of political policy, making promises they have no ability–and in some cases no intent–of keeping. Rather than policy oriented debate your favorite leaders revel in ad-hominem attacks, and you love it this way America. You will get what you deserve. God may well let you suffer the consequences of your foolish choice for President. Therefore, I would be hesitant to presume the next “leader of the free world” is God’s choice, as though this were the person God elected. You will get what you choose and, thus, what you deserve, America. God remains in ultimate control and his purpose is not thwarted by the evil choices of human free will. That doesn’t mean you may blame God for your foolishness.

America, the Lord wants to bless you, but He will not bless your rebellious, sinful choices. You will be disciplined by the consequences of your sin. The prosperity you now enjoy will end. The freedoms you have will disappear. The leadership and power you exercise over the world will end. God will raise up a people who will do his will. Don’t presume that your Christian heritage will save you. Americans who claim to be Christians support hatred, injustice and violence, and reject compassion for the weak and oppressed. They are “Christian” in name but do not follow the teachings of Christ.

Where are the followers of Jesus? We are a called out remnant, a people among the people, our primary citizenship is in Christ’s kingdom. We must be examples of good citizenship in our respective nations and states, and good stewardship of the earth that we share. But we are not of this world. We look forward to a new world where righteousness reigns, where everyone freely loves and serves the God of love, truth and justice.

There was a period in Israel’s ancient history when God judged and gave His people what they deserved. They wanted to be “as other nations” who had human kings ruling over them. Israel belonged to God; he was their king. But they rejected the Lord in favor of a weak human ruler. They got Saul, a handsome man who was a head taller than anyone else. Saul had qualities we see in many men: the appearance of physical prowess, and a significant amount of insecurity, “the appearance of godliness but denying the power of God.” Saul turned away from God. He tried to make a sacrifice that only a priest was authorized to offer; he disobeyed the Lord’s orders to honor himself, even set up a monument to himself and his victory. Saul’s ability to protect Israel from her primary enemy, the Philistines, met with limited success and eventual failure. In the end, it was the Philistines who killed Saul and his son in battle.

The alternative to getting what we deserve by our foolish choice, is receiving the gift of a leader whom God chooses in spite of our sin. Israel’s next king was David. Although imperfect, he is called “a man after God’s own heart.” He led Israel to follow the Lord, and Israel was more powerful and prosperous under David, and his son Solomon, than at any other time in her long history. David made mistakes; in fact, he had a significant moral failure. However, he repented, confessed his evil and sought the Lord’s forgiveness. God blessed David most significantly by granting him the privilege of being the one who would be the ancestor of Messiah, and so David’s kingly line will never end. Jesus Christ was the descendent of David, and the Son of God. Christ is the king who will one day return to earth to reign forever.

Until then, America, you must chose a leader who honors the coming King with more than lip-service. The American President must genuinely fear God. America, you must change your thinking and change your ways. Put away your violence, immoral sexual conduct, injustice and oppression of the weak. Elect a leader who will be a wise peacemaker, who values human life and upholds the rights of your people to freely believe in and worship God.

What Is Love?

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love”

(1st John 4:7-8, New Living Translation).

What is love? Valentine’s Day makes this a pertinent question. My favorite writer on the subject didn’t get married until he was 58, and even then it was for charitable, not romantic, reasons. C. S. Lewis, the famous author of the Narnia series of books, married Joy Davidman in a government office to provide her with British citizenship. A few months later Joy was diagnosed with cancer, and her condition deteriorated rapidly. Jack, as Lewis was known by his friends, chose to love and care for Joy. The feeling between them grew, and nearly a year after the marriage of convenience there was a hospital wedding presided over by a clergyman from the Church of England. ’Til death do we part was a potent reality. Joy left the hospital to convalesce. It was not until this point that she moved in with Jack. God worked and Joy’s cancer went into remission. Jack and Joy lived happily for three more years. Then the cancer returned and took Joy. Jack wept.

C. S. Lewis understood love as no one else whom I’ve read on the subject. At first this understanding was philosophical and academic. He wrote The Four Loves, an intelligent and insightful book describing the different types of love and their corresponding relationships. Lewis used Greek words to define each love. Agape’ is God’s unconditional gift love, exemplified in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Philos is the love between family and friends, which the philosopher Plato called “the milk of human kindness.” Eros is erotic or sexual love, designed by God to connect one man and one woman for life. Finally, storge’ is what we would call affection. It is found in each of the previous three loves, expressing itself appropriately in different relationships.

C. S. Lewis lived out his creed. He was unlike like the men of his day, and his perspective is entirely foreign to us today. A breakdown of the timeline of Lewis’s relationship with Joy will reveal this.

Joy was a divorced American author seeking British citizenship when her visa was not renewed. Lewis gave her his name in a civil marriage to provide this. So, Jack, as Lewis was known to his friends,  entered into a relationship with Joy because he wanted to help a friend. This is agape’ love.

A friendship had also grown between Jack and Joy as they discovered common intellectual, literary and personal interests. The friendship deepened as the two pushed through life’s struggles together. This is philos love.

After Joy’s cancer was discovered she was hospitalized. At this point, Lewis realized something he hadn’t previously. He loved this woman as a man loves no other person.  Jack determined to express love to her on another level. He decided to marry her in eyes of the church, and asked a minister of the Anglican communion to perform the ceremony in her hospital room.

Afterward, Jack brought his beloved Joy home and began to care for her in earnest. The cancer went into remission, and the two lived together as man and wife, and enjoyed several years of happiness. It is important to note that the relationship between Joy and Jack did not become romantic or sexual until after the two were married in the eyes of God. This is eros love.

In the end the cancer returned and took Joy from Jack. Lewis had written several notebooks full of personal feelings and observations during this time, and anonymously published them in the book, A Grief Observed. It was a terrible loss for him and the book presents honest observations.

It was friendship and divine compassion (philos and agape’) that drew Jack and Joy together, love that sustained them in her illness, and it was the love of God that strengthened Jack in his grief when Joy was gone.

What is love?  It is indeed a “many splendored thing,” but fundamentally love is genuine compassion for another person. Love is the commitment to act in the best interest of the beloved, regardless of self-interest. Love must be the basis for every human relationship.

So, the next time you choose a friend or a lover, ask yourself:  is this about love, or something else? Then do what is good and right and God-like: choose to love.

Overcoming Anger, a Christian View

Anger is easy. There’s a lot to be mad about: some is justified; some is not; and too much is pointless. Anger is my default emotion, my drug of choice, if you will. When I get hurt, it makes me mad. When something doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, it frustrates me and that results in anger (hence, my longstanding problem with technology). When I have to wait for something for what I feel is too long, that impatience results in anger (just experienced this with our abysmally slow internet connection). When people ignore me or reject me, it makes me angry. All of this bubbles up from the well of Pride, which is to say Original Sin. Pride expresses itself in manifold ways in different individuals, and this is an obvious way it comes out in my life.

In the Bible, James, the half-brother of Jesus and pastor of the first Jerusalem church admonishes, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). And yet, when someone cuts me off in traffic, when things don’t turn out as I expected, when I feel I am being treated unfairly, anger flairs and runs me, then ruins a portion of the day. This is wrong. Knowing that, however, doesn’t stop it from happening.

The results of human anger are devastating. Health problems may be caused or exacerbated by chronic anger. Depression is often the result of internalized anger. I may strike out in anger and injure someone physically or emotionally. Anger may even result in murder. Jesus clearly taught that anger leads that direction.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)
When I’m angry with another person because of a real or perceived wrong they’ve done to me, then I have the motive which may escalate to hatred and murder. Even though I can’t imagine myself killing someone, I am guilty of harming them in my mind and I possess the motive to do harm. Slander is character assassination, so even if I wouldn’t dream of killing the target of my anger, I may very well feel no compunction about ruining their reputation.

It is likely that anger constitutes an addiction. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not attempting to turn myself into a victim of genetics, or the poor choices of my youth. Every time I erupt in anger, I am making a clear choice. I am guilty. However, that doesn’t mean it is easy to control. In fact, I’m coming to realize that, like any addiction, fighting anger is futile because I’m fighting my own will. “A house divided against itself will not stand. This is made worse by the fact that I’m fighting anger with, well, more anger. What I must do is attack the basis for all of my anger, not just fight daily skirmishes against it’s myriad outbreaks.

The command and control center for anger, and for Pride, which is its basis, is the self. More specifically, “me” striving to live apart from the manifest presence of God. We weren’t created to live apart from God, and doing so has grave consequences. Anger is one of them.

My self must come to an end. It must die. I’m not suicidal, don’t worry. I’m not talking about ending my life but about ending the self-life. This includes: selfishness, self-centeredness, selfish ambition, even self-protection, manifesting as a constant need to defend the self. However, I cannot do this alone. No addiction can be eradicated without outside help.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now Iive in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Jesus Christ came to earth to accomplish what you and I cannot alone. The Son of God took on the fullness of our humanity, lived the life we are supposed to, then took on the full weight of our sin. Then he died. I must die with him. I must be crucified with Christ. That is how the self-life comes to an end.

“If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Most importantly, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In so doing he brought hope for a new life and a new self. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born anew” (John 3:3). This may also be stated, “You must be born from above.” The resurrection makes that possible for everyone who will believe.

So, in order to overcome my anger, I must identify with Jesus Christ on the cross, through the grave, and in the resurrection. I must realize and remind myself daily, and even moment by moment, that I am a new creation in Christ. I have a new identity. No longer do I live my life apart from God. I’ve invited his Spirit into my innermost being, and a transformation has taken effect. I have a new nature. My thinking must agree with this reality.

When I agree with God’s Word and Spirit that I am a new person, that I have been re-created to be a “little Christ”, then the anger dissipates. It is replaced by a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:5-6), and by a humble confidence in God.

The Cure for Moral Insanity

What can cure the moral insanity spreading through our world?

Planned Parenthood (what a misnomer) is the largest abortion provider in the nation. They promote themselves as advocates for women’s health. What they actually are is a consumer corporation profiting from women who are facing the challenge of an unwanted pregnancy. They receive half a billion dollars from our government. But that’s not enough money for this greedy corporation. They call the human being in the womb “products of conception,” and ironically, they sell body parts from aborted fetuses as products for experimentation. The Nazis also experimented on human beings for “medical purposes” and used body parts from the unwanted human beings they murdered. Why do so many continue to support this evil corporation? Supporters are people driven by emotional pleas and political correctness, voting a party line rather than admitting the truth, having compassion or being concerned about the dignity of human life. This is sick. Why aren’t the decision makers being prosecuted? The same US government that protects the egg of a bald eagle ensures permission for unborn humans to be ripped from the womb one body part at a time. This is moral insanity.

The U.S. created a power vacuum in the Middle East because of the 2003 Iraq invasion and the weary withdrawal of US troops after a decade of attempting to assist in creating a fair democracy. This vacuum is now being filled by the most evil men the world has seen since the days of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. Islamic extremists have yet to murder as many people as those dictators, but they possess the will to do so. ISIS is attempting to establish a Caliphate or religious government that wills to take over the world. They revel in spectacular executions, slavery of those who don’t believe their doctrine, rape as a form of worship and the destruction of ancient history. All of this evil is calculated to serve one goal: terrorize the world in an effort to subdue it. This is moral insanity.

ISIS butchers thousands of people, and the U.S. response has been timid and tepid. Christians are martyred like they were in the Roman Colosseum, but in place of thousands of spectators in the stands there are multiple millions of viewers on the internet. Why are their videos hosted? Why are they permitted to promote their evil? Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter could do more to shut these people out, but instead they tacitly support the evil they allow to be promoted via their networks. The news media covers ISIS in graphic detail because it draws more viewers. In so doing, CNN, MSNBC, FOX become the de facto PR team for ISIS. Terror is their tool, publicizing their activities, ideas and videos gives them the worldwide stage they desire to spread fear and horror. This is moral insanity.

The United States leads the world. The culture here is a powerful influence everywhere. Sexual immorality has become the norm in our culture. The family existed prior, not only to our government and our nation, but prior to civilization itself. It is the fundamental building block of civilization. Now that ancient institution is under sustained attack by a perverse and powerful lobby. What was once considered shameful has been institutionalized by the highest court in the land. Marriage has been universally understood to be the bond between one man and one woman. That five unelected judges changed the definition of a 5000 year old institution should be deeply disturbing to everyone. Every child needs a mother and a father. To establish a norm that deprives children of this is moral insanity. However, the problem of single parent homes did not originate within the LGBT community. In fact, fatherless homes may well be the most significant cause of the sexual confusion in which we find ourselves in today.

The ideal is that the marriage bond lasts for life. Divorce became more and more accepted in the mid 20th century. Now it is as common as marriage. The once expected standard of waiting to have sex until marriage has been replaced with rampant sexual promiscuity. Cohabitation is the norm. The internet has made pornography instantly accessible to almost anyone. It is not surprising that this fertile ground for sexual immorality has produced increased acceptance for inordinate and perverse forms of sex. Consider the popularity of the book series titled 50 Shades of Gray, wherein the rich misogynistic male protagonist gets off on treating his female partners like sex slaves, and the female protagonist enjoys such treatment. This is moral insanity.

Then there is the explosion of gun violence in the US. Why? Policy makers and politicians wring their hands, or point their fingers at one another, but fail to make any changes. The left sees this as a problem with the proliferation of guns, so they propose gun control laws. The right sees this as a problem solvable by the exercise of the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Their solution is to arm law abiding citizens. Guns merely make violence more convenient and more glamorous. I wonder how many of the same individuals who support gun control would oppose controlling the sale of violent video games to kids? Why do NRA and 2nd Amendment advocates oppose attempts to keep guns out of the hands of the untrained? Not everyone should have the right to carry a gun. The unfortunate problem is, those who choose to break the law are not going to train or get their guns registered. What we have is a social problem that is signified, and perhaps exacerbated, by guns, but not caused or resolved by guns or their removal from the hands of law abiding citizens.

The real issue was revealed by Jesus Christ when one of his disciples wanted to protect him from harm. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemene praying when Judas Iscariot arrived with a crowd of men with swords and clubs. The traitor identified his former master with a kiss and the guards grabbed Jesus. Peter drew a sword and struck the high priest’s servant, severing his ear. Jesus healed the servant’s ear and admonished Peter saying, “Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, ESV). 

Guns are neither the problem nor the answer. The issue is in the heart of human beings, for evil comes out of the heart. In this case it is the evil of treating other persons as objects, obstacles that threaten us or stand in our way. Video games provide an apt example: when you encounter a person who threatens you or stands in the way of your progress, you typically just shoot them dead. But persons are created in God’s image. Why aren’t we bothered when human beings are treated with less respect than our pets?

This reveals an even deeper heart problem: the failure fear God, to believe in a just and loving God, who says, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay… For we must all stand before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (Romans 12:19b, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

In an unprincipled, increasingly lawless, population every person looks to himself to determine right and wrong.  The serpent promised self-determination to Eve in the Garden when he tempted her to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “You will not 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.” Eve and Adam gave in to the temptation and were cast out of God’s presence. Self-determination (apart from God) has continued as the norm of human nature throughout our history. It was exemplified during the period of Judges in Israel when the people did great evil. The explanation for that evil is found in the final verse of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

When someone rejects God as their king, they do so in order to rule over their own conscience and life (see Psalm 10:4, 14:1). They become blind to sin and evil, following the dictates of their own godless heart. “Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his own sin” (Psalm 36:1-2).

The law is for the lawless. There is a God who has created the universe the people who live in it. The universe operates according to the constant and unchangeable laws of physics, and human beings are created to live within the parameters of the the moral law, which the Creator also established. This is obvious to anyone who would bother to pay attention and pursue the evidence instead of their own agenda. “For what may be known about God is evident within them for God has made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived through what has been made, so they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). 

There are elementary moral principles present in everyone’s conscience. However, we live in a fallen world in active rebellion against those principles. This confuses people and distorts the subjective perception of truth in their consciences. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Therefore, God made the moral law objectively plain to his people Israel on Mount Sinai. Then he sent his Son to live out the truth and offer a way for everyone to receive and live eternal life. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ… I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 1:17, 14:6).

The cure for moral insanity today is a King and a Law. “Where there is no vision the people are unrestrained. But happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). For people who genuinely believe in and follow the God of the Bible, there is moral sanity. However, for those who do not live their lives surrendered to God, the Law is in place to teach them right from wrong and threaten punishment for violation.
“…understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, for the effeminate and homosexuals, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 9-10).

We must encourage and reintroduce the truth of the Bible to people, in order that many may return to faith, which at its basic level is reverence for God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Next, there must be a fair and gracious application of God’s Law, which is objectively defined in the 10 Commandments. There must be legitimate and just authority in place to establish and enforce laws on this basis. These commandments teach and mandate respect for God and respect for other people.
1- You shall worship no other God, except me.
2-  You shall not make any idols.
3-  You shall not misuse my Name.
4-  Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.
5-  Honor your father and mother.
6-  Do not murder.
7-  Do not commit adultery.
8-  Do not steal.
9-  Do not lie.
10- Do not covet.

The first four Commandments focus on God and should be left to God’s people to teach and enforce among themselves. Civil law and authorities should protect and ensure that expressions of faith in God are unhindered and unmolested, and that every person is free to worship God, or to refrain from worshipping, according to his or her conscience. Most importantly, there must be no law passed to prohibit the preaching and teaching of the Bible. That is where truth, freedom and salvation is found.

The last six commandments should form the basis for civil law. Society’s laws will need to expand upon, but should still find their basis in, these six basic commands.

Those of us who claim to believe in and follow Jesus Christ must lead the way. The following admonition reveals what will restore sanity to us.
“For the Lord has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, and love and a sound mind.”
(2 Timothy 1:7)
The word translated timidity is sometimes rendered as fear, but the lexicon helps us understand it further by defining it as: “a state of fear because of a lack of courage or moral strength” (Louw-Nida Greek lexicon). We who would claim Christ as our Lord must have the courage to live out our moral convictions. There must be no compromise with the godless values promoted and enshrined in our nation. “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). 

We must not be timid about taking a stand against the moral insanity spreading through our nation and the world, even as it becomes socially acceptable, even if we are castigated and persecuted for the stand we take. We must “speak the truth in love,” and “be ready always to give an answer for the hope that is within us, yet with gentleness and reverence” (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 3:15). This is important if we ever expect to bring our nation back from the brink of moral breakdown, but it is even more important for each of us to have courage for the sake of our own moral sanity.

We do not do this alone. The Holy Spirit will fill us with courage, and will remind us of God’s words when the time comes to speak (see John 14:26 & Luke 12:11-12). So, rest; do not be anxious or afraid. Do the right thing always, and be ready to defend your moral choice by appealing to the Lord Jesus as your teacher. Do not be ashamed of the name of Jesus or of his Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all who believe, for the Jew first and also the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Let us pray for nothing short of a Great Awakening in this formerly great nation.

Are Christians Becoming Stupid?

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen! And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’”

(Mark 4:23-25)

Not all Christians are stupid, and I do not use the term in a derogatory way. I use it advisedly to both get your attention, and to point out that many who would claim the name Christian, who once accepted the truth of the Bible and sought to live accordingly, have now willfully chosen to eschew that knowledge in favor of many opposing views. They could hear, but have now chosen not to pay attention.

Ignorant refers to someone who simply doesn’t know, or know any better. Stupid refers to someone who knows better than, say, to do something, but charges headlong into doing it anyhow. Stupid is someone who knows the truth that sets them free and remains instead a slave. Increasing numbers of Christians are in this position because they have chosen to be shaped by a post-Christian culture instead of having minds transformed by paying attention to and applying the truth of the living and active Word of God.

Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get…

I wrote the next two paragraphs like a journal entry when I encountered Jesus words about paying attention to what you hear. You see, I need to get this.

Measure you give = how much I pay attention to the Word being spoken. Measure you get = how much truth I receive and retain. I don’t want to be like those “who are always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

When I listen, focus, pay attention to the Word being communicated through the Scripture by the Holy Spirit, or the internal witness or conviction of the Spirit about some issue, then I will realize the truth being communicated. I will receive knowledge. Then I will act on the truth. If I do this, then I will retain what I’ve learned (remember it) and remain active in it (continue to act upon it), and I will be in position and privileged to receive more truth from the Lord. If I fail to pay attention, to believe in and act upon the truth the Holy Spirit is teaching, then I will not be given anything more. Not only that, what I’ve already learned will begin to leech away until I have nothing. I must live out what I’ve learned, and keep learning more. I must move upward and go forward and grow and change into the image of Christ, or I will fall backward and become more and more like a fallen man, who “fades into the light of common day.”

I think some of you need to understand this too…

Jesus told parables. These are “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.” In relating the reason he spoke in parables, this master teacher indicated it was in order to hide the truth from the uninitiated and those unwilling to change (see Mark 4:10-12). He explained his parables to the followers he chose. The beauty of Jesus’ parables is, they are memorable and tangible and may be recalled by anyone who has heard them even once. However, the meaning is not obvious; it requires an instructed mind, a mind taught by the Holy Spirit. This represents the Lord hiding the Truth in plain sight. The genius of the parables is, the truth remains locked up inside them ready to be revealed when the person who has heard decides to pay attention. “For him who has ears to hear, let him hear,” is a command Jesus appended to many of his parables and other teaching. It is like a zip file on a computer: that small file contains a compressed information which must be unzipped, or decompressed, in order to be understood by a user. A parable of Jesus, like that zip file, is stored in the memory of someone who has heard it. When once that person is ready to pay attention to the Holy Spirit, who is trying to speak to them and transform them, there comes a moment of serendipity (an Aha! moment) when they realize the truth (like “the moral of the story”).

Truth demands a response, a parable containing truth does not. The more people hear Truth and refuse to accept it, the harder their hearts become to it. Jesus was encountering opposition and hardening hearts when he began to use parables. Eventually, the truth must be told explicitly, without figures of speech and stories (see John 16:19-33), and the Spirit of Truth will make it plain to those who are paying attention. Are you paying attention?

If you pay attention and receive what you hear by faith, then you will learn and grow. You will be entrusted with more truth and more knowledge of God and His Word. If you do not, then even what you once had will be taken away from you. You may well fall into a horrible state of disbelief, and, well, stupidity regarding God and the Bible. You may come to a point of no return, a place where you seek to repent but cannot change your heart and mind back to the simplicity of trust in Jesus and belief in the Bible as God’s holy Word. It is pointless for me to warn anyone who has already come to such a point. Such a person will scoff, discount, ignore or argue against such a warning. I am speaking to someone who has yet to turn away, but may be tempted.

If you are being tested today, if you feel like turning away, I say come back home. Return to the beginning of your faith journey. You’ve become to wise in your own eyes. You don’t know what you think you do. The truth hasn’t changed. Jesus is the same and His love is never ending. Return to the place where you began to stray. Do what you refused to do back then. Go back to the place where you began to do what you still know is wrong, and repent. Change your thinking and change your ways, while you still can. “Night is coming when no man can work,” and no more change may be made.

Here’s a final warning from Scripture. Heed it, and don’t be stupid.

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

 If you

Gay Cakes

The provocative title is more narrow than this editorial. I’m reading all of the rhetoric about baking cakes and making pizzas, and it occurs to me that some of you, at least, are on an agenda-driven adventure of missing the point. Completely.

There are several issues here. Some are civil. Some are religious.

Civil issue 1) Should a person of faith (or no faith) be required by the state to violate their conscience? I should say not. This is precisely what has been at issue since the Obama administration began to prosecute businesses that object to paying for abortofacients (drugs or other contraceptives that cause de facto abortions to occur). This is what is at issue when a business that bakes wedding cakes, does wedding photography or rents space is required by the government to do so for those who are plainly in violation of every religions traditional view of marriage.

Civil issue 2) Should a business person with any particular viewpoint be forced to trade or service those with whom they disagree. We see signs on restaurants (and similar establishments) that stay: “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.” Is that acceptable? Not in the broadest interpretation, but it is done all of the time, and we don’t experience a media firestorm over it. That’s because this refusal is typically for an agreed upon good reason. For example, most of us would agree with a restaurant refusing to serve someone not wearing a shirt or shoes. However, there could be a civil rights lawsuit filed if the restaurant refused to serve someone because of their race or religion. This is the generalization that the left is seeking to make concerning issue 1 above. Refusing to serve a homosexual in your restaurant is not the same as refusing to cater their wedding. Anyone may enter a restaurant, order and eat. The restaurant is not perceived as condoning the lifestyle choice of every patron. However, catering a wedding may be perceived as tacitly or actively supporting, if not the couple, homosexual marriage.

Religious issue 1) From a Christian perspective, should I do business with openly gay people, adulterers, spousal or child abusers? I’m sure many will be offended that I’ve bundled these types of people together. For the record, I do not think consensual homosexuality is harmful in the same way as spousal or child abuse. What I want you to understand is, there are some people you don’t want to do business with because of their character or lifestyle. But should you? The argument I’m hearing from a number of Christians is the standard evangelical mantra. We should do it to witness to them. I would agree, if that’s your genuine motive. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, both groups despised by the religious leadership of his day. However, Jesus was never accused of either sinning or extorting money from people (as the tax collectors were accused of doing). The Lord taught the truth and spoke honestly about the need for both the religious and the irreligious to change their thinking and change their ways. Often when a Christian does business or befriends someone who is living a lifestyle that openly defies biblical morality, we just look the other way. And that is why we have a godless nation today. Develop relationships with everyone, even those who don’t think the way you do, even those who oppose Christianity, and then openly share love, grace and truth. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before people in such a way that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)

Religious issue 2) Should a Christian caterer or photographer (for example) do their work for a homosexual wedding? I’m not asking whether they should have a civil right to refuse, but whether, from a biblical standpoint, this business person should participate in such an event.

No, I do not believe a Christian has any business (pardon the unintended pun) supporting something so obviously against Christian morality and the Bible, and beyond that against the time honored traditions of every civilization and religion for 5,000 years. As a minister, I would go to jail rather than officiate a homosexual wedding. Now, you may think that I shouldn’t be forced to marry a gay/lesbian couple because I am a minister in a church. The case I would make is, every Christian is a representative of Christ and every one of us are ministers. I have done videography. I would refuse to do a gay/lesbian wedding. But let’s say a homosexual couple, “married” or not, approached me to do videography for one of their children’s sporting events or birthday parties. Would I take that job. Absolutely. Look at Religious issue 1 again. If I baked cakes, would I do so for the birthday of a vocal homosexual. Again, yes… unless, they ordered some sort of sexually explicit decoration (which I would refuse to do for a heterosexual as well).

Christian friends, you need to stop allowing the culture to make up your mind about these issues. You must stop being swayed by the opinions of your friends and relatives. As a disciple of Jesus I am shaped by his teaching, the Gospel, the Word of God, which is in the Christian canon of the Bible. Speak the truth in love, and love the people of the world as Christ who died to prove his love for the whole world (Ephesians 4:15, John 3:16).