Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Three-Parent Child - Really Now!

This coming Sunday I will be preaching from Genesis 6-9 on the story of Noah and the Great Flood.  There are so many questions that arise within those chapters, questions that probably will await answers only when we stand before the God of the story.  Of course the main focus of the message will be on Noah's story - but that, in itself, is an amazing story. 


As Genesis 6 begins we come to understand that the world has rapidly descended into some type of moral abyss.  It is interesting to speculate on who the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" are and just who are the Nephilim.  One can do his or her own study on these questions.  But I believe it is safe to say that there were a lot of unnatural creatures during those days.  Creatures that defied the natural boundaries that God had established.  And, in the light of the growth of that which was unnatural, God stepped in and brought destruction through the flood.


Just this morning I read an article from the publishers of New Scientist magazine.  The article was written by Jessica Hamzelou and can be found at: www.newscientist.com/articles/2107219-exclusive-worlds-first-baby-born-with-new-3-parent-technique.  The article begins: "It's a boy!  A five-month-old boy is the first baby to be born using a new technique that incorporates DNA from three people. ... The controversial technique, which allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies, has only been legally approved in the UK.  But the birth of the child, whose Jordanian parents were treated by a US-based team in Mexico, should fast-forward progress around the world, say embryologists. ... Dr. Zhang took a different approach, called spindle nuclear transfer.  He removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed.  The resulting egg - with nuclear DNA material from the mother and the mitochondrial DNA from a donor - was then fertilized with the father's sperm."


Over the past years we have seen a dramatic increase in technology in the field of embryology and reproductive science.  It began with IVF which was hailed as the solution to the problems of infertility.  And IVF has helped hundreds of thousands of families to experience the joys of having children.  More recently, with the mapping of the human genome, it is now possible to genetically alter an embryo to achieve a result that is more pleasing to parents.  Yet with both IVF and genetic alterations, you were still working with the DNA material from two parents.  This is still the natural way that God described back in Genesis 1 and 2. One half the your chromosomal account comes from your mother, the other half from your father.  This is how God intended it.


But now a child has been born whose DNA structure is not fit a normal pattern.  Now a third type of DNA has been added.  I have seen pictures of this little boy and he appears to be very normal.  Perhaps those children born to the union of "sons of God" and "daughters of men" appeared normal at first, but we know that something went very wrong.  Could that be the case with this little boy?  I guess time will tell.  But I get a sense that this is very unnatural.  It is not what God had intended. 


And to that is added the increasing and expanding role of robotics in our world.  Soon your surgery will be performed by a robotic team of surgeons.  Robots will wait upon your tables at leading restaurants.  You might engage a robot in a quiet conversation some evening.  And perhaps you might even commit adultery with a robotic partner.  The advancement of robotics and the sister science of artificial intelligence is alarming.  Computers were created to be tools to assist man to live a better life.  There is a danger that computers may become the masters over men. 


So the question begs to be asked: How much longer will God permit this descent into the world of the unnatural to continue?  The only definite response is to say, "I don't know."  Will God allow man to develop the ability to replicate themselves so, in essence, you could live forever?  Will God permit man to develop the ability to create "designer" children - those who will run faster, hit the ball farther, play the piano better, write a story better, do studies in class better?  Will God permit man to design a machine that gives the scary indications of almost being human?  "I don't know" but I do know that we are standing right on the edge of those thoughts becoming a reality. 


When the world that God created became one absorbed with the unnatural, God stepped in and brought about its destruction through a worldwide flood.  We do know from the Scriptures that God will step into His world and bring about its destruction through wars, famines, disease, and wild beasts (Revelation 6:7-8) and through earthquakes and powerful storms (Revelation 16:17-21).  Then Jesus will come to establish His kingdom here on earth (Revelation 19:11-21). 


Friends, I do not have an answer to the "how long before" question.  But I do have a confidence in knowing that God is in control and that mankind, with all his intellectual abilities, will only be permitted to go so far.  And, with the announcement today of the birth of a child with three parents' DNA, I am wondering if we are getting near that point where God says, "enough is enough."  And so I just keep looking to Him.  I trust you are as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The "Uglies" Continue to Crawl Out

On June 26, 2015, in the case known as Obergefell vs. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 opinion that same-sex marriage was the "law of the land."  The outcry from many churches, including some evangelical ones, was tepid at best.  I heard many say, "Well if they love each other, why shouldn't they get married?"  As you may remember my response was, "This has nothing to do with love; it has everything to do with God's commands."  But, love won out and God's commands, as recorded for us in Genesis 2:24, were cast off as one would shed a worn-out and useless coat.  With that one decision the definition of marriage was forever changed. 


I shared with you that the lid was now off Pandora's Box and soon all the "uglies" would come crawling out.  Next in line seeking affirmation would be polygamy and incest.  Allow me to share just one case reported last week.  "In New Mexico, Monica Mares recently rediscovered the son she put up for adoption 19 years ago, but instead of rekindling a typical mother-son relationship, she allegedly initiated a sexual relationship.  The pair face up to 18 months in prison if convicted and have court dates later this month.  In Oklahoma, investigators arrested Patricia Spann, 43, and Misty Spann, 25, mother and daughter.  The pair were married in March 2016, court records show.  Misty and her brothers were raised by their grandparents and was reunited with her biological mother two years ago.  According to Patricia Spann, the pair 'hit it off' and got married.  In 2008, she married one of her sons. That marriage was annulled in 2010." (www.wnd.com/2016/09/incest-in-america-the-next-taboo-to-fall.)


Friends, if the only basis for marriage is that one person loves another person, then no loving relationship should be denied marriage.  If two women, who truly love one another, can get married, and if two men, who truly love one another can get married, then what is to prevent a mother who loves her son from being married to him, or a father who loves his daughter from being married to her?  The answer is "absolutely nothing!"  But you will say, "Max, those relationships of a mother and a son or a father and a daughter simply do not feel right."  You are absolutely correct, but neither does a relationship between two women or two men feel right.  Any relationship that is outside of the boundaries created by God are wrong!  And God's boundaries are described in Genesis 2:24: one man, leaving his family behind + one woman who is joined to her husband = one new family, a one flesh.  Anything that deviates from that description certainly does not feel right because it is not right. 


This past week I received an email link to an article written by Bob Unruh.  It is a rather lengthy article.  It can be found at: www.wnd.com/2016/09/fed-report-amend-laws-so-gay-rights-trump-faith.  This article is alarming and disturbing.  The author highlights a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights titled, "Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties." Basically this report is an attack upon the freedom of religious expression granted in the First Amendment to our Constitution. 


This amendment really does not fit the liberal agenda.  If only they could change that amendment to read "freedom of worship" rather than "freedom of religion."  Worship can be carefully controlled.  Worship belongs to a space and to a time.  It belongs in a church or a synagogue or a mosque or a meeting house.  But religion is a culture.  It is a worldview.  It is a way of life.  And, as such, religion - especially evangelical Christianity - is a threat of the liberal agenda.  This article is a must read. 


Finally, this past week the NCAA acted on their threat to the state of North Carolina that unless the North Carolina legislature repealed its law stating that in public places men and women were to use the bathrooms and locker rooms associated with the gender listed on their birth certificates, then they would remove all NCAA championship events from the state.  Tim Wildmon, President of the American Family Association, wrote in a letter sent to the AFA's constituency, " Along with punishing North Carolina, the NCAA is forcing all potential championship host sites to fill out an 'Anti-Discrimination Policy' questionnaire that assures men have access to female bathroom facilities.  Question number six from the policy reads, '...does your institution have provisions that interfere with any person's choice of bathroom or locker room?'"  And so this push to become a non-gender society continues.  One can only wonder how much longer will God withhold His hand of judgment. 


Friends, I am convinced that if we are going to survive in the coming days we need to do two things.  First, we need to study the Bible more carefully and diligently than we ever have in the past.  It is imperative that we know what God has said to us.  This will mean more than just listening to a sermon on a Sunday morning; that is a good starting point, but it is simply not enough.  It will involve personal study, small group studies, and one-on-one conversations.  It will mean that we have discussions as families about the Word of God.  But we need to know the Bible.  And, second, we need to study the United States Constitution more carefully and diligently than we ever have in the past.  And that means that we will need to read it.  I am saddened with the reality that so many Christians have not ever read the Constitution.  In my estimation it is one of the most important documents that have ever been written.  I put the Bible first, followed by the Constitution. 


Both the Bible and the Constitution are under assault by the leftists and liberal elitists.  Their world would be so much brighter if somehow the Bible and the Constitution would just disappear forever.  Without a biblical foundation, the Constitution of our great nation would not stand as strong as it has.  These are days when God desires His Family to take a bold stand for Truth.  I am grateful that our Founding Fathers created an avenue through which that Truth can be shared in the public arena.  How we need to guard that avenue carefully for others are seeking its destruction.


 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

God's Promises are Irrevocable

I was reading this morning in that incredibly difficult to read book known as Jeremiah.  I have always found this book to be a "hard read," probably because there is a lot of pain and suffering experienced by the prophet and forecast of impending exile for the people because of their disobedience.  But I saw something this morning that just jumped off the page and into my heart.  And it was later amplified when I read in the paper that former Prime Minister and former President of Israel Shimon Peres had suffered a severe stroke yesterday.  Prime Minister Peres is 93 years old, but what makes this such powerful news, is that he is really the last surviving leader of Israel's founding as a nation some 68 years ago.  He is the last of what might be called Israel's "Greatest Generation" to borrow a phrase from Tom Brokaw. 


So, you are asking, what does a passage in Jeremiah have to do with a former Prime Minister's stroke?  Before we look at the passage in Jeremiah, I want us to briefly revisit the reason for the establishment of Israel as a nation in those years immediately following World War 2.  First of all, the desire of the Jewish people for their ancient homeland never escaped their imaginations or their dreams no matter where they were driven.  For those of you who have attended a Jewish Passover Seder, you will remember that each Seder closes with these words: "Next year in Jerusalem."  There was always a hope.  Second, in the later part of the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century, a movement arose under the leadership of Theodore Herzl and known as Zionism.  Its aspirations were to see the creation of a land for the Jewish people in Palestine.  Although Herzl never lived to see that dream become a reality, a reality it did become in 1948.  It would take a war to bring that dream to fruition. 


So, why is an event that happened in 1948 still important for us today?  Why should a believer in Jesus Christ care about what happens in Israel?  The answer to those questions is found in that passage in Jeremiah 31: 35-37 where the prophet writes, "This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar - the LORD Almighty is his name: 'Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,' declares the LORD, 'will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.'  This is what the LORD says: 'Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,' declares the LORD."


Please bear with me for a moment or two.  God made a promise or a covenant with Abraham many years ago.  It is recorded for us in Genesis 15:1-21.  There were two parts to God's covenant with Abraham: 1) the promise of innumerable descendants - as the stars of the heavens or the dust of the earth; that is a lot of descendants; and 2) a particularly well-defined land that would be Abraham's descendants forever; this was not to be some spiritual place, but an actual piece of property one could walk upon and build upon and live within.  Furthermore, God reiterated this promise to Isaac, Abraham's son (Genesis 26:2-6) and to Jacob, Abraham's grandson (Genesis 28:13-15).  This covenant promise is foundational to understanding the Old Testament. 


Can God ever break His promise that He made to Abraham?  According to what we have read in Jeremiah 31, the answer is an assured "no!"  There is only one way in which that promise can be voided and that is if what God established at the very beginning of time is voided.  If ever the moon shines during the day and the sun shines during the night - only then will God break His promise to Abraham's descendants.  Now, honestly, what are the chances of that happening?  If ever the tides of the sea would reverse their flowing going from the seashore to someplace in the middle of the ocean - only then will God break His promise to Abraham's descendants.  Now, honestly, what are the chances of that happening?  If ever man can measure to the very ends of the universe - only then will God break His promise to Abraham's descendants. 


My heart was gripped this morning with the magnitude of God's promise that He made to Abraham.  It simply cannot ever be broken!  The Roman Legions tried to destroy God's promise when they expelled the people from the land at the end of the first century and into the second.  The Arab hordes tried to destroy that promise when they persecuted those Jews who remained in the seventh and into the eighth centuries.  The Nazi leadership in Germany tried to destroy the people of the promise in the 20th century.  But all failed.  Why?  Because God's promise cannot be broken - ever. 


Whenever I walk the streets of Jerusalem I get a sense that I am walking into one of God's amazing promises.  And, in fact, I am for that city is part of God's great covenant promise to Abraham.  It is central to that particularly well-defined piece of land God gave to Abraham's descendants (read Ezekiel 5:5).


Shimon Peres may pass away because of his stroke, but that vision and dream that he helped to create in the 1940's will not pass away.  Why is that?  It is because the vision and dream have roots that are deeper than just one or two generations.  Those roots lie deeply embedded in the character of God Himself.  And God made a promise based upon His own character not that of Abraham or his descendants. 


And, friends, if God's promise to Abraham cannot ever be broken, what great solace I find that God's promise concerning my salvation cannot be broken - ever.  When Jesus says that if a person believes in Him that He will receive eternal life - I believe that promise is a forever promise.  It cannot ever be broken.  When the Apostle Paul proclaims that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, I believe that promise is a forever promise.  It cannot ever be broken.  Friends, the promises of God are irrevocable.  God cannot lie nor does He change His mind (Numbers 23:19).     And to that incredible truth I will say a rich "Hallelujah!" 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Why?

One of the most powerful words in the English language is the little three-letter word "why?."  Many of the most significant discoveries in the scientific community have begun with that word "why?"  Many of the most significant ethical decisions have been the result of asking "why?"  If you remember when you were a little child one of the first words you learned was "why?"  In fact, you probably drove your parents "nuts" with that one word used over and over again.  "Why, Daddy?" and "Why, Mommy?" drove your desire to learn.  And then you went to school and the asking of "why?" increased.  And today, as an adult, there is still that insatiable desire to answer the question "why?" 


I have wondered why our society is deficient in its literary skills; why our children do not seem to know those excellent pieces of literature that have guided our civilization.  This past week I read an article titled, "9th Grade Reading Lists: 1922 vs. Today."  It was written by Annie Holmquist and can be found at the following website: www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/9th-grade-reading-lists-1922-vs-today.  As I read this article I began to get a clearer understanding of "why?" The article begins: "Have you ever thought that high school graduates today...  well, just don't seem to know or understand as much as they once did?"  I think we have all asked that question once or twice, haven't we? 


The article continues, "According to a new research report from the Urban Institute, such a thought is not simply a result of generational pride.  Data from The Nation's Report Card (NAEP) confirms the assumption that recent generations of high school students are not doing as well as they once were."  Let's just stop right there.  Perhaps you have read or heard reports in your local papers or on your local newscasts of how deficient the students who attend your local schools are in English skills, math, science, and history.  The basics. 


But, let's continue: "Take reading scores.  As the chart below demonstrates, 4th and 8th grade reading scores have experienced an increase in the years since 1992.  High school seniors, however, have experienced a steady decline in reading scores over the same time period.  Is it possible that these falling scores are the result of diminished rigor in the high school curriculum?  Having recently dug up a curriculum manual for Texas high schools from 1922, I decided to explore this question by comparing its 9th grade reading recommendations with those the San Antonio Independent School District recommended for the 2015-16 school year.  Both syllabi included recommendations for poetry, fiction, short stories, drama, and non-fiction. Both syllabi implied that the books on the lists were simply suggestions, which might not necessarily be used in their entirety.  To give an idea of the difference between the two, I plugged the fiction titles from both lists into a text analyzer which measures reading difficulty.  The results?  Reading materials in today's freshman literature classes measures around a 5th grade level.  In 1922, however, freshmen literature fare often measured at an 11th or 12th grade level.


"When we see how the difficulty of reading material has declined in the last one hundred years, is it any wonder that high school reading scores have been trending downward over time?  If American students are ever going to compete on an international level, or even become the well-informed individuals who will lead the next generation, are we going to have to step up our game and get them reading beyond what a grade school child can handle?"


Okay, so you are asking, "What is on each list?"  In 1922, the following books (reading level) were included: Captains Courageous by Kipling (8.0), Silas Marner by Eliot (9.7), The House of the Seven Gables by Hawthorne (11.0), The Deerslayer by Cooper (11.2), The Last of the Mohicans by Cooper (12.0), and Ivanhoe by Scott (12.9).


In contrast, these are the books on the 2015-2016 list: The House on Mango Street by Cisneros (4.5), Artemis Fowl by Colfer (5.0), The Chocolate War by Cormier (5.4), Freak the Mighty by Philbrick (5.5), To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee (5.6), Beloved by Morrison (6.0), and Harry Potter Series by Rowling (6.7).


A person learns to write because he/she is exposed to great writing.  A person learns to do critical thinking skills because he/she is exposed to books that cause those skills to be created and developed.  If our young people are not reading the right books, is it any wonder that they do not know how to form a sentence, let a lone a paragraph? 


But there is another "why?" that is important.  Michael Lipka wrote a very fascinating article titled "Why America's 'nones' left religion behind."  You can find this at: www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/24/why-Americas-nones-left-religion-behind.  I high recommend this article for pastors, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, parents, in fact, anyone who seeks to better understand what goes on in the minds of young adults today.  The article begins: "Perhaps the most striking trend in American religion in recent years has been the growing percentage of adults who do not identify with a religious group.  And the vast majority of these religious 'nones' (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood."


The article then proceeds to give a list of some of the reasons why these young adults, many of whom grew up in the church, have walked away from the church.  "One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general.  This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance. ... One-in-ten religious 'nones' who say they were raised with a religious affiliation are now classified as 'inactive' religiously.  These people may hold certain religious beliefs, but they are not currently taking part in religious practices.  And most of them simply say they don't go to church or engage in other religious rituals, while others say they are too busy for religion."


Why do young people walk away from the church today?  I believe it is because they have never gotten excited over having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  They have not seen an excitement over serving Jesus within their homes.  The Bible is just another book for them.  It is about as relevant as reading today's newspapers - which they don't read anyway.  We have made being a Christ-follower so easy that many have simply walked away.  For many there is simply no challenge to following Jesus. 


It is time churches wake up and realize that the most important ministry within our churches is that of working first with parents - they need to be trained in what serving and loving Jesus really means within a home-setting.  Second, we need to work with children and teens.  We need to commit financial resources and the best people we have to work here.  The future of the Church is dependent upon it. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Truth versus Opinions

Labor Day is soon upon us.  That is the "official start" of the political season.  From now through November 8 our airwaves will be flooded with one political ad after another.  We will hear charges and counter-charges from each of the candidates as well as from their Super PACs.  We will mostly hear of what is worst about each of the candidates.  At times what we will hear will border on slander.  By about the end of September many of us will be asking this question: "Who are we to believe?  Who is telling the truth?"  Sadly, those questions are not as easy to answer as they are to ask. 


Truth is defined as "the state or quality of being true."  I don't know about you but I found that definition somewhat lacking.  So, let's see how the word "true" is defined: "faithful, loyal constant, reliable, in accordance with facts, agrees with reality."  Okay, that helps a little bit.  In other words, truth is something that is a constant - it is applicable to anyone, anytime, at any place.  Truth is also something that agrees with reality - it does not counter that which is already known.  Truth is also reliable - it can be counted on in any given situation or circumstance.


But there is a second term that we also need to define.  It is the word "absolute" which means "perfect, complete, whole, not mixed, pure, not limited, not restricted."  In other words, something that is absolute is not restricted either by time, place, or experience.  The Law of Gravity is an absolute truth.  No matter where you are in this world of ours, if you throw a ball into the air, it will come down.  "What goes up must come down" is an absolute truth. 


Let me share one more definition that is also important.  It is the word "opinion" which means "a belief not based on absolute certainty or positive knowledge but on what seems true, valid, or probable to one's own mind, what one thinks."  Opinions are very real.  Opinions, when stated strongly, can become tools of change.  But are opinions truth?  That is the question asked today. 


The ancient Greek philosopher and dramatist Sophocles wrote: What people believe prevails over the truth."  Although he lived over two thousand years ago, Sophocles has just defined the twenty-first century.  We live in a culture where opinion supersedes truth.  We live in a culture where the certainty of facts is shadowed by the boisterousness of opinions.  It was Gandhi, the great Indian reformist and leader, who said: "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it."  In other words, if I say to myself "1+1=3" enough times so that I actually believe it, then persuade ten other people around me that "1+1=3", that still does not make "1+1=3" a truth statement.  All I have done is state my opinion.  And, my opinion that "1+1=3" is true is completely false.  My accountant will not see it as truth.  My banker will not see it as truth.  The treasurer at our church will not see it as truth. 


I know what you are saying, "Well, Max, don't be ridiculous.  Everyone knows that "1+1=2" not 3.  Yes, you are right.  But let's try this illustration:  All life came from non-life.  Is this an absolute truth statement, or is it merely opinion?  Your response will be, "Well, it all depend who you are talking to.  If you talk to a high school biology teacher, he will say, 'It is a scientific fact.'  But, if you talk to an evangelical pastor, he will say, 'It is mere opinion, just a theory that cannot be proven.'"  Now you remember that our definition of "absolute truth" is that it is always true for anyone, any time, and at any place.  Sadly, friends, evolution is being taught today as if it were a fact, thus putting it into the same category as "1+1=2 for many people.  But, evolution is not truth, it is merely opinion. 


We hear talk today of "relative truth."  But what is it relative to?  I am convinced that "relative truth" is no more than personal opinion.  "Relative truth" is my truth.  It is what I believe.  It is what I am convinced is truth.  Yes, I would like my truth to become your truth, but I cannot force you to accept my truth as being your truth.  Your truth is your truth. 


Is it any wonder that we question the veracity of our political candidates?  Are they telling the truth?  Why, of course they are - according to their understanding of truth.  In other words, they are sharing a "relative truth."  And because we live in a culture where we have accepted "relative truth" as being truth, it is difficult to expose the deviation from the truth for what it truly is - lies. 


Why is all this happening?  It is because we have abandoned that which is "absolute truth."  And, just what is that?  It is the eternal, unchangeable, infallible Word of God.  Friends, when our nation began in the late 1950s to remove the presence of God from public places, especially schools, we began the process of abandoning absolute truth.  In its place we began to substitute our own versions of truth which were nothing other than our opinions.  In the absence of "absolute truth" how can a person measure right from wrong, what is moral from what is immoral?  My opinions become my measuring stick to evaluate your opinions.  And, of course - or at least 90% of the time - my opinions are the right opinions and yours...well yours don't count for much. 


Friends, this is where we are today.  I sit and listen to the various political ads and ask myself this question: Who is telling us the absolute truth?  Sadly, I believe that none of them are.  And so I go back into God's Word and drink more deeply of His Truth and there my heart is refreshed and my spirit is empowered to live out His Truth before a world that is stuck on opinions, knowing that Jesus proclaimed, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

More Thoughts on Gender Confusion; What Should Be the Christian's Response?

Over the past few weeks, I have had a very good friend of mine send me three articles concerning the almost, it seems, ever present discussion on the matter of gender identity.  One article, written by David French and published by the National Review on August 18, can be found at www.nationalreview.com/node/439126.  This article was not written from an evangelical perspective but from a scientific one.  The bottom line conclusion of the author is this: "Our youth may or may not be in the midst of a 'transgender contagion' - the data will ultimately tell the tale - but moral blindness is epidemic.  It turns out that the science doesn't say what the Left wants, and our responsibility is to deal with people as they are, not as identity politics defines them.  A boy is still a boy, even if he wants to be called Sue, and to claim otherwise is nothing short of cruel." 


The second article is a rather lengthy one.  Written by Ryan T. Anderson and published at the Patriot Post website on August 22, it is titled, "Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is Wrong."  You can find the article at www.patriotpost.us/opinion/44397.  Again, this article is not written from an evangelical perspective but from a scientific one. The main thesis is that what has been purported to be solid scientific evidence in support of gender issues really is not scientific at all.  The author relates his findings to the Supreme Court decision of last June 2015: "These findings - that scientific research does not support the claim that sexual orientation is innate and immutable - directly contradict claims made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in last year's Obergefell ruling.  Kennedy wrote, 'their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment' and 'in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.'  But the science does not show this.  While the marriage debate was about the nature of what marriage is, incorrect scientific claims about sexual orientation were consistently used in the campaign to redefine marriage."


The final article can be found at the American College of Pediatricians website.  It is a study co-authored by Dr. Michelle Cretella, President of that organization, Dr. Jane Orient, Executive Director of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, and Dr. Les Ruppersberger, President of the Catholic Medical Association.  This well documented article is titled, "A Medical Response to DOE & DOJ Guidance for Schools."  After reading this article there is no longer any doubt that what the Obama Administration was trying to foist upon our nation's schools systems had no scientific basis but was purely for the purposes of promoting a leftist-socialist agenda. 


I highly recommend that parents of young children and of adolescent teens read these articles. 


But, now for some good news concerning this same matter.  This past week Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ruled that the administrative guidelines given to all the nation's school districts requiring those males who believed they were females to have access to the girls' locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms were based upon an illegal procedure and thus become invalidated.  This Judge's ruling impacts all of this nation's school systems.  Our thanks to Judge O'Connor for doing what was right.  Now it is up to all of us to contact our local school administration officials and school board leaders to voice our support for boys only being allowed to use boys' locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms; the same applying also to girls using only rooms designed and reserved for their use. 


I guess I am becoming more aware of how Satan has effectively used sexual perversion in the past.  I was working through passages in 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 this past week in preparation for a Bible study I will be having with a group of men from my church beginning in September.  And as I was reading I was reminded of what a cesspool ancient Corinth was with all its decadent sexual perversion.  After many became followers of Christ Jesus, the Apostle Paul had to remind them that now their physical bodies belonged, not to themselves, but to God.  They were no longer to be used for immoral, selfish reasons, but to bring honor and glory to God.  Read through the Old Testament and you will encounter story after story of how Satan used forms of sexual perversions to sidetrack the people of God.  So, we should not be shocked that Satan continues to use deviant sexual behavior today, wrapping it in the shroud of cultural and, at times, governmental authenticity. 


So, what are we to do?  First of all, we are to pursue truth.  Now we need to understand that truth is not to be found always at the wellspring of the main stream media today.  In fact, often that is the last place to look for truth.  We also need to understand that truth is not be found within the edicts of government, for government is more often a reflection of culture than of truth.  And sadly we need to understand that truth is not to be found in many religious societies today for many of those societies also are only a reflection of what is cultural and socially relevant.  So, where does one go in a pursuit of truth?  The answer lies in a study of the Word of God.  There simply is no other place to turn.  I am talking about a deeply probing study of the Word of God - digging into the very heart of what God has to say.  Truth is not always a beautiful thing but, when it is heeded, does produce a right living before God.


Secondly, we are to stand confidently and boldly for that discovered truth.  We are to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3.  They were so confident of God's truth that they were even willing to die for that truth.  Many of us are not quite there yet, but we need to be.  Will such a stand for truth be costly?  Read through story after story related to us in "Foxe's Book of Martyrs" and you will find the answer to that question. 


Thirdly and most importantly, we are to pray diligently, applying daily those pieces of the armor of God described for us in Ephesians 6.  We will not be successful in our own strength.  But we will be successful in the strength of the Lord Jesus. 


It is time we rise up - become students of the Scriptures - become active in prayer - and exude a confidence before others that our trust is in truth found in God alone. 



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"If You Can Keep It" - A Challenge from the Pen of Eric Metaxas

I want to share with you about the most recent book written by Eric Metaxas.  You might remember that he is the author of probably the most definitive biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  His new book is titled, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty.  This is a book that I highly recommend each high school and college student read. What the author shares in this book is the premise that America's liberties are slipping away and, unless we take action, they will be lost forever.


The book's title is taken from an incident in the life of Benjamin Franklin.  As he was leaving that famous building in Philadelphia in 1787 following the adoption of the United States Constitution, he was approached by a woman named Mrs. Powell who asked, "Well, doctor, what have we got?  A republic or a monarchy?"  To which Dr. Franklin responded: "A republic, madam - if you can keep it."  Now what was Dr. Franklin actually saying?  This Constitution that was newly created derived its strength not from the power of a ruling family, as with the monarchies that dotted the political landscapes of Europe at the time.  No, the strength of the Constitution was derived from the will and consent of the people.  The Constitution was a venture into a new form of government that the world had not witnessed in a long time - not since the days of ancient Greece.  Would it work?  Would a government "of the people, by the people, for the people," as Lincoln spoke so succinctly in his Gettysburg Address so many years later, really hold a nation together as diverse as America was?  Franklin's reply would be: "Yes, but only if the American people worked on it."


The underlying premise of Metaxas's book is the concept developed by Os Guinness and called The Golden Triangle of Freedom: "The Golden Triangle of Freedom is, when reduced to its most basic form, that freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; and faith required freedom.  The three go round and round, supporting one another ad infinitum.  If any one of the three legs of the triangle is removed, the whole structure ceases to exist" (page 54).  


The first leg is virtue or morality.  You are aware as am I of how our moral foundations in America are eroding away; sadly, at an alarming rate these past several years.  We murder innocent babies almost without impunity.  We celebrate sexual perversions with public parades.  We have become immune to the almost daily slaughter that occurs on the streets of our cities.  Truth, if it has not been negated, certainly has been compromised.  Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: "Liberty cannot be established without morality" (page 60).  Friends, if our liberties are eroding it is due in part to the eroding of our moral foundations.


The second leg is faith.  That our Founding Fathers were religious men cannot be called into question.  George Washington, in his Farewell Address as President in 1796 wrote: "Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles" (page 65).  And the words of Thomas Jefferson, who was to be our third President, should alarm us, for he wrote in 1785: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that those liberties are the gift of God?  That they are violated but with his wrath?  I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep for ever" (page 66).  Friends, our Founding Fathers attributed the victories in the War of Independence to the intervention of a Divine Providence.  Yet, today, our nation's leaders have tried to isolate God from our history, both its past as well as its present.  Is it any wonder that our liberties are eroding away.


Perhaps the strength of this book are the many stories that the author relates.  The story of the great influence a smallish British preacher by the name of George Whitefield had upon the birth of our nation.  The story of Nathan Hale and his ultimate sacrifice for his nation.  The story of Paul Revere and his famous ride and the famous poem about his ride that helped a nation during the days of the Civil War.  Stories of real life men and women committed to truth and to the ideals that would grow this new nation's liberties. 


Is America perfect?  No and it never will be!  Can America rediscover those foundations upon which its greatness was built?  Yes, I believe it can, but time is running out.  As Metaxas brings out in his book, to re-experience what made America great, it will take all of us working toward that common goal.  It will mean that we will have to repent of America's wrongs, but then move on.  We cannot camp in the shadow of those images of slavery, or of Wounded Knee, or of My Lai.  Why is it that Americans pull together when there is a crisis?  September 11, 2001 brought Americans together.  Suddenly we were not Hispanic Americans or black Americans or Chinese Americans - we were simply Americans.  Those were Americans who entered into those Twin Towers in an heroic attempt to rescue as many as possible.  When Hurricane Katrina wrecked its destructive powers in Louisiana, it was Americans who came to the rescue.  Can America be saved once again?  We need to look past ourselves.  We are not Hispanic Americans - we are Americans who happen to be of Latin descent.  We are not black Americans - we are Americans who happen to be of African descent.  We are not white Americans - we are Americans of basically European descent.  We are not Baptist Americans - but Americans who happen to attend a Baptist Church.  We are not Muslim Americans - but Americans who happen to attend a mosque.  We are Americans first!  Our heart swells with pride when this nation excels.  Our hearts feel the pain when this nation experiences hurt.  We still get that strange feeling when we sing the national anthem or watch the American Legion Post delegation parade the flag down the streets during a community celebration.  We stand in hushed silence at the row upon row of white gravestones in an Arlington National Cemetery or at Fort Snelling Military Cemetery or countless other places.  That is what makes us Americans.  That is the intent our Founding Fathers attempted to create with their Constitution.  That was their vision of America. 


I highly recommend this book.  I have one word of caution, however: you will need a dictionary as you read for the author's vocabulary is not our usual one.  But, that aside, you will be stirred as you read to better understand why our nation is as it is today.  Dr. Franklin's words are a challenge to us: "If you can keep it."