Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Chick-fil-A Is Targeted Once Again

Chick-fil-A is back in the news once again.  One of the fastest growing fast-food chains has been "called-on-the-carpet" - not because of the quality of its food (I love their chicken soup and Oreo shakes) or because of its service, which ranks among the highest in the fast-food industry.  No, according to a piece written by Dan Piepenbring and published in The New Yorker magazine, Chick-fil-A is infiltrating New York with "pervasive Christian traditionalism."


Thomas Gallatin, an in article posted at The Patriot Post website - www.patriotpost.us/articles/55375-the-left-hates-chick-fil-a-because-of-christianity, exposes the hypocrisy of Dan Piepenbring.  "Piepenbring sees as problematic the fact that Chick-fil-A's Atlanta headquarters facility 'is adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple's feet.' and that 'its stores close on Sundays.'  Piepenbring writes, 'There's something especially distasteful about Chick-fil-A, which has sought to portray itself as better than other fast food: cleaner, gentler, and more ethical, with its poultry slightly healthier than the mystery meat of burgers.'  He adds, 'Its politics, its d├ęcor, and its commercial-evangelical messaging are inflected with this suburban piety.'


"He wasn't done.  Piepenbring relates, 'The restaurant's corporate purpose still begins with the words "to glorify God," and that proselytism thrums below the surface of the Fulton Street restaurant, which has the ersatz homespun ambiance of a megachurch.'  Wow, so any company with traditional Christian beliefs that dares to apply its beliefs is 'an infiltration.'  How 'woke' of him to call out this consistent belief system.


"If any fast-food restaurant deserves praise not just for its quality food and service but also for its treatment of employees, community engagement and public generosity, it's Chick-fil-A.  There's a reason it's on course to becoming the third-largest fast food chain behind only McDonald's and Starbucks, and that's not in spite of founder S. Truett Cathy's 'Christian traditionalism' but because of it.  What is 'creepy' is the number of deeply insecure leftists who produce, promote and feed on this kind of intolerant and hypocritical groupthink.  Image if the fast-food chain in question was Muslim-owned - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would be rolling out the red carpet for it instead of calling for a boycott.


"Piepenbring epitomizes the rapidly spreading bigotry of leftists, who are completely unwilling to offer the same tolerance and deference to opposing views and opinions that they demand from others.  Meanwhile, they hypocritically lay claim to the 'pro-diversity' moniker.  Specifically, the Left hates conservative Christianity because it refuses to bow to its 'new morality.'  So, no matter how well-made the product or how good the service, if the business's owner holds a traditional conservative and Christian worldview, then leftist dogma demands it be opposed and maligned." 


I don't know about you - but this makes me want to visit my nearest Chick-fil-A more often.  If this restaurant chain is in the cross-hairs of culture's line of fire, then there must be something worthy of that chain having my dining out business.  I appreciate a company who, although interested in making a profit, has not let that desire for profit deter it from the foundations upon which Chick-fil-A was created.  Would that more companies would return to those initial foundational principles.  So "Eat Mor Chiken."


On another cultural note, I read a powerful article this week, written by Avery Foley which was posted on the Answer in Genesis website.  You can reference this article at:
www.answersingenesis.org/sin/can-church-embrace-homosexual-behavior-in-name-of-love. The author of this article begins with a powerful statement: "Being a Christian is about 'living in the tension'" a reference to the tension between grace and truth.  The author continues, "That's what Christ did.  He loved people - loved them enough to die for his enemies (Romans 5:8)!  He was filled with grace and extended that grace toward sinners (including millions of other believers and me!)  But Scripture tells us he came filled with 'grace and truth' (John 1:14).  And that's the tension!  We love people, but that doesn't mean we wish them to live in their sin.  Instead, we're called to speak 'the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15)."


The article concludes: "There's hope for everyone in the Cross of Jesus Christ, whether you are a liar, a thief, an adulterer, a homosexual, or a drunkard.  God's church is made up of people who've been redeemed from all kinds of sinful backgrounds and who have one thing in common: they've been given new life through the power of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). ... True hope and peace are not found in practicing, affirming, or celebrating sinful behaviors.  They're found in repentance and the new life that Christ can give."


This will be the final blog for a couple of weeks.  Marlys and I will be leading a tour to Israel, leaving on Friday.  We will be in Israel for nearly two weeks.  We have twenty-five in our group, most of whom will be visiting Israel for the very first time.  Oh the excitement just to walk where Jesus walked.  Oh the wonder of being on the Sea of Galilee.  And oh the mysteries that become unfolded as one visits the Old City.  We thank you for your prayers for us and our team while we are gone.  And, upon our return, I will write and let you know of how God worked in our lives. 


So, until then, keep looking up because your redemption is drawing near, and keep working because the fields are white unto harvest. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Of Syria, Gaza, and Guns

Things in the Middle East are continuing to approach the "boiling over" point.  The civil war in Syria simply has no ending - at least not in the near future.  Russia and Iran are doing everything to continue supporting the dictatorial and oppressive regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.  Last weekend it was reported that forces loyal to the Syrian government used chemical weapons against a Damascus suburb that was in the control of anti-government forces.  This was not the first time that Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people. 


On Monday, the United Nations Security Counsel was presented with a resolution, sponsored by the United States, that condemned the Syrian government for using chemical weapons.  The resolution was vetoed by Russia.  Britain and France have threatened air strikes against Syrian government bases.  Israel has already conducted an air strike against the military base from which the chemical weapons were launched.  President Trump has also voiced his anger at the chemical attack and has vowed some type of US retaliatory strike.  Both Russia and Iran have uttered their own threats should the United States strike back at the Assad regime. 


President Trump is in a very awkward position.  Last week he announced his intentions to begin bringing home the troops that we have in Syria.  He declared that victory over ISIS had been achieved in Syria.  He does not want the United States to become embroiled with the Syrian War itself.  Yet, he has stated that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.  Furthermore, will Congress be supportive of the President's actions? 


We do know from the prophetic writings that Damascus, Syria's capital, will play a role in the last days, but will be suddenly destroyed completely.  Perhaps we are inching toward that very time.  You can bet that Israeli intelligence operatives are keeping a very watchful eye on what is happening to their neighbor on the northeast.


For the past several weeks, tensions have reached the "boiling point" along Israel's Gaza Strip border.  This protest has been named the "March of Return."  It is scheduled to culminate on May 14 - the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Israel's Independence.  The goal is to flood Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees", each claiming the right-of-return to those properties abandoned by family members in 1948 as they fled the War of Independence.  This right-of-return is an essential element in the Palestinian peace narrative.  If allowed, it would turn Israel from a Jewish state to an Arab Islamic State - simply because the Arab population would be the majority.  There have been almost constant border clashes with many Palestinian casualties. 


In this uncertain times, one can hardly afford not to pay attention to what is happening in the Middle East.  Many of the players that Ezekiel describes in chapters 38-39 are coming to the table.  Just last week key leaders from Iran, Turkey, and Russia met in Turkey to discuss the future of Syria and the Middle East.  Wow! These are exciting times for the believer!


Here at home, debate continues over gun control.  Louis DeBroux wrote a piece for The Patriot Post a couple weeks ago that I thought was excellent.  You can find the entire article at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/55014-yes-leftists-want-to-repeal-the-second-amendment.  "The recent mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school renewed the debate on gun control and the Second Amendment itself.  The stakes were raised this week.  The principle of the debate is simple: namely, the right to self-defense is a God-given right that predates government itself.  The Declaration of Independence proclaims we are each endowed by our Creator with certain 'unalienable rights' and that 'to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.'  Got that?  Rights are secured, NOT granted, by government.


"Not according to former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who this week declared in a New York Times op-ed that it is time to repeal the Second Amendment.  He argued that the Court erred in 2008 when it ruled the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms (District of Columbia v. Heller).  Bizarrely, by arguing the amendment pertains only to the right of the government to form a well-regulated militia, Stevens claims to be the only right listed in the Bill of Rights that protects government rather than the individual.


"Indeed, the entire reason for the adoption of the Second Amendment was not to protect sport shooting, or hunting, or even for defense against criminals.  It was to provide a bulwark against the potential infringements on Liberty by a tyrannical government."


The article concludes: "In his Commentaries on the Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, the 'Father of American Jurisprudence,' made it clear and unambiguous, declaring, 'The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.'  Disarming law-abiding citizens will not protect innocent people; it will only leave them defenseless against those with homicidal intentions - not to mention at the mercy of tyrannical government.  It is beyond foolish to think otherwise."


Friends, the push toward the confiscation of guns is merely the first step.  In London, a city with extremely strict gun-control laws, the new weapon of choice is knives.  Now the Mayor of London wants to control the knives on the streets.  This is one of those vicious cycles that has no ending until every means that can be used for self-defense is taken away.  When that happens, the government will be in total control.  Those will be the days of the Antichrist. 


We live in a very confused world.  But there is hope on the horizon with that wonderful promise that the Lord is coming soon.  Oh what a day that will be when our Jesus we shall see!  How we need to help people be prepared when it happens.



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Easter - Under Attack - Really?

Is it just me or is the assault upon Christianity intensifying.  We have seen the video clip over and over of Joy Behar, one of the hosts on the ABC program "The View", and her rank against Vice President Pence because he declared that he talked with God and God talked with him.  For her, that was a sign of mental illness.  I guess she has never prayed before - perhaps she doesn't need to because she seems to have life all figured-out.  But I believe that someday Joy Behar will be in a position where she will strongly want to hear from God. 


This past week, Thomas Gallatin wrote an amazing article for the Patriot Post.  You can read the entire article at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/55089-leftmedias-deliberate-mischaracterization-of-Christianity.  The author writes: "From National Public Radio to NBC News to CNN, the mainstream media's ignorant misrepresentation of basic and central Christian beliefs and doctrines would be understandable if it wasn't for the fact that Christianity is the religion practiced by some 70% of Americans.  On Good Friday, MPR published an article that addressed a report that Pope Francis had denied the existence of hell.  NPR originally described Easter as 'the day celebrating the idea that Jesus did not die and go to hell or purgatory or anywhere at all, but rather arose into heaven.'  After receiving much deserved blowback, NPR corrected the piece to read, 'Easter - the day Christians celebrate Jesus' Resurrection.'  How could NPR get one of the most foundational beliefs of Christianity so terribly wrong?


"Far worse, NBC News marked the sacred occasion with a piece entitled, 'On Easter Sunday, Christians must remember how easily and often our faith is used to defend white supremacy.'  The article relays a story of a bunch of white southern racists who murdered several blacks and other defenders of Reconstruction one Easter Sunday in 1873 in Colfax County, Louisiana.  It is indeed a horrific story, but it is far from emblematic of Christian beliefs or practices.  And it was 145 years ago.  Ironically, the article does exactly what it condemns - it seeks to co-opt the Christian message, ignoring its central teachings, so as to promote an anti-Donald Trump pro-leftist political cause.  The question once again is how did the MSM get the Christian doctrine of Easter this wrong?


"But then there was what may have been the worst understanding of Easter - this one from CNN.  In an article title, 'How Easter became a #MeToo moment,' which was not listed as an opinion piece, author John Blake asserted that Jesus was a victim of sexual humiliation as a result of being hung naked on the cross, and therefore 'if linking the Easter story with the #MeToo movement is offensive and bewildering to some, perhaps that is fitting.'  Additionally, Mary Magdalene was a #MeToo victim of male authority.  Blake continued, 'The Easter stories in the Gospels have a jarring, unexpected quality about them as well. ... The stories are enigmatic and elusive.  They continue to yield surprises even 2,000 years later.  They are, in some ways, much like the figure of Jesus himself.'  While attempting to sound profound, Blake reveals once again a shocking amount of ignorance of what Easter is actually all about."


Friends, these stories - and they could be multiplied countless times over - are evidence of how our culture has turned against God and the truths of His Word.  How could anyone possible get Easter wrong?  It is very easy if you take God out of the picture.  Then the death of Jesus becomes nothing other than a strong case of injustice.  The death of Jesus becomes a "poster-child" for the cause of social justice.  Instead of Jesus being "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" He becomes merely a means to an end. 


Then I read an article yesterday posted by Fox News.  It can be found at: www.foxnews.com/us/2018/04/03/christians-and-white-people-get-unmerited-perks-live-easier-lives-George-Washington-university-seminar-says.  Friends, this article is alarming and very revealing of what the attitude is on many of our secular university campuses.  "George Washington University is hosting a seminar on combating 'Christian privilege' in America.  According to an event description, students in a 90-minute training sessions will learn about ways American Christians receive things they don't deserve and are not worthy of getting: 'How do we...acknowledge that Christians receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country?'  The Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) at GWU is hosting 'Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!'  According to the website, MSSC Associate Director and LGBTQ Resources Director Timothy Kane will discuss how American Christians have 'easier' lives and get 'built-in advantages over non-Christians' as well as making 'room for all religious and secular identities on an equal playing field.' ... 'These trainings equip students and staff with the necessary skills to promote diversity and inclusion in the different environments in which they find themselves frequently,' the website says.


"Former Secret Service Agent, Dan Bongino, tweeted about the 'disturbing' story as reported by The College Fix, saying, 'Someone should've told the martyrs about 'Christian privilege.'  Another person on Twitter, Chad Prather, tweeted that with martyrdom, beatings, and beheadings they should host the workshop in Libya, Ethiopia, Iran or northern Nigeria.  'I think America has too much 'university privilege,' Prather wrote."


I want to share one more article that really wrestles with the core issue.  It was written by Emilie Kao and can be found at The Daily Signal website.  It is titled, "Americans Grapple With Evil Amid Decline in Religious Faith."  Let me quote briefly some of the highlights.  "Blaise Pascal once described a 'God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man.'  But in modern-day America, few statements can raise eyebrows more swiftly than expressing faith in the transcendent. ... In a world where we can drive vehicles, communicate globally, and change the temperature of our homes with the touch of a finger, it is easy to believe that we have mastered our physical environment.  Yet we are stumped when the age-old problem of evil rears its ugly head.  It's no surprise, then, that in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, we fixate on a material solution - gun control - to solve what we assess as a material problem.  But what if the problem is much deeper than raising the gun-buying age by a few years or making it harder to get certain types of guns?  What if the roots of the problem are actually internal and moral, and even spiritual?"


The writer of the article continues by quoting from Professor emeritus of psychology at New York University Paul Vitz.  Dr. Vitz "attributes teens' skyrocketing anxiety, self-harm, suicides, and school shootings to their poor spiritual health.  Despite being born into a world with more material comforts and mental health resources than ever, the next generation seems increasingly drawn toward self-destruction.  Vitz observes that without belief in objective truth, goodness, and beauty, including the belief that they are created in the image of God, the next generation clings to external sources of identity: social media, sexual experiences, and material possessions.  In a sea of ever-changing cultural and social trends, such flimsy sources of meaning can predictably leave some of them bewildered and overwhelmed.  'Countless young people...feel there is nothing for them to believe in,  Emotional numbness is one of the consequences.  They...no longer find self-worth in their efforts to lead lives based on truth and love.'  Vitz proposes that Americans re-examine the value of faith and its power to help people live happier, healthier, and longer lives."


This is the world in which we live.  This is the world that I am leaving behind for my grandchildren.  How vitally important it is that parents, grandparents, and the church do all it can to help prepare those children and grandchildren to have a faith that is anchored securely to the Rock Christ Jesus.   

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Thoughts for Holy Week

This is one of the most sacred of weeks in the Christian calendar - a week in which we at least pause, if not come to a complete stop, and remember the suffering and death of our Savior.  And, for our Jewish friends, Saturday will make the first day of Pesach or Passover - a time of remembrance of God's miraculous sparing of their lives moments before they left the slavery of Egypt behind; yet remembering also the sacrifice of an innocent lamb whose blood was applied to the door frames of homes, thus sparing them from the ravages of death.  Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice - as we hear those words from John the Baptist: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" 


I know that there are a lot of news stories I could cover this week - and they are important stories that impact our lives.  But I want to focus our thoughts for a few moments on Holy Week.  Perhaps it is because I had the privilege Sunday of preaching the "Servant Songs" in Isaiah that I am conscious of the events in those final days and hours of Christ's life. 


The physical suffering of Jesus almost overwhelms our souls.  No other person has suffered as did Jesus.  His was a violent death that came as a consequence of hatred being poured out upon Him.  The Jewish leadership truly hated Jesus.  They hated His person.  They hated His actions.  They hated His words.  So, when Jesus surrendered to their authority, that hatred was heaped upon Jesus.  Isaiah portrays that hatred with these words: "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6).  And that was just the beginning.  The Gospel writers tell us that Pilate had Jesus flogged - an act of violence that often led to death.  A whip with pieces of glass and iron and stone was lashed across the back, but often the thongs would wrap around a person's chest and waist.  The glass pieces would cut deeply tearing away the flesh, often exposing the deep muscular structure and even internal organs.  Friend, the miracle was that Jesus survived that flogging. 


Suffering from acute blood loss and dehydration, Jesus was forced to carry the cross-beam to the place of execution.  His physical strength was nearing the point of complete exhaustion.  Jesus stumbled and fell and so another was commanded to carry the cross piece for Him.  Arriving at Golgatha, the hands and feet of Jesus was nailed to the cross - the Romans doing it in such a manner to create the most excruciating pain imaginable.  And then the cross was hoisted into place, dropping with a thud into the hole.  When that occurred the shoulders separated creating even more pain. 


Friends, Isaiah states something about the appearance of Jesus upon the cross that staggers us: "Just as many were appalled (a better translation of this word is "shocked") at him - his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness" (Isaiah 52:14).  Did you grasp the magnitude of Isaiah's words?  As Jesus hung upon that cross He was barely recognizable as being a human.  Hatred had done its awful work!  The body of Jesus was ravaged in a way no other person ever has been. 


And then there was the emotional pain.  The voices spewing hatred continued almost unabated.  The leaders were not satisfied with a horrific death.  No, they heaped words of hate upon Jesus as well.  And finally there was the spiritual pain.  Darkness enveloped that scene of death and we hear those anguished words of Jesus, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"  It was for that very moment that Jesus had come to this earth.  It was for that very moment that Jesus had committed Himself before the foundations of the world were laid.  It was at that moment Jesus became "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."  All the hatred, all the evil that this world could create was placed upon the shoulders of one whose physical strength and emotional strength were nearing an end.  Yet the spiritual strength, although wavering, held strong.  Satan had accomplished his work.  Yet, listen to those final words of Jesus: "It is finished!"  This is not the cry of defeat; it is the cry of victory.  With that cry it is almost as if Jesus is anticipating the coming resurrection, the coming glory that would be His.


Friends, I challenged my congregation last Sunday to take some quiet time this week and reread Isaiah 53.  Picture afresh in your mind the cross and Christ's sacrifice.  Remember that He died for you.  He took your place.  It is then that we can sing "Hallelujah, What a Savior!" 


I wish my Jewish friends a Passover filled with the joys of family.  May your Seder be blessed by God.  And I wish everyone else a happy Easter as we celebrate the foundation for our faith - the empty tomb.  "He is risen!  He is risen indeed!"

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

An Important Case Before the Supreme Court and Putin Wins Again

For the past few months I have been following a case that originated in California and yesterday found its way before the United States Supreme Court.  The case is known as NIFLA v Becerra.  NIFLA  stands for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates - a prolife organization.  Xavier Becerra is the current California attorney-general who is defending the California bill that is being questioned.


Let me give a little background.  In 2015, the California legislature passed a bill known as "The Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act" which came to be known as the FACT Act.  The reason for the law was that, it was believed, women who faced an unplanned pregnancy were not being given adequate information regarding the availability of no and low cost medical services, including abortion, which were available through the State of California.  The FACT Act required that all crisis pregnancy centers post information regarding these services which the Sate of California provides and that such information be included in any advertisements for such facilities. 


In other words, if I am operating a nonprofit, prolife crisis pregnancy center, the law now requires that I post on my office walls and also place within my ads that abortions can be obtained through the State of California.  So, a woman who comes to my office seeking help must also be told, either verbally or through the postings, that abortion is an inexpensive option because the State will pay for it. 


Several nonprofit centers decided that such a law was an infringement upon their rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  They had the right to not share with their clients that abortion was an option because they had taken the position that abortion was wrong.  In 2016 the NIFLA sued the State of California on behalf of nonprofit crisis pregnancy centers claiming "that the law unfairly targets crisis pregnancy centers because it does not apply to clinics that perform abortions, and because it forces crisis centers to provide information they do not endorse" (www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/nifla-v-becerra-supreme-court-takes-both-abortion-first-amendment-ncna858056).


Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides  and will make a ruling sometime in June.  Each side had 25 minutes to present its case.  The heart of the argument made by NIFLA is that the government should not force individuals, or in this case a crisis pregnancy center, to promote a message that contradicts their sincerely held beliefs.


What I find very interesting is that the California law does not require that state-operated abortion clinics post information within their offices nor to have it published on their advertisements telling women that there is another option beside abortion.  No, this law seems to have had only one focus - upon those nonprofit crisis pregnancy centers, most of whom have some type of religious, prolife foundation.  This is just another attempt by "big government" to curtail the freedoms and rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. 


I am grateful for the NIFLA and its willingness to take on this case.  And I am grateful that the United States Supreme Court decided to add this case to its spring docket of cases.  Now we just need to pray that, as they deliberate a decision, that they will be focused upon what is truly best for that mom and her unborn baby.  I will keep watch and will let you know when the Supreme Court has reached its decision. 


Meanwhile, President Putin has won another election in Russia.  Of course there was little opposition - the recent assassination and attempted assassination of dissident Russians living in England testify to what potentially can happen when a person falls out of favor with Putin.  Will Putin continue to bully his way with those Eastern European countries?  Probably.  Will Put continue to bully his way with the United States?  Probably.  But the Bible reminds us that as we near the end of the age, Russia will become stronger and will gather a coalition together to destroy Israel.  Will Putin be the leader of this Ezekiel-described coalition?  I can't speak with authority that he will, but I can state that the leader described in Ezekiel 38 will be someone with the nature of a Putin.  Wow1  Are these exciting times in which we live!  I am grateful that my hope is placed on the solid Rock Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dr. Hawking - A Man Who Missed God

One of the headlines today is that of the death of Dr. Stephen Hawking.  Dr. Hawking was one of the greatest thinkers of our time, especially in the realms of cosmology and quantum physics.  Dr. Hawking taught for many years at Cambridge University.  He specialized in the study of black holes.  While a graduate student at Cambridge, he was diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.  His doctors gave him two years to live, yet he lived with the disease for 55 years.  When asked how he coped with his disease after the diagnosis, Hawking said, "Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.  Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist.  Be curious.  And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at.  It matters that you don't just give up."  Well, Stephen Hawking did not give up.


Dr. Hawking was not a believer in God.  He once said, "There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either.  We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful."  (www.aol.com/article/news/2018/03/14/stephen-hawking-dead-famed-scientist-dies-at-76).


In one of his last interviews before his death, Dr. Hawking stated that he had discovered what happened before the dawn of time.  (www.foxnews.com/science/2918/03/05/stephen-hawking-says-knows-what-happened-before-dawn-time).  Allow me to quote briefly from this article, as I found it fascinating.  "'The boundary condition of the universe...is that it has no boundary,' Hawking tells the National Geographic's Star Talk show this weekend.  In other words, there is no time before time began as time was always there.  It was just different.  He tells physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson that amid the almost infinitely small quantum foam of the singularity before the Big Bang, time existed in a 'bent' state.  It was distorted along another dimension - always getting fractionally closer to, but never becoming, nothing.  So there never was a Big Bang that created something from nothing.  It just looks that way from our point of perspective."


So, how did Dr. Hawking discover this 'different form of time?'  "Quantum theory introduces a new idea, that of imaginary time.  Imaginary time may sound like science fiction, and it has been brought into Doctor Who.  But nevertheless, it is a genuine scientific concept.  One can picture it in the following way.  One can think of ordinary, real, time as a horizontal line.  On the left, one has the past, and on the right, the future.  But there's another kind of time in the vertical dimension.  This is called imaginary time, because it is not the kind of time we normally experience.  But in a sense, it is just as real as what we call real time."


So, according to the late Dr. Hawking, there has always been time, but just of the imaginary type.  So, there really could not have been "a beginning."  That seems to make the very first statement in the Bible to be false.  Genesis 1:1 states, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  This verse seems to strongly indicate that, at some moment in eternity past - before there was time - God created the universe and the world around us.  There was a moment when we can say, "This is when it all began."  Some will say that that moment is known as "the Big-Bang."  But, that theory is fraught with problems and questions: Where did the materials come from that will explode and become the universe and our world?  Where did the energy come from that caused the explosion?  Who or what caused the explosion to occur?  The better alternative, it seems to me, is to believe what the Bible states so confidently: That God caused everything to come into being at a moment known as "the beginning."  This is very straight-forward and answers those questions raised by "the Big Bang" theory. 


But, of course, Dr. Hawking could not travel the Genesis 1:1 pathway because he denied the existence of God.  And so he has to create a concept known as imaginary time.  How can one prove the existence of imaginary time?  How can one observe imaginary time?  What are the laws that govern imaginary time?  How does imaginary time differ from our real time?  It seems that, because Dr. Hawking has denied the existence of God, that he has to create some type of hypothesis - even if his hypothesis does not seem to have logic. 


Dr. Hawking was a man of strong resolve; how else can one explain living with ALS for over fifty years.  Dr. Hawking was a man with a keen intellect which he used to advance the field of quantum physics and cosmology.  But, Dr. Hawking was a man who lacked any relationship with the living, holy, amazing God.  When he passed away yesterday, Dr. Hawking came to realize that, although he knew many things, he had failed to know one thing that would have changed his life - he had failed to know the Lord Jesus.  I believe Dr. Hawking illustrates those words of Jesus: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:25). 


What a contrast between Billy Graham and Stephen Hawking.  Both men influenced a generation.  Both men sought to help men to understand the world around them.  Yet, Billy Graham did something that Dr. Hawking could not do - he shared with people that the only way they could understand the world around them was to understand their need for a relationship with a holy God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  One will hear those amazing words - "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of your Lord", while the other will hear those words of judgment - "Depart from Me, for a never knew you."  How do you want to be greeted by our Savior?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Why Young People Are Leaving the Church?

This past Saturday, the Minnesota Star-Tribune published an article written by Jean Hopfensperger.  The article was titled, "A Look At Why Young Catholics Leave."  I found the statistics offered in this article very interesting.  They follow a trend that has been observed within all churches the past ten years or so.  The basic theme from several surveys, including this one, is that young people are leaving the Church today in droves.  Few have any intent of returning.  George Barna observed this several years ago.  Others have done similar studies.  And, it is found that young people are "checking out of" the church at an earlier age.


"They stopped believing in God.  They saw a disconnect  between what Catholics say and what they do.  They disagreed with the church's stance on social issues such as homosexuality and birth control."  With these words, the author begins her piece.  "They are the growing numbers of young Catholics living the church - the focus of a new national study to examine why they're departing and where they're landing.  It's an issue that worries church leaders across the country."  To be honest, it should worry not just Catholics, but all of us.  Why are young people leaving the church?  And why are they leaving at such an early age?


The article continues: "'Leaving the [Catholic] church crosses all age groups, but the fastest-growing demographic is age 18 to 29,' said John Vitek, president of Saint Mary's Press in Winona, which commissioned the study.  'Our data shows the median age for leaving the church was 13 years old,' he said.  'That was a surprise to everyone...and something we really have to take note of.'" 


"The survey found that the biggest reason young Catholics bailed was that they no longer believed in God.  One in five cited that lack of faith."  The author quotes from a young woman who said, "'I would like to believe that something happens when you die, that you don't just rot in the ground, but I don't know.'"


"Another 16 percent said family experiences shaped their misgivings.  Divorce, death, illnesses and perceived 'hypocrisy' were cited.  'Although my grandparents took me to church every weekend...we found out that my grandfather was having an affair,' said another respondent.  'I don't think that's part of the Catholic faith.'"


"Among other findings: Three in four said they stopped viewing themselves as Catholics between age 10 and 20; Nearly half said they were searching for spiritual practice in tune with their beliefs; About a third said they are 'done' joining churches."


Friends, the results of this Catholic survey should give us a "wake-up" call.  The church continues to fail the next generation.  According to another report I read last fall, although still being brought to church every week, a number of young people in the 6th grade had already decided that, when they left home, they would leave the church.  One has to ask the question of "why?"


First, I believe that hypocrisy with the home is a leading reason why young people are leaving the church.  They have watched mom and dad go to church every week, but when they are at home all they do is argue with one another by yelling and screaming.  Forget about "loving your neighbor as yourself" when love is absent at home.  What is said and done at home is completely different from what is said and done while at church. 


To counter this reason, many churches have become very active in a reformation-type movement to minister to parents so that they can disciple their own children.  It is known as Faith@Home or D6.  But the focus is to help parents model 24/7 their faith before their children and grandchildren.  We have been modeling this for the past six years and have seen some incredible turn-arounds within families attending our church.  It does work! 


Second, I believe that the lack of relevancy between the Gospel and contemporary culture contributes to young people leaving the church.  They have witnessed a disconnect between the Scriptures and culture.  I believe today's young people are looking for some anchor for their lives.  They want to know that the Bible has the answers.  A watered-down Gospel does not satisfy those needs.  It is time to rediscover the power of the unadulterated, passionate, authoritative teaching of God's Word. 


The focus in the past within youth ministries was to "have fun."  There is still a need for that today, but there is a greater need to teach truth.  The very future of the church depends upon it.