Wednesday, July 26, 2017

And the Immorality Continues to Grow

Well, as the old saying goes, "Here we go again!"  Just when you think you can no longer be shocked by what the world tries to foist upon us as being "normal", somehow they do it again.  First, I refer you to an article published by Fox News that stuns one's senses.  You can find the article, written by Todd Starnes, at  Let me warn you that even Mr. Starnes comments on the article are graphic.

"Teen Vogue is defending its decision to publish a graphic tutorial to anal sex for children and teenagers - calling critics homophobic.  'This is anal 101, for teens, beginners and all inquisitive folk,' author Gigi Engle wrote in 'A Guide to Anal Sex.'  ...  Parents across the nation became enraged upon learning that Teen Vogue wanted to turn their children in[to] sexual deviants.  'I was truly flabbergasted,' Elizabeth Johnston told me on my radio show.  'They should not be teaching sodomy to our children.  This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue.  This is not a conservative issue or liberal issue.  This is a parent issue,' she told me.  More than 10 million people have viewed a video of Johnston burning a copy of Teen Vogue in her backyard. ...  Philip Picardi, the magazine's digital editorial director, fired back in a flurry of tweets.  'The backlash to this article is rooted in homophobia,' he wrote.  'It's also laced in arcane delusion about what it means to be a young person today.'  Teen Vogue would have you believe it's offensive for parents to be offended by the smut they are peddling. "

Friends, in the absence of any moral truth or any moral absolutes, what had been recognized twenty years ago as being a sexual perversion, now becomes not only acceptable by adults, but promoted among our impressionable teens.  I used to say that our culture today "lowered the bar."  But I have come to believe that they have "removed the bar." 

But, wait, there's more - sadly.  Yesterday I read another article, written by the same author - Todd Starnes - and posted on the Fox News website.  You can find it at:  Again, allow me to share portions of this article with you.  "Public libraries across the fruited plain are inviting drag queens to read story books to small children - leading some folks to wonder what in the name of Captain Kangaroo is going on?  A trio of drag queens, decked out in full regalia, recently held court at the Indianapolis Central Library - gabbing about superheroes and cookies.  'Some parents choose to expose their children to religion, some parents choose to expose their children to culture, the arts,' parent Heather Pugh told USA Today.  'I'm working to teach my children to be open-minded, loving, accepting people.'  And that's the point of Drag Queen Storytime - indoctrination.  'I want kids to experience just the fun of being around drag queens, the creativity, their style, their expression of their individuality,' said Stephen Lane.  Mr. Lane is the library's point man for planning programs for children, USA Today reports. 

"The Brooklyn Public Library held a similar event in May - funded by our tax dollars.  Get a load of how the library promoted the event: 'What do drag queens and children have in common?  They love dressing up and all things sparkly and fancy!  Drag Queen Story Hour captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity in childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.'  A library spokesperson for the Indianapolis library told me there is nothing wrong with teaching small kids about gender fluidity.  'Young children often exhibit gender fluidity in their play, and Drag Queen Story Hour reinforces for them that there is nothing wrong with that.'"

Wow!  Did you ever think you would live to see the day when sexual perversions would be welcomed and embraced as they are today?  I sure didn't.  But I am not surprised.  When a culture removes God from being part of that culture, all that remains is the sinful nature to be expressed at will.  In the absence of God, there is no moral rightness or wrongness.  Who is going to make that decision?  Only with the acknowledgment of God can there be any moral standard upon which to make a moral choice.  Is it any wonder why home-schooling and privately-funded Christian schooling is exploding with enrollments that are crushing growth barriers.  Families want their children and grandchildren to have some type of moral foundation.  It is not being found in many of our public schools today - although some public schools are fighting hard to maintain that moral foundation.  I pray that those schools will remain zealous and have a firm resolve.

Before I close, let me just touch upon recent events in Jerusalem - especially as they relate to the Temple Mount.  On our recent tour our group spent an hour upon the Temple Mount.  We were amazed by the size of the area - over thirty acres of stone pavement with almost a park-like setting in places.  But, I have to admit - having been on the Temple Mount several times over the years - that there is an uncomfortableness there.  Perhaps it is because of the intense screening Christians and Jews have to undergo to go upon the Temple Mount.  There is only one entry point for Jews and Christians.  You can take no Bibles or prayer books.  You can have no jewelry that is strictly religious.  And, I noticed, that while we were on the Temple Mount there was always someone listening in to what our guide was sharing with us.  As one of our group members said later, "It was sort of creepy up there."  Yet, Muslims have almost unfettered access, especially on Fridays which are the Muslim holy day of the week.  Two weeks ago, two Israeli policemen stationed at the Lion's Gate - which is one of the main Muslim entrances to the Temple Mount - were shot and killed by Arab men who were armed and coming from Friday prayers.  In response, Israeli authorities set up metal detectors at each of the Muslim entry points.  Well, that act of security almost initiated World War III.  Riots occurred.  Police in riot gear fired both live and rubber bullets into the crowds killing several Palestinians and injuring scores more.  The entire Arab world believed that the Israelis were using this security in order to regain control of the Temple Mount.  Pressure built and finally the Israeli government removed the metal screeners.  In their place are facial detection cameras and high image resolution cameras that can detect metal.  It will be interesting to see what impact these will have when Friday prayers on the Mount come this week. 

What is going to happen at the Temple Mount?  The Bible gives us a very clear picture of its future.  First, we know that another Jewish Temple will be built upon that site.  The Bible does not give us a lot of details about it except that it will be the place where the Antichrist will proclaim himself to be God and desire to be worshiped as God.  When will this Temple be built?  Again, the Bible is not clear.  Will it be built before the Antichrist is revealed, or will it be built after his revelation?  I believe it will probably be the later.  But this we do know, an organization known as the Temple Institute has nearly completed all the items necessary for use within the Temple.  They are training priests who will serve the people.  So, it should not take long before this 'tribulation temple" - as I call it - will be operational.  But what about the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque? you ask.  I believe that God will remove those - probably through an earthquake. 

But the story of the Temple Mount is not yet complete, for the prophet Ezekiel describes in detail for us a grand Temple - the size and scope which has never been seen.  It will be the place where our Savior and King will reign.  It will be the place to which the nations of the world will come to worship and celebrate the living God and His Son who sits upon David's throne.  Oh what a day that will be. 

Friends, aren't you glad that you are safely in the hands of Jesus Christ?  Aren't you glad that you can rest secure knowing that God is in total control.  He knows about drag-queens in public libraries.  He knows about articles in Teen Vogue magazine.  And, I can assure you, God is much more outraged about those matters than either you or I can be.  They are an affront to His holiness.  And, friends, someday His judgment will be poured out upon this sinful world.  Once again, God's righteousness will prevail.  Hallelujah for that moment!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Commencement Address with Purpose

Suppose you were invited to give the commencement address before a ninth grade class, what would you share with these young people?  They have completed middle school and now before them await three years of high school and then college and university.  Perhaps many of these young people have not yet decided upon a course of study or even what direction they want for their lives.  They are just happy to have survived early adolescence without major damage.  How would you challenge them?  What words of advice would you share with them? 

This past Sunday on the back page of the Opinion Section of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, portions of an address that Chief Justice John Roberts delivered at his son's ninth-grade commencement program was printed.  Chief Justice Roberts offered some wise advice to that class, words that should be shared with every young person today.  Allow me to just quote a few paragraphs from that speech.

"Now around the country today at colleges, high schools, middle schools, commencement speakers are standing before impatient graduates.  And they are almost always saying the same things.  They will say that today is a commencement exercise.  'It is a beginning, not an end.  You should look forward.'  And I think that is true enough.

"However, I think if you're going to look forward to figure out where you're going, it's good to know where you've been, and to look back as well.  And I think if you look back to your first afternoon here at Carigan, perhaps you will recall that you were lonely.  Perhaps you will recall that you were a little scared, a little anxious.  And now look at you.  You are surrounded by friends that you call brothers, and you are confident in facing the next step in your education.

"It is worthy trying to think why that is so.  And when you do, I think you may appreciate that it was because of the support of your classmates in the classroom, on the athletic field and in the dorms.  And as far as the confidence goes, I think you will appreciate that it is not because you succeeded at everything you did, but because with the help of your friends, you were not afraid to fail.

"Now, the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you.  I will not do that, and I'll tell you why."

Friends, the next part of Chief Justice Roberts speech is actually very alarming, yet also very profound.  Listen to this sage advice:

"From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly - so that you will come to know the value of justice.  I hope that you will suffer betrayal - because that will teach you the importance of loyalty.  Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time - so that you don't take friends for granted.  I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time - so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life, and understand that your success is not completely deserved, and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.  And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then your opponent will gloat over your failure.  It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship.  I hope you'll be ignored - so you'll know the importance of listening to others.  And I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.  Whether I wish these things or not, they're going to happen.  Whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortune."

Chief Justice Roberts is a realist, not an idealist.  In many commencement addresses this spring, the speakers stated that the goal of life was to succeed, to live the good life.  Did you hear what Chief Justice Roberts said to those boys: I hope you experience some of the hardships of life, because it is how you face those difficulties that you grow to become the person you were intended to be. 

As I read this speech - and I applaud the Start-Tribune for printing it - I was reminded of many of the words Jesus shared with His disciples.  Jesus certainly never told them that success would come easily.  In fact Jesus shared just the opposite: life would become more difficult.  Listen to these words of Jesus:
     "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).
     "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you" (John 15:18-19).
     "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Friends, it is through difficulties that we grow.  The butterfly struggles to be released from the cocoon, but it is that struggle that strengthens its wings so it can fly.  A shoot struggles to break through the soil, but it is that struggle that strengthens that developing root.  Chief Justice Roberts told those boys and their families he wished life would become difficult at times for them so that they would grow stronger.  Jesus wishes for us difficulties so that we become stronger in our relationship with Him.  I am reminded of those familiar words from the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the believers living in Rome: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).  What a great promise to always keep before us.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Words That Descrbe Our Times

If I were to ask you the following question - What words would you use to describe our world today? - how would you answer?  One word that immediately comes to mind is "terror-filled."  Almost weekly we hear of a terror attack somewhere in the world.  Whether it is a suicide bombing in Afghanistan or a runaway car in London or an ambush of a New York City policewoman, our minds have become almost numbed with the reports of innocents dying at the hands of terrorists. 

Another word I would use is "truthlessness."  I think I just created a word.  By it I mean that as a culture we have abandoned a moral standard for truth.  I am continually drawn to that question Pontius Pilate addressed to Jesus as He stood before him - What is truth? (see John 18:38).  Pilate had heard many arguments based upon truth-perceptions.  Now before him stood Jesus who declared that He had come into the world to testify to the truth (John 18:37).  So, whom was Pilate to believe?  What was really truth?  Because we have abandoned an absolute moral foundation, there is no standard of objective truth any longer.  We now live in a world of opinion.  We expect to find opinions expressed on the editorial pages of our newspapers.  But now we find only opinions expressed in the headlines and on the front pages.  There is no objective reporting of news any longer because journalists today no longer have an absolute moral platform from which to measure the truthfulness of their stories.  If Jesus was correct when He stated that it was the truth that will set us free (see John 8:32) - and we know that Jesus only spoke truth - then we have now enslaved ourselves into a world of relativity and opinions.  What can we really know today?  That is the question that needs to be answered.

Another word I would use is "confusion."  I believe this naturally follows upon the waves of abandoning truth.  I read an article, published on the website, that exemplifies this word "confusion."  The article was written by Christine Rousselle and can be found at  "A baby in Canada is believed to be the world's first to be not designated a gender due to a parent's request.  Baby Searyl Atli was born in November to Kori Doty, who identifies as 'non-binary' and does not identify as male or female (and prefers the pronoun 'they').  Doty does not want a gender to ever be listed on their child's birth certificate or identification documents, and while British Columbia has so far refused to issue a birth certificate sans gender, the government did issue a state health card for Searyl with a 'U' as the gender.  Without this card, Searyl could not see a doctor.

"Doty wants Searyl to eventually decide on his/her own gender, and believes that assigning a gender to an infant at birth is a human rights violation.  'I'm raising Searyl in such a way that until they have the sense of self and command of vocabulary to tell me who they are, I'm recognizing them as a baby and trying to give them all the love and support to be the most whole person that they can be outside of the restrictions that come with the boy box and the girl box,' Doty said."

This is "confusion."  A child is born and can usually be distinguished as being male or female.  (I do understand that, on rare occasions, a child can be born with a sex that is indistinguishable).  But, in this case, we have a mother who is confused about her own gender identity, although she just gave birth to a child.  "I don't want to be a male; I don't want to be a female; I just want to be a 'them' whatever a 'them' is." Friends, in the absence of absolute, moral truth based upon the holy and righteous character of God, confusion reigns. 

But, in closing, I want to share another word to describe the times in which we live.  And that word is "hope."  Not everyone in our world today has "hope."  But, because of the cross of Jesus Christ, the potential is that everyone could have "hope."  For believers, for those who are Christ-followers, "hopeful" is who we are.  We anchor securely upon the Blessed Hope of the return of Jesus Christ.  As we survey the world's scene, that hope rises even higher.  We also have "hope" in a new and better world that is coming.  Someday sin will be eradicated from this world.  Someday God will recreate this world and it will be as God intended from the very beginning.  We have a "hope" beyond the grave.  Because of this "hope" we are not filled with fear or despair.  We are anchored to the Rock, Christ Jesus. 

Friends, so what words would you use to describe  our world today?  Whatever those words might be, I trust you would also be able to add to that list the word "hope."  And with that "hope" we look up and await the coming of our redemption.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Reflections from Israel

I have just returned after spending 12 days in the land of Israel.  I had the privilege of helping to give leadership to a group of teenagers and parents from our church.  These teens had successfully completed a four-year course of Bible study.  There were 28 in our tour group. 

Our group had a wonderful time while in Israel.  The days were hot - near triple digits almost every day.  So, needless to say, we drank gallons of water and slathered on lots of sunscreen.  One of the highlights for our group was the morning we spent at an archaeological dig at Marasha which is located southwest of Jerusalem.  We entered a couple of small caves, grabbed our little picks and spatulas, along with some empty buckets, and went in search of evidence of ancient life.  We did find many pieces of broken pottery, some small pieces of ancient glass, a few small bones, and even an olive pit or two.  But one of our teens hit the jackpot.  Just before we left, he unearthed a beautiful clay jar that was still in one piece.  We stood amazed to think that no one had seen this beautiful jar for over 1700 years.  As a result of that morning's work, we all came to better appreciate the painstaking work of an archaeologist. 

Another highlight was the morning we walked upon the Temple Mount.  The Muslim Waqf keeps a tight control of who can be on the Temple Mount.  They restrict what you can take upon the Mount.  No Scripture readings are allowed and no prayers are permitted.  Wherever we went while on the Temple Mount, there was someone listening in.  The Temple Mount is huge in size, covering over 26 acres, which makes it somewhat overwhelming.  We all felt a different emotion while on the Temple Mount.  It was almost as if an oppressive spirit were present there.  Perhaps it is no different than the oppressive spirit present upon this same place during the days of Jesus as the Pharisees and other religious leaders ruled the attitudes and actions upon the Temple Mount with a restrictive force.  There was little joy experienced there.  I think we were all relieved to walk across the Mount and enter into the beautiful sanctuary of the Church of St. Anne where we joined in singing "How Great Thou Art."  What a wonderful place to make beautiful music.

Taking a ride upon the Sea of Galilee on a beautiful morning is always a highpoint.  The skies were clear.  The breeze was enjoyable.  The boat we were on is the only one operated by a Christian captain - Danny.  As worship music quietly played in the background we sailed those ancient waters pointing out place after place where the stories of Jesus played out.  How those waters became an integral part of His ministry life - from Migdal to the slopes of the Mount of Beatitudes to Capernaum to Bethsaida to Kurzi which is on the "other side."  I think one could easily spend hours just sitting on the Sea reflecting upon the Gospel accounts.

Finally, Jerusalem continues to be a city that fascinates.  It is the meeting place of the ancient and the modern.  If only its ancient stones could talk, what stories would be shared.  I am continually impressed with the excavations being done in the City of David.  The archaeologists have hit upon a treasure-trove of important artifacts that are revealing the magnificence of David's capitol city. 

So, have I whetted your interest in going to Israel?  I would like to announce that I will be leading a tour to Israel next Spring.  The dates are April 20-May 4, 2018.  On Tuesday evening, July 11, there will be an informational meeting here at Buffalo Covenant Church for all interested in knowing a little bit more about the tour.  This meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. Space is limited to 35 and should fill quickly.  But I would love to have you join me in the Holy Land.  It definitely is the tour of a lifetime that will change the way to read and understand the Bible.

Now, just a few thoughts about what is happening in our world.  While we were in Israel, just moments after we had left an overlook of the Syrian border, Syrian mortar fire was received by Israel.  We heard what sounded like small bombs, little knowing what had happened.  Israeli planes quickly retaliated.  But it was another reminder that Syria is a nation at war.  The Middle East never rests in peace and, if my understanding the Scriptures is correct, it will not know peace until Jesus Christ returns. 

Yesterday the North Koreans launched their first ICBM missile.  With a known production of a nuclear warhead, the North Koreans now seem to have the capability of reaching almost any place they would desire.  The South Koreans and Japanese governments are on high alert with this perceived threat.  The question is: Is this just a perceived threat or a real threat?  Would the North Koreans jeopardize their own existence by launching a nuclear strike at Seoul or Tokyo or even Alaska?  Jesus' statement that in the last days there would be wars and rumors of war is becoming a reality. 

Before I close I would like to extend another invitation to those living within the Greater Twin Cities area.  On Thursday evening, July 13, we have the privilege of hosting Rabbi Baruch, a leading biblical teacher and scholar from Israel.  Rabbi Baruch continues to instruct people around the world through his video teaching ministry, as well as the classes he conducts in Israel.  Many in the Twin Cities have heard him before.  You know you will not be disappointed.  Rabbi Baruch will be sharing in two teaching sessions that evening, the first beginning at 7:00 with the second to follow around 8:00.  I invite you to come and hear God open His Word through this amazing teacher of the Word.  Our address is: 1601 Highway 25 North, Buffalo, MN 55313. 

Friends, keep on praying for the "peace of Jerusalem."  Keep on praying that God will reveal Himself to us more powerfully in these closing days of the age.  And keep looking up because our redemption draws nigh.