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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

To Control Guns or Not to Control Guns - Ah, That's the Question

I am not sure you have heard that over the weekend the Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed its doors in Jerusalem.  This is perhaps the most sacred of all the Christian sites in Jerusalem - at least to most people.  It is purported to be the place where Jesus was crucified and buried.  But its halls were silenced over the weekend in a dispute between church officials and the officials of the city of Jerusalem concerning taxes.  I do not fully understand all the reasons for the shut down, but just found it interesting that even a sacred site, can be used as a pawn in a political game.  I think Queen Helena might roll over in her grave if she knew.  I will be in Jerusalem in a few weeks, so will give a full report of what I find.


We continue to see the uproar caused by the Parkland, Florida, shootings.  There are loud cries to take away guns.  I recently read an article, written by Michael Swartz, and published on the Patriot Post website on February 23.  You can find it at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/54357-the-youth-massacre-outside-florida.  Allow me to quote from this article: "The tragic loss of 16 students and one coach from one high school in a single incident is bound to dominate the news for days.  But who knew that the five cities with the highest number of murders in 2017 combined to match that terrible total in just three days?  Chicago led the way with 650 murders last year, and while Baltimore was second with 343, its per capita total of 55.8 per 100,000 residents was the highest in the nation among its 50 most populous cities. 


"Bear in mind that many of these cities have stringent gun laws.  But while the Left's answer is to blame guns, there's truly much more to the story.  One key element is the issue of gangs: 'Some young men take precautions appropriate to Beirut, circling their home block three or four times in search of any person or car that is out of place, before they will park,' writes Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.  'Others must be smuggled out of the city to avoid revenge killings,'  A lucrative drug trade and a lack of respect for human life are clearly fertilizing these killing fields."


The author, Michael Swartz, then proceeds to describe the real problem - and it is not guns.  He continues, "Yet too often among these 'war zones within the borders of America,' young men grow up without a dad.  Whether that's because the father has left the mother voluntarily (or was never really 'with' her in the first place), has since been imprisoned, or was a victim of violence himself doesn't necessarily matter - the issue is the lack of positive male influence in these children's lives.


"As marriage and family expert Suzanne Venker points out about divorce, 'More often than not, children lose contact with their fathers - for two reasons.  One, mothers remain the default custodial parent in the average American divorce and thus retain most of the control.  Second, it is usually women who consider themselves the aggrieved party, as evidenced by the fact that wives initiate 70 percent of divorces.'  She continues, 'The unfortunate result is that some divorced mothers use any opportunity to undermine their children's relationship with their father or, if not that, dismiss the significance of a father's role.'"  I would encourage you to read the full article.


The Patriot Post posted another article, written by Jordan Candler, on February 20.  You can find it at: www.patriotpost.us/articles54242-the-anti-religious-agenda-behind-gun-control.  "After every mass shooting, America succumbs to recycling the same old tropes, a process that inevitably devolves into social media attacks, public shouting matches, vitriol and polarization.  The subject, regardless of which side of the debate you're on, always ends up revolving around guns because even those who believe there are evil outside forces at work when mass shooters commit their carnage are faced with dispelling the shortsighted and erroneous notion propagated by the Left - namely, that the culprit is guns.


"The Left's plea for gun control stems largely from its refusal to acknowledge the connection between cultural depravity and America's throwing away Christianity.  The reason organizations like the Freedom From Religious Foundation are so successful is because too many Americans share the view that God is either nonexistent or is ill-suited to fulfill our idea of what faith demands. 


"Both America's long relationship with guns and 'toxic masculinity' are scapegoats the Left uses because it objects to moral changes.  On the issue of gun control, for all the talk of how conservatives don't offer ideas to curb violence, the truth is that we do; they're just meaningful and religious-oriented ones leftists reject.  ...  If America wants to see an end to mass shootings, it's literally impossible to do so without a return to the moral standards set forth through Christianity.  Most leftists believe in a lot of coincidences - the big bang, for example - and their argument against guns implies that the lack of mass shootings before God was stripped from schools is also coincidental.  In reality, its the unavoidable outcome of engendering a godless society.  Our national discussion must take on and rebut the secular approach to stop the bloodshed.  Otherwise, our rights will continue to be undermined with absolutely nothing to show for it."


The problem is not strictly guns - although I have often wondered why people need such high-powered weapons.  But, then again, I have never had any desire to own a gun.  But I know men within my church who own several guns, but use them for hunting and recreational purposes.  I have even been invited to one of their "shootings" but could not hit the "broad-side-of-a-barn."  I go now just for the food!  Friends, a gun is no more dangerous than is a car.  In fact, more people are killed every year with automobiles than guns - yet there is no rush to control automobiles.  The problem is the people who shoot the guns, the people who drive the automobiles.  And, when you talk about a people problem, you inevitably have to focus upon a moral problem - more particularly, the lack of morals.  And, whenever you begin a discussion of morality, you are driven to the ultimate question - what is right and wrong?  And, that question will bring you to the penultimate question - who decides what is right and wrong?  The answer to that question, as we know as believers, is God Himself.  But, we don't want to travel down that road, so it is much easier to say it is a matter of guns.  And so the debate will continue.  Bills will be introduced into both state and national legislatures.  Executive orders will be executed.  Stricter controls will be mandated.  But, the killings will continue - just look at what is happening in Chicago, a city with some of the most strict gun control regulations in the country.  It is not a gun problem.  It is a heart problem.  And, until we stop and admit to that side of the issue, there will be more Parkland shootings. 





Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Of Billy Graham, Justice Thomas, and the Barna Group - Important Lessons to Learn

Just heard the news this morning that Billy Graham entered the portals of heaven yesterday.  What an incredible legacy that man has left behind.  Perhaps no other person, since the time of the Apostle Paul, has had such an impact upon the world for Christ.  Every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, has been touched with the message that flowed from the heart of Billy Graham.  Men and women of influence across the globe sought his wisdom and advice.  Few of us will forget the powerful message he delivered at the national day of remembrance for the victims of 9-11.  I remember seeing him totter up those steps, but once he was in the pulpit, the fire of heaven flowed through him.  Just as there was only one Apostle Paul, I believe there will be only one Billy Graham.  He was God's man for the time in which he lived.  The world will miss his voice, but heaven is celebrating the homecoming of a giant of faith.  Thank you, Billy Graham, for the legacy you have left behind. 


Over the weekend I was privileged to hear portions of the speech that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made at the Library of Congress.  (www.patriotpost.us/articles/54241-thomas-issues-his-cultural-ruling). Three thoughts grabbed my attention.  First, he said, "At some point, we're going to be fatigued with everybody being the victim."  Think about that statement for just a few moments.  We are victims of race.  We are victims of gender.  We are victims of sexual choice.  We are even victims of religious preferences.  It seems that everyone is going around carrying the wounds of victimhood.  We report people who cause us to have negative feelings.  We crawl into our "safe spaces" where no one can touch us.  I believe what Justice Thomas was saying is that as long as we are all victims, there will never be any healing.  And healing begins when we can sit down and have a civil conversation about ideas without feeling offended.  Such conversations are a rarity in our age. 


Second, Justice Thomas expressed great concern over the intensity of the confirmation for both judges and other political appointments.  He said, "This is not the Roman Colosseum.  We're not gladiators.  And I think we're going to lose some of our best people who choose not to go through the ordeal.  They don't want to have to fight the lion in order to be a judge or to be in government.  And I think it's our own fault for allowing this to happen."  Yes, there needs to vetting for the offices of judges and other governmental leaders, but it seems that the vetting process today is almost like a witch-hunt. 


And, third, Justice Thomas quoted from his grandfather: "Old Man Can't is dead.  I helped bury him."  I heard my grandfather say the same thing to me many times, especially when I expressed why something could not be done.  We tend to give up too easily today.  Things are too hard, so "I quit" becomes our escape.  Perhaps we need to resurrect that thought from our grandparents' generation.  As believers we know that nothing is too difficult for God.  And since God is for us then we should remove those words - "I can't" - from our vocabulary.  Instead we should proclaim, "With God's help, I can..." 


I close today with referencing a new study that the Barna Group has produced.  You can find this study at www.barna.com/research/gen-z-questions-answered.  I found this article an important one.  Gen Z is identified as those born between the years 1999 to 2015, so this group is now between the ages of 3 and 19.  The Barna Group worked with teens aged 13 to 18 for this study.  "One of the main findings from the study is that the problem of evil is a major barrier to faith for non-Christian teens (29%).  Other reasons nonbelievers provide as common barriers to faith include "Christians are hypocrites" (23%), "I believe science refutes too much of the Bible" (20%), "I don't believe in fairy tales" (19%), "there are too many injustices in the history of Christianity" (15%), "I used to go to church but it's just not important to me anymore" (12%), "I had a bad experience at church / with a Christian" (6%). 


"When it comes to church specifically, non-Christians and self-identified Christians have different reasons for why they believe it is unimportant.  Among those who say attending church is not important to them, three out of five Christian teens say "I find God elsewhere" (61%), while about the same proportion of non-Christians says "church is not relevant to me personally" (64%). 


"One of the biggest and most surprising shifts is that family is not a major priority for Gen Z.  For instance, personal achievement, whether educational or professional (43%), and hobbies and pastimes (42%) are more central to Gen Z's identity than family background / upbringing (34%).  ... Another interesting finding is that two-thirds of Gen Z want to finish their education (66%), start a career (66%) and become financially independent (65%) by age 30, while only one in five wants to get married by then (20%).  However, they do still seem to value their family's authority or insight: When asked who they most look up to as a role model, half say their parents and one in seven says another family member."


Friends, this is a very important study.  Gen Z includes my grandchildren and their peers.  What is truly important to them?  What does faith mean to them?  Can they articulate clearly what they believe?  These are questions leaders within the Church need to be asking.  This is that generation the Church needs to be investing its best people and its resources into not only helping them to understand the significance of the Gospel, but of how they can grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. 


Friends, God is still on the throne.  He is still "in charge."  All may not be well with the world, but I can say, "It is well with my soul."  I trust you can say that as well.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Some Good News, Israel and Iran, and Blaming God - Stories of the Week

I want to begin this week with some good news.  It seems that those stories don't occur as often as they should.  The article titled, "Torte Reform? CA Baker Wins First-Ever Case", can be found at the Family Research Council website - www.frc.org.  "Here are three words you don't usually see in the same sentence: 'religious liberty' and 'California.'  But thanks to Superior Court Judge David Lampe, that's exactly what one Christian is celebrating in a battle over religious freedom and wedding cakes.  For the first time ever, a court ruled in favor of the baker, Cathy Miller, for turning down an order for a same-sex wedding because her faith 'will not allow me to participate in things that I feel are wrong.'


"Facing the loss of her bakery, she and the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund fought back.  Although the odds were stacked against her, the law was not.  In a powerful rebuke of the status quo, Judge Lampe rejected the Left's argument that personal offense trumps conscience.  The right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment outweighs` the State's interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace,' Lampe wrote.  'The right of freedom of thought guaranteed by the First Amendment includes the right to speak, and the right to refrain from speaking.  Sometimes the most profound protest is silence.'


"Obviously, he explained, no one can refuse to sell something to a customer out of prejudice.  But, he reminds everyone: 'The difference here is that the cake in question is not yet baked.  The State is not petitioning the court to order defendents to sell cake.  The State asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of marital union her religion forbids... Such an order would be the stuff of tyranny.'  What's more, he points out, Cathy - like the Kleins, Jack Phillips, and Barronelle Stutzman - not only offered the women something from her display case, but 'provided for an alternative means for potential customers to receive the product they desire through the services of another talent' by recommending another bakery."


Remember, this is a decision from a California judge!  A judge who upholds the integrity of the Constitution, no less.   A judge who is not swayed by the mass hysteria of our culture.  A judge who was able to look at all the facts objectively.  May there be more judges like him who are willing to stand up for the freedoms offered in the First Amendment.  We need more judges like David Lampe within our judicial system. 


Over the weekend tensions increased in the Middle East.  An Iranian made drone launched from inside Syria, was shot down over Israeli airspace.  Israeli fighter jets were scrambled and destroyed the base from which the drone had been sent.  On the return flight a Syrian missile shot down one of the Israeli warplanes, but it was able to crash land within Israeli territory.  In an article published by the World Israel News (WIN), Steve Leibowitz writes, "The decision by Iran to send a drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent punishing air strikes by Israel targeting Iranian military facilities in Syria on Saturday amounted to a marked escalation in Iranian-Israeli confrontation.  Indeed, it was the first direct military clash between the two nations, enemies since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.  But neither side appears to want a full-scale war right now. 


"Middle East analyst Amotz Asa-El told WIN, 'There is every reason to suspect that this drone was a premeditated act on the part of Iran.  They want a confrontation in order to distract from their own domestic problems, including the acute economic chaos resulting in the recent upheaval and now the women's protests.  A confrontation with Israel is a good distraction.  Strategically, Iran is committed to "imperial Persian expansion," and that includes an overland corridor stretching from the Iranian border to the Syrian and Lebanese coasts.  Israel's strategic interest is simply to keep the enemy far from the borders,' Asa-El said.


"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it this way: 'Israel wants peace, but we will continue to defend ourselves with determination against any attack on us and against any attempt by Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria or anywhere else.  Our policy is absolutely clear: Israel will defend itself against any attempt to harm our sovereignty.'"


I am working on a message that I will be preaching later this spring from Ezekiel.  As one focuses upon those nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39, it hardly escapes one attention that three of those nations cited by Ezekiel are presently within Syria: Iran, Russia, and Turkey.  Is this just a coincidence?  Or is this part of God's strategic plan?  We know that the ultimate goal of the Iranians is the complete destruction of the State of Israel.  Could the war that Ezekiel saw in his vision over twenty-six centuries ago be on the brink of becoming a reality?  If it is then we know how that war will end for the text of Ezekiel 39 makes that very clear.  Please don't take your eyes off what is happening in the Middle East.  It truly is the key to understanding God's plans.


Next, I read a very interesting article from the Christian Post, written by Michael Gryboski, and titled, "Millennials Who Attended Evangelical Protestant Schools More Likely to Marry, Have Children: Study.:  You can find this article at www.christianpost.com/news/millennials-who-attended-evangelical-protestant-schools-more-likely-marry-have-children-study-215814.  Allow me to quote from this article:  "Generation X and the millennial-aged adults who attended evangelical Protestant schools are more likely to get married and have children than their peers who attended public schools, according to a recent study.  In research conducted by the Canada-based think tank Cardus that was released Tuesday (January 30), found that among young adults aged 24-39, 'EP schoolers are more likely to be married, and less likely to cohabit.  By guiding graduates toward traditional marriage and family, evangelical Protestant schools may set up structural constraints and opportunities that encourage evangelical religious orientations and practices,' explained the report.  The report also found that young adults educated at evangelical Protestant schools are more likely to read the Bible, attend worship, and pray that those who attended public schools."


One does not have to question the validity of these results.  All one has to do is to look at what is happening within the modern school system.  It is not important that our children understand their math tables, but it is important that our children understand that they don't have to be a boy or girl - they can be whatever gender they desire, and that desire can change from day to day.  It is not important that our children understand the religious and historical framework upon which our nation was established.  But it is important that our children understand that our Founding Fathers were white, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic men.  Is it any wonder that our children are growing up confused as to what truth really is?  Is it any wonder that they are turning away from the Church because even the church has watered down truth?


I need to share one final article that really got the blood-pressure to rise even higher.  The article was posted on The Patriot Post website: www.patriotpost.us/articles/54055-eve-the-first-number-metoo.
The article was written by Thomas Gallatin on February 9.  "This story highlights a classic example of how leftist feminist ideology attacks straw men by unabashedly distorting the facts.  An article was recently published in The Forward and provocatively titled, 'The First Story in the Bible Was the First Case of #MeToo.'  Written by Tamara Kolton, who identifies herself as a '47-year-old rabbi and psychologist,' she asserts that God perpetrated 'the first sexual assault of a woman.'  She writes, 'The founding myth of Judeo-Christian religion, the story of Eve, granted generations of men permission to violate women.  It teaches us that women are liars and sinners.  Even if 'She' is telling the truth, she deserved it.  God told her not to eat that apple, or wear that skirt, or go out after dark, or be pretty, or desirous, or in that bar or on that street or in that car or born a girl.'"


Have you ever heard anything so blasphemous as to accuse God for the attacks upon women, in fact, to accuse God of initiating that first assault upon a woman?  But this happens whenever a person casts aside the belief in an inerrant, inspired, authoritative Word of God written through the power and influence of the Spirit of God.  The Bible just becomes a series of myths and legends that have no moral authority at all.  So, the #MeToo movement is all because of God's assault upon Eve there in the Garden.  All I can say to Rabbi Kolton and to her kind is "Wow!  You actually believe that!"  How sad!


Friends, can it be much longer until the trumpet blows?  I see how clearly the pieces are coming into better focus.  It is time to "look up" because "our redemption soon draws near."  Amen! 



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Where Has Common Sense Gone?

And the battle for gender identity continues.  Just this morning I received an article written by the staff at the Family Research Council (www.frc.org) that was titled, "Intolerance in Full Swing at School Dance."  The article begins: "Kids see plenty of offensive things at school - but when did fathers become one of them?  Ask New York's Department of Education.  As far as its officials are concerned, nothing can damage a child more than hosting a special event for dads.  And now, with the state's 'gender nonconforming' guidelines on the books, they can put plenty of traditions on the chopping block - including one Staten Island school's father-daughter dance.


"Principal Sophie Scamaredella informed parents that the event had been called off, because - after all - they 'have a gender neutral policy [to adhere] to...'  Families across the area are irate.  The event was already the picture of inclusivity, now that moms or other mentors could join.  That didn't matter to Scamardella.  In her mind (and the mind of most liberals), the worst thing schools can do is let kids in on the secret that some students have men for fathers - a shocking concept, I'm sure, to the modern human race."


Friends, this is political correctness at its most ugly.  It seems to me to be just another step by public schools to state that parents are not allowed to be part of their child's educational process.  "Parents, butt out...we know better than you do what is best for your child."  Is it any wonder that home-schooling and parochial education are soaring? 


Then, last week, this article was featured on The Daily Signal website.  It was written by Ryan T. Anderson and was titled, "Transgender Ideology Hurts Kids."  You can find the article at www.dailysignal.com.  This was an excellent article filled with solid information.  Let me quote just a portion of the article: "Properly understanding sex, gender, gender identity, and gender dysphoria will continue to be pressing concerns in 2018.  A proper understanding is a prerequisite for properly forming people in the truth and properly ministering to people in need.  As new gender ideologies are promoted throughout America, their lies will impact not only those who suffer from gender dysphoria, but all children who need to mature in their self-understanding as a boy or girl, man or woman, a potential husband or wife, father or mother.


"In 2007, Boston Children's Hospital 'became the first major program in the United States to focus on transgender children and adolescents,' as its website brags.  A decade later, more than 45 pediatric gender clinics have opened their doors to our nation's children.  Parents are told that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones may be the only way to prevent their children from committing suicide.


"Never mind that the best studies of gender dysphoria show that between 80 and 95 percent of children who express a discordant gender identity will come to identify with their bodily sex if natural development is allowed to proceed.  Never mind that 'transitioning' treatment has not been shown to reduce the extraordinarily high rate of suicide attempts among people who identify as transgender (41 percent, compared with 4.6 percent of the general population).  Never mind that people who have had transition surgery are 19 times more likely to die by suicide.


"These statistics should be enough to halt the headlong rush into 'transitioning' and prompt us to find more effective ways to prevent these tragic outcomes.  Most of all, we shouldn't be encouraging children to 'transition,' or making heroes and role models of those who have done so.


The author's conclusion was this: "We should be tolerant - indeed, loving - toward those who struggle with their gender identify, but also be aware of the harm done to the common good, particularly to children, when transgender identity is normalized."


There is no question that we live in an age of gender confusion and marital confusion.  Can little boys play with dolls?  Yes, of course they can.  If they do, does that mean that secretly they want to be a girl?  Probably not!  Can little girls play with trucks?  Yes, of course they can.  If they do, does that mean that secretly they want to be a boy?  Probably not!  In both instances they are just experiencing one of the phases of growing up.  What they are doing is normal.  I remember playing "dolls" with my two younger sisters and they would then play "cowboys" with my brother and me - and I think we all turned out to be pretty normal.  My parents never panicked thinking that what we were doing was abnormal. 


Where is the common sense we need to have with regard to the whole issue of gender identity?  We know from statistics that the consequences of "transitioning" especially among children is severe.  So, why would we continue to press this issue?  I believe it is simply another attack by Satan upon the family to fracture it completely.  Confusion is Satan's trademark; it is never God's.  So, in those areas of culture today where we see confusion - like in the area of gender identity and same-sex marriage, just to name two - we can know that Satan is working behind the scenes to promote his agenda, which is an anti-God agenda.  It is time to get back to the Truth of the Word of God.  This has to be our anchor!  This has to be our foundation!  This is where we can be safe within our world of confusion.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Signs of the Times - They Just Keeping Exploding

I just wanted to begin this week's blog with a follow-up to last week's writings which focused on the rise of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI).  This week, Jan Markell, in an article titled, "We Are Summoning Up Demons," and published at the Olive Tree Views website (www.olivetreeviews.org), writes of the troubling threat of AI.  Let me just share a couple of paragraphs from Jan's article.


"We're all aware of the biblical prophecy found in Daniel 12:4 that knowledge will increase in the last days.  But machines smarter than people?  Surely God would never allow that to happen.  He created mankind in His image and He didn't create them to be superseded by computer chips. That is not stopping man from trying!


"In 1948 there was a milestone event as it concerns 'signs of the times.'  That was the re-birth of Israel 70 years ago.  Are we in the generation of a more current sign that could involve end-time technology, the 'image of the beast,' 'mark of the beast', etc?  Could this wave of technology be as relevant as the stirring of the dry bones?  We look at that 1948 happening in a rear-view mirror.  Technology is a 21st century fulfillment. 


"Young people are particularly drawn to artificial intelligence.  Some will tell you that they can get an answer more quickly from Google or Alexa than they can from God.  Who needs God in an age of artificial intelligence?  Who needs an invisible God?  And Google or Alexa may tell you what you want to hear in Technicolor, 3-D, and instantaneously!"


Friends, science-fiction is no longer fiction; it is becoming a reality.  Will God allow His creation to be governed by artificial intelligence and robots?  We certainly see some evidence of robotic activity, especially with the description of the image of the beast as described in Revelation 13.  But, I do believe we are getting closer to that point where the coming of the Lord is very near.


I had been watching the movement of a bill through the Senate known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 2311).  The house had approved a similar bill earlier this fall.  The purpose of the bill was to ban abortions after five-months when research showed that an unborn child was capable of experiencing pain.  It just would seem that this would be the right thing to do - to give protection to an unborn child when he/she reached that stage of development when they were capable of feeling pain.  But that was not the thinking of the United States Senate who last week voted 51-46 against sending this bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote.  There was a need for 60 votes in order to overturn a possible filibuster.  According to the Family Research Council's report, "The Senate's failure to pass the bill keeps the United States in league with only seven other nations in the world, including China, North Korea, and Vietnam, that perform elective abortions after five months.  President Trump, who addressed attendees of this year's March for Life, expressed disappointment with the outcome of the Senate vote.  'We must defend those who cannot defend themselves.  I urge the Senate to reconsider its decision and pass legislation that will celebrate, cherish, and protect life,' he said in a statement released by the White House."  You can read the entire article at www.fraction.org/get.cfm?i=WA18A47&f=WU18A01.


And so the wanton slaughter of unborn children continues.  It appears that the hearts of so many of our leaders are hardened toward the unborn.  I believe that someday they will stand before the judgment bar of God and have to give an accounting for the murder of these innocent babies.  America has sold its soul for convenience.  It is for that reason that God's judgment will fall upon this land.


Finally, I want to share with you another article from the folks at Family Research Council.  This article is titled, "Atheist Group Seeks Bible Study 'Secrets'".  You can find the article at www.fraction.org/get.cfm?I=WA18A48&f=WU18A01.  "The latest dust-up over the mention of religion in the public square involves Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, whose big crime is attending a Bible study with other members of President Trump's cabinet.  The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), whose feathers are ruffled over this, is purportedly concerned about staffers being 'coerced' into the Bible study, or public funds being spent on it.  Secretary Carson got that out of the way up front, writing on his Facebook page: 'First of all, taxpayer funds are not used to support the ministry, ... And secondly, no staff are involved in the Bible study.'  He continued: 'I refuse to be intimidated by anti-religious groups into relinquishing my spirituality or religious beliefs [...] One of the principles of our nation's founding is freedom of religion.  I will not stop being a Christian while in service to this country [...]  In fact, it is my faith that helps me serve the nation even better.'  Secretary Carson also drew a lesson from the history of the Cold War between the U.S. and former Soviet Union: 'Joseph Stalin, the Russian tyrant who said the United States could be destroyed from within by eroding three things: our patriotism, our morality, and our spirituality [...]  These things are currently under severe attack.  We the people must decide who we are and what we stand for.'  Amen."


I, for one, am grateful that some of our nation's leadership are in the Word and on their knees for our nation.  We would do well to follow their example.  The article concludes with a strong statement that should awaken us from our slumber: "But the larger issue and more important issue at play here is that some people and groups simply can't stand the idea of a visible Christian presence in our country.  They oppose any public display of Christianity or prayer, offering various attempts to legally justify their opposition, most often that such displays 'establish' a religion (they don't).  Their ultimate goal is to either drive Christians from government or at minimum force them to hide their faith so that the net result is the same - government devoid of godly men and women."


Friends, I don't have to tell you that our country is under attack.  Its moral structure is nearly destroyed.  Its foundation of patriotism has been assaulted and the history of our nation is now being rewritten thus making the intent of those who came here so many years ago for freedoms that they were missing in Europe being seen as something evil, not something beneficial.  And, its spiritual foundation has also been attacked with Christians being vilified by the main stream media and the liberal left.  It is time for us to hold strong to what we believe.  This is why I teach two apologetics classes at my church.  This is why our church teaches its young people the reality of a Christian worldview.  They need a foundation - we all need a foundation. 


As the darkness of our culture intensifies, how we need the light of truth to shine more brightly. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

When Is Science Fiction Not So Science Fiction?

Some of us are old enough to remember watching science-fiction movies when we were kids growing up.  In those movies robots would take over the world - and it was usually in a very negative way.  But, a few remaining humans would come to the rescue and save the world.


Well, I thought of some of those movies as I read an article that was sent to me a few days ago.  It was written by the Head of Daimier Benz, one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world.  The title of the article is "Artificial Intelligence (AI) is Changing the World at an Exponential Rate."  Allow me to share just a few of the thoughts from this article. 


"In a recent interview, the Head of Daimier  Benz (Mercedes Benz) said their competitors are no longer other car companies, but Tesla (obviously), and now Google, Apple, Amazon 'et al' are.  Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.  Uber is just a software tool, they don't own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.  Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don't own any properties. 


"Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world.  In the U.S., young lawyers already can't get jobs.  Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.  So, if you study law, stop immediately.  There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain.


"Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses.  Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans.  In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans."  That last sentence shocked me.  When a computer becomes more intelligent than a human, have we crossed that threshold where machines now are in charge of the world? 


"Health innovations: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year.  There are companies who will build a medical device (called the 'Tricoder' from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample, and you can breath into it.  It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease.  It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medical analysis, nearly for free.  Goodbye, medical establishment. 


"3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years.  In the same time, it became 100 times faster.  All major shoe companies have already started 3D printing shoes.  Some common spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports.  The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to keep in the past.  At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities.  You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoes at home.  In China, they already 3D printed and built a complete 6-story office building.  By 2027, 10% of everything that's being produced will be 3D printed."  Wow! 


The writer continues, "Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years.  There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time."


Friends, this is the world in which we are now living.  We are on the very edge of a world that will pride itself in being "de-personalized."  I no longer need a face-to-face with my personal physician because a computer will analyze my condition and recommend a prescription for me.  I will not even have to travel to a local pharmacy because Amazon will deliver that prescription right to my front door via a drone.  I no longer have to go to the grocery store.  I merely log in, place my order, and a drone will drop my purchases off at my front door.  I can do all my classes through a smart phone so I will not need to attend a real school.  In the end we will all become like little hermits, each confined to his/her own cave. 


But, is this what we really want?  The Bible describes the need for relationships.  The purpose of the local church is to cultivate personal relationships.  Discipleship involves personal relationships.  Jesus Christ wants to enter into a personal relationship with you.  A depersonalized world is not something that God orchestrates.  Yet we seem to be moving in that direction.  I ask myself this question: "When will God say, 'Enough is enough!'"  When will we have crossed that line drawn in the sand by God?  And just where is that line?  Those are questions for which I have no answer.  But I am wondering if we are not approaching the point where those at Babel were before God stepped in to confuse their languages. 


These are indeed very interesting days.  Yet, I believe they are also very deadly days.  As I shared with a group of men early this morning, I am so grateful that God is in control.  Nothing is happening without His permissive hand being upon it.  And it will all lead to the celebration of the return of the King.  Hallelujah!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Are You a "Bad Guy?"

Do you ever feel like you are the bad guy?  No, you don't wear a black hat.  No, you do not threaten your children.  In fact, you treat your children with love and are an encouragement to them.  You pay your taxes - not always without grumbling, but you pay them nonetheless.  You respect your neighbor's property.  You respect those in authority over you.  Yet, somehow you get the feeling that you are the bad guy? 


Well, according to some "experts" if you are a white, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual male, then you are the bad guy.  I had one of the men in my Wednesday morning Leadership-Discipleship Group share the following article with me.  It was titled, "Ohio State course reprimands while heterosexual masculinity."  The article was written by Amanda Tidwell.  It was published by "The College Fix."  Allow me to share some excerpts from the article:


"A class taught this spring at Ohio State University will review a parade of reasons why white heterosexual masculinity is allegedly problematic, tackling the topic from the constructs of racial issues, bullying, pop culture, societal expectations and much more, according to its syllabus. 


"The course, 'Be a Man!  Masculinities, Race and Nation,' includes a variety of readings to that end, including its required textbook, "Dude, You're a Fag!" by C.J. Pascoe, which analyzes masculinity as not only a gendered process, but sexual one."  (Other books were cited as being used, but I am embarrassed to even list those titles). 


"The course is ultimately presented as a study in 'feminist masculinity' that seeks to explain how ideas about masculinity 'simultaneously harm yet privilege' men, the syllabus states.  It also aims to explain how 'beliefs regarding masculinity serve to justify certain kinds of violence by men against others, and violence against particular groups of men.' 


"The course was created and is taught by Jonathan Branfman.  Branfman is a doctoral candidate in Ohio State's Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and a recent recipient of a 2017-18 Presidential Fellowship, the most prestigious award given to students by the OSU Graduate School, according to the department's website. 


"Branfman is also author of the new children's book 'You Be You!" intended for 7- to 12-year-olds that gives parents a 'simple and accessible way' to introduce children to gender and sexual identity 'in hopes of decreasing stigmas associated with the LGBTQ community,' the Lantern campus newspaper reports."


Okay, at least according to one professor at Ohio State University, I am a "bad guy" because I am a white heterosexual male.  That "badness" has nothing to do with who I am as a person.  It has nothing to do with what I believe about anything.  If I take this course will I be enabled to get over my "badness?" 


Allow me to share a second article, written by Todd Starnes this past January 10.  It can be found at www.townhall.com/columnists/toddstarnes/2018/01/10/universitys-white-racism-course-sounds-like-blame-the-white-guy-101.  "Students at Florida Gulf Coast University can take all sorts of enriching classes - from gender studies to social justice.  But a class on white racism is causing all sorts of campus chaos and charges of reverse racism.  The university calls it 'White Racism.'  But I call it, 'Blame the White Man 101.'


The class, taught  by Professor Ted Thornhill, 'will interrogate the concept of race; examine the racist ideologies, laws, policies, and practices that have operated for hundreds of years to maintain white racial domination over those racialized as non-white.'  The New York Daily News reports students will also have the opportunity 'to discuss ways to challenge white racism and white supremacy toward promoting an anti-racist society where whiteness is not tied to greater life chances.'"


It seems to me that the premise behind this class is that it is "bad" to be white.  I read of another university professor who challenges her students to imagine that they were not white - what would they be thinking?  But, I have to admit that it is hard for me to do that because I am white.  I am a male.  I am a heterosexual male.  And, to make the problem even more intense, I am a conservative, Bible-believing Christian.  According to many, I am the classic example of the "perfect bad guy." 


Friends, it seems to be that we are bordered on the edges of insanity these days.  You see, whether a person is good or bad is not dependent upon his skin color.  It is not dependent upon a person's gender.  According to the Bible a person's ultimate goodness or badness is totally dependent upon that person's relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  The prophet Isaiah says that all our good deeds are as filthy rags before the holiness of God (Isaiah 64:6).  The Apostle Paul says that our salvation is not dependent upon our good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). 


I wonder how Ohio State University and Florida Gulf Coast University would react if someone were to ask them about a class on "The Final Solution to Man's Ultimate Problem - Sin."  I am guessing there would not be any takers.   

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Life Has Value Because of God

Last week I received an article, written by Todd Starnes, that aroused my anger once again.  The article was published at Townhall and was titled, "Shocking! College Student Argues in Favor of Killing Newborn Babies."  (www.townhall.com/columhnists/toddstarnes/2018/01/06/shocking-college-student-argues-in-favor-of-killing-newborn-babies.)


Allow me to share a portion of this article with you.  "From the University of Tennessee-Knoxville comes word of a shocking video of a student arguing in favor of infanticide - killing babies up to two-years-old.  The video was filmed by Students for Life of America on the campus of Tennessee's flagship taxpayer-funded university.  'The idea that someone could support infanticide is incredibly disturbing.  Yet, it reflects the kinds of attitudes our staff members and students can face on a daily basis on high school and college campuses,' Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins said. 


"Brenna Lewis, SLA's Appalachian regional coordinator, recorded one of the encounters in early December with a young man who said he had no problem with aborting two-year old babies.  'The face of the matter is without communication, we have no way of knowing if you are sentient or not,' the unidentified student said.  'It's no different than this tree.  It's alive, but is it sentient?  I don't know.  I cannot communicate with it.'


"But what if the baby is two-years old?  'Can the two year old talk to me?  In some instances I'm fairly certain that is,' the student said.  'But generally speaking the child still has the inability to communicate.  And until we determine that as such at what point does sentience become an issue.  We can't really debate whether or not that is the situation or not.'"


Now, as shocking as that thought is, here is what really angered me.  "In 2015 the Washington Times reported on a controversy surrounding a statement allegedly written by a Princeton University professor on his faculty page: 'Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time.  So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living.  That doesn't mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do.  It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents."


The prevailing philosophy behind such thoughts is utilitarianism.  Life has value only if it can contribute to the betterment and advancement of society.  If we legally allow for the murder of a child within the womb because it has insignificance, then why not the murder of a child who, aside from the love he/she might receive from his/her parents and other extended family, certainly has communicated no significance to the larger social structure.  He cannot communicate with clarity of speech.  She cannot create.  Why should the precious resources of earth be used to feed and cloth someone who has yet to contribute anything productive to society?  This is the heartbeat of utilitarianism. 


But, why stop there?  What about those who are elderly and can no longer contribute to society as they once did?  Why should they be allowed to continue to live?  Perhaps we should allow for their murder as well.  Why should we continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide medical treatment or nursing care for someone who is just a "has-been" and can no longer be productive?  If all we have is the spirit of utilitarianism, then those questions must be answered in the affirmative. 


But, babies do have value.  Two-year olds do have value.  Those in the nursing homes across America do have value.  They have value in the eyes of God.  There was and is a special purpose for their being here.  This month where we remember one of the worst decisions the United States Supreme Court has ever made - Roe v. Wad, in January 1973.  We remember a certain passage of Scripture that reinforces the value of all in the eyes of God.  It is Psalm 139:13-16 where we read these words: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My name was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."


What an incredible text!  You and I have been wonderfully made by God.  Perfect we are not!  Some of us have poor eyesight.  Some of us have poor hearing.  Some of us have congenital diseases that prevent a normalcy of life.  But, you are as God has designed you to be!  You are special.  And God has a purpose for you.  Sometimes we know that purpose.  Samson knew what his purpose was.  The man born blind discovered what his purpose was.  You will discover what your purpose is.  God created you to be more than a mere servant of society.  God created you to be an instrument to receive God's blessings and an instrument through whom God's blessings can flow to others. 


Jesus spoke of our significance when He said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart form the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29-31).  I am so special that God knows the number of hairs on my head!  By the way, He has to subtract a few from that count each morning.  But if God is concerned about your hairs, don't you think that He is also very concerned about every aspect of who you are?  Of course He is! 


For the utilitarian philosopher to say that it is okay to kill a two-year old because she is not sentient certainly is not what Jesus would say.  All life has value.  That utilitarian student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville simply has it wrong.  The Princeton University Professor simply has it wrong.  Jesus Christ has it right.