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.