When Evil Prevails

terror

 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13

 

We all stand in shock at the terrorist attacks in France yesterday. While acts of terrorism are becoming normal in our global culture, it still amazes me that people can go into a theater and start shooting innocent people in the name of their god. I could share my political opinions or even comment on what I think world leaders should do in response to this act of terror, but I prefer to address a deeper issue. We must realize that what we are watching is simply spiritual warfare. The god of this world is wreaking havoc on our world, and we are moving ever closer to the end of time that was prophesied throughout Scripture. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that perilous times would come before His return.

How do we respond to this? Our first obvious response is prayer for those who have been personally impacted by this devastation and for our leaders as they consider a proper response. Secondly, we should not be surprised. God told us in His word that calamity would come and evil would show its ugly head. We must remind ourselves that terrorists are not really our main enemy. Even ISIS is not our ultimate enemy. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood. The god of this world is our enemy. There is a spiritual battle that is being waged, and ISIS is but a pawn in the hands of the master deceiver.  There are certainly things that our national leaders must do to stop evil in its tracks, and it is my prayer that our president and other political leaders will have the substance needed to take bold stands against this global evil. However, we must see the bigger picture.

Real spiritual battle takes place in other ways. For starters, it begins on our knees. This terrorist attack should call believers to a time of great prayer. Ephesians 6:10 commands us to “be strong in the Lord.” I wrote about this passage in my book Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days, and I find that it has special relevance today.  Any preparation we take for spiritual conflict is built upon us yielding to the power and presence of Christ in us. Then the Ephesians 6 passage continues by telling us to take some steps in our preparation: put on the full armor of God. I urge you to consider the teaching of this passage in light of the spiritual conflict that is going on in our world. The Church of the Lord Jesus must prepare spiritually for what is going on around us. Do not be surprised by terror and persecution; be equipped. God is on His throne, and He will guide you to find strength and hope in the days to come. If you are strong in the Lord and equipped with His spiritual armor, you will be ready for whatever we will face in the days to come.

I have lowered the cost of the digital version of Immovable in hopes that it will be a guide and an encouragement for you during this time. Take steps toward preparing yourselves for the spiritual conflict that will only increase before the return of Christ. Study Ephesians 6:10-18 and Matthew 24 in light of what is going on in our world today. The Bible is clear that God will ultimately win this conflict, so we do not face these battles with hopelessness. We have great hope in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray as never before, prepare for what is to come, engage our enemy on spiritual grounds, and comfort those who hurt. Trust that our faithful God, our Leader in battle, will prevail in the days to come.

French Train Attack Provides a Model

AmericansInFranceIf you have been watching the news the last few days, you are aware that three Americans, along with a gentlemen from Great Britain, stopped what certainly would have been another terrorist attack in France. When a would-be killer entered a train with multiple weapons, the four heroes dove on the man creating a very different ending to a story that would have been horrendous. The men were knighted by the French president and were given the highest honor in France. One of the Americans, Anthony Sadler, commented on the event and challenged the rest of the world with these words:

Do something. Hiding, or sitting back, is not going to accomplish anything. And the gunman would’ve been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. So I just want that lesson to be learned going forward, in times of…terror like that, please do something. Don’t just stand by and watch.

I believe Sadler’s words ring true for the Church today as well. We live in times of great spiritual conflict, and the persecution of Christians has become commonplace – even in the United States. We must “do something” because “hiding or sitting back is not going to accomplish anything.” God has called Christians to engage and has even offered us the armor necessary for our defense and offense (Ephesians 6:10-18).

You may have also read where a Mississippi high school was banned from a half-time show because they were going to play an arrangement of “How Great Thou Art.” My hat goes off to the Jackson, Mississippi fans who stood and sang “How Great Thou Art” during the half-time show when the band was not allowed to play. When someone attacks Christianity, we need to be reminded that our battle is “not against flesh and blood.” We are in a spiritual conflict, and it is time for Christians to stop hiding behind their fear. We must pray as never before, witness to others as if the rapture will take place tomorrow, urge our political leaders to take a stand for righteousness, and vote for candidates that best reflect the teaching of the Bible. Same-sex unions have been legalized because the majority of Supreme Court justices are liberal men and women who do not submit to the authority of God’s Word. If all of the Bible-believing Christians in our country would have voted according to their beliefs a few years ago, this law would have never been passed. Because Christians either do not vote or do not believe we should put men and women in office who submit to the authority of God’s Word, we now have laws that stand in stark contrast to the clear teaching of the Bible. Sadly, we can expect things to only get worse in our nation.

We are in a spiritual battle, and it is time for the Church to do something about it. I urge you to engage the enemy. Don’t let Satan take any more territory without a fight. Let your light shine before the world so that the world will know the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have not yet registered to vote, do so now. Get informed. Get involved. Pray for our nation as never before. Don’t just stand by and watch. Engage.

Celebrating Independence … from God

celebration_same_sexThere’s dancing in the street and gladness in the air, at least in some places. It is sort of reminiscent of how Sodom must have been the night before God rained down a judgment of fire upon them. Yesterday marked one of the saddest days in the history of our nation. The United States of America established the Constitution as the means of governing our Republic, and yesterday five Supreme Court justices snubbed their noses at God and made adherence to the Word of God illegal. It was a dark day because this was the first time we passed a law that blatantly contradicted the Bible. It is the first time that Christians will be forced to decide to either obey God or obey our government. While it should be one in the same, it is not. With the stroke of a pen, five justices declared our independence from God.

I obviously have a problem with this ruling because it stands in contrast to the clear teaching of the Word of God. Marriage is to be between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4–6; Mark 10:5–9; cf. Genesis 1:27–28, 2:20–24; Ephesians 5:21–32). Same-sex relations are a sin against God (Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; cf. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). Please understand. Homosexuality is not a bigger sin than lust, dishonesty, stealing, or adultery. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. Jesus had to die for the thief just as much as He died for the homosexual. I want our nation to be blessed of God, but when we pass laws supporting sin and ignore the Bible, God cannot bless us. God is just, and He will punish sin. I believe that this ruling will open the door to all manner of Christian persecution. It is the beginning of the fall of our nation. Whenever we celebrate a blatant move away from God, we are on a slippery slope that leads to Hell.

My problem is that now I am a citizen of a country who legally condones sin and restricts people from following God’s clear teaching. When I say restricts, you may be thinking that this law won’t affect you. Can’t we all continue practicing religion as we see fit – just like the Constitution guarantees? The answer is “no.”

I have someone close to me who is a professional photographer. He makes a living mainly through taking pictures at weddings. He strongly opposes same-sex marriage, but now when he is asked to take pictures at a gay marriage, he will either have to say yes or potentially be sued. I am a pastor. When I teach from Romans chapter one and call homosexuality sin, I am now guilty of a hate crime. Here’s the thing we must understand. When we ignore one part of the Constitution, we are potentially ignoring the whole thing. When I am guaranteed the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion and this freedom is taken from me, we must be prepared for every other freedom to be taken from us in the future.

This is a sad day. I suggest we fly our flags at half-mast. We are not remembering the death of a famous leader. We are acknowledging the death of a nation.

At the same time, Jesus warned us of this. The Bible is clear that challenging days are ahead before the return of Christ. It is critical that Christians prepare for the storm that will only get worse. It is because events like what happened Friday that I wrote the book Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days. Because the message of my book is so critical, I have asked Amazon to drop the price of my book to 99 cents. Unfortunately, I can’t get them to lower the price of the paperback to that amount, but I can control the price on the digital book somewhat. This discount should go into effect by tomorrow. I encourage you to prayerfully read my book and prepare for the days to come.

Remember what Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

New Terror Threat Could Mean More Persecution of Christians

Alshabaab

New reports have come out this morning about heightened alerts of terror attacks in the United States in response to a new threat by an Al Qaeda linked group. A video has surfaced where a leader of Al Shabaab, is calling for attacks on shopping malls in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. This is the same group that was responsible for an attack on a shopping mall in Kenya where 67 people were killed. Witnesses said that gunmen in the Kenyan mall would ask the hostages questions to determine whether or not they were Christians. If the hostages were Christians and would not denounce their faith, they were killed. This type of persecution is typical for Christians living in the last days. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him for signs of His Second Coming, He told them that the persecution of Christians would be one evidence that His return was soon coming. He said in Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” He said in the next verse, “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” I think it is clear that as the return of Christ draws closer, it will not be popular to be a Christian and standing for Christ will be costly. There will be many church attenders and “religious” people who deny faith in Christ in response to this persecution.

Mark 13:32-33  says, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.” While Jesus said we do not know the day or hour of His return, He also told us to keep alert and to take heed. He is basically saying, “I have told you the signs that will come before My return so watch the news and read the papers. Be aware of what is going on and ready for My return.” While we do not know the exact date of Christ’s return, and it could still be some years off in the future, there are signs happening all around us that reveal His return could certainly be soon. Let’s pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted all over the earth. Let’s spread the good news of the gospel. Our days may indeed be short and Christ’s return could very well be soon.

Fifty Shades of Shame

I know I’ve posted something already today on prayer, but I’ve got share some thoughts about this new movie.

shame2Fifty Shades of Grey opened up this weekend and has already been awarded the record of the highest earnings of any film ever that opened up during the month of February. The film that did hold this record was The Passion of the Christ. Maybe we should just let that sink in for a moment. I can’t help but feel that this fact alone reveals the spiritual warfare aspect of this movie. Box office receipts for this opening weekend of Fifty Shades could be as much as $100 million. Did you catch that? $100 million! So, who is going to see this movie? Evidently a lot of people. Here’s the interesting thing. I’ve read a few reviews about the movie, from both Christian and secular sources, and I haven’t found anyone yet who says the movie is a great movie. So, even with bad reviews, the theatres are full this weekend of people wanting to see a movie that glamorizes the abuse of women and promotes a perversion of sex.

I entitled this article Fifty Shades of Shame because first of all, shame on Christians for reading this book, and now, going to see the movie. While I can’t know for sure whether or not Christians have done this, I’m guessing that this movie is going to make nearly $100 million this weekend with the help of curious believers. Christians could make a huge statement to Hollywood if we refused to see movies that do not promote themes that are wholesome and promote healthy relationships.

It is also shameful because few people seem to be calling this lifestyle what it is – a perversion of what God intends. We live in a time when everyone seems to be saying that anything goes and everything is okay. Everything is NOT okay. Everything has consequences, and the consequence of perversion is never ultimate fulfillment. In a day where the abuse of women is recognized as wrong, Hollywood and our secular media seems to be having a hard time calling these producers out for creating such a film. This movie should be the greatest flop in the history of Hollywood because American people do not want to promote such outrageous behavior and organizations across the country, both secular and Christian, take a stand for women and healthy relationships. What happened to the character of our nation? Why are we going to reward the film maker and the author of such shameful material?

While I could say more, I would like to address one final area of shame. Shame on Christians for not willingly promoting a biblical view of relationships, marriage, and even sex through our conversations and practices. Marriage is a beautiful thing, and sex is a wonderful gift from our Creator who designed the whole thing. While we need to be circumspect in how we talk about this subject, there are places that the topic of sex and relationships should be talked about, and when we talk about it, it should be in glowing terms. The problem is that for many Christians, relationships and sex are not glowing because we do not have the kind of marriages we should have. God intends marriage to be a joyful experience filled with happiness, support, encouragement, and fun – yes fun. Maybe young people would not be drawn to this perversion if the model they see in their parents and in this culture was one that showed the fulfillment and joy that is experienced in healthy marriages. Let’s let this Hollywood perversion challenge us not to settle for anything less in our marriages than God’s best so that we can model for the world the true shade of love and commitment.

Growing Antagonism Toward Christianity

IraniPastor Behnam Irani’s days may be numbered. As an Iranian Christian pastor already imprisoned for his faith, he now faces the death penalty after recently being given the new charge of “spreading corruption on earth.” In 2011, he was sentenced to five years in prison for his Christian activities in Iran, but this new charge brings with it the sentence of death. It seems that these charges against Pastor Irani are consistent with the persecution other Christians are facing in the country since Hassan Rouhani became the new president in Iran. Christianity is growing significantly in Iran, and the radical, Muslim leader evidently feels threatened by the number of new Christian converts. Pastor Irani is already quite ill, but this new charge against him is very serious in this country where being a Christian is considered a threat by national leaders.

Once again, the persecution of Christians has found its way into the headlines of global news. How should we respond to this? It would be easy for us to think, “Well, that’s many miles away in an Islamic nation,” and excuse the thought from our minds. However, we must remember that Pastor Irani is a part of our spiritual family. The Bible says that when he suffers, we suffer with him (1 Cor. 12:26). It is also our responsibility to pray for Pastor Irani in his time of great need. We should pray for his strength and courage as well as for his witness as he continues to shine the light of Jesus even in the darkness of an Iranian prison.

As antagonism grows toward Christianity, one must wonder if this kind of persecution could ever come to the United States. While we see small examples of Christians being persecuted in our country, is it possible that we will one day see Christian leaders thrown into jail her in the U.S. for “spreading corruption on earth?” The Bible speaks of persecution of Christians in places like Matthew 5:10-12: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Notice in this passage, Jesus said “Blessed are you when…” He didn’t say, “if.” Jesus seemed to be telling the Church to expect persecution. Jesus also told us in Matthew 24 that persecution of Christians would become commonplace during the last days. Do you think we can expect to see Christians persecuted at a greater level in the days to come? How do you think the Church in America will respond to persecution? Share your thoughts below and pass this blog along to a friend for their comments by clicking on the appropriate social media button.

Christian Persecution

NewsweekWhere is all of this going? Our hearts are broken over the persecution of Christians in Iraq and the brutal murder of another journalist by the terrorist military group, ISIS. I have been watching world events for a while seeking to determine when biblical prophecy is being lived out before us, and I believe there is a connection between the persecution of our Kurdish brothers and sisters and prophecy about the last days. It is important to remember that Jesus said in Matthew 24 that some of the signs of his return would be like the “beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). This seems to indicate that some of the signs of Matthew 24 will start gradually and grow in intensity. With that in mind, I believe will see a growth in the persecution of Christians. Matthew 24:9 says, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” One need only be a little aware of what is going on in the world to know that many people hate Christians. I am not talking about the kind of feelings arrogant Christians stir up in people because of the unChristlike way they treat others. I am talking about the blatant persecution of people just because they are followers of Jesus.

We have seen a slow increase in persecution of believers in our own country, but of course it is nothing like the murders of Christians we see elsewhere. For example, I just heard a story about another complaint by an atheist group over a small cross that was included in a war memorial. An attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (did you think you would ever see the day when a foundation like this was established?) has contacted the Indiana Department of Natural Resources stating the cross should not be erected in a State Park. She said, “The cross sends a message that the government only cares about the deaths of Christian soldiers.” This type of thing is getting ridiculous and in no way compares to the beheading of Christians in northern Iraq, but it is a small example of the growing animosity toward Christians.

The Church must prepare for the coming of Christ, and part of this preparation involves anticipating the signs that will take place before His return. Are we ready to take a stand for Christ, even if it means our death? The day is coming when it will not be acceptable to be a Christian. I would like to think this mentality will not fully take root until after the rapture, but we will surely see an increase in persecution in the days ahead. We must be prepared to live with grace and die with grace. This is one reason God told us to encourage one another “all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

 

Is It Really Evil?

ica-mi6-isis-iraq_siThe terrorist group that is systematically taking over Iraq and who recently beheaded a U.S. journalist has been described as “evil.” It is interesting to hear secular news reporters, who probably believe that truth is relative, refer to someone as being evil. Evil can only exist if truth is absolute. For evil to even be a reality, there must be a standard of truth that is consistent for all people, in all places, and at all times. Most people in our country have adopted the belief that truth is relative as opposed to absolute. In my new book (Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days) that is coming out sometime around the end of October, I contrast the difference between absolute truth and relative truth:

  • * Relative truth can be understood in two ways: All truth is relative to time and space (true then but not now), and all truth is relative to people (true for me but not for you).
  • * Absolute truth implies that whatever is true at one time and in one place is true at all times and in all places. Whatever is true for one person is true for all people.

From this distinction, I believe you can see that if a person believes truth is relative, then he or she could never refer to something as being evil. Beheading a U.S. journalist might be horrible to us, but if truth is relative (which I do not believe it is), the ones doing this horrendous act are excused because their actions are justified by their perspective and circumstances. If truth is relative, this awful act of terror is not evil. If truth is absolute, however, this act is the picture of evil in our time.

I share this because it is critical that we understand today that truth is under attack. One way to remove one’s sense of accountability is to redefine the meaning of truth. If I can somehow turn truth into a relative expression, then I am not accountable to God. The Ten Commandments would not have to apply to me. Any sin mentioned in the Bible would not necessarily be sin for me, so I could justify any action I want to commit. This is Satan’s sly attempt to lead our culture into deeper depravity. Because truth is absolute, we are accountable to God. Sin is sin whether we believe it to be or not. Evil does exist, and those who refuse to repent of their sin will spend eternity in hell. Acts of terror like this horrible beheading are evil and give evidence to the depths of wickedness that exists in the hearts of those who do not know Christ.

Lawlessness Points to the Return of Christ

Evil_EyesSomething is terribly wrong! I recently read of an unbelievable crime that took place last week in Waukesha, Wisconsin. This crime did not happen downtown in a large city like Atlanta or Chicago. Waukesha is a small town with a population of less than 9,000 people. This was not gang related or even connected to drugs. The crime involved an attempted murder on a twelve-year-old girl by two of her friends. The victim was stabbed nineteen times by her friends as the perpetrators sought to impress a fictional, ghoulish character on the internet who appears in horror stories. Both suspects had a fascination with stories about death and horror and planned this assault on their friend in an attempt to act out their fantasy.

The Bible teaches that the last days will be a time of incredible lawlessness. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 says that this lawlessness must happen before the return of Christ: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” While this passage is speaking specifically of a time called the Great Tribulation Period, we know that the days leading up to the beginning of this seven-year period will be times of great spiritual darkness. The “man of lawlessness” will be a chosen leader during the Tribulation Period, but I believe it also means that he will be alive and well before the Tribulation starts and before the Rapture of the Church takes place. I also believe that Satan is working to create an environment where the “man of lawlessness” will be accepted. This is happening now. The story of this attempted murder in Wisconsin sends chills down my back as it seems to be nothing less than demonic. Satan is working to lead people, and even children, to do the unthinkable. The darkness around us is growing as the stage is being set for a spiritual conflict unlike any conflict ever experienced in history.

I have no doubt that the last days are upon us. Jesus told us to be alert and to be on watch. He is coming again. Let’s be diligent and faithful as we await His return.