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.

Is Justice Just?

Statue of justiceI would like to share a few thoughts in response to comments I’ve had related to my last post. Before reading this, would you consider this question? Is it possible to disagree with what someone does without hating that person? If you have children, then you have no alternative but to say “yes, it’s possible.” I disagree with homosexuality and same-sex unions, but that does not mean that I hate the homosexual. God disagrees with my sin, but that does not mean that He hates me. I’m grateful for that.

I just watched an interview with Kim Davis, county clerk from Grayson Kentucky. You may remember that Mrs. Davis refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex unions and was put in jail for six days. The problem this clerk faced was that the new law legalizing same-sex unions means that gay couples have to get a marriage license. In Kentucky, the law requires the name of the county clerk to be on the bottom of the document. Even if someone else issues the license, her name would still be on the document. She started asking for her name to be removed from the document this past January, but no one would accommodate her request. It seems that Mrs. Davis had three options. Option #1: She could grant the marriage licenses to same-sex couples with her name on the license thereby disregarding her conviction that the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. Option #2: Refuse to grant a license to same-sex couples. Option #3: Resign her position as county clerk. The option of having someone else give the licenses does not remove her name from the document, therefore, Mrs. Davis feels that she is condoning sin and disregarding the Bible.

I don’t know Kim Davis, and I don’t know every detail about this particular issue. While there are several issues to be considered, one question has to do with what should a Christian do if the U.S. government passes a law that stands contrary to the Bible. Should we obey the law? While the law regarding same-sex unions does not personally affect most people, it does affect Kim Davis. It will also affect many other businesses and ministers who are involved with weddings. Just ask the owners of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. They were sued because they declined the business of a gay couple because the shop owners said it conflicted with their religious beliefs. Masterpiece Cakeshop lost the lawsuit.

I have a problem on at least two levels. I obviously disagree with redefining the word marriage to include same-sex unions. That would be like us passing a law saying that a dog is a horse. Here are two additional things to be considered. First, requiring Christians to act contrary to their religious convictions stands in contrast to the first amendment to our Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Do you think requiring a Christian to disobey the Bible is prohibiting the free exercise of Christianity? Do you think that causing a Christian to have to resign from her job in order to keep from compromising her faith is prohibiting the free exercise of Christianity? If Mrs. Davis had taken her job after the law was passed, then there might be some argument against her position. I would not want my name on a marriage license for same-sex unions either. Would you? This is a Constitutional issue.

The second level is personal. While I am protected by the Constitution, I am not protected by our national laws (which I believe stand in contrast to our Constitution). As the law stands now, my church is required to allow a same-sex union to take place in our building. I could be sued if I do not accommodate the wishes of a same-sex couple who want me to be the officiating minister. Because I am not an employee of the courts, I assume I would not be put in jail for refusing to marry a same-sex couple, but I could be sued. Is this the kind of country our Founding Fathers envisioned? Do you really want our country to force churches and pastors to disobey the Bible or to condone biblical disobedience? What are U.S. citizens supposed to do when a law is passed that conflicts with their biblical convictions and moral consciences? I know the importance of law. What we have in this case is the conflict between two laws: God’s vs. U.S. I do not want to live in a country without laws. The question has to do with what is the basis of law. Because this blog is getting quite long, I will address this issue at another time.

I’m grateful that in the midst of all of this, God loves us regardless of which side we fall on. I am grateful that Jesus died for all of sin and offers everyone an opportunity for forgiveness and eternal life. To say that God hates homosexuals would be to ignore the Bible: “For God so loved the world…” If Christians hate homosexuals, this hatred is sin and does not honor God. At the same time, Christians are not to condone sin either. We obviously stand at a precarious crossroad.

God or Country

GodorCountryIn Grayson, Kentucky this week, the recent legalization of same-sex unions was challenged by county clerk Kim Davis. Because Mrs. Davis refused to sign a marriage license of a same-sex couple, she was forced to spend six days in jail. She was released today, but the story is far from over. Mrs. Davis became a Christian four and a half years ago, and Christ changed her life. Because of her commitment to Jesus, she could not agree to have her name on a document legalizing immorality. I am sad to say, but this is simply the beginning of very dark days in our country. I say that because for the first time in the history of our nation, our high court has enforced a new law that stands in stark contrast to the truth of the Bible. This is putting Bible-believing Christians in a difficult spot: obey God or obey the law. I suppose it should not be considered difficult at all for Christians. I would hope that there is never a doubt as to whom we will obey. We have known for some time that Christianity has been under attack in our nation, but today, this attack has become more apparent. We should not be surprised at this infringement upon Mrs. Davis’ constitutional rights nor should we be surprised by future persecution Christians will encounter.

Jesus said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” Those are strong words from our Savior. Have you ever considered being hated by the world? While I do not think my unbelieving neighbor hates me, I do believe proponents of our world system have a seething, burning antagonism toward Christianity. The god of this world is working to stir up world opinion against Christianity, which will ultimately lead to great persecution of the Church. Will you stand for what you believe regardless of the consequences? What if you were Mrs. Davis? Would you sign the marriage license? When I was a child, the theme was always God and country. I am sad to see that it is now God or country.

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.”

United States vs. God

Gavel_flagIf you had told me thirty years ago that our Supreme Court would be contemplating passing a law requiring Americans to disregard the Word of God, I probably would not have believed you. I would have thought that our leaders, who are given the responsibility of “interpreting the Constitution and federal law and exercising judicial review to ensure state and federal statutes and policies that come before the Court comply with constitutional principles” (answers.com), would never create a law that stands in contradiction to our revered Constitution. I am afraid, however, that this may happen before the week is over.

Newsweek Magazine reported yesterday, “Many legal experts predict the court will legalize gay marriage nationwide by finding that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment under the law and due process prohibit states from banning same-sex nuptials.” If the court does legalize gay marriage, this will be the first time a law is passed that blatantly stands against the Bible. Roe vs. Wade certainly came close to such disregard of Scripture, but this issue puts the United States squarely in the camp of having no regard for God’s Truth

If this law passes, Christians will be told that they cannot act upon their belief that the Bible teaches marriage is to be between a man and a woman and that sexual acts between two people of the same sex is considered to be sin. I am burdened about this issue from several perspectives. The number one perspective is that our governing bodies will be legalizing immorality. This is dangerous ground for any nation. God says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12). The Lord Jehovah cannot be the God of a nation who passes laws that stand so clearly against the teaching of the Bible. If America is not blessed, then we are cursed. God help us.

If gay marriage is legalized, I also have a problem in that my Constitutional rights are violated. I have the right to free speech and the free exercise of my religious beliefs. This right will be infringed upon because it will become illegal for me to speak about my beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. Before you decide to attack me by saying I am a “homophobe,” I am not. I believe homosexuality is a sin just like any other sin. Have I lost my right to believe the Bible? God calls us to forsake sin and follow him. God loves the homosexual, just like He loves anyone else. Just like I would urge someone committing adultery to flee their sin and follow Jesus, I would do the same with someone practicing homosexuality. As an American, it is my right to have this belief. I am amazed at how liberals in our country label me as being intolerant while they are intolerant of me and my belief in the Bible. If gay marriage is legalized, this means America has indeed become a nation without a Constitution. God help us.

Church Attendance in America

church_attendanceI’ve got bad news and bad news. According to a recent study done by Pew Research, 7 in 10 Americans identify with the Christian tradition. I know as a Christian, the idea of someone “identifying with the Christian tradition” does not lead me to think they necessarily are Christians. However, at least 70% of Americans have some connection to the Christian faith. The Associated Press article about the Pew survey stated that “the ranks of Christians have declined as the segment of people with no religion has grown.” In response to the lack of interest in religious affiliation by a growing number of Americans, researchers have created a category of people called “Nones.” The survey points out that in the last seven years, those who call themselves agnostic or having not particular faith grew frpom 16% to 23%. Christians dropped from 78% to under 71% of the population.

Here’s the other bad news. : “While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time.” In other words, we are finding that more and more younger adults are not only disinterested in church. They are not interested in Christianity at all. Another study showed that only 2 out of 10 Millennials (people who are 30 years old or younger) think church attendance is important. Thirty-five percent of them take an anti-church stance.

The good news is that God is still at work in the United States, and you and I can join Him in changing the world. If Christians will wake up and get to work, maybe the next Pew study will show these numbers in a different light.

Why do you think there is a decline in church attendance in America?

Court Foreshadows Coming Persecution

traditional_marriageBiblical values and teaching are under attack. As Supreme Court Justices recently discussed the constitutionality of same-sex marriages, Solicitor General Donald Verilli pointed out that religious colleges would potentially lose their tax-exempt status if they continued to only support traditional marriage. There is no doubt that this decision will bring about the same results in churches all across America. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently said in a speech to the Women of the World Summit, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Does Clinton’s statement bother you as much as it bothers me? It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to see where all of this is going. It seems that every day that passes our nation takes another giant leap away from the teachings of the Bible, which were the very principles upon which our Founding Fathers established our country. We are very close to laws being established that restrict freedom of speech and the teaching of the Word of God. Travis Weber of the Family Research Council recently warned that if the current trend continues, those who refuse to endorse same-sex marriage could face “fines, potentially imprisonment.” We are living in both troubling and exciting times. The church is about to experience very serious persecution in our own nation, but God’s Word tells us to comfort one another as the return of Christ draws ever closer.

How should Christians respond to this trend? Share your thoughts below and pass this along to your friends by clicking the social media links.

The Resurrection

tombWhat difference does the resurrection of Jesus Christ make in your life? What difference does it make in a family and in a country? Christ’s resurrection certainly gives us perspective and hope. It reminds us that we too can have victory over death and the grave through Jesus, and our only hope for eternity is found in faith and trust in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Our hope finds new joy and anticipation as we too consider the empty tomb. Our Savior is not dead, but rather He is alive. This reality should change the way we live and respond to people and circumstances. It reminds us that we live for eternity and not just for time. It calls us to order our lives according to the teaching of God’s Word and show the world how the resurrection changes our character, our relationships, and how we treat those whom we do not even know. The resurrection creates a bond between believers throughout the world and helps us to better understand the broad concept of family. The Christian family is a global unit, and therefore when one Christian is hurting in Iraq, Christians across the world feel his sorrow. This means we cannot ignore the persecution of Christians regardless of where they live. We share a common faith with Christians everywhere, and therefore it is our responsibility to pray for our brothers and sisters and to do everything in our power to help relieve their struggles. This means writing to our political leaders to express our views and concerns, supporting relief organizations that are reaching out to the persecuted, and praying for Christians who are living daily under the threat of persecution.

I recently listened to David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Great Britain as he shared an Easter message. I encourage you to listen to it. He underscored the role of a Christian nation in reaching out to the down trodden, the persecuted, and the abused. It was refreshing to hear him refer to Great Britain as a Christian nation, and it made me long to see our own nation embrace our Christian heritage. We can expect increased persecution of Christians in the next years, and it is paramount that we pray for our brothers and sisters and support them in any way possible. As we mentally gather at the empty tomb to see that Jesus has indeed risen, we will look around and discover that we share this wonder and awe as well as responsibility with Christians everywhere. Regardless of denominational title or geographical location, we are family together because the tomb is empty. May the death and resurrection of Jesus continue to impact our choices and actions as we live in light of the resurrection of Jesus.

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.