Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

The Way Is Still Narrow

FaithA flurry of news reports of late are touting polls that show fewer Americans identify as Christians. Good. We’re finally being honest. I mean, let’s get serious—more than 70% of Americans are really Christians?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m just as concerned about the decline in public profession of Christian faith as anyone, but there’s a clear difference between some type of acknowledgement of a vague definition of Christianity and the real thing.

In the past, it always helped to call oneself a Christian because the culture embraced the general tenets of the faith. Now that is changing, and those who are on the outer fringes of what they think is Christianity are more willing to distance themselves from it.

Why is that? Because they were never genuine Christians to begin with. Of those 70%-plus of Americans who have said they are Christian, one finds a large segment of “God-believers” who have either a deistic view of God or just some notion of “the Man upstairs.” That’s not Christianity. Another segment consists of those who have more knowledge of the truth but whose lives don’t measure up because they have never surrendered their wills to God and made Jesus Lord.

Cross & FlagThere’s also a segment that mistakes “God and Country” for the real deal. I’m as patriotic as anyone when it comes to the original intent of America’s mission under God, but that also is not Christianity if one simply uses God as a prop for love of country.

Here’s the good side of this shift: those who are on the fringes and not actually Christians are slowly (and in some cases rapidly) disowning the faith they never had in the first place, leaving those who have committed themselves to the Lordship of Christ to stand out as the beacons of life and hope God intends for them to be.

Perhaps one of the silver linings in this “falling away” is the clarity with which one can see the difference between real Christians and those who are fake. Real Christians believe (and act upon) the following:

  • Sin is a disruption of the entire order and intent of God for the universe;
  • Our willful sinfulness has caused a break in the relationship between God and man;
  • The only remedy is God’s love revealed through His Son as a sacrifice to wipe away our sin;
  • We receive His forgiveness and new life through repentance and faith in what He has done for us;
  • We now strive to obey His every command out of gratitude for lifting us from the pit of selfishness and despair;
  • The only enduring improvements in this world of darkness come through faith in Jesus Christ, and those improvements start within us, then spread to the culture around us.

TruthJesus taught His disciples that the way to life was narrow, and few would find it. The way to destruction is broad, and most will take that path. If anything, the latest polls are still skewed—there are far fewer Christians than they indicate. But if you are one of the redeemed, your task remains: shine the light of Christ wherever you are. The culture may be careening toward self-destruction, but we still can impact it for the Truth, and that Truth still sets people free.

National Day of Prayer

National Day of PrayerToday is the National Day of Prayer, not government-sponsored, but called by Christian leaders throughout our nation. Only in calling out to God will anything going wrong in this country be reversed. In the spirit of this day, I offer the following prayer.

Lord, we are in trouble as a nation, as You well know, even better than we do. The problems aren’t all at the top politically; there is a culture that has not only accepted sin but has glorified it. We need a cleansing from top to bottom.

First, I do pray for our government. We are in dire need of leaders who not only respect Your principles but who know You personally and are committed to living their lives in accordance with Your directives. You tell us to pray for all those in authority, whether they know You or not, even if they are antagonistic toward Your ways. So, in keeping with that command, I pray specifically for President Obama and all in his administration. I have no illusions about them, yet I know You can do things through them even when they don’t realize it’s You. I recall Nebuchadnezzar. He wasn’t following You, but you made him Your servant without his knowledge. Please do so again.

This prayer for leaders applies not just to the federal government; states and localities are extremely important as well. Please strengthen the hearts of governors and legislators at the state level to stand firm on Your truths. Thank You for a government that is not intended to be top-down. Thank You that we have recourse to many governments throughout the nation. Please work through them.

One of my chief concerns is education. I am more than dismayed by what is being communicated in our education system. Hold back the tide, I pray, and create a thriving private education movement that cannot be stopped, in both Christian schools and through homeschooling. Our children—the next generation—are vital to the survival of this nation.

Prayer-FerventI pray for the upcoming elections, not only at the presidential level, but at state and local levels. We are in urgent need of candidates whose hearts are truly Yours. I ask that you elevate those whose hearts are pure and who intend to do their best for You. I also ask that You expose those who are false in their professions of faith and open the eyes of American citizens to see the difference between those who have integrity and those who do not.

I also realize, though, that the key to a turnaround is Your church, broadly identified as all those, regardless of denomination, who seek Your face and are dedicated to Your truth. May we repent of any sin that stands in the way of Your favor. May we hold fast to Your Word as truth. May we stand strong in defense of the unborn and the infirm at the end of their lives. May we be bold in our proclamation of what marriage really is and what it is not. May we be willing to suffer for our faith in the same spirit as Your early disciples, and through our stand, may others be brought to repentance and saving faith also.

We are a needy people. We ask for Your mercy, which is unmerited favor. We do not merit it at all, but we plead for it anyway.

Thank You for Your love and willingness to listen to us. May You see a church, as Your Word describes, without spot or wrinkle. Help us be the Bride of Christ that You seek, and may we work with You to accomplish Your purposes in our country.

We ask all of this in the Name Above All Names, who laid down His life for us. Amen and amen.

Baltimore’s Real Problems & the Solution

Baltimore is now outwardly calmed, although reports from the ground say that there remains a simmering anger. Some of that has been assuaged by the news that charges are being brought against the six police who were somehow involved with the arrest of Freddie Gray. It’s interesting to note, though, that three of those six are African American, one an African American woman whose last name is White. Irony of ironies.

Let’s be honest here. None of what occurred with Freddie Gray was racial. What the news reports don’t say is that Gray had been arrested something like eighteen times, mostly for dealing drugs. He had served a two-year prison sentence for those activities. He was not exactly a model citizen.

The investigation was cut short by the announcement of the upcoming charges against the police. Those doing the investigating were caught off guard by it, as what appears to be an overzealous prosecutor (who is married to a city councilman who was behind the “stand down” order to police). Many are saying these charges will be dismissed because they are over the top. Many are also saying the only reason these charges were brought so quickly, before the official investigation could be concluded, was to stem the violence, a violence that has no real basis in what happened to Gray, but was merely the opportunity to run wild.

Tell Me Again

I will say again what I said a week ago. What we see in Baltimore is the Great Society in operation. Baltimore has not been neglected by the government; money has flowed into the city. The real question is where has it gone? It seems to disappear, as it goes primarily to politicians and their supporters. It enriches those who are already at the top at the expense of those who are at the bottom. They are kept at the bottom by the handouts they do receive, and the promises of more.

This is the perfect welfare state that keeps people in poverty. I will also mention again, as I did last week, that this city has been run, and is currently run, by those with a “progressive” vision. The last Republican mayor stepped down in the 1960s. You can’t blame them.

Neither can anyone legitimately blame some kind of “white power structure.” The mayor is black, the police commissioner is black, the city council has a majority black representation, and the police force is approximately 50/50 racially (as indicated by the police who have been charged). Baltimore is a corrupt city run by corrupt politicians who have had their way for decades. It’s way past time to be honest about the source of oppression in the city.

Oppressed

Real help for the people of Baltimore will never come from its government. Real help will come from those inspired by their Christian faith to minister to those in need. You know, like the Baptist church that had just completed building a senior citizens’ assisted living center. Only one problem: the rioters burned it to the ground.

Let’s look at the real problems in Baltimore and other cities like it. Let’s look at the real solutions, not the empty promises offered by liberal/progressives who are more adept at lining their own pockets than offering real aid.

I forgot to mention something else at the root of the problem: all these government programs that started in the 1960s have decimated the black family in America. That’s why there are few fathers available to hold the rioting teenagers accountable. The mess we have created can only be solved through a bedrock Christian faith operating through our churches and within families. Without that spiritual rebuilding, there will be more of what we saw in Baltimore. This may be only the beginning of a long hot summer . . . and beyond.

Orders from the Brave New World

In case you missed it . . .

Supreme Court 2At the Supreme Court last week, as lawyers argued the same-sex marriage case, one of the justices, Samuel Alito, asked the government’s attorney, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, a striking question. What was even more striking was the answer he received:

Looking ahead to a possible constitutional right to same-sex “marriage,” Justice Samuel Alito asked a key question: “In the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax-exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?” With chilling honesty, Verrilli admitted, “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is — it is going to be an issue.”

Translation: If churches, religious groups, schools, or nonprofits won’t surrender their beliefs on marriage, the government will make it hurt.

Further translation: if you don’t bow to the new “truth” of same-sex marriage, we will take away your tax-exempt status, thereby singling you out as enemies of our brave new world.

Then there was a speech delivered by Hillary Clinton at the Women in the World summit in which she stated categorically that “religious beliefs . . . have to be changed” to ensure “reproductive health care,” the polite phrase for abortion on demand.

In other words, no one should be allowed to believe that abortion is sinful, and that it takes the life of an innocent person. Those of us who hold to the view that abortion is against God’s righteousness must now adapt to the new way of seeing things.

If Hillary Clinton should make it to the White House, she will do all in her power to ensure this is carried out.

Dear Leader

In both of these cases, we see Biblical morality openly challenged. Abortion and homosexuality are the cornerstone issues for the Left in this country. Dedicated Christians stand in the way of their achieving all their goals. Therefore, we must be sidelined, punished, ridiculed, and made to seem irrelevant to the glorious progressive pathway to the New Future that awaits.

The good news is that all this opposition to basic Biblical beliefs is rallying those who are committed to Biblical truth. We were never promised lack of opposition; we’ve always been promised that our way is the narrow one that few will find palatable. We are called to be faithful to the One who sacrificed everything for us, and not for us only, but for all who will respond to His message. May we remain His committed followers in the coming days—days that may determine the fate of this nation.

That’s the Country We Used to Live In

Sweet CakesAbout two years ago, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, was the first to suffer from the demand that the Christian owners bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. It went to court, and now the owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, have been fined $135,000, a sum that could bankrupt them.

But there’s no antagonism toward Christians in our nation.

The Kleins were ostracized from the community as photographers and florists who used to work with them broke all ties with the bakery. They had to close the shop and operate out of their home instead. Their car was vandalized and broken into twice.

Yet we need not fear that Christian beliefs are under attack.

As with the pizzeria in Indiana, people started a GoFundMe account to help them cover the cost of the fines. Homosexual groups objected vociferously and put pressure on the website to disallow the funding. The pressure worked, as the site caved, declaring that the campaign violated its policy against raising money “in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts.”

As one commentator noted,

Seriously? Not baking a wedding cake for a couple who would have been perfectly welcome to come in and shop for cupcakes, donuts or any other treats in the store falls into a category with murder or rape? That one fails to pass the smell test by a country mile. What they really didn’t want to do was run afoul of a powerful political lobby from the Left.

Apple Watch Launch

I’m glad Christians are still free in this country to act on their faith without penalty.

Franklin GrahamFranklin Graham has now come to their aid, pledging to help them through his Samaritan’s Purse charitable organization. He is one Christian leader who has been bold in his declarations to stand by Biblical standards.

Anyone willing to venture a guess that Samaritan’s Purse will now be the subject of homosexual vengeance?

Fortunately, we live in a country where our government recognizes liberty of conscience and freedom to exercise religious beliefs without interference.

Well, that’s the country we used to live in, at least.

Atrocities Against Christians (cont.)

Have you heard of another atrocity committed by Muslims against Christians, this time on a boat of refugees fleeing Africa for Italy? Here are the details:

Christians Thrown OverboardItalian police say that Muslim migrants from Libya threw 12 Christians overboard after they refused to pray to Allah as the group’s dinghy began to sink. In total, 15 African Muslims were detained on charges of suspected assault and homicide.

The Obama administration responded with a call to end “senseless” violence. As always, the administration shows its unwillingness to say what this really is, a logical outgrowth of Islamic belief that seeks to kill all who don’t bow down to their concept of God. There’s nothing “senseless” about it; it makes perfect sense if those are your beliefs.

This is just another in a long series of statements (or lack of statements) by Obama and his acolytes, who consistently refuse to acknowledge that Christians are being targeted and that Muslims are responsible for those murders.

WH Response

But what should one expect from a president who continually calls himself a Christian while advocating for unbiblical positions in public policy?

Backlash Continues

We haven’t reached the level of persecution yet in America that leads to mass murders, but how long will it take before we get to that point? The culture is shifting rapidly in favor of denouncing all Christian morality and any claims that Christ is the only Way, Truth, and Life. We need to be prepared spiritually for that possibility, while simultaneously working to reverse this awful trend.

The Biblical Perspective on Persecution

ISIS & Ethiopian ChristiansISIS has released another video, this time showing the execution of Ethiopian Christians. The locale seems to be identical to the earlier video of the beheading of Egyptian Coptic Christians.

Thousands of Christians in Nigeria have been massacred by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram.

Christian pastor Saeed Abedini continues to languish in an Iranian prison. He is told he must convert to Islam if he wishes to be released. Abedini’s plight is not part of the crumbling Iranian deal being negotiated by the Obama administration.

France Gay Marriage FairIn America, no one has been killed for being a Christian—yet. But the rising tide of antagonism toward Christianity has been well documented. All one has to do is think of the death threats to businesses run by Christians if they don’t participate in homosexual “weddings.”

A pastor recently set out to see if a double standard exists. He requested a bakery run by homosexuals to bake a cake for him with a message on it promoting traditional marriage. He is now being threatened with criminal charges.

Burn Down

Obamacare continues to try to force Christian organizations to violate their religious tenets by offering types of birth control they believe are wrong and by covering abortions.

There are a number of Christian legal organizations that are being kept busier than ever defending Christians’ right to religious liberty. David French, a lawyer with the American Center for Law and Justice, says many of the new cases come from colleges and universities. He notes,

Our knowledge of incidents is only as good as the reporting. However, it’s clear that—particularly on college and university campuses—we have seen a significant rise in attempts to silence Christian organizations by the misapplication of nondiscrimination laws.
As I’ve said before, the next steps will be to force Christian colleges to change their statements of faith regarding sexuality or lose participation in the government-run student loan program. Churches will be threatened with the loss of tax-exempt status if their pastors refuse to conduct same-sex weddings. A report released jointly by the Family Research Council and the Texas-based Liberty Institute highlights some of the most recent attacks:
  • A federal judge threatened “incarceration” to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech.
  • City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.
  • A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.
  • Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor’s prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans at a national cemetery.
  • Public school officials prohibited students from handing out gifts because they contained religious messages.
  • A public school official prevented a student from handing out flyers inviting her classmates to an event at her church.
  • A public university’s law school banned a Christian organization because it required its officers to adhere to a statement of faith that the university disagreed with.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.
  • The State of Texas sought to approve and regulate what religious seminaries can teach.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the mention of God from veterans’ funerals, overriding the wishes of the deceased’s families.
  • A federal judge held that prayers before a state House of Representatives could be to Allah but not to Jesus.

While we should continue to fight back against these attempts to marginalize Christians, we also should not be surprised that this is occurring. We have been warned in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That’s not one of those promises Christians are eager to claim. Jesus, though, reminds us,

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.

We need to keep that perspective and live for Christ and His kingdom, regardless of what the so-called powers of the earth try to do.

Persecution