Amazed By Jesus

The other day my wife and I went to the mattress store. The saleswoman began telling us about her clairvoyant abilities. She claimed she had predicted the sex of her first child and even how tall he would be. She also told us that after only one encounter with a very charming potential business partner, she had a strong impression that he was underhanded and warned her husband not to do business with him. The man eventually defrauded her husband. She also said that her dog became extremely agitated when her daughter brought a friend home. The young lady had a practice of communicating with the dead and the dog could sense the spirits around her. This woman is a modern mystic.

I told her that as Christians we can have discernment between good and evil through the Holy Spirit, but that is different from clairvoyance. As for communicating with the dead, that is strictly forbidden in the Bible. Her thought was that the prophets got their information from dead spirits. I told her it was the Holy Spirit who inspired them and she said, “I love Jesus. I think He was absolutely amazing!

Jesus was absolutely amazing, but not because He was a mystic. His actions and words prompted fear, astonishment, and amazement in people because of His divine power and authority.

There are many passages in the book of Mark that describe the troubling and even terrifying effect Jesus had on people. Words such as “amazed,” “overcome with amazement,” “astonished,” “exceedingly astonished,” “astonished beyond measure,” “alarmed,” “afraid,”  “terrified,” “astounded,” “marveled,” “filled with great fear,” “marvelous in our eyes,” and “came in fear and trembling,” are used to describe people’s reactions to Him. (Mar 1:21-27, Mar 2:1-12, Mar 4:35-41, Mar 5:1-20, Mar 5:24-33, Mar 5:35-42, Mar 6:2, Mar 6:45-52, Mar 7:31-37, Mar 9:2-8, Mar 9:14-15, Mar 10:23-26, Mar 10:32-34, Mar 11:15-19, Mar 12:13-17, Mar 15:1-5, Mar 16:6-8).

So what were the circumstances surrounding these events and what types of responses did all this astonishment and fear produce? Well, it certainly wasn’t a sort of benign admiration. In one case, the assembled crowd was so frightened that they asked Jesus to leave immediately. This was when Jesus cast out a legion of demons from a possessed man and commanded them to enter a herd of two thousand swine that then went squealing over a cliff and into the sea. The man who had been healed wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus sent him back to his own village to proclaim what He had done for him (Mar 5:1-20).

People were also astonished at Jesus because he spoke as though He had first-hand knowledge of Old Testament events, personal connections with people like Moses and Jonah, and held counsel with God Himself. The fact that He performed miracles and cast out demons authenticated His words (Mar 1:21-27, Mar 6:2). Because of the power of His words, His fame spread far and wide.

In the second chapter of Mark, people flocked to Jesus bringing their sick and disabled friends and relatives. The press of the crowd was so great that those bearing a paralyzed man on a stretcher could not get near enough to touch Him. So they went up on the roof of the home Jesus was in and cut a hole big enough to lower the man into the room. Seeing their faith, Jesus pronounced the man’s sins forgiven. The religious leaders in the crowd considered this blasphemy since only God can forgive sins. So Jesus proved his authority over sin by healing the man right in front of their eyes. The people responded in amazement and gave glory to God. (Mar 2:1-12)

In the fourth chapter of Mark, Jesus and the disciples got in a boat to cross the sea of Galilee. Jesus went to sleep in the stern even as a great storm threatened to capsize the boat. The disciples, afraid for their lives, woke Him and asked Him to do something. Jesus rebuked the wind and waves and a dead calm immediately ensued. Mark says the disciples “...were filled with great fear and said to one another, Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mar 4:35-41).

On another occasion Jesus sent the disciples off in a boat while He stayed behind to pray. In the middle of the night as they were struggling to make headway against a stiff wind, He came to them walking on the water. They were terrified because they thought it was a ghost. Jesus assured them it was Him and then stepped into the boat with them. The wind immediately died down. Mark says the disciples were “utterly astounded” even though this was the second time Jesus had calmed a storm (Mar 6:45-52).

Later on in the same chapter a crowd was pressing in on Jesus when a sick woman  came up behind Him and touched the hem of His garment. He suddenly felt power go out from Him. Turning around, he said, “Who touched me?” His disciples said, “What do you mean? People are crowding all around you!” The woman, trembling in fear, came forward and Jesus told her to “go in peace” because she had been healed (Mar 5:24-33).

Again in the same chapter Jesus overheard some people telling a ruler of the synagogue who had come seeking help not to trouble Jesus because his sick daughter had passed away. He told the man, “Do not fear, only believe,” and then accompanied him to his home. There he dismissed the mourners and took the man and his wife with Peter, James and John into the room where the little girl lay lifeless. He told her, “Little girl arise,” and she got up and started to walk. Mark says those who witnessed the event “were immediately overcome with amazement” (Mar 5:35-42).

In Mark chapter seven Jesus healed a deaf man who had a speech impediment. Mark says the assembled crowd was, “astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak'” (Mar 7:31-37).

Peter, James and John were Jesus’ inner circle.  Whenever he wanted to manifest Himself in some extraordinary way, He would leave the others behind and take just the three of them along. Just days before His crucifixion, He took them to the top of a mountain where He was suddenly transfigured so that He shone with a brilliance that must have almost blinded them. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Him and spoke with Him.  Mark says the three disciples were terrified (Mar 9:2-8).

Upon returning to His disciples, Jesus encountered a crowd embroiled in controversy with them. Without explanation, Mark says, “And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him.” In all likelihood, Jesus still had an “afterglow” like the one Moses had after speaking with God on Mount Sinai.

In the tenth chapter of Mark, a wealthy young man approached Jesus with a pointed question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.” The young man, seeking to justify himself, said, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” Jesus said, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But the young man couldn’t comply because he was too attached to his wealth. So he went away full of sorrow. Turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God“(Mar 10:17-31). Mark says the disciples were “exceedingly astonished” and said to Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus was turning their whole understanding of salvation on its head. The Old Testament taught that temporal blessings accompany obedience and curses come with rebellion. Turning that axiom around, it made sense to them that anyone who had temporal blessings also had eternal life. But Jesus was telling them the converse was not always true and it troubled them greatly.

Continuing on in the same chapter, Jesus set out for Jerusalem knowing that he would be betrayed by Judas, condemned by the Jewish leaders and sentenced to an excruciating death by Pilate. But He wasn’t dragging His feet. He was marching very deliberately, driven by a powerful resolution to fulfill the Father’s eternal plan to redeem mankind by offering Himself up as a sacrifice for sins. He was walking ahead of the disciples, leading the way. They were the ones dragging their feet. Mark says simply, “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid” (Mar 10:32).

The very first thing Jesus did when He got to Jerusalem was to provoke a confrontation. He went straight to the Temple and began to drive out the money changers who had set up shop in the courtyard so they could convert Roman coins to Jewish shekels for payment of the temple tax and overturned the tables of those who sold pigeons for  poor people to offer as sacrifices. Mark comments, “And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching” (Mar 11:15-19).

The religious leaders hated  Jesus because He had a way of humiliating them in front of the crowds. So they frequently concocted schemes to trap Him with His own words. Having watched Him cleanse the Temple of money changers, they sent a contingent to ask Him whether He supported Roman taxation. He said to them, “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it. And they brought one. And he said to them, Whose likeness and inscription is this? They said to him, Caesar’s. Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” And Mark said, “And they marveled at him” (Mar 12:13-17).

The chief priests finally got their hands on Jesus and brought him before Pilate to stand trial. Mark describes the scene this way, “And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you. But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed” (Mar 15:3-5).

So they crucified Jesus and buried Him in a tomb sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers so that no one would come and steal the body and then claim He had been resurrected. But after three days, Jesus arose. When three women went to anoint the body, they found the tomb open and an angel sitting where the body had been laid. He said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And Mark says, “they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mar 16:6-8). And that is where the story ends in the original manuscripts, with three women fleeing in terror from an empty tomb. Verses 9-20 were later editions added to make the ending more palatable, but Mark’s original intent was to leave the reader with a strong impression of the unsettling nature of the Man who came from heaven to earth to conquer sin and reconcile men and women to their Creator.

Jesus was amazing. He was terrifying. He was astonishing, astounding and marvelous. Some people ran from Him. Others ran to Him. Still others begged Him to leave. His disciples stayed with Him even though He continually frightened them and dragged them into the most terrifying situations. Some people held Him in awe and marveled at His authority and power. Others considered Him a threat and resolved to eliminate Him. But no one thought He was just a good man with an important message to share. You must either hate Him or love Him, but you can’t remain indifferent.

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Bored With the Bible

The Christian Church is awash in heresies today. There is the “Word of Faith/Apostolic Reformation Movement” that teaches that there is a power and authority available to believers that exceeds even that of Jesus Christ. Bill Johnson, one of the chief proponents of this movement believes “that there will be a great end-time revival that will be initiated by an “Elijah generation” that shall transcend all other generations of Christians in regard to their ability to do great works of power.” (1) According to Ken Silva of Lighthouse Trails, a website dedicated to exposing false teaching, “Johnson is firmly against careful scholarship based on sound exegesis of Scripture. To him, such study is likely to bring one into bondage and spiritual death.”  Best-selling Christian author Joyce Meyer also promotes this teaching. We just became aware that one of the missionary families we support is deeply involved in this movement. We recently told them we are discontinuing their support because they are spreading false doctrine.

There is the “Spiritual Formation Movement.” Dallas Willard, a popular advocate of this movement, says, “Spiritual formation is not all by the Holy Spirit …there’s always more involved. We have to recognize that spiritual formation in us is something that is also done to us by those around us, by ourselves, and by activities which we voluntarily undertake …There has to be method.”(2) Mr. Willard teaches something called “Soul Keeping,” a doctrine that is more  mysticism than sound Biblical doctrine.  We had to leave a small group that began incorporating his teaching into our meetings via a video series produced by a former megachurch pastor from Willow Creek Church named John Ortberg.

Contemplative Spirituality,” also draws upon mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness. Although its origins derive from from the ancient occult world, it is  often wrapped in Christian terminology. It teaches that God is all (pantheistic) and  at the same time is in all (panentheistic).“(3) Probably the most well-known advocate of contemplative spirituality is Sarah Young. Her book Jesus Calling is one of the best sellers of Thomas Nelson, a highly respected Christian publisher.  Inspired by two English women who wrote a book called God Calling in 1930, Sarah Young began employing their techniques to record the voice she heard speaking to her during devotions. The problem was that the two English women were practitioners of the occult. God Calling is a collection of channeled messages presented in the form of a daily devotional. The words the authors heard were not from Jesus, but demons. Many of the words Sarah Young has recorded directly contradict the teaching of scripture.(6) Other well-known proponents of contemplative spirituality are Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, Tim Keller and Beth Moore.

Lectio Divina is a form of Contemplative Prayer that employs techniques used in Buddhist mantras to empty the mind of extraneous thought and center on one word from a Bible passage in order to produce an altered state of consciousness.  Bill and Kristi Gaultiere, co-founders of Soul Shepherding, Inc. popularized this practice in their award-winning weekly Soul Talks Podcast and on their popular website SoulShepherding.org.

According to Lighthousetrails, “Lectio divina plays a significant role in leading people toward full blown meditative practices…by introducing a “presence” [that] is not God’s presence.” This same practice is also used in Ashtanga Yoga, part of the New Age Movement.

The “Emerging Church Movement” promotes a form of mysticism called “interspirituality,” or the uniting of all religions into one. Interspirituality denies that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation (4). Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, which has sold over a million copies, says, “You cannot be a Christian without being a mystic.”  He dismisses rigorous study of theology as “charting God on a grid,” and commends mantra meditation and Buddhism.

Circle Making” is an occult practice based on a myth about a Jewish man named ‘Honi’ who was summoned by the elders of Jerusalem in the first century B.C. to pray for rain. As the story goes, he drew a circle around himself  in the dirt and begged God to end a three year drought. At first only a few drops fell. Then, in response to more urgent pleadings, a torrential downpour washed over the earth. Finally, the downpour subsided to a steady rain that soaked the earth and filled the cisterns. Anne Graham Lotz employs this occult practice in her appeals for spiritual revival.(5)

False doctrine has been incorporated into the very discipleship ministries of many evangelical churches in the form of Alpha Courses. Nicky Gumbel, vicar of the Holy Trinity Church Brompton, the largest Anglican church in England, founded this program. His church was a center of the “Holy Laughter Movement” that originated in Toronto under  Eleanor Mumford. When she “invited the Holy Spirit to come” at a  home meeting in England that Gumbel attended in 1994, he had an experience “like massive electricity going through my body.” He immediately introduced the movement to Holy Trinity. There he prayed, “Lord, thank you so much for all you are doing, and we pray you’ll send your Spirit,” and one of those present fell to the floor and began laughing like a hyena.(7)

Even Bible Study Fellowship, a staple of evangelical Bible study, has been influenced by false teaching. Members report that leadership has resorted to the “there are no wrong answers” approach to Bible interpretation and that resources like the Jesus Calling Devotional have been added to the list of recommended readings.(8)

These are just some of the heresies that are being promulgated by some of the most well-known names in evangelical circles. Christian bookstores promote their products and small groups devour them. At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult to find orthodox Christian literature on the shelves of Christian bookstores. Ask for the section on Reformed Theology or works by John Calvin, Martin Luther, or any of the great Puritan preachers and you will be met with a puzzled look. I posed this question on a recent visit to a clerk at the local Family Christian Book Store. After a long pause she said, “Now isn’t that an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before.” She then proceeded to check her computer and said that the books were available on the website but there were none in the store.

So what is it that drives the proliferation of false teachers and the sale of books that promote false doctrine? Many of these heresies spring from a desire for spiritual power and authority or for a sense of mystery and awe that people are not getting from reading the Bible. Sarah Young said it best when explaining why she was drawn to the practice of channeling, “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.”

God’s Word is Deeply Satisfying

In the Psalms, David expresses his absolute delight in God’s law:

I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight.” (Ps 119:174 )
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”(Ps 119:92 )
Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.“(Ps 119:24)
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”(Ps 1:2)
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.”(Ps 119:77)
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”(Ps 40:8)
“...their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.”(Ps 119:70 )
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.“(Ps 119:111)
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.”(Ps 119:35 )
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.“(Ps 119:97 )
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.”(Ps 119:14)

Why does David find such satisfaction in God’s Word? It starts with his habit of meditating on the law day and night and storing it in his heart (Ps 1:2; 40:8; 119:111; 119:97😉. That produces a sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit as it uses God’s Word to prompt him toward obedience (Ps 119:70;119:24;Ps 40:8;119:35). David’s obedience, in turn, gives him strength to endure hardship, patient longing for God’s salvation, indescribable joy as he experiences God’s intervention on his behalf, and a deeply satisfying life free from longing (Ps 119:92; 119:174; Ps 119:14).

In Psalm 19 David describes the blessings of obeying God’s law:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”(Ps 19:7-11)

God’s law revives the soul, imparts wisdom, gives joy, produces understanding, and warns against sin. For those reasons, it was David’s most precious treasure.

The Apostle Paul also found the fulfillment of his deepest longings in God’s Word. In Romans 11:33 he says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Paul devotes much of the book of Ephesians to describing the “mystery” of the gospel, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”(Eph 1:7-10)

Paul is grateful that he has been given the privilege “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”(Eph 3:8-10)  And his prayer for the believers is “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” (Eph 1:17-19)

Missing Inspiration From The Holy Spirit

How could the Word of God be so exciting and mysterious and delightful to David and  Paul and so uninspiring to many professing Christians that they feel compelled to seek mystery and power and authority by other means?

One answer is in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.” It is the Holy Spirit that provides the insight to understand the mystery of the gospel in all its glory. Those who pursue another gospel do so because they have never really been born again. They may have come forward at a rally or raised a hand at a revival meeting or said a prayer in answer to a gospel invitation, but they have never received the Holy Spirit because they have never repented of their sins. So they cannot comprehend the riches of God’s grace in providing forgiveness and redemption and adoption and sanctification. And they cannot thrill at the prospect of God uniting all things in heaven and earth under the authority of Christ because they do not know the wonder of his rule in their own hearts. They have never experienced release from bondage to sin or the freedom to pursue righteousness through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. They do not know how exciting it is to feel God’s favor, to be free from fear of judgment, to know that when they finally stand before God they will not have to face condemnation.

These people cannot comprehend the magnitude of God’s grace because they have never really sensed the magnitude of their own sins. Lacking a sense of remorse, they cannot know the inexpressible joy that comes from having the heavy burden of their sins lifted. If you have ever escaped a near fatal accident, you can understand to some degree the sense of relief and elation just to be spared to live another day. This is nothing compared to the joy that comes from knowing that Jesus Christ has borne God’s judgment against sin on our behalf. This is where the sense of mystery and awe begin. And it never ends because we will be in Christ’s debt for all of eternity.

Missing Inspiration From The Word of God

Both David and Paul loved God’s Word. They believed it, they trusted it, and they clung to it. They had no doubts as to its total veracity and reliability. Because they loved it, they spent time studying it and meditating upon it. Doubt as to the truthfulness of God’s Word robs it of its power. James says the one who doubts is like the waves of the sea tossed to and fro. That man will receive nothing from the Lord. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). Jesus said, “ For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:18-19).

There are many nominal Christians today who believe some parts of the Bible but not others. Others believe it all, but consider obedience optional in some cases. Still others distinguish between “salvation issues” and the rest of the Bible. Others are not willing to sacrifice their lifestyles to follow Christ. Many professing Christians have chosen to discount the very parts that provide the sense of awe and power and mystery that they seek elsewhere – the creation, the miracles and the coming return of Christ in power and glory. The Holy Spirit will not grant understanding to one who has reservations about the truth of God’s word or who fails to obey it. That person will never be able to comprehend “…what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe“(Eph 1:19).

There is no lack of awe and mystery in the pages of the Bible for those who believe it and obey it without reservation. They will be led by the Holy Spirit into an understanding of the riches of their glorious inheritance and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power that will satisfy their deepest longings. But those who discount parts of the Bible for their own selfish reasons will never find that sense of mystery and awe no matter how hard they try.

 

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Sowing Tares

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, announced on Facebook recently that Donald Trump has professed faith in Jesus Christ. He said he knows the woman who ‘led him to the Lord.’

He goes on to say that Donald has not yet learned the vocabulary to express his newfound faith. I found that very interesting. How does one profess faith in Christ without having the words to do so? His knowledge of the gospel must have been very minimal.

Did Donald Trump “accept Jesus as his Savior and Lord,” or “ask Jesus into his heart,” or “make a decision for Jesus Christ?” Did he follow the “Four Spiritual Laws” or “Two Ways to Live” or perhaps one of the following plans:

Plan-of-SalvationPlanOfSalvation2Plan+of+Salvation2th

Does he understand the holiness of God, and the depth of his own sins? Donald Trump is not a man given to apologies. Did he feel sorrow for his sins enough to repent and seek forgiveness?

James Dobson is very premature in pronouncing Donald Trump a Christian. He has fallen into the evangelical trap of equating a verbal profession of faith based upon an oversimplified gospel presentation with new life in Christ. But just because a person says he is a Christian doesn’t make him one.

Besides, no one leads someone else to Christ. The Holy Spirit draws him through the preaching of the Word of God, not a four step plan. There are no simplified gospel presentations in the Bible. The apostles made no altar calls. People came to Christ because the Holy Spirit convicted them of their sins through the preaching of the Word of God.

Modern evangelism often short-circuits this process, settling for a raised hand or a simple prayer rather than genuine repentance and commitment to Christ. It produces false conversions and fills the church with unregenerate people who come to Jesus on their own terms. That is what it means to “make a decision for Christ.” You do the choosing. The one who does the choosing  always dictates the terms.

Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). The Bible says God the Father chose those who believe before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). We come to him on his terms, not ours.  Many come to Him with the attitude, “I’ll keep what is precious to me and add Jesus to the mix.” These are not genuine believers. Jesus said we must be willing to forsake everything else when we come to him.  Is Mr. Trump ready to abandon all else for Christ or did he just pray a prayer of salvation based on a gospel formula like so many other professing Christians? He obviously didn’t get much background in the basics of salvation if he couldn’t even find the words to express his new faith.

Donald Trump is a very wealthy man. Jesus said it is especially difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The rich young ruler found it impossible to give up his wealth to follow Christ, even though it made him very sad. James said, “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” (James 2:5)

The only way to know whether Donald Trump’s profession of faith was genuine is if he obeys Christ. Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). Maybe the Word of God sown in his heart will find fertile soil. Or maybe his great riches and the cares of this world will choke it out before it has a chance to grow. Maybe what was sown in his heart never even germinated because it was inferior seed. If that is the case, Mr. Dobson may end up having egg on his face. I certainly hope not. It would be wonderful to have a devout Christian with Mr. Trump’s kind of tenacity and fortitude for president.

Two Ways to Proclaim the Gospel

There are two versions of the gospel being presented today. One is called “evangelism” and the other is called “preaching.” “Evangelism” is a relatively recent phenomenon that began with tent meetings and gospel crusades and eventually led to abbreviated gospel presentations like the Four Spiritual Laws. Evangelism is designed to produce a confession of faith based on the barest of scripture knowledge and an affirmative response to an invitation to accept Christ. Many of these gospel formulas stress the love of God but entirely omit remorse for sin and repentance. Yet more than half of the Bible is devoted    to showing us our inability to achieve righteousness on our own so that we are prepared to accept Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin on our behalf. This is key to grasping the grace of God in salvation. Many Gospel presentations mention nothing about remorse for sin. Without repentance there is no salvation. The appeal to turn from sin and repent was a consistent part of the gospel message presented by Jesus and the Apostles.

You won’t find the word, “evangelize” when you search your Bible. What you will find instead is the phrase, “preach the gospel.” This is how Jesus and the apostles spread the faith. Gospel presentations can never take the place of the Word of God because it alone can impart spiritual life.

Forced Conversion

Our church has three separate congregations. One is an English congregation of garden variety evangelicals. Another is a Cantonese congregation that tends to be a little charismatic because it emphasizes healing. The third is a Mandarin congregation with a reformed pastor. The Cantonese congregation holds special evangelistic services from time-to-time. They invite a team of evangelists to conduct the meetings. I have seen these evangelists use all kinds of techniques to coax conversions out of people. Once they raise their hands, they are immediately pushed into some kind of discipleship class and urged to sign up for baptism. The number of baptisms that occur at Thanksgiving and Easter are considered the mark of the spiritual vitality of the church.

From time to time relatives will immigrate from China to America. One of these immigrants was struck by a hit-and-run driver and very seriously injured. He was in a coma for many days. When he finally awoke, members of the congregation aggressively began to evangelize him. They convinced him to “make a decision for Christ” even though his mind was still very muddled from the accident. Those who had evangelized him soon announced that he had become a Christian. They put him in a discipleship class and then pressed him to get baptized, but he couldn’t even remember what he had been told from one day to the next. My wife and I spent some time with him and his wife and it was very apparent to us that they did not understand even the basics of the Christian faith.

Genuine Conversion

A Chinese woman from Kearny, Nebraska, visited the Mandarin congregation recently. She met her American husband in China and they moved to Kearney to take care of his elderly mother. Needless to say, there are no Chinese Christian churches in Kearney, Nebraska. This woman was a believer who was starved for Christian fellowship. Having spent some time in Kearney, I knew how she must feel. So my wife and I invited her and her husband out to lunch after the service.

There she told my wife how she had come to Christ. They were living in China at the time.  It was the Chinese New Year and everyone had two weeks off to celebrate. She happened to read a blog post by a Chinese Christian. This woman kept repeating the words, “Thank the Lord” in her post. This peaked Jenny’s curiosity. She asked the woman about her faith. She told Jenny to get a Bible and read it.

Jenny found a Christian bookstore, but, just like all the other shops, it was closed for the holidays. She happened to bump into the proprietor and he told her that he had a Bible she could purchase, “Thank the Lord.” There was that familiar phrase again.

She took the Bible home and began to devour it. She read night and day non-stop through the entire holiday until she had gone all the way from Genesis to Revelation. She said that when she read the creation account, she knew this was the truth and what she had been told about evolution was a lie. She memorized the Ten Commandments and The Lord’s Prayer. She immediately went home and threw out all her idols and joined a Bible believing church. This woman became a believer without being led by anyone but the Holy Spirit as she read the Word of God. Hers was without a doubt, a genuine conversion.

Sowing Tares

Unfortunately, the kind of gospel presentations that have passed for evangelism have produced a generation of professing believers who know little of the gospel and in many cases have never even repented of their sins. These people have never been reconciled to God. They are the tares that will be separated from the true believers at Christ’s return.

Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist of our era, admits that probably only 25% of the people who come forward at his crusades are really born again. Statistics show that the real number is closer to six percent.(1) Many of the others find themselves in churches all across America and around the world. These folks are the ones who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. They are Christian in name only. It is very possible there was one sitting in the pew next to you last Sunday in church.

How can the body of Christ function normally when it is filled with people who have never even been born again? How does the church come to a common understanding of God’s Word? How do they discern God’s will together? How do they follow the leading of the Holy Spirit if many of them are not even filled with the Holy Spirit? How do they exhort and admonish and encourage one another in the faith if they are not united in Jesus Christ? How can God accomplish his purposes for the church if many are not even committed to him? A church divided against itself cannot stand. It will fall prey to all kinds of false teaching.

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Why Discrimination is Good

In this day of political correctness, tolerance, diversity, and inclusion, discrimination has taken a back seat. But society has become so undiscriminating that it is practically falling apart.

Take Sweden, for example. It is probably one of the most ‘progressive’ nations in the world. The people of Sweden are so indiscriminate that they welcomed a hostile horde of Muslim immigrants into their country with open arms. Only now that Muslims are terrorizing their country, gang raping their women and beating up their men have they come to realize that shared values should have played a part in their decision to let these people into their country. A little more discrimination would have spared them a lot more trauma.

The same can be said for Germany. Angela Merkel took great pride in her ‘compassionate’ response to the immigrant crisis. She committed to allowing 800,000 refugees from the Middle East into her country. Since that time Germany has faced a plague of terror attacks on its civilian population. But at this point there is little either Germany or Sweden can do to stem the tide of collapse in their societies. It is too late.

Healthy Institutions Discriminate

Exclusivity is an inherent part of any healthy institution. They naturally discriminate against one group of people in favor of another. Boy Scouts cease to be Boy Scouts when they start admitting girls. The same goes for Girl Scouts who admit boys. Americans cease to be a sovereign nation when they open their borders to anyone who seeks entry. Members of the European Union are just now beginning to realize that they are losing control of their own countries because they have opened their borders. Now when radical Islamic terrorists invade their neighbors, they too are vulnerable. Just ask France. They are facing a constant onslaught of terrorism thanks to the policies of their neighbor to the West.

The widespread lack of discrimination has also led to the collapse of the family. It has no boundaries anymore. Today two men can form a family. Two women can form a family. Now that the only criterion for marriage is being in love, sexual libertarians are even advocating for polygamy.

It is so bad now that we are not even allowed to discriminate between men and women on the basis of their physical sexual characteristics. If a man chooses to identify as a woman, we must open the ladies room to him or face the wrath of the federal government.

The Non-Discriminating Church

This same tendency to be non-judgmental has infected the church. I heard a respected guest on a local religious broadcast say that if President Obama has self-identified as a Christian, we must take him at his word, despite the fact that he takes away religious liberties from people of faith every chance he gets. Christians refuse to label anyone an unbeliever on the basis of his or her conduct if that person goes to church and calls himself a Christian. Personal faith has become a matter of conscience, and who can judge what goes on in another person’s heart?

I once got embroiled in a controversy with the members of my small group for suggesting another member was not a Christian. She never attended meetings, had absolutely no interest in studying the Bible, rented a house with a bunch of single men, and constantly complained that they resented her because they didn’t feel free to have their girlfriends sleep over when she was around. The group felt compassion for her and prayed for her, but no one would tell her to move out of that house except me. When I suggested she was morally compromised and questioned the genuineness of her faith, I was vilified. After all, who was I to determine whether she was a Christian or not?! But her lifestyle showed absolutely no evidence of a love for Christ or a desire to follow Him.

If we cannot decide whether a person’s faith is authentic based on their conduct, then how do we distinguish them from unbelievers? And if we cannot identify them as Christians, how could an unbeliever possibly tell the difference? Christians have ceased to become salt and light at this point and we have lost our redeeming influence on society.

Everyone Discriminates By Default

If we were to be honest with ourselves, we would admit that we discriminate in hundreds of ways every day without even thinking about it. We choose our circle of friends based on common interests. We exclude people who don’t share those interests. We eliminate a multitude of potential mates based on things like their appearance, their social status, their beliefs, their values and their aspirations. If we go to a Baptist church, we don’t expect to hear Catholic doctrine. There are relatively few things that we do not choose based upon on our individual styles and tastes and preferences.

If we couldn’t discriminate, language would lose all meaning. The definition of a word tells us not just what it means, but also what it does not mean. It includes some meanings and excludes others. Deconstructionism has blurred the meaning of words today. We call people who promote immorality ‘progressives.’ What is progressive about embracing all kinds of sexual perversion and promiscuity? How can ‘political correctness’ be ‘correct’ when it contradicts natural law? Why is  there is such a thing as a ‘right-wing extremist’ but we never hear about ‘left-wing extremists?’ What could be more extreme than defending the sale of aborted baby parts?

Jesus is the Great Discriminator

Jesus will come to judge the world for their sins. He will distinguish between the ‘goats’ and the ‘sheep.’ He will send one group to heaven and the other to hell. He said “The one who loves me keeps my commandments” (John 14:15). If you don’t keep His commandments, He says you don’t love Him. He’s making a judgment about the authenticity of your faith. He said that anyone can make that same judgment based upon our love for one another as believers, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Isn’t that what a judge does? He discriminates between right and wrong, legal and illegal, good and evil.

Our problem is not that we have become too intolerant because we cling to absolute moral standards, but that we have compromised our commitment to the truth because we don’t want to be out of step with the rest of society. We cannot bring ourselves to condemn homosexual behavior because people will say we are unloving. We cannot acknowledge the fact that there is no such thing as a peaceful Muslim even though a true believer follows the Koran and the Koran promotes killing of infidels. That would offend Muslims. We cannot say that our President is not a Christian because that would be calling him a liar.

The irony is that those who boast of their tolerance cannot tolerate those whom they deem intolerant. It is so bad that the president of the school board in Bakersfield, CA, had to resign because he refused to vote for bathroom integration in the public schools. He was threatened with a lawsuit for voting his conscience! Why have a vote if you can only vote one way?? That is the height of intolerance!

It is time we stopped being so squeemish about expressing our likes and dislikes, our fears and our hopes, and our most deeply cherished opinions and beliefs for fear of offending someone or appearing intolerant. It is also time that we started talking about the consequences of rejecting Jesus Christ. There is a day of judgment coming. The Jesus who returns to earth will return in power and great glory. It will be a day of stark terror for unbelievers and we don’t do them any favors by coating  the gospel with a thick syrupy layer of sweet talk about the love of Jesus. And we should not fear them or seek their approval. We should fear the one who said, “The one who honors me I will honor“(1 Sam 2:30), and “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:33). His approval is the only approval that matters.

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Seeking Signs and Wonders

My wife and I recently attended a presentation by a missionary couple working in the Middle East whom we support financially. We were impressed with their obvious zeal for the Lord and their desire to work in a dangerous place where the Spirit of God is clearly moving. But as they shared their vision, it became increasingly evident that they were focused more on reports of local Muslims having visions of Jesus than calling people to repentance and faith through the preaching of the gospel. So we began a dialogue with them after the meeting to find out whether we we were on the same page theologically. It soon became apparent that we were not.

Our first question was, “Do the people who come to Christ acknowledge their need of a Savior and repent of their sins?” The answer was that some of the new believers have a better understanding of the gospel than others. However, they encouraged them all to seek a vision of Christ.

Our second question was, “How do they come to Christ?” The answer came in the form of an example of a person who heard a message from Jesus that said, “I love you.” This message came at the prompting of the missionary’s daughter who just happened to hear the very same message.

So we pressed the point that genuine conversion takes place as the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and applies it to a person’s heart by convicting them of sin and turning them to Jesus Christ. Our friend agreed and apologized that he had given us the impression that he was relying on dreams and visions rather than God’s Word.

We then shared our belief that dreams and visions and other signs and wonders were given by God as a means of authenticating His Word, and that the signs Jesus and the apostles performed were more than sufficient to establish the authenticity of the Bible. To continue to seek dreams and visions today shows a lack of faith in the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. That is why Jesus told the Pharisees that no sign will be given an evil and adulterous generation, “But he answered them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it (Mt 12:39). They are evil and adulterous because they refused to acknowledge the multitude of signs Jesus had been showing them on a daily basis, even attributing them to the power of Satan (Mt 9:34). Today we have the testimony of scripture to the many signs and wonders performed by Jesus. We don’t need a sign any more than the Pharisees did.

I then shared my experience with a group of charismatic friends who have been praying for a revival in the city of Rockford, IL, because God told a ‘prophet’ from Uganda who had come to spread revival in American that the revival would begin there. Our friend said he knows a pastor who has worked with this ‘prophet’ and that indeed crime rates in the city have begun to go down. I found that interesting since another member of the same group had just told me that crime figures there had recently gone up.

So I checked the statistics for myself and discovered that, in fact, Rockford is one of the most unsafe cities in America. Only five percent of cities are less safe. Ninety five percent are more safe.

Genuine Prophecies Have Passed Away

Since the first century there has not been a prophecy that has revealed any additional information about the redemptive plans of God than has already been revealed in the Bible. Paul said, “As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” (1 Cor 13:8-10). Hebrews 1:1-4 tells us that the perfect has already come, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus told Philip that since he has seen Jesus, he has indeed seen the Father (John 14:9). There is no fuller revelation of the Father than the person, Jesus Christ. The Perfect has come.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin tells us that, “When God speaks at the last times He intimates that there is no longer any reason to expect any new revelation.  For it was not a Word in part that Christ brought but the final conclusion.”  What He is saying is that, “If you expect new revelation from God, you are saying that what Jesus brought was only a partial message, that there is something lacking in the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the message Jesus commanded His Apostles to teach all nations had holes that now need to be filled up” (http://bit.ly/2a6kXYr).

The Lifestyle of a Prophet

Those who call themselves prophets today are mostly well-to-do. They live in nice homes and drive expensive cars thanks to the gifts of their devoted followers. But that is not the lifestyle of a true prophet. According to the Bible, prophets, “ suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb 11:33-38). Stephen asked the Jews, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:52).

The life of a prophet was not like the life of one of the rich and famous like Jimmy Swaggart or Benny Hinn, or Jim and Tammy Baker. They were outcasts and social misfits. The same goes for the Apostles. Some charismatic churches like to call their leaders “Apostles” but there were only twelve of them and they are long gone. According to the Apostle Paul, one had to be a Jew to be an Apostle  (2 Cor 11:1-12:10) and to have personally seen Jesus Christ (1 Cor 9:1-2). That would disqualify all of the modern apostles. Then he had to suffer great hardships in order to keep him from becoming proud for the great privilege that had been bestowed upon him, and none of the modern day “Apostles” have suffered anything that compares with the ‘qualifications’ that Paul describes in 2 Cor 11:21-29.

A true prophet’s word never fails. His predictions always come true. There is not a single example in scripture of a  prophet who ever got it wrong. In fact, if a man prophesied and his words proved false, the people were commanded to kill him (Deut 18:20). Today if a prophet makes a mistake, he just modifies his interpretation of what he supposedly saw or heard to fit the outcome.

Finally, there is absolutely no doubt when a prophet hears the very words of God through the Holy Spirit. The word he receives is not an impression or a dream or a feeling. Paul describes it this way, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter (2 Cor 11:2-4). Some of those things included teachings that were unique to Paul like the rapture. Samuel and Moses heard a still, small voice. God also spoke to Moses out of a whirlwind, burning bush, flaming mountain, and face-to-face. We are told God spoke audibly to others. But none received an impression or a feeling that could not be substantiated either by onlookers or those who witnessed the actual fulfillment of the prophecy.

Why Seek a Sign?

Why do people seek signs? Because the Word of God is just not enough for them. They don’t want to do the hard work of mining the scripture in order to discern the whole counsel of God and to know Christ in all His fullness. They only want to hear what they need to know now.  John Calvin says that those who pursue signs inevitably end up devaluing the Word of God and becoming “foolish, ridiculous, vain, false, and …silly.” (http://bit.ly/2a6kXYr).

If you have ever been to a charismatic meeting or seen one on TV you know this is true. People get, ‘slain in the Spirit’ and fall to the ground (with a little push from the evangelist). They get ‘healed,’ but end up walking on deformed legs. They take Jewish horns called ‘shofars’ and blow them loudly to wake up angels and drive the demons away.

I have been in charismatic meetings where people just lie on the floor and moan as soon as the meeting starts. Instead of seeking the joy of knowing the Lord through the study of scripture they seek a counterfeit ecstasy that comes from another source and is a fleeting experience rather than an ever-present reality. 2 Peter 1 says of those who practice this kind of deception, “But false prophets also arose among the people … And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

Signs Do Not Indicate Faith

Thomas insisted he would not believe Christ had risen from the dead unless he saw the nail prints in his hands and the sword wound in his side. When Jesus appeared to him and showed him these signs, Thomas acknowledged him as “My Lord and My God.” Jesus’ response was, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:28-29).

Those who seek signs will not necessarily believe as Thomas did. Those who believe without seeing a sign are more blessed. God told the rich man in hell that even though one were to rise from the dead, those who received him would not believe. Jesus refused to commit himself to those who were convinced of his claim to deity by the miracles he performed. He “would not entrust himself to them” on one occasion and withdrew from them on another because they sought to overthrow Rome and make him king. (Jn 2, 6).

Paul said, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:22-25).

The Sufficiency of God’s Word

John Calvin said that since the Apostolic era there has been only one stream of revelation and that is the preaching of the Word of God. When you add a second stream of revelation like signs, wonders, and prophecies, you water down the Word of God and weaken the pulpit. And this is very evident in the ministry of our charismatic friends. They like to talk a lot about power and miraculous answers to prayer but speak less of the power of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin and produce true faith through repentance. They supplant the true ministry of the Holy Spirit with a false sensationalism based on ecstatic experiences.

As the Apostle Peter says, And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Pet 1:19-21).

The role of the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the ministry of the Word of God. It casts light upon it, amplifies it, and applies it to the heart. Here is how John MacArthur describes the true ministry of the Holy Spirit as it is presented in scripture:

How did the Holy Spirit work in Christ?  Did He knock Him down?  Did He make Him look drunk?  Did He cause Him to fall, or flop, or roll, or laugh hysterically, or bark, or babble, or talk gibberish?  It’s a bizarre thing to think about anything like that.  And people who make people do that are not Spirit-filled.  That’s not what the Holy Spirit does” (http://bit.ly/29XflP5). He goes on to say that the Holy Spirit works in us the same way he did in Jesus. We grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man (Lk 1). We are anointed by the Holy Spirit  (Mk 1). We are sustained by the Spirit during temptation and empowered by the Spirit for ministry (Lk 4). We are filled by the Holy Spirit to walk in perfect obedience (Heb 9:14).

The Holy Spirit conforms us to Christ. So, he does for us what he did for Christ. The Bible says he comforts us, confirms our adoption, guarantees our inheritance, intercedes for us in our weakness, secures our salvation, grants us wisdom to understand God’s word, and fills us with joy.

The Danger of Deception

Jesus warns his hearers that, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Mt 7:21-23) A hard as it may seem to believe, there will be people refused entrance to Heaven who for all appearances not only believed in Jesus Christ, but performed miracles in his name. But evidently they did not obey Jesus Christ because he calls them “Workers of lawlessness.” The true sign of salvation is obedience to Jesus Christ.

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Evil Unleashed

Every other Friday night here at “The Compound” where we live, the activities committee features a movie. Last Friday we saw, “Hello, My Name is Doris.” It’s about a spinster who lives on Staten Island and commutes to work on the ferry. She never married, lived with her mother, and is a hoarder. Then one day on her way to work, she gets crammed in the elevator nose-to-sternum with a very handsome young man who pays her some very nice compliments just to ease the awkwardness of the situation.

It turns out this guy is the new advertising director at her company. She immediately becomes infatuated with him. The rest of the movie is about how she learns to create a false persona on Facebook in order to find out more about him and then starts listening to his favorite music, going to concerts where his favorite group is performing, and hanging out with his groupie friends in an effort to get close to him. Inevitably, she discovers he has a girlfriend. Broken-hearted, she looks up the girlfriend’s facebook page and tells her how disappointed she is to find out her boyfriend is a two-timer. Of course that destroys the relationship between her heart-throb and his girlfriend. He finds out it was Doris he friended on Facebook and confronts her. She is so humiliated that she quits her job.

The director mixes passionate scenes from Doris’ imagination with real life situations throughout the movie so that the audience is never sure what is real and what is not. He is constantly toying with the notion of a romance between an elderly woman and a thirties-something advertising director who looks like a  professional model. The whole point of the movie seemed to be, “Let’s see how far we can push the sexual boundaries.”

Sexual Boundaries Erased

That is exactly what is happening in our day. All the boundaries are being pushed back. It is so unusual because it is now happening with lightning speed. First there was gay marriage – the Supreme Court of the United States sanctioning something that was unthinkable only a few years ago. Then Bruce Jenner, a very masculine one-time Olympic Gold medalist,  decided he wanted to become “Katelyn Jenner.” He/she was lauded by Hollywood at the Academy Awards. Then the President of the United States tried to compel all federal agencies to allow men into women’s bathrooms. Soon thereafter Sweden legalized necrophelia and incest and Canada legalized “non-penetrative” bestiality. It is all happening so fast nowadays that it makes your head spin!!

Today we are seeing every God-ordained restraint against evil being broken down in rapid fashion.

Social Unrest on the Rise

The number of days flags have flown at half mast is at a historical high. According to an article by Mark Hensch in The Hill, “Obama has issued a record 66 proclamations on lowering the flags at federal buildings since 2009, according to USA Today. Former President George W. Bush is second with 58 orders, while former President Bill Clinton ranks third with 50.” During Obama’s administration flags have flown at half mast for a total of 158 days, six percent of his entire time in office.

After decades of comparative peace, racial riots are once again breaking out all across the country under the auspices of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. You would think that electing a Black President would be a good thing for race relations, but it has turned out to be just the opposite. The President himself is fanning the flames of racial hatred by involving the Justice Department in local investigations of black shootings by white cops. When the Justice Department checks in, so does the media. Now every incident involving a white policeman and a black offender is on the network news. To make matters worse, bystanders are using their cell phones to record the confrontations and then releasing the video on social media.

The police now fear for their lives. They won’t even go into many minority neighborhoods  because they are immediately confronted by a throng of jeering protesters waving cell phones. Consequently, violent crime in major cities has skyrocketed, rising a staggering seventeen percent in the past year. People are beginning to flee the inner city.  Parts of Baltimore have become virtually uninhabitable. Traffic stops in the city of Chicago are down by over 130,000 this year. Sensing the lax enforcement, drivers are speeding up and driving dangerously, tailgating  and darting in and out of traffic at high speeds. There have been numerous cases of shootings on the highways as a result of “Road Rage.”

National Security Compromised

Our president has pushed the border patrol forty miles back from the border, making it virtually impossible to catch illegal immigrants. He is dropping busloads of immigrants from the Middle East on States without any notice and then demanding they pay welfare benefits. Seventeen states are suing the Federal Government in response. There are ninety-thousand Somalis in Minneapolis near the Mall of the Americas. Count that – ninety-thousand! A number have  joined Islamic groups to commit acts of terror.  There are so many Muslim immigrants in Dearborn, Michigan that they are demanding Sharia Law.

The next shoe to drop will come in the fall when the administration demands that all these illegal aliens be given the right to vote. That will cause so much unrest that it may be necessary to enforce martial law. In fact, there are constant reports of heavy duty military hardware being moved into major metropolitan areas around the capital.

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Waning American Influence

Under this president America has relinquished its leadership role in the world, allowing terrorists to run rampant all over the Middle East and the rest of the world. Hundreds of thousands of military aged Muslim men are moving into Europe, raping women and children and terrorizing communities. Sweden and Germany are in a virtual state of collapse. London has its first Muslim mayor. Fearing for their survival, they have withdrawn from the European Union so they can regain control of their borders.

Our President is making good on his promise to “Fundamentally Transform” America by undermining our most cherished institutions. He has virtually destroyed the separation of powers by using his executive authority to force his will on the other branches of government and the states. He refuses to enforce laws he doesn’t like and denies federal funds to public agencies that will not meet the demands of a Justice Department, IRS, and Environmental Protection Agency that have redefined federal law to suit their own purposes.

Meanwhile, the other branches of government cave to the pressures of political correctness by surrendering their constitutional authority to rein in a rogue administration because it is run by a black man.

Increasing Lawlessness

And now we have a woman running for president who has a long history of corruption beginning with the Watergate hearings during the Nixon administration. Back then the lead prosecutor removed her from the committee that was investigating the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsworth’s psychiatrist because she couldn’t be trusted. Since then her list of shady dealings include Travelgate, Whitewater, Filegate, enormous gains from suspect trades in cattle futures, defiance of subpoenas for billing records at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, a subpoena to appear before a grand jury when she was first lady, a mysterious presidential pardon of convicted Puerto Rican terrorists in New York during her Senate campaign, abandoning our ambassador to Libya during a terrorist attack, funneling large sums of money from foreign governments through a bogus charity in exchange for political favors, and leveraging that investment with a private server in her own home where she could secretly process classified government documents to the benefit of her contributors.

Watergate

If this woman is elected President, there will be utter contempt for the law in the highest office of our land. That can mean nothing less than an increase in lawlessness at every level of government.

Removing Restraints

What in the world is happening?? The Bible says that in the last days the restraints that hold evil in check will be removed, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,  who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, … And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way…” (2 Th2:3-7)

Who is it that restrains evil? John MacArthur makes the argument in his commentary on Thessalonians that it can be none other than God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that restrained evil before the flood. God said in Genesis 6:3 that “my Spirit will not strive with man forever.” John 16:8 says that it is the role of the Holy Spirit  to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;  concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” No one but God has the power to restrain Satan as is evident by Jesus’ interactions with Satan during his temptation in the wilderness, with Pilate at his crucifixion,  and with the demons that he cast out.

The Last Restraint  Removed

There is little doubt that we have already entered that period referred to as “the rebellion” in second Thessalonians. All of the restraints that God has put in place to protect us from evil are being broken down – the family, the government, and the church, which is caught up in all sorts of false doctrines and completely oblivious to the spiritual warfare taking place all around it. Sound Biblical preaching has been replaced by a feel good gospel that worships a benign God who wants nothing in return for sacrificing his Son on our behalf. A loving God would not send anyone to Hell, no matter how stubbornly he refuses to acknowledge  God. The church embraces those who practice immorality in the name of tolerance and Christian charity. In the process she falls prey to the lies of Satan.

The Next Step

So what is next on the horizon? According to Second Thessalonians, it is the appearance of the Man of Lawlessness, a.k.a the Antichrist of the last days. The Bible describes this man as one who “shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all“(Dan 11:36-37). In other words, he will be a blasphemer, irreligious, and a narcissist. He will be a secular man who denies the Creator, believes only in science, and takes counsel from no one. He will place himself above the law. And he will willingly accept worship from others. 

This  man is no doubt alive today and in a position of power. He is having his way in everything he does. Those who oppose him are powerless to stop him.  He has utter contempt for Jesus Christ and His followers as well as the Jewish people and does everything in his power to oppose them. The full extent of his power has not yet been revealed because the Holy Spirit has not yet let him loose, but when that happens his fury will know no bounds because he knows his time is short, “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev 12:12).

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What to Do When You Can’t Take it Anymore

There is a road near my home called “Hassert Drive.” It is not far from the place where the disgraced Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, was raised. He was a high school gymnastics coach who won election to Congress from our local district. After serving for several terms, he rose to prominence as the Speaker of the House, the highest legislative office in the land. He retired many years ago, but recently became embroiled in a serious controversy. The FBI had been monitoring his bank account and noticed an unusual pattern of withdrawals. He had been taking out large amounts of cash, but never all in one lump sum. He would always limit his withdrawals to just under $10,000 each.

This may seem like innocuous behavior, but there is a federal law designed to catch drug lords in the act of laundering their money. It forbids multiple withdrawals or deposits of $10,000 or more to hide the proceeds from drug trades. This law often catches innocent people whose money comes from other sources. In this case, it entrapped the Speaker.  He had been making regular withdrawals of just under $10,000 to avoid the paperwork that would have triggered an investigation. Apparently, someone had tipped off the Feds that this was hush money Hastert was paying a former athlete whom he had molested in his days as a high school wrestling coach. One day the Feds moved in and arrested him. The news scandalized the people who had elected  him to office and supported him for so many years. His name became synonymous with sleaze.

So, when the city fathers of Bolingbrook Illinois, decided to name a street after one of the founding families whose name just happened to sound an awful lot like “Hastert,” they ran into a buzzsaw of opposition from the “low information” crowd. It eventually got so bad that they had to erect signs along the roadway drawing attention to the difference in the spelling of the names. It reads, “Hassert Road is named after the Hassert family, NOT Dennis Hastert,  former Speaker of the House.

Hassert_Blvd

I got to thinking about how hard it must have been for the victims of this man to watch him rise to such heights of fame and fortune (for the once lowly public school employee retired with a fortune large enough to open him to blackmail). I am sure that they thought no one would believe that this dignitary could be guilty of pedophelia. So the victims must have suffered in silence for decades while Hastert continued his rise to power. Then, when they saw how wealthy he had become, they seized the opportunity for a little payback. Actually, it was a lot of payback, some $3 million.   Although it was technically blackmail, no one in the media ever faulted them for their behavior. I have a lot of sympathy for these folks myself because I understand in a special way what they were going through.

Suffer Injustice Patiently
One of the hardest things in life for me is to suffer injustice and indignities and then watch as the oppressor not only escapes justice but prospers. But God has vindicated me on a number of occasions. My son was molested by a missionary who worked with a cooperating mission in northern Japan at the camp I directed. I found out years later when he suddenly became very violent and went for counseling. He told the counselor that he was angry because his parents hadn’t protected him from the predator.

I immediately contacted the mission and asked them to give an account of this man’s behavior. For three years they steadfastly denied that he ever molested anyone.  Then another victim heard my story and contacted me. He was the son of one of their own missionaries. The same pedophile had abused him and his two brothers. With this information I contacted the mission again and they finally came clean,  producing an entire chronology of his actions. They had known his history the entire time they were accusing me of lying and extortion. But, by God’s sovereign intervention,  their lying and deception eventually caught up with them.

When my son was going through his violent phase, his mother decided to send him away to a very expensive boarding school without consulting me, even though our divorce decree stipulated that I was to have a voice in all decisions regarding his disposition. I did a little research and discovered that the facility they chose had a history of verbal and emotional abuse. None of the teachers were certified and most of them came from very troubled backgrounds. One of them even boasted he had set a homeless  man on fire once. When I petitioned the judge to remove my son to a Christian institution with a sterling reputation, the boarding school officials said his condition was too delicate. So although the judge disallowed my request, he did reduce my portion of the expenses to a level commensurate with the costs of the other boarding school.

After 30 months of “Emotional Growth Therapy” involving group sessions in which students viciously piled on each other, my son finally “graduated.” But, despite the enormous cost of the school, the academic part of the program was so weak that he had to sit for his GED to get a high school diploma.

During his stay, the officials confiscated all my letters at the instructions of his mother. Another father who had the same experience brought suit against the school and put them out of business. Even today you can hear the testimony of these poor abused students on a Youtube Channel called Cedu Documentary. Their stories are heart rending. But, once again, the Lord rewarded my persistence as I patiently waited for Him to vindicate me.

Endure Humiliation Graciously
My ex-wife got involved with two different married men during our marriage. She married the last one, whose wife was dying of cancer when they began dating behind my back. Because of no-fault divorce, she was not penalized for her behavior. She just kept coming after me again and again for my money until I had barely enough to live on. She was awarded custody of the kids even though her daughter once referred to her as a “slut” for the way she carried on with other men.

But the most amazing thing is that I would always catch her in her devious ways. One time I was sitting in a movie theater in another town on a Friday night when she walked in to the same show hand-in-hand with her boyfriend. They didn’t even notice me as I watched them snuggling up and laughing from my seat nearby. Then she finally caught my eye, whispered something in her boyfriend’s ear, and beat a hasty retreat. This was just after I had moved out of the house to spare my own sanity.  I called her later that evening and asked her if she had fun. She said, “Please don’t tell the kids!”

On another occasion, my daughter asked me to come to the hospital where her mother had just been admitted for some gastro-intestinal condition. Just as I walked into her room, the doctor came in. The first words out  his mouth were, “I have never seen anyone with such a severely tipped uterus!” Tipped uterus? I said, “Wait a minute, doctor. I thought she was in here for an abdominal procedure of some sort.” He said, “She came in for a tubal ligation,” which means she got her tubes tied. I said, “She has to have her husband’s permission for that procedure and she never told me about it!” He made no response. She was just buying a little insurance against her boyfriend getting her pregnant. So I did a little research on tipped uteruses and discovered that they make sexual intimacy extremely painful. Now that was music to my ears!

Leave Vindication to God
That was all many years ago and I am now happily remarried. But my wife has a daughter who is not at all unlike my ex-wife. Very devious, dishonest, and selfish. She married a guy who is just like her and they had our first grandchild. He wouldn’t allow my wife into the delivery room even though her daughter was begging for her help. Later they fell on hard times and we put them up. To show how ungrateful they were, they began telling us what we could and could not do in our own house. Everything had to be just right for their baby. So we politely invited them to leave.

Well, he eventually lost his job and had to put his wife to work. She got a job in another part of the state and they moved away. They would not even give us their new address. But their profligate spending finally caught up with them and they had to return the car my wife had purchased for her daughter years ago. They could no longer afford the insurance.

Knowing that we attend church on Sunday mornings, they arranged to have the car delivered by her father-in-law. But it just so happens that I had stayed home that day because I had other commitments. We had recently moved into a gated retirement community. So in order to sneak the car in without our noticing, they had to arrange for the police to get them through the gate. At about 10 am I heard a firm knock on our front door and opened it to two big state troopers. They asked me if the car on the curb belonged to me. There was the father-in-law completely embarrassed that he had caught me at home and very apologetic to the officers for wasting their time. I told them that all he had to do was call me from the gate and I would have let him in. That was the first time since moving here that I had ever stayed home from church on a Sunday morning – the same Sunday they picked to return the car.

Don’t Give in To Evil
Psalm 37 says, “Fret not yourselves because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness…Commit your way to the Lord and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger and forsake wrath ! Fret not yourself: it tends only to evil. The evildoer shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” (Ps 37:1-3; 5-9)

A good friend told me that if his wife had treated him with the contempt my ex-wife had shown me, he would have shot her. Believe me, I thought about it often, and to be honest, I still do from time to time. But somehow God restrained me despite the abject humiliation I experienced at  her hands and in which she so obviously delighted. But my anger only led to depression from which it took years to recover. Meanwhile, the Lord had been interceding on my behalf in truly remarkable ways. The series of “coincidences” which he engineered were far too many to be pure happenstance (there are many others I could tell you about).

But the hard part is waiting — waiting for the Lord to do something while the pain seems unbearable. God did take action on my behalf and on behalf of my wife and I thank him for that. But the real cream on the cake is coming when God awards our inheritance for patiently waiting for him and not taking matters into our our own hands! That day will not come until he establishes his kingdom on this earth, but it is every bit worth waiting for!!

 

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