Church as Theater—Why Are We Doing This?

Church as Theater—Why Are We Doing This?

Somewhere back in the 1970s or 1980s evangelical churches made the decision that the church auditorium should reflect the architecture of a theater, with theater type seating and a windowless auditorium, which for the most part makes the decor of the room invisible.

This reality struck me forcefully from the contrary perspective when I had occasion to visit a mainline denomination church. As I took a seat in a pew, the light streaming through the windows gave a warm ambiance to the sanctuary and illuminated the artful design of the decor that surrounded me. As I was smitten with the stark contrast between these surroundings and those of almost every contemporary evangelical church, it dawned on me that a half-century ago virtually every church exhibited a similar design. Consequently, the dramatic shift from this traditional motif to the contemporary one must have been intentional.

What, then, was the intent? It seems that contemporary evangelicals adopted the architecture of the theater because that motif best reflected and served contemporary evangelical culture.

This preference for a theater environment manifests itself in how attendees dress and act. Parishioners have transitioned from traditional church dress to clothing that might be worn to the movies. And as with the theater, coffee and water bottles have become accepted accouterments of the worship service. In keeping with the theater environment, applause, absent from traditional worship, now comprises a major element of the contemporary evangelical service. In the church where I attend, which seems to be typical, we clap for everything: baptisms, dynamic sermon points, when someone makes a profession of faith or joins the church, praise group numbers, etc.

The purpose of a theater is entertainment. I do not say that in a pejorative way. It is just a statement of fact. Whether one goes to a theater to hear an opera or rock group or to see a movie or play, the goal is entertainment, to give attendees a positive emotional experience, i.e. to enable them to enjoy themselves.

In the contemporary evangelical service almost everything is packaged to be entertaining. Again, that is not meant to be critical but just a statement of fact. Most praise bands and worship teams provide good entertainment. The sermons of most successful pastors are entertaining. Even announcements are packaged in a video designed to entertain.

The ultimate entertainer, however, seems to be Jesus. In many churches the congregation is called to give Jesus a round of applause. Though some may seek to argue, the reality is that in our culture applause is for performers.

More significantly, Jesus as performer is rooted in contemporary evangelical theology. We are told that it is okay to be angry with God, that is, if he does not perform according to our desires. On the other hand, we are assured that “we do not have to perform to please God.” That mantra comprises a standard in contemporary evangelical discourse. Therefore, Jesus needs to perform in order to please us, but we do not need to perform to please Him. As in the theater, the audience is not there to please the performer. The performer is tasked with pleasing the audience.

This arrangement of Jesus as performer manifests itself in the allowable topics for preaching. Contemporary evangelical sermons are designed to be “needs oriented.” This makes the focus what God can do for you—how He can meet your needs. The “needs oriented” approach to preaching sells. Attendance grows when pastors preach on how Jesus will meet their needs—will perform for them. It fits the theater ambiance.

Viewing Jesus as performer excludes preaching on sin and obligation. The assurance that we need not perform to please God eliminates both. This arrangement fits with church as theater since neither preaching on sin or obligation is entertaining. Likewise, contemporary evangelicals have eliminated genuine fear of God, which also fails the entertainment criterion.

So we enter into a sanctuary designed as a theater, dressed comfortably and carrying a water bottle, are well entertained by every dimension of the service, and are taught how God will perform for us while being assured that we do not need to perform to please Him.

The good news has been that church as theater has attracted multitudes to mega-churches, which possess the resources to entertain best. The bad news is that smaller churches, unable to compete, are shrinking and closing their doors, and overall numbers are declining, with major losses among young people. This is because church as theater with Jesus as performer offers no substantive message. Worse yet, church as theater lacks the power to function as salt and light in our society, which is resulting in America’s current precipitous cultural decline.

Of special interest is the contemporary evangelical adoption of the term “worship” to describe the music portion of the service. This term camouflages the reality that church as theater and Jesus as performer exclude genuine worship of Jesus, leaving only room for worship of ourselves. Could that be our ultimate motive for adopting church as theater?

The road back begins with a renewed focus on genuine worship. Instead of clapping for Jesus we might revert to the traditional practice of kneeling before Him. Instead of selecting themes from Scripture that entertain, we need to allow Him to address us with all His counsel. Instead of expecting Him to perform for us, we must respond to the command of Jesus to the church of Ephesus: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

One last note of personal preference. Since we are worshiping the God of light, the light of the world, in whom is no darkness at all, would it really be a problem to allow in a little daylight while we worship Him?

How the Crusade against Legalism is Destroying the Evangelical Church

How the Crusade against Legalism is Dest...

Recently an evangelical church decided not confront a Sunday school teacher and a member of the worship team that are cohabiting in order not to appear legalistic. This church might be characterized as the typical, fairly large contemporary evangelical church that can be found in virtually every city in the United States, this one perhaps differing in its reputation for being somewhat more conservative.

The concern of this church over escaping legalism manifests itself in most contemporary evangelical churches, revealing itself in a variety of ways. The goal is to avoid being judgmental of lifestyle choices.

This commitment to avoid legalism is rooted in the perspective that God’s grace annuls all requirements on the believer to perform in order to enjoy His favor. Any critique of a believer’s lifestyle conveys a requirement to meet some standard in order to please God. Contemporary evangelicals argue that establishing such standards is not only unbiblical but also counterproductive. Rather, the believer’s realization that he is accepted by God and fellow believers regardless of his performance empowers him to develop a biblical lifestyle.

The contemporary evangelical enthusiasm for escaping the Old Testament law tends to make morality an inconsequential element of our relationship with Christ. I can enjoy God’s favor despite immoral behaviors. The theory asserts that when God looks on me, he does not see my dirt but the righteousness of Christ. In other words, whatever moral requirements might be included in the New Testament, the cross assures that my failure to meet them does not affect my relationship with Christ in any way.

This perspective overlooks the almost ubiquitous New Testament teaching on morality. Scripture places the believer under the law of love. I explain in my book, Counterattack: Why Evangelicals Are Losing the Culture War and How They Can Win, that morality is the foundational component of love. For example, a moral society is more loving than an immoral one. Almost countless examples could be cited of New Testament insistence on moral living. Not only does it condemn fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, but it also addresses more mundane expressions of immorality such as displaying partiality toward the rich. In fact, New Testament teaching on morality permeates every dimension of life. The New Testament presents morality in it more generic form using terms such as righteousness, godliness, and holiness.

But contemporary evangelicals might argue that they are not displaying disregard for New Testament morality but rather are employing a biblical approach to achieving it. As explained above, they contend that we develop a biblical lifestyle by basking in God’s unconditional acceptance, which becomes the agent of transformation.

In reality, the New Testament not only teaches a comprehensive morality, but it also warns us in many places that failure to live morally will negatively affect our relationship with Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:30 teaches that God punished with sickness and even death those displaying selfishness in their observance of the Lord’s Table. “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” In 1 Corinthians 9:27 the Apostle Paul acknowledges that God will remove him from the ministry if he does not maintain a disciplined life. “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

In other words, Scripture does not teach the mechanism embraced by the contemporary evangelical church that the experience of God’s unconditional acceptance will produce godliness, but rather it calls us to live godly lives in order to enjoy His favor and blessing. One is hard-pressed to find those verses that teach, “I know that your lives are riddled with unbiblical behaviors. However, be assured that I accept you just the way you are. It is only as you bask in my unconditional acceptance that you will spontaneously morph into the godly person I designed you to be.” Instead, we find many verses such as James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Failure to maintain God’s morality not only negatively influences our relationship with Christ but also creates chaos in our personal lives. God’s approach to life works and deviation from it not only harms us personally but also everyone that our lives touch, especially loved ones.

Fear of appearing legalistic has prompted pastors, Bible study leaders, and evangelical authors to avoid the many biblical texts that mandate morality. This has resulted in the metastasis of immorality within the body of Christ and the negative outcomes in our relationship with Christ and in our personal lives described above, leaving the evangelical church weak and ineffective.

Various studies reveal that evangelicals are losing market share and their young people. For example, one survey concludes that “among 18-29 year-olds, only about 8 percent currently identify as evangelicals.” Though many factors contribute to this decline, the loss of our moral fiber and the resulting impact on our relationship with the Lord and our personal lives certainly constitutes a major one. Perhaps the time has come, especially in an evangelical community in which preaching on smoking and wearing lipstick has disappeared and pornography and cohabitation run rampant, to recognize that our greatest enemy is not legalism but immorality.

The Dishonest, Deceitful, Destructive Nature of the Left and Why I Admire Them

The Dishonest, Deceitful, Destructive Na...

The Dishonest, Deceitful, Destructive Nature of the Left

In a previous post, I described how the Left silences the Right, preventing them from voicing their position on issues, even if, or especially if, the conservative position is true. I offered as the ultimate demonstration of this phenomenon how the Left dictated to Pres. Trump what he was and was not allowed to say regarding Charlottesville.

The Left must silence the truth in order to survive. Let me offer four reasons.

It’s horrific history

Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, identifies just a few aspects of the Left’s despicable past, such as its racism and advocacy of eugenics. The big lie consists of the Left successfully accusing conservatives of practices of which liberals are guilty. A study of history reveals many disgraceful aspects of the liberal past. Consequently, the Left can only salvage its reputation by silencing any source seeking to expose the truth related to its sordid history.

It’s abominable failures

Almost every initiative of the Left has produced dismal failure. This reality can be witnessed everywhere that the Left has exercised dominance for extended periods. Detroit and Chicago provide graphic examples. Economic failure and lawlessness in these cities represent only two of the many areas in which the failed policies of the Left are on vivid display. At a national level, the liberal welfare state has not achieved its stated objectives but instead has increased misery, destroyed the family, escalated drug use, and reduced gainful employment. Any honest examination of the performance of the Left would reveal ineffectiveness and waste. The Left must prevent exposure of its dismal performance.

It’s irrational positions

The Left must also prevent the truth from being known regarding the positions it advocates. Full disclosure would reveal that many of the positions of the Left are built on the quicksand of junk science. Liberals present themselves as being the champions of science, and yet an honest scientific examination of their core beliefs would reveal their misuse of science in support of their bogus beliefs. This tendency has shown itself in the doctored data the Left uses to support climate change. The reason that liberals will not allow advocates of Intelligent Design a fair hearing in the university classroom is not because Intelligent Design is religious and not scientific as they claim, which is not the case. Rather, the Left must ban Intelligent Design because neo-Darwinian advocates that control university classrooms are incapable of providing a genuine scientific response to the arguments of Intelligent Design. Many other issues could be cited demonstrating the unscientific and irrational positions held by the Left. Opponents must be silenced to prevent the exposure of this irrationality.

It’s dishonest agenda

Rush Limbaugh has made the point many times across many years that the Democrat party must lie about its agenda in order to secure votes. “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it,” “Your health care costs will be substantially reduced,” etc. With the development of talk radio and greater availability of information through the Internet, Democrats are no longer capable of concealing their agenda to the extent that they once were. This is resulting in major losses of elected positions by Democrats at all levels of government. Likewise, RINOs, liberals in Republican clothing, must lie about their intentions in order to achieve election, as demonstrated by the dishonesty of those running on repeal of ObamaCare but refusing to do so when the opportunity availed itself.

Why I Admire Them

So why would I admire the Left, with its horrific history, abominable failures, irrational positions, and dishonest agenda?

Imagine if you were a marketing firm tasked with promoting the Left, with its terrible past, its failed and irrational policies, and its initiatives built on dishonesty. That challenge would seem insurmountable. Amazingly, the Left has devised ways of doing that.

They have achieved this by developing unity and a unified strategy.

They displayed unity, for example, in passing ObamaCare, by getting all of their members of Congress on board, even though a large segment of the American people was opposed to this legislation. By way of contrast, Republicans have not been able to achieve unity in repealing it, despite popular support and even demand. Likewise, when a liberal get himself in trouble, the Left quickly circles the wagons, providing a unified front in support of their endangered member. Conservatives, to the contrary, can’t find a microphone fast enough to deplore the actions of their embattled colleague.

The strategy of the Left has included gaining control of the news and entertainment media, our public and higher educational systems, the judiciary, and other aspects of our society that shape public option and culture and are not easily accessible to the will of the voter. By gaining almost total control of these venues they have amassed the power to rewrite history and recreate present reality, which allows them to sell their program and demonize the Right, while silencing conservatives so as to prevent exposure of their duplicity.

I admire the skill, discipline, shrewdness, and other characteristics displayed by the Left in being able to popularize their bankrupt program.

In contrast, conservatives, who possess a successful, rational agenda, which is supported by reality and consequently should be an easy sell, are constantly losing battles that they should be winning. This failure can be traced to their lack of unity and failure to develop an effective strategy.

The good news is that our program is immensely easier to sell than theirs. The bad news is that unless we soon develop unity and an effective strategy the Left will close off all opportunity to do so. If we are going to defeat them, we need to start now.

The Only but Sufficient Means of Saving America

The Only but Sufficient Means of Saving ...

America’s ultimate problems are cultural, moral, and spiritual.

Culture shapes societies. Muslim societies are the way they are because they are driven by Muslim culture. Likewise with socialist societies. America displays the characteristics destroying it because we adopted the sixties culture that promotes those qualities.

The sixties culture possesses a singular moral value—the feelings of the individual. If he feels like a woman he has a moral right to access the women’s shower room. If she feels like having sex but not having children, she has a right to an abortion. If members of Congress don’t feel like adopting the same healthcare program they force on us, they have a right to adopt one that feels better to them. Considering that traditionally morality refers to obligations related to the treatment of others, this self-oriented morality not only fails to support traditional moral mandates but actively destroys them.

Our problem is ultimately spiritual since the solution to the cultural and moral problems described above consists of restoring Christian morality to our culture. Historically, though many Americans were not authentic believers, the cultural values instilled by those who were provided an environment in which government, business, law enforcement, education, and other aspects of our society could function effectively.

Our spiritual problem, however, includes an added dimension. It seems that the American evangelical church constitutes the only component of our society capable of restoring Christian culture. The evangelical church in America, however, having larger numbers and greater resources than the church in practically any other nation, should have possessed sufficient power to prevent the reshaping of American culture by secular forces. Its failure to do so reveals that it has spiritual problems of his own that are sapping its power and causing its defeat in the culture war.

An even more profound problem resides in the contemporary evangelical church’s failure to see that it has problems. This self-satisfaction undermines any genuine self-examination and correspondingly any genuine interest in change. This evangelical complacency engenders a sense of hopelessness. If the only component of our society capable of restoring Christian culture is too weak to do so and too complacent to change, the future looks dim indeed.

In searching for hope, I find the Lord taking me back to Genesis 1:2-3:

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Donald Gray Barnhouse, legendary pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, also author of a classic commentary on the book of Romans, wrote a book entitled The Invisible War, in which he postulated that the fall of Satan occurs between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Many other good Bible teachers have taken this position also.

What does this have to do with hope for America? We will see that as we further examine this passage.

If we place the fall of Satan after Genesis 1:1, then Genesis 1:2 seems to be describing the results of his fall. Ezekiel 28:13 seems to identify Earth as the residence of Satan prior to his fall. Genesis 1:2 could be translated, “And the earth became without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” This understanding of Genesis 1:2 indicates that the fall of Satan resulted in the earth becoming chaotic and dark.

The phrase “without form and void” is found one other place in Scripture, Jeremiah 4:23, where it describes the coming desolation of Jerusalem that would result from its total decimation by Nebuchadnezzar: the wall was broken down, the Temple and houses were burned, and the city was left in ruin. This use of this phrase suggests that it refers to chaos resulting from judgment. Apparently, just as God brought judgment resulting in chaos on the land of Judah, He likewise judged the Earth, the domain of Satan, after his fall. Darkness comprised another result of this judgment.

Genesis 1:2 describes the response of the Spirit of God to this scene of devastation. The translation above indicates that the Holy Spirit “hovered” over the face of the deep. This Hebrew word can also be translated “brooded.” One of the two other uses of the Hebrew word in Scripture is found in Jeremiah 23:9 where in response to the terrible depravity of the prophets in Judah and the approaching judgment Jeremiah laments, “Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and because of his holy words.” The word “broken” in this verse is the one translated “hovered” in Genesis 1:2.

Apparently the passage is saying that the Spirit of God witnessing the devastation and darkness of Earth resulting from the judgment of Satan was brokenhearted and brooded over its condition. God the Father, in response to the turmoil of His Spirit over the ruined condition of the earth, said, “Let there be light…,” thus initiating the entire creative process, shining His light into the darkness and bringing His order to the chaos.

The only but sufficient solution for America is to pray that the Spirit of God would look on the chaos and darkness that has come over our once great nation and that He would brood over it with a brokenness that would move God the Father to pronounce regarding America, “Let there be light,” thus piercing the darkness that has enveloped us and bring order to the chaos that surrounds us. That is the only hope for America.

The Silencing of the Right and the Christian Solution

The Silencing of the Right and the Chris...

Those on the Right have no right to express their position.

This reality displayed itself graphically in the recent furor by the media over Pres. Trump’s response to the Charlottesville incident. His observation that all sides behaved badly connoted that both those on the Left and the Right contributed to this tragedy. Though this was obviously true and a valid reality for a president to stress, he had crossed the sacred line, suggesting that any contingent on the Left had done something wrong. This transgression was met by a ferocious media assault, requiring the President several times to make a restatement that highlighted the problems with the Right and ignoring those with the Left.

That is the way it works. Let anyone point out problems with the Left, and they will be punished so severely that they and anyone else will not dare to point out liberal flaws. When even the Pres. of the United States is required to follow this rule, we understand how deeply entrenched and how aggressively enforced it has become.

The end result is the creation of a culture that silences the Right while giving the views of the Left free reign, creating the resulting impression that the positions of the Left are rational, valid, and virtually universally accepted while those of the Right represent racism and ignorance which are held only by a small minority of uneducated bigots.

Kirsten Powers, an honest old-school type liberal that is committed to the true meaning of the term, wrote a book entitled The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech. In it she includes numerous incidents demonstrating the cultural tendency described above at work in the media, silencing anyone dissenting from the template of the Left. I recommend this book to anyone doubting the existence of this trend and the harshness with which it is implemented.

Of course, university campuses, supposedly the home of free thought and speech, constitutes the environment in which opinions of the Right are banned most aggressively.

The presence of this culture explains why the election of Donald Trump was such a shock. As a candidate he ran on a slate of conservative ideas: pro-life, stopping illegal immigration, a strong military, lower taxes, etc. Because of the cultural bias described above, he was portrayed as a laughingstock not to be taken seriously, and his supporters were likewise ridiculed as fools. The polls, which are consistently biased to support the positions of the Left, were even more skewed due to the resulting reticence of people to publicly identify with Trump. However, in the privacy of the voting booth where they were permitted to express their position without censure, they displayed their support of Trump’s conservative agenda.

This arrangement of stifling the voice of the Right distorts reality, creating the impression that most Americans are liberal when this is not the case. The Left’s objective in establishing and maintaining this arrangement is to cower people to join the Left by creating the impression that this is what every other thinking and unbiased person is doing.

Because elections are not held in many venues such as corporations, in these arenas the positions of those on the Right are totally silenced. Recently a Google employee sent an email to some of his friends that expressed some conservative positions. From all indication, the writer is a liberal, but his email expressed concerns regarding company policies that made him appear to be supporting conservative positions. His transgression of saying anything that appears to support positions of the Right, regardless of how factual, according to current cultural rules had to be punished and it was. He was fired.

This arrangement in effect robs those on the Right of free speech. If no one, Right or Left, was allowed to express their opinions in the workplace, this may represent a legitimate practice. The company just wants to minimize hostility. However, silencing the opinion of one orientation while allowing that of the other borders on an Orwellian arrangement.

The greatest problem with this culture calculated to silence the Right is that it allows the errors of the Left to go uncontested. Banning Pres. Trump from informing the nation that not only the KKK and neo-Nazis are disrupting our society, but so are Black Lives Matter and Antifa leaves American citizens living under a false reality. Consequently, negative and unethical forces go unidentified and unchallenged.

It is important for evangelical Christians to be aware of and respond to this trend because ultimately positions on the Right are biblical ones. In fact, a compelling case can be made that this is the reason for hostility toward them. Ultimately assaults of the Left are assaults against the God of the Bible, the rules of life that He has established, and the people who embrace and seek to propagate them. Therefore, this cultural silencing of the Right ultimately comprises the silencing of Christians. This silencing of Christian speech is resulting in the diminishing of places in which Christians are free to share their faith or express their opinions.

I provide a solution to this silencing of Christians in my book, Counterattack: Why Evangelicals Are Losing the Culture War and How They Can Win.

Some take the position that evangelicals should do nothing in response to this situation, believing that our sole concerns should be evangelism and discipleship and that persecution is our lot in life. The resulting inactivity constricts our opportunity for evangelism, allows the Left to propagate its lies unchallenged and advance its agenda unrestrained, and consigns our children to a world dominated by the degradation of the Left. The greater the stranglehold the Left gains on our society, the more difficult it becomes to remedy this situation. How tragic that the Left is free to impose its godless strategy because of our indifference and inertia, when the Lord has provided us with all the resources necessary to win the culture war.

Tomorrow Will Never Come—Or Will It?

Tomorrow Will Never Come—Or Will It?

Most heresies consist of a truth taken to an extreme or misapplied. One teaching of Jesus possessing the potential for this type of abuse is found in His instruction in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34 ESV)

Jesus is teaching that we should not worry about tomorrow, but He is not negating the need to plan for tomorrow or to consider the impact of today’s behaviors on the future. In Proverbs we are instructed to discipline ourselves at planting time so that we will have something to eat when harvest time comes. Frequently Scripture teaches us to consider the consequences of today’s actions on the future, warning that failure to do so will lead to disaster.

One such passage is provided for us by Jeremiah, prophesying at the point in Judah’s history when the Babylonians were about to conquer Jerusalem, an event during which thousands were slaughtered and most of the rest were carried off as slaves. The Babylonians broke down the wall, burned the city, including the temple, and took all of its riches.

Jeremiah identified the reason for this outcome in Lamentations 1:9: “She took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible.” He had warned the nation repeatedly for decades that if they did not repent and recommit themselves to the Lord and His righteousness this would be their fate. Yet, they failed to take seriously the future consequences of their present actions.

Disregarding the future impact of one’s lifestyle has been embraced as a rule of life by America beginning in the sixties, when we adopted the philosophy of the “now generation.” Norman Mailer, a leading literary light of the movement expressed the rationale for ignoring the consequences of our actions by describing life as:

… a changing reality whose laws are remade at each instant by everything living, but most particularly man, man raised to a neo-medieval summit where the truth is not what one has felt yesterday or what one expects to feel tomorrow but rather truth is no more or no less than what one feels at each instant in the perpetual climax of the present.

In essence, Mailer is asserting that reality is totally unstable, that no laws govern the universe, and therefore tomorrow’s world is totally disconnected with one’s behaviors today.

Of course, life does not offer a direct connection between today’s behavior and tomorrow’s results, as any investment commercial is required to tell you. However, Scripture and experience both teach us that a strong connection exists. I love the concept adopted by Jerry Rice: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” His record-breaking career demonstrates the existence of a vital connection between today’s performance and tomorrow’s results. Likewise, from the negative perspective, taking drugs today places tomorrow at high risk.

Therefore, both Scripture and experience show Mailer and the hippie perspective to be clearly erroneous and dangerous. Our society has nonetheless adopted it because of its powerful attraction. Human nature has always craved immediate gratification, and therefore an approach to life espousing it as a major principle presents an offer too appealing to refuse.

We saw this principle at work on a personal level during the hippie era with the prevalence of drugs and promiscuous sex, practices that opt for immediate gratification without regard for long-term consequences. These trends continue and proliferate today. This philosophy also manifests itself in overeating, smoking, and other American societal trends.

Perhaps more dangerous, we see government employing this disregard for future outcomes in its unsustainable spending. Very few elected officials seem to wonder or care about the impact of this practice on our children. We have also watched this indifference regarding the future at play in the government’s uncontrolled growth and its permitting of unbridled illegal immigration.

We might assume that the brilliant people in Washington really have thought about the future and have a game plan to care for the consequences of their actions that is unknown to us, one perhaps that we are just not smart enough to understand. That this is not the case has been graphically displayed in the current perplexity regarding what to do now that North Korea has nuclear weapons and a delivery system. For years we have “negotiated” with them as they developed these capabilities, seeming oblivious to the future inevitable outcome. However, now we are confronted with the disastrous results only to discover that past administrations had no plan to deal with this situation. As the rulers in Jeremiah’s day, they gave “no thought to the future,” caring only about “peace in our times.” Even more disconcerting are the initiatives taken by the Obama administration to enable Iran to develop the same capability.

We can take some encouragement that President Trump is seeking to deal with these issues, showing the concern for tomorrow that has been missing in Washington for so long. The question is whether his efforts will be too little, too late, and whether he can overcome the opposition of the Washington insiders who still only display concern for the immediate moment.

Perhaps most troubling are indications that the evangelical church in America has adopted this same hippie perspective warned against by Jeremiah, the failure to consider the impact of present behaviors on the future. As our society becomes increasingly evil, as our nation becomes increasingly weaker, as America becomes increasingly more vulnerable in a hostile world, as our country increasingly qualifies to be recipients of the wrath of God, it would seem that the church would be assessing the danger toward which we are headed and committing extensive time to prayer each Sunday morning to plead for God’s mercy and guidance. It would seem that church leaders would be developing a strategy for functioning most effectively as salt and light in our society.

The absence of such responses, the failure of most evangelicals and their leaders to consider the precipice toward which we are heading and act accordingly, reveals that like the prophets and priests in Jeremiah’s time, they are taking the position that tomorrow will not come.

I’m betting that it will. If it does, it will bring the same result experienced by Judah, “Her fall is terrible.”

The Dangers Confronting Us and How We Should Respond

The Dangers Confronting Us and How We Sh...

America is in grave danger on three counts. I will describe the first two briefly since they confront you every day.

We are in danger of internal collapse. Recently I read an article indicating that a major part of the unemployment problem is that a large segment of Americans is too addicted to drugs to work. One employer said that half of the applicants for a certain job either did not show up for the drug test or failed it. I encountered an article yesterday indicating that the number of children in foster care North Carolina has increased by 40% since 2012 due primarily to opioid use.

Though this increase primary entails the use of hard drugs, the legalization of marijuana by some states hardly constitutes a rational response, which leads us to another problem that is promoting internal collapse—the American abandonment of reason. Like President Trump or hate him, a rational analysis leads to the conclusion that most if not all of his initiatives would promote the welfare of America: lower taxes, replacement of ObamaCare, strengthening of the military, energy independence, etc. Yet, all but a very small segment of the powerbrokers in our nation are vehemently opposing him. Other considerations are given precedence over reason.

Virtually countless other factors could be listed that expose American cultural rot, which is leading to our societal demise.

External challenges make our future look equally as bleak. China continues to expand its military capabilities, Russia is becoming more belligerent, Iran, enabled financially by Obama, threatens to destroy us, and North Korea continues to develop its weaponry, presenting a clear and present danger. Reports across the past 24 hours indicate that this latter threat is imminent and serious. In addition, we are exposed to attack by an electromagnetic pulse bomb. Our power grid is vulnerable to enemy destruction. An assault of this type could quickly put us in an economic tailspin, resulting in widespread starvation, riots, and other disasters. Our experience of peace and safety inoculates us against the reality that our way of life could be terminated at almost any moment.

The third and greatest threat, and one most Americans, including most evangelicals, are unaware consists of the judgment of God. Jeremiah, living in the kingdom of Judah during times in many ways paralleling contemporary America, prophecies frequently of the wrath of God about the fall on the nation. For example, Jeremiah 7:20 warns,

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.

In Jeremiah 21:5-6 the Lord exhorts the people of Judah:

I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath. And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. They shall die of a great pestilence.

America has offended God in virtually countless ways. After God has blessed us above any nation in all of history we have shown our thanks by removing His Word from schools and Scripture from the public square, we have not only violated His commandments but also used our influence to promote wickedness around the globe, we have killed our unborn children by the millions, we have made lying a way of life, we fund universities that do all within their power to reject God and teach our children to do so, and so the list could go on.

If God conveyed the great hostility expressed by Jeremiah toward His covenant people in the Old Testament, how much more might we expect He will do the same toward America? This realization should be a concern on any count, but especially so in view of the internal and external power kegs described above on which America sits, which any spark could ignite.

What should be the response of God’s people in light of the precariousness of our existence?

One would think that American pulpits would be warning God’s people of the danger of judgment. In most churches on a given Sunday morning you will hear the love of God mentioned at least several dozen times, but you would have to attend for a month of Sundays before hearing any warning regarding God’s wrath and judgment. You will be assured of God’s unconditional acceptance despite verses such as Jeremiah 12:8, “My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her.” Continually stressing the love of God while totally ignoring His wrath and judgment, especially in the face of our national wickedness, might be viewed as theological malpractice.

During times when we might anticipate the wrath of God, one would think that when we meet together on Sunday morning we would spend time on our faces before God seeking His forgiveness and mercy and asking His healing, beginning with His church. Instead, we sing our happy songs and clap as if everything is okay. This response is understandable because evangelicals have been told that they need not literally fear the Lord, despite many passages indicating that we should.

Unless pastors begin to warn of impending judgment and God’s people begin to pray for His compassion and restoration, we can anticipate the same outcome experienced by Judah, the one prophesied in Jeremiah 11:11,

Therefore, thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them.

Reading Scripture Again for the First Time—the Cure for Evangelical and American Ills

Reading Scripture Again for the First Ti...

When Josiah, king of Judah, was age 26 one of his administrators informed him that the high priest while rummaging through clutter in the Temple stumbled across “the book of the Law.” Some scholars believe this was the book of Deuteronomy while others think it may have been the entire first five books of Scripture.

They brought this book to Josiah and read it to him. After listening to its message he was highly distressed and said, “… Great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” (2Kings 22:13)

Josiah’s response might be attributed in part to his youthful inclination to take this Scripture at face value, consequently believing its message of God’s judgment on Israel. If he had been a few decades older and had been subject to rabbinical tutoring he may have learned how to explain away all of those passages incompatible with the current culture.

Our situation today in many ways parallels this story. Evangelicals have lost significant parts of Scripture. Of course, we are inundated with copies of Scripture in all forms and translations. However, we tend to focus on those passages that fit comfortably with our evangelical culture to the exclusion of a very significant segment of Scripture that does not. On this blog I did a four-part series a short while ago about sections of Scripture evangelicals tend to avoid, which turned out to be most of it.

Here is the question. If American evangelicals, who claim commitment to Scripture, would read through the Bible as if they were reading it for the first time, without imposing on it theological templates learned in Sunday school classes or seminaries, what would they conclude to be its message to us? My sense is that they would see God, the Christian life, and our relationship with Him from a substantially different perspective than do most evangelicals today.

For example, evangelicals are fixated almost exclusively on the themes of God’s love and grace. However, if they read through Scripture with fresh eyes they would discover another dimension of the character of God often and strongly conveyed but hardly ever mentioned by evangelicals today. For example, Nahum 1:2 states:

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.”

Contemporary scholars might assert that this Old Testament passage refers to the enemies of God but that the New Testament tells us that we are His friends and objects of His love. In response, those reading the Bible for the first time may ask how that perspective fits with passages such as James 4:4, apparently written to Christians.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

This disconnect between Scripture and the worldview of contemporary evangelicals might also be observed in a video of a sermon by Paul Washer to a youth convention. At the outset he stresses that his message is out of sync with current evangelical beliefs, and the sermon supports that assertion. Yet, this sermon in its entirety is biblical. I would urge you to listen to it because it is excellent and convicting but also demonstrates how out of touch contemporary evangelical teaching is with much of Scripture.

Imagine if every pastor and layperson read through Scripture without bringing to it all the preconceived baggage that they have accumulated across the years, especially those aspects attempting to squeeze it into the mold of contemporary culture, but instead, like a young Josiah, taking God’s message to us at face value. I believe we would find ourselves saying along with Josiah, “… Great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” American evangelicals desperately need to read through the Bible again for the first time. Doing so would lead to revival in the church and the consequent cure for most of our nation’s problems.

A Comforting Calculation for Troublesome Times

A Comforting Calculation for Troublesome...

One of my high school textbook had a map of the Assyrian Kingdom during biblical times. I found it almost humorous that the Assyrians had conquered all the territory of the whole Middle East except for a barely visible little plot of land that had somehow resisted their assault. How could that be?

Years later I found the explanation in Scripture. In fact, it is recorded twice: 2Kings 19 and Isaiah 37. The story goes that Sennacherib conquered all that part of the country except Jerusalem. He sent a messenger to tell the Hezekiah, King of Judah, and the people of Jerusalem that they might as well give up because they had no chance militarily, and since the gods of all the other nations could not deliver those nations from him, it was obvious that the Lord their God would not stand a chance against him either.

It seems that the Lord did not take kindly to his insults and sent an angel to wipe out 185,000 of his troops in one night. This outcome clued Sennacherib into the possibility that the Lord just might be different than those other gods, and that trying to fight Him was a bad idea. In response he and his remaining soldiers hightailed it back to Nineveh, leaving that tiny territory unconquered by him.

This story leads to some encouraging calculations. They begin with a minor correction. Though all of the major translations of this event in both 2Kings 19 and Isaiah 37 indicate that these soldiers were exterminated by “the angel of the Lord,” in both passages the article is not in the Hebrew text. This work was done by “an angel of the Lord.” In other words, this job was not done by some special angel.

The scenario in heaven might have gone something like this. The angels Michael and Gabriel were sitting around the celestial command center when word came from the Lord that He wanted 185,000 Assyrian soldiers slaughtered. Michael commented that wiping out a mere 185,000 was hardly worth his time, and Gabriel concurred, concerned that doing that small of a job might ruin his reputation. Then Gabriel got an idea. “Hey, how about angel Private Johanni. He should be getting off KP about now. He has a couple hours before going off duty. Let’s send him.” And they did, and he handled the job with no problem. The point is that the biblical account suggests that any ordinary angel can take care of 185,000 enemy soldiers.

Have you ever wondered why when Jesus was being arrested He informed Peter that He could ask His Father for 12 legions of angels? Why twelve legions? The math is quite interesting.

A legion was comprised of about 5,000 soldiers. Therefore, 12 legions would be 60,000 soldiers.

In the case of 12 legions of angels totaling 60,000 angels, if each one had the capacity to decimate 185,000 enemy troops, they would have the combined capability of killing off 11,100,000,000 (11 billion, 100 million) enemies. The current world population is about 7.5 billion people. Therefore, 12 legions of angels could easily deal with the entire world population, with considerable cushion for further population growth.

Whether that’s what Jesus had in mind in stipulating the 12 legion number, that calculation nonetheless provides assurance that the Lord has everything under control.

On those days when Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer become especially irksome, or George Soros rolls out another scheme for using his money to make our lives miserable, it is good to remember that they are merely pawns in God’s plan of history. Just like Col. Hogan was always several steps ahead of Sgt, Schultz and Col. Klink, so the Lord is in control of every situation, only at a much higher level.

And if they get too rowdy, He might send Private Johanni to deal with them. If at times you are wondering why the Lord isn’t moving faster in dealing with some of these people, maybe He is waiting for Private Johanni to get off of KP duty.

Evangelicals Beat Spiritual Anorexia

Evangelicals Beat Spiritual Anorexia

I love the picture of the 400 pound man wearing a smile of triumph and a T-shirt bearing the inscription, “I beat anorexia.”

Anorexia is no laughing matter. People die from it, and even those who deal with it successfully go through a long period of struggle for them and their loved ones.

Of course, the joke is that the man in the picture not only beat anorexia but is light years away from the danger zone. Imagine holding anorexia seminars for frequent fliers at the all-you-can-eat buffet. You could assure them that their culinary hangout was providing them with a safe space.

The extremes of anorexia and obesity remind us that life is filled with dangers on the further reaches of both ends of the bell curve. We have the spendthrift and the miser, the health nut and the fast food fanatic, the neatnik and the slob, the speedster and slowster, the hypochondriac and medically indifferent.

In Matthew 16:6 Jesus reminds us of extremes in the spiritual world, warning His disciples: “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” In Mark 8:15 He cautions, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Since these gospels are recording the same incident, apparently Jesus spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees on one hand and that of the Sadducees and Herod on the other hand.

The Pharisees were so fixated on righteous living, especially as stipulated in their tradition, that they ignored God’s ultimate concern for loving people. They didn’t care about the disciples’ hunger or the healing of the man with a withered hand but only that the disciples and Jesus kept their Sabbath regulations. Living at the opposite pole, the Sadducees and Herod maintained a safe distance from overdoing the law, ignoring its moral teachings almost completely.

We also encounter danger moving too far in either of these directions. For example, in past generations some Christians were so opposed to women using makeup that like the Pharisees they unnecessarily imposed hardships on their daughters attending public school. However, the other extreme of ignoring biblical morality as did the Sadducees and Herod is also possible.

In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were the more aggressive party, often challenging Jesus. As a result, Jesus dealt with their error much more frequently than that of Herod and the Sadducees. Perhaps Scripture gives more attention to the extreme of the Pharisees because it is more subtle, posing as spirituality, while the antics of Herod and the Sadducees where blatantly ungodly.

Because of the scriptural focus on the error of the Pharisees, it is easy to lose sight of the opposite extreme, concluding that the only threat to the Christian life is legalism. That perspective may not have been too troublesome during times when the church was leaning in that direction, or even today if one belongs to an Amish sect.

However, we live at a time when the leaven of the Sadducees and of Herod are overwhelmingly more predominant. With the church riddled with people using pornography, with many if not most evangelicals viewing movies containing nudity, with divorce and cohabitation rampant in the church, and with attending church twice per month being considered normal, like the 400 pound man with the “I beat anorexia” T-shirt, we are a long way from being threatened by legalism.

Despite the current predominance of the leavened by the Sadducees and Herod, evangelicals tend to ignore its incursion and continue to fight the threat of legalism as if it were looming large and ready to pounce and devour at any moment if not beaten off by continual vigilance. We find books assuring us that we need not “perform” to please God as if most evangelical women were on the verge of reverting to culottes and men were getting measured for black shirts and pants. It seems that every other evangelical on twitter describes himself as a “Grace freak,” and “Grace fanatic,” assuring us that his defenses are raised against the legalistic hordes that are storming the church gates.

Just as anorexia is no laughing matter, neither is legalism. However, for the overwhelming majority of evangelicals, their ongoing battle with legalism is tantamount to the 400 pound man fighting anorexia. They are light years away from the danger zone. Perhaps they should have T-shirts made that state, “I beat legalism,” and then stand next to the 400 man who beat anorexia to be photographed, wearing the same victorious smile. Or maybe we should take a new look at the holiness of God and say with Isaiah, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Spiritual Success without an Easy Button

Spiritual Success without an Easy Button

My pervious post made the case that God does not provide an easy button for believers but rather that the Christian life requires that we fight the world, the flesh, and the devil, a struggle that demands spiritual strength and endurance to win.

If believers do not understand this, they will enter the battle of the Christian life without the necessary preparation. Imagine a soldier entering a combat zone without going through basic training, without the essential equipment but wearing shorts and a T-shirt, without realizing that the enemy is shooting at him. The medics would be carrying him off to the field hospital in nanoseconds.

Some preachers prefer to think of the church as a hospital. Certainly this should be one function of the church. But if the church realized that we were in a battle and functioned as a basic training and equipping facility, most of its members would not be hospitalized.

What sort of equipping and training do spiritual soldiers need in order to survive and win the battles in which they will surely be engaged?

Perhaps the primary resource for this fight is Scripture, specifically the whole counsel of God. The contemporary evangelical tendency to believe in a battle-eliminating easy button has resulted in failure of Christians to equip themselves with Scripture. Expository preaching has been replaced by “needs-oriented” sermons. Bible studies have morphed into studies of someone’s book. My mother and mother-in-law both had read through the Bible many times. In fact, my mother-in-law shortly before her death memorized Psalm 119 with its 176 verses. These saints were better equipped for battle than most contemporary soldiers and consequently spent little time in a spiritual hospital. At most they just needed a few Band-Aids along the way.

Prayer also constitutes a major piece of equipment for the battle. Not only has this weapon been neglected in the personal lives of contemporary Christians but also in the church. In the primary service of most churches substantially less time is devoted to prayer than to announcements, especially if we exclude prayer for the offering. Prayer meetings are practically nonexistent, and if they do exist they are attended by only a handful of people and are comprised predominantly of activities other than actual prayer. One hour-long “prayer meeting” I attended recently only devoted about five minutes to prayer. While the enemy is shooting real bullets, wounding many Christian soldiers, contemporary evangelicals tend to be rummaging through their knapsack looking for the TV remote.

Another piece of equipment supplied by the Lord consists of the church, which provides fellowship and teaching. However, recent studies reveal that typical contemporary evangelical church attendance consists of showing up on Sunday morning about twice each month. It was not all that long ago that most believers could be found in church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Though Scripture does not designate how often a person should attend church, it can be safely assumed that those who immersed themselves more fully in the equipping and training resulting from church participation were better armed for the spiritual conflicts of life.

Though mention of these resources may sound like tired bromides and a return to legalism to contemporary evangelicals, the fact is that those availing themselves of these provisions were better equipped to fight and win the battle. If most evangelicals are patients, and most of the rest are doctors and nurses, we can’t expect to win too many battles, and in fact we have not. Most conflicts are not won by doctors and nurses and their patients.

Winning must begin by recognizing that God does not provide an easy button for living the Christian life, but that it consists of the battle for which we must be equipped and trained. Only then will we get serious about gearing up for the fight, and only when we do that will we start to win.

Evangelical Beliefs Undermine the Role of Religion in America

Evangelical Beliefs Undermine the Role o...

PragerU offers an excellent video on the role of religion in a free society. It notes that “government isn’t enough. A moral people is also required, that is, a people moral enough to police itself.” George Washing observed that “virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

The video cites the founders’ belief that “the absolute enemy of freedom was a freedom that was absolute and unrestrained.” Yet, absolute freedom is precisely what contemporary evangelicals teach. The message that God loves and accepts people unconditionally in effect offers “a freedom that is absolute and unrestrained.” The assertion that we need not “perform” to please God frees people to live as they please with God’s blessing. My book, Counterattack: Why Evangelicals are Losing the Culture War and How They Can Win, shows these concepts to be unbiblical.

Thomas Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? And that they are not to be violated but with His wrath?” Evangelicals have removed that firm basis by erroneously teaching that God loves and accepts us regardless of how we “perform.” Since the wrath of God does not fit that template they eliminate it by redefining the fear of God as “reverential awe,” despite many passages requiring that the fear of God refers to actual fear.

We know we are in trouble when Thomas Jefferson is more biblical in his understanding of Scripture than evangelicals, the guardians of exegetical accuracy. This Independence Day, let’s acknowledge that Christians must live morally in order to please God and escape His chastening. Then, as Jefferson noted, our freedoms will be much better secured.

Does God Provide an Easy Button for Believers?

Does God Provide an Easy Button for Beli...

This constitutes a serious question because many evangelicals believe that He has, and if He has, what a shame to struggle unnecessarily.

A traditional Easy Buttons offered to believers is framed in the cliché, “Let go and let God.” You don’t have to engage in the struggle. Just let God do it.” I have heard people offer testimonies to the efficacy of this approach. “I kept trying and failing, and then I realized that I was trying to do it instead of just letting God. When I just let go and let God, I experienced victory.”

Faith comprises another Easy Button for Christian living. Instead of struggling with pornography or overeating you should just trust God to deliver you. As the contemporary chorus of a couple of decades ago taught, “It’s not in trying but in trusting.” So if you are trying, making an effort, exerting your will, you are not trusting, employing a biblical approach to Christian living.

Another means of rising above volitional effort is found in the old teaching based on Romans 6 that we should just “reckon ourselves dead to sin.”  Just believe that the sin nature is dead and has been replaced by the new nature that reflects Christ. You struggle with sinful behaviors because you have not accepted this reality by faith.

Note that all of the above really morph together into the same concept. As believers we need to reckon ourselves dead, believe that God has stepped in to fight the battle for us, and let Him do it.

A more subtle and more contemporary Easy Button is found in the teaching that we should not behave biblically because we have to but because we want to. Practicing godly behaviors because we ought to comprises legalism. Instead, we just need to realize that we are accepted regardless of how we live, apart from performance, and doing so will create within us the motivation to live as God would have us live. Therefore, we do not need to struggle to live godly lives but merely to grasp the truth of God’s unconditional love and acceptance, which will motivate us to do so spontaneously.

The problem with these perspectives on Christian living resides in their dissonance with many New Testament passages asserting that living the Christian life is difficult and requires that we struggle.

Paul conveys this reality related to his own life in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” He is asserting that his body prods him to take a more comfortable but sinful path. Living the Christian life requires engaging in and winning that struggle.

Paul charged Timothy to take on the same struggle. In 1 Timothy 6:12 he commands, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” The Greek word translated “fight” is the source of the English word “agony.” The life of faith is often agonizing, requiring that we discipline ourselves to walk the walk of faith regardless of pressures to do otherwise.

Paul describes this struggle in Galatians 5:17: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” The Christian life regularly calls us to engage in and win the struggle against the desires of the flesh.

Jesus addressed this issue in mandating, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) I believe one reason Scripture includes the experience of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane is to reveal to us the tremendous struggle Christ had in yielding to the cross. Apart from this account we might find Christian romantics gushing, “Jesus loved us so much that he just couldn’t wait to have the nails driven into his hands and feet.” The reality, however, was that facing and enduring the cross was a great struggle for Christ. No doubt bearing the cross that He has for each of us is also painful, requiring a struggle to endure it.

As a result, the New Testament includes many passages teaching the need for endurance, the commitment to keep going when the Christian life becomes hard. Hebrews 12:1 calls us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us….”

It is important for believers to know that the Christian life is a struggle so that they engage in the struggle effectively. The teaching that we behave biblically not because we have to but because we want to fails to address the many times daily that we do not want to behave biblically, starting with not wanting to get up in the morning. Unless believers are taught that struggle constitutes a major element of the Christian life, they will not be prepared to engage in the fight. Rather, they will wonder what hit them, and chances are that they will lose the battle.

Also, the realization that the Christian life is a struggle reminds Christian leaders of their responsibility to prepare their people to engage in that struggle. On his first missionary journey, Paul retraced his steps to the churches he had planted for the purpose of “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Paul recognized the importance of warning them about the challenges related to living the Christian life. So today it is necessary for pastors and other Christian leaders to both warn and encourage believers regarding the hardships of Christian living and to teach them how to effectively engage in that battle.

I selected the name “hope that’s real” for this blog because real hope must be firmly founded on the realities of biblical truth. Conveying that God offers an Easy Button for Christian living ultimately undermines real hope, instead creating disillusionment. Facing, preparing for, and engaging in the struggles of Christian living provides the basis for real hope.

Rethinking the Requirement for Salvation

Rethinking the Requirement for Salvation

Perhaps the salient question facing evangelicals today is the one asked by the Philippian jailer: “What must I do to be saved.” (Acts 16:30)

The answer given by Paul seems simple enough: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” This response, however, requires that we accurately identify “believe.” Since belief comprises the operative element in Paul’s statement, it is crucial that we get the answer right.

Concern regarding ambiguity is aroused by assertions that salvation requires not only a head belief but a heart belief. That distinction is not obvious.

Concern is heightened by scriptural statements such as that of Jesus in Luke 14:27, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This suggests that believing in Jesus Christ entails a commitment to bear our cross and come after Him.

Some contend that this verse does not describe the condition for salvation but for discipleship—that there are two levels of believers: ordinary and disciples. However, this distinction between garden-variety believers and disciple does not enjoy scriptural support. Consequently, this verse suggests that saving faith includes a commitment to follow Christ regardless of the cost.

The popular gospel presentation offering salvation by asking Jesus into one’s heart comes nowhere close to conveying this concept of faith. Consequently, this presentation may be giving seekers confidence that they are headed for heaven when in fact they are destined for damnation. This gospel also leaves those responding unaware of their obligation to follow the Lord regardless of the cost, resulting in spiritual immaturity and unfruitfulness. These two outcomes are producing confusion and weakness in the contemporary evangelical community.

Evangelicals need to rethink the definition of faith before running a special on salvation.

Are Evangelicals Responsible for Telling the Truth?

Are Evangelicals Responsible for Telling...

During a conversation with a friend he swerved into his tirade over President Trump’s withdrawing America from the Paris Accord. He wondered out loud whether this resulted from Trump’s total ignorance or his egotism, assuming that no informed, rational person would make a decision so harmful to America and the planet. The basis for concerns he expressed were irrational. As I began to list disasters that would have resulted from our continued commitment to the agreement it was evident that he was unfamiliar with these facts.

I was again reminded that the Left advances its agenda by replacing the truth with lies. It uses its significant powers to suppress the truth, e.g. banning conservative speakers form university campuses, preventing conservative professors from getting tenure, or omitting reality from the news, and propagating in its place a set of lies, telling these tales often enough through multiple communication sources, that they become reality for most Americans. Many of these assertions comprising the imaginary world of the Left are presented as the findings of science.

Reflect for a minute on the lies that a large segment of the American population has embrace as truths.

  • An unborn baby is merely a part of a woman’s body, and therefore should be assigned no independent rights.
  • The real injustice consists of Pres. Trump colluding with the Russians, of which no evidence exists, while illegal activities of Hillary and Obama are of no concern.
  • Darwinian evolution comprises proven fact, and any opposition to it by Intelligent Design advocates should be rejected as religion and not science.
  • A homosexual orientation is healthy, good for society, and should be celebrated.
  • A person should follow his feelings regarding gender identity, and any attempt to align those feelings with his biological gender is wrong and should be condemned.
  • Women should be allowed to fill any military role.
  • Homosexual and transgender presence in the military do not lessen combat readiness.
  • Transgender biological men should be allowed to compete in women’s sports.
  • People who believe that homosexual behavior is sinful are homophobic haters.
  • The climate change movement is built on proven science, and all those opposing it are ignorant and unconcerned about the environment.
  • Allowing good people to own and carry guns makes society less safe.
  • The nation of Israel is an oppressor and Palestinians are the oppressed.
  • Islam comprises a religion with moral and spiritual benefit comparable to Christianity and therefore should be supported in its efforts to impose its values on our society.
  • Cohabitation provides a valid alternative or precursor to marriage, allowing a couple to test their compatibility before making a commitment.

This list could go on ad infinitum of lies comprising the fake worldview of the Left.

The danger resides in the power of the Left both to propagate this false perspective of life and to impose its related values on our society, and the damage to our society resulting from adoption of this erroneous understanding of reality.

This worldview is imposed forcefully on college campuses, making it extremely difficult for students not to adopt all or at least significant parts of it. Consequently, evangelical students adopt many of its values. Even schools with some evangelical connections such as Baylor and Wheaton manifest the influence of this worldview. To a lesser degree, the same is true of most public schools.

The dominance of the worldview of the Left is making it increasingly more difficult for people holding a biblical worldview to survive in the workplace. Often the price of survival is for evangelicals to remain silent regarding their beliefs while those embracing the narrative of the Left are given free rein to express theirs, the end result being the inexorable advance of the Left’s representation of reality.

This imposition of the false narrative of the Left on society is producing chaos and devastation. For example, the proliferation of cohabitation is leaving many children without a stable family environment and consigning many women to the hardships of the single mom role. This results in a serious drain on our economy and government. Countless other examples could be cited revealing the damage inflicted by the worldview of the Left.

The question confronting evangelicals is whether we are responsible for exposing this fake worldview and promoting the truth as aggressively as possible? The answer to that question resides at least partially in the consequences for the church, our nation, and our children if we do not. My book, Counterattack: Why Evangelicals Are Losing the Culture War and How They Can Win, describes how the evangelical church in America can respond effectively to the dishonest perspective of the world promoted by the Left. If we do not utilize our God-given capacity to do so, we will be responsible for consequences suffered by the church, our nation, and our children.

The Most Crucial Question Confronting Evangelical Christians

The Most Crucial Question Confronting Ev...

Prospects for America are not encouraging. Even with Republican control of both Houses of Congress and the White House, the Left continues to prevent conservatives from making major gains while it moves its agenda inexorably forward.

Repeal of ObamaCare keeps getting watered down and delayed, President Trump can’t get his budget through Congress, the courts keep blocking his efforts to protect Americans from unvetted refugees, and the deep state continues to create chaos. Meanwhile, the media creates issues out of thin air that gain sufficient traction to engender special investigations. Our college campuses are virtual hotbeds of unabashed Leftist indoctrination. LGBT advocates continue to advance their agenda, and Planned Parenthood still receives government subsidies that fund the killing of unborn babies.

A compelling question confronting Christians is how we should respond.

We have several options.

First, we might conclude that society is headed in the right direction, and given time things will work out. Therefore, we just need to keep doing what we are doing. The problem with this perspective is that from all indications we are losing our nation to the godless Left that is committed to discredit and deactivate the church.

We can also conclude that there is nothing we can do, and that we must just reconcile ourselves to coming persecution. Some evangelicals even wear this conclusion as a badge of honor. They are willing to suffer for Christ.

In reality, cultural and political victory is within the reach of the evangelical church if we unify and develop an effective strategy. I describe the path to victory in my book, Counterattack: Why Evangelicals Are Losing the Culture War and How They Can Win. The most crucial question confronting us is whether we will rise above our lethargy and fight.

Big Money against the American People

Big Money against the American People

Texas is seeking to protect the modesty and safety of women by passing a law related to transgender biological men in women’s bathrooms and shower rooms. The bill did not make it out of committee during the legislative session, so now Governor Greg Abbott may call a special session to force the issue.

A Family Research Council article reports that a group of rich tech companies to include Salesforce, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Dell, Cisco, Amazon, Google, Silicon Labs, Celanese Corp., GSD&M, and Gearbox Software are seeking to use their influence to subvert the will of the people of Texas on this issue.

This is not the first time big tech companies employed their monetary muscle to force their gay and transgender agenda down the throats of the American people. When Indiana sought to pass a law protecting citizen’s religious liberties against homosexual tyranny, many of these same players intimidated that state. Some of them also used their influence to oppose North Carolina’s HB2, along with other financial powerhouses such as the NBA and NCAA.

The Family Research Council article notes that even though these companies attempt to economically coerce states to adopt pro-transgender policies, they have not adopted these policies in their own companies. One can understand why. In posturing as great civil rights crusaders, fighting for the rights of transgenders, they are trampling the rights of women and placing them in danger.

Doing so is especially ludicrous since the problem could easily be solved by providing a separate bathroom for the 0.6 percent of the adult population identifying as transgender. This arrangement does not suit the Left, apparently because their ultimate goal is not to solve the problem but to force a sexually perverse arrangement on the American people.

The Dictatorial Left

The Dictatorial Left

Somewhere in the ancient past the terms “liberal” and “the Left” became viewed as synonyms. However, today’s “Left” is anything but liberal. One definition of liberal has it promoting “the freedom of the individual and governmental guarantees of individual rights and liberties.”

Though the Left seeks to self-identify as liberal, with historical connections to initiatives such as the free speech movement, we have witnessed in recent days its practice of silencing any speech not conforming to its ideology.

Other non-liberal practices of the Left include forcing Christian bakers and photographers to employee their skills for homosexual weddings. These homosexuals, not satisfied with the liberty to marry whom they choose, are bent on forcing those with differing beliefs to violate those beliefs or suffer severe consequences. This is not liberalism but totalitarianism.

Likewise, the Left, not satisfied with a transgender biological male having his own bathroom, demands that this biological male be given access to girls’ shower rooms, depriving women of their modesty and safety. In this issue the Left exercises power over women at one of the most intimate levels, insisting that wives and daughters expose their bodies to the view of another man. This comprises totalitarianism in its most demeaning form.

The latest dictatorial demand of the illiberal Left manifests itself in the Canadian requirement for doctors to provide euthanasia to patients, either personally or by finding a doctor who will. Either option implicates the doctor, mandating that those rejecting this practice for religious reasons violate their conscience. Patients in Canada desiring euthanasia could easily find a doctor to perform this act themselves, but that would never do. The Left is committed to forcing those disagreeing with its ideologies to deny their convictions.

The antithesis of liberal is dictatorial. The latter term defines the Left.

A Word of Hope for America this Memorial Day

A Word of Hope for America this Memorial...

I am reading through the Bible this year. Today’s reading included 2 Chronicles 7:14, “(I)f My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Any attempt to apply this verse to our nation quickly elicits a chorus of voices, some prominent ones, objecting that because this verse is addressed to Israel, we cannot claim its promises for America.

Though technically this may be true, this position misses the point that this verse embodies a spiritual principle. The fact is that God will hear, forgive, and bless any nation that calls on His name, humbles itself, prays, seeks His face, and turns from its wickedness. We know that to be true because we can observe God functioning in this way throughout history.

Consider God’s mercy on Nineveh in response to their repentance. In fact, it was the predictability of God’s mercy that made Jonah reluctant to go and preach to this enemy of Israel.

We also see God’s blessing on England and America during the years when they were following God. Of course, no nation is perfect, but God in his mercy brings blessing in response to general commitment to Him.

More recently God displayed His blessing on the Fiji Islands in response to repentance and revival. He not only brought political and economic restoration, but He actually healed the land and seas, bring fruit and fish where there had been barrenness.

Not only does God hold out hope for America, but the solution is simple. We just need to follow the principles of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The Gospel and the Future of America

The Gospel and the Future of America

A recent Barna poll divides Americans into four religious categories, measuring their percentages of the American population: evangelical Christians (6%), non-evangelical born-again Christians (25%), notional Christians (42%), adherents of non-Christian faiths (6%), and religious skeptics (23%).

A remarkable finding resides in the significant number of non-evangelical born-again Christians—one quarter of the American population. This group claims to have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.”

They differ, however, from evangelicals in that they do not agree with all of seven other criteria embraced by the 6% of evangelicals. Those criteria include a responsibility to share their faith, belief in the existence of Satan, belief that salvation is only through grace and not works, belief that Jesus lived a sinless life, belief in the validity of the principles taught in Scripture, and belief in the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful God, who created the universe and rules it today.

We can understand the existence in our society of skeptics and people of other religions. With the presence of liberal denominations we also anticipate a substantial number of notional Christians who make no claim to a born again experience. However, how do we explain the presence of this 25% of our society with an evangelical salvation-type experience and the related hope of heaven but without an evangelical spiritual belief system? It is rather astounding that this group is over four times larger than the evangelical category. How do we explain their existence?

My first thought was that perhaps the demand of meeting all seven other criteria for being an evangelical was excessive, creating a larger chasm between this group and evangelicals then was warranted. However, after revisiting that list of seven criteria I realized that they were all cardinal Christian concepts. The beliefs regarding God and Jesus are foundational to the Christian faith, that Satan is a personal being is clearly taught in the account of the testing of Christ in wilderness, etc. Denial of any of the seven displays a serious rejection of the authority of Scripture. The fact that 46% of these “non-evangelical born again Christians believe that “Jesus sinned during his time on earth” calls into question the basis of their faith. How could a sinful Jesus redeem sinners? In other words, this group of people secure in their heavenly destination manifest some serious spiritual deficiencies.

Their existence is best explained by the nature of the contemporary evangelical gospel, which emphasizes the “free gift” dimension but omits, and even rejects the commitment component of faith. Therefore, they have assurance of heaven without an awareness of the obligations related to the Christian life. Are they actually headed for heaven? Have they expressed genuine saving faith? Only the Lord know; however, it is a scary prospect to think that a significant mass of humanity may be unwittingly destined for eternal doom.

Another concern is that this ticket-to-heaven-on-your-terms gospel is failing to produce biblically oriented Christians related to social issues, resulting in the continued moral slide of American society. Only 59% of non-evangelical born again Christians identify as social conservatives. On the abortion issue 37% are not pro-life, and 27% advocate for gay rights

Imagine if evangelicals presented a gospel that clearly conveyed that saving faith included a commitment to Christ, and if those responding would aggressively interject Christian truth into our society. Visualize how different our nation would be if the percentages were reversed, if only 6% belonged to the non-evangelical born again category and 25% were evangelicals. I further address this issue in my book, Counterattack: Why Evangelicals are Losing the Culture War and How They Can Win.

The future of America depends on the church’s presentation of Jesus as Lord and not just a conductor on the train to heaven. The eternal future of many human beings is at stake also.

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