American Perception of Christians

Looking Glass

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Matthew 6:24

In America today it seems that Christians and Christianity are under a relentless attack.  The ACLU has been fighting for years to have the Ten Commandments and any other Biblical or Christian symbols removed from public display. Christians are sued for not baking cakes for gay weddings. In Houston, the mayor tried to demand that local pastors turn over their sermons to her for review for potential hate speech. And many Americans feel that Christians have no right to express their religious beliefs politically.

Christians today are perceived as bigoted, out of touch, homophobic, intolerant and a danger to society.  A recent Barna Research report found that the majority of Americans see some Christian activities as extremism, such as handing out tracts or praying in public (Five Ways Christianity is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist, February 23, 2016 release, www.barna.org). These are very recent trends and it would have been hard to imagine this happening even 10 years ago.

But this is the America we now live in.  Our nation has not only turned its back on God (as I wrote in my book About Face),  but it is now looking to destroy or marginalize any aspect of Christian values or beliefs in our society. Today, Christians are the enemy!

How did this happen? Where did all of this anti-Christian sentiment come from? What did we do to deserve such a backlash from our own countrymen and women?

I believe that the answer to that question can be found in two reasons.

First, our society has become more socialist.  Many Americans have come to believe that capitalism does not work anymore.  President Obama declared this in Kansas back in 2011. The government has grown much larger in the past 10 years and many Americans are looking to the government for answers and help. As a result, we are seeing more people on government support programs and calling for free healthcare and free college educations.  One candidate for President, Congressmen Bernie Sanders, is a self acknowledged Socialist and is campaigning on all of these issues. And there are many Americans who are supporting him for President, especially young people! These Americans want the “state” or government to run and control our society and economy.

Why does this matter? Because Christianity is the enemy of the State! Christianity places God above man, and therefore our allegiance to God above allegiance to the state. The state cannot tolerate this because it must make everyone stay in line with the secular program. No exceptions are allowed.  History show us what happens when the state gets this kind of control – it produces the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and North Korea, just to name a few.  Anytime we give more power to the state we will lose more of our freedom. The two go hand in hand. So as more Americans call for more government action and put their faith in the State, it is inevitable that Christianity, and Christians, will be viewed as the enemy!

Second, our society has become more accepting of individual rights with virtually no limitations. That includes the right to have sex with whomever one chooses regardless of the dangers or consequences, the right to have free healthcare, the right to marry anyone or anything, and the right to kill innocent babies for their own convenience. All of these behaviors are against God’s Word. When Christians stand up and call some of these behaviors sinful, harmful, or evil, they are viciously attacked in the media, on social media, and in political activities.

Why does the culture respond this way? Because Christian values (and God) are a threat to them doing whatever pleases them regardless of the dangers to society or others. Again it is placing man’s desires above God’s desires. And these two desires will always be in conflict. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:17, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with one another so that you do not do what you want.” In other words, they are mutually exclusive. You cannot have both! So one must be eliminated. So for Americans who only seek man’s ways, God’s way’s will always be a threat to them and they must not be allowed at all!

I don’t believe that the Christian Church has changed much at all in the past 10-20 years, at least not in their teaching or presentation of the gospel. What has changed is the attitude of many Americans towards Christians, the Church, and Christianity due to the 2 factors mentioned above. Many Americans have developed what God calls a hardened heart.

But we should not really be surprised about this. It just means that we now have to work that much harder to overcome this “hardness of heart” in our culture today by continuing to share our faith and the gospel despite the resistance. We must also recognize that it will be the Holy Spirit working in us and through us as we seek to influence America with the Word of God that will bring about any change.

I want to encourage you with the words of the Lord to Joshua in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

So let us not worry about how we are perceived by anyone other than God. Let us continue to “fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith” (1 Timothy 4:7) and leave the results up to Him!

Barry signature

What Non-Christians Miss Out On

Left Out“However, as it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9

As we enter into this Christmas season where Christians celebrate the birth of God’s Son, Jesus, and the good news of mercy, grace and salvation for ALL of mankind that He brings, I can’t help but think about what His life means to me. Christmas is not only a time of joy, giving and celebration, but it is also a time of reflection on what God has given to me and to everyone who would believe in His Son, Jesus. Christmas to me is not about decorated trees, parties and gifts. It is about a time when God entered into our humanity in the form of a baby boy who would grow up to sacrifice His holy and sinless life for yours and mine. God did this solely because He loves us so much (John 3:16)!

Those who do not know God or believe in Him or His Son Jesus therefore miss out on this incredible FREE gift that God offers to every human being. It’s like having a multi-million dollar winning lottery ticket in your hand and either not knowing it’s a winning ticket or simply refusing to collect on it! Those who reject Christianity, or who attack Christians and our beliefs, are often unaware of what God is really offering them. They only see an institutionalized church, sinful & hypocritical behavior by those who call themselves Christians, or an attitude of condemnation and self-righteousness by Believers. They only see a blank lottery ticket. They desperately need to see God for who He is and not see us for who we are! They need to know that He is their winning ticket!

I would like to share 7 things that I believe non-Christians miss out on by rejecting God’s gift of His son Jesus:

  1. Joy – There is a joy in knowing God and Jesus that cannot be explained. It can only be experienced. It is a daily contentment in all that God has done and continues to do in the life of every believer. It is not a temporary happiness but a deeply felt joyfulness!
  2. Confidence – There is a confidence in knowing that God is in control of everything and that His promises to save us, protect us and walk with us every day are assured. Despite anything that happens to us in this life, God is always there to lift us up in our time of need!
  3. Knowledge – God left us His Word and His wisdom to help us navigate this life that we live. Without the knowledge that our Creator provides we turn to our own knowledge and wisdom which is unreliable and often wrong. Trusting in man’s wisdom instead of God’s wisdom will always leave us worse off.
  4. Perspective – Believing in God and His Word gives us a perspective on our world and our place in it that cannot be found anywhere else. It enables us to see what sin and evil are, how our behavior impacts our lives and those of others, and helps us understand how to relate to others and our world in a positive way.
  5. Fellowship – Belonging to the body of Christ means we will never walk this life alone. As a Christian, we have brothers and sisters all over the world who will pray for us, help us in our time of need, or simply walk beside us in times of trouble. We are part of a larger family that gives us purpose, support, and love.
  6. Power – As Christians, we have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us that is available 24/7. It is the power to overcome, to do the impossible, or to endure the trials that this world has to offer. It is a power like no other. And it costs us nothing while it cost God everything – His only Son Jesus! Faith in Jesus is all we need to gain access to that power!
  7. Love – While most humans experience human love from family and friends, nothing on this earth can compare to the unsurpassing and unconditional love that the Father God has lavished upon us! (1 John 3:1) It is a love that goes to our inmost being and tells us that no matter who we are or what we have done, God loves us with a passion and depth that is beyond our human understanding!

So how can non-Christians experience these 7 incredible blessings that those who follow Christ know, feel, and appreciate? It is only when we share the gospel message of Christ with them (and what Christmas really means) and they allow the Holy Spirit to convict them of the truth of His Word and His Son Jesus! Metaphorically speaking, we need to show them that their lottery ticket is valid, worth millions, and absolutely real!

So this Christmas, let us not just celebrate the birth of our Savior, but let us tell others about the birth of their Savior! “So let us now grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”Galatians 5:9

Good vs. Evil

Good & Evil

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Romans 12:9

I think most people would agree that there is evil in the world today. Whether it is ISIS, mass shooters, drug cartels, corrupt governments, or greedy businesses, there appears to be no shortage of people who are intent on harming others or seeking power and domination. There has been evil in the past and there will be evil in the future. This is nothing new or unusual. But is evil only limited to the obvious? Does evil exist elsewhere that we are perhaps not aware of until it is too late?

Well, we first must understand what evil is. The dictionary defines it in two ways. First, it says it means morally bad or reprehensible, sinful, or wicked. Second, it also defines it as causing harm to someone. In other words, it is anything that is not of God, since God is good (“taste and see that the Lord is good”Proverbs 34:8) and God is love (“love does no harm to its neighbor.”Romans 13:10)

When evil is viewed from a Biblical perspective we begin to recognize that evil is far more pervasive than we might normally think. Thus, common behaviors in our culture that many people often consider as personal choices can be classified as evil. This includes things like abortion, prostitution, lotteries, fornication, homosexual behavior, gay marriage, drug abuse, divorce, gossip, cheating, gambling, drunkenness, dishonesty, arrogance, pride, gluttony, laziness, and the list goes on. These are the things that draw us away from God and are therefore evil. The Apostle Paul also gives us a list in Galatians 5:19-21 when he says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” So evil is not just found in horrific atrocities, but rather is found in many of the everyday activities of this life and culture we live in.

So why do we not recognize these things as evil? Simply put, it is because we do not know God. The person who loves God and follows Jesus can more easily recognize evil, because they are walking in His truth and light (1 John 1:7). Those who do not have a close relationship with God or Jesus are therefore unable to distinguish evil from good because they are walking in darkness (Proverbs 4:19). They are blinded and just can’t see it. When we read Scripture and begin to know God more and more our eyes are opened and we become offended at what offends God – sin and evil! And that will often bring us into direct conflict with our world/culture and with Satan, the great deceiver.

You see, Satan is the Prince of Darkness and works to deceive everyone about who he is and what is evil. He packages things in such a way as to make us desire them, even though they are not good for us, or are against God’s commands. He also masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) in order to deceive the world as to his true intention – which is to lead people away from God and His Light that is Jesus! And once we believe Satan’s lies and deceit, we are hooked into accepting evil as good.

So how do we deal with Satan and the evil that is all around us in our culture? First, Romans 12:9 tells us to “hate what is evil and cling to what is good.” Secondly, Romans 12:17 says that we should “not repay evil with evil.” Finally, Romans 12:21 goes on to say that we should “not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” So we are not called to fight evil with evil, but rather to overcome evil by God’s goodness. That means that we must continue to draw closer to Jesus, to study His Word so we will know the truth, and to reach out to the lost, and our enemies, in love. That’s the deal and the only way it will work. To quote Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!” To be a good men/women means we must know God and His truth and live accordingly.

So let’s commit ourselves to being good by seeking God and His ways and then walking in His Light. Only then we will be able to see the evil around us, overcome it by His goodness, and become “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37)

Christian Persecution

Persecution

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

2 Timothy 3:12

 

In the past couple of years, ISIS has brought the issue of Christian persecution to the forefront of the world with their release of videos showing the be-headings of Egyptian Christians on a beach in Libya and the vicious attacks on Christians in Syria and Iraq. But there have been other attacks on Christians that have gained the world’s attention, including the kidnapping of 200+ Christians girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram and the murder of 70+ Christian college students in Garissa, Kenya. There have also been many lesser known attacks on Christians worldwide as documented by Open doors International that include church destruction and the incarceration of Christians. I am also personally aware of church bombings in Pakistan and the intimidation of Christians in India through our network of contacts. These are horrible atrocities that we Christians here in America are shielded from and have rarely, if ever, faced ourselves.

But does that mean that Christians in America are not persecuted? Hardly.  While we rarely face imprisonment for our faith, it happened just recently when Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky, was jailed for not issuing marriage licenses to gay couples because of her faith. Then there is Aaron & Melissa Klein, who own an Oregon bakery, who refused to put a celebratory message on a wedding cake for a gay couple and was sued and ordered to pay $135,000 in damages. There are blistering attacks on Christians who share their beliefs on the internet and in the media as well as the continual erosion of respect for the rights of Christians to express their faith in this nation. While these may pale in comparison to what is happening in the rest of the world, it is deeply troubling that it is now happening in America!

We Christians in America have been living a blessed life for many years, owing to the faith of our founders and forefathers in this land. But the culture in America has changed radically in the past 50 years and has become more secularized.  America has turned its back on God and began doing so long ago. And yet we should not be surprised. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Additionally, Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” And again in John 15:20 he said that “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”  So it is clear that persecution goes along with being a Christian!

And that should be obvious, because the world is against God and has been corrupted by satan since the fall of man (Genesis 3). Paul writes in Galatians 5:17 that “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other.” So as a Christian develops a deeper faith in Christ they should expect more persecution. The more we become like Christ the more the world will hate us and persecute us. That’s why Jesus was crucified, because he was a threat to the ways of the world (and people doing what they want instead of submitting to God).

Ah, but wait!  There is good news!! Jesus said in John 16:33 that “in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus went to the cross for you and me, and even those who killed him. But God raised Him from the dead for all to see.  He did this to save us! Why? Because our God is a loving God and does not want anyone to perish but to come to repentance (1Peter 3:9) and to experience eternal life with Him!! He did this so we might have everlasting joy and the assurance of eternity with our loving God and Savior Jesus Christ.

So no matter what happens in this world, Christians know that there is a better world waiting for us. We should not fear death nor should we fear persecution. But as it is written in 1 Peter 4:13, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” And again in  1 Peter 4:16, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

So c’mon world, bring it on! My God is bigger than your hate!!

Holiness Anyone?

Holiness

“Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

Leviticus 19:2

In today’s American culture, as well as many other nations around the world, people who do not fit the cultural norms are often mistreated, ridiculed, and persecuted. The cultural norm today in America seems to be tolerance of any individuality, whether it is sexual preference, clothing (or lack thereof), artistic creativity, drug use, foul language, or a whole slew of other behaviors that used to be considered in bad taste or out of bounds. There is even a cable television channel dedicated to to it – USA – that declares all characters (being unique or different) as good. However, somewhere along the way America has lost its boundary lines of what it considers to be good behavior and what is not. And in many cases the more outrageous the behavior the more it is publicized and glorified by the media, held up as acceptable, and in some cases, promoted as desirable.  I guess we should not be surprised, because we live in a fallen world that is corrupt. But America did not used to be like this when I was growing up.

Regardless of what the culture believes or does, as Christians, however, we are called to live holy and God pleasing lives.  God says in Leviticus 19:2, “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Jesus says in Matthew 5:48 that we should “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 & 7 that “It is God’s will that you should be holy” and “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” Peter adds in 2 Peter 3:11 that “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what type of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and Godly lives.” So it is clear from Scripture that we are to live lives of holiness, dedicated to following Christ and obeying God’s Word. This is the standard for all Christians!

What is holiness? It is the avoidance of sin and the sinful nature. The sinful nature is described in Galatians 5:19-21, It says “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.”  That’s quite a list! Notice how it says that these are obvious.  I wonder how many Americans would agree? In so many ways our American culture celebrates many of these acts of the sinful nature. It is even sadder to me that so many people who claim to be Christian in America also revel in these sins, participate in them, and sometimes even advocate them.

That is not what God had in mind for His people and the followers of His Son Jesus! He sent His Son to pay the penalty for those sins of the human nature, to put to death once and for all the things that will destroy us, and to show us through His Son what a perfect, holy life looks like. Yes, we fail miserably to be holy.  But that does not mean that we stop trying or try to redefine sin so we lower God’s standard. God has set His standard for all time in Jesus!! That will never change. If we truly want to follow Jesus then we must always endeavor to be holy and to seek His holiness in our lives. But we are also assured of His forgiveness and mercy when we do fail and repent of our sin.

As Christians in America, we must distinguish ourselves from our culture by living God-pleasing, holy lives.  We must be careful not to get “entangled” in the sin that draws us away from God, but to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2). We must stand firm in our faith, trust in the Lord, and resist the temptation to be like the culture if it does not align with God’s Word. We should expect to face rejection, persecution and ridicule from our culture, just like Jesus did from His. The culture will not tolerate us any more than the Jesus’ culture tolerated Him. That’s what it means to be holy and a follower of Christ!

Finally, one more encouragement and word of truth from Scripture:  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

Holiness, anyone?

 

So You Want to be a Leader?

Leader Price

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Luke 12:48

It seems like everyone wants to be the boss these days.  Whether you are running for President of the United States, want your boss’s job, want to start your own company, or want to lead a church, leadership comes with a price. Many people often do not count the cost of leadership and what being the boss really means. They simply see leadership as an opportunity to “call the shots” and tell other people what to do. But nothing could be further from the truth!

I once worked in a company and felt that I could do my boss’s job better than he could. Then one day he gave me the opportunity to act in his place for a week while he was on vacation. I relished the opportunity to make my own decisions for a change.  But when I sat in his office and saw the responsibilities that he had and the tough decisions he had to make, I suddenly realized I was in over my head! I had only seen the virtual “tip of the iceberg” of his job and I was unprepared to make all of the decisions that he made every day.  It also taught me a valuable lesson about leadership. Leadership is not about being boss.  Leadership is about taking responsibility for the welfare and actions of others.

Jesus told his disciples via a parable that “to whom much is given, much will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48) Jesus had poured his life and wisdom into them and was expecting them to do as He had done. Jesus further says in this passage that “much more will be asked” of them as well.  In other words, those who desire to be leaders will be expected and asked to give even more than others.  Additionally, leaders will also be held accountable for their actions, including those on behalf of others (Matthew 12:36, Romans 14:12 & Hebrews 4:13). Jesus also issues a warning to all of us, but especially to leaders, that “things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:1-2) So leaders must accept the responsibility of caring for their followers and be careful not to lead them astray or abandon them.  Leaders must therefore take their responsibility very seriously.  Failure to do so has grave consequences.

Leaders must also understand that becoming a leader also makes them a target.  Every leader will face challenges, including rejection, criticism, and betrayal. Jesus did and leaders will as well. Christian leaders will also face attacks from satan, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), because satan knows that if he can bring the leader down, he can bring his followers down with him.

So you want to be a leader? Unless you are willing to take responsibility for others and accept the reality of greater expectations and challenges, I suggest you reconsider wanting to be the boss.

However, when you are ready for leadership and willing to accept the responsibility that comes with it, know that God will guide you and support you with His Holy Spirit! (“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”Philippians 4:13.)

God or Me?

Choice

In the Bible, God clearly states that we, as His creation, “are to have no other gods before Him” (Exodus 20:3).  This is the first of the Ten Commandments and sets forth the foundation of our relationship with Almighty God. God desires that we worship Him alone and submit our lives to Him.  But throughout history man continues to place other things above God in their lives.  Perhaps the most common idol man worships is himself and his own will instead of God’s will. And this is where we get off track and begin to derail ourselves from God’s plan for our lives.

God gave us free will to choose Him and He does not force anyone to believe in Him or submit to Him.  Like a loving Father He wants His children to come to Him willfully and gladly.  He sets before us blessings and curses (Deuteronomy 30:19) and wants us to choose Him so that we may live and be blessed (Deuteronomy 30:16). But when we choose our own way instead of God’s way we not only ignore God but we also put our lives in peril.

In America today, many of our social problems and conflicts can be traced back to the same thing – people wanting to do what they want, what pleases them or what makes them happy. They have placed their own personal choices above God.  Our culture calls this tolerance. God calls this sin. Why do you think the church and Christianity have come under attack in America? Is it because Christians are intolerant? No. It is because God stands in the way of man’s desire to justify their personal choices. If God does not exist then man can do what it wants. We can’t have it both ways.  Either we submit to our own will or God’s will. So, for example, in order for man to endorse abortion God must be eliminated from the discussion or at least made irrelevant. The same goes for homosexuality and gay marriage. So endorsing tolerance of these sins is a direct frontal attack on God. It is because God’s Word is the only thing that stands against man doing what he wants.

And who do you think is behind this? It is satan, of course! From the beginning he has been a liar and deceiver and continues to tell people that they don’t need God and that they can be their own god. He convinced Eve to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree so that by eating it “she will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) He continually encourages man to deny God, do what pleases man, so that they can become like God. As Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” This has been satan’s game plan from the beginning, and apparently it still works today!

Today, we have the same choice – to serve God and do what He says, or serve ourselves and do what we want. It comes down to God or Me? God is good and wants to bless all people (“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him”Psalms 34:8). Man is sinful (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”Romans 3:23) and our ways lead to our destruction (“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”Proverbs 14:12).

Who do you choose, God or Me?

I want to be blessed, so I choose God! I pray that you do too!

How Christians Offend God

Prayer posture

The Bible clearly tells us that all sin is an offense to God (Romans 8:8). But so often, Christians act as if some of the sins they commit are somehow either more acceptable to God today or that He understands our human weakness and lets them slide, so to speak.  But that is far from the truth of God’s Word. God detests all sin.  God is Holy and Just, and every sin we commit separates us from Him.  Nothing is hidden from Him. Every sin must be punished!  But God loves us so much, He sent His only Son, Jesus, to go to the cross so that He would be punished instead of us for our sins. So when Christians fail to recognize their own sinfulness, God is deeply offended, and Jesus’ death on the cross is trivialized.

In our American culture today, I believe that some Christians think some things they do are not sinful anymore and so they are not offensive to God.  In some cases they may not even realize they are offending God. It may either be a result of their lack of Biblical knowledge or the influence of our secular culture. Whatever the reason, they are not repentant nor do they consider that God is offended by what they do.  This could be a tragic mistake, because Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:21 that “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of heaven.” 

So knowing and understanding what behavior is sinful is extremely important for Christians. The Bible tells us what is sinful, not the culture and not other people, even pastors. Christians must read their Bible to know what sin is and what offends God.  Then we must repent and seek His forgiveness for our sinful behavior in order to be forgiven and reconciled to Him.

Here are 10 things that some Christians do today that culturally may be acceptable but I believe deeply offend God:

1.  Fornication.  Fornication is defined as sex between non-married individuals. Today, many young Christians live together, have sexual intercourse, and consider it to be normal behavior.  They often have no shame nor believe they are offending God. The Bible clearly calls this sin. (Hebrews 13:4“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”)

2. Homosexuality.  Homosexuality is defined as sex between members of the same gender. Today, our culture is tolerant of homosexual behavior and some churches and denominations even endorse it. The Bible clearly calls this sin as well. (Leviticus 18:22“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”)

3. Abortion. Abortion is the termination of a life that has begun. It is murder. Today, many Christians are pro-choice and believe it is a woman’s right to chose an abortion. But God’s Word is very clear that we do not have the right to terminate a life. (Exodus 20:13“You shall not murder.”)

4. Pride. This is about being proud of ourselves and placing ourselves above God.  God is our Creator and is offended whenever we take credit for what He has done. Some Christians today are eager to pat themselves on the back while rarely giving credit to God for the blessings in their lives. (Proverbs 8:13“To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”)

5. Selfishness. This is about placing ourselves above others. Today, some Christians are more concerned about themselves than others. They focus more on their needs and what they desire but fail to consider the needs of those less fortunate. (Philippians 2:3“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”)

6. Retaliation. Some Christians believe it is okay to take an eye for an eye, and to retaliate against those who have hurt them. We sometimes see people taking justice into their own hands and justifying it, some of whom claim to be Christians. But Jesus clearly says that we are not to retaliate when others hurt us. (Matthew 5:39 “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”)

7. Unforgiveness. Some Christians want others to forgive them but sometimes they refuse to forgive others. God’s Word often refers to this as having a “hardened heart.” Scripture clearly tells us that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:15“But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”)

8. Divorce. Many Christians today believe that divorce is acceptable for any reason and a legitimate way to end a marriage.  But God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and Jesus spoke against it, except in the case of infidelity. (Matthew 19:6“What God has joined together, let not man separate.”)

9. Idolatry. Idolatry takes many forms today, including career, family, fame or money.  But these are all false gods and God is offended when Christians seek something else instead of Him. (Exodus 20:3“You shall have no other gods before me.”)

10. Bad Language. In America today profanity is commonly acceptable, even among Christians, whether in conversation, movies, on television, or in Facebook postings. But God is still offended when people take His name in vain, swear or use filthy language. (Colossians 3:8“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”)

 

These are just some of the ways Christians offend God knowingly or unknowingly, and this list is by no means comprehensive. We know according to Scripture that we are sinful by nature.  But that is not the issue here. The issue is whether or not we recognize our sin and repent of it.  1 John 1:10 says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives.”  So , if we do not recognize our behavior as sin we tell God He is wrong and that deeply offends Him.

So let us look to God’s Word for what behavior offends Him, repent of it, and seek His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Justice

Is There Any Justice?

 

Justice

Our nation is experiencing large scale civil unrest since the two grand jury decisions not to indict two white police officers in the tragic deaths of two black males in Ferguson, MO and New York City this year. Each case is different, but at the heart of both is the feeling of many Americans that justice was not carried out. There are peaceful protests by many, but some people choose to go further and use violence, destruction and looting to express their outrage over these judicial outcomes. Some have even claimed that our system of justice in the United States is broken.

It is natural for Americans (and people in general) to be angry or suspicious when courts or juries do not decide cases in a way that matches our perceptions. Our news media is quick to point fingers or to suggest who might be guilty before all the facts are known. And when the case comes to court, sometimes there are legal technicalities that prevent some evidence from being admitted.  Other times the legal counsel does not argue their side effectively. Even when there is evidence that clearly supports the decision that was made some people often refuse to accept it and instead choose to let loose their anger on others as a result.  That anger usually hurts people that had nothing to do with the case at all (have you ever had a drink spilled on you at a football game because another fan did not like the referee’s call, even after the reply showed it was the correct call?) There are times when the eyes refuse to see what the heart believes or wants!

I often wonder if people today are really seeking justice.  Do they care about the truth, the facts, or due process, or do they simply want revenge or a vindication of their viewpoint? The justice system in the USA is the envy of the world. In America, people are innocent until proven guilty.  We have an appeals process and trial by jury of one’s peers.  There are lawyers for both sides that argue points of law so that a defendant is not convicted on hearsay or shoddy evidence. All of this is done to try to protect people from injustice. And in general it works pretty well.

But it is not perfect and it never will be.  That is because the justice system is dependent upon people who are not perfect. Lawyers are people, Judges are people, and Jurors are people. People have biases. People make mistakes. People have errors in judgment.  As a result, sometimes the guilty go free or the innocent are punished. But is the justice system really broken?

The justice system is actually fine and likely the best there is in the world. But as people we are deeply flawed. We are the ones who are broken.  We are sinners ourselves and have prejudices often known only to us and to God.  And although we try to do the best we can, our best will never be perfect. 1 John 1:8 says that “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” You see, according to God’s standard and His law, we are all guilty and deserving of punishment under His system of justice, which is perfect. But in 1 John 1:9 it also says that “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You see, if there was true justice, we would all be guilty and punished.  But instead, God chose to have mercy upon us and forgive us because of His great love for us. We are broken and in need of forgiveness.  We are guilty and in need of mercy. And we are sinners in need of a Savior.

Is there any justice? Yes there is.  It is the justice of God who let His own Son Jesus go to the cross and pay the penalty for our sins.  That was God’s justice for every human being and is what allows us to live free from the consequences of our own sin. And Jesus calls us to be no less forgiving of others who are broken and imperfect.

That’s the message of justice we should remember this Christmas and every Christmas – that God would send His own Son Jesus into our world to bear His guilty judgment on all of us!

Praise God for His justice and His mercy! Merry Christmas!!

 

Persecution

What is Real Faith?

 

Copy of Bible Closeup & Cross

Christianity is under attack around the world.  Although it is the largest religion in the world with over 2 Billion adherents (33%), it is under attack by Muslim terrorists, Communist governments, and atheists. Every day we can read about the violence committed against Christians, including kidnapping, be-headings, imprisonment, death sentences, being burned alive, and destruction of their property and homes. One ministry, Open Doors, publishes a list of the top 50 nations with the most persecution of Christians in the world, with over half of them experiencing severe persecution. I have personally traveled to and met Christian leaders in many of these nations, including Nigeria, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Colombia, India & Kenya.  I also work with the leader of a ministry in Pakistan that is conducting our training there as well. And what I witness, and have come to know, are the risks they take and the devotion of these Christians to their faith and to Christ – no matter the cost!

And so it begs the question, what is real faith?  Do we have to face severe persecution to know if our faith is real or not? Most American Christians, including myself, have never faced this type of persecution in our lives. We are free to worship and practice our faith without fear of detection, violence or even death. We go about our lives and never really have our faith tested like Christians in some of these nations. But we feel persecution nonetheless.  We feel it when atheists work to remove God from our institutions and government.  We feel it when the culture denounces anyone, or any business, that opposes gay marriage, homosexuality, abortion, or takes a stand for Biblical principles. And we feel it when Christian viewpoints are mocked or ridiculed in public discourse or the media.

Christians everywhere are in a battle.  But the battle is not against Muslims, communists or atheists.  It is against the forces of Satan and evil.  Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12 that “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  As Christians, we must remember who the real enemy is. And whether we take a stand or go into battle, it is against the forces of Satan and evil that we must contend with for our faith, and not the people he is using to persecute us.

Jesus did not tell us that if we follow Him our lives would be easy or prosperous, contrary to what some preachers in our nation are saying today. Instead, Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  He also told his disciples in Matthew 10:22 that “all men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” And Paul wrote to his protege Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “in fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” In other words, as a follower of Christ we are to expect persecution! It comes with the territory of being a Christian. And when we stand up for God, Jesus and the Bible in America (or the world), this persecution will test our faith.

So, what is real faith?  It is believing in God’s Word and trusting in Him in every circumstance and despite every struggle or persecution.  It is having the courage to stand for Jesus in a world that would kill Him all over again, and us as well.  It is having love enough for others to speak the Truth and to fight against the sin and evil that would corrupt them or us and turn us away from Jesus. Real faith is following Jesus to the cross, denying ourselves, and putting our lives in His hands.

So how do we know if our faith is real? I have long believed that if our faith is not being tested or challenged then we probably aren’t living out our faith. When our faith is evident, Satan and the world takes notice and will try to shut us up or intimidate us.  But if we are silent and do not live out our faith, then we are no threat to Satan or his evil purposes and he does not need to bother with us. So the only way to know if our faith is real is if we are truly living for Jesus, being His feet, hands and voice to our generation, and being persecuted because of it. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “…we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” (Romans 8:17)

But we must also know that when we live out our faith and suffer for Jesus, He is always with us to help us (Matthew 28:20).  And no matter what happens, Satan cannot snatch us away from Jesus if we put our trust in Him and hold on to our faith. Jesus said in John 10:27-28 that “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”

What a wonderful promise Jesus gives to those who are faithful, who listen to His voice, and who follow Him.  Let us be the ones who follow Christ in America, the ones who truly have a real faith!