Thursday, October 23, 2014

Solidarity with Brothers and Sisters in Christ

By now, I'm sure many of my Internet-savvy and social media connected Christian brothers and sisters are familiar with the symbol to the right. It is being used by the ISIS/ISIL cowards and thugs to identify the innocent Christian men, women, and children they are systematically brutalizing across the Middle East.

The international Christian community has adopted this symbol—intended by the terrorists to be a "Scarlet A" symbol of shame—as a symbol of solidarity with their persecuted brothers and sisters. Many have added it to their social media websites, profile pictures, etc. I already have it embedded on my Twitter profile, but I haven't quite figured out how to do it on Facebook without losing other photos I want to remain. Photoshop is likely the answer.

My heart really breaks for what is going on right now. Outside of being driven by demon possession and deception (very possible), I can't imagine how the ISIS leadership actually thinks this brutality is going to work in the long run. People are beginning to really get tired of it, especially here in America, and now in Canada and Britain. As the Japanese Imperialists found out in World War II, once the "Sleeping Giant" is awakened, our collective wrath is terrible. ISIS is miscalculating very badly. They may well be satisfied with the current occupant of the White House, who seems intent on letting them have their way with a few air strikes ordered now and then for political cover. But that situation will not last forever. Elections change things.

Ayatollah Khomenei knew Ronald Reagan meant business when he took office from the inept Jimmy Carter. The 1981 hostages were released pretty quickly upon Reagan's ascension to power. It may well turn out that way again, and if I were ISIS, I would not count overmuch on what they've been told about America's cultural decline stopping us from acting against them. There is a moral and spiritual decline to be sure, but there are enough of us left in the patriotic, traditionalist variety to overcome and then act, with a vengeance. We have the military capability to destroy every last one of them. And if our backs are against the wall, we will find the political will to use that capability.

How can I make the above remarks as a Christian in ministry. Very simply. I can sincerely pray as a Christian for the repentance and individual salvation of the members of ISIS. No doubt the Christians they are persecuting, torturing, and imprisoning are witnessing the love of Christ to them. The Holy Spirit will work through His proclaimed Word on the human heart. Amen and Amen.

But the duty of a GOVERNMENT ordained to its power by God is to protect its people and to restrain evildoers, as Romans 13 makes very clear. That's what the power of the sword is for. And for icing on the cake, not only are governments to protect their people, an individual Christian is to protect their loved ones. This Christian will. I am an excellent shot and wouldn't hesitate. Keep that in mind. There are millions of us across America.

One final challenge. I keep hearing so much about these "moderate" imams and Islamic leaders in the West and around the world. I'm tired of hearing about it. I want to SEE it. In ACTION. Islamic ruled countries need to take action against these thugs, both militarily and through civilian law enforcement. Round them up. Jail them. Execute them if you must. Deal with it. Close their mosques. Cleanse the schools where they are learning this malevolent ideology. Prove to the West that you really are in solidarity with us.

If you are unwilling to do so, then that suggests you really agree at heart with what ISIS is doing. Reading the Quran at literal level and knowing the history of Muhammed and the subsequent caliphates, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that this represents real Quranic Islam more than the "moderates." You say it doesn't? Show us. Show us now.

It's not a perfect analogy, but you have liberal Christians and conservative Christians. You have Christians in name only, and you have genuine, practicing believers whose hearts and lives have been given to the Lord Jesus Christ. Liberal Christians have a low view of Scripture typically, ditch many of the core doctrines the church has believed for 2,000 years, even in some cases denying the Master who bought them. They wear the Christian label, but they are no more Christians than Hare Krishna devotees.

Conservatives tend to believe what the church has always believed, are orthodox on core doctrine, have a heart and love for the lost, and want to see people saved from their sins. They're motivated by love, not hate. You won't find us out murdering people and compelling them to faith. (And before you bring it up, yes, I know church history. Lots of things were done in the name of Jesus that He finds abhorrent, and those who did them in His name will be held accountable. I would even make the case that those who used the power of government to compel faith may not have even been regenerate. Personal saving faith and regeneration by the Holy Spirit makes one a true Christian, not some words babbled out by formula, or cultural upbringing.

Well, enough. I think you get what I'm trying to say. ISIS must be stopped, and the world's leaders had best get their derrieres in gear. But I pray for peace, believing miracles can happen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Open Letter to Pastors


Note: The letter below was originally published in the Lighthouse Trails newsletter. I am republishing it here with the kind permission of David and Deborah Dombroski. I concur with their conclusions. This is an issue that transcends denominationalism, and is much more important than disputes over secondary doctrine. The heart of the Gospel itself is increasingly at stake as evangelicalism trundles along toward ever more compromise, unbiblical ecumenism, and even apostasy. In my view, a false notion of what the church is and what the church is supposed to be/do is at the heart of many errors. The church assembly is not primarily for unbelievers, and worship is NOT about us, or what appeals to us. It's about God and giving Him the glory. 

By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails

Often times, people call our office asking what denomination we are. We realize that this is a probing question designed to find out more about us. The truth is, Lighthouse Trails Publishing has never been affiliated with any denomination. From the onset, nearly thirteen years ago, we have always endeavored to be connected with the body of believers scattered throughout the world who are very concerned, as we are, with the state of the church today. Many of our readers have told us they felt very alone and even ostracized in witnessing the apostasy in the churches today prior to their finding our website and realizing there were other Christians who saw what they did.

We know firsthand how it feels to be labeled troublemakers for having legitimate concerns about what is happening in the church today. We too have felt disillusioned as we have witnessed a gradual departure in the churches from the Word of God. Pulpits throughout the land, many of which formerly proclaimed the biblical Gospel of God’s saving grace through the sacrifice on the Cross now espouse an assortment of pseudo-gospel, pop-psychology, seeker-friendly, Purpose-Driven, emerging, New Age, mystical/contemplative spirituality that may be chicken soup for the soul but what God calls an abomination (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). It is no wonder that God in referring to the lukewarm warns that He is ready to “spew thee” out of His mouth” (Revelation 3:16). How much better it would have been if churches and their pastors had stuck with John 3:16!

Out of this frog’s slow-cooking kettle,  some emerged only to witness that a great many were staying in the pot. Many discerning believers now find they have become watchmen for the Lord, compelled by God to sound out a clear warning of the impending doom of the church. In fact, it appears that God  is presently calling out believers from various denominations to stand up and be counted among those who refuse to comply with the compromised experience-driven Christianity of today. Yes, God is calling out His own. If you love Jesus Christ and His Word and if you really want to serve Him, now is the time to be fully surrendered to the Lord without reservation. Whatever the cost. We are invited to the wedding feast, ready to meet our Savior, with wicks trimmed and lamps burning. Now is the time to make ready.

Nearly on a daily basis, we witness our very earth in what seems like birth pangs— be it nuclear threat, terrorism, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes—or violence, wars and rumors of war—while most people seem almost oblivious to what is happening (or may see something is amiss but do not turn to Scripture and Bible prophecy to understand the implications). Again, God is sounding out a warning to make ready.

Even now, while the reality of the Antichrist and a one-world religion is looming closer and closer all the time, preachers and teachers are sitting at their desks inking out sermons that discredit Bible prophecy.
If you are a pastor, let us remind you that you have a great responsibility. When we first began Lighthouse Trails Publishing, we contacted our pastor at that time, trying to encourage him to warn his congregation of the apostasy that was beginning to creep into the church back then. His reply was that he lives in a bubble and consequently sees no need to warn his congregation about anything as long as he keeps expounding the Word to them. Our reply to him was “youmay be in a bubble, but your congregation is not.” The question is this: if it is not the pastor’s job to warn his congregation of impending spiritual danger, whose job is it? In the Old Testament, the prophets referred to individuals with this kind of responsibility as watchmen or shepherds. The prophet Zechariah, for example, has much to say about the responsibilities of a shepherd in chapters 10 and 11. In referring to the spiritual condition of his day, he said:
For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled because there was no shepherd. (Zechariah 10:2)
Nothing could speak more succinctly of the condition of the church today. We never dreamed in all our years as Christians that there would ever be such blatant heresy as we see in the organized Christian church today. Years ago, we would never have imagined that anyone would be given the green light to stand in front of a congregation and deny the atonement of Jesus Christ. Yet this is exactly what is happening in the emerging/progressive/contemplative “church” as well as in some of our Bible colleges and seminaries. Many have fallen from a great height, and we should be mourning as God surely must be mourning.
If you are a pastor who feels that it is not your calling to warn your congregation, let us remind you that the closest New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament watchmen or shepherd’s is the position of a pastor. There is a time for speaking uplifting encouraging words of peace and comfort—but when ravenous wolves are about, is it not wiser to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2)?

WHAT IS THE TEST?

Sometimes we are asked, what is the criteria for deciding whether or not a doctrine or practice is biblical or validates criticism. Over the years, many  pastors, elders, and youth pastors have contacted us and told us we have no business in doing what we are doing. We have often thought after hearing this that what we would like to say in reply is, “If you pastors were doing it, people like us wouldn’t have to.” It has not been a pleasant task, but the church needs to be warned of the impending danger. If you have read our books, then you understand what we are talking about.

But getting back to the question, what is the test for deciding if a particular teaching or practice validates criticism? There is but one test that we have used consistently from the inception of Lighthouse Trails. The Book of Proverbs says: “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight (Proverbs 11:1).
And again from Proverbs: “Divers weights are an abomination unto the Lord; and a false balance is not good  (Proverbs 20:23).

It is interesting that Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, placed such emphasis on accurate scales. It is even more amazing that God would call false scales an abomination – amazing only until we realize that God is speaking of the spiritual—not just physical, scales here. So what we are looking for is a spiritual balancing scale—something that will reappear throughout the Bible—through the Old and New Testaments. There is such a scale, a consistent theme, which John refers to in his first epistle:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)
Some Bible commentators have believed that John was referring here to a particular sect who denied that Jesus Christ actually came in a human body. If that is all John meant, then this passage is of little relevance to us today, because you will scarcely find anyone who does not believe that Jesus as a historical figure was a man who walked the earth. But the name Jesus Christ in this passage is not a historical term; it is a name loaded with meaning —referring to Jesus as the Messiah, God come in the flesh, our Savior and Redeemer, who atoned for our sins. If we look at the context of 1 John 4, we can verify that this is what John is talking about because in it he says, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14). In other words, John is saying here, I am referring to the Jesus I wrote about in my gospel— the Word made flesh who in the beginning was with God and was God (see John, chapter 1).

This is the balancing scale we have been looking for. Just as all human history and our blessed hope hinges on what Jesus did on the Cross, so too we can weigh a doctrine or practice by whether or not it agrees with the fact that we are justified by faith alone through the atoning, redemptive work of Christ on the Cross. The question then is, does a particular doctrine or teaching agree with the Gospel the apostles all preached?

With this discerning tool in hand, if you stop to measure all of the world’s religions and systems, you will find that all of these are opposed to the Gospel. The natural man will not acknowledge the need for a Savior, consequently all of the world’s belief systems (except biblical Christianity) are works based—believing that it is possible to earn our way into Heaven or to become “Christ-like” through mysticism and “spiritual disciplines.” But the Gospel says it is not possible. John knew all too well the contrariness of the natural man and the world’s belief systems. That is why in the same chapter of his epistle, he offers another test:
[H]e that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6)
In other words, John is saying that when the world rejects you for sharing the Gospel, it is because the Spirit of truth in not in them. Whichever way you look at it, the Gospel is the fulcrum of our balance in discerning truth from error. When Lighthouse Trails Publishing began, this became, and has always been, our standard of truth and also the deciding factor as to whether something is significant enough to bring to the attention of our readers. We are careful not to get involved in issues in the church where the Gospel is not attacked or compromised; but when it is we are compelled to speak up— because as believers in Christ, we are called to defend the Gospel; and is that not the calling of pastors especially?

The Gospel is the most precious thing on God’s heart, and it is worthy of our defense and protection. Wouldn’t you like to be remembered as a man (or woman) after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13: 14)? If so, then defend the Gospel.

You may recall that in the Old Testament the Israelites took great pains in transporting the Ark of the Covenant. According to the instructions given by God to Moses (Exodus 25:13-15), the Ark was to be carried by staves (poles) on the shoulders of the Levites (1 Chronicles 15:15). However, in 1 Chronicles 13:7-10, contrary to Moses’ specific instructions, they put the Ark on a cart to be pulled by oxen. But the unexpected happened. When “Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled . . . the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him” (1 Chronicles 13:9-10). The Levites, who were the “pastors” of that day, were careless about following Moses’ instructions; and it ended up costing a life. The Ark of the Covenant was a type and foreshadowing of the Gospel. It was sprinkled with blood to symbolize Christ’s death on the Cross.

Today, similar to back then, so many pastors and Christian leaders have become careless about the Gospel. If you are one who has grown careless with the Gospel, isn’t it time to make some changes and return to following the instructions of the Lord?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Had Enough Yet?

This story isn't from a right wing website. It's from the New York Times. And the headline says quite enough. Obama trying to find an end-run around Congress in the event of a "nuclear deal" with Iran.

It seems every day brings a new scandal or new outrage from this Administration. A new way that the president tries to circumvent our Constitutional order. His popularity is at an all time low. Even African-American supporters were walking out on him during a recent campaign appearance in Maryland. You'd think he'd get the message, wouldn't you?

But he goes on, doggedly determined to do all that he can to throw as many monkey-wrenches into the country's operating machinery as he possibly can. More than that, he goes on doggedly determined to set as much of the world on fire as he possibly can, especially the Middle East, which is the last place in the world needing more gasoline thrown on an already raging inferno.

Our Constitution demands that any treaties must be confirmed by the United States Senate. It astounds me that Congress—both House and Senate, and even a Democratically controlled Senate—would be so willing to surrender its proper Constitutional powers and purviews. This will eventually come back to bite the Democrats hard.

That is, assuming the country survives.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Another Caution on Global "Religion"

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair
Yesterday, I posted on the rather outrageous push by the mayor of Houston to intimidate Christian pastors by subpoena. Today, I am going to take up a call made recently by former UK prime minister Tony Blair for "religious respect." You can read the BBC story here.

As usual, the devil is in the details. If we're talking about mutual "tolerance" and "respect" in the genuine sense of the word, great. However, if said "respect" really means censoring what faiths teach, then it's not so great.

The two separate stories are really related if you think about it. Houston's mayor wants to intimidate and censor pastors from preaching against homosexuality—something clearly condemned as sin by the Bible, which is the source of authority for the Christian faith. This is a clear violation of religious freedom and the U.S. Constitution. But the pressure for churches to shut up about homosexual sin is under the guise of "tolerance." It really means anything can be tolerated except biblical Christianity.

So when global or national politicians talk about tolerance and respect, let's question them very closely on what they really mean by those words. Religions by their very nature disagree about truth and ultimate meaning. And that's fine. People need to be able to discuss their differences, and the very essence of religions discussing their values is to persuade others. To be sure, there are some faiths that aren't really out in front sharing their beliefs in an evangelistic sense, but the ability to do so is at the heart of freedom of religion AND freedom of speech. Also included in those freedoms is the right not to believe, nor to be compelled to believe. If the government—national, state, local, or global bodies such as the UN—desire to compel religious believers into silence, then there is a problem. An enormous one. Especially in a Constitutional republic such as the United States, where freedom is written into our DNA.

We have unalienable rights granted to us by God. Let's not allow them to be stolen away from us in the name of "tolerance" and "respect."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Now It's Begun . . . in Houston

Dr. Russell D. Moore
Seems like it takes a whale of a story to motivate me to update the blog these days, and I apologize to my readers. Every time I think my schedule is slowing down to where I can do some writing, kaboom.

But this had to be addressed. In Houston, Texas, there is a controversy catching fire where the mayor of the town is trying to subpoena the sermons of churches who are biblically opposed to homosexuality. I didn't want to write anything until I had the story confirmed by a reliable source, and Dr. Russell Moore came to my rescue. I am posting his well-written column on the controversy here. He said it much better than I could have said—right on the money. More measured too, because I'm furious.

I will make one comment to try and illustrate the point. Let's take the "hot button" issue of homosexual behavior off the table and put in any other issue about which Christian churches might be concerned. Any other issue or sin addressed by the Bible—the Word of God. Shall we make speaking out on those issues illegal also? I think not.

I will not see the Bill of Rights or the ability of churches to worship, preach, and teach the Word of God flushed without a fight. The mayor of Houston may regret this one in the long run. She definitely will in eternity.