Category Archives: Persecution

The Culture Is Hostile — Who Cares?

The Lord is my Refuge

We live in a time when it doesn’t take much effort to see the proliferation of wickedness. Until recently, Christians in America and Western Europe have enjoyed nearly universal acceptance, causing us to feel great dismay that our culture now increasingly rejects Biblical standards of morality.

Indeed, Western culture does exhibit growing hostility toward Christianity. And those of us who grew up in a time when society encouraged at least a nominal expression of Christian values find that hostility somewhat shocking.  As a result, we vacillate between the two extremes of wanting to “take back America and for Christ” and whimpering in despair. While neither extreme befits a true believer, the second one demonstrates an inability to trust the Lord.

The opening verses of Psalm 11 vividly illustrates how our fear of prevailing evil can cause us to forget God’s  protection of us. Look at these verses with me:

 In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
    they have fitted their arrow to the string
    to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord‘s throne is in heaven;
    his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
    but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. ~~Psalm 11:1-5 (ESV)

In this passage, David refutes alarmists who suggest that the forces of evil could potentially overpower God’s people. He reasons that the Lord, Who is his refuge, may well test our faith with adversity, but that ultimately He will triumph.

Notice that David doesn’t mention any power that believers supposedly have to overcome the wicked. Rather, he directs our attention to the Lord, Who reigns in heaven. Too often, in considering the apparent success of secular humanism, we tend to believe that the battle depends on our effort (particularly in terms of gaining political power), but David reminds us that God is on  His throne. Instead of trusting ourselves and then wailing helplessly over our impotence, we must find encouragement in His sovereignty.

 

 

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Higher Than The Supreme Court And Longer Lasting Than Wedding Cakes

Same Sex Marrriage

When the United States Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage on June 26, 2015, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there would be implications on religious liberty as a result.  I believe the very point of demanding marriage for a segment of society known for its astronomical rate of promiscuity had more to do with forcing people to approve of homosexuality than with equality. Furthermore, I believe a primary objective of LBGTQ activists centers on coercing Christians to renounce the Biblical standards of sexuality.

As I type this blog post, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding a Christian baker in Colorado who, wanting to be consistent with his religious convictions, declined to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple. While I’d love to see the Court rule in favor of the baker, I expect them to chip away his First Amendment rights. I also expect an overall rise in public hostility toward Christians who dare to take the Bible seriously.

That hostility has actually been simmering for quite some time, and it’s not exclusive property of the LBGTQ activists. Although I do believe responsible Christians must avoid conspiracy theories like the plague, I do understand that Scripture teaches us to expect increasing opposition as we draw closer to Christ’s return.

In reading Psalm 2 recently, I thought about the world’s derisive attitude toward Christians.

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.” ~~Psalm 2:1-3 (ESV)

Verse 3 captures the prevailing animosity that the movers and shakers of 21st Century American culture (as well as Canadian and much of European culture) bears toward Bible-believing Christians. They see the Biblical view of sex as being restrictive. They actively work to break the bonds of monogamous, heterosexual marriage, casting away the cords of obedience to God’s Law in favor of gratifying their lusts in whatever way they choose.

In so doing, of course, they must silence anyone and everyone who reminds them of God’s standard for sexuality. They must force compliance.  They  require Christians to celebrate sexual sin.

But reading on in Psalm 2, I noticed that any victories they appear to gain are temporary.  The Lord promises,  quite literally, that He will have the last laugh.

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.” ~~Psalm 2:4-6 (ESV)

Things will become more and more difficult for Bible-believing Christians as time goes on. Obedience will be costly.  But in the final analysis, the Lord still reigns, and those who rebel against Him now will eventually bow in submission to His authority. We should pray for His enemies to surrender before that time of judgment, so that they might know His mercy and grace. But we need not fear that His plan will be thwarted. King Jesus has been set on God’s holy hill.

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The Scripture Made Me Ask Myself Some Uncomfortable Questions

PonderingWhat do you put on your prayer list? When you gather with other believers, what prayer requests do you typically make? If you’re like most Christians, you most frequently ask people to pray for your health, your job, your living situation or other temporal matters.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that! One pastor I had used to say, “If it’s big enough to think about, it’s big enough to pray about.”

Last week, I read a prayer request that the apostle Paul made in his letter to the Colossians.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. ~~Colossians 4:2-4 (ESV)

He wrote  that prayer request from prison. That little piece of information really arrested my attention when I read it last week, and caused me to mull over what prayer requests I might send out if I were in a Roman prison, chained to guards day and night.  Based on my attitude during the two years I spent in a nursing home, I more than likely would have asked people to pray for things to alleviate my physical or emotional discomfort.

But Paul only sought prayer that he could further the Gospel!

How often do you pray for opportunities to declare the Gospel? I don’t pray such prayers often enough, even though I pray them a great deal more than I once did. (What might the Lord have done if I had prayed that way in the nursing home?) I could be mistaken, but I have a hunch that very few 21st Century Christians pray that way.

Those verses in Colossians challenge me. Do I take the Gospel seriously enough to pray for opportunities to proclaim it? Am I more interested in my comfort than in making sure that others hear what Jesus Christ did for them? These questions don’t feel good. Actually, they make me squirm. But they’re probably some of the most important questions I’ll ever ask myself.

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The Boring Way To Develop Discernment

Stained Glass WindowDuring October 2017, you couldn’t go online without seeing multiple blog posts about the Protestant Reformation. Actually, some of us started writing about it much earlier, hoping to build excitement (or at least interest) among evangelicals. We did so primarily because most professing evangelicals fail to appreciate — or even understand — the differences between Protestant theology and Roman Catholicism.

Many evangelicals simply don’t care. They prefer to minimize the importance of doctrine in favor of finding common ground with Catholics.

Even deeper, many evangelicals follow the wider culture’s general disdain for history. Having suffered through a Medieval History class in college with a professor who spoke in a monotone, I do see why people believe history is boring. His class bored me, and I marveled at the history majors who constantly raved about that professor. I suspect many people assume history is boring because they’ve also endured history teachers like that.

The predominate boredom with history frustrated me as I blogged about the Protestant Reformation week after week. By October 31st, I found myself feeling relieved that the 500th anniversary had passed. I looked forward to writing on more popular topics that might attract more readers.

I  wonder if other bloggers felt the same relief. It wouldn’t surprise me.

But I think folding up the Reformation and packing it away until next October 31st might do a great disservice to the body of Christ. Instead of bowing to the prevailing indifference to church history, we need to encourage our fellow evangelicals to understand why the 16th Century Reformers (not to mention Reformers before them) risked their lives to draw people back to God’s Word.

Professing Christians have once again moved away from the Word of God. That’s why they gravitate to popular teachers like Beth Moore and Joel Osteen. Interestingly, people who consider themselves to be discerning gravitate to blogs that expose these false teachers. And, in moments of weakness, I find myself writing articles that allow me to plunk Beth Moore’s name in the title, knowing that doing so will attract readers.

I wish that those who so eagerly seek to be discerning realized that the Protestant Reformation was the greatest example of discernment in Christian history. If anyone really wants to learn principles of discernment, the Reformation definitely offers the quintessential starting place. Why? Precisely because each and every one of the Reformers went back to Scripture. Many suffered martyrdom for their insistence on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

The hoopla over the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has given way to blog posts about celebrity sex scandals, Thanksgiving and now Christmas. The pressure to convince postmodern evangelicals that the actions of a German monk in 1517 have any serious meaning as we approach 2018 has subsided, liberating us to blog about subjects that readers crave.

Except we need, more than ever, to remember the Reformation, with its passion to bring God’s people back to His Word. Maybe I won’t blog about the Reformation every week, but I will most assuredly keep it before you, praying that you’ll understand its relationship to Biblical discernment. Hopefully you’ll begin to see how the Reformers teach us to evaluate popular teachers against God’s Word.

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After Darkness, Light

Post Tenebras Lux

Even among Christians who genuinely love God’s Word and have a passion for Him, I feel like a certifiable nerd these days. Hardly anyone outside on my blogging and Twitter associates seems aware that today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. And the few who actually do know don’t show a great deal of concern (let alone excitement) over the matter. That was 500 years ago, they reason. They remind me that not everyone enjoys history as much as I do.

A few longtime friends have (if I correctly understand their Facebook comments) expressed hope that I’m not idolizing theology instead of loving Jesus. Certainly, dead orthodoxy poses a danger to any Christian, and therefore self-examination has a place for those of us who write zealously about the issues involved in the Reformation. I don’t want to exalt anything above the Lord Jesus Christ.

I wonder, however, if people accused Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the other 16th Century Reformers of idolizing theology.

Actually, they accused them of heresy, even though it was the false teachings of Roman Catholicism that caused the Reformers to go back to Scripture and question the Church’s teachings in the first place. Those men and women stood against the errors in the Roman Catholic Church because they loved Jesus and had a passion for His Word.

In order to appreciate their passion for Biblical theology, it helps to understand the development of the Roman Catholic Church. Outlining that history goes well beyond the scope of today’s essay, but I strongly encourage you to read What is the origin of the Roman Catholic Church? from GotQuestions.org. Suffice it to say that Roman Catholicism kept most people in spiritual darkness for approximately 600 years, withholding Scripture from all but the elite so that Rome could maintain political power.

The Reformers began reading Scripture translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, and consequently saw huge discrepancies between what the Word taught and the teachings of Rome. As I’ve said repeatedly throughout this Tuesday series, they risked their very lives (and many died as martyrs) over the theological differences between them and the Roman Catholic Church.

They rightly took the motto, Post Tenebras Lux (after darkness, light), to describe God’s wonderful work of restoring sound doctrine to His people.  The light of God’s Word had at last dispelled the darkness of Roman Catholicism, and the Reformers preferred persecution and death to compromising their theology. Does that mean they idolized theology over the Lord?

I would argue that the Reformers’ love and passion for Christ emanated from their return to Biblical theology. As they rediscovered the doctrines of grace in the pages of Scripture, the light shone brightly, leading them to know and love the Lord, Who had been in the shadows of Catholic tradition for almost six centuries.  To those Reformers, the theology that shed light on the Lord and His will caused them to rejoice in His remarkable grace. They gave Him all the glory. Indeed,  the appearance of light after darkness fueled their passionate love for Him.

Oh dear 21st Century believers, don’t let people discourage you from loving the theology that leads you to a clear understanding of Who Jesus is and what He teaches. As John said to me yesterday, we can’t really love the Lord apart from right theology. Praise God for the courageous Reformers whom He used to bring His people from darkness into light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

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Saturday Sampler: October 8 — October 14

Saturday Sampler graphic

Mark McIntyre, in Attempts at Honesty, asks us to consider whether or not Christian on Christian crime apples to us. His comment on discernment ministries may prick a bit, but it alone makes the blog post worth reading.

Do you ever feel tempted to skip reading your Bible? I sure do! So I appreciate Michelle Lesley’s response in The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it. (No, I didn’t submit the question.) Michelle answers this question with honesty and compassion while not compromising the truth in any way.

Not that Christians should still be confused on this matter, but the author of Unified in Truth answers the question, Can women teach or exercise authority over a man? with simple appeals to the Word of God. There’s really nothing to complicate the issue except our rebellion.

Ouch! Erin Benziger does some necessary, but painful, wielding of the Sword of the Spirit with her article Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Gossip in Do Not Be Surprised. She also encourages those of us who struggle with this sin to remember God’s grace.

According to Scott Slayton of One Degree to Another, Before You Get Angry about a News Story you might want to ask yourself some probing questions. Our “righteous indignation” may not be as righteous as we think.

You’ll have to read Elizabeth Prata’s The Gathering Storm in The End Time all the way through to get what she’s saying, but I urge you to work through her crucially important essay. Believe me, this lady understands where our society is headed, and we need to pay attention.

Although I don’t have the time to sign up for the online Bible Studies that Lisa Morris offers, I enjoy reading the companion blog posts she features in Conforming to the Truth. Launching her study of James, Lisa writes Genuine Faith: Knows Considers and Asks Without Doubting in a manner that encourages us to walk through trials as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe you’d like reading her thoughts on James 1:1-5.

Usually I won’t include articles in Saturday Sampler if they quote someone I have significant disagreements with (like Michael Brown) or favorably reference unbiblical practices (like psychology). Walt Heyer’s article, The Transgender Matrix: It’s Time to Choose the Red Pill in Public Discourse is a necessary exception. Heyer lived as a transgendered woman for eight years, only to realize that his surgery couldn’t change his genetic makeup. His article challenges politically correct assumptions about transgenderism, and for that reason  I feel compelled to recommend it.

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Saturday Sampler: October 1 — October 7

Fantasy Flowers Sampler

Fall has arrived, meaning that the time all too quickly approaches when cold New England winters will prevent John and me from going anywhere. Including church. We grieve that many able-bodied evangelicals don’t appreciate the privilege of weekly church attendance. Perhaps Scott Slayton’s post, What You Miss When You Don’t  Gather With Your Church in  One Degree to Another, can give you a different perspective on the importance of meeting with your church as often as possible.

In Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. lists Five ways to know that you are too in love with yourself. Gulp! Her insights don’t  comply with psychological principles, but they definitely agree with God’s Word. Please make this one a high priority on your reading list!

I love Rachelle Cox’s Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship in Gospel-Centered Discipleship. This article puts forth some unexpected thoughts about ways women disciple each other, and I think those thoughts might encourage some of you. See what you think.

For an accurate and concise explanation of Revelation verses Illumination, please visit Unified in Truth and start using the two terms Biblically. If you still believe that the Lord gives revelation now, you may need to rethink your theology.

Some of you are probably married to elders in your church. If so, you might appreciate An open letter to elder’s wives by Andrew Gutierrez in The Cripplegate. I find it also instructive to those of us who are friends with women married to elders. Let’s not place these ladies in awkward positions.

As an introduction to a new series in her Do Not Be Surprised blog, Erin Benziger writes about The Lie of ‘Acceptable’ Sins. This series, she promises, won’t be comfortable, but it will lead us to find comfort in the Gospel of God’s grace. I’m looking forward to it, knowing that Erin writes with fidelity to the Scriptures and with reverent passion for the Lord.

For a truly intriguing discussion on a perplexing passage in Genesis, you shouldn’t miss Mercy, Hope, and The Tower of Babel by the author of A Narrow-Minded Woman. She brings out a variety of points that I’ve never noticed, making the incident much more compelling and applicable. I especially like her emphasis on the sovereignty of God.

In an article for Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke enumerates Ten Lasting Fruits of the Reformation. Those who consider history to be boring and irrelevant should read this piece, if only so that they can see why geeks like me keep writing about the Reformation as if it actually matters.

Have you been sending positive thoughts to Las Vegas this week? In Why Your Positive Thoughts Are Not Helping Anyone, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace explains why Christians err when they speak of sending positive thoughts. He also tells us how we can actually help hurting people.

I want to close this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler by sharing the video below of the sermon my pastor, Jeremy Garber, preached at First Baptist Church in Weymouth, MA last Sunday. The reminder to use discernment fits so seamlessly with the purposes of this blog that I believe I must include it.

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