Do you like surprises? Most people might say "Yes," but then again, it might depend on what kind of "surprise" you are talking about. Now when it comes to our Lord, all of us should be asking ourselves if we think the Lord has any "surprises" left for us. The answer to that question is the foundation of the Bible, our Faith and the future of the world.
Most Christians need to be reminded now and then that our Faith started out as a BIG "surprise." The disciples surely never planned on the Lord Jesus resurrecting from the dead. And even though our Lord told them over and over that He would rise from the dead, they just didn't fully understand or believe it ( Matthew 16:21). Even on Resurrection Morning, disciples like the Apostle Peter found the Lord gone from the Tomb and walked away wondering "What happened?" (Luke 24:12).
If you walk up to someone in any church these days and ask, "Hey, do you think the Lord has any BIG 'surprise' planned for His people?" you might get blank stares, questions or discomfort. Most Christians don't even know how to answer a question like that. They may even think you are weird for asking it. And yet, IF the Lord of glory does not have anything amazing and exciting ahead for us, we have lost the heart of our Faith. A Faith without surprises ends up being very predictable....at times routine and maybe for a few boring. After all, if church life is too much about potlucks or special speakers things can honestly become a little stale. Of course this is exactly what is happening to the American Church. Christiainity is on the decline in our nation. Some seem to be leaving the true Faith for other things that seem more real or a better use of their time. When you leave out the excitement and wonder of the future that the Lord gives us in Christ you can't really blame them.
If there is ONE issue that seems to be troubling our nation in this hour, it is the loss of the truth from public discourse. There is not a single day that goes by that we are not deluged with bold lies from political candidates, the media, our universities, foreign governments and a host of other sources. Once these lies get into the thinking of the public it is almost impossible to find the real truth. This clearly applies to this coming national election in November, but it extends to every aspect of life and every decision we will ever make. No one can make a good decision when the information used for that decision is based on lies. As an example, if you think Washington D.C. is north of New York City, you will never find it. If you go north looking for it you will end up at the North Pole and die of hypothermia. One lie wrongly believed and acted upon can have a disasterous effect on our lives.
The most important thing for any Christian to know in this hour is that all lies started with Satan. The Lord Jesus addressed this issue in John 8:44 and shared these words with those in leadership that were trying to kill Him.
You belong to your father the devil and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no Truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
You belong to your father the devil and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no Truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
In the above passage, Jesus tells us that Satan is source and father of lies. Our Lord is telling us that whenever you find a pattern of consistent lying, devoid of any attempt to find and hold on to the truth, you are dealing with a satanic spirit. This fact is truly one of the great tests for anyone trying to discern and evaluate our world today. And when these lies are especially used for the purpose of deceiving others to gain political or personal power and control over them, it is always a reflection of Satan himself and his desire to deceive, gain power and be like God.
Our great nation seems hopelessly divided as we get ready to vote in this year's election in November. And yet, this great divide happened before in 1857. Understanding what happened 159 years ago is the KEY to discerning the current spiritual issues surrounding the coming election that will significantly affect America and the world until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
Now when it comes to politics, Christian leaders should avoid endorsing a candidate. Such endorsements can be confusing and very divisive. However, what every leader should be doing is informing people about the Biblical principles that are in play in every election. If you know these Biblical principles, it goes a long way in sorting out the candidates and how to vote. Without that discernment, all we are left with is the media, our "feelings" and the last sound bite we heard from someone.
Whether we fully understand it or not, America stands at a crossroads like no other time since 1776. Perhaps that crossroads is best seen in the current political battle underway as the Presidential elections draw near this fall. Both candidates offer a radically different view of reality and the future that will forever change America and the world.
But in a way, an even bigger crossroads is being faced by the Church today. That crossroads has everything to do with how we define the Church and its' ministry. You see at the heart of America's political chaos is an unseen spiritual battle going on in every congregation in America. You can't explain one without the other. Ultimately, that crossroads has everything to do with how the Church understands Jesus and what the Lord is calling His Church to be and do. If we get that wrong nothing else will be right, no matter how things look on the outside.
While Americans are living in a brave new world of political correctness, almost no one understands what is going on or why. Our society is being totally transformed by a group of "PC Police" that want to control everything in life from where we go to the bathroom to how we refer to God. Universities, once a haven for the First Amendment, are being transformed into havens for fragile students and faculty that need to create "safe zones" on campus where no one will be offended by a different idea. Even America's pulpits are being shaped by politically correct Bible translations and sermons that might find it hostile to use non inclusive gender language or refer to the Lord as a "Him" or "He."
If the truth be told, most of us would be shocked how fast this new world ethic of political correctness is sweeping the globe. As an example, some of the schools in Sweden will not even refer to boys and girls anymore as "boys" and "girls" lest a person's gender be socially conditioned, instead of a "free" choice. Our businesses and companies are spending millions of dollars on "sensitivity training" to make sure no one is offended in the work place with an inappropriate comment about gender, race, sexuality or the latest "PC Issue" that changes every week. Few doubt that this explosion of politically correctness will stop. Sadly, many Americans are beginning to live in fear about how to behave in a world where the slightest misstatement in our schools, work places or public institutions may have serious repercussions for our personal and professional lives.
The greatness of any society or people rests on their ability to remember their past and what was sacrificed to create and defend it. Surely this is true for our Nation on this Memorial Day Weekend. No nation has sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom and justice as the United States. America has sent more of her youth to die on foreign battle fields than any other nation in human history. If you wonder about this, simply watch this video on American military cemeteries outside of this county at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWB5RXnAecE. This video is a sobering reminder of what made this Nation great and that this greatness is rooted and grounded in our sacrifice for others.
Now this great and sacrificial character of the American people did not come out of nowhere. The Lord Jesus Christ founded this nation for His honor and glory from the beginning. As a result of our Biblical roots and spiritual foundation, the concept of self-sacrifice came easier to us than any other country. What a breathtaking and moving thing it is to see the millions of crosses that blanket our military cemeteries in this country and around the world. These crosses act as a singular testament to our Lord and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world on that Original Cross. Every American soldier who ever died in combat fulfilled the Lord Jesus's prophecy about His own life as He approached the Cross in John 15:13 and said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
What would you do today if your government told you that you needed to wear an orange shirt or you would have to pay a large fine? And upon further investigation, you found that the reason you were asked to wear that orange shirt was simply because a politician in Washington liked orange shirts. You might think this was some sort of bad movie. After all, this is America, the land of the free and home of the brave. Right?
Well, that scenario is not just a bad movie because it just happened last week. Did you miss the news? Instead of forcing people to wear an orange shirt, every school district in America was just technically forced to comply with President Obama's executive order through the Department of Education to wear an orange shirt. That directive said that every school in America receiving federal funding must create a bathroom policy that allows transgendered individuals to choose their own bathroom, regardless of the due process of law through Congress. If school systems do not comply with this directive, they stand to lose millions of dollars in government funding.
Imagine for a moment, that you are in a boat in the middle of the ocean with one other person and that person says, "I can't see any water." You might think they were a little crazy, but that is exactly what is happening today regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us John 1:10 that, "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him." The world is surrounded by the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus, like the water of a vast ocean, and yet people can't see him anywhere. His name is rarely referenced today in very many places. Even the church world is strangely quiet about Him.Where did our Lord go?
Jesus told us that if He was lifted up the world would be drawn to Him (John 12:32). Of course that verse and prophecy was fulfilled when the Cross was lifted up. However, our Lord wasn't just talking about the physical lifting up of the Cross alone, but rather the lifting up of His Person and Life for the world to know experience and celebrate. Sadly, in today's world our Lord is a stranger to our society in everything from the family to political discourse. Many Christians rarely even talk about our Lord Jesus regularly apart from church related functions.
It's been an amazing week in politics. As of Tuesday, it looks like controversial businessman Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for President after his main rival, Senator Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. Many of Senator Cruz's supporters and other Republicans don't feel Mr. Trump is a true conservative or conservative enough, triggering deep division within the Republican world. A similar battle is going on in the Democratic Party between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, on the Democratic side, people seem to be fighting over who is more "liberal" and what it means to be a true "liberal." Invariably, all of this leads to an obvious question on whether or not people have the slightest idea of what the words "conservative" and "liberal" really mean.
If you spend a moment and think about it, the words "conservative" and "liberal" are just words that change with the shifting winds of culture and politics. They are just words with subjective definitions that literally mean something different to every person. As a result, it is impossible to have a civil discourse today about these terms because virtually everyone starts from a different place. The same problem is also true in the Church world as well. After all, what is a "conservative" or "liberal" Christian? The Bible never uses these terms. The Church has turned to these labels because Christianity has become so confused in our culture today with a hundred counterfeits all around us of what it means to be a Christian.
If you ever wanted a barometer to measure how much trouble our society was in today you need look no further than people fighting over "who" can go to "what" bathroom. How much worse can it get? That, of course, is the lastest battle going on in America today regarding where transgendered individuals can go to the bathroom. This issue has now even begun to be talked about by presidential candidates and the media on a regular basis. There surely is no end in sight to this fight, as it has started to involve the federal government and our legal system. One day soon it may even move to the Supreme Court, with people being eventually told where they can and can't go to the bathroom.
Now, we surely didn't arrive at this sad and chaotic place overnight. This recent "bathroom battle" has been building for a generation or so. It started when people lost the basic understanding of "male" and "female" back in the 1960's to accommodate people's changing roles in the workplace, gender politics and sexual behaviors. Back then, our culture also started to move away from the Biblical concept of sex within marriage and drifted toward an open sexuality defined by the individual. As our society started to be controlled by the "rights" of these individuals, our collective responsibility to one another started to vanish. The individual started to have the ultimate right to decide how they wanted to define sex and ultimately what was "male" or "female." Once individual rights defined "reality" and became as "god," it was only a matter of time until nothing was right or wrong and the concepts of sexuality, marriage and gender were completely destroyed as we see today.
Lately, it's been a little hard watching what is going on. It's been hard to watch our Nation being seduced by socialism in one form or another from politicians of both parties. It has been hard watching our young people being deceived with silly campaign speeches that imply stealing from a few billionaires will "save the world" and makes their lives better. It has been hard watching a majority of our tenured professors in academia relentlessly attacking this Country's foundations and our economic system that created their colleges and universities. It has been hard to watch people thinking they can create Heaven on Earth without God. So living in America these days has increasingly been hard with so many delusions and illusions that seem to define "reality" for increasing numbers of people.
Now if the Bible didn't tell us what is happening and where all of this is going, it might be a time to be discouraged. And yet, the Bible would say that when it looks like things are falling apart, it is actually a prophetic sign that everything is actually falling into place to fulfill the Lord's wonderful plan. You see these delusions and illusions about reality are exactly what the Bible said would happen just before the Antichrist arrives on the scene (II Thessalonians 2:9-12). The world is quickly moving toward establishing his kingdom, not the Kingdom the Lord Jesus Christ came to establish with His Atoning Death on the Cross for sin and Empty Tomb of new life. As the world gets closer and closer to this "socialistic paradise," it should cause all of us to stop and reflect on WHY all of this thinking is so misguided and ultimately delusional. Those discussion seems rare today. Instead, all we seem to be left with is sounds bites from the media and a bunch of "touchy feely" discussions that have little interest in the Lord and His truth about our lives.
Often time's truth seems stranger than fiction. That is surely what must be said regarding the opening of Noah's Ark in Williamstown, Kentucky starting July 7. The full scale, 510 foot model of the Ark will open this summer after a couple of years of legal battles about religious freedom, employment hiring practices and tax exemption issues. The Noah's Ark Theme Park will eventually employ about 400 workers, to manage everything from the Ark itself, to supporting gifts, exhibits and concessions. When finally opened in July, this park will be a major tourist attraction for Christians and curiosity seekers from all over the world. If you are interested in what is happening in Kentucky, you might like to check it out at www.arkencounter.com and maybe even plan a trip for the summer.
While many Christians might find the coming Ark Park an exciting and interesting place to visit, much of the Nation probably thinks spending millions of dollars on such a thing is a little "crazy" to say the least. After all, the story of Noah and the Ark is a fairy tale for children, right? No educated person is supposed to take such stories literally or seriously anymore....even in the Church. About the only place Noah's Ark seems to show up these days is at the local children's playground or zoo. Most people don't seem to be too bothered with Noah's Ark, as long as it only involves a few animals for the children to see and play with on a family outing.
If there is one cry that comes from the heart of every true believer, it is to hear from the Lord. Such a cry is the desire to have a real and powerful opportunity to hear from Heaven and know what the Lord is saying to us. Such a desire comes from deep within our souls and is very much like a child crying for their father and saying, "Abba! Father!" as the Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 4:6. Only the Lord Himself can meet the deepest need of being our Father, Lord and Savior by speaking tenderly and directly to His people through His Word.
The problem we are facing in this hour is that hearing from the Lord is not a very common thing today. We are living in a period of history that is very similar to the days of the Judges about 3000 years ago. Back in those days, the culture was preoccupied with a focus on the "self" where everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). The people did not have spiritually mature leadership, so they were not hearing from the Lord. When the young boy Samuel was finally born, we are told that hearing the "Word of the Lord" was rare (I Samuel 3:1). Samuel's birth was meant to be a sign that the Lord was going to speak to the people again through him because his name in Hebrew means, "to hear." Real leaders must first hear from the Lord themselves, before they can share what the Lord is saying to the people. It is not enough to just be religious or even be in religious leadership.
While much of the Nation seems to be preoccupied with the "mud wrestling" going on today with the race for President, the story of greatest importance is being overlooked. Our current political chaos is only a symptom of a much deeper cause. The story everyone should be concerned with right now is the rapid secularization of the Nation and departure from the historic Christian Faith that helped to create it. This is the hidden story behind ever other story. It is THE story being suppressed by the media and largely ignored by many pastors and churches.
According to a growing number of studies, statistics and expert analysis, America is rapidly becoming a post Christian Nation. Leading Christian pollster George Barna, at Barna.org, recently reported that the number of people labelled "post Christian" has risen from 37% in 2013 to 44% in 2015. That is an increase of almost 20% in just two years. To be labelled as a "post Christian," according to Barna, you have to be almost antagonistic to the Lord and the Christian Faith. These growing and alarming statistics are telling us that America is undergoing a radical spiritual transformation before our eyes that needs to be understood as we face the future.
As we joyfully prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in a few days, it is exciting to see the Lord confirming this glorious truth to the world in an amazing way. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the 3rd Day, as He promised during His public ministry in Matthew 16:21. However, many have missed the Resurrection of Israel as THE greatest modern witness to our Lord's victory over sin, death and Hell since the apostolic age.
When the modern State of Israel came into being as a renewed nation on May 14, 1948, very few people saw any connection to the Empty Tomb of the Lord Jesus. And yet, the parallels were striking. The Lord Jesus Christ rose on the 3rd Day after 3 days in the grave, following the Cross and His suffering. In a similar way, the Jewish people rose again from the dead after their suffering and Holocaust. At the end of World War II, the Jewish people were virtually dead as a nation in Europe. The Allies were shocked and horrified as they liberated the death camps of Europe to find piles of dead bodies and a level of horror and suffering unseen in human history.
Do you remember where you were when you heard something about the Resurrection for the first time? The Resurrection is such an amazing event that it should be like a spiritual 9-11 that is unforgettable. How could we not be shaken by it? Surely that had to be the case for the Lord's disciples when they knew Jesus was alive. How do you forget something like that? It is the kind of thing that once heard it redefines your life and reality forever. Nothing else matters as much after hearing about it. Of course, that was the Lord's intent from the beginning.
And yet, even though the story and truth of the Resurrection is what life is all about, it remains so quiet and hidden at times. You can literally live for years and not hear much about it. You can go to work and hear nothing about it. You can regularly peruse the media and hear little about it. Surprisingly, you can even go to church for years and not hear too much about it outside of a worship service. It rarely seems to be a topic of conversation during the Coffee Hour.
America is angry tonight. Have you noticed? If you are not sure about that, all you have to do is watch the recent debates and rancor going on within the Republican Party. These debates are a good barometer of how many people are feeling......angry. Many Americans are surprised, shocked and troubled by what is going on and are fearful for the future.
Right now the 24/7 news cycle is filled with political pundits trying to figure out what is happening to the Country and why a candidate like Donald Trump has captured the hearts and minds of many Americans from every political point of view. While it may be obvious to some, Donald Trump has little to do with the recent anger and conflict in the Presidential race. Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause. The issues behind his candidacy and popularity stem from unaddressed issues that have been going on for a generation. Donald Trump is simply a tool of protest for many Americans to express their anger toward the ruling class of this Country, both Democratic and Republic, that have caused a dramatic decline of the Nation most of us once knew.
One of the things that have recently emerged in American politics is the rise of Socialism. Before the election of President Obama in 2008, almost no one in the Nation even used the word. Socialism and its more radical cousin, Communism, were systems of government in places like Europe and Asia, but surely NOT in America.
Recent polls have suggested that larger numbers of people are beginning to embrace Socialistic ideas, especially the young. A recent 2015 Gallup poll showed that 35 percent of the American public view Socialism favorably. What most Americans have missed is that this journey toward Socialism has been going on for a long time. Ever since President Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930's, America has been moving in this direction with programs such as Social Security, Medicare and most recently Obamacare. So we can't be totally surprised when a candidate like Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont is running for President as a Socialist and embraced by millions. Socialism is slowly becoming American.
One of the great questions that has been raised by many Christians and Bible students over the years is simply this, "Does America appear anywhere in the Bible?" Surely that has to be an important question if the Lord has a plan for the world and America is at the center of the world right now as THE major Super Power. Several books, sermons and articles have attempted to tackle this subject, but there seems to be little agreement about a possible answer.
And yet, the answer to this important question is coming into clear view. The problem, however, is that few would believe it because the answer is so shocking. You see America, as we have come to know it, is slowly disappearing before our eyes. America is no longer America in the way it used to be for much of our history. The Nation has slowly been losing its Constitution, borders, Judeo-Christian faith, military power, financial strength, amazing economy, moral standards and overall way of life.
Many of us will be watching the Super Bowl this weekend. Some people even attend "Super Bowl Parties" with family and friends that were planned for weeks or months. It is estimated that about 190 million people will be watching the game. Even the commercials are "super," costing about $5,000,000 for a 30 second spot. The Super Bowl has grown over the years to not only be one of the most watched events in history, but it has made legends and superstars out of some of the players. For some people, winning the Super Bowl is the stuff of dreams and reflects the ultimate glory of this life with regards to achievement and status.
One of the greatest Super Bowl stars ever to play the game was San Francisco 49er quarterback Joe Montana. Joe led his team to 4 Super Bowl wins and was the MVP (Most Valuable Player) in three of them. Joe retired from football in 1995, but he still appears at many celebrity and charity events around the world as one of the greatest sports personalities of all time. Joe's skills were legendary in the football world, eventually earning him a place in the Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
All over the world tonight there seems to be a HUGE leadership vacuum that is building toward some sort of emerging crisis. In Europe, for example, the recent flood of unwanted immigrants from the Middle East, the growth of Islamic terrorism and a variety of unsolved political and economic problems with the European Union have created a great cry for new and decisive leadership. Few seem to have a clue about how to solve these growing problems and the failure to address them has spawned a variety of reactionary groups from ultranationalists to neo Nazis. Europe is in a deep leadership crisis it hasn't seen since the 1920's and 30's before World War II.
Here in America, the race for the White House in 2016 has created the most polarizing political dialogue in memory. A variety of polls seem to say that a majority of Americans are angry, fed up and desperately searching for strong leadership to fill the vacuum of failed government leadership created by both Democrats and Republicans. Like Europe, America is in the midst of a political crisis that is demanding some sort of strong and clear leadership to reverse the growth of progressivism, the malaise of political correctness and a sense that the establishment is corrupt and broken.
The central problem facing all of us today is how you establish truth. If truth ultimately depends on the individual and our "feelings" or personal experiences of "faith," you can see we have a problem. That, of course, is what is going on today. Our society has made the self a "god," with each person deciding what is right or wrong in their own eyes like the days of Judges 21:25. Perhaps that is why many Christians are unwilling to engage the world with the fact that Jesus is the truth and Lord of all. The Church knows our message is not well received and people fear rejection. Now when the Church loses its' confidence in sharing the truth, Christianity just becomes another special interest group like playing football or quilting. It is almost as if Pontius Pilate had been resurrected and is putting every Christian on trial again with his infamous question to our Lord in John 18:38, "What is truth?"
The only way Christians will ever share truth with others is when they are overwhelmed with the truth themselves and can't help sharing it. That happened to the Apostle Peter on Pentecost in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit overwhelmed him with the truth that Jesus was truth itself and Lord of all. Peter couldn't help but share that message with his audience and 3000 people came to faith that day, as they too were overwhelmed with the truth about our Lord.
The greatest, single objection to the Christian Faith is its' exclusivity. That exclusivity is best defined by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in John 14:6, where our Lord says, "I am the way, and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." That verse is either greatly misunderstood to mean a variety of things OR it means that Jesus is the only Savior and way to Heaven. There really are no other options. IF Jesus is the only Savior of the world, then all other faiths and belief systems are false and cannot save their followers in this life or the next.
On the face of it, that statement by our Lord seems simply outrageous in an age of tolerance and multiculturalism. As a matter of fact, the sharing of that belief in almost any public setting today can bring about an angry response of rejection and vilification. If you're not sure about that...just try it. If we are honest about it, many Christians struggle with this core belief because most of us just want to "get along" with everyone. Few Christians are looking to stir up things and get into fights with neighbors, friends or the media.