Most people assume they understand something about the meaning of Christmas...even people from other religious traditions and beliefs. Most Christians believe they know the meaning of Christmas. Most pastors believe they know the meaning of Christmas. But is that true? Most people can tell you Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Some can even tell you God sent His Son as a gift to save us from our sins at that time. But it turns out that people's views of Christmas are all over the place. There are literally hundreds of ideas about Christmas out there. Some of them may have elements of truth to them, but a lot of the beliefs, even in the Church, can be very sketchy, lack clarity, are often culturally conditioned and some are even heretical. This leads to an interesting question: what does it mean to say "Merry Christmas"?
Recent national polls of evangelical churches have revealed some shocking things that expose the deeper issues behind the problems connected to understanding the real meaning of Christmas. These polls have discovered that about 78% of the evangelical church world believes Jesus is the greatest being created by God. In other words, Jesus is not God in human flesh or Emmanuel (God with us) according to Matthew 1:23, but only the greatest of God's creations. That belief, by the way, is the great heresy of Arianism from the 4th century that has come back as the modern cult of Jehovah's Witnesses. Arianism or modern Jehovah's Witnesses rejects the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, which teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son in human flesh. The Nicene Creed was written to stop this heresy from destroying the Church at the time....and even now. This fact leads to the truth that if our views about Jesus are wrong we can't understand or experience the real meaning of Christmas. That means that the vast majority of people sitting in our churches today do not hold to a Christian confession of faith. Those unbiblical beliefs reject the Christmas story entirely and make it into something else. So a truly Biblical faith about Jesus and the real purpose of Christmas is everything. And yet you rarely hear that today in a Church world that seems to pay little attention to Christian doctrine. People seem more interested in "reaching people" for the Lord, but we must ask with what message about the Lord.
If you have paid any attention to our recent Presidential election held on November 3, it is increasingly clear that America is at a defining moment in our history. And what will be a defining moment in American history will also be a defining moment in world history. Everybody knows it, whatever our political views. In case you missed it right now, politicians and the media from around the world have already "crowned" their new leader, even though none of the contested states have settled or certified their votes in an official way. The world is being told we need to "move on" and embrace a "new agenda" for the future of the world. However, this global, media agenda to move America on is spiritual in nature not political. That is true because politics are always but a cover or pretext for a spiritual agenda in the Bible that is not new but was here long ago.
Psalm 2 was written about 3000 years ago in Israel. It outlines a prophetic attitude of the nations of the world against God and His King, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Psalm tells us that in the future, nations will actually plot and conspire against God's rule over the world. Here the nations are furious that God would try to stop anything they want to do as we hear in verses 1-6,
Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band togetheragainst the Lord and against his anointed, saying,"Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles."The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,"I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain."
Happy Reformation Day! On October 31, 1517, 503 years ago today, the German monk Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. That event marked the beginning of what became known of as the Protestant Reformation. Few remember that day today...even in the Church world. Even fewer remember what the Reformation was about or what it accomplished. It is no overstatement to say that the Reformation changed Western Civilization and was responsible for the founding of America as Protestants fled Europe to find religious freedom and a new beginning for their lives. Some of those people were called the "Pilgrims" who started our Thanksgiving tradition that most of us will celebrate in November.
At the heart of the Reformation was a story about how one man, Martin Luther, rediscovered God and changed the world. Before the Reformation everybody believed in God, but the God they knew wasn't the real God of the Bible. The Catholic Church at that time was very powerful and had its influence on every aspect of people's lives from their births and baptisms to their deaths and burials. But while the Church permeated every aspect of people's lives, the God behind the Church was largely unknown. People didn't read the Bible. There weren't any Bibles to read, nor any study guides available for the Gospels. People's only view of God was filtered and mediated by the clergy and the Church. As a result, people's view of God was whatever they were told by the Church's hierarchy.
Whatever is currently unfolding in America, politically and/or spiritually, it has something to do with sin. And yet, it seems that the awareness of that word has vanished from the Nation...even in the Church world. Even though our Nation stands at some sort of crossroads for the future with this Presidential election, few seem to connect where we are to sin or any specific behaviors that need to change. Somehow everybody is doing "OK" and if there is something wrong, it is being done by someone else. Everyone else is to blame...We are doing fine. That is the thinking of many.
Now the entire Bible is set up around two basic, foundational principles that have vanished from our public life. Those principles are repentance and redemption. People need to realize they have done something wrong, have sinned or broken the Lord's laws and need to turn back or repent to the Lord for His redeeming love and forgiveness. It sounds fairly simple, but it is not. The reason that acknowledging our sin is seemingly impossible for many is because when we do it brings us to an awareness we are under the Lord's judgment for our behavior and in need of grace. As a result, most people ignore sin and hope it goes away.....But it never does.
As Americans get ready to vote in this Presidential election in November, we seem to be heading toward some sort of watershed as a Nation. Perhaps never before in American history have the issues been so big and the possible consequences so profound for our future. Families and even marriages have been divided over the candidates. Each day it seems we have a media civil war going. Never have we seen such anger and rage in almost every area of our society from sporting events to the political signs in our neighbor's front yard.
But with all that is happening in America we must ask ourselves a simple question: "Does God care who wins?" Does God have an opinion, will or even a favored candidate or outcome"? Overall, people bristle about such a question. It seems inappropriate if not outright wrong to even raise the issue. You might find it interesting that this question is not a new one. It was raised before at another important time in American history: during the Civil War by then President Abraham Lincoln. During that time, both the Confederate States and the Union strongly believed God was on their side. They all believed their cause was right and just. President Lincoln addressed that question this way in a very famous quote,
This past Monday was Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement is outlined in Leviticus 16 and has always been considered to be the most holy day for Jews during the year. It was the Day when the High Priest made a sacrifice or atonement for the people before God to symbolically have their sins forgiven. Part of that special ceremony involved the High Priest selecting a scapegoat and placing ALL the sins of the people on it and sending it out into the wilderness to take those sins away from the nation.
Wonderfully, the Lord Jesus Christ fulfills all of these sacrificial issues from the Old Testament. Our Lord is our High Priest AND our Scapegoat...all in one amazing Lord. Our Lord presented Himself to God as our sacrifice and atonement so that we could be forgiven and have our sins removed from our lives. In Hebrews 9:11-12, the Bible explains our Lord's work for us as the final sacrifice on Yom Kippur,
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
One of the most dramatic moments of world history is underway right now...and few seem to understand it. America has been turned upside down by riots, looting, chaos, mayhem and murder in an attempt to find something that is being called "social justice." What started out as some local police problems with a few people has been turned into a worldwide movement to overthrow America and other nations as we have known them. Once this revolution accomplishes its goals, life is supposed to return to "normal" because we will have achieved a paradise of "social justice." However, no one is quite sure how you make this happen when the means you use to bring "social justice" destroys the very social order you are trying to save with injustice. But like most things that are based on lies, no one is allowed to ask any questions for now. Someday we are told, after the revolution, everything will start to be "clear" as we begin to live in our "social justice" paradise.
But the glaring and troubling problem with this "social justice" revolution is that no one on earth, even its most ardent supporters, have any idea of what "social justice" is really about. Not a single person on earth can define it. Just ask them. In the end, no one can define it because it doesn't exist...as conceived by them. But that is not something anyone will tell you right now. If anyone decides to ask those troubling questions about its definition or "what is it?" they will be attacked as "racists" or some other term designed to eliminate any further discussion. So, imagine for a moment then, that the whole world is being burned to the ground by a group of people that are willing to die for "social justice," but that none of them has the slightest idea of what it is, what they are doing or why they are doing it. Welcome to the brave, new world of "social justice."
Whatever the future holds for America, the Church and/or our lives, there is no question that the media will be a major instrument that the Lord will use to bring about that future plan. Right now, America is totally consumed with the media. In some ways, it has become our new national "drug" of choice. We seemingly can't escape it and its influence on our lives. Every day we are told 24/7 what to think, what to believe, what is right, what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. It is almost as if even the Lord doesn't exist anymore apart from a media's narrative that shapes people's view of everything...including God. It has often been said that "perception is reality" and that can be a true statement. People never act against their own beliefs and those beliefs may or may not have anything to do with truth or reality. So, if you want to know what people believe, or how they will act, just find out what the media told them to believe and do. Sadly, rarely do people listen to the Lord and His Word to understand the truth and realities of life. If people just read and studied the Word, like they listen to the media, we would be in a major revival.
Now the concept of the media has always been around from the Garden of Eden. In the Garden, the devil was the first member of the media, and acted as a mediator of truth and reality by calling God a liar and telling Adam and Eve they would not die when they disobeyed God's commandment. Nothing has changed! Today we are watching demonic power filling our culture and lives with lies as the media mediates and distorts truth and reality 24/7. Like the devil, which the Bible refers to as "the prince of the power of the air" according to Ephesians 2:2, the media controls our thinking and the world via the airwaves. The media has become the new expression of the "prince of the power of the air". The media has become the invisible power that works behind the scenes to influence everything.
All of us at Carlson Report want to wish you and your family a very happy Independence Day. We live in times no less momentous than the Founding Fathers and Signers of the Declaration of Independence faced 244 years ago today. May this brief article remind us of our heritage and freedoms as Americans. May this article also remind us that freedom is never free and that someone must always be willing to pay a price to maintain those freedoms or tyranny and slavery will return, as we are currently witnessing. May we all renew our calling today, as the Lord's people, to stand up for our faith in the face of many challenges, and never forget that all freedom in this life and the next are ultimately connected to the Lord Jesus Christ and the price that was paid for our freedom from sin on the cross.
As we look back 244 years ago today, the most famous words in American history come from the Declaration of Independence. So, on this 4th of July weekend, we look back and thank the Lord for those American leaders that laid a foundation of sacrifice to give us everything we have as Americans. Here are the two most famous lines in the Declaration, one at the beginning and one at the end. The Declaration opens with these words,
For the first time in American history, Americans have started to wonder about their personal safety and whether or not they will even be safe in their own homes and neighborhoods in the future. Sadly, the reason for that is that also for the first time in American history there are serious discussions underway all over the nation about "defunding the police." Now the very idea of "defunding the police" would have been thought to be absolutely crazy just a few weeks ago, but suddenly it somehow seems to be a "reasonable plan" by a growing number of people. These defunding discussions are far from just idle talk. As an example, New York City has just decided to defund their police budget by $1 billion, and some say that doesn't go far enough. More cuts are being demanded. Other cities like Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle and many others are also moving in this same direction of reducing their police budgets.
All of this irrational behavior is in response to the recent national protests about the role of the police in our society based on some anecdotal evidence of abuse in a couple of isolated cases. Unfortunately, there seems to be little or no attempt to carefully study what is really going on or to take a serious look at the ramifications of any of these changes and how they might affect their communities and the safety of the public. Instead of a thoughtful, deliberative process, within our democracy, these changes are coming from a mob mentality, and reinforced by the media that has a huge political agenda. Little push back seems to be coming from our elected officials that are supposed to be sworn to protect the public's safety and uphold the law and Constitution. America is surely living in an unprecedented time of growing lawlessness in our streets and halls of government. Sadly, hardly anyone discerns that the removal and/or changing of the police and their powers in any society is foundational to cultural Marxism and their history of revolutionary changes in other societies all over the world. Their current goal is that of taking control of America and entirely changing the Nation forever. Such a Marxist takeover is accomplished by taking control of the streets with a new authority structure they create.
The reason why this issue is so important to discuss and understand is because we are really seeing, perhaps for the first time, the hidden battle of life that points to life's ultimate meaning and purpose. That battle dramatically reveals the ongoing conflict between two kingdoms that have been at war with each other from the beginning of time over who will rule this world. One of those kingdoms is headed by the Lord Jesus Christ and the other kingdom is headed up by the Antichrist. The Bible is very clear that this battle has always been going on and will culminate in the coming of the Antichrist just before the 2nd Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In I John 4:1-3 we hear,
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
This is the hidden battle that explains all human conflict. As a result, everything that is under way tonight has little to do with election-year politics, racial issues or social justice. The real issues we are seeing unfold right now are prophetic insights into the ancient, spiritual battle outlined in the Bible that will continue and grow in intensity right up to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His final rule over and restoration of the world forever more.
Perhaps the best way to understand this battle raging on our streets tonight between Christ and Antichrist is to see that at its heart this is a battle between "law" and "lawlessness." You see, the very existence of any law in the world is the ultimate witness to the reality of there being a lawgiver. As the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis said in his classic book, "Mere Christianity," the very idea of people believing things are right and wrong comes from human conscience and a spiritual law that God wrote into our DNA. That is why people know it is wrong to murder someone. No one needs to have that written down on a piece of paper. That belief and truth is not something people made up or figured out on their own. And while the idea that murder is wrong is written down in the Bible as the 6th Commandment, "Thou shalt not murder" (Exodus 20:13), it goes much, much deeper as a witness to THE Lawgiver, the Lord Himself.
One of the ways we know this is true is because the animal world does not have a conscience, nor any written or spoken laws. Human beings, however, are not animals, but rather carry the image of God on their lives and hence are spiritual and eternal in nature according to Genesis 1:26-27 which states,
Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
All animals, on the other hand, operate out of instinct and naturally follow the laws hardwired into their DNA that are innate from birth. Animals don't need to have anybody tell them what is right or wrong and no one needs to enforce a law on them. As a result, you will never hear about "Defunding the Polar Bear Police." It is a story that doesn't make sense and doesn't have to be written. The animal world is self-regulating and external laws are not necessary. Whereas, since humanity is created in the image of God and spiritual in nature, the law must exist and be upheld to reflect God as the Lawgiver, maintain divine order and express the rich blessings of Creation. When that doesn't happen, you are only left with sin and lawlessness.
That is why the Bible always defines sin and leaving fellowship with God as a form of "lawlessness." And when that lawlessness becomes a way of life for people it starts to reflect not only a rebellion against the Lord, but it becomes an actual kingdom with a king. So, this battle between upholding God's laws and rejecting them ends up framing life as we know it. The Lord's kingdom and His laws are headed up and reflected by the Lord Jesus Christ, the goal of the law (Romans 10:4). Meanwhile, the kingdom that has chosen to go its own way without God's laws is headed up by the Antichrist, a person the Bible appropriately refers to as the "man of lawlessness." In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 we hear the story of how lawlessness becomes the defining witness to the arrival of the Antichrist and the entire idea that without God's laws humanity becomes god.
Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
The Apostle Paul is telling us here that when people or a society throws off the laws of God and becomes "lawless," that lawless spirit will ultimately become embodied in the spirit of the Antichrist that we are now watching taking control of our nation. Eventually, this lawlessness will not just reflect societal unrest, but it will become an actual person that will embody a final attempt to dethrone the Lord Jesus Christ and His lawful rule over the world, an attempt that started in the Garden.
These days it is very rare for a Christian to ever hear a message about the Antichrist. Most churches and pastors avoid such subjects entirely. Most people today in the Church world just want to "feel good" ...whatever that means and get out of church by noon for lunch. The idea of such things happening right in front of them, as we are now witnessing in America, is just too much for people. Sadly, many churches would rather watch their society fall apart than face the clear teaching of the Bible given by the Lord to help and protect them. And without the Church standing up to this lawless spirit unfolding before us, our nation will not be able to stand in this hour. Without a spirit of faith, courage and discernment operating in the Lord's people, Goliath always takes over as we are watching each day. It is almost as if America is standing powerless before a giant of lawlessness that refuses to back down. Right now, America needs some Davids to come forward and stand up to this unfolding giant of evil and lawlessness in the power of the Lord with His truth and law. Are we willing to be that person? If we won't come forward, who will? Can the Lord's people just sit back and watch this lawless spirit take control of our lives, families, nation and world?
In the end, hell cannot be stopped with platitudes, articles like this or weak kneed political leaders and cultural Christianity. Ultimately, hell can only be stopped by the cross and those willing to embrace its' call on their lives. Our Lord stood up to hell, the demonic realm, evil, lawlessness, sin and death with His finished work on the cross and triumphed over them as we hear in Colossians 2:13-15,
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Our Lord's sacrifice and death brought hope and new life to the world that evil could be conquered and that good could and would prevail amidst overwhelming odds when the right sacrifice was made. The cross remains the defining issue for every spiritual battle we face. It represents the eternal truth that sacrifice is required for every important battle. The unfolding lawlessness engulfing our nation right now requires that the Lord's people make sacrifices and stand up for the Lord. Without such changes and new steps of faith, America as we know is coming to an end. Do you see that truth unfolding?
And finally, whatever anyone believes about evil or the Antichrist, his arrival is nearing. Who can miss this exploding spirit of lawlessness pointing to the coming Lawless One? The signs are everywhere for those who are awake to the Lord and His truth. We are clearly living in a defining hour for not just America but more importantly the professing Church. May our Lord speak to every Christian, every pastor and leader about the hour we face and may we all finish our spiritual journey in this life without any regrets. May we joyfully await the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will come and destroy the Antichrist by the splendor of His coming ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8). Amen.
As Americans stand by and watch our society being destroyed one statue at a time, there seems to be no end to this movement of chaos and mindless mayhem. As a matter of fact, while I am writing this article, a band of people are trying to tear down a statue from the Civil War in Allendale, Michigan, a short distance from my house. It almost seems as if this growing movement of lawlessness and wanton violence against our history as a nation, monuments and statues will not be satisfied until America has literally been leveled by this "scorched earth" agenda. The twisted narrative driving this tells us that America is supposedly an evil and "racist nation" and there must be a revolution to change it and make it right...or else. Of course, no one has the slightest idea of what that "new" nation might look like, but why bother with details at this point. Just burn the place down, destroy any remnant of "racism," however you do it...and we will rebuild something better to replace it later...maybe.
Now as this chaos continues to unfold, I think most Americans are shocked and largely clueless about what is going on. Most Americans have never had anybody really explain to them the cultural earthquake that is underway in our nation. But if you stop for a moment and think about what has been happening to America the last 50 years or so it will all start to make sense. Most of us missed the current narrative we are seeing unfold as it was quietly growing. We didn't want to think it might be serious. We hoped it would go away. We weren't sure how to fix it. So we said and did nothing!
America is a very troubled nation tonight. Do you feel it? Do you see it? A recent poll stated that Americans are more unhappy now than at any time in the last 50 years. But that fact shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Our wonderful nation is adrift in a sea of relativism, lawlessness, deception and chaos. Most of our leaders seem to be clueless on what to do and the few that try to stand up for anything are torn apart by the culture and our media. We are being led away from the Lord, our Constitutional moorings and being pushed toward culturally driven paganism that is growing by the day. Not exactly a formula to inspire hope and happiness in anyone. But perhaps the greatest problem that is most troubling to Americans is that they don't see this future path getting better...only worse. How about you?
A lot of time could be spent in this article on all the issues that have brought us here, but that would take a long time and it is complex. However, you might say it all comes down to the simple and powerful fact that America has corporately chosen to leave the Lord out of our national life. As a result, how could the results we are facing be surprising to anyone, especially Christians? It seems that America has been planting a lot of bad seeds of unbelief and rebellion over the last 50 years or so and they have finally sprouted and have grown into a jungle. Our nation is reaping what it has sowed because God is not mocked by our behavior as Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:6-8,
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
This past week and weekend may be remembered as a turning point in US and world history. That is not an overstatement. We have just witnessed major leaders in the free world bowing down before groups in the name of racial justice out of fear and political correctness. All over the world we are witnessing pictures of top officials and even heads of nations, such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, bowing down to support the idea that everyone is a racist and that they must submit to someone's idea of how to define and respond to racism, irrespective of any truth, reality or clear facts. For some this appears to be the emerging "new normal" as Western Civilization seems to be crumbling before our very eyes. The last historical parallel to these events took place during the days of the invasion of Rome by the Visigoths led by King Alaric on August 24, 410. At that time, the once mighty Roman Empire was sacked by a group of barbarians that took over Rome and began to destroy the fading empire. Rome was never the same!
What started out as some local and national protests in response to the police abuse and killing of George Floyd, an African American man from Minneapolis, has turned into an overturning of the rule of law and Constitution with an agenda that virtually no one fully understands right now....by design. After all, if people really knew the agenda that is underway now these groups would lose their power and control over a clueless public. All that is known for sure, as of today, is that America and her leaders must bow down to this agenda, or there will be "hell" to pay. This cultural blackmail has led people to believe that they must bow down, or their homes, businesses, churches and lives will be destroyed...one way or another. And it is that "one way or another" threat that has gripped people with a collective fear like never seen before in American history. People are afraid that if they say "no" to anything, these forces will label them "racists" and use the full force of the media and these groups to attack them.
Most of us have been watching the national chaos the last week or so that has been unfolding since the senseless and tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Sadly, Mr. Floyd's life was ended by some of the worst police abuse of power we have ever seen in American. All of us should be in horror for what has happened and should pray that justice will be done for Mr. Floyd. At the present time, the police officer responsible for this crime has been charged with murder and we hope and pray that justice will be done as soon as possible. This horrific crime has also unleashed a series of protests, some peaceful and some not, that have raised serious questions about a variety of issues in our nation.
At the heart of these recent battles is the goal of finding true justice for what has been done. Some of the protestors are peacefully demanding that justice be done for Mr. Floyd, while others are looting and destroying property as their way to express their version of justice. But finding justice for Mr. Floyd, at any level, is only the tip of the iceberg. Mr. Floyd's death also touches on much deeper issues regarding supposed injustices that have been committed by our entire society. In other words, if America were not an unjust society, then Mr. Floyd would not have died and so everyone is somehow guilty. As a result of this widespread guilt there is a call for something to be done; something must change. But what exactly needs to be done? How do you change an entire guilty society? After all, changing an entire society in any way is not an easy thing to do, so multitudes of people seem to just be left with their anger and nowhere to go with their feelings of injustice.
As Memorial Day approaches, it is a good time to stop and give thanks to the Lord for the amazing freedoms we have in America. But as we celebrate our nation's freedoms and greatness this Memorial Day weekend, America is also a nation that still needs to be defended. That is true because our nation is facing its greatest challenges to maintain our freedoms from within. It seems there are many forces at work today that want to reshape or fundamentally transform America into a different type of nation that has little in common with the Constitutional Republic founded on July 4, 1776. And while much could be said about all of those forces within our nation, let it suffice to say that all of them are connected to having America sacrifice for them, not the other way around. Selfishness is truly America's greatest battle. Few seem to remember President Kennedy's Inaugural address in 1961 that said in these famous words, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Those words have never rung so true as today. America seems to be lost in a growing sea of selfishness and entitlement that it is threatening the future of the Republic as we have come to know and love it.
Thankfully, it wasn't always that way. Just one generation earlier there was a group of people that wanted little if anything from America. Their goal was to give something to this nation. Their lives were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II and they were primarily givers not takers. They were used to hard work and didn't tend to think others owed them anything. They wanted to work. They didn't want someone to take care of them. Many of them had immigrant parents and were just glad to be here in the "land of the free and the home of the brave". Many of their parents and grandparents had come from Europe and around the world to find a new beginning, a chance to be something else, a chance to improve their lives and that of their children. This generation has been called the Greatest Generation by many today because virtually everything that we have has come to us as a result of their lives and sacrifices.
It is hard to believe our national lockdown has been going on for only a few weeks. It seems like months! How about you? How many of us can remember the innocence of Valentine's Day when things seemed "normal" and we were going about everyday life buying flowers and cards for loved ones. Since then, it is not just the lockdown that has made this a difficult time. The really difficult part of this time has been watching what has been happening to our wonderful nation. At the heart of that concern is being shocked by a variety of extreme measures being taken against American citizens during the pandemic. These measures range from being fined, arrested and even jailed for just taking a walk, simply going to dinner with a family member, trying to work in some way to feed your family or listening to a sermon at a local church in your car. The list is long and growing. Such government actions have raised serious questions about whether we are even living in America anymore. Sadly, all these unfolding measures, designed to keep us "safe", are more like something from an emerging totalitarian state we might have read about in high school or seen in an old war movie about Nazi Germany. Surely none of this can be happening in the "land of the free and the home of the brave", as the Star-Spangled Banner says so wonderfully at its close?
Now the most shocking thing about what is happening to America is that every single action being taken by a variety of government leaders is seen by them as "good", "necessary" and "essential" to keeping us "safe". Such actions seemingly cannot be questioned because they are for the public good, right? And while the Constitution and Bill of Rights are under assault like never before, everyone making these draconian decisions sees themselves as faithful servants protecting and caring for the public. Virtually all these leaders apparently remain convinced of their mission from God, the government or themselves to "save us" from ourselves.
One of the most fascinating things going on during our current pandemic is the idea that the government's job is to keep people "safe". Somehow this idea of being "safe" has literally taken over our culture as our number one value in just a matter of weeks. In the "good old days" of about 2 months ago, people would say to each other as they parted, "Have a good day!" Currently people are saying to one another "stay safe". Can you imagine being able to change how the world interacts in such a basic way? This concern about being "safe" has not just become a new parting phrase between people, but a new cultural obsession that is beginning to define how we see our lives. Whereas we used to be enjoying our lives, our new focus is just being "safe".
Now there is nothing wrong with being "safe" and there is nothing wrong with making safety a priority in life, because if we are not safe we won't be able to enjoy life. But an important question is begging to be answered that few want to answer. That question is this: Are there any other things in life that are more important than "staying safe"? If keeping people "safe" is the main virtue of life, then there isn't anything we shouldn't be willing to make sure that happens, even if those measures are extreme. As an example, this goal of keeping us "safe" has become such a mission for some of our leaders that they have decided to do it without the support of the rule of law under the Constitution. Have you noticed? As a result, we are beginning to see people's fundamental rights being denied for the sake of keeping people "safe". Right now, millions of people are under house arrest, confined to their homes, others are being fined and a few have even been shot in certain areas of the world so they can be kept "safe" by their governments. And let it be said that none of these actions are ever being taken by anyone who doesn't think they are doing "good" for the world.
If someone was to ask you what you thought was the greatest experience in life, what would you say? There might be 100 possible answers to that question. But if we really stop and think about it, there can only really be one right answer for the Christian. That answer would be to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in person, face-to-face, and see His loving face looking at ours. The idea that that is going to happen is simply amazing and beyond words. To have the Lord and God of this world looking at us with His own face, as expressed through the Lord Jesus, is just a wonderful thought that cannot be surpassed by anything else we might imagine or dream about in life.
What is remarkable about this thought is that our whole life has been a rehearsal for that exact event from the day we were born. You see, the first loving face we ever saw was that of our mother. Mom had just gone through an agonizing labor and delivery for us so that we could enter the world. When we first saw our mothers, it was probably a little fuzzy exactly who we were looking at. That discovery and growing relationship would take some time...perhaps years until we bought her flowers and told her we loved her.
It is no understatement to say America and the world are living at a unique moment of history, perhaps never to be repeated. Right now, the world is on a global "lockdown" as we attempt to escape the global COVID-19 pandemic. And while many Americans are not working right now, such a situation cannot go on in its present form forever and everyone knows it. The reason for that is simple; a society cannot survive without people working to provide for their basic needs and so that we can generate a tax base to support the government and run our nation. But what if those presuppositions are wrong or seen very differently by people? What if people decided that they didn't really want to work as much anymore? What if people decided to just let the government take over most things and support their lives so everyone could be kept safe from the pandemic?
It might shock people to know that such a system has already been underway in America for a long time now and is increasing rapidly by the day. We call that system socialism and it has been gaining momentum in our nation in dramatic ways as of late. Have you noticed? No, if we are honest, more and more Americans are falling under the spell of socialism each year, especially the young. As a result, increasing numbers of people and politicians are in NO hurry to go back to work, especially if working might get in the way of the government taking care of us and keeping us safe during the pandemic.
What a wonderful thing to take a break from the chaos and focus on the global pandemic to look at a much better storyline, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and His future for us. While much of our world will be looking at how many have died from the coronavirus this weekend, the Lord's people will be singularly focused on the One that rose from the dead and lives forevermore. Sadly, the only reason the coronavirus has panicked the world is because people don't have an antidote to death. That antidote is not found in a new vaccine or anything else but faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross for them. People today are deathly afraid of being infected with this unknown virus, but the reality is that sin is a much worse infection. Right now, the death rate for all of us with or without the virus is a 100%. Just today, for example, about 150,000 people will die from just living in this world, no matter how healthy they might be. If only the world could begin to look for an everlasting cure to death itself we would be in a very different place tonight. It is hard to imagine a world like that since we are so conditioned to death being "normal" instead of an enemy of God. Once the death cure is found in the simple Gospel message, fear is gone, and faith begins to fill our lives forever.
If there is one thing we should all be thinking about on this resurrection weekend, it is not only the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but that the entire world is not only going to be resurrected, but completely and entirely restored. That thought is so amazing that it seems like "science fiction" to most. Instead of this coming resurrection and glorious restoration of the world, most people believe we are just left to global warming, deadly pandemics, earthquakes, hurricanes and a host of other disasters waiting to happen. And if such things are the best the world has to offer us, no wonder people are panicking. I would panic too! How about you? Just imagine yourself with nothing to hope for except a world underwater or burning up from global climate change with millions dead from uncontrolled pandemics and starvation. Not a very happy place to live. Sadly, that is where many people are today, and the media does nothing to change that focus or future, rather they make it worse with their 24/7 cycle of gloom and doom.
This will be the first Easter/Firstfruits season in world history where most Christians are not going to be in church for services due to the global pandemic. Wow, what a thought! Perhaps that thought gives perspective as to what is underway in our world today. We are living in dramatic times like no other...but we all know that.
Right now, many of us are staying home and trying to comply with our government's restrictions wherever we live. If you're like me, you have probably listened to a lot of media...maybe too much! It is very hard to know what is really happening out there based on a variety of media reports. I think the greatest area of fear and confusion comes from the wide range of possible statistics as to what is going to happen being given out by a variety of people who claim to be "experts". One of the statistics that has made me think twice is the idea that this pandemic might kill over 2,200,000 Americans. However, at the same time, people sharing that grim statistic say it may also be less than 100,000. What a difference! How do we know what to believe? What is true? On the one hand, we might not be able to handle the body count and on the other hand the numbers would be a little more than a bad flu season. It might shock people to realize there were 646,000 deaths from the flu in the world last year and nothing was said. As of today, there are only 42,261 deaths from the coronavirus around the world, with 3,900 deaths here in America. But again, whatever the numbers, what do such statistics really tell us about what is really going on or the future of this pandemic?
Lately it has been a little tough to enjoy the simple pleasures of life when some people are telling us the world is about to end. Have you noticed? Surely the kind of panic and fear that has seized our nation with the coronavirus pandemic can be overwhelming to the average person. Instead of enjoying the Lord, our families and the blessings of each day it seems many of us are starting to tune into the world's network of panic, fear and chaos that is shouting 24/7. When we follow that network we are told about every hour how many people have died of the virus and how our family might be next. Here in Michigan tonight we are being ordered by our governor to stay at home with few exceptions. That means about the only time people are getting out is to go to the grocery store where we can't miss all the empty toilet paper aisles among a few others. So even grocery shopping can produce panic in us if we are not careful.
So, to change the pace of things my wife and I like to go on long walks and try to see what the Lord has for us. Sometimes such walks can be very redemptive because the Lord always has a sermon for us if we are watching and listening. Today was such a day. Thankfully, the signs of spring are all over our neighborhood. One of my favorite sites was the large number of robins we saw getting ready to start their spring nesting season. Robins are like a springtime clock here in Michigan. When you see robins, you know spring has arrived. The one thing I noticed about the robins we saw is that none of them looked anxious. Not one single robin knew about the coronavirus. They didn't care. They didn't know the stock market has fallen or that the nation is greatly divided politically and spiritually. No, as a matter of fact, the robins all looked like themselves. They were just robins.
By now, most of us are watching and perhaps experiencing the panic over the coronavirus that is taking control of our world. Nations are in turmoil, the entire nation of Italy is quarantined, no one can enter Israel without being quarantined for 14 days, stock markets are hanging in the balance, people are fighting over toilet paper and basic supplies for life and the media is preparing us for the end of the world as we know it. If you look at the news right now, it seems like almost every story is about this flu-like virus that some say may be a sign of the end of life on planet earth. Most of us have never seen such a panic going on and according to some the worst is yet to come.
Now if we step back for a moment and take a deep breath, we might begin to understand that the panic under way is much more about how things are being presented to us and a lot less about the reality behind them. Very few people are discussing the facts surrounding this virus and its real effects on people. So it turns out the media is not just reporting this news but making the news. The more people panic the more they panic others in a self fulfilling way. Panic creates panic and right now there is no end in sight. But, if we are honest, we simply don't really know what is fully going on. Right now, we can't easily understand the facts of the matter without the media's polarization of this issue. That will take some time, but not too many people have any interest in doing that because of a variety of hidden agendas.