More time and money has been spent trying to find the true expression of beauty in recent years than just about any other culture in history. At one time the ancient Greeks vigorously chased this notion of beauty, but their search would be tepid in comparison to today in our image-oriented world. Everywhere you look there seems to be an obsession that is dominated with the pursuit of a beautiful image. It is virtually everything you see in magazines, advertising, stores, clothing, homes, movies and more. Almost everything we see seems to have been designed with some sort of search for an appealing image in mind. After all, who is attracted to ugly things? So, it seems that much of the world is driven by some unknown, hidden standard of beauty or appearance. And many people spend their lives looking for it for themselves.
The problem with seeking this beautiful image for ourselves and our world is that we never really seem to obtain it. We don't seem to be able to define beauty. The world's definition is always changing to something different at a moment's notice. As a result, multitudes of people feel they will never arrive at this illusive standard of beauty, whatever it is, no matter what has been given up for it. Some even see themselves as ugly and end up with low self-esteem, depression or worse. Untold millions of people try to medicate themselves because they feel they cannot arrive at some standard of beauty and perfection they have come to believe is important.
On this Father's Day weekend, it is a good idea to stop and reflect about fatherhood and how that institution has shaped our lives and society for good or bad. For some people Father's Day evokes a warm feeling toward their fathers as someone that was a key person in our lives for the good. For others, Father's Day may be an emotionally charged day full of conflicting and often painful memories. Over the course of my ministry, I have talked with 100's of people about the issues and challenges in their lives. This experience has led me to see that it is almost impossible to have a good start in life without a healthy relationship with your father. The vast majority of broken and hurting people I have talked to over the years often had serious issues with their fathers. Perhaps that explains why the majority of men and women in prison today grew up without a father or had a bad relationship with the one they had.
As a result, if you were to make a spiritual diagnosis of society today much of it could be connected to fatherhood issues. When you remove fathers or change their role in society you fundamentally transform people's lives for good or bad. That is exactly what has been happening during this last generation. It surely would be no exaggeration to say that fatherhood has been under a major attack for a long time now and it is getting worse all the time. Part of the reason fatherhood is under attack is as a result of our sexually confused society and the absence of any role or place for a father. Lately, it seems that fathers are sometimes not even needed anymore. Their role as providers and leaders of the family unit has been replaced by working mothers, the government welfare state and new reproductive technologies.
We stop on this Memorial Day weekend to give thanks for all those who have served our nation to protect our freedoms and the way of life we have here in America. We especially give thanks for those who died for us and ended their journey on a battlefield, often thousands of miles from home, never to enjoy the life that we sometimes take for granted. As is often said, "Freedom is never free." But one of the things that makes Memorial Day memorable is that the Lord gives us the ability to remember. Memory is the one thing that allows us to look back and to gain perspective and value from the past. If we didn't remember, learn from, enjoy or honor the past, life would be meaningless. If we didn't remember those who have gone before us and if cemeteries meant nothing, then our lives would have no purpose. It is only when we remember and honor the past that life becomes eternal and meaningful as it was intended by the Lord. It is only when we remember the past that we truly value our military, our families and those who have gone before us to create the life we have today.
One of the great battles we face today is not on the battlefield but when we forget the past. Our modern world tends to ignore history and just live for the now. It is easy to forget why we have Memorial Day and just have a nice picnic or party. For many people history seems irrelevant to their lives. We tend to forget that history is the record of God's purposes in the world because all of history is really His Story. History is the Lord's way to remember the past and celebrate the wonderful story of His faithfulness, as well as learn from human tragedy and sin. If we forget the people and lessons of history our lives not only become empty and meaningless, but we end up making the same mistakes again and repeat the errors of the past. The philosopher George Santayana is often quoted about this issue when he said,
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
One of the best ways to understand what is spiritually going on today in the professing Church world is to look at what is happening to Christian worship services. It is no understatement to say that modern worship services have changed dramatically. There are many services that tend to increasingly have less and less to do with the Lord and more and more to do with our culture. If you go to some of our modern, trendy worship services today you may be surprised at what is going on in there. It is not uncommon to be offered ear plugs as you enter the worship center because the music is so loud. Over the last year or so I have personally talked with several people that have had this experience. As a result, it appears that ear plug worship is slowly becoming common place in the church world and not just some fringe experience. This is leading some people to feel like they are at a rock concert being entertained, instead of being led into the presence of the Lord. Sadly, the noise in these services can be so loud that you not only need ear plugs, but you can't hear yourself sing or even think at times.
Nowhere in the Bible does loudness equate to Biblical spirituality or better worship of the Lord. As a matter of fact, an argument could be made that the Lord is better known and encountered in worship through the gentle whisper and still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts as was the case with Elijah in I Kings 19:12. Elijah lived in a day of apostasy when the nation of Israel had drifted away from the Lord and had been taken over by the false gods and practices of the pagans. It was during Elijah's great contest with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel that we see these issues of true and false worship coming into clear focus. Whether we see it or not, we are living in the days of Elijah.
After 35 years of pastoral ministry it has become abundantly clear to me that human nature and the Church world are profoundly confused about the issue of God's grace. It is surprising to see how many people think our behavior, beliefs and good works are going to gain us a place in heaven one day. There seems to be a growing proliferation of these human works based beliefs, sects and cults growing all around us. As a result, the number of people that clearly understand that God's love and salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ is a wonderful gift of pure grace alone is a small remnant of people today.
This issue of God's grace in Christ alone versus human merit has always been an issue in the Bible from the beginning. The Bible starts off teaching this truth with the story of Cain and Abel. The Bible tells us in Genesis 4:3-7 that Cain and Abel approached God with two very different attitudes and offerings.
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
Happy Resurrection!!! May this be your BEST Easter/First Fruits ever. It is a glorious thing to know that life is eternal, and that death is forever gone for the redeemed. We never need to fear or worry as we drive by that neighborhood cemetery that our lives will end there. We don't have to be troubled when we see a loved one or friend lying in a casket at a funeral. No, the Lord has a plan and future for His people that are beyond words. Our lives never really begin or have any meaning until we start to understand that glorious truth and hope for our lives.
But the central story of our Lord's resurrection is often totally missed by people. You see the story of resurrection is not just about having our physical bodies resurrected on some future day. The story of Easter/First Fruits is also about a spiritual birth and resurrection that takes place right now in our lives. In other words, we as Christians spiritually resurrect now as we begin to wake up to the Lord being alive in our lives each day. Jesus is alive now, not just on a special holiday the Church celebrates! The Christian faith is not about attending Easter services once a year. Sadly, every year there are multitudes of people that attend Easter services, but the rest of year they seem to vanish or "die" again. The message of Easter is that our Lord's physical resurrection gives birth to our spiritual resurrection for today. The Lord rose from the dead to wake us up and resurrect us from the spiritual death of life without God. The Christian life is about being more alive than we have ever been. It is about seeing Jesus in every detail and moment of life 24/7 and being totally transformed right now.
Happy Palm Sunday to everyone! Palm Sunday has traditionally marked the beginning of what is referred to as "Holy Week," a week that starts on Palm Sunday and culminates on Easter/First Fruits Sunday. This single week is an amazing replay of the creation story in Genesis 1. Our Lord started from a place of rest, before He created the world, and ended up resting after the incredible work of creation was completed. In a similar way, our Lord entered Jerusalem resting on a donkey, a sign that He came to bring peace and rest to our lives and ended by finishing His work on the cross and rising again to confirm these truths. It is just an amazing story of how wonderfully the Lord connects creation and redemption together into one seamless and beautiful narrative of His love.
But the hidden storyline of Palm Sunday is the fact that Jesus carefully waited exactly 3½ years until He was willing to receive the tremendous public praise of being their king from the huge crowds. Until that time, our Lord never wanted to have any notoriety from the people. As a matter of fact, our Lord told people many times during His ministry not to bring any attention to Him. We see this pattern often happening after some of His greatest miracles such as the resurrection of Jairus's daughter in Mark 5:41-43. The text tells us,
He (Jesus) took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
If someone was to ask you how you know God exists what would you say? There are many things that could be said to answer such a profound and important question like that. However, the greatest way to know the answer to that question is to see God's hand fulfilling His prophetic promises to His people before the world. In other words, when God predicts that something will happen, sometimes thousands of years beforehand, and it finally comes to pass in precise detail before our eyes, we need to take notice. To that end, there are literally 100's of such Divine promises in the Bible that have been and/or are currently being fulfilled before our very eyes. An example of this principle can best be seen in the prophetic prediction and promise made by the Lord Jesus that He would rise again on the 3rd day after His crucifixion. In passages like Matthew 16:21 we hear,
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Today is the Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is a season that parallels our Lord's fasting and spiritual trials in Matthew 4:1-11 over a period of 40 days. It marks a season of spiritual reflection about our Lord's sufferings for us that culminates in the cross. Most people today, including Christians, don't think too much about Lent anymore. For some it is a dead or lifeless Catholic tradition that has little to say to Protestants. For others it doesn't seem very relevant to modern life. But the most important thing about the Lenten season is that it reminds us of the cross and why our Lord came into this world in the first place as our Savior.
As we enter the Lenten season, it might be a good time to stop and ask why God chose the cross in the first place. People have always struggled with the cross from the beginning for a variety of reasons. The Apostle Paul wrote eloquently about these struggles with the cross in 1 Corinthians 1:18-23 where he writes,
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles
Did you ever have a moment when you wondered if life was worth living? Most of us have probably had such days. They often come after we face great losses, pain, trials or certain problems that make life seem overwhelming at times. Anyone who has lost a loved one or experienced depression and grief surely understands these issues. During such seasons it can even feel like life is too much to handle or face each day. All those feelings and experiences are pretty typical for everyone now and then. It would be nice if life was just "fun" all the time, but these painful realities have a way of reminding us that we live in a fallen world that needs the love of God and His gracious redemption for us in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But no matter how hard life may be at times, our great comfort always comes when we know our lives are valued by someone. If a person knows someone loves them, values them and is willing to be there for them it makes all the difference in the world. Sadly, some people don't always have family and friends around to remind them they are loved and valued. The hope is that everyone can realize that the Lord ultimately values their life. In the end, it is the cross and the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ that establishes the value of our lives in this world and the next. In I Peter 1:18-20 we hear about the foundation of our redemption and value to the Lord,
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
One of the most amazing things in life is the world's fascination and obsession with love. It really doesn't make much sense if you look at it objectively. People do all kinds of crazy things for love, yet most have no idea what love is all about. Just imagine some of the crazy, romantic things that will be done this Valentine's Day. People will be buying flowers that last but a few days and writing out cards with often saccharine sentiments that might embarrass many. Once again, all of this is done for something no one can really define or easily understand. And yet, when you stop and think about it most of the things done in life are motivated and explained by love. So, what's love all about?
The reason love is so hard to define and/or understand is because it is a spiritual thing. Love is not primarily about some biological urge to mate. We know this is true because much of the love people enjoy in life is not about sex. Grandparents love grandchildren, grandchildren love grandparents, Christians love other Christians, friends love friends, people love their pets, hobbies and on it goes. Love goes far beyond biology and is much more than a way to keep our species alive. Love is mysterious; love is ultimately a spiritual thing because it always leads to the Lord. Every search for real love must end at the foot of the cross in the arms of the Lord. That is true because only the Lord Himself can define love as He does in I John 4:10,
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Almost everyone in America now knows the face of the new Congresswoman pictured here as that of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14th District). Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has identified herself with socialist parties in this nation, even though she ran as a democratic. There is not a single news cycle today where there isn't some story about her. She is young, attractive, articulate and often well dressed in expensive clothes. In a recent interview she was wearing designer clothes that cost an estimated $3500. Her shoes alone cost $600. She looks like the face of something new, fresh and wonderful. The public can't seem to get enough of her, or at least that is what we are told by the media. More than a few people see her zeal and energy to be part of the needed answers for the challenges we face in America. Some might even think of her as a "savior" that could help America find a new way forward in a day of political conflict, division and gridlock.
The problem, however, with Representative Ocasio-Cortez is that none of her ideas or policies make any sense. Not a single thing she believes has any basis in fact or reality. If you were to test her ideas against history, economics or anything Biblical she would come up empty. The ideas Representative Ocasio-Cortex espouses are simply silly when you come down to it. It is hard to understand how a single person would believe them. And yet, she has over 3 million Twitter followers that have exploded since her recent election to Congress, large press coverage and an increasing number of people that actually seem to believe her, especially our young. That fact shouldn't entirely surprise us when you consider that over 40% of our millennials have socialistic sympathies. Something BIG is underway in our Nation as we are watching the shaping of our national character toward socialism. Do you feel it? What increasingly seems to be true is that growing numbers of people believe that no one who looks like her could tell such big lies to so many people with such a nice smile on her face. Surely something she says must be true, right?
One of the hardest parts of life is watching people we know and love die from a terrible disease., Among the top diseases on that list is cancer. About 1 in 6 people will die from cancer, and over 9.6 million people died from it in 2018. Cancer can be a cruel disease. It leaves victims and their families devastated through a series of terrible treatments that range from chemotherapy to radiation and surgery. As a pastor, I have watched many people die from this dreaded disease and done their funerals. I personally know how cancer has destroyed the lives of many wonderful people and their loved ones. Cancer is truly like a wasting plague and has been a terrible scourge to humanity. Just look at the cancer cell pictured in this article and imagine that cell multiplying and destroying your body. Cancer's cost to our world is beyond words.
As I think about all the drama and pain behind cancer, I remember well graduating from college in 1977 and one of my friends said their life goal was to find a cure for cancer. What a wonderful thought and mission in life! And yet over the past 40 years or so, it didn't seem that such a cure was going to happen. But we were wrong! In the last few weeks it seems that a possible cure for cancer has been discovered in Israel. The Jerusalem Posted just reported on January 28 that a potential breakthrough has been discovered that may lead to all cancer being cured. That news sounds unbelievable and perhaps too good to be true. The Post article says,
A small team of Israeli scientists think they might have found the first complete cure for cancer. "We believe we will offer in a year's time a complete cure for cancer," said Dan Aridor, of a new treatment being developed by his company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), which was founded in 2000 in the ITEK incubator. AEBi developed the SoAP platform, which provides functional leads to very difficult targets. "Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market," Aridor said.
Most people today have lost the fact that God cries. Somewhere in all our wrong ideas about God, we have lost the idea that our tears and sadness come from being made in God's image according to Genesis 1:26-27. We feel things deeply inside of us because God did first. Our Lord Jesus Christ felt the pain of the cross before the world was created when He knew what would have to be done to redeem the world from its sin. Our Lord came into this fallen world and personally saw and experienced what sin and death had done to everyone. Our Lord cried when He heard the news of Lazarus's death and saw the pain of His dear friends in John 11:33-35,
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked."Come and see, Lord," they replied.Jesus wept.
So, when the New York State Senate passed their radical abortion bill last week it surely seems the Lord cried. According to an article by Faithwire author Will Maule, this bill would effectively remove any restrictions on abortion up to the day of delivery with no criminal penalty. The New York legislators have really legalized open infanticide in our nation. Maule writes,
The New York Senate was seen erupting in feverish applause after voting 38-24 to approve a bill which would allow abortion up to birth. Heralded as a major victory for pro-abortion activists, the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) was signed on the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
One of the fascinating things that just happened is the firestorm over the recent Gillette razor commercial that aired nationally, in anticipation of a possible Super Bowl ad. Did you see it or hear about it? The commercial was not just trying to sell Gillette razors to men, but was yet another attempt by our culture to not only define masculinity, but reject a toxic version of it. So it now appears that even a growing number of advertisers are joining the culture wars and trying to define what it is to be a real man or a real woman. And yet, in our increasingly genderless world, it is surprising that anyone has any idea of anything about male and female anymore. How could anyone define toxic masculity when many don't believe male and female even exist ? Today's politically correct ideology has created a scenario in which people are not even sure if they can mention a person's gender, lest someone is offended. This emerging gender identity chaos has simply become overwhelming and is destroying the entire fabric of our society and few are even willing to speak up about it.
If you really want to stir up an even greater controversy in our society, try assigning a gender to God. If you're not sure about that, just start using different gender labels for God in a group setting and see what reaction you will get. The moment you try something like that people can literally come unglued when God is referred to as a "He" or a "She". This battle over defining gender, at any level, has led our society to a moral and spiritual free fall. If we are honest, few in our society today have even the slightest idea of what a man or women is suppose to be anymore.
One of the greatest insights into the world's future right now is this growing battle about the supposed "danger" of being a nationalist. This issue has found its focus and epicenter in the presidency of Donald Trump, who openly describes himself as a "nationalist" and a person concerned about America's future. Many voices in the media and other areas of the progressive, political world have likened President Trumps labeling of himself as a "nationalist" tantamount to bringing back the dangerous nationalism of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, where German nationalism led to a world war. This deep concern about nationalism, as being hurtful to our world, was also picked up by French President Emmanuel Macron. In a recent address in France, President Macron warned that nationalism was a small minded view of the world and needed to be rejected for a broader view of things that considered everyone's needs from a global perspective.
So, it turns out that the great battle underway now is between people who use the word "nationalism" like President Trump is using it, versus the post-nationalists who see a need for a kinder and gentler globalism. In this globalist worldview, nation states need to be less focused on their interests and begin to work toward a broader coalition with one another to bring peace and justice for all. While some of us may be a little confused about this battle or didn't even know it was or is going on, all we have to do is look at the current government shutdown going on in America.
On the Eve of a New Year, as we look back on 2018, most of us realize how fast the year has gone. For some of us 2018 was a great year of blessings, while for others it had many challenges. For most of us 2018 was most likely a year of blessings and challenges. But as we head into a New Year, the most important thing for everyone to see and understand is how the Lord is working in our lives. No matter what happens in the New Year, the ability to see God at work in our lives is the one thing that will give us perspective about the ups and downs of life. If we know what God says about us as Christians we will better be able to weather the challenges we may face in the New Year.
Many Christians today lack Biblical perspective about their identity in Christ as Christians. They often fail to see what the Lord says about them, so they end up being left with unbiblical feelings, regret over their sins and circumstances they cannot understand. This lack of Biblical discernment about our lives in Christ can rob us of living out an amazing identity and life with the Lord. It can also leave us empty and discouraged at times and down in the dumps with the fallen world. If this has ever happened to you, you are not alone. Be encouraged friend because it happens to just about every Christian at one time or another in our lives and the Bible is full of examples from others that went through the exact same thing.
As Christians all over the world prepare to celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, a good question might be, "What if anything does Christmas mean to us as we look to the future?" In other words, does Christmas have anything else to say to us other than Jesus' birth as our Savior? As we will see, the Christmas holiday offers us a unique glimpse into the future of our world that is largely missed or rarely discussed anywhere today.
Now every Christian believes Christmas was the beginning of the Lord Jesus Christ's life on earth. It was His birth that came as a result of the Holy Spirit's work in the womb of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:34-35). It is spoken of in the Apostle's Creed and believed by most Christians around the world. It also celebrates the union of God and man that met in the person of our Lord to bring about eternal fellowship and redemption through the cross, followed by the resurrection. And while most of orthodox Christianity will embrace these basics at Christmas, you won't hear much more about them with regards to the future.
No religious event in Western civilization has so affected the world as Christmas. This Christian tradition has been celebrated for about the last 1700 years or so in the Church and around the world. And while the birth of our Lord didn't start out as the tradition we call "Christmas," it did evolve over the centuries into the holiday we know on December 25. There is virtually nowhere on earth today that Christmas is not celebrated in some form or at least acknowledged as Jesus' birth. People may even be atheists, but they celebrate Christmas as a holiday to have a party, drink with friends or take a day off from work or school. So even though Christmas is a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is still enjoyed by people all around the world, whatever their beliefs, as a time of winter festivity, peace on earth and good will toward all.
Did you ever wonder how Christmas became so influential, especially in the West? The answer of course is that all of this is connected to the Lord's plans for world evangelism and fulfilling the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20. As a result, the public celebration of our Lord's birth is connected to areas that have been evangelized with the Christian Gospel. Those areas included Europe and Russia, along with the western hemisphere of North and South America. Christmas is now growing in other areas like China and Asia, along with Africa and the rest of the world. So, the spread of Christmas has directly following the Lord's plan of world evangelism.
Isn't it great to know that life isn't about politics and our daily battles in this life? As we move toward the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, it is wonderful to know that our life is really about knowing the Lord and having the privilege and pleasure of worshipping the Lord with all of our hearts and minds in spirit and in truth. That is the Lord's joyful call to everyone. With that in mind, this week's edition of the Carlson Report is about our life of worship and praise of the Lord. I hope you enjoy this article about worship and pass it along to somebody you love and care about today.
Are you breathing right now? If you are, then there is good news...you are still alive! As long as breath goes in and out of our lungs each moment, we are among the living. Our breath is a profound thing, because a lot of things have to go right in our bodies for it to happen at all. Breathing is largely an automatic thing we do without ever thinking about it. However, from time to time, each of us can control our breathing to decide to speed it up or slow it down. As an example, have you ever tried to see how long you could hold your breath? Most of us have done that at least once in our lives. But under normal circumstances, when our body needs oxygen, it gets us to breathe. The average person takes in about 23,040 breathes a day, more than anyone would ever guess. Bottom line: Breath is life and at the heart of some amazing insights to the Lord's purposes in our lives.
Well, the midterm election drama is over for now and the results confirm what everyone knows about our Nation. We are a deeply divided Nation, more than people know. It seems clear that our Nation is going to be in an ongoing political war for the foreseeable future. And while most of us are already weary of this division, the worst is yet to come. You see the real division in America has never been about Red States or Blue States, or the many issues that supposedly are dividing us from immigration and race to abortion. Those many issues are just symptoms of a much deeper topic that is rarely discussed today that is spiritual in nature.
You see the only issue that ever causes division in any family or nation is how to deal with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, if we were able "connect the dots" behind all our political battles they would all end up at Jesus' feet because He is the Lord and God of this world. In speaking about division in life our Lord said in Matthew 10:34-36,
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies will be the members of his own household.
As the political chaos continues to grow in our society as we head to the National mid-term elections, it is a good time for everyone to stop and gain some perspective about where we are right now. Surely not too many people in our society are having any "fun" with all the partisanship and rancor going on. Families are being divided. Friendships and even marriages are strained. Studies tell us that about 70% of Americans are "stressed" about the current state of affairs in our Nation. Some people have had enough and are just "tuning out" or "dropping out" altogether, with many not even bothering to vote at all for a variety of reasons.
We seem to be living in a time when it is virtually impossible to sort out the truth amidst the media storm of sound bites coming at us 24/7 from every direction. What is truth? Who can we trust? What should we do? Many people have no idea of how to vote in this election and on what basis. The issues seem so complex, and voter polls seem to change every 15 minutes showing a deeply confused electorate.
This Sunday is Reformation Sunday. It commemorates and celebrates the Reformation that was started by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517, when he posted the "Ninety-Five Theses" on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was deeply concerned about the collapse and corruption of Biblical doctrine by the professing Church. The Church had been selling salvation to the masses for centuries through something called "Indulgences," a practice in which a person paid to have their sins forgiven. It was a very lucrative practice and brought enormous amounts of money to the Church. Luther came to a place where he felt it was time to speak up about this and return the Church to a Biblical foundation of grace alone. Suffice it to say the Reformation changed Western Civilization as we know it. It was responsible for the founding of America by Christian pilgrims and the eventual birth of our Nation in 1776. Simply put, without the Reformation America would not exist.
The lessons of the Reformation are many, but like most things, they tend to be forgotten and lost over the last 500 years. That is true because human nature is the same and so people tend to make the same mistakes and history repeats itself. As a result, the American Church is in a crisis that is very similar to the condition of the Church in pre-Reformation Europe. And while many people may not see it, the Church has subtly started to sell and market salvation to their audience. The Church is being marketed to people today to find a new generation of "seekers". People are less likely to come to the Church today for salvation in Christ alone because they are not even sure what that is all about. The reason we know this is happening is because we are seeing a dramatic loss of basic, Christian doctrine about the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many people are coming to the Church for their own fleshly reasons that are being reinforced by a Church world that is willing to cater to them. But when the Church isn't being built on the real Lord and what the Bible teaches about Him, the Church isn't the Church.