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Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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Is there anybody that doesn’t like the movie “The Wizard of Oz”?   I still love to watch it. It reminds me of a simpler time and it touches on a great theme of life that there is “no place like home.”   In the movie Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, sings a great song about hope amidst life’s trials, entitled, “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” The song reflects Dorothy’s dream for a better day, a better place, and a bright hope for the future.

The rainbow has spoken to countless generations, both then and now, about hope for the future. The beautiful colors of the rainbow, following a storm, were a kiss from the heavens reminding us that life is worth living. And while many may have forgotten it, the rainbow was created by the Lord in Genesis 9 to be a reminder of His Covenant. The rainbow was a declaration that the Lord was full of love and mercy for the world. The rainbow was the good news or Gospel that the Lord forgives sin and gives new life and resurrection to people like Noah, his family, and all who believe in Him.

Multiculturalism: Dream or Nightmare?

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Tower of Babel
In the last few days, there has been a frantic battle in Washington to globalize our country’s trade policies through a piece of legislation call TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) or TPA (Trade Promotion Authority). The two acrostics are related, but the politics are confusing. The bottom line is a surrender of the nation’s authority on trade policy to others. Doing so will supposedly enhance world trade and promote prosperity.  This globalization on trade policy is just another aspect of a process that has been under way since World War II. After the war, the nations of the world began to attempt to work together in new ways to avoid the disastrous nationalism that had been seen in Germany, Italy, and Japan.

This cooperative movement, following the War, birthed what we call multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism began to be the belief that the nations of the world could agree to live in peace with one another and create a world of tolerance where nationalism and economic, political, and religious differences could be worked through in a constructive way. That belief system, driving our world today, is the father of political correctness. Every attempt to create and enforce political correctness in America and the world today is really being driven by this utopian multiculturalism.

Confusion & Delusion

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Bury your head in the sand 1Are you excited and hopeful about the future? I am.

However, if a person was to look at the news and listen to what some of our "experts" and "leaders" are saying about the future it would be easy to be pessimistic. Just this week, as a case in point, an eminent Australian scienties, Professor Frank Fenner, who helped to wipe out smallpox, predicted humans will probably be extinct within 100 years because of overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change. According to Professor Fenner, human beings will come to an end as a species sometime in the foreseeable future.

Professor Fenner is hardly alone in his pessimism.  This global gloom about the problems of the world and its hopeless future has been going on a long time. We see it in doomsday movies from Hollywood about the end of the world that shock and scare a generation of our youth. We hear it in the classrooms of our universities telling students that climate change will dramatically affect their lives.  We hear it from our politicians that something must be legislated now, while we still have time.  Did you notice that all of these alarmists seem to be saying the same thing?  Human beings are ruining this planet and only the governments of the world can save us if we support their leadership. Also, people who deny such “experts” and “leaders” and their solutions aresaid to be the real problem.

One of the most powerful statements that any Christian can make in this hour is the FACT that the world is not going to end... ever!  Jesus did talk about an “end of the age” in Matthew 24:14, but the Bible never speaks about an end of the world.  The “end of the age” our Lord talks about is when humanity’s leadership without God comes to an end.   That is problem now.  Human beings are trying to run the world without God.  If you doubt that, ask Al Gore at his next lecture on global warming about his prayer meetings.  Of course, there aren’t any because he doesn’t believe God is in charge down here.  The Lord of glory is the “junior partner” on this planet.  People seem to have forgotten or don’t want to be reminded that the Lord created the world to be a beautiful thing that will continue forever. The Heavens and Earth will never come to an end according to Revelation 21.

The Glory of Male and Female

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One of the most confusing stories I have seen in recent memory is the sex change of Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist, Bruce Jenner, from a man to a woman.  Bruce has now become Caitlyn. The face that once was the picture of masculinity on the Wheaties’s cereal box is now seen as a woman adorning the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. This shocking turn of events has the world buzzing with a host of stories and discussions that continues to create confusion about the whole of idea of what it means to be a “man” or a “woman.” 
 
This gender chaos has been building for the last 40-50 years, ever since the gay community started to redefine our sexual standards. Just a few years ago people were identified as “heterosexual” or “homosexual” and that was about it. Somehow we might have guessed that those two labels would prove a little too restrictive, so a third category emerged, “bisexual.” But even that third category puts people in a box. With the recent rise of transgenderism, as we see with Bruce Jenner, it appears to increasingly be wrong to label anyone “male” or “female” with any sexual preference.

The Islamic Spin Machine

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ISIS 2If there is one item that seems to dominate the news today it is the rampage of the Islamic group called ISIS. The world has been shocked by the scale of their brutality, which seems to be unprecedented in recent memory. It seems that every night we see and hear stories of the rape, murder, and pillaging of thousands of people who do not hold to their Islamic view of life. As this brutality and chaos spreads in the Middle East, there are literally thousands of people from all around the world, including the USA, who want to join ISIS. The goal of this group, by their own admission, is the re- establishment of an Islamic Caliphate that will bring about the restoration of true Islam.

And yet, the really tragic part of this story is what the world is not doing about it. The world has largely been sitting back and watching this murder and mayhem unfold because of political correctness. You see, the real problem with ISIS is that much of the world, including the Obama Administration, does not accept this group as Islamic. As a matter of fact, President Obama refuses to allow anyone to call them Islamic. All of their murder and mayhem are just "boys behaving badly" and does not reflect the true spirit of Islam. Sadly, this absolute confusion about this issue has tied up the entire world with regards to making any response. Military experts have warned that without some decisive response this group will continue to pose the most serious terrorist threat to the world's peace and stability in history.

The Real Class Warfare

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One of the major signs a culture is in crisis and nearing a fall is when the public is divided by their leadership. As our Lord Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:35). In the last few years, America and Europe have increasingly been prodded by their progressive governments into what we call “class warfare.” Class warfare divides a society into the “haves” and the “have nots,” the rich and the poor. The public is then indoctrinated to believe that their society can only be just and fair IF the government is allowed to transfer wealth from one group to another.

The first time there was an attempt to redistribute wealth from rich to poor took place days before our Lord’s passion. As our Lord was getting ready to die for the sins of the world, Mary poured an expensive perfume on His feet to prepare our Lord’s body for burial. Judas Iscariot got angry and indignant about this waste and wanted to give the money to the poor. However, the Bible tells us that Judas did not really care about the poor because he was a thief (John 12:2-8). This story from the Bible provides an important insight into the whole history of wealth redistribution. At its root is a demonic spirit that cares little for the poor. Its ultimate goal is gaining power over others and attacking the Lord. History establishes this truth over and over again.

The Incredible, Shrinking Jesus

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church8For many years I used to read church ads in the Saturday religion section of our local Grand Rapids paper. I was curious to see what people would say about their churches. Most churches advertised they were “friendly,” “welcomed visitors,” had a “great nursery,” as well as telling us the pastor’s sermon title for Sunday and their denominational affiliation, if they had one.

The one thing I never heard people say in the paper was, "THE REAL JESUS IS HERE!” The reason we don’t hear that is because everybody assumes the real Jesus is at their church. After all, it is a church, isn’t it? But what if a church doesn’t preach/teach about the real Jesus and the real Gospel?The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that there were many false “gospels” in the church world (Galatians 1:6-7). After all, aren’t there as many views and ideas about Jesus today as there were in our Lord’s Day? What if a church isn’t clear about our Lord as fully God and fully Man, the only Savior of the world? What if a church doesn’t believe in a Jesus that teaches marriage is only between a man and a woman as a wonderful and exclusive picture of Jesus’ love for the Church?

Scapegoat Nation

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goat2Have you ever blamed someone for anything that might not have been their fault? We all have done it. Welcome to the world of scapegoating. When we face problems in life it is often easier to blame someone else than to look at our part in the issue. It is easier blaming family members. It is easily blaming politicians. It is easier blaming the economy. It is easier blaming the pastor. Now that’s one I know all about. People just can’t handle blaming themselves or working out their part. The “blame game” is the main way many seem to handle life. Can you imagine people actually taking responsibility for their own sins? It almost sounds too good to be true.

The Gospel, or Good News, in the Bible is that the Lord Himself took responsibility for all our sins. The Lord Jesus didn’t have any sin at all. And yet, the Lord of Creation chose to exchange His innocence for our guilt. This glorious gift of grace was seen on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. On this special day, a scapegoat was chosen by lot and sent into the wilderness to remove the people’s sins.

When God Rocks Our World

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RichterScaleHow does the Lord get your attention? How does the Lord get our attention as a Nation? Well, the Lord got my attention last Saturday in a way I never imagined. I was watering some plants in our house at 12:23 pm when the whole house started to shake. Thinking it was the wind, I looked outside and noticed the trees were still. I then looked at a bottle of water on the table and noticed the water was moving in the bottle. I was experiencing an earthquake... in Michigan. Now I had lived in Los Angeles during seminary and experienced a few there, but earthquakes in Michigan are so rare nobody even thinks about them. They don’t happen here.

The Alinsky Chronicles

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rulesradChristian leaders are often told not discuss political themes because it will hurt the Gospel. Sure, some Christians have become politically active, but they only represent the minority of the Lord’s people. It seems clear to me that it is a mistake to try and label the Lord a “Republican” or a “Democrat.” However, the really big problem we are facing today is when Christian leaders refuse to say anything about spiritual battles that affect our lives each day, regardless of party affiliation.

One of the most under-reported stories in America today is the spiritual battles we face. No one can look at the chaos unfolding in the world today and eliminate the spiritual realm as an influence. Even the Gallup poll says that 70% of Americans believe in the devil. That means that the vast majority of people realize that our battle is not just with what we see. The Bible, of course, has said this from the beginning. The devil came to people as a serpent using lies and deception to destroy our lives. This unseen spiritual battle is the focus of why the Lord Jesus came and died on the Cross. Our Lord came to destroy the works of the devil according to I John 3:8.

Why History Repeats Itself

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newspapermanAs I survey the news today, I was struck by the profound ignorance and confusion going on in the world today at the hands of our leaders. It seems as if everyone has totally forgotten what happened in the past and has learned nothing from history or previous disasters. The philosopher George Santayana was famously quoted as saying, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I am sure most, if not all, of our leaders today have heard that line at one time or another. The problem is that most just don’t believe it applies to them. According to them, ours is a new time, things are much different now.

Of course long before Santayana was born, the Bible said the same thing in Ecclesiastes 1:9 where it states, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” The Bible is quite clear that history repeats itself because humanity has never changed.

When the Church Isn’t the Church

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churchWhy is America falling apart when we have a church on almost every street corner?  America has the most churches per capita of any nation in the world. The Gallup organization tells us that over 70% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.  And yet, our nation is morally and spiritually crumbling before our eyes and most people see it. What happened? How do you explain this shocking reality going on today?

The Bible is quite clear that just before the Lord Jesus’ return the professing Church will have a “form of godliness without any power” (II Timothy 3:5). It will be a time of apostasy or a turning away from the historic faith into a counterfeit one that people will accept as the real one.  In other words, the Church will be a place where people have a religious belief, form, and practice, but it will be empty from the Lord’s perspective.

Baltimore Burning

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baltimoreMost of us have heard about the riots in Baltimore by now. Our news will be filled with the story for a while. The trigger for the riots appears to be the unjust death of a man in police custody. Some of the media will be talking about police injustices, while others will mention a lack of jobs, the decay of our inner cities, and families under poor social policy from Washington. However, the real story is much, much deeper and way beyond what any of the media will cover. As usual, everyone will be trying to blame someone. Few if any will take any responsibility for things and another Baltimore will most likely develop in the near future.

Saving the Earth?

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earthdayDid you miss it? Wednesday, April 22, marked the now annual celebration of “Earth Day.”   People around the world gave some speeches and reflected on the need to take care of the planet in better ways. Even President Obama managed to use the day to speak about the need to stop global climate change, which he said presented “no greater threat to our planet.” Few seem to agree whether man-made climate change is really even happening, but we are being told by our President and others that it is a “threat” to all of us and needs to be fixed. Of course how you “fix” the planet’s climate is not easily spelled out, but like many government ideas you have to pass legislation BEFORE you find out what it is all about.

Whatever your view of some of these environmental issues, the real story is not being reported at all. The real story about Earth Day is what it represents on a spiritual level. Earth Day is really a worldview, a belief system... a religion, if you will. People may not think of this environmental movement to “save the planet” from human sin as a religion, but it drives many these days much more than going to church on Sunday and thinking about saving souls. Whereas the Bible is clearly more concerned about saving people, these folks just want to save the planet.

From Tolerance to Takeover

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stonewallI have been a Christian pastor for over 30 years now and I have never met a “homophobic pastor” in my life. I have met a lot of pastors that think homosexual behavior is not the Lord’s plan and not in the best interest of those involved. But I have never personally talked with or met a single pastor who used hateful language or talked about violence against anyone in the gay community for their beliefs and political activism. I am sure those pastors are out there, but I just haven’t met them. This fact may come as a shock to some folks who are coming to believe that traditional Christians are a group of intolerant, hate-filled folks trying to hurt a minority of people with their distorted and mean spirited Biblical beliefs.

If you go back into the history of the struggles of the gay community in this country, a lot of things started to change on the morning of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, located in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. This date marked the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement in the world, after the New York Police unfairly treated the patrons of this now famous nightclub and bar.

Lex Rex

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lexrexHave you ever heard the phrase “Lex Rex”? It comes from two Latin words that mean, “The Law is King.” The phrase became a well-known book written by a Presbyterian minister named Samuel Rutherford in 1644. Its thesis was simple, namely that no one is above the law... the law is king. Human beings have to be accountable to some standard, some law, or they become as god. The reason this work was and is important to us today is because it had a great influence on the Founding Fathers of this country as they set up our constitutional government. They realized you needed a system of checks and balances against human power and ambition using the law, or you would end up with human tyranny and despotism.

In recent years, we have been watching the foundations of our Constitution begin to crack.   For some people today, the law doesn’t really matter that much anymore. The law just gets in the way of what they want to do, so they are more than glad to vote for politicians who will change and/or eliminate some laws in clever ways that only a lawyer really understands. This pattern of increasing lawlessness is growing rapidly right now across the world, not just in the United States. People seem to be falling in love with charismatic leaders who promise them a life of freedom to do whatever they want to do, no matter what the laws of God or Man have to say.

What about the Media?

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tvWhen I was kid growing up in the 1960s, we had a TV and a radio and that was it. We waited all year to watch the “The Wizard of Oz” on network TV and got to skip dinner to see it. We normally spent time eating family dinners, doing chores and homework, and living life with family and friends. I miss those days. Since that time the media has become so pervasive in our lives that people literally cannot go to the bathroom without someone trying to tell them what to think or what to believe through their smart phone or some other electronic toy. This loss of personal boundaries and freedom is shocking, but we seem to be adjusting...I guess. The greatest casualties of this media world are the children because this is all they know and it seems “normal” to them.

Bowing Down to the Image

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2016If you’re like me, you may already be weary of another round of the race for the presidency. Every week now, new potential contenders are announcing their campaign for the White House in 2016. And yet, it seems harder and harder each political cycle to get excited about anyone because we end up so disappointed with the results of these leaders once they are elected. We want things to change, but we seem to keep making the same mistakes over and over. It seems we have truly found the definition of political insanity and it is taking a heavy toll on our lives.

Jesus and Einstein

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einstienOn this Resurrection Weekend, Christians all over the world will be celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. The Christian Faith rises and falls on an Empty Tomb as the Apostle Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 15:14. However, the Resurrection of Christ is much more than just an article of faith, it is good science.

For many people the Resurrection rests on nothing more than the Gospel narratives that the Tomb was empty and the faith of the apostles. This seeming lack of objective, empirical evidence has led to a huge amount of doubt, skepticism and outright unbelief. For many people the Resurrection doesn’t make sense and violates the laws of nature and science itself. I have read numerous articles, books and heard from many people who simply didn’t really believe in the Resurrection for a variety of logical reasons born from our modern, scientific age.

Who Can You Really Trust?

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truthMuch of the world today is watching the drama surrounding an attempt by the USA to broker an agreement or treaty with Iran regarding her right to enrich uranium. This attempt has seemingly turned desperate on the part of the USA and the Obama Administration. Many commentators and leaders wonder why this effort seems to continue since Iran has a history of broken agreements with just about everyone and continues its irrational threats of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” How do you make meaningful agreements with a nation like Iran that is seen by most intelligence experts to be the chief sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East? Good question.

Back to Basics

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Bible And Sword"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified". I Corinthians 2:2

What is the Gospel? Who is Jesus? What is the Christian Faith all about? What is God trying to say to us? What should we be doing in the Church? These are but a few of the questions that every Christian should be asking themselves from time to time. If we cannot answer these basic questions, we are not going anywhere in the Christian life and we may lead others astray.

Over the years, I have come to see that there are many answers being given to the above questions. I never cease to be amazed by some of the answers people give when asked to define the Christian Faith. Some people believe Christianity is largely about living some sort of better moral life where we try to become better human beings. For others, the Christian Faith is a cause that helps us transform the injustices of life. A growing number of people see Christianity as a great tool to make them more prosperous, blessed and successful in life. If you really stop and think about it, there are almost as many ideas about the Christian Faith as there are people. Every person tends to shape the Faith and our Lord into their own image on some level.

Reaching the Nations

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The-Christ-on-a-background-of-Earth"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14

If there is one thing we all should know about the Lord, it is that the Lord really loves this world and its people. When you study the history of missions you see that truth in all its glory. The history of the world is really the history of missions. The Lord has planned out a wonderful plan to share His love with this world that will continue right to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is drawing near.

The Lord Jesus in His "Olivet Discourse" in Matthew 24:14 tells the disciples that He would not return until the whole world had heard the gospel message. Isn't that an amazing truth? In other words, the Lord is carefully waiting to close this present age out until the gospel has been shared with everyone. That is the single reason why our Lord has not come back yet. People need to be saved, redeemed, and restored.

The Foundation of the Gospel and our Faith

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Heart-Monitor-With-Cross"Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened."
Luke 24:12

The Bible is very clear that Jesus rose from the dead. This is the foundation of the Gospel and our faith according to I Corinthians 15. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!!! I wanted to take the time to discuss a few thoughts about the Resurrection that may stir your heart toward seeing the greatness of our Lord in this central event of our faith. I hope this brief discussion is a blessing to you and that it will stretch your mind a bit about the greatness of our Lord.

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