The Great Debates of Life

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I spent part of my evening last night watching another round of the “Republican Presidential Debates.” It was fascinating to watch a bunch of smart people argue and debate about every possible issue. Each of the candidates is very passionate that they are right and would be the best President, while others are not so right….or just plain wrong.

What we see taking place in our political arena is exactly what happens to all of us every day. These debates cover every subject, and everyone seems to have a passionate opinion. People will debate and argue about the best football team, the best college, the best way to worship, how to grow a garden the right way, the worst presidential candidate and the best. I really think it would be impossible to find a topic people don’t have a passionate opinion about. And, of course, everyone thinks they are right.

Jesus and the Trump Factor

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It’s rare that a political figure captivates the media and the country the way Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has of late. Whether you hate him or love him, he surely isn’t boring.  He has taken the political process by storm, and that shows no signs of letting up. He speaks his mind and doesn’t care what people think about him. For some he represents the kind of leadership the country has needed for a long time. He is rich, bold, and appears not to be controlled by any special interest groups. When he speaks, he acts like he owns the place and doesn’t care whose toes he steps on. He promises people that he will “Make America Great Again” by cleaning house and driving out those standing in the way. Donald Trump is truly an American political phenomenon.

What few, if any, have seen in Trump’s candidacy is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, when our Lord came the first time, the religious establishment of Israel was taken over by special interest groups. The Temple, which was the center of their religious life, was run and controlled by the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

Understanding Holocausts

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Never AgainHave you ever heard someone say, “Never Again,” referring to an event of history?  That phrase is always used to refer to the Holocaust during World War II in which over 6 million Jews were murdered, largely in the crematoriums of the Nazi regime.  The phrase “Never Again” is designed to express moral outrage for what happened and to serve as a powerful statement to make sure it never happens again. Because the Holocaust evokes such horror in the minds of most people, any time its memory is brought back you have an audience. So when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, now presidential candidate, accused the Obama Administration last week of marching the Jews in Israel to the ovens of the Holocaust in their nuclear deal with Iran,  it created a media sensation and deep reaction around the world.

Returning to Chaos

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If there is one word I would use to describe the world’s conditions today it would be chaos. None of us can even begin to stay up with the moral and spiritual chaos and confusion unfolding around us. Many of us are numb to the news, the constant battles, political fighting, terrorism, violence and lack of meaning out there. And worst of all is the fact few have any answers on what to do about it.  We hear 100 opinions every day from politicians, the media, scientists, professors, and other supposed experts, but almost no one can ever agree on anything. All of this leads to some important questions: Is life supposed to be this way? Are there any answers out there? Is there any hope for our children? What are we supposed to do? Is life just a bunch of chaos ... and then we die?

Now the interesting thing about today’s world is that it is a replay of conditions before the world was even here. If you go back to Genesis 1:1-3, the world started out in chaos and darkness. Sound familiar? Everything was chaotic and nothing made much sense. Suddenly, the Spirit of God began to move and God spoke for the first time in history and said, “Let there be light.”  That one phrase changed everything. Not only did life begin, but God said it all was very good.  God was so happy with the order, beauty, and glory of the world that He rested because there was nothing more to do.

Israel Alone

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I wonder what the conversations are like in Israel today about Iran. I wonder what Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government is thinking right now about Israel’s’ relationship to the United States.  Surely the Israelis have to be worried and concerned after the world’s recent nuclear “deal” with Iran.  After all, a thousand miles away in Tehran, the leaders of Iran are plotting to destroy them and make no apologies about saying it publicly on a weekly basis. Some Iranian leaders have even spoken about finishing what Hitler started in Europe. Not exactly the kind of language that gives you much peace and security for the future.

What has started to dawn on the Israelis in the last few months is that they are alone in world.  When the State of Israel was first resurrected as a modern nation back in May of 1948, the United States was her best friend. President Harry Truman not only became the first world leader to support the new state, but started a strong relationship with Israel that has continued with every successive American administration ... until now.  As the drama and tension between the Obama Administration and Israel has continued to ramp up, the Israelis have never felt so alone and confused.  What do they do?  Where do they turn?  Who are their real friends?  What’s next?

Killing Our Consciences

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It’s the underreported story that could make you cry. At least for those who heard the real details of the story.  Officials at Planned Parenthood have been selling aborted children’s body parts to make money for themselves.  Perhaps the worst of it was the recent interview with Dr. Mary Gatter, who was president of Planned Parenthood Medical Director’s Council until 2014, and still advices the organization. Dr. Gatter wanted to get more money for the children’s body parts so she could buy a Lamborghini, a fancy Italian sports car.  The coldness and evil of this story has even shocked veteran news people.

America has been on this road a long time. Ever since abortion was legalized in 1973, when Roe vs. Wade decision was issued, human life has increasingly been devalued.Abortion is a business, so we can’t be totally surprised when people are trying to make more money from it.  What is so shocking is the coldness of well-educated people in the medical community to the suffering and death of these children for money. The last time the medical community behaved like this was in Nazi Germany. Sadly, these children were someone’s son or daughter, they were someone’s grandchild.  They were Americans that never got to enjoy life and live the American Dream.  They never rode a bicycle, blew out birthday candles or got married. They were murdered and that crime didn’t end with their death. Now we are told someone not only killed them, but profited from their death, purely out of self-interest and materialism.

Covenants with Death

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I have never seen anything like it in my life time, have you? The Obama Administration has just forced on the world a nuclear deal with Iran that few can believe.  Never mind that Iran is the most notorious terrorist nation in the world. Never mind it is a nation that swears to destroy Israel and America on a weekly basis. Never mind it is a nation committed to arming Israel’s enemies like Syria, Hamas in Israel, and Hezbollah in Lebanon to carry out their evil agenda.  Never mind their leadership openly talks of starting a world war to bring the Mahdi forth and create an Islamic paradise.  Even the name of their country was changed from Persia to Iran out of support for the Nazi’s Aryan (Iranian) anti-Semitic worldview before World War II. In some ways, the nation of Iran is the modern devil in the world today. How ironic that they use that term, “the great Satan,” for America, while Israel is seen as the “the little Satan.”

The Apple Bytes Back

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apple 2Can you imagine taking away a person’s cell phone these days without them having an anxiety attack? Many of our young people seem to have fallen under the spell of their phones and treat it like a best friend. The power of this technology is so profound that we scarcely have any idea what it is doing to our lives and our world today.I wish every person in the world could read this article. My reason for saying that is because it would be wonderful for people to have some idea about the real, spiritual meaning of this technology in our lives.  Sadly, it appears that few have any idea about the Biblical and prophetic role of technology and where all of this is going.

When the founders of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, had a vision of a personal computer on everyone’s desk back in 1976, people probably thought they were a little crazy. Certainly no one ever dreamed that less than 40 years later there would be an Apple in everyone’s hand. The brand name “Apple” has probably become the most recognized symbol of technology in the world today making the founders and shareholders of Apple Computer incredibly wealthy.

The Runaway Bride

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Running BrideFor many Christians, one of the hardest things to do is to see oneself as part of the Bride of Christ.   Some have never even heard of the Church being a Bride.  Perhaps it is too personal, too close, to see the Lord as the Bridegroom and us as the Bride.  Maybe it’s uncomfortable to think of God living with us day to day like a spouse.  After all, do we really want that kind of accountability in our lives with the Lord? Isn’t the Lord just for Sundays, funerals, baptisms, weddings, and when we need help?  And then there are the sexual identity problems.  How do Christian men see themselves as a “Bride”?

The problem, however, with all of these struggles is that if we don’t see the Lord as a Bridegroom and the Church as a Bride, then we can’t understand life and the Institution of Marriage between a man and a woman. 
The world performs millions of marriages every year and in every faith. And yet people remain, for the most part, clueless to the meaning of the event they’re celebrating as a high point in their lives. We all need to stop and ask ourselves, “What is this ceremony or institution all about?” Surely, we didn’t invent things like men, women, virginity, sex, honeymoons, wedding receptions, unity candles, the father giving away the bride, the best man, white dresses for the bride, resulting children, families...  I could go on. No, all of these things are not just religious or cultural traditions invented by us. The Lord created marriage, and all the items mentioned above, to be a sermon series about His love for us.

Christians in the Lion's Den

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It is the most underreported story of 2015. The story I am talking about is the persecution of Christians around the world... and closer to home. More Christians are being marginalized, persecuted, attacked, and killed than at any time in history.  

Sadly, most of these stories are being buried by the media and our leaders in government to promote their own political agendas. Even President Obama, a professing Christian, has remained virtually silent on the subject.  No one wants to talk about it.

The persecution of Christians is hardly something new for the Church or for the saints in the Bible. It is found throughout the Old and New Testaments and regularly in Church history. The Lord Jesus said it would be part of the Christian life in John 15:18-21 and our Lord’s prophetic words are coming to pass before our eyes.

Savoring the Savior

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I have never been attrascted to people who are always negative. I think that is true of most of us. As a pastor, I have been called to preach the Gospel. Now as part of that calling, there is always the danger of being seen as too negative. After all, we have to mention sin because without sin there is no reason for a Savior. Jesus is not a divine success coach, or someone to help us feel better, or just a role model for a good life. The Lord Jesus is our Savior, who satisfies the wrath of God against sin through the Cross and gives us life eternal and victory over sin, death, and Hell.

Worldview 101: the Great Culture Wars

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In my 30 years as a teaching pastor, I have met few people who have really understood the idea of a “worldview.”  A worldview is how you view the world.  It ultimately reflects your view of the Lord and what life is all about.  So it is much more than a person’s viewpoint as a “liberal” or a “conservative,” “Democratic” or “Republican”, which seems to dominate our public discourse.  It deals with eternity and the spiritual intangibles of life.

All of our battles today are about worldview.  That battle found a lightning rod in last week’s Supreme Court decision to support Gay Marriage, but it really has been driving every disagreement and conflict. Gaining clarity about a person’s worldview is the only way to make sense of life.  Most of us got our worldviews from our families and/or religious traditions.

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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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.