“Is Bombing Chemical Warfare Plants in Syria….Returning Evil for Evil?”

In the middle of the night on April 13, 2018, aircraft and ships from the United States, Great Britain and France sent more than one hundred missiles into Syria destroying a tremendous amount of that country’s chemical weapons production. This very precise and militarily vicious attack left a path of destruction and death. According to spokespersons for all three members of the alliance, the attack set Syria back many years in their use of outlawed chemical weaponry. Yet, some commentators said this may have been illegal and/or unconstitutional at least for the United States. Others said the three countries had no right to take such an action. Some said it won’t work anyway. Others said there are many outrageous activities around the world, so why isolate the Syrians and their evil actions? As always, many words and many views screamed across the marketplace of ideas.

Some Christian commentators, arguing from a pacifist point-of-view…or at least something close to that idea…said this from the Word of God: “Never pay back wrong for wrong…” 1 Thess. 5: 15. But, of course, this was exactly the question. Namely: were the actions of the three-party coalition “wrong?” Were the actions of the attackers just as “bad” as the Syrians use of chemical weapons. Was the bombing of Syrian chemical resources morally equivalent to the use of those chemicals a week before killing many dozens of men, women and children in the most agonizing ways? In my view, the answer is “No!” Let’s consider when violence and force in the interest of righteousness is appropriate. As always, these are my thoughts. This is not math. The answers are not as simple as five times two is ten. Smart people may feel differently. Understood.

In Isaiah 13, we find that God sent the Medes to destroy the Babylonians. The Word of God bursts with examples of God using war to punish evil nations. True, it is one thing to be sent by God into battle, but can man discern such a “sending?” He must, at times. When Lincoln reflected upon the 600,000 deaths in the Civil War, he saw the hand of God punishing a nation for slavery. Looking off, Lincoln quietly said “The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Yet, none can deny the words of William Tecumseh Sherman. After the Union General nearly burned Atlanta to the ground, he said “There is no getting around it. War is all Hell!”  But 80 years later, it was reported that General Patton looked over a French battlefield and said “My God…I love it! I love it so!” Perhaps he never said that but we all know that some people find warfare exhilarating. Why else would violent video games have such an audience?

In any case, if one objects to reducing the Syrians chemical agents thru bombing, then does one object to a swat team breaking into a house where small children are being held for purposes of sexual slavery…and when the criminals resist with gunfire that they are shot to death? Does one object to the policeman who uses his or her weapon to protect the innocent? Are we really to be a hopelessly unrealistic society that thinks evil must be coddled? Or have some Christians confused the teaching of our Lord to us as individuals to “turn the other cheek” with the rules for a civilized society? They must read Romans Thirteen. We must resist and at times destroy evil. Because we cannot destroy all evil is a poor reason not to do so when we can.

In the Fifth Century, the church father Augustine set forth several principles for a “Just War.” His point was that there are and will be times when war is necessary to combat evil. Among those principles was the notion that all other means have been exhausted or tried. In the case of the Syrian dictator using chemical weapons in total violation of international law, he was not about to stop doing so.  Other means had been tried.  And if a coalition of the willing, and the morally upright in this case, can stop him…should they not do so? Hence, in my view, their actions to destroy his wicked resources were an instance of overcoming evil with good. In this case, the good being cruise missiles fired from ships and warplanes. Just my view.

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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The Christian and Assisted Suicide

The issue of “Assisted Suicide” comes up frequently in our society. Including among Christians committed to a Biblical outlook regarding the value of life. I’ve been asked my view on it many times. In four decades of ministry, I’ve seen the issue raised first hand in real life situations. What are we to think? I’m not sure.

Some years ago, a very fine older gentleman in our church asked me to visit him in the hospital. In his mid-eighties, he was severely diabetic and had recently had yet another operation to remove part of his leg.

He was very strong in the Lord and quite weary of operations upon his weakened body from years of diabetes.  He simply did not want to continue those treatments. In addition, he relied on daily dialysis procedures  without which death would come quickly.

Propped up in bed with a gentle smile, he said this to me: “Ok Pastor. Thanks for coming over. Listen, I’ve decided to check out of the hospital and go to a nursing home. I will instruct that staff there not to do dialysis and, count on it, within a week I will die. So…(long pause) do you think that is suicide?”

I prayed quickly as I pondered a response. After a moment I said “Do YOU think it is suicide? It seems to me that is the issue.” He said “No, I don’t. I’m simply deciding not to go on indefinitely with life extending procedures. I’m ready to go to the Lord.” He went to the nursing home and he died a few days later. I presided at his funeral and we rejoiced at his salvation. It never occurred to me that someone might suggest that I had assisted in this man’s suicide. No one did suggest that. And I did nothing pro-active and he did not do anything either except deny treatment.

The issue is far more complex if a Christian is asked to willfully engage in helping some depart. I would never, ever do that. But such requests do come. I once visited a woman who had a terrible accident leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. When I asked if there was anything I could do for her, he reply was “Yes. Bring me a twenty-two!” At that moment, she wanted to die. I assured her that God would be blessing her in the days ahead and she did live more than a decade longer…with joy and suffering. I think her additional years were meaningful. Honestly, I doubt that her request was serious but rather just an expression of emotional pain. But she was thinking about the life issue.

Many states have made assisted suicide legal. That is troubling. I have counselled people who had been suicidal and pressed on and were now glad they had not ended their lives. That is one great argument against it. And, of course, the other is that we must not “Play God.” That one is more problematic because when we extend life thru extraordinary means, we are arguably delaying what God, thru nature, may have ordained. So, it’s hard to know what “Playing God” means.

Life ending issues are challenging. We just spent time with Donna’s nearly 96-year-old mother who was a most delightful woman. She slipped away but only after her share of pain and suffering. Did we expedite her death? Of course not. But we were relived when it came trusting her to the Lord. So…any great principles to offer from just one Pastor trying to be helpful? Perhaps.

FIRST, we should expect that more and more states will approve of assisted suicide. Our society is so committed to a material view of life that it only makes sense to people who have no expectation of eternal life. In the view of so many, we are machines and there comes a time to “shut it down.” Humans are no different from an old lawn tractor not worth fixing. It is pointless to wrangle with such arguments and we must respect the laws that are passed. We need not embrace them or support them, but they will be in place.

SECOND: our witness for Christ should make us non-judgmental whenever possible. People will be free to make such a choice. Indeed, most suicides that take place are private affairs and not in any way assisted. I do not wish to condemn the person who makes that painful choice. Although if I am asked I will certainly try to dissuade that individual.

THIRD: our desire is for salvation. My own father was considered borderline comatose many years ago. I was told he was totally unresponsive after a stroke and a heart attack. I went to his bedside and read Psalms in his ear and prayed for him. The next morning, he was siting up in bed! He lived five more years and a few weeks before his death, he came to Christ and was saved! Truly, God does save those whom He is calling…even to preserving their lives until they are re-born! Thus, let is be prayerful for those in despair that God might preserve them unto eternal life.

FOURTH: end of life decisions are challenging for families watching their loved-one struggle. It is best for individuals to indicate their desires if extraordinary measures are necessary to keep life going. If a person DOES NOT want such measures, the family should know this. I’ve seen families struggle with their role in making a final decision. They don’t want to assist in the departure of a loved one, but doctors are suggesting that there is no point in continuing.

FIFTH: Suicide, in all cases, is the ultimate expression of hopeless despair. We who have the Gospel should be alert to share the Good News freely. I’ve had the joy of watching older and suffering people bear their struggle with joy because they knew Jesus…who said:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live though he dies. And whoever believes in me will never die!” John 11:25-26

God be praised! Blessings! Pastor Alberta

 

 

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Science, God, Glaciers and the Grand Canyon April 3, 2018

Two weeks ago, I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon with our son JJ and his wife Kristi….their kids and my Donna…and some other folks.   I’m not excited enough to hike the canyon.  Looking at it is pretty amazing  though.  So, I thought out loud and simply said “Geezzzz….look what God did!”  Someone in the group said “I think it was glaciers!”  Then I said…”Oh for sure. It was. But…who made the glaciers?”   I heard someone say “Well…yeah.”

That, of course, is the issue that troubles so many people.  If science can explain what happened and is still happening…who needs God?   It’s really quite a puzzling way to look at things.  So many unbelievers think because they can study the means that brought about phenomena that there need not be someone BEHIND those means.

Consider this.  Would anyone look at a fine house under construction and argue that the carpenters just went to that address and started building?  Who sent them?  Was there not an architect?  A planner?  There must always be a “causal agent” …things in life really don’t just happen.  Yet, a bright unbelieving woman whom I know asked me awhile back “Well, hasn’t science explained how everything happened thus eliminating  the need for God?”  I said “Only if your beautiful house was strictly the work of carpenters and electricians and painters etc.  Did you not design it?  The means used could never eliminate the need for a designer and initiator of a project.”

Actually, science  is proving the undoubted existence of God.  Religion and science are in conflict only in the minds of those who refuse to believe.  They do not analyze sensibly.  Everything points towards design.  For a marvelous and clear video in this regard, I suggest “The Privileged Planet” which includes interviews with two eminent scientists, Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards.  It makes the point clearly that the cosmos is so remarkably fine tuned  that it could only be the result of design.  A great film that came out recently is “The Case for Christ.”  It includes a great deal of fascinating science.

In addition, there are many books that wrestle with the science and religion issue.  One of the best that I’ve read is titled “Coming to Peace with Science…Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology.”  It was written by Darrell Falk, a Christian Professor of Biology in California.

Yet, even with many resources available to help the skeptic see the overwhelming evidence for God, many people in the sciences simply dismiss the obvious.  So…why DO unbelievers, in the science community and elsewhere,  refuse to accept the plain truth that God must exist?

They do not want to know God.  The natural person lost in sin does not want a relationship with God.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans One that man knows there is a God but he does not want to live under His Lordship.  As  John said: “And this is the verdict; light has come into the world but the people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” John 4:19.

Thus, all the evidence in the world will fall on deaf ears unless the Holy Spirit opens the heart of the unbeliever.

Finally, I must say again that I think some Christians in the “Young Earth” community  have actually made it harder for scientific people to consider the Gospel.  Why?  Because they insist that the Earth is only a few thousand years old thereby dismissing modern science wholesale.  The “Young Earth” view is a product of minority science.  Advanced scientists who hold to a young earth position are far less than one per cent.  I once asked the head of a Christian Society of Scientists how many young earth members he had out of 600.  The answer was zero.

I think insisting on a young earth position is also rooted in bad Biblical interpretation (hermeneutics) and a hyper-literal reading of the Genesis days.  I may be wrong on this point but such a rigid position is, in my view, a mis-handling of the text.  But sadly, many skeptics think all Christians are science deniers and therefore they don’t even consider the Gospel itself.  I urge any of my readers, if you hold to a young earth position,  please allow for other views and  do not suggest that those who think otherwise do not consider the Bible the Word of God.

Anyway, I’d say to the scientific skeptic “Sure!  Glaciers? Really! Apparently, that’s what happened!  But…who made the glaciers?”

Blessings!  Pastor Alberta

 

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“Invited to a Gay Wedding?”

“Hey Pastor Alberta…I need some help!  I love my sister very much even though she is a lesbian and has rejected the Gospel.  But now she is getting  ‘married’ to her woman friend and I have no interest in going to her wedding.   Now the family is accusing me of being cruel and a very bad Christian for judging her etc.  What am I to do?  This is really upsetting!”

The above note is a composite of questions I have received over the many years I’ve served as a Pastor.  Even very recently.  So many evangelicals have faced this question.  So…here are a few thoughts:

FIRST:  I understand the problem.  The Word of God is very clear that homosexual activity is “abominable” in the sight of God.  All of Leviticus Chapter 18 addresses it.  Romans One and elsewhere it is re-enforced.  So, we recoil at a gay wedding with good reason.  The Holy Spirit lives inside of us and we sense that He will not approve.

SECOND:  We must watch our attitude in this because gay people are still made in the image of God and sinners to whom Christ is offered.  Yet, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to “Go and sin no more!”

THIRD:  Family and others will not understand if you do not go.  Your concern is that you don’t want to invite anyone to think you approve.  But you can’t exactly go and walk around with a sign that says “I don’t approve.”  In other words, you cannot win in this situation.  Don’t be surprised if others find your concerns unloving.  But keep in mind that our Lord said:

Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you because of me…”

FOURTH:  This is important!  You are NOT JUDGING HER!  God has made known His judgment of such behavior and all you are doing, if you choose not to go, is honoring God.  He has spoken.  Think of it this way: would you get drunk to satisfy someone else when you know that would be a sin?  Of course not.  BUT…those who don’t have Christ in them will probably call you narrow-minded and hateful.  Got it.

FIFTH:  You might ask your sister why she is asking to go if she knows that it will make you uncomfortable?  Would she like to be asked to participate in something that required her to compromise that way?

SIXTH:  If you do not go, tell her gently that you care for her and love her etc.  That you wish her and her friend well.  Perhaps give them a gift card.  Do not be hateful.  But you are entitled to say “No” to many of life’s invitations.  Just do it gently.

SEVENTH:  Pray for her/them and hope they will not proceed or perhaps they will change their minds.

EIGHTH:  Keep in mind that many Bible-believing folks think differently about this.  They have gone to gay weddings and think it was regrettable but since the couple was going to be married  anyway…they thought it best to try to be “nice” about it.  I respect that.  But, for what it is worth…I would not go.  And  I would  not expect all others to understand my thinking.

Invited to a gay wedding?  May the Lord give you great wisdom!  Blessings!

Pastor Alberta

 

 

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Why does God Allow Violence in the Schools? Is this not “Sowing and Reaping?” Let’s Face it…Ours is a Violent Culture!

A few years ago, I went with our oldest granddaughter to see “The Hunger Games.”  I left on the edge of nausea.  This remarkably popular movie, including among many Christian youth, was all about training kids to kill other kids until only one was left.  It was violent in the extreme and the audience, mostly young, seemed unmoved by the brutality.  I recall thinking “Something is really wrong here.”

A few days ago, seventeen kids were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida.  Once again, our media and our neighbors and ourselves  are awash in helpless lamentations.  No one knows what to do.  I don’t either.

There are a zillion guns out there.  We will never get them back even if we want to.  I guess eventually every building in America will be a guarded fortress at every entranceway.  We will just get used to metal detectors and the sight of rifles cradled in the arms of security specialists.

How did this happen?  When did the line get crossed that separated occasional madness with guns to expecting regular massacres?  And, here is the tough question, is God allowing our culture to reap what it has sown?  Well…I recall thinking when Columbine happened in 1999, that perhaps God has allowed evil to ramp up and why not?  Since we kill about 2000 unborn children everyday, why are we surprised that life has become so cheap?  Kids who sit and play hyper-violent video games might just want, at some point, to act them out with real targets.   Why is that surprising?  Why, when the unthinkable…dismembering unborn children is allowed and even celebrated…why are we so shocked?  Is God allowing this because we demand the freedom to be violent?

And this disease  of wickedness has pervaded even those who say they oppose it.  No inherently political comment here.  Just a truthful observation.  On January 29, 2018 a bill to ban abortion after twenty weeks failed in the U.S. Senate.  Solid research shows the vast majority of Americans support such a measure.  But it failed 51-46.  After the vote, Senators Schumer of New York and Heitkamp from North Dakota rejoiced in the defeat of the bill.  They were actually photographed doing “high fives” after it was announced that the measure had failed.  Most of us thought that “high fives” are for a victory  when you and your partner win at bowling.  These legislators epitomize Isaiah Chapter Five: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…who put bitter for sweet and  sweet for bitter!” ( Isaiah 5:20)  Notice…”Woe” will be their recompense on Judgment Day.

Because God is allowing this violence does not mean He is indifferent.  In fact, why did God flood the earth in the days of Noah?  There was plenty of sin. Sexual impurity.  Lying, cheating , stealing.  All of it.  But how did God explain Himself?  We read:

“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.  God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.  So God said to Noah ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled…with violence…'”  Genesis 6: 11-13

And now it really is filled with violence.  Violent video games.  Violent movies.  Violent music.  Violence in our sports. Violence in the womb.  Sure.   Too many guns.  Too many totally unnecessary guns.  Bad politics.  Demon possessed kids.  Sowing and reaping.  And “High Fives” on the floor of the U.S. Senate…celebrating killing the unborn.

Blessings…offered sadly today.  Pastor Alberta

 

 

 

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Actually…Joy Behar “nailed it!” She said just what Paul said she would say!

“It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you…that’s mental illness!”

In a recent blog post, we saw that Ms. Behar made this and other statements on  the popular TV show called “The View.”  I then suggested that she, and other critics of the Christian faith, really do not understand the Gospel that they are criticizing.  This prompted some thoughtful responses so I’d like to say just a little more.

Actually, Ms. Behar’s  remarks interface with the  theology of the Apostle Paul.  He told the church in Corinth exactly what she said twenty centuries later. Namely:

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

1 Corinthians 2:14

OK.  This is important so we need to pump some neurons.  Some translations say “the unspiritual person” as if to say “the non-religious person” … but Paul is talking specifically about the person without the Holy Spirit being unable to accept the things of the Holy Spirit.  He is talking about the unregenerate person who may or may not be religious but is not truly saved.  Paul is teaching us that the true Christian has not just a “belief system” but the Holy Spirit of God living inside of him or her.  But obviously there are religious people who are not Christians.  OK.

That is why even many religious people who are not Christians do not think like Christians either because they do not have the Holy Spirit in them.  Anyway, Paul is saying that the person WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT finds Christian truth to be “foolishness!” The word he uses here is the Greek “morai” from which we get moronic.  So, when Joy Behar rightly says, as a woman without the Holy Spirit, that our Christian faith seems to be mental illness…she may as well have said our Christian faith is “moronic!”  That is what it looks like to her.

We find other cases in the Word of God where the listeners thought the Christian person was simply crazy.  Consider Paul in Acts Chapter Twenty Six.  Paul was explaining the Gospel when a royal official named Festus shouted at him: “You’re out of your mind Paul!  Your great learning is driving you insane!” (verse 24).  So, Ms. Behar is really only sharing the opinion that many non-Christians have about us.

A few years ago, a non-Christian asked me to explain to him exactly what I believe about the Gospel and the whole “God thing.”  So I did. I said something like this:  “God made mankind to enjoy His creation but mankind disobeyed God.  He fell into sin and his moral being was corrupted so much that God Himself took on flesh to make salvation available.  God came to be among us in Jesus the Christ and allowed Himself to be Crucified to pay for our sins. He did this that we might be restored to good standing with him and have eternal life.  That was made complete when He was raised from the dead.  And he, Jesus, will eventually return and reign over the entire creation when he is ready to do so.”

My friend stared at me with wide eyes and said slowly “That is the craziest thing I have ever heard!”  Like Joy Behar, he nailed it.  So, Christian…be blessed when an unbeliever says you might be crazy or mocks your Christian faith as ridiculous.  As Jesus said “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me!”  (Matthew 5:11)  Here’s  the “Good News!” You’re not crazy!  (Well, you might be crazy but not because you are a Christian:)  Blessings!  Pastor Alberta

 

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My Apologies

Readers…

My recent article “”The Gospel According to The View” was published in difficult hard-to-read unparagraphed capital letters.  I’m trying to understand how that happened and I hope you will find it tolerable.

Will also attempt to avoid whatever protocol I used resulting in that format.  🙂

Blessings!  RJA

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