“Jesus, Jerusalem and Mr. Trump”

May 14, 2018

“What was God thinking?!” – Grace, in the 2000 romantic comedy ‘Return to Me.”

It was a delightful movie, distributed in 2000, about a young woman who received a heart transplant. A year later she meets a man, falls in love and learns that his first wife died in an automobile accident. Then she learns that she has her heart and she realizes that her fiancé does not know it! Totally over-loaded at this point, she turns to her friend and says, “What was God thinking?” It’s a good movie; you might like it.

I have shocked more than a few friends including unbelievers and nominal Christians and evangelicals when I have said “I am certain that God wanted Donald Trump to be elected President.” Usually, they give me that look as if to say “If that is true, what was God thinking? How could you, an evangelical believe that God could approve that vulgar man with the embarrassing moral record should be the President of the United States? And don’t you shudder at the way you look compromised by supporting such a man? The enemies of the Gospel find it hypocritical and attack the church because of your support!” (I humbly suggest that this last argument is particularly facile. After forty years of ministry, I can assure any who worry about our “witness” that unbelievers were mocking and attacking the church long before some of us supported Mr. Trump. Way before he showed up, they hated our views on gay marriage, abortion and other things. To say that they respect us less because of Trump is to say their respect went from one to zero on a scale of a hundred.)

I continue to find this puzzling. I appreciate the fact that we’d all like a President who was a cross between Jesus and George Washington. But these are men with feet of clay. Some who are offended at my statement need to read history. Briefly…. because this is not primarily a political argument…but briefly: Jefferson decried slavery while he had children with his slave lover named Sally. TR and his former friend Taft kept America amused in the early twentieth century with their brutal invectives against each other. FDR had his adulterous lover in the White House. Harry Truman openly called is opponents “SOB’s” and Eisenhower apparently took a lover while fighting the war. JFK had a fraternity house filled with naked secretaries in the White House pool. LBJ was called a vulgar and lecherous man. Nixon was a major league deceiver. Clinton ran a bordello in the Oval Office. And Mr. Obama lied about “keeping your health care plan.” Perfect Presidents are beyond rare.

Ok. We understand that MR. Trump has a checkered record. Again, I grow weary of non-evangelicals and even some evangelicals criticizing my willingness to “tolerate” Mr. Trump for the sake of “policy positions” as if the moral high ground is only held by those who dismiss policies for the “real” moral virtues. They overlook this reality: policy positions conceived and carried out are moral actions. It is a moral action to fight against crushing the skulls of unborn children. It is a moral action to correct the economy, so unemployment is down, and citizens of color are enjoying greater economic opportunities. It is a moral issue to correct an oppressive tax code. It is morally correct to begin to show respect for our military and our police. So, yes. I pray for our President and I roll my eyes at times. But here is another great moral issue: Jerusalem. I told a friend in the summer of 2016 that Mr. Trump would be elected flaws and all. Why? Because God was focused on two things: abortion and Israel. My prophecy was that God would appoint someone to turn the Supreme Court around for the unborn. (And yes, that matters because states will tighten abortion laws and the big court is needed to affirm their actions.) And God would appoint someone who would defend Israel.

One respondent was stunned. He said, “God would approve of such a man as President?” Sure. He might. God often uses imperfect, even vain and foolish people to serve him. We need only consider Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon in the sixth century BC. He got so puffed up and vain (narcissistic?) that God sent him out to live like a wild beast for seven years. Yet, God restored him and called him his “servant” (Jere. 27.6). So, yes, God uses very unusual people to do his will at times.

Now…as to Jesus and Jerusalem. Today, May 14, 2018, the American Embassy has opened in Jerusalem. It has been seventy years since President Truman recognized Israel as a nation. Finally, their capital is in their own prized city. A string of Presidents had promised to move the American Embassy but never did so. President Trump has done this. Does it matter? I think so.

It cannot be overstated that Jerusalem is critical to the plan of God. From the earliest days, the God of Israel called his own people to that city. It is spoken of hundreds of times in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we find these words from Jesus himself:

Luke 13:33-34 (NIV) “ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day–for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”

Jesus considered Jerusalem the visible capital of God’s earthly reign. And Jesus lamented over Jerusalem saying:

34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

Bethany was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem…literally a village suburb. When Jesus called his disciples to himself for his departure, it was on the border of the great city. But just before this, Jesus told his disciples the following:

Acts 1:4-11 (NIV) “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

Then they met with Jesus and watched him ascend. Notice carefully what the two angels said to them in verse 11:

5 “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

I could be wrong. But after forty years of study on this topic, I have come to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will return visibly and reign upon the Earth probably from Jerusalem. That many in that region, Jews and Muslims and unbelieving Gentiles will be saved. And that literal Israel will join in with spiritual Israel…the Jews and Gentiles who belong to Christ.

What was God thinking in ordaining an unlikely electoral path thru dozens of counties across the Midwest on election day 2016? What was God thinking in bringing about the unexpected election of a brash non-politician with little regard for the status quo in world events? One who would actually move to protect children in the womb? I believe he was thinking of his own will. And I praise him as I pray for this unlikely servant in the White House. I pray for Jerusalem and I pray for millions to be saved and I pray for more Supreme Court Justices who will support the various states as they try to protect the unborn. And I keep this in mind:

1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV) “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

 

 

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“Deism” – The (Almost) Perfect Solution to the Problem of Evil in Our World”

May 11, 2018

This article is a bit long. I suggest a fastening of the seat belts! Ok….it is probably the oldest theological question of all. Namely “If God exists, and if He is all- powerful and if He is all-loving, why does He (did He) allow evil into His world?” Or, as C.S. Lewis supposedly said: “I can believe that God is all-powerful. And I can believe that God is all-loving. My problem is believing He is all-powerful and all-loving at the same time.” That makes sense. If God is who the Bible says He is, why does he allow so much suffering? Or, as a young friend said to me recently “I can’t believe in a God who will answer your prayer about some little thing but allow a young girl to be raped and murdered. I want nothing to do with such a belief system.” But…God does answer prayers, sometimes very small ones. And, as we all know, God does allow a great deal of evil. So…how are we to possibly reconcile these realities? Let’s consider…

Before saying more, let me point out that this article is not meant to persuade anyone that God exists. Although I do not believe that anyone anywhere is really an atheist, despite their claims to hold that position. I say that because Romans Chapter One points out that everyone knows there is a God. The creation itself makes that clear. Those who insist there is no God are simply at enmity with him. They insist on being their own God; idolatry begins with self.

Awhile back I asked a self-avowed atheist a question as we sat in his beautiful home. I said “Would you take me seriously if I suggested that this house got here because of an explosion at a lumber yard and at a fine furniture store? That it all simply came down…just like this?” Of course not, although he was quite unwilling to acknowledge my point. It was obvious that a designer and architect and builders brought that structure about. He was not persuaded. In the same way, the creation itself with its order and seasons and design make it obvious that there was a Creator. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

Romans 1:19-20 (NIV) 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Setting those thoughts aside, this blog post is directed at people who are prepared to say that there is a God somehow, some way. And it is also intended for Christians who struggle with the question: “Why Does a Good God Allow Evil?”

There have been suggestions offered by some writers of theology. One “solution” came in the form of a book by a Rabbi named Harold Kushner. Published in 1981, “When Bad things Happen to Good People” was quite popular. Kushner had endured the early death of a beloved son. He wrote with compassion and depth. But, in my view, his book was unhelpful. Why? Because its basic thesis was that God is finite in his abilities to control the world he has made. In other words, “God is doing the best he can.” We should understand this and not expect God to always “come through” for us.

That line of thought is nonsense. The God of the Bible is all-powerful. He created the heavens and the earth. He created the nation of Israel and called it to himself. He   opened the Red Sea and delivered his people from Egypt. He revealed Himself again and again and raised Jesus from the dead! Re-defining God is pointless. In any case, that is exactly the issue. If God exists, He must be able to break in upon our world and when He does not do so it is not a matter of in-ability on his part. It is his sovereignty at work.

So. Rabbi Kushner meant well but did not provide a solution. But going much further back, we are confronted with the theological system known as Deism. A quick review here: Deism began in the seventeenth century in England and spread across Europe. Before long, it became popular in the American colonies. Colonial leaders like Franklin, Jefferson and Payne were Deists. Why did they embrace it and what does it assert? Deism argues that yes, there is an all-powerful God and yes, he is just! And yes, there will be a Judgment Day. But, according to His own good pleasure, he is watching his creation, and he does not intervene in it. He is like a great clock-maker who made the time piece and wound it up. He set in on the table and he has stepped back to watch it but he will not touch it again until the end.

What is the appeal of Deism? It allows the theist, the believer in God, to believe without expectations. It solves the problem of evil by assuring us that God hates evil, but he does not break in to impede it or defeat it. It appealed to the early Deists because it was the perfect solution to the riddle. God, according to the Deists, IS THERE and HE DOES CARE but don’t expect him to get involved supernaturally.

The quintessential example of Deistic thinking was found in the “Jefferson Bible.” It was a very thin New Testament. Why? Because Mr. Jefferson took out all the miracles insisting they were mythical nonsense. But he did like the ethical teachings of Jesus, so he left them in! Of course. For a true Deist, miracles do not happen. Thus, Deism was the “perfect” solution. Jefferson and others could believe in a just and Holy God, but they were relieved of the angst that comes when man contemplates evil.

In my view, most Americans are Deists without knowing the word Deism. They are theistic. They believe in God. But they have rescued God from the accusation that he should do more. They understand the “Rules of the Divine Game.” They believe in God; they simply expect very little from him. Thus, they do not wrestle with the question at hand. Namely, why does a loving and all-powerful God allow evil? For the Deist, God takes note and God hates evil, but he will deal with it later when Judgement comes. For now, he simply watches.

Here’s the problem for Deism. If we can observe even one miracle, Deism collapses. So, Deism craters immediately if Jesus was raised from the dead (which he was!) The many proofs both internal and external to the Resurrection are not in our purview in this article. (Any reader desiring to discuss the veracity of the Resurrection accounts is invited to interact on this topic; debate is welcome! And I will respond.)

The Resurrection is the ultimate undoing of Deistic theory…the idea that God does not break into human events. To say nothing of the many other miracles found in Scripture. For me…it contradicts the healing of my back many years ago after an injury…and the millions of other testimonies to healing. God does break in! But, truth be told, often He does not. So, in the end, Deism is not helpful. (Believe me, as a Pastor who has seen everything in the way of suffering, I have often thought it would be easier to be a Deist. It would explain suicides and disease and broken families…everything. I could simply tell suffering people “God loves you, but He will not break in on your life. He’ll make everything better…later.” )

As has been said: “A God who could be fully understood could not be God.” In the end, judging God is the ultimate expression of pride and a lack of humility on steroids. I might liken it to an event years ago when one of our sons was small and requested permission to stay over-night at a friend’s house. In his mind, it was a reasonable petition because they were a nice family. But I knew that the husband and wife were locked in mortal combat and their household was characterized by tension and fighting. I told him we’d rather he did not go there. He was insistent. Almost demanding to know why we were not agreeable. But, of course, I could not tell him. Finally, I asked him if he was willing to simply trust us that we had a good reason? He hesitated. I closed the discussion by saying “Look…there are things you do not know. You’ll just have to believe me.” He was not happy. The Holy Spirit is always saying to us “There are things you do not know.” Often, we are not happy.

Actually, this whole issue revolves around what Lewis called “God in the Dock.” Stay with me here. This is interesting. Lewis suggested that man approaches God as if he (man) had him (God) in the courtroom dock being examined by man the prosecutor. Filled with indignation and certainty, the man demands that God explain his actions and choices. The man IS QUITE PREPARED TO FIND GOD GUILTY ON SEVERAL COUNTS. After all, God unwisely created a world that allowed evil. He neglected to remove that evil. He even took part in it through wars and genocide (see the Old Testament ). One big et cetera here! Man has God “in the dock” and man is going to let him have it!

The absurdity of this word picture should be obvious. God is not a human responding to man’s indictment. Man may think that is so, but it is nonsense. The fact is that God is God and his ways are certainly beyond our comprehension. This is why when Job finally appeared before God, the Almighty spoke to him.  We read:

Job 38:1-6 (NIV) 1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone?

This line of thought goes on for several chapters until Job finally confesses that he is way over his pay-grade bringing charges against God. Our suffering friend admits:

Job 40:4-5 (NIV) 4 “I am unworthy–how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer– twice, but I will say no more.”

In other words, Job has just realized that he must love God and seek God and serve God UNCONDITIONALLY! God does things HIS WAY and that includes allowing evil to be in our world. Indeed, God did not just allow evil in general, he even ordained it in the life of Jesus. Peter put it this way when he preached in Acts Chapter Two:

Acts 2:23 (NIV) 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Did this make God an accomplice to evil? No. It showed the world that God used evil (the Crucifixion) for his own purposes and ultimate good. So…there it is. The ultimate decision. WILL WE BELIEVE IN God AND LOVE GOD UNCONDITIONALLY? OR WILL WE ONLY LOVE God IF HE EXPLAINS HIMSELF TO US AND EVEN APOLOGIZES TO US FOR HOW HE DOES THINGS?

In closing, we do well to consider the plight of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they refused to worship the idol that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They were headed to the blazing furnace. Yet here is what they said:

Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV) 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Do we have this attitude of “…even if he does not?” Can we accept the reality that God is involved in his world but does things contrary to how we would do them?  Can we accept the fact that God saves one person and not the other? That when Jesus healed a blind man, other blind men remained blind? Will we tell God that he may not answer our small prayer until he answers bigger more important prayers that are being offered up? Will we demand that God must do things…our way?

Two things cannot help us. ONE: Deism, because God is involved. TWO: Telling God what he can and cannot do is blasphemous. As the Prophet Jeremiah said:

Jeremiah 10:7 (NIV) 7 Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.

God be praised! Blessings! Pastor Alberta

 

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“Mocked, Belittled, Persecuted…Why Are We Christians Surprised?

The Lord Jesus Christ said this:

John 15:20-21 (NIV) 20 “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

The Apostle Paul said this:

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NIV) 15 “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?”

There’s an interesting scene in the movie “The Help.” It is the story of a group of black women who in the fifties and sixties worked as housemaids in Mississippi. One of the main characters is a spoiled and uppity white woman named “Hillie.” Particularly obnoxious, one morning she is approached by her maid. Hard-working and polite, the young woman asks Hillie if she could provide a small advance on her pay because she is a little short on her son’s college tuition. A reasonable request. But Hillie responds with condescension and visible cruelty. It’s obvious that she does not want to be helpful. Her husband quickly bolts from the breakfast table leaving Hillie to deal with the maid. What does she say? “As a Christian, I will help you by not helping you because you need to do this on your own.” (Or something like that) So…she takes the opportunity to portray the hypocritical Christian as cheap and uncaring and repulsive.

Once again, Hollywood characterizes the “Christian” as hateful, mean-spirited and cruel. The first time I saw that scene, I thought “If Hillie is a Christian I am a Martian!” But, as you know, the film industry and the unbelieving culture can be depended upon to mock all things Christian. And often they are obsessively suspicious!

Now…before saying more…we must admit that some people claiming to be Christians are downright nasty and certainly un-Christlike. They carry signs that say, “God Hates Fags!” Or they show up at funerals and disrupt a family’s privacy. Such people give all true believers a bad name. I am not speaking of those folks but rather simple, garden-variety, every day, well-behaved Christians who are held in contempt by many in our culture. Why are such polite and “good neighbor” Christians often hated? Why is that? We’ll return to that question.

Consider the Chick-fil-a restaurant chain. They are opening several locations in New York City.
Recently, a writer named Dan Piepenbring wrote an article in the New Yorker. In a wave of hysteria, he suggests that Chick-fil-a is acting as follows:

“…the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.”

What is Mr. Piepenbring’s cause for alarm? That leadership at Chick-fil-a is known to oppose gay marriage and to have Bible verses visible in its headquarters…and its stores are closed on Sundays…and that the company’s “bigotry” is well-known. For Mr. Piepenbring, the management of Chick-fil-a are nothing less than religious terrorists who are obviously planning to bring down America in a tidal wave of chicken sandwiches and praise music! Thus, they are “infiltrating” the City of New York! Interesting that business could not be better for Chick-fil-a in that city; apparently even the non-religious really like their menu! But would a serious writer really see the presence of a company managed by Christians as actually subversive and dangerous? Apparently…yes.

Those who hate the Gospel want to litigate about everything from cake baking to a football coach who was dismissed for praying with his players. Of course, all of these things are mostly “soft persecution.” In many places around the world, Christians are being persecuted as badly as they were treated in the third century. It’s been estimated that more Christians have been martyred for their faith in the last half century than in all previous centuries combined. And that is saying something!

For the first three centuries of the church, Christians were jailed, beaten and executed wholesale at times. The Emperor Nero used Christians as human torches for his garden parties thru the night. In fact, even a brief review of the early church sufferings will shock most believers today. It was not until 313 AD that the Emperor Constantine decreed that Christians were not to be persecuted. In fact, in a burst of enthusiasm, he declared that from that point forward everyone should become a Christian! A policy that no doubt filled the true church will hordes of unbelievers. In any case, persecution was known and expected thru the centuries by those who followed Christ.

Today, such bias and cruelty are still mixed with politics. EPC Pastor Andrew Brunson has been held prisoner in Turkey for nearly two years. He faces a possible thirty-five-year jail sentence. Having been a missionary expressing his love towards the Turks for twenty-three years, this accusation by the government is surely nonsense. Yet, following the unrest of two years ago in Turkey, he stands accused as a collaborator. His real crime? Sharing Christ…no doubt.

That is hard persecution. Here is more of the soft type. I have personally grown weary of non-evangelicals criticizing, even mocking, evangelicals who “sacrificed” their moral integrity by voting for Donald Trump. Heartsick over the moral issue of killing the unborn, many of us found Mrs. Clinton totally unthinkable and were quite willing to take our chances on the unsettling Mr. Trump. But, for some reason, non-evangelicals find the evangelical vote fair game for condescension. One suspects they simply are not interested in our explanations.

Yet….in my view, the distain that many show to Christians is really rooted in something deeper. Usually, it is Christ in us that they despise. I experienced this for months some years ago when I publicly preached against gay marriage. So many of our “tolerant” friends could not stop hating and reviling long enough to even listen to my points. But my love for the Word of God was the real offense. It took awhile for me to realize that speaking out for Christ will truly be, as Paul said, a stench in the nostrils of many unbelievers.

There are some, to be sure, who just don’t care. But many others have figured out what evangelicals are really saying. Namely, that if one does not receive Christ one will be lost for eternity. Hostile unbelievers are usually living with a quiet rage against the true Christian because of what we believe. They may not be able to quote John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life…no one comes to the father except thru me!” But they know that is what the New Testament teaches and since they do not want God in their lives, they are offended. We must not be surprised. This may include people we truly care about…including unsaved family. The Lord Jesus Christ said:

Matthew 10:22 (NIV) “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Thus, we are to the hardened unbeliever, as Paul said, “the smell of death!” So…what are we to do? Realize with pity the lost state of the mocker or persecutor. Pray for that person(s).

Remember what they did to Jesus and his teaching that “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they abused him, they might well abuse us. In closing, a quick story. A very gifted young preacher told me about some severe criticism that he received after a certain sermon. He was a little disappointed. So, I said “Well…one day Jesus preached a perfect sermon (Luke Chapter Four) and the listeners tried to push him off a cliff!” In the end, consider the words of our Lord:

Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV) 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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“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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