The Problem of Our Culture

The recent school shooting in Florida brings another heartbreaking moment to our nation, but especially to those whose lives will never be the same because of the loss of loved ones or close friends.  We see such an event as senseless (and it is) and want to “fix” the problem (which is a proper response).

And so, politicians and leaders of all kinds once again make authoritative pronouncements on how the problem can be solved.  These pronouncements sound an awful like the ones made in the past.  But somehow making schools “gun free zones” or piling on more laws and regulations do not seem to be working. And the hot debate over the 2nd  Amendment to the US Constitution will heat up all the more.  How can this problem be solved?

Probably most do not want our country to become a police state where citizens are stripped of many rights in order to control life (with the idea of keeping us safe).  So are more laws and new laws the answer?  It is possible that legislation might be enacted that could help a little.  But whatever legislators might come up with really is just a bandaid on the situation.  The foundational matter is generally not talked about in the halls of congress or state legislatures, because of the propensity to keep God and His truth out of the discussion.

The brilliant rabbi/apostle Paul logically, clearly and forcibly sets forth our present situation, and by application, the solution to it.  In his letter to the Christians at Rome, he gave the basic principle of life; that when people reject/neglect the moral standards that the Creator God has set forth for His creation, then multiple bad things happen.  With this rejection comes the phenomenon of a “depraved mind” (Rom. 1:28).  This is speaking of a person who fundamentally is without conscience and is mentally twisted.  One of the dozen or so results from such a “depraved mind” is murder (Rom. 1:29).  Living life individually, or as a culture, according to God’s truth and standards keeps most all of this kind of behavior away.

So, until our culture sees its growing independence from God, and the aggressive (and often arrogant) departure from His standards as reckless, and turns back to His standards (often referred to as the Judeo-Christian ethic), this problem will never go away.  Next week, or next month, some other person with a “depraved mind” will emerge from the growing pool of those with “depraved minds” and commit a gruesome atrocity.

The heart of the problem must be addressed if our nation is going to put a lid on these terrible events.  God really does know best. This is something that many of our “elites” apparently refuse to admit.

Illegal Immigrants (DACA Included)

The politicians assure us that they are deeply interested in the fate of illegal immigrants (including DACA).  Color me cynical, but it doesn’t seem that many of these politicians are really concerned about them. Their inner concern seems to be on how this matter is going to affect getting re-elected and staying in power. It is fascinating to observe that there are politicians who today hold views that are exactly opposite of what they championed just a few short years ago. Granted, this is a complex issue, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out as politicians in Washington DC and elsewhere try to sort it all out.

God gave some interesting directions to the nation of Israel on the matter of foreigners that would come into that nation.  Perhaps there are some ideas and guidelines that we can learn from Israel’s law code (e.g. Lev. 20; Deut. 10; 15; 21).  Several truths are discovered in looking at these operating principles given to Israel.  First, compassion is always a good thing. Very short term help for itinerate foreigners was to be given (e.g. food for dinner). The point was that Israelites were once aliens in Egypt, and they were to remember what that was like.  Second, there was a time element involved. Time was needed, as it would take time for a foreigner to adjust and learn about life in Israel. Third, there was difference between genuinely needy Israelites and aliens. Israelites were to be taken care of, but that did not apply to aliens. Israel was not responsible for wandering Moabites, Edomites, etc.  There were many differences between Israelites and the foreigner amongst them (eg the rules for debts and interest charged was very different). Just because a foreigner was in the land area of Israel did not give them the rights of an Israelite.  Fourth, any foreigner identifying with Israel had to obey the laws of Israel.  If they didn’t, then they would be punished (sometimes by death) and/or removed from the nation. Fifth, it appears that applying the principles was done on a case by case basis. Maybe some of the guidelines found in Israel’s law code might provide some help in sorting out this complex issue.

Perhaps some version of the following might be of value.

  • No government handouts for non-citizens apart from very short-term aid of an emergency nature.
  • Time. A two year probation (just to give a number) would be imposed during which time any criminal behavior would result in punishment and deportation after punishment was concluded.
  • Time is also needed for foreigners to comprehend the way we live life and do business in America.  Some come from countries where our American standards (many of which come from Israel’s law code) simply are not understood. Their view of family (maybe having multiple wives or women being second class), theft (by which they might have, in the past, provided for their extended family), cleanliness (e.g. public defecation) and a work ethic (which may not exist).
  • During the two year probationary period the individual must be gainfully employed and paying income taxes.
  • Whatever requirements for those going on the legal immigrant route, would also be required of these.
  • During the two year probationary period, these would not be eligible for government handouts.
  • After the two year probationary period, the individual could apply for immediate citizenship (assuming there was nothing by which they would be disqualified).

There was clearly wisdom in the way this matter of aliens was legislated in the Law Code of Israel and maybe some truths could be transferred.

Cultural Slide and Church Slide

It is neither new news, nor fake news, that the church has always had to live in a culture while resisting being infected by that culture. It has not been easy to be near the mud puddle without being splashed with mud to one extent or another. Generally the church, through the ages, has not been gloriously successful in this endeavor. Unfortunately, these days are proving not to be any different.

Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC has recently announced that they have called a married lesbian couple to be their co-pastors.  One has a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School and the other has a Masters in Theology from Emory University. The church is apparently happy with the academic status of their new pastors, but they are especially delighted in the vision these two women have for Calvary Baptist; a vision of being a church where those who find themselves “disregarded and maligned” (particularly in sexual orientation) will be warmly accepted. The church is to be a place where “justice and compassion” reign, according to the press release.

So what are we to make of such matters?  First, our response is neither shock nor disbelief.  We know that once the standard is no longer what God has revealed in His Word, then the standard will be set by the culture. And, it should be noted, that the standards of culture have never been nor ever will be better or more beneficial than the ones God has given to mankind.  Second, Jesus, the Lord of the Church, has not over the years become disinterested in how church’s live and behave. It is true that He is so very loving and patient, but He is never tolerant of the willful disregard of “you are to be holy because I am holy”.  (He made this clear to the Church in the incident with Ananias and Sapphira, in Acts 5).  While there might be rejoicing in DC over this great “progress”, there is no such mood in heaven where day and night the angels declare the holiness of God (Rev. 4). Third, because He is the one and only Lord of the church, all of us are accountable to Him. As Hebrews 10:31 warns even believers: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God”. Our task as bondservants of Christ is to faithfully, tenaciously hold on to the Word of God, and proclaim it, even if that means we are labeled “intolerant”, “unloving”, “insensitive” and other pejorative terms. We are to be like Jesus who was “full of grace and truth”. He never compromised one in favor of the other. Let us walk in His steps as we navigate near the mud puddle.


The church in North America is badly infected with MTD and it likely going to get worse in 2018.  This spiritual disease is now so rampant and pervasive, that the spiritual health of the church will undoubtedly continue to decline noticeably.

But, you say, what is MTD? It sounds really bad.  Some years ago this label was employed to describe (with accuracy, I believe) a growing theological idea spreading in the church.  MTD stands for Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  Quite a mouthful.  But essentially it alters one’s view of God, salvation and purpose of life. It says that there is a good, nice God who created and watches over the world; and He wants us to be good and nice to one another, and He says so in the Bible, and also in most other religions.  And the main goal He has for life is that we are happy and feel good about ourselves.  However, on a daily basis, it is not really necessary to involve Him in our lives. But He is there if and when we run into problem and difficulties, and He is happy (and apparently even obligated) to bail us out.  And, because He is nice, we are told that good people will all end up going to heaven. And if you listen closely, these ideas are being heralded to tens of thousands each week in churches and over the air waves.

What has brought MTD about is that over the past 60 years there has been the lack of solid, biblical teaching of the Word of God. Good theological instruction is not what folks want and they are quite satisfied with the sweet, frothy motivational stuff that passes regularly for biblical preaching.  But this should not come as a complete shock to us.  The writers of the New Testament foretold this happening as this age moved along.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” (The Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3-4)

The solution to MTD, of course, is a return to the careful exposition of God’s Word.  To replace the Word with MTD is to replace the nourishing wheat with the valueless chaff.  But, frankly, it does not seem hopeful that 2018 will witness the return to the expository preaching of the Scriptures in American churches.  Os Guiness said, in his book “Dining with the Devil”, that today’s churches are fundamentally interested in “nickles and noses”; that is, in money and attendance.  MTD brings in lots of people, as the Apostle predicted.  And, in spite of the declarations by most MTDers that they are seeking to reach people and see them changed, the truth is that only the Word proclaimed can transform people (Rom 12:2).


Often in the high stress days that surround Christmas, we tend to forget the most fundamental focus of this event.  It is that God loved the world so very much that He sent His Son into this world to deliver people from sin, shame and meaningless lives to a life of peace, purpose and joy.

God took on human flesh, in the womb of a virgin, so that He could be born into the world of mankind.  He did this expressly to restore what had been lost back in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose disobedience and so broke their fellowship with Him.  At that moment in Eden, God could have just washed His hands of the whole thing, and started over again with two more responsible and obedient people.  But instead, we witness His amazing love for us in that He chose to restore and reconcile what was lost back then.

And the wonderful truth is that He still, in this Christmas season of 2017, loves people so very much.  Many people see themselves as pretty unlovable because of the things they have done or the failures in their lives; failed personal relationships, addictions, really unpleasant attitudes and some very bad deeds done in the past.

We all, to one degree or another, have experienced some or all of the above items.  But to restore us back into a life-giving relationship with our wonderful Creator God is why the baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem ages ago. That innocent little One would, some 35 years later, die a terrible death on a Roman cross to pay for the sins of all people in all ages.  Now that is love.

Since Jesus paid it all that day on the cross, all that remains is that those who need a savior (which happens to include us all) need accept God’s gracious offer of salvation and to place their trust in Him, and when they do that, they will be set free from failure (sin) and given eternal life.  Probably the greatest Christmas verse ever is John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”


Well it is that time of year again: Deck the halls with advertising, ‘tis the season for merchandising!  “Black Friday” is now history but fear not, the fantastic, unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime, time sensitive, three days only sales are just beginning.  Now, I have no real quarrel with buying stuff at this time of year, nor with people getting presents for others.  I do not rage inside when someone greets me with “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas”.  I do not feel faint when a sign reads “Holiday Trees” instead of “Christmas Trees.”  In our diverse, and fairly materialistic culture, all this is to be expected.

But we who by faith know the baby of Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus Christ, need to consider how we might best remind those in our sphere of influence of the eternal significance of this event.  It was that moment when in the “fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…” to deal with the core issue that mankind faces: the need to be restored back to a relationship with God.  The Bible tells us very little about that event in Bethlehem (many of the “Christmas traditions” have nothing to do with what is found in the Bible). But it does tell us a great deal about why that event is a critical one: it is that the destiny of each and every individual is at stake.  Jesus was born, as God’s great gift to mankind, in order to die on the Cross so that the sin problem would be taken care of once and for all.  Eternal life is granted to every person who places their faith in Jesus, the one and only Savior.  Now that really is a big deal.

So, maybe we could be a little more proactive this Christmas season (even though it is unlikely Jesus was born on December 25th), reminding folks that the Savior entered the world.  If we decorate our house, let’s make sure Jesus is somewhere in those decorations. As we come in contact with others in our neighborhood, our workplace or school, or just with random encounters, let’s be looking for openings to share the significance of this season.  At this time of year, many folks get frustrated, angry and/or depressed, so let’s reflect the joy, grace and peace that a real follower of Christ possesses…one who knows the real importance of the Christmas season.

SEX in DC, LA and ETC

During these past weeks, it is hard not to notice the flurry of intense activity in the news, on the internet and other places dealing with the matter of sexual misconduct among the rich and powerful. Daily, it seems, more and more revelations come out about the sexual misdeeds of many powerful individuals.  Men and women, apparently against their wills, were subjected to some pretty debasing behaviors from others with money, power and influence. People were abused, violated and humiliated by those who were predators, whose only purpose was to satisfy their raging lusts. And then, there are those who seek many sexual experiences trying to bring some sort of excitement and satisfaction to their lives. In various places and ways, there are those who advertise their sexual prowess. I saw recently where one woman claims to have had over 1,000 men with whom she had sex; apparently, we are to be impressed with this. But, while our response might be that of interest, disgust or something else, the real issue is not being talked about.

The real issue has to do with sex, as designed by the good Creator God. Sex is a good thing given to mankind by God Himself.  It was to be an uplifting and enjoyable part of human experience.  God designed it, approved it and encouraged it…among those who are married.  Only in the marriage relationship does sex have its good and proper place.  Sex was designed to be the capstone of a love relationship.  Undergirding it was to be the friendship and commitment of a man and woman, and further it was to be supported by two people doing what is best for the other person. This is the opposite of the “playboy” philosophy where sex is the foundation for the relationship and where “my needs” reign supreme over everything else. But the “playboy” approach is 180 degrees from its designed purpose, and constitutes the basic reason why “affairs” just don’t last. Affairs are self-centered to the core.

Sex was designed to be enjoyable.  If sexual activity was not pleasurable, it is doubtful we humans would be particularly interested.  But it is.  What is terribly sad is that so many engage in sexual relations apart from God’s grand design for it, with the result that (while they certainly have some temporary times of excitement) they never really experience the fullness of what God created for them.  And they eventually discover that sex outside of a healthy marriage relationship is subject to the law of diminishing results. More and more sexual partners does not bring greater pleasure. One more sexual conquest will not do it. And this lack of fulfillment is what often leads many to more perverted sexual activities.  These folks long for more but will never experience that apart from God’s design.  Scriptural portions like Genesis 1:27-28, the Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5:15-23 elevate our human sexuality to the place that God Himself gave it. Kinsey, Hefner, Freud, Hollywood and the late night talk show hosts have turned from God’s revelation on this matter, and once again fall into the condition of “professing themselves to be wise they became fools.”

Are Natural Disasters the Wrath of God?

Epic wildfires in California, multiple hurricanes with catastrophic flooding on several coasts, and a slaughter in Las Vegas, have recently taken a toll on the people and resources of our country. Some, having a sense that there may be a god or force “out there”, do wonder WHY such a cluster of events have been taking place (and wonder are there more to come?).  Others, seeing themselves as less superstitious and more scientific, just see these things as the uncontrollable forces of “mother nature” (or in the case of Las Vegas, another evidence of the madness that people are capable of). Still others see this as the judgments of God who doesn’t like the arrogant disregard of people for Himself and His ways.

From a biblical perspective, the Creator God has used (and will use in the future) the natural world to discipline wayward people.  As evidence, we can see the flood of Noah’s day (Gen. 6), the plagues on Egypt (Exo. 7-9), the seven years of famine on Egypt (Gen. 41) and literally dozens of other examples in the Bible.  So, is that is what is happening in America?  Some say “yes”, claiming that they have gotten a special word from God Himself on the subject. I can make no such claim.  But I am convinced that Jesus has an important point on the matter.  In Luke 13:4, Jesus talked about a recent tragedy in His day:


Jesus does not answer our “why” question nor does He dismiss such events as random and uncontrollable.  What He does say, is that we are to seriously consider these events and recognize that we could be the ones entering eternity. With that in mind, according to Jesus, repenting of our sin would be the prudent thing to do. To face eternity without a clear knowledge of where that eternity will be spent is the most reckless thing that a person can do.  Fortunately, John 3:16 is still in play.

Beware the False Prophets

On September 23, 2017 the rapture did not occur, millions did not die, Revelation 12 was not fulfilled, and the world as we know it did not come to an end.  And yet, prior to that date the internet was buzzing with multiple people prophesying of wonderful or terrible events that would take place on that date. Aside from me missing lunch that day and new neighbors moving in, nothing remarkable happened.

These self-styled prophets deservedly are seen as religious hucksters who lack any real credibility.  But the real problem in all of this is that the Bible itself takes a hit.  The Bible is filled with yet unfulfilled prophecies and these are designed to alert us to ultimate realities, such as the sovereign workings of God and the need for people to get into a right relation with God through Jesus Christ. The Bible lets us know that there is an eternity lying ahead for everyone and it tells us just what God is going to do to bring His purposes to fulfillment. But these self-styled receivers of revelation fabricate predictions to call attention to themselves, make money or see how many “likes” they can accumulate. But the damage they do is immense because many people come to view all prophetic teaching as nonsense or irrelevant.

The Apostles of the New Testament and the prophets of the Old Testament warn us time and again about the presence of those who claim they speak for God, but whose prophecies are the products of their own imaginations.  Does not Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 13 accurately portray the prophets of September 23, 2017?

The absence of bad news

It is not new news to believers that the folks around us need to hear the good news about Jesus.  There is, however, some bad news that is attached to the good news, but is hardly ever talked about.

Simply put, the bad news is that if a person does not embrace the good news and trust in the God-man, Jesus Christ who died and rose again, these will end up in the “lake of fire” forever.  There is a terrible consequence for a person who does not receive God’s free gift of salvation through Christ.  The Book of Revelation refers to it as the “second death”, which means that an individual is forever separated from God.  Jesus spoke often of darkness, deep grief and extreme anguish for those who do not possess eternal life.  The Apostle Paul described this second death as eternal, meaning existence where Christ rejecters will experience total ruination of what human life was supposed to be; a kind of constant depression. So the bad news really is bad.

When was the last time you heard a sermon devoted to the consequences of rejecting or neglecting the good news?  Or a Bible study which was focused on eternal damnation that awaits an unbelieving person.  Have we really given the complete good news if we fail to include the consequences—the bad news? Our culture of tolerance and broadmindedness has muffled our voices on this important matter; and we are fearful that we will be branded as narrow, unloving or other negatives.