Gays and ‘the Real Family of God’

Bernie Diaz, June 16, 2021

I initially thought I would refrain from posting anything about “Gay Pride Month” in June, which by its very name and nature, troubles me as it does many biblical Christians, who have been watching so much of our country and its culture celebrate and take pride in what scripture clearly calls damnable sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

However, as I thought of making greater application here, to the sermon I  preached last Sunday at my church on the “Real Family of God” (Mark 3:31-35), I was drawn to the idea of ‘killing two birds with one stone”, if you will.

Thus, I pose this question: What does former American Idol celebrity David Archuleta’s ‘coming out’ announcement of his multi-sexuality, have to do with a message on the family that Jesus Christ prioritized over his own blood relatives in the gospels?  

Archuleta like many secularists and even some other ‘professing’ Christians, have far too long confused and conflated gospel forgiveness with ongoing sin and what it means to belong to the family of God. In fact, the very definition of family- what it is and means, is up for grabs today in the midst of the sexual revolution.

The revolutionaries and feminists see the traditional, biblically based, nuclear family (2 parents with biological children) as a straight- jacket. They view the family as being outdated, oppressive, controlling and just no fun at all.

While others- particularly the mainstream view of the revolution as seen in culture (TV, movies, Hollywood), pictures LGTBQ families as normative enough to take a form of national “pride” in it, so one can make of it whatever one wants, so long as you ‘love’ someone or some people at any given time.

In contrast, Jesus Christ shared a rather stark and thought- provoking definition of family when he spoke to an assembled crowd in Galilee as recorded in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

He was interrupted by his relatives- which included his mother Mary, his half-brothers and sister, who sent a message that they wanted to speak to him outside of a congregational venue, perhaps to take him away from what they perceived to be a Pharisaical danger – his preaching about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the unforgiveable sin.

Jesus responded to the message by saying to the assembly of his disciples, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:34c-35).”

That was a bomb right then and there to any Jew within earshot, who believed that family consisted of blood relatives exclusively and that any spiritual and familial connection one might have with God, would be predicated upon one’s heritage (Israel) or upbringing, or a mere mental assent to some facts or features about Jesus.

In the gospel of the new covenant however, Jesus identified his real or true family members- those of the greatest relationship to him, as his bride, as the church of the redeemed, those that not only profess faith in him, but show that they posses saving faith by their obedience to his revealed will and word.

That word which reveals the will of God for his image bearers, is that they are prohibited from manifesting behavior or a heart or orientation towards sin, such as those of fornication (sexual) of any kind, including homosexuality (Gen. 19; Lev. 18, 20; Deut. 22; Ro. 1; 1 Cor. 6; 1 Tim. 1).

Gays and God   

Now, contrast that truth with those who are unfortunately enslaved to sexual sin and a corresponding identity to it, who also claim allegiance to Christ, such as Mr. Archuleta, who recently said, “You can be part of the LGBTQIA+ (I= Intersex and A= allies or asexual) community and still believe in God and His gospel plan.” 

Is that claim true? Mind you that statement comes from a pop singer, who claims to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism), which is a cult religion that holds to heretical, non-biblical views of Jesus and the doctrine of salvation to begin with.

Nonetheless, Archuleta rightly described in his Instagram post the struggle that homosexuals share with faith, in trying to live an abnormal, sexual lifestyle, identify with it as if it were an inherent, ethnic like trait and at the same time attempt to believe in the God of the Bible and a Lord and Savior who clearly condemns that orientation and conduct.

Since that position is untenable, the sexual sinner must either misinterpret the teaching of scripture as God’s sole authority of truth, or disobey it altogether, in order to continue in the lifestyle and its identity, thereby  excluding himself from membership to the real family of God.

Tragically- for now, David Archuleta and like others like him are doing just that, claiming that God has either created them that way (LGTBQ+) or ‘for a purpose’ of some sort in his kingdom. This idea of course of the existence of a “gay gene”, enables a homosexual to justify his ‘identity’ and adherence to some form of Christianity or another religion, meeting the inherent need to worship a creator, that everyone on this planet possess whether they admit it or not.

For the impenitent fornicator, their god happens to be an idol of their own making, since they will not honor or thank the true God of the Bible, who created them (Ro. 1:21), to submit to his will in relationship.

So, how would we answer a David Archuleta, who insists that God created the homosexual as is, with perfectly natural and acceptable desires and behaviors, and who is more than capable of entering into the family of God as a ‘gay Christian’ or person of faith- with “pride?”

The scientific answer for the strict secularist is that there has never been, nor is there currently any objective and conclusive proof of a single gay gene or biological disposition to same-sexuality among humans. Any research or news reports to the contrary, have been disproven by now.

Furthermore, were it ever proven in the future that such a genetic inclination to same-sexuality existed, it would not from a moral perspective, justify that sin for a follower of Christ, anymore than a newborn who inherited a biological predisposition to anger and violence, would be justified in assaulting another person or a crack baby from using and abusing cocaine as an adult.

We are cursed by original sin and regardless of our tainted genetic inclinations, we are all responsible moral free agents who choose to sin or not to sin, and then suffer the consequences of doing so.

Spiritually and theologically, aberrant sexual behavior, which is a perversion of God’s created order for mankind, is the result of the fall and consequently, man’s deceitful and wicked hearts, prone to the “lusts of the eyes, the flesh and the pride of life” (1 Jo. 2).

This is why homosexuality has been around for three millennia of human history.

The only thing new about sexual sin in western civilization, is that its governments and societies- reflected by its culture, have largely chosen to legalize and therefore, legitimize this sin over the last two decades or so. From a biblical worldview however, what is often legal, is also often immoral and unrighteous.

If David Archuleta brought his sexual struggle to my attention during this ‘gay pride’ month or any other day, I would hope I could show him my love for God and for him as my neighbor, by speaking the truth in love to him, sharing his need for repentance of sin and faith in Christ alone for redemption and salvation.

I would tell him that hope and healing can be found for him in the gospel. I would add that rather than arguing with him about politics or making a superficial change in lifestyles, I would tell him to turn to God. I would tell him If we have mass murders at schools, it has to do with our rejection of God. Abuse of women, people of color and homosexuality- it has to do with our rejection of God. If people are in darkness, they need light. I would try to show and share Jesus Christ with him.

It was that light that brought author and speaker Rosaria Butterfield, a former, radical lesbian out of the darkness, as she testified: To be clear, I was not converted out of homosexuality. I was converted out of unbelief. I didn’t swap out a lifestyle. I died to a life I loved… How I feel does not tell me who I am.

Only God can tell me who I am, because he made me and takes care of me.

He tells me that we are all born as male and female image bearers with souls that will last forever and gendered bodies that will either suffer eternally in hell or be glorified in the New Jerusalem.

Mrs. Butterfield has been healed and cleansed by the blood of Christ. Yes, we are condemned by our sin if we remain “stiff-necked” and impenitent, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10). 

But by faith in our substitute on the cross who resurrected to kill sin and death, we can be clean…

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11).

Let’s remember and share the truth that we all come into the real family of God by the cross of Christ, no matter who we think we are.

Whatever Happened to the ‘Protestant Work Ethic?’

Bernie Diaz, June 10, 2021

Our season of the COVID pandemic and social unrest in the United States has raised more than a few ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions over the last year. Among them were, “Why did the election cycle turnout the way it did?” Why has the pandemic and the chaotic policies and protocols surrounding it lasted this long?”

If that weren’t enough, recent economic trends and mere observation over the past several months have led me- among others, to ask, “Whatever happened to the Protestant Work Ethic in this country?” 

Help wanted signs are hanging everywhere, want ads are being ignored and scheduled job interviews are missed without notice by prospective applicants, leaving businesses- many of them retail stores and restaurants severely short-handed, hungry to fill vacant positions and bereft of offering adequate service leaving consumers more frustrated by the day.

These COVID related factors are pointing to some troubling economic trends. Job openings rose nearly 8 percent to a record-breaking 8.1 million in March of this year, according to a Labor Department report released last month. Yet overall hiring rose only 4 percent, revealing a huge gap between the number of jobs available and the number of people willing to return to work.

An April survey by the National Federation of Independent Business found 44 percent of small businesses had job openings they couldn’t fill. All this begs the question, why?

Could it be that many potential workers are staying home because of a lack of incentive, as they continue to receive enhanced unemployment benefits? A labor policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation noted that under the Trump administration’s CARES Act, the federal government added $600 a week to state unemployment benefit checks, later cutting that amount down to $300. President Joe Biden’s March stimulus package extended those benefits through September. By then, a worker could have been on supplemental unemployment benefits for up to a year and a half.

While a government safety net of help for qualified citizens can be a biblically sound blessing, if abused, it can result in a bloated net of entitlements.

Add to that, several million Americans collected additional monies from Uncle Sam in the form of stimulus checks, coupled with various forms of debt relief whether they needed it or not. It is estimated up to 42 percent of unemployed workers are making more by staying home than they did at their previous jobs.

“… If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat (2 Thess. 3:10c, ESV).”

There was a time long ago- where there was a thing that could make a difference in this recent phenomenon today: a “Protestant work ethic,” also known as the Puritan work ethic, which is a concept known in the fields of theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes that diligence, discipline, and frugality came as the result of a person’s adherence to the values espoused by the Protestant faith.

That biblically rooted ethic, reaching as far back as the Reformation, was taught by reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin. Many historians argue that this work ethic fueled the capitalistic system of economics that resulted in the unparalleled growth of the United States as a superpower.

The idea came forth because the medieval Catholic system, influenced by Grecco-Roman and even first century Jewish thought, claimed there was a serious distinction between secular and sacred work, and the sacred work of priests, preachers, poets, philosophers or thinkers, were superior to, and more worthy of praise than the work of the blue-collar worker. Interestingly enough, today’s elites in media and academia feel the same way.

Not so according to God and his word. We don’t work for our salvation and we don’t work for God’s approval being justified by faith in Christ. Jesus  did that work. We don’t work for just a paycheck either.

The Protestant work ethic believed the lowly workman also had a noble vocation which he can fulfil through dedication to his work, which could also provide a means of support for his family and respect for his personal property – protected by three of the ten commandments (Exo. 20).

But this ethic seems to be disappearing from much of our county of late. Many people – even Christians, think we are to work because we have to. We have to work to make a living, rather than our work having any intrinsic value and grace of its own, as Adam had in his pre-fall work in the Garden (Gen. 2:15). As the old saying goes, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.”

Indeed, work is hard- it can be tedious, even drudgery as the result of the fall. Solomon – perhaps the wealthiest person who ever lived, reflected on that conflict, when he wrote in Ecc. 6, “All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.”

A biblical worldview of work tells us that all of our labor – at home and in the workplace should manifest the fruit of our faith. Luther stressed that calling is not primarily about what we do. Rather, it is about what God does through us. “God gives us this day our daily bread.” How? Another commentator wrote, “Through the calling and the work of farmers, bakers and the factory workers, truck drivers, grocery store employees, and the hands that put all of our meals together every day, that’s how we get our daily bread.”

Therefore, the Christian’s work ethic – government benefits notwithstanding, should give testimony to man and more importantly, glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31). Being that the Lord is our direct supervisor rather than man, we work with all we have while we can.

If God is your boss, shouldn’t he get your best? God gave us his best when he gave you Christ right? Charles Spurgeon said, “A short life should be wisely spent. We have not enough time at our disposal to justify us in misspending a single quarter of an hour. Neither are we sure of enough life to justify us in procrastinating for a moment.”

Disciples of Christ should be bothered by lazy Christians who do shoddy work. We should know better because we have the job manual through the pages of scripture in our hands.

While we’re posing questions in this post, we should then ask, “What kind of store clerk or mechanic or kitchen worker or school- teacher should we be?” The very best. Why? God is the best and he made you and gave you a new birth to be among the best.  

What would Luther and the pioneers of the Protestant Work ethic think of American workers today? I hate to imagine, though the German reformer of the 16th century did understand the meaning of work when he wrote, “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

May that be our example to a waiting world that needs to get back to work.

Post- Pandemic Summertime Church Shopping

Bernie Diaz, June 3, 2021

Now that the height of the COVID pandemic seems to have leveled off, normalcy policies are taking greater effect nationwide- certainly in my home state of Florida and Americans are beginning to return to summertime routines and lifestyles which means travel for some and a search for renewed church life for many Christians.

I mentioned, “renewed” church life or fellowship, because so many Christians have been displaced from their normal or routine congregational lives for so long. More than a year ago, we were quarantining ourselves physically, to the extent that church life took on an extraordinary if not unprecedented nature, when exclusive online streaming of worship services and midweek meetings became the norm.

For those of us as church leaders, who had never imagined doing live, online church before, the entire process was a splash of cold water of God’s providence on our faces, pushing many to the limits of their comfort zones.

After a time of retrospect, I realize that I had learned over the course of many months at least three valuable lessons from the COVID season: how to be repentant over whatever corporate sins we may have contributed to, which may have led to this wake-up call or chastening from our Lord. Secondly, I learned a bit more – the hard way, the meaning of patience, as I continually wrestled with God’s providence in prayer begging for his grace in relief of a seemingly endless time of spiritual distancing, isolation and uncertainty.

Third, I learned to be more dependent on God (Psa. 104:27; 1 Pet. 5:7) than ever before in my pastoral ministry, for his grace of peace and wisdom, to continue to help feed and lead our church flock in such unorthodox times. Tough decisions had to be made by our leadership on a constant basis, about how and where our church would meet, which included as a twelve-year-old church plant, a move to Sunday evening services in the sanctuary of our sister church in the fall of 2020.    

These are just personal examples of what so many disciples of Christ have had to deal with during the pandemic as it pertains to congregational life. Masks and Zoom became staples of a rather bizarre form of biblical discipleship within communities of faith in the U.S.

Need I digress, it’s summer and many churches at long last – mine own included, have or will soon be resuming regularly scheduled, in the flesh, Sunday morning worship and fellowship- hallelujah Jesus!  

This means that thousands of displaced  Christians from churches that still emphasize online worship or which closed down or which some members and attenders have become disenchanted with – of which there may be biblical reasons for, are seeking new church homes or rethinking their fellowship with their current church affiliations.

While departure from one church to another may be warranted on occasion biblically- something akin to a divorce as we have posted in this space before, there are marks of a true, biblical church in which displaced believers may wish to consider, as they seek to remarry into another faith community.

As I am a local church pastor in a very transient town like South Florida, I’ve been often asked, “What do I look for when seeking a new church home?” Invariably, I’ve sought to simplify what can be for some, this complex question into an alliterated (of course as a preacher) three-part answer, which allows for one’s conscience and wisdom – guided by the word and Spirit of God to make the proper choice for individuals and families.

The parts to my answer grounded from a biblical foundation of priorities would be for today’s summertime searchers to find a church that emphasizes: preaching, pastoring and people. Notice that bodies, buildings and budgets are not a part of my reply. Perhaps that may be in part, since I lack an abundance of either of those three. But I think the Bible is on my side on this question nonetheless.

  • Preaching

From the time that God gave Moses his law to give to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, to Ezra the scribe’s pulpit preaching ministry to the Jews returning to the holy land from exile, to the Sermon on the Mount from Jesus- inarguably the greatest sermon ever preached, the public proclamation of God’s specific revelation to his people has been at the center of congregational life.

The apostle Paul exhorted his young ministerial apprentice Timothy, a pastor of the church at Ephesus to, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Tim. 4:2-4, ESV)

God has always prioritized the preaching of his own word – the Bible, the holy scriptures, as the primary focus of the gathering of his people. When the apostle admonished Timothy to preach “the word,” the obvious implication was for preachers then and now to go to the authority of the existing scripture- God’s own inspired word to bring grace in instruction as the function of preaching to God’s people.

That means more often than not, expositional preaching should be normative, which is a theological term simply meaning to ‘exposit’ or explain what the Bible says and means from particular texts, with a thrust as to what to do with it (application), rather than placing an emphasis on more contemporary, ‘feel good’ (“itching ears”) messages, which might offer better and more superficial, healthier, happier lives based upon seven easy, self-help step formulas.  

Such preaching may lead to vast social media followings and best-selling books for celebrity preachers but will do little to deepen the biblical faith and maturity of hungry, milk-consuming, meat-needy disciples.

  • Pastors

One of the more fascinating trends that I have witnessed of late and expect to see more of in a post-COVID world of summer church searching, is the void of shepherding or pastoring, that many Christians have experienced and discovered over the past several years.

The pandemic and distancing notwithstanding, how well do you know the pastors, or elders of your church and how well do they know you? Interestingly enough, I have met members from mega-churches predominately over the past several years, who have never even had the opportunity to meet their preaching pastor or pastors, particularly those who settle for ‘flat-screen’ pastors from remote, multi-campus locations.

Again, the apostle Paul serves as a scriptural guide for the necessity of the more personal, pastoral ministry which took place for centuries in the Christian church until more modern times, when he admonished the Ephesian elders (pastors), “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God…”

Moreover, he shared the form of that ministry by his own principled example, when he added in the same chapter in the book of Acts, “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28, 20-21).”

Shepherding in the biblical sense then, means that the pastors of a local church know and smell like the sheep of their flock, living close enough to them and in front them to serve as imperfect, “examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:2-3).” Are your pastors- prospective or otherwise, preaching God’s word and shepherding – feeding, leading and spiritually protecting their people – up close and personal?    

  • People

No matter how powerful and persuasive a church’s preaching ministry may be, or how warm and inviting the pastoral care may be, many if not most people in general and Christians in particular, will hesitate to commit to the fellowship of a local church where the “one-anothers” doing and loving of the body is not present.

People want to connect with other people in and out of the church gatherings. They want to love and feel loved. Moreover, biblical discipleship if nothing else- though severely challenged by COVID, is interpersonal, relational and in smaller fellowships, more transparent, leading to greater accountability, which therefore, leads to greater maturity in Christlikeness, if done well- in truth and with love (Ro. 15:1, 5-7).

In summary, based on the recent polls and surveys of current evangelical attitudes that I see, more and more Christians who have hungered for meaningful relationships and growth in the absence of such during the height of the pandemic and our post-Christian culture, will be seeking simpler and more personal discipleship, fellowship and ministry this summer. That trend will probably lead to more and more summer seekers gravitating towards smaller, church ‘family’ like congregations paralleling the ‘pre-Christian’ communities of the first century

When I was recently asked “Why should I attend your church?” I had my formal outline above in mind, speaking to our preaching, pastoring and people. Fortunately, those have been hallmarks of our church that I have been able to gather from people in our greater community.

However, I wound up answering the question in a more informal way, when I said to the effect, “If you love Jesus Christ and want to grow in grace as his disciple, if you love the Word of God, the Word being preached, the Word being sung, the Word being prayed and applied in a simple church way, and want to be part of a family that aims to make, mature and multiply disciples, I think you will really enjoy being a part of the fellowship of Christ Community Church – a place where we love God and love people.” 

Yes, at the expense of sounding like a commercial, I added our church’s slogan at the end, as per the great commandment of Jesus (Matt. 22:37-40), because at the end of this COVID season of unrest, a little more love of God and people are what we who are in Christ, seem to need and want most.   

‘George Floyd’ – One Year Later

Bernie Diaz, May 26, 2021

Much attention is being focused this week on the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, the African-American man who was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the midst of an arrest.

Chauvin was found guilty in April of second and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter for causing Floyd’s death, a verdict that could send him to prison for the rest of his life when he is sentenced next month.

Thus, one might say that ‘justice has been served.’ Others would not.

Still, there is both personal loss being felt by the Floyd family (meeting with President Biden and congressional lawmakers this week marking Floyd’s death) and there is a public loss of peace in the acknowledgment of the date by Americans who had to wrestle anew with the issue of race relations in the wake of nationwide protests (“Black Lives Matter”) and police reform initiatives that were sparked by Floyd’s death, then escalated by some other police-related shooting incidents involving black citizens since.

Our nation which began to divide over the COVID pandemic and its impact on society early last year, began to rip apart at the seams over the Floyd event which a few months later, poured fuel on the fire of an already contentious presidential election campaign which spread through the end of the year and has not died down yet.

“Critical Race Theory” is ‘a major thing’ that has arisen in the wake of George Floyd, and evangelical Christians and their churches have been scrambling for the better part of a year as a result, to understand and reconcile that theory and the issue of race, or perhaps more properly and biblically defined as ethno-centrism.

New Racism?

Different ideas and differing points of view have been proffered in and out of the church to deal with ethno-centrism, which a growing number of biblically minded Christians define as the root of the issue- sin over skin, as the scriptures speak of one-blood and one race of mankind – the human race (Gen. 1:26-27; Acts 17:26), with various and mostly minor physical variations that point more to one’s national or ethnic background than their shade of skin color.

In the post-Floyd world of the United States however, a growing number of solutions to the problem of “racial” bias or ethnic discrimination – perceived and real, seem to be coming from the idea of reverse discrimination or an anti-racism that seeks no matter how well intended, to stoke the fires of racial strife. Case in point:

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, the city’s first black and lesbian mayor in history made headlines when she flat-out declared last week that she’s not going to be giving one on one interviews to White reporters. At least for the time being.

To say that such a revelation from an elected official, sworn to serve ‘all of the people’ of the Windy City is deeply troubling is an understatement. Why did the mayor make such a divisive move? In an open letter, Lightfoot called out “the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps and, yes, the city hall press corps.”

In other words, her way to combat perceived racially charged media bias was to inject a bit more race-based bias into it herself, as she added that it was, “unacceptable” that a mostly White press corps covers a Black mayor and a council that is majority Black and Latino, or Latinx, as she put it.

A suburb of Chicago, Evanston, Illinois, just became the first U.S. city to make reparations available to its Black residents for past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery – a century and a half later.

Evanston’s Council voted to distribute $400,000 to eligible black households. Each qualifying household would receive $25,000 for home repairs or down payments on property in a program funded through donations and ironically, revenue from a 3% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana.

The city has pledged to distribute $10 million over 10 years to qualified residents who either have lived in or been a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and who suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.

In fairness, there should be little debate that housing discrimination took place and disproportionately hurt many black families during this time period that bridged America’s Jim Crow laws to the dawn of federal, Civil Rights legislation.

The big question however, is whether or not reparations- financial compensation made payable by a government to an individual or group for a historical wrong should be mandated? Is it right? Is it biblical?

Reparations in the form of restitution, are found in an original form of biblical justice in the law of Moses to Israel, which dealt mostly with individuals who suffered property loss in the commission of a crime (Exo. 21-22; Lev. 5).

Furthermore, it should be noted that voluntary personal restitution or reparations can and should be made by Christians who have wronged others whether ethnically motivated or not, as was the case of the repentant Zacchaeus upon his salvation (Lu. 19:8-9).

Moreover, God sovereignly in providence led Darius, a Medo-Persian king to make reparations of a sort to help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem at least two generations after the Hebrews began to return to the holy land from their Babylonian captivity (Ezr.6).   

That historic narrative in no way affirms the idea that as a biblical principle one person or a group who have not committed or contributed to the commission of a crime or an evil should pay for the crimes of others- particularly to a person or group which has not demonstrably suffered as victims of such a crime or evil.

As one studies scripture, we find that God does not impute culpability or personal guilt on the sins of a group’s forefathers to their descendants (Eze. 18:20). Although the influence of the sins of the fathers may ‘visit’ the sons in future generations as a manifestation of our sin cursed world and depravity, each and every man, woman and child is personally responsible to God with his or her sins.

In fact, it may be argued that to insist on national or group reparations for past sins, would be to combat one injustice with another.

This kind of initiative being put forth from certain quarters of our country, tie into the philosophical and neo-religious movement, better known as Critical Race Theory (CRT).

The Threat of CRT

CRT is an intellectual movement which has been affecting America for several years. Its influence – rooted in Marxist ideology, has dangerously extended from academia into society, through government, even making inroads into the church and many seminaries, as evidenced by conflicts within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and its institutions over what to do with it.

The current cultural vocabulary of “wokeness,” intersectionality and Black Lives Matter, all have ties into CRT, which is made up from a set of analytical tools that say the United States was and is inherently racist, and that victims of its systemic racism are negatively affected by ‘white privilege’ and oppressed by traditional and Judeo-Christian influenced norms, which must be eradicated in order to counter prejudice.

Therefore, reverse discrimination and reparation policies are just some of the ways that are posited to combat white privilege and racism, which has expanded interestingly enough, via CRT and BLM, to include the LGBTQ agenda. How’s that for the alphabet soup of the moral revolution?

Prominent author and Southern Baptist preacher Voddie Baucham Jr. – an African-American, in his latest book, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, denouncing CRT, fears America may be on the verge of ‘race war.’

As part of that concern, he shares a warning to the evangelical church to be ready for such conflict when he compares CRT to a new and pagan religion. In a recent interview he said, “CRT is built on premises that are anti-biblical. That would be akin to someone coming into your church and talking about Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva … and you coming and saying, ‘I understand these things come from Hinduism, but if we just look beyond the words and beyond the other religion, maybe there is something useful that we could use.’ That’s not what you do when somebody is coming with another gospel,”  

Lessons Learned?

To little or no surprise, one year after Floyd, our nation- most of the world, civilized and otherwise, continues to struggle with racism or ethno-centrism because that’s who we are. Mankind can and will sin, and racism is an outgrowth of hateful, if not ignorant, prideful and sinful hearts.

No police reform initiative (of which many may further endanger the safety of law-abiding citizens) or piece of federal or state legislation will cure racism, much less CRT, which threatens to exacerbate it.

Our one-year old lesson from the George Floyd tragedy remains the same as it was in the year before, and years before that. Christians are to denounce ethno-centrism as the sin it is. No ethnic group or skin color shade is superior to another and as a result, no group is to exhibit prejudice or discriminate against another on that basis.

The early church made that principle quite clear, when the apostle Paul wrote, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

Races are reconciled at the cross and in the church by the life transforming power and grace of the gospel, which brought Jew and Gentile together into one, new covenant body of faith (Eph. 2:11-16).

The church of Jesus Christ should reflect the heart of its Lord, which unites rather divides and discriminates as do racists and CRT.

-Personally, disciples of Christ are to reconcile with and yes, make restitution to whoever, whenever and wherever necessary, to bring peace (Ro. 12) and the love of neighbor to the hurting.

– If we offend another racially, we repent of it and beg forgiveness as we are ready to extend the same to those who have offended us (Eph. 4:32).

– If we see racism taking place in our community, mourn over it, report it where appropriate and repudiate it.

Finally, preach the truth in love Christian. Understand and educate others about CRT, remember the message is sin, not skin and we need God’s grace to cover the sin of race.

‘The Battle of the Pulpits’- Female Pastors

Bernie Diaz, May 19, 2021

I recently came upon an elementary classroom school exchange between a teacher and her female students that went like this:

Teacher: Susie what do you want to be when you grow up?

Susie: I want to be a doctor.

Teacher: How wonderful! And what about you Julie?

Julie: I want to be a soldier.

Teacher: Wendy, how about you?

Wendy: I want to be a church pastor.

Teacher: How commendable! And what about you Hannah?

Hannah: When I grow up, I want to be a wife and mother!

Teacher: [dead silence] . . .

That wouldn’t be a terribly surprising exchange today in the midst of our anti-life, anti-motherhood, feminist leaning culture which pervades our society would it?

Having already posted a mother’s day post-mortem on the state of motherhood, I’m now tackling the latest, neo-feminist wave of controversy and debate surrounding female church leadership, within inter-denominational and evangelical circles.

Just this month, Saddleback Church, the California-based megachurch headed by Pastor Rick Warren, author of, The Purpose-Driven Life and Church, announced that they had a “historic night,” in having ordained their first three female pastors, despite being affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, which prohibits female ordination.

“We ordained our first three women pastors, Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty, and Katie Edwards,” Saddleback Church said in their social media post drawing a barrage of likes and dislikes.

Is Saddleback then on the ‘right side of history’, according to the cultural elites of the day, or on the wrong side of the Bible, as a historic, fundamental and classic understanding of scripture as well as centuries of church history would seem to dictate?

The current new wave of the sexual revolution, including feminism is reaching farther and wider than just the SBC, as the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA, formed in 1887) suddenly discovered new meanings to the Bible, believing that even people who completely rely on the authority of scripture can legitimately differ on important issues.

A CMA official asked when questioned about their wavering position on whether or not to call women, ‘Pastors’ in local churches: “But even Peter said Paul is sometimes hard to understand in one of his epistles, so can we not admit that maybe my brother or sister who loves Jesus and Scripture and reads faithfully might come out with a different understanding of 1 Corinthians 11 than me?” Not really.

Following the defection of speaker and author Beth Moore from the ranks of the SBC, fellow female church leaders began praying her departure would lead to some soul-searching within that divided denomination.

Indeed, we can trace back this issue all the way back to the garden, in the fall of Adam and Eve which set the stage more than three millennium ago, for what the church of Jesus Christ – predominately in the west, is dealing with today.

I referred to this issue in fact in this week’s meeting of my church’s men’s community group, as an illustration of the virus we might commonly call, ‘the battle of the sexes’, which first contaminated the church, as well as marriage and family at the fall of mankind into sin resulting in the curse of all of creation and life as we know it.

Though Eve was directly deceived by that serpent, Satan, Adam abdicated his responsibility as the head of his home to protect his wife from the lure or temptation to sin from the enemy of our souls.

The consequence of which, God sovereignly brought to mankind a tear in the fabric of relationships, as part of a curse which effected both child and vocational labor (Gen. 3:16-19) as well.

The battle of the sexes then, is a reflection of our tainted ‘flesh’, contaminated by original sin, according to that single verse from the book of Genesis, which tells us that the woman’s “desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

The Hebrew word translated there as “desire” in some of our English versions of the Bible, is best understood as a hunger to control, as evidenced by its usage in Gen. 4:7, when God warned Cain, “if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Therefore, the roots of our conflict are clear: a woman’s general desire or craving is to control her man, and the man’s inclination to respond is with either apathy or control- to “rule” over his woman. In the sociological vernacular, it’s feminism versus chauvinism.

Fortunately, God has provided a way for us- his image bearers to deal with the battle of the sexes. God’s way gives us guidance and the gospel, in which he provides redemption for our sinful souls and lives.

God’s Guide for Women and Church

The apostle Paul in the somewhat familiar and misinterpreted text of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, addresses corporate fellowship and the issue of a woman’s role in the church, which is to not teach, preach and lead in authority over the men of a local church congregation.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; (1 Tim. 2:12-14, ESV)

We understand that’s a big bone sticking in the throat of many women. Therefore, Paul introduced the biblical basis for these instructions and laid the foundation for his teaching on the redemption of women from the fall, in the unique design and high-calling that God has for women – particularly, in motherhood.

When the apostle Paul calls on church leaders to prohibit women from  preaching and teaching the world of God in a mixed, adult congregational setting, or from serving as a pastor or elder, which is restricted among its dozen or so qualifications to, “a man of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2)”, an argument is made for complementarianism, which is the concept that God has designed roles for men and women to function at home and in the church which complement one another.

Although the scripture makes clear that Adam and man came first in creation, and that he was to be the head of, or in leadership over Eve- the woman, who was created to be his helper or to be a ‘helpmeet’ (Gen. 2:18,22; 1 Cor.11), we are reminded that he and all men going forward, were not to be regarded in any way, shape or form as superior to women, as all human beings regardless of gender, ethnicity and social standing are equal at the cross of Christ (Gal. 3:28). Men and women are equal but different by God’s design.

However, God in his sovereign ordination over the institutions of marriage, family and church fortunately, had the apostle appeal to the creation order and the account of the fall in which to base the doctrine of church leadership.

.. and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (1 Tim. 2:14-15).

God’s word from the pen of Paul simply obliterates the argument from feminist leading interpreters that the command of male only church leadership was exclusively designated for that culture, that church (Ephesus) and that time (mid-1st century) only.

We know this because Paul cites the culturally transcendent example and principle of Eve’s sin and participation in the fall (being particularly ‘deceived’) as a pre-law ground for her exclusion from the preaching ministry and leadership in the local church. This was and remains a universal principle, a transcultural doctrine for the church of Christ – unchanging, having been published in a circular letter for, and distributed to all the churches of all times and peoples – then and now.

God’s Redemption for Women in the Church

1 Tim. 2:15 can be a difficult verse to interpret or understand at first glance. How can women be, Saved by childbearing?  What does that mean? Can women be saved or justified and escape God’s judgment by the act of childbearing? We know it can’t mean that because that would qualify as works oriented salvation, which is simply unbiblical (Eph. 2:8-9).

The Greek verb translated as “saved” in the verse, does not always mean, being saved or rescued from the consequence of sin. The word which carries the idea of being saved from destruction or being preserved, is translated a number of times in the New Testament as to make whole, or to heal.

So, taking the context and the theology of God in redemption into account, I (and the vast majority of conservative, biblical scholarship) take that verse to mean that by having children, women are given an incredible, unique, blessing of grace from God, have had the stigma and burden of falling first in sin, removed.

God redeems and rewards women-saves or delivers them from the curse of the fall, by having them become the mothers of mankind, which no amount of gender dysphoria can change. This is the joy of their salvation. 

In other words, women are saved or rescued from being left in a second-class situation for their representative sin in the garden.

As one commentator asked, “Can you imagine what it would be like if men had babies and all women ever contributed to the human race was the Fall?” Though women led the race into sin, praise God, they have been given the honor, privilege and the blessing of leading the race out of sin.

It is a marvelous thing how God providentially worked the pain of childbirth as a reminder of woman’s sin, into the subsequent reminder of God’s redeeming and restoring grace in childbirth that puts her back in a prominent place of the created order.

Although woman may have played a prominent role in causing the generations of man to plunge into sin, in motherhood, she can raise godly children to bring generations to God. That appears to be the Lord’s high calling for women rather than local church leadership. May the Lord fill our churches and communities with faithful mothers rather than pastors, women who understand the call that redeems them from the fall and the battle of the sexes.

Mother’s Day Postmortem: The Future of the Family

Bernie Diaz, May 11,2021

If you’re familiar with television programs like CSI, you might know what a postmortem is. If not, a postmortem is an examination of a dead body to determine the cause of its death amongst other findings.

My examination of recent cultural and governmental headlines and news stories may be revealing a postmortem of sorts- premature as it may be, of the dying or demise of the American family as we know it, coming on the heels of the just concluded Mother’s Day celebration in the United States.  

One of the more subtle, thought-provoking reports I came upon, featured the words of Cori Bush, a newly elected member of Congress from Missouri, a Democrat and nurse who testified before Congress last week about the racist treatment that she and other black people feel that they had experienced in America’s healthcare system, particularly as women having undergone childbirth and pregnancy.

While I can sympathize with the representative’s plea for fair and just healthcare, what caught the attention of many was her use of language and its implication in her testimony. She referred to “black birthing people” rather than mothers, women, who become pregnant and who have babies. The congresswoman tweeted, “Every day, black birthing people and our babies die because our doctors don’t believe our pain.”

That statement leads me to ask, “Who exactly could be a birthing person regardless of color, other than the mother of a child who is birthed?” Little wonder why Newsweek magazine reported that, “… Bush drew praise and criticism after she used the term ‘birthing people’ to describe mothers during a speech in Congress.”

Why am I considering this bit of news in a postmortem report for mothers and families? One prominent pro-abortion and LGTBQ organization followed the congresswoman with a tweet of their own, “We use gender neutral language when talking about pregnancy, because it’s not just cisgender women that can get pregnant and give birth. Reproductive freedom is for everybody.” Really?

The controversy didn’t stop there, as the conversation and debate over this congressional testimony continued over the Mother’s Day holiday with some suggesting that maybe the name of the holiday needs to be changed to “Birthing People’s Day” or “Birthing Person’s Day.” Tragically, that is not a typo.

American society reflected by its culture, is arguably in the midst of perhaps the greatest sexual and moral revolution in its history, paralleling the lament and God-given condemnations of the prophet Isaiah, when describing Israel’s worldview in another era of national sin, apostasy and idolatry:

Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge;.. 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! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! (Isa. 5:13,20-21, ESV)

Is there a better or more applicable scriptural description of the above passage to our nation’s condition, than when we have a federally elected official, affirmed by its mainstream media and institutions, unwilling or unable to define gender, sexuality, motherhood and family by their most basic and fundamental, biological realities according to God?

The Nanny State

If the redefinition of motherhood wasn’t enough, the redefinition of family and the responsibilities within it are taking place and threatening the well-being of children at an ever-increasing pace.

First, we see the sexual revolution infiltrating deeper into education- meaning the government run public school system, which has already begun to allow promotion of transgenderism into the most elementary of grade schools.  

A school district in Washington state is facing criticism and parental outrage after a teacher at one of its elementary schools read a book promoting transgender advocacy to her students. Jennifer Miller, a first-grade teacher in Bellingham, Washington, located North of Seattle, read her students a children’s book titled, I am Jazz.

The book, co-authored by LGBTQ activist Jessica Herthel and trans-identified reality TV star Jazz Jennings, tells the story of a 2-year-old boy who begins the process of “transitioning” to look more like a girl with the approval of his parents. According to Amazon’s description of the book, I am Jazz tells “the story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transkids everywhere.”

Apparently parental consent was no where to be found in selection of this book and seems to be basic reading material for such schools. In an email to Miller, a concerned parent asked the teacher: “Did you read this book to 1st graders today?” Miller responded in the affirmative, “Yes I did read this book.” She added, “As a district we are working hard to support all members of our school community and promote inclusion through understanding and compassion.”

Inclusion in this case means what Biblically minded families would consider to be the normalization of radically liberal and unbiblical lifestyles being presented to six-year olds. Such is the manner of indoctrination and usurpation of traditional, parental authority and values taking place in more subtle and not so subtle ways, by way of government at every level.

One must look under the covers if you will, at what may be attempted by the Biden administration’s near two-trillion dollar tax-payer funded proposal (“American Families Plan”), to vastly expand the size, reach and funding of the federal government, so that they may provide for– according to the initiative’s language, every American family a “free” and expanded public school education from pre-K2 through a college level associates’ degree.

Parents, why work, save and ponder your child’s educational future – to say little or nothing of their moral and ethical instruction, when big daddy federal government can do it for you- for free! Naturally, the idea of, ‘if it’s free it’s for me,’ appeals to the flesh as evidenced by the support of nearly 6 out of every 10 Americans to the plan (86% of Democrats support it compared to only 25% of Republicans).

In fact, we may go as far in the too distant future to mimic the provincial government of Quebec’s legislation which began offering in 1997, childcare for five Canadian dollars a day to all families regardless of income. That’s right, they paid families to let the government take care of their children!

There’s always a catch of course, since there is no such thing as “a free lunch.” In fact, the prophet Samuel spiled much ink in warning his fellow Israelites as to the dangers of clamoring for a king other than God to rule over them, due to the oppressive taxation of their goods which would follow and limit their freedoms (1 Sam. 8:10-18).

So admittedly, it is hard for me read these news reports and not read into what are seemingly nefarious intentions of interventionist, anti-God, anti-Bible and anti-Christ initiatives from cultural elites, to not only redefine, but exert greater control and influence over the nuclear family (a married couple and their dependent children, as the basic social unit of society).

The second wave of feminism that began to take a foothold in the U.S. in the mid-20th century, is much to blame for this. That movement demanded that women could only be liberated as women, if they could be liberated from all biological and familial restraints, and that meant being liberated from having children and the expectation to raise them at home.

In fact, that wave was led by feminists such as Betty Friedan, who argued that the traditional (nuclear) family unit was “a domestic concentration camp.” It is that kind of thinking that brought universally accessible birth control methods – including abortion, to the mainstream of American consciousness in the 60’s and 70’s.

And of course, whatever wave of feminism or sexual immorality that washes along our shore, will always threaten the stability of God’s first human institution- the family, anchored by the marriage of one and one woman for one lifetime.

God in his word has defined sexuality, marriage and family (Gen. 1-2; Deut. 6; Eph. 5; Col. 3; Ti.2) for his image bearers with no need of a rewrite or redefinition from liberal scholars, elites, churches and politicians. As my church’s families are studying in small group, the “Shepherding of a Child’s Heart” is to take place in the home, by parents, who embrace as gifts of grace and wisdom, the complementarian roles which God has laid out for us in his word- including motherhood.

Indeed, another story this past week alerted me to the need to post this blog and reemphasize the threat to the future of the American family: the U.S. Birth rate declined again last year- by four percent (the largest dip since 1979), which alerted even the CDC to declare it, “below replacement levels,” which means more people are dying than being born.

That fact poses a significant threat to not only children but the future provision for the elderly in our society. But what this also means is not a call for Christian families to isolate from our society and the threats that our secularist governments and its cultural institutions pose.

Rather, it is a call for biblically based families to take advantage of the freedoms we still currently possess, to take the responsibility of being the primary disciplers of our children and to continue to provide them with some biblical shade whenever possible, praying that this future generation can bring a refreshment to the future of this nation’s churches and families.

Abortion and the Fallacy of a ‘Woman’s Health and Right to Choose’

Bernie Diaz, April 15th, 2021

Rather than call abortion what it truly is, once we strip away all the politically correct jargon that we’re about to expose, abortion fundamentally, is the shedding of innocent blood, to use biblical language (Eze. 22:1-4) or murder, more simply put.

For our Roe v. Wade conditioned ears of nearly five decades of media and cultural deception and indoctrination, words like “murder” in describing abortion have been regarded as sounding just a bit too harsh today.

Indeed, I must give credit to where credit is due, to the advocates of the sexual revolution and pro-abortion movement who have successfully manipulated society into redefining words and their plain meaning to mean what is advantageous to the revolutionaries.

For instance, the idea that abortion is all about women’s health care and the right to choose – of which neither concept holds up to closer scrutiny.

Case in point, a just published news report of the letter from Food and Drug Administration acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, indicating the federal agency will allow abortion groups to keep selling the abortion pill online despite safety concerns.

But, “What about the health of the mother?”

Let me repeat, your federal government is allowing abortionists in the United States to dispense abortion pills through the mail during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic. How utterly convenient and barbaric is that?

FDA research reportedly showed few medical complications associated with allowing women to obtain the drugs without an in-person consultation. Citing the risk of spreading the coronavirus during visits to abortion facilities, the feds said it would not enforce the in-person rule for the duration of the pandemic – no matter how long that might take.

Pro-lifers, however, rightly said the decision put political interests above women’s health and encouraged states to pass legislation to protect mothers from the risks of mail-order abortions.

Mail order abortions so you know, are chemical abortions- the two-step abortion pill process coming to the door-step of a mother carrying a conceived, image-bearer of God (Gen. 1:26-28).

The first pill (also known as RU-486) starves the baby to death in the womb by depriving him or her of the necessary nourishment they need, from the hormone, progesterone. Then it stills the heartbeat (already detectable in as little as 17 days) of the defenseless child, and the second dosage induces labor- really expelling the remains of that child from its mother, resembling a bizarre and ritualistic version of a miscarriage.

The FDA’s external studies likely gave a limited picture of the number of women harmed by the drugs, as many pregnant mothers who present in emergency rooms with severe bleeding or other complications don’t tell hospital staff that they took the abortion pill, which is usually administered by an abortion center and then the “patient” is given their second dosage to take at home and fend for themselves.

“This is completely political. There is nothing medical about this decision,” said Katie Glenn, a government affairs counsel for Americans United for Life. She pointed to the reports of complications experienced by women in the United Kingdom who have received the abortion pill through the country’s Pills by Post program during the pandemic. They reported severe pain and bleeding during at-home abortions—sometimes because they waited past the recommended 10 weeks of pregnancy to take the pills.

Yet the information that is rarely given and was dramatically and graphically illustrated by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director in the film, Unplanned demonstrates that medical abortions (now approaching 50% of all abortions) involve severe cramping, contractions, and bleeding to expel the baby.

These symptoms can last from several hours to several days, and they can be very intense and painful. Many women also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and headache.

Maternal deaths have occurred as well, most frequently due to infection and undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy.

The Hypocrisy

In the name of women’s health, is a chemical abortion a natural procedural process for a woman to undergo and in her best interests, to say nothing of the extinguished life of the preborn child?

As the prolife advocate above noted, how “crazy frustrating” is it that the FDA would remove safety protocols for the abortion pill while showing so much caution regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

This week, the same agency recommended states stop using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (mirroring concerns from the AstraZeneca injection in Europe), because six women developed blood clots soon after taking it. One of those women died, while a second remains in critical condition. About 7 million Americans had received the vaccine so far.

Yet, while six fatalities from 6 million shots were enough to derail COVID vaccinations, the FDA shares little or no concern and medical precautions related to the abortion pill, which resulted in at least 4,000 adverse events out of 4 million pill dosages over an eight-year period. Is there anything wrong with that data picture?

“The Right to Choose”

What would you say if I told you that I believe I have the right to choose to neglect the care of my dog in south Florida and let him die of starvation in  my home?

You would have more than a few choice words for me I’m sure, as once the stench of that canine corpse traveled to my neighbor’s home, I might have police and a TV news crew on my front-yard videotaping my arrest for a crime against a favored creature.

Yet, a couple (often including a culpable father) has a right to choose the extermination- shedding of innocent blood of God’s favored creation from conception up to the moment, if not in some cases, even after it’s birth. Is the taking of a life a crime against an animal? Yes.

Is it a crime against humanity, an unborn being every bit a person fundamentally as a two-year old toddler or twenty year-old college student? No. Not according to Roe v Wade and our legal system.

Let’s stop pretending people and stop the nonsense when we hear it, that abortion should be legitimized as its been legalized for too long, since it’s just about a woman’s health and right to choose.

Abortion rights groups have long opposed and continue to oppose virtually any real “choice” legislative initiative, such as giving parents the right to be notified of the abortion intent of their minor children or the right to expect a medically licensed and approved, medically safe facility for their ‘procedure’, or the choice to see their unborn child in the womb via an ultrasound. Why oppose these “choices?”

Because pro-aborts are more concerned with sexual freedom than the innocent lives of others. That reality may be harsh but I believe it’s true. Heart disease and cancer are not the leading cause of death in your community dear reader. You know what is? Abortion, which claims the lives of nearly 1 million preborn children in America every year.

Will prolife politics in and of itself cure this great moral evil of our time, now made more convenient – ironically, by health officials who only desire to dispense limited choice? I don’t think so.

The church of Jesus Christ is our best and ultimate body to bring the restorative hope of the gospel of life found in Jesus Christ to the abortion crisis, as we love our neighbors, beginning with taking the opportunity to expose the evil work of darkness that is abortion to them (Eph. 5:11).

Lets’ begin to clean up the language of abortion with truth telling about health and choice.

Crisis of Church Membership?

Bernie Diaz, April 7, 2021

The secular and liberally minded mainstream media had a field day as expected in publishing and broadcasting the results of the latest Gallup poll indicating that the proportion of Americans who consider themselves members of a church, synagogue or mosque dropped below 50 percent.

The headlines of this story prompted some assuredly to say, “Yes, finally, the stuffy, patriarchal hold of the nation’s three greatest religions has lost its moral grip on America. People of faith are now the minority!”

Indeed, the Christian skeptic can now point out this would be the first time that membership in houses of worship has reportedly dipped to less than a majority of the U.S. population, since Gallup first asked the question in 1937, when church membership was 73 percent.

What does this mean to the American church and may it be said that organized religion is on life support in this country? Not so fast, oh, ‘angry atheist.’ At least three considerations should be brought to bear on this latest survey that implies the collapse of faith in general or the church in particular:

1.  A poll questioning church membership does not equate with the reality of faith.

Just because a person is not affiliated with a place of worship does not necessarily mean they have rejected their faith or possess no faith at all in God or another deity of their choice.

What the above can mean, is a growing number of Americans of some degree of faith may be more disinclined or hesitant to commit to the membership of a local church. Additionally, the “Virtual meetings” and membership of the local church that we have been accustomed to over the last year of COVID, has proven to be far too convenient.

Certainly, the pandemic posed some legitimate reasons for temporarily abstaining from the assembling of God’s people, but it also likely carried a negative impact on Gallup’s findings of diminished affiliation with religious commitment.

Truth be told, Christian missiologists have long noted a drop-off in both church attendance and membership over the last few decades in this country anyway, which can be attributed to a myriad of other reasons, including: church leadership’s apathy towards membership – calling for congregants to commit to a fellowship with a body of believers and a multitude of church visitors unwilling to make such a commitment, reflected in other areas of their life.  

In other words, many Christians are still attending church as in worship services and midweek meetings, but may not consider membership to be important enough.

Many of the self-proclaimed “nones” who feel spiritual and deny any religious affiliation, often do so as the result of prior, personal hurts suffered in their experience with faith institutions, compounding their lack of commitment.

2. The more mature a believer- the more likely a member.

Another major distinction that arose from the Gallup poll was between age groups: Church membership was strongest among those born before 1946, with 66% claiming membership, compared to 58% of baby boomers, 50% of Gen X and 36% of millennials.

One can surmise that not only those people of faith that are older  understand the value of consistent church attendance and membership to be a long-term part of their lives, but are more likely to exhibit greater maturity in their faith and obedience to it, which biblically commands a commitment to fellowship (Heb. 10:24-25).

Moreover, the mature disciple or follower of Christ understands that affiliation at a minimum and active membership at a maximum, brings mutual edification and relationships from a common community of faith.

The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes that the church is edified or built up, equipped for service (Eph. 4:11-16), unified (Jo. 17) and is an expression of love when it “comes together” (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor. 11:20, 33-34; 14:26).

3. Christianity as a faith is counter-cultural and always a true minority.

By virtue of the sacrifice necessary to follow Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, followed by a commitment for one to be baptized (Matt. 28:19-20) and enter into a local church body, Christians – true, biblically grounded, born-again, regenerate believers will always number a minority.

You say, “Really?” America’s birth and historic cultural influence notwithstanding, Jesus responded to the inquiry of a curious questioner this way, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able (Lu. 13:23-24).

There may not be a number attached to the word, “many” there but I can tell the difference between many and few. Jesus added to those words in the parallel account from the Sermon on the Mount, “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matt. 7:13-14).”

The gospel of God’s grace towards sinners is scandalous in the eyes of the world, because it can only be received by faith, rather than one’s own works or merit (Eph. 2:8-9). That reality results in a radically new life from a radically, God-given new-birth, which will render most incapable of redemption, much less, meaningful church membership.

Why is this so? God’s sovereignty aside for the moment, most of the lost that we know are not willing to pay the cost of real discipleship to follow Christ (Lu. 14:25-33). As I like to say, most of the world, can find the gospel, ‘easy to understand’ but too ‘hard to believe,’ as in trust in, which is precisely what faith is.

The world, the flesh and the devil is too great a lure of fleshly satisfaction for the majority of mankind (1 Jo. 2:15-17), than to repent and enjoy the greater soul satisfaction of peace and joy with God (Psa. 16:11).

Do these these truths discourage my gospel preaching or disciple making? Not in the least, as I understand that God is sovereign in the building of his church and expansion of his kingdom for how own good will and pleasure and I don’t intend on arguing with him over his plan and purposes.

Though the church may be smaller than the world, it remains the greatest, most beautiful and powerful organism on this planet- because it’s creator is:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18)

Love the Bride

As tempted as I may be among others to criticize the Church of Jesus Christ on occasion, I hesitate to, and try to make the proper distinctions between the institution (‘Christendom’) of church and the bride of Christ herself, whom he loves so much, that he gave his life to secure (Eph. 5:25-27).

As another blogger posted, “Imagine turning up at a wedding, heading towards the groom and telling him he was a great mate, a general all around good guy and your favorite friend. Then after a short pause you tell him, ‘but your bride is a hideous troll isn’t she? Can’t stand her mate.’  A few minutes later you find yourself ejected out of the wedding, not sure what has gone wrong. You don’t understand why your mate responded the way he did. After all, you had told him how much you liked him.”

When it comes to Christ and his bride, you cannot claim to love Christ while hating his bride. If you do, be careful that you won’t be omitted from joining them at ‘the marriage supper of the lamb’ (Rev. 19:6-10).

I’m not at all shaken or stirred by the Gallup poll’s recent findings on religious affiliations. I know, love and follow the one who built the church and married it as a bride and I have my invitation to that great and coming feast.

I don’t have the time nor desire to just date the church like some single men date young women, in order to take advantage of them when they seek, “friends with benefits.” I wouldn’t do that to another image bearer of God or the local church. I pray you wouldn’t either. If you don’t know the bride of Christ, get to know the groom first and I guarantee if you really do and spend any time with him, you’ll want to go the rest of the way.

Christians and the COVID Vaccine Conflict

Bernie Diaz, April 1, 2021

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate- that is the question? 

It was only going to be a matter of time before we – the United States in general and the church in particular, were going to have to deal with a new conflict or controversy emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic – unfortunately.

Somewhat paralleled to the debate over mask wearing, Christians are now wrestling with the ethical dilemma over whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

Nearly one out of every five Americans have been vaccinated or are in the process already, leading to reports of increased “herd immunity” taking hold in our nation – meaning that magical threshold of at least 70% of citizens who will have built up enough immunity to the virus by way of inoculation or contagion, to effectively stop the spread of the pandemic according to many health officials.

However, the quandary for Christians over whether to vaccinate or not, has come to light due to concerns that television, web and social media pundits have raised or tried to debunk of late, such as:

  • Government mandates and control (“vaccine passports”)

Should the government be allowed to coerce it’s citizens into being vaccinated –  convictions of conscience notwithstanding? In other words, could vaccination by compulsion be just another ‘neo-socialist’ initiative from the powers that be as some fear? President Biden and our state’s Governor take opposite sides there.

Food for thought: while vaccine mandates may be intrusive and potentially a breach of parental authority over children, there is precedent for such action, in that most families have been vaccinated by legal mandates to prevent further historic epidemics of measles, mumps, chicken pox and polio, which likely saved thousands of American lives over the last century. Would the coronavirus apply?

  • Vaccination Safety

Aside from anecdotal reports of isolated side effects, hospitalizations and cases of death – to say nothing of the “warp speed” rush to develop and approve these vaccines, new reports of vaccination problems have arisen.

First, unusual blood clots in people who got shots from the Anglo-Swedish company, AstraZeneca, prompted Germany, Italy, France and Spain to join the ranks of other European countries that have temporarily halted use of that companies Covid-19 shot.

Then, a dosage mix-up at a U.S. production facility, has ruined about 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID shot, prompting this nation’s federal government to delay shipments of that vaccine.

Food for Thought: Despite these recent news reports and some widely circulated headlines of death from vaccinations, both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine rate of effectiveness preventing serious infection or related death from the virus remains over 90%.

Though there have been perhaps 200 vaccine related deaths reported in this country up to now (most of them elderly in long-term care facilities with pre-existing if not contributing conditions), that number indicates a relatively low risk factor. So, is the vaccine risk free? No. Low-risk? Yes – apparently.

Furthermore, many Christians historically motivated by the command to sacrificially ‘love their neighbor’ (Luke 10), have been and are being vaccinated for the benefit of others. At times, paying the ultimate cost.

Arguably America’s greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards, died after undertaking a new method of inoculation for smallpox. Edwards was not only a revered pastor and preacher of the 18th century, but a student of natural philosophy who closely followed the scientific advancements of the Enlightenment period. That interest led him to test an anti-viral technique that was a precursor to the development of the first vaccine. His risk proved fatal when he died from complications related to the inoculation at age 58.

Edwards risked his own life to save others in a world of pre-modern medicine where death and disease were commonplace. Why? Love and the knowledge that his death was just his beginning and his life on earth mattered eternally.

  • Abortion Related Links to Development

While being treated for COVID, former President Trump took experimental treatments that came under scrutiny because its development included testing that used cells from the tissue that might have come from an aborted fetus.

Food for Thought: several potential vaccines for the coronavirus—including two produced by Pfizer and Moderna—have also used the same cell line for testing – but not for production. These culturing fetal cells are modified in such a way that they continue growing and multiplying in laboratories indefinitely. Such cells can then be used to test a drug’s ability to damage genetic material or to test the effects of specific viral infection.

It should be noted however, that these “immortalized” cell lines that began with fetal cells more than a generation ago, no longer contain fetal body parts, and no fetal tissue remains in them nor the cells from the original fetal tissue itself.

While prolife Christians should condemn any utilitarian use and abuse of the unborn for medical research, there seems to be no indication that any direct involvement in the abortion of a single child was used to produce these vaccines in question.  

Why Food for Thought?

Why have I responded to the above concerns and questions about the vaccine with the familiar call to think? Simply because sanctified wisdom is required in making a decision of this magnitude, where the scripture is silent in terms of possessing a clear command.

That reality however, in no way diminishes the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It only illustrates the truth that scripture is sufficient in different ways, meaning it is a source of truth and guidance of God’s revealed will through the wise interpretation and application of an ancient text written in an original context.

Thus, If there was ever a modern, ethical dilemma to ponder deeply, wisely and prayerfully as a “gray” rather than black and white issue, this would be it.

In the absence of a precept, or biblically historic patterns or practices to follow, we must be guided by applicable principles which form a conviction of our individual conscience.

In other words, I believe Christians have the personal liberty or freedom (as circumstances allow) to accept or reject the coronavirus vaccine. The conscience can only be bound on a particular issue where scripture clearly binds it.

Otherwise, true followers of Christ are called to glorify and love God and love people even at the expense of personal liberty (Romans 14-15) when making difficult choices like these.

A founding pastor of a Miami-based megachurch warned his congregation not to take the coronavirus vaccine because he believes it is being used to prepare the world for the Antichrist and one world order. Yikes!

Whereas notable evangelist Franklin Graham- son of Billy, drew attention when he said on ABC News, that “Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives.” In referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan who cares for an injured man by using oil and wine on the man’s wounds, Graham highlighted those elements, “which were the top medicines of the day.”

Clarifying the statement quoted in that report, Graham posted on his Facebook page, “We also know that Jesus went from town to town healing ‘every disease and sickness.’ He came to save life—to offer us eternal life. Did Jesus need a vaccine Himself? Of course not. He is God.”

The above contradictory views of two Christian leaders on this, illustrate the fact that this issue dealing with health care and modern technology, created ostensibly to prevent the spread of a highly contagious and lethal disease, is gray and deserves our close attention.

Christians have every right to take prudent measures to safe-guard or improve their health, which we do distinctly with our diets, exercise, multivitamins, holistic supplements and yes, perhaps even coronavirus vaccinations.

Therefore, if love truly trumps liberty for the Christian holding to a biblical worldview, then we are bound by the word of God to withhold judgment and condemnation towards a brother or sister in Christ whom we disagree with in the choice they make on what the apostle Paul calls, a matter of “opinion” or dispute, or what we call a gray issue such as this one.

This admonition to carefully consider the vaccination and to deal with others in a loving manner when discussing it (2 Timothy 2:23-25), does not preclude us from edifying one another when we do.

What this does mean is we acknowledge that the COVID vaccination decision is fraught with some risks in either direction and careful consideration of one’s personal context (pre-existing and prevailing health conditions), family, responsibilities, exposure and even work environments (e.g. first responders, health-care and other public workers) most come into play.  

Although the coronavirus and the world’s response it it, has been a God-ordained, providential event of extraordinary and for us, unprecedented proportions, God has given us ordinary means of grace in his word, prayer and the fellowship and love of the local body to deal with it.

May that truth and the hope of our future glory carry us through this most recent COVID conflict.

Is Mass Murder the Unforgiveable Sin?

Bernie Diaz, March 24,2021

Now that the scourge and relative end of the COVID pandemic may be in sight, mass shootings are back in the headlines after a relatively ‘off year’ in the volume of such tragic events.

Within the span of one week, a troubled, 21-year-old, male church member, shot and killed eight people – six of whom were women of Asian descent at three different massage spas or parlors in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area, followed by a gunman’s execution of ten citizens in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

As expected, the mainstream media and government officials at both the state and federal levels immediately jumped to conclusions as to what may have motivated these two shooting sprees without evidence, leading to proposed tighter gun restrictions and laws as the usual panacea or dare I say, “silver bullet” solution to such mass shootings.

Unsurprisingly, most of the legislation currently being considered would not have made a difference in the Colorado case for instance, as most of them involve tougher background checks. But according to local police, the Colorado shooter had purchased a semi-automatic rifle six days earlier.

Leaving the tired and soon to be resurrected gun control debate aside for a moment, Christians holding to a biblical and theological worldview may be troubled and questioned by skeptics and seekers over the issue of a professing believer of Jesus Christ having murdered more than a half-dozen people in cold-blood, as was the case in Georgia.

Is it even possible that a Christian can murder?

Little is known at this moment, as to the Georgia shooter’s mental condition or motive for the shooting, other than his confession and disclosure that he has a “sex addiction” that allegedly led him to select his targets. Apparently if he eliminated the targets that may have contributed to that addiction, this self-admitted pornographer would be rid of his demons.

Speaking of which, mental health issues and/or demonic oppression and a temptation to kill, may be linked to this murderous rampage from a biblical perspective.

Indeed, if this man’s savage act was not reason enough for church discipline or excommunication, no sin would be, as evidenced by his Baptist Church’s decision to put him out of their local fellowship, following his arrest in connection with the fatal shootings.

“These unthinkable and egregious murders directly contradict his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel,” the church said in a statement.

Being that six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent (though suspicion of a ‘hate crime’ is questionable), church officials added that it does not teach that acts of violence are acceptable against “certain ethnicities or against women” or that women are responsible for men’s sexual sin against them.

The crux of my inquiry into the Georgia event is the spiritual state of the shooter. We have seen on many occasions over history that mass or serial murderers – as well as criminals and sinners of every kind have later repented and been redeemed by God’s amazing grace, available through faith in Jesus Christ.

Yes, ‘death-bed conversions’ are a thing in the Christian faith- thankfully, as no sin or individual act of man, is out of the reach of God’s mercy and saving grace. That reality is a reality to be celebrated and praised, not judged or mocked.

The only ‘unforgiveable or unpardonable sin’ taught in the Bible is not murder, but the rejection of Christ and his gospel over a lifetime, which seems to be synonymous with the “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” mentioned in Mark 3:22–30 and Matthew 12:22–32.

In Mark’s account, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter”, other than one exception: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29).

In other words, to ascribe the work of the Holy Spirit of God and Christ to demons or the devil (Beelzebul), is in essence to deny the deity, person and atonement of Jesus.

How so? Although Jesus is not physically present with us at the moment in this world – until he returns, his Spirit does indwell true believers.

Thus, unrepentant rejection of the Spirit’s work of convicting the unsaved of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8), is to choose hell over heaven, or death over life, darkness over light and condemnation over salvation.  

Biblical Christians know that murder – expressed by even a heart of murderous anger, is sin that condemns mankind like any other sin, unless that murderer were to repent and believe in Christ for its forgiveness.

The question remains however, can a legitimately born-again or regenerated believer of Jesus Christ following an addiction to pornography, murder eight innocent people? Would such a man after such an act be rewarded by the presence of God in heaven upon his death here, should the Lord tarry in his return?

I’ll begin to answer that question with another which somewhat parallels the act of murder and is as equally troubling to some, in man’s taking of life: is suicide an unforgiveable sin? Can a Christian take his own life before the Day of the Lord and judgment?  

Anyone who repents and has come to Christ by faith for salvation is forgiven, no matter what sins he has committed (John 3:16; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:13). Although a mass-murderer or adulterer will likely still face serious consequences (legal, relational, etc.) for his evil actions – more so than someone who was “just” an angry or bitter person, that murderer’s sins- past, present and future, were completely and permanently forgiven the moment he believed in Christ, provided his faith was real.  

In fact, the apostle John’s first epistle reminds us that a professing believers way of life – one’s habitual “practice” or lifestyle, rather than a moment of unrighteousness or wickedness and sin, is the better indicator of one’s spiritual status (1 John 1:6-7; 2:6, 29; 3:4-10), “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”

Disciples of Jesus must remember in the wake of this shocking event that it is not the size of the sin that is the determining factor of one’s destiny, but  the size or the depth and breadth of the cross work of Christ to cover it.

To paraphrase one preacher: ‘If the shed blood of the sinless Lamb of God is enough to cover all the sins of all the millions of people who would ever believe in Him, then there can be no limit to the size or types of sins covered.

 When He said, “It is finished,” sin was made an end of, full atonement and satisfaction for it were given, complete pardon was obtained, peace was made, and redemption from all sin was achieved. It was sure and certain and complete; nothing needs to be, or could be, added to it. Further, it was done entirely without the help of man, and cannot be undone.

While it seems inconceivable to the world that a true, Christian man could shoot and kill multiple people given a moment of rage, the amazing grace of God, revealed in scripture makes it possible and yes, conceivable that the assurance of salvation is for all who have truly repented and believed in Jesus, and that their sins- murder among them may be forgiven.

We do not and will not know on this side of glory, what lurks in the heart of the Georgia shooter and whether he is or will ever be a Christian, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).”

Therefore, may justice be done on earth in this case as it is in heaven, and may we who are truly in Christ, rejoice that regardless of our sins here, he awaits us with open arms there.