Enjoying the Bittersweet- the 50th Anniversary of Roe v Wade

Bernie Diaz, January 18, 2023

Prolife Christians like myself should be on top of the world, doing cartwheels and  heading to our nation’s capital this weekend for some kind of celebration as the coming Sanctity of Life Sunday  will be observed. This upcoming SOLS will not be just any observance of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

Although this year marks the 50th anniversary of that day, to borrow then President Roosevelt’s WWII phrase, “that will live in infamy,” a day that has brought about well over 62 million deaths of the unborn in this nation over the last generation and change, we now have a new anniversary date to amend to Roe, which gives those that believe in the inherit dignity and sanctity of every human life made in the image of God, cause for thankful celebration, as well as somber reflection.   

First, we somberly reflect on that day, January 22nd, 1973, when the Supreme Court of the United States released one of its most controversial decisions in our nation’s history. They not only overturned nearly two centuries of federal precedent and a century and a half before that of our colonial history’s law, but over four millennia of world history in which abortion was regarded as a shameful and murderously illegal act by virtually every civilized nation known to mankind.

Fast forward to our new post-Roe era, me and my fellow pro-life pastoral colleagues and ministry leaders still mourn over the fact that statistics reveal that abortion was the leading cause of death worldwide for the fourth year in a row, as the number of abortions nearly quadrupled the number of deaths from infectious diseases – like COVID-19, in 2022.

Yes, cancer and heart disease are not the leading causes of death in the U.S. but abortion is, which produces more victims per year, than nearly both of those health-related issues combined. Tragically, a database that keeps track of numbers related to health and the global population in real-time, reports that 44 million plus preborn children lost their lives last year to abortions worldwide.

That number measuring just one year of abortion mortality, represents seven holocausts – seven, in the number of those that were extinguished by the Nazi’s during WWII.

Thus, there has been and remains much to mourn over when we think of the legacy left by the Roe decision over these last 50 years. There is a time to swallow the bitterness of what our country’s moral and sexual revolution has wrought in devaluing human life. Indeed, Roe codified our current culture of death manifested from modern infanticide (the extinction of preborn Down’s Syndrome babies in Iceland) to euthanasia, or as more commonly known, “Medically Assisted Suicide.”   

However, the prolife community of millions in America do have reason to celebrate and more importantly to thank and praise the God of glory for his grace – common and otherwise, for his merciful answer to prayer in sovereignly moving by his providence the current Supreme Court to overturn Roe, with the Dobbs decision this past June 24th, 2022.

Rightly and at long last, Justice Samuel Alito in summarizing the high court’s opinion bringing a breath of sanity to the debate, wrote: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.” Justice Clarence Thomas said that the court’s decision in Dobbs, rejected Roe’s “fabrication of a constitutional right to abortion.”   

To that, I say, Hallelujah and praise the Lord! Even though the jubilee acknowledgment of Roe this year, is met with both cause for concern and joy (the sweet) of Dobbs, which has returned the citizen’s right to determine the fate of abortion back to the people, legislatures and courts of our 50 states.   

The Bitter and Sweet

Roe is no more and the states decide

It is a sweet thing indeed that Roe is no more as the federal law of the land (for now). The constitution of the United States with respect to abortion is once again being interpreted correctly, as per it’s most plain and natural face-value reading as its authors intended.

For the first time in 50 years, American states have begun to restore a degree of rights for the unborn with laws restricting abortion with and without exceptions. As of a month ago, eighteen states were now protecting life at the moment of conception and another four at the detection of a fetal heartbeat (usually between five to six weeks of gestation).

Bitterly, twenty-one states do not protect the unborn and allow abortion on demand- for any and all reasons throughout a term of pregnancy. Some unfortunately and demonically inspired in my view, have taken to enact laws that allow for the taking of the life of born children from botched abortions (i.e., California and New York). That horrendous view has infected members of the U.S. congress as evidenced by the failure of the Republican sponsored, ‘Born-Alive Act’ to be passed this month.

That bill which would have further ensured protection for babies born during a failed abortion by calling for swift medical attention to the victim. Incredibly and unfortunately unsurprising to me, was rejected by every representative of the Democratic party that voted.

That’s right, the congressional leaders from this country’s party of death, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shummer supported by the White House, labeled the proposed bill to be both “extreme” and “anti-choice.” In other words, the Democratic Party of the United States has said in essence, it is right to leave children born alive in botched abortions to slowly suffer and die in the name of ‘choice’ and to come to their defense would be just too ‘extreme.’

As one observer of the vote noted, “Lord have mercy.” Or as the word of God reflects upon a nations that is led by “debased minds” (Romans 1), and in a world where God will pronounce a curse, or “ Woe, to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet (Isaiah 5:20).”

It is sweet in that the relatively short post-Roe world of Dobbs, a countless number of human lives are being saved and abortion mills are being closed or dealing with economic hardship. According to a news source, Texas has seen a dramatic drop in abortions over the past six months since the Dobbs decision was issued. Reportedly only three abortions were reported in that massively large state in August of last year and maybe as many as 50,000 preborn lives there have been saved this year to date since last summer.

Pro-lifers should celebrate that sweet win!

Let us also keep in mind that pro-abort activists and advocates will not go down without a fight in our post-Roe world. The side of death won a half-dozen voter referendums in states which would have further regulated and restricted abortion in last November’s mid-term elections.

Furthermore, the left influenced the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) to approve the mainstream distribution via prescriptions and mail-orders of the chemical abortion drug, mifepristone (RU-486) which is the first of a two-drug regimen, which literally starves the life out of a preborn baby in the womb, which is then expelled (a dangerously horrific type of miscarriage) by the drug misoprostol.

This new ‘coat-hanger’ form of abortion which puts the mother’s life at risk (so much for abortion being about the “woman’s health”) has now become the most common form of abortion today, accounting for a little over half of abortions in the U.S. and will be sure to grow in popularity, particularly as more abortion centers shutter their doors and greater pharmacy access is granted for it. That tastes bitter.      

Christian response to the bittersweet

  • Thank God for the wins (Dobbs), plead for his grace and mercy in the losses.  
  • Vote for and support pro-life legislation and candidates for office.
  • Be prepared to rhetorically fight for the faith when attacked by pro-aborts and support religious liberty policies which ensure freedom of pro-life and gospel speech.
  • Support pro-life para-church ministries and organizations striving to combat abortion and the orphan crisis with the hope of the gospel and alongside the love of the local church.
  • Support crisis pregnancy resource centers and clinics that are serving and saving over 800,000 lives per year with your time, talent and treasures not already committed to your local church.
  • Lovingly and graciously lobby your church pastor and leadership team to embrace the kingdom, pro-life cause as the justice issue of our times. What  greater issue can there be than the cause of life?

Let us remind ourselves that the post-Roe struggle against abortion can and must be fought and that the results will remain bittersweet on this side of God’s glory and heaven on earth.

This battle in our culture war must be fought with the truth presented in love by our side. We must argue as the “Father” of the modern, pro-life movement Francis Schaffer did, that “You cannot be faithful to what the Bible teaches about the value of human life and be in favor of abortion.”

Schaffer was right and the word of God puts it best as I prepare to preach my special, Sanctity of Life Sunday sermon:

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12, ESV)

The Subtle Silence from Satan School Clubs

Bernie Diaz, January 11, 2023

A news report about an after-school ‘Satan Club’ in Virginia reminded me how some years ago I temporarily failed to see the forest through the trees when it came to the culture war and the subtleties of the secular agenda in our country.

I remember a notable, local atheist and activist wanted to have a Wiccan and Satanic display put next to a nativity scene and a Hannukah menorah at my local City Hall during the Christmas season and I was one of several local religious leaders invited to weigh in on this initiative by one of our city commissioners.

My first instinct was to recoil at the very possibility that families with young children would be subject to having to see and explain to their kids a graphic and bizarre display of wizardry and pagan symbolism alongside a manger displaying the birth of the baby Jesus. The very image in my mind of that scenario was all I could stand and so my initial public testimony was to condemn such a display and to agree along with some others and the sponsoring commissioner to remove the Christmas and holiday display all together.

My thinking was, ‘Better to have no Christmas and holiday symbolism at all at our city hall than to have to endure a satanic display as part of it.’ I regretfully found later on as was affirmed by the latest debate stirred by satanic after-school clubs, that this outcome is precisely what atheists and satanists desire – an overreaction to symbols in the public square that may result in the quieting of the gospel in the marketplace of ideas.     

I wished I had remembered then what I remembered later, of the apostle Paul’s courageous stand for truth when he preached the defense of the faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ to the pagan, philosophers at Mars Hill in Greece from Acts 17.

There, the text tells us that he was confronted by and utilized the symbolism of the idols of the “unknown gods” so influential to so many at that time at the Areopagus, the main street and city hall of Athens (Acts 17:16,22-23). Paul took notice of and even referred to that “city full of idols” in order to point out the reality of a real God and his creation of a real world tainted by sin, yet in a new period of redemption looking to the time when, “he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.”

That statement was accompanied by a call to repentance and faith, all in the face of agnostic if not atheistic and satanically led influencers in their marketplace of ideas (Acts 17:24-31).    

Therefore, as a church pastor that oversees a Bible-based after-school outreach club at a public school in my community in concert with a long-established para-church ministry, I became aware of the need to tolerate, in the classic sense of the word, an after-school Satan club, should the time come to do so.

In the latest wave of demonic activity engaging our society and its culture, a Virginia Elementary school received a colorful flyer just before this last Christmas break reading, “HEY KIDS! LET’S HAVE FUN AT AFTER SCHOOL SATAN CLUB!” The flyer invited students to attend club meetings now scheduled to begin later this month, featuring “critical thinking” skills, puzzles, games, nature activities and benign sounding neutral values education on the themes of “compassion and self-ownership” (whatever that means) as “a safe and inclusive alternative to … religious clubs.”

Sounds just like the kind of positive, family-friendly extracurricular club activity we’re looking to support with our tax-payer dollars in the public school system doesn’t it? Little wonder why an exodus of families with students holding to more traditional if not biblical values has begun from the public schools to more private or homeschool based education.

School parents today are rightly concerned about and pushing back against the radically, liberal “Woke” agenda of CRT (Critical Race Theory) and the LGBT sexual revolution infusing itself into our nation’s government-run school monopoly.

Now, the Satanic Temple, a quasi-religious group which has long opposed state pro-life laws and public displays of the 10 Commandments as well as the nativity creche and voluntary school prayers has started and is looking to expand the After School Satan Club program. Interestingly enough, their campaign director said in an interview, “We’re not demons. We do not believe in demons. … Our beliefs are not evil.”

All the while their temple headquarters display a cloven-hoofed, winged, horned devil figure with a pair of young children gazing upon his goat head. No, they’re not demonic at all.

The Marketplace

However, the real issue is not whether or not these clubs are demonically influenced, which they obviously are and should have no place in a school. The real issue is that in the pluralistic society we live and in submission to the secularly driven authorities we are under (Ro.13; 1 Pet. 2) – including its education system, all forms of speech and viewpoints within reason must be allowed to co-exist, even when one viewpoint or agenda strives to secularly silence others. How so?

The After School Satan Club, “does not believe in introducing religion into public schools and will only open a club if other religious clubs are operating on campus,” according to its website. In other words, this club nor its idolatrous temple would exist in a religiously neutral or non-existent society.

Their agenda is not to necessarily proselytize adults and students, but rather to subtly silence the voice of religion in general and evangelical Christianity in particular, by means of injecting the fear of the presence of a satanic or Wiccan type club on a school campus that would thereby intimidate a school leadership or Parent Teacher Association to cancel any and all other religious after-school clubs.

Indeed, a spokeswoman from Child Evangelism Fellowship said the organization doesn’t want to fight After School Satan Clubs forming in schools, acknowledging that if the government banned satanic clubs, it could also ban Christian ones.

This strategy was confirmed to me by another city’s response to the atheist I mentioned at the beginning of this post. That city government called the bluff of the atheist and allowed to have its display on city grounds next to a creche, in the interests of equal access in the public square but that man and his idols disappeared and their Christmas and holiday season display went on as before.   

When push came to shove, the atheist fled. His efforts to have that city cancel its religious Christmas displays failed and that should serve as a lesson for Christians today that the truth of the gospel revealed by scripture and illuminated by the Holy Spirit can more than hold its own in the marketplace of ideas, which is truly what the satanist and atheist fear most. They intuitively know they are no match for the Lord and God of glory.  

To paraphrase Charles Spurgeon, the ‘lion (the truth) just needs to be let out of its cage.’ Or, to quote an official from the Good News Bible club that was termed an  “insidious organization” by the Satanist club organization, “We’re not going to win the battle by promoting intolerance. “We’ll win the battle by being the most winsome, speaking the truth, and letting our great God show how powerful he is compared to false gods.”     

Looking For a New Beginning in the New Year?

Bernie Diaz, January 3, 2023

Is there any doubt that many if not most of us love virtually anything that’s “new and improved” – particularly at the start of a new year? We immediately take notice of what’s new, whether it be a new car, clothes, home and especially today, gadgets such as smartphones and video games.

When we think of making our New Year’s resolutions what can be better than the newest diet, vitamin pill, gym or investment lead? If all that’s true, then how about a new and improved Jesus? I think a lot of people would really like a Jesus 3.0.  He could be for them something like the latest IPhone or IPad, that we can update and mold him and his message from time to time to fit our felt-needs and desires.

For instance, when things are really out of control- if there seems to be quite a bit of rebellion if not chaos going on in society, we can make him into the Messiah that the Pharisees wanted- some simple, rulemaking, King that punishes all enemies of the state or anyone committing some legalistic error.

Or, as if often the case today, we can make him into a meek, mild prophet who goes around over-looking sin and dead hearts, because He doesn’t really want to offend anybody, and we certainly can’t have him judging anybody in this new and improved version right? That seems to be the prevailing view among liberal “Christian” churches and leaders bending and being shaped by our ongoing moral and sexual revolution.       

Obviously, the God and Lord Jesus Christ found in the Bible does not approach either of those 2 extremes. Well, for those of you who are probably looking for a new beginning, or for something that’s new and that will last beyond the latest fad that doesn’t ever need updating or another version I have something for you that lasts.

If you need it, because you’re tired, you’re hurting, you’re angry, you may be battling an addiction, or you may be battling members of your own family, or you may be battling unemployment or financial distress, or you may be angry with God because something major is missing in your life, what you want and need, is a new life and new relationship with God- because he’s the one that created you as well as the rest of the universe.

The apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church and us today, wrote that no matter what happens, the believer- the Christian, has the hope or the expectation of heaven and a perfect, resurrection body to come after death in this life. And, as the result of their new, transformed life, they should manifest, or demonstrate that truth.

A New Life (2 Cor. 5:17-21)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

To understand what it means to be “in Christ” is the key to getting a new life. If we work this text backwards, you would find that if you get your relationship right with God, you get a new life. That’s the reward- that’s the goal- that’s the promise of heaven and eternal life that’s in front of you. That’s how it happens. If you’re ‘in Christ’, old things have passed away and ‘all’ things have become new.

If you want a new beginning or lease on life, you need a new life here and for the future as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  That presupposes that if you’re at war with God, if you’re not in a right relationship with Him through Jesus, you’re not alive right now. Not spiritually anyway.  It means you’re an old person – not a new one.

To be “in Christ”, means you are in a right relationship with God. He has changed your heart, you have been declared ‘not guilty’ of all charges and crimes against him, and therefore have been saved or rescued, from the penalty or judgment of those crimes by virtue of His grace, love and mercy in conjunction with your faith, and here’s the biggie- if you’re in Christ, you are at peace with God. You are no longer His enemy (Ro. 5:1).

Thus, a new beginning in a new year for you might start with changing your relationship status with God. Afterall, the unredeemed are enemies with God. In fact, you might say there are only 2 kinds of people in the world: one group is at war with God- they’re rebels and the second group is at peace with God and they’re his children and his friends (Eph. 2:1-4). Which group are you in?

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying if you’re a new Christian. If you think that being saved or in Christ, means all your old habits, evil thoughts, lusts and sins are gone forever, you’d be wrong. Your new life or nature battles your flesh or humanity for now – but you still will sin win in the end. You’ll still be tempted. However, because of your new nature or position (in Christ), you’ll have a new practice.

This is why the Bible calls you who are in Christ, a new man or woman. You can say no to sin. It’s not about your perfection- but your direction.  When the day comes- soon maybe- and it will come, that Jesus returns, your position and practice will be perfect. You’ll be whole in glory with Christ.

A New Relationship and a New Purpose (2 Cor. 5:18-21)     

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconciling[the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The afore mentioned passage from 2 Cor. 5 makes the argument and exhortation to Christians to take the message of reconciliation – the peace that God made with us by his sovereign grace through the righteousness imputed to us by Christ and our repentant faith, to the lost, as his missionaries or ambassadors (the Greek word we get apostle from).

Yes, new creatures in Christ sign up to be his gospel ambassadors. An ambassador like a political one, is a representative of a greater authority or sovereign – as in a nation state.  The ambassador is to carry the message of the sovereign to others.  So that’s the great commission from God to believers. Because we love Him and people, we are to plead, or literally beg people to be reconciled to God, so they can have a new life and new relationship with him.

We do this largely by imploring people to be reconciled to, or to get right with God who has made a way for that to happen by the blood of his son Jesus. The word “implore” is the Greek word used to describe the Holy Spirit. It’s a word that has the idea to come along side of someone, and like a counselor, to encourage, exhort and lead them to the truth. We do it in relationship and this is our diplomatic call as God’s ambassadors.

God made us new creatures in Christ and we therefore labor to make others new by introducing them to our Lord and Savior and begging them to get right with their creator.

The New Year’s question begs an answer from us and to share: are you ready to make a move while you still have time? Do you truly want a new beginning and have all things new? Then admit you need a new life and a new relationship.

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, (2 Cor. 7:10)   

Providence vs. Free-will: A Logical Approach

Jon Rizzo, Guest Blogger, December 28, 2022

Sovereignty: the ability to do – or not do – as one wishes. 

Providence: God’s use of His sovereignty

Did that title give you the impulse to click away. I don’t blame you. Most of us who read the MCT blog have studied this topic years ago, laid it to rest and have been spending the next few decades saying, “How can people believe the other way?” Well, allow me to approach this topic from a fresh angle. 

This tired, frustrating debate has led to a hung jury amongst those who call themselves Christians, so why not venture outside the Bible for some help?  Why not consult another authoritative source: logic? After all, your choice of sides on the topic will actually have a bearing on whether you believe Jesus actually saves people, or merely provides a way for people to save themselves. I’d say that’s a big enough discrepancy to warrant another looksee.

Waiting below are a handful of logical proofs that start with basic scriptural truth, but then build proofs without using any further Scripture. You are free to decide if these proofs are sound or not; just don’t get a brain cramp!!!

Proof #1: There exists no known mechanism by which a person (born again or not) can determine their own eternal destiny. This is because a person’s choices are solely the product of their God-given genetics or personality and the environment that they find themselves in, and neither of those two factors can be controlled by that person. Every trait or propensity that a person has, and everything that they are, is either given to them or foisted upon them or conditioned into them. People have no personal inventory to utilize in making this eternal life and death choice.

If one person manages to make choices leading to eternal life, but another person blows it, what was different about the one person from the other? What intrinsic factor existed inside that successful person, and what was the origin of that factor? And the same question for the failed person. If there is a person-specific, free-agency, inward mechanism capable of producing these two very different outcomes, mankind has yet to identify or describe it. 

This debate has been waged since time-immemorial, and yet I have not found anyone who can explain what virtue exists inside a person that they can call their own virtue. Can a human create something where it previously did not exist?  Can a human, of their own volition, tell their sin nature to go take a hike? And if so, what power or wherewithal could they draw from to accomplish such an act of Godward zeal? 

People can’t sign up for virtue while they are knitted in the womb. People do not select godly character or strong faith from a drop-down menu. If someone tries to propose the idea of a person making a unilateral choice to roll with God’s plan, how did that virtue or wisdom appear inside them? 

Proof #2: Jesus’ statement that “narrow is the way and few there be that find it” is the ultimate clue for this topic. It begs the question of why so few people choose the gospel. If the gospel is such “good” news, shouldn’t people be lining up to partake of it? Is it the difficulty of “the way” that discourages them? 

Of course, it is discouraging to leave your former life and ways and take up your cross and follow Jesus, but at the end of the day, people should still know that it is a small price to pay to avoid the fierce and relentless suffering that awaits the rebels in the afterlife. And yet curiously, we find that most people who hear the gospel reject it. This is so counterintuitive that it requires an explanation. 

Mine is: something outside of people is preventing people from receiving the gospel. As in the previous proof above, people are lacking some x-factor, and they cannot obtain said factor of their own will. Either that, or they have an x-factor that is preventing them from acting reasonably. 

Their will is not “free” to choose. Their will is not a product of their, well, will. This is why the man said, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” People can’t force themselves to believe something, as if salvation comes by way of “psyching” oneself out. But the main point in this section is that the sheer lack of popularity of the gospel, contrasted with the sheer necessity of the gospel, suggests that acceptance of it is not possible for some or even most people.   

Proof #3: Parable of the Seeds

In Matthew 13:19-23, Jesus gives us three failing scenarios of seed and salvation planting, and one success. All four describe the soil as the deciding factor. So, the question becomes: can a person add soil conditioner to their own heart, and till their own heart, so that when the seed comes, it is an acceptable medium to grow the seed unto salvation? Can people choose to be soil located away from the roadside? I think we all intuitively know the answer is no. 

The farmer must prep the soil, and nobody expects any crops to grow outside of the farmed area. And everything surrounding the property of the farmer seems to be against that seed growing (birds, thorns etc).       

Ask yourself: What is causing all these billions of people to make such an eternally bad choice? There must be other forces at play here, such that one cannot call it “free” will.

The myth of “blind” faith implies free will, but true Biblical faith itself implies Providence

Is it the case that people are saved just by “going out on a limb” with Jesus?! Or similarly, do some people become so desperate that they just cast themselves on the first hope that crosses their path, which happens to be religion at some times? Is that saving faith? If so, then it is conceivable that free will could work. 

But according to the Bible, faith is certainty in the gospel. Faith is believing the gospel, not betting on the gospel. And we can’t be certain of what we cannot see unless we have some sort of supernatural enlightenment from Providence. How can you be sure that the jar of jellybeans contains 506 beans? It’s not possible to know that unless an intelligent source revealed it to you. Proof is required for certainty. 

Since people can’t put their hands in Jesus’ wounds, they can’t transport themselves to A.D. 33 on Calvary and watch Jesus die or raise from the grave, they can’t transport themselves to Heaven to read the books and find out the details of the Covenant that God currently has with mankind; people need some form of verification before they can make their choice, before they can believe.  They need revelation.

After revelation, they cannot possibly choose wrongly because they are now fully aware of the frightful demise of doing so. Therefore, humans can’t be free agents of their destiny, neither before rebirth nor afterwards.

Forfeiture of Salvation

In my opinion, if it really is possible to forfeit your salvation as Hebrews *seems* to repeatedly teach, as well as 2 Peter 2, then this process of true apostasy does not necessarily have to happen due to free will. It is probably God bringing someone close, for the express purpose of expelling them away, in order to demonstrate His glory as He sees fit. Providence and tough justice, Romans 9:20-23 style. 

Convicting but not Convincing

Even though God’s word says that the Holy Spirit is convicting the entire world of sin, righteousness and judgment, God is CLEARLY not convincing people of the eternal pain awaiting them if they choose to go their own way. He is convicting their conscience – creating a sense of guilt – but He’s not convincing their minds unto action.

We know that people always jump out of the way of an oncoming train or a charging bull, and yet we will entertain the possibility that they will not jump to safety when they are told of a much greater impending doom. Really?!  

I am not saying that these logical points are the absolute end of the debate. It is not possible to stump-grind “free will” in just one blog, but I do believe I have thrown some big branches into the woodchipper here. These proofs hold weight and are just more support to add to the towering pile of verses supporting Providence over free will. Make no mistake: the other pile can barely be seen through the clouds from the top of this pile. 

So, is Jesus the Savior of the world, or just the “Assistant” of the world?! 

For feedback and replies, Jon Rizzo can be reached at: Jonr5821@gmail.com 

Christmas Hope and Why Our Church isn’t Meeting on Christmas

Bernie Diaz, December 20, 2022

Local church pastors – planters like myself are often presented with shall we say, certain conundrums or difficulties that pastors of more established churches with buildings don’t have to deal with, like what to do about a scheduled church meeting that falls on a significant national holiday, like oh, The World Cup final?

Just kidding. Our leadership didn’t find that decision to be terribly difficult last Sunday, regardless of how many families in our church were or might be soccer fanatics – even if they were Argentinian or French. We gathered on the Lord’s Day as per usual as Hebrews 10 commands and expects Christians to do both near and far. No problem, though I wonder what church pastors in those two nations were doing last Sunday morning.   

This Sunday however, the Lord’s Day happens to fall on Christmas Day, which seems to happen only once every decade or so- thankfully. Some pastors have decided to cancel their services this coming Christmas Day in deference to ‘family time’ (particularly since many of them in the U.S. are traveling anyway) and in observance of this uniquely commercial holiday with its Christmas morning ritual of gift opening, to say nothing of December 25th having its fair share of pagan roots and rituals on what is unlikely the actual date of our savior’s birth.

That said, our church is not meeting this coming Sunday/Christmas Day either, but for no other reason than contextual necessity. In other words, like many church plants that meet regularly in leased public spaces like public schools as we do, we are somewhat conscious of, if not beholden to a school policy (e.g. Hurricane season here) and circumstances which lead us to only occasionally have to postpone a service.

For us, understanding that Christmas as a holiday was not observed much less mentioned in scripture, affords a church congregation freedom and flexibility in deciding whether or not to meet or where and how on such a day, without violating the biblical admonition to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves.”  

In fact, though the early church long ago established Sunday as the Lord’s Day and it became the traditional meeting day for Christians (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1–2; Rev. 1:10), we understand that there is no explicit mandate as such, for a Sunday only meeting.

For me as a pastor it is a strong preference and conviction that the congregation should meet to worship God corporately whenever it can on Sunday, but the main thing is the main thing, which means in our particular context and circumstance, the meeting itself is the main thing. Thankfully, we were able to make the contingency plan to do something we’ve never done before as a church- hold a Christmas Eve service, which we are doing Lord willing at the same place and time this Saturday.

As far as far as I’m concerned – contextual considerations aside, it is the content of what the reason for this season is that matters most. The synoptic gospel writers (Matthew and Luke alone) chose to focus on the what and why, rather than when.

The Hope of Christmas  

This world is full of optimists, pessimists and everyone else in between. Many pessimists seem to doubt that much good can come from anyone at anytime, while optimists are hopeful, or hope- really in other words, wish, that good things may come to them. With Christmas coming this Sunday we know that children everywhere are hoping their Christmas “wish lists” come true.

Well interestingly enough, Christmas from a Christian perspective, is full of hope at a time when this nation needs hope- badly. When I’m talking about hope, I don’t mean a wish or desire, like “I hope I get that job promotion.” Or, “I hope I get to go on that nice vacation”, or ‘Get the new house we’ve been dreaming of”, or “I hope I meet that man or woman this year that God has for me to marry.”

Hope for the Christian is the confident expectation of a future event that has not yet been realized. It is a reality or event that is true, promised and scriptural, but just lies ahead, such as the second coming of Jesus Christ, which fulfills the believer’s hope of glory and heaven. This hope that true disciples of Christ have, is why they look forward to the future with great anticipation, rather than fear and uncertainty as the rest of the world does.      

If there was ever a time to be uncertain of the future for the unredeemed, this is it. We live in a strange, post-Christian culture in which an unprecedented moral and  sexual revolution has taken place in our nation and is advancing at light speed to say nothing of its ever-increasing violence, political upheaval and societal dysfunction. America is divided and anxious. The USA needs hope.

Guess what? Christmas provides that hope if properly understood. The incarnation of Christ was not signed, sealed and delivered by the triune Godhead to wish the world a Merry Christmas.

Rather, King Jesus was born of a virgin in “due time” (Galatians 4) to bring forgiveness, joy, peace, real love, and life that never ends – spiritually and physically. That arrival of the Messiah as a newborn, is what prompted angels and those first church evangelists, the shepherds of Bethlehem, to worship, praise God and declare the greatest news in the history of the universe: God made a way to make sinners right with him, by sending his son as a baby into the world.

Because of the first advent or coming of Jesus whenever Christmas really was (March or April?), we can confidently look for the glorious hope of our lord and savior’s return being realized in his second advent. On that day, God’s people will be resurrected, all wrongs will be righted and this fallen, sin-cursed world will be restored to what it was intended to be all along before the fall.

The hope of the Christian, birthed humanely at Christmas is the confident expectation of the future, anchored by the promises of God in his word as a firm assurance regarding things that are now unclear and unknown.

Therefore, because Jesus Christ came to earth having humbled himself in birth (Philippians 2) and historically conquered sin, death and the devil then, we can’t wait for tomorrow because we’re one day closer to the consummation of all God’s Christmas promises.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3, ESV).

The Roots of the Sexual Revolution

Bernie Diaz, December 14, 2022

I know, I know I recently posted a worldview analysis on this nation’s government redefining God’s first human institution in the , (Dis)Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), enshrining same-sex marriage officially into federal law.  

That post reflected more on the historic, political, societal and sociological implications of this unprecedented piece of legislation. I think yesterday’s tragic if not grotesque signing ceremony that took place at the White House from a biblical perspective was “grotesque”, in the sense that among all of the hundreds of attendees and celebrities that were invited, the President of the United States and his administration paraded a number of drag queens before the assembled, which consciously or otherwise, well-illustrated the depth and breadth of the depravity inherent in the ideology of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Yes, by virtue of the seven letters in its ever-evolving identity thus far, this country’s generation long sexual revolution and the vocabulary and agenda promoting this movement as presented at the White House signing, left open the possibility – better yet the probability, that the legalization and therefore, legitimization of any and all sexual behaviors, preferences and orientations under the guise of ‘equal rights’ will continue unabated in this country. Unless something changes- dramatically.

I honestly wondered why the polygamist community wasn’t represented yesterday at the signing to serve as a preview of coming attractions. But I digress. What makes this post different from the last on this news item, is my aim to present as biblical rationale an argument, for the roots of this revolution and its latest advance, so that Christian disciple-makers would be better prepared to speak to this sin-saturated culture from a well-grounded biblical and theological framework.

The Fall

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:4-6, ESV).

FYI: the sexual revolution that evangelicals are dealing with in our world is nothing new: it was actually rooted in the Garden of Eden approximately 7,000 years ago. When humanity’s parents, Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of playing God, worshipping themselves as the creation rather than their creator – as its instigator the devil himself did (Isaiah 14:12-15) in the quest for self-autonomy and fleshly pleasure, sin and depravity began to take root into the heart of mankind.

That root of all sin to follow, became manifest by pride and in the initial and contagious act of idolatry. Idolatry? Plainly speaking to worship an idol or idols, including oneself and our gratification, is to proclaim to God in essence, “Listen, I know you mean well but I’d rather be in charge of my life, my world and I know better what is best for me, because my life is my life.”

That mindset of idolatry gave rise to humanity’s first murder, when Adam’s son Cain, killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4) because Abel’s sacrifice to God was deemed acceptable by the creator and his self-made form of worship was not. Cain was jealous. His way was not God’s way and out of a sense of pride – a hurt ego not having his own desires met, he responded in anger and violence, just as the apostle James affirmed as a way of life in the New Testament (James 4:1-3).

How does this reality fit then with the sexual revolution and the same-sex law signed by President Biden yesterday? The apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome clarifies this idea for us by paralleling the Genesis 3 argument that produces the wrath of God against ungodliness or unrighteousness.

At the first reading of Romans 1:18-32, one might gather that God is mad at America and other nation states and societies like it over history because of sexual sin or fornication. Romans 1 in fact, makes clear that homosexuality is one of a number of sins that reveal the wrath of God on a people.

However, a more careful reading following the author’s flow of argument there, tells us that homosexuality as a pervasive sin in a population, exists as merely a symptom and demonstration of the root sin of idolatry. Paul in Romans 1:26-27 writes that God had a reason to ‘give’ or turn over those – including a nation, “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (v.18). He turns them over or abandons them – three times he ‘turns’ us over in this text, to “dishonorable passions” that “exchange natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.”    

Thus, the word is as clear there as it is throughout the Bible that homosexual orientation and conduct is unnatural, a perversion of God’s created order self-evident in nature and conscience.

Yet, our nation’s federal leadership has just codified this immoral abomination to God into law. So, if rampant and culturally acceptable homosexuality is a symptom of sin, what drives it? Paul tells us in Romans 1:

 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen (Romans 1:21-25).

The above passage states the common denominator that results in sins like homosexuality, transgenderism and even abortion: the big three that our country’s culture is wrestling with as we speak.

That common denominator is idolatry, characterized by the following three factors:

  1. A failure to acknowledge God and his existence and authority over our lives though looking at creation and our conscience tells us otherwise (Romans 1:19-20,28)
  2. A failure to honor and express thanksgiving to God for who he is and what he has and does for us all out of his abounding grace (Romans 1:21).
  3. An insatiable craving or lust to make ourselves and other things including aberrant sexual behaviors and identities our idols of worship, including the freedom to take innocent human life (abortion) and the risk of our own health in the name of sexual liberty (Romans 1:22-27,31).

Again, keep in mind that the modern sexual revolution in this country that began to explode a little more than a generation ago, was just the latest link in a chain of moral decline that washed over our shores gradually, featuring a modern wave of feminism, liberal theology in the church, and manifest in free sex, mainstream birth-control and abortion.

The chains that keep those links intact is that which holds mankind in bondage to sin, beginning with the sin of idolatry- little wonder which became the theme of the first two of God’s ten commandments he gave to his nation of Israel (Exodus 20:3-5). S

elf-love, the freedom to ‘love whomever you want’ and the freedom to kill (the unborn) are some of the gods of this nation that are worshipped – including the reported 68% of Americans who now support same-sex marriage.

It has been a relatively short and slippery slope in which we have fallen from the unlimited sexual promiscuity and perversion found in human history from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) to the sacrifice of babies to the idols of Baal and Molech (Leviticus 20; Ezekiel 22) to abortion on demand. Perhaps even faster from a cultural standpoint we have seen western civilization’s tolerance and now acceptance and coming promotion of such evil and idolatry today (Ephesians 5:3,12).

As recently as 1993, Democratic President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into federal law limiting marriage in the United States to one man and one woman. By the late 90’s and early 00’s, individual states began to legalize civil unions and same-sex marriage, which then by default, became the law of the land by virtue of the Obergefell Supreme Court decision in 2015. Today, our federal government made its disrespect- ‘dishonoring’ of God and his law official by man’s law. Idolatry indeed travels far and fast.

Gospel Issue              

It should go without saying for Christians that idolatry is a sin that can only be atoned for or forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. Sexual idolatry damns mankind plain and simple. The sexually immoral and idolatrous are forbidden from inheriting and entering the kingdom of God, glory and heaven unless they repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation (1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:5).

Only Christ and the gospel of God can transform a person and a people and deliver them from their sins and the wrath of God that is upon them.

Disciple of Christ, remember that homosexuality and abortion are not arguable secondary issues of doctrine between believers and denominations. They may damn our friends and loved ones, not only because they are sins clearly stated in scripture, but because they are symptomatic of the chief sin of idolatry, a desire for people to take God off his throne and to put themselves or their bodies and their toys on it. May our Lord raise up a new generation of disciple-makers who will attack the root and not just the bad fruit of what ails our nation.   

The Reason for the Season of Gospel Proclamation

Bernie Diaz, December 6th, 2022 (originally posted December 4th, 2018)

Any day now a deluge of online and printed magazine articles, television documentaries and talk shows will begin to pour in to take advantage of the Christmas calendar to debate the ‘reason for the season’ and whether or not Jesus Christ was born in a manger on December 25th on or about 6 BC.

This is the season for some skeptics, including liberal theologians and atheists to question if not attempt to debunk Christianity, the historical Jesus and the veracity of the Bible. This will happen as millions of professing Christians among other spiritually minded folks will “celebrate” Christmas (when they’re not busy buying presents and for those worshipping Santa Claus).

Lest Bible-believing, born-again disciples of Jesus despair once again over the growing secularization and commercialization of Christmas during this time of year, I encourage evangelicals with two reminders of the following Christmas truths:

  1. Don’t get too hung up on December 25th being our Lord’s birthday in his incarnation.

Don’t waste time arguing over or debating this. According to scriptural insights and the best historical evidence available, it is highly unlikely that Jesus was born on this date anyway. More important than the ‘then’ is the what and why.

It is widely accepted by most scholars that the Roman Catholic church centuries ago, initiated the December observance of Christmas and the Savior’s birth to counter and attempt to redeem pagan worship during the winter solstice.

  1. This is an excellent time to proclaim or declare to friends, co-workers, students and loved ones the real reason for the season.

Only Easter can compare to this unique cultural opportunity afforded Christians at this time of year, to obey Christ and his Great Commission mandate to “make disciples.”

The name, images (false as they may be) and talk of Christ on video (The Chosen), print, in our ears musically and on the lips of people is hardly greater in our community than now.

Therefore, we are to called to walk with wisdom in following the apostle Paul’s instructions to the Colossian church just two decades after the resurrection to preach gospel truth. It is a process and culture of discipleship that involve ‘three Ps’: People, Pray and Proclaim.

  • People Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time (Col.4:5, ESV).

Who are the people you may have the greatest opportunity to influence and introduce to Jesus Christ during this Christmas season? A family member(s)? At a Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) or Christmas Day gathering? A fellow student or co-worker on the job while on break?

A relative stranger at the store or common acquaintance (i.e. neighbors, those folks you say hi to while running errands or serve you)? Identify at least “one” or a couple of people that you want to talk to about God, Jesus and the gospel before the month of December is through.

  • Pray Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak (Col. 4:2-4).

Prepare in advance what you will say to the people you will proclaim truth to, by asking the Holy Spirit of God that indwells you for courage, opportunities, wise words and a listening ear. Do the same for your fellow disciple makers amongst your church family.

Pray for the salvation of the people that the Lord has put on your heart or you run into, and for the power of the Spirit to be at work in their hearts and lives. Also, pray for the power to live a life that is an example of the evidence of Christ as his ambassador (2 Cor. 5), as you show and share Him with those who know you best.

  • Proclaim Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col. 4:6).

Preach the gospel of God and his word of truth by telling your testimony as a witness of how God saved you- how he worked and is working in your life and his power that delivered you from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of light and his beloved Son, which is the very reason for this holiday Christmas Season (Lu. 1:76-79; 2:10-11)!

Strive to proclaim God’s word by reading, sharing and studying his word with others one-on-one or more. Now might be a great time to invite one of your “ones” (above) to not only attend your church’s Sunday worship service (‘the front door’), but perhaps via a small or community group meeting or Bible study (‘the back door’).

Or, you may find it best to create a mentoring process of your own privately, perhaps studying the more salvific oriented gospel of John or the Christmas accounts in Matthew or Luke with a curious and willing friend.

The apostle Peter paralleled Paul’s teaching in Colossians when he wrote that we should “… be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

I believe that preparation may entail having a Christmas ‘apologetic’ (“defense”) handy. To tie in this holiday with the reason for the season, be prepared to say that the most valuable gift worth receiving this time of year, is the free one from Jesus, which is justification and salvation by faith alone, through God’s grace alone (Ro. 4:5; 6:23).

Prayerfully anticipate the fact that when evangelizing someone or in the attempt to make a disciple, you may have to play the part of a yuletide doctor who will diagnose the terminal disease of sin in the heart of your loved one or friend.

We must be willing in other words to first share the bad news of the gospel- the necessity of being forgiven for sin and escaping God’s just wrath upon it, before serving up the good news of God’s free-gift of salvation and a new birth (Ro. 5:8; 8:1) to those that repent and believe in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9).

Think of it as that great third act (redemption) of God’s story of mankind that was literally birthed on whenever that first Christmas day was. Be prepared to tell them that world history began with creation (Gen. 1-2); was followed by the fall (Gen. 3), was rescued by the redemption of Christ (Ro. 3:23-26) and will be restored as a kingdom and then permanently (Rev. 19, 21-22) so. Most appropriately enough, don’t forget to say to your Jewish, agnostic, Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness friends, that the Old Testament prophets perfectly prophesied or predicted the Christmas story’s redemption plan centuries before (Mic. 5:2; Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7).

My favorite Christmas movie of all time – movie period I think, is Frank Capra’s classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. It reminds me when I mention it to someone this month to remember to tell them the part about the truly wonderful life being in Jesus Christ with the hope and glory of heaven. That’s a good reason for the season!

Defying God and Redefining Marriage

Bernie Diaz, November 30, 2022

It happened subtly, somewhat quietly, flying under the news and opinion radar for the most part on Tuesday, November 29th 2022…..

It became another ‘day that will live in infamy’ as far as I’m concerned (harkening back to a President’s refrain after the Japanese invasion of the United States in 1941, precipitating our involvement in World War II), when the U.S. Senate – a dozen Republicans united with every Democrat colleague voted to pass the so-called ‘Respect for Marriage Act.’

It is a legislative bill that will likely enshrine a right to same-sex marriage into federal law when the House of Representatives approves the measure once more before it heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his expected signature this coming month.  Religious liberty advocates rightly say this unnecessary law (same-sex marriage being legalized by the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015) could further infringe on the rights of individuals, churches, and organizations to express their religious views on marriage in the public square.

Though some religious liberty amendments were earlier added to gain Republican votes, the Senate struck down three other specific amendments that may have provided more protection for religious liberty, before 61 senators voted to pass the bill as is and 36 opposed it, with two abstentions.   

Why?

Though the Obergefell decision was not in danger of being overturned, the bill gained support after the high court’s abortion decision this past June, which overturned Roe v. Wade. In a concurring opinion from that Dobbs case, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said the Court should also review some of the legal reasoning used in Obergefell, which recognized a right to same-sex marriage. The fear that the court could reverse Obergefell pushed several of the members of Congress – led by liberal Democrats, to try to codify it into federal law first.

Do we now better understand why Supreme and federal court appointments are so important to the cause of true social justice?

Why the GOP?

Compromise and political expediency seem to have influenced several of the Republican Senators that voted to approve the bill, proving that they are not conservatives at all, being those that seek to conserve America’s traditional values and principles. Rather, an increasing number of Republicans, apparently intimidated by the dominant leftist media, moved by personal anecdotes of gay family members and the fear of being found on “the wrong side of history” as they see it, bent the knee to the sexual revolutionaries.

“Just a few years ago, there would not be the support there is today for protecting the marriages of people in interracial and same-sex marriages,” said Senator  Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin who led the charge to pass the bill in the Senate, adding already legal interracial marriage language for additional, political window dressing. In 2012, she became the first openly gay Senator ever elected and said the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell, has been instrumental in changing the “hearts and minds” of those previously opposed to gay unions.

What hasn’t changed is the word of God’s position and revelation concerning sexuality, marriage and family, nor should the conviction of any biblically faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Contrary to public opinion, Christians in their opposition to this sin legitimizing law are not trying to tell people what they can do in their bedrooms or “who they can love,” as is commonly stated.

The issue is about what sort of institution the state will recognize as marriage and what impact will its redefinition from its millennia old and historic standard have on adults, children and families.

Any legal system which distinguishes marriage from other kinds of relationships will inevitably exclude by definition, many other kinds of unions that are deemed as dangerous to the general welfare of its society. This is why the state has long denied marriage licenses to sexual threesomes or more (polygamy) or to under-age children. There are an almost infinite number of friendship and kinship combinations which the state does not and should not recognize as marriage.

Up until the blink of an eye historically- two Supreme Court decisions at the beginning of the 21st century, state and federal law (e.g. the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996) regulated and restricted marriage to following the biblical model of one man and one woman.  

Why Care?

The establishment of gay “marriage” enshrines in law a faulty and hedonistic view of marriage, one that says marriage is essentially a demonstration of commitment expressed by one’s preferred sexuality. In the biblical and even pre-Mosiac law (Gen. 2:18-24), the traditional view of marriage was ordered to provide for the well-being of the child as the bedrock foundation of the family, which is why the state had a vested interest in regulating and supporting it.

Under the new rules of the moral and sexual revolution, relationships and marriage are oriented to the emotional bond of the couple. The slogan may say “keep the government out of my bedroom,” as if personal choice and privacy was the real issue, but same-sex marriage advocates are not asking for something private. They do not want simple toleration, but public recognition and approval.

Pro-homosexual rights activists and politicians conveniently choose to ignore the sociological facts that the business of heterosexual marriage is for the common good and for the well-being and the flourishing of a society.  They ignore the fact that kids do better with their mom and a dad and their communities do better when husbands and wives stay together.

Hundreds of studies confirm the biblical nature of these realities (exceptions notwithstanding) while same-sex marriage assumes that marriage is re-definable and the moving parts replaceable – including yes, the reality of binary sexual genders. Godly marriages as ordered by the scriptures, according to the recently released, Greater Love Ministers’ Declaration clearly states that marriage

  • Protects women, children and the vulnerable.
  • It deeply values children, ensuring that they are only conceived when both father and mother are already committed to their love, care and protection. It ensures, as far as humanly possible, that children are raised by both their natural father and mother, who of all people are normally those inclined to love them most.
  • It binds generations together, for it sees the conceiving, bearing, raising, teaching and supporting of children as a single lifelong task which is not to be separated. It therefore establishes stable families.

Once upon time in this country, the above statements about marriage and family were assumed to be true and normative. However, over the last generation or so, such ideas are not thought of as being anachronistic and oppressive.  Unfortunately, this new, ‘Respect for Marriage’ act threatens to oppress and disrespect religious freedom as never before.

While current provisions in the bill may protect local places of worship, ministries and non-for profit schools and religious organizations perhaps – for now, for-profit businesses, including small-business entrepreneurs such as marriage cake-bakers, florists,  web designers, AirBNB owners, travel agents and a number of other related businesses will be liable to legal action, should they hold to their Christian convictions and wish to abstain from providing their services to same-sex couples or “marriages” which promote or propagate that lifestyle.   

As you can see, marriage matters and personal or private choices make for public consequences. The sexual revolution and this new law to be is no respecter of civil and religious liberties. That much is for sure.

What does this mean for the Church?

This post is meant to serve more as a warning and a call for preparation more than just a doom and gloom proclamation. For biblically minded Christians holding to a worldview consistent with the faith, this latest advance of the sexual revolutionaries will likely mean more marginalization, name-calling, or worse for followers of Christ (job loss), but that shouldn’t be unexpected. Our Lord Jesus promised us no better than what he received in standing for truth and righteousness in this world (John 15:18–25).

This latest setback in the culture war may be more of what the church needs as another wake-up call, in order to prayerfully seek God’s face in repentance and gospel faithfulness as a means of revival should he ordain such an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit, in which God’s people hunger for his word and long for his glory.

Revival as we’ve noted in this space before, is accompanied by an unusual sense of the presence of God, a deep awareness of sin, an overwhelming joy at forgiveness, and a passion to reach the lost. There are more lost people among us today than we can imagine. Though such revivals are rare, they have happened at a number of points in history… perhaps current events such as this one may lead us to one of those points in history. Lord may it be so.

Give Thanks for Everything? 

Bernie Diaz, November 23, 2022

.. give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:18, ESV).

We understand as Christians the literal meaning of the above text from the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church don’t we? It’s one of those scriptures that are intellectually plain and simple enough for even young children to understand- the grammar, syntax and literal meaning of the words to “give thanks in all circumstances” as the tenth of fifteen rapid fire instructions or imperatives- commands given to all Christians of all times, in that chapter, beginning with that church as to how Christ followers were to live among one another.  

We get the idea that disciples of Jesus Christ- meaning every born-again believer over history is to be thankful for no other reason than because we’re told to (Hebrews 12), pretty much (Psalm 100; 103, Colossians 3), all over (Isaiah 12, Psalm 107), the Bible (1 Chronicles 16, Psalm 95). Our lives are supposed to be defined by thanksgiving and a gratitude attitude towards God 365 days a year, meaning not just on Thanksgiving Day.

From a practical experience, we know it’s much easier to give thanks to God for what he is doing in our lives, when we believe those things are good right? You know what I’m getting at don’t you? Good for us = blessings. Favor. We throw around the theological word and idea of God’s grace in our lives, when he’s just blessed us financially, or materially, emotionally, physically (health), vocationally (our work), etc, etc.

We somehow as Christians don’t struggle quite as much to give thanks to God insofar as we can see, feel and like the reasons we have for thanking God, such as those things we deem to be good.

The big however, however in the command from scripture to be thankful in all things and in every circumstance and the desire to cry out, “God is Good all the time and all the time God is good,” is to consider how that statement and the above verse reconciles with the suffering saint, or the one even struggling with the pile of petty disappointments and discouragements that we have to endure in this life.

Does “all circumstances” really mean all circumstances? No exceptions God? Not even cases like rape and incest when contemplating abortion as so many pro-abort activists like to point to? Cancer in kids? Financial ruin like bankruptcy? Foreclosure? What about slow, painful death? The loss of home and life in war, hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters? Persecutions of all kinds?

The heartbreak of a prodigal child? The range of incomprehensible circumstances for which we are to give thanks to God is almost incalculable. It’s everything from injustices done to us, to betrayals, offenses and real cataclysms to the death of dreams and aspirations. For instance, I as a Pastor while thankful to the Lord for the flock of my church which I have the privilege to serve, honestly struggle at times to give thanks for the seeming absence of the visual fruit I would like to see for the faithfulness I give to the ministry.

Talk about one of the hardest commands in all the Bible to obey.  I mean, we all know people (like ourselves) who are diligent in thanking God, when times are good but when they’re tough – when tragedy strikes, even the small everyday difficulties and obstacles to overcome, they don’t know what to do. They feel like they are meant to thank God for them all – even the big ones and give themselves no space to grieve for a season, and in so doing they risk drowning in a sea of depression anchored in the devilish lie that God doesn’t actually love them or has forsaken them.

Therefore, in order to have the wherewithal to thank God in all circumstances, it will be helpful for us to develop a theology and practice of sacrifice and suffering in the Christian life. And by the way, I’m blogging and preaching to myself here, as I join the hallelujah and amen chorus of the millions of Christians around the globe who struggle with this issue of suffering. No one should desire suffering in and of itself. 

In fact, the more and longer you prosper in this life, the harder it is to suffer well and give thanks when life sours or goes south. We’re spoiled. I’m not going to pretend to tell you that as a pastor I welcome and wish for suffering. I don’t. However, what I will tell you is that we better be well-prepared for it and to suffer well for Christ and his kingdom because it will come, has come before and we may be in the midst of abject suffering as you read this.

Make no mistake, suffering in this world is the will of God for his people (1 Peter 2:18-21; 3:17). It is not a matter of if it will come, but only a matter of when and how often. While this particular post will not deal with the doctrine of suffering, be assured that the heart of thanksgiving – even in the midst of suffering and the most trying of circumstances, is a blessed attitude which serves as a means of suffering well and experiencing the type of true Christian peace and joy that the world cannot possibly understand, much less enjoy (Philippians 4:4-7).   

So, from a practical standpoint, how can the Christian ‘give thanks in all circumstances’, including the painful ones like some of those we’ve mentioned before?

Thankfully (pun intended), the Bible gives us pointers on what suffering and painful circumstances does for the believer, from everything to bringing salvation in Christ to the sufferer among others (Genesis 50:20), to God’s mercy and comfort to the sufferer which enables them to better comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3) which are two legitimate reasons enough to thank the Lord for some of our trials and tribulations.

Thanks for Sanctification   

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

Interestingly enough, the New Testament calls on believers to rejoice when we’re feeling anxious or as James puts it, to “count” or acknowledge trials with joy, because Christian joy is more of the sense of contentment or soul satisfaction in the heart of a Christian, bred by thanksgiving, than the temporal joy of the world bred only by the most recent of favorable circumstances or blessings. The world calls that ‘happiness.’

Whereas the true believer rejoices by giving thanks in all circumstances, good or bad, for a myriad of reasons, of which the progress of sanctification is one overarching reason for thanks. What do I mean by sanctification for the uninitiated?  

Sanctification in a nutshell is the process by which Christians live and become more like their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, distinct from the world in every meaningful way by the power and filling of the Holy Spirit of God.  Here’s the kicker, God only knows that happens often and best for his children… when they suffer trials in all kinds of “circumstances.”

Thus, when we understand that testing and trying circumstances produce greater Christlikeness, nearness to him (Philippians 3:8,10) love for him and hope for his return and future glory, we have big time reasons to be thankful.

We can thank God according to Romans 5:2-5, for the suffering that produces:

  • The hope of glory (vv.2,5), meaning the desired expectation of the second coming of Christ and the inauguration of his millennial kingdom on earth.
  • Endurance (v.3), meaning the kind of long-suffering or patience that can withstand evil, pain and suffering as we give thanks and rejoice in it.   
  • Character (v.4), meaning from the original Greek word in which it originates, the proof of, or trustworthiness of one’s faith.

If suffering and various kinds of trials are God’s will and way of producing Christlikeness in his children, which is his goal, then we have reason to be thankful for the results of those trials which will meet his objectives for us and realizing that ultimately, those circumstances are meant for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28).

Finally, if all of the above were not reason enough to give God thanks for every circumstance, consider a return to the golden chain of our salvation which I shared with our church this past Sunday from Romans 8:29-30: which tells us that God’s own- the redeemed, were: foreknown or loved intimately from eternity past; predestined or sovereignly set-apart and selected for salvation to no credit of their own doing but merely by God’s special love for the elect; called to the new-birth with a new heart at a historic moment in time; justified; or declared just before God because of his son’s righteousness credited to the redeemed and glorified; or being made into the image of his son to be completed at his return.

Is that not reason enough to be thankful to God and rejoice without ceasing in all circumstances Christian, before and after Thanksgiving Day, because you have been saved from the just wrath of God (Romans 8:1)? That’s reason enough for me. Happy Thanksgiving Day.

Christian Nationalism – a Cure for Post-Election Blues? 

Bernie Diaz, November 17, 2022

How many more current events and news reports will it take for evangelical Christians to come to grips with the fact that America has ceased to be a “Christian nation” if you ever thought that it was?

It’s one thing to consider and lament the state of the United States in terms of our current economic plight, violent crime, overrun borders, a dysfunctional education system and existential threats from near and far, but it’s quite another to see before our very eyes the moral and cultural dismantling of a country reflected at virtually every level and in every institution.

Make no mistake, the United States as we posted back in 2020, is a divided nation because it has become over the course of more than a generation, a secularly minded and pagan nation, and that hurts.  That reality rang home clearly to me this past week as I observed and digested the results of the just concluded mid-term elections. 

While I admit some level of disappointment at the ripple rather than the ‘red wave’ that came from the aftermath of the election and the officials that won congressional and gubernatorial offices, I was taken aback quite a bit more by some of the results from several state ballot box measures which serve as prime indicators of where we are as a country and how the true church of the United States will respond.

While voters may have divided the U.S. Congress almost evenly among the two major political parties by the slimmest of margins to offer a balance of power to the White House, ‘bluer’ states became bluer, some ‘redder ‘states became redder (e.g. Florida) and more and more Americans in my view- particularly Christians holding to a biblical worldview, were relegated to a broader minority status, as evidenced by the voice of voters regarding the critical moral issues of life, family and faith.

  • Life

While pro-life Christians were right to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling this past summer that overturned Roe v Wade, turning the issue of abortion back to the states, the latest state trends continue to point left rather than right as to the legal protection and human rights afforded to the unborn.

Five states held referendums on abortion last Tuesday, and the pro-life side lost in every one of them. Voters in Michigan, California (of course), and Vermont approved amendments adding a right to abortion to their state constitutions. Kentucky surprisingly to many, failed to pass a pro-life amendment that would have clarified the state constitution’s rule that it does not grant a right to abortion, and Montana failed to pass a legislative referendum that would have required doctors to provide life-saving care to infants born alive. That’s care to infants; born-alive, as in having survived a botched abortion.

Whereas, prolife advocates attributed the losses to the scare tactics of their well-funded opposition, biblically minded believers understand that sexual freedom trumps human freedom, including the very right to life, in a hedonistic and ever-increasing God-hating and Christ-rejecting society. Many of these referendums reflected large pro-abort views by wide margins.

The Dobbs decision which overruled Roe, did not translate into success at the ballot box in this year’s mid-terms as I feared would be the case. Indeed, the pro-life movement and cause has much work to do in the post-Roe world in striving to make what some states are making legal, to be unthinkable.

  • Family

A dozen Republican senators sided with all of their Democrat colleagues this week to move the “Respect for Marriage Act” forward, surpassing the 60-vote minimum necessary to have the bill come forward for a final rubber stamp vote on the floor of the Senate later this month. That law will now codify or enshrine same-sex marriage into U.S. federal law.

While the Obergefell Supreme Court decision of 2015 allowed for same-sex marriage, this new piece of legislation that President Biden can’t wait to sign, will become the official law of the land, further disrespecting God’s created order beginning with his first institution for mankind- marriage and family, to the detriment of children and the welfare of our society.  

How could this happen? Why are Republicans, representing purportedly the ‘conservative’ party in the U.S. voting for this? Allegedly three Republican senators worked to convince others in their party that the measure does not change the religious and free speech rights of private individuals or businesses concerning their views on marriage. However, from a practical and legal basis, an amendment to the bill will do little or nothing to prevent full recognition and legal status to virtually any new form or definition of marriage. As a result, I believe polygamy in the United States cannot be very far away.

The blue wave has become a “rainbow wave” according to some observers, by virtue of this heinous, congressional act and by the onslaught of more homosexual and bisexual candidates winning elected office across the nation this past week, including two lesbian governors.

  • Faith

The right to smoke dope recreationally, joined sexual liberty as greater priorities than religious liberty for many Americans. Voters in Nevada and Arkansas – yes, Arkansas, took steps deemed contrary to and problematic for religious freedom, while legalized marijuana passed in two of the five states that considered it, as a scientific study was being released, stating that marijuana is more harmful to smokers than tobacco. But hey, why let a little science and scripture get in the way of a good time?

Nevada voters added gender identity and sexual orientation to freedoms protected in the state constitution with 57 percent of their voters approving an Equality of Rights Amendment there, which will surely be duplicated in initiatives at the federal level by the LGTBQ+ revolutionaries.

Unfortunately, the wave of the sexual revolution continues to sweep over more Christ professing churches and institutions like Calvin University in Michigan, whose trustees recently voted to keep faculty who reject the Bible’s clear teachings on sexual immorality on staff in defiance of their own confessions of faith (1 Cor. 6:18; Matt. 19:4-5). What’s next?

“Christian Nationalism?”

Is the answer greater political involvement from the church? The above sub-title in this post is in scare quotes because many Americans are divided over what the definition of that label actually is. It must have something to do with identifying our nation as being Christian right? Well, that can’t be the idea, as affirmed by the last Presidential and mid-term election results as well as our current state of affairs.

So, what or who is a Christian Nationalist, the kind of person that many on the liberal and even evangelical left are up in arms about, fearing that the rise of such a movement will endanger American democracy?

Critics of Christian Nationalism as they understand it, say it is an intolerable movement, threatening to turn America into a repressive theocracy, as in becoming a new-Israel of sorts. We’re told this is the ideology that caused the Jan. 6 riot in the nation’s capital and is the driving force behind political violence in America, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Indeed, the secularists have taken to equate any conservative, moral position on an issue (i.e. parental school choice, border security, voter I.D. laws, pro-life) as a dangerous form of the movement. Such thinking is really meant to intimate and force Biblically grounded, Christian voters into the closet and away from the voting booth and marketplace of ideas (including elected office and high-level positions of leadership in the corporate world), lest they be canceled and found to be radical, hate-mongering theocrats.

Of course, that scenario and ‘woke’ type formula found in the Marixst roots of Critical Race Theory if successful, would leave leftist liberals free to continue to reshape and redefine America in its laws and institutions. Therefore, do we as Christians take up our ball and go home, run away from the public square and take shelter within the four walls of the home and church or call for a counter cultural revolution of evangelical Christians to ‘take back America?’

Don’t Run Away from Politics, Run to the Bible   

As is the case with so many non-essential and gospel issues, Christians are directed by scripture to be prayerfully well-educated in the ways of the world and participate in bringing it closer to true justice by speaking the truth in love, while not becoming so pre-occupied if not obsessed by the world or the city of man, as to be ignorant of or apathetic, to the city of God. As Jesus told his enemies on the way to the cross, “his kingdom (in the earthly sense) was not (yet) of this world.”

Thus, to clarify the label of Christian Nationalism being so often bandied about today, it would be unbiblical to think that scripture justifies thinking of America as a Christian nation and a special beneficiary of God’s promises and a future like Israel. It would be more biblically correct to think of the United States has having been historically blessed by God’s common grace in his providence.

That acknowledgement, however, does not warrant a Christian theocracy, in which voters via false conversions, baptisms and hard-hearted church attendance are coerced into identifying as and worshipping Christ and voting like conservatives as a means of affirming American citizenship.

If Christian Nationalism is to take place by way of identity, like Israel being a “Jewish state” or Iran being a Muslim state or India a Hindu state, then Christian Nationalism is not a label that disciples of Christ should feel welcome wearing. The U.S. once upon a time resembled something of a Christian nation by way of its biblically infused governmental and legal system and its cultural influence, which did impact its politics and policy for nearly two centuries.

However, that is no longer the case, as more recent history has proven that we are in the midst of a post (after)-Christian culture or as one pastor recently noted, a pre (before)-Christian culture, paralleling our current relationship to the world, to the first century Roman empire, into which the church was born, as if the Bible and the church had never existed before.

Christians would be wise to remember that this nation was discovered and founded upon the principle of religious (not anti-God) liberty, in which denominations and houses of worship could survive and thrive without government intervention or intrusion. That ideal is what drove Puritans to come to America from England as ‘Pilgrims’ in order to freely worship and evangelize without the fear of being institutionalized as part of a national or state church which could prioritize one religion or denomination over another, relegating others to a minority and endangered status.

Therefore, I would argue that Christians out of love of neighbor can seek to influence America once again for the sake of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, by demonstrating Christ in salt and light (Matt. 5:18) before a lost and spiritually dying country, rather than looking to establish America superficially as a Christian nation by identity.

The church cannot rush King Jesus’s eschatological timetable of bringing heaven to earth under his ultimate and perfect rule and reign. The Lord of heaven and earth will do that himself when he returns with his church (Matt. 24; Rev. 19-20).

Until then, we can continue to ‘expose the evil and works of darkness’ to the world, by the light of the world. vote by faith and conscience guided primarily by the precepts and principles of scripture and peacefully, present a disciplining presence of hope- the promises of future glory to those in and out of the church.

We are and must remain loyal to our true citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3) as strangers on earth, 21st century pilgrims or sojourners, legal and born-again aliens here and now, ready to suffer well for Christ, ready to influence America for good, rather than merely identifying with a brand.