Author Archives: mycaptivethought

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.

Professing Christians Fighting Back Against the Revolution?

Bernie Diaz, March 16, 2021

I must admit, I was more than a bit baffled, if not befuddled to hear that the Roman Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis signed on to a statement this week indicating that the Catholic Church would not bless same-sex unions, which supporters of the sexual revolution said would threaten to widen the chasm between the church and much of the LGBTQ community.

Explaining their decision in a lengthy note, the ‘Holy See’ referred to homosexuality as a “choice,” described it as sinful and said it “cannot be recognized as objectively ordered” to God’s plans.

That stance – surprisingly as Biblical as it is coming from the Vatican, is certain to disappoint millions of “gay and lesbian Catholics” around the world.

Officially, “The blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit,” the Vatican’s top doctrinal office, wrote in the statement. God “does not and cannot bless sin.”  

This is a massively important and shocking statement coming from Pope Francis, who has frequently been praised by mainstream media for his welcoming tone towards LGBTQ people both within and outside their Church.

In fact, Francis made earlier declarations approving of legislation which legalized same-sex unions, as in cohabitating households, that are not technically marriages, which allowed for the Pope to straddle both sides of the theological and cultural fence that he has been wont to do.

Strangely enough, this new announcement from Francis comes on the heels of recent comments encouraging the Catholic Church to be more welcoming toward LGBTQ people on the grounds of ‘pastoral care’.

Why Now?

 In the document, the Vatican said it had received questions about blessing such unions sacramentally over recent years. A Reverend James Martin, also a prominent Catholic advocate of LGBTQ issues, said the statement was likely in response to conversations within the German church about celibacy, contraception, and homosexuality – three issues in which the sexual revolution is at odds with Roman Catholic dogma.

The decision is a setback for Catholics who had hoped the institution would ‘modernize’ its approach to homosexuality. Dozens of countries, including the U.S. and many in western Europe, have legalized same-sex marriages, and the Catholic Church’s reticence to fully embrace the LGBTQ community has long held the potential to alienate it from younger followers.

Lest we get too carried away though, with the notion that the Vatican may be approaching true and comprehensive, biblical and Christian orthodoxy, the statement also says that gays and lesbians, as individuals, may receive a blessing if they live according to Church teaching.

Implicitly, the Catholic ban is really about preserving their sacrament of marriage – one of seven sacraments in which Roman Catholics must adhere to in order to procure or preserve God’s grace.

As the statement added, “… “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family… The declaration of the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not therefore, and is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them.”

In other words, Rome seems to imply that homosexuality as an orientation and individual way of life may be consistent with a view of Christianity, so far as same-sex marriage is not included as a threat to one of its sacred sacraments. Never mess with the tradition!

Consistency in doctrine and the source of its revelation has always posed a problem for anyone analyzing the veracity of the Roman Catholic faith.

A typical Catholic capitulation to compromise was evident in another portion of the statement, which read:

The Christian community and its Pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations, and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.

At the same time, they should recognize the genuine nearness of the Church – which prays for them, accompanies them and shares their journey of Christian faith – and receive the teachings with sincere openness.

Note that while on the one hand, the Vatican wants to minister the gospel (their interpretation of it) to people of homosexual “inclination,” they want to share their “journey of Christian faith,” implying that avowed homosexuals are Christians- redeemed by faith in Christ. Which one is it? Do they need the gospel or not? Or maybe just a better fellowship group?

But then again, professing protestant Christians- individual and corporate have their own issues in struggling with the sexual revolution.

Bethany Christian Services, the country’s largest “evangelical” adoption and foster-care agency has abandoned its previous stance on biblical morality and says it will now place children with openly gay and transgender couples.

According to The New York Times, the Michigan-based organization announced the change this past week, in the familiar clarion call of the revolution’s influence on the faith, saying, “We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today.” 

A Bethany executive told the Times that their current board of directors includes members with “diverse personal views on sexuality.”

Such statements contradict its organization’s prior position statement declaring that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.” But that policy statement was removed by the group’s board this past January. What changed theologically? Nothing of course.

But the new policy states that “Christians of mutual good faith can reasonably disagree on various doctrinal issues, about which Bethany does not maintain an organizational position.”

Ah, really? Then on what basis does Bethany identify as Christian?

These verbal gymnastics from both the Catholic and Protestant side, are symptoms of how one responds to the culture’s pressure from the sexual revolution with a ‘low view of scripture.’

A low view of scripture is opposed of course to true, biblical evangelicalism’s ‘high view of scripture.’

That simply means that a high view of scripture holds that the Bible, being God’s special and specific revelation to man, is inerrant, infallible and verbally inspired (Psa. 19:7-9; 119:11-6; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), making it all-credible, all-sufficient (2 Tim. 3:16-17), authoritative and necessary.

In contrast, the low-view of scripture held by the mainline and the more liberal factions and denominations of professing Christianity, oppose the above and learn towards the Bible being more of a collection of humanely and therefore fallibly produced books containing some nice moral and ethical teaching, which must be interpreted through a culturally and politically post-modern lens, which can bend if not break to cultural mores- like say, the sexual revolution.

A high view of scripture means that a clear, natural and face value understanding of God’s Word shows that homosexuality- both in inclination and conduct is sin – antithetical and an abnormal perversion of God’s created order for sexuality (Gen. 19:1–13; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Ro. 1:26–27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10) and marriage (Matt. 19:5-6).   

Therefore, the low view of scripture – unable to acknowledge the authority of it, negates the Bible’s plain teaching on sexuality, and claims to either ignore it’s clear intent or misinterpret it as being a mere outdated, cultural construct of antiquity. Take your side and make your choice.

The Vatican and its Pope, long time proponents of church tradition, equaling if not surpassing scripture as the final authority of the faith and practice of Christianity, just took a more principled approach than many of its professing protestant adherents to the subject of same-sex marriage.

Now if Roman Catholicism could just get the gospel right and get on board with the ‘solas’ of the reformation, they might just get somewhere. Oh, like the kingdom and heaven.

Time for Faithfulness Which Means Fruitfulness

Bernie Diaz, March 10, 2021

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matt. 25:21, ESV)

I’m just being real. Having just observed the twelfth anniversary of my church plant, I expected we would have had a church building of our own by now – or at least a building program going. We don’t and are in fact meeting (however temporarily) on Sunday evenings in the building of our sister church- by the grace of God, via my good friend and fellow pastor’s provision, as we prayerfully await the Lord’s provision of a Sunday morning space.

I also would have liked if not expected by now, enough church bodies and a budget to have sent enough people to plant another church in our region or beyond, where the word ministry and gospel of God was desperately needed to be preached- faithfully. That hasn’t happened yet either.

Little did I know that something like COVID would come to our world and  that I would fall prey to unrealistic expectations of myself and my church, and that I would learn hard lessons about what faithfulness really means and God’s own definition of success, which does not at all jibe with man’s.

For starters, I’ve learned that my pastoral ‘to do list’ as well as the mission of my church is and will never be accomplished on this side of glory. The first sermon I ever preached for my church was titled, “God’s Marching Orders”, which was a message that applied the Lord’s Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40), Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) and the ‘Great Commitment’ (Acts 1:8) to local church ministry.

It’s a goal that we have diligently pursued for over a decade, but I have come to understand remains out of our reach in its being completed within my earthly lifetime. We’re still marching.

Our mission remains the same, to make, mature and multiply disciples, preaching the word in season and out of season through the ups and downs, peaks and valleys of church life until Jesus comes back, in a very needy and challenging mission field we call South Florida.

But lest I wallow in despair over that reality, I also know the mission of the universal church to advance the Kingdom of God in general, still goes on too. That mission is 2,000 years old and counting.

It could be very easy for me- for any other church leader for that matter, to be frustrated and discouraged by what has been and is still going on in this country and its impact on church life, growth and even member retention (i.e. economic, racial and political unrest).

But then again, as I like to say, “Life is hard, God is good and Christ is coming back.” Nonetheless, considering the sovereignty and providence of God in all this, I reflected on the latest anniversary of our church and I asked myself if we had been successful somehow in that dreaded year of 2020?

I think the answer to that question depends on what we mean by success and whose counting. If we’re talking about great numbers of conversions to Christ- salvations, baptisms, bodies and budget increases in our church, the answer would be no. But then again, I reminded myself those raw numbers carry worldly and largely secular definitions of success and I’m in the ‘business’ of ministry and God’s kingdom rather than man’s.

In fact, by man’s definition of success – even among “church-growth” experts, preachers, prophets and pastors like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel  and Hosea in the Old Testament to name a few, would have been considered abject failures- disasters in ministry by today’s standards. You know the history – little or no signs of repentance and conversions there.

A quick glance at the New Testament reveals that John the Baptist may not have done very well in that sense either, as he and all but one of the twelve apostles were martyred or killed for their faith. Not a terribly strong finish in the world’s eyes.

Thus, man’s standards of success don’t really seem to fit well with biblical ministry do they? For instance, my church’s size – in terms of the missiologists who track such things, would be classified as average or normative- similar to the early church period.

Whereas, despite the existence of headline dominating megachurches here and there around the country, those actually consist of a very small percentage of the 300,000 plus churches in the United States.

As I pondered this, I came upon a rather funny if not ironic and satirical story (not in the Babylon Bee) of two biblical figures who had responded to a want ad for a pastor’s position at a church in my community which yielded the following results:

Jesus: Has had popular times, but once when his church grew to 5,000 he managed to offend them all and his church dwindled down to 12 people. Seldom stays in one place very long. And of course, he’s single.

Judas: His references are solid. A steady plodder. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. We’re inviting him to preach this Sunday. Possibilities are there.

Sarcastic but informative perhaps?Fortunately, I dug up (pun intended) a biblical definition of success for the Christian life and as an extension – of church ministry including mine, from the Lord Jesus Christ’s Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30).

This kingdom parable or short story – one of several in the gospels, pictures what the rewards will be for disciples in having faithfully prepared for the Lord’s return. And in this one, Jesus talks about a master (representing himself as Kyrios- Lord), who while away from his kingdom for a while (think of the church age between his first and second advents), leaves resources and responsibilities behind to his servants- “to each according to his ability.”

Of the three servants in the story, two obeyed their master’s instruction to “engage in business” – to be faithful with what they were given (a “talent” – literally the measure of weight of a precious metal like gold or silver  – a form of money), regardless of how much or little that was. Their return on investment (ROI), would actually yield a return to serve and do even more (“I will set you over much”, or, “I will put you in charge of many things”).

The third servant from a heart of selfishness, didn’t do anything with the talent he was given and buried it, thinking his master was miserly and wouldn’t reward him at all, earning the master’s unsurprising rebuke,  “‘You wicked and slothful servant!”

The master then laid out the consequence of unfaithfulness to that servant by taking the fruit of his blessings and bestowing them to the more faithful one (Matt. 25:29-30).

That consequence – a tragedy of wasted opportunity, resulted in hell and judgment for the unfaithful servant, proving himself to have never been a kingdom citizen to begin with. And how do we know that? That servant lacked the faithfulness that results in fruitfulness.

Now, even though the immediate context of the parable is individual, in a faith community, members make up the local body. Therefore, the charge- the command to be faithful is by application to be both personal and corporate.

To put it simply in other words, to be faithful, means to obey the word of God. To prayerfully seek, find and obey the revealed will of God for your life and his kingdom, found in the word of God. Being faithful to that means you obey God even when it’s hard, doesn’t seem to make sense, or when the fruit of your obedience isn’t entirely visible yet, if at all to the world.

As I preached to my church on our anniversary Sunday, I said our faith is not only true but in the world’s eyes, is crazy. Frankly, I think we need more crazy Christians…

  • People thought Abraham was crazy when he climbed a mountain to sacrifice his son.
  • People thought Moses was crazy when he announced God’s relocation project!
  • People thought Joshua was crazy when he announced the battle plan for Jericho!
  • People thought Paul was crazy for planting churches and taking the Gospel to the Gentiles!
  • People – my extended family and some friends in particular, thought we (my wife and kids) were crazy to plant our church! 

The kingdom goal for us, whether it be with our time, talents or treasure, is to serve, or to give, to get, to give again and then the Lord will give more to us and the cycle continues until he comes back to take us home and then the King’s process repeats itself all over again in a greater and more blessed way in the future kingdom – like the master of this parable.

That process can take years (Ja. 5:17-18) but it will be fruitful. The mission will be accomplished. The test of the service of the servants in the story was not how much they earned- but how hard they served. What did they- what do we and your local church do with what the Lord has given us?

Church ministry success to God is about the being and the doing. He takes care of the rest- the results. Church ministry and the Christian’s success according to the Bible is obedience to God’s word in faithfulness (Jos. 1:7-8). Any fruit that comes our way from that mission are to be blessings of grace that God promises to the faithful.

The Lord may have given my church for now just one or two talents instead of five. Maybe your church is similar. The question remains, “What are we going to do for him – the one who loves us and saved us with what he’s given us?

Be that guy that dug it underground and did little or nothing with what he was sovereignly given? Don’t we want to hear when he comes back, “well done, good and faithful servant- good and faithful church?” That will be enough for me to ‘enter into the joy of my master.’

The Cancel Culture and the Christian

Bernie Diaz, February 24, 2020

If you follow the news and some of the more ridiculous headlines and stories that find the light of day – particularly from the west coast (or is it the ‘left coast’?) of this country, you’ll see the revision of American history now taking place more consistently than ever before our very eyes.

Recently, a San Francisco area school board reversed its scheme to replace the names of some fairly notable Americans like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from nearly four dozen of its K-12 public schools, due to their alleged ties to historic ‘racism and oppression.’  

Such revisionism (which includes other founding fathers and figures such as Thomas Jefferson) has taken on an identity of its own and is better known today as cancel culture.

This kind of shaming or call-out culture, is by definition, a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of history books, off of statues and buildings, social or professional circles – past or present – whether it be online, on social media, or in person due to affiliations, actions or words deemed politically incorrect by certain cultural gatekeepers.

Fortunately, the exposed idiocy of that school district’s renaming initiative – in light of its more relevant responsibility to educate its student body in a pandemic, forced it to plead a mea culpa and reverse course.

However, the ministry and legacy of the late Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, may not be so fortunate.  

The likely reformation if not collapse of Zacharias’ RZIM ministry has been widely reported and dissected already by many commentators in and out of Christendom – both near and far, in the wake of the revelation that the acclaimed speaker and author had been participating in and covering up sexual sin for the past several years before his death at age 74 in May of last year.

First, there was a scandal that surfaced indicating that Zacharias had falsified his academic credentials from some time ago. Then, that his ministry organization glossed over, if not ignored allegations from a woman in 2018, alleging that Zacharias had “sexted her” with lewd and inappropriate images and messages.

Not much more can and should be added here, other than the above incident proved to be merely the tip of an iceberg that melted with an investigation’s finding of Zacharias’ involvement with massage parlors that he had owned, prostitutes and even an alleged rape of a woman who was said to have relented to his advances, on the condition she could retain her personal faith in Christ, as promised her by the apologist.

Such news of spiritual abuse is both horrific and tragic on all accounts. The revelation of this scandal – the latest fall of a national, Christian leader was a tough personal pill for me to swallow.

My journey to faith in Christ nearly three decades ago, began in large part due to the Lord’s use of apologetics (defense of the Christian faith) including the writing and teaching ministries of men like Ravi Zacharias, William Craig, R.C. Sproul and Josh McDowell.  

Ravi’s unique, philosophically precise and compelling method of arguing for the rationality of the Christian faith in contrast to the weakness he presented of the atheistic worldview, grabbed a hold of my mind and attention as a means of common grace that drew me to further seek the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By God’s sovereign grace, that attraction became a means of my redemption.

Should my testimony and of tens of thousands of Christians who have a similar one, now be tainted somehow by a cancel culture that threatens to completely erase the existence and legacy of Zacharias’ ministry?

Should we burn all of Ravi’s books (e.g. Can Man Live Without God) and erase or delete all of his countless debates and university presentations and question and answer sessions with students which planted seeds of gospel curiosity in so many for the sake of the cancel culture?

I hope not. Because If we do, then we might need to cut out the pages of our Bibles in Jeffersonian fashion, which directly and unashamedly describe the sins, doubts and moral struggles of men such as Moses who murdered, David who cheated, Abraham and Jacob who lied, Peter who denied and Paul who conspired to kill the Christians of the earliest church.   

… as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.. (Ro. 3:10,23, ESV)

What book of the Bible would be complete, what examples of repentance could we follow, if we allowed morally flawed, but yet redeemed and restored men and women of the faith to be ‘canceled’ out of our scriptural history?

 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.. (Eph. 2:4-5).

The wonderful news that we call gospel is a story of men and women who were once as Paul described as spiritually “dead,” in which they once walked as “sons of disobedience” and “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind,” to be made alive by God who saves and justifies sinners like Zacharias.

Though we are in no position to judge Ravi’s spiritual condition based upon the poor finish of his race, we can still acknowledge and be grateful for the kingdom ministry that God worked through him to lead others to saving faith and proceed to point that the greatest sinners were, are and can be saved by his amazing grace. That grace is amazing because it is great enough to save the vilest of sinners in the forgiveness of their sins.

Celebrity pastors and leaders may rise and fall, but as we can see clearly enough in the fall of Ravi Zacharias, what he and others ‘may have meant for evil, God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Gen. 50:20).’ That truth of Christianity cannot be canceled out by any culture.

The Inequality of the Equality Act

Bernie Diaz, February 10, 2021

How can a Christian oppose a legislative initiative that would guarantee and even expand equality and rights for citizens, as I will suggest that disciples of Christ do in this post?   

Let me be clear that I am not going to suggest that Christians should somehow discriminate in any way against the basic, human rights and dignity of any image bearer of God. We are created equal as human beings and worthy of equal respect.

However, a new piece of legislation known as the Equality Act has been introduced by U.S. congressional Democrats and endorsed by President Biden, which would include the categories of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Inclusions, which would have been a foreign concept to the civil rights leaders and legislators who pushed for that law.

Here is where Christians abiding by a biblical worldview are going to have a problem- a big problem in supporting a benevolent sounding bill which could represent the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in American history.

How so? Given that this “Equality Act” would negatively impact Christian convictions in the areas of education, public accommodation, employment, and federal funding, were it to pass, its sweeping effects on religious liberty, free speech, and freedom of conscience would be chilling to say the least.

Although disciples of Jesus Christ are to reject every form of hatred, discrimination or bias towards fellow image bearers, believers cannot accept and should oppose the acts’ proposed redefinition of sexuality and human reality as we know it.

Christians understand from scripture that we have been given certain immutable (unchanging) and binary or fixed human characteristics by God reflected in the reality of biology (gender) and ethnicity (race or color).

However, this act aims to further the indoctrinating goals of the sexual revolution in American society, which means to codify sexual behaviors and man-made identities and orientations (LGTBQ) as normative and psychologically rather than biologically based.

The Equality Act would forever cement the unbiblical and ungodly ethics of the revolution into federal law pitting Christian morality against secularly influenced immorality at the most fundamental level.

What is the Problem?

The Equality Law would actually create inequality for Christians. Passage of this ‘equality law’ would communicate that Christian beliefs about sexuality and God’s design for the flourishing of families and society are intolerant, discriminatory and therefore illegal.

Just think of the anti-discrimination laws including sexual orientation, which have passed in several American states and municipalities over the past few years which have discriminated against Christian cake-bakers, florists and photographers among others whose convictions of conscience in refusing to participate in same-sex weddings were treated as equal to those that would deny space at a restaurant counter or a seat on the bus to an African-American.

As one Christian ethicist put it, “In short, the Equality Act equates Christian ethics with hatred and bigotry.”

Whereas followers of Christ should expect and are seeing increasing amounts of anti-Christian bias and persecution in the marketplace of ideas and in our culture – as Jesus predicted we would (Jo. 15:18-25), Christians who ‘love God and love people’ are still expected to graciously and reasonably push back against the tide of the moral revolution taking place in our country and not hasten its expansion.

How? By explaining to skeptics of the faith and biblical ethics that the confrontation of human nature and God’s design for mankind is injurious to all of mankind.  

A Picture of the Problem

A prime example depicting the consequences of the Equality Act, would be the enforcement of proposed bans that ensure the rights of counselors -licensed Christian counselors among them, to offer counsel and treatment to individuals voluntarily seeking help to overcome gender dysphoria or sexual sin and dysfunction.

In fact, pastors and Christians offer this kind of help and wisdom from a biblical perspective every day, somewhere to someone when they share the gospel of Jesus Christ as the opportunity of redemption and life transformation, including the forgiveness of all sins- sexual and otherwise,  through repentance and faith in Christ.  

Secular ‘progressives’ see the above as a necessary ban on “conversion therapies”, also known to them as ‘reparative treatments’, which rely on the assumption as they put it, that sexual orientation can be changed or “cured.” They believe that idea has been discredited by major medical associations in the UK, the United States and elsewhere.

Thus, therapy bans at least for minors, have been legislated in 20 American states and Washington D.C. while remaining legal in the southeastern U.S (including FL) for now, due to a recent federal ruling that cleared the way for psychologists to continue offering the counseling to willing patients, though the Equality Act would threaten to end the practice once and for all, endangering even gospel presentations to lost, sexual sinners seeking God’s saving grace.

Such a precedent is on its way to being set in proposed law in nearby Canada and Australia, where counseling outreach that carries the “purpose of changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity” would be criminalized.

The danger of the Australian law from an evangelical perspective is its list of “change or suppression practices.” This includes: “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice.”

In other words, if someone there were to ask a pastor or a Christian friend to pray for them that their sexual desires or gender dysphoria might be changed, that pastor or friend would run the risk of committing a criminal offense.

Presumably, this would also apply to parents praying for their children—or perhaps even parents teaching their children that unbiblical expressions of sexual desire are sinful or inappropriate. 

How much more difficult would it be to express God’s truth about his design for human sexuality and to offer freedom from the bondage of sexual sin through the cross of Christ, were the Equality Act to be passed in this country?

Will church sermons come under scrutiny for preaching such language as may be the case soon in the nation of Denmark?

The Root of the Problem

 Why are we having to even deal with the issue of our government considering legalizing and therefore legitimizing psychological fantasies of sexual identity and preferences that would have been thought of as unimaginable as recently as 15 years ago?

The clay pot is attempting to create its own pottery.

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? (Isa. 45:9, ESV)

Once mankind begins to think of himself a maker of men – a creature who worships and fancies himself to be the creator, he will consider mankind to be a product. Sexuality expressed in fluid or ever-changing identities and ethics, may be such a product. Again, this version of the Equality Act manifests a Romans 1 attitude that refuses to accept God as God and as the sovereign creator and sustainer of this world.

No different than the temptation of the enemy of our souls to our first parents in the garden, man is still dissatisfied with being the pot made and managed by its potter. Early church father Augustine in his Exposition of the Psalms wrote of how the pot’s nature is connected to the grace of the potter, “From God we have our being and also our well-being.”

In a perversion of Augustine’s theological truth statement, the modern idea has become that if we have our being from ourselves, then so also is our well-being.

We don’t do a very good job of playing God do we? How idiotic is it to think of a pot being fashioned at the potter’s wheel to take the chair of the potter and shape itself? That’s what sinful man does every time he tries to usurp the authority and honor due God. We keep killing ourselves spiritually and physically every time we try to take God off his throne and put ourselves on it.

Problem Solved

Were it so simple that we could solve the problem of the inequality of this proposed Equality Act, by just quoting Christ, “He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female (Matt. 19:4; cf. Gen. 5:2).” Men and women are biological certainties of creation made to live out sanctified single lives in service to God or as married- one man and one woman for one lifetime on earth.

That’s God’s design for his image bearers and the designer always knows what’s best for his design. Where does that leave us with a post-Christian culture hell-bent on ever expanding the limits of its own sexual revolution?

Christian author Nancy Pearcey says it well:

          As we work through controversial moral issues, it is crucial to bear in mind the main goal. It is not, first of all, to persuade people to change their behaviour. It is to tear down barriers to becoming Christian. No matter who we are addressing, or what moral issue the person is struggling with, their first need is to hear the gospel and experience the love of God. (Love Thy Body, p. 260)

When we start with that and pray and trust the Holy Spirit to do the work only he can do, we can be confident that God will perform his ultimate ‘conversion therapy’ on whom he wills, no matter what Caesar’s plans are to stop it.

New Year’s Resolutions You Shouldn’t Break

Bernie Diaz, January 27, 2021

For many Americans, 2020 has been one of their most difficult if not depressing years on record. It certainly proved to be among the deadliest, in terms of doing damage to our collective health (the COVID-19 pandemic) and wallets (economic regression due to the pandemic), combined with levels of social, cultural and political upheaval unseen in this country for more than a generation.

I’m sure more than a few of us have made the new year’s resolution to never live through another year like 2020 again. The problem with such a resolution of course – as far as resolutions go, is that we are extremely limited as fallen creatures of God’s ordained creation to do much about avoiding a fallen world that is filled with evil, pain and suffering.  

While we cannot and should not ignore what happened in 2020 and what is to come, we should not overlook the good that God did in it and that will occur, including the comfort and confidence of future redemption that the Word of God promises to Christians who share in loving and trusting in a sovereign God who governs all things. As Lamentations 3:37 asks, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the LORD has commanded it?”

That said and having already spilled much ink in the aftermath of a series we preached at our church on the sovereignty of God recently, we understand that God’s children are transformed by faith and tasked to follow Christ, obey him and to will to glorify him in all we think, say and do (1 Cor. 10:31).

To help us accomplish that task and calling, God has given us his ‘ordinary means of grace’, meaning ordinary not in the dull or insignificant sense of the word, but more in the sense of the ordinary disciple of Christ being able to access the Holy Spirit’s power and favor in our lives by practicing the regular, ordinary, day to day spiritual disciplines of the faith that enable his redeemed children to live more holy and Christ like lives in sanctification – even, in the midst of years like 2020.

These means of grace- empowered by God himself in and through us who are ‘in Christ, makes them rather extraordinary and therefore meaningful, in how we might apply them as news year’s resolutions that we may want to  focus more on than just the usual resolutions we make and break to eat better, exercise more, be a better friend, child or spouse. If the goal is to be more godly this year than superficially ‘happier’ than last year, we need to do our part in availing ourselves to these “ordinary” means of grace.

When we talk about these timeless and biblically grounded ordinary means, we’re referring to: the word, prayer and the body.

  • The Word- Bible reading or hearing God’s voice

Although the Bible read aloud and preached on Sunday is an essential part of the worship gathering, it’s not enough to sustain you throughout your week. Relying on the Sunday sermon to spiritually feed you all week is like relying on breakfast to sustain you throughout the entire day – it’s not enough.

This reality is why we talk about “eating Bible” so much in our church (Matt. 4:4). For 2021, I encourage you to resolve to pick up or remain faithful to an actionable game plan that ensures you’ll read God’s Word regularly.

Our church utilizes a very helpful two-year chronological plan which enables us to read through both the Old and New Testaments in their real historical flow throughout redemptive history. There are other fine Bible reading plans that are accessible and easy to find online, though I do not recommend a One-Year Reading plan, which I find hard to keep up with and encourages speed reading, which minimizes thoughtful digestion of your daily Bible meals.

Others may benefit more by picking a particular book of the Bible – beginning with the gospels of the New Testament perhaps, and spending several months studying it, along with reliable study Bibles and commentaries. Regardless of which plan you choose, the intentional and systematic intake of the word of God (Col. 3:16) forms the foundation of a God-glorifying and Christ-exalting lifestyle that fuels our walk with our Lord and Savior.

As one seminary professor put it, The Word of God and the Spirit of God conspire to form the engine that pulls the cars down the tracks of salvation and sanctification. We must unleash them faithfully, with all the energy God gives us, trusting he will use them to perform the miracle of remaking sinners into saints.

  • Prayer – having God’s ear

If Bible reading is like food, then prayer is like water, and we all know we need water to survive (a common metaphor when speaking of the importance of the Word and prayer). I’m surprised to meet so many Christians who regularly go so many days or hours without praying.

Praying before meals and silently here and there is a good start, but a more vibrant prayer life is needed for continual spiritual growth. That life means cultivating a life of constant dialogue with God- to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5) as well as finding regular times to pray, in a private room or ‘closet’, where we can emulate the ‘A.C.T.S.’ of the apostles if you will:

Adoration (praise/adore God for his character)

Confess (agree with God about your sin in sorrow with a need to repent of it).

Thanksgiving (thank God for his blessings of grace and mercy)

Supplication (to ask, supplicate or petition God for your desires). Usually, the desires I express as per the heart of A.C.T.S. or the Lord’s or more properly disciples prayer (Matt. 6; Lu.11), are geared as much or more to God’s grace for others (e.g. family, church, friends, neighbors, country and community) as for self.

I know using a daily list in personal devotional time with God from a journal, church prayer guide and/or index cards (even an app called PrayerMate)  have proven to be useful tools to facilitate prayer for many Christians.

  • The Body- Church attendance

Acts 2:42 recounts church-wide devotion to God’s ordinary means: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Moreover, Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel boldly to the Gentiles—and God brought awakening:

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region” (Acts 13:48).

Nothing can or should replace the grace of the local fellowship found in the church, the Christian’s community of faith. It is so necessary that the writer of Hebrews under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit commanded it (Heb. 10:24-25). Unfortunately, the pandemic has challenged the church to obey that command.

While I totally understand that some of us will stay home to congregate to an extent for safety reasons, largely due to one’s preexisting health conditions or factors, many if not most Christians should make the most of their opportunities – reasonably, to avail themselves of this means of grace which is critical to the personal and corporate spiritual health of the body.

Whereas, we don’t compel church members and attenders to leave their homes under such conditions, there is little or no excuse for a follower of Christ to not attend online worship and mid-week small-group meetings,  due to the Lord’s extraordinary, digital ‘means of grace’ readily available in our current Covid world.

In addition to the above means of grace, believers can grow in their discipleship by reading good Christian oriented books, whether they be classic biographies, books on theology and church history or the Christian life. Though such resources are supplemental- think of them as appetizers or desserts to your main Bible meals, I think every disciple should have some level of eagerness to grow in their knowledge of God and scheduling even relatively brief blocks of time in your day (even just 10-15 minutes) in reading or listening via audio books may prove to be an ‘extra’ means of grace to help you grow.

One of the last times I was at my gym (yet another typical new year’s resolution that has come and gone though I have stuck with bike-riding) a guy wore a shirt that read, “Better Than Yesterday.” That visual reminded me that I’ve seen and heard that phrase before and it’s a good one.

Even though I’m eager to keep my other resolutions and improve in other areas of my life, I will remember as I hope you do, that our spiritual lives matter most and that as a work in progress I want to be more like whom I am supposed to be and thus, ‘better than yesterday’ (1 Jo. 2:5-6). So, I plan on making use of those ordinary means of grace as my top resolutions for 2021.

A New President and a New Opportunity

Bernie Diaz, January 20th, 2021

Nearly 155 years ago, the sixteenth President of the United States was presented with the more than enviable and staggering task of bringing healing and unity to a country that was torn apart by a violent and bloody four-year Civil War that cost the young nation more than 615,000 lives.

That war was between the geographic sections of north and south sporting colors of grey and blue, in a struggle over liberty rooted in slavery, between a rebellious confederacy and a union fighting to survive. Yet Abraham Lincoln remarked in front of a Capitol building still under construction in Washington D.C. in his second inaugural address, that, “Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained.”

That refrain rings true for us in this nation’s current state of division, disunity and strife in the midst of our great culture war of red and blue, that is more than a generation old and was exacerbated over the last four years. Though our societal battles do not equal the gravity of the Civil War era, our nation’s democratic republic again remains fragile.

Acknowledging the professed faith of both parties in God and his providence after his 1865 re-election, Lincoln added that, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.” Which makes me wonder how such a division of such great proportion could have existed?

But the President wisely said, “The prayers of both (for victory) could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.” Indeed, our Lord and God, the one who “changes times and seasons…removes kings and sets up kings” is sovereign and purposeful in what he is directing and tolerating in our history at present.

There is good news though, in that this week’s inauguration of the nation’s 46th President, Joe Biden was carried out without incident at a Capitol building under reconstruction in the wake of an insurgent type riot two weeks ago, delivering a much needed demonstration of the ‘peaceful transfer of power’ that uniquely occurs every four years in this country.

President Biden correctly diagnosed our national ills, when he said in his inaugural speech that corporately there is, “Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.”

In light of the U.S. having passed the milestone of a reported 400,000 lives lost to the pandemic, Biden added that this was a “Once in a century virus that silently stalks the country.” Unfortunately for Biden and the other powers that be, the prescription for what ails the U.S. will be as hard to distribute as the COVID vaccine.

The great challenge and issue before Americans and the church of Jesus Christ, will be to determine how we best begin to heal and unify this nation, since it is unlikely that the current state of partisan politics and policies that impact the culture war, will be able to contribute much to the cure.  

A glue – however weakened by future hatred and atheism, once held this nation together for nearly two centuries, forming a bridge between political and religious or denominational factions. There was a common value and understanding that God existed and his providence or outworking of his sovereign will and purposes, ultimately ruled over a nation that he had seemingly, uniquely blessed in its birth; from the arrival of its Protestant and Puritan forefathers with their gospel goals in hand, to the formation of a constitutional government informed if not inspired by the holy scriptures as a means of providing a foundation for self-government.

Most Americans once shared the common values of faith, family and properly regulated freedom that would be dependent upon shared moral and ethical principles – among both believers and unbelievers of Christ.

The United States united itself largely under mottos like, “One Nation Under God” and “In God We Trust,” even when we didn’t, which made sense in living by the ideal that one of the founding fathers, John Adams expounded upon when he wrote, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Religion was the glue that held America together for so long even in the midst of a growing movement of diversity and pluralism.

However, that glue like ideal, has been broken to the point of being almost indistinguishable in a national culture that has turned its back on the knowledge of God and embraced a wicked sexual revolution which perverts his ordered institutions of marriage, family and government – the very bedrock of a civilized society.

Although government can legislate morality to some degree with every law it enacts, it cannot change or move hearts. This presidential administration and congress cannot take the place of the Holy Spirit and revive and restore America anymore than the Trump administration with its many accomplishments could.

The Church Must Lead

Christians must reject the sin of what one writer has called, “patriotolatry,” where American patriotism- ‘making America great again’, becomes an idol and an agenda as important to the church as the proclamation of the gospel and the advance of the kingdom and cause of Christ.

Mitt Romney, a U.S. Senator and former presidential nominee, once referred to the United States as “the greatest hope in the world.” That slogan might gain a favorable like or emoji, but is patently false. Jesus Christ is the world’s only and “greatest” hope in the world.

I don’t believe that Jesus is necessarily interested in America becoming a more ‘religious’ or moral country though God could bring that about by virtue of his common grace, as the sun rises on the just and unjust.

However, large-scale efforts by another version of the ‘religious right’ to do just that, would do little more than produce a nation of Pharisees who like in the days of Christ, lived right and religiously ritualistic lives while dying eternally in unredeemed flesh.

America’s greatest hope may be that God would providentially use this president and our current circumstances to drive this church to prayerfully seek, show and share Christ as a means of grace which could bring revival and another awakening to our land. What does that look like?

  • Seek Christ

This exhortation is for Christians who have been seeking revival and comfort from moralizing the U.S.

Some of us have so embraced a politician and a party, as to risk idolizing them in cult like fashion and then have grown to so despise the other side as to demonize them as enemies, forgetting that while the policies and views of political opponents may reflect that they are enemies of God, they still remain the mission field that we are to minister in.

We also must remind ourselves as I posted last month that God is sovereign over elections and governments. To quote no less a theologian than Tears for Fears, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, but only God actually does (Dan. 4:17). Our decisions and will matters. God demands that we make wise, prudent and biblically sound decisions all the while remembering that he is the primary force and agent behind what will happen in this crazy world.

Though we are tempted to cry out to God and question his ways and means with what’s happening in this country as the prophet Habakkuk did, when God sovereignly brought Babylon to bring judgment on Judah by destroying the holy city and taking the people captive (Hab. 1:2-4), the prophet was reminded that the Lord promised to one day deliver and restore his people and chosen nation after their necessary time of discipline (Hab. 3:17-19).

This is who God is and what he does and that should bring us peace and joy, as another blogger recently posted:

 How often have we prayed that our land might see a revival of Biblical Christianity? What if, in God’s plan, it meant that we had to endure political, social, and cultural unrest? What if the church had to face a pandemic that forced us from our comfortable routine? What if the church had to be torn from political attachment involving self-appointed saviors or the socially woke who each in their own power promise to make America great?

“Once awakened from our comfortable slumber and free from these political attachments, we can return to God. Is this not the common starting point of most revivals in history? Is this not where the church turns from its apathy and misplaced commitment and returns to Christ and His Word? Revival starts with the church. It begins with Christians. It starts with us coming back to the basics of the Gospel and the Bible.”

Which brings us to..

  • Show Christ

We Christians have the truth and know it, but we undermine its message when we don’t show it as we should, with our tone and rhetoric on social media or in interpersonal dialogue.

Not only must America do better, but the church should know better. Whether were talking racial tensions, COVID restrictions, the Capitol incident, media censorship or the just concluded election cycle, we can as the President said in his address, “.. see each other, not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.”

Whether the new president has proven to have done such in the campaign or will is quite another thing, but those words still ring as right. He unknowingly added a bit of biblical wisdom when he added, “Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war (see Eph. 4:29; 2 Tim. 2:23-26).”

  • Share Christ

As we show Christ or walk the walk, we have earned the credibility to talk the talk with an ethical or political adversary. So, how do we respond to speech that is intolerant and spiteful? With true, uncompromising tolerance and grace. We want to relationally earn the opportunity to turn conversations from the political and secular to the spiritual. Our lives should give opportunity to open our lips.

Although we don’t have to become political moderates, we must find ways to wisely share the truth that we have as Christians with others in the hopes of persuading them to consider Christ (Col. 4:5). We are to reason with people, humbly as Jesus modeled in his earthly ministry with meekness, or self-control and kindness.

Finally, if President Biden is truly interested in unity and bringing healing to this nation divided by cultural war, I would prayerfully encourage and exhort him to heed God and the words of President Lincoln who sought to heal a nation divided by civil war when he said:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with the all nations.