Author Archives: mycaptivethought

Don’t Be Fooled at the Salad Bar

Bernie Diaz, September 17, 2019

At the risk of cultural sacrilege, I might in lieu of recent news, rewrite the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s classic folk song, Blowin’ in the Wind, in the first verse as:

How many roads must a weak theologian stumble and walk down
Before you call him or her a theologian?
How many seas of reason must a white dove sail Before she sleeps in the sand?

As we posted recently (Christ Alone or the American Gospel?; 8/21), we noted that a feature documentary has done an excellent job of exposing the false and dangerous doctrine found in the ‘Word of Faith’ or Prosperity Gospel.Much of the exposition of that movement therein features the mainstreaming of a superficial, man-centered and ear-tickling rather than God-centered gospel and theology.  

Within a week or so, two news items- largely hidden under the mainstream news media radar, illustrated the type of theology inherent among so many  celebrity ‘theologians’ or famous faces attempting to espouse religious wisdom today, who dine at the spiritual salad bar and buffet table of religious syncretism, believing in a “little bit of this religion and a little bit of that one.”

The first to dine, almost tragically came in the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s devastation of the Bahamian islands, which has claimed at least 50 lives and left 70,000 people homeless.

No less a theologian that current Democratic Presidential hopeful, author and spiritualist Marianne Williamson made a rather novel, if unorthodox suggestion for dealing with that storm – using “the power of the mind” to will the storm elsewhere.

I was initially conflicted over whether to laugh or cry in response to this suggestion, but thankfully deferred to the Biblical admonition to “weep with those that weep” (Ro. 12) in the wake of the storm.

In a since-deleted tweet, Ms. Williamson, a former spiritual guru to Oprah Winfrey to no surprise, suggested that visualizing the storm’s retreat could be an effective way to change its course.  “The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas … may all be in our prayers now,” she tweeted, according to images posted by several Twitter users as the storm made landfall and threatened the east coast.

“Millions of us seeing Dorian turn away from land is not a wacky idea; it is a creative use of the power of the mind. Two minutes of prayer, visualization, meditation for those in the way of the storm.”

I could not have made up such new-age and mystical drivel had I tried. The response in fact to many if not most rational human beings was such that her campaign was forced to later explain that the tweet was not intended to be taken literally. Oh.

Her follow-up statement read, “Everyone please pray for the people of the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. May the peace of God be upon them, may they and their families remain safe and their hearts be comforted as they endure the storm.”

Interesting. First, Ms. Willliamson, a long-shot though not atypical liberal candidate for the 2020 Presidential election in many respects, suggested we visualize or dream away Dorian from the U.S., then suggested in the midst of self-imposed ridicule that we pray to God – a God she clearly does not know, for help and peace.

When the author of the best-seller of A Course in Miracles was asked who Jesus Christ was and is, she replied: “Jesus was a human being who while on earth completely self-actualized and fulfilled in all ways the potential glory that lies within us all. He became one with the Essence and Christ Spirit that is in all of us. In that sense, he is our evolutionary elder brother. He demonstrated our destiny.”

She said when asked if Jesus was the only Son of God, “Hogwash! First of all, I believe we are all Sons of God, and it is our destiny to be as Jesus.” All righty then. She’s got my evangelical vote! 

I wonder why if Ms. Williamson, heresies aside, as a renowned teacher of self-actualization, fulfilling her ‘God-like glory’ that resides within her, didn’t just take out Hurricane Dorian by herself?

Which begs the question, “Why don’t any self-proclaimed anointed, prosperous and faithful teachers and preachers of the word of faith movement heal the infirmed in most of their local hospitals?” 

Similarly, Alex Trebek, the Canadian host of that fine television quiz show Jeopardy!, returned to television after having been diagnosed with Stage Four pancreatic cancer and undergoing chemotherapy.

Despite the ominous long-term prognosis of this stage and type of cancer, Trebek remained optimistic, saying in a magazine interview, “I’m going to fight this and I’m going to keep working, keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done.”

However, at the salad bar of faith, “Keep the faith” can mean a lot of different things to different people. Is this a case of a Hollywood celebrity unthinkingly using religious language at a vulnerable moment in life? Or does Trebek’s spiritual biography suggest something more significant in?

Little do most know, that Trebek, now 78, grew up Catholic in Canada, grew up attending a Catholic boarding school, but later rejected and today is a critic of the Roman Catholic religion, all the while maintaining evangelical connections through the World Vision relief organization and supporting his wife Jean, an active member of the North Hollywood Church of Religious Science, a church born out of the New Thought movement of the 1920s.

According to one description from a published report, Religious Science teaches that the “individual human mind is an expression of the Universal Mind, and the universe is its material manifestation. Man and nature are, therefore, like the God who is their true being, considered to be fundamentally good, and apparent evil stems from ignorance of the highest identity.”

This entrée at the religious salad bar tastes a lot like Marianne Williamson’s above doesn’t it. Speaking of Romanism…

The Pope – Ashamed of the Gospel?

Our second headline worthy example of theology ‘blowin in the wind’, comes from the Vatican in Rome, which just made a decision to implement a document affirming that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.”

That statement issued without correction, was tantamount to “promoting the neglect of the first Commandment” and a “betrayal of the Gospel,” according to Catholic Bishop Athanasius Schneider. In an interview discussing a Vatican-backed initiative to promote the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” this official in Astana, Kazakhstan, said that “however noble such aims as ‘human fraternity’ and ‘world peace’ may be, they cannot be promoted at the cost of relativizing the truth of uniqueness of Jesus Christ and His Church.”

Amazingly this Catholic bishop is on to something, when he said that the spread of this document in its uncorrected form would “paralyze the Church’s mission” and “suffocate her burning zeal to evangelize all men.” He added: “Attempts at peace are destined for failure if they are not proposed in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Indeed, it is the exclusivity of Jesus and his gospel (Jo. 14:6; Acts 4:12), that continues to be a tough dish to swallow for the salad bar and buffet sensibilities of the “Co-Exist” bumper sticker and morally deist crowd.

It is also long past time in which Biblical Christians admit that the Protestant Reformation of five centuries ago has not completely ended. The evidence is clear that Roman Catholicism and its doctrine preaches what the apostle Paul called and condemned as “another gospel,” when referring to the religious and false Judaizers of his day (Gal. 1:6-10).  Our fight for the one truth faith remains.

The passage from the Vatican inciting controversy reads:

Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.

While the first part of the passage correctly affirms the non-coercive nature of the gospel and Christian faith, it clearly rejects the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ, when it opens the door to God accepting adherents of any religion other than Christianity, where redemption is found by faith alone in Christ alone.

 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10, ESV)

But then again, Rome and the Papacy, like many other seeker-sensitive church growth movements, have held to a long tradition of expanding its theological convictions and boundaries, in order to absorb into its fold as many religious dissidents of other faiths as possible.

Indeed, according to Bishop Schneider, in implementing this document without correcting its error on the diversity of religions (which the Vatican has failed to do), “Men in the Church not only betray Jesus Christ as the only Savior of mankind and the necessity of His Church for eternal salvation, but also commit a great injustice and sin against love of neighbor.”

Aside from being informed, ready and alert for false doctrine, to the extent of being prepared to continue to evangelize the lost that actually claim to be Christian, all Biblical disciples can do to is pray for those who Paul described as, “preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (condemned).” 

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Our Post 9-11 World: ‘Same Old Same Old?’

Bernie Diaz, September 11, 2019

An article in WORLD magazine nearly 20 years ago read, “If Dec. 7, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy, Sept. 11, 2001, is a day that will live in reruns. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, death and destruction rained from the sky, catching a complacent nation utterly by surprise. But unlike that earlier attack, the mayhem this time was first broadcast live, then replayed endlessly on tape, burning itself deep into the national psyche.”

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing 18 years ago today- the date of this blog post? It’s a fair question to ask in light of the fact that a number of young adults just being licensed to drive today were not even born when a new, “normal” came to the United States, on that fateful morning in which a group of Islamic terrorists led by Osama Bin Laden and his movement known as Al Qaeda, launched an unprecedented attack on American soil, killing more than 3,000 citizens in a series of suicide airplane “bombings.”

I remember that unspeakable and demonically inspired, evil event as if it had occurred today. That event triggered appropriately, America’s ‘War on Terror’, which continues two decades later in some form or another, perhaps interminably.

Although life goes on and should, that task will always be harder for some -like the victim’s families, than others. Today, some of those families gathered with U.S. leaders and emergency responders at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City; the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.; and a field near Shanksville, Pa.—all of the places where terrorists crashed the passenger planes.

After holding a moment of silence at the White House, President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania, attended a private memorial for survivors, family members, and law enforcement personnel while at another ceremony, Vice President Mike Pence remembered the passengers who overwhelmed terrorists and forced United Airlines Flight 93 to crash into a field instead of a populated area potentially saving hundreds of more lives.

Pence noted that a generation “has come of age with no personal memory of 9/11 … so the rest of us, my fellow Americans, must tell the story.”

One of the more interesting stories that emerged from 9/11, was the religious and patriotic fervor which the terrorist attacks initially seemed to inspire all over the nation. Flags at homes were unfurled where they had never been seen before and churches were filling to the brim according to media reports and polls, with visitors seeking God, seeking answers to this massive problem of evil, pain and suffering known as “9/11”, and others seeking salvation from Jesus Christ in increasing numbers.

However, less than a year later, the public’s belief that religion was playing an increasing role in American life had slipped back to pre-attack levels, a poll found.  “Religion was in the air after Sept. 11 in a way that hadn’t been the case for a long time and may not be the case for a long time in the future,” said a director of The Pew Research Center. “I’ve never seen such a dramatic change disappear so quickly.”

Although God’s word is clear that he is sovereign over all catastrophes and  tragedies (Isaiah; 45; Amos 3), often used in part as wake up calls to slumbering and comfortable masses, the immediate and later post 9/11 world’s attitudes, exerted only modest and short-lived effects on our nation’s religiosity and spirituality.

In other words, America went back to sleep- spiritually. While religious pundits proclaimed the last months of 2001 to be a time of unprecedented religious and spiritual revival in the U.S., research findings suggested otherwise, indicating that no remarkable revival occurred among adults after September 11th, nor at any other time since.  

Post 9/11 Lessons:

  • America is Sensitive to Terrorism

One of the most practical lessons our nation’s government and military establishment learned, is that we can no longer be – can never be complacent when regarding terrorist threats. The Taliban (possible peace negotiations notwithstanding), is still alive and well. Al Qaeda is still a legitimate, long-term threat and ISIS though lacking a strong caliphate (geographic state) at the moment, hates America and is still determined to regroup and threaten western society.

The United States are more vigilant and more sensitive to terrorist aggression, threats and national security than ever before 9/11, even influencing American immigration policy.

The war on terror should never be considered over, so long as terrorists exist.

  • America is Sensitive to Evil

No event could have quieted the voice of atheism and secular humanism’s argument that man is inherently good and only prone to violence due to environmental or sociological influences, more than 9/11.

Al Qaeda’s Satanically fueled hearts are deceitful, wicked and attacked the U.S. because they hate God, Jesus, America, its roots and the culture of  the west. To put it mildly, terrorists must be considered “by nature, children of wrath (Eph.2:3)” and whose ‘father is the devil (John 8:44),’ still intent on cold-blooded and premediated mass murder.

The reality of the existence of innate evil present in the hearts of man can no longer be honestly debated, due in large part to 9/11. Some on the left have since acknowledged that.

Post 9/11 Warnings:      

  • America Still Needs Revival

Our post, Christianity and Patriotism – More or Less? from August 28th, analyzed the results of a Wall St. Journal poll indicating that Americans over the last 20 years, value God and patriotism much less than the previous generation.

The post 9/11 revival that many evangelicals wished for and anticpated, never materialized. Neither the former finding nor the latter, surprise when we remember from our Old Testament readings that Israel, a literal chosen nation of God, called to be a true lighthouse to the rest of the known world, went through centuries in cycles of sin, rebelling against their creator, shepherd and law-giver only to find itself in the discipline of captivity for decades, before Yahweh granted them a merciful reprieve and return to their promised land for a season.

Somewhat similarly, the United States, a nation born of Judeo-Christian values and influence, only 18 years removed from one of its most alarming and tragic wake-up calls, remains largely stuck in neutral, moving closer and closer to a completely secular and post-Christian and gospel  society, chained in the captivity of moral relativism and sexual revolution.

Is America beyond revival? Absolutely not, because of God’s providence and goodness, the church of Jesus Christ may revive and help bring a refreshment and healing to our land. What is the key to unlocking the chains of our current captivity that could lead to a time of revival?

  • America Needs Repentance

The prophet Daniel expressed this warning and need best when he prayed on behalf of his nation for God to release them from Babylonian bondage (Dan. 9:3-19):

 16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate.

18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Dan. 9:16-19, ESV)

May it not take another 9/11 next year or in 18 more, for this prayer to be answered.  

Where Was God in the Bahamas?

Bernie Diaz, September 4, 2019

Another natural disaster has come and is going, and another set of questions follow in its path along the lines of “Where, how and why?”  

Hurricane Dorian as of this post has weakened into a category two storm as it makes it way along the eastern coast of a handful of South Atlantic states before dissipating at sea, having devastated the Bahamas and the Abaco Islands as a Category five hurricane, battering those islands with 185 mph plus sustained winds.

At least seven are dead (more casualties are expected) and more than two dozen injured so far. Relief officials have already reported scenes of utter ruin this week in parts of the Bahamas and rushed to deal with an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the wake of this storm, not only the most powerful one on record ever to hit the islands, but perhaps the most powerful in history to make landfall in this hemisphere other than one unnamed storm in 1935.  

The storm’s punishing winds and floodwaters destroyed or severely damaged thousands of homes and crippled hospitals. “It’s total devastation. It’s decimated. Apocalyptic,” said an official from a local hurricane relief organization there.

“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy,” Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said.

‘Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?’

Is the answer that “God is good, but he’s not powerful enough to do anything about such tragedies?” Some liberal Christians teach such ideas.

I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:5-7, ESV).

The confused and unbiblical mean well, but in my view, they just don’t understand God, the world and his Word very well, as they look to take him off the hook for things like the Holocaust and hurricanes, rather than acknowledge his sovereign power and purposes (providence) in the midst of it all.

As I mentioned to a Facebook Live audience last Sunday, an acquaintance and former local media colleague of mine some years ago, was an avowed agnostic if not an atheist, who in the wake of some hurricanes and the chaos they left behind, wrote, “Faith in a way, makes it harder to understand the maddening capriciousness of natural disasters, or even man-made cataclysms like wars and terrorist attacks. Why would an omnipotent God do this to someone?” It’s a good question and one that Jesus Christ dealt with in a somewhat similar scenario 2,000 years ago.

At the end of chapter 12 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus rebuked his religious skeptics for their lack of discernment. He told them that while they might be experts in discerning basic weather patterns like our meteorologists do today, they couldn’t figure out the real sign of the times, which was the coming of Messiah and his kingdom.

The enemies of Christ often looked to set-him up and trap him in rhetorical arguments such as at the beginning of Luke 13, where they threw at him maybe the most difficult question anyone with his authority could be asked, the question of the problem of evil, pain and suffering- “Where was God in…the Bahamas maybe?” Two local tragedies had occurred leading to the question he was asked which he answered with two incredible, direct and to the point statements of his own.

The Question of Relative Death

We learn in Luke 13:1-3 that Pontius Pilate, then governor of Judea who would later condemn Christ, slaughtered a number of relatively defenseless Jews protesting an injustice.

The Pharisee crowd must have thought they had Jesus pinned to a wall, thinking he would split the Jewish community if he declared the Galileans were judged by God for sin in being mutilated, and if he sympathized with the victims, he would be siding against Roman officials, potentially endangering himself and his ministry with them.

Therefore, rather than having dealt with the politics of the question, assigning blame or sin or giving God’s specific reason for the “why” of this persecution related tragedy, he essentially asked them, ‘You think God’s sovereignty is limited to people’s sin? Does cataclysm and disasters and murders only happen because of God’s direct judgment on people (Luke 13:2-3)?’

Then as a follow-up, he was asked about the rationale behind or responsibility for the tower in Siloam that fell upon and seemed to ‘randomly’ kill 18 people.

What then was Jesus’ answer in verse 5? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Or, to put in the even more direct words attributed to the ‘Prince of Preachers’, Charles Spurgeon, “Turn or burn.” Do those two answers satisfy you? Perhaps not, if you are looking to ascertain God’s secret and providential will of decree, which is not for us to know (Deut. 29:29).

This Jewish question tying into interpretations of the law as reasons for calamities or unexpected death comes up everywhere in the Bible.

Job obviously lived what many would call in human terms, a ‘tragic life’ and his friends got around to laying the blame for his suffering at his feet (Job 22:4-5). Although God would have been justified to judge a sinner like Job or anyone else in calamity for that matter, by virtue of their sin and rebellion, (there are no “good” people to which bad things happen), God had other purposes in mind.

Similarly, what we find out from Jesus in his encounter with the Jews is much more important than an explanation for tragic events. We learn something about God and man and who we are when we come face to face with God. One thing we learn, is that everyone has or will die this side of the second coming of Jesus and glory, and that the way and when is not nearly as important as our relationship to God and our future and eternal destiny at the time of our death.

We also learn that God has sovereign purposes and plans in the midst of his redemptive promises for his people – even in the wake of disasters. One of those purposes as C.S. Lewis once said, is to “rouse the deaf ears” of a sin-cursed world.

What may be more interesting to me in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian is that well over 60 million people will die around the world this year- that’s about 200,000 per day- nearly 8,000 per hour and I would say the vast majority are “perishing” or going to hell for rejecting Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation.

That fact doesn’t seem to bother us as much as the concern about the plane that crashes and kills 200 at a time, the tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes and other catastrophes and disasters that take larger numbers of people unexpectedly at one time, which is all made worse by our 24 hour, satellite and internet news cycle. You can’t escape worldwide suffering today.  We now bear the most scientific knowledge of every CAT 5 storm.

In fact, every tragic event seems to us to occur at unprecedented levels which may not be the case at all. Though it is certainly true man has more technological killing power at his disposal than ever before, God seems to be restraining it at present.

Disease did far more damage in the past to man, when plagues would virtually wipe out the populations of whole nations, but the truth is, the calamities aren’t any worse or any more frequent than they’ve always been. The earth is a dangerous place to live. Why? That question is worth asking because it leads to the Lord’s answer: What is the common thread throughout history and events like this? Where did it all start and why? SIN (Romans 8:22-23).

Why did those Jews offering sacrifices die at the hand of Pilate? Why did that tower of Siloam fall on those 18? Where was God in the hurricane that just decimated the Bahamas? Those really shouldn’t be our most important questions, considering we know that God is all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present.  

The question is what kind of God do we have that lets anybody live? We know God is holy and righteous and we know the wages of sin is death, and we deserve to die. The soul that sins, it shall die. The fact that we take another breath is because God is merciful. It’s the patience and tolerance of God leading us to repentance.

You see, history works this way, we all deserve to die. But instead, God lets us live. He lets us love, laugh and enjoy blessings of common grace-why? What’s that about? It’s God putting his love, grace and mercy on display as well as his intent to judge sin, to the point that we would obey Acts 20, which commands us to repent toward God and have faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

The point that Jesus was making in Luke 13, is that ‘natural’ disasters, calamities and cataclysms remind us that It’s time to repent. He’s giving the wolrd that opportunity during this age of redemption to repent, believe in Christ and escape the coming judgment that the Bible has been talking about for centuries.

How Do We Pray?

Our response as born-again Christians with a salvation story to tell is at least three-fold in prayer:

  1. Pray for God’s mercy to fall upon the victims and survivors of the Bahamas and the surrounding islands as they rebuild their country.
  2. Pray for God’s divine and sovereign grace to give a new birth of salvation to many in the wake of the storm as they seek God and seek to make sense of this disaster.
  3. Pray for God’s people to bring salt and light with good, loving deeds of service to the victims, manifesting Christ and the hope of glory only found in a relationship with him.

If you still wonder or somebody asks you where was God in Hurricane Dorian? Think and say, where he’s always been – right in the middle of it, directing, working, loving and waiting for people to cry out to him for his mercy and grace, in repentance for the forgiveness of sin.

Think and say along with the millions who are the just living by faith and hope, for the time when all wrongs are righted and when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:4)”     

Christianity and Patriotism – More or Less?

Bernie Diaz, August 29, 2019

I was not surprised this week by the findings of a Wall Street Journal poll of American values, summarized as pointing to: ‘Less Patriotism’, ‘Less God’ and ‘Fewer Babies’ today.

Under the headline, “Old and young diverged on values”, the new study in a nutshell revealed that younger Americans value patriotism, religion, and having children considerably less than previous generations.

When one considers that most younger adults, say between the ages of 18-34 have been found to be traditionally more idealistic, autonomous and morally relativistic than their more mature or aged peers anyway, the results of the WSJ poll simply affirm the more natural and sociological instincts or leanings of younger and more liberal generations.

One reason being, that youth and/or younger adults tend to be more influenced if not motivated by the opinions and moral messaging of the greater culture at large, which is more radically liberal than perhaps any other in American history, as evidenced by the sexual revolution (LGTBQ+) we have been in the midst of for these last two decades.   

When the Journal/NBC News survey asked Americans 21 years ago to say which values were most important to them, strong majorities picked the principles of hard work, patriotism, commitment to religion, and the goal of having children.” Notice the word, “strong majorities.” Remarkably those attitudes have changed significantly since.

According to the report’s findings, “Today, hard work remains atop of the list, but the shares of Americans listing the other three values have fallen substantially driven by changing priorities of people under age 50.” The value of patriotism as being “very important to them”, declined by nine percentage points while religious value dropped 12 points, which has come in the wake of the growth of secularism, which has mushroomed in America since its mainstream birth of the early 20th century.

Indeed, the rise of secular humanism has led to the college-backed philosophical movement known as post (after) -Christianity, referring to a society, shaped by a culture that no longer holds to the prevailing and historic Judeo-Christian attitudes and moral values that once shaped and pervaded this nation’s collective psyche for nearly two centuries.     

Moreover, the survey said that placement of a high value on having children, plummeted 16 points from 1998. That’s not a shocker either, when you consider that today’s entertainment celebrities and other mainstream cultural elites believe abortion to be not only a right, but a privilege and badge of honor. Therefore, why would we think they and those that fanatically follow them, would place much value on the institution of children and families?  

In God We Trust or America?

What are Christians, particularly of the fifty-years old plus era (“Baby Boomers” etc.) to make of the fact that the United States of their youth is less recognizable and in greater moral free-fall than ever before?

Perhaps the answer to that question may be found in the answer to another, being, “How patriotic if at all, should Christians be about a city and kingdom not really their own?”

Patriotism as defined, is about a devoted love and loyalty to a nation. Such a devotion could conceivably clash with the greater love that disciples of Jesus Christ are to have for their King, his kingdom and cause, rather than a particular President and agenda.

This is and has always been a difficult question and issue for believers to wrestle with, as those of who have an awareness of American history understand that the original settlers of this country looked to create a “City on a hill”, referring to Matthew 5 and famously quoted by President Ronald Regan when seeking to reestablish American dominance in the midst of the Cold War of the 1980’s.

The national motto engraved on currency for nearly a century, “In God we Trust” speaks to a state that historically had not ever been very ‘separate’ from the Protestant church until perhaps a generation ago. Consider:

  • The Federal Government of the United States at one time funded evangelistic missionary expansion to the Indians in the 19th century. That’s right, missions funded by American taxpayers.
  • Prayer and Bible reading was a part of everyday life in the public school system up until the time I was born (I won’t give you that date).

The Supreme Court, yes the highest court in the land declared in a unanimous 1892 decision, (Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States), “Our laws and institutions necessarily are based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. . . . [I]n this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are empathically Christian. . . . (wait for it)…  [T]his is a Christian nation.”

Could such a notion be even suggested or mentioned today in public?

This kind of Christian inspired history injected patriotism of the highest order into many a follower of Christ in this nation over the years but, at what cost to the kingdom?

While on the one hand I am exceedingly grateful to God for having been born and raised in arguably the greatest country and ‘empire’ if you will, ever ordained by providence on earth, to the point that I can say that I am unashamedly proud to be an American, we must never lose sight of our biblical perspective of this country.

We must wonder in the interests of Christianizing the nation via politics and policy persuasion, how often have we overlooked the gospel corruption perpetuated by both social gospel and justice warriors on the left in America and even “moral majority” activists on the right, who have co-opted scriptures like the 2 Chronicles 7:14 promise to Israel for the U.S.

In the words of biographer and historian George Marsden, “America might deserve the wrath of God for its sins, but let an American protester desecrate the flag or criticize the military and such outbursts would be treated as though they were blasphemy.” America has been interestingly enough, “simultaneously Babylon and God’s chosen nation.”

The proper view for Christians living by a biblical worldview, is to remember that we are a “citizen of two kingdoms” as the reformer Martin Luther put it, and the greatest allegiance or loyalty we are to display is for that city on a hill known as the New Jerusalem or Mt. Zion.

The apostle Paul made it quite clear where the ultimate loyalty or patriotism of a Christian in America should lie in Philippians 3:20, when he wrote that our “citizenship”, literally our ‘politics’ coming from a word meaning the civil affairs of a state or government, are “in heaven,” not earth, including the U.S.A.

Christians as per Peter’s first epistle are essentially strangers on earth or aliens, foreigners on mission for God. As C.S. Lewis, that anointed author and apologist said when confronting the apathy of his nation in late 1939 at a lecture just prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland:

This impending war has taught us some important things. Life is short. The world is fragile. All of us are vulnerable, but we are here because this is our calling. Our lives are rooted not only in time, but also in eternity, and the life of learning, humbly offered to God, is its own reward. It is one of the appointed approaches to the divine reality and the divine beauty, which we shall hereafter enjoy in heaven and which we are called to display even now amidst the brokenness all around us.

That call is ours as well, amidst the brokenness of sin so prevalent in our society today. We are to do all we can to bring gospel flavored salt and shine Spirit empowered light here, while we’re here.

Again, though I was unsurprised by the recent poll findings on American attitudes of patriotism, religion and children, cultural, Christian analysts like Al Mohler were alarmed and dismayed by the results, lamenting, “The social elites are winning. It’s telling us that those who had been in the driver’s seat of this society, who have basically been seeking to subvert patriotism and seeking to subvert religion and seeking even to subvert parenting, they’re winning in this society. They’re winning on the college campuses. They are winning in the academic conversation. They are winning in the production of culture. They are in control of Hollywood… they are winning.”

I prefer to think the game is far from over, we have the Bible, the playbook that tells us we, God’s born-again children, will win and win big when the clock runs out. Real Christians will be vindicated and we will truly be on the right side of history.

Christ Alone or the American Gospel?

Bernie Diaz, August 21, 2019

A dramatic and must-see documentary film, American Gospel: Christ Alone, is beginning to strike a chord within Christianity for some of the very challenging questions it raises of professing believers of Jesus, amongst them, “Does Christianity mean Christ + the American dream?”

You know about or have dreamed the American dream haven’t you? It is the traditional, multi-faceted vision or ideal that there is ‘A happy way of living that is thought of by many Americans as something that can be achieved by anyone in the U.S., especially by working hard and becoming successful.’ And that dream can be further realized by passing it on and seeing it lived out in the progenies of our future generations.

The idea is that with good jobs, a nice house, 2.5 children, and plenty of money, people can live the American dream.

Unfortunately, that dream has too long infected evangelicalism, culminating in the monstrous growth of the prosperity gospel, a gospel that treats Jesus Christ as little more than a cosmic ATM or genie who yearns to meet our every whim and desire if we would just manifest enough faith, spirituality and self-esteem.

In response, American Gospel examines how the prosperity gospel or ‘Word of Faith’ movement has distorted the true and biblical gospel message, and how this theology is being exported abroad.

Rather than posting a treatise here on the nature of that false and heretical church and ministry movement, featuring the likes of everyone from its most influential and charismatic leaders (Ken Copeland, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer and Todd White) to its more “evangelical” mainstream proponents (Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick, et.al), we can say that it seems to share a certain commonality, with other cults and religions such as Roman Catholicism, in it’s discipleship of Christ “plus”.

In other words, the biblical doctrine of justification and sanctification being brought about due to God’s grace alone and by faith in Jesus alone, is just not “enough” to satisfy the appetite for something resembling the American dream.

The ‘name it and claim it’ worldview movement for “Your Best Life” now has never been at greater odds with the gospel view that our best life is to come (in glory).

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5, ESV)

The apostle Paul’s first letter to his young apprentice and pastor Timothy in Ephesus, features a clear and concise text (1 Tim. 2:3-7) showing that Jesus is the Christian’s all and all and that we don’t need anything or anyone else to be right with God and this world. That truth became a key doctrine of the 16th century Protestant reformation, which we refer specifically to in Latin as Sola Cristus, or Christ Alone.

One of the major, early catalysts in the Reformation was a book by Jan Hus, a Bohemian Christian and theologian who preceded Martin Luther by a full century. The book was De Ecclesia (The Church), and one of Hus’s most profound points was proclaimed in the title of his fourth chapter: “Christ the Only Head of the Church.” Hus wrote, “Neither is the pope the head nor are the cardinals the whole body of the holy, universal, catholic [i.e., true] church. For Christ alone is the head of that church.”

Pointing out that most church leaders in his era actually despised the lordship of Christ, Hus called out the Roman leaders that “hated those who preach often and call Jesus Christ Lord.” Hus’s candor cost him his life. He was declared a heretic and burned at the stake in 1415, leading to the ominous idiom we came to adopt, that someone’s “Goose (Hus) is cooked.”

That happened because Hus preached the truth of the gospel and the faith that Christ alone was sufficient for salvation and a relationship with God in the face of the Catholic institution that said essentially, it’s Christ + the Papacy, Purgatory and Mary, including sacraments like infant baptism and the mass which allegedly infuses saving and sanctifying grace to the faithful.

Christ Alone is our Go-Between

A go between is a mediator, in the sense of salvation for a lost sinner who has confessed sin and repented to God through Jesus Christ. In fact, an older translation for the word mediator, would render that noun to mean ‘umpire’, or in a non-baseball analogy a more modern paraphrase translates the word to refer to a reconciler, one who intervenes between two parties, either in order to make or restore peace and a friendship or relationship, or form a deal, or for ratifying a covenant – as a go-between. This is Jesus alone, by virtue of his cross and resurrection, being the bridge or go-between God and a redeemed sinner.

We need this mediator and redeemer believe me. And we need to come to him on God’s terms and not ours, as one who will save us rather than to give us what we want and when we want it, such as health, wealth and prosperity.

Every person who comes into this world and lives, and doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and savior, is what the Bible calls, ‘an enemy of God.’ They have no personal, redeeming relationship with God, because they’re God-hating, Christ rejecting, gospel ignorant sinners, living in darkness and are under his perfect and holy wrath and judgment (John 3:16, 19-20,36).

There are multitudes of people like that who need reconciliation with God, rather than prime parking spots, first-class airplane tickets, new cars, better homes and vacations. People under the cloud of such judgment  need to plead to God for his grace and mercy to be manifest to them, so they would be brought back into a right relationship with him.

The false religions exposed in the film, American Gospel, teach we can be are own “Little gods” who can achieve salvation on our own, or do what only Christ did in his first advent on earth, if we would just carry enough self-confidence or partner with God by obeying traditions, regulations and religious rules.

They think if you can somehow work, or serve enough people, do enough good deeds, feed enough homeless people, give enough in sacrifices and offerings, pray and heal enough or speak in tongues enough, or even live well enough to have enough good karma, kill enough to show your faithfulness to a certain deity, confess to a priest and pray to the mother of Jesus, you might be able to earn your way into heaven and earn by faith, wellness and prosperity.  

Do, do, do, when the scripture says Jesus Christ has already done it all.

Only through Jesus and Jesus alone can human beings reach the goal intended by God, which is Christlikeness, the emulation of the one who never had a place to lay his head while on earth and who suffered the most unjust treatment anyone could ever imagine. Not exactly a picture of prosperity is it?

Only through Christ can sinful human beings come to God and love and obey him and be with him and experience his presence and true joy (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

Such a reality reminded me of a story of an orphaned boy who was living with his grandmother when their house caught fire. The grandmother, trying to get upstairs to rescue the boy, perished in the flames as the boy’s cries for help were finally answered by a man who climbed an iron drainpipe and came back down with the boy hanging tightly to his neck.

Several weeks later, a public hearing was held to determine who would receive custody of the child. A farmer, a teacher, and the town’s wealthiest citizen all gave the reasons they felt they should be chosen to give the boy a home. That would be the promise of a more prosperous life for the boy would it not.

But as they talked, the child’s eyes remained focused on the floor. Then a stranger walked to the front and slowly took his hands from his pockets, revealing severe scars on them. As the crowd gasped, the boy cried out in recognition. This was the man who had saved his life. His hands had been burned when he climbed the hot pipe. So, the boy jumped up on and threw his arms around the man’s neck and held on for dear life. The other men silently walked away, leaving the boy and his rescuer alone. Those scarred hands had settled the issue.

Many voices of the American gospel and dream are calling for our attention. Among them is the One– the only one whose nail-pierced hands, remind us that He paid with his blood to rescue us, from sin and its deadly consequences so we can come home to him. Do we really need anything more?

Another Apostate ‘Conformed to the World’

Bernie Diaz, August 13, 2019

Another celebrity from the world of ‘Christianity’ has just taken to social media to announce their possible apostasy or rejection of the Christian faith, though this man may be known more by what we sing than his name.

Marty Sampson, contemporary worship music leader for Hillsong United, etc., author and singer of the widely performed if not already classic song,  “Oceans”, has followed along the footsteps of former pastor and author Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), in making a public statement to send a message that disparages the biblical faith while at the same time not so humbly extolling the personal virtue of self-discovery and awareness.

Sampson’s telling and tragic Instagram post this week read like a manifesto on his redefinition of truth and what he implied are Christian controversies:

I’m genuinely losing my faith…and it doesn’t bother me…like, what bothers me now is nothing…I am so happy now, so at peace with the world…it’s crazy/this is a soapbox moment so here I go how many xx preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet-they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people…but it’s not for me.

Note for starters that Sampson in the above paragraph, failed to  acknowledge at least two glaring errors in his thinking: (1) Christians sin as believers struggling with their flesh as he has in a sin-cursed and fallen world. That should have been a given as we think of our churches as spiritual hospitals filled with spiritually sick patients (2) Sampson does a whole lot of judging of others while condemning judgmentalism itself.

Ironically as to truth, the man who wrote, “All I Need Is You” said he’s “not in” anymore and desires “genuine truth.” Sampson posted, “Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real.”

Sampson unfortunately, had more to say when he added, “All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point.” The illuminating and philosophical phrase in that comment that has been echoed throughout our morally relativistic society for well more than a generation now, is, ‘All I know is what’s true to me right now.

Marty Sampson just confirmed a central tenet of moral relativism when saying in essence to God and legitimately born-again Christians, “Your truth is your truth- true for you, and my truth is my truth and is true for me, and never the twain shall meet.”

As I read of Sampson’s fall from grace, I couldn’t help but think of the passage of scripture I preached at church this past Sunday from Romans 12:1-2, describing what has long been a problem for professing and even true, confessing Christians that the apostle Paul described as struggling with “being conformed to this world.”

It is there in the context of writing the church at Rome and us by extension today, that Paul calls Christians to do more than sing songs of worship, but to live lives of worship 24/7 and 365 as living sacrifices “by the tender mercies of God” (Romans12:1), meaning out of service and gratitude to the one who has given and means so much to us.

In verse two of that chapter, Paul gives both a present-tense negative and positive command to disciples of Jesus Christ in order to give themselves over as living sacrifices of worship to God. The first is negative, do not be conformed to this world or better yet, present age, in its thinking and worldview, or in other words, be “squeezed into its mold”, as an older paraphrase translation tells us.  

The second command is the positive, “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” which is literally a mental metamorphosis that one must be undergoing as a believer- constantly and diligently, through the regular intake of God’s primary means of grace in the word, prayer and the local church, in order to discern or prove the will of God for our lives.

If I may be so bold as to presume that Marty Sampson has been failing to ‘renew his mind’ but like Josh Harris, has been conformed to or being molded into the mind of this world, which is of course so dominated by the ‘prince of this world’, and who is ‘the prince of the power of the air.’

I would bring to mind two realities to both exhort and edify readers of this post who long to think rightly about these defections from the faith:

Christian Apostasy is not an Epidemic

Two cases pf public, social media driven confessions of apostasy do not an epidemic make. The church and evangelicalism in more modern times, has always seen its fair share of apostates, or those that backslide into sin for a season, simply due to the nature of the flesh – including that of the redeemed and due to the flesh of the deceitful and wicked hearts of the unredeemed.

Much has been made in mainstream and liberal media about the growth of “un-Christians” as in ex-believers, a theological misnomer in America, or the increase of “nones,” describing those that feel or sense some sort of spiritual connection to God perhaps, but who will not affiliate with organized religion in any way.

All that has been affirmed by these recent polls and apostasies revealed much more publicly and quickly in our 24 hour news and media cycles, is the very true, unsettling, biblical and theological reality which even Marty Sampson implicitly acknowledged, being that the gate or door leading to salvation- redemption, is quite “narrow” and the gate or door which leads to destruction or final damnation is “broad” or wide (Luke 13:23-24).

All of that is to say that relatively few of the more than seven and a half billion inhabitants of this world will ever enter into heaven or paradise with Jesus, and that relatively many or most, will unfortunately due to their impenitent sin and hardened hearts enter into hell at the final judgment.

The words of Jesus on this could not be more clear or arguable, when the above truth, came in a reply to the question, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” That truth must then energize and inform our evangelistic efforts.

Offer Real Worship to God

As I said to our church this past Sunday from Romans 12, the worship of God is not intrinsically musical. Rather, worship music – all of that which we sing in church or the popular praise songs we sing in our cars or at home from Hillsong, Bethel or Elevation ministries, should be an outgrowth or manifestation of hearts already devoted to lives of worship to Jesus Christ.

Interestingly enough, music is not even mentioned in New Testament language as a means or form of Christian worship. That’s a new and tough pill to swallow for some of us who love music, including the contemporary worship we hear so much of on our phones today, written and performed by those like Marty Sampson, who if they have not altogether “renounced” their ‘Christianity’, are at least on “incredibly shaky ground.”

Ultimately, true Christians must be educated as to what their faith is grounded upon, not be preoccupied with the personal lives of sin-struggling celebrities in Christianity, whether they be nationally renowned preachers or singers, and understand as the reformers did, that perseverance or persistence in the faith, “once delivered to all the saints (Jude 3)”, offers encouragement and assurance of salvation for that believe and persevere.

Moreover, believers need to prayerfully be ready as the opportunities arise, to ‘have mercy on those who doubt; and save others by snatching them out of the fire’ of judgment (Jude 22-23) with the preaching of ‘truth in love.’ I pray someone will do that for Marty Sampson and Joshua Harris.     

Real Mourning and Real Response After a Murderous Weekend

Bernie Diaz, August 8, 2019

More than 30 dead and more than 50 injured from two mass murder attacks perpetuated within 12 hours of one another this past weekend in two different American states, by two troubled, active shooters, on the heels of another at a food festival in California that claimed three more lives just days before.

The U.S. – western civilization, finds itself in the grips of an age where seemingly random and murderous acts of violence are continuing to take place at an increasing rate, and virtually at any place, from churches and schools, to the workplace and areas of public gathering (e.g. clubs, city districts, festivals and concerts).  

The country is becoming more dangerous by the day and citizens are struggling to find rational answers as to why such events occur, while public health and elected officials are struggling to find answers and solutions to stem the tide.

President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass background check laws for gun buyers in the wake of these latest mass shootings. Trump backed “red flag” laws that allow family members, employers, or other individuals to file a request to temporarily confiscate firearms from a suspected dangerous person.

That type of law if enforced, could seemingly help prevent an active shooter from carrying out his evil deed- again, if enforced. The mother of the hate-filled suspect of Saturday’s shooting in El Paso, Texas, called local police weeks earlier out of concern that her son owned a semiautomatic rifle.

Did the mother suspect her son was dangerous? No, but she told police she was worried about her son owning the firearm given his age and lack of experience, according to a network TV report. The problem was a public safety officer told her that because her son was 21, he was legally allowed to purchase the weapon. Texas did not have “red flag” laws that would have allowed a judge to temporarily confiscate firearms if the owner was considered a threat.

Only later, did Police arrest the young man and linked him to a white supremacist manifesto posted online just before the attack that killed 22 people and wounded many others at a Walmart.

If such preventative action been taken by Broward County school and law enforcement officials here in South Florida, Nickolas Cruz’s murderous Valentine Day’s assault at a local high school may have been averted in 2018. The key phrase is ‘May have.’

So, the gun-control debate rages on as a result of this past murderous weekend. Democrats and the left blame the NRA (National Rifle Association) for mass shootings and lament inaction on gun control (though Ohio’s governor just proposed a list of 10 reforms in the wake of the Dayton shooting).  Republicans and the right stand by the second amendment of the Bill of Rights guaranteeing a right to bear arms and say that, “Guns don’t kill people…people kill people,” pointing to mental illness and family dysfunction as root causes of mass murders which are arguments which carry much socio and psychological weight as far as they go, as we shall soon see.

Interestingly enough, according to recent polls, most gun owners are non- NRA members and yet are favoring greater gun-control laws to some degree or another in the aftermath of the latest wave of mass shootings, while still holding to their right to own firearms. Indeed, 67% of gun owners admit to bearing arms primarily for the reason of self-defense, which is certainly understandable in our day and age.

There is little hope for a settlement in the gun-control war, as both sides hold to intractable positions. Much of the left will settle for little less than an out-right ban on guns (look for a proposed constitutional amendment to do away with the second), beginning with virtually any type of semi-automatic weapons, while the right in fear of the legislative slippery slope, seems unlikely to bend on further gun-control purchase and ownership regulations.   

The Los Angeles Times reported on a study of the life histories of mass shooters in the U.S. funded by a national justice department agency, building profiles from a database of shooting incidents involving the deaths of four or more people in a public place, dating back to 1966. Jailed shooters, their friends, families, survivors and first responders were interviewed.

Moreover, reporters dug through reams of data from printed manifestos, suicide notes and social media posts as well as trial transcripts looking for patterns.

Although for obvious reasons (namely God’s sovereign and providential purposes in the affairs of mankind), no single profile emerged of a mass murdering shooter.

However, some enlightening commonalities did emerge from a majority of murderers. Many or most were young white males who experienced one of or more of the following:

  • Childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age.
  • Exposure to parental suicide.
  • Victims of sexual, physical abuse and neglect.
  • Severe bullying.
  • Mental health issues, such as; depression, anxiety and other thought disorders.

Many of our readers would not find any of the above characteristics as unusual or surprising, since mental and emotional instability would seem to rationally explain what on the surface seems to be irrational behavior.

Among other contributing factors included a crisis type event or conflict for the shooters shortly before their acts (i.e. a murderous rage from a recently job-terminated shooter) and the more recent phenomenon of copy-cat shooters being motivated, if not inspired by social media posts and extreme hate-oriented websites (e.g. ‘antifa’ and white supremacists).

Therefore, other than instituting some “red-flag laws” and pouring millions if not billions of dollars into security measures, mental health prevention and treatment programs, there seems to be little secular help or guarantees in sight of doing away with (#NeverAgain) mass-shooting murders.

Few if any pundits or politicians will dare go near the real spiritual, underlying reality of evil, hate and murder (James 4:1-2), lying at the doorstep of every man’s deceitful and desperately wicked hearts, cursed by sin and influenced by Satan.   

One who knew better, was the Dayton, Ohio shooter himself, who declared in a bio post, “I’m going to hell and I’m not coming back.”       

So, what are redeemed disciples of Jesus Christ to do and what do we have to offer a world facing the above obstacles to living “peaceful, dignified and quiet lives” on earth (1 Timothy 2:2) in a time of active shooters and mass murder, breeding fear among the populace?

I would say, humbly mourn and share.

Mourn Over Sin

The Bible calls us to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15) before attempting to offer contrived words of worldly wisdom and easy- quick fix solutions to this rash of violent sin before us.

We all should weep over what has and is becoming of this nation, due to its rejection of its God and creator, failing to give him the worship, honor and thanksgiving he is due. It is only by his common grace providing a level of protection on ‘the just as well as the unjust’ that has kept this land from total anarchy or chaos.

Share the Hope of Good News

Know and explain God’s meta-narrative or story of the world (“HIStory”) to the lost and hurting among us; it’s past, present and future, which will feature the wonderful good and gospel news of final redemption after a final period of violence and bad news.  God has a four-part story for us that we are in the third part of:

  • Creation
  • Fall (sin and its consequences- see last weekend’s news)
  • Redemption, meaning salvation by the cross and resurrection of Christ in this current age of grace
  • Restoration, meaning after a future and final age of world-wide judgment and destruction, King Jesus will rule and reign over the most glorious period of man’s history and after God’s extreme make-over of this planet, bring an eternal new heavens and earth to God’s people to enjoy with him.    

Now is the time to humbly mourn and share the only hope for mankind in this sin-cursed and violent world while there is time (James 4:9).

Now is the time to cry for America and then let God lift hearts through the blood that saves and gives life, rather than fear the ones that are shedding blood now.