Author Archives: mycaptivethought

The Vaccination and Echoes of God

     Image result for 2018 flu symptoms    Image result for gloria copeland age Bernie Diaz, February 13, 2018

We’re in the midst of the nation’s worst flu epidemic in nearly 15 years, one which has killed dozens of children and resulted in the highest number of hospitalizations ever recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and according to professed Christian minister Gloria Copeland, one half of the renown word of faith and prosperity gospel duo with husband Ken, Christians possessed the vaccination all along.

Lady Copeland, who sat on the Trump campaign’s evangelical advisory board, drew criticism – and rightly so, for her recent Facebook video posted comments in which she said that the key to avoiding a medical flu vaccination was by the simple declaration, “We don’t have a flu season and don’t receive it when somebody threatens you with ‘everybody is getting the flu.’ ”

She claimed that Jesus was himself protection from the flu and suggested that people avoid the virus by repeating the phrase, “I’ll never have the flu.”

“We’ve already had our shot: He bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases,” Copeland said. “He redeemed us from the curse of flu, and we receive it, and we take it, and we are healed by his stripes, amen.”

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry when I hear or read of such insanity, where an alleged evangelical leader mangles if not butchers holy scripture to suit self-centered, felt needs. In this particular case, Copeland committed the common word of faith fallacy of quoting a scripture out of its context (Isa. 53:5) and misinterpreting its meaning all together.

When Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah to come would be a suffering servant for his people, by being “ smitten by God, and afflicted”, and “crushed for our iniquities” (53:4), he was clearly referring to the Christ’s substitutionary atonement or sacrifice on the cross, to make payment for sin, as evidenced by what follows the verse which Copeland quoted, “ … and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (53:6).”

Copeland is not of course, the first “evangelical” to call for limited medical treatment and misquote the Bible in the prcoess.

Some fundamentalist groups don’t believe in medications or psychological treatments for mental illness under any circumstance. Whereas small groups of faith healers and pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, which as John MacArthur rightfully said is, “Neither Christian nor science,” believe that prayer can heal and shun conventional medical support without taking God’s will or the effects of sin’s curse on this world into account.

Well, here is a shocker for Copeland and many from the “Name and claim it” wing of the most radical reaches of the modern charismatic movement: Christians get sick and die- just like the rest of humanity, a “creation itself (which) will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Ro. 8:18-22), when Jesus returns to take his church home in a glory which will realize its final victory over death, disease and sin.

As the apostle Paul remarked that the “natural man” (unredeemed) of 1 Corinthians 2 does not understand or discern the things of God – such as his word, cults like the JWs will claim that their obedience to God demand that they refuse to accept blood transfusions at the risk of their own lives and of their children. What do they base that doctrine on?

Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.. – Deuteronomy 12:23

How does one take a text about directly eating or drinking blood from an animal (a known pagan ritual) in times of antiquity and even remote parts of the world today, and equate it to receiving or giving a life-saving blood transfusion? Particularly when blood transfusions were not even a part of medical treatment in ancient times when the text was written?

Then again, what drives the Amish to refuse to allow heart transplants and, in some cases, heart surgery because they view the heart as “the soul of the body?”

Today’s Christian must be discerning enough to weed out the cacophony of noise coming from popular, prosperity faith and gospel preachers and televangelists promising health and wealth in Christ’s name to any and all that would just give enough to their ministries and be foolish enough to disregard the plain, face-value reading and understanding of scripture.

The only inoculation available for what ails mankind, is the blood-bought redeeming and saving grace of God found in Jesus by repentant faith alone, which strengthens us when we are faced by the inevitability of pain, sickness and suffering on this side of glory and heaven.

Romans 8:28 reminds us that God can bring about good from any situation. In fact, many disciples of Christ have looked back on times of sickness as some of their most precious times of their faith when they grew closer to God, learned to trust Him and his sovereignty more, prayed more and/or learned how to truly value life.

Image result for person to person discipleship Making Disciples with the Echoes of God

There is no more provocative and clear an analysis of what has been ailing our country if not most of the world during the last generation or so, then the Bible passage of Romans 1:18-32, which I am in the midst of preaching for our church.

It is a text in which the total, moral corruption of mankind is laid bare for all to read.  It reveals a society like ours, which has willingly chosen to reject God, “suppress” the truth or light which all men possess of his existence and glory, and a preference to exchange the worship of God for self-worship, resulting in God’s holy and just wrath or anger of abandonment, on a nation.

How do we speak to or evangelize a people like that? How do we share our testimony as witnesses to what Christ has done by saving us in a morally relativistic culture in the midst of an unprecedented sexual revolution?

Romans 1 tells us in two incredibly insightful verses that all peoples of all times and places that “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Ro. 1:19-20).  Remarkable.

God has said in essence from that text, that atheists don’t exist (see Pro. 14:1) and everyone has an echo of God that they can hear and yearn to be fulfilled if they would not suppress or muffle that echo. We have to turn up the volume on the sound.

Evangelical author and pastor Tim Keller has summarized our ‘echo’ mission drawing upon the work of C.S. Lewis in four ways, when he said that everyone shares a common ground– religious and secular people alike. He described this common ground as “echoes of God” that even atheists will acknowledge. I have added a fifth.

  1. The Passion for Justice Echo – we all care about it, yet for truly secular people there is no ultimate foundation of justice. We can tell people that true and everlasting justice- ‘where all wrongs are made right’, can only be found in the perfect judge that is God.

      2. The Longing for Joy Echo – it was Lewis who most eloquently pointed out that our            cravings for ultimate and lasting joy in this world points to another world. That                  world is the kingdom of God and heaven if we would just articulate it to others.  

  1. The Echo to be known and loved – we all crave relationships where we are known and loved. This echo points directly to the greatest love man has ever known- Jesus Christ (Jo. 3:16; Ro. 5:8-9).
  1. The Emptiness Echo – even though many dismiss it, we all have a fear of death and loss of meaning in our lives. The gospel uniquely addresses these questions and only the gospel makes sense of and gives hope to those who suffer (Gen. 50:21; Ro. 8:28).
  1. The Religious EchoI have been reminded through my study of Romans that everyone who has ever and will ever live is religious or ‘spiritual’ to one degree or another (see Acts 17:22-25). God has ‘made us for eternity’ or put eternity in our hearts.

This reality may cause us to worship ourselves or things other than God (Ro. 1:25-30). As Keller put it, “You have heard it said, that life is about getting what you want for yourself, but Jesus said that it is about knowing and following what God wants for you.

Or continuing in the language of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, that we can pursue any sex we want as long as we do not hurt others, but Jesus tells us that God made us and gave us important boundaries for our sexual relationships.”

Keller added, “We must contrast and teach what our cultural leaders say with what Jesus says. This will have a big impact on how we teach and preach as leaders in our churches.” Indeed, we must as disciple-makers be prepared to say, “You have heard it said, (worldly viewpoint), but Jesus tells us (biblical viewpoint).”

The world has an echo of God, but we have the entire sound of God to share.

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Staying Spiritually Healthy and the Myth of the Pro-Choice Movement

Related image Bernie Diaz, February 6, 2018

How are you doing Christian with your new year’s resolutions? How’s your diet and work-out schedule going? We’ve now entered into the month of February and many of us have already hit the “wall” I’m sure.

Some of the overwhelming majority that will drop their resolutions by the spring, have abandoned ship already and spiritually, the discipline we need most (1 Tim. 4:7-8), hasn’t even yet hit the ultra-challenging sections of our chronological Bible reading plans, such as the Old Testament books of Numbers and Leviticus!

So, we may want to re-evaluate where we are and we how are we doing with the practice of the spiritual disciplines, or availing ourselves to the means of God’s grace: God’s word, prayer and congregating with the local church body.

For those of you who struggle to rise early enough in the morning to keep up with your daily devotions or are too tired to spend some time alone with God before retiring to bed at night, think of your daily commute. Who doesn’t have one of those in South Florida, where a trip to your local neighborhood grocery store to buy some milk and eggs, can take a half-hour?

Whether you’re in a car, bus, airplane, bicycle or whatever mode of transportation you use, you can ‘redeem the time’ by connecting with God while commuting.

Although research seems to show that multi-tasking is not really that effective, we can still “eat” some Bible and speak with God while on the road. You may not drive with 100% focus and listen to your Bible on audio with 100% focus at the same time, but you can “side-task” as one writer put it. It may be worth investing in the time to do two things at once, even if you can’t do both extremely well. There are things you can do while commuting to make the best use of your time.

Another Way to Hear God’s Voice

I know someone who recently listened to the entire Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible- the Torah) on audio while driving to and from places. It’s amazing how much more can be picked up (and probably missed) while listening to the Bible on audio.

Although I still prefer traditional Bible reading, listening to your Bible on audio is better than not consuming the Bible at all and could be a regular option for you extremely busy folk, especially those of you that work long hours or have long commutes.

By the way, you can practice both the physical and spiritual disciplines you resolved to do at the beginning of the year, if you jog or ride your bike as you listen to the Bible!  I have definitely taken advantage of those opportunities.

Another Way to Have God’s Ear

To have God’s ear, to is speak to God with the expectation that he will hear what you say, meaning that prayer is communication with God, and like other relationships, it should be two-way, and we therefore need constant communication with him for deep intimacy. I often find myself praying in the car and am blessed in that conversation. These chats with God can be quick and timely prayers.

On your way to a doctor’s appointment when you may be feeling anxious? Talk to God- pray. Need help in dealing with the traffic you’re in the midst of while driving? This is a frequent prayer request for me. Pray. Are you about to take an important test at school or struggling at home or away with a work project? Talk to God and plead for his help- pray and you’ll have his ear.

With that said, praying in the car probably shouldn’t be the extent of your prayer life- that should go without saying. When you pray in the car or in some other location, view that prayer as more supplemental, but not as your primary spiritual diet. Hearing God and having his ear is best done in private, in the comfort of your home.

The Christian with a smart phone has little or no excuse today for giving up on our resolution to be spiritually healthy.

Our heavenly father commands us to make the best use of time. Most of us are commuting quite often and can seize those opportunities to stay connected to God and his grace.

Image result for pro choice posters The Myth of the Pro-Choice Movement

As I’ve preached and posted before, I am confident in declaring as fact, that there is no such thing as a true ‘pro-choice’ activist or advocate on the issue of abortion.

Any doubt I or any right and clear thinking person may have harbored on that statement, had it removed recently upon the news that federally proposed legislation to protect the unborn from abortion after 20 weeks’ development—when doctors say babies can experience pain—failed to advance in the Senate to the level where it could even be voted upon.

The procedural vote to end debate on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act failed to secure the necessary 60 votes to advance the bill. The Senate voted 51-46 on the motion to proceed, with three Democrats—Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia incredibly enough —breaking with their party to support the bill.

GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted no. Shortly before the vote, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, noted that the United States is one of only a handful of nations that permit late-term abortions. “There’s a reason there are only seven countries in the world that allow this,” he said. “The question for America is do we want to stay in this club. Or do we want to get out? I want out.”

Graham’s bill would have criminalized the act with the exceptions of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. President Trump called Monday’s vote “disappointing,” adding, “We must defend those who cannot defend themselves.”

Do we understand that we have arrived at the point in time of this nation’s history, where elected officials, sworn to protect and uphold the rights of all American citizens, have by a majority, chosen to continue killing preborn children after 20 weeks in the womb, a time where due to modern technology they can survive and thrive from a premature birth, acknowledging that these innocent and most vulnerable members of the human family feel pain?

Where is the justice and compassion? Where is the freedom for the unborn to have an opportunity to choose life?

It is a well-known fact that pro-abortion advocates, led by groups such as NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) and Planned Parenthood have opposed each and every real, ‘pro-choice’ piece of legislation that has been proposed by every state as well as by federal lawmakers for a generation now.

By pro-choice, I mean that pro-abortionists have worked to oppose laws which would give parents instance the freedom or choice to be notified and/or give approval to the abortion that their young female child may be seeking; or, the choice for women contemplating an abortion to receive information and sonogram pictures of their preborn children; or, to have the benefit of a three-day ‘waiting period’ in which to contemplate their thoughts of abortion.

A three-day waiting period to buy a gun in order to exercise a constitutional right to protect one’s self or in the worst case scenario, to harm or kill another person? Yes, we can wait for that. Three days to wait before snuffing out the life of a defenseless child because he or she is in the womb? Why wait?

Pro-abortion advocates proudly argue against such measures as a means of preserving the health of the mother. That sounds wonderful until one thinks about the health of the child. To do that however, would mean to subject one’s absolute sexual freedom and desires to a greater authority and human right, which I’ll be preaching on over the next two Sundays at my church from Romans 1 (“The Wrath of God”).  Come to think of it, I do believe that the Senators that opposed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act are pro-choice- except when the life of the child is in danger.

May God have mercy upon the souls of those that support not only the abortion of life, but the abortion of a meaningful right to choose life.

One Tragedy = A New Law- Homeschoolers Beware

Image result for perris california abuse case Bernie Diaz, January 30, 2018

You’ve familiar with the tragic story by now, of an allegedly Pentecostal Christian couple who were arrested recently, after police had to rescue their 13 severely malnourished children from their home in Perris, California. The home was registered as a homeschool.

What does that event mean to the secular, ‘progressive’ leaning, social engineering left? Regulate homeschooling to extinction perhaps? The idea may not be as farfetched as that questions sounds. Indeed, homeschooling advocates nationwide are concerned about additional regulations after the news of this abuse from these homeschooling parents in California.

The Massachusetts-based Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a group actively advocating for homeschooling reform, says a lack of oversight for homeschools allows abuse, such at the case in Perris, to go unchecked and is now calling for increased regulation of homeschools, such as proposed, unannounced home visits and curriculum reviews by state education regulators.

“The lack of oversight of home schools is what allows people to hide abuse,” said a policy analyst for that coalition. “We believe that the various states should introduce legislation to have annual contact with mandated reporters.”

Those of you holding to a biblical worldview and thoughts captive to Christ, likely understand what that chilling comment means: well-intended motives notwithstanding, the antichristian education movement in this nation may unfortunately politicize the crime committed in California and seize it, as an opportunity to further an agenda which seeks to marginalize if not eliminate faith-based homeschooling and further restrict Christian private-schooling.

California has been moving legislatively in that direction for the past several years now, as lawmakers there see Christian and biblically based education in or out of the home, to be an anathema (curse) to government school elites, in the battle for the hearts and minds of young school children and this nation’s future.

Many religious homeschoolers and private institutions are thought of as indoctrinating forces of societal evil, due to their moral stands they take in both personnel decisions for the latter, and content, which oppose today’s sexual revolution.

Therefore, it stands to reason upon the precedent of other highly publicized cultural issues, that one isolated event can be used by one side to justify legislation which may oppress the civil rights of others, in much the same way school shooting incidents are used by gun-control law-makers and advocates to seek to abolish in piece-meal fashion, the constitutional right to bear arms.

‘Indoctrination’

The issue at hand then with respect to education is simply, “Who will get the best opportunity to ‘indoctrinate’ the minds of school children as some observers would note?  Parents or a secular government run monopoly?”

What is ironic is that were pro-government education experts to logically extend their argument of news-related events leading to legislation, they would have to legislate the public-school system out of existence.

Although I’m no research expert, I did a little Google online search for this post of all the K-12 school shooting incidents in America that have occurred chronologically since 1950, and I found that there were 202 incidents in which a public or religiously identifiable school were explicitly or implicitly mentioned.

Out of those 202 school shootings, 189 or 94% of them happened on public school campuses. Thirteen school related shootings occurred at private, religious schools. While acknowledging that most schools are public or government run, the fact remains that a school-shooting is nearly 15 times more likely to occur at a public school as opposed to a religious school.

Based upon that simple math and the reasoning behind the “homeschool” abuse incident in California, the public-school system should be virtually shut down, as being rendered relatively unsafe, and full-blown school choice policies enacted to encourage parents to enroll their children in the safest environment possible- correct? But no one seems to be calling for those kinds of regulations.

Yet, despite the horrific crime committed by these “parents” in Perris, homeschool enrollment continues to grow, while public school enrollment in many communities throughout this country continues to flatten or decrease.

Safety and security concerns alone, would be reason enough I would think for non-religious families to expedite the exodus of their children from public into private and homeschools.

As for Biblically minded Christians, the California case must be condemned for the torturous and heinous crime of abuse that it was on the one hand, but should not on the other hand, serve as an anecdotal rationale to usurp the religious freedom of families to educate their children where and how they see fit

Therefore, Christians who yearn to see their religious convictions and liberty preserved in their educational choices for their families and communities, should speak clearly as to why they support school choice.

Parental Authority and Choice

Disciples of Christ should remember that the home is the primary garden in which our kids grow and learn, built upon the foundation of the gospel (Pro.1:7).

Even if a family is actively involved in a local church, the pastors and volunteers only have about 100 hours a year with the kids at most. Parents, on the other hand, have over 8,700 waking hours with them. No matter how amazing a church’s kids or youth ministry can be, (which is a major question in itself), what the church does on the weekend pales in comparison to what happens in the home or the school where parents send their children to be educated.

A plant only withers and dies if it is not properly fed. This is the simple, foundational reason why parents are directed by God to be the primary disciplers and educational directors of their children (Deut. 6:6-9; Psa.  78:1-7; Eph. 6:1-4).

In the wake of the California tragedy and the issues of freedom and parental responsibility that will flow out of it, parents must remind themselves that while they can find lots of people to replace them at work, their kids get only one mom and dad.

So, maybe we should think about arranging our schedules if at all possible, to ensure that we’re prioritizing relationships in the home. And for those of you who think, “Well, I’m not sure I’ve got that much to offer,” remember: what your kids need most from you is not another coach, teacher, youth minister or college prep specialist – another hired, influential hand as helpful as they may be.

They don’t need you to be a perfect role model either. They just need moms and dads, broken parents who will teach them to love the Savior who loved them first. May we continue to have enjoy the freedom to do so in our nation in the generation to come.

President Trump – our King David Today?

Image result for president trump speech at march for life Bernie Diaz, January 23, 2018

I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do

What do you make of a leader who on the one hand struggles to live a life of fairly consistent moral and ethical virtue- a man with more than a few character issues and who on the other hand leads or governs as if driven by a heart for what God wants?

If you are a Jew and/or a Christian, you thank God for a king like David, the second and greatest monarch of Israel’s biblical history and if you’re a modern-day Christian, you thank God for….wait for it….  Donald J. Trump?

Yes, I know I have spilled much electronic ink on this blog, trying to ‘bring thoughts captive to Christ’ on this professed believer, our President,  who has recently (and periodically) made fairly vulgar, racially insensitive remarks about groups of people or nations, who spends way too much time tweeting his thoughts and who has been accused yet again of having committed adultery – of all things with a porn-movie star, who he allegedly paid off to remain quiet, to say nothing of his well-published and admitted sexual sin over a good chunk of his adult life.

This is no easy task for a disciple of Christ and as a pastor to do, who believes that character counts – particularly for a leader, and one sitting in the Oval Office. However, I thank God for common grace to bless those who are in authority over us, whether they truly know God personally and salvifically or not.

A big question is how could God call David a “man after His own heart” when David committed such terrible sins, including adultery and conspiracy to murder (Bathsheba’s husband Uriah) as well as his dysfunction in the  parenting of his children (e.g. Absalom).

One can learn much of David’s character from the book of Psalms where he opens up his heart for all to examine. David’s life was a portrait of success and failure, and the biblical record highlights the fact that David was far from perfect.

But what did make David a cut above the rest was that his heart was pointed toward God. He had a deep desire to follow God’s will and do “everything” Yahweh wanted him to do.

He was a man after God’s own heart because he governed and led well- even when he fell and would then seek repentance after his many failings.

Whereas we cannot judge the heart of President Trump and his spiritual condition today, nor could we favorably compare his life and leadership to David’s, we can be grateful that he, on the brink of the first anniversary of his inauguration, is governing much like a man of God with God’s people in mind.

A Champion of Life

Just this week the President of these still United States, issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 22nd, which is the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade, “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

In an official video statement released before over 800,000 pro-lifers at the annual March for Life rally last Friday, Trump explained in his proclamation that the observance is meant to “affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human.

Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children,” read the proclamation, echoed in Trump’s video remarks.

Speaking via satellite from the White House Rose Garden, Trump stated that he was “honored” and “proud” to be the first commander-in-chief to address the March for Life.

“Today, tens of thousands of families, students, and patriots, and really just great citizens, gather here in our Nation’s Capital,” said Trump, his speech broadcast on a large screen before the attendees at the National Mall.

“You come from many backgrounds, many places, but you all come for one beautiful cause: to build a society where life is celebrated, protected, and cherished. The March for Life is a movement born out of love.

You love your families, you love your neighbors, you love our nation, and you love every child, born and unborn, because you believe that every life is sacred, that every child is a precious gift from God.”

Many evangelical preachers could not have declared the biblically based pro-life position any better, would they be courageous enough to do so, even from the comfy confines of their pulpits.

This President has been more willing to spend his political as well as rhetorical capital on the issue of life, than any other since Ronald Regan in the 1980’s. Due largely to Trump’s influence, The House of Representatives just passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require healthcare workers to provide care to babies who are born alive after an abortion attempt.

All the Republican representatives voted in favor of it, and almost all the Democrats opposed it, which if one were to ponder for a moment, would seriously and graphically reveal the evil that lurks within the hearts of the pro-abortion movement.

Only six Democrats voted for this bill to protect babies that would ‘survive’ an abortion attempt on their lives. That means that 183 Democrats voted against it, in essence voting that babies that somehow survive the grotesque and murderous act of abortion, be allowed to die slowly and painfully on the spot, or be extinguished without a threat of liability to the abortionist, similar to the legalization of late-term or partial-birth abortion.

Do you have chills yet? May we pray for the souls of these elected officials among others, such as Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, who are the caretakers of a multi-billion dollar industry that snuffs out approximately one million American pre-born lives per year.

Interestingly enough, one person with a unique perspective on the aftermath of Roe v. Wade and its 45th anniversary is lawyer Sarah Weddington, now 72, of Austin Texas. When she was just 26, she argued on behalf of “Jane Roe” (later revealed to be Norma McCorvey, who later would become a pro-life advocate) in the famous suit.

In a TIME magazine interview, while admitting that Trump is one of the strongest, ‘anti-abortion’ politicians she had ever know, Weddington was perplexed that the battle for the basic human right for life is still being fought today: “When I started the case, the research in 1969, if anybody had said, ‘You will still be talking about this in 45 years,’ I would not have believed that. And so what I’m most amazed at is how long the issue has still been at the center of a lot of political conversations..” We have President Trump in large part to thank for that reality today.

A Champion of Liberty

Kudos again to our somewhat ‘Davidic’ like President, whose administration last week announced in a little-known but pleasantly surprising declaration, that the federal Department of Health and Human Services must make exemptions for those with moral and religious convictions of conscience, to opt out of mandates providing abortion and/or ‘gender reassignment’ services or surgeries.

This President if nothing else, is politically incorrect and has remained faithful thus far to his campaign promises to uphold religious liberty for people of faith, which is a critical one for Christians holding to a biblical worldview.

Why is that critical? Because the religious freedom of conscience is what ensures Christians a voice in the marketplace of ideas, social legislation and at the workplace, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to live by the constitutionally guaranteed right we have always had in this country to ”exercise” our religion.

In conclusion, we know that Israel’s David was a man after God’s own heart because he not only demonstrated his faith in his reign as King, but because he was also committed to following the Lord. Yes, his faith was tested on a grand scale and he failed at times. But after his sin he sought and received the Lord’s forgiveness.

In the final analysis, as a man after God’s own heart, David is a role model for all of us and as I pray for this nation’s President, that he would not only confess to God his own personal sin, but ask him from a heart of repentance, for grace in forgiveness and salvation as David did in Psalm 51.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psa. 51:1–2).

Mr. President, I pray that will be your prayer, so that you would be a child of God if you’re not yet one already, as well as one who governs like one (1 Tim. 2:1-6).

MLK Day Thoughts – Trump and Oprah in 2020?

Image result for trump and oprah Bernie Diaz, January 15, 2018

Did he or didn’t he? The timing couldn’t be worse for President Donald Trump, accused last week on the dawn of MLK day of having made disparaging if not “racist” comments according to news reports, in describing African countries during an Oval Office meeting with a bipartisan group of senators discussing the DACA immigration policy.

Allegedly, the president also questioned the need to admit more Haitians to the U.S., according to people who were briefed on the conversation, using a vulgarity in reference to the conditions there. Trump reportedly also said in the meeting that he would prefer immigrants from Anglo-white countries like Norway instead.

Regardless of what was actually said or not (Trump and White House officials have denied using the profanity in question, though they have not disclosed what was said), already existing racial tensions have been brought to the forefront of American conscience once again on the 50th anniversary year of Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination.

A Christian can pray that this will not be a year that would approximate in any way, that horrific year of violence and division which so marred this nation in 1968. Racial concerns notwithstanding, two more issues deserving thoughts held captive to Christ and a worldview analysis bear our attention in the aftermath of this latest Trumpian verbal misstep.

A Culture of Profanity

I am frequently amazed by the voluminous level of profanity heard in modern American media and culture today. Crude words that I never thought imaginable are heard or read routinely in public and will now likely become even more commonplace as the result of the President’s alleged comments.

Already mainstream newspaper and magazine editors (e.g. Time, Newsweek) have justified publishing the remark attributed to the President (“s______ hole”) since it was alleged to have been uttered directly by Trump himself. That rationale seems to be more an attempt to embarrass the White House than to justify journalistic standards.

The influence of profanity on this ‘millennial’ generation has never been greater, as my wife and I noticed while waiting in line to make a purchase in the midst of a group of college age females dropping the ‘f- bomb’ as causally and frequently as the use of any word, like ‘the’ or ‘and.’

Cursing has fast become mainstreamed in America. Swear words of all kinds have undergone a radical surge in popularity, largely fueled by popular movies and music, which was once a no-go zone for the slightest whiff of profanity– particularly on the radio—which has become so open to colorful language that according to one pop critic, “four-letter words now grace band names.”

In fairness, Donald Trump is not the first politician to utter profane language in Washington. Several U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents from the 1960’s onward were known for their casual and regular use of profanity, including icons like John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, for instance. And who can forget Vice President Joe Biden’s use of the f-bomb (caught on the microphone) when he quietly congratulated President Obama for signing into law the Affordable Healthcare Act.

To be sure, the problem of unwholesome speech is nothing new. It’s always been around – since the fall of man. But the extensive, wide-ranging and more normative use of it is a new phenomena in our culture. Even some high-profile hipster pastors have foolishly used salty language from the pulpit, seeking to connect with their younger listeners as ‘hip, hot and happening’ speakers.

As Christian believers, profanity is unacceptable in any form and disciples of Christ must be decidedly countercultural when it comes to speech. Paul’s teaching concerning our speech is so relevant it could have been written last week:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Later he adds, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4).

The Greek word in Eph. 4 could be translated as rotten, corrupt, or putrid. It is the same word that Jesus uses in Luke 6:43 when referring to “bad fruit.” The point is: The words of Christ’s followers should never read or sound  rotten or obscene.

May we strive to recover, cultivate, and model godly speech in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, communities, and churches, as those who seek to be a cultural preservative like salt (Matt.5), rather than as a polluter.

Next Celebrity President?

Leave it to a feminist inspiring, televised Golden Globes speech to do what only modern culture can do today – create a presidential race where there was none, only one year into the current Presidential administration, with none other than Oprah Winfrey, actress and television personality extraordinaire.

Crowned in a social and news media coronation, the woman known simply by the brand name, Oprah, preached a message last week to millions of empowerment, in the context of the victims of Hollywood sexual misconduct and told America that, “… What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

A classic post-modern and relativistic thought if there ever was one- ‘let your truth be your truth and my truth be mine’, the only truth that sets us free be damned.

If Oprah Winfrey runs for president in 2020 — as some are clamoring for her to do, she would be the latest non-politically experienced celebrity to run for office, perhaps a dangerous precedent set by the ‘Donald’ himself.

Somewhat self-consciously, both Trump and Oprah share a religious message. It’s been said that both Winfrey and Trump preach a prosperity type gospel of wealth, health, and self-determination, seeming to say that  God wants people to be wealthy and healthy and that followers are responsible for their own destiny here on Earth if they would just dream it.

Winfrey according to observers, sees herself as both a Christian and a critic of Christianity. She was raised in the Baptist church, describes herself as a consistent reader of the Bible, and through her television show, basically built the church that she wanted.

“She has found deep and sustaining power in the New Testament, in the Bible, and in the theological interpretation that the good that you receive is a representation of the good you bring into the world,” a Yale University religion professor said of Winfrey.

May we have to thank or blame President Trump, influenced by long-time “pastor” and televangelist Paula White among other TBN favorites, as being the catalyst for a future ‘President Oprah’ campaign? Will it be time should the Lord tarry in his return, that we move from a celebrity president like a Rockefeller claiming Christ, to one who is a black and female Joel Osteen without Christ?

This could actually happen. God help us.

 

A Child’s Gender Identity vs. Parental Authority – What’s a Parent to Do?

Image result for transgender boy scouts of america Bernie Diaz, January 8, 2018

You’re a parent and your pre-teen or teenage child wants to join the Boy Scouts. What’s a parent to do? Your child now has unprecedented choices to make as which of the two major scouting organizations they’d like to affiliate with; the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Does it really matter?

It’s all about gender identity today as the latest topsy-turvy issue and controversy emanating from the sexual revolution. Can a child be permitted to make a personal decision to alter their own gender or cross the street alone? According to today’s cultural and academic elites, they do have the right and expectation to alter or completely change their gender or sexual identity with or without their parent’s approval, guidance or maybe even knowledge of. What’s a parent to do?

The Boy Scouts of America recently announced that of the start of this new year, it would now accept girls into its boys-only programs. “We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” Boy Scouts chief executive Michael Surbaugh said of the decision. The Boy Scouts board voted unanimously in favor of the policy change, a major reversal for the 107-year-old organization.

This latest shift of the BSA, follows numerous changes to membership requirements in Scouting in recent years. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts now allow openly homosexual scouts and leaders. In 2015, the Girl Scouts opened their ranks to transgender children who identify as girls on a case-by-case basis. And of this year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for the Cub Scouts program. Although there are no immediate plans to allow boys and girls to join the same den, that eventuality cannot be far behind. Won’t that make for a special overnights camping trip?

If your biology means your daughter is Peggy Sue, the Boy Scouts new policy allows her to self-identify as Bobby Sue, regardless of the gender on her birth certificate. What’s a parent to do?

Crossing the Street or Changing Gender?

Did you know that more than 200 children under the age of 14 died in the United States in 2014 after being struck by a car? Another 8,000 suffered injuries, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis.

Based on the above, a recent research study conducted at the University of Iowa has determined children younger than 14 do not possess the “cognitive” or intellectual skills and judgment to… wait for it…. safely cross a street. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published an excerpt of the study as a nod some physicians found ironic, given the organization’s support for transgender treatment.

Ironic? Perhaps. ‘Revolutionary’? For sure. “This same AAP, also frequently promotes the claim that children this age or younger are cognitively capable of deciding that they are the wrong sex,” noted Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, a conservative alternative to the AAP. “Moreover, the AAP also deems children cognitively competent to consent to puberty blockers, toxic sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgery.”

That’s right 14 year-old Peggy Sue, you can’t cross the street on your own, but you can decide to painfully mutilate your body in the name of self-awareness.

The obvious irony in this sad and contemporary tale, is that while scientists document how the cognitive limitations of children compromise their judgment and ability to provide informed consent on something as fundamental, frequent and simple as crossing the street, they are according to the experts capable and cognitive enough to reassign themselves a brand-new gender identity or sexual orientation.

By the way, hasn’t society long had age restrictions not only for consenting to medical procedures, but also for driving, voting, joining the military, and purchasing alcohol and cigarettes? But sex-change? No not that, as the advocates and activists of the sexual revolution have similarly opposed any and all opposition to any age restriction of underage girls seeking abortions.

Who has and should have the ultimate responsibility and authority for maintaining the physical and mental health and direction of a child in a household? Parent or Professional?  One pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, believes doctors should give puberty blockers to even younger children. In a recent issue of the journal Endocrine News, he claimed the best age for boys is between 12 and 14, while girls should start between 10 and 12.

This is a question of authority. Who has it? Israelite history reveals that the father was to be diligent in instructing his children in the ways and words of the Lord for their own spiritual development and well-being. The father who was obedient to the commands of Scripture did just that, as found in the oft-quoted scripture of Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

To “train” indicates the first instruction that a father and mother give to a child, i.e., his early education. The training is designed to make clear to children the manner of life they are intended for and the sexual orientation they are to follow.

We can see throughout God’s word that the Christian parent is really an instrument in God’s hand. The whole process of instruction and discipline must be that which God commands and which he administers, so that His authority should be brought into constant and immediate contact with the mind, heart, and conscience of children.

However, Christian parents are going to have fight in today’s day and age to preserve their role as the central earthly authority over their children’s lives, all the while knowing that they should never present themselves as the ultimate authority to determine truth and duty. It is only by making God the teacher and ruler on whose authority everything is done that the goals of education can be met.

May we pray that God’s grace will enable parents to retain the right to meet those goals. Because, “Apparently, cognitive immaturity is an obstacle to crossing the street but not for giving consent to a sex change,” Michelle Cretella said. “Looks like ‘correctness’ outranks science when science gets in the way of agenda.”

New Year’s Wisdom on Weed

Image result for marijuana legalization Bernie Diaz, January 2, 2018

Many of us have brought in the new year with resolutions to improve our physical and fiscal health through better dieting, exercise and money management.

In addition, millions of Christians (I hope) are getting their spiritual house in order by resolving to improve their health by availing themselves to the ‘ordinary’ means of grace that God has provided his people, through the pathways of hearing his voice, having his ear and partaking of his body, as I preached to our church last Sunday, which in simpler terms means: the word (eating Bible), prayer and the church – the fellowship thereof.

And then, there are millions today on the left coast, who have resolved to partake of the consumption of weed, as California welcomed the new year with legal sales of recreational marijuana.

Although the state had issued only about 100 licenses to marijuana-related businesses so far, demand was ‘high’ (pun intended) and lines were long at dispensaries that opened on the first day of legalized pot.

Those that make the convenient “economic” argument for legal, regulated pot use, project the marijuana industry to bring in $1 billion annually in tax revenue for California within several years. However, in terms of precedent, I wonder how well that deficit-ridden state has done with its similarly sold lotto gambling initiative?

As WORLD magazine points out, the nation’s most populous state joins a growing list of others, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify it as a controlled and illegal substance. Florida, the state where I reside and minister, legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes only last fall – thus far, by virtue of a popular vote.

Legality aside, this would not be the first or last ethically questionable legal right Christians have had to contend with. So, is marijuana use permissible for a born-again, Christ-believing, child of God?

Like many other issues and ethical questions facing man in the 21st century, scripture – as all-sufficient and all-authoritative as it is, does not deal with weed specifically by name for obvious historical reasons, leaving disciples of Christ with the responsibility to wisely discern this issue themselves as they strive to hear God’s “voice” and “have his heart” through Bible study and prayer.

The Push and Pushback for Pot

Interestingly enough, the growth of marijuana legislation (more pun intended), has stirred the curiosity of more than a few Christians as to its legitimate use. Already men and women in my church have shared in small-group discussions about wisdom, questions from friends in and around a community of faith as to whether God and his word permits the recreational use of marijuana.

As it applies to weed, there seems to be two main arguments posed by its ‘Christian’ proponents in justifying its use:

  1. Christian Liberty

Aside from the fact that It’s now legal in some states, there are also professing believers out there using the proverbial, catch-all tag of “freedom in Christ” in application to certain moral and ethical issues of ‘grey’ or in dispute, such as weed, as an immediate cover for imbibing, since the Bible does not explicitly condemn it in black and white terms.

Does the Bible explicitly condemn viewing pornography on television? The internet? Explicitly? Of course not, since TV and the web could not be on the minds of the biblical writers of antiquity. So, how many of you know whether or not it’s right to eat foods offered to idols? That doesn’t really happen much today in non-Santeria circles does it? Well, that was an ethical issue of concern to early Christians coming from a pagan and Gentile background who wrestled with their liberty to partake of that.

How did they know what to do?  The Bible thankfully gives us wisdom from God and in his Spirit (applied knowledge), if we ask for it and run it through the principles and patterns found in scripture, where there are no precepts (clear commands or statements).

Paul in his 1st letter to a confused and controversy ridden Corinthian church posed certain principles or general truths to help them find such answers which beg questions in and of themselves that we can infuse the word and issue of recreational marijuana with. For instance:

  • “Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Question: though ‘legal’ by law and not explicitly condemned in scripture,   is smoking weed helpful or beneficial to me – physically, spiritually, and mentally? More on this in a moment….

  • Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Question:  Does using weed bring me under its power? Can it cause an addiction in me? Talk to most reforming drug users and abusers who have been in a treatment program if you’re unsure of this one.

  • Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:13).

Question:  Does weed hurt others? Can it? See above, and speak to victims of use and abuse who are dysfunctional and non-productive members of society and who have caused or been victim to workplace and auto accident injuries and fatalities due to marijuana.

Would I want to be a stumbling block to a brother or sister in Christ- injure their conscience, by using and advocating the use of this potentially harmful drug?

  • So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Question: Does smoking pot glorify God? How does the use of weed make much of, make known, or show Christ to a lost and dying world? As Voddie Baucham would say, “If you can’t say ouch- say amen!”

         2. Alcohol Use

Indeed, the Bible does not explicitly condemn the recreational use of alcohol nor require its total abstinence, as a long, historic and culturally acceptable substance in most civilizations over the millennia.

Consider the following though: consumption of alcohol in the Bible served necessary medicinal purposes without many if any alternatives (Proverbs 31:6-7), of more contemporary means of sedation and pain relief.

Further, much research seems to indicate that the wine and strong drink of Biblical times was consumed as a mixed beverage with water, or fermented in much less potent concentrated does of alcohol than today. That said…

Question: does God’s word not caution us to abstain from (Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 23:20-21, etc.) anything that negatively impacts our self-control (1 Peter 4:7)?

Some might compare regulated and moderate marijuana use to coffee drinking, cigarette smoking and alcohol use.  While it may be pointed out that all those substances have psychoactive compounds – there are notable differences between them too.

As Jeff Lacine made clear in his article, “Marijuana to the Glory of God” at DesiringGod.org,

As Christians, our goal is knowing and experiencing the full and undistorted reality of the glory of God in our resurrected physical bodies (1 Cor. 15:12–49; Phil 3:20–21; 1 Cor. 13:12). This is our trajectory as Christians. This is our aim…. We want to see things as they really are. The Christian use of any kind of psychoactive substance should always align with this gospel goal of looking to see things clearer. We do not want our vision of reality distorted.

Consider this principle in terms of a psychoactive substance most American adults use every day: caffeine. Why do people drink coffee in the morning? To help them to see things as they really are, rather than through the fog of grogginess. The right and proper use of this God-given substance helps us see things as they really are.

He goes on to note that this is why people drink at weddings but not funerals – at weddings “moderate lubrication…can be in keeping with reality” since it is a time to celebrate. In this setting “proper and moderate use of alcohol can be a clarifier and not a distorter,” whereas at a funeral alcohol use might well be obscuring reality.

But what then of weed? Lacine argued, “both from research and personal experience” that cannabis use distorts and numbs a person’s perception of reality. We might expect a regular user to argue that it doesn’t numb their thinking but, as Lacine notes, if marijuana is numbing their thinking, that’s going to also impact their ability to perceive its impact on their thinking.

Though I might disagree with this author as to the celebratory aspects of alcohol’s ‘moderate lubrication,’ since it too may remove moral inhibitions and distort reality for users, it would be more than difficult to make the argument that alcohol is as powerful in concentrated doses as marijuana today and even if it were, what possible advantage could there be in legitimizing the use of yet another potentially mind-altering substance?

As Jon Dykstra notes in his article from Reformed Perspective, “There is a reason that marijuana has long been associated with the couch, a bag of chips, and a television remote. Put another way, marijuana has never been associated with engaged parenting…. studies have shown a high correlation between regular cannabis use and the clinical diagnosis of Amotivational Syndrome.”

True, last resort medicinal use aside, what would the positives be to American society to have a greater number of its citizens smoking weed?

The Better Question

Perhaps the most important biblical principle pertaining to this and similar issues, is found in Hebrews 12:1. There we read: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Question: how does smoking pot help me run? How does weed help me grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Another translation of the phrase including the word, “weights” from the English Standard Version of Heb. 12:1, would be, “everything that hinders us”, or as the New Living Translation (NLT) renders the phrase, “let us strip off every weight that slows us down.”

Therefore Christians, when considering the recreational use of marijuana, the question, “Is it a sin?” according to Jesus and Paul may not be as good a question to ask as “Does it help me run?” Or, “Does it get in my way when I am trying to become more patient, more kind, more gentle, more loving, more holy, more pure, more self-controlled? Does it get in my way or does it help me run?” Christian that is the wise question to ask and answer.