Author Archives: mycaptivethought

A New President and a New Opportunity

Bernie Diaz, January 20th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Church Must Lead

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

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

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

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

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

  • Seek Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to..

  • Show Christ

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

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

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

  • Share Christ

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

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

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

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

The Next Crisis – The President’s Impeachment and Free Speech

Bernie Diaz, January 14, 2021

If there were any doubt that Donald J. Trump could go down as the single most controversial president in American history- certainly modern history, the on-going events of just the last week seemed to confirm the notion.

Not only was the incumbent and outgoing president blamed for inciting the Capitol Hill riot last week which resulted in five deaths and the desecration of government property – leading to dozens of arrests and investigations to come, he also become the first president to be impeached twice in one term, as well as the first chief executive to alter the very course of social media. Really? All that in one week?

As sure is the divided state of America right now. Consider the consequences and ramifications of Trump’s “Save America” speech, the Capitol break-in and subsequent tweets:

  • The President has been personally banned, suspended or canceled from social media by the tech giants of our nation (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook) as well as his YouTube channel.

Those actions have influenced millions of Americans – many of them Trump supporters over the last 72 hours or so, to cancel or switch their social media accounts – predominantly Twitter, on the basis of “free speech” concerns as ‘Trumpian’ like speech which had been closely monitored for some time, has now been abolished for all intents and purposes by Silicon Valley.

  • The nation’s House of Representatives, led by the majority Democratic party, voted to impeach President Trump for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” just one week before leaving office, saying he “willfully made statements that encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—imminent lawless action at the Capitol.”

They also voted to approve a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump from office under the 25th Amendment of the Constitution – which he rejected.

As to the president’s latest impeachment scandal, the disingenuous and politically partisan motive behind the initiative – made without due process via congressional hearings as per usual, seems clear enough to me: remove Donald Trump from the White House at any and all costs, in order to further tarnish his presidency, reputation and its legacy, with the intent to keep him from ever holding public office again (if the U.S. Congress has their way with help from embattled and Trump-frustrated Republicans).

Indeed, this impeachment stands as the culmination of efforts from the left to taint if not remove this President from office since his inauguration, as their never having seen him as worthy of election in 2016.

Political machinations aside, the implications of these two developments- still fluid, bring a great many challenges of thought to Americans in general and biblically minded Christians in particular.

First off, what are evangelical Christians – of whom nine out of every ten may have voted for Trump’s re-election, make of his presidency?

On the one hand, he appointed constitutionally faithful Supreme Court and Federal Justices as promised, enacted a record pre-COVID economic recovery, refunded and reformed much of the military, opposed Communist China and Cuba, supported Israel and helped broker a peace agreement in the Middle East, as well as standing legislatively and rhetorically for the kingdom causes of life and liberty- including the religious sort.

On the other hand, Christians have to juxtapose the president’s above accomplishments- as considerable as they are from a biblical worldview, with his failure to communicate well the seriousness of the pandemic, seeming insensitivity to last summer’s racial unrest and more recently, his never-ending attempts to derail Congress from certifying the election results (fraudulent claims notwithstanding), which have been now linked to encouraging an act of domestic terrorism, making the president unfit for office according to a growing number of American citizens.

A new poll published by ABC News found that 56% of those surveyed want Trump to be removed before Inauguration Day. A higher figure – 67% – blame the commander-in-chief for the riots in Washington this week.

Interestingly enough, only 13% of Republicans agree. In fact, 61% of Republicans believe Trump did nothing wrong. Hmmm…

What do we make of this divide and dilemma? Many Christian voters and citizens I know have been torn in patriotic passion to support the President’s policies, while struggling with what to do with or make constant apologies for, his many personal character flaws.

Many evangelical voters like myself chose to deemphasize the character factor if not overlook it in this past election, prioritizing the content of the president’s platform of policies for the nation’s greater good. I have no regrets in having made that binary type decision under the circumstances and available choice.

However, I still wince when considering the compromise disciples like me have had to make with our biblical and ethical values in defending the very unchristian words he has uttered over the course of his presidency. What message have we sent to a secular and skeptical culture looking for Christian consistency?

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, ESV).

Has pro-Trump patriotism – ‘a love for or devotion to the United States,’ so often symbolized at Trump rallies and in social media posting, turned dangerously to a cult-like nationalism for some, which in the modern sense of the word, refers to a politically geared and almost blind devotion to a country that has perhaps competed with the believer’s allegiance to our one and only King and Messiah? That is a question some Christians as ‘citizens of heaven,’ will be wrestling with for some time.

What About Social Media?

Most Christians are on social media, many enjoy the sense of the connection to community that it can bring and the digital seat that it offers at the marketplace of ideas. While some others are intensely devoted if not addicted to it, using it as a greater means of information and communication than even their Bibles, reliable new sources (admittedly few) and face to face social interaction.

Though I have been hesitant to weigh in on the impact of social media on our society and the church up to now, the current controversy and possible constitutional crisis over the President’s usage of social media and free speech, is forcing Christians to rethink their positions and the platforms they use online, as well as my attempt at a measured worldview response.

After Twitter banned Donald Trump for life last weekend, many of his supporters left the platform for the conservative-friendly social media site Parler. However, Google then suspended Parler from its app store, Apple threatened to do the same if the platform did not police posts that might incite violence and Amazon followed suit, proceeding to cut the site off from its web hosting service.

The implications of these actions have called into question the possible monopoly of speech taking place on the internet and whether government may have to intervene and police this action at some point in the future.

Moreover, the debate over the first amendment right to free speech has now taken on a whole new meaning in light of this current chaos.   

Did the President step over the line marking out the right of free speech with his speech last Wednesday? If he did and would be found guilty in an appropriate court of law having “incited insurrection,” leading to the Capitol riots, It would be right for the Senate to convict him.

The House’s articles of impeachment against the President, also have alleged that he committed acts of sedition or treason against the U.S. for having “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials.”

Frankly, the latter charge has never been proven since Congress has failed up to now, to even investigate at any meaningful level, the White House’s claims of voter fraud and “irregularities,” thereby rendering the President’s allegations and calls to “Stop the Steal,” as little more than politically incorrect opinion which may be supported to some degree by factual evidence.

So, we are left with the matter of free speech which is somewhat complicated for Christians. In what way?

Though I cherish our constitutions bill of rights and the amendment meant to guarantee free speech – including the right to freely preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in church and in the public square (for the most part), I realize that this absolute right is not guaranteed biblically to followers of Christ.

The kingdom of God is advancing and truth is being proclaimed throughout the world and in some of its most oppressive governments, with and without social media access and the “right” to free speech (e.g. Syria, No. Korea, China, Cuba) as the apostles did in the early church era.

Do I believe that the President of the United States violated the law governing free speech with his words leading up to the protestor’s advance on the Capitol? The answer to that question would largely determine whether or not the House of Representatives justly impeached him. My answer from a face value interpretation of the law, would be no.

Even hate speech (i.e. the KKK) and politically unpopular speech is protected by the amendment as being ‘free,’ in order to facilitate open political and moral discourse in our nation as part and parcel of being part of a democratic republic. Having heard and read the President’s speech more than once, I have not found a direct or explicit incitement or call to a violent protest in it.

That said, do I think some of the President’s words were irresponsible, inappropriate and even reckless? Yes, in that they may influenced the behavior of some of his more ardent supporters to illegally advance on the Capitol. That would not however, constitute a ‘high crime or misdemeanor’ in and of itself. Then again, this is not the first time that President Trump’s words have led to consequences.

What does all this mean to the follower of Christ and his or her social media use?

Whether or not one chooses to be engaged in social media I take to be an issue of personal liberty in conscience in utilizing great wisdom, since the topic is not explicitly dealt with in scripture, making it more of a gray rather than a black and white issue.

Christians should dig into the principles of scripture and the patterns and practices governing moral behavior and ethics found therein, in order to make informed, God-glorifying and Christ-exalting application and decisions here.

Can or should a Christian move or cancel their Twitter or Facebook or other social media accounts? For some the answer will be yes, for others no and condemnation of another’s decision either way is not an option.

After all, many of us may now be thinking about how much time we spend on social media and why, and may be deciding to reduce if not eliminate it from our entertainment or relational diets altogether, as many Christians that I know, already have. That is a worth-while assessment for some to make.

The motive to make much of Christ, to love others and as Micah 6:8 would put it, ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God,’ should be primary. If we are to engage in political and ethical discourse online with others- particularly those that do not know Christ as Lord and savior, it should be to help and not hurt or hinder their introduction to the grace of God.

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

If only the President would have followed that Biblical advice. Lord have mercy on our nation (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

The Presidential Election Ends in Crisis and Chaos

Bernie Diaz, January 7, 2021

It’s over… and maybe it’s not. The year of our Lord 2021 has picked up where 2020 left off- in crisis and chaos and I’m not even referring to the latest bit of Coronavirus doom and gloom news.

Last November third’s presidential election finally ended- officially, two months after election day itself, when the United States Congress convened Wednesday night and then certified and confirmed Joe Biden as the next president of the United States in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Lawmakers worked through the night to certify that Biden secured 306 electoral votes to President Donald Trump’s 232 votes, in the wake of violent and unprecedented unrest at the nation’s capital (including a shooting death and dozens of arrests).

Trump identifying protestors, emerged from a ‘Save America’ rally featuring the President near the White House and forcibly entered the capitol building, ransacking congressional offices and briefly occupied both the Senate and House chambers of congress where members had begun the constitutional process of debating and certifying the election results, forcing them to take cover in secure locations as protesters began to descend on the capitol.   

For President Trump and his most ardent supporters- the overwhelming majority of them, decent, law-abiding citizens, the last 24 hours could not have gone worse, ranging from the chaotic protest on capitol hill, to the Senate run-off election results from Georgia, in which two controversial and largely unqualified Democratic candidates won the final two open seats in the upper chamber by razor-thin margins, to the realization that what had appeared to be inevitable, became so – the presidential re-election defeat of Donald Trump.

The election results and the embarrassing and shameful images which were captured on camera Wednesday in Washington D.C., served as illustrations of a nation in my view, which has never been as divided religiously, ideologically and politically as it is right now.

That division was plainly seen in the civil unrest and tension of this week, having boiled over from last summer’s season of racially tinged unrest and violence, in the aftermath of police related shooting incidents involving African-Americans.

Last year, the extremist, far-left Antifa and Black Lives Matter movements largely influenced the protest-driven looting and destruction of private property of businesses and in January of this new year, extremist, far-right elements of movements like QAnon and the Proud Boys – which happen to align themselves with President Trump, may have played a big part in having ransacked the public property- the “people’s house,” in a manner unseen since the British sacked much of D.C. in the War of 1812.

Both acts and movements are reprehensible and must be equally condemned by any right-thinking person – Biblical worldview Christians in particular, who are driven to seek and support righteousness, justice and law and order, rather than mere political partisanship.

For disciples of Jesus Christ seeking to digest and make sense of these current events, I suggest we mourn and carefully ponder some certain and inescapable realities that we will be wrestling with for some time to come.

Mourn over America

Just as the Bible called God’s chosen nation of Israel to wail, lament and mourn over her sin and the judgment of it, which God brought them over the centuries of her rebellion- even by way of allowing invading nations and their forces (Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Romans) to enact that judgment by his sovereign hand of providence, we must mourn for the United States of America.

Though our country cannot be confused with Israel and its future, we were a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles and uniquely blessed by God. Well, for more than a generation now, America has turned its back on its roots, God, the gospel and formed a moral and sexual revolution of man-centered idolatry (Ro. 1:18-32) which has wrought God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” as it has and will again, in societies over the course of world history.

Is there any question or doubt that the Lord our God is disciplining this nation and perhaps should he will it, to bring repentance as a precursor of revival to it? May it be so. For now, there are several realities we can mourn over and react with a biblical worldview:

  • The Biden Administration

We must accept that the democratic republic that governs our nation is imperfect. The founders even called it, a “great experiment,” referring to the audacious idea that a moral or virtuous people could be ‘self-governed.’ But, when the people fail to govern themselves, absent that virtue, as the founders feared – government authorities would step in and take over because nature and power abhors a vacuum.

Unfortunately for Americans – many of them evangelical Christians, who hold to the values of faith, family and freedom, we must – must now submit as per God’s word (Ro. 13:1-7; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-17) to the God-ordained authority of a presidential administration and a single political party dominance of a federal government which runs counter to such biblically held values and views.

Will life be more difficult in some respects for conservatives and biblically minded Christians over the course of the next two to four years at least? Most likely. We must mourn and accept the painful providences of the Lord who is working for his greater glory and the good of his own in these current circumstances. How we as Christians in modern America live our lives publicly in response to those circumstances, I believe will hold great weight and sway over the future direction of this country.

After all, since civil disobedience is allowed in only a very few exceptions according to the scriptures, electoral college results (even as irregular and probably as fraudulent as I think they seemed to be) and current political trends do not qualify as exceptions and are not justifiable grounds for Christians to disobey their governments on any level. That includes secularly minded if not anti-God parties and platforms such as the one about to take power in Washington.

Christians cannot tolerate in thought and word, even a hint of vigilante justice or thoughts of a politically minded revolution.

Rather, we focus on the laws and opportunities still afforded to us – as imperfect as they are, to vote, petition our government and peacefully protest it when appropriate.

The focus here is on the “peaceful” part as our church’s own pro-life sidewalk counseling and prayer ministry demonstrates every week in front of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in our community.

That ministry acknowledges God’s law of submission and this country’s legalization of abortion. However, rather than remaining quiet or ignorant of the holocaust that abortion is in the U.S., we choose to preach, prayerfully, peacefully and legally protest against it, while standing prepared to condemn any and all attempts to kill or maim doctors and employees at abortion centers as some other extremist anti-abortionists have.  

We must respond similarly with respect to the election results. I supported Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s attempt to have the Senate postpone certification in order to call for a federal commission that would investigate allegations and evidence of voter fraud. That motion was unfortunately defeated despite his cogent and historically valid argument. So be it. I stand down and mourn.

  • The Cult of Personality

This week’s chaos emanating from a near constitutional crisis over our election system in my view, is due in large part to the irresponsible rhetoric of our incumbent President. Hasn’t this been an issue before

Although he did not explicitly call for violent protests at the capitol- his pre-protest march speech called for a peaceful rally there, followed by a later (albeit late) call to peace via Twitter and video, his speechmaking and social media communication has consistently called on his supporters to “fight”, never “concede” or give up on overriding the election results including his attack on the character of his Vice-President Mike Pence’s  failure to somehow subvert the constitutional process of certifying presidential elections, leading even some Trump supporters to label Pence as a “traitor.”

The President in his Wednesday speech said, “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will ‘stop the steal.’” A few moments later, Trump added, “We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen. Not going to let it happen.”

The crowd’s reaction rang out with chants of “We love Trump! We love Trump! We love Trump!” From there, some protestors went on to storm the congressional capitol bent on ‘not letting it happen.’

Whereas the President did not directly incite violence at the capitol building, his speech and two-month long rhetoric did little or nothing to quell it and may have even poured gas on its smoldering fire.  

It has now become increasingly clear that this election will shape up to be a historical referendum on the person- rather than the policies of Donald Trump. Although a record 70 plus million Americans voted for him, a record 80 million plus voters may have voted against him –  certainly more than having voted for Joe Biden. President Trump has engendered disunity and even hatred among his opponents and more politically moderate or undecided if not confused voters, having shifted the focus from his biblically compatible platform of policies to himself.

Being that the President is an ego-maniacal man with an undisciplined and untamed tongue, his character mattered more in this election than he and many of his supporters would care to admit. Though I have no regrets in having personally voted for the President’s re-election based on the priority of his content – politically, over his character and would do so again, given the same choice, I admit that my concern that his character flaws would prove to be his undoing, did just that.

His character reared its head to the forefront of this presidential campaign -again, with devasting results for our nation – at least in the near term.    

How Now Shall We Respond?

Rest. I have argued from scripture that God pre-ordained the results of this election and all that has transpired from it, as the result of his sovereign providence (the outworking of his sovereignty). He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.. (Dan. 2:21a-b).

I for one, will not panic in the aftermath of this election. I will rest in and take comfort in this doctrinal fact, with confidence that this election did not take place randomly and that its results did not escape the hands of our creator and sustainer God who, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Ro. 8:28).

God has used many an unbiblical king, ruler or president in the past to contribute to his good will and purposes, until the ultimate king and ruler of earth, returns here to right all wrongs- Jesus Christ.

Remember and Repent. There are many lessons to learn from what has been taking place in our country for a full year now, culminating perhaps in this week’s events. Among them, a need for many Americans to be reminded as several texts of scripture reminds us, to refrain from placing their trust in “princes” or kings, rulers or for our times, a president (Isa. 2:22; 30:2; 31:1; Jer. 17:5; Psa. 118:9).

The psalmist wrote, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Psa. 146:3). Christ followers must not fall prey to ‘Trumpism,’ placing greater faith, love and obedience to a fallible man, than the infallible Messiah and Son of God. If any of us have fallen to that temptation, may we confess it as sin and repent of it- turning to God.

Pray. Understanding all of the above, our primary weapon against the prevailing principalities and powers of the age, is of course, prayer and thoughts held, “captive to Christ.”

Now is a time to not only pray for our own biblical wisdom and discernment in sorting out these issues of great disagreement- even in the church, and to be able to discuss them lovingly with others, without rancor and division, but for God’s common grace to fall on our nation in mercy and with wisdom and grace for the leadership of our country, so we may live, “… a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim. 2:2-3).”

Let’s come together to pray for healing to come to our troubled country and for the salvation of many – including our newer and more established elected officials (1 Tim. 2:4), as we wait on the Lord for his mercy and hopefully revival, all the while hanging on to our hope of glory and the perfect earthly kingdom and government to come with Christ.

Lessons Learned From 2020

Bernie Diaz, December 30, 2020

The Year of our Lord 2020 was far from normal as we know. Many of us can’t wait to turn the page on the calendar, ring in the new year and leave behind what was the single most abnormal, unprecedented and extraordinary year I’ve experienced in my lifetime, which I can honestly say spans more than a few decades. 

The beginning of the year brought us of course, the main story- which took global proportions, being the Coronavirus pandemic which has reportedly contributed to over 330,000 American deaths from more than 19 million plus cases of infection to date.

That bit of data doesn’t even begin to describe the massive impact and havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on our society and economy, having led to massive job losses and business bankruptcies, as well as new civil rights debate over what may be deemed “essential,” as institutions like churches and schools, closed, operated virtually and then reopened with heavy mitigation regulations amidst litigation throughout the year.

In late May, video showed a Minneapolis Police Officer kneeling on the neck of a prostrate and hand-cuffed George Floyd, an African- American man during an arrest after a store clerk alleged he had passed a counterfeit $20 bill, for nearly nine minutes, leading to his death and a nation-wide summer long, plus season of often violent, racially charged protests that included the ransacking and looting of businesses, city takeovers (e.g. Portland, Seattle) and more, in the aftermath of other high-profile police-related shootings of black citizens that occurred over the summer.  

As a result, America’s long and blighted history of racial strife reared its head again in 2020, culminating in one of the most controversial and bitterly contested presidential elections in U.S. History in November, which by year’s end, was still waiting to be certified once and for all, as being won by the presumptive President-Elect Joe Biden over the incumbent Donald Trump, despite allegations of voting irregularities if not out-right fraud on a major scale.

Therefore, It would seem quite reasonable for a foreign visitor traveling to the United States right now – oops, if they were only allowed to, to understand why Americans are so anxious to be rid of 2020 and ready to move on to 2021, though with vaccinations notwithstanding, the COVID cloud does not seem to be lifting anytime soon.

Not only has this year been a trying one for the country as a whole, but for the church of Jesus Christ, which has struggled to find its footing on what to make of God’s sovereignty and providence in permitting, if not directly ordaining all of this to occur in 2020. Church leaders have been hard-pressed to make sense of what God has been doing with this nation this year. For instance, might we ask:

  • Is 2020 a year of God’s judgment or Romans 1 wrath against our collective unrighteousness?
  • Is 2020 a year in which the eschaton– the tribulation and end times for our world began? Some well-known “prophets” of our time have speculated that.
  • Is 2020 and all of its mayhem a precursor to a revival of the church that could lead to another American, “Great Awakening?”

I might suggest that any one of those three possibilities are viable. However, since whatever God does in his good will and purpose is ultimately for his glory and the good of his own and that he often chooses not to reveal his sovereign will to us (Deut. 29:29), we might want to search for some theologically sound if not likely lessons he has taught us and is still teaching us as the new year dawns, lest this year’s frustrations and disappointments overshadow all of the good God has done in 2020.

Lessons Learned in the School of Discipleship

  • Repentance (James 4:17)

If I’ve learned anything at all studying the Bible and history as a Christian and in particular as a pastor over these many years, is that mankind’s heart is deceitful, desperately wicked, worthy of judgment and in constant need of God’s grace, mercy and faith to repent- to turn back to him after prolonged seasons or years of sin, rebellion and rejection of his gospel and goodness.

When I think of our country, I’m reminded of Israel and the days of the Old Testament, God’s chosen nation, a lighthouse of law and grace to the world, who after a time of blessing and testing, would fail to thankfully live up to those blessings, in a repeated cycle of sin and discipline. We find in the book of the law or Moses, also known as the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy and then on to Joshua), God applying a principle of testing and teaching to his people so they would trust in and obey him.

First, The Hebrew nation to be, was enslaved (Gen.), then redeemed (Exo.), taught (Lev.), tested (Nu.), retaught (Deut.) and retested again (Jos.) time and again. This cycle was repeated throughout Israel’s history through the era of their kings and resulting in their eventual captivity and exile as judgment for their infidelity to God.

Somewhat similarly, since the United States is not Israel and should not think of itself as any sort of replacement of it and its covenants, our nation has been providentially blessed by the Lord in other ways and yet failed to acknowledge him and his common ‘grace on thee’ so often – I would say dramatically so, for nearly a century now.

Our American, post-Christian culture influenced by a secularized, prosperity-driven society has forgotten God for too long, with Christ’s own church even keeping him at arms-length, as Israel had despite their heritage. Mind you, there is a price to pay for such spiritual amnesia (Deut. 8:11-14).

Now is a good time for Christians to lead a lost country by example, as to how to change its mind and heart about its sin- and to repent or turn back to its creator God for healing and refreshing grace.

May we learn from David’s song of repentance (Psa. 51) to cry out to God that we would be “purged and made clean”, and like that wise man of old, Agur, who prayed to be content with God’s provision and blessing rather than greedily seeking to be rich and profane God’s name in pride (Pro. 30:8-9).

  • Endurance (Psa. 139:9-10)

Most of my readers have probably heard the adage that, ‘Christianity is a marathon race and not a sprint.’

2020 has proven that to be true. I know personally, since patience is not my primary virtue, and I have been itching for this COVID crazy season of life to just go away.

When I want something bad to disappear, I pray – sometimes I mistakenly “tell” God to, “take it away- now!” Pleeeease.. However, our God is a God of process and history if nothing else. Therefore, a disciple of Jesus Christ must learn how to persevere or endure in every circumstance (Phil. 4:12-13) in order to cope in this world and the Lord’s process of redeeming and restoring it.  The apostle Paul warned his young apprentice Timothy, that perseverance in godly and faithful living will always accompany genuine conversion to Christ.

In fact, the scriptures teach us that the more we endure pain and persecution in the Christian life, the more God is likely to grant us his blessings, thereby enabling us to endure even further – endure years like 2020. The psalmist reminds us that there is great reward in persevering in this life. In keeping God’s commandments, there is “great reward” for our souls (Psa. 19:11).

  • Dependence (Psa. 104:27; 1 Pet. 5:7)

Whenever I tend to fall prey to self-pity or despair over trials or discouragement, I’ll go to the Bible narratives for a jolt of comfort and encouragement from a biographical sketch of a hall of faith (Heb.11) warrior, or a historical figure from my library who faithfully lived a life of fruitfulness to help me refocus on and abide in Christ (Jo. 15), as well as  trust in God (Pro. 3:5-6; Psa. 37:5) when my path looks dark. That has been a major lesson for me this year.

Fortunately, as I was recently praying for God’s restoration of my spirit, another contemporary hero of the faith came to my mind and lifted my spirits, upon hearing of her response to having tested positive for coronavirus.

Joni Eareckson Tada, the founder of a Christian ministry devoted to extending outreach to the disabled community, having already endured- overcome a lifetime of paraplegia and cancer, shared an update on her condition, highlighting how “what COVID meant for evil, Christ meant for good”, echoing Joseph from Gen. 50.

Tada, the founder of the Joni and Friends ministry, tested positive for COVID after experiencing flu-like symptoms, according to a post on that Facebook page.

She later posted an update to her personal Facebook page, indicating that she was in good spirits. “What COVID meant for evil, Christ meant for good,” she declared. “My faith has widened, my hopes are higher, my love for Jesus has skyrocketed, my appreciation for others has deepened, and God’s promises are cemented further into my soul. This is how Christ meant COVID for my good.”

That is an example to us all as to how one endures and depends on God during trying years like 2020. As the new year draws near this week, I will actually strive to thank God- ‘for all things,’ including 2020, for the lessons I’ve learned from it, as we walk by faith in 2021.

The Sovereignty of God – Pt.3 …. Over Christmas

Bernie Diaz, December 23, 2020

Many if not most Christians understand that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’, better known as, ‘Christmas.’ In fact, most of western civilization understands that the historical notion of Christmas is rooted by name and pictured in the nativity scene and the birth of Jesus Christ.

It’s the implications of that historical event though, that has driven so many millions of people over the past few centuries to thoughts and decorations of Santa Claus, yuletide carols, partridges and pear trees.  After all, who wants to think about a baby born to die a sacrificial and horrific death as an adult to save sinners at this time of year?

But rather than focusing here in this post on the well-known reasons for a Christ-centered Christmas, I’ve been driven to reflect about how this great holiday and celebration again reflects the sovereignty of God, that great and comforting doctrine I’ve been exploring in a series of posts, echoing a preaching series we just completed at our church in South Florida.

You might have gathered from following this series, that I argued for, and am comforted by the fact that God is in authority and dominion over and in control of the outcome of all of human history and its future, covering every facet of life – not only over the nations – including this country’s election and COVID-19, but also Christmas. Indeed, I am comforted by the truth that nothing happens by random chance or coincidence in God’s world – Christmas

That truth in my view calls for the worship and praise of God and love of his Christ– at least from his church, from a sense of wonder of how precisely the Lord of the universe so carefully and meticulously planned and purposed or orchestrated this event to occur in precisely the manner it did, in order to fulfill his chosen nation’s promises while offering the hope of salvation to multitudes for ages to come. Now that’s a gift!

After all, many of us take the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-7) and its detail for granted without stopping to think how humanly impossible it should have been for it to have happened without direct and divine intervention.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
    when she who is in labor has given birth
… (Micah 5:2-3; ESV)

Whether he has a willing and honorable or unwilling and dishonorable pot of human clay to work with (Romans 9), God brought together the details and all the components of the birth of the Messiah at just the right time and place even to the extent of moving the heart and mind of a pagan, godless Caesar who knew nothing about the Old Testament and its pointing to a coming Messiah and kingdom, by virtue of that ruler’s pseudo-sovereign decree.

That ruler was Caesar Augustus, who was worshiped as a god and as a deity, being totally ignorant of the one and only true God. According to both the biblical and extra-biblical, historical record, this ruler determined that a census needed to be taken at that time in the Roman Empire for largely tax purposes as our nation does every decade.

Thus, Joseph and his very pregnant wife Mary had to make a ninety-mile trek walking and riding a bumpy donkey over very rough terrain in the late fall or winter to meet the census deadline, perfectly fitting into the sovereign plan of God that they would be in Bethlehem when the Son of God would be born.

Note that Micah’s prophecy was 700 years before the Messiah’s first advent or arrival, which we know to be the eternal son of man because Micah 5:2 tells us, “His goings forth are from long ago from the days of eternity”, and that verse is affirmed by Matthew’s gospel as well.

How important was the timing then of that census and where it was to be taken? Well, had Caesar Augustus made his decree earlier or later and had Herod changed his own plans, the child would have been born in Nazareth and not have fulfilled yet another old covenant prophecy predicting the birth of Christ, by which we could also conclude that God doesn’t control the outcome of every circumstance.  

But of course, all of those circumstances fit perfectly well with the prophetic voice of God’s word as the one who literally writes history as History. We know that to be true because to Bethlehem, that little, non-descript town, belonged the house and family of David.

Of course, those of us who have slogged through that long genealogy from the opening of Matthew’s gospel, find that both Joseph and Mary were descendants of Israel’s King David, carrying that royal and human ancestry to the baby Jesus, authenticating his right to rule as King to come from the tribe of Judah.

Furthermore, that same genealogy carries the name of pagan women in the lineage of the Christ, further lending credence to the reality that Jesus would be king of all- both Jew and Gentile. So, this teenage couple went down to register because they were supposed to – in the house of their ancestors.

And again, all of this serves to prove the perfect will and plan of God, who providentially got them to where and when they needed to be there for God-glorifying and mankind saving and blessing purposes. That’s yet another hidden gem we should uncover, thank God for and sing praises about, as we celebrate this Christmas… the sovereignty of God over this blessed birth.

Merry Christmas!

The Sovereignty of God – Pt.2 …. Over History and the Future

Bernie Diaz, December 15, 2020

If I didn’t believe that God is all sovereign over history- including the changing of kings and their earthly kingdoms (Dan. 2:21), I would have a pretty difficult time accepting the seeming finality of the results of this year’s presidential election, which became all but official and certified this week with the vote of the Electoral College, which voted for Joe Biden as the 46th and next President of the United States on behalf of the collective voters of our 50 states.

I personally did not vote for the President-Elect and his Vice-President Kamala Harris, on the grounds of their political platform of policies and an agenda which I believe can do a great degree of harm to our country, based upon the fact that their platform appears to be in great opposition to the Biblical positions on issues that matter most in my view, such as life, religious liberty and the family. My vote admittedly was made despite my character concerns of the current incumbent in the White House, Donald Trump.

But thankfully, I still take comfort, confidence and courage to go on ministering God’s word, helping to shepherd a local church and lead my home as it’s pastor, protector and provider based upon the fact God is all-authoritative or sovereign over every facet of life, including history- it’s past, present and future, which includes this election.

As per part one of this series of posts, based upon my recent preaching series at our church, I argued that we can rest in the reality that God can and will put, preserve and remove from power over the nations, whomever he wills and pleases and in doing so will often work greater good for his own and glory for himself, in making those changes (Gen. 50:20; Job. 12:23, Psa. 22:28).

Supporters of President Trump – evangelical or otherwise, can protest and petition the powers that be, that the election was “stolen” (and they could be right based upon some circumstantial evidence that fraud may have occurred and impacted the results), but would the sovereign God of the Bible who directed if not permitted Biden’s occupancy of the Oval Office, sanction rebellion or the talk in some embittered circles of a voter revolt that could bring the nation from cultural to civil war? Hardly. Is this the time for Americans- Christian Americans in particular, to panic and play God?

Sounds of shofars rang out last Saturday as thousands of the President’s  supporters marched seven times across the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the Department of Justice, praying “for the walls of corruption and election fraud to fall down,” in an event called the Jericho March, in which author and radio host Eric Metaxas and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn headlined the one-day prayer rally that included several claims (visions and prophecies) of extra-biblical revelation about President Trump and the election.

Unfortunately, police in downtown Washington reported altercations between supporters and counter-protesters as night fell on the event. Vandals ripped off ‘Black Lives Matter’ banners from two historic black churches. Police reported four stabbings and arrested nearly 30 people for assault, rioting, and possessing weapons. Some eight police officers also sustained injuries.

Do we as Christians holding to a biblical worldview, believe such conflict (regardless of who instigated it) would glorify God in submission to the ‘governing authorities (Ro. 13; 1 Pet. 2) and serve as a proper witness to a lost and watching world? Perhaps it is more a reflection of the current interest in end times theology again, which seems to occur whenever the world or our nation is under great stress.

Many disciples in and around the church, are thinking we are at the beginning of the end – the ‘Day of the Lord’, the end of the age and the coming of Christ, unless we first fast, repent and usher in revival for this nation. Although fasting and prayer are justified biblical responses to the events at hand, we cannot manufacture revival and speed up or prolong Christ’s second coming any more than we would think God’s word and revealed will would have us overthrow the coming administration or secede from the United States, as some conservative politicos of late have suggested – including some I heard at the Jericho March.

We as a nation have been here before. Much of colonial America at the time of the revolution and the fight for independence thought the Lord would come in the face of what they thought was the ‘antichrist’ government of England’s King George, in cahoots with the pope and the Roman Catholic church to stamp out freedom. That was a prevailing view.

Others thought the great tribulation time had been inaugurated by the ‘Great War’ (WWI), or WWII and Hitler’s regime or Marx and Russia, or 9-11. There was a big push to think the Lord was coming in 1948, when the United Nations recognized and helped reestablish Israel as a nation with its promised land. All of those visions, prophecies and predictions were proven false of course.

The Bible has told us what the last days would be like (2 Tim. 3:2-5), without divulging the date in which it would culminate in the end of world history as we know it. The church must therefore be reminded that Jesus could return to rule and reign on the earth as king at any moment – and on the other hand he could tarry or delay that return for centuries to come (“.. as one day is as a thousand years”). Nobody knows for sure when that will happen other than the triune Godhead in heaven.

Jesus said to his disciples discussing the last days, “See that no one leads you astray…  But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

What God would have us to do as the prophet Isaiah instructed Israel in a time of exile and captivity as judgment for her national sin (sound familiar?) was to remember something very important….

“Remember this and stand firm,
    recall it to mind, you transgressors,
    remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
    the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
    I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isa. 46:8-11, ESV)

What did God want his people to remember in their exile and suffering? For starters, his faithfulness to them, including all the things he had done for them in the past (the exodus from Egypt, the delivery of the law and provision of their hunger in the wilderness); in short, he wanted them to remember and be grateful to him for a history of his sovereign grace and mercy towards them.

Secondly, he wanted the nation to remember that he alone as the sovereign governor of the world, “declares the end from the beginning    and from ancient times things not yet done.” Only God can tell the future before it happens. So, tell your friends to forget Nostradamus or their Ouija board game, crystal balls, horoscopes and tarot cards. Isaiah says he makes known, or tells- announces the future – what is still to come, from long ago- eternity past even and often used his prophets to declare that to us in scripture.  

If God wants to do something, he will in his own good timing and purposes  (Psa. 33:10-11). In fact, if you were to read and study the prophetic book of Daniel (“70 7’s”), you would see how the kingdoms or empires he spoke of centuries in advance, have came to pass as well as the first advent- or arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s sovereign plans are carried out by men he moves in and through (Isa. 46:11) like a Nebuchadnezzar, a Cyrus or a Herod, who have been used by God to judge Israel and eventually bring them out of exile (Pro. 16:9, 21:1).

That’s a big reason why I don’t worry about who will be occupying the White House for a relatively short period of time. I’ll just be praying for the new President-Elect to come to Christ by Gods’ sovereign grace and to lead rightly for now by his common grace. No worries, Psa. 47:8 says God is king of the earth and its history, God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

So how is a child of King Jesus to respond to this week’s seemingly final election results amidst the ongoing saga that is the COVID pandemic and its far-reaching consequences? Worry? Certainly not. We have hope in a sovereign God. That should being comfort to the born-again believer.

What do we tell people who ask us about the end of the world? We start with the gospel. People need to know now is their time to turn to God and trust in Christ and the consequence of eternal danger without faith in him. The end times and the second coming’s reality should cause sinners to cling to Christ and the cross. We need to remember and remind the lost as one commentator said, “That God wins and His people will win with Him.”

Now is not the time for government rebellion or civil disobedience over contested election results. Yes, we’re in a culture war of worldviews, but we are not to let that reality result in a civil war. Rather, we are to learn, live and give God’s word and gospel to a lost and dying nation.

The song of a contemporary Christian singer of some years ago, sang it well, with the words, “If you believe he’s coming back tomorrow, oh, then live like he is coming back today.”

What Does the Church Need Right Now? The Sovereignty of God – Pt.1

Bernie Diaz, December 9, 2020

Some pastors and fellow Christians in my community probably thought I had gone off the deep end when they found out I would be preaching a multi-part series – during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season no less, on The Sovereignty of God.

I freely admit that it is definitely not your typical, holiday, seeker-sensitive or attractional pulpit series, such as: How to Beat the Negativity in Your Life or 7 Steps to a Marvelous Marriage.

So, what would lead a pastoral leadership team to agree to preach and teach a congregation at this time that God is the all-sovereign, creator, sustainer, king and “governor of the world,” as many of the Puritan influenced, founding fathers of this nation referred to? 

The first answer to the question would be that the series would be directed foremost at our congregation or the local assembly itself, for whom such weighty doctrines are primarily intended rather than unregenerate visitors. But then again, the gathering of the local church is by name and definition for the local church.

The sovereignty of God and his providence is a doctrine or teaching not for the faint of heart and mind and least of all in our day, for the unredeemed heart and mind, which has enough difficulty grasping God and his word at even the most fundamental level, much less the fact that God has the power, wisdom and both the freedom and the right to do anything He wants whenever he wants.

Why here and now?

The second reason we decided to do a series about the sovereignty of God, came as the result of just looking around, looking at our internet and social media news feeds and having a pretty good idea of what the year of our Lord 2020 is and has been like:

  • COVID-19, a year-long global pandemic having led to reportedly more than a million world-wide deaths and chock full of mitigation, masks and a seemingly never-ending stream of neo-apocalyptic news about our health’s present and future.
  • A Coronavirus which infected and quarantined the economy, leading to massive job losses, business failures and all sorts of societal upheaval. Travel? Sports? Entertainment? Recreation? Each and every one of those cultural pastimes were put on hold or redefined if permitted at all.
  • Civil, racial and social unrest having erupted from a summer of high-profile police shootings and deaths.
  • A wild, wacky and divisive U.S. presidential election campaign of which the results (the likely razor thin election of Democratic challenger Joe Biden – much to the chagrin of over 90% of evangelicals), is still being contested by the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump in court.

Little wonder why some end times Christian analysts and prognosticators have been pointing to this year as being quite possibly the end or the beginning of the end of the age- the whole shebang, end of God’s story on earth.

What those ‘prophets’ have failed to remember though, is the Bible makes clear that we have been in the ‘birth pains’ of the end- the ‘end times’ since the first Christmas was birthed 2,000 years ago.

Therefore, I found there was no greater time and season than now, to bring Christians the comfort, confidence and courage available to survive and thrive in the rest of this year of uncertainty, than the certainty and rest found in the sovereignty of God – particularly in the areas of life that are so relevant to living today.

After all, the scriptures and their manifestation in the flesh, Jesus Christ, command Christians not to worry because they have not been given a “spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1) and are promised the provision of good, God-glorifying things (Matt. 6:25-34) in spite of and in the midst of evil, pain and suffering.

That reality can only be meaningful if you believe and trust in the God of the Bible who is clearly presented as the absolute authority over everything and everyone in his creation, determining their days, places and the final outcome of every circumstance and contingency in that creation.  

Romans 8:28, is my favorite verse from God’s word (as it is for so many other Christians), ‘for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’

That conditional promise can only comfort the real disciple of Christ if God is sovereign enough to guarantee that “all things” (including sin, death and disease) will work out as he intends for his ultimate glory. Consider then the following areas in which God’s providence – the outworking of his sovereign will, takes place:

  • God is Sovereign Over Elections

Yes, including this year’s too! As difficult as it seems for many of us to digest the possibility of an anti-Biblical administration and platform of policies occupying the White House, the Lord was not caught by surprise by last month’s election results from his throne.

Quite the contrary, as I preached this message in the first part of our series and that he preordained the election results according to his own word (Ro. 13:1)

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.. (Dan. 2:21a-b).

“But Pastor Bernie what about the allegations of election fraud and irregularities that may have taken place and effected the oucome?” Yes, I believe in the adage, ‘Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire’ or ‘If it looks and sounds like a duck..’ Or, “But what if socialism rears its ugly head and comes closer to the American way?”

In either case, I rest in the biblically based fact that God sovereignly controls the course of human history- all world events including the removal and ordination of all earthly kingdoms for the ultimate good of his people and for his own glory. According to the prophet Daniel, he literally changes administrations – of all nations of all times and places. God is behind the scenes and controls the scenes He is behind.

How did Donald Trump win the White House from 2016-2020? Because God put him there. Why Barrack Obama? Bill Clinton? JFK? Fidel Castro in Cuba? Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler? Russia’s Karl Marx? Pick your favorite despot or dictator.

God put them all there in one way or another as he did when using pagan kings such as Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and later Cyrus of Persia, to advance his kingdom causes.

God can and will take out a national leader and choose to preserve or keep them in power, as he wills and pleases, at times to judge nations and/or draw the lost to himself through suffering (Gen. 50:20; Job. 12:23, Psa. 22:28).

  • God is Sovereign Over Your Health

Why is God currently allowing the reported deaths of more than 2,000 Americans per day as a result of the Coronavirus being a contributing factor?

Such a question inevitably leads to the greater one that the atheist or skeptic of our faith may ask, “If God is good, why does evil, pain and suffering exist? Is it that he’s not that good, or that he’s not powerful enough to do anything about it?” Unfortunately, some grieving and some liberal Christians may teach and believe such an unbiblical fallacy.

“‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand (Deut. 32:39).”

Our sovereign God has not chosen to reveal the details of his providence to us, nor is he obligated to, and we probably wouldn’t understand those reasons anyway if he did (Deut. 29:29). But there are clues, there are principles in God’s word that give us direction, which can produce wisdom, such as Oswald Chambers offered many years ago: God does not tell us what he is going to do. He reveals who He is.

What we do know as Job understood, is that God is the maker, giver and taker of all life and he will use a variety of means and methods to glorify himself, manifest his justice and mercy – even by means of disasters, calamities (Isa. 45:5; Amos 3:6) and even disease (Job 5:18).

From the scripture we find that God delivers promises and purposes greater good from disease and death in the way of:

  • Salvation (Lu. 13:4-5)

After the tower of Siloam ‘just fell’ atop of 18 people causing their death during a time of persecution in Judea, Jesus received the proverbial “Why?” question noted above, from observers at the time.

Rather than the Lord answering the question to what seemed to some to have been be a random act of death and suffering, he exhorted his listeners to “repent”- so they would not die permanently in judgment.

In other words, Jesus seemed to teach that we should not be as preoccupied with how many people die (which is estimated to be at least 150,000 every day around the world) or by what manner, but rather what death means to our eternal future. The question worth asking would be, “Were those Galileans that perished ready to meet God on judgment day?”

Suffering and death is what is sometimes necessary to awaken the unredeemed to the reality of their destiny. As C.S. Lewis wrote in one of his most famous lines:Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

  • Sanctification (2 Cor. 1:9; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 12:6, 10-11)

Pain and struggles with health can refine and strengthen our faith and make us more Christ like. Paul wrote to the Philippian church that by sharing in the Lord Jesus’s sufferings (i.e. beatings, persecution, hunger) they would better relate to and become more like Christ.

The fitness freaks we know and love like to say, “No pain- no gain.” Ask yourself if you are more likely to grow in Christlikeness in a lifestyle of pure comfort and ease with little or no pain and suffering, or a life like our Lord’s and the apostles? Romans 5 and 1 Peter 1 tell us that illness and suffering happen in part so the gold and silver of our faith would be refined or made pure, helping us grow in personal holiness and righteousness.

Finally, the sovereignty of God over our health, will result in:

  • Glorification (Exo. 4:11; Jo. 9:3)

God told Moses to do powerful signs and wonders before the Egyptians at the time of the Exodus and preach the law to Israel, to which he responded in effect, “No I can’t”, appealing to some kind of speech impediment he may have suffered from- perhaps the classic fear of public speaking.

Without skipping a beat, the Lord responded by saying he providentially was the force behind four different kinds of disabilities afflicting mankind and Moses’ stuttering problem would therefore be overcome by the sovereign power of God. And so it was.

John 9, is one of my favorite texts of scripture in the Bible that I remember played a large part in my understanding of this doctrine. As Jesus and the disciples walked by a man born blind at birth, the followers asked Jesus which of the man’s sins or those of his family had contributed to his birth defect. Jesus replied with great insight into what God sovereignly does with health when he said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

In order for God to reveal or manifest his merciful work of healing in the man, to be praised and worshipped for doing so, the man had to be born blind. In this case, if there no blindness – there would have been no healing. The glory of God would have had to have been revealed in some other person or way if at all.

The fact that God counts every hair on your head and every sparrow that falls, you should lead you to glorify him and take comfort in the truth that He loves and cares about you, his creation, the administration of it and that he is working sovereignly behind the scenes to bless people by saving them, sanctifying them and all the while bringing glory to them and more importantly, himself. I take comfort and confidence in that.

That is reason enough to sing and declare as Horatio Spafford did in the aftermath of tragedy, “It is well with my soul.”

Part two will deal with the Sovereignty of God over your salvation, life and future.

Our COVID Christmas Mission

Bernie Diaz, December 3, 2020

A rather subdued ‘Black Friday’ has passed (thankfully) but the Christmas season is on and struggling to thrive – economically at least, versus the “Grinch” called COVID 19, attempting to steal Christmas cheer and the ringing of cash registers.

Nonetheless, I find both a mission and reason to cheer as did those first Christian evangelists – shepherds appropriately enough, who received the literal Good News of the gospel to come- via the incarnation of their long-awaited King (Lu. 2:15-20) and then went on a mission they ‘chose to accept.’ .

An angel of the Lord according to Luke 2 came and reported this incredible news to the shepherds in a field, watching over a flock just a couple miles outside of Bethlehem, that Christ the Lord – Messiah and God in the flesh (Jesus/Joshua the transliterated name of Jehovahthe Lord who saves) was born in that city, laying in a manger and that peace and hope was on the way for God’s people.

Hope is precisely what every human being yearns for in order to give life meaning and an expectancy that something better lies ahead – particularly in the midst of hard times. Is there a Christmas season more deserving of hope than COVID and the current state of the United States, in 2020?

The Mission of a COVID Christmas

Our mission, “should we choose to accept it”, is ‘mission possible’, because with God all things are possible. We like the shepherds, are to take for ourselves and then give the gift of Good News (Lu. 2:16-17; Matt. 28:18-19). You can’t give what you don’t have right? Particularly if it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ.  So, this part of the Christmas story gives us a very simple principle to apply as it’s played out before our eyes. What are we to do with the Good News of Jesus Christ?

The shepherds understood that the angels were speaking for the Lord. They believed the message. They trusted in it.

They went by faith, to going and seeing that which had happened- accepting it as true- as a fact and knew the birth of Christ had already happened because God had told them so in their special and personal announcement or revelation (Lu. 2:10-12a). We have the same in the pages of our New Testament gospels.

These messengers and preachers went in “haste” to deliver the news according to this text. They reacted to this event as the women did, who ran to tell the disciples they had seen the risen Christ (Matt. 28:8). This is the real, first Black Friday, as they hit the stores if you will, running ‘with great haste’ – just not for a discount.

These shepherds took off to look at something truly valuable, the most precious gift of all time, which is God’s gift to humanity in the form of himself gift wrapped in a manger. They told everyone what had happened.

I would argue these were the first evangelists of the Christian faith – even before the church was born, arguably at Pentecost. This is the way it was done before E.E. (Evangelism Explosion) and the Way of the Master or the Four Spiritual Laws. The first message of the first evangelists is the Christmas story, and the first messengers are Shepherds. Why shepherds?

God does not call the rich and mighty to himself – generally speaking. He calls the poor and the lowly (1 Cor. 1:26, 28a, 29).  God chooses or elects those by grace who humble themselves to the cross and to Christ. Grace and humility are therefore the first words of the gospel and salvation. The last are often first and the first are last.

Each born-again believer of Jesus Christ has a story to tell about what God has done for them, as the testimony we give as witnesses for the gospel. But the main story is God’s story. His redemption story for this world.

Biblical scholar Michael Green in his excellent book, Evangelism in the Early Church writes, There was no distinction in the early church between full time ministers and laymen in this responsibility to spread the gospel by every means possible, there was equally no distinction between the sexes in the matter. It was axiomatic that every Christian was called to be a witness to Christ, not only by life but lip.”

That’s the method that God chose to save the world through his church. I think Charles Spurgeon was right when he said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

Christians are ambassadors of Christ, given a ministry of reconciliation to the world (2 Cor. 5), meaning we do this because it’s who we are.

The Reactions to Your Mission

In having studied the Christmas text (Lu. 2:18-20), I found at least two responses or reactions to the good news of the birth of the baby Jesus- which launched the mission and ministry of the Messiah.

  • The Crowd (18)

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them…

We have a message for the lost people in our lives as to why this baby was born to die and die the way he did and most importantly, why he died at all. Christmas is just a bridge to the cross and Easter Sunday. That’s a wonder.

Regardless of what people think, we tell our story and focus on God’s story, which started at Christmas, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). God could have sent a soldier or a judge or a reformer to Israel under the yoke of the Roman empire, as most of the Jews then and now, would have preferred and are still waiting for.

Rather, God sent a Savior to meet man’s greatest need as the Rabbinical  Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts nor the demands of God’s law.

  • The Shepherds (20)

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

This is the reaction every Christian should have after they’re saved, as we prepare to celebrate the true reason for this season. We have the hope of glory to come. So, like the shepherds, let’s celebrate and sing about what we’ve seen and heard about Jesus- more than the wrapped gifts under the tree.

Let’s rejoice and share the joy with the enthusiasm we had as new converts to the faith. Have you noticed how new believers in Christ can’t wait to praise God and worship Him and share the grace gift they’ve’ been given? We need to recapture that love of Christ and the gospel as when we were first saved – to return to our first love (Rev. 2). We need to take advantage of this Christmas COVID season and fulfil our mission to bring Christ back to a time and place of despair and infuse it with the hope that we all wish for.

Counting Blessings for COVID and 2020?

Bernie Diaz, November 24, 2020

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

The traditional adage of ‘counting our blessings’ always comes into sharper focus as the annual Thanksgiving holiday rolls around in the United States doesn’t it?

However, there is little doubt that many Americans – Christians included, will be a bit more challenged than usual to count their blessings in the year of our Lord, 2020, though biblically oriented disciples of Jesus Christ understand, (though may not cherish) the exhortation in scripture from the apostle Paul to give thanks for even circumstances such as the following ‘lowlights’ of the year:

  • The seemingly never-ending pandemic of the global Coronavirus, which has crippled much of our society’s normative way of life since the beginning of the year.
  • Civil and racial unrest manifest in protests and violence in the wake of some high-profile police related shootings that began in the summer.
  • Our politically and culturally divided country enduring one of the most contentious presidential election campaigns in American history, of which the result has been questioned and not completely acknowledged – yet (as of the date of this post), as we enter the final month of the year.

Of which the later event by the way, will not be totally resolved until the state of Georgia conducts its special run-off election in early January, to decide the makeup of the Senate majority of our country and its legislative direction for the next two-four years. God only knows what further division that result will cause.

That said, why and how can we obey the biblical imperative (command) to give God thanks each and every day for circumstances like COVID-19 and a divided nation in the year 2020?

The Lord actually has given us a vaccine for ingratitude in everything, speaking in relevant terms today.

In the New Testament, Paul also wrote that prayers filled with thanksgiving serve as a remedy for anxiety (Phil. 4:4-6). From the Old Testament, Israel’s King David wrote a Holy Spirit inspired psalm – a song of praise that recognizes God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to his people, which should fill their hearts with peace and hope in even the most difficult of circumstances:

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.

 For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning
(Psa. 30:4-5).

I take that text amongst many others which affirm it, to mean that thanksgiving can be found in the fact that this world’s nature of affliction, evil, pain and suffering (including God’s holy wrath or “anger” against sin) is temporary (“may tarry for the night”).

It is scripture like this which reminds me that by faith we trust in and obey God because he is good – perfectly so, and is perfectly free and sovereign to directly or indirectly cause circumstances which may on the one hand “tarry” or remain for a season, inflicting discipline and difficulty, but will also  bring ultimate glory for himself, hope, edification, good and grace for his own (Ro. 8:22,24-25b, 28; Ro. 5:3-5, 11,15). We can be thankful for that theological truth.

As we’ve posted here and preached before, salvation, sanctification and eventual glorification, come to God’s children from a world of pain and suffering in which the Lord providentially brings about greater, redemptive purposes in his kingdom through it all. Again, that is a reality worth thanking God for I would argue.

The opposite of thanksgiving can only breed despair if not depression and bitterness – circumstances notwithstanding. When things go wrong, what do we usually do? Complain. Grumble. Doubt God. You might say, Pastor Bernie, “We all do this right? What’s the big deal? God knows we’re only human right?”

The problem with that, is that ingratitude leads to self-pity. Self-pity unchecked, grows and becomes depression. It betrays a heart of unbelief. What God wants from his people- from Israel to the church, is humility and a gratitude attitude from faith, which leads to joy- or what I like to call soul satisfaction. That’s the Christian’s real joy and Paul knew this better than any other Christian I can think of in scripture other than David (Col. 2:6-7).  

Therefore, I will prayerfully push myself by the help of the Spirit of God to give thanks for 2020 and all of the obstacles to worldly happiness the good Lord has presented or allowed in it, including the lowlights becoming highlights from the above:

  • I thank God for allowing COVID-19.

Not in the havoc or destruction of the life, liberty and the pursuit of prosperity that has resulted from it, but for the dependence it has fostered to tens of thousands of people who have looked to God for mercy, grace in provision and for meaning in the midst of it all as never before.

I thank the Lord further, for giving the church of Jesus Christ the greatest appreciation of its assembly in person, in the worshipping, feeding, fellowshipping and loving of one another as never before in our lifetimes. “Virtual” (online) and regulation limiting church services have served as a necessary though largely unsatisfying and poor representation and reminder of the best biblical congregating God offers his people. I’m thankful for that dose of appreciation as I long for it to return.

I also give thanks that I personally know of so few people in and out of my church that have been infected with, much less hospitalized without a fatality from Coronavirus.

  • I thank God for allowing civil unrest in our nation.

Why would I thank God for that? It is because that unrest has caused me to rethink the state of race relations and ethnic hatred, bias and bigotry which still resides in all of our tainted flesh in this country and the need for us to introspectively consider what we can do to personally and corporately lessen this sin problem, which is misdiagnosed as a simple skin problem.

It is not mainstream ‘Critical Race Theories’ which will remedy this issue.

Only a return to the preaching and ideals of a multi-cultural and ethnic church, unified in the gospel and single-race blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2), is what will bring greater unity to our land.

  • I thank God that he seems to be allowing a change in the governing authorities of our country.

I am not thanking the Lord for what seems to be the upcoming inauguration of a President-Elect and administration which supports the murder of the pre-born, redefines God’s divine design for family and sexuality and seeks to attack if not greatly restrict the religious liberty of our citizens to freely exercise their faith.

I recognize the gravity of such public policy positions and recoil at just the possibilities of them coming to fruition. While we are not to thank God for evil, we can thank him for what he can and will most assuredly do with it for greater purposes as Joseph realized in the midst of his brothers (Gen. 50:20) and what Jesus endured by God’s providence to accomplish the greatest news of all time (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).

It is God, as I have been preaching in our church’s current Sunday series, (The Sovereignty of God) that “ ..changes times and seasons; .. removes kings (e.g. Presidents) and sets up kings, rules over the nations and the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Dan. 2:21; 4:32; Psa. 22:28). I thankful for that.

Furthermore, as I’m tempted to despair over the course of this country as my young adult children and their children will deal with, I’m thankful and encouraged that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Pro. 21:1).” The course of this nation’s future is in God’s hands and only he can save our likely President-Elect and members of his administration (including the Vice-President Elect) and turn them to Christ or to govern rightly by his common grace. We are to pray for that (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

Thus, I conclude with the story of Corrie Ten Boom and the Hiding Place. Corrie and her sister Betsie, were courageous, compassionate Dutch Christians who helped harbor Jews from the Nazis in Holland during World War II. After the sisters were arrested for doing so, they were imprisoned at a German concentration camp.

Forced to live in the rancid conditions at Ravensbruck, Corrie and Betsie found they could not sit upright on their own platform beds without hitting their heads on the deck above them. They lay back, struggling against nausea that swept over them from the reeking straw.

Suddenly Corrie started to sit up, striking her head on the cross-slats above. Something had bitten her leg. “Fleas!” she cried. “Betsie, the place is swarming with them!” “Here! And here another one!” Corrie wailed. “Betsie, how can we live in such a place?”

“Show us. Show us how,” Betsie said matter-of-factly. It took Corrie a moment to realize that her sister was praying. “Corrie!” Betsie then exclaimed excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!”

Corrie checked to make sure no guards were nearby, then drew from a pouch a small Bible she had managed to smuggle into the concentration camp. “It was in First Thessalonians,” she said, finding the passage in the feeble light. She prayed aloud from the text, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus …” (1 Thess. 5:14-18).

“That’s it!” Betsie interrupted. “That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this barracks!” Corrie stared at her incredulously, then around at the dark, foul-smelling room.“Such as?” she inquired. “Such as being assigned here together.”

Corrie bit her lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!” “Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” Corrie looked down at the Bible. “Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”

“Yes,” agreed Betsie. “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!” She looked at her sister expectantly and prodded, “Corrie!” “Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.”

“Thank you,” Betsie continued on serenely, “for the fleas and for …” That was too much for Corrie. She cut in on her sister: “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

‘Give thanks in all circumstances,” Betsie corrected. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” So, they stood between the stacks of bunks and gave thanks for fleas, though on that occasion Corrie thought Betsie was surely wrong.”

One evening when Corrie arrived back at the barracks Betsie’s eyes were twinkling. “You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” Corrie told her. “You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” Betsie said, referring to the part of the barracks where the sleeping platforms were. “Well—I’ve found out. This afternoon there was confusion in my knitting group about sock sizes, so we asked the supervisor to come and settle it. But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice as she exclaimed, “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said: ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’ ” Corrie’s mind raced back to their first hour in the barracks. She remembered Betsie bowing her head and thanking God for creatures that Corrie could see no use for.

I pray I can get to the point where I can join the Ten Boom sisters in their gratitude attitude to God. To thank God for his sovereignty in COVID 19 and 2020 – and “in all circumstances,” because I remember God’s goodness, his glory and can be grateful as a result. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Sovereignty of God in COVID and Nature

Bernie Diaz, November 19, 2020

I have found in my preaching and teaching ministry over the years, that there is virtually no issue or doctrine which engenders more theological controversy and conflict than the sovereignty of God, particularly as we live in a sin-cursed world that necessarily entails evil, pain and suffering.

Indeed, the reality is that many people struggle with the concept of a God who exists and is good, while allowing as a sovereign creator, evil and suffering to exist at the same time.

Headlines of late I’m sure have driven many to search themselves and the scriptures to reconcile the Bible’s teaching that God is the governor of all that occurs on earth and the events that are transpiring on it.

According to published reports, the COVID-19 pandemic as predicted by many experts, has brought a long-feared second wave of cases and hospitalizations across the globe, in conjunction with the holiday and winter season having begun in the United States for example, which is a time in which indoor socializing is maxed out.

Last week a record 177,000 plus people in the U.S. were reportedly diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than 70,000 coronavirus patients were hospitalized nationwide. Although there may be some legitimate question as to the extent of the volume and validity of these numbers (including fatalities), there is little doubt that the pandemic has made a comeback as hospital intensive-care units have begun to run dangerously low on beds, leading as many as a dozen states to consider an increase in their mask mandates of every kind and stay at home, quarantine orders.

As if all of that weren’t enough to chew on in a nation still wrestling with the uncertainty of the results of its presidential election, economic downturn and civil unrest in 2020, many of us overlooked the devastation caused this week by Hurricane Iota, in central American and Nicaragua in particular.

That category 4 storm – the latest of a record two dozen plus named storms this year, has killed at least six with many more fatalities expected from the damage left behind by swollen rivers and landslides.

The cost to repair the nation’s infrastructure (99% of Nicaragua is reportedly without power) may reach into billions of dollars as thousands of Nicaraguans and nearby Hondurans are homeless and in shelters.

Could the sovereign God of the Bible (Psa. 135:6-7; Isa. 45:5,7; Amos 3:6) have actually caused all this damage himself? The scriptures would most definitely point in that direction as the Old Testament speaks of God’s providence in the affairs of man, working in and through nature, such as in his judgment of Israel over the centuries.

The prophet Jeremiah predicted that Jehovah God would bring the sword, famine and even pestilence to the nation that had rejected him and his word time and again – particularly for the sins of idolatry and empty worship.

To which, in comparing false idols with the true and living God, the prophet said, “Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God?     We set our hope on you, for you do all these things” (Jer. 14:22).

Notice the noun of the supernatural source of such ‘natural’ calamity in that text. The scriptures and the moral implications of such events led a former local newspaper columnist and friend of mine – an avowed agnostic if not an atheist, to write in the wake of another hurricane and the chaos it left behind some years ago:

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?”

That is a fair and difficult question from a skeptic who at least understands  the implications of this issue and joins those that feel that the above turn of events prove to be the ‘Achilles heel’ of the Christian faith. That being that if God is good then he must be powerless to stop evil from occurring if it exists, or that if evil and suffering exists and God is all powerful (omnipotent), than he cannot be good if he allows it.  

It is an interesting dilemma until one comes to grips with the biblical fact that a sovereign and omnipotent God may allow and use evil, pain and suffering (e.g. hurricanes, cancer and COVID) to accomplish greater purposes in his world and redemptive history for his own glory and the ultimate good of many people.

The Sovereignty of God Over ‘Climate Change’ and the Environment

In the current preaching series we’re doing at our church right now in the aftermath of all that we have been experiencing in 2020, we have explored God’s sovereignty over the nations (including this month’s presidential election of course), our health, wealth and even the Christian’s salvation as I will argue from the scriptures this coming Lord’s Day.

One topic we won’t be addressing from the pulpit but I am in this post, is the fact that God is active and sovereign in our weather too. I sure hope so, having endured more than a foot of rain in my community from storms which rendered my lawn into a bit of a swimming pool of late.

Lest I fall into the sin of murmuring over my inconvenience, we tend to regard such things as little more than the impersonal expression of certain fixed meteorological or geological laws (i.e. low pressure systems, ‘the rainy season’, mother nature, hurricane season in my home state of Florida). In practice, even Christians tend to live and think like the practical agnostic or deist who thinks of God having created and then walked away from the universe, having wound it up like a clock, running until the alarm sounds, as it withers away according to its own natural laws.

However, that is not the God of the Bible who is alive, well and working in the day-to-day operations of His creation by his direct or permissive will. He has established physical laws by which He governs the forces of nature as primary or secondary causes, though those laws continuously operate according to His sovereign will.

Interestingly, a Christian TV meteorologist has determined that there are over 1,400 references to weather terminology in the Bible. Many of these references attribute the outworking of weather directly to the hand of God, such as when Jesus quieted the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Most of these passages speak of God’s control over all weather, not just His divine intervention on some occasions (Job 37:3, 6, 10-13).

All one has to do is let God speak for himself from his special and specific revelation to make his case for his sovereignty over his creation and the provision for it:

8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
    he prepares rain for the earth;
    he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food,
    and to the young ravens that cry.

(Psa. 147:8-9, cf. 16-18)

Jeremiah again, adds on God’s behalf, When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses (Jer. 10:13).

Take note Christian, that all these Scriptures among many others, attribute all expressions of weather—good or bad—to the direct controlling hand of God.

Ironically, secularly based insurance companies get it, when they refer to major natural disasters as “acts of God.” The truth is that the Bible teaches that God controls all the forces of nature, both destructive and productive, on a continuous, moment-by-moment basis.

Whether the weather is nice (like today as I write this post) or bad, we are never the victims or even the beneficiaries of the impersonal powers of nature. God, who is the loving heavenly Father of every true Christian, is sovereign over the weather, and He exercises that sovereignty moment by moment.

Why Does this Matter?

We sin against God when we complain about the weather, as much as anything else because we not only deprive God his glory by acknowledging his sovereignty over it, but we also deprive ourselves of the peace and comfort that comes from recognizing our heavenly Father is in control of it.

That reality serves as the motive in my wanting to preach a series on God’s sovereignty right now, in the midst of the fall of 2020. We need this truth more than ever.

The fact is, for most of us, the weather and the effects of nature are usually favorable anyway.

We tend to overlook God’s common grace as theologians call it, as he, “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt 5:45).”

What about ‘natural disasters’ like Hurricane Iota in Nicaragua?  

Because God is God and we’re not, he is not obliged to, nor does he reveal to his own the precise reasons he does what he does with the weather or anything else.

But, as author Jerry Bridges pointed out: It is not wrong to wrestle with these issues, as long as we do it in a reverent and submissive attitude toward God. Indeed, to fail to wrestle with the issue of large-scale tragedy may indicate a lack of compassion toward others on our part. However, we must be careful not to, in our minds, take God off His throne of absolute sovereignty or put Him in the dock (witness stand) and bring Him to the bar of our judgment.

The sovereignty of God – over the weather or our salvation, or anything else for that matter can be a difficult truth to accept as we watch and listen to people suffer, ‘mourning with those that mourn.’ Yet as another theologian commented on Isa 45:7 amongst other parallel passages, “We gain nothing by seeking to minimize the force of the present verse. We must allow the Bible to say what it says, not what we think it ought to say.”

In summary, God’s sovereignty over his creation – including nature, does not mean that Christians will never have to suffer evil and pain- far from it. Plain experience and observation clearly teach otherwise.

But, God’s sovereignty does mean that whatever we experience at the hand of the weather or other forces of nature and bodily decay (diseases and pandemics like Coronavirus), they are all under the watchful eye and sovereign hand of our God. I for one among millions over church history, choose to praise the Lord for that and take comfort in it as well.