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Why and How Every Christian Should be a Scholar and Theologian

Image result for bible study Bernie Diaz, March 6, 2018

Reading and interest in doctrine were once staples and prominent features of the Christian faith in a time where smartphones, social media and tablets were non-existent and people gathered and disseminated information in greater volume than with 150 character tweets and thirty-second television and web-video sound bites.

The post-reformation and post-revolutionary eras of the west and the United States in particular, implied that disciples of Jesus Christ like their Israeli forefathers, were people of the “book” (the Bible) who read, understood and could communicate the fundamental truths and doctrines of their faith. Obviously, that has not been the case in Christendom for some time now to the detriment of the church and our greater society in general, as our nation and much of western civilization continues to flounder in a post-Christian age of moral relativism, which unchecked, could lead to outright chaos.

How do we correct and reform the state of biblical illiteracy that is rampant in the church of Christ, crippling its ability to be salt and light in a decaying if not dying culture? Every Christian must be made aware of their responsibility to be both a scholar and theologian.

Calm down Christian. I’m not suggesting every believer that can read enroll tomorrow in a seminary of their choice or strive to be the church’s next Luther, Calvin, MacArthur or Piper – although that wouldn’t hurt!

What I am exhorting Christians to do is return to the attitude of prioritizing the reading of the Bible and the study or proper understanding of the Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ found in the scriptures.

How to Be a Christian Scholar

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15, ESV).

Interestingly enough, the scripture commands all disciples of Christ to be “workers” or laborers like farmers who plow the soil to sow and harvest seeds and crops to “handle” or cut straight the word of God.

That’s what professional scholars do, as the dictionary defines, as people with “profound knowledge of a particular subject.” That’s supposed to be us Christian! That subject is to be God and his kingdom. Where do we start? Strive to know, learn, live and then give the word of the living God. That starts with a radical exhortation. Ready…wait for it…. READ!!!!

Read to Know

The best reason to read books – beginning with the Bible, is to know God. I think each of us can and will meet God in his Word, but this does not mean that he reveals himself equally to everyone of us.

We can and should benefit from what others have learned and we do that through books, those that are theological in nature (see below) and would include edifying and inspiring biographies. Yes, e-books are permissible of coruse. I’m virtually out of room for hardcopies in my office, so I thank the Lord for the technology that has given me a Kindle.

There are many people who are intimidated by the mere thought of reading theological and doctrinal books. No worries. It doesn’t matter who you are, there is a book written at your level. Ask a pastor and/or a more mature brother or sister in the faith and get yourself a solid reading list that will move you beyond Joel Osteen, and into meatier and weightier works such as those from giants like Calvin or Jonathan Edwards, who were utterly humbled by just how little they initially knew about their God.

For example, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and its abridged version (Christian Beliefs) are very accessible and handy reads summarizing the basic doctrines of the faith.

If you do not read, you deny yourself a great way to learn who God is and how he acts in this world. There is no study more satisfying than that.

Read to Grow

Reading is a means of grace in which we’re spiritually born and then grow (1 Pet. 1:23-25). We read to know God and we read to grow so we can honor or glorify him in every area of our lives.

To do that, we as children of God have to know what the Bible says, what it means by what it says and then what we are to do by what it means and says.

Wisdom and discernment- good biblical discrimination and decision making begin there. So, I recommend to many that they start with the Bible and a good reading plan than enables one to eat Bible in an OIA method of study or scholarship: Observe, Interpret and Apply. Then you’re ready to move on to Bible study tools and theological books and material.

Read to Lead

It’s true- readers are leaders and leaders are readers. Wouldn’t you agree that we could use more Christian leadership today- in and out of the church? After all, every man is called to lead in some area of life, whether that is leadership in the home, in the workplace, in the church or elsewhere. There is more than a little anecdotal evidence proving that the great men of history were readers — find me a great man whose mind was shaped by television. I’m still waiting…..!

Al Mohler, a Christian worldview commentator and seminary President is an advocate in his book, The Conviction to Lead, of: “convictional intelligence,” which he defines as: “the product of learning the Christian faith, diving deeply into biblical truth, and discovering how to think like a Christian.” In other words, the best Christian leaders again know, learn, live, give and then lead accordingly. The unavoidable fact is that your convictions determine where you lead and how you lead.

Read to Love

While we tend to consider reading as a personal pursuit, it can also be a means of loving others. There are ways in which we can love others by being a reader.

First, read to understand. Not only should we read in order to know the Lord better and to grow spiritually as disciples, but reading also benefits others around you. Husbands can learn to love their wives better by reading books like, When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey.

Mothers and fathers can better disciple their children with Voddie Baucham’s Family-Driven Faith and we can better raise our children in the ‘fear and admonition of the Lord’ by reading Ted Tripp’s, Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

Second, we can read to recommend. You can love others by recommending books that will help them in their circumstances. This may involve reading books that will apply more to others than to yourself. Knowledge and information are paramount and powerful tools when we disciple others as the disciple-makers we should be.

For some people like me, reading is a great and natural pleasure. My appetite to read is insatiable and due largely to my curiosity: I need to know things. Yet other people are not as curious by nature and reading brings them little pleasure. May I be as bold to suggest that to discipline or train ourselves to do those things we should, often results in those things becoming pleasurable. Pleasures can be learned! There was a time that I hated to drink my coffee without milk and sugar. Once I trained myself to abstain from the sugar for health’s sake, I soon began to enjoy it as a pleasure.

Reading is a pleasure worth learning to love and pursue, even if it requires some effort at first. Get into the word- via a reading plan perhaps, one chapter a day. Mix listening to it and other treasures via audio versions on your phone or CD player if that helps and notice how quickly you will develop the intake of the word and doctrine as a habit and will miss it when you don’t.

How to Be a Theologian

Again, when I argue that every Christian must be a scholar and theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or a professional theologian like an R.C. Sproul. We don’t want to know about God just for the sake of information – but for life transformation. We all basically understand what is meant by the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1).

There are at least three big reasons why every Christian ought to be a theologian or a student of God:

  • Theology is Commanded

Theology by definition is the study of God (Theos+science/ology). Having a mind dedicated to God is required in the great commandment of the faith: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).

Loving God with all of our minds certainly means more than theological study, but it certainly does not mean less than that.

  • Theology Leads to Salvation

Now, of course, the mere study of God- his attributes and such will not bring a sinner salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8) totally apart from any works of our own (Ro. 3:28), which includes any intellectual ability (1 Cor. 1).

But at the same time, the faith by which we are justified, is a reasonable and I believe an even rationale faith, once God gives us the ability to understand ourselves and our sin, as well as the need to escape the wrath of God’s judgment to come as the due penalty for sin.

Saving faith is a gracious and sovereign gift from God (Eph. 2:8; Ro. 8:28-30; 12:3), but it is predicated upon information— initially, what we call the gospel or the good news of who and what Jesus is and has done for repentant sinners. We must believe and know what we are believing.

  • Theology Fuels Worship

True Christians are not those who believe in some vague notion of God. Real disciples of Christ are those who believe in the triune God of the Bible and have placed their trust by the real Spirit in the real Savior as proclaimed in the specific words of the real word of God.

Knowing the right information about God, is just one way we can rightly pursue and praise him. We worship when we listen to our pastor’s preaching, in lifting up our voices to God in ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5; Col.3) and in our church’s prayers, both corporate and private.

Doctrinally sound and biblically saturated theological study, adds fuel to our heart of worship in the Spirit. What did Jesus explain to the Samaritan woman at the well? True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (Jo. 4:23-24)

As per Romans 12:2, our life transformation begins with a renewing of our minds. As John Piper has said, “The theological mind exists to throw logs into the furnace of our affections for Christ.”

Genuine, purposeful and prayerful scholarship and theological study of God, is an expression of a deepening love for our God. The more we know, learn, live and give his word, the more we will find ourselves in awe of Him and as someone said, “Like a great ship on the horizon, the closer we get, the larger He looms.”

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Billy Graham – The Legacy of a Legend

Image result for billy graham Bernie Diaz, February 28, 2018

“My father … was once asked, ‘Where is Heaven?’ He said, ‘Heaven is where Jesus is and I am going to Him soon!’ This morning, he departed this world into eternal life in Heaven, prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ — the Savior of the world — whom he proclaimed for 80 years,” Franklin Graham said after his father’s passing last week at age 99. 

Was there a more significant religious figure in the 20th century, than Billy Graham, known as ‘America’s Pastor” and the organizations and the movement he helped spawn which continue to shape the 21st?

Graham, thought of by many as the nation’s quintessential, evangelical preacher and revivalist for much of the last century, became an iconic figure and perhaps the most identifiable one in Christianity during his lifetime, rivaled only by the Popes of the Catholic faith in terms of public recognition and influence.

So much so that Graham’s body will travel to Washington this week to lie in the Capitol rotunda, a rare honor for someone not directly tied to politics, before returning to Charlotte, N.C. for a private funeral.

Little wonder that much attention has been paid to Graham’s passing, considering that during his life, he preached in person to more than 100 million people and to millions more via television, satellite, and film. Nearly 3 million have reportedly responded to his invitation to “accept Jesus into your heart” at the end of his sermons. It is generally accepted as fact that Graham proclaimed the gospel to more persons than any other preacher in history.

However, it is the nature of that ministry amongst other concerns that have cropped up in my conversations with Christians and leaders in and around the church in the aftermath of his passing, leading to an interesting debate about the legacy that Graham has left behind: particularly with respect to his doctrine and his apparent and alarming move towards ecumenism towards the end of his life and ministry, leaving some or much of his legacy in question.

That ecumenism –  a movement that ostensibly promotes cooperation and better understanding among different religious denominations, is aimed at universal Christian unity but instead brought speculation as to the integrity of Graham’s gospel ministry like others, who have been known to compromise hard gospel truths and doctrine for the sake of ecumenism or politically correct harmony.

Mind you, Graham’s character or conduct has not been questioned. But, the question that has been raised in the wake of his death by some, is, “Was his gospel indeed the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

What- Billy Graham? Really? Graham appeared regularly on the lists of “most admired” people in America. Between 1950 and 1990 Graham won a spot on the Gallup Organization’s “Most Admired” list more often than any other American. Ladies Home Journal once ranked him second only to God in the category of “achievements in religion.” He received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1983) and the Congressional Gold Medal (1996).

Another Gospel?

Asked in his sunset years what he hoped to be remembered for most, Billy Graham often would tell interviewers, “that I was faithful in preaching the gospel throughout my life.”

Though he was neither a scholarly theologian nor a denominational leader, Graham was a charismatic man, one who possessed a compelling charm that inspired devotion in others. He was easily recognized for his memorable voice and face, both out front and behind the scenes with influential church leaders and American Presidents, defining, shaping, and coalescing the evangelical movement as it emerged from the fundamentalism vs. modernism warfare of the 1930s and 40s and took hold worldwide.

Yet, what is still often debated in evangelical circles, is what exactly did Graham believe about the exclusivity of the gospel (John14:6; Acts 4:12)?

What has troubled some, were some of the features of Billy Graham’s revival ministry. He preached for individual ‘decisions’ for Christ. Following in the footsteps of revivalists before him, public relations campaigns were crucial.

So was getting the sponsorship and participation of local churches – nothing wrong there as they were called upon to be involved with follow-up. Graham wanted to make sure that the people who made decisions would be contacted by local churches soon afterwards. He even said this was the most important aspect of his work.

However, that work began to cultivate some controversy beginning in the late 1950s, because of who he was working with. He not only worked with evangelical churches, but also with the large mainline denominations that were more than friendly to liberal theology. Converts from his crusades would be directed to become members of these liberal gospel-denying churches, which caused more than a few conservative Christians to question Graham’s ‘Finney’ like revival methods and theology.

Eventually, Billy Graham even came to cooperate with Roman Catholic Churches as WORLD magazine has reported. If someone would come to a crusade and make a decision and identify as a Roman Catholic, then they would be directed back to the Roman Catholic Church for spiritual care under the assumption that the profession was lifesaving.

Graham was surprisingly open to Roman Catholicism according to reports. At one point he said, “I have no quarrel with the Catholic Church.” In another place, he said, “I feel I belong to all the churches. I am equally at home in an Anglican or Baptist or a Brethren assembly or a Roman Catholic Church.” He was invited to worship alongside Pope John Paul II at a service in South Carolina in 1987, and he would have if not for an unexpected invitation to China.

It seemed over time that doctrinal differences with partners were minimized and became irrelevant.

A Universalist?

One particular television interview Billy Graham conducted with notable Crystal Cathedral liberal Robert Schuller, broadcast in Southern California in May of 1997, perhaps haunted Graham’s theological legacy the most.

It is there according to transcripts of the broadcast where Dr. Schuller asked Graham, “Tell me, what is the future of Christianity?”

Dr.  Graham: “Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there’s the body of Christ, which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups.

I think everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ…”

Alarmingly, Graham went on to say, “What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name.  Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ, because they’ve been called by God.  They may not,” he says, “even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven.”

Whether Billy Graham intended to make those remarks or misstated his views, or whether his physical and mental state at an already advanced age at the time of the interview may have impacted those statements, one will never know. Some of his theological convictions (‘easy beliefism’) and associations had been called into account since the early1950’s.

Rather than foster ecumenism, Graham’s passing has affirmed a divide in evangelicalism that had remained dormant for the past several years until his passing. In fact, seeking clarification back then, Schuller responded to Graham’s comments: “What, what I hear you saying, that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they have been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you are saying?” Graham answered, “Yes, it is.” Schuller replied, “I’m so thrilled to hear you say this: ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy’,” and Graham added, “There is. There definitely is”

Indeed, our God is the one and only God of mercy, but his word has made it plain that his mercy is only extended to those that repent of their sin and place all of their faith for salvation in Christ alone, by God’s grace alone.

Impact and Integrity

What there is little doubt of, is the massive influence Billy Graham had on evangelical Christianity and in spite of his doctrinal differences and ignorance, God seemingly and providentially used him in his kingdom purposes to lead thousands to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Many prominent evangelicals such as President George W. Bush and the late Charles Colson, former Nixon legal counsel and convicted Watergate prisoner (and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries), owe much of their personal salvation testimony to Graham and his ministry.

It can be argued that there was much biblical “fruit” that one could inspect and approve of in this man’s imperfect life – particularly from those who knew him best, including his son Franklin, founder of the world-renown Samaritan’s Purse ministry.

Vice-President Mike Pence among countless evangelical leaders over the decades have followed the “Graham rule” of personal integrity, refusing to meet with women one on one, in order to maintain strict moral propriety.

End of an Era

Is it fair to even speculate as whether or not Billy Graham was a Christian? Whether or not he preached a biblical, Gospel and Christ-centered gospel?  Perhaps so, but Romans 2 tell us that it is Jesus on judgment day who will “render” or repay each one according to his works or deeds. Justification is by faith, but our judgment and sanctification is confirmed by our works.

As Jesus settled a dispute among his prideful disciples about “Who is the Greatest,” he took a young child and placed him among them all displaying faith and dependence that one must display themselves in order to be saved, and said: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

To which the apostle “John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me” (Mark 9:37-39, ESV).

In the parallel account from Luke’s gospel, he added, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

So, It is not for us to judge Billy Graham’s spiritual condition at the time of his passing last week. Only God ultimately knows the heart of a man or woman and we can only pray that his mercy did touch the man whose autobiography and signature revival meeting hymn was titled, “Just as I Am.”

His evangelical legacy was not only legendary, but his gospel seed planting ministry appears to be the most fruitful of his time.

Question and Answer from the Parkland Shooting – Never Again?

Related image Bernie Diaz, February 21, 2018

The shock is over, the pain remains and anxiety is on the rise as South Florida reflects and begins the process of recovery as well as grieving in the aftermath of the Parkland high school shooting last week, which claimed 17 lives and injured a dozen more, in what is the state’s worst school-related mass murder in history.

The 19 year-old shooter – perpetrator of the seventh school firearm related incident in the U.S. since just the beginning of the new year, did his damage with an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon, leading survivors and students among others to gather in a series of local and state vigils and meetings, demanding gun control.

Never Again!

Thousands of students rallied outside the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee this week, to demand changes to gun laws, as students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – the site of the shooting, rallied and called on legislators to reject allegiance to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The emotions are running high, are palatable and understandable to any reasonable person. A 17-year-old student from Douglas High School used to worry about tests according to a news report. Now she worries about being shot. “My main concerns are funerals, gun control and whether or not I’m going to be shot wherever I go,” she said. “My innocence ― our innocence ― has been taken from us. I’m 17, but in a matter of days have aged decades.”

Indeed, as President Trump added in his condolences, “No child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school.” However, the fact remains that public schools – which are those with larger student populations in particular, are at greater risk for such tragic events.

Grim realities have set in for many Americans watching and almost waiting for the next tragedy or act of evil to befall another school campus, begging two big questions which inevitably follow events like Parkland:

Why? What can be done about it?

The why question is one we have asked and wrestled with too many times before, having posted in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting which resulted in a record 58 deaths, then after the shooting at a Baptist church in rural Texas last November which resulted in 27 more deaths.

Mental Health? There is little doubt that the Parkland gunman was troubled and had been dealing with mental health issues necessitating treatment (ADD, depression and Autism).

However, the degree to which mental health impacted the shooting if at all is in question. While many observers described the young man as  immature, quirky and depressed, others including the family which took him into their Parkland home after the death of his parents, seemed to think his life may have been making a turn for the better.

They thought of him as be being more pleasant at home and growing happier, they said. How the 19-year-old turned into a killer still baffles them. “We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We didn’t see this side of him.” “Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” her husband James said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Were it only that simple. School shootings do not always result in mass casualties nor garner the same media attention that Parkland has. This week, an Ohio middle school student brought a gun to school and shot himself in a bathroom. Authorities said the student, who was hospitalized, had not yet made clear if the act was intentional or accidental.

The President of the American Psychological Association had her own message for those blaming last Wednesday’s school shooting, on mental illness: Think twice. “While law enforcement is still piecing together the shooter’s motives, some public figures and news reports are focusing on his mental health,” she said in a statement. “It is important to remember that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness.”

Such rhetoric is true and has become common following violent acts. Mental health though a likely factor in some of the shootings, has been set up as the secondary default position of such events, by an over-reflexive culture, only surpassed by the blame game on public enemy number one – guns.

Gun Control?

Yes, the Parkland shooter’s massacre was tied to an assault weapon, leading to the obligatory and immediate backlash on gun owners and according to their advocates, another assault on second amendment rights.

Gun rights advocates justifiably argued that the Parkland shooter’s rifle was obtained legally, and that interestingly enough, most states with the strictest or greatest number of gun control laws also have the highest per capita rates of gun-related homicides.

Furthermore, tighter restrictions on gun access offer no guarantee that they can prevent mass murder, as evidenced by this week’s arrest in Naples, FL, of an 18-year-old high school student who local police say brought a knife and a backpack filled with a “hit list” of student names and other disturbing items to school.

As a state senator from Ocala said after a special legislative session on the issue, “We’re obsessing over the hardware of violence, and it makes as much sense as saying we’re going to stop obesity by collecting spoons.”

Law enforcement? The FBI apologized for its failure to react and take action on threats and warnings made concerning the Parkland shooter, but authorities also intervened and quickly made arrests in thwarting mass shootings at a prep school and a high school in southern California, set to happen just two days after the Parkland event.

Therefore, who is to blame for the Parkland tragedy? Someone has to get the blame to make sense of it all right?  

The post-mortem debate centering on answering that question and deciding what to do about is most difficult: “Assault weapons are tools designed to kill efficiently,” said one state representative. “Not only are they found in nearly every case of a mass shooting, they make it easy to inflict as much pain and damage as possible.”

In response, another Naples official said, “Solutions to the human condition are something we search for every day. As unfortunate as it is, there’s not a law we can pass that stops crazy people from doing crazy things.”

Reasonable Solutions? Yes, we hope that law makers can address Parkland with common sense initiatives to at least make another shooting harder to occur without unnecessarily detracting from a law-abiding citizen’s right to defend himself and family.

In fact, unbeknownst to many professing Christians, is the reality that the word of God based upon revealed principles, seems to allow for the use of weapons – in self-defense. As reported in the New Testament gospel of Luke (22), Jesus prepared his discipling evangelists to make provision as they took to the road to visit communities and preach the gospel.

One item of particular and relevant importance was a sword, a potentially lethal weapon very much like a dagger, the kind a warrior might stab or slash an enemy with in a pre-gun era of antiquity. Swords were the basic weapon of a Hebrew soldier.

This weapon was a useful tool and part of everyday life in this time of biblical history. One could fend off a wild animal with it if necessary. However, Jesus rebuked Peter for using it in the more offensive context of  fending off the Temple guards that came to arrest the Christ on the night of his ‘Passion ‘(Matt. 26:52-53; John 18:11).

A sword at that time serves as the best parallel we have to modern-day guns. While one can argue for gun control and limited access, biblically, It would be difficult to say the scripture preaches ‘no guns’ by principle. The heroes of the faith were nothing if not armed. Weapons appear early on in Genesis, such as when Lot was kidnapped and his uncle Abraham came to his rescue (Gen. 14:14).

The Torah (the law of Moses) made it a point of divine law that a private person had a right to defend his home and family…

Exo. 22:1-2 1 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. 2 If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.

Thus, a person operating under a Christian worldview, could understand that while the scriptures do not condemn the possession of a weapon per se, they seemed to clarify its proper use. God has ordained government to punish evil and to even execute the wicked with the sword (Romans.13). But in terms of interpersonal conflict, The Bible and Jesus himself, seemed to advocate the use of a weapon in at least a defensive posture.

That said, my own post-Parkland analysis reveals that the legal system could enact the following four proposals:

  • Raise the minimum age for purchasing rifles at the state and federal level to 21 years of age, like handguns.
  • Outlaw devices that increase the firing rate of weapons (e.g. “bump stocks”), which turn semi-automatic weapons to automatic ones.
  • Mental Health providers could somehow grant access of information to federal law enforcement agencies of patients who may be at risk of doing harm to themselves and others.
  • Greatly increase school campus security with a sufficient number of armed security personnel, greater campus access restrictions and perhaps even metal detectors.

But, while all these suggestions may be practical and politically doable from both sides of the gun debate, the Bible reveals clearly why there will not yet  be any lasting and satisfying resolution to this crisis. Simply put- it’s about EVIL.

The heart of man- including troubled teenagers, are “deceitful and desperately wicked,” and continue “following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph. 2:2c-3).

As I argued from my two-part sermon from Romans 1:18-32 at my church this month, the only long-term solution to evil, universal sin and God’s wrath of abandonment on a society of people – like ours, hell-bent on its own destruction, is the healing and hope only found in the gospel of God and Jesus Christ, who provides salvation to redeem and restore sinners to a new and righteous life by repentant faith (Ro. 1:16-17).

Who is talking about that solution- spiritual heart surgery rather than a band-aid in triage? Where is the voice of church to shed light in the darkness?

The Vaccination and Echoes of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related image Bernie Diaz, February 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Way to Hear God’s Voice

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

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

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

Another Way to Have God’s Ear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Tragedy = A New Law- Homeschoolers Beware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Indoctrination’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parental Authority and Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Trump – our King David Today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Champion of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Champion of Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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