Death to Porn’s Pioneer

Image result for hugh hefner and playboy Bernie Diaz, October 2, 2017

Okay, so there is a little clickbait in the headline of this post, because although Hugh Hefner, publishing tycoon, consummate 60s’ era “hipster,” and prolific smut peddler of soft-pornography in the mainstream, died last week at age 91, he was not the pioneer of pornography per se.

Satan may have actually earned the title as the premier purveyor of porn, having used people like Hefner over the centuries to do his bidding.

Chicago born and raised by allegedly ultra-conservative Methodist parents, Hefner quit his advertising copywriting job in 1952 and with $8,000 launched Playboy magazine a year later. The debut featured nude photos of then-unknown Marilyn Monroe (formerly known as Norma Jean Baker) and sold 50,000 copies. Twenty years later, monthly circulation peaked at 7 million.

Appropriately enough, Hefner’s body was buried and will likely remain, beside the above-ground plot containing the remains of Monroe, actress and so-called “sex goddess” who helped launch Hefner’s earthly empire.

That empire became one when Hefner understood that changing mores were taking place in American society, feminism was around the corner and the opportunity was at hand to pull pornography out of its customary  and seedy cultural back alleys, dressed it up in sophisticated costume and speech, gave it a glamorous veneer and began to push porn into the cultural mainstream as Playboy.

Hefner was not so much a revolutionary as a man who understood his times and what it meant to be on the “right side of history.” Hefner was a man who didn’t initiate the sexual revolution of his era but jumped on its coattails and rode it to riches and advanced that moral revolution that endures to this day in the United States.

The Prince of Porn’s Legacy

“Would Playboy sell so well if it didn’t have naked women in it?”

That was a question posed on Playboy magazine’s website about a decade ago. Their answer: “Probably not. We’ll never know.”

Never came sooner than expected. According to a news report, In 2016, the print edition of Playboy tried an experiment: the magazine would still feature women in provocative poses, but they would no longer be fully nude. This year Playboy returned to publishing nudity. It turns out nobody was reading it just for the articles.

Playboy reached the point where it failed to keep up with the machinery of pornography it helped unleash. As the magazine company’s chief executive, said at the time, “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

“Playboy is now a crusty relic in the world of on-demand, anything goes, anywhere-I-want, digital sexuality,” said William Struthers, a professor of psychology at Wheaton College and author of Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. “Nearly six decades ago it began cultivating an appetite for sexual images that has grown hungrier and now is ravenous across our culture. Interestingly, the culture now no longer has a taste for what Playboy has to offer.”

Unfortunately, Hefner’s legacy is one that furthered the exploitation and degradation of women to unimaginable depths with the birth of soft-porn.

Another philosopher, author and student of Hefner, wrote:

What pornography needed to be profitable on a mass scale was to be removed from the sexual ghetto and brought into the living room. It needed someone to adopt it, domesticate it, and teach it manners. As a mythmaker on the scale of Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner did for porn what Henry Higgins did for Eliza Doolittle.

Modern-day porn and its destructive impact on the sanctity of women and God-centered marriage and family, owes its roots to Hugh Hefner.  “As Playboy magazine tilled the minds of its viewers, the seeds of internet hardcore porn were sown,” Struthers said. “The ravaging of human sexuality is almost complete.” Misogyny, masturbation and marital infidelity. Hugh Hefner bears a great responsibility for the growth and cancer that pornography has become in America and world- wide.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation denounced Hefner’s public career, saying, “Playboy popularized the commodification of the female body in soft-core pornographic magazines in the 1960s, and it laid the groundwork for the public health crisis of Internet pornography that America is experiencing today.”

The heart of man is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) and doomed to its own destruction without the new-birth that only the redemption of Jesus Christ can bring. May it miraculously have come by mercy to Hugh Hefner before it was too late, though I can only pray that the death of porn will arrive sooner than the death of one its pioneers.

Advertisements

The Politicalizing of Sports and the President’s Biggest Problem

BImage result for trump and nfl protests Bernie Diaz, September 26, 2017

When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States last November, I remember experiencing a number of mixed feelings. Among them were two that stuck out: (1) relief, that his radically liberal, Democratic party opponent was defeated, (2) surprise: that such a political novice and celebrity figure could win a presidential election in this nation (I shouldn’t have been that surprised).

Nine months later, I was surprised that the candidate I called, ‘Deadpool Donald’, due to his penchant for vulgarity, could govern as adequately as he has in terms of public policy, in spite of the dysfunction of his administration.

However, what has reared its ugly head once more this past weekend, is the President’s biggest problem, his Achilles heel if you will, his greatest flaw which concerned me, that being his mouth. And the only surprise in this revelation, is that it occurred in the world of sports of all things, when the “Donald” decided to enter the fray of the recent controversy surrounding athletes who kneel or sit during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” before games as a form of protest.

He Just Can’t Help Himself

It’s not as if our President didn’t have better things to do. North Korea’s evil if not certifiably insane Kim Jong Un is threatening to launch World War III with his recent nuclear testing program and inflammatory rhetoric, which President Trump has matched if not escalated with his taunts of North Korea’s “Rocket man” and threats which prompted their foreign minister to declare Trump’s tweets “an act of war” that gives Un’s totalitarian regime the incentive to shoot down U.S. bombers in international airspace.

Yet if that crisis wasn’t enough to keep him busy, the President took to his Twitter account to inject himself into the business of professional basketball and football players views on patriotism. Yes, Twitter is not only Trump’s favorite mode of communication but has proven to be a social media tool that may be his ultimate undoing, as arguably the world’s most powerful man continues to manifest his foot in mouth disease by offending citizens with his all too familiar and spontaneous rants – including those he makes at public rallies.

First, Trump invited and disinvited the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from the traditional White House ceremony of congratulations for an American sports champion via a series of tweets. The rationale? None, other than Warriors star player Stephan Curry declining to attend the ceremony and meet Trump, who has been unfairly maligned to a great extent, as being the source or primary antagonist of worsening race relations in this country.

That event, leading to a further politicalizing of the sports world, was followed by the coup de grace, where Trump on Friday used an expletive to describe players who took part in protesting the anthem during a campaign rally in Alabama of all places. He threw gasoline on the flames Saturday and Sunday, tweeting that the league was suffering a decline in viewership because of the political protests.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that s _ __ b_____ (expletive deleted) off the field right now. He is fired,'” Trump said at Friday’s rally.

The result? Players from all 28 NFL teams that played Sunday participated in some sort of protest in response to the President’s comments, unifying a fractured league that had been wrestling with the issues of free speech and patriotism since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in August 2016.

Feelings aside about political activism in sports, what is unquestionable is the inappropriate and insensitive manner in which the President continues to publicly express himself.

The tongue has the power of life and death (Pro. 18:21).

Though Trump’s tongue is not the cause of racial tensions in the country, it seems to be more inflammatory and divisive than unifying as the leader of the most influential nation in the world should be.

Part of the President’s communications problem stems from the fact that he seemingly feels that he must respond to or opine on the most irrelevant of topics and issues for a nation’s chief executive, including everything from TV talk to awards shows and even the physical appearance of media personalities to sports. There is no filter on the President’s mouth….

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Pro. 10:19).

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions (Pro. 18:2).

Furthermore, Trump is easily offended and thin-skinned to the point that he will risk offense and escalation of tensions among not only a good number of Americans, but foreign leaders as well, which can lead to dangerous repercussions as may be the case with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Pro. 15:1).

Pride and ego is what lies at the heart of what may befall this President, who God forbid, may eventually undermine his presidency before even the first year of his term concludes due to his inability to tame his tongue (James 3).

Lessons Learned

As I prepare to teach and lead a small-group study for the men of my church on the topic of wise speech this week, the President as a professing Christian, would do well to heed the biblical counsel I will share with the men, that we must ‘give account on the day of judgment for every careless word we have spoken’ (Matt 12:36).

Coarse, rude and what the Bible calls “unwholesome speech” (Eph. 4), exemplified in cursing and swearing are not hallmarks of a born-again or transformed Christian life. Jesus explained that what comes out of our mouths is that which fills our hearts.

Sooner or later, the evil in the heart comes out through the mouth in curses and swearing (Lu.6:45). Our speech will always indicate what is in our hearts and that may be a far greater issue for the President to be concerned with than protests and the Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events.

The Culture of Death ‘Lives’ On

Image result for down syndrome child in iceland Bernie Diaz, September 18, 2017

Apparently, the death toll of as many as 80 lives from Hurricane Harvey was not enough for pro-abortion advocates and organizations, who while in the midst of a battle with the state of Texas over proposed abortion legislation, is actually offering fully paid procedures for Hurricane Harvey victims — and 15 women have signed up, according to a news report.

Note that the Whole Woman’s “Health Clinic”, which is currently suing the Lone Star State for trying to ban second-trimester abortions, plans to pay for six abortions in the clinic’s San Antonio location and nine in Austin, according to that organization’s spokeswoman.

While it is one thing to advocate for the right for pregnant women to legally murder their unborn child on a paid basis (often at taxpayer expense), it is quite another for an abortion group to further facilitate such murder with free killing services.

If that rhetoric sounds a bit harsh, it is because it is meant to, reflecting the state of incredulity or bewilderment that I find myself in today, when thinking of the depths to which our current culture of death will sink to.

It is because of that culture, that was rooted in the more modern eugenics movements of the late 19th century and the Nazi regime of the mid 20th century, that those on the radical left are seeking to eliminate virtually any vestige of human life, whether it be preborn, in the cradle or on the way to the grave (euthanasia). If a life is inconvenient to its caregivers, potential or real, and may be a burden rather than a blessing, then the extermination of those lives seems to make expeditious sense- even in the name of science.

“The Virtual Elimination of Down Syndrome in Iceland.”

At first glance, such a headline as reported by CBS news, may seem promising to many, expecting to read or hear of a cure or way in which to reduce the incidence of Down Syndrome in its population, a condition of birth defects as the result of a preborn child’s possessing an extra chromosome in their DNA.  Ah, but there’s so much more that meets the eye than a headline. The story then reveals that, “On average Iceland has two people with Down Syndrome born each year.”

The solution to the down syndrome problem in Iceland? Simple. Abort- kill, those suspected of having down syndrome in utero, tolerating the miniscule few that may be born due to inconclusive prenatal tests.

Also, take note of the use of the word “people” there to describe the few and the chosen who survive, in that somewhere along the line she became a “person” with Down Syndrome.

According to the rather warped logic of our culture of death, such a child’s  status changed to “person” somewhere during her gestation, while her condition remained stubbornly the same.

Even the founder of a genetics research company that has studied Iceland’s anti-down syndrome experience said of the policy, “It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counselling.  I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counselling is desirable. … You’re having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision.”

Perspective should change dramatically as to the pro-life vs. abortion wars, when one realizes what or who is at stake and that a mere cursory review of biology and personal experience via an ultrasound exam and/or childbirth, reveals that it is not something but a someone that is eliminated in the name of the ‘right to death’ decisions made by those other than the victim himself.

One of the Iceland experiment’s more provocative cases, was about a girl Agusta, born with down syndrome, after her screening offered a slim chance of Downs, so slim her mother Ingadottir, went with the odds and “lost”? Well, mom is now an activist for the rights of people with Downs Syndrome.  She said: I will hope that she will be fully integrated on her own terms in this society. That’s my dream. Isn’t that the basic needs of life? What kind of society do you want to live in?

Excellent question and one posed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was put on the spot recently by a German teen with Down syndrome during a live town hall meeting type event in the northern city of Lübeck.

“Mrs Merkel, you are a politician. You make laws. I’m an editor at a magazine for people like me who have Down Syndrome,” Cologne-native Natalie Dedreux told the Chancellor according to a translation by a local German newspaper.

“Nine out of ten babies with Down Syndrome in Germany aren’t born,” she said (about the same figure as the United States). “A baby with Down Syndrome can be aborted days before the birth, in what is called ‘late stage abortion.’ My colleagues and I want to know what your opinion on late stage abortion is, Mrs Merkel. Why can babies with Down Syndrome be aborted shortly before birth?”

“I don’t think it’s good politically. This topic is important to me,” she added. “I don’t want to be aborted, I want to be born,” Dedreux concluded, receiving loud and sustained applause from those gathered. The video clip of this exchange is staggering and to no surprise left Merkel visibly flustered.

Wouldn’t you be if you were Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood of American or another pro-abortion or death rights activist wearing the shoes of the German chancellor, confronted face to face with a person that such an activist had rather seen dead?

To the young ladies’ credit, she respected and acknowledged the chancellor’s push to regulate abortion in Germany, where it is permitted only if the woman presents the doctor with a certificate indicating that she obtained counseling at least three days before the operation and not more than twelve weeks have elapsed since conception, though exceptions are made when there is a risk to the health of the mother or when a prenatal diagnosis shows that the unborn baby has a severe disability.

The dangerous subjectivity of the later exception notwithstanding, the Deutchland has at least surpassed American law in federally regulating abortion.

The post-Harvey news from Houston leads me to ask, ‘How many more deaths through calamities and disasters must God tolerate or perpetuate on a lost and cursed world (Psa. 104; Isa. 45:6-7; Amos 3:6), to effect change, the kind of change through the gospel of Jesus Christ that can change hearts, minds, culture and a country?  

Hurricane Irma in the Rearview Mirror

Image result for post hurricane neighbors helping neighbors Bernie Diaz, September 12-16, 2017

Someone said that the sovereignty of God is best seen in the review mirror. I love that analogy. More often than not, God’s glory, power, grace and tender mercies are best seen post, tragic events like a Hurricane Harvey or Irma, or in cancers among other faith tests, trials and tribulations.

I’ve already experienced little evidences of God’s common grace and the love of the common man- fellow image bearers coming together in community with acts of love and service in just the 48 hours of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the largest and most powerful storm to pass through and near parts of south and western Florida in nearly a generation.

Millions of Floridians are living through another day without electricity as of this post, with the Florida Keys having borne the brunt of the storm’s wrath, with widespread destruction in the low-lying islands. Gov. Rick Scott toured the area by air early this week and described “devastating” damage. At least six people died as a result of the storm and another two dozen plus as the result of this storm’s impact on Cuba and other Caribbean islands.

All this on the heels of Harvey’s mayhem in Texas and a massive earthquake in Mexico, which has claimed more than 60 lives thus far. However, Florida weathered Irma much better than expected, with most areas escaping the widespread destruction forecasters feared. Why?

It would be more than presumptuous for anyone- Christians included, to attempt to read the mind of God and his precise providence over these events, all occurring near a relatively quiet observance of the 16th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

What I Do Know

I’m no ‘end times’ enthusiast or expert, but I do know that the God of the Bible is an attention-getter in many ways over many times, often using nature as a tool in which to wake-up His own, as well as a nation or nations (Isa. 45:5-8; Amos 3:6; Matt. 8:23-27) that need it.

As we mentioned in our last post (Why Hurricanes and Suffering?; Sept. 5), Jesus Christ laid a most provocative answer on those that questioned him in Luke 13:1-5, as to the rationale of a violent massacre and the fall of a tower which killed (seemingly random) 18 persons in Galilee. The answer to the question that previously unconfessed or unforgiven sins must have led to the demise of the relatively innocent, was met this way by King Jesus, who simply said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

“Perish” in this context means judgment and eternity. So, that pretty much deals with the why and providence question doesn’t it? Jesus’ point implies that one’s relationship with God and their eternal future is far more important than the circumstances of our death on earth in this lifetime.

Life and eternity come into much larger focus in such times of suffering and uncertainty do they not? Therefore, opportunities to show and share Jesus as reality, truth and light in a dark world increase proportionately in times like these do they not? Is there a coincidence there? Obviously not.

I know that I have reconnected and reestablished relationships with neighbors this week – mostly all unredeemed, that I would not have otherwise, were it not for the fact I needed to cut and clear tree debris with them in order to make our streets and homes safer, all as the result of a Hurricane virtually landing in our laps this past Lord’s day.

Leave it to our Lord to work providentially in such a way as to bring communities together in ways they would not in the flesh. Unfortunately, from my point of view, it took a storm and neighborhood damage to show the love and gospel of Christ through acts of kindness and service. Fortunately, from God’s point of view, the love of neighbor in the aftermath of a storm is best seen through the rearview mirror.

Federal officials warn drivers in the Southeast to prepare for gas shortages after Harvey and Irma’s disrupting one-two punch to the nation’s fuel supply, as Irma continued to wreak havoc on its march north, buffeting Georgia’s coastal areas and metro Atlanta with high winds and heavy rainfall. More than 1.2 million people in Georgia are waiting to have power restored.

How many of them are born-again believers and disciples of Jesus who are prepared to bring food and water to a neighbor, or cut and clear tree limbs and repair fences because Jesus told them to?

Forget for now trying to figure out exactly why God drove these storms and similar calamities to lands near and far. But rather, let’s roll up our sleeves, and show the world how much we love God by loving people and point them to Jesus when they ask why. Then look for God’s providence and answers to the big questions in the rearview mirror.

Why Hurricanes and Suffering?

Image result for hurricane harvey 2017 Bernie Diaz, September 5, 2017

Virtually everyone in the U.S. knows by now what kind of damage, pain and suffering Hurricane Harvey has caused to the southwest region of Texas- predominately in the Houston area, where nearly four dozen people have died, 50,000 plus families have been left homeless and the cost of this storm, which has resulted in the most extensive flooding ever seen perhaps in American history, may rise eventually to $200 billion.

Now what? Hurricane Irma – which may be as big or bigger than Harvey, is making its move through the Caribbean islands south of Puerto Rico and Florida as I post this blog, which are now bracing itself in a state of emergency for its possible landfall this weekend or so.

Where is God and What is He Doing?   

There are no crystal balls of course, to answer the question of “Why do we face certain tests, trails and tribulations like hurricanes, tornados and cancer?” There are people who have either denied or despised the faith of Christianity because they cannot answer or come to grips with the parallel question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

This may be perhaps the most difficult and challenging issue that apologists or defenders of the Christian faith are faced with, being what theologians call, ‘theodicy’, or the problem of evil, pain or suffering in the world. This is what many of them claim is their greatest argument against the faith, as they say that either God is not very good to permit such disasters and tragedy in the world, or that that He’s not all that good, or that He’s not powerful enough to do anything about such calamities, which is actually what some liberal Christians teach.

The problem is that although they mean well, they just don’t understand God or his Word, and so faithless Christians and skeptics want to take Him off the hook for everything from earthquakes and the holocaust, to Hurricane Harvey.

Some years back, a former local newspaper columnist and friend of mine who I worked with on television- an avowed agnostic if not atheist, in the wake of another storm wrote: Faith in a way, makes it harder to understand the maddening capriciousness of natural disasters, or even man-made cataclysms like wars and terrorist attacks. Why would an omnipotent God do this to someone? 

That’s a fair question. According to Luke’s gospel, a number of observers once posed the same question to Jesus Christ about God’s sovereignty and will in the wake of a massacre of Galilean Christians as well as a seemingly random event of a tower in Siloam collapsing upon and killing 18 citizens (Lu. 13:1-5). This could have been described as a 9-11 and Harvey type incident of its time, leading others to think as per Jewish custom that the sins of the victims may have led to their demise.

That speculative question led to a most astonishing yet revealing response from the King of the world…. Wait for it……………. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What?  Really….

If one is a Christian who takes God’s word and gospel and his or her faith seriously and ponders a bit, this answer makes sense. How? One must have a kingdom and redemption mindset, a mind as Paul called for the Colossians to have, which is to be set, on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:2). Why? The next two verses in that passage of scripture give us a clue: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

In other words, we who are born-again believers and disciples of Jesus, have already died to our old sinful-selves and now have heavenly perspectives, a faith “hidden in Christ” that looks to glory rather than the temporal evil, pain and suffering that occurs here on this fallen and sin-cursed planet.

Jesus essentially told those Galileans then, and us now, that 150 to 200,000 people are dying every day on earth, and what matters most is not the particular circumstance of their death or suffering- that is God’s domain in providence, but rather their turning to God and trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior, that will bring eternal life, hope and meaning now, in the midst of suffering.

What hope are we banking on? While I don’t pretend to offer you a comprehensive answer to each and every event or tragedy that has occurred, or even in your family, many like Oswald Chambers have weighed in on the idea that, “God does not tell us what he is going to do. He reveals who He is.” 

So, with that in mind, I like millions of Christians over history, answer the question of pain and suffering with Romans 8:28, which reads:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

This my friend, is a promise for Christians with three different answers to the question of why, as in, “Why Hurricane Harvey?”

  1. God is Sovereign in the Why (He works all thing together for good..)

When theologians say God is sovereign, they mean that he is absolute in His reign, kingdom and authority over the world and is all powerful, present and knowing in his providence or circumstantial work in the world. In other words, God controls everything, including nature (Isa. 45:5-8; Amos 3:6).

Fortunately, as we pray for Hurricane Irma to be diverted, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus exhibited that same authority on earth. We read in Mark 4:39, that Christ “arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

God controls category four or five storms as well as your life and mine (Psa. 139:16).  

  1. God Has a Promise in the Why (who love God and are the called…)

God’s promise is for His own (Ro. 8:28-31), meaning that his promise is  conditional. It is a promise made only for his adopted children, those he has justified, redeemed and reconciled to himself by his sovereign grace and the repentant faith of forgiven sinners.  In other words, this promise is not for everyone. The non-Christian or unbeliever cannot claim this promise for themselves and all things do not work together for their good.

This reality is another attention-grabbing motive for the lost to find Christ as God changes their heart. Lastly…

  1. God Has Plans for Us in the Why (according to his purpose.)

There are several great men and women of the faith whom God has used mightily to suffer well, with the hope of glory in front of them as they endured great trials and tribulation as a means of bringing glory to God as well as strength and comfort to others, from Job and Joseph (Gen. 50:20) to Jesus and Joni.

God’s glory manifesting itself amidst his control over evil and suffering was never more evident when he healed a blind man from birth. On that occasion as was the case with the tower of Siloam, the disciples wondered whether the man’s sin or those of his parents resulted in his loss of sight. Jesus replied to that query by saying in John 9:1-3; “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

Have you ever thought that one of the more significant reasons that God allows pain and suffering, is because it is a primary vehicle in which God can ‘reveal’ or display his healing power, mercy and grace? It stands to reason that the blind man had to be born that way in order to be healed by Jesus. Who gets the praise and glory for that? Did not this man come to saving faith as a result of his condition and then healing, as the rest of John 9 teaches?

Someone once said, that God’s sovereignty is best seen in the rearview mirror. That is a simple and profound statement. I mentioned Joni, as a great hero of the faith. You won’t find this contemporary heroine in your Bible but you can find or read, see or listen to Joni Eareckson Tada’s powerful testimony, where you find that at the age of 17, a careless dive into shallow water left her a quadriplegic.

She was interviewed on national television about her story and asked whether she had ever doubted her faith in the mist and aftermath of the tragic accident and suffering. This woman now in her 60’s answered:

If God told us the reasons why anyway, it would be like probably pouring million gallon truths into our one-ounce brains. We couldn’t contain it all. But when I look at national tragedies or even personal tragedies, sometimes I think these things are like God’s way of, like, wake-up calls, like yellow lights blinking, like red flags waving. Like what are you doing with your life? Where are you going? Do you not know that this parade of life as you enjoy it is not going to last forever? And what will you do when you face the other side of your tombstone?

What wisdom. It is as if Mrs. Tada had sat next to Jesus when he spoke to the Galileans in Luke 13 in the wake of the calamity of the tower. What do we hang on to as we face hurricanes and cancer? God, his Christ, gospel and promises such as found in Ro. 8:28.  That is our rock and refuge in a storm.

When Tada was asked in her interview what carried her through her storm, she remembered the ministry of Christian friends and said;

“One of the first bible versus anybody gave me was out of the New Testament, 1 Thess. 5:18. And it says there, In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of God and Christ Jesus concerning you. I said, say what? You can’t be serious. I mean, I don’t feel thankful for this. No way. And my friend said, ‘Joni, wait a minute. It doesn’t say you’ve got to feel thankful. Trusting God has nothing to do with trustful feelings. It says give thanks. And so, take a step of faith and do it.”

We who are in Christ, can and must do the same today and as we prepare for storms and their opportunities, be ready to rest in, show and share Jesus Christ.

Life with Jesus Means Fasting to Eat

Image result for no bible no breakfast Bernie Diaz, August 29, 2017

I enjoyed a rather fascinating experience preaching to my church this past Sunday on the doctrine (teaching) of fasting. The looks on some of the faces in our congregation in response to Jesus’ words from The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:16-18) were telling.

Many if not most Americans- born-again Christians included, consider fasting to be either a very practical if not painful way to lose weight or cleanse our bodies for health reasons, or think of it as either some ‘new-agey’ type of religious, mystical experience or politically minded tool of protest as seen in more contemporary ‘hunger-strikes.’

So, why should disciples of Jesus hunger? Weren’t the monks of medieval times condemned by evangelicals for their false asceticism of self-discipline, in depriving themselves physically in order to better please and serve God?

Hunger for God

Rather, what we learned from Christ is that we may starve ourselves from time to time physically, in order to better satisfy ourselves spiritually. In other words, we choose to hunger from a lack of food – even as little as in a partial fast of one meal occasionally, in order to hunger for more of God.

Or better yet, we deprive ourselves of the bread that no man or woman alone can live on, but rather prefer to feast on the bread of every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mat. 4; Lu.4), to paraphrase the very words of Jesus, spoken in the midst of his supernaturally ordained 40-day fast.

What Jesus made even more clear in a parallel passage on fasting from Matthew 9, is that we fast in this church age that we’re now in, so as to anxiously await and hunger for the full manifestation of his presence when he returns to earth at his second coming.

It is only then that today’s fast is consummated in tomorrow’s wedding feast of the lamb- the bridegroom being Christ and the bride his church, in a feast that is eternal and will never fail to satisfy (Matt. 9:14-17).

Until then, we have the hors d’oeuvre of the Lord’s power and presence through the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. How do we munch on this meal or appetizer however, so that we might quench the hunger and thirst that comes from a spiritual fast? First, we must define again what a Christian fast is and why we do it before we get to the how.

What and Why We Fast

The biblical definition of a fast, contextually from scripture would be ‘To abstain as a religious exercise from food and/or drink.’  As already mentioned, the hunger that results from such a fast can bring an ache to our bodies- our stomachs in particular. So, Jesus seems to be telling us in Matthew’s gospel to “Ache – hunger for me, for my return.”

In addition to, and in a broader definition of fasting, a believer could fast or choose to abstain from biblically permissible activities or hobbies which have threatened to become idols or preoccupations for a disciple that inhibit or prohibit them from drawing closer to God in the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, meditation and prayer. Prevalent, contemporary examples of that would be things like: smartphone and social media usage, internet, television and music, etc.

The idea is for Christians to periodically remove or abstain from obstacles that keep us from spending our first and best time with God, and so we are  free to focus on the kingdom and cause of Jesus Christ, whether we fast to better ascertain his will for our lives, or to see souls saved or for the church to reform and the nation to be revived.

How to Fast

There is much good literature out there as to the different kinds and means of fasting biblically and otherwise (e.g. Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life), and there are very needful times for a local church to call for corporate or congregational fasts as Israel did in the Old Testament (Joel 2:15-17).

However, from a private or personal perspective, I believe the two biggest attitudes or methods to keep in mind when fasting are to do so with a  purpose and prayer:

  • With Purpose

Have a plan. Will your fast be absolute or partial? How long? How regular? Schedule it. We can ask ourselves, “Who and what are we praying for?” Along with evangelical fasting (burden for lost souls), might there be grief over sin in our lives? That should lead to repentance or a return with trust to God.

Might we be seeking protection for ourselves or family in some situation? More wisdom and guidance perhaps. God’s people have fasted for such reasons for centuries (Ju. 20; Ezra 8).

Can there be a better purpose in fasting than to know God and to draw more closely to him relationally through his son Jesus? Somewhat paradoxically we fast to eat. Eat what? How about eating Bible?!

One Chinese evangelist years ago coined the devotional phrase, “No Bible, no breakfast.” He explained that he instituted this personal rule after being convicted that he was too often willing to skip his daily Bible reading in order to catch a few more minutes of sleep. “I found an … effective means of ensuring my early reading. If I did not read at least one chapter to start the day, I did not eat my breakfast. ‘No Bible, No Breakfast’ became my motto.”

Though Jesus and his disciples did, and we should refrain from legalism on this issue (Matt. 6:17-18; 23:4) – avoiding the temptation to mandate fasting and praying forms and functions, many of us can use a set appointment with God to consume that which is most meaningful in our lives: the living, breathing and satisfying word of God.

  • With Prayer

Biblical, Christian fasting is always associated with prayer. You can pray without fasting of course, but you shouldn’t fast without praying. Fasting strengthens prayer. That’s why fasting is God’s idea. One theologian wrote: “Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven.”

The biblical priority for you may not be “reading before feeding,” but the supremacy of God’s Word in the life of the Christian is. For some people like myself, this priority is best expressed in reading the Bible before eating breakfast. For others, though, this is a difficult or impossible task (e.g. schedule) and for them the very same rule may bring unnecessary doubt or unfair shame. What represents freedom for some will represent bondage to others.

So, heed the rule if you can do so in freedom and remember the first rule of godliness and spiritual growth as the puritan divines remind us, is to trust the ordinary means of grace such as praying, fasting, the intake of scripture and church fellowship. We must take full advantage of the disciplines God provides, and we must ensure we do not lose our confidence that God can and will work through such ordinary means. It is his desire and delight to do so.

Let’s delight in the words of Christ as our first and best meal, by taking advantage in certain seasons, to pray with fasting, and as we pray, looking for God’s reward or blessing (Matt. 6:18), with increased faith and fellowship with him.

The Devil’s View of an Eclipse

Associated Press/Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast Bernie Diaz, August 22, 2017

My family dared to watch yesterday’s solar eclipse of the sun amidst a fairly massive crowd, at a community park relying only on a reflector made of a colander or strainer and a white piece of cardboard. Result? Not much.

We saw only a shadow of the sun through the many holes of that colander. It was a very veiled and unimpressive view of the eclipse because we weren’t prepared with the proper eyewear – glasses or lenses to see it correctly. I tried a few libraries and stores and couldn’t find even one pair of these ‘special’ glasses last week.

Our saving grace for this event, was one person – one middle-aged woman who graciously gave us her lenses, enabling us to actually sit down and look at the eclipse as clearly as could be seen, absent standing in line for more than an hour to get a glimpse through an observatory telescope.

One person, sharing lenses to see something clearly. Isn’t that analogous to the Christian who is mandated to “make disciples,” often beginning with the sharing or communication of a biblical worldview, or lenses in which to see the world through God’s eyes to those that are spiritually blind?

That’s what this blog attempts to do on a weekly basis and what born-again believers need to do on a daily basis: find those biblical lenses, meaning to develop biblical discernment and a worldview and then share it with the lost among us.

We need good biblical eyewear right now- more than ever, as our age may be in a form of eclipse, where the light of truth becomes harder to see everyday, as the darkness of sin continues to block or obscure that light.

Somewhere, somehow we will find something to put over our eyes, or a method in which to see what it is in front of us. As someone, perhaps a Puritan of old once illustrated temptation, when you are being tempted, the devil sets on your nose a pair of false or ‘rose-colored’ glasses. These glasses make sin look small enough to make our falling in it seem trivial.

How does Satan fool us with lies so that we believe that committing sin will be so inconsequential? Here are four of the common ways the enemy of our souls eclipses, or distorts our spiritual vision with his lies during temptation.

The Devil focuses our attention on the immediate pleasure rather than the pain of sin. 

As someone said, a juicy worm floating in the water looks tasty to a fish, but when it bites and the hook is set the pain makes it thrash. In the same way, the lure of instant gratification of fleshly desires, found in things like; fornication (sexual sin), greed and power, or the pleasure of popularity or prestige (how many likes did I get this week on my social media posts?) may numb my attention just before I feel the ‘pain’ of what may follow.

The Devil makes us nearsighted when it comes to sin.

A key to the enemy’s success with sin in our morally relative society, has been to reduce much of what is referred to as ‘sin’, as merely being a personal and private preference. Satan’s sunglasses make many a person think that viewing pornography, indulging in same-sex and premarital sexual relationships, household idolatry, grudges, gossiping, masturbating, or wasting time are merely personal matters and do not carry public consequences.

What biblical lenses teach us is that each of these sins and others like them are not only seen by God, offending him, breaking his just and good laws for his people, but also result in the harm of others. As Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of England was reported to have said, “Private choices have public consequences.”

Just ask the now divorced guy who neglected intimacy with his wife and lost his family due to an addiction to watching porn (an illicit industry that enslaves and degrades women); the grudge-keeper who becomes a hater and the time-waster who could have been serving and loving others in need. Some sins may begin in private but its impact spreads in public. Didn’t King David’s lust for Bathsheba start just privately?

The Devil causes us to view sin as distant or non-existent. 

When tempting Eve, Satan responded to her reminder of God’s warning about eating from the tree with the contradiction, “You surely shall not die!” Like looking through the wrong end of a telescope, or unsafe glasses, as many did during the eclipse, the evil one makes you believe that sin and its consequences are far away and will not hurt you.

Yet, even if delayed for a time, consequences will come. People who stared at the sun during the eclipse- total or partial for too long a period of time yesterday, risked serious injury to their eyesight. Similarly, people who mock the sure reality of condemnation and Judgment Day, will realize they are were being foolish in ignoring the gospel call or biblical wisdom by choosing to remain in unrepentant sin for too long. Sin always leads to death one way or another (Ro. 6:16).

The Devil shrinks the majesty and holiness of God. 

Satan loves to eclipse or obscure the infinite, eternal, and holy God from being seen in our hearts and minds, by preventing us from “seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

When God is small in our thinking, it makes sin small in our sights as well. If someone were to ‘put lipstick on a pig’ we would know something was wrong. Or, if someone were to sneak in and put a mustache on the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris, the whole world would cry out in disgust. Why?

The greatness of the artist and the sacredness of his painting bring glory to him that demands respect and honor. Satan deceives most people into thinking you can put lipstick on a pig and make it look better or by ignoring a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

Our glorious God, who I prayerfully praised for his glory and handiwork in the heavens during the solar eclipse (Psa. 19:1) yesterday, is dishonored when his own artwork – image bearers like you and me (Eph. 2:10), disobey him and do not even recognize and acknowledge sin for what it really is. Spiritual blindness will come at a greater cost than can be imagined to those that fail to look at this world, and the glory of God in Christ.

May God’s people, do kingdom life and business God’s way and offer the Light of the world to those that cannot see.