Tag: Christians

Dabbling in Darkness: Harmless or Not?

By Leslie Ludy

Today we have Halloween coming up this week, and it inspired me to take a fresh look at where our culture is at in the area of darkness and death.

One thing that I have noticed, and you’ve probably noticed it too, is that in the past decade or so – especially in the past five or six years – the culture has really escalated in celebrating death and darkness and glorifying things that are evil; even trying to make things that are dark, evil, and demonic attractive, trendy, popular, and cute.

THE CULTURE’S PREOCCUPATION WITH DEATH

Leslie Ludy: It’s really easy for us, I think, as Christian women to overlook that and not take it very seriously. But there’s a Scripture in Proverbs that is so interesting to me. It’s talking about true wisdom and it says, “… those who hate me [meaning the wisdom of God] love death.” (See Proverbs 8:36.) Those who hate God’s wisdom love death! That’s what you see when you look around our world today. There is a love for things that are representative of death. You see sculls and skeletons everywhere. When I was in high school it used to be on the t-shirts of kids who were really into heavy metal bands, rode skateboards, and had long, shaggy hair. It was sort of a sub-culture of people who loved skeletons and skulls, and now it’s absolutely everywhere. It’s got sparkles on it and it’s on scarves and jewelry. I even remember a few years ago, I bought a pair of swim trunks for one of my boys. He was probably three or four years old at the time, so they were little kid/toddler swim trunks, and I grabbed them off the rack thinking that they had a beach scene on them, and when I got them home I took a closer look and this “beach scene” was actually in the shape of a skull! Here is clothing actually made for little kids that celebrates darkness and death, and you see these little babies wearing skull and skeleton t-shirts. You see girls wearing sequins, skulls, and skeletons on their purses and bags. There are even aisles that my kids and I have to completely avoid in the toy store because the toys in those aisles are so demonic. You just walk down the aisle and it’s like you’re assaulted with violence, blood, and gore – and that’s in a toy store! So that just shows you how far our culture has come in this area of celebrating darkness.

DRESSING UP DARKNESS: BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES FOR WALKING IN LIGHT

Leslie Ludy: We did an article in the Set Apart Girl Magazine several issues ago called “The Dangers of Making Darkness Cute,” or making evil cute. And that’s really what you see. All the trendy, fun accessories and clothing in our culture even all the way down to little baby clothes trying to make evil and darkness cute. It’s easy to overlook this because we think, Well, it’s just everywhere. It’s just a trend right now. But really, this is not a light or casual thing in God’s sight. It’s something that we need to be taking very seriously as well, especially in a week like this where you see the culture rallying around a holiday like Halloween, which is a celebration of darkness.

Many women that I know are very stymied in moving forward in their spiritual life because they’re being constantly hounded by the enemy. Maybe they’re plagued by fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, confusion, family problems, financial problems, spiritual defeat – whatever it is, the enemy oftentimes has today’s Christian women under his thumb, and his goal seems to be to keep us totally preoccupied with our own emotional problems and really unable to live out the glorious, set apart life that God has called us to live. A lot of women today spend most of their time stumbling through the darkness instead of truly being the light of the world. So many of us are hounded by the enemy, and I’d like to explore some of the reasons why that might be happening.

Christ said in Luke 10:19, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” That if that is the reality that Christ purchased for us on the Cross, why are so many of us living helpless to Satan’s schemes and his control?

I love this quote by Tauler, he wrote, “A pure heart is one to which all that is not of God is strange and jarring.” That is such a convicting statement because so many of us are too careless towards darkness and evil. The things that are not of God that are all around us don’t seem strange and jarring to us. They’re just completely normal and some of us even go out of our way to purchase and accept those things and treat them as normal.

Pop-culture is flooding our minds and our senses with things that are truly not of God. There is glamorized sin and darkness all around us, but if it’s not strange and jarring to our soul, then that’s a good indication we’ve become too comfortable with the things that are not of God. We’ve accepted them and treated them as normal and some of us even spend a lot of our time and money on those things. We allow those things – those images, sounds, and sights of the world – to capture our mind, our emotions, and our attention, and then we wonder why our lives are filled with fear, anxiety, defeat, and depression.

The Bible says that “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly … who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from seeing evil: he will dwell on high, his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure” (Isa. 33:15-16). God provides incredible strength, blessing, and freedom for each of us, but in order for us to truly walk in this pattern, He requires us to live by a sacred decorum – to come out from the world, to be separate, to touch not the unclean thing, to ruthlessly remove all uncleanness and darkness – no matter how small from our lives. As women seeking to be set apart for Jesus Christ, seeking to be free from the enemy’s control, there is not to be even a hint of darkness in our daily existence. We aren’t to go out of our way to participate in those things.

It says in Deuteronomy, “There shall not be found among you anyone … who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD…” (Deut. 18:10-12a). Now most of us who grew up in church probably don’t consider ourselves vulnerable to things like witchcraft or Satan worship, but sometimes we overlook things of darkness that seem harmless but really they’re associated with the very same things – the kingdom of darkness instead of the Kingdom of Light.

The Bible makes it clear that there really cannot be any fellowship between light and darkness. In the book of Acts when the Gospel of Christ was preached, the people who believed, it says that they came and openly confessed their evil deeds and a number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly (Acts 19:19 NIV). That’s incredible! They realized that they could not walk in cooperation with the kingdom of darkness and embrace the Kingdom of Light at the same time. They realized they had to completely destroy the things of darkness that they were harboring in their lives. Those books and things, they totaled up the value and it was extremely valuable, so it was very sacrificial, but they still chose to burn them publicly as a statement that they are no longer associated with the kingdom of darkness.

Really, the same principle applies to us as set apart daughters of the King. If there is any object or activity in our life that’s associated with darkness, the only appropriate way to deal with it is to destroy it completely just as those Christians did in the book of Acts. Even though the culture tries to glaze and gloss over darkness and tries to tempt us to treat it very casually, I think there’s a good rule of thumb that says, “When in doubt, don’t mess with it.” If it even hints as being part of the kingdom of darkness, it really doesn’t belong in our lives. I encourage you, especially as we go through this week and we see the culture reveling in darkness, that you would take some time to ask God to reveal anything in your life – maybe past or present – that could be associated with darkness or satanic activity. Now let me get specific with some things that could be stumbling blocks in this area of your life that you may or may not have ever thought about before.

WHICH KINGDOM ARE YOU REFLECTING: DARKNESS OR LIGHT?

We mentioned earlier things like jewelry, clothing, or bags that somehow promote death and glorify evil. Maybe they have skulls, or skeletons, or other symbols of darkness on them. Just because you put a little bling on them, or they’re covered in sequins, or they have glitter or gloss on them, or they’re pink doesn’t change the fact that it’s still glorifying and celebrating death. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that … more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10).

Now though we will all experience a physical death unless Christ comes first, we have passed – spiritually – from death to life when we give our lives to Christ. Even when we die, our spirit will live forever with Him. He has conquered death on the Cross. His Word says, “Where, O grave, is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting?” (See Corinthians 15:55.) Clearly, death is not something to celebrate and parade about, it’s been conquered by the blood of Jesus. We are to celebrate life – our life in Christ – not death!

BEWARE: DECOR TRENDS

There are a lot of other things that symbolize pagan religions like Buddha statues and a lot of things that have to do with the Buddhist religion are very popular in household decor today. You see symbols of zen and New Age all over the place. Our culture has glossed these things over so that they seem to promote this idea of tranquility, peace, harmony with nature, but in reality, these things represent a demonic stronghold, a false religion that has deceived millions of people throughout the centuries. Why would we decorate our house with those things and celebrate those things in our daily lives?

BEWARE: HOROSCOPES, FORTUNE-TELLING, AND GAMES THAT CELEBRATE DARKNESS

There are also horoscopes, which again seem harmless and fun, but they’re basically a form of fortune-telling, and they allow the enemy to access your heart and your mind.

BEWARE: ENTERTAINMENT THAT GLORIFIES DEATH

Probably one of the biggest areas that many of us stumble over are books, movies, and TV shows that glorify demonic spiritual activity. They become stumbling blocks for us all the time.

Several years ago a lot of women were really into the Twilight books and movies, and if you study the history of vampirism you realize how absolutely satanic and horrific it is! Probably the biggest danger of some of the newer movies or books like Twilight in relationship to things like vampires is that they make the evil character into a desirable hero rather than an evil villain. A few years ago, when those books and movies were popular, you would even see magazine covers promoting this “vampire” as somebody who was desirable and attractive to women. The line between good and evil is being so blurred today by Hollywood, and we know things are twisted when something so dark and so demonic becomes the object of desire and becomes the hero of a movie.

You can’t exclude light-hearted or funny movies, music, and books from this area as well. Even if those shows seem light-hearted and they make light of things like witchcraft, fortune telling, and things like that – they might seem ridiculous and maybe you don’t take them seriously, but they still portray messages of darkness and ungodly spiritual power. If you’re going purposely to watch these things, or allowing these things into your life, or reading these books thinking, Oh, it’s not a big deal. It has a little bit of weird, spiritual stuff in it that I’m going to overlook that. You’re really opening yourself up to the enemy to have access to gain territory in your heart, mind, and soul.

CLEANING OUT THE DARK CORNERS OF OUR LIVES

I would encourage you if you’ve been participating in these things, if you have decor in your house, if you have jewelry, clothing, or other accessories that glorify death or false religions, I would encourage you to ask God to forgive you and to cleanse those things out of your life. If you’ve been reading and participating in ungodly books that glorify darkness or watching movies or shows that glorify darkness, I would encourage you to make those things right with God, cleanse those things out of your life, and take back any ground that you may have given to the enemy by your participation in those things.

One time I was counseling with a young woman who was constantly having nightmares, and she was plagued by fear. Casually, one day she mentioned that she had just come from a movie, and it was a horror movie that she had just watched, a really dark movie about an ax-murderer or something like that. I began talking to her about it, and she didn’t even realize that watching those kinds of movies could have any correlation with the fact that she’s having all of these dark dreams and nightmares. I encouraged her to not only cut those things out of her life but to repent and ask God to cleanse her from her participation in those movies. As she did, those nightmares and that depression and everything that she was struggling with went away because the enemy no longer had that access point into her life.

One of the ways to live a truly, God-honoring life is by allowing Him to completely transform us from the inside out and cleanse the darkness out of our lives. It’s not about becoming a nun or living as a hermit in the backwoods somewhere and cutting ourselves off from this world. It is very possible to be in this world but not of this world. We can walk into a store and turn our eyes away from the things that are dark. We can avoid the books, the movies, the clothing, the paraphernalia that is celebrating darkness. We can be lights in this dark world by submitting ourselves completely to His transforming work, taking every thought captive, and meditating on the things of Light rather than darkness, then we truly can become His lights that shine in the midst of a perverse generation as it says in Philippians (see Philippians 2:15).

When we yield ourselves to become the holy, undefiled dwelling place of the most High God, He makes His home within us. When we allow Him to remove everything that is carnal, dark, sinful, or selfish that stands in the way of us being His light, that’s when we are able to live a strong and fortified, victorious Christian life unharmed and unhampered by the enemy.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This week I encourage you to fix your eyes upon Jesus, cleanse anything of darkness out of your life, and celebrate the life of Jesus Christ. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, for more on this topic, please visit us at setapartgirl.com and consider subscribing to our magazine which is a bi-monthly, ad-free resource that can strengthen your walk with Christ with every page that you read! I pray that you have a blessed and Christ-centered week!

http://setapartgirl.com/podcasts/dabbling-in-darkness

United States Accepting Only 28 Christians vs. 5,435 Muslim Refugees, Despite ISIS’ Unstoppable Genocide

assyrian-christians

The United States government is processing an unbelievably low number of Christian refugees despite the ongoing genocide at the hands of the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria, the American Center for Law and Justice reports.

The conservative law group cited numbers from the Refugee Processing Center, noting that while the U.S. has processed 11,086 Muslims from Iraq since the beginning of 2015, only 433 Christians have been added to that number. And in Syria, there have been 5,435 Muslims welcomed and only 28 Christians.

They argued, however, that religion should definitely be a consideration when granting refugee status, given that IS targets Christians and other religious minorities in the region.

The law group said Secretary of State John Kerry admitted in March that IS kills Christians because of their religion.

“So, we know that ISIS targets Christians in Iraq and Syria because they are Christians. Christians are being slaughtered, tortured, raped and displaced because they are Christian. We also know that under U.S. and international refugee law, religion is a criterion for granting refugee status,” the ACLJ added, warning that unless serious action is taken to protect minorities, they will be wiped out at the hands of IS.

Reports from last year, such as the Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing Systems, have also suggested that the U.S. is taking in very few Christians as part of its refugee program.

The November 2015 report stated that Christian refugees made up only 1.6 percent of total arrivals in 2015, while Muslims made up 97.8 percent of the total.

For comparison, close to 10 percent of the Syrian population is Christian, and at the time more than 700,000 Syrian Christians had been displaced and driven out of their homes because of IS.

The ACLJ has spoken out against IS’ genocide of minorities on a number of occasions, but back in May said that recognizing the genocide, both on the part of the U.S. and the U.N., is an important step toward addressing the crisis.

The organizaton is calling on the international community to take “swift and decisive action,” saying that June’s United Nations Human Rights Council session will have to decide on measures to put an end to the ongoing genocide.

“As the time for the HRC’s meeting is rapidly approaching, it is important that the United States and Secretary Kerry act quickly and decisively in advancing at the United Nations the cause of those Christians targeted by ISIS. We are optimistic that they will do so,” the law group wrote.

How Wide the Divide: Sexuality at the Forefront, Culture at the Crossroads

RZIM_ravi_zacharias_apologetics_how_great_the_divide_supreme_court_decision

A century ago these times were imagined and they are now here. How do we live as Christians in such times?

My mother-in-law is ninety-five years old. She has lived through several wars and numerous other cataclysmic events in her life. Nothing has her more perplexed, shocked, and almost emotionally stunned as the culture wars that have been waged and have changed our world. I see her sitting in church when I am visiting her, obviously wondering why all of her past memories have been lost in the present format of worship. She is not at home either in the world or in her church and eagerly awaits the day when she can be in the City of God, her eternal home. ‎ ‎

What has changed? How did we get here? As Nietzsche would say, “Is there any up or down left? Who gave us a sponge to wipe away the horizon? Will lanterns have to be lit in the morning hours? What sacred games will we need to invent?” Yes, a century ago these times were imagined and they are now here. While the secular world has invented its secular games, many churches have invented their own “sacred” games.

The most daunting question for us today is how do we live as Christians in such times? The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States sent tremors around the globe and I have received scores of messages asking whether we, at RZIM, are going to say anything in response. What more is there to say? The spectrum of views that were immediately expressed said all there was to say. When the law passed, the first thought that came to my mind was Chesterton’s prophetic comment more than half a century ago: “For under the smooth legal surface of our society there are already moving very lawless things. We are always near the breaking-point when we care only for what is legal and nothing for what is lawful. Unless we have a moral principle about such delicate matters as marriage and murder, the whole world will become a welter of exceptions with no rules. There will be so many hard cases that everything will go soft.”

That breaking point is here.   ‎

After hours of pondering and praying, I would like to say something to my fellow believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Naturally, some who disagree with my views will probably be reading this as well so I have to expand the justification a bit. I am keenly aware that on this subject winning the approval of all is not only impossible but if done, would be at the risk of substance. I shall try to walk through this minefield.‎

As Christians, we often look outside of ourselves and wonder why the world is so different from us. We seldom pause and ask how the Church of today has become so different from what it was and so indifferent to the world around us. Liberalism is not just a political term. What has happened in our world was foreseen a few decades ago. Changes were underway then and we were taken by a storm from within. Culture at large moved unabashedly towards the mockery of the Christian worldview; Eastern religions were spared that, either because of the cowardice of the Western critic or simply to not be seen as attacking another ethnic group. But the Church is really where the titanic shifts in the culture started. As the liberal church swung to the extreme of religion without absolutes, the evangelical church flirted with emotionalism without intellect, while some of the mass distributors of spirituality peddled a cosmetic version of truth that was hollow and hairstyles became more important than what was going on in the head itself.

Of course, there are exceptions to these generalities. Some of the most thriving churches today are those that have a deep allegiance to the gospel message. I am honored to often be in their midst and I have hope because of them. But for now, let me just talk about how wide is the divide between secular society and the Church, and why it is. ‎ ‎

There are three starting points that separate the historic Christian view from those who called for the legalizing of gay marriage that is now the law of the land, albeit by one vote.

One, we come from two different definitions of what it means to be human. For the Christian, life is in the soul. The body is the temporal home. George MacDonald said it well: “You do not ‘have’ a soul; you ‘are’ a soul, and ‘have’ a body.” For the one living with a secular worldview there is no such thing as the soul. To be sure, that is not true of all in that disposition. I know many who would not deny the essential spirituality of human life and will admit to a deep struggle between their attractions and their cautions. Strangely, there has also arisen a strained view that seeks to justify the marital bond between any two consenting adults as biblically permissible. I shall not wander into an apologetic countering that. But there are those within their own ranks who seriously challenge such distortion. Fine theologians have argued and demonstrated the cracks in their foundations.‎ ‎

For the most part, in secular terms NOW is all we have and NOW is the moment to enjoy whatever one pleases. A soul-less existence makes the body the sole means of fulfillment. When one starts that way, sexuality is a thing to be restricted only by parameters that are materially referenced. As the songwriter said, “In the dark it is easy to pretend that the truth is what it ought to be.” Touch becomes defined by feel and taste, nothing more than that. “I feel I enjoy it so please stay out of my way.”

‎The contrast here between the Christian worldview and the secular is a big one. For the Christian, not only is life in the soul, but the body, in Jesus’s words, is the temple of God. That is the highest locus of communion between a human being and God. For the one who recognizes no such thing as the sacred, the body is the playing field of life and pleasure sets the rules. This is a significant difference as a starting point.

Two, the Christian believes in absolutes. For the secular person, moral relativism is the only absolute. No one ever really says what something is relative to, but the implication here is that there is no boundary for behavior. Even the economic destruction of those with whom they disagree can become the water-boarding and the slow kill of the secular armory. For the relativist, no decision is determined by a transcendent definition of life, and where there are no absolutes, there had dare not be any prohibition by anyone else. The banner of the atheistic society in England during Christmas two years ago said it all: “There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Relativism is the open door to fun, absolutes the closed door that destroys fun. That is the way it is seen.

Three, the defender of sexual freedom sees a parallel between what is seen as anti-gay prejudice today and racial prejudice as it was practiced at its lowest point decades ago. Here, a word game has entered the vocabulary. Relativist convictions are supposedly prejudice-free, while absolute convictions are branded as phobias. Any stigma can lick a good dogma, it is said. With that verbal deconstruction of a worldview, all questioning of sexual freedom is castigated as a phobia. Quite amazing that atheists are not called “theophobes” or that those against Christians are not called “christophobes.” Pejoratively, the counter positions have been appended with phobias till we may have a whole new polyphobic dictionary.

But that is the lesser problem. I contend that equating race with sexuality is actually a false premise and an unfortunate analogy.‎ In the matter of race it simply doesn’t matter how I feel about it; my ethnicity transcends my preferences or inclinations. In the Hindi language there is a mildly mocking expression to describe one who acts different to his or her essence in race: “Desi murghi pardesi chal” … “this is a local bird with a foreign walk.” As was recently established, a person may feel like one race, associate primarily with that race and think like that race, but that doesn’t change who she really is. Why is this analogy unfortunate? Because it moves the debate from what is right to what are one’s rights. Ironically, the political party now most aligned with arguing for rights was once the same party that argued against the emancipation of slaves because of the slave-owners’ “rights.” In that case, those rights were overruled by what was right. Interesting that a new word wasn’t coined then to describe those who made moral arguments against the slave-owners’ rights as “slaveophobes.” Thankfully, essential human worth and moral reason trumped existential and pragmatic preferences and by God’s grace, what was right was deemed to be right and the slave was freed.

There are absolutes. To the Christian, every person is made in the image of God and is loved by God. He sent his Son for the whole world, not just for those of a particular race or sexual proclivity. Sex is a sacred trust with deliberate boundaries. It is at once one of the greatest gifts and one of the greatest struggles. The 5000-year-old struggle in the Middle East has its roots in polygamy when two half-brothers shared a father but not the same mother.

‎The violation of race is a violation of the sacred and for the Christian, the violation of sex is seen the same way. The secularist does not see the latter as a violation where there is consent, but this is simply not so for the Christian. Desacralization is an emptying of essential purpose and meaning and leads to the loss of essential purpose in life itself. This is why it is vacuous to say that if two people love each other they may express it in any way they choose. Love is not defined in a way that is self-referencing. It ultimately hangs on the peg of God’s love and how He defines love.‎ ‎

But here a caution is critical. All violation of the sacred, not just sex, is ultimately in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. That is the Christian view. That is why the good news is that God’s gift of salvation and redemption is offered to all. That is why what is right has to win the day over what we may see as rights. As hard as this may seem to some, it is the only hope to avoid the misuse of reason for other attractions. Can we not, on the same argument presently used—adult consent—someday justify a multitude of proclivities? Even more, what is to keep Sharia Law from being brought into the culture to respect the rights of a particular group only to have it one day used by extremists to overrule our present laws? After all, extremists have ways of dictating for all. Isn’t that what we witness time and again? This is not a slippery slope. This is an irrational, runaway train driven in the name of rights and tendentious reasoning. It can happen. I suspect it will happen. The cultural plausibility can shift. Not everything that is fatal is immediate.‎

With these three chasms, the heart sinks and exclaims, how wide is the divide‎!

This, then, brings me as a follower of Jesus Christ to the three most important bridges between all of us, regardless of our views on this issue. The gay community rightly cries out for identity and intimacy. These are, after all, the longings of the mind and heart of every human being, regardless of our position on this issue. This is where the gospel enters as the only way to bring us together.‎ Indeed, the first bridge of the gospel is that my identity is found in Jesus Christ because of whom I must tame my passions. My identity dictates my behavior. Before I committed my life to Jesus Christ, my identity within my culture was dictated by the status of my family: who my father was, how I did in school, what my grades were, how much money I had access to. All these were and are systemically woven into my culture. I had no choice. This is how I was viewed. Take a look at the matrimonial section in India’s newspaper today. Color, caste, education, wealth, beauty all are repeatedly mentioned as parents seek what they consider the best partners for their children. It’s so clearly discriminatory. When my sister married a Hindu convert to Jesus Christ, the challenge for his parents was huge. But amazingly, their understanding of what Jesus Christ had done for their son changed everything. This is the only bridge I know of that can change the human heart.

It is because of this relationship that we change our behavior from what attracts us to what we act upon. This connection is crucial. If I know what it is to be a man, I know how sexual attraction works. Over time you learn that giving in simply does not bring lasting happiness or purpose. It is only in the keeping of the body as the temple that the sacred is upheld and the grace of God brings conviction and restraint. The Bible says we are not to place our offerings on every altar. One psychologist describes indulgence as “short term fleeting relationships with long term bitter disappointments.” This is true of all behavior and of all sexual expression that runs afoul of God’s design. He has built this law into the human fabric. Deep inside we know this. Temporal allurements are ultimately unfulfilling without a spiritual bonding and binding. It is the eternal that must guide the temporal. ‎ ‎

The second bridge the gospel brings is intimacy. We all long for touch. This is true even in the most senior years of one’s life. I have talked to people working in homes for the aged and they have remarked on how much the elderly miss a physical touch and embrace. This is how we are made. Carrying that concept into sexuality, consummation is the all-embracing act of intimacy. Being as consummate as it is it demands exclusivity, otherwise it is rendered profane and common place. Experience tells us this repeatedly. Cultures that totally desacralize sexuality are non-existent. Even the polygamous guard the numbers. Even the unclad have boundaries. There are laws that govern against rapacious acts.

The biblical description of marriage is for one man and one woman in sacred commitment. So profound is this union that the relationship of God to the Church bears that comparison. He is the bridegroom; the Church is the bride.

Is this so abstract that it doesn’t come down to where we are in our individual yearning for intimacy? Not in the least. According to the gospel, God offers us his indwelling presence where spirit touches spirit and the deepest, truest intimacy results. I am fully aware that to one who has never tasted intimacy with God this seems absurd. But it is here that I think we as Christians need to awaken to the unpleasant reality that we have not taught and proclaimed God’s Word faithfully and demonstrated true holiness.

How can my mind be transformed so that intellectually I understand perspectives and counter-perspectives? How do I so embrace God’s truth that it transforms my heart and my inclinations, or at least gives me the ability to control my inclinations? I have a colleague who confessed to having same sex-attractions. He went on to say that on a given day he thought and thought about the Christian message and finally and wholeheartedly surrendered himself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In his words, he “sensed a presence of being overcome from the top of my head to the soles of my feet…I have tasted a glimpse of heaven; why would I stoop to what is below?” Are there days of struggle for him? Is there a certainty of his new affections in Christ? “Yes,” he says to both questions. I have a huge respect for him and his sacrifice.

For the Christian, the question is this: How do I so walk with God that ALL my affections are brought under Jesus’s Lordship, whether my inclinations be same-sex or opposite sex or any other struggle? How may I love those with whom I disagree on these serious matters? The bridges will always be the identity and intimacy offered in the heart commitment to the Savior, first lived out then lovingly taught. ‎ ‎

Also, for the Christian we must remember that we cannot make this realm the eternal order. Our earthly cities are not what eternity alone will bring. Augustine’s two most memorable masterpieces are his Confessions and his City of God. As he lay dying in his home city, barbarians were already scaling the walls of Rome. Even as many churches were being destroyed, the main ones he had planted withstood the carnage. Incredibly, even though his mortal frame was breaking down, people continued coming to him so that he could pray for them. That is a glorious picture. His body was meeting its end. But his soul was not. He had confessed his need for his Savior and he looked to a city whose builder and maker was God. All earthly cities will at some time crumble and fall, as will our mortal bodies. Our eternal place of abiding is in God’s presence, no longer merely in a counter culture but in a place prepared for us. Augustine’s life enfleshed all those truths.‎ ‎

The third and final bridge of the gospel is that of community: the love of God working through us as a Church where worship brings together all our inclinations, surrendered to God’s sacred call for all of us. That is worked out in love and grace. Our worship will have to have theological integrity, not just in form but in substance; worship that is not just moments of exhilaration but is co-extensive with life itself and sermons that are not merely heard but are also seen. The outreach of love will then be embodied and not be mere talk. The Church must not be a fortress guarded by a constabulary but a home where the Father ever awaits the return of each of us who is in the far country. ‎ ‎

For those who follow Jesus Christ, our message to the world must be clear. God transforms the heart and mind and we become his children and his ambassadors. Let us so live that we will never be accused of hate or indifference. But let us also know that compromising the truth is a serious blunder and ends up celebrating that which is not in the will of our Father. This is a painful tension for a believer. To be seen as rejecting a belief or a behavior is not the same as rejecting the person. But God helps us to carry that burden.

By contrast, when Truth is lived out in love and grace, it will always make the faith attractive and even the one who opposes us will recognize the fearful symmetry of a conviction for the sacred that will swim against the tide and a commitment to the person that will find a bridge of hope. We must so live the gospel that men and women will call upon God’s name and make this body his home until we reach our Eternal City bought with the precious sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His body was broken for us so that ours might be mended for Him. ‎ ‎

Ravi Zacharias‎

http://rzim.org/global-blog/how-wide-the-divide-sexuality-at-the-forefront-culture-at-the-crossroads‎

Christians Must Stand Their Ground, ‘Disobey’ Unjust Laws Limiting Religious Freedom, Says Matt Staver in Kick-Off to 4-Day Future Conference

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As the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision looms this month, Liberty Counsel Chairman Matt Staver and subpoenaed Houston pastor Steven Riggle asserted Sunday that Christians and churches across the country need to unite, stand their ground and defy “unjust” laws that restrict religious freedoms.

While speaking on the opening night of the four-day Future Conference hosted at the Skyline Church in San Diego, which is headed by pastor Jim Garlow, Staver told the audience in a video speech that the pending Supreme Court ruling could lead to the constitutionalization of same-sex marriage and would also be an “unprecedented threat” to American history and religious freedoms.

Staver, whose Liberty Institute advocates for numerous Christians persecuted by the government for upholding their faith, further explained that if same-sex marriage is ruled constitutional, it will not be something that Christians will simply be able to ignore.

Staver argued that civil authorities will force people and businesses to choose between “compromising” their biblical convictions of marriage being between one man and one woman or having to face the prosecutorial wrath of civil authorities.

The Supreme Court has historically made a few bad rulings that time and justice have been able to realize and overcome, and a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage would be yet another biasly-flawed Supreme Court ruling, Staver contended.

Despite the fact that multiple cases across the nation have arisen where Christian business owners have been prosecuted, threatened and fined for refusing to service same-sex weddings, Staver said Christians should not be coerced into folding their biblical beliefs in order to comply with the rule of law, especially when such a law contradicts God’s natural rule of a “higher law.”

“Martin Luther King Jr., in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, said there are two different kinds of laws. There is a just law and an unjust law,” Staver explained. “An unjust law is an earthly law that is in direct collision and conflict with the higher law. [MLK] said that we must disobey them. We can not give them the respect of the rule of law because our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not give respect to a lawless decision.”

Staver stressed that people must take a stand for their religious freedoms because judges and lawmakers are trying to stomp on them.

“We have policies at Liberty Counsel as a baseline for churches to adopt. But understand that these are not full proof. There are ideologues, whether on the bench or in legislative bodies, that really don’t care about your religious freedom, the First Amendment and these inalienable rights of conscience and they will override those liberties with this radical agenda,” Staver said.

“What should a pastor, what should people do?” Starver asked. “I believe we shouldn’t be intimidated. I believe that we should not change a single thing that we do. I believe we need to stand the ground on which God has given us. Stand your ground is my message to you. Don’t be intimidated by what’s coming.”

Staver also advised that Christians across the country need to unite on the same cause and speak out any time one of their brothers and sisters is persecuted by the government simply because they acted in accordance with their faith. Staver detailed his point by adapting a famous quote by anti-Nazi theologen Martin Niemӧller to modern-day society.

“First they came for the adoption ministry but I did not speak out because I did not do adoptions. Then, they came for the wedding photographer but I did not speak up because I did not do photographic weddings. Then, they came for the baker and I did not speak up because I was not a baker. Then, they came for the florist but I said nothing because I was not a florist. Then, they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me,” Staver said.

“This is not a call for lone believers to fall on their swords,” staver continued. “It is a call for us to speak for each other and stand together and even to suffer together. Like Esther facing the unjust laws of the Persian Empire, we must pray, then we must stiffen our spines. May God help us remain faithful, whatever the cost.”

iggle, who was one of five Houston-area pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed by Houston’s lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, last fall because of his opposition to the city’s transgender bathroom ordinance, told the conference that it’s imperative for each individual evangelical movement across the country to unite as one super movement against the attack on religious freedom.

“It seems to me that we better find a way to take all of the voices and merge them together instead of a shout coming from here and here and over there,” Riggle, who pastors Houston’s Grace Community Church, stated. “I have been asked to sign three letters in one week all with them going here and going there. What would happen if 100 million people signed one letter. When are we going to figure this out?”

Although there has been no shortage of petitions and joint letters signed by evangelical leaders against same-sex marriage, Riggle compared those individual letters and petitions to the equivalent of a group of people trying to take down one bear by using nothing but small sticks and switches, instead of one giant stick to knock the bear out.

“I think we need to walk softly and carry a big stick,” Riggle asserted. “What I mean by that is until we unite our forces, we will continue to lose because it seems to me like we have whole lot of people walking around carrying switches.”

“Can you imagine 30 people surrounding the bear and everyone of them having a switch and all of them switching the bear and he may eat you if you do that,” Riggle continued. “If you figure that if all of you put your forces together and you get a big stick … and you put everybody together and you go out after the bear with [the big stick] and on your stick is ‘the lord is my strength.’ Walk softly and carry a big stick.”

Riggle also advised Christians not to back down in the face of government coercion. He insists that Christians need to be prepared to “run to the battle,” just as David did in his battle against Goliath.

“When you hear the threats and intimidation, don’t hide. Like David, run to the battle, don’t disappear. … When the giant shouts, shout back. … How do you shout back, shout back in the voting booth … shout back by running for office.”

Staver concluded by saying that a pro-gay Supreme Court ruling will create “impossible odds” for Christians that will force God to intervene, just as He did when he protected Daniel from the lions’ den.

“This could be the best, most magnificent time for the church because moments like this when there is an unprecedented clash, there is impossible odds that God will intervene for his people,” Staver said.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/christians-must-stand-their-ground-disobey-unjust-laws-limiting-religious-freedom-says-matt-staver-in-kick-off-to-3-day-future-conference-140381/#kDfSPVUV2iI8RkA6.99

Westminster Theological Seminary President: Christians Need to Stand Up in Public Square, Politics to ‘Reclaim Judeo-Christian Heritage’

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Speaking at Westminster Theological Seminary’s second-ever “Real State of the Union” conference last Saturday, three Christian scholars stressed to attendees that it is time for Christians to faithfully stand up in the public square and reclaim America’s Judeo-Christian heritage from what has become a prominently secular society.

“I am calling on all believers to have a recommitment to the truth of Christ to speak the truth and love, to be who we are and to engage in justice by being committed to justice and seeing to it by speaking in the public square,” Westminster Theological Seminary President Peter Lillback said. “We are not forcing ourselves into a place that we don’t belong. This public square was created by this Judeo-Christian heritage that we are speaking about.”

Lillback set the tone for the day-long conference, which was held at First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs, Florida, with an event-opening speech providing a rundown of how America has transformed from a country that was discovered and founded on Christian values to a society that now largely mocks and ridicules Christians who act in accordance to their religious beliefs.

“We are now in a day that was much like what first century Christians faced in a pluralistic world that was antagonistic to their Christian values,” Lillback told The Christian Post. “We aren’t even beginning to pay the price that our forefathers did for their faith.”

“Yes, we will be persecuted. Yes, we will be criticized. Yes, we will be assaulted. But Jesus said, ‘Be glad and rejoice for that is what they did to the prophets before you,'” Lillback continued.

Providing an example of how the government is now treats Christians and their faith, Lillback highlighted the military chaplain who was “condemned” in December for talking about his faith during a suicide prevention class.

Lillback explained that although many secularists today claim that religion has no role in government or the public sector, America’s Founding Fathers actually intended for the country to be one where politicians and public officials are free to make decisions based on their faith.

Lillback points out that the Founding Fathers specifically included four references to God in the Declaration of Independence and opines that they are indications that more trust needs to be put into God when it comes to leading and governing a nation that is supposed to be free of tyranny.

“So its been observed that the four references to God actually reflect the very form of government that the Constitution will eventually create,” Lillback said. “There are lawgivers. God is a giver of law. There are judges. God is the supreme judge. There are executives. God is the executor of his will through providence.”

Lillback added that God is also present in the Constitution, although others might disagree. Things such as the president having the option to take Sundays for sabbath and the president having to swear on the Bible when he takes his oath of office are clear reminders of how the Founding Fathers intended for the light of God to help drive the success of the nation, and protect it from human imperfection.

“Some people have said that the Constitution is a godless constitution, but it’s actually remarkably Christian in many ways,” Lillback asserted. “The most Christian element of all the Constitution is the lack of trust in human nature. All the ways in which there are checks and balances and there are different branches of government and the severance of power. Those are a recognition that man has basically corrupted and he will be even more corrupted when he has power.”

Lillback further explained that Christianity was a crucial part of public education and helped fuel the country’s Judeo-Christian morals up until the 1890s, as half of the boards of public universities were comprised of clergymen.

“When you get to the 1890s with the Holy Trinity case, you get to the highwater mark for Judeo-Christian value structure. But at this point, this is where we begin to see the movement from the very highest levels beginning to de-christianize the Universities,” Lillback said. “They began to push theological and seminary studies out of the universities and replaced it with the study of religions. Over time, it becomes more and more committed, not to deism but ultimately a form of practical atheism to where atheism became the prevailing view of our universities. That begins to take hold in the progressive era in the early 1900s.”

Harry Reeder, senior pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, followed Lillback’s historical rundown with his speech on the “downward spiral of the culture.”

Secular viewpoints became dominant in America in the later half of the 20th century and now 21st century pluralistic and post-modern culture has created hostility towards the same morals and values that America was founded on.

Following Reeder’s lecture, Bruce Waltke, a reformed evangelical professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, told the audience that Christians and the church need to be far more active in politics than they currently are.

“[Waltke’s] Impact has been enormous. In studying the Proverbs, he has come to the conclusion that the church ought to be far more involved in the public square and the political activity if we take the teaching of the Proverbs seriously,” Lillback explained. “I think it is quite a statement for a Biblical theologian, because he is moving out of his normal sphere to say, ‘These principles really do matter for what we are doing as a country.'”

Courtesy of http://www.christianpost.com/news/westminster-theological-seminary-president-christians-need-to-stand-up-in-public-square-politics-to-reclaim-judeo-christian-heritage-134789/

ADF to Colorado Appeals Court: Stop Illegal Funding of Abortion

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DENVER – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed their opening brief Friday in an appeal of a trial court’s decision that upheld $14 million of taxpayer subsidies to Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood. ADF attorneys represent former Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Jane Norton in the lawsuit, which is now at the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The trial court determined that no “specific abortion service” was proven to be state-funded even though a voter-approved state constitutional provision prohibits direct or indirect public taxpayer subsidies for abortion.

“Colorado bureaucrats should not use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, especially when the Colorado Constitution prohibits it,” said ADF Legal Counsel Natalie Decker. “The lower court should not have dismissed this case on a technicality since it agreed that $14 million of taxpayer funds flowed from state government agencies to Planned Parenthood and its abortion affiliate, presumptively in violation of the state constitution.”

In 1984, Colorado voters approved the Abortion Funding Prohibition Amendment and later rejected an initiative to repeal it. The Colorado Department of Public Health audited Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood and its affiliate, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Services Corporation, in 2001 and subsequently ended funding to them after finding that state funds were indirectly subsidizing their abortion operations. State officials later ignored that determination and resumed funding.

“The voters’ primary concern in enacting Colorado’s Abortion Funding Limitation was to establish ‘a public policy for the state of Colorado that public funds are not to be spent for the destruction of prenatal life through abortion procedures,’” explains the ADF brief in Norton v. Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood. “This is a legitimate policy goal as proponents of Colorado’s Abortion Funding Limitation did not want Colorado to lend its ‘imprimatur’ to the ‘direct or indirect’ funding of induced abortions.”

“The people of Colorado resoundingly voted against funding abortion either directly or indirectly,” added Barry Arrington, co-counsel in the case and one of more than 2,500 private attorneys allied with ADF. “We hope the Colorado Court of Appeals reinstates this case and affirms the people’s desire for their government to responsibly use their tax dollars.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

Muslim Mobs Destroy Christian Town in Pakistan

Muslims-Burn-Christian-Homes-in-Lahore-Pakistan-Burned-Down-Christian-Persecution-e1364051835192Hundreds of Christians in Lahore, Pakistan had their homes burnt down and later clashed with police who provided no protection after a dispute in which a Christian man was accused of blasphemy of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The rampant persecution against Christians in Muslim nations continues to be inflamed with little government help on the way.
Joseph Colony, an area of Lahore, where the attack took place has been ravaged by the destruction from the mob of angry Muslims who burnt down homes and businesses while the authorities told local police to let the angered Muslims “let them vent their grief and anger.”

According to reports:

Shahid Imran, a Muslim barber in Joseph Colony in the Badami Bagh area, on Friday (March 8) accused his Christian neighbor, 26-year-old Sawan Masih, of blaspheming Muhammad. Imran alleged that Masih, who runs a small billiards business, had “ridiculed” Islam’s prophet by saying that Jesus was the greatest prophet ever.
Soon after, crowds of armed Muslims began gathering in the area of about 200 Christian families, mostly sanitation workers, demanding that Masih be handed over to them. They besieged his house and started pelting it with stones, damaging the windows and door. Masih had fled the area as soon as news reached him about Imran’s accusation. (source).

 Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code calls for death or life imprisonment for those accused of blaspheming Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. These laws have emboldened the Muslim communities to attack those with vigilante or mob violence against those who are suspected of speaking out against Islam. And such was the case in Joseph Colony, where the angry mob rushed to Masih’s home. Efforts to calm the crowd were futile. Soon police arrested Imran’s father in hopes that would ease tensions but soon they were accused of being “blasphemers.” While he was taken into custody the crowd went on the attack.

Christian Persecution in Restricted Nations | Bible verses on persecution.

The police stood by idly while homes, stores and churches were destroyed.

Despite a heavy police presence in Joseph Colony, the crowd started to destroy property. prompting the order from the local government to “let them vent their anger.” Approximately 170 homes, 18 shops and several churches were burned down and destroyed. Many of the homes were looted before being destroyed by the rioters.
“I have been robbed of all of my life’s savings,” Yousuf Masih said, standing close to his burned house.
Area resident Haroon Masih wept as he described how the raiders broke the locks of his door and stole the dowries of his four daughters that he had been gathering for several years.

“They made off with everything valuable I had and then simply set the house on fire,” he said. “My new rickshaw was also burnt to ashes.” Residents also showed Morning Star News gas pipelines that had been sawed off to ensure maximum spread of fires.

Jesus Christ prophesied that all Christians should expect to be despised, rejected and hated in the world.

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. – John 15-18:21.

Double Standard Imposed

Families in Joseph Colony returned to destroyed homes. All because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Families in Joseph Colony returned to destroyed homes. All because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

In response to the destruction of the Christian neighborhood, approximately Several hundred Christian protestors blocked a highway, demanding that the police take some action to stop the destruction. According to police officials, they uprooted a fence and burned an electric generator. Rather than letting them “vent their frustration” police responded by using tear gas on the crowd and arresting 150 protestors.

The government has offered 200,000 rupees ($2,000US) as compensation to each family, which was immediately rejected by the people of Joseph Colony:

“It is like poison to us,” they screamed as Christian Senator Kamran Michael and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah visited the area late Saturday night amid heavy security.

The crowd shouted slogans against Michael and the Punjab government, believing Islamic leaders would have heeded them and holding them responsible for doing nothing to stop the violence. The two officials were forced to leave the area after just a few minutes.

The Punjab government later raised the compensation amount to 500,000 rupees, and the checks were handed out to victims. (source).

Pray for the Christians in Pakistan who suffered this horrific attack and for others who may be in danger as well. It is difficult for some living in certain parts of the world to grasp a reality where just being known as a Christian literally puts your home, family and life in jeopardy. But this is the reality for millions of Christians worldwide today. Pray for the failure of their persecutors and for the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to lead them to repentance.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.- Romans 8:35-37.

Courtesy of http://beginningandend.com/muslim-mobs-destroy-christian-town-in-pakistan/

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion