Pastor Dave Chambers
Every year various natural disasters hit around the world. These tragedies, especially the ones in America, draw responses indicating that certain major disasters are the the judgment of God on the nation or the particular city. Are things liek hurricanes, droughts, floods, earthquakes and terrorist attacks the judgment of God on a nation?
The Bible contains numerous specific accounts of destruction coming upon cities as part of the judgment of God, cities like Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, Gomorrha and Jerusalem. The reason we know these disasters were the judgment of God is because the Bible tells us so. God did not tell us about other cities. He does not tell us about the tragedies that happen in cities today. A person cannot assume that a terrible event is the judgment of God on those people. Jesus speaks about this in Luke 13. A tower in the town of Siloam fell and killed eighteen men. Jesus asked the crowd, “Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” They were not judged for their wickedness. Jesus used their death to warn that judgment is coming upon all men.
The philosophy that disasters are God’s judgment is based upon an idea that believes God brings physical cursing upon those who do wrong and physical blessings to those who do good. In the Old Testament God promised Israel to bless the nation for her obedience and punish her for disobedience. Those promises were part of the Mosaic covenant made between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai. They never applied to any other nation. Through the death of Christ God ushered in a New Covenant. The New Covenant included people from all nations of the world, not just Israel. In this New Covenant there is no promise of physical prosperity or tragedy. God has given no warning to bring natural disasters upon those who disobey Him.
The New Testament gives a list in Romans 1 of the judgments of God upon a nation. The judgments of God are an increase of sexual perversion, proliferation of homosexual behavior and the rise of all manner of violent, deceitful and hateful activities. The judgment of God on a nation is seen in the wickedness of its people. (Romans 1:24-32) God is not judging America for things like abortion and homosexuality. Those things, and many others, are the judgment of God upon America. Ultimately, God’s judgment on a nation is to leave it to itself, to let its people wallow in their own wickedness and destroy themselves in their depravity. God judges the nations that reject Him by giving them what they want. He leaves them to their own devices.
This does not mean that natural disasters are to be thought of as nothing more than geological or meteorological events. God is actively at work in the world. All natural disaasters are a part of His perfect plan. The heavens always declare the glory of God. The landscape always shows His handiwork. The sky declares God’s glory when it is blue and when it is black with tornadoes. God’s hand is seen when the earth is still and when it quakes violently. The hand of God that blesses and judges should be seen in all the events of the world.
God is the just judge who will one day perfectly and completely bring justice upon all sinners. The tragedies of this life warn of the need look ahead to the coming judgment and seek His mercy today.
Homosexual marriage is an emotionally charged topic. The issue becomes even more difficult when someone you know and care about invites you to their same-sex marriage. Because a wedding invitation is usually received by those who are part of the lives of the people getting married, friends, family or neighbors, the invitation to a homosexual wedding creates many personal, emotional and relational dilemmas. Many Christians have been confronted with this question. Should Christian’s attend a homosexual wedding?
Marriage is clearly defined in the Bible. Marriage is not a social construct. People do not get married because the white, European churches decided marriage was a good idea. Marriage was created by God. Jesus said in Mark 10:6-8 that God created marriage in the Garden of Eden. God’s original work of creating male and female is not coincidental. He made them different to join them together in marriage. The two are made one flesh. The two, male and female, are joined together by God. Without two genders, male and female, there is no marriage. This is God’s idea.
The wedding functions as the public commitment to one another of the male and the female. In America the wedding serves a civil function by which the state recognizes a couple as joined together in matrimony. The civic function of the wedding is secondary to its moral function. Through the wedding the couple make known their commitment to one another. The solemnize their covenant before their friends, family and neighbors. The attenders at a wedding are not merely an audience, they act as witnesses to the oath.
For decades Christian wedding ceremonies have declared the importance of marriage. “Marriage is a sacred institution, the basis of human society, and should be held in high honor among men and women. We are assembled here in the presence of God, to join this man and this woman in holy marriage; which is instituted by God, regulated by His commandments and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us therefore reverently remember that God has established and sanctified marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind.”
Since marriage is God’s institution, designed and ordered by Him for the good of all mankind, every Christian should be a staunch defender of Biblical marriage. Every Christian should oppose that which perverts God’s original design for marriage. No Christian should give support, even thought it only be implied, to homosexual marriage or to any other marriage contrary to God’s design.
Attendance at a wedding is more than just watching. Attendance honors the couple and celebrates their union. Can a Christian really honor a “marriage” that perpetrates perversion? Can the child of God celebrate the union of a woman and woman? Attendance at a wedding communicates support for the couple and their marriage. How can a Christian give the appearance of support to that which he knows God’s Word condemns?
Christians often feel pressured to show love to the unsaved homosexual by attending the wedding. The accusation is that it is not loving to refuse to attend a wedding. The opposite is true. Love refuses give support or encouragement to sin. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Psalm 141:5 says, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil.” The correction of the righteous friend is a boon to the soul of men. Though it is painful it is helpful. The words of Leviticus 19:17 are especially pertinent, “Thou shalt not hate they brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.” Not rebuking a brother or neighbor for his sin is a silent hatred. The loving Christian will confront sin, not sit in silent, implicit approval of the sin.
The real issues at stake are the truth of God’s Word, the integrity of marriage and the eternal soul of others. Sometimes the most compassionate thing a Christian can do for another is refuse to have any part in his sin.
A popular complaint among theological and political liberals is that most evangelicals vote Republican. The most recent presidential election gave additional reason to complain with election day polls showing that 80% of white evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump. This bit of information is wielded in various ways but seems to be treated as proof evangelicals are bad people who don’t care about the poor, the marginalized, the environment or the rights of women.
The complaints against evangelicals continue for their supposed partnership with the Republican party. One cannot deny that many evangelical Christians vote for republican candidates. Some well-known evangelical leaders have been vocal supporters of the Republican National Convention. Evangelical voters are a significant part of the Republican party’s political base.
This should come as no surprise to those who understand what evangelicals, and other theological conservatives, believe about the Bible. Evangelicals are a segment of Christianity, mostly from Protestant denominations, who believe the Bible to be the Word of God and the authority over their lives. Evangelicals tend to read the Bible literally taking its claims and commands at face value. Evangelicals believe in the need to be born again and feel an obligation to tell others how to be saved.
The authority of the Bible over the life and thinking of the evangelical is at the root of why many refuse to vote for candidates from the democratic party. The Biblical moral standards are held in great esteem. As a result evangelicals generally hold conservative and traditional positions on the modern moral battlegrounds. People who take seriously the Bible’s command, “Ye must be born again” are also very likely to take seriously the Bible’s teachings regarding the value of human life and the evil of homosexuality. The Democratic party’s official platform promotes behavior that is contrary to the plain reading of the Bible. As a result, conservative evangelicals refuse to vote for those who oppose Biblical truths. While things like health care and income security may be important to many evangelicals, holding to Biblical positions about sexuality, marriage and human life takes precedence.
The simple fact is that many evangelicals vote for Republicans because they find themselves sharing values with the Republican candidates. Some evangelicals vote Republican because it seems to them to be the lesser of two evils. Instead of throwing away a vote by voting for a third party who has no chance to win they would rather cast their vote against a candidate who is for the promotion of evil. Many evangelicals may support other aspects of the official Democratic platform, but they cannot in good conscience vote for someone who officially supports things the Bible condemns.
It is not fair or legitimate to characterize evangelicals as white middle class individuals who vote for what will keep them in power or keep the world the way they remember it. Evangelicals can be found throughout all races and demographics. Many evangelicals vote based upon right and wrong, not to preserve or restore an idealized vision America.
It is not fair to say that being a Republican is part of what it means to be an evangelical. Conservative Christianity and Christianity in general is not defined by political affiliation. Christianity is not about establishing a political empire but proclaiming the gospel to the unsaved and calling men to trust Christ for salvation. While there are always some who seek power and control, many evangelicals are attempting to make the best choice they can to promote Biblical morals in this nation. No question about human behavior can be given a simple answer. Motives and habits are complex things, but many evangelicals are Republicans because they find Republican candidates align best with the moral values the evangelical holds most dear.
The founding of America holds a unique position in the annals of history. Though other nations since America have fought for their freedom, America is the first nation known to winn its independence from tyranny and establish itself as a democratic country. America’s experiment in liberty was groundbreaking. Americans are right to rejoice in their heritage. Some Christians seem to think that America is unique in history and unique in the plan of God. America is thought to be a Divine nation uniquely established by Him to accomplish great things for Christianity.
Some facts about the founding of American are indisputable. Many of the early American settlers came to this continent pursuing religious liberty. A large percentage of the first colonists were born again Christians. Many of the founding fathers were devout Christians and almost every single one of the earlist leaders of the United States of America were devout men who believed in the existence of the Christian God and who looked to the Bible as an authoritative source of moral instruction. America was founded on Biblical ideas. The Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution are built on Biblical presumptions. The founding fathers recognized and publicly acknowledged the hand of God in the establishment of this nation.
These historical facts cannot be questioned. The question is not if the founding fathers were devout or the American system of government was built on Biblical ideas. The question is about the specific role America plays in God’s plan for history. Does America hold a place in the plan of God that is different from all the other nations of the world? We have no idea. The Bible does not say. God’s providential guidance in the formation of America is clear, but Scripture says God establishes all nations and all governments. America appears to have been established for the promotion of good and righteousness. However, that conclusion is an interpretation of circumstances and history. History and circumstance are unreliable guides. The only definite source of information about God’s will, the Bible, is silent about the role of America in God’s plan.
Does America hold a special status as God’s favored nation or as a covenant people with God? Is America like Old Testament Israel? Absolutely not. America’s founding was unique in history, but it is nothing like the establishment of Israel. Israel was established by God through His covenant with Abrahama, Isaac, Jacob and, at Mt. Sinai, the entire nation. God made no covenant with America. God promised to send His Messiah, the Savior, through Israel. The Messiah is not going to come, or come again, through America. God used Israel to reveal His Word to the world. The majority of the Bible was written by Jews, and the portions not written by Jews were written under the direct observation of Jewish men. God has given no Scripture to the world through America or Americans. The role of Israel in world history is unique and unreplaceable.
God does have a chosen people today, a people He uses to proclaim His Word to the world. God has a people set apart from all others for Himself. God does have a covenant people. That people is the church, not America.
In these more enlightened times very few people ask if a white girl should marry a black guy, or if an Asian guy should marry a Mexican girl. Some are offended by the question. Yet the determination of right and wrong is not based upon the prevailing opinions of society. The determination of right and wrong must always be based on Biblical truth. Does the Bible teach that it is wrong to marry someone of another race?
If it were possible for a person to marry someone of a different race then, yes, that would be wrong. It is wrong to marry someone of another race because you would either be marrying an animal (which is illegal and immoral) or an alien (which don’t exist). It is impossible for a human being to marry another human being who is of a different race.
This answer is not some trite brush off of an important issue. Racial tensions are still a significant issue in America and around the world. A right understanding of the relationships of people groups is important. The answer to this and all other race related questions starts with this Biblical truth: All humans are of one race. The Bible makes a specific declaration of this fact in Acts 17:26. All men, from all nations of the world, are of one blood. All nationalities derive from the same source- God’s creation of Adam.
The so called racial differences are nothing more than superficial differences of coloring, build, language and culture. These differences are not ones of substance or essential being. This does not deny the challenges of various cultures interacting with one another. Understanding one another requires effort. However, other ethnicities must never be dehumanized by suggesting the other is different in essence. Differences in body and behavior do not mean there is difference of being.
Is it wrong to marry someone of a different culture or ethnicity? Many cultures still have taboos against marrying into a different culture. The Bible does not. Scriptures never prohibit people from marrying based upon ethnic, national or cultural differences.
The Old Testament prohibited the Israelites from marrying certain people groups. Deuteronomy 7 has a specific command forbidding an Israelite to marry anyone from seven Canaanite tribes. The reason for this prohibition had nothing to do with ethnicity or culture. The people of Canaan were notorious idolaters and under the judgment of God. The Israelites were not to marry these specific tribes lest they begin to practice the idolatry of the Canaanites. Other than those seven groups in Canaan the Israelites were permitted to marry people from from other nations.
God is not against marriage between different ethnicities, cultures or nationalities. All people are descended from the same two people, Adam and Eve. All people are descended from Noah’s family that was saved by God from the flood. The nations of the world can be traced back to the the grandsons and great-grandsons of Noah. A different race of humans does not exist. No Biblical truth or command forbids marriage to people of a different color, language or culture.
Ten years ago The Shack was published. The story wrestles with one of the most pressing questions of Christianity. The book grabbed people’s attention and soon became one of the bestselling books of all time. One reviewer declared The Shack was the greatest book written since John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Last week the major motion picture The Shack was released. Based on the book the movie had a decent opening weekend. It more than the doubled the opening weekend revenues of the 2014 movie Left Behind. The Shack also had a better opening weekend than other recent, popular Christian movies like Courageous and God’s Not Dead. The book seems set to continue exerting its influence over Christians.
The Shack is a work of fiction. Though the book is a work of make believe it claims to be an instrument for teaching Biblical truth. Like a Biblical parable the story seeks to communicate great truths through the medium of a believable and gripping story. I have not seen the movie, but have read the book. My understanding is that the movie follows pretty close with the book in the essentials.
The Shack is filled with problems. Because it is intended to teach, Christian’s cannot disregard the substance of the message. In wrestling with the problem of evil the book and the movie teach about the nature and character of God, the relationship of evil to God and the nature of salvation. The Shack’s view of God is horribly deficient and its understanding of salvation is tragically errant.
In attempting to address the problem of terrible suffering in this world The Shack presents a god who is limited. The God of The Shack is not in control of world events. He responds to tragedies and through His love brings good out of them. Instead of tragedy being a part of the perfect plan of God tragedy is something that God is unable to avert. God has relinquished some control of the world to give men genuine freewill. In a sense both God and man are powerless to prevent evil. God’s love will eventually win but only when men have chosen to follow God.
The Old Testament book of Job is the story The Shack tries to tell. In Job the readers learns of a father who suffers great loss and life shattering tragedy. He insists he did nothing to deserve such pain. He blames God and demands a chance to prove God’s injustice. When God speaks to Job at the end of the book He does not pass on cutesy witticisms and cryptic truths. God confronts Job with His power and control. God doesn’t shrug His shoulders and say there was nothing He could do about it because He gave man freewill. God declares His sovereignty and justice. The God of the Bible is a God in control of all things.
Genuine comfort in life’s sorrow comes from knowing God. The Shack offers a false comfort built on a modern construct of a god who looks like God but is not. The book, and the movie, have rejected the Word of God. In doing so all that is offered is sentimentalism masquerading as wisdom.
The acceptance of marijuana use has increased significantly in America. We have come a long way from the 1980’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Today marijuana is praised as a marvelous medicine for those suffering from ailments like glaucoma, persistent pain and the lack of the munchies.
Over half of the states in America have legalized some form of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Seven states now allow recreational use of marijuana. If the progression continues many Christians will find themselves living in a state which permits relatively unrestricted use of marijuana. Will Christians then have the freedom to use marijuana?
The legalization of marijuana is a complex subject involving many aspects that do not fall under the scope of this ministry (this is not a political, scientific or medical blog). The question being discussed today is limited to using marijuana recreationally. Using marijuana, THC or CBD based substances that have been prescribe by a competent physician is an entirely different issue.
Though marijuana use is legal in some states, it is still illegal across America because of federal statutes. Marijuana is classified as a schedule one drug and is thus a controlled substance whose use and distribution is subject to federal prosecution. In other words, using marijuana is forbidden by the feds and you can be arrested for it even if you have a prescription.
Christians in American are citizens of a state and the nation. Romans 13 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” “Ye must needs be subject . . . for conscience sake.” Christians are obligated by God to obey the governing officials. In those cases where the laws of the state and the laws of the nation disagree, the Christian is still bound to obey them all. Though the state where a Christian lives may allow the use of marijuana the nation does not. Consequently, obedience to the higher powers requires the Christian to obey the federal government and abstain from using marijuana.
Though the federal government may not enforce the law, or at least not enforce the law consistently, yet that law is in place. Until such time as the nation repeals the ban on marijuana use Christians are bound by their Scriptural duty to the government and not smoke marijuana. If the federal government eventually permits the use of marijuana those living in a state which forbids it must obey the state’s prohibition.
Even if the nation were to permit the use of marijuana, Christians should still abstain from using the drug. Marijuana is an addictive and mind altering substance. If being drunk is forbidden to the child of God (Ephesians 5:18) then certainly being high on other substances must be equally inappropriate. Christians have no business using marijuana or any other drug for the purposes of getting high, relaxed, buzzed or stoned. The believers mind, heart and life is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not intoxicating substances.
In a few days the sidewalks will be filled with pint sized nurses, vampires, pixies, zombies, movie characters, rock singers, aliens and all manner of strange creatures. The roving bands will move through the neighborhoods of our town demanding plunder and threatening unpleasant consequences if the loot is not forthcoming.
The celebration of Halloween is huge business in America with a history in European Paganism and Catholic Christianity. The unmistakable pagan influences and the many costumes reflecting demons and sorcery have prompted Christians over the years to denounce Halloween as an evil holiday. Many other Christians see Halloween as nothing but harmless fun. Is Halloween evil?
Certain aspects of Halloween’s celebration are sinful and should be avoided. Drunkenness, immorality, drug use and vandalism are sin. Halloween, nor any other holiday, is justification for engaging in behavior forbidden by God. Caution is also necessary in the choice of costumes. Some things are wrong even when done in play. The real question is: is it wrong to participate in Halloween as we practice it today?
Answering this question requires some consideration of where Halloween came from and how it became what it is today. The history of Halloween is not easy to determine. Conflicting ideas abound and much error has crept into common knowledge about Halloween. People have distorted the facts to promote their own agenda. What seems undeniable about Halloween is that it finds it’s origins in two religious observances: the Celtic Samhain and the Catholic All Saints Day.
Samhain was the festival of the Celtic New Year that prepared them for the long winter ahead. The Celts believed during Samhain the barrier between living and dead was thinnest. The spirits of the dead could be seen roaming the earth. Divination- determining the future by the aid of spirits- was most effective during Samhain. The celebrations included offerings to the Celtic deities and riturals in reverence of the dead.
All Saints Day is the Catholic memorial for all the saints. In Catholic doctrine saints are those who have entered into heaven. Christians on earth and people in purgatory are not, in Catholicism, seen as saints. The evening before All Saints Day was a Hallowed Evening of preparation for the veneration to occur on the following day.
The dates of Samhain and All Saints Day coincided which resulted in the two eventually merging. The Halloween practices that followed continued to evolve over the centuries. The founding of America brought many European traditions into the New World, but Halloween was not a particularly important holiday in the newly formed United States. The late 1800’s saw a rise of American interest in Halloween, but this Halloween had been stripped of its major religious principles.
Today all that is left of the original Pagan and Catholic celebrations are a few of the many traditions. If these traditions were still practiced with their religious beliefs intact, then I would have to consider Halloween a sinful practice, as evil as worshiping Mother Earth or praying to Mary. If children wandered the streets begging food with the promise to pray for the souls of those in purgatory, then I would say confidently that participating in Halloween is sinful. If people bobbed for apples to honor the goddess, then I would say participating in Halloween is sinful. If people carved pumpkins to ward off evil spirits, then I would say participating in Halloween is sinful.
The absence of any overt religious intent in its celebration makes Halloween, in my estimation, nothing more than an excuse to dress up, get free candy and have a good time with your friends.
Several Christian groups have touted Donal Trump as a modern day Cyrus the Great. Cyrus was an idolatrous pagan and a wicked king, but the Bible says in Isaiah 45:1 that Cyrus is God’s anointed. Since God raised up Cyrus to return the Jews to Jerusalem, He could be raising up Donald Trump to restore America. One preacher provocatively asked, “Would you vote for Cyrus?”. He went on to say that Christian’s need not be overly concerned about the private morality of presidential candidates. Is this kind of application a proper use of Isaiah 45?
Isaiah 45 is one of the great prophetic passages that supports the truth that the Bible is God’s Word. Isaiah 44 and 45 show the Sovereignty of God over the nations. He is accomplishing all His purposes and establishing governments. He sets up and overthrows leaders at His will. (Daniel 2:20)
God’s Sovereignty over the nations is one reason I can say with confidence that President Obama was set in place by God for His purposes. I can say with equal confidence that whoever wins this election will be the leader appointed by God. God did not ordain Cyrus because he was a good person. Nor can Cyrus be excused as a flawed leader. Cyrus was a wicked king who did not fear or worship God. Cyrus sent the Jews back to Jerusalem as a part of his political strategy, not to honor God.
God used Cyrus’ sinful, self-seeking schemes to accomplish His good purposes for His people. In the case of Cyrus it was the restoration of the people Jerusalem. In an earlier case God chose Nebuchadnezzar as His appointed servant to take Jews into captivity (Jeremiah 25). Would you vote for Nebuchadnezzar?
The question, “Would you vote for Cyrus?” is not relevant to Isaiah 45 but deflects away from the true point of the passage. The question hints that Christian’s would have been right to vote for Cyrus. Christian’s are responsible for making God-honoring, moral choices built on the revelation of God’s Word. Christians’ are not responsiible to figure out how God is going to accomplish His plan. God did not vote for Cyrus. God appointed Him as His servant to accomplish His will.
In Proverbs 16:4 we are told, “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” God’s use of individuals to accomplish His purposes must never be seen as an approval of that person or their actions.
Scripture declared the Messiah was to be crucified. Jesus’ death brings salvation to the world and eternal blessing to those who believe. Though this was all part of God’s plan Judas was condemned by God for his betrayal of Jesus. Jerusalem suffered greatly for demanding the execution of her Messiah. Pilate fell under God’s judgment for condemning Jesus to death.
Those who take it a step further and say that since God used Cyrus He is going to use Trump have a serious flaw in their reasoning. Since God used Cyrus, God can also use Clinton. Why aren’t they saying vote Hillary? What Divine revelation is telling them God has ordained Trump instead of Clinton?
Isaiah 45 is a great passage about the Sovereignty of the Creator God over His creation. It gives great hope as we see God is accomplishing His eternal purposes through the nations and leaders of this world. He appointed our current president for a purpose and the next president will accomplish His will. Why waste time turning the rich truths of God’s Sovereignty into a cheap campaign ad?