An Open Letter to Pastors

 

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Anytown, USA–Do you really believe in the power of God to transform people at the deepest level? I do! This dynamic force for good is confirmed both by the Scriptures and experience. But now that California is in the process of declaring the hope of the gospel as “fraud” and defaming the proclamation of biblical truth as an “unlawful business practice” in the Golden State, what will you do? If you are not already aware of AB 2943, a law seeking to outlaw dissent from statist sexual orthodoxy, and which poses an existential threat to religious freedom, please read this article.

We are in a Bonhoeffer moment. A Bonhoeffer moment is a time when the political and cultural pressures are so intoxicatingly powerful and intense that the church is tempted to deny her faithful biblical witness and compromise in some significant way. In Germany, a church that could have and should have confronted Hitler, chose the easier path of passivity and appeasement. Under great duress from the Nazi party, most of the evangelical church became compromised and pressed into the service of the Reich. The courageous and faithful Confessing Church was more sparsely populated by a few hundred faithful pastors, among them Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Today, the church is confronted by similar totalitarian cultural pressure points. This time it is in the form of a flurry of court rulings, state laws, and popular cultural indoctrination. The goal is to seek to defy moral gravity (i.e. reality) in the form of a brazen sexual declaration of independence—declaring evil good and good evil—radically redefining marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity. After redefining marriage in 2015, elitist pagan social engineers now want to destroy and replace the gender binary—the truth that we are all created male and female in the image of God. Consequently, I believe we now face the greatest threat to religious freedom in the history of our nation. It is as if the culture is holding a gun to our heads attempting to force us to acknowledge and celebrate as positive moral “goods” same-sex marriage, gender dysphoria, and the related transformative corruptive indoctrination of our children in public schools.

We are not alone in history. The early church faced a similar moment. Then, powerful cultural and religious leaders, desiring to silence the witness of the church and suppress the truth, ordered Peter and John to not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Without hesitating, they replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have heard” (Acts 4: 13-21). After being imprisoned for disobeying (and a miraculous release) they were hauled again before the leaders and chastised for continuing to preach the gospel. Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” The leaders wanted to kill them, but decided to let them off with a good beating. The result? They left “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” and “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:17-42).

God has not changed. Truth has not changed. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Yet, tragically today, similarly to the unfaithful German evangelical church, far too many timid and fearful evangelical pastors have not handled the cultural pressures very well. As a result, the full counsel of God is not always preached and the gospel is watered down. New Age beliefs and practices are replacing biblical truth from the pulpit. Compromise, capitulation, and assimilation are certainly not the answers. Yet, even before laws like AB 2943 are restraining us, many pastors already are self-censoring and withholding truth. This is not loving—it is profoundly unloving. Important truths like sin, repentance, discipleship, purity, and obedience (denying ourselves, picking up our crosses, and following Him) are often forgotten and are replaced by an unbiblical gospel of cheap grace and a wimpy passive faith. This is how truth dies, this is how the light is hidden, this is how salt loses its savor.

Yet, some faithful godly California Pastors like Manuel Gonzales are not backing down in the face of California’s Orwellian AB 2943. Pastor Gonzales recently declared, “I am committed to preach the gospel, and no one is going to tell me that I cannot.” My friend, San Diego Pastor Chris Clark, recently declared that he had notified his state representatives that he will not be complying with the law, if passed, “I am giving them my name, my church’s name and address, and making it clear that AB 2943 will be an unjust law and therefore I am compelled to violate it.” For more on Principled Christian Civil Disobedience, please read this article.

Having been actively involved in the fierce epic battle between religious liberty and sexual liberty for the past 25 years, I can assure you that the goal of the opposition is not inclusion, diversity and tolerance—not even close! The goal of radicals within the activist LGBT movement is to suppress and silence the proclamation of truth by the church—the gospel. Among the messages they want to suppress are: God created us male and female, sin is the problem, repentance is necessary, forgiveness is available in Jesus Christ, and that the gospel has the power to transform disordered sexuality. If you are unapologetically preaching the truth, there is or will soon be a target on you and a target on your pulpit. If you don’t have a target on you at this point, it may mean that you are not being biblically faithful. We will all stand before God and give an account for our lives.

So, what can a pastor do? First, fear God rather than men. Find your spiritual backbone, get back to the Bible, and preach the full counsel of God from the pulpit. If you are self-censoring your sermons because of cultural pressure and the fear of the opinions of people: please repent and knock it off. Allow your love to overcome your fear, remembering that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16). Your church needs a courageous shepherd who clearly and unapologetically speaks the truth and will help protect the saints from the wolves and darkness surrounding us now. Second, pray for a new reformation, a great awakening of a church that is now, sadly, in many respects culturally withdrawn, spiritually asleep, and increasingly silent. Third, actively engage (be salt and light) by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and encourage your congregation to engage and oppose evil laws like AB 2943 that threaten the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Pastor Chris Clark recently stated, responding to AB 2943, “Time to be a Bonhoeffer.” Yes, pastors, we desperately need more Dietrich Bonhoeffers, Chris Clarks and Manuel Gonzales. I am not asking you to be political, I am asking you to be biblical. Now is the time that we must boldly and courageously stand up for truth, stop capitulating to the culture, and allow your love for God and people to overcome your fear. People are desperate for biblical leadership and for the truth. Silence is not an option. We must obey God rather than men!

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Rogue Nation: Birthplace of Religious Freedom Added to the List of Countries Where Christians Face the Most Persecution

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The silence was deafening as the United States, the birthplace of religious freedom, joined the infamous ranks of the world’s worst places to be a Christian—places where followers of Jesus Christ face the worst harassment and persecution because of their faith. Major American media outlets largely ignored a story of immense implications for the future of the Judeo-Christian worldview and western civilization.

This dirty dozen is a list created by the International Christian Concern (ICC), a watchdog organization formed in 1995 to protect the rights of Christians worldwide, released in its 2016 Hall of Shame Report. It was not surprising that the Islamist dominated countries of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Nigeria made the list for their persecution and killing of the Christian “infidels.” Nor was it a shock that Russia, Mexico and India were noted because of the suppression of evangelical Christianity either by people espousing other variations of Christianity or by Jesus-hating radical Hindus. It is even understandable that that the totalitarian communist/atheist states of China and North Korea were included.

Nearly simultaneous with the ICC’s report was the European Parliament’s acknowledgement that Christianity, not Islam, is the world’s most persecuted religion. The Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World, confirmed that Christians are currently the earth’s most harassed and intimidated religious group that “routinely suffer religiously motivated persecution.”

Regarding the ICC report, what raises eyebrows is the first-time-ever addition of the United States to the list of the twelve worst countries for the Christian faith.  The ICC’s explanation is as follows:

“Throughout the US, current events and shifting perceptions are causing conflicts between Christian beliefs and public sentiment. This cultural shift affects Christians businesses, organizations and individuals through legal action, free speech infringement, public expressions of faith, and employment.”

The article explains that Christians in the US are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist, and close-minded. Furthermore, Christians and all religious people are being marginalized through laws and legal action. Specific examples include Christian bakers fined $135,000 for declining to back a cake for a same-sex wedding, Intervarsity Christian fellowship losing official recognition as a student club at California public colleges, employees being terminated because of their faith, and many more. The ICC report cites that claims of “intolerance” and “inequality” are being used to bully Christians and create legal precedents that are actually undermining well established First Amendment rights, including the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

As we celebrate the peaceful transfer of power, President-elect Trump may provide some relief for believers if he fulfills his promise to respect and restore religious freedom. The overwhelming evidence of the past eight years reveals that President Obama’s legacy must include the truth that he was no friend of religious freedom, exasperating Christians by his First Amendment undermining actions, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Trying to force Catholic nuns (The Little Sisters of the Poor) and other church groups to provide abortion-related products and services.
  • Supporting the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples (Obergefell v. Hodges).
  • The United States Commission on Civil Rights issuing its 2016 anti-religious hit piece report suggesting that sexual liberty (i.e. new anti-discrimination laws) should prevail over religious liberty claims (First Amendment protected) and asserting that “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” are code for anti-LBGT discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. (i.e. Christians are the “deplorables”).
  • The Department of Justice and Department of Education’s 2016 transgender bathroom mandate, forcing public schools to allow student access to bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding based on their perceived gender identity rather than their biological sex.

The ICC posits that part of the explanation for the change may be growing secularization, citing a Pew Research poll showing that those the total U.S. adult population identifying as non-religious jumped by seven percent in just seven years, from 16 percent to 23 percent (2007-2014). Notably, a stunning 35 percent of millennials identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular! The report, How America Changed During Barack Obama’s Presidency, confirms that those identifying as Christians also dropped seven percent, from 78 percent to 71 percent, though the share of evangelicals has remained fairly stable. So, what does this all mean?

First, it means we must recognize that there is rapidly growing public pressure on American Christians today, as many secular-progressive elite forces are seeking to drive us out of the public square into hiding and to silence us and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where, sadly, the church is far more influenced by the culture than it is influencing the culture. “One nation” once “under God” has become “divisible,” and divided, as we are now left “with liberty and justice for” some. Most Christians in the US are not handling the current hostile environment very well and many are simply giving in to the pressure, allowing themselves to be silenced and marginalized. Biblical resistance is required. Millennials are the most vulnerable to cultural pressure and the church must do a much better job of inculcating a comprehensive biblical worldview, passing the baton of “the faith of our fathers,” to them.

Second, it means, as I have been warning others for more than a decade, that we are rapidly moving from “soft” persecution towards “hard” persecution of the church in a place formerly known as the land of the free and home of the brave. It is true that while some of us are losing our livelihood, we are not being imprisoned or killed yet, but if the pendulum keeps swinging in its current direction, those prospects may not be far off. The separation of sheep and goats, already well underway, will continue and accelerate. Do not be alarmed that many you thought were authentic believers were only pretending. We need to realize that persecution is a normal part of being a Christian and gird our loins accordingly.

Third, it means that if we value our freedom and the gospel of Jesus Christ, we had better wake up, engage the culture by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and fight the good fight of faith by actively pushing back culturally, politically, and legally. The American “health and wealth gospel” will be nakedly unmasked for the fraud that it always was. This is not the time for wimpy, half-hearted, “fluffy-bunny” Jesus or “comfortable” Christianity. Those days are long gone in America.  But do not despair!  We have the hope and confidence that our ultimate victory is secure in Jesus Christ. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness had not overcome it (John 1:5).

Ready or not, Biblical promises of persecution are about to get very “real” and, especially for the unprepared, it’s going to be a rough ride. You are not alone. There is a strong remnant. You are surrounded by a cloud of faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Be much in the Word, prayer, and fellowship. Be filled with the Spirit. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

Elitist Utopian Transformational Socialists Humbled by 2016 Election

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You’re scared.  Every day you go to school you have to face him.  On the good days, he sneers down at you and calls you names. On the bad days, he threatens to beat you up, throws you up against the lockers, and steals your lunch money. The impact is real. Victimized, your self-esteem craters, you become quiet and afraid. You start to lose hope. Terrified that if you say or do anything, you will be targeted and attacked even more by the menacing school bully.

For conservative Americans, especially biblical Christians, this is how many of us have felt—increasingly marginalized, demonized, and victimized by bullying cultural elites who have been controlling the social megaphones (news media, higher education, Hollywood, etc.) for more than a decade. We are feeling like outliers—strangers and aliens in our own county.  Indeed, conservatives have become intimately in touch with these unhealthy feelings, especially over the past eight years. Radical progressives have been mocking us and shouting us down, while simultaneously pushing an oppressive radical post-modern socialist cultural and political worldview, crushing us under an Orwellian regime of political correctness. Their bag of tricks includes claiming, simply because we disagree with them, that we must be hateful, racist, homophobic, and bigoted, unworthy of being a part of the American cultural fabric or even having a seat at the table of the marketplace of ideas. So much for tolerance!

On November 8, sick and tired of being beat up and bullied by elitists, regular folks across America screamed “enough” and mustered the courage to punch “transformational” liberal socialism in the face at the ballot box. Millions of decent patriotic Americans, who believe in objective truth and American exceptionalism, and who are profoundly concerned that we are losing our way economically and morally, flocked to the polls. For example, white evangelicals, making up 26% of the electorate, voted for Trump at the high rate of 81%, up from 78% who voted for Romney in 2012. Like most typical bullies, once rebuffed and having lost their power, progressives were left sobbing on the ground whining, “Why me?”

They weep because they are shocked and surprised. They simply cannot believe or accept that their utopian fantasies and their flagrant cultural-political oppression have been rejected by “we the people.” And, for many, this election was a referendum—not only a rejection of Hillary Clinton, and her lawless and corrupt way, but a repudiation of Barack Obama’s misguided plan to fundamentally transform America and his already tattered legacy.

Other big losers were the pollsters and pundits inhabiting their liberal media echo-chambers who were calling the election early for Hillary. Trump won in spite of not being a paragon of virtue and in spite of the fact that he was dramatically outspent. The arrogant uber-liberal media cast aside any pretense of objectivity. And, having committed themselves for more than a year as rabid cheerleaders for team Hillary, savagely attacking Trump and his supporters, they were shocked, humiliated, and started melting down as it became clear in the early morning hours of November 9 that he dominated the rust belt and would win. The media have lost any remaining credibility, as they should.

Bitter angry progressives, many of whom didn’t bother to vote, ranting about abolishing the electoral college and chanting “not my president,” participated in violent protests funded by George Soros’ Alinskyan radical-leftist pet community organizing project MoveOn.org. University administrations and staffs came off as cartoonish buffoons as they rushed to create safe spaces for snowflake students by canceling classes, scheduling cry-ins, or handing out Play-Doh and coloring books. Actors and musicians who threated to leave the country if Trump were elected screamed and cried threatening #CalExit but, alas, did not follow through on their childish threats. A hilarious Saturday Night Live skit suggests disappointed progressives move into a safe-space “bubble,” protected from the rest of the United States.

How did this happen? Millions of Americans have felt that the leaders of the federal government have been fundamentally opposed to them, undermining everything they believe is good and true about America. They were tired of being demonized, had had enough, and voted.  The polling data reveals that average Americans, repulsed by the Democratic party’s radical pro-death abortion advocacy, LGBT activism, transgender mandates, and rabid anti-religious platform, especially anti-Christian extremism, were compelled to the polls by their biblically-informed consciences and a profound desire to maintain our constitutional republic and its promise of freedom for everyone. You know something significant and organic is happening when the separatist Amish vote in large numbers helped Trump carry Ohio and Pennsylvania.

We were tired of seeing photographers, bakers, and florists being called hateful bigots and losing their livelihood for merely living according to their Christian faith. We couldn’t understand the absurdity of the Obama administration pushing religious organizations, like the nuns at the Little Sisters of the Poor, to fund health insurance coverage for abortions and abortifacient drugs. We were appalled when Hillary Clinton proudly announced her blind commitment to late term abortions including partial birth abortions. By our votes, we declared “Enough!”

Yet, one would think that so-called progressives, of all people, would have been sensitive to the signs and symptoms of human victimization. If only they were capable of looking or thinking outside of the group-think confines of their echo-chambers they might have understood, as uber-liberal prophet Michael Moore solemnly warned, that there were millions of Americans citizens, who were not necessarily particularly conservative, but who felt left behind by our tepid economic recovery and the freedom-crushing hard leftward cultural-political push of the Obama administration. Though surely a flawed vessel, I believe the most lasting legacy of a Trump presidency will most likely be his two to three U.S. Supreme Court justice appointments, steering us away from being ruled by a liberal judicial oligarchy that would have likely continued to undermine religious freedom and affirm and create fake and destructive constitutional rights like abortion and same-sex marriage.

The popular narrative is that bleeding-heart liberals authentically care about the outcast, the weak, and the marginalized. The hard truth unmasked here is that most elitist liberals only care about “the least of these” in America if you mindlessly submit to their oppressive radical ideology and they can purchase your vote. If not, well you are an enemy of cultural-evolutionary “progress,” unworthy of compassion, pity, or help. In fact, you deserve to be bullied, having only brought it on yourself because of your unenlightened conscience.

Elitists were distracted, so intoxicated by their own wine, making room for the truth to rise up and bite them in the butt. The liberal echo chambers that didn’t understand why Trump, in spite of his many flaws, beat Hillary are probably in denial about what they need to change to reassure average Americans and give them real hope. Savaging all Trump supporters as racist, misogynistic, homophobic bigots is precisely why Hillary lost and it isn’t going to cut it going forward. Throwing temper tantrums in the streets in Soros-funded violent protests isn’t going to change anyone’s mind in your favor. We are on to you now.  Your bullying has kept us largely passive and silent for more than a decade. We are silent no more.

This national election defeat is similar in its miraculous qualities to our recent fight in California to defeat SB 1146, a bill that would have dismantled and destroyed Christian colleges. Against all odds, including a liberal legislature and governor, roaring lambs who found their spiritual spine and prophetic voice, overcame their fears to oppose and defeat an existential threat to religious freedom—the radical sexual liberty claims of “discrimination” by the LGBT lobbyists, including Equality California. When His people stand for truth in unity, powerful things can happen.

Yet this is not a time to rest on our laurels. I submit, as I have argued for years, that it is time for Christians to come out of the shadows, find our moral voice, and engage by speaking the truth in love. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). If we authentically care for our neighbor and our children and grandchildren, this is a no brainer. Far too many of us have allowed ourselves to become victims of the spiral of silence: intimidated by fear, pressured by elite bullies dictating the cultural narrative, and shamed into silence.

As we continue to emerge from hiding, may the Lord give us backbones of steel and hearts of compassion as we speak the truth in love to power in this present darkness. Even if you don’t like Donald Trump, believers are commanded to pray for him and to pray for peace. I believe there is hope!

It is morning in America. Will you be the light?