The world is becoming increasingly difficult, dangerous, dark and deadly.
The more the Bible is removed from our society and God is expelled from our schools, the more police are needed to patrol our streets and protect our students and teachers. It has accurately been stated that “Most Americans have barely noticed their descent into a police state, but the ‘land of the free’ is clearly moving in that direction.”
David Ettinger stated in the June 2019 edition of Zion’s Fire magazine:
An acute blindness is permeating the world. A thick darkness is descending upon the hearts and souls of the human race.
The more we demean Jesus Christ – ignore and violate the truth and principles of God’s Word – the more we need therapists to deal with hurting people, broken relationships and devastated families. Someone astutely said, “The more we resist reaching up to Heaven, the more our world falls into chaos and despair.”
Jill Martin Rische accurately stated –
So many know nothing about how great civilizations fall. They don’t connect the historical fact that the rejection of God always leads to the rise of evil. Today, we turn on our TVs or computers and see the glorification of everything vile that crushed ancient Israel and Rome…. Today, clinical depression is a way of life in America and a billion-dollar drug industry sedates us, but cannot stop suicide rates from climbing. (March 22, 2019, http://www.olivetreeviews.org)
Only the spiritually blind person does not recognize the significance and blessing God has shown our nation. Only the foolish person wants God removed from our social and personal lives.
We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity. ~ Franklin Roosevelt
May our nation repent and once again discover the truth and reality of Psalm 33:12 –
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of mass shootings. Our ministry prayer team prays for the families of those whose lives are cut short, as well as for the recovery of the injured and traumatized. The impact these senseless tragedies have on so many lives and families is incomprehensible. We are grateful for those who “miraculously” survive and for those who prove to be heroes – wounded or killed – while protecting others.
But WHY these insane, cowardly acts of carnage? The answers can be elusive and complex – but are most revealing as to where our society is today. The triggers for acts of violence and mass killings can be anything: seeking revenge for being bullied or fired from a job, experiencing the breakup of a relationship or some other emotional trauma, merely being pulled over for a traffic violation, plotting suicide while killing others, obtaining notoriety…. Some get a twisted pleasure from seeing others suffer or just enjoy killing with little or no remorse.
Many shooters fill their minds with graphic visuals of violent crimes, explosions, shootings, blood splattered victims and walls, people hunted down and murdered by crazed killers. Violence is portrayed in countless movies as every imaginable weapon and technique are used to kill, torture and mutilate. Scenes of terror such as vehicles and buildings being blown apart, pools of blood and other scenes of horror are proliferating. These vivid sights and sounds implanted in one’s mind can (and will) have adverse mental, emotional, physical and spiritual consequences.
Violence in the media and the breakup of families, definitely contribute to these horrific acts of violence. However, another crucial consideration – often overlooked – is that when God is no longer revered or feared, disastrous consequences result from confusion and hopelessness. We have dealt in previous newsletters (and will do so in future ones) about the ramifications of a society losing its faith and respect for God. This abandonment of God and the rejection of biblical moral values, has resulted in segments of society embracing amoralism, atheism, mysticism and occultism – opening the door to a dangerous dilemma: the demonic dimension.
The Demonic Dimension
While my previous research into bizarre behaviors gives some insight into the twisted psyche, there is a realm not frequently considered.
In some cases the only reasonable explanation is found in the demonic connection – and all the more as our society drifts further and further from faith in, and commitment to, Jesus Christ.
Mental health workers (some of whom had previously thought that belief in angels or demons was delusional) have called me about cases they were dealing with which, they said, defied psychological explanation or latent human physical or mental potential and phenomena. They felt they were dealing with something sinister and supernatural.
I am certain that some mass shooters and others who commit heinous acts are influenced or controlled by demonic entities. After the deed is done, if not dead already, the evil spirit motivates them to take their own life or departs from them, leaving them frightened and confused; wondering how they could have performed such an atrocity! Many who were apprehended after committing violent murders have confessed that they heard a voice telling them to do it; some said they felt controlled by an evil force.
While it is inaccurate and unwise to attribute all problems and phenomena to the demonic dimension, the other extreme of unbelief in the existence of Satan and demons, makes it virtually impossible to recognize their activities. Undetected satanic activity negates the possibility of effectively dealing with it.
The Bible records several accounts of Jesus, the apostle Paul and others, encountering demon-possessed individuals. Without sensationalizing the demonic realm, Jesus and the Bible clearly acknowledge its reality.
There is always a “connection” – a “trigger” – that makes a person vulnerable to demonic forces which desire to kill and destroy those created in God’s image. Human beings are like defended castles having a wall of protection that shelter them from the demonic realm; however, many let down the drawbridge and open the door to the spirit world through various means (to be addressed in a future newsletter). Those who step outside God’s protection and willingly violate, disregard or defy His mandates put themselves in a perilous position.
The Bible identifies two people possessed by Satan himself: Judas and the future Antichrist. In hindsight we see, concerning Judas, that he had some “issues” which made him vulnerable to be Satan’s tool in betraying Christ to those who wanted to put Him to death. But nothing – even his greed – alerted the disciples to the dastardly deed conceived in his heart. The disciples thought Judas was a “nice guy” (as has been said about some of the shooters) until he actually betrayed Jesus.
Satan, taking advantage of this “connection,” entered Judas who then carried out the religious leaders’ scheme to betray Jesus. Once Satan was done using Judas to put Christ to death, he departed from him – leaving Judas so distraught that he hung himself.
From foresight provided by prophetic Scripture, we discover that the Antichrist (coming to power through false promises of peace and prosperity) will unleash the greatest bloodbath in human history! Scripture foretells a dramatic increase of violence, demonic activity and phenomena in the end times. Just as the book of Revelation foretells, there will be a level of violence never seen before in the history of the world. We definitely appear to be moving in that direction.
Transformed through Christ
The only way to prevent senseless tragedies such as those happening across this nation is either by prevention (often a near impossibility) or for the potential perpetrator of the crime to be truly transformed by the love and forgiveness that comes through a restored relationship with our Creator. Having a life of meaning, purpose and hope (in spite of one’s circumstances) is the best deterrent to prevent someone from wasting their own life and ruining the lives of so many others – including their own family.
Coming to know Jesus Christ by receiving His offer of salvation (conveyed through the pages of the New Testament) is the only hope for a darkened soul in need of the Light. No one who has truly received Jesus and His message of love will participate in acts of cruelty and senseless violence. Those transformed by the power of God’s Spirit will be the solution to society’s problems and not the perpetrator of them.
Everyone, sooner or later, comes to realize that youth and vigor fade like the waning summer days of September.
The most attractive people in the world will, in a few short years, lose much of their beauty. Their “perfect” bodies and good looks will give way to sags and wrinkles. Just visit a nursing home and compare the residents to their youthful pictures.
A Sports Festival I attended included men and women at their peak of perfection: massive muscles from steroids, chiseled bodies from intense training, youthful appearance, vivacious…. But looking beyond the glamorous surface, while witnessing and giving out my Reaching Your Maximum Potential and Who Is This Jesus? books, I noticed visible flaws from aging, sun damaged skin, over training and overdosing. Many who just a few years earlier were at their pinnacle, now limped while walking due to bad knees, hips or backs; had faces engraved with wrinkles, sculpted bodies with extended bellies and hernias, tattoos that looked grotesque from shrinking muscles and shriveling skin; varicose veins – the result of over exertion and straining; surgical scars on shoulders and knees from injuries caused by lifting excessive amounts of weight….
A lifetime of training in athletics, academics or the arts can be wiped out in a moment of time – an unexpected injury, debilitating accident or dread disease. The Book of Ecclesiastes says to enjoy each day to its fullest, but focus on the important priorities because life is but a passing vapor. A self-written obituary by 69-year-old Emily Phillips noted: “I was born; I blinked; and it was over.”
David said it this way:
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15,16).
Life goes by too quickly to disregard or even defy the Lord for a few years of fleeting indulgence. Chasing after worldly pleasures and possessions is – as Solomon learned 3,000 years ago through personal experience – futility and foolishness.
Why spend a lifetime developing skills and talents yet neglect that which has never-ending significance? Enjoy the temporary but focus on the eternal. Endeavor to develop attributes and qualities whose benefits last forever.
You have a lifetime (however long or short that may be) to determine your eternal destiny; an eternity to enjoy the rewards, or suffer the consequences for the choices you made in this lifetime. You have the final word in this life; God has it in the next life.
Wisdom from Solomon
It would be expedient to heed the wisdom of Solomon: His search in riches and pleasure inspired him to conclude the book of Ecclesiastes with the following admonition:
However many years a person may live, let them enjoy them all. But remember that days of darkness will be many. Rejoice while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before you grow old and no longer enjoy living – before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you say, “I find no pleasure in them.” The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear [Reverence] God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Adapted from Ecclesiastes 11:8,9 and 12:13-14.)
Change of Perspective
As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, our outlook changes. Enjoyment of the passions of this life fade like the flexibility and suppleness of aging joints. It is good that God uses the degeneration and deterioration of our physical bodies to divert our focus from the pleasures of this physical domain to that of our approaching destiny.
I often tell people that time is the great equalizer: It has a way of catching up with us and changing our perspective – as do our circumstances. If you have not yet discovered, you soon will, that what matters most in your younger years, matters little when you are older, and what matters little when you are young matters most when you get older. The things of this earth grow strangely dim as Eternity looms on the horizon.
Some of what was a fun time for me as a teenager is now foolishness. Some of what I considered boring and weak back then, I recognize as wise and strong today. Some of what I thought was a waste of time and irrelevant is now a priority and passion. Much of what I rushed toward then, I avoid today. What I fled from before, I embrace today. My perspective has dramatically changed since coming to know Jesus Christ. It is diametrically opposed to what it was as a teenager before accepting Christ. With years, comes experience, and through experience, comes a new viewpoint.
Some people turn away from the sins of their youth because they have come to know the Lord, experience the joy of being forgiven and the peace of walking with God. Others do so because they are forced by circumstances or advancing age to no longer indulge in them.
It is far better to make the changes while you have the choice and the ability to do so, than to wait until you are one day forced to. However, whatever it takes, I hope you have amended your attitude and behavior from that which is contrary to God’s nature and His purpose for creating you, to that which honors Him. True repentance means that you would not repeat sinful behavior if you were back in those circumstances or had the opportunity once again.
Nourish Your Spirit
It is inevitable that your physical body will wear out; muscles will shrink and bones will weaken. Your body will eventually cease to function and will return to the dust from which God created it – but your spirit will live forever.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly [physical body] we are wasting away, yet inwardly [the eternal spirit] we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
In light of this certainty, my suggestion is to spend more time nourishing your spirit through Bible study and prayer and less time pampering the flesh. You should be convinced by this point in your life that sinful behavior, really does result in the consequences warned about in the pages of Scripture. Hopefully, you have gained enough wisdom over the years to have learned what is pleasing to the Lord and acquired enough respect and reverence for God to avoid that which dishonors Him. David goes on to write in Psalm 103:
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear [reverence] Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts (Psalm 103:17,18).
David confidently proclaimed in the closing verse of his most famous psalm:
I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6).
What Really Matters?
When all is said and done, what really matters? Ponder the following questions then make the necessary adjustments accordingly.
• Where will I spend eternity? • Am I ready to meet my Creator? • Did I honor Jesus Christ with my life (and ministry)? • Was I a wise steward of the gifts and resources God entrusted to me? • Did my life bear fruit by leading others to Christ? • Was His will and purpose fulfilled through me?
May the longing of our hearts and the focus of our lives be to know and to exalt our Creator. May we inherit all God has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. May we rejoice because of the assurance that at Christ’s return believers’ bodies will be transformed into immortal, glorified bodies to rule and reign over a world returned to its original paradise.
God is looking for men and women who will
inspire others. Those who will show, through the way they live, what it means
to be totally committed to Jesus Christ regardless of the cost. This will only
become a reality by those who devote themselves to prayer and Bible study.
An important principle for having a powerful and effective prayer life is to seek God’s will and not our own. This is taught by Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer:
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prays in
the following manner:
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
The essence of Jesus’ life reflects His willingness to humble Himself and submit to the will of His Father (see Philippians 2:5-11).
The apostle John reiterates that we should
pray according to God’s will:
“This is the confidence that we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).
John could not have stated it more clearly:
If we want God to hear our prayers, then we must seek God’s will and not our own.
Our prayer lives will be ineffective if we approach God on our own terms and in
accordance to our will. However, they will become powerful and effective if we humble
ourselves before the Lord and submit to His will for our lives.
Praying the Promises
Praying the promises in God’s Word, having a
powerful prayer life, and living by the truth and principles in the Bible are great
ways to keep one’s life in submission to the Lord.
My 11 year old daughter asked me a question that I am sure all of us have asked at some point in our lives, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to us?” In thinking of how best to answer this question and make sense to an 11 year old, I recalled the story of the “Wolfpack” kids.
These kids were members of the Angulo family. They lived in a small apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The six sons and one daughter were home-schooled by their mother Susanne, and except for rare occasions they were not allowed to the leave their apartment. Their father, Oscar, was a Peruvian immigrant and he felt New York would “contaminate” his children. In order to protect them from the dangers outside their apartment, he not only kept the door locked, but he possessed the only key to unlock it. In this environment, the father had complete control over their lives, and as the mother stated in an interview, “I felt like I didn’t have control over my choices.” Their father may have created an environment to protect them from danger, but in the process he deprived them of their freedom.
While God is sovereign, He permits human freedom. Thus, He did not create us like puppets, controlling our every move and decision. Nor did he place us in an environment where, like a tyrannical dictator, we were compelled to honor Him. Instead, as we see in the Garden of Eden, He created mankind with the freedom to choose whether to obey or disobey Him (Genesis 3). With the potential of choice came the consequences of choice. As we find in Genesis, Adam and Eve chose to disobey, and with their choice (sin) came the consequences: pain, suffering and death (Romans 5:12; 6:23).
Adam and Eve
At this point, you may be asking the same question my daughter did, “How is it fair for us to be punished for the sins of Adam and Eve?” While it is true that we are all subject to the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin through birth, we are all still as guilty as they are, for each of us has also used our freedom to disobey God’s commands. In other words, each of us is accountable for our own sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Yet, despite our consistent abuse of the freedom God has given us, He still chooses to be a Father that extends mercy and grace to those who ask for it (John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23).
Why Does God Allow Bad Things To Happen?
The first time I asked this question there was a family which was very close to mine. Their daughter at the age of 13 was diagnosed with cancer. Within a year of her diagnosis she passed away. I found myself asking that very question, “Why?”
If it is true that God is all knowing, then certainly He knows how to prevent this girl from getting cancer. If it is also true that God is all powerful then He should be able to prevent her from getting cancer. And if it is true that God is all loving then He would want to prevent her from getting cancer and dying. Yet, this young girl in the prime of her life, died. Why?
A neighbor wanted to know why her husband of 45 years had to die of cancer and a friend wanted to know why his wife no longer loved him and was leaving him for another man. This very question probably pervades the thinking of every person who has been affected by a natural disaster such as hurricane Sandy.
With a heavy heart I watched the news and witnessed the devastation left by hurricane Sandy several years ago. I was grateful the damage in our area was not as bad as anticipated, but it was hard to see the many people who lost their homes and businesses. A friend of mine called to ask for prayer as their house suffered significant water damage from the storm.
Seeing the images of flooded neighborhoods, burning houses and people without electricity, a particular story stuck in my mind: During the storm, two young boys were killed when a large tree fell into their living room. I instantly thought of my own son and wondered how these families would cope with the loss of their sons.
I wondered why these boys had to die this way. My feelings at that moment were the same way as when I woke up on the morning of July 20, 2012. After going through my morning routine and following breakfast, I turned on the television to check the weather for the day; only then did I learn of the tragic shooting in a Colorado movie theatre. I am sure many of you had the same initial reaction I did, “How could someone do this?” This question (repeatedly asked through every tragedy) leads to other questions, which ultimately leads us to ask: “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”
It is not always possible to give a satisfactory answer for the Why question. But I can point them to the Who! By pointing them to Jesus Christ, I know from personal experience that even in the uncertainty of pain and suffering, we have hope. Several years ago my family faced the painful ordeal of a miscarriage. As I walked with my wife and children through this, the only thing we could hold onto was the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
I shared this hope with a friend of mine who was dying with cancer. When he was healthy, he and his wife did a lot of traveling. I asked him where was his favorite place, and he began to tell me all about Aruba and how beautiful it was; how nice the people were. As he described the beauty of Aruba, it was like he was back there sitting on the beach watching the waves.
A few days later in the hospital I reminded him of our conversation about Aruba, which instantly brought a smile to his face. I began to share with him of a place God had prepared for him that was so much greater than Aruba. I told him about how much God loved Him and how He demonstrated this love by sacrificing His life so that he can go to this place for eternity.
The Heart of Christianity
Like my 11 year old daughter and myself, we may not fully understand in this life why bad things and tragedies happen or why God did not prevent that tree from falling on the house that killed those two young boys. Yet, we can be assured of the depth of His love for us. We can be certain that in the midst of life’s difficulties He is with us – a God who responded to evil, pain and suffering by sending His only Son to die on a cross, offering us the opportunity to live in eternity with Him. We can know the love of a Father Who desires to provide His children not only true freedom, but also eternal blessings. This is the heart of Christianity, and it’s the best explanation of hope to a world full of pain and suffering.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
Parents, I have an important message for you so pay close attention. You teach your children sports, help them with school work and many other things that can have a lifetime benefit. But do you teach them about the most important journey they will take or the most amazing adventure they will experience – eternity? Eternity lasts forever!
As a youth and on through my life, I have lost many family members, friends and acquaintances to eternity – many of whom were taken unexpectedly and were not prepared.
I had a vivid dream one night several months ago of two friends from my past standing with me on a small boat a little offshore. It was twilight and before us lay a vast, dark ocean. I said to my friends as we sailed into the darkness and infinite unknowns of eternity, “Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior so you are prepared for what lies ahead.” But they seemed indifferent as we headed toward certain demise. Then I woke up.
Parents, don’t be indifferent. Teach your children valuable lessons for this life, but do not neglect to teach them about what is most important and lasts forever – eternity!