Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dear Berean Family, 

I came across this satire I wrote years ago when I was deeply concerned with the strange developments that were taking place in the Christian community regarding worship, evangelism and the promotion the Christian faith. I believe that what I wrote about back in the early nineties still has a great deal of relevance for us today. 

I am concerned that our culture has forgotten how to worship God and that many churches around the country and around the world are not taking serious their approach to the throne of God on the Lord's Day.

When we come to church on Sunday's let's not forget what we are doing when we gather for worship. Let us not forget in whose presence we gather. Let us not forget that the God we worship is a holy God who told Moses to take off his sandals before His presence for the place where he stood was holy ground. So let us come into the presence of God joyfully, with singing and praise, with our hearts on fire, longing to hear the Word of God and with the hope that times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord.

God bless you all and fill your hearts with His praise!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor

A Satire On 
Contemporary Methods Of Church Growth

It was a dark and stormy night. Unable to sleep because of the turbulent weather outside, I slipped out of bed and quietly went to my study. With the flash of lightning casting eerie shadows on my library walls, I noticed on the shelves a curious-looking volume of Ancient Church History. Pulling the dusty book from off the shelf and opening it amid a creak of the binding, I came across a rare record of an early church meeting that was amazingly preserved in history. An archeologist visiting a monastery found some old scrolls that contained a dialogue of first century Christian pastors who lived in and near the city, Laodicea. Yes, the same city that Jesus warned about in the Apocalypse that it had become lukewarm, that it had become seduced by its' own wealth, numbers, and success. Jesus warned  them, “thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."

This old book gave in detail the strategies devised by these pastors of the early churches (that were censured by Jesus as apostatizing) to evangelize their cities and to make the gospel more relevant to the unconverted around them. As I read their dialogues, this is what I discovered about first-century church growth by these backslidden churches.

Moderator: "Gentlemen, we have gathered here to discuss and to devise plans to facilitate greater evangelistic outreach to the teeming multitudes who seem uninterested in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have asked each of you to be present because of the unique gifts that you would bring to this discussion.”

Lucius - the Pastor of Laodicea. You are so well-liked by the community. As a matter of fact, we are pleased to hear that you have no enemies at all! Your popularity certainly will aid us in this discussion.

Silas - the Pastor of Sardis. Your church is really alive with emotionalism, revivalism, and new contemporary innovations. Your keen insight into church growth will certainly shed light on how to have a healthy and living church.


 Philip - the Pastor of Philadelphia. Philip, your church is relatively small. We thought you might wish to join us to learn how we've become successful in growing a big church.

And finally, Epaphras - Pastor of Ephesus. Your involvement in so many committees, projects, and social causes, indicates your deep, deep love for Jesus. A man with such zeal and devotion to so many things will be a great asset to our discussion.

Gentlemen, here's our great concern. How can we make the gospel more appealing to the present culture that we minister to? "

Silas - "I have found that entertainment really helps draw a crowd. Offering free camel rides might attract families with little children. And if we can get the little ones to come, before you know it, you can catch the parents!"

Epaphras -“Ah yes, an excellent idea. It is much better than the idea used a few years back when many of our churches offered free chicken dinners and bagel burgers to attract crowds. The mess the chicken bones made on the Apian Way as people went home after church had the Romans all upset at us. And the wagons we sent into the cities to bring people to church didn't have much of an appeal to the wealthy and more affluent people around us."

Silas - "Another idea I have had is to start a Greek drama group. You all know how Greeks love drama. Wouldn't this be appealing to greater numbers of people and make, our worship more relevant? We could dramatize the life of Jesus, and even use a dash of Greek comedy to spice it up a bit. "

Philip -"But did Paul or Jesus ever use this kind of approach?”

Moderator - "It's not important to follow what Jesus and Paul did. Alter all, they faced a different situation. We must contextualize our message to meet the needs of today's young consumers. If Paul and Jesus were alive today, they certainly would agree with us that whatever works is right."

Epaphras,  "I've heard that a group in Rome has begun a ministry to gladiators. They are known as GLADIATORS FOR JESUS." Their motto is `We bash heads for the Master!"'

Silas - "Perhaps we could also start a group of contemporary worship dancers. Maybe we could call them `Diana's Dancers'. This would certainly appeal to all those who visit the temples. If we make our churches just like the world, people will feel non-threatened and will be more willing to visit with us. And once they learn how much fun it is to be a Christian, they may even believe in Jesus.

Moderator - "Yes, yes, excellent ideas. But we must also be `market sensitive' and `user friendly'. I've found that certain elements of old-fashioned preaching is just out of touch with modern Romans and Greeks. Don't preach, but just rap with people; have nice little chats and discussions. These things are much more appealing to the world and don't offend anyone. The talk host, Julius Leno in Rome, is an excellent example of how to communicate with modern Romans.” 

“And by the way, get rid of the coat and tie. The best way to identify with the young people today is to dress down and be casual. This makes you just like the average guy.”

Philip, “But didn't Jesus say that the gospel would offend people'? Didn't Paul say that the unconverted needed a work of grace in order to understand the mystery of the gospel?" Paul's exact words were, (I Corinthians 2:14) "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 

“And if we dress just like the young people who come to church are we not catering to their flesh and not setting a proper and biblical example?”

Lucius - "I'm not sure what Paul meant by that statement. It was so long ago that Paul said that, way back in the 30's. And Paul was known for being theologically dry and irrelevant. We need a new strategy with new methods to `grow' successful churches here in the 90’s. And what’s wrong with dressing down? 

Philip, “I believe that if we dress respectfully we show our deep appreciation and reverence for holy things. I don’t see how dressing like we are going to the amphitheater is the same as coming into the presence of the Holy and living God of the universe. Does not the sacred Scripture remind us that the Old Testament Priests had special clothing that set them apart as the ministers of God? And even tradition teaches us that it has always been the custom of Gods servants to dress in a way that shows the dignity and the seriousness of the office of a man of God.

Moderator- “Well let me add a few thoughts on this discussion. Remember we are trying to find ways to make our message more appealing to the world. Here are some dead-end topics that we ought to avoid in our preaching. In a recent survey here's what un-churched Herodius won't listen to:

 1. The fear of God

2. The need for repentance

3. The doctrine of man's total depravity

4. The absolute sovereignty of God in salvation 

5. The inability of men to understand the gospel 

6. The need for an imputed righteousness 

7. The wrath of God

8. The Lordship of Christ, and so forth...

Silas - "I'm not sure if I understand all of those theological topics anyway. The people coming to my church want to be told how to be happy, successful, and want to have fun in church.”

Moderator -"Ah precisely. That's my point. Silas, you've built a fine, large and successful church without all that heavy, boring, theological stuff. If you don't understand all of this, how can you expect un-churched Herodius to understand it?"

Philip, “Gentleman, what you are saying is just not right. This is not the emphasis found in the Bible. Is not the Word of God our final authority for faith and practice? Yet you are making designs without consulting the Scriptures. Just because something works does not mean it is right.”

Lucius, “Philip you are so out of touch. Keep that frame of mind and your little church will not only be irrelevant it will soon cease to exist.”

Philip. “Well, I would rather be faithful to God and to His Word than to have the kind of success you are talking about. I am living with my eyes on the throne of judgement. I want to hear the Lord say to me, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Moderator - “Ok Philip, you made your point. Quit interrupting with your little quibbles. Gentlemen, what about worship? What new and relevant ideas can we devise?"

Epaphras - "I've discovered that Sunday meetings are not good times for worship. Greeks love their amusements. If they worship on Sunday, they feel they've wasted half the day. Saturday night sessions are much more acceptable to today's busy Roman-Boomer."

Lucius -"I've seen young people come from the Roman Academy to visit with us. These young people were bored with our teaching and found our music unappealing. But when we livened things up a little, when we used the same music they hear at the amphitheaters, they really got excited!"

Philip - "Maybe I'm just not getting it. What it sounds like you men are doing is accommodating your message to fit your crowd. It sounds like you're watering the gospel down to make it more appealing to those who are non-Christians. I don't think this is wise or biblical. Isn't this really what worldliness is all about?” The church is primarily about the worship of God. If we design our services to make people comfortable we have missed the main reason for coming into the presence of God in the first place.”

Epaphras - "Well maybe. But I've found that it helps the Holy Spirit, even makes His work easier, when I find out what people really want to hear and then I give it to them. This way the church grows much faster, and it's even more fun!"

Philip - "But isn't it the work of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes and hearts of people to see the truth, and to make men see their sinfulness and then to draw them to Christ?"

Moderator - "Philip, don't be so pious. When your little church is flourishing like ours, then you can correct us, if you wish."

Philip -"But Mr. Moderator, the size of my church does not necessarily reveal the blessing of God or the lack of it. Many cults have large followings. Does that mean they have the truth or have God's blessings? Even the Apostle Paul warned us that it is possible, as professing Christians, to accomplish much in the flesh. Shouldn't we test our results to see if what we're doing is truly pleasing to God? I happen to know many pastors preaching to large numbers of believers who haven't tried these methods or new ideas that you're suggesting. These men are being faithful in preaching the word, spending time in prayer, and are working hard at building a biblically based ministry. Shouldn't they be our model along with Jesus and Paul? I know that what I'm suggesting may take longer, but I believe it will be more lasting."

Epaphras - "Philip, I know this all seems new and strange to you, but you've got to get with today's program. The traditional approach is not where the action is. Philip, the audience is sovereign. You’ve got to give `em what they want; you've got to study the demographics of Philadelphia and find out where the wealth is, where the itch is, and then you gotta scratch it!"

Philip - "But Epaphras, isn't it important to base our practices and procedures on the Word of God? If we make the audience sovereign, haven't we dethroned God? And I have always been of the conviction that we must seek to please God first, and that we Shouldn't worry about what the world thinks. If we are faithful, if we preach the truth Jesus promised, He will draw men to the gospel. So I'm not bothered if young Greeks or Romans find the message I preach irrelevant. Until God regenerates them and opens their eyes and hearts, they will always find the gospel irrelevant."

Moderator - "Oh Philip, that is so out of fashion. Your ideas will kill the Church. So many churches are dying for change. Philip, you've got to market your message. You've got to find out the hurts, the needs, the burdens of people, and then use humor, drama, stories, and clever techniques to draw people to your church to minister to them. You might even have to relocate your church, maybe more to the area where all the Roman-boomers are moving."

Philip- "1'm not against change if the changes don't compromise the message or violate scriptural teachings and precedents. I'm just not convinced that what you all are saying really has "biblical" warrant to do the things you are suggesting. For example, shouldn't we be concerned about spiritual needs first before we try to address other needs? If all we do is run around meeting needs, maybe the greatest need of all will be neglected. And what about the geographical location of your new churches. You tell me "Go where the Roman-boomers are." What about the poor, the racial minorities in our towns, those who are not so attractive, educated and wealthy - what about them? Is the gospel just for this little segment of elitists called ‘Roman Boomers?’"

Moderator - "Well, I think we should adjourn this meeting. Philip, it's clear you don't appreciate what we're trying to do. Maybe we should meet next time without you being here."

Philip - "I'm sorry you all feel that way. But I'm determined to be a workman approved unto God. Your acceptance or rejection of me means very little. I'm living so that when I appear before God I'll hear him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Moderator - "Gentlemen, this meeting is adjourned.”

_________________________________________________________
This satire was designed to get us to think. To think about worship, about evangelism, about church growth. What did the early church do to reach people with the gospel? Here's a multiple choice test.

A. Dial 1-800-Campus-Roman Crusade.

B. Ask a Jewish Marketing Consultant to advise them on how    
     to sell Jesus to Jews.

C. Develop user friendly synagogues.

D. Just pray, trust God, live holy lives and preach the gospel.

I believe that many of the current methods of church growth are tragically defective and misguided. I believe they are doctrinally unsound and are producing shallow converts that won't stand the test of time. Although the proponents of these new methods say they are aiming to reach the unchurched, they are, in fact, just drawing the disgruntled, dissatisfied members of other evangelical churches.

In these churches that are using these modern techniques we must ask,  “How many non-Christians (truly pagan) you have brought to Christ?” I think it will be seen that very few unchurched people will be found among them. The vast majority of their constituents will be professing believers that were drawn away from other evangelical churches.

I believe this whole movement is just another misguided fad that will eventually burn out, but not before it does great harm to the body of Christ by spreading confusion and division among Christians and filling churches with unsaved believers. As Daniel Rowlands, a great Welsh preacher once said, "Wherever God builds a church, Satan is sure to build a chapel by its' side." The great lesson we should learn is this: whenever wrong methods based on incorrect theology are used to build the church, the true work of God is confused and hindered.

May God grant a true revival and out-pouring of His Spirit that will bring His glory back to the church. When the presence and glory of God returns, so too will Spirit-filled preaching, reverent serious worship, and music that is worshipful instead of the shallow and emotional music of these contemporary churches. It will produce a generation of holy, dedicated believers who are lovers of God and lovers and worshippers of His Son, Jesus Christ.

It will be a revival based on the Scripture and the great doctrines that are expounded and taught by Jesus and His Apostles. Doctrine will no longer be viewed with suspicion and contempt. And the pure gospel of God's sovereign and justifying grace will be exalted and held in high esteem.

Oh that such a day would soon come. Amen!
























Thursday, March 9, 2017

How To Behave In The 
House Of God


Dear Berean Family, 

I wrote a booklet recently while visiting in Arizona. I was contacted by a friend about a church that had recently gone very casual by the Pastor and leaders. I was so disturbed by what I heard that I began to study very hard and pray to see what the Word of God has to say about how those who preach in the pulpit should dress when in the Lord's house on Sunday. I am sharing the opening pages of this study. My prayer is that our church family would realize that the worship of God is the most important thing they can do. How we worship God reflects our heart attitude and our view of God Himself. I will make this entire booklet available soon. Please understand I am not advocating a dress code that will be policed by church officers!! I am just suggesting that those who serve in the church consider how they dress when they approach the throne of God in throne room worship. If the pastor and the leaders of a church set a high example the rest of the church will follow. God bless you all.

Pastor



Preface

I am not expressing my conviction on casual dress out of jealousy of the successes and blessings of other pastors. I have always taught that true success in the ministry is being faithful to God and in proclaiming the whole counsel of His Word. Through the years I have seen fads, false doctrines, and movements come and go. What alarms me now is the adoption of casual worship that seems to have swept across all of Christendom in the West. I pray that what I have to say in these pages,  will not come across as judgmental or condescending to those with whom I differ. I do not wish to cause any division or confusion for any church leaders or pastors. I am passionate about what I believe concerning biblical worship. I am convinced that what I hold to is biblically correct. Nor do I not desire to enter into endless debates with those who wish to argue a different opinion.  If you read these pages and do not agree with me, you do not need to worry about what I think. We need to be concerned with what the God of the universe thinks about our beliefs and actions. At the end of the day, we each answer to the Lord. I do, however, ask you to pray about what I am saying here. I would ask you to avoid making a quick emotional response. I am asking that you read this carefully, slowly, and prayerfully and see if the Lord does not speak to your heart. Hear what I have to say on this subject of casual worship in the house of the Lord. Weigh all the evidence that I am going to share with you.

I am writing on behalf of many ministers, who like me, are dismayed at what they see in the churches across our land. I have seen young ministers, who preach at enormously large churches, dress down, appear casual and cool while at the same time bringing excellent messages. Does this justify how they dress? The answer is no. I believe the impact of their ministry would be deeper and richer if they gave serious thought as to what they are wearing in the pulpit is saying about them, about their God, and about what the world thinks of them. In the Old Testament God not only required His priests to dress appropriately He also made sure their priestly garments were designed in such a way to ensure their dignity and respect.

To teach that ministers and the Lord’s people should dress appropriately for worship is not a popular thing to do. One person’s casual clothes may be another person’s dress up clothes. I am suggesting that pastors give this subject of how they dress in the pulpit and in church prayerful reflection. We all want our churches to be filled with the glory of God. We desire that our services will be characterized by the reverent spirit of God’s presence. Let us pray that the Lord will guide His people and give each pastor wisdom in leading his church in corporate worship in such a way that will not distract from the glory of God or hinder the message of the gospel. If all I accomplish here is to cause the Lord’s people to rethink this subject I trust it will be of some benefit to the glory of God in His church.
Introduction

In the Christian church God’s people have always understood that how we worship God is of profound importance. There are, among the various segments of Christendom, great debates, discussions, and differences of opinions on how we should worship God. While other religions also have debates on how to worship, it seems that nothing has been comparable to the worship wars and confusion that is found within the Christian church. The question that I’m asking in this study is this, “Does casual dress in our worship services by both the ministry and the laity, enhance or distract from biblical worship? I believe the answer is “yes, casual dress hinders the worship of God.”

To support my answer I want to appeal to four different sources of evidence that speak either directly or indirectly to this subject. The four areas of discussion will include, Scripture, Tradition, Common Sense and Cultural Compromise.

I admit that I have personal preferences on this subject. Our answer to the question “Does casual dress in our worship services by both the ministry and the laity, enhance or distract from biblical worship?” must not be based on our prejudices and personal preferences. First, and foremost, we must be convinced and guided by the Word of God. Only after we have sought counsel from the Scriptures can we make appeals to church traditions, common sense and cultural compromise. But none of these other areas of argument can in any way conflict with the Word of God. 

The subject of casual dress in worship must not be confused with the trivializing of Christian worship by unbiblical innovations. While casual dress is a part of the problem of trivializing Christian worship it also stands alone as its own concern. A church might maintain proper forms for worship while allowing for casual dress in the worship service.

To make people feel more comfortable in church many pastors are now wearing jeans, sport shirts, T-shirts, shorts, and other types of casual clothing when they preach. Many young pastors, and even some older ones as well, will be heard to say, “You can come to our church dressed any way you like. We have no dress standards here.” Is this really a biblical thing to say? Does this kind of thing help reach the unchurched? One Christian leader spoke directly to this subject and made a good case for rejecting casual dress for worship:

“I’ve always heard it explained that the purpose of casual dress in the church is to reach people and relate to them on their level. That sounds noble enough on the surface (and I’m all for reaching the lost), but follow that logic just a little deeper and there are big spiritual problems that are hard to reconcile. To start with, casual dress gives the impression that the things of God are neither serious nor holy. Those of us who are aware that people’s eternal destinies are at stake should consider the ministry of Christ too important to treat casually. 

Many might argue that the reason they do dress down is because they are so concerned about the lost. I don’t doubt their sincerity, but again, the logic just doesn’t make sense. If I need a medical specialist, I am not turned off if he or she is dressed more formally than I. If I need a policeman, I don’t mind that he’s dressed up in a uniform. When receiving help from these professionals, it is actually a comfort to see them dressed in a way that shows they understand the importance of their place. I don’t need a person wearing what I am wearing just so he or she can relate to me. Why should the preacher or saint in a worship setting have to look like the sinner in order to reach them? I know Christians are trying to send the message, “Hey, we are all just like you,” but that is not our message, nor is it true. The sinner is not one of us, and the Holy Spirit is working throughout the service to show him that, so that when the opportunity is presented, he will become one of us. When we gear our worship exclusively toward the comfort of sinners (the popular but less scriptural phrase in our day is the un-churched), we are actually working against the convicting ministry of the Spirit. Let’s work on making God comfortable in our services, and we will have maximum effectiveness in preaching and demonstrating the good news of the love of Christ to the sinner.” 1 

Is it possible that we are compromising biblical standards to accommodate the world in which we live? If numbers matter most and Scripture matters least then the trend to dress down in worship and the promotion of a casual and relaxed worship service is certainly the right way to go. I’m not even addressing the content of our worship, the style of music, the place where we gather or the liturgy or lack of one. I’m just focusing on how we as pastors dress when we minister at church and what we expect when we open the doors for the Lord’s people to come and worship as well. I have been a pastor for well over 40 years. I have seen many trends come and go. I have also seen the collapse of western civilization and the departure of the glory of God from most of the West including the United States. In our desperate attempts to address the free fall of the church, the departure of God’s blessing, and the encroachment of many false religions in our land I have seen many ministers resort to new measures and ideas to try reverse the church’s descent into insignificance. So far, with all these new ideas, new theologies, and new philosophies on how to do church, I have not seen anything that has really worked. The crisis of a fading Christianity in the West has not been halted. One observer of the current trends in worship commented on what he saw as people came to church:

“They saunter into church in baggy shorts, flip-flop sandals, tennis shoes and grubby T-shirts. Some even slide into the pews carrying coffee in plastic foam containers as if they’re going to Starbucks. “It’s like some people decided to stop mowing the lawn and then decided to come to church,” “No one dresses up for church anymore.” 2

One major exception to this quote is the black church in America. The black Christian community still regards Sunday worship as an important event and generally speaking they dress up for the occasion. 

Those who promote and defend casual dress in worship will often cite that those who believe in dressing appropriately for worship are legalistic and judgmental to those who come to church casually. I have not found this to be true. I don’t know anyone who would be unkind to someone who came to church dressed in casual clothing. I have never heard of any pastor or church turning people away from the service because they were not dressed according to the expectations of the church.

I believe that ministers who have adopted casual dress for worship have not helped the overall health or spirituality of the church. In fact, It is my contention that this trend, although well intentioned, has hurt the Christian cause more than it has helped.

The church of the late 20th century and the first part of the 21st century will be widely known as a church that was casual, careless, compromised, comfortable, content, and carnal. When future generations look back on this period of church history they may well list among their main critiques of the church of this era, that it lacked a godly leadership that had the spiritual ability to discern between the holy and the profane.

Pastor’s who dress down on the Lord’s Day and parishioners who follow suit may seem like an insignificant issue in the light of so many other pressing concerns. However, this trend of casual dress in worship is a symptom of much deeper concerns. At the root of this popular trend are the following concerns:

  1. Lack of discernment
  2. Compromise with worldliness
  3. Failure to recognize the real need of the sinner—regeneration—not a watered down version of Christianity and worship to entice him to come to church.
  4. Failure to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit
  5. Failure of the ministry to teach people how to behave in the house of God.
  6. Absence of the fear of God in our spiritual lives and churches
  7. And finally, a defective understanding of ecclesiology. (This means that those who dress down for worship have a view of the church that sees worship as being casual. They fail to see that worship is ritualistic, liturgical, and highly formal. They also assume that because we are under the New Covenant we can do just about anything we want in worship.)

The real problem is not that dressing casual is sinful (It’s not), the real problem is to be able to discern that there is a time and a place to be casual. The worship service is not one of them. R.C. Sproul Jr. commented on casual dress for worship:

“It is the habit of my family to dress for church. I have, on more than one occasion, argued in print that we casually worship a casual god because we enter into his presence casually. I have suggested that on the Lord’s Day we should dress as if we were going to meet the King, because we are going to meet the King. I know, from experience, that it won’t take long for someone to point out the obvious, that God looks not at the outward, but at the heart.”3

I am not advocating for any specific dress codes for pastors and people. In the various Christian denominations there have always been standards of dress that were considered appropriate for ministers and laity alike. The orthodox priests have worn various types of religious garments that set them apart for their work and ministry. In many reformed churches the clergy have worn clerical robes. In most evangelical and independent churches a coat and tie or shirt and tie were considered respectful dress for the worship service. I am not suggesting a strict dress code that should be enforced by church officers. I believe that every pastor and church should determine what they consider to be appropriate and respectful dress for the worship service and then encourage that by example. By doing this they will reverse the terrible slide into a sloppy, careless, and casual approach to God that is becoming disgraceful and distracting to the true worship of God. As a reformed baptist minister I have always maintained a standard of wearing a suit and tie or a sport coat and tie for the official services of our church. I have required all those who preach in our pulpit to do the same. My personal reasons for this include the desire to be respectful to the office of a minister, to show to those who attend our services that we take worship seriously, and to demonstrate that we believe that how we approach God in worship truly matters. I have always believed that ministers who dress sloppy, casual or who walk around in public unkempt, dirty or smelly are a poor testimony to the world of our great Lord and His gospel. If God’s servants do not dress professionally while discharging their duties they will never garner the respect from the community in which they serve. If we do not take our ministries seriously why should anyone else take them seriously? I am challenging all pastors and churches to reconsider how they approach God in the worship service. It is my conviction that casual dress by pastors and ministers, along with the sloppy dress in the church service, is not helping us in our worship of the living God. Casual dress by pastors and people in the worship service is sadly a sign of the times. The church has been influenced by a casual and careless culture rather than influencing the culture itself.
























Saturday, February 25, 2017

What Has Become Of Us?

When I think back nostalgically on the halcyon days of my youth, I am deeply troubled and filled with a profound sadness at our current state of affairs.  What has become of us as a nation, a culture, a country, and as a people?

When I look around today and see the confusion, divisions, the hatred, the lawlessness, the anti-Christian bigotry, and the hypocrisy that has Western civilization in its death grip, I just stare at all of this in shock and ask, “What has become of  us?”

        People can't reason any more. Who would have thought that someone like Bernie Sanders could have gotten so many votes on the Democratic side? Who would have thought that Malcolm X would be extolled as a great leader and freedom fighter? Who would have thought that moral perversions would be considered main stream and to oppose these things make you the nut case? Who would have thought that if you were patriotic you would be viewed as a potential danger to society? Who would have thought that you could cry, "Islam is a religion of peace" and so many would believe it. One world order, one world currency, one world government, one world with no borders...This was at the root of the Tower of Babel. What I really cannot understand is how so many Christians don't get this and still support causes that should make them ashamed. Problems are numerous on both sides of the political spectrum. But how can you not see that so many perverted and unbiblical positions are being championed by the left? If some Christians cannot support the right then fine, just don't support the left either. What ever happened to discernment? What ever happened to us?

I grew up on Sylvan Lake, a beautiful little village in southern Michigan. I lived the life of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. What a great place to grow up as a little boy; what an amazing time that was in our history. The guys I grew up with had two different beaches to swim at. We could go to any number of other docks on the lake to swim off, as well. I could kiss my mom goodbye after breakfast, fly out the door as a six or seven year old, hop on my bike and be gone most of the day… home for lunch and away I’d go again.

We had no fear or even any thought of gang violence, drug pushers, or child predators in those days. We spent our time swimming, boating, water skiing, ice skating, and  playing baseball, basketball, football and ice hockey. We had a community center on a little island connected by a bridge where we could play shuffle board, and table tennis.

My friends were your typical American kids. We were from all sorts of backgrounds— Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Chaldean—  a true melting pot in America culture. We never locked our doors in those days; things weren’t stolen out of your yard. Respect for authority was fairly normal. It would not have occurred to us in the 1950’s to call the police  any names, throw rocks at those we disagreed, with or yell down those with a different point of view.

I remember the first election that I got personally caught up with. It was the famous Kennedy—Nixon election. I remember people had strong views on these candidates, but there was a civility that accompanied our debates and discussions. What happened to those days?

I never thought I’d live to see the day that patriotism would be viewed as something to be ashamed of. Or that if you believed the Bible you were considered a relic from the dark ages. It never occurred to us in those special days of my youth to worry about what bathroom we should enter. Same-sex marriage was not a hot topic, and the music that made our parents a little nervous was the Four Seasons, The Beach Boys, Mo Town or those four guys with floppy hair singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” What ever happened to us?

I see my friends posting pictures on Face Book of their past, pictures of their childhood, pictures of their fathers who served in the Korean war or World War II. If my Dad could be here now, he would not recognize our country. We have lost our innocence, moral foundation, and our spiritual  connection with the generation that built this country. 

In those idyllic days of my youth, we were not brought up on fear. We were not taught to hate those with different opinions. Christian virtues and character ruled the day, even if you were not a practicing Christian. Now there is a bitter intolerance with anyone who dares disagree with you. The Progressives on the left act and speak as if their opinion is the only one that matters. If you dare differ with these folks, you are demonized as a racist, fascist, extremist, demagogue, or bigot. And boy do they love to paint those on the right as extremists and kooks. Look who's calling the kettle black! They leave little or no  room for disagreement. What ever happened to us?

Our nation was built on the foundation of Judeo—Christian values. When I was in sixth grade at Whitefield Elementary School on Orchard Lake Road in Pontiac, Michigan, we sang Christmas carols at our Christmas programs. It wasn’t considered politically incorrect to talk about Jesus. The Gideons came to our school each year and offered us a New Testament to those who wished to receive it. At Thanksgiving we learned how the Pilgrims worshipped, thanked God for their blessings, and celebrated with the Indians. Today such studies would land teachers out of a job. The Pilgrims are vilified as racists, who stole the land from the Indians. Christopher Columbus is viewed as a genocidal maniac, and on and on it goes. Revisionist history has made love of our country and our past something to be ashamed of. Our roots have been plucked up and our culture is being smothered by false guilt and is suffocating through self loathing. What has become of us?

If I wrote an auto-biography of my life, I would call it “Once Upon A Time On A Lake.” We enjoyed those peaceful, innocent days on Sylvan Lake. We could run over to our friends who lived on Hammond Lake, or Square Lake, or Pine Lake, or Upper and Lower Long Lake, Cass Lake or Huntington Lake. Just about everyone I knew either lived on a lake or knew someone who did.

As I grew up we had friends who were Black, Hispanic, Jewish, Arab, Chaldean—you name it and it was all a part of the melting pot called America. When we hit the 60’s, things began to change. How could a young teenager understand the early beginnings of a real culture war? I became a Christian in 1966. That event changed my life forever. It didn’t take me long to figure out that there were dark forces that were undermining everything in our culture that was Christian, modest, peaceable, pure and decent. The Weathermen, the Students-For-A-Democratic-Society, the Black Panthers, Jane Fonda, the anti-war movement, Tom Hayden and all other sorts of kooks and nuts hit the country like an atom bomb.

Fast forward three or four decades and we see the full fruits and result of this culture war that has divided us, scared us, and threatens to unravel the very fabric of this amazing country that our forefathers gave us.

I never dreamed I would see the day that so many ideas that are so contrary to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles would have such influence over the people and the nation that I love. This country is more divided than I have ever seen it.

The O.J. Simpson trial revealed to me just how great the racial divide is in our country. I remember the day the verdict in his murder trial came in. I was at a drive-through at McDonalds, and the black girl who handed me my order made racial and condescending remarks about the trial. What shocked me about that trial was how quickly it became about black vs. white, about us vs. them. Somewhere along the line, we lost our sense of true justice and right and wrong. I heard black people say, “Even if O. J. is guilty, I’m glad he got off because it evens the score.” Evens the score? No nation can survive when such thinking has rotted out its core values. For me, this was not about race but about justice, truth, and doing what was right. 

Today everything is about race. We had the first black president who recently left office, and he left our country more racially polarized than ever before. When a president honors, pampers, and encourages “Black Lives Matter,” we cannot hope for true biblical justice, unity, or racial harmony any time soon. And if you don’t support, “Black Lives Matter,” and “open borders,” and if you get nervous about swarms of Muslims entering your country, you are branded a racist, a bigot, and an Islamaphobe. Seriously?

I have a deep love and respect for all races and all people. I believe all men were created in the image of God. Every person has value and life is to be respected and protected. That was the worldview I grew up in. Even if you were not a Christian, our culture reflected those Christian values that we cherished back then. But that is not the case any longer.  Our parents and grandparents would overwhelmingly agree with me. My grandparents would be beyond shocked to think that we practice abortion and call it “women’s rights.” They would be shocked at the public discourse today. They would see the protests, vile speech, vulgar rap music,  the hate- filled rhetoric directed at those who disagree with one’s political views as being disgraceful, disgusting and shameful.  But then again, my grandparents weren’t brought up on political correctness, multiculturalism, anti-nationalism, or taught that their Christian heritage was bigoted and racist. What ever happened to us?

Does anyone who grew up in the 50’s and early 60’s really believe we are better off today? How can anyone seriously think that to have open borders is a good thing? Those of us who are concerned about the spread of Islam are not Islamophobic. To have a phobia is to be scared and frightened about something that does not exist. Just look at the history of this religion, and everywhere it goes it brings bloodshed, violence and chaos. The people who shout the loudest and stomp their feet the most vociferously about the so-called injustice that is being accorded to Muslims by our new president’s temporary ban on seven Muslim nations usually don’t have a clue about what they are talking about. What is wrong with temporarily stopping immigration from danger areas until we can come up with a just and safe plan to protect our nation from those coming in who may do us harm? Do these protesters really understand what the Quran, Sharia law, Islamic honor killings, female genital mutilation, Dhimmi laws and the sordid history of violence and terrorism of this religion is all about? We cannot afford to make any mistakes on this. If this temporary ban prevents just one person from coming and doing us harm, it would be worth it. Would our founding fathers or grandparents have thought it wise to open our border to millions of people who have an alien worldview, whose religion is also a political system of Sharia law, and whose ultimate goal is to bring the whole world into submission to Allah? Certainly not! 

I certainly welcome anyone into our country who is fleeing persecution or is threatened because of their Christian faith. But to open our border to any and all regardless of their intentions makes no sense at all. If we have nothing in our culture worth keeping, if we have no history that is honorable and worth remembering, if we have no spiritual heritage worth preserving— then have at it. Open up the borders to all the third-world countries and lets become a third-world country ourselves and celebrate the values, life styles, and faith of all those who desire to eradicate our faith and culture. If I wanted to live in Beruit, Tehran, Istanbul, or Cairo, I’d move there.

When I saw the huge anti-Trump protests in Washington, D.C. after the election of President Trump, I said to myself, “What has become of us?” People were so filled with hate. They spoke of murder, violence, bombings and insurrection. They used the most filthy and vile speech unfit for any decent viewer, let alone our youth. (All of this to protest the things Donald Trump did in his past and some of his coarse statements made during his campaign run for president.)

As a Christian, I don’t support any wicked thing Donald Trump has done. I call him to repentance for any speech or behavior that has broken the laws of God. But I do point out the blatant hypocrisy of these protesters. Where were they when President Clinton was impeached for his sexual predatory practices and the many women he groped, raped, and took advantage of? Where were they when Hillary Clinton and President Obama blamed the deaths of our ambassador in Libya on a video instead of on Islamic terrorism? Madonna cried out at the protest in Washington D.C., “I’m outraged.” Get serious! As a father of five children and  thirteen grandchildren, I’ve been outraged at her filth and vulgar lifestyle for a long time. Any woman who attended that rally and protest, if she has even the tiniest amount of decency, should be absolutely ashamed. What has become of us?

I received an article  written by a pastor entitled “How to Live Under an Unqualified President.” I agreed with most of what he said. The problem, however, is that based on that article nearly every president we have ever had would be unqualified to lead this nation. What has become of us?

I look back at my boyhood with nostalgic sadness. The great divide between those days and these days of my old age seems like an unfathomable gulf. The only bridge that can reconnect us with the values, convictions, faith and the hope we had in those days long ago is the bridge of God’s Word. Not until we are not ashamed to call ourselves Christians again, not until we are willing to walk with the Son of God and allow His gospel, His teachings, His laws and ethics to be our guide and our foundation will we be able to recover what we have lost. Not until people finally say to people like Madonna, “Just shut up! We’ve had enough of your vile and lewd behavior. We’ve had enough of your non-sense.” Not until we have people who are willing to embrace the absolutes of God’s holy law and repudiate the relativism of this Post-Modern generation will we see the recovery of all that we have lost.

When I see the hatred, the division, the prejudice, the policies based on false guilt and name calling, I look back wistfully at the days of my youth and I ask myself, “What has become of us?”