Thank God For CNN

I knew that I shouldn’t watch it but I did anyway. My kids were in bed and the house was quiet and dark. The week ahead looked busy so this was likely the best opportunity I would have to see it. My gut told me that this would not end well. But I didn’t let that stop me.

That night, my wife and I sat down to watch a new show on CNN called Believer where each week Reza Aslan finds a new religion to be condescending toward. The episode we were about to watch focused on the relationship between Vodou and Christianity in the small country of Haiti.

The show didn’t disappoint. When it was over, I was disappointed. That’s because Christians were presented as religious crusaders for daring to build hospitals in the nation that is saturated in corruption and poverty. Vodou, on the other hand, was presented as grossly misunderstood. If you’re keeping score at home, the religion that motivates people to build hospitals is bad and the one that gets people to sacrifice pigs to demons is good. The last few minutes of the show looked like a commercial for Vodou.

This should come as no surprise from a network that spends millions of dollars producing and promoting documentaries in an effort to, “find the real Jesus.” In the CNN lexicon, “finding the real Jesus” is code for the Jesus of the Bible being fake. That’s right. The church has gotten it wrong for two thousand years now. Thankfully, CNN is here to tell us the truth.

We should be very quick to examine CNN’s version of the truth. This is, after all, the same network that likes to feed debate questions to presidential candidates of a certain party in order to help them to prepare beforehand. Truth, we should all know by now, isn’t so high on CNN’s list of priorities. It appears that trying to discredit Christianity is.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve noticed that CNN doesn’t take time out of its regular programming each year when Ramadan rolls around to, “find the real Mohammed.” You know, the rapist and child molester. Some of that could be out of fear. CNN probably doesn’t want the same fate that their counterparts at Charlie Hebdo suffered. To them, Christianity is a much easier target.

That’s because, in large part, Islam is built on the blood of the so called infidels. Christianity is grounded in and saturated with the blood of Jesus. In our world, acts of terror are much less offensive than God dying for the sins that we committed.

Islam is advanced by the sword. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (Matthew 26:52-53).

If anyone, even a bestselling author with his own show about religion on CNN, ever tells you that all religions are the same, you can be certain that they have no clue what they are talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an appeal to boycott CNN. I watch CNN regularly and if you care about getting a glimpse into the secular worldview, I suggest that you do the same. Just know that you are being lied to.

But don’t let those lies get you down.

The book of Acts will help you to put CNN and their constant jabs at Christianity into perspective. Slander and persecution are the fertilizer from which the church grows. Acts is filled with accounts of the church being persecuted. And the persecution is much more intense than anything CNN has thrown the church’s way. But notice what happens after each instance of persecution. The church grows exponentially.

After the disciples are mocked and written off as drunks, three thousand people were added to the church (Acts 2).

After Stephen is martyred, Saul, the man who helped to make it happen, becomes a follower of Christ (Acts 7 – 9).

When Paul is kicked out of one region, he moves to another one and gospel growth follows (Acts 17).

And so on.

Christian, don’t let opposition, slander and media misrepresentations about your faith get you down. Be encouraged and know that it is from this that real growth comes. For a few decades now, some churches have tried to grow their numbers through gimmicks and give aways. At best, all those techniques ever do is draw a crowd. Real growth, or discipleship, comes when the church keeps its course through opposition.

CNN is no threat to the body of Jesus Christ. In reality, they are like a kid kicking over dandelions in the front yard. He thinks he’s getting rid of the weeds but all he’s really doing is making them spread.

So thank God for CNN.

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Benevolent Dictators, The Gospel And Georgia’s Burqa Ban

Update: Jason Spencer has decided to withdraw House Bill 3.

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You might have a hard time believing this but there’s a really bad bill scheduled to come before the Georgia Legislature. This one has nothing to do with raising taxes or making grits the official breakfast food of Georgia. House Bill 3, if passed as written, would prohibit the wearing of any device that would hide a person’s face while taking a photo for a driver’s license, driving a car or, get this, while on, “any public way or public property.” 

To be clear, the bill’s sponsor, Jason Spencer, isn’t trying to crack down on young suburbanite women at the Mall of Georgia who wear their scarfs too high up on their face. This is a ban on burqas.

I can understand the problems of a concealed face during a driver’s license photo but using the power of the sate to prohibit the wearing of a burqa while driving a car or “on public property” is very problematic.

It matters how Christians respond to this.

We must be firm in our theological disagreement with our fellow Americans who are Muslims. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) and it is clear that the God of Christianity and the god of Islam are not the same. However, we must be just as firm in defending the rights of our Muslim neighbors. Believe it or not, this can be done without compromising the faith.

There’s something very troubling about so-called conservative evangelicals. As I’ve always understood it, conservatism referred to limited government. Recent history reveals that conservatism really means government that’s just as big as the kind that progressives prefer, only with conservatives instead of liberals reaching into our lives. Simply put, many conservatives have abandoned the concept of liberty in favor of a benevolent dictatorship.

And make no mistake, a government that can tell people what they can and cannot wear on “public property” is a dictatorship. I guess it depends on who you ask as to whether or not it’s benevolent. And a government that can tell Muslim women that they have to put their faith in the backseat while driving or in the public square can just as easily tell Christian families that they can’t homeschool their children and tell Christian churches that they can’t refuse someone for baptism or membership.

This bill is rooted in fear. Spencer reasons, “This bill is simply a response to constituents that do have concerns of the rise of Islamic terrorism, and we in the State of Georgia do not want our laws used against us.”

But we must remember that fear is the enemy of liberty. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by fear, we can be sure that there will be scores of benevolent dictators eager to fix the problem. And we can be just as sure that the fix will be worse than the problem.

A while back I was driving my family to a soccer tournament that my son would be playing in. It was a trip like most others but this time we had an extra passenger. My son’s teammate came along for the ride because his parents had to work. My son’s teammate was Muslim.

Now, we could have performed our own stop and frisk on this young boy before letting him into our car. We wouldn’t want him setting off a bomb in the back seat of our Camry, now would we? Call me a bad parent, but we didn’t screen this young man. And somehow, no bomb went off.

But something else happened.

For the entire hour of our drive, I played the music of Lecrae. He’s a rapper who frequently references the gospel. And while Lecrae’s music was playing, I was praying. I was praying that the light of Christ would shine through our family as we interacted with one another and through Lecrae’s lyrics as they blew through our speakers.

When we got to the soccer fields, my son’s friend didn’t get out of the car and pray to make Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior. He did something very different from that.

He threw up.

Now, I don’t know what that has to say about me and my family but I think that it was an answer to prayer. While I was cleaning up vomit, my wife was comforting this young Muslim boy as if he was her own. The light of Christ shone through her that afternoon. And I’m still praying that it penetrates the heart of that young man.

Muslim’s suffer. Sometimes their suffering comes from being car sick. Sometimes it comes from ridiculous laws. Either way, it is the job of followers of Christ to be there for them, with love and truth, when that suffering comes.

It’s the sacrificial love and truth of God and his people that removes burqas.

Not ridiculous laws from benevolent dictators.

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About That Mosque In Rural Georgia

Fox Theater

There’s a big fight going on in my part of the world. Some people want to build a mosque in rural Newton County, Georgia. Most of the people in Newton County, Georgia don’t want the building there. At least that’s how it seems. At first, those in opposition cited traffic concerns but at a recent public meeting, the real reason became apparent. The people of Newton County don’t want a Muslim place of worship in their community.

The will of the people is understandable here. After all, Islam hasn’t done the best job of separating itself from bloodthirsty lunatics. On the surface at least, one can understand why the people of Newton County wouldn’t want a Muslim place of worship in their community.

But that’s just on the surface. A second look reveals that allowing the government to decide which religion can or cannot put up a building is a very slippery slope. Beyond the rhetoric, fear and tribalism there is the following reality: when one religion is banned by the government, no religion is safe.

Islam is a lie. More than that, it is a demonic lie. Millions have been and continue to be deceived by it. I would love to see the religion wiped off of the map. But I don’t want that to happen because of a local government with a new ordinance or a federal government wishing to make “the sand glow.” I’d rather see Islam choked out by the gospel of Jesus Christ, the One True God. One day it will be.

There are a lot of houses of worship in my community. The one closest to my house teaches the false doctrine that Jesus was created. Many others, with more socially acceptable titles on the sign out front, haven’t preached the gospel in decades. If Jesus showed up this Sunday, they’d form a committee and have him voted out. There are other churches where the gospel of salvation by good works and the promise of health and wealth are boldly proclaimed. For them, the God of the universe is the means to the end of their best life now.

I pray for these churches and houses of worship. For some, I pray that they would shut down because everyone there comes to realize the lies they have believed and the truth of the gospel. For others, I pray for revival and a new start. But what I’m praying for can only be done by God, not the government.

I get it. Most terrorists are Muslims, not Jehovah’s Witnesses. All the people in Newton County want to do, I’m told, is keep terrorism out of their community. They don’t have a beef with any other religions.

Consider this.

I’m the pastor of a Baptist Church. I frequently preach that homosexuality is a sin but that homosexuals are not beyond God’s grace. I believe in male leadership. I am very particular about what wedding ceremonies, even the heterosexual ones, I will perform. I believe that every word of the Bible is God’s true word. There are some instances where I would be forced to tell government officials, “I must obey God rather than man.” And I’m not alone. There are millions like me.

But do you know what all of that makes us in the eyes of our increasingly godless culture?

Terrorists.

Why do you think that peaceful, evangelical church planters have such a hard time finding a building in the northeastern United States? Because the angry mobs see them as intolerant. Or as being on the wrong side of history. Or hateful. Or just plain old terrorists.

The First Amendment of our Constitution does not speak of the freedom of the Baptist religion. Or the Methodist religion. Or a religion that we’re more familiar with and that’s less scary. It speaks of the freedom of religion. Period.

My dad used to tell me that democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner. Right now in Newton County, the wolf mob is friendly to Christianity. But we would be foolish to believe that it will stay that way. The tide has already turned against us in a significant portion of our country.

So if some group decides to build a mosque in your community, let them do it. The spread of Islam will not come to a stop because of a town hall meeting. But, at least in my part of the world, it can slow down when Christians start viewing Muslims as lost sheep in need of a Savior rather than pests in need of an eviction notice.

Freedom is scary. It comes with risks. There is danger involved. Some people can’t handle living under a government that isn’t big enough to keep them safe in any and every circumstance. As a result, they are left with a very large government that is big enough to protect them from any and every religion.

I hope that the mosque in Newton County gets built.

But, somewhere along the way, I hope that it gets repurposed because the families who worship there come to see the supremacy of Jesus Christ over Allah. That can’t happen through a government ordinance.

Only the Holy Spirit can make it happen. That can be a scary reality.

But when we rely on government to do what only God can, we are left with something even more frightening.

Tyranny.

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Donald Trump’s Dangerous Idea About Mosques

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There have been a few elections when, left with no other options, I wrote in Ric Flair’s name. When we elect a president a year from now, it appears that we may have the next closest thing to Mr. Flair on the ballot. His name is Donald Trump. The two do have quite a bit in common. Both command a lot of attention, they both are probably not as rich as they would have us to believe and in real life they both are friends with the people they pretend to be enemies with on TV.

Oh, and one other thing.

They both would make terrible presidents.

With each passing week, Mr. Trump proves my point. Recently, he suggested that, in order to fight ISIS, the government should shut down mosques. Here’s what he said.

“Well, I would hate to do it but it’s something you’re going to have to strongly consider. Some of the absolute hatred is coming from these areas. The hatred is incredible. It’s embedded. The hatred is beyond belief. The hatred is greater than anybody understands.”

And all the Trump fans cheer. But if you’re a Christian, or anyone else who cares about religious liberty for that matter, you should strongly oppose this. I know. It sounds good on the surface. Shut down the mosques. That’s where the terror talk is. That’s where the planning is taking place. That’s how we keep America safe.

This plan may lead to more safety but it won’t be America that we’re living in anymore. Perhaps China or the old Soviet Union but not America. That’s because America was founded on the foundation of religious liberty. Not Baptist liberty. Not even Christian liberty. Religious liberty.

To be fair, the Muslim faith hasn’t exactly done a stellar job of separating itself from terror over the years. And a lot of chatter and planning has taken place in mosques. But doesn’t it make better sense to go after the specific mosque that is harboring terrorists? If the mosque down the street is actually a terrorist recruiting center, tear it down, turn it into a BBQ restaurant and punish the people behind all of the terror.

Donald Trump would rather that we just go ahead and do that to every mosque right now. Can you imagine the precedent that Trump’s plan would set?

I’ll help you with that.

Imagine President Clinton or President Sanders saying the exact same words that Donald Trump said. Here they are again.

“Well, I would hate to do it but it’s something you’re going to have to strongly consider. Some of the absolute hatred is coming from these areas. The hatred is incredible. It’s embedded. The hatred is beyond belief. The hatred is greater than anybody understands.”

Of course Clinton or Sanders would never say this about a mosque, you might say. And you’d be right. But they very well could say the same thing about your evangelical church.

Maybe it would sound something like this.

“I hate to do it but it’s something we’ve strongly considered for quite some time. Some of the absolute hatred is coming from these areas. They won’t marry homosexuals. They oppose a woman’s right to choose. The hatred is incredible. It’s embedded. The hatred is beyond belief. The hatred is greater than anybody understands.”

If this happens, hopefully someone in your church has a nice basement for your church to meet in.

Islam is a demonic religion. Allah is a false god and Mohammed is a false prophet. Apart from Jesus Christ, Muslims, even the kindest and most sincere, will spend an eternity in hell. But religious liberty applies to them just as much as it does to us.

Sadly, Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to understand this.

And, even more disturbing, he just might have his name on the ballot next November.

Which means that I’ll have to write-in Ric Flair again.

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The Real Deal

Tim Tebow getting cut by an NFL team is not Christian persecution.

A non-Christian coffee company acting like a non-Christian coffee company is not Christian persecution.

The following video gives just one small example of what Christian persecution looks like.

If you fell all to pieces over a red cup, you’ve got some work to do before the real deal comes your way. But hurry. There may not be much time.

The One Thing That Christianity and Radical Islam Have In Common

There are a lot of differences between Christianity and radical Islam.

For one example, consider the media. When a news organization publishes a funny looking cartoon of the Prophet, it’s about to be the third World War. When a news organization publishes a hit piece against Christianity, it’s called just another Tuesday. Or Christmas. Or Easter. If Christians reacted to mass disrespect of their religion in the same way that radical Islamists do, there would be no media left on this planet.

Which leads me to the one thing that Christianity and radical Islam have in common.

Both religions are advanced through bullying, fear and even violence.

Perhaps I should explain.

I spent almost all day Wednesday driving in my car and listening to news about the shooting in Paris. Strangely, some media outlets couldn’t figure out the motivation behind the murderers who swore praise to Allah before killing 12 people. At the same time, there were news stories about the fire chief in the city of Atlanta. He’s a Christian who wrote a book a while back calling homosexuality a perversion. Earlier this week, he was fired for the words he wrote in his book.

As we saw in Paris on Wednesday, Islam seeks advancement by force. Their missionaries carry guns and use them on those who refuse to convert.

And as we saw from that announcement by the mayor of Atlanta earlier this week, Christians are usually the victims of bullying, fear and even violence. And yet the Kingdom still advances.

In the first chapter of Joshua, God gives a strange command.

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:7-8 (ESV)

When God tells you to, “be strong and courageous,” you would expect him to follow with words about some big battle just up the road. But that’s not what happens here. Instead, he talks about obeying God’s commands. Obedience is not for the faint of heart. It could get you called some mean names. You could become the target for some mean words. Or a mayor’s power. Or a terrorists sword. As Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

So be strong and courageous.

Islam seeks advancement through violence. But, in the end, this will never work because Islam is a false religion centered around a false prophet who is now dead.

Christianity is the frequent target of bullies, governments and madmen. But try as they may, they just can’t make it go away. That’s because Christianity, unlike Islam, is truth and at its center is the one true God who lives today. Not only does he live but he is also very present with his people.

Remember God’s words to Joshua.

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Joshua 1:5 (ESV)

Christian, your obedience might cost you your job. It could hurt your reputation. It could even bring your life to an end. But through it all, the one and true God is with you. The worst thing that man can do to you is kill you. And after that, God will not just be with you. You will be with him. Forever.

No matter what you lose, you can’t lose.

So be strong and courageous.