What Do Heaven and Hell Fight About?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Gorsuch HearingIf you want to understand how to make sense of the current culture wars and the spiritual meaning behind them, you need look no further than the current nomination battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. In what may turn out to be the most contested fight to seat a Supreme Court Judge in America history, the Lord is giving us a glimpse into the greater spiritual conflict between Heaven and Hell that is going on all around us. You see the candidacy of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court is a lightning rod that defines how people see not only politics and the Constitution, but ultimately the Lord Himself.

The vote to seat Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is expected sometime in April. However, the process to get there promises to be truly "ugly." Both sides in this conflict realize that the rule of law in this country hangs in the balance for the next 20 years or so. Thus, no amount of rhetoric or money can be withheld by either side to either confirm Judge Gorsuch or defeat him. As you watch this battle unfold, it will be amazing to see how it ultimately reveals the hearts of people on both sides.

The Lord's Purpose for Politics

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Franklin Grahm Decision AmericaWell, the countdown has begun. In a few weeks another President will be elected. The nation has been obsessed with this election, perhaps more than at any other time in recent memory. The stakes are large for all of us and the world. And yet, whoever is elected President they will fail on some level. It always turns out that way. Anytime people are placed in elected office it seems that many of us end up disappointed. Has there ever been a President that always did the right thing? We vote people in with high hopes for great things and often sit back 4 years or so later with sadness and regret over what went wrong. Such is the state of politics in America and the world.

Now the really sad thing about politics is that few learn anything from this disillusioning pattern. You see the very idea that we need a good leader is nothing more than Heaven speaking to us. We want a good leader because we were wired to have one. The Lord wired all of us with the idea of needing good leaders because we ultimately needed the Lord to rule over us. Human government is at best a poor stand in for the Lord of Glory.

A Voter's Guide to America's New Civil War

Written by JEFF CARLSON on .

Civil War-Divided NationOur great nation seems hopelessly divided as we get ready to vote in this year's election in November. And yet, this great divide happened before in 1857. Understanding what happened 159 years ago is the KEY to discerning the current spiritual issues surrounding the coming election that will significantly affect America and the world until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.

Now when it comes to politics, Christian leaders should avoid endorsing a candidate. Such endorsements can be confusing and very divisive. However, what every leader should be doing is informing people about the Biblical principles that are in play in every election. If you know these Biblical principles, it goes a long way in sorting out the candidates and how to vote. Without that discernment, all we are left with is the media, our "feelings" and the last sound bite we heard from someone.

We Will Never Forget!

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

U.S.-Military-Cemetery-NormandyThe greatness of any society or people rests on their ability to remember their past and what was sacrificed to create and defend it. Surely this is true for our Nation on this Memorial Day Weekend. No nation has sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom and justice as the United States. America has sent more of her youth to die on foreign battle fields than any other nation in human history. If you wonder about this, simply watch this video on American military cemeteries outside of this county at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWB5RXnAecE. This video is a sobering reminder of what made this Nation great and that this greatness is rooted and grounded in our sacrifice for others.

Now this great and sacrificial character of the American people did not come out of nowhere. The Lord Jesus Christ founded this nation for His honor and glory from the beginning. As a result of our Biblical roots and spiritual foundation, the concept of self-sacrifice came easier to us than any other country. What a breathtaking and moving thing it is to see the millions of crosses that blanket our military cemeteries in this country and around the world. These crosses act as a singular testament to our Lord and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world on that Original Cross. Every American soldier who ever died in combat fulfilled the Lord Jesus's prophecy about His own life as He approached the Cross in John 15:13 and said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

The Pope and Prophecy

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

President and PopePresident Obama is currently in the midst of hosting Pope Francis in Washington. It is an historic visit for sure. Only two other Popes have ever visited the White House, his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and Pope John Paul II in 1979. Pope Francis, however, will be the first Pope ever to address Congress. Over the years, many people have asked me questions about the Pope and any role he might play in Bible prophecy. Whatever view you have about the Pope and prophecy, we can’t totally ignore the fact that there are important things under way.

Both Pope Francis and President Obama seem to be kindred spirits on topics like the problems with Capitalism, need for more open immigration and the need to address supposed climate change. Both leaders talk a lot about social justice on a global level and the need for wealth redistribution. However, what is fascinating and troubling at the same time, is that there is no stated plan to talk about the recent genocide of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS, even though both leaders are professing Christians. There is no plan on talking over the nuclear “deal” with Iran that threatens to destroy Israel, and spread terrorism around the world. There also appears to be no plan on talking with the President about abortion and the selling of aborted children’s body parts, as seen in the recent Planned Parenthood videos, or any clear discussion about the removal of marriage definitions from the USA by the Supreme Court and the Obama Administration. Surely one would have thought such things were important enough to the Pope to be key issues for discussion with the President. We can certainly hope such discussions take place, but it seems unlikely right now. It appears the Pope's visit may be more about global politics than the Gospel.

The Great Debates of Life

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

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I spent part of my evening last night watching another round of the “Republican Presidential Debates.” It was fascinating to watch a bunch of smart people argue and debate about every possible issue. Each of the candidates is very passionate that they are right and would be the best President, while others are not so right….or just plain wrong.

What we see taking place in our political arena is exactly what happens to all of us every day. These debates cover every subject, and everyone seems to have a passionate opinion. People will debate and argue about the best football team, the best college, the best way to worship, how to grow a garden the right way, the worst presidential candidate and the best. I really think it would be impossible to find a topic people don’t have a passionate opinion about. And, of course, everyone thinks they are right.

Jesus and the Trump Factor

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Boldness
It’s rare that a political figure captivates the media and the country the way Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has of late. Whether you hate him or love him, he surely isn’t boring.  He has taken the political process by storm, and that shows no signs of letting up. He speaks his mind and doesn’t care what people think about him. For some he represents the kind of leadership the country has needed for a long time. He is rich, bold, and appears not to be controlled by any special interest groups. When he speaks, he acts like he owns the place and doesn’t care whose toes he steps on. He promises people that he will “Make America Great Again” by cleaning house and driving out those standing in the way. Donald Trump is truly an American political phenomenon.

What few, if any, have seen in Trump’s candidacy is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, when our Lord came the first time, the religious establishment of Israel was taken over by special interest groups. The Temple, which was the center of their religious life, was run and controlled by the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

Killing Our Consciences

Written by Jeff Calson on .

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It’s the underreported story that could make you cry. At least for those who heard the real details of the story.  Officials at Planned Parenthood have been selling aborted children’s body parts to make money for themselves.  Perhaps the worst of it was the recent interview with Dr. Mary Gatter, who was president of Planned Parenthood Medical Director’s Council until 2014, and still advices the organization. Dr. Gatter wanted to get more money for the children’s body parts so she could buy a Lamborghini, a fancy Italian sports car.  The coldness and evil of this story has even shocked veteran news people.

America has been on this road a long time. Ever since abortion was legalized in 1973, when Roe vs. Wade decision was issued, human life has increasingly been devalued.Abortion is a business, so we can’t be totally surprised when people are trying to make more money from it.  What is so shocking is the coldness of well-educated people in the medical community to the suffering and death of these children for money. The last time the medical community behaved like this was in Nazi Germany. Sadly, these children were someone’s son or daughter, they were someone’s grandchild.  They were Americans that never got to enjoy life and live the American Dream.  They never rode a bicycle, blew out birthday candles or got married. They were murdered and that crime didn’t end with their death. Now we are told someone not only killed them, but profited from their death, purely out of self-interest and materialism.

Christians in the Lion's Den

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

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It is the most underreported story of 2015. The story I am talking about is the persecution of Christians around the world... and closer to home. More Christians are being marginalized, persecuted, attacked, and killed than at any time in history.  

Sadly, most of these stories are being buried by the media and our leaders in government to promote their own political agendas. Even President Obama, a professing Christian, has remained virtually silent on the subject.  No one wants to talk about it.

The persecution of Christians is hardly something new for the Church or for the saints in the Bible. It is found throughout the Old and New Testaments and regularly in Church history. The Lord Jesus said it would be part of the Christian life in John 15:18-21 and our Lord’s prophetic words are coming to pass before our eyes.

Worldview 101: the Great Culture Wars

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

sunrise
In my 30 years as a teaching pastor, I have met few people who have really understood the idea of a “worldview.”  A worldview is how you view the world.  It ultimately reflects your view of the Lord and what life is all about.  So it is much more than a person’s viewpoint as a “liberal” or a “conservative,” “Democratic” or “Republican”, which seems to dominate our public discourse.  It deals with eternity and the spiritual intangibles of life.

All of our battles today are about worldview.  That battle found a lightning rod in last week’s Supreme Court decision to support Gay Marriage, but it really has been driving every disagreement and conflict. Gaining clarity about a person’s worldview is the only way to make sense of life.  Most of us got our worldviews from our families and/or religious traditions.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

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Is there anybody that doesn’t like the movie “The Wizard of Oz”?   I still love to watch it. It reminds me of a simpler time and it touches on a great theme of life that there is “no place like home.”   In the movie Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, sings a great song about hope amidst life’s trials, entitled, “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” The song reflects Dorothy’s dream for a better day, a better place, and a bright hope for the future.

The rainbow has spoken to countless generations, both then and now, about hope for the future. The beautiful colors of the rainbow, following a storm, were a kiss from the heavens reminding us that life is worth living. And while many may have forgotten it, the rainbow was created by the Lord in Genesis 9 to be a reminder of His Covenant. The rainbow was a declaration that the Lord was full of love and mercy for the world. The rainbow was the good news or Gospel that the Lord forgives sin and gives new life and resurrection to people like Noah, his family, and all who believe in Him.

The Islamic Spin Machine

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

ISIS 2If there is one item that seems to dominate the news today it is the rampage of the Islamic group called ISIS. The world has been shocked by the scale of their brutality, which seems to be unprecedented in recent memory. It seems that every night we see and hear stories of the rape, murder, and pillaging of thousands of people who do not hold to their Islamic view of life. As this brutality and chaos spreads in the Middle East, there are literally thousands of people from all around the world, including the USA, who want to join ISIS. The goal of this group, by their own admission, is the re- establishment of an Islamic Caliphate that will bring about the restoration of true Islam.

And yet, the really tragic part of this story is what the world is not doing about it. The world has largely been sitting back and watching this murder and mayhem unfold because of political correctness. You see, the real problem with ISIS is that much of the world, including the Obama Administration, does not accept this group as Islamic. As a matter of fact, President Obama refuses to allow anyone to call them Islamic. All of their murder and mayhem are just "boys behaving badly" and does not reflect the true spirit of Islam. Sadly, this absolute confusion about this issue has tied up the entire world with regards to making any response. Military experts have warned that without some decisive response this group will continue to pose the most serious terrorist threat to the world's peace and stability in history.

The Real Class Warfare

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

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One of the major signs a culture is in crisis and nearing a fall is when the public is divided by their leadership. As our Lord Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:35). In the last few years, America and Europe have increasingly been prodded by their progressive governments into what we call “class warfare.” Class warfare divides a society into the “haves” and the “have nots,” the rich and the poor. The public is then indoctrinated to believe that their society can only be just and fair IF the government is allowed to transfer wealth from one group to another.

The first time there was an attempt to redistribute wealth from rich to poor took place days before our Lord’s passion. As our Lord was getting ready to die for the sins of the world, Mary poured an expensive perfume on His feet to prepare our Lord’s body for burial. Judas Iscariot got angry and indignant about this waste and wanted to give the money to the poor. However, the Bible tells us that Judas did not really care about the poor because he was a thief (John 12:2-8). This story from the Bible provides an important insight into the whole history of wealth redistribution. At its root is a demonic spirit that cares little for the poor. Its ultimate goal is gaining power over others and attacking the Lord. History establishes this truth over and over again.

Scapegoat Nation

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

goat2Have you ever blamed someone for anything that might not have been their fault? We all have done it. Welcome to the world of scapegoating. When we face problems in life it is often easier to blame someone else than to look at our part in the issue. It is easier blaming family members. It is easily blaming politicians. It is easier blaming the economy. It is easier blaming the pastor. Now that’s one I know all about. People just can’t handle blaming themselves or working out their part. The “blame game” is the main way many seem to handle life. Can you imagine people actually taking responsibility for their own sins? It almost sounds too good to be true.

The Gospel, or Good News, in the Bible is that the Lord Himself took responsibility for all our sins. The Lord Jesus didn’t have any sin at all. And yet, the Lord of Creation chose to exchange His innocence for our guilt. This glorious gift of grace was seen on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. On this special day, a scapegoat was chosen by lot and sent into the wilderness to remove the people’s sins.

The Alinsky Chronicles

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

rulesradChristian leaders are often told not discuss political themes because it will hurt the Gospel. Sure, some Christians have become politically active, but they only represent the minority of the Lord’s people. It seems clear to me that it is a mistake to try and label the Lord a “Republican” or a “Democrat.” However, the really big problem we are facing today is when Christian leaders refuse to say anything about spiritual battles that affect our lives each day, regardless of party affiliation.

One of the most under-reported stories in America today is the spiritual battles we face. No one can look at the chaos unfolding in the world today and eliminate the spiritual realm as an influence. Even the Gallup poll says that 70% of Americans believe in the devil. That means that the vast majority of people realize that our battle is not just with what we see. The Bible, of course, has said this from the beginning. The devil came to people as a serpent using lies and deception to destroy our lives. This unseen spiritual battle is the focus of why the Lord Jesus came and died on the Cross. Our Lord came to destroy the works of the devil according to I John 3:8.

Baltimore Burning

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

baltimoreMost of us have heard about the riots in Baltimore by now. Our news will be filled with the story for a while. The trigger for the riots appears to be the unjust death of a man in police custody. Some of the media will be talking about police injustices, while others will mention a lack of jobs, the decay of our inner cities, and families under poor social policy from Washington. However, the real story is much, much deeper and way beyond what any of the media will cover. As usual, everyone will be trying to blame someone. Few if any will take any responsibility for things and another Baltimore will most likely develop in the near future.

Saving the Earth?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

earthdayDid you miss it? Wednesday, April 22, marked the now annual celebration of “Earth Day.”   People around the world gave some speeches and reflected on the need to take care of the planet in better ways. Even President Obama managed to use the day to speak about the need to stop global climate change, which he said presented “no greater threat to our planet.” Few seem to agree whether man-made climate change is really even happening, but we are being told by our President and others that it is a “threat” to all of us and needs to be fixed. Of course how you “fix” the planet’s climate is not easily spelled out, but like many government ideas you have to pass legislation BEFORE you find out what it is all about.

Whatever your view of some of these environmental issues, the real story is not being reported at all. The real story about Earth Day is what it represents on a spiritual level. Earth Day is really a worldview, a belief system... a religion, if you will. People may not think of this environmental movement to “save the planet” from human sin as a religion, but it drives many these days much more than going to church on Sunday and thinking about saving souls. Whereas the Bible is clearly more concerned about saving people, these folks just want to save the planet.

Bowing Down to the Image

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

2016If you’re like me, you may already be weary of another round of the race for the presidency. Every week now, new potential contenders are announcing their campaign for the White House in 2016. And yet, it seems harder and harder each political cycle to get excited about anyone because we end up so disappointed with the results of these leaders once they are elected. We want things to change, but we seem to keep making the same mistakes over and over. It seems we have truly found the definition of political insanity and it is taking a heavy toll on our lives.