Militia Mania and the Millennium

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In this life I have discovered three undeniable truths.

1. The Infomercial Insight – If something sounds too good to be true it’s because it is.

2. The Oprah-ite Observation – There is only one God and we are not Him.

3. The Pauline Principle –

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

There is no doubt about the fact that we tend to get out of life what we put in to life.

And although there are those who spend six days a week sowing their wild oats and then spend the seventh in church praying for crop failure, sooner or later the bills come due.

This principle works every single time –

Financially.

Relationally.

But even more importantly, doctrinally.

Believe it or not, what we believe about God has just as much impact on where we are in this life as it will in where we will spend the next.

If we understand God’s ways as revealed in His Word we are on the path to a full and meaningful life.

But of we deny or distort God’s truth, well, there is inevitably a price to be paid.

They found that out the hard way up in Michigan this week.

Nine Charged in Militia Plot

Michigan Religious Group Plotted Violent Government Offensive

ADRIAN, Mich.—Nine members of an anti-government militia group were charged Monday with conspiring to kill a law-enforcement officer in an effort to start a “war” against the U.S. government, authorities said.

The group, known as Hutaree, planned to kill an unidentified local law-enforcement officer in April and then attack local, state and federal officers who came to Michigan to attend the funeral, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said in a 12-page indictment.

The indictment said Hutaree, a small, armed militia group based in rural southeast Michigan, had practiced attacks and other military maneuvers for more than a year, and had planned to use homemade bombs like those used against U.S. forces by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bombs were the key part of the alleged plot to attack the funeral of a law-enforcement officer, the indictment said.

After that attack, the group planned to retreat to a remote “rally point” from which members would resist an expected response by the government, sparking what Hutaree’s alleged leader, David Brian Stone, hoped would be a wider uprising against the government, the indictment said. FBI agent Andrew Arena called Hutaree “an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society.”

The group, whose name means “Christian Warrior,” according to its Web site, didn’t respond to emails. The Web site said the group was preparing for “the anti-Christ” and expected to “one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield.” The site quotes scripture passages alluding to battle and the sacrifice of lives for a greater cause. The group used tiger-striped camouflage uniforms, the indictment said.

Now there is no doubt that any group that defines their service to God as killing cops and detonating bombs at their funerals has some deep-seated moral problems.

But did you catch a glimpse of a serious Scriptural error that fueled this fire?

This militia believed they were going to not only see the Antichrist, but were actively training to fight against him in a battle.

Let’s address this two-part “End Times” error, one flaw at a time.

First, the Bible never tells believers to be on the look out for the Antichrist.

A healthy and biblically sound view takes a decidedly higher focus.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

Those who grasp the authentic message of the Second Coming understand that we are looking for Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist.

Those who get this priority reversed inevitably “reap what they sow”.

Sensationalists who have sold books or bagged hits on a web site by speculating that:

“Mikhail Gorbachev is the Anti-Christ – Just look at that mysterious wine stain on his forehead!!”

“Ronald Reagan is the Antichrist – Ronald has six letters Wilson has six letters and Reagan has six letters!!”

And now, of course:

“Barak Obama is the Antichrist – just look at this twisted out of context statement from the Gospel of Luke!”

-have inevitably only made themselves objects of scorn and ridicule to the world and cautionary examples to God’s people to never substitute speculation for a solid search of the Scriptures.

But in this case, the damages of distorted doctrine went far beyond a red face.

Innocent people nearly lost their lives.

The second flaw in the Hutaree doctrine goes to their violent ambitions.

The clear teaching of Titus 2 tells us that if we really understand the message that Jesus could come for us at any moment, we will live lives that reflect that by living “soberly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

I may not be the greatest Greek scholar who ever lived, but I am fairly certain there are no references to building bunkers, killing cops or inventing improvised explosives in this passage.

The saddest comments I have read regarding this incident came from the estranged wife of the commander of the Hutarees.

She said the whole thing began as a Bible study that just seemed to get off track into politics and finally paranoia.

The moral of the story?

Stick with the clear teaching of God’s Word.

If someone tells you that their group alone understands the “deeper truths” of God, run -don’t walk – out of there.

If someone starts in by saying, “This isn’t really in the Bible, but..”, get up and leave.

And if the focus of a church, ministry, or small group is on a pastor, a program or politics, find another place to fellowship – focused on Jesus as He is revealed in the plain teaching of the Scripture.

Your life – both physically and spiritually – may depend on it.

These Are the Good Old Days

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“These are the good old days.”

So sang Carly Simon in her classic song “Anticipation”.

But it appears that King Solomon was way ahead of her.

Around 2,900 years ago he made an observation that is just as relevant today as when he penned these words-

Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

It’s hard to argue with Solomon’s logic.

There are those who make the all too common error of locking in on a certain era as the best years of their lives.

It happens to the guy who is still wearing a 40 year old thread bare letterman’s jacket to his high school’s football games.

It happens to the social critic who believes that everything in society could be fixed if we could all just go back to Max Yasgur’s farm and recreate Woodstock.

But it can also easily happen to us as believers in Christ as well.

Particularly those believers who came to know Christ during a time in the late 60’s and early 70’s known as The Jesus Movement.

Get some old school Calvary Chapel people together who lived through those times and you will hear amazing stories about the love and truth of Jesus completely transforming lives.

James MacDonald wryly  sums up the experience of a typical Calvary pastor as “Sell drugs, find Jesus, become a pastor and marry a good looking wife!”

And when you hear stories about a “Little Country Church On the Edge of Town”  – Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa -that dared to reach out to a lost and disillusioned generation with God’s truth, only to become a 40,000 member congregation that has since spun off over 1,300 other churches in the U.S. alone, well, suffice it to say that was an awesome move of God.

But it also raises a question – “Great! So what has God done lately?”

And if all our testimonies about the transforming power of God are in past tense, we might find ourselves standing right next to the guy in the threadbare letterman’s jacket and the gray haired dude in the tie-dyed “Jimi Lives!” t-shirt.

Fortunately, if we pay attention, equally awesome works of God are going on all around us these days.

Harvest Crusades are packing major league baseball stadiums, with over 20,000 people giving their lives to the Lord in a single weekend.

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Calvary Chapel churches are being established all around the world on a nearly weekly basis.

But even more wonderfully, the same Spirit of truth spoken in love is still very present in our day.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Arizona Pastors and Leaders Conference at Calvary Chapel of Tucson.

Not only did I get the opportunity to gain leadership insights from a verse by verse examination of the life of King David, delivered by well established pastors from the Calvary movement like Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque –

I also got the chance to experience powerful messages by those outside the movement like James MacDonald and Alister Begg.

But even more wonderfully, I was challenged by messages from a new generation of younger pastors like Levi Lusko and Pedro Garcia.

God is doing a wonderful new work.

But even more amazing to me was the final event of the conference – the dedication service for the new worship center at Calvary Tucson.

I was asked by Pastor Robert Furrow to open the service in prayer.

Now that in and of itself is pretty unusual, as sometimes pastors from the same town can be a bit competitive and territorial.

But God has done a work in our relationship where I consider Pastor Robert one of my closest friends.

After I prayed my wife Pam and I were able to enjoy a powerful service.

The opening worship, lead by the Calvary Tucson team was amazing.

Then Evan Wickham lead those attending even closer to the Lord.

Alister Begg shared a challenging and on target message.

But the most amazing thing we experienced was afterward, when we were inundated by so many who shared God’s love with us.

As we left, my wife, who was at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa during the Jesus Movement shared something with me I will never forget.

She said, “You know, I felt the same sense of God’s Spirit working here tonight that I did back in the early days of Calvary.”

And she was right.

The same excitement, the same truth, the same supernatural love that can’t be imitated or simulated, the same gloriously simple focus on Jesus was there that night.

God is still in the miracle business.

A pop culture icon once said, “Life comes at you pretty fast. If you aren’t careful,  you could miss it.”

Let’s make sure we aren’t either stuck in the past, or so caught up in some future expectation that we miss out on what the Lord is doing in the here and now.

These are the good old days.

Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

Can Anything Good Come Out of Washington?

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Have you ever heard of an “oxymoron”.

No, it isn’t a word for a less than intelligent TV detergent salesman.

It is a term that describes two things that common sense tells us don’t go together- like “jumbo shrimp” or “government assistance” or a “principled politician”.

But hold on a minute.

We may have to scratch that last example from our list.

Surprisingly, there are still some in Washington who are committed to doing what is right in spite of the consequences to their political careers.

Unless you live in a non Wi-Fi accessible cave you know the big issue blaring away in the media is the fate of the massive health care reform bill pending before congress.

As written, this complete overhaul of nearly 10% of our nation’s economy is huge – nearly 2,000 pages long, nearly incomprehensible to even seasoned policy wonks, and wildly unpopular – the latest Rasmussen polling data suggests a solid majority of Americans oppose passage of the current bill.

Although voted down once before, a resurrected version of the bill is now approaching a key vote in the House of Representatives.

Will this society changing bill become law?

It may all come down to one issue – Abortion.

Pro-life Representative Bart Stupak  a Democrat from Michigan has indicated that he and eleven other congressmen will vote against the bill, unless specific language is included that will exclude the funding of abortion.

Those favoring the passage of the health care overhaul have expressed shock that this one issue would be significant enough to bring down the entire legislative effort.

Stupak took some tough questioning from ABC’s Good Morning America host George Stephanoplous this morning:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s bring in Congressman Stupak now. And, Congressman, you heard Secretary Sebelius there. She said the President’s bill, the President’s proposal, does not change the status quo on abortion, does not have federal funding on abortion. Do you agree? And can you vote for it?

BART STUPAK: Well, no one has seen the President’s bill yet. We’ve seen proposals. The President indicated yesterday four more proposals he’d like to incorporate. So, we want to see the bill. But, the bill that they’re using as the vehicle, is the Senate bill. And if you go to page 2,069, through page 2,078, you will find in there, the federal government would directly subsidize abortions. Plus, every enrollee in the Office of Personnel Management enrolled plan, every enrollee, has to pay a minimum of $1 per month toward reproductive rights, which includes abortions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, if the President doesn’t change the Senate bill, you can’t vote for it?

STUPAK: No. We’re not going to vote for this bill with that kind of language in there. The President says no federal funding for abortion. I have eight pieces of legislation we currently have in federal law that says no public funding for abortion. Take any one of these and insert the language. And we’ll be happy. We can support this legislation. We voted for health care before. I want to see health care pass. I agree with the Secretary. People are being priced out of the market. We must have health care.

But, boy, there’s some principles and beliefs that some of us are not going to pass.

For Bart Stupak government funding of abortion on demand is a deal breaker – a moral and ethical line in the sand that he will not cross.

Two questions we need to consider in light of this development.

First, what does it say about our society that we are surprised when our leaders actually make a stand for a biblically based principle like standing up for the rights of the unborn?

Shouldn’t that be the rule, rather than the exception?

Second – and here’s where things get a bit more uncomfortable- where do we find our own personal “line in the sand”?

Let’s face it, Bart Stupak’s unwillingness to budge on this issue is not the best way to make friends and influence people, especially within the ranks of his own party.

This will cost him – committee positions, support for legislation tat will benefit his constituents, maybe even his job as a congressman.

Are there principles in your life and mine that are so important, so non negotiable, that we would be willing to pay any price rather than compromise them?

No doubt one of the earliest lessons we learn in this world is that we’ve got to “go along to get along”.

Sell out.

Don’t make a stand.

We can always ask for forgiveness later.

But when we come to faith in Jesus, we discover that the essence of the Christian life is making a stand.

Jesus put it this way:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:24-27)

Those who know Jesus understand that loving the Lord and being faithful to Him is our line in the sand, the principle we are willing to stand for at any cost.

How refreshing that a vivid illustration of such a principled stand is still to be found in Washington today.