NFL’s Bathroom Politics

Super Bowl LI was exciting, and for the city of Houston, it was a profitable finish to the 2016-17 season. But the NFL is threatening to not hold any future Super Bowls in the state of Texas again. Why are they upset? Because the Texas senate is proposing a bill restricting bathroom access to transgender people.

The bill, which requires people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate, has caught the attention of the NFL, who is threatening to pull millions of dollars of profits out of the state if they don’t conform to the NFL’s standards. Paul Weber of the Associated Press reports that when he asked the NFL about the bill, a league spokesman said: “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”[1]

Notice the words of the NFL’s spokesperson. Any state making a proposal that is “inconsistent with our values” may result in action taken against it. So the NFL is waving millions of dollars in the faces of every state in the nation that wants to host an event, forcing them to agree with the NFL’s values or they will take the money away. Does anyone think this is okay?

The NFL can claim it has a vested interest because they don’t want transgender people to be forced into NFL bathrooms that they do not feel comfortable with. But the Texas senate bill provides for all Texas teams to set their own policies at their stadiums. In other words, the bill does not affect the NFL in any way. So why is the NFL upset about this? This is not a case of the NFL being concerned for its customers. It is political activism, and it is a disturbing trend.

The reason why this is disturbing has nothing to do with whether the laws are discriminatory or not. The disturbing thing about this is that the NFL thinks that because of the amount of money they control and their exclusive freedom to determine where their Super Bowls will be held, they can engage in politics and sway lawmakers into bowing to their will. Why does the NFL think they have the right to tell state governments what laws they can and cannot pass?

This is not the first time the NFL has chimed in on a political measure such as this. In 2015 they intimidated the state of Georgia into backing down on a religious liberty law the NFL claimed was discriminatory. It would be foolish to think this kind of bullying will stop with Texas, just as it would be foolish to think it will stop with bathroom bills.

I do not write this to support this or any bathroom bill. I support inclusiveness and the equal rights of all people. But this issue transcends transgender rights. It is about the rights of all American citizens, and the ironic thing is, in their attempt to protect the rights of an exceedingly small group of people, the NFL is actually threatening the rights of potentially every American. You see, if the NFL finds that it can succeed with its bullying tactics, it will continue to do so whenever it sees fit. The American people cannot be so naïve as to think this will end with transgender rights. Today it is a bathroom bill, but tomorrow it might be the Republican Party. After all, aren’t they behind all these discriminatory laws? Next thing you know, states that host the National Republican Convention might be blacklisted by the NFL. Where will it stop?

That is why the state of Texas must not give in to the demands of the NFL, who is holding their right to host a Super Bowl hostage until the prescribed ransom is paid. Neither Texas, nor any other state is obligated to honor the specific values of any individual organization, especially one that is not even based in their state. Their sworn duty is to uphold the values of the people of their state, and the NFL is interfering with the execution of that duty. For that reason, the NFL should be rebuked and told to stand down.

Every American has the right to hold to the values of their choice, and to vote in accordance with those values without any fear of punishment. And America’s lawmakers should be able to do their job without fear of outsiders shouting over the voices of the state’s voters. Those who have a vested interest have a right to voice their opinion, but in the end they must submit to due process and allow the lawmakers to do their job. Bullying them and intimidating them is not an option. Does the NFL even know if the majority of Texas businesses support the bill? Probably, they don’t, and that is because they do not care. They just want their will to be pushed forward regardless of the will of the people. And if for no other reason than that, we should all rebuke the NFL for its bullying measures.

[1] Paul J. Weber, “NFL More Forceful on Texas ‘Bathroom Bill’ after Super Bowl,” AP article on MSN Sports,

http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/nfl-more-forceful-on-texas-bathroom-bill-after-super-bowl/ar-AAmOx6R?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=U142DHP.

Taking God’s Way Out

I recently heard about a man recalling an incident from his childhood when a man molested him. He asked God, “Where were you when that was happening?” In his quest for healing, this man received a response from God: “I was there trying to get him to stop, but his will to do it prevented me.”

I am not interested in visiting the theological question of God’s sovereignty versus man’s free will, not will I, because of such implications, question whether God really spoke these words to the man. Rather, assuming that God really did try to get the molester to stop, I would like to look at the implications this event has for those struggling with sin.

It is common for people who have had traumatic experiences to ask God where he was or why he did not prevent it. What surprises me is not that so many people ask God, “where were you” when someone sinned against them; what surprises me is how few ask where God is when they are the ones committing the sin. We have a strong desire to see God intervene and prevent others from sinning against us, but where is the desire to have God prevent us from sinning when we are being tempted? If we hated our own sin as much as we hate the sins others commit against us, we would never sin willfully again.

Paul gives us a powerful promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” It is reassuring to know that God provides a way out of every temptation. But have you ever asked what the way out might be? When you have been tempted in the past, have you ever looked for God’s way out of the temptation? We certainly have looked for ways out, but they are usually our own ways out, things we think of to avoid giving in to temptation. But what is God’s way out?

On one level it can be said that God’s way out is to bring an end to the temptation. If a temptation lasts too long, our endurance will wear out and we will ultimately give in to it. So God shortens it. But it seems that there is more to it than that. The stated reason for God’s provision of a way out is so we can “endure it.” That suggests that God’s provision of the way out occurs before the temptation comes to an end. Perhaps something else needs to happen after God provides the way out before the temptation comes to an end. What else needs to happen? We need to make the decision to take the way out rather than to give in to the temptation. But what does he do to provide the way out?

I can recall times when I was tempted and unexpected things happened to distract me from the heat of the moment, like phone calls, loud noises, or unexpected visits from people. It is likely that in some of those instances God brought about the distraction to keep me from sinning. Other times God has brought things to my mind to help convince me that sinning is not a wise decision. Sometimes Scripture jumps into my head, which serves not only as a godly distraction, but as ammunition against the attacks of the enemy.

God has many ways of bringing a temptation to an end, thus enabling you to outlast it. All of these are examples of God trying to get you not to give in to temptation. In the case with the man who molested the young boy, God provided a way out of his temptation, but he chose not to take it. Similarly, God is constantly providing ways to get us out of our temptations. The loud noise, the phone call, the Scripture jumping into your head – these are all ways out of the temptation, the kind of things God does to try to get us not to do it.

The question is, will we allow God to stop us, or will we, by force of our fallen will, commit the sin anyway? God will and does intervene to convince us to do the right thing, but he always leaves the decision to us. He made his decision to deal with us this way the day he gave us free will. We cannot blame God for our sins or criticize him for not stopping us from sinning. We make our own decisions, sometimes despite God’s efforts to get us to do otherwise.

What course of action can one take to increase your chances of making good decisions when being tempted? First, you must make a decision to seek God’s help and submit to it when you are being tempted. But this decision must be made at a time when you are not facing temptation, so that when the time of testing comes you can fall back on your prior decision and choose to be faithful to your decision to submit to God. Then when temptation comes, you can take a moment to ask, “God, where are you in this temptation?” Or, “What is your way out of this temptation? Show it to me and I will take it.” Do not wait until the temptation has grown strong. Do this the moment a temptation begins and see if it helps you to make better decisions at the precise times in your life when you have a history of making poor ones.

Second, you should memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13, so that when you are tempted you can recite that verse in your head, and then ask God for the way out. You will surely feel better afterward if you resist temptation than you will if you give in to it. The guilt is not worth the satisfaction. Remember, God is with you. He is there helping you, not allowing the temptation to be too much for you to handle. And he is providing a way out. He has stacked the deck in your favor. Now play the hand the way he wants you to and he will show you how to come out a winner.

Jesus Doesn’t Always Pay Attention to You

When I said Good morning to Jesus today per my usual practice, something unusual happened: I saw an image of him looking the other way. Without thinking twice I raised my voice and tried to get his attention. Then when I took the time to think twice I wondered if it was a biblical idea for Jesus to not pay attention to me when I address him. Then a Scripture came to mind that told me it was biblical.

In Mark 6, the disciples are in a boat during a storm and Jesus is seen walking on the water. Verse 48 says, “he was about to pass by them.” But the disciples cried out in fear and at that moment Jesus spoke to them and climbed into the boat. The interesting thing about this story is that Jesus knew the disciples were struggling to get the boat to shore. The reason he walked on the water was to get their attention. Yet he would not do anything to help them until they got his attention.

Jesus is the answer to all our problems and he is always present to help in our times of need, but sometimes I think we take him for granted and simply assume that he is automatically going to step in and help. But sometimes we need to do something to get his attention. Sometimes it is not enough to just utter a quiet prayer. Sometimes we need to cry out to him or do something unusual that catches his attention.

Do you remember the persistent widow? In this parable the woman asked for justice against her adversary, but the judge paid no attention to her request. She did not give up. Instead, she kept pleading her case. This caught the judge’s attention and he eventually gave in and granted her request (Lk 18:2-5). Or what about the man who had an unexpected visitor and knocked on his friend’s door asking for bread? The friend had no desire to help him, but because he kept knocking, the friend got up and gave him bread.

The judge said the widow was bothering him (Lk 18:5). The friend said, “Don’t bother me” (Lk 11:7). Yet both of these people got what they wanted because they bothered to keep asking and refused to give up. You are never a bother to God, but even if you were, the Scripture tells us to keep bothering him until he responds and grants you your request, because persistence catches God’s attention.

Does God seem to be ignoring you when you pray? Do you sometimes think he is not paying attention to your needs? Perhaps this is a divine set-up designed to test your persistence. Are you willing to cry out as the disciples did? They feared they were about to die. Have you ever cried out like that? The lesson Jesus gives about the persistent widow is that when God’s people “cry out to him day and night, he will not “keep putting them off” (Lk 18:7). He will grant them their righteous requests. Are you willing to be persistent enough to catch God’s attention?

Have you cried out to God day and night for anything? Is your need great enough to be this persistent? I believe God’s delay in responding to us is sometimes a tactic to draw out of us a greater sense of desperation and a greater dependence upon him. When we put our whole heart into seeking him, then and only then do we find him (Jer 29:13).

When we cry out to God we tell him how desperate we are for him and that our whole trust is in him to deliver us, We don’t trust in man we don’t trust in our selves. God is our only hope. The disciples did not even know it was Jesus they were seeing on the water. They thought it was a ghost, which, according to “urban legend” of the day, meant they were about to die. They cried out in fear, not in faith, and Jesus, though mistaken for a ghost, still responded and entered their boat and rescued them. How much more will God respond to you, who are knowingly crying out to your God, and who are crying out in faith, knowing he is the only one who can save you?

Don’t give up. Keep seeking God. Whatever it is you want from him, keep asking and never give up, and he will grant you your request. That is his promise. I believe God is telling his church today to pursue Jesus with reckless abandon. To pursue with the intent of never giving up until we obtain the prize. I believe this is the attitude God wants us to have as we pursue revival and ask God for a Great Awakening in our country. It matters not how long we cry out to God, we will not cease, day or night, until we see God move in our midst like never before. Will you join me in persistently praying for an awakening in America until we catch God’s attention and he responds? It is not too late, but the need it urgent. Don’t give up on America. Let’s be persistent and see what God will do.

Characteristics of the Kingdom Past 2: Bloodless Revolution continued

In my previous article I explained how the kingdom of God must be established in peace and promoted through peaceful means. Any use of violence to advance the cause will only produce a violent kingdom, but Jesus brings a kingdom of peace. But is this really true of the kingdom of God? Didn’t Joshua use violence to establish the kingdom in the Promised Land? And isn’t Jesus coming with a sword to massacre the millions who oppose him on the day of his return?

These two events stand out in apparent contradiction to the principle that God’s kingdom must be established apart from the use of violence. But in neither of these cases is violence used to establish or to advance the kingdom. Rather, these are instances of the judgment of God being poured out against a sinful, rebellious people. This is an exception to the rule of nonviolence in a righteous kingdom.

Few people today would deny the right of a government to use violence to punish evil or to protect innocent civilians. That is why the police carry guns. Those guns represent the policeman’s right to defend himself against a violent criminal, to defend innocent victims from those criminals, and occasionally to shoot criminals who are threatening or carrying out violent activity. In this way violence is shown to be acceptable when used by security officers as a means of preventing worse violence form happening.

Further, few people would defend nonviolence even when carried out by ordinary citizens in certain situations. When a mass murderer pulls out semi-automatic weapons in a full schoolhouse, almost anyone would wish someone had a firearm to shoot that person before he kills innocent children. If anyone aboard the planes that flew into the World Trade Center on 9/11 had a gun, I believe almost all Americans would support his right, even his duty, to use it to prevent that act of terrorism from taking place.

A more controversial situation is that of enforcing capital punishment. There are many on both sides of this issue, but even some of those who oppose capital punishment would admit that they might make exceptions in some cases, such as Adolph Hitler or Timothy McVeigh. However, whether capital punishment is wrong in America today is not the same as whether it is always wrong in every society. It is indisputable that God supported and even demanded capital punishment for many offenses in the theocracy of ancient Israel. That is enough to demonstrate that for those who believe in the Bible, capital punishment is at least sometimes right, even if they do not believe it is right in our society today. So if God chooses to use violence to prevent worse violence from happening, to protect innocent lives, or to execute the death penalty upon those he declares guilty of a capital offense, then those acts of violence should be considered acceptable, even to a society that is nonviolent.

In fact, it could be argued that because it is a nonviolent society, it supports these exceptional uses of violence. It is reminiscent of the true story of Sergeant York, who, as a pacifist, was forced to enlist in the army and fight in World War I. After almost single-handedly seizing 32 machine guns and killing 28 Germans in a battle, he was presented with the Medal of Honor. In the popular movie that tells his story, one of his commanding officers asks how he, a pacifist, could kill so many people. York’s response was that when he saw how many people these Germans were killing, he felt compelled to do whatever he could to stop the killing. Thus it was because he was a pacifist and an advocate of nonviolence that he felt compelled to use violence.

But again, this is the use of violence to prevent worse violence, not to advance the cause of the war. York did not kill to defend American freedom or capitalism; he did it to prevent the deaths of hundreds of his fellow soldiers. So the use of violence to advance one’s ideology or political agenda is not supported by this example. But what about God using Joshua or sending Jesus to spill the blood of his enemies?

God sent Joshua to defeat all the inhabitants of the land he promised to Abraham. But he did not do this as a means of advancing the cause of the Israelites or to clear the land for them to live in, though this act certainly resulted in those things. Had the inhabitants of this land been righteous, the Israelites could have dwelled among them. There was enough land for everyone. But it is because the inhabitants were evil and ripe for judgment that the conquest took place a the point of a sword. The foreshadow of this act of judgment can be seen as far back as Genesis 9.

After the flood, Noah’s son Ham and grandson Canaan were involved in an indecent act concerning Noah. As a result, Noah cursed Canaan, the son of Ham (Gen 9:25). Then he praised Shem and Japheth for responding in righteousness when they became aware of what happened. Noah declares: “May Canaan be the slave of Shem” (Gen 9:26).

When men’s names are used like this, the reference is not merely to the individuals, but to their descendants. The descendants of Shem are the Semites, the Israelites who became the people of God through God’s covenant with Abraham, who was a direct descendant of Shem. The Canaanites are the people whom Joshua defeated in the conquest. Interestingly, this prophecy was uttered in the same chapter of the Bible where capital punishment is first permitted by God. In Genesis 9:6 God says: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed.”

This subject is complex and my treatment of it cursory, but this should be sufficient to demonstrate the validity of interpreting the conquest as a prophecy fulfilling act of judgment on a sinful people, and not as a genocide to clear room for Israelite imperialism. That is why God says: “It is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you” (Deut 9:4). God as judge declared the inhabitants of the land guilty and gave them the death penalty. Since he also declared, “by humans shall their blood be shed,” God used the Israelites to carry out his death penalty. Just because God did not use the same means that we do today – courts and trials and appeals – does not mean his judgment was not just. God does not have to submit to the modern Western system of justice.

Similarly, in Revelation 19:11-21, Jesus comes in judgment on the wicked as well as in salvation of the righteous. Verse 9 says, “With justice he judges and makes war.” His actions toward the wicked on the day of the Second Coming are acts of judgment, not military expansion. What about the part about making war? Verse 19 says the beast and his earthly armies “wage war against the rider on the horse (Jesus).” That is why Jesus comes to judge and wage war. Because a war has been declared by God’s enemies, through war will the judgment be delivered, just as it was in the conquest. The most important point is that Jesus does this “with justice.” Justice is a legal term denoting a verdict and, if guilty, a sentence will be delivered.

Again, Jesus did not need to kill millions of people to establish his kingdom on earth. He did so because the day of his coming is both the day of judgment on unbelievers and the day of salvation of the righteous and the establishment of his kingdom on earth. Both events happen on the same day, but they are still separate events.

Whether it is in its shadowy prefigured form in Joshua, in its incipient prescient form under David and Solomon, or in its final, fulfilled form at the Second coming, the kingdom of God is established on earth in peace and by peace. In each of the manifestations of the kingdom violence is seen, but in none of these instances is the violence used to establish or advance the kingdom. This established the principle that the kingdom of God is not to be advanced through the use of violence. Even in a violent world, there is no justification for the use of violence to advance one’s own political agenda, even if that one is Jesus himself. Let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus and execute justice, not people.

Characteristics of the Kingdom, Part 1: A Bloodless Revolution

Not long ago, some Marxist revolutionaries, apparently misunderstanding the nature of my Revolutingnow Facebook group, joined the group and began posting Marxist propaganda on the site. While I was in a church service, one of them added over 300 fellow Marxists to the group, and before I deleted them from the group I had a spirited conversation with three of them. They claimed to be Christians, but admitted that they advocated the use of violence to accomplish their goals.

As I embark on a series describing the characteristics of the kingdom of God, I want to begin with an article emphasizing why those who pursue the kingdom must be fully committed to nonviolence. I will also demonstrate why no kingdom that is established through the use of violence can be anything but a violent kingdom.

The New Testament makes it clear that the kingdom of God is not of this world, and that the followers of Jesus must not resist physically the attacks of those who persecute them. John the Revelator tells us that believers actually overcome their enemies by submitting to death rather than submitting to the evil kingdom (Rev 12:11). Resisting is required, but resisting violently is out of the question. That is because God’s kingdom is not of this world, and only after we die do we enter fully into the kingdom and the presence of Jesus. Death is our victory, so we do not count our lives as dear to ourselves (Acts 20:23). We only want to serve the Lord so that Christ will be glorified in our bodies, and it does not matter if that comes by life or by death (Phil 1:20).

The reason for the name of my Facebook group and my blog page is because God has revealed to me and many of my co-laborers in the gospel that he wants to initiate a grass roots awakening in America and around the world that will exceed anything we have ever seen before. America has degenerated so far from God’s will that revival will not restore her to the place God wants her to be. Nothing short of a Jesus revolution will turn America around.

But this is a bloodless revolution, one that is founded upon peace, humility, and submission – quite the opposite of how almost all other revolutions have occurred. The only bloodshed permitted in the kingdom of God is the blood shed willingly by Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. This principle of peace is so important to God that when he first revealed his plan for the kingdom of God, he made bloodless hands the prerequisite for its establishment. David wanted to build a house for God. Nathan the prophet sensed that this was a worthy cause and told David to do it. But God corrected Nathan and told him to make David stop. Why? Because his hands were stained with blood. Near the end of his life, David told his son Solomon:

This word of the Lord came to me: “You have shed much blood and fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest…He is the one who will build a house for my name” (1 Chr 22:8-10).

When David spoke these words to Solomon, he was referring to the time when God promised him a dynasty, which would be the beginning of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth (see 2 Sam 7:1-17). At the time God first revealed the concept of his eternal kingdom, he refused to allow David to build the center of worship for the kingdom specifically because he was a man who “shed much blood.” Even though David is the progenitor of the kingdom, he cannot build the worship center. That privilege is reserved for Solomon. Interestingly, Solomon’s name means “peace.”

David was not a bloodthirsty murderer or an ambitious warlord. The blood he shed was only for righteous causes. Yet the mere fact that he killed people was enough to disqualify him from erecting God’s temple. God’s temple will be built by a man of peace in the city of peace (Jerusalem means “city of peace”). That is because the kingdom of God must be founded upon peace, not war and bloodshed, regardless of the justification for such bloodshed. Peace may in fact be the foundational characteristic of the kingdom, as its ruler is called the Prince of Peace.

When I probed the intentions of the Marxists posting on my Facebook page, they tried to sound like peaceful people, but when I pressed them, one of them admitted that “sometimes it is necessary to use violence in order to establish peace” (paraphrased from memory). However, this logic is flawed and self-contradictory. Any kingdom that is established by force and through the shedding of blood is a violent kingdom. To be a kingdom of peace, it must be established in peace. That is why David went to great lengths to absolve himself from the guilt of the deaths of Saul (2 Sam 1:1-27), Abner (2 Sam 3:28-39), and Ish-Bosheth (2 Sam 4:9-12), issuing public laments and mourning over their deaths before all the people. After publicly mourning over Abner, we are told, “So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner” (2 Sam 3:37).

David knew that if murder was associated with his ascent to the throne, then bloodshed would be justified within his kingdom for the promotion of one’s political ideals. That is why the use of violence can never be for the promotion of peace. Only two conditions can exist in a kingdom established through violence. Either there is a condition of violence within the kingdom, or there is a temporary peace that sits precariously under the threat of violence. Why? Because peace only exists as long as the people submit to the authorities. If the authorities are willing to use violence to establish the kingdom, they most certainly will use it to protect the kingdom against all threats. This is evidenced by the systematic persecution of Christians under Communist regimes in the 20th century and in China today. Particularly a Marxist, socialistic government cannot withstand Christianity because the government insists on being the final authority, but a Christian’s final authority is always God, not a human dictator. Such a regime will use violence whenever it feels threatened, so even if it is not currently perpetrating violence, it is still violent at heart. The subjects of a kingdom established by violence may not currently be experiencing war, but they will never have peace.

It is commonly argued that in the Old Testament the kingdom was secured through much bloodshed, so this characterization of the kingdom is one-sided and inaccurate. In my next article I will address this charge and demonstrate that God only uses violence to execute judgment, not to advance his kingdom.

The “Forth” Great Awakening

It is hard to believe that it has been 19 years since the Brownsville revival began, on Father’s Day, June 18, 1995. Many of us who were involved in that move of God believed then, and still do now, that the revival God started in Pensacola, FL would issue into a much bigger, national move of the Spirit. Leaders of Brownsville used the term, “Jesus revolution” to express the vision God gave us of what he wanted to do in America in the 21st century.

To understand what a revolution whose roots trace back to a Father’s Day revival might be like, we can learn from the revolution started by our founding Fathers. I do not think the leaders of Great Britain understood what kind of people they were dealing with when their passing of unfair tax laws and general disregard for the concerns of the colonists led them to the brink of revolution. These were no ordinary people who settled the untamed territory that is now the eastern seaboard of the United States.

The leaders and the general population of the colonies were primarily the product of pioneers, those who forsook the comfortable life of England and risked everything to start anew in a strange and dangerous land. Only the most adventurous, risk-taking, and desperate sort of people would cross a ocean into an unknown future¬¬ – a people whose vision for change is stronger than their fear of the unknown; a people willing to do whatever it takes, and sacrifice whatever is necessary in order to make their future, rather than sit back and take whatever comes their way, attributing it to fate.

This impetuous fortitude was bred into the proceeding generations of Americans until we reached the age of revolution, in which a small band of fearless leaders stood up to the greatest empire on earth, not because they believed they were strong enough to win, but because they knew what they stood for was worth dying for, and they were willing to die for it even though they knew they were not strong enough to win on their own. People like this do not sit by idly while a disinterested superpower levies tax after tax to fund their empire without due concern for the well being of the people. Had Britain understood the kind of people they were dealing with, they might have handled things differently.

Today, the American church is faced with a government that not only lacks concern for their cause, but sometimes displays an attitude of antagonism against it. President Obama’s health care “reform” that forces businesses to fund abortions despite it being against their religious convictions is one example of this disdain of American religious conscience. In England, a same-sex couple is trying to make it mandatory for churches to perform same sex weddings. American courts have required businesses to sell items such as cakes and floral arrangements to same-sex couples for gay weddings, without regard for their religious convictions. Will it be long before the Supreme Court orders conservative Christian pastors to perform same-sex weddings in America?

What will it take for the American church to wake up and realize the religious liberties our founding Fathers fought and died for have been taken away from us? Will it be too late when it happens? I don’t think so. The same revolutionary spirit that was in the Fathers is still in the souls of Americans today, and the Holy Spirit is already beginning to awaken the church in preparation for what I believe will be called the Fourth Great Awakening. Only I think it will also be called the “forth” awakening, because it is one in which the church will move forth into her destiny, bringing radical change to a society whose moral structure has been shaken off of a shifting foundation of situational ethics that lack any moral absolutes. Yes, the church of this awakening will be an active church, one that not only prays, but also does. One that has a lot to say, but also backs up those words with corresponding actions. This will be a church that the world cannot ignore and can no longer oppress.

We have an advantage the colonies did not have: the Bill of Rights is already in effect, and it protects our religious freedom. But the freedom God will bring is much greater than the right to practice one’s religion. It is the freedom from sin that enables people to live out their religion without hypocrisy and compromise. This new awakening will bring with it the power of God to set people free from same-sex attraction, from the pain of an abusive past, and from every addiction. This is an awakening that is needed today, not tomorrow, and we need to pray for it to come quickly, before it is too late.

How will this awakening, this Jesus revolution, come and what will it look like? I plan to walk out a few of the principles and particulars in the articles that follow. Until then, let us keep watch and see that our own lives are awakened to God and his purposes for this generation.

By life or by death – Phil 1:20

Who Is All Israel in Romans 11:26?

I find it fascinating that one of the clearest statements in all the Bible is also one of the most controversial. Romans 11:26 plainly states: “and in this way all Israel will be saved.” This comes immediately after Paul articulates that the full number of the Gentiles must first come in, and after that the partial hardening of Israel will end. Sounds pretty simple: Most of Israel is hardened and not receptive to her messiah, Jesus. This hardening will continue until the full number of Gentiles gets saved. Then the hardening will cease and all Israel will be saved.

Yet many people choose to interpret Israel differently in this verse, saying “all Israel” refers to the church, consisting of believing Gentiles and believing Jews, denying a mass conversion of Jews at the end of the age. Is this view tenable? for several reasons I say no.

First, the meaning of “all Israel” is clear throughout Romans and throughout the entire New Testament. The word appears 68 times in the NT, and when it stands alone it always means ethnic Israel. It never means spiritual Israel (i.e., the church). There are only two places where the word may refer to the church. One is Galatians 6:16, where it is “the Israel of God.” But the modifier, “of God” indicates that something other than ethnic Israel is in view. If Rom 11:26 said “the Israel of God” or “spiritual Israel,” then this other interpretation would have weight. But the simple reference to Israel without a qualifier cannot mean anything other than ethnic Israel.

The other place is Revelation 7:4, where the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel are sealed. The mention of the twelve tribes should be enough to clarify that ethnic Israelites are in view here, but if that is not enough, the following verses actually list the names of the twelve tribes. It is very difficult to maintain an interpretation that the 144,000 believers from these tribes refer to Gentiles. Even if such an interpretation could be made, it would require a symbolic interpretation of the passage, which can be argued in Revelation, because it is an apocalyptic document full of symbolism. Such cannot be said about Romans, so a symbolic interpretation has no place in Romans 11.

Second, the use of “Israel” in the surrounding context clearly refers to ethnic Israel. In verse 25 they are “hardened.” This could hardly be spiritual Israel, since believers are not hardened. In verse 28 they are “enemies” of the church, which can only refer to unbelievers. Nowhere in Romans does Paul ever refer to Israel as anything but ethnic Israel, and there is no lexical or contextual basis for making an exception in 11:26.

Third, Paul quotes Isaiah 59:20 to support his teaching. This verse refers to Israel as “Jacob.” Never does this term refer to spiritual Israel or the remnant of believers within Israel. In both testaments, this word refers always to ethnic Israel. There is no justification for changing its meaning in Rom 11:26.

Finally, the context of Romans 9-11 militates against an interpretation of Israel in 11:26 that is anything but ethnic Israel. Throughout these chapters Paul has been explaining why Israel’s failure to receive the gospel does not thwart his plan to save Israel, but rather furthers this purpose. Israel is consistently referred to in contrast to Gentile believers and to the remnant of Jews who believe. Against “all Israel” referring to the church, Thomas Schreiner, in his commentary on Romans, calls this argument decisive:

The central and decisive objection to this interpretation is the context of Rom. 9-11, especially the immediate context of chapter 11. The failure of ethnic Jews to obtain salvation is what provoked chapters 9-11 in the first place. Moreover, the preceding verses in chapter 11 preserve a distinction between Gentiles and ethnic Jews: the Gentiles are being grafted onto the olive tree while the Jews–as the natural branches–are being removed.

The context of Romans 9-11, the use of “Jacob” to refer to Israel, and the use of the term “Israel” in Rom 11:25-28, in Romans, and in the entire NT, all demonstrate that “all Israel” in verse 26 must refer to ethnic Israel. The evidence is so weighty that it is difficult to argue against it without appearing to be doing so out of theological necessity.