According to Recent Natural Disasters, a web site that reports on ecological cataclysms around the world every day, approximately 75 natural disasters have occurred in America just in the last 5 months.  Those disasters happening in various degrees of destruction include earthquakes, floods, landslides, hail storms, sinkholes, wildfires, avalanches, and deadly tornadoes. This nation in recent years has seen a rush of such disasters as wind, fire, rain and drought conditions. And these catastrophes are not in America alone, but happening around the globe.
This is what we like to think makes for true freedom in life. We went the distance alone. We faced the hardships independently and overcame. We made our own decisions and were subject to no one. The Bible, however, describes the concept of liberty quite differently. It describes an independence predicated on dependence.
Whether there is life after death is a question that humans have pondered for centuries. Today there is a great deal of interest in the subject with people curious about near-death experiences, supposed encounters with ghosts, and the claims of psychic mediums. Some scoff at the entire concept of an afterlife, while others are comforted by it.
It's been said that Martin Luther while at Wartburg was translating the Bible, the Devil came to visit him. Satan, who was vehemently opposed to the divine mission of the great reformer, sought to tempt him and thwart the work. In response, Luther grabbed the inkwell from which he was writing and threw it at the Evil One's head. For many years, tourists who visited the study of Martin Luther at Wartburg Castle were shown the ink stain on the wall that supposedly occurred when Luther threw the ink pot.
These events of late prove, without question, that the normalization of homosexual behavior in the culture and the legalization of same-sex marriage will inevitably usher in a flood of religious persecutions for Christians who dare say homosexuality is a sin. Touting as they have that gay rights are about civil rights, the LGBT community deceives the public into believing every born-again, God fearing, Bible-believing, follower of Jesus Christ is worse than a prejudiced Archie Bunker type idiot.
When it comes to the matter of politics, much of the church today, sadly, is divided into two separate camps. One group seeks to bring a Christian worldview to bear on the political process. The other group says the church needs to stay out of politics and just be concerned about winning others to faith in Christ.
Last week, this author wrote an article titled Drinking and Jesus Turning Water to Wine. As expected, the piece stirred considerable opposition on the part of many professing Christians against the view that the wine Jesus miraculously provided at the wedding in Cana was not fermented. Nevertheless, it remains that the counter arguments made in favor of an alcoholic-wine are largely references to old talking points that become like rubble in light of all the evidence.
I've heard a lot of erroneous arguments myself made from the Bible in favor of drinking. But none more egregious than the one that advocates Jesus endorsed imbibing when he made water into wine at the wedding in Cana.
Last week lawmakers in the North Carolina Senate took steps to restore the death penalty in our state. North Carolina hasn't conducted an execution since 2006 due to legal challenges meant to create a de-facto moratorium.
No religion in the world can match the claims of Christianity. What differentiates it from other religions is its declaration that Christ literally rose from the grave. There have always been those who have sought to debunk the resurrection of Christ, but whatever arguments have been offered fail miserably.
In the days to come, Christians from all over the world will be celebrating the passion of Christ. It is indeed the focus of God's redemption. The cross speaks of so much we need to understand about God, ourselves, our need, our duty, and our hope.
It's most unfortunate the unfounded faith Americans over the years have placed in Big Government. Now we're seeing the negative results. Our founding fathers believed in a limited role for government.
Tertullian once said, "Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, so this doctrine of justification is ever crucified between two opposite errors." Mankind has always rejected the liberty of the soul via two extremes: legalism and license.
Recently in a blog of comments underneath one of my op-ed pieces a well-meaning person wrote: "Mark, I love you like a brother, but these social issues are just distractions to keep us busy and away from sharing the Gospel." The person who wrote that was genuinely concerned I was neglecting my duty as a minister, while leading other Christians astray from their obligation as well. In other words, politics and preaching don't mix.
It's interesting that much of the focus today on the First Amendment has to do with the so-called "separation of church and state." Yet, following the first two clauses concerning the freedom of religion there are additional sections about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to peaceably assemble and petition for a redress of grievances.
In my home state of North Carolina, legislation has been introduced making it illegal for women to fully bear their breasts in public. The bill was introduced by Representatives Rayne Brown (R-Lexington) and Tim Moffitt (R-Asheville), in response to constituents concerns about topless rallies promoted by a group called Go Topless, an organization that's fighting for the so-called right of women to expose their breasts without violating any indecent exposure laws. They've already held topless protests in Asheville, North Carolina.
Comedian Robin Williams once argued, "If women ran the world, we wouldn't have wars…just intense negotiations every 28 days." Apparently that's no longer true since Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the decision that women should be allowed to participate in war in the same way as men. Women had previously been denied combat positions, but not anymore.
Ah, equality and love, who could possibly be against these? Certainly only haters, bigots and religious extremists would oppose or stifle their advancement in the cause for gay marriage. Yet, it's highly doubtful that even homosexual activists really believe what they so vigorously applauded in the President's speech – the belief that "if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
Most that know me well understand I love looking for rare and old out of print religious books. I've found some real treasures in antique stores over the years. Last Saturday, I found another amazing book, not a religious one, but one on American history. The book I found has a copyright of 1892 and is Elia W. Peattie's classic, The Story of America. I've already read the first couple of chapters of its more than 750 pages and the first paragraph alone, I thought, was gripping.
Seriously though, hymns are a blessed means of inspiration and worship for us. Andy Griffith once said, "You know when you're young you think you will always be. As you become more fragile, you reflect and you realize how much comfort can come from the past. Hymns can carry you into the future."  The Scriptures exhort us to "speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19).
Like a Damocles sword, a sabre of defiance has always been raised against Jesus, from His birth to throughout His life to the present. Undeterred, Christ and His church continue marching forward victoriously. Those who resist the authority of the baby Jesus fight an unwarranted and futile war against Him.
Recently I saw a t-shirt that said, "The Virgin Mary was an Unwed Teenage Mother." That's true and it reminded me of an interruption that took place at a Quebec pro-life conference back in October of this year. A dozen pro-choice protesters descended upon an evangelical church where the conference was being held, chanting blasphemous slogans, one of which was a French pro-abortion sing-song against the Virgin Mary: "Oh, If Mary had known about abortion, we wouldn't have to deal with all this nonsense."
As Paramore tells it, One Sunday morning in the late 1960s after preaching a message on soul-winning, Clifton came to him and said he wanted to go soul-winning with his pastor. 'Preacher, I know where there's a whole nest of them,'" Clifton excitedly told Paramore. So he and Clifton set out one day together to find "a whole nest" of people who needed the Lord.
It was once an activity that was outlawed for decades. Today, however, it's officially sanctioned, easily accessible, popular, and has gained a strong foothold in American culture. Just this past week, a half billion dollar Powerball jackpot has been the stuff of everyday conversation, with people talking about what they would do with the money if they won.
Most people have heard the expression, "playing the race card." The concept has been bandied about in the media for several years. It typically refers to someone falsely alleging another person is racist in order to gain some political advantage or to draw their credibility into question.