December 28, 2016

And When Eight Days Were Accomplished...

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.


Luke 2:21-40

December 26, 2016

John 3:16 for Christmas

Vocals - Adam Boone
Production & Arrangement - Steve Serkosky 
Musical & Engineering Assistant - Adam Boone
Engineer (Trod Nossel Studios) - Justin Watson
Music Video Design & Production - John Zeller
Producer - DJP I.F.

December 24, 2016

The Advent of Jesus Christ

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.


And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,


Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke 2:1-20

December 20, 2016

The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38


Mary Visits Elizabeth
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord….

And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
Luke 1:39-46, 56

December 16, 2016

The Promise of the Messiah


For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this,” (Isaiah 9:6-7).



But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” (Micah 5:2).


December 8, 2016

The Reprieve by Dr. Rick Flanders


“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”
(Acts 9:31)

Dr. Rick Flanders
One important effect of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, and his departure from Jerusalem to his home city of Tarsus, was the experience of “rest” (“peace” in the Greek) among the Christian churches he had been persecuting.  Persecution was and is an unavoidable part of the Christian life (according to Matthew 5:10, John 15:18-25, and also Second Timothy 3:12) but, for a time, the early churches experienced a reprieve from trouble for their faith through the removal of their chief persecutor.  It is obvious that the Lord gave them relief in order to facilitate the progress of the Gospel.  Sometimes in history, God will give His servants relief from persecution to open the door for them to spread the Gospel more rapidly.
Spreading the Gospel is what churches are meant to do!  The program the churches followed at the first was the one outlined and mandated by the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Olives just before He ascended into heaven.  He said,
“Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8)
They were to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then in the power of the Spirit to evangelize the city of Jerusalem and continue to evangelize the surrounding area, the next country, eventually getting the Gospel of Christ to “the uttermost part of the earth.”  Follow the progress of the following of this plan by the followers of Jesus in the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles.  Read the first chapters, and see what happened.
1.      The believers at Jerusalem were indeed filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and empowered to give effective testimony to the resurrection of Christ, and its saving message (chapters 1 and 2).

2.      That congregation grew by adding new believers and by multiplying disciples (chapters 2 through 7).

3.      The apostles, who led the Jerusalem church, were for some reason slow to move on to the “all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” sections of the Lord’s commission, but stayed in Jerusalem for years enjoying the fruit of their evangelism.  As a result, God, Who was and is serious about the Acts 1:8 program scattered the believers away from Jerusalem through the harsh persecution of a Jewish fanatic named Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8:1-4).

4.      The Christians persecuted by Saul were scattered all over that part of the Near East, spreading the Gospel.  They became active in establishing new Christian churches all over the region (see Acts 8:5-40 and 11:19-26).

5.      Important in the progress of this multiplication of churches was the reprieve God gave them through the conversion of Saul to Christ, and his being sent away to Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 9:1-31).
Although dedicated believers in Jesus will be persecuted for His sake, the reason God gave the churches relative “rest” for the period initiated in Acts 9:31 is clear, and it is the same reason He may sometimes provide a “reprieve” for His servants today.  He was opening the door for the rapid multiplication of churches.  Find in the record of the Acts how the Christians spread the Gospel of Christ through the rest of Judea, how God changed the minds of His people about evangelizing the Gentiles so that they would not hesitate to give the Good News to anyone, how churches began reproducing new churches, and how the churches started sending out missionaries!  All of this happened after God gave them rest.  See it in chapters 9 through 15, and onward!
Some believe that God’s people in our country and in the world have recently been given a “reprieve” from some difficulties through recent changes in the government.  Our national election on November 8 has certainly removed much of the threat of severe persecution that has been hanging over our heads.  Now don’t think that God is a Republican.  Don’t even think that He is an American.  But He is the Ruler over all, and has His way in the affairs of state (familiarize yourself with this fact by studying Psalm 75, Proverbs 21:1, Daniel 4,and Romans 13:1-7).  And the big Republican victory on Election Day has given Christians somewhat of a reprieve to carry on more vigorously and with less outside hindrance the evangelizing of the world.
Let’s not get into an argument, but let us face certain important facts about the results of this past election.  The election of the other side would have given us credible reasons to expect persecution by the federal government we Christians have never seen in this country since the Bill of Rights was passed.  Among those reasons are these.
1.      The Democratic nominee and her husband have made public statements overseas that they would seek to block further missionary work by American churches in certain countries.  Missionaries were warning us about this during the campaign.

2.      Significant cultural changes undoing the norms of Western civilization would occur in the next few years because of the appointment of radical activist judges to the United States Supreme Court.  The Democratic Party by various means of expression promised the appointment of such liberal justices who would not only preserve the extreme departures from traditional standards that have already come through recent Court decisions, but would also render many more destructive decisions, which would shape the brave new world in which our children would live and rear their families.  These decrees would also set Christians up to be persecuted.

3.      The government would seek to force Christians and their churches to abandon their Biblical convictions and conform to the new standards of progressivism.  When dealing with the question of what churches would do about new laws that require acceptance of homosexuality and the right of a woman to extinguish the life of a child in her womb, the Democratic nominee said that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”  For a politician to say that religious biases would have to be changed must mean that the government must force religious people to change their beliefs and practices.  Of course anything like this would require the state to ignore the protection of religious liberty.  This right is already being violated in other countries through the passage and enforcement of laws against “hate speech” and against religious people who “discriminate against” people who want to violate divine law.  Hate speech laws want to say that you can’t even publicly disapprove of certain sinful practices.  At this point, even “hate speech” (defined in a variety of ways” is still free speech, but the Democratic agenda put it and the free exercise of religion in real danger.  But now, for a while, it seems that we have a reprieve.

4.      The world will become increasingly more dangerous for Christians and Christian activity if those in power in the United States continue to make our country weaker and weaker in international affairs.  The bloody massacre of thousands of believers in Christ simply because of their unrelenting faith will no doubt grow under the kind of foreign policy our nation has followed for nearly a decade.  The restoration of American strength on the world stage would make Christians safer everywhere.

5.      A political philosophy that demands bigger government and higher taxes by definition restricts the freedom of Christians to do God’s work and to finance the spread of the Gospel.  The Bible tells us to pray that our rulers will allow us simply to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (First Timothy 2:1-2).  Christians want to be left alone so that we can be free to spread the Gospel and live lives that conform to the will of God.  We will not be looking for subsidies or federal programs to meet our needs.  Such an expansion of state activity limits our freedom to live the Bible way and do the work of the Gospel.  The Democrats were promoters of big government, but if the Republicans are telling us the truth, we have been given a reprieve from the threat of overbearing socialism, at least for a time.
Wednesday morning, November 9, did not give the people of God the dawn of the Millennium.  It did not bring us great joy over the character and faith of everyone that had been elected to office the day before.  But it may well have given us some kind of reprieve (“stay of execution, amnesty”) from the threat of imminent persecution and restriction of our freedom to evangelize.  God has granted us “rest” that we might preach and add believers to the churches and multiply the disciples of Jesus and, yes, multiply the true churches of Jesus Christ around the world.  Now is the time rise up and renew our lives to be lived for Christ.  It is not the time to sit back and count our investments, or just stop worrying so much.  It is not time to feel beholding to a political party or politicians.  It is time for revival.  The truth is that renewed believers in Christ ought to be going from street to street every day, spreading the Gospel.  Our churches should be filled to capacity and our prayer meetings attended like our other services are. We didn’t get new leadership in order to make our nation great. God has given us a reprieve to evangelize the world!


Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

November 28, 2016

What if You are Wrong About Islam?

If you think all Muslims are terrorists, you are wrong.  There are some Muslims who would like to live in peace, who do not hate people, who are not part of Islam, and who would like some distance between themselves and the majority of Islam.  The problem is that the percentage of these peaceful people is very small compared to the whole.  We have been lied to, brain-washed, and fooled into believing that it is a religion of peace.  We are told that the percentage of violent Muslims is very small, but the truth is that their number is very large. 

Some of those who spread the lies about a peaceful Islam do it because of politics.  It isn’t popular in our culture to tell the truth.  Others are just ignorant and far too lazy to do their own research.  The violent Muslim crowd is thrilled with people who are so gullible.  The liberal crowd is happy to give them a pass because it is one more way for them to buy votes.  The saddest thing of all is that popular evangelicals and pseudo-intellectuals actually support the tragic idea that Islam is just another religion.  

The one goal of this article is to get every reader working to do his own study and to challenge the false ideas being passed around like ice cream at a church picnic. 

SO, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

The first group is the active terrorists, including ISIS.  They are violent, inhumane, and eager to kill anyone who does not believe as they believe.  Compared to the whole, this category is not very large.  They represent the military aspect of Islam.  The second group would be those terrorist groups like Hezbollah and the Brotherhood.  They are not as active as the others, but are hateful and violent.  They hide under the radar and pretend to be peaceful.  Their violence, however, is practiced in the midst of peaceful people.  This category is not very large either. 

The majority of Islam would fall in the next level.  These are active Muslims who believe and practice hate, violence, and inhumane acts against anyone who is not a Muslim.  They refer to them as infidels.  It makes no difference whether they are Jews, Christians, or secular; they are infidels.  Active Muslims are free to create mayhem against infidels, depending on how much power they have.  In countries where Islam is in control, violence is a daily practice.  It is the law.  No one can name one country where Islam is a majority and where there is freedom or peace for infidels.  Their brutality rises as they gain power and control.  This can be seen clearly in some European countries at this very moment. 

In our nation, this majority group continues to claim respectability, while at the same time there are indications of the role they will play in the future.  The early signs of violence and radicalism are here, and we can see their true motive.  Note their “demands” that their ideas must be followed, including Sharia Law.  Anything that offends them must be removed from public view. The cry for Sharia law becomes louder by the day.  Even now they demand privileges that are not extended to others in this country. 

This group, with their potential for violence as required by their belief, has entered the halls of Congress and even the White House!  This category is far more dangerous than ISIS.  Lying is a practice that is expected, particularly if it is to an infidel.  In this huge part of Islam, women are viewed as property and animals, less than human.  Little girls are brutalized and treated as toys. 
Let me remind you that we will be told by ignorant peoples, and by those who lie, that these cruel things are far and few between, even when the opposite is true.  It is a way of life.   Those Muslims who desire a peaceful life and who might want to be good neighbors, or even to be honest with us, are few and far between.

IT IS THE LAW

I have before me a copy of the Quran.  I am not an expert in this subject but have learned in an extensive study of hermeneutics to be able to recognize true meaning in all languages by the normal use of language rules. 

This book clearly says that any Muslim who is friendly with a Jew, Christian, or other infidel is to be killed.  They might pretend to be friendly, but those people are obligated to kill the infidels when the time comes, or else they themselves are to be killed.  The lie about a peaceful religion will not stand, even if you are referring to those who are peaceful at the moment.  The Quran clearly identifies Islam as a religion of terror.  Do your own study, read it for yourself.  (3:151; 8:12; 8:60; 33:26; 59:2; 59:13) [Editor's note: See comment #1 in thread below for citation of these verses.]

Read what happens to someone who converts to another religion or someone who will not convert to Islam.  Converts are won, and they are kept - by fear, hate, violence and intimidation. Read about cruelty and torture.  Read about the abuse of women, dismemberment, beheading, and horrible treatment of infidels.  This is the majority of Islam, because that is the law.  If you can read this and still think it is a religion of peace, you deserve what is coming to this country.

COMPARE THIS

If I witness to you about your need for salvation in Christ and you refuse it, you go on your way to face God alone in judgment.  You need have no fear of me because of your rejection.  If, however, you are offered the choice of conversion to Islam and you refuse, no matter who you are, you are an infidel, and that person is commanded to kill you.  In Islam, the sons are sent out to commit suicide and kill as many people as they can.  In Biblical Christianity, God sent His Son to die on the cross so that many sons could live.

Those who claim peace for the majority of Islam must know very little about the history of this religion.  They must know very little about what Muslims are commanded to do.  They must not be reading about the brutal killing of Christians every day in this world by the Muslim majority.  I was told yesterday that hundreds of believers are killed every week by majority Muslims.  They must not know about the burning, beheading, drowning, beating, and death published in the news on a daily basis. 

To blaspheme, mock, or speak ill of the Quran will get you the death penalty.  On the other hand, Islam can reject and make fun of Christianity, and that is fine.  What if you are wrong about Islam?  I can tell you that you are wrong if you haven’t taken time to study why the majority of this religion is not peaceful.


Shepherds Staff if prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

A communication service of Shepherds Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherds Basic care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries and churches. Write for information using the email address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or Shepherd'sStaff

November 1, 2016

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep by Clay Nuttall

The book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ opens with a sobering description of our glorious Lord.  It is followed by messages to the pastors of each of the seven churches.  These were literal churches that existed in that day.  The meaning of each name reveals a good deal about what each church looked like.  In our day, there are churches that exhibit some of these characteristics.  While the text does not prophesy future historic periods, it takes only an elementary understanding of history to see that these names clearly identify each period from the early church to this very day.
 
The Laodicean church identifies with “the rights of the people.”  It is the “lukewarm” church.  It is also interesting that this is the church that is caught away from the earth.  That is evident from chapter four in that there is no mention of the church on earth during the following seven years.
 
This is the Laodicean age, the period of the lukewarm church when the church has fallen asleep at the wheel.  It possesses a lot of things and is very busy.  The essential things, however, appear to be missing.  There is snoring and plenty of noise, but it is snoozing spiritually.
 
WHERE IS THE BOOK?
 
The majority of professing Christians hardly ever pick up their Bibles, either electronic or printed.  For some, it's only once a week when they go to what is called “church.”  In most churches, the book is never even needed.  Personal Bible study is an unusual activity for most Christians, and serious Bible study in most churches has become a thing of the past.  For the minority that still have more than one meeting a week that might include any study, the time is short - just a God token.  If it is serious Bible study, perhaps a total of little more than one hour a week would be a stretch for most of today's churches.
 
Many of the current Laodicean churches provide only one service a week, and the amount of biblical truth provided in it could be put in a thimble.  If there are other meetings, they probably represent less than ten percent participation of the whole group.  This is exacerbated by the fact that, in most of these churches, more error is taught than truth.
 
This is the age of the goat church.  It would have been difficult to find any unsaved person in any of the early local churches.  On the other hand, in this lukewarm age it might be difficult to find any true believers in the entertainment church.  This is due in part to the fact that so few of these churches have leaders who actually know the Bible although they, of course, know about the Bible.  Note that when one of these leaders tells us that authoritative truth about God isn’t limited to the Bible, the crowds cheer.  Anything to make the Bible say what they want it to say.  You may not like them being described as goats, but if they look, smell, act, eat, and socialize like goats, what else might you call them?
 
The millennial age is the quintessential Laodicean church - forget a sovereign God and the authority of the Scriptures.  It despises the very message they need.  The “rights of the people” demand that we stop quoting God about sin.  They are asleep in the pseudo-love church.  God's love demands holiness, and that is the most hated doctrine of the current church of Laodicea.
 
WHERE IS THE CHURCH?
 
Many of these groups will not use the word “church,” particularly as part of their name.  In most cases, that is good since they really aren’t churches anyway!
 
A biblical church is a “family” with a local resident headship.  How can you have a core family when its members are in the same home only once a week?  How can you be a family when most of the members never function to the benefit of the family unit?  They are brothers and sisters only if God is their Heavenly Father.  God intended that every true believer should be part of a local church.  There are a hundred reasons why this is necessary. The local church is definitely Christ’s clear plan for this church age.
 
A biblical local church is a flock for sheep, with a local resident shepherd to lead the flock with all the implications of the illustration.  The loose affiliation of the Laodicean church certainly does not represent this picture, and that is why the individuals in these gatherings are so easily gobbled up by wolves who teach error.  False teachers in this lukewarm age can draw great crowds and have massive organizations because the people of this age know so little of what the Bible teaches about a holy God.     
 
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.  (II Timothy 4:3)
 
The biblical local church is a body.  The present Laodicean church hardly represents a body, but is more like a pile of bones.  A healthy body would expect its members to function well and to do the things that are expected of each specific member.
 
Take an honest look around you.  There are many groups who call themselves a church, but where is the evidence?  There once were many churches that demonstrated the power of the gospel, but now many of them are gone.  Others have little spiritual power - not enough power to blow the nose of a flea!  What happened?  It is the age of lukewarm, and they are asleep.
 
THE GOOD NEWS
 
Take heart, however.  There are a few churches that look and sound like Ephesus (desired).  Some churches I know are going through suffering (Smyrna), and there are actually some Philadelphia churches (brotherly love).  There are churches where biblical preaching is the center of the ministry.  The idea that true believers are not interested in preaching that represents true doctrine is absolutely false.  Goats hate it, but true believers love feasting on the green grass every Lord’s Day.  They even have spiritual stomach upset when the “food” is ill- prepared and (God forbid) boring.
 
There are fellowships that act like a family, where the members long to be together. They care for one another and bear each other’s burdens.  They share in the sorrow of the home-going of the elderly and join in the joy of new babes born to the young.  These churches love to worship “in spirit and in truth” where God, and not man, is honored.  They feel safe in a congregation where sin is not welcome, but where the repentant sinner is comforted.
 
Do you know churches like that?
 
 
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
 
A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or the Shepherd’s Staff.

October 18, 2016

Comin’ Down the Pike: A Warning for Christians

 
What the Political Parties are Promising in the Wake of the Election
 
A WARNING FOR CHRISTIANS

Very soon, American citizens will have the opportunity to vote in a national election that will
Dr. Rick Flanders
determine vital factors about our lives in the future.  The choice could not be between more contrasting visions.  You may have noticed what the campaign fliers in your mailbox are saying.  Some promise more regulation, taxes for the rich, and free government money.  Some pledge to cut the government back, lower taxes, and give us more freedom.  The two major political parties have told us, through their candidates and their platforms, what they will do when they assume power, and we can see, if we will pay attention, what the futures will be in our country under each of them. Christian voters are the most important people in the country politically.  We need to pay attention to what is “coming down the pike” should the Democrats or the Republicans be voted into power in 2016.  As you know, the election campaign has degenerated into a food-fight of traded insults.  The worst part of this disgusting back-and-forth is the effect it is having of distracting voters from seeing the radically different views of on the issues of our day.  Some time ago, my wife and I realized that we would not be able to choose a major- party candidate for President out of enthusiasm over his or her character, but would have to cast our votes up and down the ballot based strictly on our Biblically-based principles.  We advise our friends to do the same thing on November 8.  Learn what the parties say they are going to do, and make your choice based on what the party will do.  Staying home and not voting, or voting for parties or candidates that cannot win and have no expectation to win, are not reasonable options for Christians who care about what’s coming.  Let me show you where the two parties say they will take us. 


THE DEMOCRATS
The Democratic Party, which was for many years the political home of millions of Christians, is saying things this year that horrify us.  Of course, we know that the government has had a degenerating impact on American society in recent decades.  Unfortunately this year the Democrats are apparently glad for the negative changes.

Their Presidential candidate has said, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality [same-sex ‘marriage’] represents America at its best: just, fair, and moving toward equality. Now we have more work to do.  I’ll fight to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans have full equality under the law, and to end discrimination in employment, housing, schools, and other aspects of society.”
The Democrat platform states, “Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people—like other Americans—have the right to marry the person they love. But there is still much work to be done. LGBT kids continue to be bullied at school, restaurants can refuse to serve transgender people, and same-sex couples are at risk of being evicted from their homes. That is unacceptable and must change. Democrats will fight for the continued development of sex discrimination law to cover LGBT people. We will also fight for comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections for all LGBT Americans, to guarantee equal rights in areas such as housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding. We will oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals, including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces. We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate. We will combat LGBT youth homelessness and improve school climates. We will support LGBT elders, ensure access to necessary health care, and protect LGBT people from violence— including ending the crisis of violence against transgender Americans. We will also promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world.“  This party has taken a stand against the traditional definition of marriage, and the movement against Biblical morals will apparently continue at full-speed under a new Democrat administration.

On the moral question of abortion, we find in the Democrat 2016 platform, “Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment [which prohibits federal financing of abortions]. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.”
Will we remember on Election Day the horrific harvesting and sale of fetal body parts at Planned Parenthood that moved many to call for the withdrawal of federal aid to this organization, and will we remember what “late-term abortion” is?  Can we doubt what the future will be regarding the murder of unborn children under a Democrat administration?  Their candidate says, “As president, I’ll stand up for Planned Parenthood and women’s access to critical health services, including safe, legal abortion.”

Because of the changes in government about marriage and abortion, many Christians have been concerned over the impact they may have on our religious freedom.  The Democrat Presidential candidate disturbed us by stating, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”  “It’s outrageous,” she said, to be “denied a wedding cake for being gay.”  The party platform says, “We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”  Will Christians be in danger of government sanctions for following or even stating their Bible-based convictions?  Will it happen as soon as the next presidential administration?  You and I will decide on Election Day.

In statements they are making in regard to the economy, the Democrats consistently stand in favor of changes that point in the direction of radical socialism.  Their platform says, “Democrats believe that today’s extreme levels of income and wealth inequality are bad for our people, bad for our businesses, and bad for our economy.“  It also advocates raising the minimum wage.  “We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour [an amount that can be shown to be too much for our fragile economy].”  They are proposing huge expansions of government, and of federal spending.  “Democrats believe that in America, if you want a higher education, you should always be able to get one: money should never stand in the way,” says the Democrat platform.  “Cost should not be a barrier to getting a degree or credential, and debt should not hold you back after you graduate. Bold new investments by the federal government, coupled with states reinvesting in higher education and colleges holding the line on costs, will ensure that Americans of all backgrounds will be prepared for the jobs and economy of the future. Democrats are unified in their strong belief that every student should be able to go to college debt-free, and working families should not have to pay any tuition to go to public colleges and universities.” These expensive proposals come in spite of our $19-trillion national debt, which is already growing at an alarming rate, and threatening our currency and our economy!
“We are going to fight to make sure every American has access to quality, affordable health care. We will tackle the problems that remain in our health care system, including cracking down on runaway prescription drug prices and addressing mental health with the same seriousness that we treat physical health. We will fight Republican efforts to roll back the clock on women’s health and reproductive rights, and stand up for Planned Parenthood. And we will tackle the epidemics of substance abuse and gun violence, which each claim tens of thousands of lives every year. Securing Universal Health Care Democrats believe that health care is a right, not a privilege, and our health care system should put people before profits. Thanks to the hard work of President Obama and Democrats in Congress, we took a critically important step toward the goal of universal health care by passing the Affordable Care Act, which has covered 20 million more Americans and ensured millions more will never be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Democrats will never falter in our generations-long fight to guarantee health care as a fundamental right for every American. As part of that guarantee, Americans should be able to access public coverage through a public option, and those over 55 should be able to opt in to Medicare. “  The solution to our problems, say the socialist-leaning Democrats, is to keep on expanding the government, and to keep on spending billions and trillions more into the hole!

Law-enforcement, to a Christian, is a matter of the state doing its God-given duty.  “Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…He is the minister of God to thee for good…a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (see Romans 13:1-5).  Of course, law enforcement has been hindered and endangered by radical revolutionary movements in recent months, encouraged by people in authority.  But the Democrat platform this year does not bring us back to a law-and-order society.  It casts doubt on policing, and also advocates the abolition of the death penalty and the legalization of harmful drugs.
“We will work with police chiefs to invest in training for officers on issues such as de-escalation and the creation of national guidelines for the appropriate use of force. We will encourage better police-community relations, require the use of body cameras, and stop the use of weapons of war that have no place in our communities. We will end racial profiling that targets individuals solely on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin, which is un-American and counterproductive. We should report national data on policing strategies and provide greater transparency and accountability. We will require the Department of Justice to investigate all questionable or suspicious police-involved shootings, and we will support states and localities who help make those investigations and prosecutions more transparent, including through reforming the grand jury process. We will assist states in providing a system of public defense that is adequately resourced and which meets American Bar Association standards. And we will reform the civil asset forfeiture system to protect people and remove perverse incentives for law enforcement to police for a profit.” 

 “The war on drugs has led to the imprisonment of millions of Americans, disproportionately people of color, without reducing drug use. Whenever possible, Democrats will prioritize prevention and treatment over incarceration when tackling addiction and substance use disorder. We will build on effective models of drug courts, veterans’ courts, and other diversionary programs that seek to give nonviolent offenders opportunities for rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration. Because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization. We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize it or provide access to medical marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact in terms of arrest rates for African Americans that far outstrip arrest rates for whites, despite similar usage rates.
“We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment. It has no place in the United States of America. The application of the death penalty is arbitrary and unjust. The cost to taxpayers far exceeds those of life imprisonment. It does not deter crime. And, exonerations show a dangerous lack of reliability for what is an irreversible punishment. “

Bible readers know what God says about the death penalty in Genesis 9:6 and other passages, as well as other law-enforcement issues, and are alarmed by such extreme and dangerous proposals.
The prayer of Christians for government authorities is that the state will leave us alone to live our lives for Christ and spread His Gospel.

“I exhort…that prayers…be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
(First Timothy 2:1-2)
The Democrats this year are promising us more of President Obama’s rule by executive mandate instead of Constitutional legislation.  Their candidate has said, “If Congress won’t act, I’ll defend President Obama’s executive actions—and I’ll go even further…If Congress refuses to act to end the epidemic of gun violence, I’ll take administrative action to do so.”  Any objective student of government must admit that our Constitution is being violated and ignored in the way the country is being run.  Congress has vacated its duties, the executive branch has overreached its power, and activist judges have illegally expanded their powers to change the government, and under a new Democrat administration, we can expect it to become much worse.  The candidate promises, “I would not appoint someone [to the Supreme Court bench] who didn’t think Roe v. Wade is settled law.”   Supreme Court decisions like this one derailed and perverted the meaning of the Constitution and its amendments, and transformed our culture from its original Biblically-based structure.  The Democrats are determined that this perverse and illegal transformation continues.
 
THE REPUBLICANS

This election year, the Republicans have taken an unusually clear stand for Constitutional government, Biblical morals, fiscal responsibility, religious liberty, and public reverence for our Creator.  Their platform includes this statement:
“Every time we sing, ‘God Bless America,’ we are asking for help.  We ask for divine help that our country can fulfill its promise.  We earn that help by recommitting ourselves to the ideas and ideals that are the true greatness of America.”

Their position on the definition of marriage could not be clearer: “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.  We condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which wrongly removed the ability of Congress to define marriage policy in federal law.  We also condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia was a ‘judicial Putsch’ — full of ‘silly extravagances’ — that reduced ‘the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Storey to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie.’  In Obergefell, five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  The Court twisted the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment beyond recognition.   To echo Scalia, we dissent.  We, therefore, support the appointment of justices and judges who respect the constitutional limits on their power and respect the authority of the states to decide such fundamental social questions.”  At present, several important cases are standing in line for the review of the high court which will decide immense societal issues on the side of the justice that will be appointed by the new president to replace Scalia.  In a definite way, we voters will decide what kind of judge that will be, and what our society will be like.
The platform states that “only a Republican president will appoint judges who respect the rule of law expressed within the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, including the inalienable right to life and the laws of nature and nature’s God, as did the late Justice Antonin Scalia. We are facing a national crisis in our judiciary.  We understand that only by electing a Republican president in 2016 will America have the opportunity for up to five new constitutionally-minded Supreme Court justices appointed to fill vacancies on the Court. Only such appointments will enable courts to begin to reverse the long line of activist decisions.”

Furthermore, “Article I of the Constitution directs that ‘All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States….’  For more than a century, however, Congress has delegated increasing amounts of legislative authority to executive departments, agencies, and commissions, laying the foundation for today’s vast administrative state. Unelected bureaucrats in the executive branch now write countless rules with the force of law and arbitrarily punish individuals who disobey those rules. The Constitution makes clear that these powers were granted to Congress by the people and must therefore remain solely with the people’s elected representatives. We call on Congress to begin reclaiming its constitutional powers from the bureaucratic state by requiring that major new federal regulations be approved by Congress before they can take effect, such as through the Regulation Freedom Amendment. We further affirm that courts should interpret laws as written by Congress rather than allowing executive agencies to rewrite those laws to suit administration priorities.”
One of the most amazing characteristics of the work of our government in the last eight years has been how little attention has been given to the explosion of spending and debt during this time.  The Republicans say they will take on the challenge of tackling this crisis.  Their platform states that our “national debt is a burden on our economy and families.  The huge increase in the national debt demanded by and incurred during the current Administration has placed a significant burden on future generations. We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations.  A strong economy is one key to debt reduction, but spending restraint is a necessary component that must be vigorously pursued.”  We read, “The federal fiscal burden threatens the security, liberty, and independence of our nation. The current Administration’s refusal to work with Republicans took our national debt from $10 trillion to nearly $19 trillion today. Left unchecked, it will hit $30 trillion by 2026. At the same time, the Administration’s policies systematically crippled economic growth and job creation, driving up government costs and driving down revenues. When Congressional Republicans tried to reverse course, the Administration manufactured fiscal crises — phony government shutdowns — to demand excessive spending…The Republican path to fiscal sanity and economic expansion begins with a constitutional requirement for a federal balanced budget. We will fight for Congress to adopt, and for the states to ratify, a Balanced Budget Amendment which imposes a cap limiting spending to the appropriate historical average percentage of our nation’s gross domestic product while requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, with exceptions only for war or legitimate emergencies. Only a constitutional safeguard such as this can prevent deficits from mounting to government default.”

The threats to religious liberty posed by the expansion of our government will be met by the Republicans. “America’s healthcare professionals should not be forced to choose between following their faith and practicing their profession.  We respect the rights of conscience of healthcare professionals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and organizations, especially the faith-based groups which provide a major portion of care for the nation and the needy. We support the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral, or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty.  We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children. We support the right of parents to consent to medical treatment for their minor children and urge enactment of legislation that would require parental consent for their daughter to be transported across state lines for abortion. Providers should not be permitted to unilaterally withhold services because a patient’s life is deemed not worth living.  American taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortion.  As Democrats abandon this four decade-old bipartisan consensus, we call for codification of the Hyde Amendment and its application across the government, including Obamacare.  We call for a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage.”
Unprecedented examples of corruption in the executive branch have been exposed but largely ignored in recent years.  The Republicans say that they will straighten out the messes that have been found, and punish the criminals.  In their platform we read, “Many good civil servants work at the IRS, but the agency itself is toxic. Its leadership employs known tax delinquents, rehires workers previously fired for misconduct, spends user fees without congressional oversight, and awards bonuses for customer service that would put any private company out of business. Worst of all, the IRS has become an ideological attack dog for the worst elements of today’s Democratic Party. It systematically targets conservative, pro-life, and libertarian organizations, harassing them with repeated audits and denying their tax exempt status. Its commissioner has lied to Congress, hidden evidence, and stonewalled investigations. He should be impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate. We value the right of America’s churches, pastors, and religious leaders to preach and speak freely according to their faith. Republicans believe the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring the speech of America’s churches, pastors, and religious leaders. We support repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which restricts First Amendment freedoms of all nonprofit organizations by prohibiting political speech. We also support making the federal tax code so simple and easy to understand that the IRS becomes obsolete and can be abolished.”

The safeguard of our republic and our freedom is our Constitution, which we have seen slighted and ignored as well as flagrantly violated under the current administration.  The Republicans say in their platform, “Our Constitution is in crisis. More than 90 percent of federal requirements are now imposed by regulatory agencies, without any vote of the House or Senate or signature of the President. The current Administration has exceeded its constitutional authority, brazenly and flagrantly violated the separation of powers, sought to divide America into groups and turn citizen against citizen. The President has refused to defend or enforce laws he does not like, used executive orders to enact national policies in areas constitutionally reserved solely to Congress, made unconstitutional ‘recess’ appointments to Senate-confirmed positions, directed regulatory agencies to overstep their statutory authority, and failed to consult Congress regarding military action overseas. He has changed what John Adams called ‘a government of laws and not of men’ into just the opposite.”
The Republicans pledge to restore our crippled economy through free-market, Constitutional means.  Their platform declares, “Government cannot create prosperity, though government can limit or destroy it. Prosperity is the product of self-discipline, enterprise, saving and investment by individuals, but it is not an end in itself. Prosperity provides the means by which citizens and their families can maintain their independence from government, raise their children by their own values, practice their faith, and build communities of cooperation and mutual respect. It is also the foundation for our nation’s global leadership, for it is the vigor of our economy which makes possible our military strength and our national security.”

“Republicans consider the establishment of a pro-growth tax code a moral imperative. More than any other public policy, the way government raises revenue — how much, at what rates, under what circumstances, from whom, and for whom — has the greatest impact on our economy’s performance. It powerfully influences the level of economic growth and job creation, which translates into the level of opportunity for those who would otherwise be left behind.  Getting our tax system right will be the most important factor in driving the entire economy back to prosperity. The current tax code is rightly the object of both anger and mockery. Its length is exceeded only by its complexity. We must start anew. That will be an enormous undertaking and, if it is to succeed, it must command the attention and approval of the American people. It cannot be engineered from the top down, but must have a common sense approach, and be simplified.”
I am not a Republican, but the great difference between the plans for our future proposed by the Republican Party in 2016 and the vision of this year’s Democrats cannot be missed.  It is the difference between more government, more debt, more undermining of our civilization, more corruption, less God, less growth, less law, and less freedom, as opposed to more law-and-order, more protection of life and liberty, more prosperity, more Constitutional government, less endangerment of individual rights, less executive power, and less deficit spending.  I have a responsibility to make a responsible choice on November 8, and so do you.  May the Lord show us our duty.

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live…”
(Dueteronomy 30:19)

 
Dr. Rick Flanders