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Am I Wrong to Prepare for a Nuclear Doomsday?

Saber-rattling between international leaders is a military tactic probably as old as saber swords themselves. But when those sabers are nuclear warheads, the threats come with a very sharp edge to them. Over the past several months, our president here in the States and the leader of North Korea have exchanged threats via state media, mass media, and social media. North Korea has been testing nuclear bombs and perfecting its long-range missile program. In response, our president has said the following about future threats: “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” In a speech, he went so far as to say, “The United States has great strength and patience. But if it’s forced to defend itself or allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Those are strong words, and they are backed with movement. As we speak, the U.S. has three aircraft carrier strike groups in the western Pacific, a significant military buildup meant to get North Korea’s attention. With international tensions high, we get this question from Amber in Virginia. “Hello, Pastor John. I love your podcast and your overall ministry has deeply impacted me. North Korea has been in the news a lot lately. With threats of a nuclear attack, Christians around me are starting to fear. I know so many Christians who talk of stocking food, water, and supplies — even a few considering buying and installing an underground bomb shelter in the event of such attack. When it comes to this new cold-war era (new to a lot of us), how should Christians plan wisely?”

Well, I need to make a confession right off the bat here. Eighteen years ago, as Y2K approached — does anybody even remember that? — there was all this hysteria about how the computers would not know how to handle the switch from the 1900s to the 2000s.

People thought there would be major infrastructure breakdowns and the electricity and water would go off. They thought everybody would be forced off the grid and there would be rioting in the streets and no food available for weeks. As I watched this hysteria work its way into the church, I frankly was disgusted. I’m sorry. This is a confession. I watched Christians justify their own fear and self-protection by saying they would use their generator and their extra food for ministry purposes. Really? I wonder if the watching world saw it that way. Well, I didn’t see it that way.

To me, that very bent towards self-preservation and hoarding was a bad ministry in itself. It all made me angry, and I preached that this was not the mindset of the church in the New Testament. When I say, “Let me confess this,” I do mean that there probably was sin on my part in some of what I felt about the preppers during Y2K.

But I still feel most of what I felt, so I may have to confess again — may God help me. So, if you’re one of those folks, you’re just not going to get a lot of sympathy from me. I’ll try to explain why in the next few minutes, so here we go. I’ve got five reasons why.

Bomb Shelters

First, danger and risk are normal for the Christian life, not exceptional. The dominant New Testament approach to this fact is not self-protection, but self-sacrifice — the sacrifices of love. That’s the flavor. That’s the tone that we should see and experience.

For example, Paul describes his life like this:

Countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:23–27)

Jesus had promised that’s the way it would be:

“You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:16–19).

Now how in the world did Paul press on? What was his bomb shelter? He said,

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. (2 Timothy 4:16–18)

So you can see what he means there: “Evil deeds will not destroy my faith. I may die, but I’ll make it to the heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever.”

Our True Shelter

Second, major efforts at self-preservation are inevitably going to obscure to the world the basic message of Jesus — namely, Matthew 16:24–25:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Third, if you are known as a person who devotes lots of money and effort and focus on creating a refuge, it is going to make the psalms sound hollow in your mouth.

You are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. (Psalms 31:3–4)

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. (Psalms 61:3)

On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Psalms 62:7–8)

Here is the text of the five missionaries who went to the Huaorani tribe in 1956 and were all killed by the spears:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. (Psalm 91:1–6)

Stay, Don’t Flee

Fourth, it is allowed in Scripture, when danger comes, to flee or to stand and suffer. John Bunyan, who spent twelve years in prison for standing firm, wrote to defend both possible paths of obedience as biblical — both to flee or to stand.

I just don’t think Americans need more encouragement to flee. So when it comes to what I want to emphasize (what I’m doing right now), I preach stay. Pastorally and prophetically, flee is just not the need of the hour. I don’t think we need to encourage Americans, saying, “Oh, you really should stop being so risky. You really should stop suffering so much. You really should stop so much self-sacrifice. Let’s all be more self-protective in our bunkers.” I think pastorally and prophetically the need is almost entirely in the other direction.

And finally, fifth, it misrepresents the value of Christ and heaven to give the impression that death is the worst thing that could happen. If we are really doing all our self-preservation out of love, what about the people who are going to die eternally for lack of the gospel? Are we taking the same steps as seriously to preserve them for eternity? Bottom line: How can we make Christ look like he really is — the supreme treasure of our lives? How can we say to the world Psalm 63:3, “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life”?

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Welcome to the Olivet Discourse. The End Times prophetic address that Jesus gave to His disciples high atop the Mount of Olives, immediately to the East of the Holy City, Jerusalem.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, that lovely little land that we affectionately call Israel is the center of the world.

Literally and metaphorically.

Literally, because Israel is the place where the three major continents — Europe, Asia, and Africa — tenderly touch and affectionately kiss each other. Which goes a long way to explaining why God chose this modest piece of real estate — a mere 150 miles long (North-South), 50 miles wide (West-East) — as stage for the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Metaphorically the center of the world because throughout all of human history, the eyes of world have ever been focused squarely on the Middle East — so called because it sits in the middle or center of the world. And in center of the Middle East sits Israel.

So Israel is indeed the center of the world.

That said, Jerusalem is the center of Israel, and the Temple is the center of Jerusalem.

So it is no wonder that Jesus and His disciples took a timeout from all of the hubbub of activities on this Tuesday of Jesus’ final week, exactly three days before Jesus would go to the cross.

As they sat upon the Mount of Olives taking in that breathtaking view of the Holy City and its glorious Temple – God’s House, what Jesus called “My Father’s House,” what many of our Jewish friends call “The House” – the disciples were moved by that spectacular panoramic portrait to ask Jesus these two most important questions in Matthew 24: “What will be the sign of your coming,” and “What will be the sign of the end of the age?”

Jesus’ answer to those questions comprise what we now call the Olivet Discourse, spanning two full chapters, Matthew 24-25.

As you are about to hear, there are Two Interpretive Keys to understanding these all-important prophetic chapters.

The first of these keys is to understand that the disciples’ questions were VERY focused. Their first question was a direct reference to Jesus’ Second Coming. Their second question was in reference to a distinctly different moment in the future – the end of the age. As an answer to these very specific questions, Jesus offered a very specific answer. He doesn’t talk to them about the Rapture, but about His Second Coming. Therefore, Matthew 24-25 is a “Second Coming Passage”. Jesus doesn’t discuss the Rapture until two days later, as written in John 14 in the Upper Room Discourse.

So, as we approach Jesus’ Second Coming, which will come at the end of the seven-year Tribulation… which will begin after the Rapture, the “signs of the times” that Jesus describes become very applicable to us, here in the 21st Century.

This week, we will discuss the first three of six “signs of the times” that Jesus describes.

The second interpretive key comes from Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:8,

But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

Some Biblical translations use the word “sorrows” in place of “birth pains”. Nevertheless, the original Hebrew text that Matthew wrote contained a very precise word referring to the pains of a woman in labor.

Talk about a masterful and meaningful metaphor!

Like birth pains, as the “signs of the times” begin, they will then proceed, becoming far more intense and far more frequent. So, the reason that Jesus used this metaphor is: as we near the “end of the age” and His Second Coming, and therefore the Rapture, the events will occur with a never-before seen intensity and frequency.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I know these things have been occurring throughout the world and throughout the history of mankind… but not with the intensity and frequency that we are in store for. So, like labor pains, as we see the frequency and intensity of these events growing and growing, we should realize that the “moment” is drawing nearer and nearer.

What I find most interesting is that as I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, it sounds eerily similar to today’s news headlines. Yet He said these things over 2,000 years ago:

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:3-5)

So, as Jesus put it, there will be a lot of false teachers rising in popularity across the planet – not all of them, but many of them actually claiming to be Christ, the Messiah!

IN other words, we must choose our Bible teachers very carefully!

Now, I realize this isn’t news. There have always been false teachers, ever since the beginning of the Christian Church. But, like labor pains, as Jesus points out, the amount of intensity and frequency of false doctrine being taught around the world will grow at unprecedented rates.

Interestingly enough, we are seeing the number of false teachers sweeping the globe as never before seen in human history. This might be, if for no other reason, that there are simply more media outlets than ever before. Anyone with an internet connection can put their teachings for the world to digest…and there are many who do so with false doctrine, mostly motivated by greed and/or a lust for power. On a deeper level, this increased frequency of false teaching is brought on by Satan, himself.

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.  These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. (1 Timothy 4:1-2)

Now, part of the mystery and majesty of Jesus’ metaphor is that Paul was writing to Timothy about the “last times” some 2,000 years ago. Here we are two millennium later, and therefore even closer than Paul and Timothy were to those days.

Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge.  Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

So, if this warning was applicable in Paul and Timothy’s day, how much more applicable is it to our lives today?

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom:  Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.  They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

I remember years ago, sitting under the teaching of one particular pastor. He was telling us about a cruise that he and his wife had just returned from – the gorgeous sea, palm tree lined beaches, and glorious weather they enjoyed. He then said that what impressed him most about his trip was that every night, when they were done with their day’s activities, they would discover that someone had come into their cabin, turned down their bed and prepared everything for them, including laying a little mint on their pillows. Then he said, “You know… that perfectly describes our relationship with God, who comes into our room into our room every night and turns down our bed and puts a little mint on our pillows.”

Now, that’s heart warming.

But is it true? Is God’s role to serve me? I thought I was here to serve Him.

This is like the myths that Paul was warning Timothy about – a nice sounding story that may contain truth, but ultimately is untruthful.

I am also reminded of the words Paul said to the church leaders at Ephesus:

 “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood — over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock.  Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.  Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.” (Acts 20:28-31)

Image: Manfred

Image: Manfred

What’s most frightening about Paul’s warning is that when it comes to false teachers, he wasn’t talking about malicious people coming from outside of their church. He was talking about false teachers rising up from within their congregation.

Peter offers similar warnings in 2 Peter 2:1-2

False teachers will also sneak in and speak harmful lies to you. But these teachers don’t really belong to the Master who paid a great price for them, and they will quickly destroy themselves.  Many people will follow their evil ways and cause others to tell lies about the true way.

John added his voice to the chorus when he wrote in 1 John 4:1-3

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.  This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God.  But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God.

I don’t believe that it is impossible to overstate this case. It is a constant drumbeat throughout the New Testament. And Jesus actually gave the most pointed warning of all in His Sermon on the Mount:

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ (Matthew 7:15-23)

All this to say, that the first sign that Jesus warned about was false teachers coming in multitudes, so choose your teachers carefully!

Sign number two:

And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. (Matthew 24:6) 

Image: J.D. Luedi

Image: J.D. Luedi

Why not? Well, as we have already discussed in earlier podcasts, the end won’t come until after the final war of Armageddon. So, until that war, the end (along with Christ’s Second Coming) is not eminent. But, this doesn’t pertain to the Rapture.

Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (Matthew 24:7)

Once again, there has never been a time when we have basked in the glow of worldwide peace. Nor with there be a time such as this until the end. In fact, the first World War was supposed to be the “War to end all Wars”… but then came World War II. Decades later, the Iraq war was supposed to bring democracy to and stabilize the Middle East. It didn’t.

As of July 18th, according to WarsInTheWorld.com, there were 67 countries embroiled in some kind of armed conflict. Now, in regards of acceleration of all this. Since September 11, 2001, we have not only witnessed an ongoing escalation of military hotspots around the world; but for the first time in human history, we have seen a new and terrible way to “do war”. Since September 11, 2001, we have been engaged in what the experts call Asymmetrical Warfare. In Symmetrical Warfare – what the world has known since warfare began – there were two opposing forces, each with identifying uniforms so that each side knew who the enemy was, combating against one another. There were careful rules of engagement, and the two sides would battle until either the last man was standing or a truce was made. But today, we are fighting in a completely different kind of war against a completely different kind of enemy – radical Islamic terrorists who have no rules of engagement except to kill anyone by any means possible. This is not a war fought on a battlefield between to opposing armies, but a war waged against innocent civilians in barbaric acts of targeted terrorism. And no nation or people seem to be immune to this war.

Yet, as Jesus told us… DO NOT PANIC.

There is no need for you and me to feel unsettled, despite what we see, read, and experience almost daily. In fact, after telling us to not panic, Jesus continued by saying that these things actually MUST take place. So, if there is any comfort to be found for those of us who hopelessly watch this war unfold before our eyes, it is that none of this catches God off guard or by surprise.

Jesus said it would be this way, and it actually has to happen… even with increased intensity and frequency.

So, when people look at these horrific world events and wonder such things as “How can a loving God allow this?” and their faith is rocked to the core, I can only respond by saying that my faith is actually bolstered in all this. Jesus said it would be this way. Therefore, I expect it.

So, don’t panic. Because as the frequency and intensity of this Asymmetrical War grows hotter and hotter, so the timing of the Rapture and Jesus’ Second Coming grows that much closer. We don’t need to panic because as Paul wrote in Romans 8:22-25,

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.  But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

So, groaning deeply, we wait eagerly.

And, speaking of creation groaning, let me move to the third sign. In Matthew 24:7, Jesus said:

“There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.  But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.”

Image: Patsy Poor

Image: Patsy Poor

So, let’s talk about natural disasters. I don’t want to get politically controversial. You can call it global warming, or climate change, or natural progression of the planet’s weather systems. I really don’t care what you believe regarding the planet’s weather. But the one thing we cannot choose to believe or not to believe is what is happening throughout our country and the world regarding drought, earthquakes, severe floods and the like. You can say that this has always been the case and we are in the midst of another identifiable cycle. BUT, the truth is that this is not a linear cycle. We are in the midst of, at the very least, cycles on an upward incline. The frequency and intensity of global seismic, atmospheric and climatic disasters are continuously increasing. Whether this activity is manmade or not; or whether it has anything to do with fossil fuels… all this can be debated. But, what cannot be debated is that change is occurring.

It is absolutely true that droughts, and famines, and earthquakes have occurred over and over again throughout human history. But what we are witnessing is an undeniable increase in the intensity and frequency of droughts, famines, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and other catastrophic weather related events.

I do find it interesting that while Jesus didn’t list off every type of weather related catastrophe that could and will happen, He did choose to name off the two that are the most illustrious. He mentioned famines, which do speak of climate and weather. He also mentioned earthquakes, which are the very picture of labor pains, as if the earth itself is about to give birth. And if you have ever been through an earthquake, you know that in the more severe shakers, you can literally hear the earth groaning as it happens.

The world is broken. But – at the risk of getting political – no matter which person wins the Presidential Election this year, they are not the person who will fix it. Neither candidate is our hope. This is not fixable.

In Luke’s abbreviated account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said these comforting words:

So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28)

That is our hope.

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John Stonestreet, Jeff Allen, Joel Fieri and Jefferson Drexler discuss 21st century cultural issues in light of a Christian worldview.

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In this first segment from our “Effectively Engaging Our Culture” webcast, we investigate how Christians can effectively engage our ever-changing culture in the 21st century. John Stonestreet of the Colson Center and Summit Ministries shares his views on Christian worldview, as well as current events and issues.

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Life as a Christ-follower will always have its ups and its downs – times where you feel like you’re in the “sweet spot”, and times of confusion or even bewilderment.  But, as you remain faithful to God’s plan, it becomes clear to see that all these seasons are actually opportunities for God to mold and shape you for His purposes.

For instance, in my early years of ministry, it all seemed to come easy.  The congregation grew and grew.  People were happy and fervently seeking God.  But as more and more people gathered, so did more and more opinions and priorities; and conflict reared its ugly head from time to time.

So, I’ve learned to continually pray that God would keep my heart soft and that I would be willing to allow him to mold me into the man He wants me to be, walking and working with people with patience and wisdom.

All this to say that today, instead of pastoring a church like I had done for so long, God has my wife and I working with Cadence International.  It’s a ministry to the military.

A few years ago, I had been asked to speak to Cadence’s high school ministry (comprised of soldiers’ teenage kids) in Europe.  It was an incredible experience.  We got to travel to several of our American bases throughout Germany and minister to military families as well as see some amazing parts of the world that we hadn’t seen before.  All this was in preparation for an Easter-week camp with high school students on the isle of Ibeza, off of the Spanish coast.  It was amazing to see, not how God could use Jan and I to minister to these 500 high schoolers, but how He would use these students to bless us.

We pretty much knew right away that Cadence International is where God was calling us to serve.

So, today, we are located at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, doing a different type of ministry than we’ve ever been involved with before.  The soldiers we meet are under extreme pressures – you can imagine being a young adult in your early 20’s, being told what to do and needing permission to do practically everything every day.  So, we offer from our Hospitality House an opportunity for them to relax, eat, play and study God’s Word.  We have couples studies on Tuesday nights, family pot luck dinners on Friday nights, as well as singles studies and activities throughout the month.

So, keep these soldiers and their families in prayer.  These are times like no other in regards to our military families with the global picture constantly changing and different opinions and philosophies swirling around these young people who have committed themselves to serve their country.

We hear stories on a regular basis dealing from the “simple struggles” of parenting and married life, to dealing with losing friends and roommates that were shot to death at a bus stop in Afghanistan.

Additionally, many of them feel like chess pieces being moved from here to there as part of the higher-ups overall strategy.  Therefore, the soldiers and their families are hesitant to develop relationships or grow roots anywhere since they know they will likely be shuffled off within a couple years.

Needless to say, this is a great stage in Jan’s and my lives to minister in new and unique ways to both people who are completely unchurched and are seeking a new way to approach life and eternity as well as Believers within our military who want to grow and serve God as they serve our country.

You can find out more about what we’re doing at cadence.org.

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Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri, and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends and issues in the Church and greater society. On The Big Picture Podcast, our motto or tag line is “separating the forest from the trees”, and there’s no subject that blurs that distinction more than today’s topic. And that topic is war – specifically the Christian attitude towards war.

Now what got me thinking on this topic was a recent crop of Super Bowl commercials. Among them was an interesting contribution from the Coca Cola Company. No doubt many of you saw it. The ad featured footage from security cameras around the world, catching people in random acts of kindness like stealing kisses and dealing in potato chips, among others. All these acts were harmless and fun until near the end of the ad when they showed footage of what they called a “peace warrior”. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t a military soldier; it was a hooded graffiti artist spray painting the word ‘peace’ on the front of a building.

Now, assuming the artist didn’t own the building, this is usually called vandalism. But in the mind of Coca-Cola, or at least its advertising company, it was an act of war, for the cause of peace.

If you’re confused, so am I. If you’re disturbed, so am I. But in our morally backwards culture, I’m not really surprised.

But as I said, it did get me thinking about the notion of peace and how it’s brought about.

So I want to contrast this with another notion of what constitutes a “peace warrior”.

In 1941, in the early, dark days of the worst war in human history, two world leaders sat on the deck of a battleship, agreeing to fight together the great evil of Nazi Germany. To mark the agreement, they and the crowd of dignitaries and seamen were led in singing the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

Now in today’s world and Christian culture, we may find that hard to believe. But it’s true – the greatest victory against evil in all history began by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt identifying Jesus Christ as the royal master leading them against their foe.

There aren’t a lot of people who would argue that our participation in WWII wasn’t a just cause, and that aren’t thankful we prevailed against such obvious evil. But was it right for them to call themselves ‘Christian Soldiers’, embracing the war and even proclaiming Jesus as their leader in the killing of millions of human beings created in God’s image?

This has been a fundamental argument among Christians for centuries, Christian Pacifism vs. the Just War Theory. So I’d like to examine a little of what the Bible says in regards to war.

First, the most obvious – Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers”. In our world and understanding today, that would seem to indicate a pacifist mindset. But are pacifists really peacemakers?

Back to our WWII story for a minute. Before Mr. Churchill was prime minister of Great Britain, a pacifist named Neville Chamberlain held that office. In 1939, before the war began, he met with Adolf Hitler and promised him that if Hitler would just agree not to invade any more countries, then Great Britain would not fight him. Hitler agreed, and Chamberlain famously held up the agreement proclaiming that it meant “peace in our time”, after which Hitler, sensing weakness in Chamberlain and Britain, promptly broke the agreement and invaded Poland. Churchill, and Roosevelt, neither one of them pacifists, were left the gigantic task of making peace through four years of total war.

This is the harsh reality of pacifism. It is seen as weakness by those bent on evil. It’s even been said that weakness is a provocation to war, not a deterrent, and history proves that.

Jesus also mentions turning the other cheek, loving our enemies, and even feeding them. But is he talking about war here? I don’t think so. A slap on the cheek is traditionally not an act of violence, but instead symbolizes an insult. Jesus was speaking, I believe, in the micro sense, about interpersonal conflicts and relationships. He’s saying don’t lower yourselves to the level of personal insults, even if you’re insulted. There is an obvious contrast in scripture between our personal and public responsibilities as Christians.

A peacemaker, I believe, is one who is prepared to fight, but who does so not for evil but for righteousness and against evil. Jesus himself used military parables. In Luke 14:31, he equates counting the cost of following him to a king deciding whether or not to go to war against another king. If he doesn’t think he can win, he makes peace. But that would imply that if he could win, he should go to war. If Jesus were a pacifist, this parable wouldn’t fit his message. Nor would telling his disciples to carry swords to protect themselves and their money later in Luke.

The apostle Paul, in Ephesians, uses a well known military illustration of the armor of God. A helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, even the sword of the spirit. Military conflict was a reality in Biblical times and neither Jesus nor Paul challenged its validity.

The popular sentiment today (or at least the trite little bumper sticker) is that “war is not the answer”. Well, not exactly. No doubt throughout history there’ve been wars fought for no good reason, but war has been the answer, and really the only answer, to our independence, the ending of slavery, and the defeat of Nazism, fascism, Japanese imperialism and communism. It’s also dealt a severe blow to terrorism, but I’ll grant that the jury’s still out on that fight.

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there’s a time for peace, but also a time for war. So how do we know the difference? I don’t have a good answer, other than to say that the closer we hold as individuals and a society to Biblical truth and obedience, the better we and our leaders will recognize true evil and be prepared and willing to fight it. The further we get from Biblical truth into the morass of our post-modern, politically correct notions of peace and morality, like embracing vandalism for peace, the more confused, weak and ‘passive’ we’ll become. And the more passive those with the truth become, the more emboldened those who lie and do evil become.

The last time Western Civilization made that mistake, the world suffered and was nearly destroyed.

In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible). And keeping with our subject, today’s witness was a man who faced the question of war in his own time and country like few people ever have. His story needs to be heard. Here’s just a little of it:

As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a well-known pastor and author, who in 1945 was executed in a concentration camp for his part in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.

Bonhoeffer gives witness to one man’s extraordinary faith and to the tortured fate of the nation he sought to deliver from the curse of Nazism. He was determined to do the will of God radically, courageously, and joyfully—even to the point of death. Bonhoeffer’s story is the story of a life framed by a passion for truth and a commitment to justice on behalf of those who face implacable evil. He could have been a pacifist. He certainly had done enough before joining the plot to kill Hitler. He had resisted the Nazi hold on German society and even the German church, which was on board with the governments anti-Semitic agenda. He established the Confessing Church, which stood against the Nazis and for German Jews. That would have been enough courage in anyone’s eyes. But he didn’t stop there. He actively assisted in the assassination plot, with the goal of killing Hitler and other leaders, knowing that failure would mean his death. He said “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Now to be fair, Bonhoeffer didn’t say his path was the only righteous path. He never claimed moral certainty or even absolution for what he chose to do. But that’s really the nature of the question of war. War really is hell, as the saying goes. But in Dietrich Bonhoeffer we see a faithful, Godly man who’s conscience wouldn’t allow him to be passive in the face of evil, even when those around him were appeasing it. And for that he is nominated to the great cloud of witnesses, of whom the world is, and was, not worthy.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this week’s Big Picture Podcast, please go to my web site at gobigpicture.net and also check out our other podcasts and points of view on the E-Squared Media network at e2medianetwork.com. Wherever you go, leave a few comments and tweet your friends and your pastor about us. See you next time on the Big Picture podcast. Be blessed!

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Life as a Christ-follower will always have its ups and its downs – times where you feel like you’re in the “sweet spot”, and times of confusion or even bewilderment.  But, as you remain faithful to God’s plan, it becomes clear to see that all these seasons are actually opportunities for God to mold and shape you for His purposes.

For instance, in my early years of ministry, it all seemed to come easy.  The congregation grew and grew.  People were happy and fervently seeking God.  But as more and more people gathered, so did more and more opinions and priorities; and conflict reared its ugly head from time to time.

So, I’ve learned to continually pray that God would keep my heart soft and that I would be willing to allow him to mold me into the man He wants me to be, walking and working with people with patience and wisdom.

All this to say that today, instead of pastoring a church like I had done for so long, God has my wife and I working with Cadence International.  It’s a ministry to the military.

A few years ago, I had been asked to speak to Cadence’s high school ministry (comprised of soldiers’ teenage kids) in Europe.  It was an incredible experience.  We got to travel to several of our American bases throughout Germany and minister to military families as well as see some amazing parts of the world that we hadn’t seen before.  All this was in preparation for an Easter-week camp with high school students on the isle of Ibeza, off of the Spanish coast.  It was amazing to see, not how God could use Jan and I to minister to these 500 high schoolers, but how He would use these students to bless us.

We pretty much knew right away that Cadence International is where God was calling us to serve.

So, today, we are located at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, doing a different type of ministry than we’ve ever been involved with before.  The soldiers we meet are under extreme pressures – you can imagine being a young adult in your early 20’s, being told what to do and needing permission to do practically everything every day.  So, we offer from our Hospitality House an opportunity for them to relax, eat, play and study God’s Word.  We have couples studies on Tuesday nights, family pot luck dinners on Friday nights, as well as singles studies and activities throughout the month.

So, keep these soldiers and their families in prayer.  These are times like no other in regards to our military families with the global picture constantly changing and different opinions and philosophies swirling around these young people who have committed themselves to serve their country.

We hear stories on a regular basis dealing from the “simple struggles” of parenting and married life, to dealing with losing friends and roommates that were shot to death at a bus stop in Afghanistan.

Additionally, many of them feel like chess pieces being moved from here to there as part of the higher-ups overall strategy.  Therefore, the soldiers and their families are hesitant to develop relationships or grow roots anywhere since they know they will likely be shuffled off within a couple years.

Needless to say, this is a great stage in Jan’s and my lives to minister in new and unique ways to both people who are completely unchurched and are seeking a new way to approach life and eternity as well as Believers within our military who want to grow and serve God as they serve our country.

You can find out more about what we’re doing at cadence.org.

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