The world is changing. That’s glaringly obvious. Nothing, it would appear, stays the same. Sometimes that’s good. At other times it’s disheartening. This past month I witnessed the world changing in some dramatic ways.
For one, I walked my only daughter down the center aisle at our church and gave her hand to Mr. Sam Camp, to be her lawfully wedded husband. As the minister (my brother Mel) said that day, “Richard isn’t losing a daughter; he’s regaining his credit card). That short walk on a beautiful April Saturday brought an end to Lisa’s and my crowded “nest.” It’s empty now. But we’re glad. Our daughter married well.
In other ways, things stayed the same. The ancient writer of Proverbs declared: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). I witnessed that truth on April 12. I don’t hold myself up as a model parent, but Lisa and I sought to train up Carrie in the way she should live her life. She embraced our teaching (for the most part) and today, as a young adult, she is living out those principles in her own home. God’s truth, though ancient, still works!
I shared with you last month about my trip to Cuba in March. The government has relaxed its borders to religious groups. The nation’s leaders have apparently recognized that the Cuban people need some of what the Church has to offer. After years of offering a soulless, amoral worldview to its people, the communist government has produced a society where there is little motivation to work hard, be honest, or sexually pure. So, the government has taken a pragmatic approach and is granting greater freedom to churches so they can promote morality and hard work, among other things. Isn’t it fascinating that even an atheist regime can ultimately make changes that benefit the church?
Ironically, even as atheist regimes are loosening their restrictions on Christian groups in Cuba, growing pressures are being applied to Christians in America. Evangelicals in America once exerted tremendous influence on the nation. Presidential candidates had to court their favor. In Jerry Falwell’s famous words, they constituted a “moral majority.” However, times have changed. In recent elections, candidates advocated moral positions that deeply offended many conservative Christians. Laws have been passed that violate bedrock Christian principles. Prominent evangelicals such as Franklin Graham, Louie Giglio, and Rick Warren have all faced intense scrutiny and criticism when invited to participate in events related to the White House. In fact, the National Day of Prayer, held in the East Room of the White House during President Bush’s tenure, was prohibited from meeting at the White House under President Obama. In America today, people are publicly lambasted for stating truths the Bible clearly teaches. People can even face lawsuits for upholding certain Christian convictions. Things have changed.
One of my children recently commented that there are far more challenges in raising children in this generation than there were in the last (and there were a lot then!). But it’s true. With the proliferation of the Internet and social media, as well as with the aggressive attempts by people to promote agendas that violate Christian morals and beliefs, parents will have to constantly battle for the minds, hearts, and souls of their children.
I am aware of numerous instances where intense pressure has been placed upon Christians to change their beliefs or to at least to refrain from expressing their views publicly. While society openly applauds and idolizes someone who “comes out of the closet,” it simultaneously castigates a Christian businessman who refuses to pay, with company funds, for his employees to obtain abortions. Numerous pressures are being placed upon military personnel to restrict their expression of faith so it does not offend those who hold other beliefs. An increasing aggressive “political correctness” is permeating the American government.
I am aware of efforts to remove any expression of Christianity out of the American armed forces. There are vigilant, self-appointed watchdogs that will protest any vestige of Christianity among the troops. Several years ago our ministry faced criticism when it was learned that we had provided over 250,000 copies of Experiencing God: Day by Day to American troops. Even though military chaplains had to request them from our office, and military personnel had to request a copy from a chaplain, critics still viewed this as putting undue pressure on troops who chose not to ask for a copy! On a recent trip to speak to troops in South Korea, I faced criticism because it was believed I would present talks on leadership based on a biblical perspective.
I certainly sympathize with those who oppose religious coercion. I am opposed to that too! No one should be subjected to manipulation or pressure from others to listen to or accept their religious views. Nevertheless, those who desire to hear what the Bible teaches or who want to find peace for their souls from Jesus Christ, ought to be able to have that accessible to them, especially if their lives are in danger. It seems incredibly arrogant for civilians in safely ensconced at home in America to forbid soldiers who are putting their lives in danger on behalf of their country from receiving free religious literature that tells them how to find peace. Yet that is being done today. Currently, the leading cause of death, among the US military today, is suicide. Surely we owe it to our troops to provide them hope for their souls.
These are challenging days to be a Christian! In some ways, we are witnessing enormous breakthroughs for the cause of Christ. In other ways, we are seeing a spiritual darkness creeping across the land.
Are you prepared for the changes that are coming?