Dear John MacArthur: Thank you

Against the governor of California’s orders, Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church are assembling for worship every Lord’s day. Their decision has led to many responses and criticisms within the evangelical world. Many who take a different stance than MacArthur still acknowledge that he might be right to practice civil disobedience at this moment. Personally, I am thankful for the stand John MacArthur is taking, and I hope all Christians will pray for him and the elders and members of Grace Community Church. I agree with MacArthur that churches should be open, even if, in his words, “how we do that might vary based on geographical and legal circumstances.”  

Below is an email I sent to Grace to You. It expresses my appreciation, admiration, and support of Pastor John MacArthur as he faces fines and potential arrest. 

Dear John MacArthur,

Thank you for your courage and boldness during this unprecedented time. I want to thank you that in the twilight of your ministry you have not chosen to push the coast button and drive safely into the sunset. Instead, you have demonstrated the courage of conviction by staying true to your biblically shaped conscience even at the cost of your own safety and reputation. Your leadership at this moment is an encouragement to young pastors like myself. 

I think some Christians believe that your position unnecessarily binds the consciences of those who disagree with you. I want you to know that I do not think my conscience is any more bound by your recent statements about civil disobedience than when you argue passionately for premillennialism or elder-rule polity (I am an amillennialist and congregationalist). I view your exhortations to other pastors not as conscience binding, but as fatherly encouragement and fatherly chastisement. Even if some pastors disagree with you, it would be good for them to carefully weigh your exhortations. Your 50 plus years of faithful gospel ministry have earned you a hearing from all of us. 

I believe that yours is the voice that needs to be heard during this hour. Since the pandemic began, we have heard many good discussions about the relationship between the church and the state. Most of what I have heard over the last five months is that we need to submit to the government. While obeying the government is biblical and right, every pastor recognizes that there comes a time when the church needs to practice civil disobedience. You have weighed the evidence carefully and have acted consistently with your evaluation of the evidence. You believe now is the time for the church (especially in California) to stand up to the beast. 

The evangelical world needs someone of your status, longevity, position, and reputation to remind the magistrates of the limitations of their jurisdiction. We need someone of your stature to tell the governing officials that they are God’s servants appointed to reward good and punish evil (Romans 13:6). Woe to them if they reward evil and punish good. I fear for a state government that picks a fight with the bride of Christ. May God use your pushback at this moment to prevent greater threats to our religious freedom in the future. 

Your stance against the magistrates is a compelling witness to the watching world. The testimony our world needs right now and in every generation is the testimony that Jesus is Lord. Perhaps more than ever you are showing American citizens that when Christians say, “Jesus is Lord,” they really mean it, even if it costs them everything. I see your testimony to the watching world as a great act of love for God and love for neighbor. Your courage at this moment has given you a platform on multiple venues to preach the gospel to millions. 

Thank you, Pastor MacArthur, for reminding secular officials that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is and always will be essential. Some American judges seem to think that casinos are more essential than churches. But every casino could vanish from planet earth and the world would be a better place. Take away the pillar of truth, which is the church, and the whole world would plunge back into the dark ages. 

Thank you, Pastor MacArthur, for reminding all of us how important is the biblical command to assemble. In the present circumstance, the governing authorities are asking you to refrain from doing something that the Bible commands. With the rest of us, you have been forced to evaluate if the threat of COVID-19 should keep churches from assembling. With many pastors and Christians, you do not find an overwhelmingly clear reason to refrain from doing what the Bible requires, or to adjust the way in which you gather. You have led your church to start gathering again and to do it in a way that retains their liberty of conscience on how and when as individuals they will gather for worship. I think your approach is the best way to preserve unity in the body of Christ. 

I am praying for you, Pastor MacArthur, and the members and elders of Grace Community Church. Whatever happens, I rejoice with you knowing that Jesus is on the throne, the gospel will advance, and even the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. 

Sincerely,

Matthew Emadi

Kobe and Corona

One was a world-famous basketball player. The other is a world-famous virus. Kobe took the world by storm with high-flying dunks, incredible fadeaways, and game-winning jump shots. Corona captured our attention by making hundreds of thousands sick, killing others, and shutting down entire economic systems.

What does Kobe have to do with Corona? Nothing. Except they both awakened the world to the reality of death in recent months. Last month, we watched the world mourn the death of Kobe Bryant. His sudden and unexpected death made us feel death’s sting. Kobe’s tragic end reminded us that death is not natural. We don’t mourn natural processes. We don’t mourn the setting of the sun, the digestion of food, or rain falling from the sky. We mourn death. We mourned Kobe’s death because death is terrible, and people weren’t made to die. Yet we all do. Our lives are short, and Kobe reminded us of that. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. 

Continue reading “Kobe and Corona”

Kobe Bryant’s Death and a Lesson from Jesus

Even though roughly 150,000 people die every day in our world, we are still shocked when someone dies unexpectedly. I certainly was when I heard that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Eight others died with him including his daughter. All nine people were gone in an instant.

The world focuses on Kobe not because the others were less important but because Kobe was a celebrity. Kobe was a household name for over two decades. We feel like we knew him even if we never met him. We watched him enter the NBA straight out of high school; we saw him win the NBA dunk contest as a rookie; we witnessed him battle against my beloved Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs early in his career; we watched him win championships and become one of the greatest basketball players of all-time.

I have watched many interviews with different people paying tribute to Kobe and the people who lost their lives in the accident. Each time my eyes well up with tears because the pain of death is real. Many people are left with questions in the wake of a tragedy. I wonder what kind of response is appropriate when the world turns its attention to the brevity of life and the reality of death. I try to imagine what Jesus would say if the news reporters stuck a microphone in his face and asked him to comment on the nine lives that perished in the helicopter crash. What would Jesus say?

Continue reading “Kobe Bryant’s Death and a Lesson from Jesus”

A Prayer in the Wake of the Las Vegas Massacre

How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever? Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; Continue reading “A Prayer in the Wake of the Las Vegas Massacre”

Microchips: The mark of the beast?

Ever since childhood, I have heard people associate microchips with the mark of the beast from Revelation 13:16–17:

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. (ESV)

The USA Today reported last Friday (August 4) that a Wisconsin company is offering microchip implants to its employees. The chips will enhance efficiency by enabling convenient entry to facilities and automatic access to corporate computers. As expected, the news has triggered speculation about the Bible’s end-time prophecies. Continue reading “Microchips: The mark of the beast?”

Adam, Where Are You?

The Atlantic published an article by Emma Green last week titled, “It’s the Moms who Get Kids to Church: A new study suggests women are the primary models for religious faith in many households.” As the title suggests, the article indicates the moms are out doing dads in having a more prominent and significant influence on the spiritual lives of their children. Relying on studies conducted by Pew Research and Barna, Green begins her article with these words: Continue reading “Adam, Where Are You?”

Five affirmations to remember during an election year

As we approach November, I think it is fair to say that the media coverage of the presidential race has been both exhaustive and exhausting. Even within the world of evangelicalism, we have received our fair share of election analysis. I am thankful for the fruitful political dialogue that has taken place by evangelical leaders in the public square. These discussions are healthy as we try to bring the Scriptures to bear on our decisions this November. However, the constant drumbeat of political analysis coming out of Christendom can easily give the impression that we Christians ride the coattails of politicians (may it never be!). Amidst the overwhelming amount of evangelical opinions telling us what to do this November, I simply want to articulate five scriptural affirmations that should help shape our collective spirit this election season—and every election season for that matter. At the risk of being labeled “captain obvious,” I think we need to be reminded of the bigger picture every once in a while. So here goes: Continue reading “Five affirmations to remember during an election year”

What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?

What religion would Jesus belong to? This was the question posed by Nicholas Kristof in an op-ed piece published in the New York Times on September 3, 2016. Kristof argues that if Jesus were alive today, he would not endorse the type of Christianity reflected in many conservative evangelical churches—a Christianity that emphasizes the importance of theological convictions and doctrinal clarity. Instead, Kristof suggests that the Jesus we meet in the Gospels was less concerned with a “system of beliefs” and more concerned with compassion and service to the needy. Kristof appeals to Brian McLaren’s new book, The Great Spiritual Migration where McLaren argues that modern-day Christianity has migrated away from the religion founded by Jesus: Continue reading “What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?”