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In three days, we will turn the page of another calendar year. Where does the time go? Wasn’t it just October? Many are preparing to celebrate, ushering out 2023 and ringing in the New Year, which, if our calculations are correct, should be 2024. New Year’s resolutions will be made in earnest by some, though most will be forgotten in short order – by February at the latest – despite all good intentions. Lots of us gave up New Year’s resolutions some years ago for obvious reasons. Many will be eager to see what 2024 will bring — others are just relieved to see 2023 depart!

Media outlets will do their obligatory year-in-review shows, which really can be quite interesting. Some of us will be surprised to learn which beloved celebrities died this year, while others of us will not know exactly who some of these people were and what they were famous for.

In the big picture, how will we remember 2023? On the national scene, the 2024 Presidential election has been dominating much of the news cycle in 2023. The sad rift between left and right in this country has become almost a Grand Canyon-wide chasm. Some on the Progressive left have publicly marked any who disagree with or question their policies as domestic terrorists who are out to “destroy our democracy,” though we know that “democracy” encompasses many different viewpoints attempting to resolve their differences via the ballot. If there were truly only one possible “right way” to view things, we certainly would not have had so many political “Parties” to choose from since our founding. The anger has become so intense it almost seems like we are in the middle of another American civil war. If so, it is more or less a “Cold War” so far, with periodic bursts of true violence, and most of us are frankly unsure where it will lead.

Christians and Jews have awakened to a new reality of shocking anti-Christian and antisemitic sentiment and activism, particularly on elite university campuses. Even we, who follow trends in culture, were shocked by the open antisemitism and pro-Islamic terrorist sentiment expressed and the violence that accompanied them. Innocent Jewish students on campus were harassed and threatened with physical harm. In some cases, students were forced to hide from would-be attackers. These attitudes have been steadily increasing over the past decade but seem to have reached new peaks in 2023, to the point that even those Christians and Jews with their heads firmly planted in the sand are being forced to take notice.

As these ideas were spoon-fed to the young in colleges, the government had also become more and more anti-Christian – beginning to actually punish those who disagree with the positions of our leftist PC-dominated culture. Gender (and race and now even species, in truly far-out cases) was officially being normalized as being fluid. You are what you ‘feel’ that you are, and God help the man, woman, or company who cannot happily embrace this concept. City governments began with the force of law in 2015 when national headlines read, “NYC will fine employers up to $250,000 for referring to ‘transsexuals’ by their natural gender.”

Failing to use an individual’s preferred name or pronoun, under the new ban, will be considered a violation of New York City Human Rights Law, punishable by fines up to $250,000.

“Refusal to use a transgender employee’s preferred name, pronoun, or title (e.g., Ms./Mrs.) may constitute unlawful gender-based harassment,” the new NYC Pronoun Ban reads.

“Gender is defined as one’s ‘actual or perceived sex and shall also include a person’s gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression,’” the new ban reads, “‘whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the legal sex assigned to that person at birth.’”

We need only to look at Section IV of New York City’s current  “Gender Identity/Gender Expression: Legal Enforcement Guidance” to read how it is codified into law:

The Commission can impose civil penalties up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct.

We don’t know exactly how willful, wanton, or malicious intent is determined since intentions are interior motives that certainly cannot be ascertained by those standing outside the mind of the alleged miscreant. Cancel culture, terminating the employment of those who refuse to conform to Progressive norms, has spread across the nation with the backing of the Federal Government. Sometimes, it feels that the world has turned upside down! Wrong is now right, and good is now evil. But just as we recognize that Christmas is near when the stores start playing Christmas music, reminding us that ‘it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,’ we should recognize that our culture today is looking an awful lot like the perilous days depicted in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power…

However, as dark as culture seems to be getting, we know that Christ is with us and is in control. As Joy and I reflect on the ministry in 2023, we are truly amazed and encouraged.

As we started the year, Don was still driving a truck to supplement our support. There was a steady increase in requests for help and information, as well as other opportunities, including adding a weekly live-streaming study group in addition to our weekly live-streaming webcast. It was a bit of a stretch for Don to get up at 1:00 AM to head out and drive his shift and return to full days devoted to keeping up with ministry, the demands of answering questions, counseling cultists, and helping family members of cultists, in addition to researching and keep up the writing schedule. As we prayed about it, we believed God was calling Don to resign from trucking and devote 100% of his energies to the ministry. On April 1, 2023, he did just that. Support has been steadily increasing, and for that, we are very grateful. It has sometimes come from unexpected places and people. We look forward to God’s provision through his people over the coming year. These changes have also freed us up to more fully pursue being ambassadors to cults and non-Christian religions.

In March, Don attended “Paganicon 2023” in Plymouth, MN, with three others. Paganicon itself noted there were about 1,000 Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Satanists, and other pagans registered at the convention. In August, Don and a group of about twelve other apologists attended a somewhat similar pagan gathering, the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Don has attended four Parliaments out of the eight that have been held since 1993. This year, over eight thousand were in attendance. He was able to give a workshop presentation there along with Bill Honsberger from Haven Ministries titled, “In Defense of Human Rights… for All Humans.”

Amazon Prime aired a docuseries, Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets. Bill Gothard was a central figure in the series. After it aired, we experienced a significant increase in requests for information on Gothard and IBLP. Our original book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, had been out of print for about four years. We decided to update the book and add some new material to it. So, in August, we released A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and His Cultish Teachings.

In addition, Don spoke in several churches this year, plus the Witnesses Now for Jesus Convention and the EMNR Conference, both in Florida. He also presented a workshop at the Evangelical Press Association Convention on “The Troubling Trend of False Teaching in the Church” and was able to pinpoint to the attendees the way Christianity Today and several other “Christian” publishers have aided in promoting the false teaching infiltrating the church. The journalists who attended were shocked, but so far, there haven’t been notable changes among members of the Evangelical Press Association. Don also spoke at the Grace Conference at Quentin Road Bible Church in Lake Zurich, IL.

It has been a very full year, and we are looking forward to how God will lead in 2024. Being an ambassador to cults and culture outside the walls of the church is a challenging mission field. We are still praying for more supporters, not just financially but also those who support MCOI through prayer, which we believe is even more necessary as the world darkens.

Perhaps you would consider a one-time year-end gift or perhaps committing to regular monthly support. You could even use the donate button. Joy and I want to thank you for your encouragement, prayers and support, and pray that the will Lord bless and keep you in the coming New Year.Ω

Don and Joy Signature 2

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