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(Please note: I won’t be posting an article here until November 18.)

A persistent falsehood has run through the evangelical church for several years. It is that a believer must find his or her vision, a vision for life. This has, of course, inevitably, resulted in people in small groups (Gotta have ‘em, you know.) sitting around talking and “visioneering.” This is just alternative language for finding one’s purpose or dream via human reasoning. If you haven’t caught on by now, you should know that such activities are the same that businesses and corporations do to increase production or sales. In Christian leadership conferences, pastors are told they must “cast their vision” to the church. After all, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time,” as the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar famously said. All this has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bible. Well, it has nothing to do with the Bible unless one throws in this one verse from Proverbs—which we must do, of course, since we must be “preaching from the Scripture”—which is supposed to justify this useless visioneering activity: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18).1

Prophetic vision. We all know where prophetic vision comes from, right? It comes from the Lord, by His sovereign will. We don’t receive prophetic vision by sitting around in small groups talking about our “visions,” so we can hit our growth targets in the church and goals in our Christian lives. No, this verse from Proverbs tells us that without a prophetic vision from God, people start sliding into lawlessness. A great example of this casting off restraint is what Israel did in the Book of Judges. Feel free to read those too-often dreadful accounts yourself, but within those pages we discover the terrible things that Israel did because they disobeyed God’s law. By the end of the book, the entire tribe of Benjamin is almost entirely wiped out—murdered by their own Israelite brothers. Then, realizing their senseless anger and folly, the remaining tribes attempted to solve the problem they had caused by kidnapping women from other tribes. Israel, at the time of these acts, had no God-inspired judge to lead them to obey the Lord. Thus, they cast off restraint. Those who lived in this lawless time obeyed the law and turned from sin were blessed because they kept the law, as Proverbs 29:18 says.

Which brings me back to the evangelical church in the United States, where prophetic and visionary voices have been silenced in favor of topical, how-to messages. The topic is set, verses are found to support the topic—as is the case to promote finding one’s vision—and the saints of God hear vapid, non-prophetic, non-visionary, non-challenging teachings. And thus, the people begin to cast off restraint. How, you may ask, have evangelical Christians begun to cast off restraint? Today, the evangelical church is under cultural pressure to cave to LGBTQ, gender, and racial agendas. For example, the recent leadership meeting of a well-known para-church campus ministry was basically a celebration of critical-race-theory wokeness. Am I hopeful the evangelical church will be strong enough to stand against this cultural onslaught? Not without biblical, prophetic voices. As I have written many times on this site, Christians must remember that Israel was compromised by the culture in which they lived. It was too strong for them. They caved and were thus defeated, becoming slaves to other nations and their gods. But God’s instruction for His people was uncompromising and remains so. Thus, Christians, in the absence of prophetic vision, must remain obedient to the law. What law? Love God and neighbor. How will keeping the law to love God be a blessing for those who adhere to it? I will leave it to the reader to cogitate upon that, but here is an enormous hint: If you love God, you will love what He loves and does not love. And if you love people, you will love them enough to steer them away from sinful lawlessness because sin brings death. Eternal death.

Please pray for the Church in the Unites States. Pray that the Lord will raise up biblically right and true prophetic voices.

 

1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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Picture this. You are getting married. Family and friends have gathered. You have provided and prepared good food and wine in abundance. People will be dancing and enjoying good conversation. All will be happy for the bride and groom. Everything is going well except one very important thing: The family of your fiancée is your enemy, devoted to your personal destruction and that of your people and family, the very ones at the wedding.

If you’re the groom, what should you do? Make peace. Walk on eggshells. Don’t stir up any controversies. Maybe we can all get out of this…alive.

Or you could do what Samson did. Instead of saying, “Howdy and welcome to my wedding. Let’s all get along and have some food,” he decided to offer the members of his future wife’s family a riddle and a game to play in which they could lose a substantial amount of goods.

Just kind of a normal thing to do on one’s wedding day.

“His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. And Samson said to them, ‘Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.’ And they said to him, ‘Put your riddle, that we may hear it.’ And he said to them, ‘Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet’” (Judges 14:10–14a).1

No, “Take it easy, man” was going on here. No, “Let’s make sure we are careful in this potentially volatile situation.” No, it was, “I’m going to make trouble at my wedding. I’m going to get in the face of my guests. I’m going to try to humiliate them. Deal with it. My spouse-to-be? My family? Oh, well.”

Samson was an in-your-face, confrontational agitator. An inflammatory instigator.

This is how God made him.

Did I mention that he was supernaturally strong?

By the way. He was also a type of Christ.

Do you think what Samson did at his wedding is unwise? Crazy? I would agree. But Scripture tells us that his desire for a Philistine bride, despite opposition from his parents, came from the Lord (Judges 14:1–4).

What shall we do with that? Samson was seemingly unwise and crazy but he was acting this way in agreement with God’s will.

We don’t have the time or space to tell the whole story of Samson, but at the end of his life, he destroyed more of Israel’s enemies in his death than he did in his life. Samson pulled down their house upon them (Judges 16:30).

Now, this sounds a bit like Jesus, doesn’t it, destroying God’s enemies? “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24–25).

However, I think there is more to Samson being a type of Christ than this sacrificial death alone. I think that Samson being a confrontational agitator and inflammatory instigator is likewise a type of Jesus. Please allow me to explain.

You remember, of course, that one day Jesus decided to stir up a bit of trouble on the temple grounds: “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables” (John 2:14–15). Jesus could have kept silent and walked on by the whole greedy scene. He could have avoided stirring up a controversy. Why didn’t He? Zeal for His Father’s house had consumed Him (John 2:17). Oh, how He loved His Father—too much to let sinful things continue without challenge.

You may also remember that Jesus called the Pharisees sons of the devil (John 8:44), liars (John 8:55), and hypocrites (Matthew 23:14). Could Jesus have avoided calling the Pharisees names? Certainly. But our God is a consuming fire, to whom we should bring “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). After all, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Just ask those 3,000 Philistines who were worshiping their false god whom they thought had brought them victory over Samson, the man God had chosen.

In a similar confrontational light, consider these words from Jesus: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:12–14).

You remember Elijah, right? He’s the prophet who challenged the prophets of Baal and after their god had failed the test, killed them: “And Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there” (1 Kings 18:40).

The Christian God is a troublemaker. A confrontational agitator. An inflammatory instigator. His kingdom will come and is now underway. He will destroy His enemies. His desire is to pull down the house of the false gods in our cultures that want to destroy us and make us bow the knee. Some of His work may make us uncomfortable and turn our religious worlds, if necessary, upside-down—with love and compassion and mercy, of course.

Praise His name.

 

1All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

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I grew up with Pentecostals. I value highly my upbringing there. I would encourage non-Pentecostals to tread lightly in their criticisms and be certain they are biblical. Many of these brothers and sisters have had supernatural experiences that cannot be denied. Are you going to be the one who maintains they were false? Be careful. You may number yourselves with those who went after Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets who had dynamic spiritual experiences. Let’s not forget Paul, Peter, Stephen, and Phillip. I myself cannot deny having experienced supernatural, biblically true gifts and experiences throughout my Christian life. They were and are real; I am thankful to the Lord for them. Nevertheless, I understand a lot of wackiness has gone on since the renewal of the early 20th Century, and a lot of wackiness persists. Pentecostals are the wild riders of the Christian world. They need to exercise care in what they accept as biblical manifestations of the Spirit.

In addition, Charismatics and Pentecostals should stop playing loosey-goosey with the truths of Scripture. It undermines their credibility and does not give glory to God, who is the Truth. I want to discuss one of the errors many of my brothers and sisters believe. It boils down to one truth written by Isaiah in the well-known, Messianic fifty-third chapter. This is the portion in view:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).1

The funny business with this beautiful passage about Jesus the Messiah originates from the King James Version of the Bible, in which the word “wounds” was translated “stripes.” A well-known song from the days of the Charismatic renewal used the words “wounds,” as well. It became embedded in our minds. Word of faith folks did and still do “claim” this half-verse when they seek healing for themselves or others. It became a traditional belief, and traditional beliefs are hard to shake. But be shaken they must, when held in the light of biblical truth.

The Enhanced Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon offers this concerning the word “stripes” or “wounds”: “Seven occurrences; AV translates as “stripe” three times, “hurt” once, “wounds” once, “blueness” once, and “bruise” once. 1 bruise, stripe, wound, blow.” 2 So, why do modern translators change the translation of the word from “stripes” to “wounds”? The answer can be found in this critical and necessary truth about biblical interpretation: The Bible interprets itself. In other words, if you want to know more about a certain truth, you look in other places in Scripture that will enlighten it to you. That is not always possible, but it works more often than not, especially for essential truths. Thus, we look for other passages where the quote, “By His stripes (or wounds) we are healed.” This is an easy one. It appears only one time in the New Testament, in the second chapter of First Peter. Let’s look at the passage in which it occurs a few verses at a time. We’ll start with verses 20b–23.

“But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

What is the topic thus far? Suffering and enduring for doing good, as Jesus did, without committing sin by reviling “in return” or threatening.

Now to the first part of verse 24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

The topic remains the same, but it has been enlarged. The good that Jesus suffered for was bearing our sins in His body on the tree, so we “might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

Then comes the statement under question, in the second part of verse 24–25: “By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

The topic remains the same. Jesus has suffered for our salvation. He has borne our sins in His body that we might live to righteousness. We have been “healed” because or “for”—important word here—we were “straying like sheep” but have returned to Jesus, our Shepherd.

Do you see an inkling of anything concerning the healing of our bodies here? No. The topic is the good thing Jesus did by suffering and dying for us and returning us to Him. Peter was not only quoting a truth from of Isaiah 53:5 but possibly thinking of Isaiah 6:10, where being healed also refers to salvation:

“Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Now, does this mean that healing is not available today? Absolutely not. However, it does mean that Pentecostals and Charismatics, if they want to maintain their integrity before the Lord and His Church, must be honest and deal with the truths of revealed Scripture. Jesus heals. However, we should not and cannot use Isaiah 53:5 to proclaim it. It will never benefit believers to proclaim a truth without adequate proof. It only puts our integrity and knowledge of Scripture into question.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

 

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Christians in democratic societies are faced with a reality that our forebearers in the Church did not know: our ability to vote and thus change the officials in the administrations that govern us. In Paul’s day, people were ruled by emperors and kings. They had no choice in matters of governance unless they wanted to attempt a revolution, with which Christians were unlikely to involve themselves. Democracy, as far as earthly governments are concerned, is much better than authoritarian rule; however, it is both a blessing and a curse. In a Christian nation, citizens voting for upright leaders should be a blessing. However, since majority rules, democracy is a blessing only so long as most of the people are good; that is, they share at least a cultural understanding of Christian morality. When the majority is evil, however, evil leaders will be elected. In this situation, for Christians, democracy becomes a curse.

In some ways, that curse is upon us. In this day, that curse is principally embodied in the Democrat party. Does that sound stunningly and politically one-sided? No, that is not the case. Please allow me to explain. In 1973, when the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was a right for women in the United States, a ruling the Democrat party endorsed, I could not thereafter vote for any candidate of that party. And, for that same reason today I will not. Politics has nothing to do with it. Any political candidate or group that supports the murdering innocent, helpless, children will never get my vote.

Ever.

Let me speak plainly. The killing of children is evil, and those who support it are, as well. I hope that one day the people of the United States will look back on these dark days since 1973 with horror, days that are much worse than slavery and treatment of native Americans; worse even than the Holocaust and the deaths under Stalin and Mao. Sixty million murdered children and counting.

The next significant event that solidified my opposition to the Democrat party was the Brett Kavanaugh hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 4-7, 2018. I was astounded by the questionings of the Democrat members of that committee. I knew, like everyone else who has an ounce of experience in such things, that politicians prevaricate, spin, and outright lie. It’s sad that this is the state of politics, but some of it I understand. Reporters and others ask yes or no questions to try to back the politician into a corner so he or she will give a black or white answer that can be used to attack him or her at some future date; probably the same day. Many of these questions are too complicated or need a background explanation which cannot be supplied with a simple binary answer. I also understand that politicians need to go after one another in some way in order to be elected—hopefully without descending into a mucky gutter. However, what I witnessed during the Kavanaugh hearings over a year ago shocked me. To my surprise, I realized that these Democrat men and women were not just politicians attacking Kavanaugh to defeat his nomination, they were evil. Again, prevarications and attacks from politicians I understand and can tolerate; evil, I cannot—and evil was on abundant display during those hearings as these twisted men and women attempted to destroy the candidate before them. I was horrified by what I saw and heard. These assaults were unleashed because they thought that Justice Kavanaugh, considered a conservative judge, would one day support a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Thus, politicians who advocated killing babies were maliciously slandering and smearing someone who might vote that babies should live. It is possible to be more evil than this, surely, but we are approaching the nadir of darkness here. So, I call upon Democrats to repent. You are loved by God in spite of your sins, as we all are. Come to Jesus. Come home to your Father. He will forgive you of your evil, as He has me and all other Christians.

Please pray with me that this democratic republic of the United States will be a blessing to its inhabitants and not a curse. We Christians live in strange times, when evil is called good and good evil. It is true that we do not set our hope on the kingdoms of the earth. We set our hope on the righteous reign that is to come, ruled by the only perfect, wise King: Jesus. Nevertheless, it is our duty to seek out justice and do right while the temporary governments of earth exist. Father, please forgive us and this nation. Please stop the killing of innocent children. Have mercy on us. Save us. Bring us all to the wonderful knowledge of the one true God.

 

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stairway to Heaven, a song performed by Led Zeppelin, is and was a tremendously popular song. On YouTube, it has two hundred and fifty million views. That’s impressive, but it is paltry compared to the top twenty most popular music videos, all of which have billions of views. Nevertheless, STH is ranked thirty-one by Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Rock Hits of All Time. If you’ve ever listened to it, I think you’ll agree that it has a haunting melody, and the lyrics are poetically beautiful in some places. One stanza tells us this:

“And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune

Then the piper will lead us to reason

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long

And the forests will echo with laughter.”

This sense of something whispered, something out there in nature, a beautiful cosmic mystery that was on the verge of being revealed, was rampant among the young people of the Woodstock Generation. It was, after all the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, when there would be:

“Harmony and understanding

Sympathy and trust abounding

No more falsehoods or derisions

Golden living dreams of visions

Mystic crystal revelation

And the minds true liberation.”

But these songs, and others like them, lied to us, didn’t they? The piper didn’t lead us to reason, and the hoped-for harmony and understanding never arrived. Truth is, we didn’t even know how to “call the tune” or even what that meant. The last stanza of STH said that if we listened very hard, the tune would come to us at last. We didn’t know how to do that, either.

The tune never came, and we were not led to reason. And who was this piper anyway? And who was doing the whispering?

Stairway to Heaven ends with the words, “When all are one and one is all to be a rock and not to roll.” (Well, there is the final tag line, “And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”) A stunning song with some great lyrics ends with a hokey comparison of all of us being led to reason by becoming a rock that doesn’t roll. Really? I thought it was corny even back in the day, although I found the song enchanting. At a certain point, however, I realized that even though I loved the tune, no enlightenment was contained in it or any of the others of the same ilk. Hope turned to cynicism. By 1971, when the album Led Zeppelin IV containing STH was released, I was nearing the end of my search in the mystical, hallucinogenic-driven dreams being offered by the hippie culture and its music. Some of these dreams came from the Beatles, who also caused us to think that truth was out there in a Strawberry-Fields-Forever, Let-It-Be, wispy Buddhist unreality. That false dream they inspired dissipated when their latter songs contained unenlightened, meaningless lyrics and dreadful noise. When the band broke up, the hope for any illumination from The Fab Four disappeared.

There was no truth in any of it. I gave up on it. Before I became a Christian, I was gathering kit to go live in the Cascade Mountains alone.

I know almost nothing about contemporary pop or rock music, nor have I for over forty-five years. However, I’m relatively certain that there is no hope for some empyrean mystery to be revealed any longer within songs today. Perhaps those pop and rock genres have devolved back to where they were before the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and other groups changed everything, in which songs about love, relationships, and sorrow dominated the airways. However, it seems that now, from what little I know, anger and bitterness are strong, added ingredients. This is no surprise. Joy and flourishing in relationships without God are difficult to achieve. It’s challenging enough with Him.

The piper didn’t lead us to reason. We didn’t “call” the piper’s tune, no matter how hard we listened. That’s because the unknown, ill-defined piper of which Robert Plant sang does not exist. There is a call to listen for, but it is the call of the Lord God Almighty. Reason is not what we are to be led to. We are led to Jesus. And if we come to know Him and are redeemed by Him, we will indeed find reason—we will discover reason to love Him.

The Woodstock Generation was not searching for Jesus, although He was available and present. We just didn’t want any part of Him—until, that is, Jesus began saving us by the thousands. Let’s pray the Lord sovereignly saves lost and searching-in-all-the-wrong-places people in this present hour. The One we need to hear is ignored. We are sliding headlong into darkness and lawlessness to our eternal peril. Save us, Lord Jesus. By your mercy, help us hear Your call.

 

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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This is the truth I want to proclaim in this post: A Christian does not need to be “super-spiritual” in order for the Lord to work through him or her. It is a deception to think in this way.

Let’s consider this claim with a look at the gifts of the Spirit. When Paul wrote about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, he said, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).1 Note: “To each is given.” After listing the “manifestations,” or gifts, he wrote, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Note: “Each one individually as he wills.”

So, why does the Holy Spirit, by His will, give some spiritual gifts to some people and others to another?

We don’t know.

What we do know is that they are gifts. Sounds silly to say, I suppose, but that means they are not earned. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul asked, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’”? (Galatians 3:5–6).

“Miracles among you,” are not accomplished by a Christian doing one thing or another that fulfills some law. A Christian doesn’t need to be super-spiritual to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. Please stop thinking this way. The Holy Spirit gives gifts as He wills. You can’t impress Him with your spiritual life. It’s just not true.

I don’t want to enter into an in-depth look at spiritual gifts in this post. However, it will be helpful to understand that among the gifts that impress Charismatic and Pentecostal believers are primarily prophecy, healing, power over demonic forces, and the working of miracles. If you’re a person with one or more of these gifts, those around you wish they could be you and want to know your secret of spirituality so they may be similarly endued. Thus, bingo, we have a spirituality hierarchy based upon, not eldership, but upon gifts freely given by God in His grace.

In order to receive these spiritual gifts, many think, one must attain some vaguely defined holiness, which is most often dependent upon time spent in prayer, worship, and Scripture, and some degree of sinlessness. That “some degree of sinlessness” is a bit problematic, since every believer, including the super-spiritual gifted one, is a stinkin’ sinner who is righteous, not by some level of holiness attainment, but by the righteousness of Jesus, because “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). All believers are equal in this dual spiritual state. Sorry, you can’t get any more righteous than the righteousness that the Lord freely gives you. You are not going to impress Him. “Ooh. Look. Pamela is almost as righteous as I am! Let’s give her a spiritual gift!”

What silly foolishness we believe sometimes.

Keep the following passage in mind. In it, Jesus destroys any notion that doing great, spiritual works equals some kind of special walk with the Lord. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23).

Hmm. Seemingly spiritually gifted believers doing mighty works but…Did. Not. Know. Jesus.

If you are gifted, it’s from none of your doing. If you think it is, you should repent and come to the truth. Do you know Him? Or, instead of endeavoring to know Him, are you chasing super-spirituality and spiritual gifts? If so, you are following after a false god, edging toward idolatry and adultery. Follow after Jesus. Know Him. Love Him. The Holy Spirit will gift you as He wills, without your efforts.

It’s that simple.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

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Christians are engaged in a joyful, impossible task: Comprehending an incomprehensible God. Of course, if we could understand Him, He would no longer be God. We would be equal to Him. But that isn’t going to happen, even if all of us were ten times more intelligent that Einstein. Why? For starters, and starters is a good word to use here, He started from nothing everything that exists in less than a second.

Go ahead. Comprehend that.

We don’t even try because we have not the slimmest idea about how to create something out of nothing, much less all of the material in the universe, not to mention time. However, God has given us the ability to discover and recognize His greatness; to consider His incomprehensibility. The creation of all that exists is, as previously stated, just for starters.

Let’s look at another of His impenetrable truths. It concerns what is called the Book of Life. Are you familiar with it? If you are a Christian, your name is written in it. Let’s pause for a second. You have probably signed your name a great many times in the course of your life. We don’t sign it now as much as we used to, since paper checks are becoming rare, and we don’t have to sign to use our credit cards much anymore. But there is one place, one book, where your name was entered for you. Truth is, you were unable to write it down. Truth is, you weren’t even born yet when it was recorded in this book. Neither was anything else on the earth. Yes, I used the word “anything,” because your name was written down by Jesus in a book—the aforementioned Book of Life—before this beautiful planet existed. This astounding fact was made known to the Apostle John when he saw a terrible thing in a vision. “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:5–8).1

Let’s pause for a moment. It will be a momentary pause, because we are attempting to envision an act that we quickly discover we cannot envision. At one time—I think I can write that word, “time”—your name was written, somehow, in a book in heaven. I write “in heaven” because that is where we surmise, in our limited understanding, was the location. What does a book in heaven look like? What kind of writing instrument was used? The Lord wrote it. Did an angel do so at His command? What did that look like?

No answers. Envisioning over.

Now, here is another incomprehensible truth, and it has to do with writing as well. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. ‘They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him’” (Malachi 3:16–18).

The Lord God Almighty takes notes. He takes notes—about you—in a “book of remembrance.” He takes notes when Christians speak to each other about their fear of the Lord.

Surprised?

More incomprehension. The Lord does this note-taking while being aware of swallows that fall, counting the hairs on your head, upholding all things that exist by the word of His power, and a vast number of other activities concerning life of this planet. The Lord placed these truths about writing things down in Scripture. He is not teasing or taunting us when He makes them known. No, instead, He lets us in on these glimpses of real reality to bring us joy and glorify Himself—which is always for our good. Wondrous things.

Things to think about.

But not to comprehend.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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“So,” I asked the little group of Christian men when we met together a few days ago, “was it the Lord’s will to flatten the Bahamas?”

“No,” one said. “It was just nature.”

“So,” I asked, “the Lord couldn’t have stopped it?”

“Yes. He could’ve stopped it.”

“Then He allowed it.”

“Yes.”

“Then it was His will.”

Questions lingered on this issue—the sovereignty of God—but all rightly agreed that we should have faith in God regardless of the circumstances or the source of all manner of disasters, whether personal or global. It was a good discussion.

I’m not sure Christians have clarity on this important topic. Recently, a missionary with a very important ministry in Southeast Asia wrote on his website:

“Why do so many Christians think that hurricanes and natural disasters are the will of God? ‘The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy.’ Jesus rebuked the storm sent to kill Him and it wasn’t sent by God! If the Father is sending and the Son rebuking, then their house is divided. No! The Prince and Power of the Air is the culprit. Rebuke that devil sent hurricane! As of this writing (Saturday, Aug 31st) Dorian is headed for central Florida, USA. In Cambodia, on the USA’s Saturday evening, the church will be in united prayer: ‘We command Hurricane Dorian to dissipate, break-up, turn and die! In Jesus’ Name, Amen! It would be so easy to just give up, and attribute whatever happens to God’s will.  But, not everything that happens on this earth is God’s will. Regardless of the adversities orchestrated by the ‘Prince and Power of the Air’ and whatever evil he throws in our path, Solomon says, ‘[we must] push on!’”

This man is right about a few things in this post, but his proclamation is biblically confused. It is true that Jesus rebuked the storm, and He knew its origin was not from His Father. It is not known that the storm was sent to kill Him—the text does not tell us this. When our brother in Southeast Asia commanded the hurricane to dissipate, break-up, turn, and die in his post, he laid claim to a power he does not possess, which was readily proved. Hurricane Dorian lingered after this declaration and completely destroyed some of the islands of the Bahamas. (As I write this, reports about the devastation continue to come in.) Sadly, many people died, and the tragic count continues. The damage was less severe stateside, but Dorian didn’t break up, turn, and die without catastrophe.

I have no problem whatsoever with praying for a storm to go away. Asking the Lord to be merciful. To help. To rescue. To protect. But to claim that all storms are from the devil simply is not scriptural. The times the psalms proclaim that the Lord sends rain and lightning are too numerous to list here. We know that the Lord sent destructive hail upon Egypt. He did so to Israel (Haggai 2:17). He will rain massive hailstones upon the Earth, which we see in the Book of Revelation. Here’s a great verse that plainly sums up the truth that the Lord God Almighty controls the weather: “He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses” (Psalm 135:7).1

Christians are uncomfortable with the truths in the three verses below, which they think cannot be reconciled with the New Testament’s God of goodness and love.

“I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

“Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

However, these two seemingly contradictory truths can be reconciled. God is good. He is eternally and perfectly good. He was good in the Old Testament, and He is in the New. He was love in the Old Testament and He remains so in the New. He was and is perfectly sovereign and just. We will not know how all things were just and good and for His glory until we are with Him in eternity. We think suffering and death are bad. They are. But they are temporary. Everyone suffers. Everybody dies. It is how we live, suffer, and die that matter in eternity. Do we know Him? Do we trust Him?

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com.

giphy

The secular culture of the United States has mocked Christianity for as long as I can remember. I viewed part of a film from the middle of the 20th Century a few years ago where the actors were ridiculing the Salvation Army. Long ago, cartoons in newspapers lampooned crazy, wild-haired men on sidewalks carrying signs that proclaimed, “The end is near.” The unbelieving culture has scorned those who strive to be morally good. Perhaps some of the readers here may remember the derisive phrase “Goody Two Shoes.” Christians are portrayed as joyless fun-killers, weirdly religious, obedient to ridiculous rules, believing non-sensical myths, and sexually repressed. Recently, secular media was astonished that the Vice President of the United States would not have a meal alone with another woman because he held to the biblical view that Christians should “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).1 Puritans and fundamentalists have even been portrayed as evil, condemning legalists, patriarchally dominating women to their diminution or destruction in one way or another.

Now, however, after decades of sexual revolution and giving full throat to the meme “Love the one you’re with,” a line from the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song, post-Christian society is seeing the downside of “sexual freedom.” Women have discovered that free sex is not really free at all, realizing they experience strong and connective emotions after intercourse, unlike men. A “roll in the hay” is not just a freebie from which you go home, take a shower, go to sleep, and then head off to work the next day, rejoicing in your female liberation and contribution to the death of Puritanical “purity.” No, you have proved the biblical truth, “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:16).2 I don’t mean to imply that all women who have sex outside of marriage are prostitutes, but if a man and a prostitute become one flesh by having intercourse, it would obviously be true of any male and female.

So, in the face of a reality that shouldn’t exist by their liberated lights, pressured by the tears and shame of women who have been taken advantage of and abused, the non-Christian culture is on patrol. It has become the moral police. The cultural watchers are the New American Puritans. However, they are confused guardians with a patched-together law book. They ridiculed Vice President Pence for his rule on dining with women but condemn powerful men who take advantage of women when alone with them. Men cannot treat women like sexual objects as they once did, but women are free to dress, perform, and be photographed as sex objects in various stages of immodest undress. Adultery is kind of okay, depending on whether the spouse “deserves” it or not. Sex before marriage is not only almost universal, but necessary. Child molestation is still on the outs. The sin of homosexuality is not only to be accepted but celebrated. It’s a confused, hypocritical mess.

It’s ironic, is it not, that those who reject Christianity outright are now trying to enforce by human means some of Christianity’s moral laws. They have become like those whom they detest, embracing a death-dealing legalism. But this hate-filled, unmerciful New Puritanism offers no remedy. It has no room for forgiveness, mercy, or grace. If you have broken the New Puritanism’s legalistic religion, you are scum. The religious watchers are behaving in the same the way for which they have demonized Puritans. It is a religion that leads only to condemnation and shame. You are shunned.

This is where Christians rejoice in Jesus. Many of us have committed sins that the New Puritanism condemns. Unlike them, we have a God who shows mercy. Forgiveness. Not only these, but holiness, the righteousness of God Almighty Himself. For free. With no condemnation. Thank You, Lord God. Thank You, Jesus. Your grace and mercy astound us.

 

1The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

2All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, unless otherwise noted.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At a recent Young Leaders Conference, Cory Booker, a United States senator running for the office of the president, said this:

“And I believe, as Philippians 4:13 says, I can do all things, all things, but y’all, I got to call it out. It says I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me. Now, Christ does not strengthen you to sit on the sidelines. Christ does not strengthen you to sit on the couch. This is not a spectator sport. Martin Luther King said it best when his era, in his moral moment, he said: We have to repent in our days and age, not just for the vitriolic words and violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of the good people.

“And so I want to call the faith community together. Because faith without works is:

Audience: “Dead.”

Booker: “Faith without works is:

Audience: “Dead.”1

I am writing about this, not because I want to slam a political figure’s ignorance of the truth of Scripture, but to bring the attention of Christians to the misuse of it. Christians have mishandled this passage in much the same way as this senator did. Contemporary Christianity is rife with this kind of error. It is easy to identify. All that needs to be done is to read the passage in context. So, let’s do that.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).2

Paul is not writing that he can do “all things,” so we can fill in the blank to include all activities on the earth according to our arrogant and selfish minds. It is obvious after a few seconds of thought that I cannot do “all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can’t run 100 meters in less than nine seconds, and neither can you. I can’t become a state-licensed cardiac surgeon in two years, and neither can you. The list of things I cannot do is very long, so I won’t continue. “Christ does not strengthen you to sit on the sidelines,” Senator Booker said. To him, this passage from God’s Word simply means, “Since we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, if we get off the couch, we can win this election.” All of this, of course, has nothing to do with Jesus and very little with the Bible. The candidate is misusing Scripture to place guilt on his audience and motivate them to help his campaign.

So, what does Christ strengthen us to do according to Philippians 4? Christ strengthens us to be content in all situations, whether rich or poor, hungry or satisfied. Paul says he can suffer all these things with contentment because Jesus strengthens him.

The second misuse of Scripture is when Senator Booker told his audience that if they have faith, they will get up and get going to help him because faith without works is dead. Essentially, he said, “If you have faith, you gotta get up and get active. Otherwise your faith is dead.”

But, shouldn’t we ask, “Faith in what”?

Faith must have an object. What is the object here? I’m not sure. Faith in the senator’s cause, his election, I suppose. The senator is endeavoring to mask his pitch with religious language to reach a religious crowd. What he said makes no biblical sense at all.

We are to have faith in the Lord God who created all things, not in political leaders, or “princes”:

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish” (Psalm 146:3–4).

Christian, go look up the things people quote from Scripture. Ask, “Does the Bible really say that?” Then you will not be led away from the true truth of God’s Word by others, whether they be politicians or preachers.

 

1 https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/cnsnewscom-staff/cory-booker-i-can-do-all-things-through-christ-who-strengtheneth-me

2 All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

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