Category: The Word

Who You quote tells a lot about You

What is your primary source for spiritual inspiration and direction? Is it your denomination’s leading newspaper or magazine? Or is it a book on the lives and teachings of holy men and women, living or deceased? Perhaps you are influenced by the teachings of the leaders and founders of other faiths – the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, or Mohammed. It never ceases to surprise me how “in-name-only” Christians (INOCs) so often opt for Faith Quotes from any number of religious leaders and inspirational web sites and publications to verbalize their moral position on a subject, rather than going to the source of the moral code itself – namely God’s written Word, the Bible.

Who and what a person quotes over social media tells a lot about them and their belief system. It’s clear to me that most INOCs simply have not invested the time and effort to study the Bible and the voluminous evidence (historical, archaeological, scientific and theological) which establishes it as the infallible Word of their Creator, Savior and Sovereign Lord. That’s not to say these are not “good people,” some with virtuous traits that serve their fellow man well. They’ve simply had their minds clouded by the enemies of God.

It may sound prideful that only those men and women who acknowledge the authority and credibility of the Bible have the complete Truth about right behavior and thinking, healthy living, right relationships, eternal life and the like. In reality, we had nothing to do with the revelation we’ve received – for it was only the grace and mercy of God that opened this Truth to our understanding. And it is available to any and everyone who humbles themselves and asks to receive it as a by-product of their commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

If and when a person does this, they will be in a position to test and judge every word and behavior of even the most respected leader of their denomination to determine if they align with the Word and nature of God. Of course, not everyone wants to do this – for they are comfortable remaining in darkness.

Rise of the Ezekiel 38 alliance of nations

Anyone who has followed my blog or FaceBook posts for any period of time know of my great interest in Biblical prophesy. To understand any ancient literary work, it takes a lot of hard work, time and research. For each author wrote of peoples they lived among or learned about from others more-traveled than themselves. But kingdoms of the earth were in constant flux. Nations fell and nations rose. Over the centuries and millennia borders were realigned times innumerable as the once-dominated became the dominant force of a later time, and vice-versa.

So when the average reader happens upon futuristic predictions such as provided in the 38th chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, there’s a tendency to skip over them, ignore them or give them little credence, simply because it’s difficult to associate the prophetic utterance with the world as they know it. So in order to help you better understand these and other writings of Ezekiel in the light of current events in the region, here’s a geography translation.

6th Century BC                                    Year AD 2017

  • The lands of Gog, Magog,             *Russia
  • Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal           *Russia
  • Persia                                                       *Iran
  • Cush                                                           Ethiopia
  • Put                                                             *Libya
  • Gomer                                                       Parts of *Turkey
  • Beth-Togarmah                                    Parts of *Turkey,  Armenia & Asia Minor.
  • Syria                                                          *Syria
Is it mere coincidence that the five asterisked nations have formed a military alliance within the borders of Syria? Ostensibly this coalition is to battle radical Islamic terrorism and prop up the Assad regime. I personally find it curious that this is the first time in human history that there has been a cooperative economic and military alliance between these nations.  In fact, just a few years ago this alliance would have been considered unthinkable, because America and NATO had a strong foothold in the region. But the vacuum created by prior American administrations changed all that. Regardless of their reason for being there today, according to the prophet Ezekiel, this alliance of nations will one day mobilize with the intent to destroy the state of Israel.

One of the reasons I study prophesy is because I hate to be surprised. Perhaps it’s time for you too to read “the rest of the story.”

The Focus of all human existence is Jesus Christ

Within mere moments of mankind’s fall from grace and our exile from the Garden, we received the promise of redemption and restoration. The third chapter of the Book of Beginnings guarantees that the heel of Adam’s seed would indeed crush the head of the serpent that led them astray.

And for the next four millennia, godly judges, patriarchs, prophets and kings were sent to direct the focus of every seeker of truth to the coming Messiah. Yet not every man and woman on earth elected to seek to understand and establish a relationship with their Creator. Many preferred the camp of the deceiver, and his promise to fulfill every lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

Even when Jesus Christ appeared at the apex of human history, putting a face on our God, many, influenced by the theologians of the time, closed their eyes and ears to His acts, words and works that proved Him to be the expected Savior. Now as time winds down, the deniars and the rejecters vastly out-number those who align themselves with the triune God of the Bible.

All this demonstrates is that for all of history, the focus of human existence has been Jesus Christ. No other Name has drawn and continues to draw such pervasive love and such vicious hate from every corner of the earth. Those who deny His and His Father’s authority, teachings, doctrine and existence go to extremes to try to destroy and denigrate those who honor and serve Him. Yet one day ALL will bend their knees to that Name which is above every name, and all on earth, under the earth and in the heavens will proclaim Jesus is Lord.

Ministering to the Broken

The following is my response to a question raised by a Pastor friend of mine in the midst of a recent energetic back-and-forth on FB.

Challenge: John, will you acknowledge that every sexual relationship outside of marriage is sin in the eyes of God?

Response: I believe that there has to be an order in which a person (especially an unbeliever) is taught and brought into the knowledge of God and of spiritual things, including an understanding of sin and its consequences.

I believe that making a broad declaration of the mind and will of God over social media, which includes a very large audience of non-believers (i.e.: not-Holy Spirit-minded people) is unwise and will accomplish little, and may in fact build impenetrable walls between them and the doctrines and followers of Christianity.  My basis for this is found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, where he notes that no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  1 Corinthians 2:11-14

I offer a second spiritual truth for your consideration as well. I think it’s pretty clear from the Bible that people are only accountable for the knowledge they’ve received. That’s why Jesus declared that the people of the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum would be judged harsher than the people of Sodom and Tyre and Sidon. (Luke 10:10-16)  The people of Judah and Galilee had access to the written words of Moses and the Prophets and studied the Holy Scriptures constantly and even heard Jesus preach the good news of His mission on earth, and still they rejected Him as their Messiah. Much more was expected of the Jews than was expected of the heathen nations that surrounded them; and even more is expected of every New Testament believer.

Unbelievers are judged, not for their sexual sins, but for their choosing of things above their desire for God. In fact, it was God Who “gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” Clearly Scripture tells us that the “non-believer” is justly punishable for his or her “exchanging the truth of God for the lie, and worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.” For “the heavens” and “things that are made” have adequately revealed God, “even His eternal power and Godhead” to every man and woman, yet some have “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness,” so they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:18-25)

But back to the original question, in a one-on-one spiritual counseling session with a man, whereby I can assess his relationship with God, if any, and the roots of the problems that are going on in his life, of course I will explain the spiritual devastation that every sexual relationship outside of marriage brings upon them. When Paul stated: “Do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He [God] says, ‘shall become one flesh,’”  (1 Corinthians 6:16-17) he was explaining to the morally bankrupt Corinthians how every sexual relationship is also a merger of spirits.  Two becoming one flesh is as much a spiritual union as it is a physical one, whether in marriage or outside of it. The spirits that each person carries, whether they be spirits of light or spirits of darkness (the latter including unclean spirits, spirits of divination, spirits of alcohol and drug addiction, spirits of fear, anger, etc.) all are brought into and attach to the ones engaged in a sexual relationship – and stay attached long after the relationship ends.

Everyone needs to be taught this, but there has to be an order in which a person is taught and brought into the knowledge of God and of spiritual things, including knowledge of the activities of the spirit realm. And I don’t believe it’s either necessary or wise to focus on an unbeliever’s sinful nature to reach him for the Kingdom of God.

  • First a person must be introduced to the Sovereign God Who created him and loves him unconditionally and the Son of God Who suffered and died that he might have eternal life.
  • Once the person is saved and has the Holy Spirit residing within him, now he is capable of understanding spiritual things, so you can proceed to explain the absolute need to forgive all those who have hurt him in the past. For unforgiveness leaves one mentally, emotionally and behaviorally imprisoned.
  • Then and only then is a person ready to truly understand sin and its power and destructive nature and the need to be set free of the consequences of sin that are destroying his life and his relationships, and the need to modify his behavior to live a morally righteous life.

“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Is it Faith, or is it Presumption? – When your health is at stake you’d better be sure.

    Common sense is your natural ability to make good judgments and to behave in a practical and sensible way. It‘s an ordinary sensible understanding of a situation and the use of one’s basic intelligence without which good decisions can’t be made. Compare that to one apostle’s description of faith as “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.”  Faith is the belief (and trust) in a higher truth than what our senses reveal to us, or what our past experiences infer just isn’t reasonable.

To paraphrase a pastor friend of mine, a person of faith doesn’t deny the reality of the problem – rather he or she acknowledges that we serve a higher Authority Who is well able and willing to help us overcome each and every problem. While that is true, its application to life’s many challenges is not always simple. A number of spiritual and natural factors will impact every decision a brother and sister in the Lord makes and the path(s) they choose to proceed down. The only decision that is the wise decision is the one that aligns with God’s Word and will and which follows the Holy Spirit’s leading.

There is a fine line between trusting in God’s promises and presuming we know the way those promises will be fulfilled by God. The Holy Spirit is the “leveler” between trust and the proper path to fulfillment; whereas presumption tends to block out His “still small voice.”

With respect to God’s promise to His people for good physical health and healing when sickness or disease strikes, the only thing we can say with confidence and certainty is that God is always the healer. However, there are any number of means God may choose to use to heal. He may intervene through a Christian’s laying on of hands or an elder’s anointing with oil and praying. God may intervene via the Church’s exercise of the Spirit’s Gifts of healing, miracles or faith. He may respond to a person’s reliance on and faithful pronouncement of Biblical healing verses. But it seems that most often, whether by design or simply because His follower’s faith may be weak, God uses medical professionals and their learned expertise, technology and medications.

If presumption leads either the seeker or the minister of healing down a wrong path, he may make the challenge greater and could even endanger his own life or the life and health of the very one he (with the best intentions) is seeking to help. For this reason it’s imperative that a Christian minister (which all of us are called to be) must be in tune with the Holy Spirit.

A friend in our Saturday morning men’s prayer group for the past several weeks has been confiding that medical tests revealed blockage in some primary arteries and damage to a heart valve and that his doctor had recommended immediate surgery. Though a couple years earlier my friend came close to dying when he suffered a heart attack, and had a stent inserted as a result, he made a declaration that he was going to forego the surgery for the time-being and “give God a chance to heal him.”

Most of the men in our group encouraged my friend and one-after-the-other gave testimonies of how God had intervened miraculously on their behalf to heal their bodies. I felt a check in my spirit that it was not the wisest thing for my friend to ignore the advice of his doctor. Six years earlier I had faced a similar decision when faced with three blocked arteries. Though I hadn’t even experienced a heart attack, I chose the surgery. God gave me great peace and the surgery went well with little serious discomfort. I wanted to share this with my friend, but I held back, not wanting to be the single voice planting seeds of doubt into his faith decision.

This past weekend he had a second heart attack. As I stood praying over him in the ICU, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had all done him a disservice.

A testimony can be a faith-builder to some – but to the one with weaker faith it may well lead to a bad decision. What active Christian wants to disappoint those who see them as a spiritual giant? We need to cease spiritually ranking the multitude of routes brethren take to healing. Otherwise there is a tendency for some to assume guilt should they seek healing through a “less spiritual” route, like the medical profession.

Only the Holy Spirit knows a person’s heart and their degree of faith and trust in God’s promises. If we “push” a person into a faith stance that they are not spiritually prepared to assume, we are neither being compassionate, nor doing the true work of our Lord.

Rich man, poor man – a message of Kingdom authority transitioning

Matthew 11-28  Some of the teachings of Jesus are simple and clear – others take more sweat of the brow (research, consultation, and prayerful seeking of the Holy Spirit) to get to the bottom. Jesus frequently used parables to teach the people that constantly surrounded Him. Parables of course are marvelous word pictures having giant spiritual applications that can be presented with very few words. He confided to His disciples why He used parables: He said it was because it is God’s purpose to conceal many of the truths of His Kingdom from those who aren’t ready or willing to receive them. If a person really wants to get the message hidden in a parable they’ll put in the time and effort to seek it out. They will not be disappointed, but the truth will be revealed to them.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is one such complex lesson. Over the years I’ve heard many explanations for this parable, but have always been confounded by several elements of the story which, if taken literally, seemed to run counter to scriptural doctrines dealing with spirit, soul, and body, death, eternal rewards and punishment, grace, salvation and the sovereignty of God.

Rich man, poor man – a message of Kingdom authority transitioning

Many people presume that Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a teaching about good and evil, reward and punishment, heaven and hell. I don’t believe it has much to do with any of those doctrines whatsoever. I think the misunderstanding for many is a simple forgetfulness that IT IS A PARABLE, and its individual component parts were never intended to be taken literally. The language describing both the rich man and Lazarus is figurative and symbolic and must be delved into with that in mind.

To understand any parable, you need to first identify the primary audience to whom Jesus was addressing his message. And for the two groups that made up that primary audience, namely the Jewish leaders and Jesus’ closest followers, I don’t think there was any doubt as to Jesus’ intent. The clues were so obvious that it couldn’t have escaped either group’s attention that the rich man represented the Jewish leaders while Lazarus represented the followers of this upstart clergyman who claimed to be their Messiah.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes were the spiritually rich men of their time – chosen by God to cherish, protect and share His Word with the world. The story’s colorful descriptors made this abundantly clear: first the man in the parable dressed in the colors and finery of royalty and priesthood; second he personally identified with “Father Abraham” (the grandfather of Judah) and with Moses (the giver of the Law); and finally, he referenced his five brothers (for Judah, the father of Judaism literally had five brothers from the same mother – Leah.)

And the character of Lazarus just as clearly represented this newly revealed mystery of the Church, Clearly his “poverty and sickness” could not be that of a literal beggar in the street. Rather, he represented the spiritually poor converts (primarily Gentile, but also the less educated average Jew on the street.) It aligns as well with Jesus’ statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Lazarus’ association with the dogs that eat the table scraps further ties him to Gentiles whom the Jews considered “dogs.” It was to this haggard group of religiously and intellectually challenged men and women that God was passing the seat of authority in His Kingdom, since its former keepers under the Old Law had rejected His Son.

In figurative and symbolic language the Rich man who had never lifted his finger to help Lazarus asks for a drop of water on the tip of Lazarus’ finger to cool his parched tongue. On another occasion Jesus had accused the scribes and Pharisees thusly: “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” Centuries earlier ten of the twelve tribes of Israel had split away from Judah when King Rehoboam refused to lighten the burden of the people he ruled, but made it heavier inciting them with the words: “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins!… Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” And the prophet Isaiah had declared “Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen, because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord.”

In the parable we find Lazarus in the “bosom of Abraham”; while Judah who should have been there is found on the other side asking for mercy. But Lazarus couldn’t come over to help the Rich man even if he wanted to, because of the chasm separating them. Of course we now know that the chasm can be breached, but only by Christ – not man – even if that man were “Father Abraham.”

While Jesus explained this truth in a parable which His Jewish audience would understand, Paul in speaking to his Gentile converts used simple clear language: “Has God cast away His people? Certainly not! … through their fall, to provoke them [the Jews] to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles… if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?” Both Paul in his letter to the Romans and Jesus in the parable are speaking of the Church.

So in all of this, the parable does not speak literally about the value of a person’s financial status (rich versus poor), nor does it literally address the eternal consequences of behavior or the existence of Paradise or Hades. Jesus is speaking about the placement of the Church into the spiritual headship role in the Kingdom of God; a position once occupied by the Jewish people before they reneged on their covenant obligations.

Some important Biblical lessons I’ll bet you haven’t given much thought to – Lesson #2

Matthew 11-28As I mentioned last week, Jesus used many different styles to teach the people, but the parable seemed to be His favorite style of teaching. He explained to His closest followers the reason for the use of parables. Parables actually obscure much of the knowledge and wisdom of the Scriptures from those who have no interest in knowing the truth; yet to any and everyone who is serious about discovering truth and who seeks it out through study, research, prayer and meditation it will be opened up to them.

This week’s “not so obvious” truth which most of you probably haven’t given much thought to, but which is important to understand if you are to become the complete person God intended for you and if you are to be used by Him to your full potential is found in what is most often referred to as “the parable of the prodigal son.”

I entitle the lesson: You may not be a prodigal son, but a self-righteous brother is nothing to brag about.

Who hasn’t heard the parable Jesus told of the rebellious son of a wealthy man who demanded his father give him his inheritance while he was still young so he could go off and live like he darned well pleased. After he quickly wasted all his new-found wealth and found himself homeless and scrounging through garbage to survive, the humbled boy decides to return to the old man’s manor and grovel to be taken in as a servant. Jesus likens the character of the father to God, who waits and watches expectantly for the young man to come to his senses and return home, and then runs out to meet him the moment he sees him come into view, and restores him to good standing in the family.

What is given much less interest is the attitude of the older brother. He has undeniably demonstrated his faithfulness by remaining with the father to help him manage the estate. Human nature would conclude that he is justifiably miffed by all the attention his father pours out on the formerly recalcitrant youth, and that he probably has reason to question the sincerity of the remorse shown by the young man.

But is he really that much different than his brother? He willfully separates himself from his father by declining the man’s personal invitation to join the celebration. We can live in the same house, attend the same church, be partners in the same business, or belong to the same social club; but if we’re not joined at the hip with common goals and self-sacrificing to attain the same end, if we’re moving in different directions in fact or in attitude, then we’re “separated.”

Pride, self-righteousness, and the belief that our spiritual inheritance and our relationship with the Father was earned and thus owed to us – all tend to separate us from the character that is God’s and in Whose image we were created. Unlike the prodigal whose behavior drives him to the bottom of the pit physically and emotionally, attitudinal rebellion is much harder to recognize and acknowledge and therefore more difficult to recover from. Don’t put yourself in that dangerous position.

Some important Biblical lessons I’ll bet you haven’t given much thought to – Truth #1

     Matthew 11-28 Jesus used many different styles to teach the people, but the parable seemed to be His favorite. And yet, when asked by His disciples why he used parables His strange response was: “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Then He quoted a prophesy of Isaiah that says essentially the same thing. In other words, there is knowledge and wisdom hidden in the Scriptures that is hidden to those who have no interest in knowing the truth; and yet to any and everyone who is serious about discovering truth and who seeks it out through study, research, prayer and meditation, it will be opened up to them.

Over the next few weeks my blog is going to touch upon a few such “not so obvious” truths – things that most of you probably haven’t given much thought to. Yet this is knowledge and wisdom that is critical if you are to become the complete person God intended for you and if you are to be used by Him to your full potential.

This week’s hidden truth I entitle:

Don’t be the person God orders “Step aside! You’re interfering with My work.”

Every faithful attendee of a Bible believing church is familiar with the story of Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well. They would be able to recite how Jesus, in passing through Samaria, saw this woman, approached her and used the occasion of asking for a drink of water to introduce her to His concept of eternal life. They’d also be familiar with how He cleverly yet compassionately revealed and convicted her about her immoral lifestyle and led her to recognize Jesus as both a prophet and as her Messiah. And of course they’d know that she was so moved that she began to proselytize others, inviting many from her city to meet this man who told her so much about herself and of God’s love for her.

But I’ll bet few would give much thought to the first thing Jesus did, before He even entered the city or approached the woman. He sent His disciples into the city, under the guise “to buy food.” Jesus knew the hearts of His disciples were still filled with pride, self-righteousness, judge-mentalism and discrimination toward the Samaritan people. The disciples were good men who were intimately involved in Jesus’ ministry; men who Jesus sent out to heal the sick and cast out demons; men who even could be seen baptizing people in Judea just one day earlier. Yet Jesus perceived the above character flaws as detrimental to His ministry of inner healing and deliverance.

This should get your attention. If you’re not willing to cross religious, racial, social, cultural, and gender divides to meet people where they’re at, you’re pretty limited in what God can do with you and your ministry. And since His mission is to reach the world, He’ll have to do a large chunk of it without you.

Do you really want to be left on the outside? It’s an exciting time folks! You’re not going to want to miss a beat.

How do you test religious truth?

Testing Religious Truth  I’m probably going to upset some of my church-going friends when I say this, but I’m not an advocate for blind faith or blind acceptance of the faith of my parents. When it comes to my personal and my loved one’s potential eternal resting place, I want to base my belief on the closest thing to certainty of truth as possible.

But given so many choices, how do you test religious truth claims? Common sense says you test religious truth claims in the same way you test other claims. You start with the authority and credibility of its proponents, then you measure how those claims correspond to the reality of the world you live in, and finally you look for the best evidence available to confirm or reject the claims. For example, when I began to write this blog, I didn’t start from ground zero – I went to a source that I trust, the “Stand to Reason” website and I found an article entitled “Testing Religious Truth Claims:” Much of what I state in the paragraphs below was formulated in that article.

Authority: If I wanted to know something about information technology for example, I’d ask an IT expert. I wouldn’t start from square one to rediscover it all on my own. Why re-invent the wheel? I’d fall back on the prior research of others. I find it amazing how people will sometimes hesitate to trust an authority like the Bible, when virtually every bit of knowledge and every concept they hold dear can be attributed to one authority or another. We trust the words of other people whose opinions we value and whom we consider reliable. The reliability and credibility of the authority is the key issue.

I think a good case can be made that Jesus was that kind of authority. Not only did He make certain claims about the nature of the universe, about Himself, and about God; but He then worked miracles, cast out demons, raised the dead, predicted his own crucifixion, death and resurrection, and then self-consciously raised himself from the dead. And even those who are skeptical of His claims and the associated evidence would have to acknowledge that nearly every major religion in the world (and even many non-religious people) adopt Jesus as their role model for some major doctrine or issue they’re promoting. So I think He’s earned the right to speak authoritatively about spiritual things and life in general.

Correspondence to reality: When we say that a thing is true, we mean the thing itself corresponds to the way the world really is. Simply put, if you know what a lie is, truth is just the opposite. Hinduism, for example, says the world is an illusion. We’re not real. God is just dreaming about us and we are part of that dream. Our “salvation” involves transcending the illusion to get back to the godhead. Now I have to ask myself, “Is that claim true?” I don’t think so! My own cursory examination of the world seems to indicate that I’m real and the world is real. I live my life as if it were real. I experience the world firsthand. I don’t even know how I’d know if I were just an illusion. The whole claim is nonsensical. For me to claim that I know I don’t exist is self-contradictory. If the foundational tenet is false, then everything built on top of it begins to crumble, including all of its texts and things like the concept of reincarnation.

Christianity and Judaism take the real world seriously and don’t dismiss it as an illusion. This is why modern science was birthed in the West and not in the East. Since this religious claim corresponds to the way we discover the world to be, it’s evidence that Christianity and Judaism are true, at least at this point. And there are other claims biblical theism makes that correspond to the world as we seem to discover it: things like (1) intelligent design, (2) that the world and mankind were created for a purpose, (3) principles of cause and effect in the creation/evolution dilemma and (4) that most individual and organizational interactions are based on intentions not accidents.

The Biblical worldview clearly doesn’t match certain philosophies people hold about the world, but it does seem to match the world itself. This is evidence that those philosophies which don’t correspond to the world are falsified at that point, and Judeo-Christian thought is affirmed at that point.

Evidence: And finally you look for evidence that either confirms or denies the truth claims of the religion and its sacred texts. And we have reams of that in documents of antiquity, in archaeological finds, in eye witness accounts of Biblical events by both Christian and non-Christian writers, in scientific findings, etc. The Bible is the book that says “Let’s look at the evidence, weigh it and draw reasonable conclusions based on what we know, not on what we don’t know.” Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the prophets of old all were not afraid to say, “Come let us reason together. Come consider the evidence and its common sense implications.”

To demand evidence and an adequate cause for every effect we observe is a scientific approach to understanding the universe we live in. Maybe something else was responsible for the universe and not God. One could postulate lots of different scenarios. Who’s to say it wasn’t a principle or force that we don’t know about that was responsible for everything? Of course, it’s fair to raise the question, but the question itself doesn’t count as evidence. Yet that seems to be the way some treat it. But you can’t just invent all kinds of theories that lack actual evidence against the Biblical view. They’re speculative. They’re rabbit holes that simply distract from an alternative explanation that some don’t like because it doesn’t accommodate their lifestyle.

Would a Burning Bush experience change your view of God?

020-moses-burning-bush  The first time I was ever cognizant of God’s direct involvement in my life was July 9th 1982 at 10:30 pm. That Burning Bush experience not only miraculously saved my life, but changed me forever. I’d like to say that ever since I periodically hear the audible voice of God and have angels guiding my every step – but that would be untrue. In fact, I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, nor seen an angel nor, well you get the idea. Some of my Christian acquaintances lay claim to such wondrous experiences. Would my faith be increased if I spectated such a supernatural occurrence? Perhaps! But I am completely satisfied with God’s level of involvement in my life, and have no reason to doubt either His love or His leading.

I know without a doubt that He speaks to me and leads me in varied (and sometimes unusual) ways. He speaks to me when I read the Bible and receive an understanding of a particular passage that is new or refreshing to me. He speaks to me when another seeks my advice about a spiritual or even secular matter – then draws out wisdom and knowledge that I wasn’t even aware had been deposited somewhere in my memory bank. And over the past few years I find He speaks to me most vividly while I am writing – whether it be my blog, a FaceBook post, a teaching or a book.

Coincidence is a word I’ve come to banish from my vocabulary

God is constantly confirming His guiding hand in my life. Just a little over a week ago I was led to write a short article on the differences between the generations. I led off with the 16th century writer John Donne’s famous words, “No man is an island,” and proceeded to encourage the young and the old to work as one body, to help one another and share their unique perspectives on life. Then this past weekend, as the youth pastor spoke to our congregation in lieu of our main pastor who was out of town, he delivered a message that paralleled my blog. I listened in awe of how my amazing Lord works to reach His people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered if a local, or even a visiting minister was reading my material and using it as an outline for his or her message that week. At other times I’ve heard a speaker one-up me on a message that God had been dealing with me to put to print. It is situations like this that confirm that the Holy Spirit is directing each of us in our separate endeavors.

I have many friends and relatives who must think me foolish for my expression of such beliefs and the complete trust I place in both God’s written Word and in what He speaks to my heart. I find myself praying that each would have a Burning Bush experience of their own. But would it really make a difference? I guess it depends on the individual, and their own state of open-mindedness.

I believe God speaks to each one of His children through “unusual circumstances of life,” a phrase I prefer to “coincidences.” Coincidence is a word that the skeptic uses to deny that there might actually be a supernatural realm impacting his or her life. Most people are deaf to God’s voice; some because they find it hard to fathom that they are worthy of such a Dad to child relationship with the Creator of the universe; others because acknowledgement of such a relationship would complicate their lives and require them to consider what Daddy might expect of them.

A Biblical example of how God values and desires a relationship with each of us

Last week I heard a beautiful Biblical example of the extremes God will go through to get a single person’s attention and turn their life around. The lesson must be important because it’s related in three of the four Gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke. It begins with Jesus and His disciples ministering in Capernaum, a city on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee. In spite of His exhaustion from a day of preaching and healing the multitudes, Jesus was led to cross over by boat to Gadara on the eastern shore, a land inhabited by pagans and by Jews who didn’t obey the Law of Moses. En route He fell asleep. All three writers explain how a fierce storm came up that so frightened even the disciples who were fishermen by trade, that they awoke Jesus. He calmed the storm and rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. As they arrived at their destination, they were met by a naked crazy man who lived in the tombs. His behavior is explained as that of a man possessed by multiple demons: “No one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Jesus cast out the demons and the man returned to his right mind. Jesus got back into the boat and prepared to go back to Capernaum. The man who had been demon-possessed begged Jesus to take him with Him; however, Jesus told to him to go home to his friends and tell them what great things the Lord had done for him.

Jesus and the twelve Apostles had journeyed for hours across dangerous waters just to set one man free. Then He delegated to that new believer the task of evangelizing the entire region. Had it been me, I’d at least have left a couple of the disciples behind to guide the man for some period of time to make sure he knew what he was doing. But Jesus saw something special in the man’s heart and trusted him to go about the Father’s business. The man’s BB experience changed him forever.

Some of us need these Burning Bush experiences to coalesce all the doctrine and traditions and spiritual words we’ve heard about the Lord into a firm statement of faith. Even the Apostle Thomas after three years of following Jesus and observing all the miracles, found himself challenged to believe what his compatriots told him about Jesus’ appearance following His resurrection: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” So Jesus gave him that opportunity. But after Thomas was finally able to come to grips with the truth, what was Jesus’ response? “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Blessed indeed are those who have been graced with great faith independent of charismatic experiences. But it should be encouraging to know the depths God will use to reach your loved ones and draw them into His Kingdom. So don’t feel guilty about asking God to provide those supernatural encounters – if that’s what it will take.