Archive – 05/29/15 to 09/11/15
Stand Your Ground
“…you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Pet 3:15)
This is the first in a series of posts that I hope will provide you with information and facts that may come in handy when you find yourself defending your faith. I will try to keep these posts within my self imposed limit of 500 words. There will be cases where I fail. However, each of these topics has books written about them. So, while the information I’ll present is only a bit of what’s available, it has worked for me and I hope it will also work for you, and perhaps, cause you to “dig deeper.”
Getting Started: Discussions about “religion” can become heated very quickly. Do not let a discussion become an argument. If it starts to get out of control, make sure the person(s) you are talking with know that you are not trying to “convert” them. You are simply trying to understand their beliefs while explaining your own. Remember, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict people of their need for Jesus. And it is Jesus, who “saves” them. Your job is to walk the walk you talk, be a good listener, never condemn, and be prepared to offer answers and support. You can agree to disagree.
Proverbs 26:4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly.” From time to time you will be dealing with a person who is wise in their own eyes and likely has a closed mind and a hardened heart. Politely disengage and leave this person to God. You can pray for them.
It is a good idea to answer any accusation with a question. For example, an acquaintance, let’s call him Jim, says to you: “You Christians are too rigid and intolerant!” The automatic reaction is to start defending “Christians”. And that is the wrong thing to do! First, there are multiple statements that need clarification. Take them one at a time. What does Jim mean by “rigid”? Explore it until you understand. Then, do the same with “intolerant”. But, the very first thing I’d ask Jim is, “What do you mean by, ‘You Christians’?” Believe me, Jim’s statement can take you in a LOT of different directions. By asking these questions, you show Jim that you are taking him seriously; and, you are drilling down to the real issues to be dealt with.
So, Over the next several weeks, I’d like to look at some of the areas where you are likely to have the opportunity to, …stand your ground. I will give you information and facts on such topics as:
- Science and Religion
- Authenticity of the Holy Bible
- How Christianity differs from other belief systems such as Islam, Buddhism, Latter Day Saints, etc.
Until next week.
Science and Religion – Creation
Prior to the Big Bang theory, many scientists thought the universe was static; meaning that it was continuous. It had no beginning, and was unchanging.
Today, it is generally accepted in scientific circles (based on scientific observation) that the universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago*, when a volume of space one hundred billion times smaller than a proton expanded (extremely rapidly) to a volume about 4 inches across. (This is the ‘Inflation Theory’ in a nut-shell.) The fireball continued to expand (as a result of the “push” from the inflation) and became the Big Bang. The theories predict certain patterns of ripples which provide the irregularities from which galaxies and clusters of galaxies can grow as the Universe continues to expand. Scientists also see radiation left over from the Big Bang’s fiery explosion. And, astronomic observation matches the predictions of the theories.
Scientists, however, do not agree on exactly how that singularity formed, and where all the energy and mass (the entire Universe) actually came from.
Now, two quotes from the Bible. Paul is writing: “They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Rom. 1:19-20, NLT). And, this time Jesus is speaking: “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show Him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does His work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.” (John14:9-11, NLT). Two powerful, and life altering statements about “observation”–a well used tool of modern science.
Albert Einstein said, “Religion without science is lame. Science without religion is blind.” He also accepted, the presence of a superior power. (There is no evidence, however, that Einstein ever accepted even the presence of a personal God.)1 I think Einstein was close to getting it right; and a lot of people, today, are getting it wrong, …dead wrong!
Science and religion are not the antithesis of one another. “In the beginning God…” (Gen. 1:1, NLT), let’s pause right there. We are told God was present at the beginning. A rather significant statement. Can anyone prove it wrong? You may choose to disbelieve it, but can you prove it? Scientists don’t know how this creation event was triggered. I know both the who, and the how, of it. God did it. He spoke it. And, in a hundredth of a billionth of a trillionth of a second2 the entire universe came into being – along with the laws that govern it.
Creation & Evolution: RW Research, Inc. Rose Publishing, Inc. 4733 Torrance Blvd., #259, Torrance, CA 90503, USA. Page 2
The time it took for the Inflation (also called the Expansion).
* (08/2015) – I have read that scientists are now placing the age of the universe at 13.8 billion years – based on new evidence from space based telescopes.
Science and Religion—Evolution
Evolutionists rely on the fields of biochemistry and mathematics to lay the foundation of their claims for the presence of life on earth—including mankind.
Evolutionists say that on the early Earth all the chemicals were available to produce small molecules, which combined to form larger molecules, which organized themselves into one-cell living organisms. Now, without going any further along this track, let me tell you that scientists, using probability equations, estimate the time it would take to form just a single cell at more than 100 billion years.1 Uhhh, wait a minute. The Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion yeas ago. The earth is aged at 4.5 billion years. The probability of this argument for evolution being true? Statistically, ZERO!
Never-the-less, the “evo-crowd” got excited back in 1952 when Stanley Miller exposed a simple mixture of gases to a spark and produced small organic molecules – including amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. But, decades of follow-up research showed that the amino acids – when left alone in their chemical mire – degraded and did not form the “rich organic soup” it would have taken to possibly produce life.2 Oops!
Jumping ahead to the discovery of DNA. Suddenly, we understood that genetic information can exist in stable form for thousands of years, yet can be copied easily when cells divide. It is even possible to manipulate DNA, transferring it from one species to another, and even cloning animals. It became apparent that natural (or random) occurring mutations on a single part of a DNA molecule could result in biological variation.
Thus, Evolutionists expected that an improved understanding of mutations, amino acids and DNA should put their theory on firmer ground, instead biochemistry has raised challenging new questions.
a. The molecular clock showing how long ago each species branched off from its common ancestor in the evolutionary tree has been called into question. The problem is that the molecular clocks run at different speeds for different species and for different positions along the DNA module. The result is very large uncertainties in time and data that does not compare favorably with fossil records.3
b. Perhaps the most significant finding is that when scientists compared the protein’s amino acid sequences they found it impossible to arrange them in any sort of evolutionary series. “Thousands of different sequences, protein and nucleic acid, have now been compared in hundreds of different species but never has any sequence been found to be in any sense the lineal descendant or ancestor of any other sequence. In terms of their biochemistry, none of the species deemed ‘intermediate’, ‘ancestral’, or ‘primitive’ by generations of evolutionary biologists, and alluded to as evidence of sequence in nature, shows any sign of their supposed intermediate status”.4 This is just the opposite of what Evolutionists had expected. Ouch! Really!
Now, in all fairness, Darwin published Origin of the Species in 1859. It was brilliant work, proposing an interesting theory, …over 155 years ago. I do encourage science – real science that faithfully follows where the actual evidence leads. I have no fear that science will ever prove there is no God. It’s simply not possible. Time and space make the argument.
1. Creation & Evolution: RW Research, Inc. Rose Publishing, Inc. 4733 Torrance Blvd., #259, Torrance, CA 90503, USA. Page 10.
2. ibid, page 10
3. ibid, page 9
4. ibid, page 9
The Bible is Unique*
When standing your ground, you may reference a scripture from the Bible, only to be cut-off when the person says, “I don’t believe in the Bible.” Or, something to the same effect. How would you react?
Trick question. Don’t “react”! Every situation is different; but, I suggest trying something like this. “O.K. Are you willing to discuss that before we go back to what we were saying? I’d like to explain, from a non-religious viewpoint, how the Bible is the most unique book on the planet.”
By showing no offense, and accepting what was said seriously, you should score points. Next, you ask a question; and, propose a secular “look” at the Bible. If the person is not willing to do this, I’d suggest you politely disengage from the conversation. You are not likely to “win” this discussion because the person may have a hardened heart. Instead, you need to pray for them.
If the person agrees, the following will provide information to build your case. And once they have an appreciation of the Bible’s unique status, we can make the case that it is Holy Scripture provided to man, by God. Let’s begin…
The Bible stands alone among all books. It is different than all others in many ways; and here are only a few.
It was written over approximately 1,500 years. It had over 39 authors from many walks of life and socioeconomic classes, including kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, tax-collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, and shepherds.
It was written in times of peace and war, wherever the authors happened to be: in the wilderness, in a dungeon, in a palace, inside a prison cell, while traveling, and while exiled to an island in the Mediterranean.
It was written on three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe; and, in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek (the international language spoken at the time of Christ).
This one book contains a multitude of literary styles: poetry, historical narrative, song, romance, instructive discourse, personal correspondence, memoirs, biography, autobiography, law, prophesy, parable and allegory.
Yet, with all this diversity over a 1,500 year time span, these authors addressed their topics with an amazing degree of harmony while never “playing it safe.”
The Bible addresses hundreds of controversial subjects: including hot topics such as: marriage, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, adultery, obedience to authority, truth-telling and lying, character development, parenting, the nature and revelation of God.
The Bible is also unique in its circulation. It is rare to find a book that has sold more than 10-million copies. The Bible has sold into the billions – yes, that’s a “b”! No other book can begin to compare to the the Bible in terms of total circulation.
Now, before ending this post, let’s talk about the Bible’s unique survival.
Compared with other ancient writings, the Bible has more manuscript evidence to support it than any ten pieces of classical literature – combined!
Although first written on perishable materials, that had to be copied and recopied for approximately 2,000 years (until the invention of the printing press) Scriptures have never diminished in style or correctness, nor have they faced extinction. (Though many have tried to affect the latter.)
In ancient times, the Jews preserved the Old Testament writings as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. Their process included keeping tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph. This was a job for a special class of men within their culture.
Regarding the New Testament, John Lea noted in his article for the North American Review entitled, The Greatest Book in the World; “It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare, which has been in existence less than two hundred and eight years, should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the New Testament, now over eighteen centuries old, during nearly fifteen of which it existed only in manuscript….”
About extinction of the Bible: let’s just say the Bible has withstood vicious attacks by its enemies. Many have tried to burn it, ban it, and “outlaw” it, from the days of the Roman emperors to present-day Communist and Islamist-dominated countries. Yet it not only survives, it flourishes.
Folks, I’m almost 300-words over my self-imposed limit. I’m not going to apologize, as I think this is critical. I hope and pray this information will help you to… Stand. Your. Ground.
May God do mighty works through you…
* Information in this post was gathered from a book I highly recommend. As far as I know, it was last published in 1999; and, it is still invaluable. That book is:
The NEW EVIDENCE That Demands A Verdict – Evidence I & II. Josh McDowell. 1999. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1999.
The Bible is Unique, …and Accurate
Last week I presented some of the characteristics of the Bible that allow it to standalone among all other literary works. And this week I going to expand on that a bit. The Bible is not only unique, it is accurate in all it says. Prophecy is a prime example.
While other books claim divine inspiration; e.g., the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the (Hindu) Veda, none of them contain predictive prophecy. The Bible contains a great number of predictive prophecies pertaining to individual nations, Israel, people groups including all the people of the earth, particular cities, and to the coming of the Messiah. Yes, there are many ancient books that deal with determining the future. But no where is there specific prophecy of historic events to come in the distant future. Nor is there predictive prophecy of a Savior to arise in the human race. Yet the Bible is very specific as to time, place and circumstances of its prophecies and especially for the birth for this Savior. In fact, no unconditional prophecy in the Bible about events to the present day has gone unfulfilled.1
Islam cannot claim any prophecies of the coming of Mohammad that were made hundreds of years before his birth. In fact, no cult or religion can point to any ancient text and claim it as foretelling its appearance.
Now let’s examine the historical accuracy of the Bible.
Reading from 1 Samuel through Chronicles you will cover about 500-years of the History of Israel. No other people group of the time whether from Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Phoenicia, Greece, to Rome will you find the traditions that result in as clear a picture of tribal and family origins as you will find from the Hebrew Scriptures and other Hebrew records. Nothing from the Germanic lands, India or China gives us as clear a picture of all facets of life as the records of the Jews.
In fact the “Table of Nations” found in Genesis 10, stands absolutely alone in ancient literature without a remote parallel even among the Greeks. The Table of Nations remains an astonishingly accurate document.2
What is the character of the Bible?
In one word I’d say, “Honesty”. The Bible deals frankly with the sins of it’s characters, even when the characters are setting very poor examples. Some examples: the sins of the patriarchs are noted. The sins of the people are enumerated and brought to light. King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and tries to cover it up. He even orders her husband killed. It’s all there. Paul (New Testament, now) talks about his own faults and those of the apostles. And, disorder in the church is exposed. Ugly, but true. And, we can learn from it.
Finally, the influence of the Bible on western cultural traditions and institutions is clear to anyone who has studied history or even just takes an honest look around. The influence of the west on the course of world events is also very clear. Civilization, as a whole has been influenced more by Judeo-Christian Scripture than by any other book, or books, in the world. The Bible presents the highest ideals known to man. Ideals that have molded not just people, but also nations. One book. How is that possible?
Now, if you’re saying, “…but what about the contradictions in the Bible, and the flat out errors?” Well, I’ll deal with that next week, as I wrap-up this segment about the Bible. In the meantime, keep talking to God. And remember, …He is totally in control. Nothing is bigger than God. NOTHING!
In Christian love,
- Wilber Smith, quoted in: The NEW EVIDENCE That Demands A Verdict – Evidence I & II. Josh McDowell. 1999. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1999. pg. 12
- Albright, W.F., quoted in: The NEW EVIDENCE That Demands A Verdict – Evidence I & II. Josh McDowell. 1999. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1999. pg. 13
The Bible is Unique and Infallible
I’ve said a lot of things about the Bible, many of which make a pretty strong case the Bible is true and the inspired word of God. But many people, particularly those “with an agenda” will say that’s not correct. They will say the Bible is full of contradictions and errors. And, they will likely quote an example or two. So listed below are several principles for evaluating claims of error in translation or contradictions. These are taken from a list of 15 principles you will find in the book referenced at the end of this post.
1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable. Something that cannot be explained may very well be explained as new information (such as improved translation) comes to light. One cannot assume that the unexplained will never be explained.
2. Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation. Humans make mistakes. That’s why there are erasers on pencils. The same holds true in all areas of study. Think of the sciences. Theories are often revised. We do continue to learn. (Note: 1 and 2 tie together rather nicely, don’t you think?)
3. Understand the context of the message. The most common mistake, and often done purposely to “prove” a point. (A scripture out of context is very often pretext.) Example: In Ps14:1, it says, “there is no God”. Put it in context and you get, “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God” [Ps 14:1]. Big difference. Context communicates meaning. Do not ignore it. Do not allow taking scripture out of context be used against you.
6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics. Expressions of speech should not always be taken literally and then compared to other portions of scripture.
7. Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false. News reports are an example. An early report may not be as complete as a later report. The first report says something happened and gives little detail. Later reports confirm what happened and often supply a great deal more detail. They are complementary not contradictory.
8. New Testament quotes of Old Testament scripture need not always be exact. Often, New Testament writers quoted from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), which gave slightly different wording to the same text. Many Hebrew and Aramaic words have no exact translation in other languages.
11. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers. We still do the same thing today.
12. The Bible uses different literary devices, just as we do today. Not all of them are to be taken literally. The context of the scripture will usually tell you which is which. Have you ever said something like, “Just shoot me now. I can’t take any more of this.” Good thing you weren’t taken literally.
14. General statements do not necessarily mean universal promises. Many verses in the Bible offer general truths. (Proverbs are excellent examples). But, they are not meant as universal truths.
15. Later revelation supersedes previous revelation. Oh, how critics love to point out apparent contradictions in this area. God did not reveal everything at once. Nor did He lay down the same conditions for every period of time. A quick and easy example. A parent allows a small child to eat with his fingers, only to tell him later to use a spoon. This is not a contradiction. Nor is it a contradiction when the parent later insists that the child use a fork – not a spoon – to eat his vegetables. It is simply progressive learning with each instruction suited to the changing circumstances.
O.K. I know this is a lot to take in, but you will find yourself dealing with these issues – sooner or later. Maybe, because someone has confronted you; or, you find yourself confused by your own reading of the bible. Oh, yes, it happens. If you can’t figure it out get some help from a friend or your pastor.
Next week we’re moving on to take a quick look at some other religions. It can be a great help in talking to people if you have some understanding of their background. In the meantime…
Read your Bible. But, before you begin, ask God to show you what He has for you this day!
In Christian love,
Reference: The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Evidence I & II. Josh McDowell, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1999. pgs 46-50.
In these pages you will find 15 principles for evaluating claims of errant translation or contradictions in scripture. All are valid. I used 10 in this post. I encourage you to obtain this book and use it for the great resource it is.
Synopsis of Some Other Belief Systems
Last week I promised some help in understanding some of the worlds other religions. So, here it is. And yes, I understand it is impossible to explain all the tenants and nuances of any belief system, or religion, in a single paragraph. This is intended to highlight differences that can quickly distinguish where a person “is coming from,” so that you can better understand how to proceed in a positive way when having a discussion with them.
Buddhism: It may surprise you to learn that Buddha is not a god. The Great Buddha never referred to Himself as as God. He sought only a path to enlightenment. Buddhists do not believe in God – although offerings are made to him. Buddhists don’t believe in the Judaeo/Christian concept of sin, heaven, or hell. Their goal is to become enlightened and reach nirvana – which is a mental state of “non-existence” with no attachments to earthly belongings or desires.
Hinduism teaches that god is everything (including man and nature). There are up to 330 million gods, all coming from the same god, Brahman. Since all gods are good, you can pick your own and make offerings to him/her. Humans are trapped in a series of rebirths and reincarnations depending on how they live their lives. Karma is the accumulation of a person’s good and bad deeds. It will determine how you are reincarnated. Bad karma can lead to being reincarnated as an animal. By living multiple good lives (moksha), one can be freed from the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation.
The supreme being of Islam is Allah. Allah is not a personal god and can’t be truly known by men. Allah asks his followers to fight against all who do not worship him as God (infidels). Infidels are to be converted to Islam even if force is required. You earn your salvation by following the Five Pillars of Faith and living a good life. Good people go to paradise, bad people go to hell. That decision is made by Allah. Your salvation can be guaranteed only by dying in battle while fighting in a holy war (jihad) for Allah.
In the Mormon faith each man has the potential to be a god on his own planet – if he meets the requirements of Mormonism while on Earth. Women will live on the planet on which their husband is god, Jesus, God (Judaeo/Christian) and the Holy Spirit are three different gods. Mormons believe that God came to earth as a physical man. Through his good conduct he became the god of the earth. (I have no clue as to who made/declared him god of earth.) – AG. Jesus is the natural born son of god and Mary. And, Satan is Jesus brother.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe 144,000 people will go to heaven based on what they do; and, only church members can be saved. Their god is a single deity who doesn’t know all things and isn’t everywhere. Jesus is inferior to god. The Holy Spirit is god’s impersonal active force on earth. After death, the “Anointed Class” (the 144,000) will go to heaven. All other members of the church will stay on earth – which will always exist. All other people will die into nothingness – no after life for them.
Jews believe in God as revealed in the Old Testament. New testament revelation is not accepted in their belief system. Thus, they do not believe in the Trinity (God the father, Son and Holy Spirit) even though the concept is introduced in Genesis 1:1. Jews believe God is both loving and the judge of the earth. They believe they are a people chosen by God. To live as a Jew is to pray, to do good deeds, and to be humble before God. The Jewish concept of the afterlife is kind of a mixed bag. Some believe there is no afterlife. Some believe all Jews go to heaven. Some believe the wicked go to hell. Non-Jews can be granted afterlife if they are righteous. The greater focus for Jews is on the Age to Come, when Jews will live on earth in resurrected bodies.
O.K. That was a quick overview of a subject(s) that fills entire libraries. Concentrate on the points that distinguish Christianity from these other religions. Most gods are impersonal and unapproachable. They do not want an intimate personal relationship with their followers. Most gods have limited scopes and powers. And, they rely on “works” to determine your destination after death – if they even believe in an afterlife). And since, to my knowledge, there is no known “Works Scoring System”, it is virtually impossible to be assured of your status. How many “average goodies” are wiped out by a single “big baddie”?
Christianity truly does deliver “the Good News”.
Thank you Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit!
In Christian love,
P.S. This is the last of the “Stand Your Ground Series” that I began on May 29th. And, I really did try to keep these as short as possible while providing potentially helpful information. I do apologize for the long posts. Next week’s should be quite refreshing at less than 400 words! No, really.
Our Relationship With God
This will be short and to the point. Maybe you haven’t thought of things quite this way.
Before the world was designed God not only knew you, He chose you. [Eph 1:5]
Wow, what a statement. But then, should it surprise you? God is omniscient. Of course He knew Mankind would fall into sin; and He would send His only son, Jesus, to earth, born as a man, to ultimately pay the price for our sins and give us a pathway into God’s family – where we will live forever as His sons and daughters. [Jn 3:16] Yes, He knew that; and, He knew you. Yet, knowing what it would cost Him, He (still) chose us, …and spoke the universe, space and time into existence.
As Christians we serve an awesomely great God. As God creates us in our Mother’s womb [Ps 139:13-16] He is creating unique individuals. We do not share identical DNA, nor do we share the exact same life experiences. We are unique; and, therefore each and every Christian has a unique relationship with God. Does that surprise you? Maybe not.
Here is the point. That being true, we SHOULD NOT compare our relationship with Christ to that of any other Christian brother or sister.
By “comparing” I mean either worrying about why someone else has a better relationship with Christ than we do. (“What am I doing wrong?”) Or, thinking that our relationship with Christ is superior to that of anyone else (“I’m doing it right and they are doing it wrong.”)
We have only to concentrate on our own personal (and unique) relationship with God. God knows our individual strengths, …and weaknesses. Of course there will be differences in our walks. That, brothers and sisters, is a very good thing.
Thank you father for making me unique. Thank you for viewing and interacting with me in the exact right way for me to have optimal outcomes. When I get busy exercising my free will, You are patient and faithful to help me out of my messes. Lord, I deserve nothing; yet you give me every good thing, …including those difficult lessons You sprinkle in. Lessons which are usually the result of those free-will detours I’m growing less fond of. So, thank you for those lessons. I know they make me stronger and more aware of your providence.
I love you Lord,
Is God With You Yesterday?
What, you say that doesn’t make sense? O.K. How about this: Is God with you tomorrow? Are you getting frustrated? Please allow me to try one more time. Is God with you right now, …as you read this? If you are a Christian, the answer to that is, “YES!” Whether you are thinking about Him or not.
The points I’m trying to make are these:
1. Was God with you yesterday? Yes. But were you aware of it? Did you take advantage of His presence? His faithfulness? His love? His provision? You have free will. That is very important to god; and, He will go out of His way to protect it. But if you are so busy making and following your own plans, you may well be blocking God from working His will for you. And, you have in effect, set up an idol between yourself and God. And, no, you do not get a “do over” for yesterday. Except for possible consequences, yesterday is long gone.
2. Will God be with you tomorrow? Of course. But what will tomorrow bring? God knows. In fact, He knows every tiny detail of how tomorrow will go. But, that is not for you to know, …today.
3. So, let’s talk about today and living in the moment. Really, today is all that we have. What plans do you have for today? May I suggest that if you have not laid them at Jesus’ feet, your outcome is likely to be less than optimal. Remember our prayers (conversations with God) are answered with either, “Yes”, “No”, or, “I have a better plan”. And, when you think about it, because God only wants what is best for us, any of those three responses will be optimal.
Yesterday’s lessons may or may not, – if you learned the wrong thing – be of value. Live today in the presence of Jesus. And, if you’re planning tomorrow, your ultimate plan should be to do whatever is required of you, …with Jesus at your side!
Remember, no person, no power, is greater than our God. So, while we may not know exactly where we are in this life on earth, we can be absolutely assured our guide will get us home.
Lord Jesus, I want to live every moment in the awareness of your presence. I want to always live within your will. That’s my goal; and, we both know I fall short of that goal quite often. We both also know that I cannot make the necessary changes without your help. So, that’s what I’m asking. Help me to look to you the first thing every morning, and live every day through your faithfulness, guidance, grace and provision. Lord just keep working on me until you either return or call me home. Amen.
In last weeks post I said, “God knows. In fact, He knows every tiny detail of how tomorrow will go. But, that is not for you to know, …today.” While, I stand by that statement, it does raise a few questions.
Should we turn a blind eye towards tomorrow, next week, the scheduled vacation in late September? Of course not. Life on earth requires some planning. I have a schedule for tomorrow. Next week we have a small group meeting to prepare for. And, we had better decide where we want to stay and make some reservations for our vacation in October. So, have I changed my mind about planning? Not really. Let me explain.
First I have a few guidelines for my planning:
- The more complex my plan, the ”shakier” my plan is.
- The further out I plan, the “shakier” my plans become.
- The more important the event is, the more I need to trust God, both in helping me plan; and, in rescuing my plan if I’m in a “crash and burn” situation.
- Be mentally prepared that God may affect some changes in any plans I make.
- Do not allow planning to lead me into worry, or worse… fear.
- Every morning, give the day to Jesus.
How do I apply all this in my daily life? It’s really pretty simple; and I wish I always followed my own advice. Regardless, here it is:
- Close contact with Jesus. Include Him in all planning – even (especially?) for the simple stuff. In this stuff I’m not asking for specific help. I just want Him to know what’s going on, from my viewpoint. And I, listen and watch for advice that may come in any form.
- For the big stuff, I always ask for guidance and advice. Sometimes it comes in unmistakable form. Sometimes I get seemingly contradictory advice. (This is scary because Satan may be “in the game” – which is, by no means a “game”!) Sometimes it seems God is not interested. I think this is when God wants us to “take the lead”. Or, maybe it’s a test to see if we’ve learned a past lesson. Anyway, God is there.
- Don’t be rushed or pushed into a decision. Unbelievably good deals are seldom good deals, …for us. Demands for quick decisions are usually for a “good” reason, …but the real reason is seldom to our advantage. Time has a way of eventually showing us the correct path. I’ve learned that God’s sense of urgency, and mine, are seldom on the same clock. Keep praying.
- Sometimes my plans fail and I still “win”, …yeah, I know who get’s the glory.
- If you find yourself worrying, or fearful, …hit your knees. Worry and fear are not God’s tools. Let Satan know that Jesus is the only one you are going to follow. Then tell your Big Brother Jesus, you need a little help.
- Remember, your ultimate plan, whether for tomorrow or next year, is simply to do whatever is required of you, …with Jesus at your side!
Jesus, you promise that you will never leave me or forsake me; and, that you will always work for my best outcome as long as I am operating within your will. Lord, I know I must trust in you. I also know there is no better place for my trust. You are a great and awesome God. You are my brother; and, I love you.
I’ll bet if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve wondered… likely even, asked God what He expects (or wants) of you. Well, Jesus has given us the answer! Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” [John 6:29].
Now, If you’re thinking, “That’s it? That’s all God wants from me”? I’d say, “Yes. However, there may be more in that statement than you realize. Much more”. Here are four points to consider.
1st: “To believe…” represents a decision we must make. Have you truly decided to believe in Christ, …including everything He says he is; and, everything He says he can do?
2nd: Once we make the decision to believe, we have to work at believing. Satan will try to destroy our belief. It will require faith to get us through. And, when we come out on the other side, we will find that God has grown our faith.
3rd: We must dig into God’s word. The more we dig, the more our faith is renewed and grown. The more our faith is renewed and grown, the more God can use us and bless us. Have you noticed, it”s something of a self-fulfilling prophecy?! We must decide to cooperate with God. We must ask God to convict us of our need to read and study the Bible. Why is this so important? Again, Jesus supplies the answer: “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe” [John 14:29]. Jesus was telling the disciples that He would be crucified, buried, resurrected, ascend to Heaven, …and return to earth. Think about it. It’s the way God ‘works’ throughout the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation – and we’ll find the truth of Revelation soon enough, I think. The point is, He gives us the answers before the trials.
4th: Stop, and think about it, God has given, made available, or will make available to us, everything we need for every eventuality. Our job is to believe. Which includes trusting in God’s provision. In victory or defeat, we must give glory to God. It is not about us! We must humble our ego! After-all, while on this earth, who are we compared to God?
It’s true. You do go before me, like a good shepherd with his flock. Yet, sometimes I stumble in my belief. I worry; and often, that worry gives way to fear. Other times, after I’ve seemingly pulled success from defeat, I have basked in recognition and congratulations. Forgive me! And, when I have ‘taken a beating’, help me to remember that you work only for my good. Lord, I need more “belief,” more “faith,” and far less “ego.” It is true that all good things come from you. Forgive me for my lack of faith and trust. Forgive me of my pride. I truly want to be your servant. Amen.
Faith, Trust, …Belief
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 8-9, NLT]
Over the last few weeks I’ve talked a lot about planning and trusting in God. I will tell you that over my years as a Christian, I have found that this is one of those areas where it is much easier to “talk the talk”, than it is to “walk the talk”. It has been my second biggest stumbling block – right behind PRIDE, (which contributes to the vast majority of all my problems).
What helps me the most is the image of a father and child as the child grows older and more independent, …but not necessarily wiser. I’ve had a lot of life experiences over my lifetime. I hope to have more, but there is no guarantee of that. One thing I’m increasingly aware of is, the changes in this world, and in me. Yet there is a constant that never changes: God! The One I call, Father – or better yet, Abba (Dad or Daddy). How does all this tie together? Well, I want to make a suggestion.
The Bible gives us many names of God. (Why? They all tell us various characteristics of God). Choosing only five of those names, we learn six of God’s characteristics. God is all powerful; all knowing; the God of all truth; the God of love and provision; and always faithful.
So, does this sound like someone you would want on your side? I want Him as my Chief of Staff! That said, here is my suggestion: Starting now, give God control of your day. If you have plans, share them with Him; and watch for any changes he might want to make. Should your way appear blocked, do NOT be too quick to jump into the lead. God will let you take control; but, is that really your best option? Remember, our watches are not a reflection of how God views time. Your schedule and God’s schedule for project completion may be quite different. (Employer deadlines may or may not be something else.) Anyway, sometimes you will have to wait on God. Go back and look at those six characteristics again. Personally, I don’t see how I can lose in the eternal scheme of things.
Yes, it takes a huge adjustment. And, it is definitely a process. But I can tell you from experience, once you start, it get’s easier over time. Will you make mistakes. Absolutely! We are broken people on a broken planet. But we have a huge advantage. We are also forgiven and redeemed. We are the adopted sons and daughters of the great I AM. We are surrounded by God’s perfect love and provision. The future looks bright!
Thank you Lord!
me & GOD, …it’s a process.
Some of you may recognize the title of this week’s blog as the name and tag line of my previous blog. Obviously, this wasn’t done by accident. I did it for two reasons. The first reason is that I intend to move this blog to my original website, and rename it. (I will give you further information about that in the next week, or so. The second reason is that God, working through a Beth Moore Bible Study, and a collection of current circumstances, has convicted me that I have a huge problem with pride. Yes, I have previously said I have a pride problem – I was aware of it. But, I had no true idea of just how BIG a problem it was; and how it has affected my life for six decades. God bless Beth Moore. And you women have been keeping a very good thing to yourselves. Shame on you!
So, I’m going to focus on the pride issue for awhile. I am asking you to come on this journey with me. You may be saying, “I think I’ll pass. I don’t have an issue with pride.” And you may not. But, if that is true, I’m convinced you are in an extremely small group of people. And, if it would make you feel any better, I’m pretty sure Eve, if she had ever thought about it, would not have recognized her danger.
Before proceeding along that path however, we need to talk about Satan. Now this makes some people uncomfortable. Indeed, many who claim to believe in God say that they don’t believe in Satan. Folks, that is wrong thinking. The Bible is specific and clear on the topic. That said, I don’t know when God created Satan and the Angels; but obviously, He did. Did God create Satan as the leader of the Angles, or did Satan rise to that position? I don’t know. The Bible tells us that He was the most beautiful of the Angles, and their leader. We also know from events, that he and the other Angels had/have free-will. Satan also had/has a pride problem. He thought of himself as the equal of God: and, had convinced about a third of the Angels of this enormous miss-conception. His pride led him into a confrontation with God; and, we all know Satan lost. (Yet he fights on).
OK, with that out of the way, let’s return to The Garden of Eden – and Eve. Read Genesis 3:1 – 7a. Did you pick-up on the statement, “… and you will be like God….”? Eve, Eve, Eve. What ever made you think you could be like God? Oh, that’s right: you had free-will and pride. The very same combination that got Satan, and all of his Angel followers, booted out of Heaven. (Note: Free-will is a precious, yet dangerous, gift from God. In combination with pride it is like a match and gasoline.)
In Proverbs 8:13, the Bible tells us that God hates pride. Is it any wonder? Pride is a root cause of just about any sin you can think of. It is Satan’s favorite tool – and a most effective one. Pride, is the tool Satan used to lead Eve, then Adam into sin. And consequently, every other human (past, present and future) has been, is, or will be born into sin. The effects on the planet, and mankind over the intervening millenniae are truly mind numbing. From Adam and Eve to where you and I are today, think about the price of pride.
me & GOD, …Pride
What is pride? We know it’s an important subject – Proverbs 8:13 tells us that God, “…hates pride and arrogance….” And, we know it is Satan’s favorite (and most effective tool). But what is it, really; how do we use it; and what are it’s implications and consequences. First, what it is.
Beth Moore, calls pride, “A mind captive to self.”1 Give that some thought before reading on. Did it occur to you that the definition could apply equally to people with very high self esteem, or to those with very low self esteem. I’d never thought about that. So, if like me, you thought pride was something peculiar to those who think they are superior to others, you’d better think again. It applies to everyone – to some degree.
We know God hates pride. So who/what is it that God holds in high esteem? You will find the answer in Isaiah 66:2. God is speaking, “…This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
We must NOT let that word “humble” put us off. For many, myself included, that word has (or had) a very negative connotation. Yet, it is humility that is the very opposite of pride. Do not confuse humility with low self esteem. We’ve already learned that people of low self esteem also have issues with pride. In the New testament, the root of the word translated as “humility,” means “to lower oneself or to be brought low”.
Now, think about whom we are compared to God. Many would say, , “…we are as nothing compared to God. And, because He created everything, everything belongs to Him. Therefore, we have no valid claim on anything”. All of which is true from one vantage point; and it bears remembering, for God is GOD! Read Isaiah 6:1—5.2 Now, that would be (and is) humbling!
There is also another vantage point; and this one shows us that all of mankind is the beloved creation of God. AND, for those of us who are Christians, not only are we forgiven of our sins and assured our place in heaven for eternity, we are also the adopted sons and daughters of God. We have a great deal of worth in the heavenly realm. We were created to serve (bring glory) to our Father.
Unfortunately, in our time on earth (even after accepting Christ) when God is leading us in one direction, we will suddenly decide to go in another direction. We have just told God that we are taking charge – and, that is pride at work. Trust me on this: Satan is sneaky. He doesn’t play fair, or nice. He will find ways to use our pride against us. Pride is destructive! We must stay on continuous alert, and fight it by engaging Jesus the instant we become aware of what is happening.
Humility is God focused. We see ourselves as servants of God, created for His Glory. Everything we do, we do with God, and give Him the glory for working through us to make it happen. When that is the way we are living our life, we have every right to feel satisfaction for a job well done, and content that we and God make an awesome team!
Please read Psalms 145:16—21, and make it your prayer to our God.
- Beth Moore, Living Free, Learning to pray God’s Word. Pg 43. Life Way Press, Nashville, TN 37234, 2001, reprinted 2014.
- When Isaiah was given his commission to be God’s messenger to his people, it was in a vision. Isaiah relates the vision, and his reaction to it, in Isaiah 6:1—5.1In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2Hovering around him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew. 3In a great chorus they sang, “Holy, holy holy is the Lord Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” 4The glorious singing shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke. 5Then I said, “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man. And a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” [NIV]
Oh, Hi Lord. Be with you in a minute; I’ve got an emergency to take care of.
I’ve been thinking about how, as Christians, we still manage to find ourselves operating outside God’s will. I don’t know about you, but when I first accepted Christ I was expecting to feel different, and be “…immediately, changed forever.” I thought I would walk back up that church aisle in the, “…absolute perfection of a true believer”. That’s what my church told me would happen. But, it didn’t. Why? Because I was mislead by the, ‘instant absolute perfection’ part that was not God, but rather, religion doing the talking.
When we ask out of conviction by the Holy Spirit, we are instantly forgiven; and the Holy Spirit does instantly move into us. But, and it is a very big “but”, …we are infants in our belief. We still have our free will, and we still live in a society where Satan is running amuck. As I mentioned in my last post, that is a very dangerous combination.
We must learn to trust God. We must learn to recognize the many ways God speaks to us. We must learn to trust God. We must learn that God will give us some hard lessons. We must learn to trust God. We must learn that God is always a lot smarter than we are. We, must learn to trust God, …in every thing and in every way. In case you missed it: TRUST GOD!
Know what? We won’t do it. We think we will; and, we want to. But. We. Won’t.
One thing we will do is give God the old, “Yes, …but, …. “ We will turn something over to God (the, “yes”); and, then we follow it up with the “but,” qualification. “…but, this is what I really want….” Or, “let’s do it this way, …..” (Nice touch, throwing in that “let’s”. Makes God think He’s still in control.) Yeah, …sure it does.
Another way we distrust God is when we are working in God’s plan and everything has fallen into place and things are going great. Then something goes just a bit wrong and it seems things aren’t quite right. We press on; but, a seed has been planted. Then, at some point we are confronted with a totally unforeseen barrier. And, our reaction is: “I’ve got to get this back on track as quickly as possible.“ And, off we go, seeking a “work-around”. (And, said work-around can often lead to another around, …and around, …and around. Satan will play this game with you just as long as you allow it to continue).
Do you see the fallacy of our actions, and reactions, in each of these scenarios? Are we really smarter than God? Does God always want us to take the easy way? Did God desert us? Does God not want the best outcome for us? Does God operate on Earth Universal Time?
We want to trust God. But often, pride, malice, jealousy, good intentions or any number of other motivations, will cause us take matters into our own hands. Do not despair. This is, unfortunately, not unusual while living on earth. However, when you take control, …well, you get control. God will honor your free will. He’s still there. But now He’s just an observer. So, when you realize what you have done, STOP. Immediately, call Jesus to your side, ask Him for forgiveness and for His help in getting back under His will. And while you’re at it, it would be a good idea to ask for support as you work through any adverse consequences you may have created. Jesus will understand! Think of the experience as a lesson learned.
As you mature in your walk with Christ, you will find it becomes easier to trust in Him – and you will also find it easier to keep in “touch” with Him. That said, I also have to remind you that you will never be perfect while living on earth.
Father, time and again in the 66 books of your Word, you show me the perfection of your plans; and I stand in awe.
Yet, too often I try to make my own way through life. I fail to trust you. I ask for help, when what I really want is affirmation for what I want to do. I have a prideful spirit that lies to me and makes me think I am in control.
Help me, Lord, to see with your eyes and to hear with my heart. Help me to trade my pride for humility.
Finally, Lord, Thank you for never, ever, losing patience with me. I must be terribly trying. I’m truly sorry. I love you.
Fix it, God
God is All-Knowing. It’s true! He knows every thing about us: past, present and future. He knows our mental and emotional state. He knows our physical state. Every thought (good and bad) and every dream. He sees our happiness and anger; our deepest secrets and regrets. There is nothing we can hide from Him. Every facet of us is an open book to God.
And, God is Love. But, if God knows us so thoroughly, and God loves us so much, why doesn’t He fix us? He could fix every single thing that is wrong with us, and in us, in less than a heartbeat. Why doesn’t He do it?
The answer is, because God is Love! God demonstrates His love in everything He does. Free-will is the second-best example. Do you believe it’s easy for God to watch us move into sin and heartbreak as a result of asserting our will over His? Of course not. Never-the-less, God gave us the gift in free-will. We are not robots programmed to do His bidding. Yes, our freedom can, and does, get us into trouble. But, when we realize we are in trouble and cry-out to Him for help, it pleases Him – for we are giving Him the opportunity to demonstrate His power and love as He comes to our rescue.
Linked to the above is another way God demonstrates His love for us. It is an unfortunate truth that if Jesus made it too easy for us, we would not seek Him or need Him. And, thanks to “human nature,” we look for the easy way out of our problems. But, the easy way is very often not God’s way. So, like a good parent, God instructs us. And, we very often ignore His instruction. So, out of His love for us, He gives us a lesson. Sometimes, a very hard lesson. He allows us to get burned when we touch something hot. We grow, and we learn. God smiles.
Perhaps the most difficult situation is when we have to watch someone we love physically suffer due to an accident, or a terminal disease. We know God can fix it, yet He doesn’t. We pray for a miracle, and God is silent. I think this is when we most often question God. But, even in these situations I have seen God at work. I have seen people who, even though in great pain, still praise God and have profound positive influence on others. And, I have seen broken families come together during these times of crisis. Yet, there have also been times when all I could say was, “God has His reasons, and I do not understand them. I must trust Him.”
Finally, allow me to point out that in reality, God has already fixed it! He fixed it over two thousand years ago in the best example of His love for us! Every one of us who has recognized our inability to fix ourselves, and turned to God’s Son, Jesus, for salvation and restoration, is fixed! That folks, is THE GOOD NEWS. It is freely available to everyone on the planet who truly commits to Jesus. For those who make that commitment, our time on earth is only preparation for eternity with God and the Angels.
We must not doubt God’s motives. Instead we should rejoice in His great Love and Perfect Understanding.
Lord, …help me to remember that you promise me a perfect Eternity, not a perfect life on this planet. Yet, from your Grace and Love, you are able to provide for my every need and many of my wants. I am blessed far beyond what I deserve; and I give you all the praise and glory for it. Now Lord help me to follow your plan for my life. I know that only in your plan will I find your perfect peace and contentment. Thank you Jesus. Love, …Larry
This is the last of the “From the Beanfield” posts to be transferred to this site. If you’ve read any of them I hope youfound them interesting and hopefully, helpful. I hope you enjoy the future posts here at… me & GOD.