Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

"When I Awake, I am still with Thee..."

The quote is from Psalm 139:18. It is first, one of the great theological statements of the Bible:
God is always present;
and second, one of the greatest personal statements anyone can make: God is always there, and I am always with Him.

This is one of the most amazing truths in Scripture: God is right here, and I am with Him. This is such a commonplace truth for most of us Christians that we don't process it adequately. We know He's present, and we are present with Him. So what? But think for a moment about the rest of the world. God is present, because He's ubiquitous ($1.00 word, meaning He's everywhere at once), but they are not with Him. He is not present to them. This is horrible. It's Adam and Eve cast out of the garden, separated from God. It's a world without hope of anything but the present life. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." And then what? It's a world of sickness, pain, violence, with no hope of something better in the future.
But you...YOU, when you awake, if you're a child of God, you're always with Him. He never goes away, never leaves you, you don't have to search for Him, He's THERE!
This means many things, not least that your present is never lonely, even if you are alone, separated from friends and family; Jesus said it: "Yet am I not alone, for the Father is with Me." And so He is, with you. Right beside. Close. Within. The Infinite, the One whose greatness is unsearchable, He is WITH YOU and you are with Him..
It also means that you cannot die. Bear with me a moment while I explain. You cannot die because you are connected to God, and HE IS ETERNAL. Your connection with Him is eternal as well. Yes, your body wears out and dies, but you are more than a body. Your body is like your house, and just as houses grow old and wear out, so will your body. But as for you, the real you, you will live forever. Jesus said, "He who lives and believes in Me shall never die." Sick? No hope for the future in this life? (I'm not making light of human tragedy, just pointing out that you are more than your body) are more than the life you have right now. You are eternal.  It's amazing how the Bible points this out sometimes:
God says, "I am the First, and with the last." What do you suppose that means? Well, one thing it certainly means is that YOU will be there, if you're a child of God; you will be with the Father when time is no more, when the stars have all winked out, when the earth and heavens have departed, YOU will be there. With Him.
"He who believes in Me shall never die."
"I am the First, and with the last." On the one hand, you are mortal, subject to death and all its processes. On the other hand, you are eternal, and you literally cannot die. This, as everyone knows, is completely beyond our realm of knowledge, in the sense that we can prove it, but we have His Word, His witness in ourselves, His Presence, convincing us.
When I awake, I am still with Thee--whether you awake here or in heaven, that's true. Still with Him.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Christian Evidences and Christian Experience...

Every thinking Christian is interested in the evidences for their faith. We do want to know if the historical documents (i.e., the Bible) we trust are factual. We want to know if the accounts of Jesus' ministry are true, and certainly we want to know if God created the world, or if we are merely the product of a mindless "big bang" and subsequent evolution.

On the other hand, those who don't believe the Bible have a bunch of arguments against our faith. They say things like, "Religion has existed as superstition from time immemorial. It's an invention of man," and things like, "Geology proves evolution," and, "belief in Christianity or any other religion is an aberration of the mind."

Christians approach these viewpoints in two ways:
  1. They try to provide evidence of such things as the Creation; they try to show that the documents surrounding Jesus birth, death and resurrection have historical roots--that they are at least credible in that way;
  2. They point to the experiences of other Christians, and invite the unbeliever or atheist to experience that for himself. 
For some, the idea of evidence that "proves" Christianity is incredibly important, and they spend their lives learning that evidence, debating unbelievers, and so on, in an attempt to bring people to at least consider believing in Jesus.

For others, they point to the potential for experiencing God--the God who IS there, in real time, and point to the possibility that the atheist or unbeliever himself can experience God.

Here's what I've found, in over 50 years of study and thought.

  1. Ultimately, everyone who uses "evidences" to promote the idea that becoming Christian is not just an aberration of the mind comes to a point where evidence no longer works, and the people with whom he's talking have to open their minds to the fact that God at least could be real, and Christians are telling the truth about their experiences and about Him.
  2. If a person wants to retain a closed mind about the subject, and hold on to his faith that evolution is the process by which mankind came into existence, he will. There is no arguing with someone who is determined to reject every evidence you provide, and every experience you discuss. 
  3. Those who open their minds to becoming Christians because of "evidences" ultimately have to have a real encounter with God, which they invite, or they will never change. 
So what I'm saying is that Christian evidences may "open the door" for someone to believe, may break through the barriers of irrationality presented by the unbeliever's mind, but in the final analysis, a man or woman who becomes a Christian does so personally, individually, and because of an encounter with the living God.
As far as I'm concerned, I was "blindsided" by a simple Gospel presentation over 50 years ago, and I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Since that moment, I have always believed in Him. I have often doubted myself ("am I really a Christian?" "How can I be so sinful and be a real Christian?"), and wondered about the tremendous rejection Christians face in our world, but as for me, I cannot not believe. He is for me the "Way, the Truth, and the Life," and I know that "nobody comes to the Father" except through Him. How do I know this? It was (and is) a personal revelation of Himself to me, though why He would pick me I have no idea. I hope you get the same revelation, and you can. It's quite simple, really. You begin by asking God to show Himself to you, and promise that when He does, you'll follow Him (John 7:17). Or you simply invite Jesus Christ to enter your life and make His home there, and you will see (Revelation 3:20). You will.

Monday, November 6, 2017

WHY is the Bible so important?

Good question. The answer is actually fairly complicated, but a good beginning is in 2Timothy 3:16-17: "All Scripture is given by inspiration from God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect (complete), thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

So there are three clauses in this set of verses, and each has its own special value when we are considering how the Bible might be important to us.
First is the source clause. Where did the Bible come from? (I might note that Paul was discussing the Old Testament in this particular passage). The ultimate answer, offered up by Paul, is that the Bible came from God. This is in stark contrast to today's common view that the Bible is a book written by mere men, to explore their religious beliefs (or fantasies, as the case may be). Jesus, in case you're wondering, said the same thing as Paul:

Matthew 5:17-18: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

"The Scriptures must be fulfilled." (Mark 14:49)

"Thy Word is Truth." (John 17:17)

There are many people, as John Walvoord once said, who believe that the Bible is full of lies, that it depicts man's search for God through one race (the Jews), instead of God's revelation to man. However, what Paul says goes beyond the ideas of fulfillment, and even of truth:
He said: "All Scripture is given by inspiration from God."  Theologians and scholars have long pointed out that the words "given by inspiration from God" in English is ONE word in the original language, theopneustos, or, "the breath of God," or . "God breathed." So the book that you hold in your hand, Paul asserts, is literally from God, in the most intimate sense. It's what He has to say to mankind, and to you. It is lifegiving (if you listen), it is life-sustaining. It is how you define and understand your relationship to God. It is how God speaks to you. It is the objective measure by which all of God's self-revelation must be understood, and it is alone among human literature in its eternal influence and impact. No other words match it. No other words can be understood to do what the Bible does for the human mind, heart and soul. It stands alone, mighty, invincible as the One who created it, and who "magnified His Word above all His name." (Psalm 138:2). I could go on, but one passage will be sufficient to give you the idea:

Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is living, and power-filled, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 

In short, you don't judge the Bible. It judges you.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

So what is this "Walking in the Light" thing, anyway?

It's difficult to define, since it's all internal and connected mostly to our individual experiences. Here's what I can say about it, though:
1. It's a ministry of the Holy Spirit, and it goes beyond "conscience," or "guilt." Many times people identify the Christian's experiences with "guilt," or a "moral compass," but it really goes far beyond that. Here are some passages that might help you understand how this works, remembering that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all..."in order to tap into HIS light, there has to be a connection with Him. That connection, that hard wiring, is the Spirit of God who comes into our lives when we believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as our Lord and Savior.  NonChristians often scoff at this (and at us), but any true Christian can tell you that the contact he has with God is the most precious thing in the Christian life. We all know it, and it's a shared experience, so we talk about it amongst ourselves as a known reality, but if you're not a Christian, it all sounds like gibberish.
Here are some passages that describe parts of that experience, although its totality has to be experienced to be understood:
Jesus said:
(John 14:16-17) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Helper, that he may abide with you for ever; That is, the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.
This "other Helper" is GodWithUS, present in our lives always and constantly. He is also the Holy Spirit (as Jesus tells us); interestingly, Jesus refers to this "coming" of the Spirit in another way in the same passage (14:22-23):
Judas said to him, (not Judas Iscariot), Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world? Jesus answered and said to him, If a man loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. This is the same thing as the presence of the Spirit, and it defines the connection we have with God--it is all three Persons of the Trinity making their (His) home with us. The point is, if He's always there, the connection is automatic once we believe. It's just...there. On the other hand, Jesus is answering a question from the "other Judas," which reads, "How will you show yourself to us, but not to the world...?" that being the question, and figuring that Jesus must have answered the question He was asked, we are hit with the reality that a nonbeliever simply doesn't have the equipment to understand and know God. An unbeliever may ridicule us as "crazy," or try to find other explanations for our experiences with God, but the fact remains, He can't know. It's as if you're trying to explain a sunset to a blind man, or the sound of the ocean to a deaf man. The equipment for understanding is not there.
So when you walk in the light, the lines of communication are unbroken. You are listening to God, and even if it seems he's silent, you know He's "in the room." Right there. When you stop walking in the light, He doesn't go away, but He tells you about it, in a very real fashion, so that you know.

Watchman Nee, the famous Chinese Christian, tells the following story (I've paraphrased it and I'm repeating it from memory). "There was once a man who used to drink wine with every dinner; he usually drank too much, and got drunk. He became a Christian, and shortly after his conversion, his wife asked him if he wanted his usual bottle of wine with dinner. He said, 'No. Resident Boss doesn't want me to drink.'"

And it's really like that. He directs. You can't fully explain, but you can say, "The Lord wants me to..." or, "The Lord wants me to stop," or, and you know what He wants, because you're connected with Him.

Now I need to add a caution here, because you'll find all sorts of people saying, "God told me to do this," when it's obvious to everyone around that they were not listening to God but to some other voice.

The caution is this: "Know something about the Scriptures." God is not going to tell you to kill your children. He is not going to encourage you to rob a bank.

Normally people who do this crazy stuff have been unbalanced for a while, and the voice they are listening to is not God's.

However, you CAN walk in the light, and enjoy His presence and direction in your life. Mostly, it's just listening. Jesus had a wonderful word on this, regarding His own miracles:
(John 5:19):

"Then Jesus answered and said to them, Verily, verily (Truly, truly), I tell you, The Son can do nothing of (from) himself, but what he sees the Father doing: for whatever things the Father does, these also the Son does in the same way."

In other words, Jesus, having emptied Himself of the independent exercise of His divine powers, and having become a Man like us, allowed Himself to be guided just as He wants us to be--by the Father, who lives in us.