Christianity 201

May 13, 2019

Signs and Wonders: A Note of Caution

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder,  and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,”you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. – Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NIV

I was really struck by this passage last week listening to a podcast.

So how could this happen?

What follows is from Matthew Henry. I’ve modernized the text in some places, and items in square brackets and lighter typeface are added by myself.

A Strange Premise

How is it possible that any who had so much knowledge of the methods of divine revelation as to be able to impersonate a prophet should yet have so little knowledge of the divine nature and will as to go himself and entice his neighbours after other gods? Could an Israelite ever be guilty of such impiety? Could a man of sense ever be guilty of such absurdity?

We see it in our own day, and therefore may think it the less strange; multitudes that profess both learning and religion yet exciting both themselves and others, not only to worship God by images, but to give divine honor to saints and angels, which is no better than going after other gods to serve them; such is the power of strong delusions.

It is yet more strange that the sign or wonder given for the confirmation of this false doctrine should come to pass. [i.e. that the prayer is answered, or the miracle takes place.] Can it be thought that God himself should give any countenance to such a vile proceeding? Did ever a false prophet work a true miracle?

It is only supposed here for two reasons:

1. To strengthen [could he mean exaggerate?] the warning here given against following such a person. “Though it were possible that he should work a true miracle, yet you must not believe him if he tell you that you must serve other gods, for the divine law against that is certainly perpetual and unalterable.’’ The supposition is like that in Gal. 1:8 , If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you —which does not prove it possible that an angel should preach another gospel, but strongly expresses the certainty and perpetuity of that which we have received.

 2. It is to fortify them against the danger of impostures and lying wonders (2 Th. 2:9 ): “Suppose the credentials he produces be so artfully counterfeited that you cannot discern the cheat, nor disprove them, yet, if they are intended to draw you to the service of other gods, that alone is sufficient to disprove them; no evidence can be admitted against so clear a truth as that of the unity of the Godhead, and so plain a law as that of worshipping the one only living and true God.’’ We cannot suppose that the God of truth should set his seal of miracles to a lie, to so gross a lie as is supposed in that temptation, Let us go after other gods.

But if it be asked [and it must be asked]: Why is this false prophet permitted to counterfeit this sign/wonder? [why did the miracle work?] then it is answered here (v. 3): The Lord you God is testing you. He allows you to be faced by such a temptation to test the quality of  your faith, that both those that are perfect and those that are false and corrupt may be made made obvious. It is to test [and shape] you; therefore see that you pass the test, and stand your ground.’’

A Necessary Warning

1. Not to yield to the temptation: you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.

Not only must you not do the thing he [or she] tempts you to, but you should not so much as patiently hear the temptation, but reject it with the utmost disdain and detestation. [i.e. walk away before they are finished talking!] Such a suggestion as this is not open to negotiation, but you should cover your ears! “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Some temptations are so grossly vile that they will not bear a debate, nor may we so much as give them the hearing. What follows (v. 4),

Some temptations are so grossly vile that a discussion isn’t necessary, nor may we so much as give them the time of day. What follows (v. 4), You shall walk after the Lord, may be looked upon,

(a) As prescribing a preservative from the temptation: “Stay focused on your work [sacred and secular], and you keep out of harm’s way. God never leaves us till we leave him.’’ Or,

(b) As providing us with answer to the temptation; by responding, “It is written, Thou shalt walk after the Lord, and cleave unto him; and therefore what have I to do with idols?’’

2. Not to spare the tempter, v. 5. That prophet shall be put to death, both to punish him for the attempt he has made (the seducer must die, though none were seduced by him—a design upon the crown is treason) and to prevent them from doing further mischief. This is called putting away the evil. There is no way of removing the guilt but by removing the guilty; if such a criminal be not punished, those that should punish him make themselves responsible. And you must purge the evil from among you [KJV: “mischief must be put away”] the infection must be kept from spreading by cutting off the gangrened limb, and putting away the mischief-makers. Such dangerous diseases as these must be taken in time.


Matthew Henry as sourced at BibleStudyTools.com

January 21, 2019

Miracles in the Bible

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:31 pm
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“a noteworthy miracle has taken place through [Peter and John] is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it (emphasis added) (Acts 4:16; see also vv. 13-14; John 3:2; 11:47-48).

Today we’re back visiting what I last called a “wealth of articles” at the blog of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, Michigan. This is part one of a two part series, you need to click the link at the bottom to finish this study.

Miracles: Then and Now (Part One)

On occasion through the years one reads or hears of a great revival somewhere in the world, a sudden outburst of the power of the Holy Spirit. It usually includes the testimony of many souls saved as well as miracles of all sorts that seem to parallel those of the Bible. Fantastic accounts of healings, resurrections from the dead, walking over red-hot burning coals, exorcisms of the devil and demons and the like are reported. What is an earnest Bible-believer to make of all this?

The subject of biblical miracles in the main has suffered disagreement over two factors–their nature and their purpose. Critical scholarship long ago consigned miracles to the ashcan of superstition, ignorance and mythical notions. More sophisticated critical studies have routinely denied the validity of miracles by means of the principles of modern science. It is asserted that divine intrusions simply do not occur in the closed time-space-mass universe of strictly uniform processes.

Bible-believing Christians have disagreed somewhat over the nature of biblical miracles but have had enduring differences of opinion concerning their purpose and longevity. My conclusion in summary is: The true nature of biblical miracles defined their purpose, and their purpose defined their continuance.

The point in this writing is to analyze in general the subject of miracles, mainly New Testament miracles, including those of the launching of the church. The church is the new body of God’s witness and work in the present stage of His overarching purpose of receiving the maximum self-glory from His creation. “Creation” in this sense entails everything that is not God. Some call this complex the world, the cosmos, the universe and the like. In any case this sharp division (between what is God and what is not God) preserves the Creator-creature distinction that is fundamental to the whole of the Bible and Christian Theology (Rom 1:25). Nothing exists in man as it exists in God.

The purpose of God getting glory to Himself means for Him to magnify His own infinitely unique person and cause it to be exclusively and universally enhanced, honored, esteemed and worshipped by rational beings. Since God exists by himself, i.e., he is self-existent, Scripture declares He exists for himself. His personal testimony, e.g., is “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no god” (Isa 45:5. Cf., Isa 47:8, 10; Hos 13:4; Zeph 2:15; Deut 4:35; 32:39; et. al.). And, “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images” (Isa 42:8).

MIRACLES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

First there will be a preliminary sketch of divine miraculous activity in the Old Testament, miracles of various sizes and shapes. However, there were times when clusters of miracles surrounded an important event or person. Some of those occasions were: (1) the Creation of the universe including mankind [Gen 1-2]; (2) the great Exodus from Egypt and the formation of the tribes of Israel into a theocratic kingdom via the giving of the Law at Sinai [Exod 1-15]; (3) the choice of Moses as the leader or king-in-effect of the theocracy [Exodus 3-4]; (4) the accreditation, to Egypt and Pharaoh, of the nation Israel as God’s favored, protected  people [Exod 5:1-2; 6:1-8; 7:1-6; 8:10, 22; 9:14-16, 29; 10:1-2; 11:7; 14:4, 18]; (5) the ensuing Sojourn in the wilderness [Exod 16-40, Numbers and Deuteronomy]; and (6) the Conquest and Settlement of Canaan [Joshua and Judges].

The Law of Moses was the charter, constitution or governing legal instrument of the new nation, and it included the provision of ongoing miraculous activity for some of its functions. Examples would include health and healing (Exod 23:25), food (Exod 16:35), water (Exod 15:23-25), clothing and shoes (Deut 29:5), fertility (Deut 7:12-16) and a direct revelation from God when evidence of an unlawful act was not certain (Num 5:11-31; 15:32-36).

During the United Monarchy (kings Saul, David and Solomon) notice of the occurrence of miracles was nil. In the Divided Monarchy (kingdoms of Israel and Judah) there was an outburst of miraculous activity in the Ninth Century BC. This was during the apostasy and political decline of the northern kingdom of Samaria/Israel. The miraculous activities of Elisha and especially Elijah were used by God to rid the nation of the pernicious debauchery of the Baal-Asherah fertility cult and to call the people back to Himself. This false religion had been established by Ahab and Jezebel as the semi-official, state-supported civil religion rivaling if not practically supplanting true Yahweh worship (850 of the cult’s clergy “ate at Jezebel’s table,” 1 Kings 18:19). The great confrontation between Elijah and the Baal-Asherah priests on Mount Carmel vividly illustrated what was at stake (1 Kings 18:20-40, especially v. 39, “When the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”). The daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, Queen Athaliah, brought Baalism into Judah, building a Baal temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 11:18).

The writing prophets spoke sparingly of miracles occurring in their days, the exceptions being Jonah and Daniel and the incident of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38. The prophets spoke often of the future golden Messianic Age when miracles would return as God crushed all temporal powers and set up His kingdom on the earth. See Isaiah 35 and 40.

THE INTERTESTAMENT PERIOD

The historical interlude between the testaments (ca 400-4 BC) was a barren wasteland as far as miracles, prophetism and other revelatory vehicles were concerned. The temple, the Levitical system and the nation’s political fortunes were deplorable. Even the prior Restoration Period (538-400 BC) with Ezra, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Zerubbabel, Joshua the High Priest, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi was not much of a restoration of Israel’s politics and spirituality. The return from the Exile did not fulfill the prophecies of a future golden age. Prophets and people knew fully that Israel was not free and independent but was subservient to the Persian domination.

This arrangement changed to the Hellenistic, Alexander the Great era (ca 334-166 BC) that included the ravages of the Egyptian Ptolemies and the Syrian Seleucids. The Jews had a bob-tailed form of independence under the Hasmonean priests (166-63 BC) after which transpired the harsh rule of the Roman Empire, beginning in 63 BC. Into the Roman milieu the New Testament opens with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (ca. 4 BC).

By this time the nation was in a deeply apostate condition but still possessed a very small believing remnant such as Zacharias (Luke 1:67-80), Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38), and the two from Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

►►Click here to continue with part two


Rolland McCune served as Professor of Systematic Theology at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary from 1981-2009, during which he also served as President of the Seminary for ten years and Dean of the Faculty for six years.

January 27, 2018

Belief in the Miraculous

mir·a·cle \ ˈmir-i-kəl \

(noun) An extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency. (Oxford Dictionary)

(noun) an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs  (Miriam Webster Dictionary)

Each year we pay a visit to the devotional page at the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s website. Click the title below to read at source. The author of this piece is J.J. Ollerenshaw. We read about six different devotions there this morning, so clicking the title below will allow you to navigate using the “previous post” and “next post” tabs.

It’s A Miracle!

Mark 14:13-15a – [Jesus] sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and you will meet a man carrying a jug of water. Follow him. When he goes into a house, say to its owner that the Teacher asks, ‘Where is my room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ Then he will show you a large upstairs room that is furnished and ready.” (ISV)

Do you believe in miracles? When you awoke this morning, did you consciously realize that you were breathing and your heart was beating? Our blood circulates; we blink and swallow instinctively; our hair and nails grow. We’re alive! It’s a miracle!

Doctors are given knowledge and skill, and scientists invent amazing machines, but no one except God has ever been able to create life.

When you looked outside, was the sun shining? Was it snowing or raining? Do you ever think about how each season follows along, year after year, right on time? Flowers bloom in the same sequence every year. Birds migrate thousands of miles. How do they know when to come and go? It just wouldn’t work if spring occurred before winter! Humans can move the clock hands, but no one’s ever changed an entire season. It’s a miracle!

In the Smithsonian Institute, Thomas Jefferson’s Bible is on display, the one that he read every day. It consists of the four gospels, and it’s his own cut-and-paste version — he cut out every single miracle. One wonders how much is left. Take today’s verses from Mark, for instance. In a city teeming with people, Jesus knew that there would be a man carrying a water jug — that was then usually women’s work — and that the owner of the house had a spare room. The owner may have shrugged it off and just thought that it was a lucky coincidence, thinking, “Good thing that room was just cleaned — and I need some extra cash.” He may not have realized that God was at work.

Three small verses, easily overlooked, but little things like that happen every day. So often we hear of “Mother Nature”, “Lady Luck”, or “coincidence”, and we never give them a second thought. God doesn’t get much credit.

Jefferson was rejecting God Himself, not just miracles. When we invite Jesus into our heart and ask Him to take over our lives, the Bible shows us that we can expect Him to take control. God is alive, and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes so that we can see God at work around us — and not only in the big things. His timing is perfect. He cares about everything that concerns us. We can talk to Him about every detail of our lives. He desires to have a personal relationship with each one of us.

Today, I challenge you to stay alert. Keep watch for the miracles. Write them down, and praise God for them before you go to sleep. There’s another one: sleep. It’s a miracle!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we believe that You are who You say You are because of the miracles that You perform. Open our eyes as You reveal Yourself to us today. Amen.


Miracles in the Bible

Typing in the key word “miracle” at TopVerses.com produces 18 examples of people seeking for a “sign.” Click here to see them all.


The Miracle of Salvation

I was lost when it seems that you found me, Lord
I was blind now it seems I can see
Once I lived in a state of confusion
Then a miracle happened to me
I was out of my mind when you took me in
I was nothing of value to be
But through all that I was you saw something there
So a miracle happened to me

December 1, 2015

If You Feel You Missed the Spirit’s Moving

Prolific Christian author Max Lucado recently wrote a book titled Glory Days which he feels describes the particular time in Israel’s history described in the first 14 chapters of Joshua and centered on the time leading up to entering the promised land. (I covered that book very briefly in this review.)  He begins the book:

For seven years they were virtually untouchable.  Seven nations conquered.  At least 31 kings defeated.  Approximately 10,000 square miles of choice property claimed.

Seven years of unbridled success.

They were outnumbered but not out powered.   Under equipped but not overwhelmed.  They were the unlikely but unquestionable conquerors of some of the most barbaric armies in history.  Had the campaign been a prize fight, the referee would have called it in the first round.

The Hebrew people were unstoppable…

On the timeline of your Bible, the era glistens between the difficult days of Exodus and the dark ages of the Judges.  Moses had just died and the Hebrews were beginning their fifth decade as Bedouin in the badlands and sometime around 1400 BC, God spoke, Joshua listened, and the glory days began.  The Jordan river opened up. The Jericho walls fell down.  The sun stood still, and the kings of Canaan were forced into early retirement.  Evil was booted and hope rebooted.  By the end of the campaign, the homeless wanderers became hope filled homesteaders.  A nation of shepherds began to quarry a future out of the Canaanite hills.  They built farms, villages and vineyards.  The accomplishments were so complete, that the historian wrote,

NLT Johsua 21:43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. 45 Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.

But what do you do if the Passover has already passed over, the Red Sea has already parted, and the son has already stood still?

Years later, Habakkuk no doubt felt like he’d missed Israel’s “glory days.”

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

We do the same thing. It’s easy to wish that we could see the miracles. Maybe you missed the “third wave” of the charismatic movement in the 1970s; or missed the ocean baptisms of the Jesus movement, also in the ’70s. Maybe you missed the moment at a Creation Festival; or couldn’t attend a particular year of Promise Keepers. Perhaps you weren’t there when that church doubled its attendance in six months; or when that individual was dramatically healed, or another delivered from a particular addiction.

Or maybe you didn’t miss a thing, but feel like nothing compares to Old Testament signs and wonders or first century miracles. Like Habakkuk you say:

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

But always remember how he ends this particular chapter. Even if life appears to be the opposite of all that you’d like to see, even if, as the Brits say, it’s all gone pear shaped; our faith is not shaken. It doesn’t negate the prayer of verse 2, but in 17-19 the prophet puts things in a larger perspective:

Habakkuk 3:17-19a (NLT) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

…By all means, keep praying “Lord, repeat them in our day;” but as Eugene Peterson renders this, he reminds us that we may not plant olives, but…

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
    and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
    and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
    and the cattle barns empty,

… at those times keep rejoicing in the Lord. Remember,

NIV 2 Cor. 4:8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.


If you decide to reblog this, you’re welcome to the title “Sheepless in Seattle.”

March 15, 2013

When Jesus’ Miracles Stopped

Welcome! No, today isn’t about dispensationalism. I believe God is still in the miracle business. This is a teaching from Felipe at the blog AboutJesusChrist.net titled When Jesus Couldn’t Perform Any Miracles.

Jesus performed many miracles during his ministry.  He gave sight to the blind, fed thousands with only two loaves and five fish and he even walked on water.  So how can it be that there was a time when he couldn’t perform any miracles?  The gospel of Matthew tells us that when he was in his home town of Nazareth teaching in the synagogue they doubted him.

“When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’ So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’ Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” – Matthew 13:54-58

He Didn’t Perform Miracles There

Yes, it is true, there was a time when Jesus didn’t perform miracles but it wasn’t because he couldn’t; it was because the people didn’t believe in him. It was because of their lack of faith. They knew he was wise in what he taught but they were blinded by their belief of whom he was. They saw him as, “the carpenter’s son”, and not as the Son of God. They saw him as only one member of a local family. They didn’t see him as the disciples saw him. They didn’t see him as a teacher or as someone they should follow and learn from.

Faith

Jesus was looking for faith. Time and time again we see Jesus heal someone because of the faith they have.

  • “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith had made you well.’” – Mark 10:52.
  • “Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’” – Luke 7:50.

Jesus looks at the heart and sees what we cannot see. He knows if someone has true faith on the inside and not just a false veil of faith as the Pharisees did. He knows faith is not something we can just throw on to show others but it is something that grows deep within us where no man can see but only God can see.

Today

The same can be said today about us. If we lack faith in Jesus then how can he perform miracles in our lives? He has always said to trust in him to provide for all our needs and we need to accept that he can do all things. He can and will do miracles for us if we truly believe. Faith is what he asks of us. Faith can move mountains if we only believe.

January 22, 2013

God Journeys With Us

This is from a chapter that falls late (chapter 22) into a recent book by Matt Litton, Holy Nomad: The Rugged Road To Joy (Abingdon Press). The chapter is titled Notes to Self: Building Altars Along The Trail.

Israel’s exodus from Egypt was a serious version of Mr. Short Term Memory. Despite God’s hand in the journey, it took His people less than a month to become restless and dissatisfied. They quickly regress into forgetfulness and worry. The story tells us,

“…the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

They forget so quickly!

…What would you say if you were god? I would be a little incensed. What about the plagues on Egypt and pillars of fire at night? Destroying the greatest army in the world? And this is what I get? But God remains faithful providing them with water from rocks, food delivered from the sky, and victory over those who would threaten them.

Holy Nomad - Matt LittonThree of the gospels tell of the disciples crossing the Red Sea in a boat. A storm comes upon them suddenly when Jesus is sleeping and they all begin to panic and think that the boat will sink. Jesus awakes irritated with their lack of faith and simply commands the sea to calm down. The Story recounts the chaos of weather and sea was immediately put to rest. Isn’t it curious that these men who walk side by side with the Nomad witnessing his miracles and power would panic knowing that he was with them in the boat?

They forget so quickly.

…Part of being nomadic means we must be intentional about remembering God’s faithfulness. This has been part of the Nomadic practice since the beginning of time. It is first mentioned with Abraham in Genesis as he builds an altar to God after securing a great victory. In fact, Abraham constructs altars so often that you might trace his nomadic adventures by the landmarks he left in his wake. Noah builds an altar after the flood. God commands Joseph to build an altar at Bethel in Genesis 35 to remmbe3r all that God has done for him. From the passover to the Last Supper and down the line through the history of the Bible the Nomadic journey was sustained at times by the “altars” signifying God’s faithful attendance to the Nomad.

Think of this way — we are continuing to write our part in a much greater Story that began in Genesis. It is helpful for us to take a moment in our travels to remember the presence of God not only in our lives but in those who came before us. We remember together with our nomadic ancestors. If we truly believe in Resurrection, then we must realize that we are celebrating together as a family.

When we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, we remember God’s great gift to us. We are reminded that this gift should move us forward to give to others.

At lent we remember Christ’s journey toward the Cross with reflection that allows us to assess the baggage we are carrying on our travels.

At Easter we are reminded of the great sacrifice of forgiveness. We must be open to accepting the grace we are afforded and pass it on generously to others.

We observe Pentecost to celebrate the Holy Spirit’s movement on the Early Church and the way the Spirit leads us in our journey today.

These traditions are more than the invention of gift card companies, retailers, or national holidays, although they seem to have been hijacked by all three. They are our days.

November 23, 2012

Was it a Miracle of the Speakers or of the Listeners?

Keith Brenton recently raised this question at Blog In My Own Eye.

I think folks have long and pointlessly debated whether the miracle of many languages in Acts 2 took place in the tongues of the speakers or the ears of the listeners.

My answer to the question is “yes.”

Verse four says: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

Tongues, yes.

Verses eight through eleven say: “Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? … We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.” Those in verse thirteen don’t seem to hear the wonders of God at all and decide: “They have had too much wine.”

Ears, yes.

Remember, Jesus said the Advocate would come to “convict (or prove) the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16). He didn’t limit the Spirit’s work to the speaker’s tongue or the listener’s ear. Those who say the Spirit can’t convict from within are limiting the implications of Acts 10, Galatians 5, Ephesians 2, 1 Corinthians 2 and 1 John 4 in a way that scripture doesn’t.

I worry that there’s a little bit of preacher arrogance behind the “tongues-only” position.

I’m not a preacher, but I write. If you ask me what is the most important thing I’ve ever written, I can tell you. (By the way, it’s this.) But if you ask a dozen people who’ve read what I’ve written, you’d probably get a dozen different answers — unless you go the answer “He hasn’t written anything important” more  than once. Which is a distinct possibility.

Same thing with preachers and what they preach. Some messages reach and touch and resonate deeply with some people in an audience that don’t connect with others at all. Sometimes even the speaker/writer will think a message is a total loss and a waste of time and effort … only to discover from a note or a comment that someone ini its audience was profoundly challenged or moved.

Other times, the originator of the message will look back on it and wonder … doubting if such deep truth (unrecognized as such at the time) could possibly have its ultimate origins in one’s own three pounds of sweetbread.

You see, the thing about the languages is almost irrelevant.

People heard truth in the words they heard in Acts 2. Some recognized it as such. Others refused to. For them, the miracle in their ears never happened because they were not convicted; they were not willing to accept it in faith. (Makes you think of Mark 6:1-6, doesn’t it?)

For me, that answers the “tongues-or-ears” question with an unequivocal “yes.” The Spirit works as He wills (1 Corinthians 12). There are no man-made restrictions on whom He can fall (Acts 2:17-18).

So if you speak or write and seek to do so for the Lord, keep on praying for inspiration.

And if you seek to listen to Him, to read and hear Him, do the same.

Because the Father sends His Spirit to those who ask.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~ Luke 11:13

November 15, 2012

Show Your Power, Lord

Today we flash back to a C201 post from exactly two years ago…

What do you do if the Passover has already passed over, the Red Sea has already parted, and the son has already stood still? Habakkuk no doubt felt like he’d missed Israel’s “glory days.”

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

We do the same thing. It’s easy to wish that we could see the miracles. Maybe you missed the “third wave” of the charismatic movement in the 1970s; or missed the ocean baptisms of the Jesus movement, also in the ’70s. Maybe you missed the moment at a Creation Festival; or couldn’t attend a particular year of Promise Keepers. Perhaps you weren’t there when that church doubled its attendance in six months; or when that individual was dramatically healed, or another delivered from a particular addiction.

Or maybe you didn’t miss a thing, but feel like nothing compares to Old Testament signs and wonders or first century miracles. Like Habakkuk you say:

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

But always remember how he ends this particular chapter. Even if life appears to be the opposite of all that you’d like to see, even if, as the Brits say, it’s all gone pear shaped; our faith is not shaken. It doesn’t negate the prayer of verse 2, but in 17-19 the prophet puts things in a larger perspective:

Habakkuk 3:17-19a (NLT) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

 

– = – = – = –

My reading of chapter 3 of Habakkuk was inspired by listening to a great sermon by Darren Whitehead, a teaching pastor at Willow Creek.

October 12, 2012

You Don’t Have Because You Don’t Ask

John 14 : 14 (NIV)  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 16 : 23 (NIV) In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

John 16: 24 (NIV) Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16: 23-24 (The Message) “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!

We are commanded to go to God with our needs — our prayer petitions — and leave them before him. But what are our expectations of what happens next?

There are many people who believe that God’s intervention in the affairs of humankind are an extreme rarity. The world is simply what it is, and that is the answer to the question, “If God… why all the suffering in the world?” We live in a fallen world where there is bound to pain and sorrow; flood, fire and famine; doom, defeat and despair.

(That was a cheery paragraph; I’ll have to remember that one.)

There are other people who believe that God certainly hears our prayer requests and that this is the end in itself: That God wants to be in communication (or fellowship) with us. He wants us to tell us when and where it hurts. He wants each situation to bring us back to him. He wants us to come to him when we are ‘burdened and heavy-laden.’

Still others believe that while God’s intervention is rarity, miracles do exist; they just don’t happen every day. We’re talking about genuine miracles here, not things contrived for the glare of the television lights or the crowd in the arena. 

Further up the ‘hope’ ladder are those who would say, ‘God is positive disposed and favorably inclined to give us what we ask.’ Why this doesn’t happen may be related to the complexities of other situations we can’t see, or a lesson that we need to learn before the answer comes. But absent those factors, God’s default position would be to give us what we come to him asking.

And there are those who believe that God is constantly orchestrating more details in the lives of his people than anything we can possibly imagine; that there are constantly situations where God is even giving us ‘answers to requests we haven’t made;’ or that life consists of many seen and unseen coincidences, defined as, “Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”  This view ranges from the dramatic holding on to the hope of healing even when doctors say the situation is incurable; to the trivial belief of some that God is truly willing to intervene in life on Planet Earth so that you will get a parking space next to the mall entrance.

…Parking spaces notwithstanding, I fall into the latter camp. I have to pray believing that my prayer is not only making a difference in me, but also in the situation. Regardless of statistical odds or past prayer performance, I have to go to him with an ultimate faith that he is willing and able to execute deliverance from whatever situation is pressing in. This is the faith of children; what it means to ‘come as a child,’ and it’s a faith that is not double-minded, but believes without doubt (See James 1:8 and 1:6 and Mark 11:23) and without wrong motivation (see James 4:3).

(Deliverance is a better way of defining the situation. If you are praying for money for a specific need you are praying for a deliverance from poverty with respect to that financial issue.)

…The greatest danger I see is in not asking at all. Not coming to God to bear our souls and cry out for help or mercy because the petitions we brought before him last month were not answered in the affirmative. I believe God will respect our tenacity in prayer; our willingness to go to him even in the absence (so far) of the answers we sought before.

He longs to see faith that is lived out in a concrete assurance of things not apparent (Hebrews 11:1).

PW

 

 

 

September 23, 2012

Keep Your Good Works Hidden, But Shine Your Light

“You must understand that God has not sent his Son into the world to pass sentence upon it, but to save it—through him. Any man who believes in him is not judged at all. It is the one who will not believe who stands already condemned, because he will not believe in the character of God’s only Son. This is the judgment—that light has entered the world and men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds are evil. Anybody who does wrong hates the light and keeps away from it, for fear his deeds may be exposed. But anybody who is living by the truth will come to the light to make it plain that all he has done has been done through God.”  John 3: 17-21; J. B. Phillips translation.

The Bible makes a strong case that we’re not to “trumpet” our good works in order to get credit, or draw attention to ourselves. Nor, we are instructed, should we make a spectacle out of prayer, or giving. We are to approach God, and do acts of service with a humble spirit. We’re to take the back seat, though we might be asked to come forward.

But this verse, following on the heels of the popular John 3:16 text, tells us that we won’t stay hidden in the darkness such as those who do wrong (evil), but rather we will come into the light, because we are naturally drawn to be people of the light.

  • NASB: But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
  • NCV: But those who follow the true way come to the light, and it shows that the things they do were done through God
  • The Message: But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.

One verse that comes to my mind in this context is in Acts 26 where Paul is speaking before Agrippa and Festus:

26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

I deliberate chose the KJV for this one because I love the phrasing, “this thing was not done in a corner.”  But most of the translations — even the modern ones — keep this phrasing, with The Message rendering, “You must realize that this wasn’t done behind the scenes.” Just as ‘cream rises to the surface,’ so will the works of God be evident, even in an unbelieving world.

Here’s how the NLT and Amplified Bible render Matthew 5:15-16

NLT 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

AMP16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

Therefore:

  • We dwell in the light, not darkness
  • We reflect (or you could say, carry) The Light of God
  • We shine like light and are the light of the world

~PW

June 13, 2011

Eight Mistakes the American Church Made

The full title of the sermon that J. Lee Grady preached in Nigeria was “Eight Mistakes the American Church Made That I Hope You Don’t Repeat.”  This appeared in the May 2002 issue of Charisma; I tried to find it online, but couldn’t, so the typos are all mine!

  1. We made unbelief a doctrine.  While Christians in China, Latin America and Africa were casting out devils and healing the sick, we were teaching seminary students that the Holy Spirit doesn’t do miracles anymore.  That’s really bad theology.
  2. We tolerated division.  Who needs the devil when Christians are perfectly okay with hating one another in the name of denominational loyalty?  Why should the world listen to us teach about “family values” when the family of God is so fractured?
  3. We cultivated a religious spirit.  We taught converts that Christianity is about daily Bible reading, church attendance and avoiding cigarettes and beer. Genuine faith became drudgery. Christians trapped in dry legalism lost their joy because they though intimacy with God could be achieved by their performance.
  4. We encouraged ‘superstars.’  We elevated ministers to celebrity status and some of them actually believed they deserved the titles, the pedestals, the grand entrances and the first-class seats next to Jesus’ throne.  They stopped modeling servanthood, and has a result the church forgot that Jesus washed feet and rode on a donkey.
  5. We equated money with success.  We taught that biblical prosperity could be obtained by inserting our tithes into a heavenly slot machine.  Lotto fever spread throughout the church, and we found a way to legitimize greed and materialism when we should have been using our wealth to feed the poor, adopt orphans and fund missionary ventures.
  6. We wouldn’t release women in ministry. We let gender prejudice have more control in the church than the Holy Spirit.  He’s ready to send an army of dedicated women to the front lines of spiritual battle — but He’s waiting for us to bury our stinking male pride.
  7. We stayed in the pews and became irrelevant.  We insisted on letting a group of older white men in dark suits represent our faith in the marketplace, and we freaked out when somebody tried to use rap, punk or metal music to reach the younger generations.  Instead of engaging the culture we hid from it.
  8. We taught people to be escapists.  Jesus told us to occupy the planet until He returns. But most of us were reading rapture novels when we should have been praying for our brothers and sisters who were on the verge of martyrdom. They were willing to suffer and die for the cause.  Why can’t we have that kind of faith?

 

November 27, 2010

Laughter is a “Surprise” Reaction

Today’s post is written by Randy Bohlender, a blogger I once linked to at Thinking Out Loud, but had lost track of.   This is a longer post, but a must read.     It appeared at his blog under the title, Laughing When It’s Not Funny

We use humor or laughter to try to cover a multitude of things.

When children say something particularly cutting and then realize they’ve stepped over the line and someone’s feelings were truly hurt, they throw the smokescreen of ‘just kidding’.

Adults, on the other hand, use the laughter escape hatch to avoid dealing with their own pain. “Did I dream that? Was I hoping to accomplish that? That’s a joke. I never meant it. I’m fine. No, really…”.

Most of you know that I’m on this Bible reading kick, my second 90 day lap through the scriptures. I’ve been overwhelmed at the number of people who’ve decided to do this at the same time – I wish I’d kept track, but my guess is I’ve heard of nearly fifty people from across the nation and faith spectrum. I’m loving it.

I couldn’t help but think of those people this morning as i read about Sarah, hiding behind the curtain, listening to her husband entertain heavenly guests. When they spoke to him about Sarah having a child in her old age, she laughed.

It was ludicrous, wasn’t it? It was silly. It was unheard of. So she laughed. Besides, laughter was easier than tears, and there had been so many tears over this issue.

She and her husband had been married many long years but no child had been born to them. It wasn’t for lack of desire. In a culture that very much understood the power of family lineage, it wasn’t just a desire, it was a necessity. To have a child was to have a future. To grow old without children meant a miserable existence. She’d longed…and hoped…but to no avail.

It’s not hard to identify with her. We’ve all wanted something so badly that it hurt – often times things that God would desire us to want. We’ve all dreamed God dreams in the dark of night and wondered if the dawn would ever come. Sarah had decided that the night season was her lot in life. A child was not coming. It was easier to laugh than it was to cry because it helped her keep up the facade that it didn’t really matter. She was fine, really. What a hoot – a child in her old age.

Except that it wasn’t fine.

The ache was still there.

It might seem cruel to stir the dead dream of an old woman…unless you’ve got the power to bring it to pass. God had watched her hope, He had watched her pray, and He had watched her give up. Now, He watched her laugh….laugh at the thought that He might be true to His word, not because she thought it was funny, but because it was her only ‘out’ from under the weight of the dream.

Of course, a few chapters later, much to her shock, her dream lives. A little boy is born. The realization of her dream is so much more than she ever imagined. She holds him close at night and she remembers the day she laughed and the countless nights she cried. In that moment, she knows better than anyone where life comes from and who brings dreams back from the dead.

A vast percentage of people on this Bible reading journey are laughing to cover tears over a dead dream. Let Sarah’s story be a lesson – God has the last laugh.

If it was His dream, it didn’t die. In the fullness of time, it will be all He promised. You can laugh if you want to.

In addition to being a husband and father, Randy Bohlender and his wife Kelsey founded The Zoe Foundation, which uses various means to help facilitate adoption, which makes this particular Bible story, I’m sure, all that more relevant.

November 18, 2010

Lord, Show Your Power

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What do you do if the Passover has already passed over, the Red Sea has already parted, and the son has already stood still?  Habakkuk no doubt felt like he’d missed Israel’s “glory days.”

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

We do the same thing.   It’s easy to wish that we could see the miracles.   Maybe you missed the “third wave” of the charismatic movement in the 1970s; or missed the ocean baptisms of the Jesus movement, also in the ’70s.   Maybe you missed the moment at a Creation Festival; or couldn’t attend a particular year of Promise Keepers.   Perhaps you weren’t there when that church doubled its attendance in six months; or when that individual was dramatically healed, or another delivered from a particular addiction.

Or maybe you didn’t miss a thing, but feel like nothing compares to Old Testament signs and wonders or first century miracles.   Like Habakkuk you say:

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

But always remember how he ends this particular chapter.   Even if life appears to be the opposite of all that you’d like to see, even if, as the Brits say, it’s all gone pear shaped; our faith is not shaken.   It doesn’t negate the prayer of verse 2, but in 17-19 the prophet puts things in a larger perspective:

Habakkuk 3:17-19a (NLT) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

– = – = – = –

My reading of chapter 3 of Habakkuk was inspired today by listening to a great sermon by Darren Whitehead, teaching pastor at Willow Creek. Click this link, select the recent Troublemakers series, and then select his message on Esther from October 16/17.

October 11, 2010

Believing The Impossible!

Today’s piece is from Lori Ettel, author of the devotional blog, A Display of His Splendor, and appeared under the title, “Superhero.”


“David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine, your servant will go and fight him.” (1Samual 17:32)

Yesterday at soccer practice I had to laugh when I saw this little boy. He is three and is the cutest thing ever. He has blonde curly hair and is such a dude. When I saw him, I told him he’s going to be surfer…that’s what he looks like. And he replied boldly, “No I’m not. I’m going to be Spiderman!!” I love it. He was so doggone cute! That is such a boy statement.

It reminded me of David and Goliath. Here the Philistines thought their guy was bigger and tougher. They thought they had it in the bag. The Israeli army was buying it too. They were so intimidated by Goliath’s size. They were frightened and no one would step forward to fight. They just stood there. Along comes David. He’s not afraid. He’ll fight Goliath.

Now, David was the youngest among his brothers. He was sent simply to bring them food. He wasn’t planning to fight that day. But when he got there and saw what was going on, he couldn’t believe it. He knew his God was bigger than Goliath. He knew that he could do anything with God backing him up. Everyone thought David was just young and stupid. But in reality, he knew the one with the Super powers. He knew that only God could defeat Goliath. He had child-like faith. Everyone around him was older and wiser…hmmm. But David had faith.

I think it’s interesting that as we get older, we become less likely to believe the unbelievable. We become so full of wisdom and knowledge; we don’t think God can do the impossible. We start off as children thinking we can do anything. But as we age, we become more afraid. Aren’t we supposed to be more grounded in the Lord as we grow older? Aren’t we supposed to be less afraid as we grow older? Instead, we fear more. Is it because we are wiser and have seen the truth of life? I think we have started depending on what we see and not depending so much on what is unseen. We have limited the power of God and taken over. We have become so self-sufficient. We think if we cannot do a task, it simply cannot be done. We have stopped relying on God. We have stopped believing in His power. We are too willing to accept defeat.

I love that a little three year old boy reminded me that he is not afraid of anything. He truly believes he can do anything. He can’t wait to grow up and be Spiderman. Something happens to us as we grow older. We lose that ability to believe that God can do anything. The bible is full of magnificent stories of God and His power. But we don’t really believe them, do we? Oh they are nice stories but God doesn’t work like that anymore does He? We don’t believe He can. God is not any less powerful or willing to show His power. I believe we simply don’t expect it. God is so big. He is able. He is a Superhero!

He is able more than able
To accomplish what concerns me today
He is able more than able
To handle anything that comes my way

He is able more than able
To do much more than I could ever dream
He is able more than able
To make me what He wants me to be

August 9, 2010

Currently Reading: Sun Stand Still

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:36 pm
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Sun Stand Still is the title of a book by Stephen Furtick, publishing late September from Multnomah Books.   Furtick is lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Furtick is a great believer in a concept he calls “audacious faith;” the kind of faith that would inspire Joshua to ask God to freeze time so that the enemies of Israel could be completely destroyed.   (If you don’t know the story, check out Joshua 10, especially verse 12.)

As a believer in a “audacious faith,” Furtick isn’t afraid to make audacious comments like:

If you’re not daring to believe God for the impossible, you’re sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life.

I love that one.

He also talks about a concept he calls “page 23 vision;” an idea taken from his own cathartic moment reading page 23 of Jim Cymbala’s book Fresh Wind Fresh Fire.   (Just a few days ago, I blogged a quotation from page 50 of the same book.)

Like the book Radical by David Platt (which I reviewed in June) I think that Sun Stand Still has the passion and energy to ignite many to invite God to do great things through them.   It’s just one of those books that comes around every three or four months; one that stands out above the crowd.

Steven Furtick is young, too; so this book will appeal to both adult and youth readers.   It’s also going to resonate with people who have perhaps lost a sight of a vision they need to rediscover.     I’ll have more to say on this at Thinking Out Loud as I get to the final pages…

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