Of Yellow Flies, Romans 1 and Insanity

Seems like a broad enough topic, doesn’t it: “Of Yellow Flies, Romans 1 and Insanity?” I’ll hone it down a bit over the next few paragraphs, and you’ll get it, or you’ll get angry, or you’ll be ambivalent. Either way, I got it off my chest!

A few days ago I played at an outdoor graduation party on the shores of East Bay, a beautiful outdoor venue with miraculous sunsets and……yellow flies.

If you aren’t from the south you might not quite understand what a yellow fly is. In short, a yellow fly seems like a primary agent of Satan, sent to bite and suck the blood of good people, and bad people, like me. That’s really all the introduction you need to these demonic, miniature hobgoblins that torment the poor souls (and legs, feet, arms and neck) of southern folk.

But I wanted to know more about these malevolent flying hellions, so I looked it up. These flies (the females, of course) actually inject anticoagulant-containing saliva when they bite. Wait, what?!?! They are actually equipped with something that stops my blood from clotting so that they can continually drink from the fount of my veins? Yes, they are. Which got me thinking (as I was also pondering recommended itch remedies that include, ammonia, tobacco, urine, lavender essential oil, flame-throwers – counter productive as that might sound – David Fridley’s cologne, Windex, baking soda and Jack Daniels [ingested, not topically applied]), how in the world can a yellow fly have such chemistry?

Which then got me thinking about God which got me thinking about Romans 1, which got me thinking about this passage:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they (non-believers) are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-20

See, the complexity of the idea of yellow fly shooting coagulant into its victim here is the thing. Why the yellow fly and not the house fly? “Duh Rod, house flies don’t feed on blood,” you might be thinking. I know, right? Because house flies are scavengers while yellow flies are hunters. The difference between the two is dramatic, but according to science, they’ve just evolved differently. And why not? According to much of science, we, the yellow flies, house flies and the aardvark all came from the same single cell approximately 3.5 billion years ago, give or take, you know, a few billion years this way or that.

And when the above verse expresses that men, “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” you might be inclined to think science is bad. But science is not bad, science is neither good nor bad in the same way a boomerang is not an instrument of murder until an ill-intentioned, skilled aboriginee gets his hands on it. See, it’s the unrighteous intentions of the beholder that makes the beheld be bad. Good science should weigh all the possibilities, but when science deems intelligent design a scientific impossibility, we have nothing left, but, well, insanity. And this is exactly what Paul was writing in the continuation of the above passage:

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” verses 22-23

The Bible is clear about the state of a person who has discounted the possibility of God as the creative cause of everything. He’s become a fool, and rather than glorifying God and enjoying His creation, the fool discounts God and spends a futile – yet well published – life chasing after vain speculation, all the while believing himself to be wise.

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” verse 24-25

And there it is. God gave (gives) them over to their own desires, to worship what God created rather than revering the One who made it all.

All this from 11 stinking yellow fly bites that are driving me crazy? You bet! Because I believe and worship the Creator, it’s no far-fetched thought that He might well have sent those dang yellow flies to reveal His creative glory in a whole new way, because hard-headed sinners like me often need to feel the sting to be reminded of the God who loves us.







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50 Shades of Grey – a Movie Review (sort of)

OK, so the movie “50 Shades of Grey” is out and causing a stir. But what’s the big deal? Why is there so much Christian furor surrounding this movie?

Honestly, I have no idea. I haven’t watched it, but by simply observing social media and the news I can review the movie this way: it’s terrible. But you already knew that, didn’t you? Why are some Christians making such a big deal out of a movie that is based on a book that honestly, no Christian should have read anyway? I think I know the answer! Lots of Christian women read this book; and by “lots” I mean as many Christian women read it as non-Christian women did. Barna actually did a survey on who read the book, and it’s a dead heat (no pun intended).

You can read about it here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/percentage-of-christians-americans-who-have-read-fifty-shades-of-grey-the-same-97353/

Here’s what I think: this book was read by a lot of Christian women and it was recommended to other Christian women as a way to “spice up the bedroom,” so to speak. And I think the Christian women who didn’t read the book and aren’t going to watch the movie are spittin’ mad about the whole thing. (that’s just a theory I have) They’re offended but never really wanted to confront their friends, and now’s their chance, and they get to use social media to do it!

All that said, this “mommy porn” ain’t my issue, but it does make me wonder if this outrage by many against 50 Shades is really just another example of how we Christians tend to attack the easy targets – the low hanging fruit of sin? I think it is. What I mean to say is this; it’s really easy to call out adultery, divorce, fornication, drunkenness, homosexuality and other very visible sins, but we tend to leave gossip, lust, envy, bitternes and strife alone.

I’ve made up a handy little visual for this idea using Galatians 5:19-21, “the works of the flesh.” Now I’m taking some liberties here with my thoughts, but let’s say that you were to simply write these works out, exactly as they are in Galatians. Without giving any weight to any one item over any other, the works of the flesh look like this:

sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

But the reality is, when we really think about the works of the flesh, we don’t necessarily think of them in a linear way, we think of them in a hierarchical way, according to our hearts. We tend to add weight to certain works of the flesh but minimize others.

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” The Pharisee in Luke 18:11

I think the Church could go a long way in gaining unity if we could just see these works of the flesh as being equal. After all, scripture in Galatians doesn’t seem to be making more of one than the other. Rather, Paul’s puts all of the works on a level playing field by writing,

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:21b

Although Paul levels the playing field in that part of verse 21, we never the less add emphasis where it suits us, so that rather than thinking about the works of the flesh in a linear way, giving them all equal condemning power, we tend to rearrange them in a 3+ tier system, sort of like this:

Tier 1: sexual immorality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, orgies

Tier 2: impurity, sensuality (provided they’re talking about immodest attire and profanity…and maybe tobacco – cigarettes only – and tattoos)

Tier 3: enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy

Other: and things like these.

This makes us feel better. If we don’t watch or read 50 Shades of Grey, we have avoided a Tier 1 sin. If we watch Better Call Saul or Empire, for example, we might be guilty of a Tier 2 sin….but don’t you judge us!

If we have a tattoo we might be guilty of a Tier 2 sin unless the ink can be covered up by clothing, in which case it’s a Tier 3 or it could fall under the “other” category, provided no one ever sees it. If you’re a worship leader with a visible tattoo, that’s not even a sin at all! If we’re envious of someone else’s house, car of life, we just committed a little-bitty-ol Tier 3 sin. You know, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, right? And gossip? Come on, it ain’t gossip if it’s the truth, right?

It’s really difficult to keep up with the hierarchy of sin because it seems to ebb and flow with the culture and the situation.

Which brings me back to my review of “50 Shades of Grey.” As I said earlier, I don’t have one. What I have is advice, and here it is: don’t go see the movie! It’s trash for sure. But, also don’t get all self-righteous about not going to see the movie. Here’s the charge to us Christians from Romans:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

I’m pretty sure that most of us have a long way to go in shaking off the shackles of our culture. I know I sure do!

A parting shot at the movie 50 Shades of Grey. To date, out of just over 60,000 reviews on IMDB, this movie has a rating of 4-stars out of 10. To put that in perspective, 50 Shades is markedly worse than “High School Musical.” Even the world outside of Christianity hates this flick! We’re all in this together.

Posted in Christian Life, Culture, Humorous, The Gospel | 2 Comments

When All the Gods Are Answering Prayers

I was asked a great question recently regarding the various religions and their gods. The question was this: “if people of other religions pray to their gods and their prayers are answered, how can we say their gods aren’t real?”

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 4:6

If we believe that the scriptures are “breathed out by God,” (2 Timothy 3:16) then we have to believe that what God says about himself in the scriptures is true.

God says that He is a “jealous God,” and that we should not “bow down” to or serve other Gods. (Exodus 20:5)

So we see that from the beginning God told his people that they were to have no other gods. Now our God is one, but his oneness dwells in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and these Three are not simply different expressions of the same God, they are literally different persons but of the same substance; God. We believe that God is a Trinity (tri-unity) and that he has eternally existed that way. This is radically different from what Islam or Judaism believes, and this is a real sticking point for Jews and Muslims against Christians. By misunderstanding the doctrine of the Trinity, Muslims and Jews label Christians polytheists, that is to say, that we worship more than one God, something that is prohibited both by the Old Testament and the Koran and is punishable by death in both.

But the topic of this post is answered prayer as proof of God or gods, so I’ll get back to that!

What we believe about God – especially in the area of praying and answered prayers – says a lot about what we believe about faith. One person may receive a large sum of money for a job well done and praise God for the answered prayer. Another might get the same sum for working equally hard, but rather than glorifying God, he glorifies himself and his efforts. He doesn’t see the financial boost as answered prayer, he sees it as an obvious outcome of hard work and dedication.

The same can be said for someone who is healed from a disease like cancer. To the Christian, after undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, he credits his healing to God. To the non-believer, he obviously doesn’t credit his healing to God, but rather, to the radiation and chemo. Who is right? They both are!

Yet another, who holds no belief in any god at all, hopes for and desires certain things, and with no apparent theistic influence at all, gets what he hopes for even when the odds of doing so were markedly against him. How dos this happen? Does the absence of god in achieving one’s hopes and desires prove there is no god? Of course not. The scriptures say:

For he (God) makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45

So when we attribute “answered prayer” to God, we’re right. When the non-believer attributes answered prayer to his god or to chance, he’s right too. Not because his god answered a prayer (it can’t), but because God causes good and bad things to happen to believers and to non-believers, and he uses these good and bad things for His own benefit. God might well give a sickness to a Christian to weaken his flesh but strengthen his faith. It is certainly within God’s authority to send horrendous accidents and death into the lives of non-believers so that some of them will call on the name of the Lord and be saved. God might even give a non-believer incredible financial success as a means to harden his heart against the truth so that he will not be saved. (think of Pharaoh as one example).

Modern Christians have a habit of seeing “good things” as blessings and answers to prayers yet seeing bad things as attacks of the devil. You will never support this line of thinking with scripture, yet many pastors and churches continue to push this bad religion on people. The detriment of this thinking is that we tend to attribute answers to self-centered prayers to God, and in that sense, our God is no more powerful than any other god, because it does seem that other gods are answering prayers at or about the same rate as our God is. So when we see good things coming to others who don’t know Jesus and serve false gods, some see their prayers and answers to prayers as somehow equal to what our God does for us.

So we shouldn’t consider answered prayers as a sign that anyone serves the “right” god. Somehow we’ve allowed ourselves to see financial success, good health, a good family and plethora of other pleasantries as the favor of God, and our natural inclination is to pray for even more.

But God tells us that we don’t really even know what to pray for:

For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

So the reality is that answers to some prayers – especially those that center around our financial, health and family desires – are no more a sign that a god is real than unanswered prayers are a sign that there is no god at all.

So if “answered prayers” aren’t proof of God, then what is?

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20

Creation points to God, our God; the God of all creation. When men stand before God one day, having rejected the gospel, the fact that they experienced creation will be proof enough that God is real and evidence enough to condemn them, and their sentence will be justified.

And the bible says that Jesus was also part of creating the creation:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3

So then, rather than answered prayers, it is God’s own creation that testifies to the truth of God.

Too often modern Christianity attempts to make God into a sort of cosmic butler, one who is at our beck and call. Our prayers reflect our selfishness, and our expectation of God is that he should satisfy our desires even if they don’t line up with His. That is why “answered prayers” do not consistently testify to the truth of God. On the other hand, creation always does. The complexity of creation and the breath taking beauty of God’s design all point to something far superior to us as having been the author of such a creation.

Scripture adds the exclamation point as to who this great God of creation is, telling us that Jesus Christ and God are one and the same.

Whoever has seen me (Jesus) has seen the Father.” John 14:9

I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:3-4

So again, if we believe that all scripture is breathed out by God, we must believe everything scripture tells us about God. God has revealed himself fully and forever through His creation and his breathed out word. God leaves no room in the conversation for other gods outside of the Trinity, and God left no room for false gods to receive His glory.

Any allowance we make for any other path to God but through Jesus negates Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, strips him of his deity and reduces  Jesus to what some other religions see him as: simply a prophet.

And to see Jesus as simply a prophet, or something less than God, is a denial of the gospel.

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The Doctrine of Total Depravity: a facebook friendly overview

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

As a challenge from a friend on Facebook I am writing out a brief, non academic scriptural case for the doctrine of total depravity.

The term itself means that, in a nutshell, every part of man – his desires, his emotions and his will – have been ravaged by Adam’s sin in the garden. For this reason, the doctrine of total depravity holds that unregenerate man (one who has not been born again) cannot make a righteous decision because all of his decisions are guided by a broken concept of right and wrong and by the corrupted desires of his heart.

As much as I would like to write about the doctrines of unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace or the perseverance of the saints (the remainder of the acronym TULIP, which describes the five points of Calvinism), I find that those discussions are pointless apart from an understanding of the doctrine of total depravity. So here goes!

If you’re reading this blog post there’s a high likelihood that you already have strong feelings toward or against the doctrines of grace (TULIP). I certainly hope that’s the case, because the purpose of this post is to get you thinking about the issue, especially if you’re one who rejects the doctrine of total depravity!

Chances are, if you reject the doctrine, you have a very common misunderstanding of the term total depravity altogether. Many confuse the doctrine as holding that man is “utterly depraved;” meaning, he is unable to do good. That is not what the doctrine of total depravity asserts. In the case of man and his potential relationship/desire for God, the doctrine of total depravity holds that man, apart from an act of God on his part, cannot desire God or the things of God.

“So,” a person might ask, “how then did I come to God if I was incapable of doing so? I remember the day that I got saved, and I remember the feelings I had when I made my decision for Christ.” Understand that the doctrine of total depravity doesn’t negate those feelings or experiences. In fact, those feelings and experiences are quite normal for people who are born again!

Consider what God, through the apostle Paul, write in Ephesians 2:1-5,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ

You see, you and I were actually “dead in” our sin. While the term “dead” is used in a metaphorical way, it is still a very strong term used to define a very dire state of our hearts. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, and apart from something changing us, we’d still be dead in our sins.

And that’s why many of us remember a time when things became radically different between us and God. We were literally born again, only this time we had the cognitive ability to understand and remember the experience.

Prior to our conversion we were enemies of God (Rom. 5:10) and we hated God (Ex. 20:5, Ps. 83:2) yet something overwhelmed our hearts and we repented. Now if this were done of our own will – a natural changing of our desires, this occurrence and radical change might not be so dynamic, as we could rationalize through our situation, circumstances and thought processes at the time and come to a simple conclusion that we were saved because we recognized our need of a Savior, and Jesus was the obvious answer for our need.

Now, a person should wonder why everyone who hears the gospel doesn’t come to the same obvious conclusion. After all, when it comes to basic needs we are all wired the same, aren’t we? When a person hungers he searches for food. When a person thirsts he searches for something to drink. When he’s cold he searches for additional clothing and/or a fire or a source of heat and shelter. Our basic response to a basic need is universally consistent.

So why then, if people can come to the realization that they are in such dire straits in their lives, do we not universally respond the same way to God’s free offer of salvation in Christ? Because something supernatural must happen in us before our desires are changed. Desire for food clothing and shelter are natural, innate desires, but a desire for Christ is an unnatural, spiritual desire.

CS Lewis spoke of a “God-shaped vacuum” in our hearts, and the evidence of this vacuum can be seen throughout history. From stone carvings to totem poles to all the false religions of the world, man has always attempted, on his own without the aid of the Holy Spirit, to satisfy this desire. So to say that there is a general need of some sort for a god of some sort is not off base. The question becomes which god does a man choose, though it seems that man, apart from a living God acting on man’s behalf, can only choose the wrong way.

Why is that? Well, we turn back to scripture to see the state of man’s heart and mind.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Note the language in that passage, and think of the times you’ve shared your faith and been ridiculed, or think of how frequently the media portrays Christ and Christianity as foolishness. The immediate, unaided-by-God response to the gospel is often ridicule and scorn. At this point you must remember that the non-believer is an “enemy of God” and “hates” God. To the non-believer the message of the cross – the gospel – is foolishness. And man is spiritually dead, and it is in this mindset that we see proof of man’s spiritual necrosis.

So can’t man just snap out of it? Can’t his circumstances be so crushing that he changes his mind toward God (repents)? Back to scripture.

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh,but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-9

And that is why man cannot change his own mind. Without being aided by God in some fantastic way, man cannot submit to God’s law – he simply can’t!

OK, so to this point, we see unbelieving man “hates” God and is an enemy of God, is dead in sin, and that the gospel is “foolishness” to him because his mind is “set on the flesh (sin), and therefore he “cannot please God.” Based on the above passages of scripture, you might wonder how a person ever gets saved? If a person cannot please God when his mind is set on the flesh and the gospel is foolishness to him and he is dead in sin, how can he make a good decision that would please God? We should certainly agree that someone choosing Jesus is pleasing to God! But what does the bible say about man’s desire to seek after God?

Let’s look at Paul’s word’s from Romans 3:10-12:

“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Paul indicates that nobody seeks for God. When Paul writes this he is reiterating the psalmist from Psalm 14:1-3, and in both instances the text is referring to the helplessness of man’s desires.

Now, if we read the above evidence and are not yet convinced of man’s total depravity and inability to make a righteous decision based solely upon his own free will, let’s go back several thousand years and consider the pre-flood account of man’s heart, mind and will.

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5

Is man any better today than he was pre-flood? I can’t see how we are any better, and a look around shows that we might well be even worse now. So the condition of the heart of unregenerate man today is no different than it was in the days of Noah, is it? Had God not promised to never again flood the earth, have we any reason to expect that he wouldn’t do it again?

Consider Israel, God’s chosen people. They were rescued from enslavement in Egypt. They witnessed the 10 plagues God used against Pharaoh. They not only saw the parting of the Red Sea – they actually walked across the floor of that sea to safety. They followed a cloud by day and a fire by night and were fed manna from heaven. All this and they could only ultimately rebel against God. Why would anyone suppose that someone who is further away from God than the Israelites were would be in a better position to desire God more than the Israelites did? And don’t forget, many of those who witnessed the miracles of Jesus desired to kill him rather than to believe he was the Messiah.

Now, there’s plenty more scripture to support the doctrine of total depravity, but I’m not aware of any scripture that disproves the doctrine. When you truly consider the condition of your own Christian heart (assuming those reading are Christian), does it ever surprise you how sinful you are? My sinfulness often surprises me! And understand, we’re as sinful as we are even though we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit. What hope would we have apart from the Holy Spirit? (refer back to the scripture references from earlier.)

No hope, that’s the answer.

Apart from being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, man can never desire God.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Life, The Gospel, Theology | 52 Comments

The Shot Heard ‘Round the Church……

Yes, I remember it like it was yesterday, which isn’t that hard, because it was less than 3 months ago, and, well, some people won’t let you forget some things. And that’s ok, there are some things worth remembering!

The “shot heard ’round the church” happened at about the 14 minute mark of this sermon July 2oth and offended more than a couple of people.

Listen for yourself. Start at the 14:10 minute mark and invest 3 minutes or so from there and see if you can find the offense. And of course, feel free to watch the whole thing too!

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FAITH: What Satan Can’t Give, He Can’t Take Away!

Investigate life for a moment; more specifically, life in Christ. Of all the outward expressions of faith we can think of, every single one of them can be duplicated by Satan as a ruse to distract us from the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Love? Consider Hollywood. Joy? Illicit drugs, alcohol, sex, food and many other things can provide a false sense of joy. Peace? Pop-psychology, self-help and prescription medications give the illusion of peace. What about patience? Think about some of the stories you’ve heard in your life about how long and patiently people have waited to exact revenge on an enemy.

You get the point, I hope. But there is one thing that Satan cannot copy – one gift from God that can’t be cheapened, duplicated or faked, and that is the gift of faith, as we see in

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

God does this so that no man may boast, and moreover, no man may even boast in another man’s ability to believe. And with this simple truth the system of haves and have-nots is torn down. The very principal of class struggle – a great tool of Satan – is made impotent.

Consider Jesus’s words from Matthew 7:21-23.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Notice that what none of the “many” claimed was faith in Jesus. Why? Because they didn’t have any. Did they have belief in Jesus? Absolutely, and it’s well within my imagination to think that they actually profited by using the name of Jesus while presumably doing copycat miracles under the power and guidance of Satan.

And here’s where the rubber meets the road. It would be careless to assume that every “manifestation of God” (or maybe any?) is real. The Bible warns us of this in no uncertain terms.

Matthew 24:24 “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”

So how can we know the difference between copycat miracles and actual movements of God?

1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

And how do we test the spirits? We do what the Bereans did; we hold up all teaching and miracles to the bright light of Scripture. (Acts 17:11)

More on this is coming soon!

Posted in Christian Life, The Gospel, Theology | Leave a comment

A Conversation With A Jehovah’s Witness.


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OK, we’ve all seen them; curiously dressed in suit and tie or fancy dress, walking through neighborhoods on a Saturday. Many of us will recognize them as being members of the Jehovah’s Witness (JW) cult, and the very anticipation of a doorbell chime at your house causes some sort of emotion, whether it be fear and trepidation, anger or just plain old dread.

Well, what if you had a little hope for your next encounter with a JW? What if there were something you could say that would not just send them away, but rather, would send them away thinking? If you’re a Christian, your heart for these deceived folks should be to lead them to the One true and living God, and that can only happen through Jesus Christ and the gospel. But, never the less, we’re often just glad to see them go away.

Let me tell you about my last encounter with a JW at my doorstep. My youngest daughter, Leah, had to memorize Isaiah 9:6, which reads,

       For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given;
       and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
       and his name shall be called
       Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (ESV)

As we worked on that verse, I wondered how the JW’s translation rendered Isaiah 9:6, and to my surprise, that rendering is very close to the ESV rendering, as well as others. Now, God being One who equips us, didn’t give me these thoughts for nothing during that week.

On a Saturday morning, just after breakfast, a nice looking gentleman in a suit and hat showed up on my doorstep. (Now, it’s interesting that Leah and I had just been working on her verse at the breakfast table, because that made for a great conversation starter.) The young man at my door was kind, had a great smile and was a little younger than most of the JW’s that I normally see walking around the neighborhood. He was quick to offer me some literature from the Watchtower to read, and as he handed it to me I asked (as if the suit and hat on a Saturday hadn’t already given it away) if he was a Jehovah’s Witness? He said that he was.

I asked him if he had brought his bible with him, and of course he had. (NOTE: JW’s DO NOT like to use anything but their NWT but will consider the KJV.) I told him that Leah and I were just discussing scripture earlier and asked him if he would mind opening his NWT bible to Isaiah chapter 9, because we had a question about it. He was more than happy to oblige.

So I asked to hold his bible and read aloud Isaiah 9:6, which in the NWT translation reads:

       For a child has been born to us,
       A son has been given to us;
       And the rulership will rest on his shoulder.
       His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father,                            Prince of Peace. 

What you need to know about JW’s (among other things) is that they are radically opposed to the idea that Jesus is deity (God) and they are equally opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s best to stay away from conversations about the Trinity until you lay the groundwork for the gospel. They are trained to argue against the Trinity!

So here’s how I read Isaiah 9:6 to him:

For a child has been born to us, “Who is this child?,” I asked. “Jesus,” he responded.

A son has been given to us; “Who is this son?,” I asked. “Jesus,” he responded.

And the rulership will rest on his shoulder. “Whose shoulder?,” I asked. “Jesus’s”  he responded.

His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, “Who will be called Wonderful Counselor?,” I asked. “Jesus,” he responded.

Mighty God, “Who will be called ‘Mighty God’?,” I asked. “Well God is ‘Mighty God,'” he responded.

Eternal Father, “Who will be called ‘Eternal Father’?,” I asked. “God is the  ‘Eternal father,'” he responded. 

Prince of Peace. “Who will be called ‘Prince of Peace’?,” I asked. “Jesus is the ‘Prince of Peace,'” he responded.   

So, I asked him, how can it be that sometimes verse 6 is referring to Jesus and sometimes verse six is referring to God when the structure of the verse is clear that the subject of the verse is; “a child” that is “born to us.” If the subject of the verse is a specific child, how can it be that the names later in the verse could be intended for someone other than the child to whom they obviously refer. It was evident from his facial expression that he had never heard this or thought about this before. From there, I had the young man turn to John 10:30 in the NWT and I had him read that verse aloud, which reads, “I and the Father are one.” These words were spoken by Jesus, even in the NWT.

To be completely honest, I had worked through this entire line of reasoning from the NWT earlier in the week.  I knew that when you put Isaiah 9:6 and John 10:30 together – even in the NWT – you get an explanation for why phrases like “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” must apply to both God and Jesus, and that’s because God and Jesus are one. JW’s will tell you that Jesus and God are as one but are not one, but their text, like our text,  clearly states that the Two are One. Amen!

Somewhat dejected by his own understanding of his bible, and leaving with more questions about what he believed than when he first knocked on my door, the young(ish) JW left, but promised to come back again the following Saturday with someone who could answer my questions. Sadly, they did not return the following week.

I give this account to give a few of you that will read it one tool for your apologetics toolbox. It’s effective, but in and of itself it will not convert them. Hopefully, raising questions for JW’s to consider will lead you to further opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them!

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The “Blended Family 101” Message from Sunday, September 14th, 2014 (with notes)

Here’s the sermon on blended families from Sunday, September 14, 2014. This is part of our September “Family 101” series. The sermon notes are linked below the video and can be downloaded.

Blended Families – Blog Notes

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“Philemon” – message from Sunday, August 24, 2014 (11:00am service)

Teaching from the Book of Philemon from this past Sunday. You can download the sermon notes, along with all Scripture references, below the video.


Philemon Notes – WordPress

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God Bless the Rock Throwers!

Flying Rocks

No matter who you are or what you’re involved in, no matter what you do for a living or where you go to school, nobody enjoys detractors. These seeming scoundrels seek to assassinate our hard-earned character and destroy our fan base, so to speak.

It used to be my tendency to shrug off complaints or criticisms as jealousy, envy, selfishness or any other sort of sinful characteristic that may define my accuser adequately. But here’s the thing; what if it was God himself who sent the malefactor my way?

There’s a great account of this very thing in 2 Samuel that God used early one morning several years ago to change my mind (a little) about any criticism that I might receive.

In 2 Samuel, chapter 15, we pick up on a fantastic conspiracy story where David’s son, Absalom, sought to take over the kingdom from David, but to secure such a feat would require David and his men to be killed. King David caught wind of the conspiracy and he and his men fled Jerusalem in order to avoid Absalom’s wrath. (Absalom had developed quite a following in Jerusalem)

But it’s an incident in chapter 16 that has me writing today. As David and his men were fleeing they entered a village a few miles east of Jerusalem called Bahurim, and this is where things get even more interesting. Upon his approach to Bahurim a man named Shimei began cursing David and his men while pelting them with rocks. “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!” were the shouts of Shimei, basically calling David a murderer and a piece of trash. Why did Shimei hate David so? We don’t really know, but it’s a pretty good assumption that Shimei was reflecting his Uncle Saul’s disdain for the house of David but really had no good reason to hate David so.

One of David’s men kindly offered to go over and remove Shimei’s head, but David forbid it. Why did David endure the scorn of this nobody? Here’s the thought that prompted this whole blog: David responded to his man this way, “if he is cursing because the LORD has said to him ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’”

Wow! Can it be that God sometimes sends the cursing rock-throwers our way? What does he hope to accomplish by allowing that? Well, for me, when I most needed it a few years back, what God accomplished in me with this story was that it gave me peace and perspective. It turned my mind away from seeing two people in a particular situation as agents of satan and allowed me to think of them as tools of God, being used to make me better. Did it hurt? Yes. Did I like it? No. Did it help me pray for my enemies? Yes, and that is one of the Christ-like traits God desires to develop in me.

So how about you? Are you willing to leave room for God, not just to protect you from your accusers, but also to be the One who allows your accusers to berate, slander and tear you down if the ultimate end is for you to become more like Jesus?
If so, there’s good news: the world has no shortage on accusers. You get the life-long learning plan!

God knows our hearts and loves us anyway. He knows our lack, our failures and our thoughts and words even before we think or say them. He knows we’re bad people, much more so than our accusers do.

So I’ll leave you with this thought from Charles Spurgeon:

“Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.”

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