Friday, 2/14/20 – Friday Tough Question

Is “…if it be Your will” a prayer escape clause?

man tattooed praying

I know just what this questioner means. I’ve heard some Christians call this prayer add-on a “faith destroying phrase,” a face-saving “escape clause” in case God doesn’t come through. Talk like this arouses a righteous anger in me because it sidesteps the sovereignty of God! It places our understanding, our will, our plans in place of God’s.

James gives us stern warning against this,

Listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes… Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 3:13-14; 4:15)

brown and green grass field during sunset

To pray otherwise is to pray presumptuously. Perhaps God’s plan for an individual includes a period of suffering in order to teach some lesson. Praying this be removed would be to pray against God’s purposes which He has not revealed to us. Or, consider the farmer praying for rain while the teacher planning a class picnic prays for sunshine. Neither has the right to tempt God by demanding their preferred outcome.

But there are occasions where prayer with great assurance and boldness is appropriate. Where the will of God is clearly known we need not, indeed ought not, pray with the caveat “…if it be Your will.”

Clearly, we need not pray “Lord, forgive my sins, if it is Your will,” or, “Father, lead us not into temptation, if You so desire.” On these God’s will is already clear to us!

Likewise, we can pray assuredly when we pray according to what God has clearly promised to all believers. Consider this prayer of Paul’s,

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19)

smiling girl holding gray rabbit

Paul does not add any phrase asking if these requests be God’s will. God has already spoken His will through Christ, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48), or as the Amplified puts it, “…be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Interestingly this question tags on well to our discussion earlier this week about approaching God in humility yet coming “boldly to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Like a child we may ask our parent/s humbly for a special privilege, yet demand boldly that which had previously been promised.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 2/7/20 – Friday Tough Question

“Pseudipig–” what?

photo of a person kneeling in front of book

“How important are the writings from Jewish tradition? Such as 1 Enoch should we steer clear or read with knowing that only scripture has ultimate authority?”

I’ll have to back up and start running toward this question in order to set it in a context that will help with understanding.

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It was not until some 30 to 60 years after the resurrection of Christ that the first apostles began to write. Their gospels and epistles circulated amongst the early churches and served as a basis for testimony and teaching. There were many such writings circulating about at this time… including many spurious writings by shysters or persons pretending to be one of the Apostles… Early “fake news,” or “spam” if you like. (Such is fallen human nature!)

To deal with the confusion it eventually became necessary to create a biblical Canon, a grouping of writings recognized as genuine….inspired by God. But how was this determination to be made? Key questions were considered:

  • Was the document written by a known apostle or prophet?

  • Was the document quoted or referenced by Christ as authentic?

  • Did the teaching of the document agree with previously canonized writings?… etc.

silhouette photo of person standing in cave

Finally after much discussion, research, and debate the current 66 book Canon was agreed upon. (39 books of the Old Testament, 27 books of the New Testament).

Writings that did not meet the requirements of the canon fell into one of two groupings: Apocryphal writings, and Pseudipigraphal writings.

The 14 Apocryphal books* that you may find inserted between the Testaments in some Bibles are historical records of the 400 year period between the Old and New Testaments. They are fine historical records, but not deemed inspired. Martin Luther’s translation of 1534 was the first widely-used Bible to include these apocryphal books.

man wearing black crew neck shirt reading book

The Pseudipigraphal writings are those which are most questionable. Some of these more spurious writings include the Gospel of Thomas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Epistle of Barnabas. In such pseudo-gospels you will find stories such as Jesus making birds out of clay for fun as a boy, and a Jesus who is totally out of character with the Jesus portrayed in the canonical Gospels. Though I tend to shy away from Wikipedia as a resource the highlighted link below** may be of interest.

Pseudipigraphal writings, which include the three books of Enoch mentioned above, should always be approached great caution– if approached at all –and only by a mature believer firmly established in the Truth of Scripture. So today’s questioner has rightly presumed their own answer: “…steer clear or read with knowing that only scripture has ultimate authority.”

Press on…

*The 14 Apocryphal books: 1 Esdras (Vulgate 3 Esdras), 2 Esdras (Vulgate 4 Esdras), Tobit, Judith (“Judeth” in Geneva), Rest of Esther (Vulgate Esther 10:4 – 16:24), Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach), Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy (“Jeremiah” in Geneva) (all part of Vulgate Baruch), Song of the Three Children (Vulgate Daniel 3:24–90), Story of Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13), The Idol Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14), Prayer of Manasseh (Daniel), 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees
**Link here to Wickipedia list of O.T. Pseudipigraphal writings

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 1/31/20 – How does the Old Covenant relate to Gentile Christians?

How does the Old Testament covenant relate to non-Jewish Christians today?

automobile automotive car dashboard

Someone once said you can’t know where you’re going until you understand where you’ve been. Suppose a friend on his way to visit me for the first time calls me while on his way and says, “I’m having difficulty finding your street. Can you tell me how to get there?” Well, the first thing I’m going to ask is “Where are you now?”

It’s important to know where we are and how we got there.

We saw last week how the Old Testament Covenant was not done away with, but was fulfilled in the coming of Christ. But it was not until some time after the resurrection and ascension of Christ that it became clear to the believers that Christ’s work of salvation extended far beyond only the Jews. In fact, the Jews were simply the doorway, His chosen people group, through which Christ would enter to offer salvation to all humanity.

healthy apple fruits natural

Turns out the plan of God unfolds something like this:
God desires fellowship, He creates Adam and Eve, they disobey, death and suffering result, sin increases, there is a huge flood, society rebuilds, some are godly, many are not. Abraham trusts God and becomes father of a huge nation, Israel… God works within Israel to demonstrate what is needed for reconciliation: holiness!

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He gives them the Law, they discover they cannot keep it! They learn that they need a Saviour. Jesus comes but is not at all what the Jews expected. He shows a new way, a way of Grace. The Jews largely reject Him, mercilessly kill Him, but He rises from death, ascends to heaven, and commissions his followers. The Holy Spirit is given, and dwells within all who repent, believe, and receive. Surprise, surprise! The Gentiles begin to believe too! God’s Grace is extended to everyone! It was what He intended all along.

God demonstrated His plan of redemption through the Jewish race in order to bring salvation to all the world, to those who would believe on Him.

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12)

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Paul, the first missionary to the Gentiles (non-Jewish peoples), speaks of this in Romans chapters 10 and 11. Here he describes the inclusion of the Gentiles as “a wild olive branch” being “grafted” into the original plant. In Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:5 he likens this to “adoption,” and in Galatians 3 he rejoices that now in Christ there are no longer any distinctions,

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:26-29)

In Colossians 1:26-27 Paul describes this plan of God as “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people… Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:26… 27).

What an amazing God we serve!

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 1/24/20 – Friday Tough Question

Did Jesus’ Coming Abolish the Old Covenant?

selective focus photography of white concrete building in middle of desert

Many people think that when Jesus came, well the Old Testament got replaced. They think that long ago God dealt with His people one way, but then He sort of changed His mind and sent Jesus and so now interacts with His people by a different method. These folk discount the Old Testament as passé, irrelevant to present Christianity.

But God did not change plans midstream. His plans and purposes are eternal. Nothing, not even the fall of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent sinful state of all humankind, came by surprise to God. Nothing thwarted His good purposes.

photo of person holding a bible

The book of Hebrews is all about contrasts between the Old and new covenants, and in Hebrews 13:8 we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” In Revelation 13:8, yes, oddly the same chapter and verse, we have Jesus referred to as “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” John tells us that Jesus was the eternal Word, God Himself, Who became flesh (see John 1:1, 14).

From these facts we see that God always had in mind humankind’s need for a Saviour – even before He said “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). At no point did God’s plan get foiled, take a turn, or need replacement.

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Gradually He led His creation to understand His Love for them, His provision, promises, and eternal plans for them. From the beginning the idea of death as a consequence was made clear: in his warnings to Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:17), His provision of the first animal sacrifice in covering their nakedness (Gen, 3:21), the foreshadowing by the sacrificial system of Christ as Sacrificial Lamb, and the eventual entrance of Christ into time, His life, ministry, death on the cross, and resurrection.

grayscale photo of the crucifix

Jesus did not come to abolish what the law required: righteousness and holiness of life, but to fulfill the only method of effecting fallen humankind’s redemption: the sacrificial death of the holy for the unholy, the ultimate demonstration of mercy, given by grace as God always intended.

As Christ Himself clearly stated, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matt. 5:17-18).

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 1/17/20 – Friday Tough Question

What’s a “Paradigm Shift?”

20200116_181731The film Planet of the Apes (1968) stars Charleton Heston as Taylor, an astronaut who awakens from deep space travel hibernation to find he has crashed on a planet unknown to him. He discovers the planet is ruled by apes who have learned to speak and possess technology. Taylor is captured by them but escapes and explores the planet more fully. Outside the ape city he discovers remnants of a previous but destroyed civilization. Eventually he stumbles upon something familiar. Oh no! Can it Be? Taylor had never left earth orbit at all! He had not travelled through space but through time–to the future. This planet was earth!

In an instant an entirely new world view is thrust upon Taylor. He has no choice but to accept it. I fear this is the fate soon to be thrust upon many who walk this earth today.

20200116_181656During the 18th century and beyond The Great Awakening, spurred by the Spirit empowered preaching of men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, transformed the hearts and minds of many. Eyes were opened to see the true spiritual realities of their existence. Heaven and hell, justification through Christ or eternal damnation, these were the issues of this brief thing we call a lifetime. Souls are eternal. Decisions must be made.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). Many today discount this. They say Christ was just a man, and they build their philosophy of life on other notions. But the Christian knows that a day is coming a day in which

“at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11).

What Taylor experienced is a “paradigm shift.” What every soul upon coming to Christ experiences is also a “paradigm shift.” One discovers that their whole way of thinking about the world, the universe, life and death is inaccurate and must be abandoned. God is staring them in the face, they surrender and are transformed! This is what happened during the Great Awakening and this is what happens in the honest transformations that result from true spiritual Revival.

Open your heart to Christ today! Don’t be like the one who spends all of his life climbing higher and higher on some ladder of success only to discover that the ladder has all the while been leaning against the wrong wall!

Press on…

Got a question? Want to talk more about this? Use the Contact page.

Friday, 1/10/20 – Friday Tough Question

Star Wars and “The Force”

men s black and gray collared top

A soul running from God loves to console itself with imaginations that there really is no God in pursuit. It could be safe to slow down, to rest, to accept instead the latest or currently most popular imagination of the society of runners around it. The existence of God is relative to each individual one finally seems to convince oneself. Thus, if I believe, truly believe in some alternative it will suffice for me.

But these thoughts are fantasy.

There are at present many widely touted alternatives one may wish real: “Mother Nature,” evolution, personal truth, philosophical thought, reincarnation, mystical energies and Gnosticism to name a few. No doubt there will be others.

Here, C.S. Lewis comments on the imaginings of “Creative Evolution” and the “Life Force ”but his words have relevance to all of the above…

One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen? – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

mountains nature arrow guide

How can we know the way?” Thomas asked. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus replied. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

Real truth is usually something quite simple. Gravity simply pulls everything down and we must respect it. No amount of alternate belief will cause you to float upwards. You must learn to live within its principles. Work with it and you may indeed find a way to fly. Run from it, trying to imagine it away, and you will most certainly perish.

“May the Truth be with you.”

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 1/3/20 – Friday Tough Question

What does the Bible say about Social Media?

man looking at ipad pro

It’s a complicated world these days, isn’t it. Almost daily it seems our world gets more complex — and faster too. In such an environment our minds try to simplify the chaos. We tend to categorize the complex into simpler concepts. Shades of grey things are more easily managed if we classify them as black or white. When we are unsure which it should be we sometimes stamp a thing as evil, and avoid it completely even when it could be put to good use.

Jesus, we must remember, ate and drank with those whom others deemed outcasts… persons to be avoided at all cost…. lepers, tax collectors, maimed and unclean. He turned all of these into that which brought glory to God.

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Movies, money, media and medicines, just for starters. All of these have potential for great evil or great good. They are extensions of ourselves… levers with magnify that which is in our hearts.

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“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” wrote Baron John Dalberg Acton back in 1887. In Proverbs we read “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus put it like this, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 NKJV). Or we could add, “out of the abundance of the heart a Christian uses his authority for good … writes a faith-inspiring movie script…. uses medicine to heal… social media to minister to hurting souls.”

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Yet still, there is need for caution here. Paul warned the Corinthians, “not everything is beneficial…. not everything is constructive…” (1 Cor. 10:23). The aim of our use of the things of this world must be “the good of others… [and] the glory of God.” (v. 24, 31).

And as with all these things we must also guard against overuse… against addictive behaviour which consumes our time and influence in this world. “Be wise as serpents,” said Jesus, “as shrewd as snakes” the NIV has it (Matt. 10:16). Paul warned the Galatians to be alert to their limits. “Considering yourself lest you also be tempted” And we must remember that we are always an example to our weaker brother.

So that’s it. No external thing is evil in itself; the evil (or good) resides within each individual. Our job as Christians is to choose the good — and the glorious thing is we have the Spirit of God within us to help us do exactly that.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.