Friday, 4/26/19 – Tough Question

Are clinical death experiences of visiting Heaven valid?

Interestingly, Paul writes about such an experience himself, and admits to having the same uncertainties about how to understand it.

“…I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man* in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.** Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows.*** And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. (2 Cor. 12:1b-4)

20190424_102053Note that Paul refers to this experience in the context of “visions and revelations” and emphasizes he is not at all certain whether this was a bodily transport or and out of body experience. Whichever it was is of little importance to him; “but God knows,” he adds. He seems also to suggest that this was something very personal, beyond words, and not intended for others, “inexpressible”… “things that no one is permitted to tell.”

On the Day of Pentecost when God gave the promised Holy Spirit Peter stood up and announced that the manifestations the onlookers were witnessing were in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:24).
In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)

20190424_101920He continues, “I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”(v.20-21)

Jesus also spoke of strange happenings as we neared the end of this age, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars… the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25,26). We’ve seen these already: blood moons, radical climate changes, and storms of increasing violence. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time,” writes Paul (Rom. 8:22).

What is to be our response to these manifestations? Jesus tells us, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

20190424_101853At the same time every Christian does well to be very cautious indeed about heavenly revelation claims. No claim which contradicts or adds to the truths of scripture is to be believed. Believers must be ever wary that along with the end of the age signs of “dreams and visions” are the those of an increase in “false Christ’s and false prophets.” The body of Truth is complete, and not to be added to, no matter how spectacular. As Paul writes,

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal.1:8,9)

We can trust that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit resident within us. If a claim just doesn’t feel right, then it’s probably false. Truth should agree with scripture yet not add to it; it should bring us a sense of peace and the Lord’s presence, encourage our hearts and bear witness of the Holy Spirit. Lies are the only thing the devil can manufacture, though often mixed with partial truth. Scripture tells us he “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) in his attempts to deceive us — what is more enticing than the claims of an adorable young child?

nature lion south africa whitelion

Our Lord warned, “be wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:16). Paul cautioned us to be “not ignorant if his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). And Peter exhorted, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Know these times in which we live. Discern the spirits and trust only the Truth of scripture not the phenomena of experiences. The Word of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit are our foundation , and, as Paul warns, “each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:10c, 11)

Press on…

*I know a man: Many Bible scholars believe Paul is speaking about himself here, but in the 3rd person in order to avoid taking pride.

**third heaven: As one commentator explains, “The first heaven is that of the clouds, the air; the second, that of the stars, the sky; the third is spiritual.”/ Paul writes that Jesus “ascended higher than all the heavens…“ (Eph.4:10).

***in the body or out of the body: I would tend to believe this was a vision for in the full counsel of God we understand that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:50). Further, I know of no clinical death report where the physical body actually disappeared temporarily from the operating table or hospital bed.

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

Friday, 4/19/19 – Tough Question

Why do we call it “Good” Friday?

What other world religion celebrates the killing of its founder and calls that day “Good”?

20190417_044215If any Friday deserved the name “Black Friday,” surely the day mortals murdered the Christ of God should be the day, but instead we reserve the term “Black Friday” for the day after the American Thanksgiving Day, a day when prices are slashed and deals are rampant. People are rampant too on that day.

At a New York Walmart in 2008 a 6’5” 270 lb man was trampled to death as over 2,000 shoppers broke down the doors, and rushed inside to be among the first to purchase consumer goods. Since 2010, Black Friday violence has resulted in 10 deaths and 111 injuries. Because of this carnage, police named that day “Black Friday.”

There have been at least three other “Black” days in history, and all of them are associated with the god of this world, money:

Black Monday: October 19, 1987. Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22%, the largest one-day drop in history.
Black Thursday: October 24, 1929. the start of the Great Depression.
Black Tuesday: October 29, 1929. Stock market fell 11% causing many to lose all their life savings.

Retailers prefer a more positive spin. Since “Black Friday” is a day when virtually every merchant is assured to end “in the black,” they press for this association rather than it being as a day of mayhem and money as people trample one another to greedily grab for material goods. — Say, perhaps we should consider calling the day after Thanksgiving USA “Goods Friday”?

20190417_044732But no, we call today “Good,” the day we slew the Saviour. Truly this was the darkest of days in every way: even environmentally. Matthew and Luke both report there was three hours of darkness from noon to mid-afternoon
(Matt. 27:45; Luke 23:44). So Why? Why do we call it “Good?”

Some say the term is related to the idea of “Good” as in “Holy,” “Holy Friday.” (The Wednesday before Easter was once known as “Good Wednesday,” but now is in some circles is called “Holy Wednesday.”) Others say the word derives from the word “God,” “God Friday.” In some languages the day is translated “Sacred Friday” or “Passion Friday.”

But for me the day is good because it marks the day that God stepped in to save me from the destruction of my sin. Christ surrendered himself to receive the punishment that was due to me. He took my sin and in exchange gives me his holiness and life forever with Him.

20190417_165417The devil may have laughed for three days presuming victory, but God turned every bit of it around and worked redemption. The devil was foiled and death was swallowed by victory! The Goodness of God prevailed and made Good available to all who trust in Christ.

Praise Him for this Gospel, the “Good News” for all humanity!

Press on…

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

Friday, 4/12/19 – Tough Question

How can I genuinely love ‘disgusting’ people?

Here are three statements about me which are completely true and accurate,

  1. I beat my wife up every morning!
  2. I haven’t spoken to my parents in over 25 years!
  3. My first name really isn’t John.

Indeed, I truly do ‘beat my wife up every morning’ (by about two hours) and it is no lie that I ‘have not spoken to my parents in over 25 years’ (my mother died in 1990, and my father passed away shortly after I turned 16.) Finally, my first name is actually ‘Donald,’ but I go by ‘John,’ my middle name.

Understanding the context of things makes all the difference! Understanding the context can change our perspective immediately. And when it comes to ‘disgusting people’ our loathe can swiftly turn to genuine love when we see them in the context of the cross.

people crowd walking

Fact is, we are all disgusting people. You are disgusting. I am disgusting. From the most famous to the most infamous, the most wealthy to the most poor, the most beautiful to the most ugly, everyone is disgusting before God. Isaiah cried, “all of us have become like one who is unclean… all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isa. 64:6, NASB).

close up of tree against sky

But we are all also equally loved by God – everyone, including those we may consider repulsive. God is the Creator of us all, He seeks a loving relationship with each one of us, and He has made provision for the reconciliation of all who will return to Him. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8).

I once told a Christian brother who was struggling with pornography, “Look into her eyes and see her lostness. See her as God sees her – a dear child He loves deeply and died to redeem.” See her “under the cross of Jesus,” as Bonhoeffer writes. In reality, all of us are just “poor human beings and sinners in need of grace.” When I see everyone in this way, Bonhoeffer testifies,

Then, everything about other people that repels me falls away. Then I see them in all their need, hardship, and distress. Their need and their sin become so heavy and oppressive to me that I feel as if they were my own… (Bonhoeffer, Life Together)

beautiful blonde face female

When my friend began seeing others from this context he told me he could no longer see these women in any other way. He saw also his own disgusting state before God and found new strength to turn away from this lust.

Remember, in evangelism as in discipleship we are all just “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” We are all equally needy before God. We are all equally loved by Him, and we all have the same potential in eternity to become, as C.S. Lewis says, “immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

The next time you face someone you deem “disgusting,” see that soul inside for whom Christ died, and see that you are none better. See that person as the ‘everlasting splendour’ God wants to make them — and you — to become!

Press on…

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

Friday, 4/5/19 – Tough Question

Why do trees bear ‘tasty’ fruit?

woman wearing pink dress holding fruit

Actually, I didn’t receive a “tough question” from anyone this week – so I’m asking my own. Well, no… that’s not quite right either. I don’t really have this as a question. The Bible answers this question right from its first chapter. I guess to be accurate I’m asking this question to the faithless. How does the atheistic evolutionist explain the one simple and delightful fact that good fruit tastes good?

On the third day of creation God said,

“’Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:11-13)

food healthy dirty leaf

He goes on to create living creatures of the air, the seas and land. Then on the sixth day He forms His masterpiece — beings like Himself. He creates mankind, male and female. To them He says, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (v.29) He provided nourishment for all the other creatures also.

Now God must have designed this “seed bearing plant” economy into the vegetation when He created it earlier. Also at that time He must have made this vegetation tasty to the as yet uncreated human palate. Otherwise why would the humans desire to eat it?

peach apple on green mat

We humans were designed a help to the vegetation also. As the first people walked about and discarded the cores or deposited their waste with seeds still in it, they provided both distribution and fertilizer for the plant species to spread beyond just the area beneath their branches.

Evolutionists will of course discount God and such intelligent design. But how do they think such a system got started? It would seem to me much more efficient for ‘evolution’ to produce trees which bear seeds directly from their roots rather than inside fruit hanging on branches. Why have the tasty fruit packaging? An underground root system producing seeds could initiate new growth far away from the tree. Why should an evolutionary tree look out for humans at all?

close up of fruits hanging on tree

In all creation we see the Nature and Character of God – His Image. Many facts of nature also serve as analogies to life, and I believe that is no accident. For example, the law of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:9), abiding in Christ and producing spiritual fruit (John 15), and how the words of a man reveal his heart (Luke 6:44-45) – and join us this Sunday as Pastor Steve begins a new series on the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit.

The account of the sixth day ends stating “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31). Well, I think so too, and for my money I’m going with God.

Press on…

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

Friday, 3/29/19 – Tough Question

What does “Angel of Light” mean?

Scripture gives us some curious and cryptic glimpses into the origins of Satan, the enemy of all God’s people.

When Ezekiel prophesied a lament against the wicked king of Tyre he spoke beyond the physical king to address the sinister spirit which motivated him. This description is our clearest revelation of the history of Satan, or Lucifer, as he was named before being cast from Heaven…

20190328_111742You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. (Ezek. 28:12-15)

What a glorious, high-ranking creature this must have been! But then, Ezekiel continues, “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth…” (v.17)

20190328_105439“I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven,” echoed Jesus. (Luke 10:18), and in Revelation 12:3-9 we have a further description of this expulsion, adding that he took 1/3 of the angels with him.

Given this origin we learn the devil is well acquainted with beauty… with an alluring beauty intended to hide (“masquerade”) his wicked intent. See how he entices Eve right from the beginning. At that time the serpent must have been an erect, perhaps tail dancing creature, or possibly a hovering airborne entity, alluring indeed! It was only after God’s curse it became the squirmy ground crawler we know today, “You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” (Gen. 3:14b)!

Jesus warned His disciples: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

person wearing white and orange volto mask

Paul warned the believers in Corinth about those who taught of a way of salvation other than by trust in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. He called them “false apostles”, “deceitful workers,” and said they were “masquerading as apostles of Christ.” That such people should look good on the outside but be filled with lies on the inside should be no surprise, Paul taught. “…for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (see 2 Cor. 11:13-15)

He is the “fake news” of the gospel, the “spam mail” enticing you to sin, and the “cyber bully” attempting to erode your spirit. Jesus ‘cut to the chase’ in describing him: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

beach woman sunrise silhouette

Truth is found only in Jesus. “I am… the truth…,” He said (John 14:6). If you want to dodge the devil’s deceptions you must grow ever more deeply in knowing Him Who is True.

Jesus likewise strictly warned,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt. 7:21-23)

How can you be free of mistakening masqueraded light for the True Light? “… know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

Press on…

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

Friday, 3/22/19 – Tough Question

“How did Peter, James, and John recognize Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration?”

The account of the transfiguration is found in all three synoptic gospels (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). Peter also references it in his epistle (2 Peter 1:16-21).

20190309_151003Jesus had taken Peter, James and John up a high mountain, “to pray,” Luke adds. As Jesus prayed, his disciples witnessed his face and clothes shine brilliantly “As the sun,” says Matthew, “as bright as a flash of lightning,” describes Luke. Then, with Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared, “in glorious splendor,” he adds. They talked with Jesus. [They] “were speaking of His departure [from earthly life], which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:31, AMP).

Other events transpired: Peter’s unthinking suggestion to build three shelters, the brilliant cloud which covered them, the divine announcement, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” and their subsequent terror. But our question has to do with how Moses and Elijah were known to these disciples.

No one in the first century could possibly have seen Moses or Elijah, and there were no portraits of them. So, how were they recognized?

It does make some logical senses that these particular two men would appear: Moses representative of the Law, and Elijah representative of the Prophets. Also, the circumstances of the departures of both these men from this earth were somewhat mysterious. Of Moses it is recorded that God Himself buried him in Moab “but to this day no one knows where his grave is.” (Deut. 34:5,6). And in 2 Kings 2 we have the account of Elijah not seeing death at all, but of being caught up to heaven in “a chariot of fire and horses of fire… in a whirlwind.” (2 Kings 2:11).

It could have been that as Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus things were said which revealed their identities to the three disciples. Or it could have been made known to them by revelation or intuition given them in this holy setting. We see this already in Peter when he replies “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16). And what is Jesus’s reply? “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (v.17).

To me, this seems the more likely, and as Paul reminds us, this will one day be our experience of knowing also,

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:9-12).

Press on…

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

Friday, 3/15/19 – Tough Question

“How can Peter say these passages speak of Judas?”

This question came to me along with last week’s question. It too has to do with the events surrounding selecting a replacement disciple for Judas.

books bookshelf open page

When Peter first brings up the matter of selecting another disciple, he quotes Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 and uses them in reference to Judas, yet in their original context they don’t appear to be about Judas at all! What gives?

Let’s have a look at the full passage…

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ‘May another take his place of leadership.’” (Acts 1:15-20).

And here are the two passages from the Psalms…

Psalm 69:25May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents.” – subject “all my enemies” (v.19)
Psalm 109:8May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” – subject “my enemy” (v.6)

Both Psalm 69 and Psalm 109 are ‘imprecatory’ psalms of David. Imprecatory psalms are those which call down curses or judgments upon one’s enemies. In both these psalms David is asking the Lord to destroy his enemies and to vindicate his person. These Psalms would be well-known to the disciples.

book showing das gebet mananes des text in shallow focus photography

Peter may or may not have in mind here a sort of Davidic typology where David is representative of Christ and so consequently David’s enemies are representative of Christ’s enemies, and thus representative of Judas. But it could be something much simpler. It could be that Peter is merely drawing upon known scripture and making his own application of them to Judas.

We actually do something like this very often ourselves. For example, if I see someone just loving on a person who has many obvious faults but the loving person simply overlooks these faults and is genuinely gracious to the individual regardless, I might say of that person, “This fulfills the scripture ‘love covers over a multitude of sins.’” (1 Pet. 4:8). And these actions do fulfill that scripture, in that they demonstrate the essential truth of it, but that does not mean the 1 Pet. 4:8 passage was originally written with the person I saw in mind.

Once again Barnes gives insight …

“…the expression here was not intended to denote Judas in particular, but one of his foes who was to meet the just punishment of rejecting, betraying, and murdering him. The change, therefore, which Peter made from the plural to the singular, and the application to Judas especially “as one of those enemies,” accords with the design of the Psalm, and is such a change as the circumstances of the case justified and required.” – Albert Barnes

Press on…

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