Questioning…

While I’m getting a lot out of this “Experiencing God” Bible study (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Claude King), I’m also questioning parts. Here is some of what’s bugging me…

p. 39 ~ “Open and closed doors do not always indicate God’s guidance. Check to see that prayer, the Scriptures, and circumstances agree on the direction you sense God leading you.

This is both good and bad… I’m not sure I agree about the open/closed doors thing, though. I think God closes doors (opportunities) when it isn’t yet the right time — or, perhaps it isn’t the right opportunity. And, I believe He opens the doors when it is the right time/opportunity. But, I also definitely believe that you still need to check yourself against the Scriptures & such — and be in prayer, asking God for His clear direction — too. If you have the relationship with God, in the first place, I think it’ll be pretty clear from the above-mentioned sources whether/not God is leading you in a particular direction… opening/closing the door for that opportunity.

This one (below) really gets me ruffled…

p.45 ~ “In Scripture, God is not often seen coming and speaking to people just for conversation’s sake… When God speaks to you through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, the church, or another way, He has a purpose in mind for your life… He speaks to His servant when He is ready to move. Otherwise, He wouldn’t speak to you.”

Oh, really? Well, what about Adam & Eve? God walked with them in the Garden… and I’m sure they had plenty of conversation, just for the sake of their relationship! And, speaking of which, if God doesn’t talk to us at any time other than when He wants to do something, how on earth are we supposed to have a “relationship” with Him? Isn’t a relationship about speaking back & forth? about two people getting to know each other (obviously, in this case, God already knows us fully, but, humor me here…). 😉 I just don’t know that I believe what the authors are saying here. But, I’ve consulted with someone who I know happens to be an “expert” in this, and am awaiting a response. I’ll make note of it here, later.

p. 49 ~ “If what you’re thinking makes sense to you, it’s probably not from God.”

I can see how this could be true in some instances. For example, yes, God is oftentimes unpredictable. He often asks us to do things that don’t necessarily make sense to us. That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that every time something actually does make sense to us, that it isn’t from God. God is not a God of chaos. He’s a God of order.

But, anything that goes against what the Bible says won’t be something from God. God will never ask us to do something that’s contrary to His Word.

** If you have any thoughts on any of this, please share! I’m still questioning, and would love to hear others’ opinions. Thanks in advance! **

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The Irresistable Revolution

 I recently read this book, by Shane Claiborne, called “The Irresistable Revolution“. And, its message has really been niggling at the back of my brain, ever since I finished it.

The book is Shane’s sort of memoir about how he and his group, The Simple Way, are reaching out to the homeless of the world, and just basically aiming to love God, and love others. They base their group and actions on the original Way of Jesus, found in the second chapter of the book of Acts (in the Bible).

This book really convicted me that I’m not doing anything much for God… I read my Bible, and I meet with other Christians on a fairly regular basis, but what else shows the world that I follow Jesus? What sets me apart from non-believers? Would anyone be able to tell the difference if you compared my life with a non-believer’s life? Probably not… and that’s a shame.

I’m thinking, now, about how I could make a difference in my community. What can I do to reach out like Jesus did? How could I show God’s love to others?

Lots to think about… I will write more later, when I figure out how to say what I’m feeling and thinking about. 😉

The future…revealed!

Lately, I’ve been very interested in the fact that God seems to reveal the future to His people. And, because of said interest, I’ve been trying to write down every reference to this that I’m finding through my reading of the Bible.

I’m going to use this post as a sort of record of what I’ve found (or am finding). I’ll add to it as I find more.

But, I’m curious, too — do you think that God still reveals the future to His people? Do you think He still tells them of what’s to come in order to prepare them? Why, or why not?

Here’s the evidence I’ve found, so far, from the Word — incidences where God told His people of what their future would hold:

Genesis 25:23 ~ “And the Lord told her [Rebekah], ‘The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals…your older son will serve your younger son.

Genesis 41:25 ~ “…God is telling Pharaoh in advance what He is about to do.” [Joseph speaking to Pharaoh]

Genesis 46:4 ~ “I [God] will go with you [Jacob] down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.”

Exodus 3:16-22 ~ (God tells Moses how He’s going to free the Israelites from Egypt, and about how Pharaoh is going to get hard-hearted and argue).

Leviticus 25:20-22 ~ “But you might ask, ‘What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?’ Be assured that I [God] will send My blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years. When you plant your fields in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the crop of the sixth year…

Numbers 20:23-26 ~ “There, on the border of the land of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘The time has come for Aaron to join his ancestors in death. He will not enter the land I am giving the people of Israel…Now take Aaron and his son Eleazar up Mount Hor. There you will remove Aaron’s priestly garments and put them on Eleazar, his son. Aaron will die there and join his ancestors.’

Deuteronomy 13:1 ~ “Suppose there are prophets among you, or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs and miracles…

Judges 13:3, 5 ~ “The angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, ‘Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son… his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.’

1 Samuel 2:31b, 33-34 ~ “…All the members of your family will die before their time. None will reach old age… Those who survive will live in sadness and grief, and their children will die a violent death. And to prove that what I have said will come true, I will cause your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to die on the same day.”

1 Kings 13:3,5 ~ “That same day, the man of God gave a sign to prove his message. He said, ‘The LORD has promised to give this sign: This altar will split apart, and its ashes will be poured out onto the ground…’ At the same time, a wide crack appeared in the altar, and its ashes poured out, just as the man of God had predicted in his message from the LORD.”

Isaiah 38:7 ~ “And this is the sign from the LORD to prove that He will do as He promised…

Isaiah 44:7 ~ “Who is like Me? Let him step forward and prove to you his power. Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I established a people and explained its future.

Isaiah 46:9,10 ~ “For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like Me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” ***

Jeremiah 44:29 ~ “‘And this is the proof I give you,’ says the LORD, ‘that all I have threatened will happen to you…’

Matthew 17:22-23 ~ “…Jesus told them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He will be killed, but on the third day He will be raised from the dead.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.”

Matthew 23:34 ~ “Therefore, I [Jesus] am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city.

Matthew 26:32 ~ “But after I [Jesus] have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”

Matthew 26:34 ~ “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, Peter — this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know Me.'”

Matthew 28:10 ~ “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me there.‘”

Mark 14:8 ~ “She has done what she could and anointed My body for burial ahead of time.” [I wonder if God spoke to the woman, told her that Jesus was going to die, and instructed her to go do that?!]

Mark 14:13-15 ~ “So Jesus sent the two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: ‘As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with My disciples?’ He will take you to a large room upstairs that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” [again, I wonder if God told the owner of the house –in advance– that 2 men would be coming to ask this!]

Luke 1:13 ~ “But the angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.’

Luke 1:31 ~ “You [Mary] will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”

Luke 2:11-12 ~ “The Savior –yes, the Messiah, the LORD– has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David. And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

John 14:29 ~ “I [Jesus] have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.”

John 16:13 ~ “He [the Holy Spirit] will tell you about the future.”

Ephesians 3:3 ~ “…God Himself revealed His mysterious plan to me.

Are You a Christian?

*** This article was written for a newspaper by the pastor of my church. Since it ties in well with the post I wrote the other day (“Doubting…?“), I thought I’d share it here.

Are you a Christian? That may seem like a strange question for a regular reader of this column and I suspect that most would answer with an indignant ‘yes’ except for those who are disappointed that they couldn’t find their horoscope.

This ‘yes or no question’ may elicit a common response, but if I change it slightly to “How did you become a Christian?” then I believe we could uncover a diversity of answers such as:

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    • “I was born in a Christian country.”
    • “I was baptized as a child.”
    • “I was baptized as an adult.”
    • “I went through a confirmation process.”
    • “I believe all the right things.”
    • “I once prayed a prayer asking Jesus into my heart.”
    • “I go to church every week (pretty much).”
    • “I believe in God.”
    • “I am a good person (pretty much).”

The problem with all of those answers is that none of them are right. None of them are Biblically complete. None of them reflect the radical faith that Jesus came to call us to.

They may be steps in the right direction, but they fall far short of being the destination.

When Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, He didn’t come to establish new religious practices and rituals like the ones listed above. In fact, He came to make it very clear that doing these things were not what God wanted from us at all. The mentality of religion as keeping the right rules was so prevalent in Jesus’ time that He got in trouble one day for healing a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath ~ a specific and serious offense to religious law. To paraphrase Jesus, his response was “That is ridiculous!”

Jesus didn’t come so that we could be more religious, or to initiate an adjustment in the rules. Jesus came to call us to be His followers. The great commission was not to celebrate the faith of those who would assent to a set of beliefs and agree to keep the rules. The great commission of Matthew 28 is to make disciples. What is a disciple? It is a ‘little Jesus’. It is someone who seeks to be like their master.

And so, are you in the process of becoming a ‘little Jesus’? Have you given up on pleasing God by keeping the rules and are you ready to join with Him as He changes the world while He changes you? Are you tired of focusing on an outward spirituality that is disconnected from the rest of your life? Are you a follower — a disciple — of Jesus Christ?

If your answer is ‘yes’, then you are a Christian. It’s that simple.

~ Jim B.