Daniel’s Prophecies—Evidence That The Bible Is True


Prophecy in general provides evidence that the Bible is true, and that God exists, for that matter. Perhaps this fact is more clearly evident in the book of Daniel.

For one thing, the book is anchored in known history. Evidence for the rule of specific Babylonian kings, kings of the Media-Persian empire, even Jewish kings, exists outside the Bible. No one can say Daniel is dealing with pretend individuals in a pretend place.

In addition, Daniel gave much of his prophecy to pagan kings—Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, Cyrus—who started out worshiping their own gods. Because Daniel’s prophecies came true, he gained their favor and was promoted as a key figure in the various governments.

History records the outcome of some of his prophecies, the Bible records others, but in each case they happened as Daniel said they would.

Take one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, for example. What he saw was prophetic, but he needed Daniel to interpret it. In short, the dream prophesied that the Babylonian empire would give way to the empire of the Medes and the Persians. That empire would give way to the Greek rule, and the Romans would take over from them, though that empire would fracture into four not-so-powerful regions. No surprise that these things took place, except that Daniel’s prophecy foretold them accurately.

On a personal note, Daniel interpreted another of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams:

‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries! The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged—–it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king’ (from Daniel 4)

A year later, just as Daniel prophesied, Nebuchadnezzar had a psychotic break that left him behaving like an animal. But he recovered, and he reported himself that God brought him from the brink of madness:

“At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (Ibid.)

Another personal prophecy Daniel delivered was to King Belshazzar. In this instance he interpreted a supernatural writing on the wall which declared the end of this particular king’s rule. The result?

That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two. (see Daniel 5)

More evidence of the truth of these prophecies, on top of their fulfillment, is the fact that the different kings listened to Daniel, believed him, promoted him, and rewarded him. If what he said was not verified, these kings would no more have kept Daniel around than American Presidents keep their cabinet members around.

In addition, Daniel incurred the wrath of other key people in King Darius’s administration, so much so that they manipulated the king into creating a law directed at Daniel. They wanted to accuse him of wrong doing, but they couldn’t find any corruption in anything he’d done. They resorted to the only thing they knew they could catch him doing: praying.

God, after all, was Daniel’s source of knowledge, as he repeatedly said. He couldn’t interpret dreams or prophecy. But God could reveal what He willed through Daniel.

The only argument against this evidence of fulfilled prophecy that I’m aware of is the alteration of the date of writing for the book.

Internal evidence clearly marks all these prophecies as occurring during the 70 years of Jewish exile, before any of the political events took place. But those who do not believe that prophecy can and does exist, immediately give a late date to the book of Daniel, reasoning that the events must have happened before some writer inscribed them.

It’s an old trick: dismiss evidence because of the supernatural elements, then claim no evidence for the supernatural exists.

The truth is, the prophecies of Daniel bear witness to the fact that God who is sovereign over the affairs of men, has revealed Himself, His work, His plan, His purpose within the pages of the Bible.

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Published in: on April 18, 2018 at 6:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Revelation


The Left Behind books by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye attracted attention to eschatology—the “part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind” (Oxford English Dictionary). They are by no means the first writers to depict the events cataloged in the book of Revelation and other passages of prophecy. Back in 1972 A Thief in the Night, the first of a series of four feature-length films, made it’s way into theaters.

There was also a badly written novel—the title escapes me—that encapsulated the entire story of The End . . . in about 250 pages. I’m sure there were others. Certainly there have been since Left Behind. In 2010 Scars: An amazing end-time prophecy novel came out. In 2011 an author announced he was beginning work on The Revelation: a new end-times novel as part of NaNoWriMo.

Years ago, before Revelation became a subject of fiction, churches favoring a dispensational view of Biblical history, held prophecy conferences, complete with charts and time lines.

All this to say, there has been a fascination with Revelation and what it says about the future. But of late, perhaps in reaction to the so popular Left Behind books, there’s been a bit of a backlash against end-time fiction. Some publishers, for example, state in their guidelines they do not want end-time stories. Some bloggers make repeated references to the “bad theology” of the Left Behind books.

I suppose the main struggle with the book of Revelation is to know what is symbolic and what is literal. In some instances, an angel tells John, and therefore us, what the visionary language means.

As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev. 1:20)

These passages are not nearly as common as the pictorial, symbolic language filling most of the book.

That we struggle today to know what John saw that was figurative and what, literal, should be no surprise. The disciples struggled to understand Jesus, too. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, He told them. Oh, no, the disciples said, we forgot to bring bread. I’m going up to Jerusalem to die, Jesus said. Who gets to sit on Your right hand and left hand when You take over, the disciples asked.

When was He talking in parables, when was He speaking plainly? If they couldn’t tell, it should be no shock that we struggle a bit with the same issues when it comes to the revelation Jesus gave to John.

But there are some things we can know. So what is good theology when it comes to the book of Revelation? What is this book recording John’s vision of angels and trumpets and bowls of wrath and seals and beasts and the harlot Babylon, all about?

As my former pastor said as part of his introduction to a sermon series over the book, the one clear truth is that Christ wins. That being said, I think there are some additional key themes that run through Revelation which, I believe, Christians on either side of the theological divide, agree upon.

First, Jesus Christ is the Lamb that was slain, making Him the only one qualified to open that which God has held secret from past ages and generations.

In addition, He will return as the Conqueror and the King, defeating Satan and assigning him eternal punishment.

Revelation also portrays divine judgment on those who follow Satan, who do not repent and give God glory.

Throughout, the book shows God as righteous in His acts, even those that come directly from His wrath. Here’s an example:

And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Rev 16:5-7)

Another key theme is God’s provision of a new home—a new heaven and a new earth—for those whose names are written in the book of life.

One more, though undoubtedly there are others: there’s a clear warning to the churches to hold fast to the truth, to love God and obey Him, to resist false teaching or the lure of riches or complacency.

Revelation is a rich book because it shows us more about who God is than it does about what will happen someday. It shows us what He cares about and what His wrath looks like. It shows that He is worthy to be praised for His justice as well as for His redemption, for His majesty as well as for His righteousness. It shows that He is the Lamb who is Worthy.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in August 2012.

Refusing To Listen


Evils_of_the_cities_-_a_series_of_practical_and_popular_discourses_delivered_in_the_Brooklyn_Tabernacle_(1896)_(14591198780)

For this is a rebellious people, false sons,
Sons who refuse to listen
To the instruction of the LORD;
Who say to the seers, “You must not see visions”;
And to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
Prophesy illusions.

So said Isaiah to the people of Israel when their nation was facing a crisis (30:9-10). But his assessment of God’s chosen people sounds uncomfortably similar to the things people are saying today about and to pastors and teachers:

Don’t talk about sin and especially don’t go on about hell, that imaginary place a bunch of sadistic legalists invented. No one wants to hear that outmoded “fire and brimstone” preaching. After all, people shouldn’t be scared into accepting Jesus. That’s a horrible tactic. Cruel. Kids will have nightmares. Why, it borders on abuse. They should outlaw such preaching.

Tell us instead how God wants us to be healthy and wealthy and how everyone is going to heaven. That’s what we want to hear. Tell us how good we are to try so hard to be good. Tell us how we’re all winners. Tell us that we can do it, we can do it, we can, we can. That if we just look inside ourselves, we’ll find we’ve had the strength all along to be the best we, we can be.

Sadly, that kind of false teaching is becoming the basis of our culture’s belief system, and religious leaders—pastors, priests, evangelists, itinerant preachers seminary profs, authors—have smoothed the road, if they haven’t marched at the front of the line.

The truth is, we don’t want to hear the hard things of Scripture. We don’t like the verses that tell us God is wrathful, even vengeful. Or jealous. Our culture has told us that tolerance and love are the highest values, so of course we expect God to exhibit those qualities too, all the time. He’s patient; he’s kind. He teaches love for your enemies.

So don’t go on about punishment, about judgment, about God separating goats from sheep and wheat from weeds. God is a uniter, not a divider.

Uh, not according to the Bible.

Of course Scripture does say God is love; but it also says He is a just Judge who brings people under his judgment

Behold, the name of the LORD comes from a remote place;
Burning is His anger and dense is His smoke;
His lips are filled with indignation
And His tongue is like a consuming fire;
His breath is like an overflowing torrent,
Which reaches to the neck,
To shake the nations back and forth in a sieve,
And to put in the jaws of the peoples the bridle which leads to ruin. (Isaiah 30:27-28)

In the same way that the people in Isaiah’s day wanted to hear only pleasant words, people today don’t want to hear such harsh words about God’s indignation and burning anger. The result is, people have built an idol they worship—a caricature of God, not the Holy God whose ways are not our ways.

With idols firmly in place, people today have no need of a Savior. They have no need of forgiveness. They’ve been told all their lives that they are extraordinary, that they can do whatever they set their minds to, that they are winners. They’ve been schooled in tolerance and politically correct speech. So certainly they don’t want to be told that the wages of sin is death, that no one is righteous, not even one, that Jesus is the way, the Truth (what is truth anyway?), and the life.

Hear no evil_gargoyle_06Stop with the negative gobbledygook. We don’t want to hear recriminations and accusations. We’re okay and they’re okay, so why aren’t you religious freaks okay? And if you MUST believe your nonsense, just don’t shove it down our throats.

So no more of this hate preaching—telling people they’re destined for hell. You all are haters and you believe in a hateful god-God, but we don’t have to listen to your list of what’s right and what’s wrong. In fact, why don’t you just stop speaking! That’s what we really want.

Yes, Isaiah tends to say it like it is, and that makes some people want to cut his book out of the Bible. It’s already been deconstructed and discredited by scholars who dismiss the idea of God inspiring the prophets. Which makes it easier to ignore.

For this is a rebellious people, false sons,
Sons who refuse to listen
To the instruction of the LORD;

Who say to the seers, “You must not see visions”;
And to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
Prophesy illusions.

Published in: on March 10, 2016 at 6:47 pm  Comments Off on Refusing To Listen  
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Prophecy And Knowing The Bible Is True


The_Holy_BibleSaying that the Bible is God’s Word is a lot like saying the United States is one nation. The US is, in fact, fifty separate states that joined the union over a period of 150-plus years. Similarly, the Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, penned by forty human authors over a period of thousands of years.

In many regards, given this scope, it’s a miracle that even one person, let alone centuries of Christians, believes the Bible is true. Clearly there has to be a reason.

For someone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign God, belief in the veracity of the Bible isn’t hard. God chose to reveal Himself, His plan, His purpose, His work. The greatest evidence that the Bible is that revelation is the Bible’s interpretation of itself.

It claims, for example, to be God-breathed, or inspired. Prophets quoted God as if He had dictated to them. Jesus repeated numerous scriptures as if they were authoritative. So the first point is this: if God is true, and if He gave the Bible, then the Bible is true.

Of course, many come to the Bible looking for evidence of God’s existence, not having already believed in Him. How can they know the Bible is true?

There are several evidences. One is fulfilled prophecy. The Bible is full of prophecy, as a Wikipedia article notes. Of course, a school of critics question when the original texts were written, claiming that the prophecies came after the fact. An example of this would be Jesus saying He would be put to death and rise the third day. The gospels containing His prophecies were written decades after the fact, so, the reasoning goes, the men who wrote them simply added the prophecy to enhance Jesus’s stature.

This line of reasoning, even if it were true, which I do not believe, cannot explain the prophecies about the Messiah contained in the Old Testament, which Jesus fulfilled. One Bible scholar says there are over 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in His life and death. Isaiah 53 alone says He would be despised (the Pharisees handed Him over to be killed) and forsaken (His disciples ran away). That he would be scourged (the Roman guards beat Him), pierced (and ran a spear into His side), would not open His mouth to defend Himself (stood before the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod without defending Himself), would be numbered with the transgressors (killed between two thieves), but would be with a rich man in His death (buried in a rich man’s tomb).

I’ve heard some argue that Jesus purposefully went about to fulfill these prophecies so He could claim Messiah-ship. But of the ones I listed, only His not opening His mouth to defend Himself was something within His human control.

Another scholar, to illustrate the probability of one man, by happenstance, fulfilling all these prophecies, said the chance would be like spreading silver dollars a foot high across the state of Texas, then picking up one you were looking for on the first try.

People examining the Bible closely will find that fulfilled prophecy gives evidence that Scripture is what it claims to be. The reasoning goes like this: If the Bible accurately predicted past events throughout the Old and New Testaments, then it is a reliable source of revelation.

This post, with some minor revisions, originally appeared here in April 2009.

Published in: on July 1, 2015 at 7:15 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Prophetic And The Miraculous


Elisha011In my recent discussion with atheists Arkenaten and company, I realized something critical—in debating the existence of God, presupposition is everything. If you presuppose there is no God as atheists do, then you demand evidence but rule out anything that smacks of “flying monkeys” or the like because whatever defies natural law is simply myth. This approach eliminates fulfilled prophecy as evidence of God’s work in the world or miracles because those will be dumped on the myth pile as nonsense believed only by the delusional.

I thought about this fact as I read the account in 2 Kings of the amazing miracles that occurred during the reign of unbelieving kings. These were not atheists but rulers who no longer worshiped the one true God or Him exclusively. They believed in prophecy and they experienced miracles. In some cases, the phenomenal work of God changed these kings, but more often than not, they went on acting as they had before—either taking God’s work for granted or crediting it to one of the false gods they worshiped.

The thing that I’ve overlooked in the past is how much prophetic and miraculous activity there was during those times. They did not have the Bible, but they were not short on God’s revelation. There were schools of prophets, and when Queen Jezebel, known for her worship of Baal, tried to eliminate the prophets of God, at least a hundred survived. A hundred! Survived!

For ages and ages, I’ve thought there were Elijah, Elisha, and the prophets who wrote the books of the Bible. Period. Well, not so. Scripture records the names of some twenty prophets who were actively communicating God’s message during the era of the Kings of Judah and Israel, but there is also mention of various schools of prophets or sons of the prophets living together in a kind of collective it would seem.

I’ve wondered about those. Did they inherit their job or need to be instructed in order to hear God’s voice? Did they volunteer to be prophets? Or were they “schools of prophets” like geese are gaggles? Just kidding on that last one.

Mostly the prophets recorded by name seemed to be called by God though Elijah apparently called Elisha to be his disciple, his heir apparent. I suspect those in the schools or the collection of sons of the prophets, then, would also have been called by God.

And the miracles seemed to be plentiful. Elisha was God’s instrument for an abundance of supernatural activity. He gave direction for Naaman, the Aramean military leader, to wash and be cleansed from his leprosy. Conversely, he spoke a word and his greedy servant Gehazi contracted leprosy. He gave a widow directions to gather many jars in order to collect a miraculous multiplication of oil to provide for her financial needs.

He spoke a word and a barren couple conceived. Years later, the son who was born died, and Elisha prayed and he was brought back to life. During a famine, he saved the lives of a group of those prophets by miraculously countering a poisonous ingredient inadvertently thrown into their stew pot. He even made iron float so that one of those sons of the prophets could retrieve an ax head that fell into the river.

There’s more—he repeatedly told the Israelite king where the Arameans were planning an ambush so he could avoid them. When the Aramean king sent a force to capture Elisha, he prayed and God opened the eyes of his servant so he could see the amassed forces of God surrounding the enemy. Then he prayed again and God blinded the eyes of the Arameans so that they didn’t know where they were and meekly followed Elisha where he wanted to take them.

I could go on. The point is, during this one period of history, there was an abundance of prophetic and miraculous activity. If people needed signs to believe in God, He gave those in abundance.

And yet, this period was one of great apostasy and ultimately of judgment. The various Israelite kings led their people astray. Baal worship was not just tolerated, but the religion of the ruling house. They instituted male cult prostitutes and prophets of Baal and sacrifices to Baal. They branched out to include worship of female fertility deities.

All the miracles and all the prophecy didn’t change the hearts of the kings bent on disbelief. Nevertheless, God was faithful to make Himself known. He gave them chance after chance to turn to Him in repentance. He allowed enemy armies to assail them, then miraculously delivered them; He brought famine then sent rain to relieve their drought. He foretold what He was about to do so that there would be no doubt His hand was on them. He wanted them to know that He is LORD.

And still, most went their own way.

All the evidence in the world can’t change a hard heart or make a blind man see. Instead, a person away from God must cry out to Him to give him sight, to soften his heart.

God alone can heal and save, but He doesn’t force anyone to come to Him. He pursues with everlasting love, and His abundant revelation—His prophecies and His miracles—testify of His faithfulness

Published in: on November 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Christian And The News


Obama_wins_headlineFor the majority of my life time, the news has been filled with wars and rumors of wars, the latter similar to what we hear now about Ukraine with Russia poised on the border waiting to swoop into the eastern portion of the country and carve out a slice for themselves.

All too often this kind of news, and that about famine and pandemic diseases, strikes fear in the hearts of Christians. Not just Christians, to be fair, but Christians because so many read the news with one eye on Biblical prophecy. Hence, Russia isn’t just threatening Ukraine, they are Magog preparing to sweep down on Israel and initiate Armageddon.

I think it’s important for believers who embrace the Bible as true, historically, spiritually, and prophetically, to keep a number of things in mind.

First, we ought not go about interpreting prophecy on our own. Look what happened when the Jews tried interpreting the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah–they ended up crucifying the very One they were waiting for. Why? Because they didn’t take time to let Scripture interpret Scripture. They didn’t wait on the Holy Spirit to illumine the truth (which He did at Jesus’s baptism and through Peter’s pronouncement and John’s witness).

Second, we ought not try to countermand Scripture. When the Bible says we can’t know the day or hour when Christ will return, it’s foolish to think that passage is talking about everyone else, just not me. In the same way, we ought not declare a universal salvation when Jesus so clearly taught otherwise. In other words, we need to let the Bible say what it actually says, not what we wish it says nor what we assume it says given the present world circumstances.

It’s easy to think that the morality of society is spiraling downward, leading to the final day of judgment, and that might be the case. But seventy-five years ago, some people were certain Hitler was the Anti-Christ. Why, in the first century, many thought Nero was the Anti-Christ, and morality then in Rome and some of the Greek cities was as debase as anything we can imagine.

Besides the not‘s, Christians should pray. First, we should pray for other Christians, especially those who are suffering for their faith. Recently we’ve been reminded to pray for this pastor or that one who has been imprisoned for his faith. The general plea is to pray for his release, and that certainly isn’t wrong.

But perhaps more importantly, we should pray for believers to be light in the darkness surrounding them. We should pray that they’ll have courage to speak the truth in love, that they’ll be content despite their circumstances, that the joy of the Lord will fill them even when they suffer.

Along with praying for believers, we should pray for God’s will to be accomplished. So often we pray for what we think is best–peace, a pro-western government coming to power, democracy taking root; or here at home, an end to terrorist cells, Supreme Court rulings that support marriage and end abortion, a certain political candidate winning an election. But all too often we have no idea if those things actually are aligned with God’s will.

In the book of Jeremiah, for instance, God told His prophet to stop praying for Judah because He wasn’t going to hear and answer those prayers. Sobering. God had declared the coming judgment–defeat by and exile to Babylon–and He determined He would not relent. Other times and places, such as in Nineveh, when Jonah preached, God was moved by their repentance. Not that time.

So today, I think we Christians would be wise to use Scripture and God’s revealed will as a guide for our prayers. We know, for example, that believers are called to make disciples. We can then pray for believers in the places of the world that are in the news to make disciples.

We know that it is not God’s will for any to perish, so we can pray for revival. We know that Jesus will one day be recognized by all the world as Lord, so we can pray that His name will be lifted up because of the circumstances we’ve heard about in the news. We know that Jesus said the greatest command is to love God with our all and to love our neighbors as ourselves. So we can pray for Christians in troubled areas to fearlessly love God and winsomely love their neighbors.

I could go on. The Bible is filled with revelation of God’s will. How important for us to prayer for what God wants and not just for what we want.

Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 3:56 pm  Comments Off on The Christian And The News  
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God’s Indictment Of His People


Old_Testament sacrificesThe books of prophecy are filled with warnings–some against the nations surrounding Israel and Judah, but most directed at God’s chosen people themselves. Micah is no exception, but the things he points up seem a little different.

Others, like Isaiah and Hosea and Jeremiah seem to focus most on God’s people forsaking Him by worshiping idols or by not keeping His Sabbath or by mistreating the orphans and widows and strangers.

Micah, on the other hand, focuses more on the restoration. God’s people will face a day of reckoning, but redemption will follow. Nevertheless, God indicts them for some pointed things: cheating in business, bribery, lying to one another, and violence.

Here’s a sample:

Now hear this, heads of the house of Jacob
And rulers of the house of Israel,
Who abhor justice
And twist everything that is straight,
Who build Zion with bloodshed
And Jerusalem with violent injustice.
Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe,
Her priests instruct for a price
And her prophets divine for money.
Yet they lean on the Lord saying,
“Is not the Lord in our midst?
Calamity will not come upon us.”
Therefore, on account of you
Zion will be plowed as a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest. (3:9-12 – emphasis mine)

A few chapters later Micah points out to the people that they can’t bring enough offering to make right what they’ve done.

With what shall I come to the Lord
And bow myself before the God on high?
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,
With yearling calves?
Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams,
In ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (6:6-7)

Rather God has made plain what He expects:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (6:8)

We can’t earn a place with God by doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with Him, but we can live up to our relationship with Him by practicing those things.

The relationship, interestingly enough, comes because God did what was needed–He paid that insurmountable price which thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil couldn’t satisfy. He presented His Son for my rebellious acts, for the sin of my soul.

With my certificate of debt canceled, nailed to the cross, I can “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Colossians 1:10).

What does that look like? Well, Micah said it, didn’t he. God has told us what is good, what He requires of us: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with our God.

Published in: on May 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm  Comments Off on God’s Indictment Of His People  
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The Unprofessional Prophet


Amos was a farmer. He grew figs and herded sheep, and yet he ended up delivering some scathing prophecy to Israel. At one point the priest for the idol Israel set up at Bethel tried to kick him out of the city, claiming that he was conspiring against the king and saying he should take his prophecies to Judah.

With an open invitation to hightail it to safe territory, Amos stood his ground. He wasn’t a professional prophet. The king didn’t have him on retainer and no one had hired him to do freelance prophecies a la Balaam. Rather, God took him from his day job and said, Go, prophesy. So that’s what he did.

I love his unwavering obedience. I also love his amateur status. It reminds me that God essentially takes believers in Jesus Christ out of our day jobs and tells us to go make disciples. That appointment is for fig growers and doctors and electricians and social workers and teachers and carpenters and writers. And yes, for some professionals, too.

The other thing I’m mindful of is that Amos was commissioned to deliver bad news — Israel was to be judged and they were destined for exile. The Christian, however, gets to deliver good news — the way of escape from judgment and the hope of an eternal heavenly home.

Amos didn’t mince words. He got right to it, telling Israel that God loathed their arrogance, that those most at risk were the ones comfortably rich who closed their eyes to the need for repentance. They cheated the poor, accepted bribes, and hated reproof.

To Amos’s credit, he interceded for Israel and twice God relented of the judgment He had disclosed to Amos through a vision. But the third time, He said, enough.

Then the LORD said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer.” (Amos 8:2b)

Still, Amos went to the people and pleaded with them to repent.

Seek good and not evil, that you may live;
And thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you,
Just as you have said!
Hate evil, love good,
And establish justice in the gate!
Perhaps the LORD God of hosts
May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:14-15)

They did not, and judgment came. But perhaps the harshest part was the famine God proclaimed:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)

That passage reminds me of Romans 1 where God says He gives man over to his sin because he rejects God, choosing instead to worship the creature instead of the Creator (vv 24 ff).

It’s not a happy picture, but that’s the one Amos the unprofessional prophet was assigned to deliver.

How much better is our assignment today! The unprofessional Christian gets to say, Guess what? The One you rejected is the One who loves you and who died to redeem you from your sins, if you will but believe.

I’d say we have the better part, so I wonder why it seems so hard to do the work of evangelism.

Published in: on May 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm  Comments (1)  
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How Do We Know the Bible Is True? Part 1


Saying that the Bible is God’s Word is a lot like saying the United States is one nation. The US is, in fact, fifty separate states that joined the union over a period of 150-plus years. Similarly, the Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, penned by forty human authors over a period of thousands of years.

In many regards, given this scope, it’s a miracle that even one person, let alone centuries of Christians, believes the Bible is true. Clearly there has to be a reason.

For someone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign God, belief in the veracity of the Bible isn’t hard. God chose to reveal Himself, His plan, His purpose, His work. The greatest evidence that the Bible is that revelation is the Bible’s interpretation of itself.

It claims, for example, to be God-breathed, or inspired. Prophets quoted God as if He had dictated to them. Jesus repeated numerous scriptures as if they were authoritative. So the first point is this: if God is true, and if He gave the Bible, then the Bible is true.

Of course, many come to the Bible looking for evidence of God’s existence, not having already believed in Him. How can they know the Bible is true?

There are several evidences. One is fulfilled prophecy. The Bible is full of prophecy, as a Wikipedia article notes. Of course, a school of critics question when the original texts were written, claiming that the prophecies came after the fact. An example of this would be Jesus saying He would be put to death and rise the third day. The gospels containing His prophecies were written decades after the fact, so, the reasoning goes, the men who wrote them simply added the prophecy to enhance Jesus’s stature.

This line of reasoning, even if it were true, which I do not believe, cannot explain the prophecies about the Messiah contained in the Old Testament, which Jesus fulfilled. One Bible scholar says there are over 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in His life and death. Isaiah 53 alone says He would be despised (the Pharisees handed Him over to be killed) and forsaken (His disciples ran away). That he would be scourged (the Roman guards beat Him), pierced (and ran a spear into His side), would not open His mouth to defend Himself (stood before the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod without defending Himself), would be numbered with the transgressors (killed between two thieves), but would be with a rich man in His death (buried in a rich man’s tomb).

I’ve heard some argue that Jesus purposefully went about to fulfill these prophecies so He could claim Messiah-ship. But of the ones I listed, only His not opening His mouth to defend Himself was something in His human control.

Another scholar, to illustrate the probability of one man, by happenstance, fulfilling all these prophecies, said it would be like spreading silver dollars a foot high across the state of Texas, and by chance picking up the very one you were looking for.

Those looking closely at the Bible will find that fulfilled prophecy gives evidence that Scripture is what it claims to be. The reasoning goes like this: If the Bible accurately predicted past events throughout the Old and New Testaments, then it is a reliable source of revelation.

So I’ve looked at two evidence, but as you probably figured by the “Part 1” in the title of this post, there’s more. 😀

Links to the other posts in this series:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Published in: on April 14, 2009 at 11:53 am  Comments (7)  
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