Ordinary People


Christians aren’t superstars. God hasn’t gone about picking the brightest and best, the richest or most handsome. He’s not finding out who’s the best speaker or writer or IT guy or teacher or sports star or supermodel. Actually, God enlists ordinary people to be his followers.

We can see this in the Bible. Take King David, for example. He was the youngest of his family. His job when the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king was—shepherd. He hadn’t acquitted himself on the field of battle or proved himself to be an astute leader of men. Those would come as God walked with him through days of exile, through nights of hiding and running. But when God put His finger on David and said, I want him, David was just an ordinary man.

Which is fitting because his great-grandmother was sort of a nobody. She was a widow, probably a little older than most marriageable women. She was from a foreign country. And she had committed herself to the care of her mother-in-law, which was why she went to Bethlehem in the first place.

Then there was David’s great-great-grandmother. She was also from a foreign country where she was a “working girl.” A prostitute. Some might even think of her as a traitor because she helped “the enemy” by hiding the Jewish spies which had come to search out the land, particularly the city of Jericho.

Yep, neither Ruth nor Rahab were special and yet God used these ordinary women, not only in order that they would be part of David’s lineage, but that they would be part of the Messiah’s heritage.

No one could have considered himself more ordinary than Gideon, but when Israel was harassed by an enemy who stole their crops, their livestock, pretty much everything that made life possible, God called him and put him in the position of delivering his people.

There are loads of other ordinary people who God chose to become heroes or behind-the-scene workers. What about the no-name widow who gave her last coin as an act of worship? Jesus commended her and said she would be remembered for her faith. Not for her status. She had none. Not for her wealth. She was poor beyond measure. What she had was a belief in a God who would not leave her or forsake her.

Or what about the thief on the cross, the last-second convert who still gives comfort and encouragement today for those who have lived all their lives apart from Christ. What hope do they have, so many are tempted to say. There’s every hope because Jesus accepted the thief who was dying beside Him. He didn’t have to have a lengthy resume of things he’d done for the kingdom of God. He simply had to believe.

Think about the twelve men who Jesus chose as disciples. One was a dedicated enemy to the Roman government. He’d be considered a terrorist today. Another was a collaborator—a man who worked with the Romans and, in his own way, oppressed the Jewish people. Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector should have been enemies, but they gave up their former pursuits and both followed Jesus.

At least four of these guys were fishermen. They hadn’t studied with Gamaliel, like Paul had. They weren’t rich like Joseph of Arimethia. They were just guys, working for their dads’ fishing businesses.

Thomas was an ordinary skeptic. No “rich in faith” guy, he. He was of the “show me” variety, and Jesus did just that: showed him his hands and feet, and the nail prints there.

The other three guys were so ordinary we don’t really know anything about them apart from the fact that they went where Jesus sent them, did the work God gave them.

And these are the men responsible for converting the Middle East. Well, not all of it. But this small band of Christ-followers, ordinary men without anything this world values to commend them to the people they talked to, were the people God used to spread the gospel.

And that’s continued. For every Billy Graham, there’s a J. Wilbur Chapman who no one has heard of, yet introduced the greatest evangelist of our time to Jesus.

For every Corrie ten Boom, there’s a Papa ten Boom who taught her the faith which prompted her to protect Jews from the Nazis, to forgive the German guards who persecuted her in the concentration camp and oversaw her sister’s illness and death.

Who was Papa ten Boom? A watchmaker. Who was Corrie ten Boom? An unmarried woman approaching her senior years. Just ordinary people who God chose, who were willing for Him to do with their lives as He pleased.

What about Ravi Zacharias? He was a young Indian man who had tried to take his own life, whose father said he wouldn’t amount to anything. The future was bleak for this ordinary man, but God saved him and used him to speak around the world, to facilitate an entire apologetics ministry.

He was willing, and that’s really all that matters. God is happy with the ordinary people because when each of us comes to Him, it’s a testament that God is the one who saves. Not our bank account. Not our talent, our looks, our status, our strength. God saves.

And how awesome, how mind-boggling, how incredible that He uses ordinary people to get the word out.

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Good And Evil And A Moral Law


On the atheist FB group page where I’m a member, the question came up about the existence of evil pointing to the existence of a moral law and therefore a Moral Lawgiver. The discussion stemmed from something Ravi Zacharias said in response to a question from a student.

Not surprisingly atheists in the group quickly dismissed the notion on the grounds of relativism—good and evil are just relative, therefore there is no fixed standard, no actual absolute, no “law.” Hence, no Lawgiver.

I don’t think I realized just how insidious relativism is until I read those comments. Sure, I knew that the denial of the absolute allowed people to live a life that freed them from those things they simply didn’t want to do. So “what’s right for you, might not be right for me” was born. And a dear friend could say she was divorcing her husband because she knew God wanted her to be happy—clearly His idea about marriage wasn’t working for her. Therefore, it must not actually be for her.

Now I see that line of thinking is only the tip of the relativism iceberg. The atheists who claimed the idea were using it against God. Humans decide what’s good and “bad.” (They didn’t even want to use the word “evil.”) So if something causes pain, that’s bad. If something makes you feel good, that’s good.

How ironic that these same atheists proclaim over and over that Christians depend on our feelings. Can they not see that the belief in absolutes is not a dependence on feelings but on revelation? Relativism, on the other hand, depends completely on what you’re feeling like today. You feel like a man inside? Then you’re a man. You’re feeling like pornography is free speech? Then it’s free speech, not perversion.

One of the evidences of the advance of relativism is the old TV program MASH. On that show, set during the Korean War (and produced during the Vietnam War), one soldier who did not want to be in the military but who had been drafted, tried to get out by claiming a Section 8: “Section 8 is a category of discharge from the United States military, used for a service member judged mentally unfit for service.”

How did this character attempt to give evidence that he was mentally unfit for service? By wearing dresses. Because back then, when the show was made, men were understood to be not thinking correctly if they wanted to dress like women.

Today men can not only dress like women, they can become women. A little surgery, a little hormone therapy, a little make-up and hair styling, a new wardrobe, and wallah. Based on what? Feelings. Not facts. Not absolutes. Not science.

Now I understand where this kind of relativism leads. It’s a sad departure from reality because those who hold to it want to get away from a moral standard and the obvious conclusion that if we have a moral standard, we must have Someone who gives that moral standard.

Relativism is a philosophy that allows for escape from God.

What is baffling to me is that relativism is so paper thin, anyone ought to be able to see through it.

Torture a child, and universal cries for justice will be heard. Who sides with a child abuser? I know of no one. Where does that clear idea—to hurt a child is wrong—come from?

One atheist said it’s empathy. That’s similar to the pain answer. But do we put doctors in jail for inflicting pain when they give shots? Of course not. A little pain is necessary to vaccinate a child from an illness that could disable them. How do we differentiate between the “good” pain and the “bad” pain? Not via empathy. Empathy would say, you’re hurting that child when you give them vaccines, so you should just stop.

An understanding of what’s good, however, undermines that concept and says, there’s a higher good than pain avoidance at stake.

Of course we do not always agree on what’s good and what’s evil. Ask conservatives politically and they will likely tell you that President Obama was not good. Ask liberals politically and they will likely tell you that President Trump is not good. Both groups have a sense that there is a good.

Where does that idea come from?

Humans also clearly believe in evil. Wars and mass shootings and terrorist attacks are considered tragic and wrong. Why?

Because they are. They do not square with what we know, innately, to be right. A mother isn’t supposed to drown her children. A human is not supposed to kill and eat other humans. No one has to teach us these things. The standard of morality, of good and evil, exists because God exists. He’s stamped a love of justice on our hearts.

Evil, then, is actually a problem for those who do not believe in God. They have no explanation for the existence of a moral law, one that people live by even though they try to do away with it by adopting a flimsy philosophy like relativism.

Published in: on January 30, 2018 at 6:03 pm  Comments (33)  
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Morality In Fiction


Reading_Jane_EyreIn response to “Fiction Isn’t Lying”, a number of people, here and at Facebook, said they had experience with people who thought of fiction as a form of lying. Once again I was shocked. The thrust of the article, however, dealt with the Christian’s responsibility to speak truthfully about God in our fiction.

I’ll say again, Christians do not have to speak about God, directly or indirectly, but should we choose to do so, we have an imperative to be truthful. But “truthful” doesn’t mean we must tell all about God. First, it’s not possible to do so, and second, so much theology would overwhelm the story so that it would cease being a story.

I’m convinced that many readers and writers alike stumble over theology in stories because they confuse it with moral teaching. Two years ago I wrote a short series about that issue, and I’m re-posting the concluding article which sums up more completely than the final paragraph in yesterday’s article, what I believe about morality versus theology in fiction. Here is that article:

– – – – –

In my recent brief series, Theology Versus Morality, (Parts 1, 2, and 3), I essentially took a stand for theology in Christian fiction while calling into question the validity of judging a novel by its morality. For example, in part 2 I said,

I tend to think too many Christians put the cart of morality before the horse of theology. In fact we advocate certain behavior without the foundational belief system that can rightly shape a person’s actions.

Later I added

When it comes to fiction, I think there’s a segment of Christian readers who want their brand of morality mirrored in the stories they read. In fact, for some, the morality might be more important than the theology.

I think that position is bad for fiction and bad for Christianity.

Does that mean that morality has no place in fiction? Should we write the story of adultery with nothing but a suggestion that a way of escape exists? That would be truthful to the way the world is and truthful to theology.

But is it sufficient for the needs of society?

I look at western society, and I see a growing cesspool of immorality. We have TV programs with titles like Scandal and Revenge and Betrayal. Others focus on the criminal mind and blood splatters and entries wound, with the intent to show the process of catching those who perpetrate psychotic and cruel behavior.

We have TV news magazines discussing yet another school shooting, one many people forget because “only” three children died.

Last night’s news carried stories of an old man struck down with intent by a hit-and-run driver in a gas station as he walked toward the office to pay for his gas and of a twelve-year-old and his mother living next door to a state senator (i.e., not your usual violent-crime neighbor) who were bound and gagged while a crew of four robbed their home on a Sunday afternoon.

Further, an NBA athlete was celebrated this week as the first openly gay player in any of the four major sports in the US.

Then on Facebook today, one topic of discussion revolves around an article about the growing advocacy for “polyamory” especially by the media. Clearly, if marriage is no longer allowed to be defined as a relationship between a man and a woman, why should it be limited to a single person with another single person, instead of multiples?

There’s more, from the LGBT community successfully advocating here in SoCal for children to pick the bathroom, locker room, gender sports team, based on how they feel, not on their biology, to the new idea for losing weight based on Yoga meditation and fasting during certain phases of the moon.

The muck and mire of the world is thick and growing thicker.

So do Christian novelists simply tag along, showing society as it is, without addressing morality in our stories? Do we write to the edge, and when the edge shifts further from us, scurry along behind in an effort to catch up? Quite honestly, I think that description fits too much Christian fiction.

Many of the strictures that writers complained about are gone. Christian fiction has characters that are divorced, have affairs, drink, see ghosts, see demons—all things that once were considered taboo. But as general market fiction played at the edges, Christian writers begged to be allowed the same latitude.

The problem, as I see it, is that this move toward a reversal of moral constriction is built on the same error as that which established the legalistic mores in the first place—theology does not undergird the view of morality.

Prager-ZachariasInterestingly, apologist Ravi Zacharias, in a discussion Saturday with radio personality Dennis Prager, identified three levels in which philosophy is passed on: (1) argumentation—reason; (2) art—the imagination; (3) “kitchen table conversation”—the daily statements of belief. To influence society, then, Zacharias says we must argue from reason, illustrate in our art, and live out our beliefs. The problem he says, is that we try to do number three without number one and number two.

Exacerbating the problem, I believe is something G. K. Chesterton identified:

Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art … There must always be a rich moral soil for any artistic growth.

So if society has lost its “rich moral soil,” how is art to illustrate the theology (philosophy) that underpins our beliefs?

In other words, we are in a downward spiral—a morally vacuous society that cannot produce art which will show us how to live morally.

There but for the grace of God are we all.

But God does give a greater grace. He is “opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble,” Scripture says.

So, what if Christian novelists determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified? What if we painted theology into every corner of our art—and won awards doing so? What if we stopped fighting to get cuss words into our stories or stopped counting the number of times the characters say golly or disobey their parents, and started writing to show what God is like, to show His Son, to the best of our ability? What if we gave stories that illustrated the power of forgiveness or love for an enemy, neighbor, or stranger, or for God? What if our stories show what we say we believe?

Wouldn’t that be a step in the process of influencing our society to get out of the morass we are making?

Reaching This Generation


Ravi ZachariasRavi Zacharias, the apologist who founded RZIM which sponsors teams of Christian apologists who travel throughout the world discussing the claims of the gospel, asked a key question in a recent radio broadcast:

How do you reach a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings? What’s more, how can you reach a generation that seems to have lost its sense of shame?

This is what has happened, Zacharias said, because of the secularization of western culture and its attempt to eliminate religion.

I’ve long believed that this generation, more than any other, is open to story. Yes, story has been important for decades, but certainly its power has only increased over the years. And yet, story can only take a person so far.

C. S. Lewis loved stories—in particular mythology—before he became a Christian. The heroes and battles and rescues he read about prepared him for “the true myth” he encountered in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But today’s culture has so many more road bumps to navigate.

Pluralism is one. All religions are the same, many claim. They all advocate for love and kindness and faith. Except, of course, there are differences that contradict each other. Either Jesus is God or He is not. Either God is One or He is not. Either humankind is sinful or it is not.

Sin is another issue. This generation has been raised in a culture that declares, I’m OK and you’re OK. In fact, you deserve a break or a lower insurance premium or a better flight or just “it” whatever the it might be. The culture also tells us we can do whatever we want, whatever we put our minds to. The only thing holding us back, is apparently a poor imagination. There are hardly mistakes any more. People on reality TV shows (game shows, actually), when asked if they would do anything differently, inevitably say, no, they played the game the way they wanted to. They’re happy because they had fun.

So fun, and not what’s true or right, is the new standard by which we measure behavior. Which fits with the relativism of the day. Moral absolutes are taboo, and that statement is about the only absolute that’s considered acceptable. One reason Christianity is in the crosshairs of secular society is because of its truth claims.

Society instead prefers to bounce from one belief to another with no logic. English poet Steve Tuner captured the tenor of society in his poem “Creed,” which Zacharias read and which appears in his book Can Man live Without God? (pp 42-44)

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.
.
We believe in sex before, during, and
after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.
.
We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.
.
We believe there’s something in horoscopes
UFO’s and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher though we think
His good morals were bad.
.
We believe that all religions are basically the same-
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn
.
We believe in Masters and Johnson
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.
.
We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.
.
We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.
.
We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth
that there is no absolute truth.
.
We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.

Zacharias next identifies privatization as a significant problem in our culture. This term refers to the pressure society brings to bear on the individual to keep his faith private. We can be religious; we just shouldn’t let it affect how we vote or the policies for which we advocate. This thinking severs the spiritual nerve so that what we do ends up having no meaning. And unfortunately, that’s where many in this generation are.

So how do we speak to the generations steeped in postmodern thought? The answer is, we must show rather than tell. Stories show, but so do lives lived in community and sacrifice. Jesus said it clearly: “They will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” And He demonstrated His love, while we were yet sinners, by dying for us.

At some point we Christians must live life unafraid of the consequences for our faith. We must speak up—not about social issues so much as about the cross of Jesus Christ. We must bear witness—we must tell people who Jesus is and we must tell them what He has done for them. And we must show them what sacrificial love looks like, what a transformed life looks like.

The Christian View Of Culture: The Secular/Sacred Divide


    Nothing for the Christian is essentially secular. It can only be secularized by leaving God out of it or by engaging in that from which God, by his nature, must be excluded.
    The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias (p. 145)

mud_poolI’ve read any number of times that one of the problems in the church and in Christian fiction is a propensity to divide life into camps—secular over there, Christian over here. Often times this line of reasoning comes from someone decrying the term “Christian fiction.”

However, the thought usually goes more along these lines: God created the world and everything in it; therefore, everything has a touch of the divine if we will see it—mountains and mud puddles, priests and prostitutes.

Interestingly, the quote above from evangelist/apologist Ravi Zacharias agrees with the idea that we have constructed an artificial divide. There’s an interesting wording difference between Zacharias’s phrasing and what I’ve read before. Rather than saying all is sacred, he says none is secular. I think that might be significant.

On one hand, those suggesting we do away with the “Christian fiction” distinction say all is sacred. There seems to be a period there. The implication is that all can be enjoyed or utilized by a Christian whether or not God shows up.

In contrast, Mr. Zacharias stipulates that nothing is secular but anything can be secularized by leaving God out

But what does it mean to include God in the picture? Are we supposed to see Jesus in Avatar, for instance? Are we supposed to read Watership Down (Richard Adams) and see some end times message?

Not at all. I think including God means I first see the object or person or piece of writing before me for what or who they are. Jesus, for example, understood exactly who the woman at the well was—a Samaritan, a “seeker,” a divorcee, a sinner in need of a Savior. He didn’t dismiss her as too far gone for God and He didn’t dismiss her as already one of the family of God.

I guess what I’m thinking is this: we don’t need to force God into places.

I remember when I saw the first two Star Wars movies. I started to see Christian parallels and began to wonder if possibly Lucas was using intentional symbolism to convey a Christian message. Maybe he was saying the Force was God. Maybe our hero was a type of Christ.

In reality, I was forcing my worldview onto the movie.

Then where is God in Star Wars? Are they simply “secular,” something I can enjoy apart from my Christianity?

While I can enjoy them, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to do so apart from my Christianity but because of it. As I think on God and His Son, I am filtering my culture through the lens of my Christianity.

For example, I can look at the Force and compare that to God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible—a personal, loving Heavenly Father. While the Jedi knights could say, “May the Force be with you,” they could never say, “May the Force comfort you in your time of grief” or “May the Force hear your prayer” or “May the Force extend its grace and love to you.” God transcends the Force by His nature, by His personhood.

So I can come away from Star Wars entertained but also thankful that I know a personal loving God and do not have to trust to an impersonal, distant Force.

That’s only one example. Other possibilities include a conviction to commit to God … Or a willingness to mentor someone new in the faith … Or a determination to stand against evil regardless of the strength of the opposition.

You get the idea.

Nothing is secular unless I leave God out.

– – – – –
This article is a reprint of one entitled “The Christian View Of Culture” published February, 2010.

Morality In Fiction


Prager-ZachariasIn my recent brief series, Theology Versus Morality, (Parts 1, 2, and 3), I essentially took a stand for theology in Christian fiction while calling into question the validity of judging a novel by its morality. For example, in part 2 I said,

I tend to think too many Christians put the cart of morality before the horse of theology. In fact we advocate certain behavior without the foundational belief system that can rightly shape a person’s actions.

Later I added

When it comes to fiction, I think there’s a segment of Christian readers who want their brand of morality mirrored in the stories they read. In fact, for some, the morality might be more important than the theology.

I think that position is bad for fiction and bad for Christianity.

Does that mean that morality has no place in fiction? Should we write the story of adultery with nothing but a suggestion that a way of escape exists? That would be truthful to the way the world is and truthful to theology.

But is it sufficient for the needs of society?

I look at western society, and I see a growing cesspool of immorality. We have TV programs with titles like Scandal and Revenge and Betrayal. Others focus on the criminal mind and blood splatters and entries wound, with the intent to show the process of catching those who perpetrate psychotic and cruel behavior.

We have TV news magazines discussing yet another school shooting, one many people forget because “only” three children died.

Last night’s news carried stories of an old man struck down with intent by a hit-and-run driver in a gas station as he walked toward the office to pay for his gas and of a twelve-year-old and his mother living next door to a state senator (i.e., not your usual violent-crime neighbor) who were bound and gagged while a crew of four robbed their home on a Sunday afternoon.

Further, an NBA athlete was celebrated this week as the first openly gay player in any of the four major sports in the US.

Then on Facebook today, one topic of discussion revolves around an article about the growing advocacy for “polyamory” especially by the media. Clearly, if marriage is no longer allowed to be defined as a relationship between a man and a woman, why should it be limited to a single person with another single person, instead of multiples?

There’s more, from the LGBT community successfully advocating here in SoCal for children to pick the bathroom, locker room, gender sports team, based on how they feel, not on their biology, to the new idea for losing weight based on Yoga meditation and fasting during certain phases of the moon.

The muck and mire of the world is thick and growing thicker.

So do Christian novelists simply tag along, showing society as it is, without addressing morality in our stories? Do we write to the edge, and when the edge shifts further from us, scurry along behind in an effort to catch up? Quite honestly, I think that description fits too much Christian fiction.

Many of the strictures that writers complained about are gone. Christian fiction has characters that are divorced, have affairs, drink, see ghosts, see demons–all things that once were considered taboo. But as general market fiction played at the edges, Christian writers begged to be allowed the same latitude.

The problem, as I see it, is that this move toward a reversal of moral constriction is built on the same error as that which established the legalistic mores in the first place–theology does not undergird the view of morality.

Interestingly, apologist Ravi Zacharias, in a discussion Saturday with radio personality Dennis Prager, identified three levels in which philosophy is passed on: (1) argumentation–reason; (2) art–the imagination; (3) “kitchen table conversation”–the daily statements of belief. To influence society, then, Zacharias says we must argue from reason, illustrate in our art, and live out our beliefs. The problem he says, is that we try to do number three without number one and number two.

Exacerbating the problem, I believe is something G. K. Chesterton identified:

Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art … There must always be a rich moral soil for any artistic growth.

So if society has lost its “rich moral soil,” how is art to illustrate the theology (philosophy) that underpins our beliefs?

In other words, we are in a downward spiral–a morally vacuous society that cannot produce art which will show us how to live morally.

There but for the grace of God are we all.

But God does give a greater grace. He is “opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble,” Scripture says.

So, what if Christian novelists determined to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified? What if we painted theology into every corner of our art–and won awards doing so? What if we stopped fighting to get cuss words into our stories or stopped counting the number of times the characters break the Ten Commandments, and started writing to show what God is like, to show His Son, to the best of our ability? What if we gave stories that illustrated the power of forgiveness or love for an enemy, neighbor, or stranger, or for God? What if our stories show what we say we believe?

Wouldn’t that be a step in the process of influencing our society to get out of the morass we are making?

God Speaks However He Wants


Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus coverOne more story, this passed along from the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry newsletter–a Muslim who came to Christ after experiencing a dream or vision (in this man’s case, three dreams and a vision). I’ve heard a proliferation of such stories, from disparate sources, all reputable.

It’s enough to convince me that God is on the move in parts of the world that we once thought were closed to the gospel, simply because missionaries weren’t welcome. But God is not limited the way we so often think He is. Yes, He chooses to use His people to declare His message, but He’s not limited by our weakness or unwillingness.

However, listening to some faithful believers–pastors who have studied Scripture–you’d think God was working with both hands tied behind his back and a gag over his mouth. Consequently, the only means at his disposal to bring people to Christ is the preaching of God’s Word.

I believe in preaching, and I know God works through the proclamation of His Word. But the fact is, that very Word tells us about the Apostle Paul who came to Christ, not after hearing a sermon or studying God’s law and prophets. He came to Christ because he saw a vision.

Not only that, the Apostle Peter saw a vision that led him to believe that faith in Christ was not limited to Jews, but that Gentiles were welcome also.

In addition, Scripture tells us there will be a time when

[God] will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
And even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days . . .
And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Will be delivered. (Joel 2:28-29, 32a)

I’m not quite sure how the people who believe God’s miraculous works such as prophecy have ceased, resolve the places that Scripture seems to contradict this idea. Are they saying dreams and visions ceased . . . until they didn’t? But when did this ceasing begin? Certainly not before Paul’s conversion. And if it ceased when the cannon of Scripture was closed, who told the leaders of the church this fact? I mean, I think it’s a stretch to make Scripture say that the gifts of the Spirit that are miraculous would be done at some future, undisclosed date–until they wouldn’t be done, at some other distant undisclosed future date.

I know this is controversial. And it’s potentially dangerous. Because as soon as you say, God can work through visions, then you have all kinds of wack jobs claiming they’ve had visions and met with angels and received a new and more complete word from God.

Except, the people in Muslim lands who are seeing visions and dreaming dreams are being pointed to the Bible and to Jesus Christ. This latest which I heard about today is Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, formerly a devout Muslim who authored the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus which is due to release tomorrow. Here’s part of the description of his conversion from the RZIM newsletter:

Growing up in a devout Muslim family, Qureshi read the entire Quran in Arabic by age five, memorized more than a dozen chapters by his teens and boldly proclaimed Islam to his friends of other religions. “We are Qureshis, descendants of the Quresh tribe—Muhammad’s tribe. Our family stood sentinel over Islamic tradition,” he describes. “Islam was the lifeblood that coursed through my veins. Islam was my identity, and I loved it. I boldly issued the call of Islam to anyone and everyone who would listen, proclaiming that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger.”

Qureshi’s love for Islam defined and directed his life until a close college friend defended the Christian message with compelling evidence and disrupted everything he knew about religion, faith and meaning. Shaken by the potential that Christianity might be true, he turned to God for direct guidance and was given a vision and three dreams that led him to Jesus.

“That led him to Jesus.” That’s the key, I think. Any visions or dreams that lead a person elsewhere or to a different personality, to a different gospel, to a “new” understanding, is patently false.

But what an exciting truth: God is not limited in the way which makes Himself known. That He chooses to use us in the proclamation of His truth is awesome, but we’re not the only means at His disposal. He can have a personal, direct conversation with an individual if He chooses–or so Paul tells us in the book of Acts. As does the Apostle John in the book of Revelation.

Oh, that was Scripture times, someone may say. Things are different now. God doesn’t work that way any more.

Do we believe this because we think God isn’t as strong as He once was? Or because the people who claim “special knowledge” have started cults or tricked people into giving them money or convinced others the end of the world was on a certain day? Do we believe this because WE haven’t seen any visions or had any “pointing to God” dreams? Do we believe this because we say we believe the Bible but filter it based on our own assumptions or traditions that have been passed down to us?

It’s the latter that I think influences a lot of evangelical, non-charismatic, western Christians today. We are quick to judge the Pharisees for the traditions they held on to over God’s clear word, but I tend to think we cling to our traditions pretty strongly, too.

Time, I believe, to read God’s Word with fresh eyes and let Him speak however He wants.

Guilt


I’ve been working on a short story lately having to do with the concept of guilt. The idea came when I was listening to a radio program featuring speaker/apologist Ravi Zacharias.

As I was thinking about what topic to blog on today, I glanced at an article I bookmarked some time ago, and the topic is guilt. Ah-ha!

I began to peruse the article and came up against a troubling fact, reminiscent of some things I’ve read connected with the emerging church. There seems to be a movement afoot that a) lays guilt at the door of the church (not a person’s conscience or the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin); and b) wants to free up Christians from guilty feelings.

Here’s the part of the article I found most troubling:

He (God or your husband or your best friend) wants you to do one thing, you want to do something else. If you get your way, your joy is tainted by the selfishness you feel, and by knowing you will have to eventually pay that person back.

Thankfully, God isn’t like that.

Granted, God isn’t into payback the way we humans are. He doesn’t get His feelings hurt and because He’s miffed, insist on His way next time.

But what I find troubling about that quote is the idea that a Christian could say she wants to do one thing and God wants her to do something else, and she apparently thinks it’s just find for her to then “get her own way.”

Isn’t the Christian life about God’s will and God’s way? Since when do we get on equal footing with the Redeemer of our souls and decide to go our way instead of His? And not feel guilty about it. Because God doesn’t do payback.

This article shows the confusion of our time, I think. If I discern that I want to do one thing, but God wants me to do something else, to pursue my desires over God’s is sin. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin. Conviction makes me feel guilty—because I am!

The way to not feel guilty when I am guilty is to repent of sin. Turn from it. Stop doing it.

Of course, there is a “guilty” that comes from disappointing someone that may or may not be sin. If I “get my own way” in a disagreement with a friend because I am being selfish, then I have sinned and should feel guilty.

On the other hand, if I tried … say, to pick a friend up at the airport, but my car broke down, I can feel disappointed and even sorrowful that my friend was inconvenienced and I wasn’t able to fulfill my commitment on time. Those feelings may be similar to guilt, but there would be no real guilt in play.

The feeling of guilt can be induced, I believe, but real guilt cannot. Satan accuses the brethren, and I think he sometimes does that to our faces as well as to God’s. He wants us to feel defeated and incapable.

The answer is not to say guilt is bad. It’s to recognize when guilt is real and when it is not. Real guilt is easy for us to handle because Jesus Christ made it easy (that easy-yoke thing 😉 ).

I’m thinking right now, a question might help. When guilty feelings stir, I want to ask, Where are these coming from? I want to learn also to pray, asking God to give me the answer to that question. Left to myself, I can too easily fall under the influence of the enemy’s lies.

Published in: on August 26, 2009 at 1:38 pm  Comments (5)  
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