“It Doesn’t Say That”: Deductive Reasoning and the Bible

I want to share something with you that the Lord showed to me and the more He taught me, the more excited I got! I immediately knew it was meant for me to teach to our group of 14-23 year-olds we shepherd at our church. While I don’t have the use of a chalkboard to help me illustrate this as I did to them a few weeks ago, I will do my best to illustrate this awesome crash course in relevant and paramount apologetics. My earnest hope is that it will stimulate you, give you confidence and solidify your faith in the process as it did me.

Many times people will argue that something isn’t true because it isn’t explicitly stated in certain verbiage. They often do this with the Bible and use this as proof of its supposed unreliability. But this line of thinking is unsound and incorrect. In support of biblical truth, we know from other facts found throughout scripture that they are, in fact, true. Let me connect some dots for you and you will be able to do as the Word exhorts us to do, “…Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15).

Have you ever heard of what is called “Deductive Reasoning?” Even if you are unfamiliar with the terminology, you do this frequently. The verb “deduce” means to arrive at an answer or conclusion by putting different pieces of information together. It is an unbiased, fair and logical process and it is used in many professions and areas of life, some more complex than others. For example, in mathematics we can say: If 3 + 1 = 4, and we know that 3 + 1 is the same as (=) 1 + 3, then we can state with confidence that 1 + 3 = 4 as well.

What is a Pronoun? It renames or takes the place of another Noun. Remember this as we will refer back to it a little later. For those of you who didn’t like English or Grammar class and were one of those who asked themselves, “When will I ever use this later in life?” Well, today you’ll find the answer, and it’s an integral part of an important lesson.

Deductive Reasoning is taking pieces of known information and fitting them together to arrive at a conclusion which is not stated obviously or not known previously, by some or many, to be true. Police do this when they are presented with pieces of evidence. As they follow where the evidence leads, they can verify some is true and keep it, while deleting what is false and, as they investigate further, pieces of evidence and testimonies from witnesses will allow them to find the ultimate truth of the matter.

As a wonderful example, Holy Spirit reminded me that the week prior we had three visiting teenagers that were related to one another and to one of the girls who regularly attends our special church that we hold upstairs. The two girls told us they and the two boys were all cousins. So, as I was preparing for our time together during the days leading up to it, I was given this practical and apt analogy. When we got together I said to the young people that if I gave Cindy, Valeria, Angel and Erwin an assignment to write a short biography about themselves and, in these papers, I read that Cindy and Valeria had each mentioned that they were related to Angel (with no mention of Erwin) and, in reading Erwin’s account, I learned that he said he was related to Angel (with no mention of the girls) I would be able to deduce from these pieces of information that Erwin, Cindy and Valeria were related also. I bet you already figured this out as well. How do we know this? Because if the girls are cousins with Angel and Erwin is cousins with Angel, we can know for certain that Erwin, Cindy and Valeria are cousins as well. Someone might doubt this because he never heard them say it, but we know from their testimonies—even what they leave out—that our reasoning is completely accurate and true. The Lord took me to school and I loved every bit of it!

Now let’s take this same approach to scripture in order to arrive at a true conclusion that we can prove from the Word at different places in the Bible. People who attempt to discredit God’s authoritative Word may say that the phrase “Jesus is God” is not in the Bible. They will assert that nowhere in the Bible is this phraseology found. And they would be correct. BUT, this thin slab of a foundation on which they hope to dismantle our faith is actually sinking sand. (Let us not forget that some people who genuinely seek proof for their fledgling faith and those who are simply seeking answers before committing their lives to Jesus Christ’s lordship are not wrong to do so, nor are we to assume their motives are wrong either. I say this because it’s so easy to get in “defense mode” rather than remain in the love we have been called to). Okay, read on and bear in mind this is a very pertinent application of Ephesians 6: 10-20.

I like to read and suggest to others that they begin to read the Word in Genesis. However, many suggest the Gospel of John. Beginning in the beginning is always better; it is where the Lord started and it introduces the reader to the sin problem which is at the core of the Gospel message. However, John is a very good place too, especially if all they have is a New Testament to read from. In verses 1-4, it packs quite an informational punch saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

Question: What facts do we know or can we glean from this passage?

• The WORD was in the beginning
• The WORD was with God (in the beginning)
• The WORD was God
• All things were made through HIM
• Nothing that has been made was made without HIM
• LIFE was in HIM
• This LIFE was the light of men

Question: From these facts alone, what other unwritten, indirect facts can also be known correctly through deduction and logical, truthful reasoning (about the “word”)?

• That the “word” is masculine (The word is referred to as “him” in verse 2)
• That this same “him” made and created the world and everything in it (verse 3)
• That the “word” was/ is “life” (verse 4)
• That the “word”, this same “him,” was/ is the light of men (verse 4)

Now jump down a short way to verses 6-8 which relate, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John (the Baptist). He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through “him.” He (John) was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.”

Question: After reading these facts, these pieces of information, we can put them together with the other facts we have just read and can know from truthful deduction (putting pieces of information together to arrive at a conclusion), what else that is not specifically written or told here?

• Since John came to bear witness about the light (verse 7), and verse 4 says that the life was the “light” of men, then John came to bear witness about LIFE.
• Since verse 8 tells us that John is not the light, then we know that John was not LIFE either.

John 1:14 says, “And the “word” became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen HIS glory…”

John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”

Question: Who is speaking here, in the latter verse? JESUS.

Question: How do we know this? The beginning of verse 6 says, “JESUS said to him…”

*** Since John 14:6 says “Jesus is the LIFE”, and John 1:4 says that “in him was LIFE,” we now know that LIFE is in Jesus and the “him” referred to in verses 3-4 (2 times) also refers to Jesus.***

Verse 1 mentions: 1) The “word” was IN THE BEGINNING, 2) The “word” was WITH GOD and 3) The “word” WAS/ IS GOD.

Now to come back to what was briefly foreshadowed near the beginning– the term “Pronoun.” What is it and what does it do? It is a Noun that renames or takes the place of another noun. For example, if I write or say “Steve loves sports. HE is on the basketball, football and soccer teams.” We know that HE refers back to Steve. So, when verse 1 (John chapter 1) says “the word” three times and verse 2 (again John chapter 1) says “he,” this same “he” refers to, takes the place of and is the same as THE WORD.

Verse 4 tells us that “in HIM was life” (still referring to the “word”). John 14:6 (again) reveals that “Jesus is LIFE.”

*** Now we know that since Jesus called Himself “the LIFE” in chapter 14, verse 6 and that it points out in chapter 1, verse 4 that “in Him was LIFE,” we can easily and forthrightly conclude and deduce that this “him” is talking about Jesus. And since we know that the pronoun “him” in chapter 1, verses 3-4 and the pronoun “he” in chapter 1, verse 2 refers to the “word,” we now know assuredly that JESUS IS THE WORD. They are one and the same. JESUS = THE WORD.***

Question: Since we now know that Jesus is the Word, then when chapter 1, verse 1 says the “word” a) WAS IN THE BEGINNING, b) WAS WITH GOD and c) WAS/ IS GOD, then what can we now deduce?

• That JESUS WAS IN THE BEGINNING
• That JESUS WAS WITH GOD
• That JESUS IS GOD

So, even if someone may say that the Bible doesn’t use the specific words “Jesus is God,” in those exact terms or together in the same sentence, we know definitively that these other scriptures– these other facts–show us it can be reasoned and deduced logically and intelligently that “JESUS CHRIST IS GOD!”

I hope you have been encouraged, strengthened, emboldened and are now equipped to share your faith, what you have already believed and confessed, to any true seekers, to any doubters or skeptics, to adamant opposition and even with your children and any saints you have fellowship with. This is a blessing to me and pray it is to you!

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“WHY?!”… An Answer in a Time of Unimaginable Grief

In a less-than-ideal society and in a country not their own, a husband and wife end up in the same prison. Under the beneficence of the judge, they were even allowed to serve their sentence in the same cell. Because they loved each other so much and spent all of their time together, literally, the wife became overwhelmed with grief and sorrow when the husband was paroled. She didn’t know if or when she would see him again. To go from spending every day together, then suddenly being altogether separated was almost more than she could bear. Of course, not knowing how long she would remain there added to her frustration and fueled so many unanswered questions, primarily, “WHY?!” She felt as if he had been ripped away from her without warning, stoking the fires of isolation and disconsolation.

Not many days after, while on the visitation yard, a tender-hearted corrections officer who knew of her situation and who had also noticed the change in her appearance and behavior, approached her. The officer had barely finished uttering her words of sympathy and compassion when the wife cried almost hysterically and, in her desperation and loneliness, almost appeared to choke as she gasped the words, “Why?! Why?!” Not wanting to be perceived as patronizing, the officer held the woman’s hand, listened to her as she released her emotions and feelings, and even sat with her during her only break of the day; such was her concern for this virtual widow. After several minutes, as the parolee’s wife began to gradually become somewhat composed, the officer ventured an explanation she sincerely hoped would shine a new light on the woman’s situation, offer her hope, give her a different perspective and perhaps even to project some joy into her new friend’s heart.

As the guard’s compassionate eyes met the sorrowful, but almost expectant gaze of her audience of one, she gave her thoughts and convictions voice with these words:

“I know how much he meant to you. I saw how much you loved and cared for each other. I witnessed the laughter and familiarity and support you shared. Since he has gone, I’ve also watched as you have experienced senses of loss, grief, incredulity, anger and shock these last days—and I most certainly understand that, but let me ask you this. As much as you miss him, and as much more as you love him, and even as much as you would like to be with him again, would you really rather him be back here with you in this awful place—which would certainly make YOU happy and ease YOUR pain and suffering—or can you be glad for him that the good judge showed him mercy by freeing him from this prison once and for all? This is not for you to feel guilty, but to be happy for him in his freedom as you await your reunion.”

Of course what may have seemed, at first, to be a retelling of an actual sequence of events or, perhaps, you knew from the beginning it was fictional, doesn’t matter. So many times I have heard first- or second-hand of people who have lost dear, dear loved ones. The relationships differ. Sometimes they are husband and wife (newlyweds or covenantal veterans), sometimes it is with parents and children (from infant to adult), sometimes it is mentor and student, sometimes brother and sister, sometimes best friends, sometimes comrades in arms or another close relationship. One can sense the profound anguish in the shaking of someone’s voice and the words they employ to convey the all-too-fresh memories. As a result of these situations and real people reverberating in my heart and mind for a long time, I believe with all my heart and soul this is the word and the time Almighty God has chosen and given to me and to you to offer you, the hurting, confused, lonely and the upset a heavenly perspective and to give you consolation. While it may not make sense yet or fit every circumstance, it should when the cloud of gloom begins to lift.

When you are able and by the grace of God, rather than shake your proverbial fist at the Lord God Almighty, do one of two things (and I do NOT take these words lightly, nor are they flippantly written). First, consider in your moments of lucidity whether the one you lost made choices that led him or her to their seemingly premature passings, as we all bear at least some measure of responsibility for and by our actions. And second, the Bible is purposeful to show the immeasurable compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ in these words from Hebrew 2:17-18, “Therefore He HAD to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself [as a human] has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” And secondarily, but also importantly, is the possibility of us helping others down the road as 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 shares, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

In case you do not know your Creator, the God of Heaven and Earth, Jesus Christ the Lord of all salvation, he has paid the price for you. He has suffered in your place. Though God’s love for His creation is immense and He has made the Way of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation possible and available, it is up to us to acknowledge our need (confess) and accept His free gift (believe and trust in His promise). All too many reject it. It is His promises that are available to those who are His sons and daughters. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 speaks hope and faith to the repentant sinner, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.”

Receive your consolation and comfort now in this life, but even more so for all of eternity. And when you do, share this hope with those closest to you so that they may have this full assurance and you will know, when one of you passes, that you will surely be reunited in Heaven. May God speak to your heart, your innermost being.

Is Baptism Necessary?

I know there are many believers that will answer “yes” to this question. I also know there are many who would answer “no.” I’m sure if I asked them why, I could see possible merit in both of their explanations. I’m also sure there are scriptural references they could use (and we would hope so) to back up their assertions or convictions. But, they can’t both be right. I have recently heard on the radio and elsewhere questions about different biblical topics and, many times, what I hear in response begins with “I think that…” or “I believe that…” Though the use of these verbs doesn’t necessarily invalidate their positions, it is indicative that these answers, or even opinions, aren’t authoritative. The Word of G-d IS authoritative; what I think, believe or reason isn’t. There is weight, power, jurisdiction, sovereignty, supremacy, finality and infallibility in that true authority. So without any preconceived mindsets (and possibly even strongholds) belying our examination, let’s see what the Bible has to say about this. And let’s at least allow the Spirit of G-d to teach us, if we are willing, to put our held beliefs behind us and to accept what He speaks to us—and that includes me!

When the Lord put this on my heart and mind, the actual scripture He gave me was our Lord Jesus’ response to John the Baptist’s comment in Matthew 3: 13-15, “Then Jesus came to Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.”

Now, what jumped off the page at me when I read this, that the Father was drawing my attention to were the words, “…fitting…to fulfill all righteousness.” Since I want to be and to remain unbiased and transparent, my mind substituted the word “necessary” for “fitting” which many word-for-word translations use. Fitting is used by my ESV, the NASB, the Berean Bible and others. The Greek word here is PREPO, and it means “proper or suitable.” So for me to presumptuously insert or substitute the word necessary may be incorrect. However, since the original language uses proper, suitable and right—then “must” is really a better, implied English rendering. Since it is proper and suitable and right, it doesn’t actually leave the matter to choice. As part of our natural learning process, then, it is quite apt to ask, “Why is it proper? Why is it suitable? Why did our Lord, ultimately, come to His cousin to be baptized? Why was it done “to fulfill all righteousness”? To begin with, many preachers and teachers often over-simplify the act of baptism by calling it “an outward sign or expression, and public declaration” of the cleansing that takes place in our hearts when we confess our sins and turn to the Lord (see Matthew 3: 6). While this is certainly true in a very basic sense, it doesn’t do doctrine or the new believer justice to stop there. There is actually a lot more going on here that a seeker must be aware of before giving their committedness to the Lord Jesus Christ. When we look at the book of Colossians, chapter two and verse twelve, it emphasizes, “HAVING BEEN BURIED with Him IN BAPTISM…” And Romans 6: 3-4 says, “…Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were BAPTIZED INTO HIS DEATH? We were BURIED therefore with Him BY BAPTISM UNTO DEATH?” So you see that baptism, in its truest sense, involves death and burial. It is no wonder that these two acts go hand-in-hand in the natural realm since they do primarily in the spiritual realm as well. We need to take our decisions for, and our commitments and devotion to, Christ the Lord, and our choices to get baptized seriously. An important exclamation point is Luke 3: 3 punctuating that John “went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE for the forgiveness of sins.” So the Word of G-d tells us that in order to become born-again, forgiven, saved and transformed believers, and submitted and obedient disciples of the Messiah, we must confess our sins (acknowledge and take ownership of them), repent of them (have a conscious, personal and intentional change of heart and mind over our lives), die to ourselves and our ways (make Him- not us- Lord and Master) and be buried (nail the coffin shut and roll the stone over the tomb of our sinful nature) in order to be alive in Him and made new (2 Corinthians 5: 17). Please let all of this scriptural gold sink in.

My eyes were further opened as the Lord Jesus began revealing to me about the exchange that takes place between Him and me (as well as Him and each of you) during all of this. And this, to me, really gets to the heart of why He said that it is a must “…to fulfill all righteousness.” And FULFILL is another key word that plays a central role here. What does “fulfill” mean in this paramount passage? This time we look to the Greek word “PLEROO” which means “to make full, complete, amply supplied.” This certainly is purposefully used to imply that to not be baptized is to somehow be less than full, less than complete, insufficiently supplied.” To me, it speaks in a parallel manner to the disciples in Luke 24: 49, “And, behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” The Lord is telling His followers that everything is not yet complete. A lot of preparation and instruction have been made and given, but had they gone in knowledge only—without power—it was still lacking. And when Jesus says to John, “it is fitting [for us] to fulfill all righteousness,” He is communicating that without the baptism (their metanoia and death and burial) their salvation was not yet perfect or complete.

Now, having read that, many of you may deem it almost scandalous or heretical. You may quickly retort with a ready reference to the thief on the cross. Let me take you on a brief, but relevant, sidebar. Probably close to two years ago as I was in a close-by neighborhood handing out some door-hangers about sin and grace, I met a man who seemed to be a believer, and we got to talking. He told me that he and his wife had been leading a cell church in their home and that it had recently grown to the point that they needed to, and were, meeting elsewhere. He even graciously and unexpectedly offered me the opportunity to join him in ministry there; he and I leading the church. I prayed and sought the Lord’s guidance and agreed to at least attend a service there. After that, I had my doubts but decided to meet him a couple of more times to study the Word together. During those two meetings– and no more– we found ourselves in polite yet firm disagreement over this very issue; more specifically, over water baptism. We agreed on the need for baptism, on the need for water baptism, but disagreed on the methodology and doctrine. It was a matter of conviction and our personal understanding of the scriptures. I had told him that on one occasion in prison ministry, G-d had spoken to and moved on an inmate’s heart and that this young man had surrendered his life to the Lordship of Jesus. Knowing that he should be baptized but that there was no baptistry there, nor was there any possibility of being immersed as Jesus had submitted to, I secured a cup of water and prayed as I gently poured its contents over his head. My new pastor friend – rather insistently, but kindly—asked me to produce the “chapter and verse” in the Bible which would authenticate my action. (I applaud his wanting to be scripturally accurate, and I share it.) Of course, I couldn’t in the way he all but demanded; yet I did ask him in return, “Would it have been better for me not to have baptized him at all?”

In another example, I told him of a more recent time where my wife and I had traveled to a newly-congregating group of seekers and believers in a small church a couple of hours south of us. That church was planted by some friends of ours, and they had blessed us by asking us to fill in for them that evening. We were excited! On this particular occasion, after the service and as we were getting ready to leave, a young man came up to us in the hallway and wanted to surrender his life to the prompting the Holy Spirit had given him (we had little, if not nothing, to do with it). We decided and explained to him that we were totally behind him and would pray for him, with him, and guide him (with his own words and in his own understanding), but that we would like our friends to have the honor of baptizing him. My aforementioned and new friend disagreed again. I explained to him that it was nearly nine at night, dark outside and that neither we nor the young man lived close-by or were familiar with that area. His serious but insisted response was that we should have driven around until we found a pond, a lake or other aptly-sized body of water in which to baptize this new brother-in-the-Lord. While I applaud his enthusiasm and tenacity, and don’t take the circumstances lightly at all, I don’t think that was the way to go then and there.

That brings me to a point that needs to be raised and addressed. We spoke of baptism being “fitting” and that it is needed to “fulfill all righteousness.” Yet we haven’t discussed righteousness and its part in this equation. First of all, what is meant by this all-important term? This time we’ll go to the Hebrew just to balance our understanding of the Bible’s two original languages. In the Old Testament, the word righteousness– which is used by G-d when He credited it to Abraham’s amazing faith—is the word TSEDAQAH. It signifies fairness, justice, what is right, acquittal, vindication and justification. These all speak to a change in a man’s or a woman’s standing before our holy and perfect Judge and G-d. It indicates one’s guilt being taken away and that he or she is now clean and free. The death sentence our sins had incurred have been paid for, satisfied by and suffered by another. Why is baptism necessary—or, rather, a must? Because if the righteousness belonging to Jesus Christ alone is to be imputed to us (which is necessary for our entry into the eternal kingdom of G-d), we must die to ourselves. Once again, we emphasize that baptism, at its core, involves both death and burial of the individual seeking true repentance and forgiveness. Two great and compelling truths of the Christian life are Galatians 2: 20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of G-d, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” And that verse is inextricably linked with Luke 9:23 which says, “And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself’ (die) ‘and take up his cross’ (instrument of death) ‘daily and follow Me.’” In baptism we die; to ourselves, to our former ways of thinking, speaking and living. It is not symbolic. It is a purposeful, intentional decision and act. If Jesus did not take our sin (which we give Him when we die and make Him Lord of every area of our lives), we cannot receive His righteousness, our keys into G-d’s holy dwelling place. We must die in baptism in order to receive His fulfilled righteousness. It is fitting and suitable.

Getting back to the argument about the thief on the cross. Was he baptized? Yes or No? He was not water-baptized, but let’s let Scripture talk once again. Look at the passage in question (Luke 23: 39-43), “One of the criminals who was hanged railed at Him saying, ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’ ‘But…’ (signifying a contradictory heart or attitude) ‘…the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And indeed justly…’ (acknowledging his sin) ‘…for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds’ (confession of sin). ‘But this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom’ (belief in his heart). And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” So, this man next to our Lord confessed his sin by taking responsibility for it openly and signaled his belief in Jesus’ divinity when he asked to be admitted into the kingdom of G-d. He was a sinner before he was nailed to the cross alongside Jesus. He was a forgiven man not long after. What changed? Let’s refer to the key found in the Gospel of Mark (1: 4), concerning the ministry of John the Baptist. The answer is contained here. It reveals, “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE for the forgiveness of sins.” Our baptism is one of repentance—turning away from sin and turning to G-d Almighty. That’s what the thief did! So, was he baptized with water? No, not according to the few details in Scripture. Certainly not by immersion. But was he baptized? Yes, he was. He acknowledged, confessed and took responsibility for his transgressions against the Father, and he signified his need for forgiveness by asking to be allowed entrance into the kingdom. And Jesus cleansed him and implied his salvation by telling him he would, later that same day, be with Him in Heaven. The thief repented (he had a change of heart and mind, and acted on it), a death and burial to self ensued, and he was spiritually, internally baptized. Had this taken place just a day before (his metanoia), he most certainly would have been in the Jordan with the rest, being immersed—not only in water—but in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind! So, as our Master was baptized, so must we be. He is holy. We are sinful. But He had a human side He had to contend with. Hebrews 5: 8-9 says, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect” (in the flesh) “He became the Source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” He submitted to baptism. So should we. Praise His holy name and Him for His Word!

The False Cannot Predate the True

The old riddle asks, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” This may seem irrelevant to many. After all, we don’t concern ourselves with the answer because it doesn’t have any real significance in our daily lives, we have both at our disposal, it appears childish, and there are people on both sides of the aisle. But it is actually very important for two reasons: One, because the Bible gives us a plain, clear, concise answer in its very opening book. Genesis 1: 21-23 tells us, “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and morning, the fifth day.” This is but one example to show us that the Bible is true and that it can be trusted. And two, because it establishes an order and a subsequent, all-important precedent for truth; specifically, that given the apparent buffet or plethora of choices among many so-called “truths,” there can only be one and THAT ALL OTHER LIES, DECEPTIONS, COMPETING VIEWS AND MISREPRESENTATIONS CAN ONLY COME AFTER THE TRUTH. What does that mean? It signifies that anything false, a copy or an alternative can only come after the original and that there cannot be two or more truths; otherwise they cease to be true. For truth has the unique characteristics of being individual and quintessential. A lie must first hear the truth so that it can offer a misleading substitute which is opposed to it and become admixture (to attempt to gain authenticity).

As Christians, we know the truth because God is the Creator and Originator. He gives us His Word to openly reveal Himself and the beginnings of life and the universe to us. HE COMES FIRST. We, as Christ-followers, also know that the way to spot a lie (from the enemy of our souls or anyone else) is to know the truth. When the devil speaks words and ideas into our hearts and minds, since they are contrary to the truth (Jesus warned us correctly that Satan is the father of lies and can only speak lies), we can identify them as such and ignore them. Better yet, we can counteract them by reminding ourselves– with the power of the Helper, the Holy Spirit— of what the Scriptures say, and speak the truth instead. This has the added benefit of offensively preventing a stronghold to be erected. Since God Almighty is Truth and in Him there is no darkness at all, and He has existed from everlasting past and exists into everlasting future (the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end), He has always been and CAME FIRST. What He says and does is foundational and is established. Therefore, whatever or whoever comes after is false and a poor “copy.” A copy (facsimile, clone, imitation), as we know, is like the original, but not the same. It appears to be the original but, upon inspection and examination and testing, shows itself to be flawed. For example, we’ll use the familiar analogy of a copy machine. We lay our document on the glass, close the cover and press “start” or “copy.” When the reproduction comes out—even the first of many, or the only copy—after having been scanned, is less precise, less well-defined. Further, quite often we have all experienced that any smudges, fingerprints, dust or dirt on the seemingly clear glass, get transferred onto the “duplicate” and show up as black spots and unwanted blemishes. Once again, what comes after is always imperfect. The original—what comes first—is true. What comes after, though in similar form to the eye or ear (seeing, reading or hearing) is a copy, a fabrication, a deceit, a lie.

Having thoroughly and truthfully set forth this precept, let us apply it to our everyday lives and to what we see and face every day (whether we realize it or not). Let’s put these other ideas, notions, beliefs, religions, doctrines and sects to the hypothetical litmus test. Let’s put to rest any belief in, and allegiance to, once and for all, anyone other than the One True God, our Lord and Messiah Jesus Christ! I have said many times, written about, and testified to the fact that, in my studies concerning other beliefs, religions, world systems, etc. the one thing the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to as a common denominator is twofold: first, there is always a false prophet and second, he or she always has what they claim are “new revelations” joined with extrabiblical writings, books, sources, teachings and doctrines. So, again, we have a man—not God—and human and/or demonic words; not the Lord and not the truth.

Do you understand? I hope I am articulating this clearly. A lie cannot come first. If you are going to tell someone something you know is untrue or have convinced yourself is true (while it is not), you must first at least be familiar with it in order to change the information which the truth contains. For instance, in the Bible it tells us that Jesus rose from the dead after being buried in the tomb for three days. In Matthew 28: 11-15, it recounts that the chief priests and the elders gave money to the soldiers who were guarding our Lord’s tomb and who had witnessed His resurrection. The authorities did this to help spread and perpetuate the lie that the resurrection never took place, and to tamp down on any growing credibility in the Gospel. Atheists and other dissenters of biblical truth still use this same fabrication today as a main strategy to discredit the truth. Indeed, look at the latter part of verse 15. It testifies to this when it says and prophesies,”…And this story has been spread among the Jews” (and others) “to this day.” If the truth which was observed firsthand by the guards and verified by them to the chief priests never happened—as they attest—there would have been no need to create a ruse or rumor to contradict it. Further, if the truth of the resurrection didn’t happen first, there would’ve been no details known of the miracle. The facts of the instance or circumstance must be known in order for someone to offer up another story where their version has false “facts” which they use and incorporate to lead people astray, or to keep them from knowing the value of the truth. The devil and anyone used by him must know of the truth of Christ’s life, death and resurrection (which all came first) before he or she can attempt to sway others away from eternal life and salvation.

Let’s first examine Islam and its claims. From a brief and cursory understanding, along with some research, it meets both criteria listed earlier; namely a man (false prophet) and an unbiblical source of revelation or supposed truth (the Koran, or Quran). Jesus, as God pre-incarnate, has always existed and, even when He was born of a woman and found in human form, His earthly existence predates Islam’s prophet. Muhammed lived, by one account, from 570-632 AD (six centuries AFTER Christ). They admit Jesus is a revered prophet and that He was born of the virgin Mary, but deny His divinity and His death on the Cross. If theirs is the truth, how can it make claims against what the Lord Jesus historically makes about Himself half a millennium earlier? So, since the words of their book are much different and come after the Word of the Lord, they are counterfeit. Do not trust them. The lie comes after the truth.

Next, let’s search out some basic tenets of Mormonism. Although they make the assertion they are Christian and call themselves “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” they, too, meet our two requirements for false teaching/ doctrine. The first, being the man and false prophet Joseph Smith. And the second, being their non-canonical books: the “Book of Mormon,” “Doctrine and Covenants,” the “Pearl of Great Price” as well as the claims of post-biblical (see the Book of Revelation in the Bible and what it says about anyone adding to or taking away from the words it contains) gold plates from Moroni and given to Joseph Smith. This is their version—an imitation—of the Ten Commandments written upon tablets of stone which the One True God gave to Moses. If theirs is true, they would have come first (Smith lived from 1805-1844, eighteen centuries AFTER the Lord Jesus Christ) and they would have been original, not making eerily-false and deceptively-imitative declarations regarding what appears to be a strikingly similar rendition of our own Decalogue. Again, one must have first heard and been aware of the truth to a degree or in full before being able to attempt to mimic it with a lie. If true, it would be first, original or both; not a later, comparable but false variant of it.

Though this elucidation is by no means whatsoever exhaustive, we will end our comparison (for the sake of time and space) with Buddhism, which also follows the cookie-cutter pattern consisting of Satan’s tried and untrue lure of a man (false teacher) and ungodly writings that serve to distract and ensnare. The man, Siddhartha Gautama, reportedly lived on earth from about 560-480 BC. He is credited with discovering the wrongly-named “Four Noble truths” (actually lies) and henceforth becoming the “Buddha” which, when translated, carries the deceitful meaning of “the Enlightened one.” The other qualification which earns it, along with the two we’ve mentioned and many, many others, the distinction of being a very poor and widely-distributed copy are his writings and teachings such as the “Three Jewels” (Buddha, Sangha and Dharma, if you care to look these up on your own), the previously-mentioned and inappropriately-named “Four Noble truths,” the “Eightfold Path” and the unoriginal, Mormon-like “Ten Precepts.”

You may have noticed the recognized birth and death dates of Gautama listed earlier, and that they were listed as BC (commonly known as “Before Christ”). However, we must reiterate that Jesus Christ—the True and only Messiah or “Anointed One”—is one with Almighty God (John 10: 30), has always coexisted with Him because “they” are One and He made all things (John 1: 1-4), He holds all things together (Colossians 1: 17), He is preeminent (Hebrews 1: 1-4, Colossians 1: 18), He has been given ALL authority in Heaven and on earth (Matthew 28: 18), and is the One who “was and is and is to come (Revelation 1: 8).” He is fully God and fully man (Colossians 1: 19, 2: 9). He has no beginning and no end (Hebrews 7: 3). He is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90: 2). He made Himself known as “I AM”; not I was or I will be (Exodus 3: 14), letting us know there was never a time when He did not exist, nor will there come a time when He won’t exist. It is only our focus on His humanity and brief 33-year period on this earth which may cause us to think that He did not live before this self-proclaimed and self-appointed “buddha.”

The end of all this is that JESUS CHRIST existed first. All men (and women, like Mary Baker Eddy) who claim to be prophets, and to have had previously-unknown revelations are bad copies, clones, facsimiles and liars. And that anyone or anything that comes after the original, the One and only, serves to discredit himself or herself as being a truth-bearer since anything he does or says misaligns itself with the Word of God, the Holy Bible. The false cannot be exposed or recognized as such unless or until its assertions—which supposedly model themselves after the truth—are found in their attempted comparisons to be contrary, in part or in whole. The Lord is the Alpha. His Word and His Law are perfect. All else are forgeries.

God bless you, give you grace, and impart to you light and wisdom.

The ONLY Way: Is It Exclusive?

The Lord Jesus Christ says He is THE way and THE door and THE gate.

Many people who are still unbelievers argue that this is EXclusive; that is to say that He (or the Christian doctrine found primarily, but not solely, in Acts 4:12) is somehow partial, biased and very limiting in who can participate in this great salvation and, therefore, gain entrance into the eternal kingdom of G-d Almighty. It is believed to be narrow-minded and narrow-hearted. One might have heard it described lately as even being bigoted or hateful. Love, they say, should be INclusive.

If they are referring to Matthew 7:13-14 which says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few,” then this text is correct, but they are misusing it or misunderstanding it. And this is understandable since the Word tells us that such things are spiritually discerned; they are worldly-minded and must be kingdom-minded to comprehend. What the Lord Jesus is referring to is the fact that many will choose not to follow Him and, therefore, will not be saved. (How can you follow someone if you can’t hear their voice and can’t see them? Whether you speak to someone face-to-face or read through those same words expressed in a letter, book, email, text, etc. the same thoughts are being expressed and can be equally communicated and understood. So when we read the Word of G-d, the Bible, it is the same as if we are hearing His voice with our ears. The problem with those who don’t follow is that they don’t read and so don’t hear and so don’t follow.) While this truth may be unpalatable to many, it is logical and makes perfect sense. Since Jesus is G-d and left Heaven to come to earth, He alone knows the way there. He is the only One who can lead us there because He is the only One who has been there. But I don’t really believe this is where most of their hearts are. When they speak of this way calling it “narrow” and “exclusive,” what they are really meaning to express and suggest is that it is unfair. They, as all humans and from an early age, don’t want limits and boundaries of any kind (even when they are there for good), yet they still want to attain the goal or the prize of Heaven where G-d dwells. They don’t even want to believe there is a Hell.

Many are touched with prayer and compassion for the people who are living through Hurricanes Harvey and Irma’s aftermath in both Texas and Florida. When these states’ respective governors issued states of emergency and urged people to evacuate, what if there was only one road or highway out of those areas? Would people be complaining that there was only one way out- one way to safety- or would they gladly take it and be thankful it was even available? They could think it exclusive in that it is the only open and safe route and, therefore, refuse to follow it until someone made another route available. Or they could realize that even though it is the only road available to lead them to a place of well-being and protection (seemingly exclusive to them), EVERYONE is not only allowed but urged to take that way. Since that way is available and accessible (spiritually, through JESUS CHRIST) for anyone and everyone to take, it really is absolutely and totally INclusive!

The problem with these unwilling travelers isn’t that there is only one escape route. The real issue is that they are, for whatever personal reasons, unwilling to take it. They are either stubborn or foolish, or both. You do see this don’t you, even if this is your own heart and mind we’re speaking to? I recently watched a video with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron of “Living Waters Ministries.” In this clip, they share this point of view also. They speak of a hypothetical scenario where Kirk and an atheist have a conversation. The atheist doesn’t believe in G-d and asks Kirk questions that he asserts must be satisfactorily and intelligently answered in order to sway his opinion toward Christianity. In this hypothetical, but possibly very real, exchange every single one of the man’s questions and doubts have been addressed. Kirk then assumes since he rightly, logically, biblically and fully answered all of the unbeliever’s questions that the man would surrender his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. So when he gladly and eagerly asks the unbeliever if he is ready to confess his sins, be forgiven, get baptized and receive eternal life, the man (in his hardness of heart and disbelief that Kirk would actually think the truth would change his mind) replies, “No.”

What is then revealed without the need for any other words is that, for this man and maybe for you—atheist, agnostic or not—the matter of belief in the Almighty and salvation was never really the issue at all. It was not an intellectual debate or persuasion that needed to take place. After all, every question to his purported doubts had been answered fully, articulately, graciously and truthfully. So, there was another barrier that really stood (and still stands) in the way all along: it was and is rebellion. The intellectual arguments and the scientific, humanistic or secular theories were (and are) just a smokescreen. How right was our Lord Jesus when He who knows men’s hearts declared in John 3:19, “And this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil.” And those verses are especially poignant considering just three verses earlier He proclaims, “For G-d so LOVED the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes (TRUSTS) in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For G-d did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that THE WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED THROUGH HIM.”

When you know the Truth, it really can’t get any more INclusive than this. Is He the only way? Yes. But that way is an invitation to ALL and He paid for it with His blood and on a Cross. If you are feeling conviction, that’s good. It is what leads you to repentance. If you are feeling guilty, that’s good. It is the inner acknowledgment that you have sinned and are a sinner in need of THE Savior’s forgiveness. Read Jeremiah 3: 13-15 and get on your knees and take care of business. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to be washed clean. Today is the day He, incredibly, wants to take your sin and give you His righteousness. Today is the day to take hold of the amazing promise and reality found in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 which blesses and says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATION. The old has passed away; behold, the NEW has come.”

G-d bless you as you make this ultimately important decision to walk away from your life of sin and submit yourself to His Lordship and authority in and over your life with commitment and devotion. No turning back.

An Open Letter About Abortion

Since the very first time I saw a bumper sticker that read “Abuse an Animal, Go To Jail,” my head and my heart have joined together to produce a number of emotions. Many that walked arm-in-arm as a result of the misplaced devotion are incredulity, confusion, sadness, shock, misery, sympathy and compassion among others. I have nothing against animals. I love dogs. Although I am allergic to cats, I like them otherwise. But my reaction to this bumper sticker was then, and is still now, a wish to finish the thought with these words, “Kill a Baby Human With Impunity.” That is the current mindset, law and state of affairs, right?

I have not participated in any pro-life marches or protests; I do not lobby the government; I do not stand outside abortion clinics, although I do respect and agree with the people (most of them) who are involved in such a worthy cause. I say this only to let you know that it is not my area of ministry nor am I what you would consider a robust advocate. However, I need not be—simply because this is a perfectly natural position to take. How well Isaiah prophesied long ago when he said in lament, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” What he is exclaiming fits our world today in that everything is backwards, upside-down and topsy-turvy (in utter confusion and disorder). Our priorities are out of whack. And that is because we do not have the mind of G-d, nor do we seek Him or understand His ways. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Romans 3:10 states, “As it is written: none is righteous, no, not one.” The prophet Jeremiah speaks a difficult truth in 17:9 when he declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” And again in 18:12, “…We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.” These words and many others are convincing testimony that, left to our own wills, choices and devices, mankind will reap the ruin that he, apart from Almighty G-d, has sown. This is one of the reasons that history is destined to repeat itself, as the saying goes, and why King Solomon bears witness in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Why are we having so much continuing debate over abortion and when life begins? Does it really matter? Whether we abort (murder) at ten weeks, twenty weeks, 3 months or 6 months is immaterial. We are either murdering or we are not. It doesn’t matter at what point of development this takes place. Psychologists document and teach us that a young person does not have a fully-developed brain until around the age of twenty-five. We don’t have a debate if they are killed at age 5, age 12, age 17 or age 24. We know that a life has been taken. It is no less wrong or horrific at either and of that developmental spectrum. The Lord does not create “blobs of tissue.” He creates life. And if we are truly concerned over whether we are aborting a 3-day-old embryo or a 32-week-old fetus, there is a simple end to the matter: Don’t do it at all. (The Bible tells us that man is the glory and the crown of His creation). And this is a perfect transition or segue into mentioning a preemptive solution that eradicates the need for the earlier “procedure” altogether. G-d has the answer, as He always does. It is called marriage and the precursor to this relationship is sexual purity.

Mark 10:7-8 alludes to the reality originally revealed in Genesis, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.” So, if one denies himself or herself the carnal desire of the physical act of sexual intercourse outside of the proper boundaries of marriage between one man and one woman, then there will be no possibility at all of conception and, thus, no need for abortion. (No, a condom is not the answer and is no absolute assurance of preventing pregnancy.) In all logic and common sense, non-radical thinking will dictate to you that the following is true: No sex means no pregnancy. No pregnancy means no (need for) abortion. No abortion means life. Life is good. It is God’s design and plan and character. G-d is life, and life begets life.

By the way, by definition, to “abort” something means to halt, to stop, to end, to discontinue, to terminate, to arrest and to cancel. If, as those with a pro-abortion and pro-choice mindset will argue or try to persuade you, there is simply a “blob of tissue,” rather than a life inside the womb of the mother, then there is nothing growing or developing and, therefore, nothing to abort, to end, to stop. So, in the end, abortion is a misnomer and an irrelevant term.

G-d is pro-life. G-d created us. We don’t own ourselves and we didn’t create ourselves. Our bodies belong to Him. We don’t have the “right” to choose what we do with bodies which are not ours. There will be judgment over 55,000,000 of His creations which have been murdered. But, incredibly, there can be mercy and forgiveness. JESUS CHRIST made that possible. Jeremiah 3: 13-15.

“Was I Really Made this Way?”

I have heard and read that a common phrase, explanation and belief among the LGBTQ community of people is that “I was born this way.” This may be due to the way they have felt for as long as they can conceivably remember so, in their minds, it is not a big jump to pre-date that feeling to birth. To the natural mind, this could be a reasonable assumption and so they (maybe you) resign themselves to it and never question it again, at least not aloud. It may also be, however, a deceit that is just often propagated. I have a brother- in- the- Lord in my church who recently told my wife and me that he used to dress and act as a woman. He showed us some pictures of his former appearance that he keeps in his phone as a testimony to G-d’s transformative power in his life. Maybe I should say restorative power. I did not know him when he was in his former lifestyle, but I can tell you that he has a strong and vibrant love for the Lord and he is a powerful prayor (one who prays, has been given that gift)! He also shared with us that night after the service that he was part of a group of LGBTQ people who were open and shared with each other. He confessed that in the group of 15-20 people, all unburdened themselves by sharing the painful truth that they didn’t actually believe they were “born this way.” Rather, they had been molested, abused, raped or exposed to some other form of shame, humiliation or personal violation. Only one claimed the lie, and my guess is that he or she simply is still hurting too much to admit the truth or they don’t yet know how to deal with it any other way.

In the wonderful truth of the Word of G-d, the Bible, it says in candid honesty through 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” This list is not exhaustive, but you get the point. If he actually made you that way, then He also made the drunk that way, the idolater that way, the thief that way. NO. That’s not true. Since He loves you and created you in His image, He didn’t do so in a way that is diametrically opposed to what He cares for and what he finds to be an abomination.

To cite a few more necessary scriptures: Genesis 19:13, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 (as mentioned above), Jude 1:7 and – a verse I was unaware of until just a few days ago that the Holy Spirit revealed to me very unexpectedly—Deuteronomy 22:5 which clearly says, “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment” (clothes), “nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination” (a thing that causes disgust or hatred) “to the Lord you God.” All sin is an enemy of G-d and keeps us separated from Him for all eternity, apart from the work of JESUS CHRIST on the Cross and our cooperation with, realization of, and trust in Ephesians 2:8-9. But since 1 Corinthians 6:18 reveals, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” And verse 13 states that “…the body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”

Genesis 1:27 encourages us that Adam and Eve, out of whom our lineage comes, are spoken of this way, “So God created man in His own image” (before sin entered the world through disobedience), “in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Since the Sovereign G-d is perfect and without sin, His first creation was without sin. And since the Bible is clear that all sin—including and especially being LGBTQ, for the purpose of the title of this post today—is an abomination to Him, how would we or could we biblically, logically, emotionally or otherwise conclude that we were “made this way”? We can’t. It is flawed and it is a lie.

As you saw earlier from the truncated list of sinful patterns that keep us from entering His eternal kingdom, LGBTQ is not the only one there. The Apostle Paul was mentioning these specific iniquities because he was addressing the new believers in the church at Corinth which were battling—more like giving themselves over to—things they should no longer be doing or associated with or even thinking about. The deeper issue which causes the outward manifestation of sin in an unbeliever’s life is that he or she was born with (not created with) a sinful nature or essence. As we sometimes see and need to address in churches today are instances where a “family” (man and woman and often children, too) has lived together in an unwed state, having sexual relations, and producing bastard, illegitimate children while considering and referring to one another falsely as husband and wife. Sometimes a pastor’s first instinct is to eradicate the sexual sin which is so prevalent and to counsel them and urge them to get married. It sounds good, right and proper. It is certainly a start. But it MUSTN’T end there. Why? Because though, if they agree with the man of G-d and decide to commit to truly loving, respecting, honoring, cherishing and marrying one another, they have only put an end to the fornication; the sexual immorality. What is the underlying disease that needs cleansing? The sinful nature. If I am married but am still unregenerate in my heart, still stained, still blemished, still spotted, still sinning in others ways such as stealing, murdering (including aborting), lying, cheating, gossiping, gambling, getting drunk, etc. then I am still in desperate need of salvation which I am totally unable to bring about myself.

So Almighty G-d, in His judgment of sin and love for us—unable and unwilling to give up one or the other or to settle for only one or the other—devises a wonderful and supernatural way to “kill two birds with one Stone” JESUS CHRIST! The world says, “There are many paths to G-d” and questions why the Christian echoes the truth in scripture by asking, “Why is Jesus the only way to G-d?” Firstly, because the Bible proclaims in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And secondly, because the architect of the plan chose the instrument to carry it out, the instrument was the only One willing and obedient and capable of carrying it out, and since the instrument is G-d and dwells with G-d (John 1:1-4) and died to make reconciliation even possible and knows the way to His eternal dwelling, who else could lead us there? In John 14:3-5 the Lord Jesus and the disciple Thomas share this very relevant exchange, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.’ Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I AM THE WAY, and the truth, and the life. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.’” Why again? To reiterate, because He came from Heaven (no one else has), He is the only means by which we can even go because He died for our sins and gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), and because only He knows the way and can lead us back if we follow Him.

You were not created this way. You were not born this way. Something may have happened to you along the way. You, in response, made a conscious choice or even a series of them. Thanks be to Almighty G-d, you don’t have to remain in your sin. You don’t have to remain under this lifestyle. Jesus Christ has the power to redeem us all, has already done what is necessary to set us free. It is up to you to take Him up on His generous offer, turn your back on sin, ask for forgiveness, and receive freedom and eternal life. He died for you. You must lay down your life for Him.

Praying for you.

$8.24 (My Flour and Oil)

What a strange feeling, especially for me! It started off as a calm, united, mutual decision my wife and I made this time last year. She had been working for a couple of school districts (she is a teacher) and had dealt with MANY problems; from disrespectful students of all ages– that’s putting it mildly—to parents to administrators (who don’t back up their staff- taking away any leverage one has to enforce discipline and maintain order). When we were living in Perú, I was also a teacher. It was totally a “G-d thing” and it was a Christian school. Since a part-time position came up at a similar school where we live now for her to be a part of, and since I knew and wanted her to experience the unity of a staff who were all believers as I had been blessed with in Surco (a suburb of Lima), we trusted the Father with the massive cut in pay. While He graciously provided for our needs as He promises us He will do when we put Him and the kingdom first, we had no idea how long, how different and how difficult that season would be to live out. While we trusted the Lord to get us by, I’m not so sure we didn’t unknowingly and unwittingly put Him to the test as we are most certainly NOT supposed to do.

Fast forward to this week. My wife has accepted a position with a public school system due to a few factors: one, the kids at the Christian school were not a whole lot better (most students and parents are not believers). Two, we needed more to live on and we wanted to give more. And, three, the parents weren’t much, if any, better either. However, we won’t see her first paycheck for over a month and we’ve already received her last remuneration from her outgoing institution. We need every bit of our combined incomes to tithe, give offerings, pay the bills, get food and buy gas. One thing the Lord has somehow worked into me incrementally the last year that still amazes me from time to time is how, not long ago, I would have been stressed and freaking out—at least, internally—over FAR less than what I am facing now. I say “I” because I am the one who handles the bills and checkbook. I trust the Lord implicitly and have been saved for seventeen years now, but never have I been on this kind of a journey nor for so long. He has been patient, faithful, kind and generous all the while! I still don’t know specifically how we made it through a single month, let alone a full year (of course it’s the big “G” word we love from Ephesians 2:8, but I can’t cite anything directly).

In my wanted and needed daily time with our King in the early morning hours recently, He brought to my mind the factual account found in 1 Kings 17:8-16. Father G-d spoke to the prophet Elijah’s spirit and told him to journey to a town called Zarephath in the city of Sidon. The Lord had directed him to go there to be fed by a widow. One thing you must understand is that widows had a hard time of it, to be sure. Their husbands were the only sources of income virtually all of the time. To make daily living even more taxing was that this woman had a young son to care for in addition to having her own needs met. Bearing that in mind, it seems quite unnatural for the Lord to be sending Elijah to be fed by her, rather than to feed her. Now the Bible says in verse twelve that after the man of G-d arrives, sees her and makes a request of her for only “a little water” and “a morsel of bread” that the widow responds that she is, at that very moment, gathering a few sticks in order to make a fire and to use just a handful of flour and an equally meager amount of oil to prepare their last meal for her son and herself, and then to die. Please don’t make the assumption that I have in the past in thinking she is melodramatic or that the short phrase is just biblical hyperbole. No. There was a divinely-ordained famine in the land due to drought at the hands and word of Elijah. It was not nearly over and there were no crops, nor would there be for the foreseeable future. This woman, worse than my wife and I, was “accustomed” to lean times even when food was available. When she used the word “die,” that’s what she fully expected to happen to herself and her son. Our straights are not as dire, but I’m sure you can see why the Lord of Hosts chose this genuine narrative to speak to me. For those of you who say or think that the Bible is antiquated and not “relevant,” check your doubts at the door here and read on.

What happens next is hope-filled, unexpected, exciting and SUPERnatural! Here we pick things up in verse thirteen with a very strange turn of events once again. Even after hearing of the woman’s plight, the prophet has what appears to be no care (even though we know that’s not the case because the Father told him he was going there to be fed) when he says, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.” As one person noted, most of us would have responded much differently than this poor woman. She might have very well said something like, “Pardon me sir, but we barely have enough for ourselves, and you not only want us to share our very last meal with you, but you want to eat first? I need to care for my son and myself first, then I will share IF there is anything left.” But this woman obeyed Elijah. By the way, in her doing this, she set an example for her young son to learn and to emulate throughout his life ( the Lord Jesus said “it is better to give than to receive”, although this widow lived long before our Savior came to earth). Then Elijah delivers the unexpected but wonderful words, “For thus says the Lord G-d of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” Wow! We know from verse seven that the lack of rain had just begun and we know from chapter eighteen, verse one that Elijah was told “in the third year” that it would rain upon the earth. And again in James 5:17-18 it confirms, “For three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.” So the handful of flour and small amount of oil lasted three-plus years!!! The Lord of all gave abundance in and through His SUPERnatural provision! Praise His name– Jehovah Jireh, “the Lord provides”—His goodness, His love and mercy and faithfulness!

If that wasn’t enough to flood me with a FULL measure of peace, joy and reassurance (but it was!!!), the next day He reinforced His truth, and my faith in Him, by reminding me there was a very similar occurrence with another prophet named Elisha, who was not only Elijah’s contemporary but also his student; and this involved a widow as well. This testimony is found one book later in 2 Kings 4:1-7. This time around, a different widow has two sons and her deceased husband has left the family with some unpaid debt. We read that she relates to the man of G-d about a creditor who is coming to take her children away as slaves until things are settled monetarily. Elisha asks her what she has in her house and she replies, “nothing… except a jar of oil.” He proceeds to tell her to go to her friends and neighbors to borrow many vessels and to then pour into these receptacles from the miniscule amount of oil that she possesses. He further instructs her to pour from the same original jar into one after another of the borrowed ones until, as she filled the last one, “the oil stopped flowing.” Elisha’s final words to her are these, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, AND you and your sons can live on the rest.” Wow again! Now you can possibly imagine the renewed trust I had in my G-d’s ability to do the impossible and to fulfill His promise to His sons and daughters—those who have been born again, those who belong to Him and are called by His name! This is not for just anyone and everyone, but it can be for you. His promises are for His own. So the Lord G-d Almighty summarizes His amazing lesson to me by showing me that He wants to, is able, and will meet BOTH my need for food (as He did with Elijah) AND He will make sure my bills are taken care of (as He did with Elisha). Praise His glorious and mighty name! Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord!

Is the Bible relevant? Absolutely! Does G-d care for His creation? Of course! Romans 8:28 asserts, “And we know that for those who love G-d, all things…” (trials, tribulations, suffering, discipline, persecution, affliction) “work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” You might be tempted at times to ask, “Where is G-d?” in relation to you during times such as these. But since His promises are for those who have acknowledged their sin, felt true sorrow, asked for forgiveness, repented of their evil ways and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Master and Savior of their eternal souls, maybe you should instead be asking yourself, “Where am I?” in relation to Him.

G-d bless you. Jeremiah 3:13-15

“Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your G-d and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed My voice, declares the Lord. Return O faithless children, declares the Lord; for I am your Master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Now THAT’S a promise.

Yes, Lord! (Entering In)

Ecclesiastes chapter three begins by telling us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven.” The second part of verse seven specifies that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Again in chapter five, verses 1-3 say, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of G-d. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth…”, it continues, “…nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before G-d, for G-d is in Heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.”

The word, “ecclesia” means the church, the body of Christ. This book is written to us and it is written by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. To paraphrase, the Bible says that no one before him or since has possessed such wisdom; so just maybe he knows something we don’t and we should incline our ears, hearts and minds to. And, more importantly, we should heed.

Several months ago the Lord, through Holy Spirit, began to speak to me and call my attention to an area in which all congregations need a word. They need their hearts and minds—individually and corporately—to become aware of it, they need the humility to receive it, they need the eyes to observe it and they need the desire and grace to obey it. I have been guilty of this on occasion as well, so I bear witness to its veracity.

I am sure that all worship leaders would heartily agree with the wonderful words in Psalm 100:4 which exclaim, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!” I am not a worship leader. I am not part of a praise team. And it is not one of my spiritual gifts, but I have always presumed that this verse signifies the very reason we begin our services with praise and worship; we are entering His holy presence and these are instructions—glad instructions—on how we are to meet with Him. And lest you begin to think what I am about to share is trivial, incorrect or legalistic, consider well the humbling realization proclaimed in Isaiah 66:1, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool; what is the house that you would build for Me, and what is the place of My rest? All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My Word.’”

All of this foundation has been truthfully and carefully laid in order to lovingly, yet boldly, bring to light something which is overlooked and goes on Sunday after Sunday: WHERE ARE OUR HEARTS AND MINDS MOMENTS BEFORE WE LIFT UP OUR HANDS, OUR VOICES, OR BOTH? The words of our Maker declare in John 4:23, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. G-d is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in Truth,” not in the flesh or the deceitfulness of our own hearts. This need not be what some would call or perceive as a “hard word,” but a true word from our Heavenly Father who loves us but also guides us into and through His kingdom under His sovereignty.

We are, as members of the human race, a naturally- and relationally-minded species. As such, we talk and do things together constantly. A word we use in the church a lot is “fellowship.” Sometimes, due to distance, differing work schedules, family priorities and other things, we don’t see each other as often as we would like. So when we do see each other before the church service (for some of us, even as we struggle to get there on time, we do so in the middle of praise and worship), we tend to catch up briefly. Some of us do so after Sunday school and before the service begins. This time is usually spent talking about non-spiritual matters which are centered around our worldly concerns, circumstances or pursuits, rather than having our hearts and minds focused on Christ. Colossians 3:1-3 tells us, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of G-d. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in G-d.” These verses refer to the goal we should aim to have all of the time, but especially when we come into His temple and before His throne. You can also look to Romans 8:5-6 which says, “For those who live according to the flesh…” (even momentarily) “…set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

So if we are late to church or we are not quietly, humbly and intentionally arriving and sitting (or kneeling) in the sanctuary in a mind and heart which are prayerful, contrite and prostrate, HOW CAN WE BE IN A PROPER STATE OR POSITION FOR WORSHIP? How can He see His children are seeking to worship Him “in Spirit and in Truth”? How can we reverence Him, as is His due, and how can we truly expect ourselves to go from fleshly at 10:59 a.m. and then shift into Spirit mode at precisely 11:00 a.m. (or as soon as the music starts)? We all know the answer to that. We can’t.

Thankfully, as an eternal spirit, the Father—like us—is a relational being as well. As we did seconds before our salvation took place, let us employ the wonderful promise in 1 John 1:9 which sweetly reminds us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Pastors, deacons and elders may need to heed these words as well (see Ezra 9:2b). As leaders and example-setters, you must lovingly and graciously address this issue with those you have been entrusted and called to shepherd. This is your duty in the Lord, and should be your pleasure as well. May we all be mindful of this each and every Sabbath or Lord’s Day. We are commanded to honor our earthly fathers (and mothers); how much more deserving is our Heavenly Father?

Blessings upon obedience, with glad hearts. Amen.

It’s Not the Law vs. Grace; It’s Just Grace

Many times we hear of people talking about the Old Testament as if it is starkly different than the New Covenant. We hear, for example, the almost stale refrain about the Law versus Grace. This implies that salvation was granted or obtained, in the OT, by means of keeping the Law—while it is now granted or obtained– under the New and present Testament, by a manner in which it is freely given, undeserved and unearned. This is primarily true, but the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to see that both covenants are the same and they are both attained solely by grace. The paradigm is the same from one to the other, and why shouldn’t it be? After all, we can refer back to such verses as Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” as well as James 1:17 which says, “…with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” This is not a cute or clever rendering of scripture, nor is it a new opinion or concise commentary. It is the truth, and it is biblical.

Even though we know that the people living prior to our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth and public ministry were required to provide an animal to the high priest in order for him to make atonement for their sins, it was not so much their offering (deed or work) of the animal that provided a covering for their transgression; it was the substitutionary sacrifice, death and blood before the Lord G-d who generously accepted it and allowed it to atone for the iniquity(ies). In other words, the offerings were not really responsible for the “blotting out.” Rather, it was the grace of the Almighty who not only provided the Way or manner to begin with, but also received it as an act of mercy towards His people! Even then the words of another verse in the book of James (2:13) ring true, “…mercy triumphs over judgment.”

And, of course, we are absolutely aware of the sacrificial, atoning and propitiary offering of our Lord, Savior, Redeemer and King, Jesus Christ the Messiah! His willing, obedient, perfect, selfless, self-offering is the single-most awesome, powerful, unrepeatable act of grace the world has ever and will ever know. Grace is at the core of both the Old and New Covenants. If you have never looked at it that way before, as I hadn’t, thank Holy Spirit for revealing truth to you in a way that makes you appreciate Him in a fresh, new way!

G-d bless you.