Have you ever heard the expression “putting out the fleece” when referring to someone trying to make a decision? Its origin comes from an unlikely biblical hero from an unremarkable tribe. He was the youngest of an insignificant family. Yet, Gideon was chosen by God to do a mighty work – to free Israel from the cruel oppression of the Midianites and Amalekites. Getting such an unnoticed individual to do works of such greatness took providence and patience on God’s part. Gideon needed to develop a God-based confidence to boldly move forward and stand against enemies of immense power. The story of this man’s journey inspired a nation and left a trail of lessons for us to apply in our everyday Christian walk.
In a lot of ways, the world is scary. There is an “anything goes” mentality that surrounds us. This gives us the feeling that there is no buffer between us and the dark worldly or spiritual influences that exist. One of these dark influences is reflected in the rising popularity of Satanism. When we hear that word – Satanism – we may form a frightening, even hideous image in our minds of dark occult and bloody sacrifice-based rituals. This image is most likely a serious distortion of the truth. Does this mean we are defending Satanism as a wholesome practice? Absolutely not! It does mean we want to know exactly what we are dealing with so we can understand exactly how to keep ourselves and others from being manipulated by ungodly influences. Satanism is something to stay away from, but not for the reasons you may think!
How often do we hear of someone who just seems to have everything going wrong in their lives? They suffer loss, they have physical ailments, they are deeply distressed and their life seems to be going nowhere. Sometimes when we are that suffering person, we may begin to wonder, what did I do to deserve this? Is God mad at me? Am I cursed? When in dire circumstances these can be very human questions that actually have the ability to unravel our faith. We can easily allow seeds of doubt to be planted in our hearts which leads to becoming unnerved in our minds. Bottom line, if we weren’t thrown off by our circumstances, we can certainly be derailed by our reactions. Does God really get mad at us? As Christians, does He ever curse us?
Most Christians will tell you that once you are called to Christ, it means you are called to be "footstep followers of Jesus." While this description is easily given, it is not so easily explained. How can we walk in his footsteps when we are really nothing like him? He was perfect, we are not. He gave his life as a ransom for Adam and therefore bought back the human race from sin. We have no such mission or value. Jesus performed miracles and taught profound lessons. We can just appreciate his miracles and spend our time absorbing what he taught. So, what is following Jesus all about? In his own words, Jesus told us to deny ourselves. What does that mean? Are we supposed to live in a way that makes us never do what we want to do? The Apostle Paul said, "I die daily." What did he mean?
Being uprooted can mean a lot of different things. It can be the onset of a disease or disability, the loss of a job or loved one or experiencing a difficult trauma. Maybe it is a change of location - a physical move or perhaps an emotional jolt that makes us reset our thinking. Being uprooted is by definition unexpected, unwelcome and uncomfortable. It messes up our lives! Christians might like to think that because we have God working in our daily experiences, we are going to be shielded from such things. This is entirely untrue. On the surface this might seem disappointing, because nobody wants to go through experiences that mess everything up! The good news is that uprooting experiences, especially for a Christian, can be some of the greatest tools of our lives!
One of the very basic tenets of Christianity is the belief that God does not change. We see him as omnipotent, above the fray and the embodiment of clear vision and intention. As such we believe that when God’s plan has been put in motion it is a universally unstoppable force. Enter the concept of prayer. Not only are we instructed to pray for and about things, we are shown several scriptural examples where prayer seems to have changed God’s mind. How can these things be? Why would we pray if God has already decided and how is it even possible to change the mind of He who is unchangeable? Does prayer change God's mind? The answers, as is usually the case, are not found on the surface. They are rooted in the depth of scriptural meaning and provide profound biblical insight into the extraordinary character of God!
Sometimes we have people in our lives who seem to create difficulty wherever they go. This can be for a variety of reasons including the fact that WE could be actually attracting such folks into our experiences. For now, let’s assume there are some people who simply live unhappy and unfulfilled lives. In their search for feelings of significance they become a drain to others! Being in their presence diminishes hope, poisons happiness and upsets relationships. Their influence quietly becomes a centerpiece or even an obsession in our daily experience. What do we do? Should we walk away? Tell them off? Mount an attack of our own? What is the Christian thing to do? How does the Bible guide us through such extreme circumstances of dealing with toxic people?
The life of Jesus as a man on earth was filled with wonder, teaching and miracles. His obedience to his Father’s will was the centerpiece of his mission, as he came to pay the ransom price for Adam. Critics say Jesus’ earthly life was also filled with contradictions. They say these discrepancies are reasonable cause to doubt the validity of what he did, taught and stood for. They also point to these inconsistencies as proof the Bible is not the unerring word of God. Once again, we will look at some of the Scriptures the critics bring up and examine them. Our objective is simple – find out what these several citations actually mean in the light of context, history and common sense!
Genesis is the first book of the Bible and its foundation. It lays out for us the origin of the intricacies of our world, as well as the origins of the human race. Morality is introduced, and this book takes us through the first few thousand years of the human experience. Genesis - particularly the creation account - is profoundly important to our understanding of God and our place in His universe. Critics of the Bible seem to love this creation account. They are quick to point out that in its very first chapter the book presents itself as not only wildly contradictory, but clearly unscientific as well. They conclude it is simply a collection of tales and imaginations. Are they right? Does the creation account support fanciful stories to give the ignorant something to hold onto, or is it actually based in fact?
Ask any Christian and they will tell you one of the greatest - if not THE greatest - events in all of biblical history is the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion. We laud this event as the undeniable guarantee that God’s plan for the world’s salvation is entirely unstoppable. This event not only sealed the ransom payment as received, it also sealed the fate of Satan as well. With so much riding on this event, you would think the narrative given us in Scripture would be the most crystal clear account in the entire Bible. That is NOT the case. The event is recorded by all four gospels and each of them seems to contradict the others! Why so many resurrection contradictions? Those who seek to destroy the Bible’s credibility are quick to say these discrepancies are proof of the Bible’s fallibility. Are they? Let’s take them one at a time and find out.