Can You Trust the Bible

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Most all of us, when it comes to Bible study, we have a habit of looking at scripture with a non-critical eye.  We wait for it to reveal itself to us.

When reading a passage in the New Testament that doesn’t make sense, we assume “we” are the problem.  That somehow, we’re not be smart enough to uncover what it’s talking about.  Certainly, that’s the case when reading the parables of Jesus.  Most of us try to find the hidden meaning.  But when the text makes no sense, we’ll skip it and read on to something more understandable.

Who is guilty of reading the Bible like this?  I was!  That 100% described me to a “T.”  But, if we give up when we read the Bible how can we explain it to non-Christians.  Especially those non-Christians or ex-Christians that want to use the Bible as a weapon against Christianity.  If you have a conversation with an Atheist or skeptic, they’ll attack the Bible faster than you can say YHWH!  Here is how that conversation might go:

Atheist – “Ha-chooo”  Me – “God Bless You!”

Atheist – “I don’t believe God exists!”   Me – “I do.”

Atheist – “Why?     Me – “Because the Bible says he does.”

Atheist “Ha, the Bible is a book written by humans, why would you believe it”  Me – “Because, it’s inspired by God

Atheist – “You do know it’s documented to have over 400,000 errors.   Me – “No there’s not!”

Atheist – “There are hundreds of contradictions in the New Testament alone.”  Me – “No there’s not!”

Atheist – “And there are scores of historical, geographical and scientific errors also.”  Me – “What?”

Atheist – “Why would you trust your Bible?”

Me, thinking to myself – “Wow – can this be true?”

Me, aloud – “I think I have someplace else to be.”

To be disciple of Christ we better be ready to get uncomfortable.   Part of being uncomfortable is encountering things we don’t want to hear.  In my conversation with that atheist, was I ready for his barrage of rebuttals?  NO! And in the end, who got converted?  I started off by affirming the existence of God and ended up wondering if that was even true.

Here is where today’s discussion may get uncomfortable – the Atheist was right.  The Bible does have thousands of errors.  The Bible does have many apparent contradictions.  It also does have what looks like geographic, historical, and scientific problems.  I see some of you squirming.

Yes, all of the atheist claims are true – if you play by their rules!

I entered that battle with no armor and against an enemy I was not prepared to meet.  But I should have been.  The guiding scripture for Christian apologetics – explaining our Faith – is    1 Peter 3:15. It says, “… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

This morning I want to do two things.  The first is to convince you that, yes, you can trust the Bible.  To help me in this fight I am going to use something I learned by watcng YouTube.  Yes, YouTube.  I love YouTube.  You can learn so many things there.  Whoa, I wonder if there is a video to explain how my screen door springy thing works?  I need to check.  Now, let’s rerun that scene:

Atheist – “Ha-chooo”  Me – “God Bless You!”

Atheist – “I don’t believe God exists!”   Me – “I do.”

Atheist – “Why?   Me – “There are many reasons, but I trust in God’s word.”

Atheist – “Ha, the Bible is a book written by humans, why would you believe it?”

Me – “I choose to believe the Bible, because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eye witnesses during the lifetime of other eye witnesses.  They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophesies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin”[1]

Atheist – “Umm”

Me – “Let’s have a cup of coffee and I’ll explain what I mean.”

What was the difference in that street battle – how did I engage with the atheist?  I did as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:14 “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.  I was ready for the fight.  I had the “belt of truth.” Trust me, it’s a battle out there.  You must be ready.

But, let me make something perfectly clear.  Those are not my words.  They’re from Dr. Vodie Bauchman and I found it on YouTube.  I could have found a good argument by Billy Graham, or Tim Keller, or NT Wright, or anyone else I that inspires me.  Use the tools you have.  Do the research.   I just happen to think Vodie is a Black Belt Christian apologist.  It’s up to you to learn your own way of defending your faith.  Now, let me repeat what I said.

“I choose to believe the Bible, because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eye witnesses during the lifetime of other eye witnesses.  They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophesies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.”

And what do I say when we get to the coffee shop?  Or if the atheist pushes back on me. Maybe something like this:

“The Bible is not a single book.  It consists of sixty-six separate manuscripts, written by over 40 authors from various walks of life:  Kings, fisherman, doctors, historians, tax collectors, who wrote in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, on three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. This all happened over a period of 1500 years.

Who has heard of Plato?  He lived less than 500 years before Christ.  Around the same time the second temple was being resettled and became a city.   Plato is said to have written hundreds of books and speeches.  Today in university scholars, and even casual readers, read the famous works of Plato.  How many originals do you think exist?  None!  Nada! Not one.  But we read his writings word for word and not a single person that I know has ever questioned if it is authentic.  It was reconstructed from copies of copies.  It was also influenced by his protégée Socrates.  How can we trust Plato when we read his Discourse?   Because there have been so many copies that it can be pieced together!  This is also how we know the Bible is authentic!

The New Testament alone has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work.  We have found over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian. [2]  Many of the oldest copies were written within a few decades of the originals that were lost.

And, do you know over 25,000 archeological explorations have been made that confirm Biblical names, places, customs and events.[3]  For example, when Atheist claim that the Great Flood never happened, but the Hebrews, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Greeks all report a flood in primordial times. A tablet with a list of Sumerian kings was discovered from 2100 BC, and it divides their rule of kings into two categories: those who ruled before a great flood and those who ruled after it.[4]

Nelson Glueck, a renowned Jewish archaeologist said. “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” [5]

Let’s go back to what the Atheist said. Does the Bible actually have errors created during the two-thousand years of scribal copying and translations?  Of course! Would you believe copies of any ancient document to be authentic if there were not some human errors?

Bart Ehrman is a very popular New Testament scholar and is used by the Atheist to support their arguments.  He said in his book, Misquoting Jesus—The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, that the bible manuscripts “differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are.”  In other words, there are too many errors to count.  But wait, here is what he said when asked if the Bible could be true:

“the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”

There you go, one of the world’s preeminent biblical authorities, the agnostic champion for atheist, says that all this discussion about biblical errors is nothing but noise!

Before we move onto to the question of, can we trust the Bible as the word of God, let me show you a just a few examples of what atheist and non-believers use will use as “evidence.” Let’s look at one that is going to really surprise and maybe disappoint some of you.  How nice of me, right?  Please turn in your Bible to John verses 7:52-8:11. This story is formally known as the “Pericope Adulterae”.  It’s more commonly known as the story of the woman caught in adultery.  This is where Jesus famously said, “Let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Here’s the problem.  This story was not in the original Gospel of John.  In fact, it doesn’t make its way into John until somewhere between 400-500 later.  John did not write it.  Somehow this story was added into someone’s manuscript, that was then copied and recopied, then copied into the Latin Vulgate that spread to all the modern Bibles.  Fortunately, when we read our Bibles, we are given a warning when something like this happens.  My NIV Bible sets the story in italics and has a special note regarding the verses. Yet atheist will argue over what is already flagged as a discrepancy.  But, we have to know about the errors too, right?

Here is how I respond to this issue.  Here we have a wonderful moral story, that many of us have quoted, but wasn’t an authentic verse in John’s Gospel.  How does this make you feel?  Actually, it should make you feel very good.  Somehow a great morale story, not originally part of the Bible, mysteriously appears in a later version.  It may have been said by Jesus and recorded in an earlier source John did not know about.  I’d propose that perhaps God put something into the Bible he wanted us to hear!  After all, those words were breathed to someone.

Where does this leave us?  I think the best is to look at all the words in the Bible like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle.  Let’s make the Bible stories into a really big puzzle, 5000 pieces.  Now pretend you built that puzzle and when you finished you discovered a100 pieces left over.  What?  Wait, is the Bible is same?  You have not lost anything from the originals?  No.  We just happen to have more words and stories than the first authors delivered.

Let me give you two more examples – and I need to be quick.  Turn to the last chapter in Mark – Chapter 16.  Go to verse 9.  How many of you have a special note about verses 9-20?  It seems that this section was not in the original version of Mark.   Scholars think it was added just decades after Mark was written.  So, this could be part of the original.  But we have no originals, so we don’t know!  They are extra pieces for the puzzle.

Lastly, let me show you and example of what is called biblical contradiction that is an Atheist favorite argument.  They choose this one because it’s obvious and confusing.  Or is it?

Turn to the first Chapter in Matthew.  In Verse 1 we can see the Genealogy of Christ. The list includes 42 names from Abraham and ending with Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

Now turn to Luke 3:23. If we look at this genealogy with a critical eye we can see that it is very different from Matthew.  This lineage runs from Joseph and goes to Adam.   What’s more troubling is that Joseph is said to be the son of Heli.  In Matthew, he’s the son of Jacob.  How can this be.  Believe me, the atheist love calling this a contradiction.

This is also one of my favorite “gotchas!”  There really isn’t any contradiction at all. Matthew writes his Gospel with a focus on the Jewish line including Jewish laws for parental lineage.  He even leaves out three kings that were banned from the lineage for being so wicked.  The Gospel of Luke is concerned with tracing Jesus all the way to Adam.  Luke does this by following Mary’s family line all the way up.

But what about Joseph having two fathers?  Simple.  Mary’s father Heli had two daughters, Mary and her sister.  Therefore, in Jewish law when Joseph married Mary, he became Heli’s son legally.  Just like Jesus was the son of Joseph legally. Because, we all know he was actually the son of whom?  …  The Son of God!

Frankly, I find it almost a shame that we need these discussions about contradictions, and spelling errors.  But non-believing people are eager to engage with Christians. They will not relent on the topic of contradictions or “bad science.”  To counter their arguments, you must have authority, and “you must [have] Christ as Lord of your life. [so when] someone asks [why you’re a believer, you’re] ready to explain it.”

But when it comes to the bible I refer you to the words of Charles Spurgeon~ “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”

Our job as disciple of Christ is to be prepared to defend our faith and to let the Bible run loose like lions! And Jesus said –  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Guess what folks – that is our job to accomplish the unaccomplished.  Strap on your Belt of the Truth and defend your faith.

[1]   Voddie Baucham, “Why I Choose to Believe the Bible,”

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript – source cited verbatim.

[3] The Big Book of Bible Answers: A Guide to Understanding the Most Challenging Questions. By Ron Rhodes

[4] http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-asia/sumerian-king-list-still-puzzles-historians-after-more-century-research-001287

[5] Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev. Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1969, P. 176. Cited by Rabbi Glenn Harris, http://www.gospeloutreach.net/bible.html

Can You Defend Your Faith?

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I love to learn new vocabulary. Especially words that end in “phobia!”

Kine-morto-phobia – This has been growing very rapidly the last few years.   Any guesses – it’s a fear of zombies, where the person is petrified by the sight of zombies and scared that they might turn into a zombie.

(Hold on – You’ll understand the why I mention this in in a moment!)

Being a Christian is hard dedicated work.  Especially in this period of time that Social scientists have labeled “Post-Modernism.”  Simply put, it means we live in a time of individualism, where our society demands individual needs more than community, and less dependence upon God, if at all.

Times are changing, but the difficulty of being a Christian is not new.  We’ve just gotten spoiled.  We live in a country founded upon Judeo-Christian ethics.  Those ethics, the notion of a Christian morality, that stuff does not fit well in Post-Modernism.  In today’s world, only the individual can decide what is morally right for themselves.  As a society are slowly regressing to a time similar to when Christians were persecuted.  Some say it is already here.

How did it happen?  Unfortunately, we got blindsided and didn’t see it coming. But we were warned!  If there is one theme that is consistent in scripture is that being a Christian is hard.  Jesus said it best when he sent out his disciples:

16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

It is reported that right now in China, Christians are being sent to reeducation camps.  In North Korea they are put into concentration camps.  In Egypt, Coptic Christians are being slaughtered.  In Syria and Sudan, Christians are targeted for extermination.  In these countries it takes a lot of faith to be a Christian?  But, even in France, a catholic priest had his throat slit in his church near Normandy.  Just yesterday, the North Carolina Pastor imprisoned in Turkey was formally charged on a terrorism related charges called “Christianization.”  The persecution is spreading.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

 

Here in the United States I have not heard stories of Christian killings, but we all know Christian’s are under attack.  I know that many people, perhaps some of you here, who avoid saying Merry Christmas at work.  Some avoid saying “God Bless you” to a stranger.  Christianity is under attack and if you haven’t heard the news, we are losing the battle.

In a world that is becoming less, and less Christ centered, it takes a lot of Faith to declare your love for Christ.  “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

How did this happen?  In our country, we’ve gotten lazy and too comfortable in our Christian faith.  But, Faith is not about being comfortable – it’s about publicly pronouncing Christ as redeemer.

Sometimes wonder if folks come to church to feel safe in numbers rather than recharge their faith.   Even the name Sanctuary has morphed from meaning a “Holy place” to a “safe haven.”    Hasn’t it!

But, what do we do here, in our “sanctuary,” that prepares us for battle out there?  Once we exit the doors are we prepared to be uncomfortable?  Are we battle ready if attacked?

Let me take a moment to make you all a bit uncomfortable.  My personal belief is that church is not a place to be comfortable.  Its where we learn and strengthen our Faith in Christ.  So, let me ask you some questions that are being asked.

How do we know Jesus was really raised from the dead?  There are no other books from that time that discuss it except Christian books.  Even the Jews say it did not happen.  Why should I believe in Christ?

The Egyptians have a mythical god named Horus. He was born on December 25th, to the virgin Isis-Meri. He healed the sick and walked on water. He was crucified, buried for 3 days, and resurrected. Isn’t Jesus a copycat story of an earlier Egyptian myth?

The bible has thousands of errors and contradictions – if it was truly God inspired why would it have so many mistakes?

The oldest known copy of the bible was written in 350AD.  Why should I believe a book written so long after this Jesus guy died?

Why do Christians hate scientist?  Why should I believe any religion that killed Galileo just for proving the earth rotated around the sun?

Everyone knows the earth is billions of years old, but Christians think it all started six thousand years ago.  Why don’t Christians believe in the proven science of Darwin’s theory of evolution?

If God loves all his creations, then why does he only promise heaven to those that hear about Jesus?  I can’t love a God that discriminates.

If God is so all powerful, all knowledgeable, and everywhere at the same time, why does he allow evil to exit?  Why would you worship a God that would let children suffer and let other innocents die?

Uncomfortable yet?  And I was being nice.  These kinds of questions are being asked both maliciously by atheist, and sincerely by confused non-Christians.  Do you have answers for them?  Who here could have knocked away each of those questions.  And those were softballs.  Paul warns us we will be attacked with flaming arrows of evil.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us we are to sanctify Christ and to Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;”

Are you ready?  More importantly, how secure is your own faith?  Do you have these same questions?  Do you wonder about the obvious mistakes in the Bible?  And yes, there are thousands of errors – most are scribal.

Being a Christian is hard – Our faith can waiver if we don’t understand everything that is tugging at our beliefs.  The Apostle Paul understood this problem first hand.  He explains how to manage it in his letter to the Ephesians.  In fact, this letter equips all of us to be God’s people in the world.  If you read Ephesians, and learn to live as it instructs us, your Faith will not waiver.

Yet, even Paul closes out his letter by advising the Christians in Ephesus to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:1—11)

Who here have a set of armor?  How many have a belt of truth or a breastplate of righteousness.  Is your shield of faith strong enough to defend flaming arrows?  When I was a kid one of my playmates had a toy roman helmet with a red plume.  I was so jealous of him.  Paul tells us we all need a helmet of salvation and sword of the spirit.  I used to cut my sword out of cardboard and cover it with aluminum foil.  It looked cool, but not as cool as that helmet.

Paul says we all need armor, so we can defend our faith.  But defend it from what?

Let’s take a moment to look at part of his letter to see how Paul explains our predicament.  Turn to Ephesians 2:1-10 and follow along with me.

2 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.

There is a popular show on TV called the Walking Dead.  The premise is that some disease has hit the world and people are turning into zombies.  Once dead the people walk around in packs looking for other people to bite – and then they become zombies.  In the show there are more zombies than there are living people.   This is similar to the world Paul is describing.  But here’s the catch.  Everyone in the world is a Zombies and only Christians are the ones living.   Everyone is in a trance state, wandering the world, following some dark need to satisfy the flesh.

In verse 2 Paul described this dark force as “the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.”  He is talking about Satan and his evil forces feasting on those who sin.  “Sin” is the disease that made us zombies, and we are all born with the Original Sin.  Therefore, we were all born to hear the dark forces of evil.

Paul continues: 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

Those who refuse the gift of Grace from God, continue to live in sin.  They are lured by “passions of our flesh.”  And we were by nature children of wrath.

Let me ask this question.  When our kids are being horrible, perhaps beyond horrible, maybe into drugs or legal problems, do we get mad at them?  You bet we do, and we try to move them away from whatever is corrupting them.  Our wrath is based in their predicament and their decisions – but we still love them. Paul says God is the same.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved

 Even when we were nothing but Walking Dead Zombies, God sent his Son to lift the curse of sin from us – and if we believe in him we are Born Again into the light of Christ.  If we don’t, then we will continue to live under the wrath of God.

We heard this same message in John’s Gospel.  36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. (John 3:36).

Grace is free, Faith is not!  Faith takes Knowledge, Assurance, and Trust!  We develop our Faith and then spend our lives preserving and strengthening our love for Christ.

Our salvation starts with our Faith! Our Faith becomes our shield.  What happens if our Faith waivers or is weak?  The flaming arrows of evil will strike us.  Yet, Paul says that because of Grace we are both saved… 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

God lifts us up to be with the Son through the Holy Spirit.  And what is our reward for our unwavering Faith?  We receive have immeasurable riches of God’s kindness.  How much is immeasurable?  Never ending.   I saw somewhere a Lotto scratcher that pays the winner $1000 dollars a day for life.  I’d rather have immeasurable kindness from God!

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

This is a warning.  We cannot let Pride, a Sin, detract from our Faith.  In 2 Corinthians Paul even talks about his thorn in the side he received to prevent him from boasting.

Finally, in this last verse is very important to understand Paul’s intention.

10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

 Paul wrote, “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”  This is to be our life – our calling – our purpose in life.  What is the meaning of life?  To do Good Works for God!

But be careful.  When read in Greek, the translation here does not mean “Work” as in we have to prove ourselves to get into heaven.  Instead it means, we are to become like a beautiful poem, or a melodic symphony.  Everything we do should have a beauty about it that adds to the beauty of the world.  Later in Chapter 3 of this letter, Paul describes our individual callings that we are to obey so that we all are creators of “Good Work” for God’s plan.  Each of us an instrument in the orchestra that is making celestial music.

In these ten verses, Paul has described for us the world we live in and how we’re supposed to exist in such a dark place.  This age of Post-Modernism is nothing more that the spotlight being shined upon the Walking Dead.  Yet, this is what the world has always been.

Sadly, less people are leaving the dark side to join Christ.   And, there are those that who have spent their entire lives as Christians, but doubt has lowered their shield and let flaming arrows of evil penetrate their faith.  The famous author Flannery O’Conner famously called these people Christ haunted! Their faith has been shaken.

Someone asked them, “Why does God let evil exist?”  And they were not prepared to explain the consequence of Free Will and original sin.

Maybe someone asked them, “why are their different lineages of Christ found in Matthew and in Luke?”  But they didn’t know that one lineage is of Joseph and the other is of Mary.

These lifelong Christians may sanctify Christ in their heart, but they fail to “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

I will say it again, being a Christian is hard.  Defending you Faith is not.  That’s not to say it doesn’t take effort.

You must know why you believe what your asking others to believe.

Before you can make disciples of Christ, you have to be a disciple of Christ fully adorned in the Armor of God.

When you leave the door today you are no longer in a “safe space.”  You are entering the world of the Walking Dead where everyone not saved is controlled by the dark forces in the world.  As Paul says, they crave the things of the flesh.  Money, Power, Success, Sex, Greed, Glory.

As Christians, our job is to spread the Good News and make those in darkness understand that God’s Grace extends to them too.  But remember the more successful you are, the more Satan will conspire to first stop you, and then consume you.

Is your faith safe?

Jesus warned his disciples: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

And Paul tells us to “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Ask yourselves, Are you ready to defend your faith?

 

 

Shh! God’s Talking.

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Most people say they would like to hear God talking.

Who wouldn’t right.  Some of you are old enough to remember that TV commercial by EF Hutton the stock brokerage house.  Two ladies are in a noisy restaurant and one person says to the other person, “My broker is EF Hutton and he says…”  Suddenly, then the entire room gets quiet and everyone is straining to hear what the lady is going to say next.  Remember that commercial?  Their slogan was – “When EF Hutton talks, People listen.”

What if you were in a noisy place talking to a friend and you said, “I was just talking to God and he said…”  Would the whole room suddenly get so quiet you could hear a pin drop?  Everyone leaning over and straining to hear what God had to say?  I don’t think so.  Sadly, many people don’t seem to care nor believe what God might have to say.

1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us why.  14 “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness…” 

Paul told us that, we as Christians, have the Spirit and that’s our hotline to God.   If you want to hear God – simply listen to the Spirit inside you.  That’s all there is to it.

Jesus even said it himself, “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever 17 the Spirit of truth… he lives with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17

Isn’t that reassuring.  Christ says that through the Holy Spirit he is right inside each of us.

But what else is that scripture revealing to us?  I think it means that if we don’t hear God, then either we aren’t listening or it’s so noisy we can’t hear the Holy Spirit talking.

Many people have that problem?  They try real hard to hear God.  They pick up that hotline but all they hear is static?  Or maybe the line sounds dead.  Their thinking, God’s not home, or that he’s not talking to them?  Or, maybe you that there’s no such thing as hearing God?  Maybe they consider it foolishness.

Today I’d like talk about how to hear God.  I didn’t say talk to God – I suspect most of you have that down pretty good. My question is, do you know how to listen – to God?   Do you give God his turn in the conversation?  Are you stuck in monologue, instead of a dialogue?

Let’s get one big question out of the way, Does God really talk to us?  After all, what’s the point in listening for him if there’s nothing to hear.   Well I’m happy to report that, besides my own personal experience, there is overwhelming evidence that God does indeed talk to us and it’s well documented.  Here’s some of the evidence:

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  God will teach and counsel us.  To do that he must talk to us.

Proverbs 3:6 “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Pay attention when he’s talking, and he will keep you safe.”   There’s an Old Testament tip for you –  Pay attention.

And Jesus tells us – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.John 10:27.

Jesus is talking about us.  We are his sheep.  We listen to his voice and follow him.

Don’t we?  Sadly, many Christians never hear God.

Maybe in the past they heard the Lord, but now it seems he’s no longer speaking to them.  They might be working really hard on their relationship with God, but all they hear is silence  That silence can be disheartening, frightening, confusing and even agonizing.  I know first-hand what it’s like to be waiting on God for answers, and hear nothing? I did it for decades!  At one point, I even decided that maybe there really isn’t a God.  Eventually, through some hard work I learned how to have conversations with God.  And it turned out to be rather simple – for me anyway.

What is it we are taught to do if you catch on fire?  What’s that little saying we use to remind us of what to do?  Who knows it?  “Stop, Drop and Roll. Right!”

Well here is what I learned to do if I want hear God.   Stop, Be Quiet, and Listen!

Here is step-one to hearing God.  You need to STOP Talking. If you’re worried God’s not listening, STOP – because he is.  STOP chasing God.   He’s right beside you.

When I was as little kid and out shopping with my mom I used to play a game that aggravated her.  When she was looking at dresses and shirts and such on the large racks I would hide down inside the clothing racks.  I could see her feet, but she couldn’t see me.  I would scramble from rack to rack right behind her.  When she realized she’d lost sight of me she’d start calling my name.  Sometimes, I could tell she was getting a bit frantic and called my name with an urgency.  I would giggle and scamper under the clothing racks to follow her feet.   Eventually, my mother would stop calling out and would instead listen.  When she got quiet she could hear me giggling deep inside the clothing rack.  I never left her side – but she was so busy looking for me and calling out for me that she couldn’t hear me.  I think too often that is what we do when we pray.  We are trying to have a conversation with God, but we do all the talking! We keep waiting for answers but are not really listening.

When I first started to pray as an adult I never shut up.  I prayed for this and prayed for that.  I got good at asking and asking and asking. And when I didn’t see results I’d ask it differently.  “Ok God, here’s the deal… if you’ll just grant me this I will ….”  Anyone here do that?  Try bargaining with God?  It doesn’t work to well does it?

Here’s how I finally learned the second part of this lesson.  I literally took a college class on the how to pray.  I’m strange like that – I like formal training.  I figured I must have been praying “wrong.”   In that class, we learned eight maybe ten different ways to pray.  And they were all great.  I would practice these different styles in 30 to 45-minute sessions.  But guess what – regardless of the style, I did not hear God talking.  Finally, I think the Holy Spirit either got fed up with me, or felt sorry for me, because during this one prayer session, as I was going through my “technique,” I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Maybe you should just stop talking!”  And I did.  You should see my journal entry for that day!  God started talking and I was writing down everything as fast as he was telling me.  I didn’t think he was ever going to finish.  That when I realized that having a conversation with God has many parts.

 

Stop Talking was step one.  “Be Quiet” was step two.    But I don’t mean just closing your mouth – being quiet.  Being quiet is much more difficult that not talking.  Being quiet means, you have to shut out all the clutter in your head.

In the Old Testament, we hear the story of Elijah looking for God in the Wind and could not find him.  Then in the Earthquake, and then in the fire.  He looked for God and could not find him even though he knew he was close by.  Finally, after the fire stopped – and everything got real quiet, and Elijah was no longer looking for the lord, there came a gentle whisper.  (1 King 19:13) When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

How many times has God tried to answer you and you didn’t hear it because he speaks in a whisper and your making too much noise.  Perhaps, your mind’s to distracted or there’s too much noise and confusion going on in your life.  And, I’m not just talking just about loud external noises.  I’m talking about the noises in your head.

Here are a few examples of the noise I mean?  How about when your pride steps in and says I can do this on my own – I don’t need God’s help – and your head fills with confusion.

Or maybe you have bitterness inside and your holding onto a grudge or resentment towards someone.  That can be a loud clanging in your head, and heart.

Or maybe, you’re physically hurting and it’s making you close your mind to everything except the anger getting louder and louder.

These are the sounds I’m talking about.  We have to turn off, not only your own voice, but also all that clutter in your head.  It’s not easy.  But it only takes hearing God once and you’re changed forever.

The first step?  Stop Talking.  The second step?  Be Quiet.  Remember not talking is not the same thing as being quiet.

Lastly, is step-three, we need to listen for his voice.  Now, I hope you all don’t think this is a crazy segue but, I’m going to talk about goats for a minute.  Several years we bought three goats. We named them Nanny, Billy, and Randy.  When we got them home we would try and call them, but they would never come.  The dogs would come, the donkeys would come, even our chickens.  But, the goats wouldn’t.  Eventually we learned a trick – that if we shook a box of corn flakes – they would come running.  They knew what that sound represented – something that they loved.  Corn Flakes were a voice of love to them.  And soon after, we could call out and they would come running to see if we had corn flakes.

It’s the same way with God.   When he calls to us we may not know it’s God speaking because we don’t know the sound of his voice.  And if we don’t know his voice, we don’t know to go towards it.  That he’s waiting there with love – and Corn Flakes.

God is always trying to get our attention – sadly many people don’t recognize his voice.  We need to learn to listen for God when he’s talking.  His reply to us may be audible, or visual, or emotional.  It may be in a kindness we observe, or an unexpected presence that gladdens our heart.  It could be the cry of a baby.  God speaks to us with a voice that we each learn to recognize.  But first we have to Stop Talking, Be Quiet, and listen.

From the book of Samuel, we read how Samuel heard God calling his name, “Samuel, Samuel.” He was confused, he thought it was Eli calling him.  Samuel didn’t know God’s voice.  We’re the same.  We too need to learn to listen for God, to recognize his voice when he is speaking to us.  I bet almost everyone here can answer their home phone and know in an instant who is calling by the sound of that person’s voice.  Hearing God is no different.  Just like that person on the phone, you need to build a relationship with him, you need to get used to hearing his voice.  In Psalm 46:10 – He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

Stop, Be Quiet, and Listen.

Let me conclude this morning with one last ingredient.  There is one more thing to do if you want to build that relationship with God.  And this for me was the hardest.  We must obey God when he speaks to us.

God speaks to those that he knows are going to listen and do what he tells them to do.  Psalm 119:33 “Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I’ll wholeheartedly obey.” 

We’ve been told from the very beginning that God wants us to pray to him with our needs and desires.  He wants us to make big plans!  He is standing ready to answer all of them.  “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3).  It’s when you obey, that God knows, that you know, you are listening!

God talks to willing minds.  How do you make your mind willing and learn to listen to God?  Stop.  Be quiet.  Listen.  And obey!

Amen

 

Eternal Life – It’s not what you might think.

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Who would like to live forever?  But what if you had to live forever in this same shell of a body?  Then probably not so much, right?  But, most Christians don’t really worry about this because they’re convinced that once they finish up this life they’re GOING to have an “Eternal Life.”

For God so loved the world…

Most all of us have heard this scripture, 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  What verse is that?  John 3:16 right!

This is a beautiful message. Jesus repeated that to all that had ears to hear.   It’s a message we can easily tune into.  I see that verse plastered all over the place.  Tim Tebow had it under his eyes when he played a national championship football game.  Do you know that during that game 94 million people Googled John 3:16?   That message really resonates with people.

Now, here is how most people interpret that verse.  Something like this – “I believe Christ died for my sins, therefore I will live forever.  And on my day of deliverance I will be with the lord in Heaven forever for an “eternal life”  That sound about right?

Most believe that is what John 3:16 is telling us.  16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  I’ve looked real hard and I don’t see in this verse where it says we’re going to live forever?  Maybe people got confused by the verse just before that one. 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

But, I don’t see anything there about living for eternity.  Let’s go all the way down to the bottom of John 3 and see if it’s there. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

Nope, not there either.  Wait, I know what you’re thinking.  David, you darn fool.  It says right there “eternal life.”   Really?  Is that what it says, or is that what you have heard?

The mistake people make when reading this scripture is that somehow, they conclude that “eternal life” means that you live forever?  The reality is, everyone has lives forever.  You either go up, or you go down – for eternity.  Adolf Hitler is living an eternal existence.  It’s just that his zip code starts with 666.

This is where we make the mistake – the phrase about “Eternal life” is not about the duration of our life, it’s about quality of life.  In the original biblical text eternal is referring to the time needed to accomplish the purposes of God.  However long that may be.

The Greek translation for “Eternal Life” is “aeōnios zoé ” (ai-ō-ne-ōs + zoé).  The word for “eternal” here is aeōnios and translates to something like “age lasting.” You have probably heard the root word “Eon’s.”  When we think of Eons, we don’t think of it as forever, it’s more like “that dogs been gone for eons.” A duration of time.

And the word for life is “zoé.”  In this context it does not mean life in the biological – coming into existence context.  It’s more like, “the way we should go through life” “our demeanor,” the way of life.  Zoé is the vigor or vitality of life in truth.

Eternal life means quality of life, not a duration.  Does that make sense for you? The larger point here is, Jesus’ is telling us to live through him in abundance.  In fact, in most places where you find the phrase “Eternal Life” you can substitute “abundant life.”

In John 17:3 we find a definition provided by Christ.  This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 

This would read: “This is an abundant life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

As Christians, when we are reborn in New Birth through our faith in Christ alone, Sola Fide.  WE don’t have to do anything for it – it is a gift given by Christ on the Cross – and we are to have a life of abundance.

In John 10:10 Jesus says,  The thief  [that would be the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  This gift of “abundance” is not something to save for the future.  It’s for now!  To have “Eternal Life” is to know Christ in your life and to live today as the Holy Spirit guides you.  To live with an abundance of life here in Gods Kingdom here on Earth.

Let me ask you this one simple question.  What is the difference between a Christian and a Non-Christian?   The one physical – and I will call it physical – difference?  Here’s a hint.  Remember that Jesus, the man from Galilee did not have the Holy Spirit until he was baptized by John and the dove descended.  When Jesus received the Holy Spirit – THAT is when he began his mission to return all of us in flesh back to God the Father.

A Christian literally has something non-Christians do not.  The Holy Spirit!  We have the escape from death card!  And all we need to do to get one is to believe that Christ is our savior!  You see. That my friends, is the secret to knowing your living in the Kingdom of God right now. God expects us to be living our lives on Earth – just as they do in Heaven.   Isn’t that how Jesus taught us to pray!  “On Earth as it is in Heaven!”  God expects us to be learning right now the appropriate behavior for life in Heaven.  We are supposed to be using this “eternal life” stuff to prepare us for Heaven.

Right here you might be saying, “OK, I get the abundance part, but how can we know how they live in Heaven?” That’s easy.  Jesus told us when he created the 11th Commandment.  Who knows the 11th Commandment?  Turn to John 13:34-35 – it is right there in red letters.

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

The eleventh commandment!  “you must love one another.”  Jesus is telling us that the language of Heaven is Love.  Christ came down and took human form to show us what love looks like. Why?  Because that is the language we need to learn to speak.  That is the language that reflect God’s image back upon him.  That is the language of our true character.  That is the language of how we are to treat one another and all creation.  We must learn the language of Heaven before we arrive.

Back in the late 1990’s I moved to Brussels Belgium to work.  I rented an apartment and had to go to the government office and get my electricity turned on.  Here’s the problem, I didn’t speak French very well.  Me no parlez-vous that francais.

When I got to the office, I was waiting in line nervously and watched as a young lady was processing applications.  Next to her was a big burly Germanic looking dude.  He was obviously training the new girl.  When it was finally my turn the first thing I did was to apologize for my bad French. I said “Je ne parlez pas Francais tres bien.”  I don’t speak French very well.

The big dude looked up and shouted at me – “Why?”  It was obvious he was trying to impress the young girl.  He started pointing at me, “In our country you can choose three languages, French, German or Flemish.  We give you three choices and you can’t speak none?”

Well, I was in a pickle.  This guy was between me and having lights on my apartment.  In typical David fashion I responded.  “Can I tell you a joke?”  He said “Ya!”  I said, “If you can speak three languages that’s called trilingual!” He said, “Ya.”  I then said, “If you can speak two language you’re bilingual.”  He said “Ya!”  Is said what is it called when you can only speak on language?”  He wrinkled his face and shook his head.  I said, “American!”  He busted our laughing, Ya, Ya, Ya!   And I managed to get my electricity turned on.

Here’s the moral of that story.  Who was I to go to another country and expect to live there and not know the language.  If we plan on taking up residence in Heaven someday it would behoove us all to learn the language we need to speak before arrival.   The eleventh commandment “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another.”  You may not have any other chance but now to learn the language.  St. Peter may not like dumb American jokes.

I know most of us are very loving and we try to obey all the commandments.  But here we are, living in the Kingdom of God, with this abundance of life given to us, and we might not speak the language very well.  God was nice enough to turn on our electricity, but he expects us to become fluent in the “language of love,” ASAP!

What is the best way to learn a language.  By immersion.  Right – jump right in.  We need to learn the language of love, so we are fluent before we get to Heaven.  Perhaps we can find an immersion program right here in our community.  The trick is finding the right teachers.

Each year Tim Tebow promotes the Night to Shine event?  This is an event for “people of special needs.”  It is literally a Prom and every person was named King or Queen of the Prom.  My wife was a volunteer last year and told me that every person at the event was permanently affected by the love that was present.  It was a big ol’ barn overflowing with love and compassion for those in need.

But here is the immersion part I was talking about – the love was returned to the volunteers by more than ten-times what they each gave.  How ironic is it that, those who we call “of special needs” were the teachers?  When it came to Love – the volunteers were not nearly as fluent!

Those at that event had an immersion course in the language of love.  Jesus told Nicodemus “Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen” (John 3:11).  Everyone at that event is still testifying to what they saw and felt.  Those that attended have harnessed those emotions, and the love for God that was inside that barn, and have taken it outside the barn door into the community.

That was just one event.  How many other persons of need could we find that will teach you the next lesson of love?   John 5:24: “Very Truly I tell you anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.”  Jesus does not say “will have,” but uses the present tense. “has eternal life.”  The quality of our lives will change forever!

Who wants to live forever?  Who cares?  I want Eternal Life?  You can choose to go one of two ways.  But the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). 

And here is the kicker – you don’t get eternal life when you die – you get it right now. If you do not have a relationship with Christ – or maybe it is not where it should be.  This morning – this exact moment – is a good time to let Christ be fully present in your heart, soul and mind. The only way to the Father is through the Son.  Let him in!

Amen

Giving Faith a Tune Up

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How do you know if your Faith is real?  When you find your Faith being tested, and it will be tested, does it start to slip away?   And if your Faith begins to fade what happens to your confidence in your belief systems?  And if you start to wonder if your beliefs are somehow corrupted – what does that do for your trust in everything; God, family, the world in general.

Indeed, when we begin to waver in our Faith, it can become a very slippery slope to living an existence outside our relationship with God.

How many here have ever climbed into your car only to discover it wouldn’t start?  Probably everyone at least once.  I lived most of my life with clunker cars – so I had to learn how to diagnose the problem and try to fix it.   Some become experts in car repair– and I suspect it was mostly all trial and error!

Up until a few weeks ago, I had an old Ford Tractor.  It was a 1952 Ford 8n.  Great tractor, but sometimes I had problems getting it started.   I would turn the key and absolutely nothing happened – no noise, nothing.  I learned that meant the problem was likely electrical.  A disconnected wire or something.  Other times, I turned the key and it made a faint whirring sound, grrrun, grrrun, grrrun.  That was often because my battery didn’t have enough juice.  So, I jumped it or put the battery on a charger.   Then, at other times, that old tractor would start right up, but after a few minutes, it would die on me.  Well, this turned out to be a problem with the engine not getting enough fuel.  When I cleaned out my fuel filter, I was up and running.

Diagnosing problems with our Faith is very much like getting my old tractor back up and running.  We need to do some troubleshooting to trace the issues.

What I’d like to propose now is sort of a dummies guide for diagnosing problems in our Faith.  I’m going to assume that not everyone understands what constitutes our Faith, and one needs to know what Faith “is,” to diagnose any problems.

But first, let me tell you what Faith is not.  When someone says they “Believe in God” that is not the same as having “Faith.” One can “believe” something but still not act upon it.  If I choose to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow, that requires no action on my part – I just wait for it to happen.  But for me to believe that the Son of God rose – that takes Faith!  Belief is not the same as Faith.

What about “acceptance.”  If I say I have accepted Christ as my savior, isn’t that the same as Faith?  No, millions of people, maybe hundreds of millions around the world, have accepted Christ as their savior. But they lack Faith!  When Billy Graham had his many gospel crusades, it’s estimated that 215 million people heard him live and that 2.2 million people responded to the invitations to become a Christian.[1]  But get this next part:

“In a 1990 interview with PBS, Billy Graham himself stated his belief that only about 25% of those who come forward at one of his events actually became Christians. In recent years, studies have shown that only 6% of people who “come forward” at an evangelistic crusade are any different in their beliefs or behavior one year later.”

Wow – and that was with Billy Graham as the witness for Christ![2]

Belief is not Faith, and Acceptance is not Faith.

What if I say I “Trust” in the Lord.  Isn’t that the same as Faith?  Nope, all it means is that I trust that God is responsible for everything that happens.  In fact, I can get quite cynical and start blaming God when things to go as I planned. I am observing what happens, and assigning God as the source of my consequences, but not really accepting the outcome.

Belief is not Faith. Acceptance is not Faith.  Trust is not Faith.  By now you must be wondering, okay then, what is Faith?

Faith is when Belief, Acceptance, and Trust all come together as one resident process to transform us.  You see, Faith requires a belief based in knowledge.  Faith requires an Acceptance of Christ thorough an emotional assurance of his presence, and lastly, Faith requires a Trust such that you put yourself entirely into the “custody” of Christ.

As Christians, having Faith is not something we do blindly – it is something we become.  Unfortunately, the word Faith as used in the bible has been corrupted by secularist. We are mocked as being irrational because we have “Blind Faith.”  But that is not what the Bible means when it discusses Faith.  There is nothing Blind about “Faith in Christ,.”

When the Apostle Paul describes “pistis Christou” (Romans 3:22, Galatians 2:16), his meaning doesn’t require an abandoning of reason.  In fact, it needs a reason!  Once we develop this biblical “Faith in Christ” it becomes centering and transformative.

Paul describes how “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6:6)

And as followers of Christ, we know that we must exist through our “Faith in Christ.”

This is what Jesus was talking about in John’s Gospel when he said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5)

Without Faith in Christ, we cannot do anything.  Without living in Faith our beliefs systems crumble, our assurance in our values rattle, and our trust in humanity begins to sink like stones in the water.

But what should we do when we have a crisis of Faith?  When we are having a crisis in our Faith what do we do to restore it?  That brings us back full circle to my antique tractor.  How do I get my Faith, like my tractor, to start and keep it running?

Just like the tractor, we need to look at the individual parts that make it run.  Let’s start with the part of Faith that comes from Belief based in Knowledge – it’s a lot like the wiring in a vehicle.

If we think about the wiring as the circuitry the tractor needs to operate, that’s like our core body of knowledge that we carry within us that shapes our beliefs.  Don’t we even use that expression – “That’s how we are wired?”  Are religious beliefs are wired according to the wiring diagrams found in our biblical texts.  If your Faith doesn’t turn on – look to how your wiring is affecting your beliefs.

Has your confidence in the bible been hijacked?  Or maybe you’ve been walking on eggshells about this whole thing around the Bible as “inerrant,” the Bible as “infallible.”  Perhaps you read what seems to be contradictions in scripture.  Or, maybe you choose to believe part of the Bible and ignore other parts – that’s some crossed wires right there.  If one lacks confidence in the bible – the electrical circuit needed to guide Faith – they might be headed for a meltdown.

How does one fix that?  Easy, we need to find the shorts.  We need to find the faults in the wiring.  That is why we need Bible Study and Sunday School, and even more critical is the need to read our Bibles on a regular basis.  This is a time when we learn to navigate those difficult passages.  The reality is when a person reads the bible long enough and often enough – they discover new interpretations all the time.  Once the short circuits are fixed, and our wiring back in order, we are ready to operate our Faith at peak performance.  We get back to “firing on all cylinders” as a mechanic might say!

By the way, if you are overwhelmed by the Bible (as most of us can be), let me tell a little secret.  God gives us knowledge as we are ready to accept and digest it.  Many people do not realize that, as Methodist, we are not taught that the bible is inerrant?  We do not have a doctrine of infallibility.  It would never have occurred to John Wesley because it was never really considered.  Instead, Article IV of our Doctrinal Standards and General Rules, with the wording from the Evangelical United Brethren Church, says this:  “We believe the Holy Bible, Old, and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation.” 

Our doctrine says don’t sweat it.  God will lead you.  He will help us organize the wiring- harness.  If you are having a crisis of Faith and you can’t even get started – check your wiring.  Just open the Bible, and God will work with you to reveal all that is necessary for your salvation.

Now, what if your Faith is like my Tractor when it is trying to turn over, and it goes, grrrun grrrun, grrrun.  You’re not getting a spark.  Your Faith is a bit run down.  Faith runs on emotion.  It is our spark, our enthusiasm.   This sounds just like my tractor battery.  You see, we might have proper wiring, but if our battery is almost dead – we can get going.   In Hebrews 11:1 we read: “Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”   That conviction is a spark that ignites the fuel of our Faith.    If we want assurance, we need a spark.

When I was folks about their conversion story,  I often hear about a spark or light that shined.  Now, some people don’t have a big conversion story – they just felt a spark of the Holy Spirit working through them.  This is very common.  Most people do not realize that John Wesley was a Christian for twenty-two years before he felt his spark of assurance.  He tells of how he felt his heart strangely warmed (at Aldersgate).  That sounds like a glow plug in a diesel engine that finally ignite.  His internal fuel combusted, and he was granted the assurance he wanted.  We even sing a hymn called Blessed Assurance – it talks about how we are confident that Christ is within us.  We need assurance to sustain our Faith.

How do we create that spark?  Easy, let’s look at my old tractor – when my battery is weak, I put it on a charger.  I harness the power of other sources to reenergize it.  That is what the Christian community – your larger church family is for.  This is also why John Wesley insisted that the Methodist Church deploy small groups.  It is in these small groups we are held accountable and encouraged in our Faith.  We keep one another’s batteries charged up.

Isn’t that another expression we use at times when we are invigorated by a revival or a good sermon – “I got my battery charged?”

Finally, let’s look at what happens to us when our Faith begins to waiver because things are just not turning out how we expected.  Maybe the trust meter is declining.  This happens when we encounter hypocrisy in our own church.  Or when we are forced to witness awful things done in the name of Jesus.  I won’t even discuss the latest Priest scandal because it is so tragic for those abused children.  We all have our own stories, and experiences, maybe even right here in this church.   Our Faith in one another can erode when we start to lose trust in our community and our family.  Or maybe we merely just think God has abandoned us.  We wonder, where is God?

I like the story of Daniel and how the King decreed that no one could pray to anyone but him for thirty days.  When Daniel refused to stop praying three times a day to YHWH, the King was forced to put him in the lion’s den.  Now, if I was Daniel, I might have felt compelled to think – what is going on here?  I pray morning, noon, and night.  I worship God with all my Heart, Soul, Strength and Mind and look where I end up.  I’m served up as Dinner.

But Daniel did not let this clog up his fuel lines of Trust.  He kept right on praying, and God sent an Angel to close the mouths of the Lions.  Daniel 6:23 says that “The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”  

Daniel never stopped Trusting in God.  To keep our Faith fully intact we also must sustain our Trust.  How do we do that?  Just like in my old tractor, we find out what is clogging the fuel lines.  What is blocking our ability to have a conversation with God and to discern his plans?

Does anyone here know why a fuel filter gets clogged up?  Because there is junk that gets into the fuel.   How does Junk get into our lives that block us from communicating with God?  It’s easy because we are swimming in junk.  The secular world is flooding our world with garbage through all forms of media.  Movies, music, culture, and even education.  Our children are the most vulnerable – and social media is corrupting civil discourse.

The only defense we have, to keep our fuel lines unblocked, is to avoid the junk as best as we can.  Limit our exposure to negative influences.  We can also put a little hi-test into our tanks!  Let’s feed on good sources of Christian music, and culture, and conversation.  But even more than that, go right to the source for your fill-ups.

Go to God in prayer as often as you can.  Let him fill your tank with his gift of Grace.

I started this conversation by asking the question – how do you know if your Faith is real?  The answer is simple – you don’t unless you run a diagnostic:

  • Check that your wiring is free of short circuits – avoid crossing your wires of scripture. And remember, you only need the wire harness that’s fitted for you.  God will let you know what is sufficient for your salvation.
  • Make sure your battery stays charged. When your running low – don’t avoid others – get around them.  Let them recharge that spark of emotions – that Blessed assurance of the Holy Spirit.
  • And finally, make sure your fuel lines are not clogged by all the garbage in the world. We are not designed to run on ethanol – we need Hi-Test right from the source of God through prayer.

The Apostle Paul was clear when he told us “For in [the Good News] the righteousness of God is revealed through Faith for Faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by Faith.” (Romans 1:17)  We cannot live – if we don’t fully understand that Faith in Christ – is not Blind.  It needs Knowledge, Assurance, and Trust.  And it’s on us to us to keep our Faith tuned up and running at full capacity.  Just as Jesus said, this is the only way we can live.

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

Amen

[1] https://factsandtrends.net/2018/02/21/billy-grahams-life-ministry-by-the-numbers/

[2] https://redeeminggod.com/crusade-evangelism-effective/