15 Days of Faith – Day 1

We are living in unprecedented times. You may have seen President Trump’s press conference yesterday or heard of the suggestions coming from his task force dealing with the spread of the Covid-19 virus. They are asking all Americans to make some dramatic changes for the next 15 days in order to curb the effect and spread of this virus. 

I know that reports over the last week or so have spread great fear across our country. If you don’t know someone who has been infected with the virus now, you possibly will in the future. Some patients are in serious condition. I know of a woman in her 30’s on a ventilator right now. This threat is serious. It would be easy for us to be filled with fear right now, but God wants us to choose faith.

Over the next 15 days, I’m going to share thoughts of encouragement and challenge us to embrace faith. I encourage you to share your comments and help me spread a message of hope.

The Bible has a lot to say about faith. The book of Galatians says we are justified by faith and we are to live by faith. Think about those two ideas. Your sins cannot be forgiven and you cannot enjoy a right relationship with God without placing your faith and your trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. Secondly, as a Christian, your life should be defined by faith. It would do us well during these times to think about what it means to live by faith. It means that our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional strength comes from the Lord. It means that every step we take, we do so because we are fully trusting in Jesus.

I’ve got a song on my mind, and it would do us well to allow it to be the theme song of this coronavirus season. It was written around 1880 after Louisa Stead experienced a personal tragedy that could have destroyed her. Louisa, her husband, and her 4-year-old daughter were on a picnic near sea. They heard shouts for help and saw a boy struggling in the ocean. Louisa’s husband raced into the ocean to save the boy only to be pulled under and drowned. She grieved over the loss of her husband. After struggling with  sorrow asking God, “Why?” many times, she eventually penned the words to this beloved hymn:

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I shared a video on YouTube with additional thoughts for today. You can view it by clicking this link.

Coronafear

We have watched fear grip our world in the wake of Covid-19. Maybe you struggle a little with fear. The coronavirus is definitely impacting our world and could become a real challenge in our country, but hopefully, with the drastic steps we’re taking as a nation and certainly as God moves in response to the prayers of His people, we will defeat the spread of this danger.

The question we must ask is how do we find peace in the midst of this chaos? What will enable us to embrace faith instead of fear? Can we have the peace of a baby even though we’re tempted to lean toward dread and doom? Yes!

I’d like to share with you a chapter from a book I wrote a few years ago on Psalms entitled Songs from the Heart: Meeting with God in the Psalms. This chapter focuses on Psalm 31. This post will be a good bit longer than something I’d normally post, but I hope it’s a blessing to you.

Psalm 31:14-24

What to do When You Are Surrounded

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. 16 Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; save me in Your lovingkindness. 17 Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I call upon You; let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol. 18 Let the lying lips be mute, which speak arrogantly against the righteous with pride and contempt. 19How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men! 20 You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues. 21 Blessed be the Lord, for He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city. 22 As for me, I said in my alarm, “I am cut off from before Your eyes;” nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried to You. 23 O love the Lord, all you His godly ones! The Lord preserves the faithful and fully recompenses the proud doer. 24 Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

I think that somewhere hidden within my life is a stifled cowboy. Maybe every little boy wants to be a cowboy, and every man has a secret wish to saddle up and ride off into the sunset. While I was in college, I read every one of Louis L’Amour’s books in the Sacket series. I know I should have been reading about biology and western civilization, but at least I learned how to get out of a crunch when holed up in a boxed-in canyon. I haven’t had to worry about a boxed-in canyon yet, but when it does happen, I’m going to be ready.

One of my favorite movies while growing up was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Let’s forget for a moment that these two were actually outlaws. One of the last scenes shows the two bandits in Bolivia after failing to leave a life of crime. They were discovered in town with stolen mules and money, and the Bolivian army surrounded them. The movie shows the outlaws going out in a blaze of glory with pistols drawn and bullets flying. 

Have you ever felt surrounded? So maybe Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid deserved being apprehended by the authorities, but you’re one of the good guys. What do you do when the “besieged city” is actually your life?

David started this Psalm off in verses one and two with these words: “In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength.” Have you picked up on the fact that David seemed to spend his life being attacked and surrounded? Is it any wonder that many of us feel so drawn to the Psalms? Our lives really are lived out on the battlefield, and we find that many days are spent simply firing and reloading. Hopefully, you’re not really firing and reloading, but it sure feels like you are under constant assault. God offers us some encouragement during times we feel as if our lives are under siege.

Today’s scripture picks up in verse fourteen of the thirty-first chapter of Psalms: “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, You are my God.’” It is as if David is saying that it doesn’t really matter how big the army is that is surrounding him, he will trust in the Lord. There are some days that our battles seem overwhelming, and we are not sure we can make it out alive. Our declaration must be like David’s.

In the previous verse (13) he stated that he had been slandered, surrounded by terror, and his life had been threatened. In the midst of that, David pronounced his trust in God. When he said “Lord,” he used the personal name of God, Yahweh. I have already written about this name of God as being connected to Moses’ experience at the burning bush. It is the name God chose for Himself that means “I Am Who I Am.” In other words, He is the God of the present tense.

Note that within this verse, David used two different names for God: Yahweh and Elohim. The second name meant heavenly being or deity. With these two words, David speaks specifically of the God who delivered the Israelites from bondage and says that He is David’s deity. In a culture surrounded by false gods, it is significant that the most powerful man in the world declares that Jehovah God is the One he chooses to trust and serve.

We too are surrounded by numerous gods: materialism, naturalism, personal achievement, sex, etc. All of these gods, and more, are vying for our affection and devotion, but we must make our own declaration stating our devotion to the One true God. Can you connect to a time in your life when you may have felt surrounded? Can you really say with David, “As for me, I trust in the Lord?”

His next statement is significant, and we must share his conviction: “My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.” First of all, it is difficult once again to determine exactly to which enemy he refers. It doesn’t really matter, because we all have various enemies. I’m not speaking of a friend who treated us badly or a spouse who is not acting in love toward us. The Bible says we are in a spiritual battle, and our enemy is not made up of flesh and blood (see Ephesians 6:12). Without trying to fully define our enemy, can we acknowledge that our times are in God’s hands?

When he used the word “times,” he was saying that both his entire life and the unique circumstances of his life were under God’s control. If we are going to overcome all of our enemies, we must be able to state with David that we have fully trusted God with the days, minutes, and seconds of our lives. Life is lived in seconds and milliseconds, and spiritual battles are won in the tiny clicks of life’s clock. We have a tendency to focus on the larger passages of time, but spiritual faithfulness and victories are experienced on a much smaller scale. If you want to win the spiritual battles, you must defeat the enemy in the seconds of life. These seconds of victory eventually make up an hour, a day, a year, and ultimately, a lifetime. All of your times must be in God’s hands.

In this prayer, David calls out to God for help with what I will simply call a prayer for proximity. He is asking God to be near. The great news is that as Christians, we now have the wonderful abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which means we always live in close proximity to God. We can thank God that not only does His face shine upon us, but He also shines from within us. I believe that David’s prayer actually contains symbolic words asking for God’s favor, but from a New Testament perspective, we know that God’s favor comes as we yield to the urging and pleading of the Holy Spirit Who lives within our hearts. We realize this favor as we yield to God’s sovereign control over our lives.

Verses nineteen through twenty-one present David as the supplicant and worshipper focusing on the character of God. He first declared God’s goodness, which God has “stored up for those who fear” Him and for “those who take refuge in” Him. Think for a moment about a God who is good. This means that He does not have the capacity for anything contrary to goodness. To say God is good is to say He is pleasant, agreeable, excellent, valuable, benevolent, and kind. This means that there are no defects or contradictions in God. You cannot add anything to His nature to make Him more complete or to cause Him to act in a better way. 

This truth also means that He is the source of all things that are good. James 1:17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” This verse means that when something good comes into your life, it is a reflection of a good God who gives good gifts to His children. David exclaimed that God’s goodness is “great.” It is difficult to describe or categorize the goodness of God. It can’t really be measured nor can it be understood. He could just simply say it is “great.”

One thing God does out of His goodness is to provide us protection. David said, “You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man.” I wrote previously about being “concealed” by God, but note in this passage we are hidden in “the secret place of Your presence.” This is really a great thought. We find security and protection from being in the presence of God. It is true that every human being lives in God’s presence. Even the Psalmist pointed to the omnipresence of God in Psalm 139:7-10: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.” 

There is a difference between God’s omnipresence and God’s realized presence. God is everywhere at the same time, but while this is a reality, it is also true that not everyone realizes the presence of God. Even for us as believers, there are times that God’s presence seems more real than other times. I do not think it is necessarily that God is actually more present at one time than He is at others, but rather, I think it is that we are more aware of His presence because our spiritual senses are more tuned in and cognizant of God’s manifestation of Himself. It is this realized presence that offers comfort and security to the believer who is in the midst of a spiritual conflict.

The Psalmist overflows with gratitude and worship in verse twenty-one when he acknowledged, “Blessed be the Lord, for He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city.” The translation of the last two words has brought about considerable debate, and you will find translators use different English words in an attempt to capture the meaning of the Hebrew text. The word literally means “under siege,” and this makes some scholars wonder if David is making a specific reference here to real struggles of Israel at a specific time. It is possible that the Psalmist was simply using the imagery of a city under siege to give the readers an image of the spiritual conflict that is inevitable for one who follows God. 

God’s mercy and grace is “marvelous” in response to the spiritual attacks and conflicts believers face every day. At times, our lives must feel like a besieged city, but God always comes through and brings deliverance. Do you ever feel surrounded by your spiritual enemy – kind of like a besieged city? While you could respond in a variety of ways, one of the best responses you can give is to stop and worship God.

In response to this spiritual siege, David challenged those who follow God to “be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” God wants us to be strong in the midst of conflict and challenge. He wants us to be courageous and not give in to the gentle calls and strong temptations around us. Instead of placing your hope in things that are sure to change and do not hold the answers for eternity, the Psalmist calls us to “hope in the Lord.” If your hope is in other people, you will eventually be disappointed. If your hope is in the government, you will eventually be let down. We can take courage if our hope is in the Lord. What gives you hope? Your circumstances may be overwhelming and your future prospects may be less than optimal, but you will find great strength and courage when you place your trust in the Lord.

Further Thought…

  • How would you describe the enemy in your life?
  • Do you ever feel besieged or surrounded by the enemy? What do you do?
  • Do you agree with the Psalmist that your times are in God’s hands? What does that mean to you, and what difference does this knowledge make in your life?
  • Can you think of a time when you put your hope in something or someone other than God? How did it go?
  • What does it mean to you to put your hope in God?

What the World Needs Now

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” – Henry David Thoreau

I’ve gone through a gamut of emotions while following the political activities of the last months, and even years. I suppose our national problem was never clearer than during the State of the Union address this past week. Regardless of your political position, the great divide we’re experiencing should be alarming. We now live in a time when political rivalry has turned into political hatred.

Whatever happened to loving your enemies and turning the other cheek? I wonder when we set aside “doing unto others as we’d have them do unto us?” 

We need a good ol’ fashion dose of love. The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins, and frankly, I think there’s a lot of sins in Washington that need covering right now. It doesn’t stop in Washington, however. This great divide has spanned the country, and the two sides aren’t just political. The fact is that although I can pray for our political and societal leaders, I can’t change them; only God can. I can, however, change myself.

I can’t make Trump love Pelosi or Schumer have lunch with McConnell, but I can reach out to someone who has different opinions from myself and seek to love him or her in “action and in truth.” Jesus did say, after all, that the world will know that we are authentic followers of Christ by the way we love each other. I don’t think there’s a greater way to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit than to love someone that is not like me. Although Washington needs a good dose of love, most of us don’t live there. We need to start a movement right where we are—a love movement. I know from experience that when love and hate get in a competition, love always wins. I’m tired of the politics I’ve been watching displayed on TV. Let’s start something refreshing. 

One Degree

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” I just spent some time reviewing my 2020 personal growth goals and noted that some of them are making a repeat appearance from my 2019 goals. I’m not a lazy person, and I’m typically pretty disciplined in most areas. So, what’s the problem?

One problem is that I usually set too many goals. I’ve decided that while I’m going to hold onto my current list, I’m also going to whittle it down to five key goals for 2020. It’s a lot easier to keep five things on my mind and work toward their accomplishment.

I’ve also considered the fact that I’ve got to do something different. I can’t live the same way in 2020 as I did in 2019 and expect a different outcome. For example, I want to be a healthier person. This can start by choosing one change I want to make in my life. It doesn’t have to be a big change. A small change is like a pilot flying to London making a one-degree course correction as he flies over Atlanta. One degree may not seem noticeable ten miles out of Atlanta, but it could make the difference between landing at Heath Row or in the middle of the English Channel.What’s your one-degree change? I’m going to come up with five and see where I land in 2021. Why don’t you come up with five one-degree changes, write them down, and share them with someone as you begin your new year?

Cry for Hope

“That’s depressing.” Have you ever said those two words? I’ve watched U.S. politics lately and found myself frustrated, angry, and discouraged. I may have even said that certain events or reactions have been “depressing.” As we move toward what seems like an all-out war between presidential candidates, I find myself shaking my head and dreading the next year. While events may get me down, am I really depressed?

Over seven percent of American adults will experience depression this year and fifteen percent will struggle with depression at some point in their lives. Over three million young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen have experienced at least one depressive episode this year. Sadly, I think we’ll see these numbers growing in the years to come. Why? Why are we struggling with depression as a culture?

Depression can come from a variety of places in a person’s life. It may result from chemical imbalances, physical or emotional trauma, or cultural challenges. Regardless of its source, depression is both promoted by and fed from feelings of hopelessness. While counselors can offer several solutions, one key solution is hope. I’m so grateful for gifted therapists and counselors, and I am most grateful for the God of all hope.

The great news I have is that we find hope in Jesus Christ. God spoke words of encouragement to a troubled nation in Jeremiah 29:11. These words also have great application to us today: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Do you struggle with depression today? As you reach out for hope, I encourage you to reach out to God. He will walk with you through your darkness to help you find the brightness of His presence.

Essential?

I’m about to begin a new teaching series at my church called Essentials. I’ve been thinking some about the title realizing that most of us struggle with REALLY being able to distinguish what is essential in life and what is optional. For example, most of us think that having a car for every driver is essential! Is it really? You could ask my friend Isaias in Pueblo Viejo, Mexico, and he’d tell you that a vehicle is not essential. I suppose if I didn’t have a vehicle, I wouldn’t live about eight or ten miles from town. I could walk 8.1 miles to work every day, but I’d rather not.

In a way, I’ve redefined the meaning of essential. While maybe I can justify owning a car, can I really justify owning a car for each driver in my family? Not really. Granted, none of us drive a new car, but they all work, at least at the moment. What does essential really mean? If you Google the word, you’ll see that it means, “Absolutely necessary.” My series is not focusing on things that are absolutely necessary for life like water, food, and deodorant (maybe deodorant isn’t essential, but it’s close). I’m focusing on the things in the Christian life that are essential. I’ll share some thoughts from the series as I go along. Have you ever thought about what’s essential for the Christian life? I wonder what would make your list. Will you share a few thoughts in the comments?

What Happened to Honesty?

Why is it that when we see blatant honesty, we’re surprised? I passed this sign in front of a BBQ restaurant near Dahlonega, Georgia last week and was immediately a fan of the restaurant—even before I ate the food. After eating it, I’m really a fan. I love the fact that this restaurant owner expects an award but is free to let the world know that they haven’t received one yet.

What happened to honesty? Why are lies and deceit so commonplace in our society that we give awards to those who are able to pull off the biggest lies (the Pinocchio Awards)? God says, “The Lord detest lying lips, but He delights in those who tell the truth” (Proverbs 12:22). “Detest” is a strong word. In my book, Wisdom Speaks: Life Lessons from Proverbs, I wrote a section about this word as it relates to honesty:

To say that something is an abominationto the Lord is to say that an act is detestable to God. It is a strong statement pointing to something as disgusting or repugnant. We might say that something makes us sickto our stomachs. It is interesting to scan through the pages of Scripture to note what God says is an abomination. If we have never struggled with homosexuality, we may put that at the top of the list because it is mentioned several times. For starters, God doesn’t have a top-of-the-list category. Any sexual sin is an abomination to God.

Sexual sin is not the only disgusting act to our Creator. God gives us a list of other sins that He considers abominable:

There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him. Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that devises wicked plans feet that run rapidly to evil. A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.—Proverbs 6:16-19

Notice that a lying tongue made it to number two on the list of abominable deeds. Isn’t that interesting? Someone lies to us about a political matter, and we shake our heads and give him four Pinocchios. God, on the other hand, sees it as an abomination. We make light of something that God obviously deems as quite serious.

We’re smack in the middle of a political season, and we’re going to be inundated with false statements and people being accused of making false statements. It’s easy for us to be critical of those politicians. The fact is, however, that we can’t change politicians, but we can change ourselves. Regardless of how many Pinocchios someone might get from a speech next week or next month, we should opt for honesty.

Proverbs also tells us that righteous lips are a delight and the integrity of the upright will guide them. Proverbs 10:9 says, “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” As we anticipate hateful words and falsehoods that are sure to be a part of the next election cycle, let’s commit ourselves to walk securely and be a delight because we delight in telling the truth.

Which Way Do I Go?

I’m reading a book by John Ortberg entitled All the Places to Go: How Will You Know. For starters, it’s an excellent book. Ortberg has challenged me with a lot of thoughts and phrases. One of them is when he said, “God wants us to be excellent choosers.” Have you ever considered God thinking of you in that light? I’m not sure that I have. It makes sense to me now as I think about it. I want my children to be excellent choosers. I don’t just have one path I want them to take, but I want them to make sure they’re following Jesus. I think God is the same way with us.

God’s greatest goal for you, once you become a Christian, is to be shaped into the image of His Son. He uses a variety of methods to mold our character to look more like Jesus’, but one way is through the journey of decision making. While He is interested in the particular direction we go, He’s more interested in the person we become through the process. I’m convinced that in my life there have been times God has intentionally made my future steps a little fuzzy so I would spend more time in prayer over my decision. I don’t think my prayer time was as much about finding God’s will about a direction as it was in seeing God’s character formed in my life. If I remember that God’s main desire is that I be like Jesus, it makes sense that He’ll use my crossroad experiences of decision making as a classroom of character formation.

Are you at a crossroad of decision? What are you doing to meet God in the moment so your life will be changed by the process?

Divine Appointments

I recently hiked about 230 miles on the Appalachian Trail through the state of Pennsylvania. It was awesome and got me much closer to completing the entire 2200-mile trail. On the morning of my fifth day, I got up early and started hiking by 6:45. My goal was Boiling Springs because the trail went through the edge of town. Once in town, I ate breakfast at a restaurant, visited an outfitters store ,and stopped at a few displays that were a part of the Founder’s Day event of the town that day. Little did I know, but this meandering that I thought of as wasting time was actually God setting me up for a divine appointment.

I hiked another eleven or twelve miles, including a section of about a mile where I practically ran through swarms of mosquitos, and ended up at a farm or storage place used by the Appalachian Trial conference. I read earlier that I could find a cooler of cold water at this location. I saw the water cooler on the end of the table and a hiker sitting at the table talking on her phone. When she got off the phone, I learned that she had started hiking south somewhere in New Hampshire while I was hiking north from the Maryland/Pennsylvania state line.

Machu Pichu (an amazing place in Peru) came up in our conversation. I mentioned that while my son and I were doing mission work to study unreached people groups in Peru, we had visited the ancient ruins. She replied by asking me if I was a minister and then asked if I wouldn’t mind answering a question. She told me that she was Buddhist, but she had been considering Christianity. She had some questions and didn’t have anyone she could ask. Her question related to the exclusivity of the Gospel. Why was Jesus the only way to salvation? I had a thirty-minute conversation with her about God’s plan of salvation. She thanked me and agreed to think about the things I had shared before we parted ways. She went south; I went north.

I’ve thought a lot about that encounter. I was first amazed that many things could have kept me from meeting this seeker, but I happened upon the picnic table at just the right time for an eternal conversation. That was not an accident. My first thought was that this encounter happened that morning when I decided to start hiking at 6:45, but then I realized that it actually started thirty-five years ago when I started hiking the trail in Georgia. It may seem far-fetched, but I’m confident God orchestrated this meeting when I first decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, or even before. He loves Venus (that’s her trail name) and sent me on a mission to tell her about Jesus. I thought I was just hiking the Appalachian Trail for fun and to accomplish a life-long goal, but I was actually on a mission to keep a divine appointment.

God has divine appointments for all of us. The key is that we need to be attentive and prepared. We should start each day by asking God to help us to be sensitive to those appointments and not miss the opportunity to be used by Him. I’m honored to have been used by God to tell Venus about Jesus. I hope to meet her again one day in Heaven. I’m sure that I have missed opportunities in the past, but this encounter has sharpened my resolve to never miss an appointment again.

Exclusive Gospel – Is Jesus Really The Only Way to Salvation?

I preached the sixth message today in a seven-sermon-series on the seven I Am statements of Jesus in John (You can hear them on our church website, though today’s probably won’t be up until maybe Wednesday: http://www.sonrisebaptist.org/sermon-archive/) . Today’s focal passage was John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” 

If you have studied the “I Am” passages of John, you know that the Greek text used for each statement is an emphatic, exclusive statement. To say otherwise is to ignore the Greek language and the construction of the text. You should translate any of these “I Am” passages as emphatic: “I myself am.” It’s as if Jesus was saying in John 6:35, for example, “I am and only I am the bread of life.” In John 14:6, Jesus underscored the exclusivity of the Gospel and the way to salvation with his follow-up statement as well: “No one comes to the Father but through me.” The two little Greek words translated as “but” are the two words “if not.” That part of the verse could be translated, “No one comes to the Father if not through me.”

I’ve had conversations with some people lately who struggle with an exclusive Gospel. In other words, they think Christians are narrow, bigoted, and arrogant for saying that salvation or eternal life is only possible through Jesus. Much of the world wants to embrace a universal message of salvation that says, “All roads lead to God. It doesn’t really matter which road you choose.” Do all roads really lead to God? 

Christianity says that Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again. Islam says that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the world, but rather, someone died in his place. Both positions can’t be true. Either Christianity or Islam is right, not both. You see, truth by definition is exclusive.

Christians are criticized for being exclusive, but if you think about it, if someone says the Bible is false, he is making an exclusive statement. He is saying that he is right and everyone who believes the Bible is wrong. For example, Hindus teach we are reincarnated after we die. Therefore, anyone who believes in heaven or hell is wrong. That position makes Hinduism exclusive. Every time you open your mouth to say what you believe, you are being exclusive. Every time you say something is “true,” it means everything opposed to what you just said is false. You are being exclusive.

I came across an article written by Dr. Steve McSwain (I hesitate to offer the link because it’s pure heresy, but here it is: https://bit.ly/2SvOb5A). I don’t know who Steve McSwain is, and I have no clue what field of study gave him a doctorate, but it’s clear that his method of Bible study is flawed, and he approaches the truth of Scripture from an agenda-laden position. His byline says he’s a “counselor to congregations” and a “spiritual teacher.” I’m not sure what spirit motivates his teaching, but it’s not God’s Spirit.

Here’s part of his reflective comments on John 14:6 and the exclusivity of the Gospel: 

Jesus said “I am the way…no one comes to God but through me” (John 14:6). But what does that really mean?…Today, I realize that what Jesus was really saying is this: “I am the way,” as in, “I know the way.” “I’ve discovered it” which, by implication means, “you can, too.” Elsewhere, he put it like this: “I and the Father are one” and he prayed that we would discover the same as well (John 17). Which is precisely why he said continually, “Follow me.” In other words, it’s as if Jesus was saying, “If you believe anything, believe not WORDS but the WAY to Life itself. My way, like many other ways, will guide you into the Eternal. In fact, you cannot separate the way to God from God herself. The way to God IS God.”

For starters, Mr. McSwain (as if he’s going to read this blog), Jesus did NOT say “I know the way.” You can’t change Scripture. You can’t make it say something you want it to say or prefer it to say or something that’s more politically correct in our culture. Jesus said, “I myself am the way. No one comes to the Father if not through me.” No matter how you analyze that passage, if you are honest with yourself and use proper biblical interpretation, Jesus said He is the ONLY way to salvation. It doesn’t really take too much analysis or interpretation to see the cold facts staring you in the face. You can call Jesus a liar if you want to, but you can’t say Jesus was really saying “I know the way.” He said, “I am THE way.”

If I made an exclusive statement, you could debate it and reject it. After all, who am I to make an exclusive statement about much of anything. I’m flawed and my perspective is limited. Jesus, however, claimed to be God. If Jesus is God, then He has every right to create a salvation plan that offers only one path: Himself.Mr. McSwain said, “My way, like many other ways, will guide you into the Eternal.” My first thought was that this statement is also totally flawed. It is flawed from the way he was trying to project it, but in the end, he’s actually right. Jesus’ way will lead to eternal life. The “many other ways” he’s writing about will also lead into the eternal, eternal damnation. I didn’t say that. Jesus did.