15 Days of Faith – Day 6

I can’t think of a time when being unstable is a good thing. I was once in an unstable kayak and eventually fell into the lake. Unfortunately, it was in February. An unstable house will fall, and an unstable computer will eventually crash. 

What about an unstable person? I’m not addressing mental or emotional instability; but rather, I’m talking about spiritual instability. In James 1:8, God calls this person double-minded. The context of this passage deals with asking God for wisdom when our faith is being tested. Look at James 1:5-8:

 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

I address a few key points in my video for today, but in this blog, I’d like to focus on verse 6. It says that when we ask God for wisdom or help, we should do so with faith that He will meet us where we are and help us through our circumstances. If we don’t trust God, we’re like the sea being tossed about by the wind.

We know that storms are a normal part of life. Being tossed about by those storms can be dangerous, and it will certainly get us off course from the life we want to live. Faith in God during those times keeps us moving in the right direction that leads to joy, peace, and purpose.

The focus of this passage is to ask God for help during trials—specifically to ask for wisdom. We’re going through a trial right now, and God wants to meet us in the midst of our storm. If we fully trust in Him, we’ll find that he is better than a lighthouse to guide us into the safety of His harbor. He wants to turn your test into triumph and your struggle into joy. Will you trust Him?

You can view today’s video here.

15 Days of Faith – Day 5

I don’t know many people who like being tested. I used to think that if I ever got out of school, I’d never have to take another test in my life. Boy, was I wrong. I have an oral report I give every Sunday (called a sermon), turn in an annual report of my finances to the IRS, submit reports and updates to ministry leaders in my church, and I have to go to the doctor for physicals and the dentist for checkups. Tests are a part of life.

The Bible says that God tests our faith. In today’s video, I speak briefly about why our faith is tested, but I want to write for a moment about how it’s tested. Usually, when something is tested, pressure is asserted. It may be mental pressure, like a student in school, or physical pressure, like an athlete on the football field. You’ll find that in spiritual testing, pressure is also applied to our lives.

I don’t want to say that God initiates all of the pressure on us for the testing of our faith, but I know that God uses it. Sometimes, our faith is tested because someone else acts out their brokenness and we get injured as collateral damage. Everyone is broken by sin. People act like broken people because of sin, and those actions can cause a lot of pain and struggle in other people’s lives. Although God is not the cause of those actions, He always harnesses an opportunity to grow us into the likeness of His Son. Do you remember David in the Old Testament? One of the great tests of his life came from his own son’s rebellion.

We may be tested by physical struggle. This struggle could come in the form of sickness or financial struggle. Again, God doesn’t always cause these issues, but He uses them to grow us and shape us. Job fell into this category. The Apostle Paul also had a physical struggle. We don’t know what it was, but we do know that he asked God to remove it from him on three different occasions. Here’s how God responded to Paul’s request, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Paul learned that being weakened or even broken was not necessarily a bad thing. God’s power grows in our brokenness.

The Bible says that God has a purpose for our testing, and the bottom line is that it’s always for our good. Testing matures us and strengthens us. It helps us to know ourselves and teaches us how to depend upon God.

Are you being tested now? Cry out to God. Learn from God during this time and let Him work in your life. One day you’ll see that you will come through the fire and survive the struggle. You’ll find that you are stronger in the Lord than before and more equipped mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually to serve the Lord.

In the meantime, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,       knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Watch today’s video by clicking this link.

15 Days of Faith – Day 4

What does it mean to fix your mind on something? Have you ever had a problem you needed to solve, and you thought about it continuously throughout the day? I remember a serious problem I had a few years ago, and there seemed to be no solution. I pondered the issue for days. I awakened one night with the solution. For starters, I believe God gave me the solution, but it all came about because my mind was fixed upon it (and I prayed fervently about it).

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” For starters, I like the idea of perfect peace. God’s Word is 100% true, and it says perfect peace is a possibility. The Hebrew literally says, “peace, peace” — a double load of peace. It was a Hebrew idiom or way of saying something is complete.

Do you see the word “keep” in that scripture? It means to “secure or guard as with a garrison.” God says He is going to stand guard over those who fix their minds on Him and fully trust Him. It reminds me of another passage found in the New Testament:

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do you want “peace, peace,” perfect peace? Keep your mind fixed on God. How do you do that? I suggest first to fill your mind with Scripture. Meditate on the Word of God throughout the day. Sing songs of worship that magnify God and praise His name. Pray without ceasing. Talk to God all day long about what’s going on in your life and in the world. Christianity is a relationship to be experienced not a program to attend.

If you fix your mind on God, he will set up a guard over your heart and your mind. You will find a peace that is mind-blowing and soul healing.

I invite you to watch my video for additional thoughts as you choose daily to keep your mind fixed upon God.

15 Days of Faith – Day 3

Have you ever placed your faith in something that wasn’t worthy of your trust? I have. I’ve fallen through the ice on a frozen, shallow pond. I sat down once in a chair that immediately broke into pieces. I’ve trusted people who later used my confidence to hurt me. These kinds of disappointments can make us hesitant to trust anyone or anything.

God gives us a definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This passage is not telling us to place our faith in things or people who are not worthy of our trust. The remaining verses of the chapter make it clear that God is calling us to put our faith in Him.

The Hebrew word from which we get our English word assurance points to a foundation or support. This passage is saying that faith that is well placed in the character of the trustworthy word of Almighty God is a foundation and support for our hope.

What are you putting your faith in? I’m grateful for our government leaders and all they are doing for us during this time, but ultimately, my trust is not in them. They are mere humans who may make a bad choice from time to time. My faith is not in myself. I don’t know enough to always make the wisest decisions. My faith is in God because He alone is worthy of my trust.

This assurance or support for my life has brought about a deep, abiding conviction that God is always at work in my life and in my world to accomplish His purpose. The Bible also tells me that while God’s work is for His glory, it is also for my good.

I’ve shared more thoughts on a video, and I invite you to watch it.

Will you trust God today?

15 Days of Faith – Day 2

I’ve heard all of my life that we should come to God with childlike faith. That exact phrase is not in the Bible, but Jesus did tell us that we should “receive the kingdom of God like a child.” Look at the story found in 

Mark 10:13-16 “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”

Jesus wasn’t telling us to be childish. We’ve probably all heard stories over the last several days of childish behavior from adults. He was telling us, however, that we should demonstrate faith in God like children do. Some people have tried to turn this passage into a lot of things it’s not, and others have worked to develop some additional theological message from this encounter. This story is nothing more than parents wanting their children to see Jesus and to be blessed by Him and Jesus using the event to teach us a lesson about authentic faith.

Many years ago, when my youngest son was about three years old, I took my family on vacation to Myrtle Beach. I remember standing in the pool at a campground in waist-deep water. My son yelled my name. I looked up in time to see him start running across the concrete toward the pool. When he got to the edge of the pool, he flung himself into the air toward me. I was stunned at first, but I recovered in time to catch him before he sank in the water.

My son couldn’t swim at that time, but he could trust. He knew his father was not only capable of catching him but also willing and always ready.

God is fully capable of catching you, and He’s waiting on you to call out His name. We are living in some strange times indeed. Although the danger we are encountering right now because of the spread of this virus is temporary, it is reminding us that we need to place our trust in our God Who is much bigger than a virus. Will you trust Him today? I’ve shared a few more thoughts on a video. I hope you’ll watch.

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?

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.

Who’s Your Somebody?

Everybody knows somebody who needs Jesus. Who’s your somebody? If you are a Christian, have you ever considered the fact that God wants to use you to help somebody find their way to Jesus Christ? Being used in this way could be something as simple as inviting someone to join you at church this Easter Sunday. Do you know that most people will go to church if someone simply invites them? Your thoughtful invitation may affect someone’s eternity. Have you thought about inviting someone to church this Sunday? Go ahead. Who’s your somebody? Write down their name, pray for them, and give them a call.

Helping people find their way to Christ can involve more than inviting them to church, though that’s a great start. It can also include openly sharing your faith with them. You may be thinking that you could never witness to people about Jesus. You’re not alone with this thought. You may think that if you dared to share your faith, someone may ask you a question you couldn’t answer, or you may say the wrong thing. I’d like to address these two concerns.

No one knows all of the answers, so allow me to go ahead and prepare you with a dose of reality. When you start talking about Jesus or sharing scripture from the Bible, someone will probablyask you a question that you can’t answer. It happens to me. I’m sure it happened to Billy Graham, C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and any other breathing believer on the planet who dares to open up with someone about Christianity. You know what I do when someone asks me a question I can’t answer? I say, “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out, but what I do know is…” and then I get back to presenting the Gospel. If anyone expects you to know everything about the Bible, then their expectations are unrealistic. Go ahead and prepare yourself for the inevitability. Don’t let someone’s unfair expectations cause you to keep from being obedient to Christ’s command to be a witness. Don’t let your fear be used by our spiritual enemy to impact someone’s eternal destiny.

As far as you saying the wrong thing, that’s also possible. Being a witness is essential, but being a prepared witness has an even greater impact. You can hopefully avoid saying the wrong thing if you’ll prepare yourself to be a witness. I suggest that you, first of all, write out your personal story. Be prepared to tell someone how you personally became a Christian. Then I suggest you memorize, or at least know where to find in the Bible, several key verses including John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10, John 1:12, and Acts 16:31. While it’s impossible to be prepared for everything, you can be prepared for the mainthing.

Easter’s coming, and people are more open to spiritual things this time of year than any other time. Are you willing to at least invite someone to attend Easter service with you and your family? Are you ready to help somebody find his or her way to Jesus? Who’s your somebody?

Can God Do Anything?

I’ve always known that there is nothing that God cannot do, but is that statement true? Before you think I’m writing heresy, consider the words of Mark 6:5: “And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.” Has that story ever bothered you? In response to that scripture, you could easily say that Jesus’ miraculous power seems to be dependent upon people’s faith. When something in the Scripture seems to disconnect from something else in the Scripture that has been presented as truth, we should be careful not to build a theology on a casual reading of a passage. For example, the angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” yet in Mark 6:5 we’re told, “He could do no miracle there…” Let’s consider what message Mark 6:5 has for us today.

When I come across a “fuzzy” passage, I first look at other translations. ESV, NIV, KJV, and others all carry the same message: He could not do miracles in Nazareth because of the lack of faith of the people. In this case, the English word that is translated “could” seems to be consistent. When I consider my own use of the English language, is it possible I can use the word could to mean different things? Yes. I might say, “He could not lift the heavy stone,” which is to say it was impossible for him to lift the object because it was beyond his human capacity to do so. Consider this statement about Dr. Billy Graham, “He could never mislead the American people.” While Dr. Graham technically could be deceptive, we know that such actions would stand in stark contrast to the character we have come to know and love in this awesome man of God. We would be correct in saying he could never do such a thing. The statements about the stone and about Dr. Graham are true, but they portray different messages.

When you are studying passages in a Gospel, you can look for parallels in other Gospels. God’s word will never contradict. Matthew 13:58 is a parallel passage: “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” Matthew’s version provides an interesting contrast that may help us to better understand Mark’s version. Maybe while Jesus literally could do anything, including miracles in His home town, He would not because of their unbelief.

You can also look at the original language, if you can find the proper resources. One writer described the Greek word translated as “could not” as possibly denoting that someone deliberately purposed not to do something as opposed to being physically unable to do it.

With all of this in mind, is it possible that while Jesus can do anything, He purposed not to do it because it stood in opposition to how He chooses to work. Scripture is clear that faith and surrender are key ingredients to God’s plan, and since the people of Galilee would not believe, performing miracles in that context would be contrary to God’s plan.

What does this understanding mean to you? Is there something that God would like to do in your life, but He can’t (or won’t) because you are not surrendering to His leadership in your life?