Tag Archive: Faith


Whether you think we were designed and created, or that we evolved from non-life and then lower forms of life, you believe in miracles. Either way, it’s not something that happens every day: have you seen either one occur?

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A miracle is defined as it is because it’s so unnatural in terms of normal every day events and what we believe to be possible.

If we evolved, nothing-or virtually nothing-turned into billions of stars and galaxies. A huge lump of rock, at just the right distance from a just-the-right-sized star began to rain on itself.  Some “organic” chemicals got together and came alive, formed an inconceivably complex DNA molecule which then found a mate and some food.

A just-the-right-sized moon just happened to be in orbit at just the right distance to keep the oceans moving and alive without causing tsunamis every day, and a couple of billion years and countless billions of beneficial mutations later (which have never been observed) here we all are, yearning to communicate our deepest feelings and to have them satisfied.

You may think evolution is all “science”. I certainly believe in science-that is, observable testable phenomena. But when did anyone ever show you life forming from non-life, or a universe coming into existence from nothing, or a cow turning into a whale, or a mutation producing a new species?

They didn’t, and we all have faith…

(This post was originally published in April of 2015 and has been edited a little)

News stories have been published around the world purporting to have evidence of “another” mistake in the Bible. However, once again the “experts” have only shown their bias and their failure to actually read all but one or two Bible verses-if that.

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This time the “evidence” against the Bible concerns the Canaanites. Researchers believe they’ve found DNA evidence that ninety percent of modern day Lebanese are descended from the Canaanites. This, according to reporters as desperate to “disprove” the Bible as they are to “destroy Trump”, is evidence against the Bible, because according to the reports the Bible says the Canaanites were wiped out.

The Washington Post claims that “The Hebrew text offers one explanation for the destiny of the Canaanites: annihilation” (note 1). The obvious conclusion we’re supposed to make, based on the recent research, is that the Bible must be wrong. It continues:

Now a study of Canaanite DNA, published Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics, rules out the biblical idea that an ancient war wiped out the group.

Again, the Post is saying that the Bible is wrong because it says the Canaanites were wiped out but they’re still around.

This is, to put it very politely, an untruth. Yes, God wanted the Israelites to purge the land of Canaanites because of the evil they had descended to: killing babies in sacrifice, idolatry, sexual deviancy (sound familiar? See Deuteronomy 20:17-18). However, the Biblical record very clearly states that the Israelites failed in their mission, and did not, as the Post claims the Bible says, “wipe out the group” or “annihilate” the group, or destroy all their cities.

Here are a couple of examples of what the Bible really says happened, rather than the lies or the statements of very uninformed reporters, towards the end of the movement of the Israelites into the land:

“And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canannites lived in Gezer among them” (Judges 1:29);

“Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them…” (Judges 1:30);

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of “…(etc). (Judges 1:31).

Joshua chapter 9 tells the story of how an entire city of Canaanites survived by being deceptive.

As an aside, isn’t it interesting that what we are discussing is actually evidence FOR the Bible! The Canaanites did -and do- exist, in that very part of the world as recorded in the Bible.

Another error is seen in the Washington Post’s report. It states:

“University of North Carolina religious studies professor Bart D. Ehrman noted in a 2013 blog post that, beyond the Hebrew Bible …there are no references in any other ancient source to a massive destruction of the cities of Canaan.”

If this learned prof. had taken the trouble to look he would see, as we can see just from the few examples above, that the Bible says many Canaanite cities, including large ones such as Sidon, were not destroyed but continued to be inhabited.

A NOTABLE CANAANITE SURVIVOR

One most notable Canaanite who the Bible very clearly tells us survived was Rahab, a prostitute. Rahab was the woman who hid the Israelite spies in Jericho. For her faith she and her family were spared and blessed by the invaders (Joshua 7:25). Not only did she and her family of Canaanites survive, according to the Bible book of Joshua, but Rahab was in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

James in the New Testament noted that Rahab’s faith caused her to be considered “righteous” in the eyes of the Lord (James 2:25). This is the way-the only way-you or I can be reconciled to God, and it’s the message of the New Testament as well as being the veiled message of the Old. Paul said:

“…by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 ESV).

At least the UK’s Telegraph had the decency to print a correction in a similar report, though at the end, where most people don’t read. It said:

Correction: The original version of this story erroneously said the Bible claimed the Canaanites were wiped. However, elsewhere in the Bible, it says the elimination was not successful (2).

Anytime you read about “evidence” against the Bible or against the Creation, you need to do a little digging, and you’ll soon find that the so-called “evidence” is no more than bias and wishful thinking.

1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/07/27/ancient-dna-solves-mystery-of-the-canaanites-reveals-the-biblical-peoples-fate/?utm_term=.8ded561fb03c

2 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/07/28/study-disproves-bibles-claim-ancient-canaanites-wiped/

 

 

Are cookies, coffee and calories sinful? Is it wrong to put a spoiler on your minivan? Are drums from the devil? Will you become an alcoholic and go to hell if you allow a drop of alcohol to pass your lips?  Is it wrong to watch secular movies? Will you become demon-possessed if you dare to look at paintings by the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh?

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Is it always wrong to generalize?

I’ve used the British spelling of “gray” ( g-r-e-y) in my title: I hope you can indulge me. If you can’t, you really do need to read this post.

A Christian comedian who was very popular a few decades back, Mike Warnke, once described legalistic Christians as being “so narrow that they can see through a key-hole with both eyes”. Not only do some people want to avoid enjoying their lives, but they don’t think anyone else should enjoy theirs either. I don’t think…I hope I’ve never been that extreme in my zeal for God. Such legalism is usually-but not always-a sign of self-righteousness and a holier-than-thou attitude. This attracts no-one to the faith or to us.

THE ULTIMATE REDUCTIONIST/ MINIMALIST

When I first became a Christian I was so intent on parting myself from my former way of life and all that I perceived to be “of the devil”, that I purged myself of almost everything I possessed, everyone I knew, and all I had previously enjoyed.

I cut myself off from all my former influences and pleasures. Friends thought I’d been brainwashed by some American cult (cults from anywhere else in the world were perfectly acceptable). In fact they were so “concerned” about me that they avoided me like the plague. Perhaps this was a sign that I was actually on the right track, because:

“What fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Having been a bass player by profession, I sold my bass and my amp. I detached myself dramatically from my musical and theatrical contacts. I disposed of all my books, memorabilia and photographs, and my entire record collection-all the music I had loved, enjoyed and been influenced by for years.

For a time I was terrified that if I so much as puffed on one cigarette ever again or had a single sip of beer I would be cast immediately into the lake of fire. God would reject me, the rapture would pass me by, and I would be “left behind” to suffer all the evils of the Tribulation and subsequent judgment.

All that remained of my possessions and my former life was a bed and a Bible…and I was considering getting rid of the bed.

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SWINGING BACK AGAIN

About two years later I underwent my first and my deepest bout of backsliding. Disappointment with God’s performance-the one I expected from him-made my heart sink a million miles. I didn’t reject the Lord in my life: I just put him to the back of my mind so he wouldn’t become a hindrance. The cause of this pendulum-swing turnaround was my own loneliness. I was so hurt that God would not give me a lover, a family and some Christian friends as he seemed to do for everyone else, that I intentionally allowed myself to slide at least part way towards that perdition, in a quest for company and for a girl.

Now I’m going to disappoint some of you by fast-forwarding to the present without sharing the intervening juicy details (for details, send a check or money order for $5000 to the address below…)

IN THE MIDDLE

Now, many years later, I find myself enjoying things which some Christians would consider unacceptable, un-godly, too worldly, and maybe even damnable. In fact, I regularly thank the Lord for what he allows me to enjoy and blesses me with.

No, I’m not one of those people who gets high every day and has a string of live-in lovers. Such things are among the “black and the white” things of life as far as I’m concerned: the things we can know are wrong in the eyes of God. As Paul said after listing some of the real sins of life:

“…those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Instead of those damnable lifestyles, I’m speaking here of things which are not forbidden or perhaps not mentioned in the Bible, but which some self-appointed judges among Christians decide are sinful, shameful and damnable.

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COOKIE-CUTTER CHRISTIANS

“Cookie-cutter Christians” is another of Warnke’s terms, which describes the product of some in the Christian world who, if they had their way, would have us all be identical to them or their favorite preacher in every detail. Even the discussion of grey areas is out of bounds in their eyes. If we were really Christians, they think, we would all be just like them: bored, boring and dispassionate.

FREE TO BE GREY (NOT GAY)

God has called us to freedom within his clear laws, not to a regimented tyranny (2 Corinthians 3:17). Yes, I agree that it’s sinful and damaging to indulge in certain things perhaps not mentioned directly in scripture, such as cannabis and over-graphic movies. And yes, he wants us to spend our lives in worship of him and loving and caring for our fellow man and those around us, rather than in serving ourselves. But it’s a big beautiful world which our God made: he didn’t make it to be ignored. He didn’t design our incredibly complex, inventive, creative human nature just so that we can cower in a corner and be bored out of our brains until we die.

It’s not God’s desire for us all to be the same (and how boring life would be if we were). Why does our DNA contain so much potential for variation, if we’re supposed to be cookie-cutter humans? This variety in our genotypes and our phenotype and our personalities, is there for a reason.

CAUTION

Grey areas do require some thought and prayerful Biblical consideration: are they really grey areas or are we just trying to excuse our disobedience? What kind of guidance does the Bible give for our consideration of grey areas?

 

“Everything is permissible for me-but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me-but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Paul advised care for others as our ultimate guide in those grey areas:

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak… “…so this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8: 9, 11).

We must consider others in the out-working of our freedom. We don’t all have to conform to the life of the ultimate Christian reductionist in order to avoid creating stumbling blocks, but rather those things not forbidden in scripture which we may allow ourselves and which others are not able to enjoy or accept, should not be flaunted in front of others whose faith may be damaged.

In recent months I’ve made myself a promise: I refuse to snore and to fade and to fizzle out until I’m dead. I intend to make fireworks and go out with a bang. God gave us life. Life is beautiful-let’s not waste it. Let’s live it to the full!

Who won the cup final in 1957? All correct answers will receive a…well…they won’t receive anything (except perhaps a big smile).

Welcome to all you fine people out there who are brave enough to consider the causes of suffering rather than trying to ignore them. Part six of my up-dated series on suffering (first published in 2011) concerns the subject of testing…

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Like it or not, we’re all tested at different times in our lives-perhaps throughout our lives-believers and non-believers. Our faith, our character and our motives are tested by the circumstances we face in life, by temptation to sin and to do wrong, and (this one is difficult for many believers to accept) by God himself. Our enemy the devil also tests us, inasmuch as God allows him to.

Original Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible translated ‘test’, ‘trial’ and ‘tempt’ can be used interchangeably: they have related meanings. They’re often only selected by the motive of the source.

Mankind has been tested from the beginning of creation. I’ve already discussed in part four how Adam and Eve failed the simplest test they could have had- that of resisting the temptation to eat the one forbidden fruit compared to the many that they were allowed to enjoy freely. Remember that God intentionally placed that tree of forbidden fruit in the garden where they lived. He could have left it out, if he wanted: see part two of the series.

Later in scripture we see the struggles of the Israelites, as they wandered in the desert after failing to enter the promised land by faith. Over and over we’re told that they were being tested:

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert, to humble you and to test you, in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

When God provided Manna, he said, “In this way I will test them and see if they will follow my instructions” (Exodus 16:4).

Once they were finally in the promised land, God used other nations “…to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it…” (Judges 2: 22).

David was aware of testing. He said “I know, my God, that you test the heart…” (1 Chronicles 29:17) and he even invited the Lord to test him:

Test me. O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind (Psalm 26:2).

Testing was not just an Old Testament phenomenon. James said:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:2, 3,12).

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Even Jesus Christ himself was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1).

It’s during the hard times that God, and others, and perhaps we ourselves, see what’s really inside us, and the true condition of our hearts. I’m not trying to say that every hardship we face is sent by God, or that he’s going around like some malevolent, hateful ogre. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that we can hope to discern the reason for our problems, and then we need to have the correct, godly attitude towards our situation, as Job did.

Sometimes God doesn’t have to do anything to test us: our real character is shown in the way we respond to everyday trials which come to us by the laws of nature and the nature of man. Whether our trials are expressly sent from God or not, He allows them to happen, and all trials can reveal our true character!

Some people make the mistake of blaming the devil for all their problems. Everything pleasant is from God, and everything unpleasant is from Satan, they think. Even when they sin they blame the devil. This is the “devil made me do it” mentality, and it’s not scriptural. The devil can’t make true believers do anything, and very often our problems are our own fault. That’s not to say that our enemy doesn’t ever test us: he does. Sometimes he’s the one to put that proverbial spanner/wrench in the works of our life. Satan tested Job with severe suffering. However, it’s important to remember that he had to get God’s permission to do it (Job 1: 6-12).

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Job was severely tested when Satan decided he should be, and though Job was a righteous man God allowed Satan to inflict all kinds of horrors on him. Satan had claimed that Job only had faith because things were going well for him (Job 1: 9-11).

Jesus said to Peter, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31). Jesus didn’t say that he refused Satan’s request, but that he was defending Peter’s faith.

We’re all being “shaken” and sifted like wheat. The good grain is kept, the weeds disposed of. In the future all of humanity is going to face a time of severe trial, known commonly as ‘the time of Tribulation’. Jesus said that this “trial is going to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth” (Revelation 3:10), We can see in other scripture passages that this ‘hour of trial’ is not sent by Satan (although he certainly plays a leading role) but by God himself, because He has said:

“Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26).

JESUS IN THE PUB

Did Jesus frequent the pub or the bar? After all, he did mix with the sinners, the tax collectors and the prostitutes, didn’t he? Wasn’t he, being a rebel, just like one of them?

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There are two quite opposite views on this question. Some people who may not even believe that Jesus ever existed nevertheless invoke his person and example to bring a measure of respectability to their drinking, claiming that Jesus drank beer and wine with the best of them and just lived like one of the boys. Others, who profess to have faith, are convinced that Jesus wouldn’t be seen dead carousing with the riff-raff or the low-life of the town, and would certainly never condone touching a drop of that demon-infested alcohol stuff. If you drink, they think, you can’t really be a Christian, and you may be on your way to hell.

One Biblical passage used by pro-drinkers is this one:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13. ESV

Note in verse 10 that this event was “in the house” not in the pub, tavern, bar, inn or otherwise. Note also that Jesus is not said to be glugging down his fourth flagon of ale as he makes his speech, or even his first: he was eating (verse 11).

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To be fair, the Luke account does say that Jesus was “eating and drinking with sinners” (5:30). However, he openly agreed that the people he was mingling with were “sinners”, saying that he’d come not to buy them all a round of drinks but to call them to repentance (Luke 5:32). So Jesus, though loving and respecting these people, was mingling not to join in their way of life or to have a swinging party with them, but to call them out of their way of life.

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WINE OR WHINE

This subject can’t be considered without also looking at the issue of whether or not we should indulge in alcohol.

Some Christians insist that when Jesus turned water into wine, and when Paul said “drink a little wine for your stomach” (1 Timothy 5:23), the wine referred to must have been grape juice and wasn’t alcoholic. Jesus would never make alcoholic wine for a party, they say. I disagree, and some of you are likely to be gasping and hitting that little “x” in the top corner at this point…

If New Testament wine were only grape juice, how could anyone get drunk on it? Paul said:

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery…” (Ephesians 5:18).

Why should a deacon “not indulge in much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8) if wine is only grape juice? How could wine be used as an effective metaphor for Mystery Babylon’s intoxications if it’s only non-alcoholic grape juice (Revelation  18:3)? How can you offend anyone by drinking grape juice (Romans 14:21)?

The Greek word used to describe Miss Babylon’s wine and that which Paul warned deacons about is the same word used to describe what Jesus made out of water at a wedding feast (John chapter 2), and he made plenty of it. It was also used to describe what would be good for Timothy’s health in small doses (1 Timothy 5:23).

Ah, but there is a Biblical counter-weight to this argument, which is the frequent warning not to become a drunkard. If you don’t get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) you won’t turn into a drunkard and you won’t get addicted to wine (Titus 2:3). It’s the “drunkard” part which leads to ungodliness, a denial of faith, offended people and separation from God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21). In fact, if you don’t touch wine in the first place you can’t become a drunkard, can you? However:

“Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves” (Romans 14:22).

That’s not a license to get drunk, it’s a license to freedom and enjoyment, in close association with godly self-control.

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