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Category Archives: Theology

Demons, Men, or Whatever

20070810p2_01A few nights ago I fell asleep on the couch in my office. When I awoke, I could not move. A sense of dread came over me. I felt invisible hands tighten around my throat and I could not breathe. A voice in my head whispered, “I hate you. I have always hated you. I’ve tried to kill you so many times. Tonight’s the night. Tonight you die.

“Now a few friends of mine would immediately leap to “It was a demon! You were under attack!” But of course I know better. First of all, I’m pretty much a strict cessationist and I don’t mind who knows that. Second of all, I’ve dealt with sleep paralysis most of my life and I can easily recognize it when it happens now.

Despite that, when the invisible hands tightened around my throat and the malign voice whispered deadly threats, I prayed silently but seriously that God my Father intervene and save me.

And He did. No sooner had I finished the prayer than did the hands release me, the voice was silenced, and I drifted back to sleep again. God heard my cry and rescued me from my peril, of that I have no doubt. It’s what He does. Rescue people.

Now my certain friends become puzzled. “If you do not believe in ongoing demonic possession or oppression or sign gifts, and were sure it was just sleep paralysis, why then did you pray?”

To answer this, I quote one of my all time favorite hymns, Master the Tempest is Raging:

Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will.

The stage of the hymn is set when the disciples are out at sea in a storm while Jesus is sleeping. They awaken Him, begging that He calm the storm and save them. Many scholars have debated whether the storm was just a storm or whether it was really sent by “the prince of the air,” that is the Devil.

To the hymn writer, though, the source of the storm is irrelevant. What matters is that no matter what it’s source, it cannot destroy the Creator and it must obey His will.

So was I attacked by a demon a few nights ago? I seriously doubt it. Was I in danger? Possibly, we really don’t know a lot about sleep paralysis. Much of it is in a person’s head, but there are physiological responses to the stimuli and it is possible that an episode of sleep paralysis could trigger a secondary health episode of far greater consequence.

But rest assured, demons, men, or whatever it was, my God can handle it.

And that’s why I prayed.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in Theology

 

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Not Safe, but Good

I grow tired of people who believe in a milksop God and a milksop Jesus. God is dynamic and powerful and dangerous and loving and deadly and mysterious and violent and playful and serious and funny (yes, funny).

God reveals Himself to us in His Word. He pulls no punches. The Bible is R-rated. He makes people alive, and He kills people. He raises up nations and leaders and champions, and He tears down civilizations and drives leaders to madness and allows champions to fall into ruin.

Along the way God makes no apologies for His actions and makes few explanations. He demands obedience and unyielding fealty to His name.

For this reason, many doubt His claim to love us and His goodness. Perhaps there would be cause for this if not for this:

“For a good man someone might dare to die. But while we were yet sinners, He died for us.”

This immeasurably powerful, all knowing, all consuming God who demands perfection, does not tolerate uncleanness and hates sin with a perfect hatred. This God put aside His rights and came to live among us in the flesh. He provided the perfect life Himself that we failed to provide. He died the death He declared we should die for us.

“So in this way God loved the world. He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

And He defines just what that is.

“This is eternal life. That they know you intimately, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

He wants us. He wants us to be with Him such that He died to bring us close to Him. There can be no greater love, indeed He says:

“Mortal man knows no greater love than this. That he lay down his life for his friends.”

He calls me friend. I am God’s friend.

So when my God does something I do not understand, even when He takes life or chooses to allow life to pass away from someone. Even if He slays me, still will I trust in Him.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
– The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

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A Tent In The Desert

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The Promised Land is the Lord Himself.

A tent in the desert with my God

Is better than riches or gold.

A tent in the desert with my God

Is better than pleasures untold.

And if to gain a greener land

A place of comfort to lay

I must leave my Lord behind

In the desert with God I’ll stay.

– Inspired by Exodus 33

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2015 in Theology

 

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Fear Not, I Will Go With You

moses-and-burning-bushToday my son was supposed to sing in front of the whole church with his fellow children’s choir buddies. He was scared and did not want to go. He began to cry.

Many options raced through my mind. Do I threaten him with discipline if he doesn’t? Do I tell him to suck it up and be a man? Do I give in and let him sit it out?

What would the Father do?

My mind went back to Exodus 3 and the Burning Bush. God appeared to Moses and told him to go to the most powerful man in the world and tell him to let God’s people go. Moses was afraid and did not want to go. What did God say?

“That’s OK Moses, I’ll pick someone else.”

No.

“Moses, if you don’t go, I’ll punish you.”

No.

He said, “You have to go, but I will go with you.

So I told my son, “You must go up there, but I will go with you. I won’t leave you alone and I will be there the whole time.”

My son said, “OK daddy. Thank you.” and he stopped crying.

So I went with him and knelt down beside him and held his hand. And he stood brave and resolute. All because daddy was there with him.

I have learned two things from this.

1. We can face anything because God is with us. Just as my presence calmed my son’s fears, so remembering that God is with me will calm mine.

2. I need to stop acting like a human parent and start acting like a supernatural one. I need to act more like God the Father to my children. He is the perfect father.

My charge to today is to remember that God the Father goes with you wherever you go. By His spirit we cry, “Abba, Father!” He loves us like little children. We must go and do the hard things, He will not shelter us from them, but He will go with us every step of the way.

Likewise, we fathers should be so towards our own children, especially our sons. Do not treat them harshly, but do not shelter them from the hard stuff. Instead, go with them and be with them side by side. You may not think much of yourself (I sure don’t) but to your kid you are the strong and mighty father who can defeat any foe and protect them from any harm. In time they must learn we are not as strong as they suppose but there is One who Is. Until then, you must be that man for them. Beside you, they will believe they can do anything. With Him, they really will be.

“Fear not, I will go with you.”

Send them into the darkness, but go with them.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2015 in Theology

 

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Just Wait

Picture 100“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.”
– Psalm 127:3

I can still remember the day the Holy Spirit quickened me. My dead spirit came alive and I received my new heart of flesh. The Gospel was preached to me, and for the first amazing moment, I understood this message was for me. His story was my story. Jesus died for my sins. He was crushed for my  iniquities. With every whip of the scourge on His flesh, my wounds were healed. The Lord laid on Him all of my evil. The decision I made that night was not to be saved, because that had already happened through the work of the Holy Spirit. The decision I made was to follow Christ because I was saved.

The next day I was baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I can still remember the old preacher Charles White telling me as I came up from the water, dripping wet: “This is the song of your new life. Whenever you hear it from this day on, you will remember this day.” The song they were singing was “Happy Day.” Yes, Charles, I still remember.

I was on fire that day, and nothing could stop me. Nothing that is until my first deliberate sin after my conversion. From that day onward, I have struggled with feeling like a failure. I felt like God had given me this great new life and then I let Him down. My earthly father, who himself struggled with the same feelings in his walk, did his best to comfort me. I felt like any day, God would have had enough of me and leave. When I shared these feelings with my dad, I will never forget what he said.

“He is your Father, son. He will never leave you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You won’t. Not until you are a father.”

Years passed and I never understood that. I struggled. I doubted God’s love for me. I doubted I could measure up, so I stopped trying to. I wandered from Him. I spent some of the best years of my youth wasting away in a “far country.” Then one day, grieved over my lifestyle of sin, unable to live in a far country anymore, I turned my heart back towards home. Unsure if I was even welcome, I called upon the Lord. In that instant, I felt His overwhelming love wash over me. His hand guided me back to Him, and soon God sent Curtis Jones (an old friend and recent convert) to help me find Steven’s Street Baptist Church. I knew the story of the Prodigal Son that day, and it is beautiful beyond words. He left the 99 to find the one, and I was the one.

But even with this, I still did not understand His love for me. There were deep sins I could not conquer within, and so I still believed He might regret His decision to save me and call it quits. Every failure, every sin, brought me closer to losing Him. Or so I thought.

God sent Joey Norsworthy into my life to take me under his wing. That man of God trained me up in the basics of theology and hermeneutics. I soon began to have an intellectual understanding of His never-ending love and His long-suffering, but I still didn’t understand it in my heart. My struggle continued, but this time I persevered and stuck with Him even though I felt any moment it might be over. I chose to believe it in my mind even though I did not feel it in my heart.

Then God brought me into a relationship with the love of my life, Gena Cohoon. She began to teach me in only the way she could that God’s love was for keeps. I still remember a bookmark she gave me before we even dated that had scriptures on it that pointed to God’s eternal love and who I was in Christ. God’s child. God’s treasure. No wonder I fell in love with her! It helped me carry on, but I still didn’t understand in my heart.

Then God enabled my wife to conceive. She bore me a son, Joshua. I was so excited for so many reasons. In the secret place of my heart, I also hoped my dad was right, and I would finally understand what he meant.

I did.

I soon understood that my love for my son is unconditional. I loved him before he was even born. I loved him before he did anything good or bad. I accepted him completely. I could never think of doing him harm. I want to do him good all the days of his life. I want to raise him in the Lord and prepare him as best I can for all he must face. I will never cast him out or turn him aside. If he asks for food, I will feed him. If he leaves me in disgust and scorn, I will sit on my porch looking for his return. When he does, I will run to him and kiss him and throw a party for him. Jesus says in Matthew 7:11 that if I am evil and yet know how to love my kids, how much more does God love me and know how to give me good things?

My children have taught me more about God’s love for me than any other experience in life. There are so many things I would not know without them.

I still don’t get it all, oh no. His love transcends any love I have for my children, but my dad was right. He is my Daddy. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will never regret saving me! He has begun a good work in me and will be faithful to complete it in the Day of Jesus Christ!

So for those of you who do not yet have children and struggle to believe in the love of God, JUST WAIT!

Additional Resources

God will never regret saving you.

Children: a joy or “just wait?”

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Theology

 

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Jolly Ole St. Nick?

Santa_Claus1

There are children in Christian homes who can tell you more about this guy than Jesus.

Last Christmas, I shared with you the history of the holiday we call “Christmas”.

In that post, I also discussed the Santa Claus myth, and my personal opinion on the issue of teaching young children to believe in that myth.

In short, I believe it’s wrong to teach your children to believe in a lie, but my concerns transcend that simple moral, though I believe that alone should be enough to convince believers not to engage in this kind of behavior.

No, the problem of Santa goes deeper and further than this, but it has little to do with Santa Claus himself, and more to do with people’s view of God.

Myths are great, IF they have a scent of the “true myth” (as Tolkien called it) of the Gospel. This is what makes myths like the Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings so wonderful. They were written by Christians and contain a scent (sometimes much more than a scent) of the true myth of the Gospel, the very real and true story of Jesus Christ the Hero.

Of course, none of us are teaching kids that Narnia really exists and they might be able to reach it through an old wardrobe, but I digress.

What makes the Santa myth so terrible and dangerous is that, quite apart from having a scent of the true myth of the Gospel, it is totally in opposition to it.

Rather than write more, let me share a video with you that explains what I mean in a short, catchy poem.

So now you see what I mean. The Santa myth is a false gospel. Children, especially in the ages we are dealing with, are so very impressionable. Maybe when they discover you lied to them about a false god when they turn 7, or 8, or whatever, they will understand and move on. But the underlying message, that of merit, entitlement, and materialism, will likely remain, if only beneath the surface.

Believers say without Santa Claus, Christmas loses its magic and mystery for kids. The mystery and power of Jesus Christ are not enough? If that is true for you, then you are forgetting your first Love. We must never lose the wonder of the Cross. Besides, there are much better ways to do fun Christmas things with kids. Like the Jesse Tree, among others. Shoot, tell them about the REAL St. Nick, he was one awesome guy!

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Theology

 

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Theodicy

ancient-philosopher“If God is good, why does evil exist?”

First, to answer the question, we must first define evil. God defines evil/sin as something that falls short of His intended purpose (Rom 3:23). Therefore, evil is the privation (or lack of) good. Evil is not a thing in and of itself, rather, it is the absence of what is good, a lack of total perfection.

A.W. Tozer puts it this way,

“Everything in the universe is good to the degree it conforms to the nature of God and evil as it fails to do so.”

Secondly, humans, and not God, are the cause of this want of good in Creation. God gave us the responsibility to ensure His goodness endured in this world by obeying Him, and we squandered it. (Genesis 2-3) He could have dealt with sin and evil right then and there, and prevented any of the terrible consequences of evil (lack of good) in the world. However, to do so would have meant our immediate judgement and destruction, we being not only part of but also the cause of the evil (lack of good) in the world. In order for God to deal justly with evil and sin, He must punish all sin and remove all evil, not just the parts we don’t like. (Ez 18:25)

But God, rich in mercy and love, did not want us to be destroyed. (Ez 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9) Instead of dealing with evil in the garden, He permitted the world to continue in evil (that is, lacking perfection) with all the flaws and consequences thereof (death, hate, suffering, etc) in order than at the right time (Romans 5:6, Galatians 4:4-5) He could send His Son Jesus into this evil (imperfect) world to Himself suffer evil and die a sinner’s death in order to redeem humankind back to Himself (John 3:16-18).

Why did God allow an evil (imperfect) world to continue afterwards? Because God intended to save not only those present at the time of Jesus’ death and Resurrection  but also humans from every single tribe and tongue worldwide (Rev 5:9, Rom 11:25, Matt 24:14). Until the full number of God’s people are redeemed, God will hold back His judgement which will in fact end all sin and evil (imperfection) from the world forever and ever.

So, God withholds His solution to the “evil problem”, which ultimately finds its source in the sins of human beings, so that He can save humans from it. His patience means our salvation (Rom 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).  If God had dealt with evil in the Garden, or after the Cross, and not permitted evil to continue until this time, you and I would have been cut off, excluded from the Promise and without hope.

In short, God doesn’t destroy evil because we are evil and He loves us. There is coming a day, however, set and known only by the Father God, when He will bring in the last of His people and deal with evil with all justice and judgement. Today is the day of salvation, do not resist God if He stirs your heart to repentance.

Praise God for his mercy and patience!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2012 in Theology

 

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