Are Hurricanes Messages From God?

During Florida’s evacuation ahead of hurricane Irma, Christian evangelical celebrity Kirk Cameron live-streamed a message to Facebook that the hurricane was God’s power on display. Quoting from Job, he pointed out that God is in control of the weather. The proper response to seeing God’s power is to be in awe and repent.

Not long before, movie celebrity Jennifer Lawrence claimed that the hurricane was Mother Nature’s judgment on our nation for electing President Trump.

Are these celebs right? Is the weather a message from God (or mother nature)?

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It’s All In How You Say It … or Translate it!

Remember those highly important, yet secretive little notes passed between desks in junior high? Each person in the chain must be trusted not to open the note, not on the way to the intended person, not on the way back. Yes, you guessed it, this was before cell phones and texting. Their content was simple, but vital. They had check-boxes with ‘like,’ ‘really like,’ ‘friend,’ and ‘love’ written next to them. One’s entire future depended on which box was checked. It meant the difference between getting a date after school, or walking home with despair. In reading certain verses in the Bible, it can really be the same sort of thing.

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What The Rainbow Really Means

Genesis 9:9-17 KJV — And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

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Should I Be A Friend to The World?

Recently, Hillsong “Pastor” Carl Lentz was seen knocking back stiff drinks with Justin Bieber. Not only that, but apparently Carl is making news for being a “hot, shirtless pastor.” Oh, and Biebs was taking off his shirt and pulling down his pants for the female bartenders while Carl sat with an approving smile.

Bieber isn’t the only celebrity with whom Carl and the other so-called pastors at Hillsong rub elbows. Carl has photo-ops with well-known rappers and celebrities of all stripes. And it’s all in the name of “spreading the gospel.”

Unless you think this is an aberration, many of these mega churches are well connected with celebrities. Even if it isn’t a “Hollywood” celebrity, it could be a well-know Christian celebrity, like Tobymac, or maybe a former contestant from American Idol, or The Voice. If it isn’t those level of acts, it will be strong men who rip phone books in half and do other stunts, claiming it is done in the “power of the Lord.”

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a new phenomenon, either. I enjoy reading books by F.B. Meyer, a preacher from the late 1800s. In one of his books he commented on how some churches would do comedy skits and shows to attract members.

This is nothing new. Ever since the fall of man, we’ve admired our own images and followed the charisma of human leaders, looking to be close to some celebrity. This is the world’s method. We should wonder whether it is to be used by the disciples of Jesus Christ.

Put another way, are we to engage in “friendship evangelism?” The answer is somewhat less black and white, which is why we need discernment.

One form of friendship evangelism is what we see in mainstream evangelicalism. We see it when the pastor dresses like a biker, uses a lot of trendy cultural references, turns his sermons into a comedy monologue with a point (hopefully). It shows up when Christians celebrate with a friend at a pagan rally or ceremony that flies in the face of what the Bible says is good and true, hoping that their winsome attitude will encourage their friend to consider becoming a Christian. It looks like Hillsong with their creepy animal masks, Naked Cowboy, and celebrity instagram feed.

Rather than comment on this myself, I’ll let the Bible speak for itself:

“Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4 

Do you think Carl Lentz wants to be friends with the world?

I know, they’ll point to this verse:

“I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22b

Notice, that’s the last part of the verse. Often, it is important to know the whole verse, and maybe even the context of the chapter or even book.

“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel

For if I do this of mine own will, I have a reward: but if not of mine own will, I have a stewardship intrusted to me. 

What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the gospel. 

For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. 

And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law. 

To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:16-22

I underlined a few key parts. First, Paul was compelled to tell the Gospel as someone who was entrusted with something. It would be dangerous for him NOT to preach the whole Gospel. And he did so without charging money! He admits that a preacher can claim a right to have their needs met (a far cry from the salary demands of many pastors in America, or the idea that they should have the median income of the average person attending their church–so let’s get those churches in wealthy communities, shall we?). No, Paul saw the Gospel not as a form of gain, but a duty to preach for the glory of God.

Paul bore these standards upon himself willingly as a duty to Christ, his Master. He considered himself in bondage to all those around him, which is a sign of his humility. Read his letters! He never once demands things based on who he was, or based on the fact that he saw Christ. He mocks such an idea that he would do so.

Then he says he would become like a Jew–under the law–or like a Gentile–not under the law. He clarifies that he’s no longer bound by the letter of the Mosaic Law, and he’s never without God’s law. The meaning here is that he doesn’t go out of his way to offend people. So, if he’s witnessing to a Jewish man, he won’t serve him bacon. If he’s preaching to a Gentile, he won’t insist that everything should be Kosher.

He goes on to say that he becomes weak to gain the weak! Paul identifies himself with those who are not powerful, attractive and influential. He’s meek and humble.

Paul’s attitude is the polar opposite of the friendship evangelist’s M.O. Paul wasn’t taking selfies with the elite and posting them on his Facebook page. He wasn’t re-naming his sermons to sound like trendy titles of the day. He wasn’t making T-Shirts that look like the latest fashions from Rome.

In fact, Paul was brutally persecuted by the elite and powerful. He was despised by the influential people of his day. No sooner did he leave a congregation did others come in and badmouth him. Read 2 Corinthians where he makes his defense against such things.

Paul is not a poster boy for Friendship evangelism.

On the other hand, if we mean that we are to be friendly, showing the love of Christ, that is true. Christ called all manner of people out of sin to follow him. In that way He clashed with the Pharisees who looked down on various classes of people. Jesus offered rest for our souls, promising to lift the burden of our sin if we turned from our rebelliousness and followed Him.

Peter didn’t have silver or gold, but he offered the Gospel to the cripple at the beautiful gate in Jerusalem. By the power of Christ, the man’s legs were healed, too. But the greater miracle was over 3,000 people repenting and turning to Christ.

As Christ’s ambassadors we are to love our enemies, do good to them that hurt us, and pray for those who spitefully use us. A good example of this was the early church, of course. More recently (relatively) we can look to the Anabaptists who sought the welfare of those who were killing them. They would feed and clothe their enemies. One Anabaptist was being pursued. If he were caught, he’d be executed for his crime of being an Anabaptist. His pursuer fell through the ice and was going to drown. The Anabaptist couldn’t allow that to happen. For his goodness he was killed.

That is the way we shine. That is how we should be seeking the welfare of the world around us. That is how we should be a friend to the world.

 

Do You Play Bible Roulette?

The Bible is full of contradictions!

That probably ranks up there with one of the most common charges against the Christian faith. Those who follow Christianity are deemed to be soft in the head because they follow an “ancient book” that is filled with “errors.”

These errors will often be of the “Judas hanged himself in Matthew, but threw himself over a cliff and was smashed on the rocks in Acts.” Or there are discrepancies of when Jesus cleared the Temple. There appear to be two accounts of a woman anointing Jesus with perfume and wiping his feet with her hair (an account in Luke 7 and then another in John 12).

All such errors, however, have plausible explanations based on perspective, or added information. For instance, one suggestion is that Judas went to hang himself, but then threw himself over the cliff so that his death would not be a mockery of Jesus hanging between heaven and earth. Another perspective says he did hang himself, but the branch broke, thus he fell.

It really doesn’t matter.

But there are other passages that create more division, and are far less easy to pin down. These are the passages that amount to Biblical Roulette in which a passage is taken out of context to prove a point. In fact, there are a lot of places that create paradoxes for us.

Consider an age-old argument of Free Will vs. Election. Or, as is commonly referred to as Arminianism vs. Calvinism. There are passages that clearly state that each must repent, turn and follow Jesus as Lord. This is absolutely their decision that must be made.

Then there are passages that talk of those whom the Lord foreknew and whom he predestined for salvation. These are referred to as the elect chosen before the foundation of the world (Rom. 8:29, Eph. 1:5, Eph. 1:11, Matt. 13:20, Eph. 1:4).

These concepts seem to be at odds with one another. How can there be a chosen elect, and then have the invitation be to whosesoever will? How is it mankind’s choice, but not mankind’s choice, but God’s?

It gets worse. There are passages that suggest we can lose our salvation. Then there are others that affirm that those who belong to the Lord will never be lost! Coincidentally, the divide on this issue is very much the same as the free will/election issue.

The solution isn’t simple, unfortunately. Some might throw up their hands and say that this proves the Bible is just a potpourri of ideas that are inconsistent, proving it is full of errors. Pass the strong drink, please.

Turns out, the answer is in understanding the context of the Bible. And this is a task that many, many people take very seriously. They discuss, read, discuss, research and work through these issues.

I believe that true Christians are not alone in this effort. I believe the Holy Spirit teaches us as we study God’s word with the tools available to us (1John 2:20-21).

I also believe that our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). This will allow Christians to get drawn away in pride and start cherry-picking verses that support one idea or the other, leading to division, hurt feelings and more. It’s easy to castigate someone’s choices with a quick quote. It’s equally easy to justify one’s choices with a verse.

For instance, on one hand we are to “love our enemies” and “do good to those that hurt us.” Yet, Jesus told the disciples to “shake off the dust from their feet” as a testimony against anyone who would not receive them.

We know that a “friend loves at all times,” but then sometimes it’s the very definition of love that is lacking. Remember, our hearts are deceitful. And our idea of love is largely a product of our culture. That’s why so many do not see God as loving. They don’t really understand the meaning of the word.

We tend to see love in the warm, accepting aspects, but reject it when it makes a decision that is hurtful, but for the long-term good.

Taking a look at Paul’s Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians, let’s note what love is:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentfulit does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thingsLove never ends. 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

I think most people pick up on patient, kind, bearing all things, believing all things and enduring all things. But we forget that when we’re envious of someone else, we’re not showing love. If we boast about something, that’s not coming from a place of love. Arrogance and rudeness are not hallmarks of love. Insisting on one’s own way violates the love principle.

How about rejoicing in wrongdoing? Of course, no one would be out there like a soccer fan when someone is robbing a bank! But, how do we apply that to our entertainment? Do we give sorcery or meditation or other worldly issues a pass for the sake of watching a movie? Do we have a level of smut that we are ‘okay with’ when deciding to watch a show? Wouldn’t giving money to a product that advocates wrongdoing be at least close to rejoicing in it? Or, when we advocate for a liberal position that ignores personal holiness in our lives? That’s essentially rejoicing in wrongdoing.

The fact is, no one meets these requirements for love. We all demand our own way, or pout when we don’t get it. We are all rude to someone we should care about. We are all envious at various times.

Paul is pointing out what love is, so we can measure ourselves and realize when we should repent of something.

Bottom line is, we can’t–and shouldn’t–cherry-pick Bible verses for other people, or ourselves. It is the whole word of God that requires careful study for our personal walk with the Lord. Personally, I believe that if we’re doing that, we’ll be very conscious of our own sin and unworthiness (in the midst of the flame, as it were) while those around us will be seeing us walk with one that shines like the son of  man.

Why Do Preachers Think They can Make Stuff Up?

For a while I thought Franklin Graham was a more stalwart Christian than his father. He seemed to be unafraid of pointing out the gross errors of Islam instead of his father’s attempts to say Muslims worshipped God, just by a different name. ???

Sorry, Billy, there’s more than a few writers of actual Scripture who disagree with you.

But then, Franklin gets up at President Trump’s inauguration and says that “rain is a sign of God’s blessing,” and then points out that it started raining when President Trump walked up to the podium.

I know, this is old news. But, when I heard this, I didn’t have the audio. Now, I do. And I have a guy who points out EXACTLY what I though at the time. Enjoy:

No, Franklin, God is not showing His blessing on our nation with some sprinkles as President Trump walks up. With that sort of asinine Biblical exegesis, we could claim that God is blessing a rapist who gets rained on while assaulting a woman, or a child who gets sprinkled while lying to his parents …

Well, of course, that wouldn’t be the case!!

But that’s exactly the problem we have when so-called preachers take it upon themselves to speak for God when God hasn’t spoken to them.

In short, they’re false prophets. If Franklin has any fear of God, he’ll repent of this blatant misappropriation of God’s mind and will humble himself.

Does God Do Bad Things?

A lot of people like to separate God from the horrible things we see in this world. We reject that God would ever do anything hurtful. In fact, one of the arguments against God is to say, if there’s a God, how could He allow all the horrors in the world?

We struggle with the pain of this world and the idea of a completely loving, good, just God. That struggle leads some to atheism. Some, who cannot reject God outright flee to some form of human free will, which elevates humanity to a point that can nearly thwart God’s plans. Some claim that God doesn’t have a plan. He set the universe in motion and then sat back. Of course, those folks would have a hard time with Jesus and the plan for redemption, wouldn’t they?

Actually, all the scenarios above would have a problem with the Bible.

The fact is, God does the things we consider bad. Take a look at this verse from Isaiah:

Isa 45:7  I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Some will quibble with this and try to explain it. But, it speaks for itself. And, it goes on in verse 9:

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Paul references this argument in Romans 9:20:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

The context of this chapter Paul is writing relates to God’s sovereignty in redemption.

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:18

The context is how God raised up Pharaoh to show His power. Think about that. He raised up Pharaoh, and then hardened his heart so that he’d reject God and be destroyed. You read that right. It’s in the Bible.

Also in this chapter in Romans Paul notes that God loved Jacob, but hated Esau. Before they were born. Before either of them had done anything.

though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— Romans 9:11

Again,

For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:15

Of course, this is a really hard thing for us to grasp and understand. It’s hard for us to admit we’re clay and we will submit to the will of the “potter.” We’re generally arrogant lumps of clay that believe the lie that we are meant for so much more than to glorify our Creator God.

This talk of God’s sovereignty has caused some to split the will of God into parts. They call it the “permissive will” or the “ordaining will.” God may permit evil things to happen, he may even ordain that they should take place, but He doesn’t cause them.

Isa 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

I was talking to someone about this and they mentioned Job. Satan did the things to Job, right? Well, yes. But, he actually asked God to do them, and God gave Satan the ability to inflict the suffering, with limits. This suggests that Satan could not have inflicted the boils and suffering on Job without getting permission.

In other words, God did to Job what happened to Job. Someone might say that God permitted it, but how is that different than God doing it? Just for quick reference, look up at that verse from Isaiah that I’ve quoted twice.

Also, you could read Job and find that God challenges Job (though he never sinned in cursing God) by reminding him that he knows nothing of God’s workings and he has no understanding of God’s ways.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

That is the phrase that saints throughout time come back to. It’s in Job, in fact. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

What does that really mean? Are we referring to His name? I like how F.B. Meyer would put it, “When you read ‘name,’ think ‘nature.'” And no, that doesn’t mean some Wiccan, ‘Mother Earth’ thing. Think the Nature of God. Blessed be the Nature of God. Who He is.

When someone travels to another country as an ambassador, they arrive at the embassy to represent the name of their country of origin. They represent the nature of, perhaps, the administration in charge of that country’s government. If they act horribly, they malign the ‘good name’ of that country.

When we say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” we’re declaring that God’s nature is perfect. He may hurl a storm at us. He may cause an earthquake that kills thousands. He may direct a foreign country to overrun another, causing disaster. He may direct a serial killer to slaughter people. Yet, we say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Why would we do that? All of those things I listed sound sadistic and terrible. Would God actually ordain that a small child should be tortured and killed?

The cold, hard answer is yes.

That’s actually hard to write. It’s hard to think.

But, do we have another option? Do we know better? Is our justice, love and righteousness better than God’s? Our justice system is filled with bribes and favoritism. Even in the best of places. We’re actually relieved when a somewhat good verdict happens. If our justice system was perfect, we’d have no suspense about its outcome.

And why is that? Because we don’t know everything. We have limited knowledge. The person who is up on charges may actually be innocent. Or they may be guilty and we think they’re innocent. We don’t know.

But God knows. God can direct the evil in this world because He knows what is ultimately good. We don’t.

So, when I confess that God causes the calamity and ordains the evil deeds of dictators and wicked men (and women), I can also say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord, for His ways are not my ways and His wisdom is higher than mine.”

Some revolt from this idea because they claim love would demand God stop all the pain, prevent all the hurt. The same person should revolt at the whole book of Job. And then move on to being disgusted with the whole Bible. There are people like that. They’re called Universalists. Or Atheists.

Let’s take a look at our demonstration of love. Popular culture boils love down to a physical activity, or physical feeling. We ‘fall in’ and ‘fall out’ of love regularly. Human love is only remarkable when it looks more like God’s love–when it is sacrificial and altruistic. Unfortunately, we don’t see that too often. It’s rare.

Because our ability to love is hemmed in by hurt and self-interest. We remember the hurtful things people do and we find it impossible to love our enemies, much less die for them.

But God so loved the world that He …. what? He gave His only Son. This is the infamous John 3:16. It depicts the love that Abraham had for Isaac, his only son, whom he took to Mount Moriah to sacrifice before God–which was an inexplicable request, one that should have had the patriarch turning from God.

But Abraham said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” didn’t he? No need to look it up, I’m putting those words in because they depict Abraham’s attitude of faith. By faith he took Isaac up for a sacrifice, trusting the nature of God who could bring Isaac back from the dead.

I don’t need to talk about our righteousness compared to God. Our justice reflects that we don’t have any righteousness. Our lack of true, consistent love shows that we don’t carry any claim to righteousness.

So, if we are so bad at justice and love, how can we then turn and be judge to God when He says that He causes calamity, He is the Lord?

Rather, we should be humble and admit we don’t know everything. We must submit to the Almighty, trusting in His nature of Justice, Love and Righteousness. He will ensure all things will work out for Good.

I’ll leave with this last thought. The whole reason there is evil in this world is because of our rebellion against Him. He would have no evil to direct for His purpose but for our sinful rebellious hearts inherited from our father Adam.

In fact, that’s why He sent His Son.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8

God loved us enough to pay the price to defeat the works of the devil and purchase us out of our slavery to sin. And yes, He directed the evil that killed His Son. He drove those nails. He caused that greatest of evil in all of history. He did this, He is the Lord. And we can respond in thanksgiving, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”