Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hey Chrisitans Are You Sealed By The Spirit? Do You Know What That Means? Does It Matter?

My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; You will cover over my sin. Job 14:17

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30)

No it's not Saran Wrap or a Baggie type of seal...It literally means you are stamped with seal of the King of Creation,  the Holy Spirit of God. What does it mean to be sealed by the Holy Spirit?

A seal indicates ownership. You don't place your seal on something that does not belong to you. Just as a brand on cattle distinguishes one farmer's cows from the other farmer's cows, a seal separates one's belongings. A seal indicates that God has distinguished us from others, that He has set us apart to Himself, for His own purpose.

A seal indicates something of worth. You do not seal just anything and everything, only those things that are important, or of value. Thus, being sealed by the Holy Spirit of God indicates that He has put a very high value upon us; we are very important to Him.

A seal indicates authenticity. A seal is recognized and accepted by anyone. It is a guarantee by the person doing the sealing that the thing sealed meets their criteria, or is up to their standards. it guarantees that what is sealed is the real thing.

A seal is a sign of higher authority, and as such, can be trusted. All authority in heaven and earth is given to Christ Jesus; when we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, it indicates that we are His, and He can be trusted.

A seal shows the irrevocable nature of our salvation . Once something is sealed, it will stay forever, until the seal is broken. We cannot break the seal of the Holy Spirit, however. We can grieve the Spirit, we can quench the Spirit, but we cannot break the seal of the Holy Spirit of God within us.
Think of canning jars of fresh, ripe fruit. The seals preserve the fruit by keeping in what you want to keep in, and keeping out the harmful bacteria that will cause the fruit to ruin. The seals protect the fruit: nothing else can get inside, and nothing that is inside is getting out. We are told that, when we are born again, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, unto the day of redemption. The fruit in the jars cannot break the seal; neither can we break the seal of God's Holy Spirit.

In Koine Greek "sealed" (σφραγίζω) as it is found in Ephesians 1:13. Koine Greek is the language the New Testament is written it.

The meaning of “sealed” becomes quite clear after having examined the context so thoroughly, for Paul has repeatedly shown the believers at Ephesus that their hope is in what God has done and not what they have done or will do. So this sealing is their hope, their security – for God himself has placed his stamp on them, and there is no one greater than God, therefore they are secure, and can be sure that all these blessings are theirs in Christ. It is by the Holy Spirit that they will be enabled to do what God requires of them, so what else do they require, for if God is for them, who can be against them (Rom. 8:31)? It is not the believer’s role to earn or lose salvation, but rather it is to walk in that Spirit which they have been sealed with.

Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. II Cor. 1:21, 22
In these two verses we see four very great privileges, which God first bestowed upon the Corinthians: the establishing, anointing, and sealing of them, and giving the earnest of the Holy Spirit to them. Although these privileges were first given to the Corinthians, we know that God is unchanging; what He did then, He does now.

First, we are established by God Himself. To establish means to "settle or fix firmly; make stable or permanent ; to set up or install in a place or position; to put into effect permanently, as law." (Webster's Third New International Dictionary). Our establishment in the family of God, and in His promises, is the gracious work of God alone. We do not decide of our own initiative to join God's family; God establishes us as members of His family when we accept His Son as our Lord and Savior.

Secondly, our anointing is from God. To be anointed means to be chosen by Divine election. (Again, Webster's Third New International Dictionary). God chose us. He loves us dearly. We are precious to Him. We are, in fact, the apple of His eye. (See Zech. 2:8; and Psalm 17:8) The Bible tells us no one seeks God, but God seeks us. That is our anointing.

Thirdly, we are sealed by God: God's sealing of his children indicates the high value He places on us, and His loving esteem of us. What is sealed is deemed to be very precious: it implies something held safely and securely. Something that is sealed is safe and protected.. Something that is sealed is not in danger of being lost. A seal also shows ownership ; we belong to our Heavenly Father, who has set us apart to Himself, for His own purpose.

The fourth privilege is his giving the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts. Earnest money is a deposit; a promise of larger payment to come. There is a vast difference between a dollar, as a single piece of money, and a dollar that is an earnest of a greater sum. God gives us the earnest of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee or deposit of what is awaiting us. Glory!

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise. Eph 1:13
Here the apostle Paul recounts the favours and privileges which we, as Gentiles, upon believing in Christ, were admitted to. Paul assures them, that in and through Christ they had obtained a right to this heavenly inheritance. Just as the Jews were given favors and privileges and promises by God, we are also heirs to all His promises through Jesus Christ.

They were sealed , by the sanctifying Spirit promised to the sons of God, which produced a real renovating change in their hearts and lives. The influence of the Holy Spirit upon the minds of Christians is evidence of their redemption. The Spirit was a pledge and earnest of what is yet to come. The Spirit also made them fit for their heavenly inheritance. The full inheritance will be received the last day, when (and not before) all believers shall receive complete redemption, and their bodies being raised, shall be reunited to their souls, and will then be made perfect and everlastingly happy.

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph 4:30
The Holy Spirit, is essentially and infinitely holy in himself, is the author of all grace and holiness in us. Christians are not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God: because by it we are sealed to the day of redemption, until Jesus returns for His bride. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not heed his teachings, or ignore that small, still voice inside us. We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God: because by Him we are sealed to the day of redemption.

Nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure, having this seal , The Lord knows them that are his. And, Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. II Tim. 2:19
This verse tells us that Christ, the foundation of God, stands sure, despite apparent apostacy in the church. The seal is the covenant promise, or contract between two parties. This seal assures that the Lord knows those who belong to Him. The foundation of our hope, the basis of our belief, is Jesus Christ himself. Because of this seal, this assurance or guarantee, those who name the name of Christ, or call themselves Christians, ought to depart from all iniquity. No you aren't perfect, but you are perfectly saved and sealed. However, because we are aware of how sin grieves the Spirit by which we are sealed we need to walk worthy of our calling.

It is important for us to understand the permanent and lasting nature of our covenant with God. When He seals us, it is forever. His mark is upon us, identifying us as His own children, according to the promise.

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Rom. 8:17)

See you next blog,

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


It's the truth-Science is has been for quite a while...deliberate cheating, bad math, presuppositions and wrong assumptions going in, issues that make for poor experimentation and results!  Presidential decrees and  television journalism becomes science...give me a break! The  Obama administration and Bill Nye are a bad joke! How can I say that? Let's look at a broader picture from psychology to man-made climate change!

Yes, Science is broken! That's the thesis of a must-read article in First Things magazine, in which William A. Wilson accumulates evidence that a lot of published research is false. But that's not even the worst part.

Advocates of the existing scientific research paradigm usually smugly declare that while some published conclusions are surely false, the scientific method has "self-correcting  mechanisms" that ensure that, eventually, the truth will prevail. Unfortunately for all of us, Wilson makes a convincing argument that those self-correcting mechanisms are broken.

For starters, there's a "replication crisis" in science. This is particularly true in the field of experimental psychology, where far too many prestigious psychology studies simply can't be  reliably replicated. But it's not just psychology. In 2011, the pharmaceutical company Bayer looked at 67 blockbuster drug discovery research findings published in prestigious journals, and  found that three-fourths of them weren't right. Another study of cancer research found that only 11 percent of pre-clinical cancer research could be reproduced. Even in physics, supposedly  the hardest and most reliable of all sciences, Wilson points out that "two of the most vaunted physics results of the past few years — the announced discovery of both cosmic inflation and  gravitational waves at the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica, and the supposed discovery of superluminal neutrinos at the Swiss-Italian border — have now been retracted, with far less  fanfare than when they were first published."

What explains this? In some cases, human error. Much of the research world exploded in rage and mockery when it was found out that a highly popularized finding by the economists Ken  Rogoff and Carmen Reinhardt linking higher public debt to lower growth was due to an Excel error. Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, largely built his career on a paper arguing that  abortion led to lower crime rates 20 years later because the aborted babies were disproportionately future criminals. Two economists went through the painstaking work of recoding  Levitt's statistical analysis — and found a basic arithmetic error.

Trans-Gender Assignment Science a fraud!

Then there is outright fraud. In a 2011 survey of 2,000 research psychologists, over half admitted to selectively reporting those experiments that gave the result they were after. The survey  also concluded that around 10 percent of research psychologists have engaged in outright falsification of data, and more than half have engaged in "less brazen but still fraudulent behavior  such as reporting that a result was statistically significant when it was not, or deciding between two different data analysis techniques after looking at the results of each and choosing the  more favorable."
Then there's everything in between human error and outright fraud: rounding out numbers the way that looks better, checking a result less thoroughly when it comes out the way you like,  and so forth.
Well, maybe not. There's actually good reason to believe the exact opposite is happening. Bruce Jenner (Caitlyn) may be a hero to some poor confused perverts but not to the population with a conscience and good sense!

The Sokal Affair

The peer review process doesn't work. Most observers of science guffaw at the so-called "Sokal affair," where a physicist named Alan Sokal submitted a gibberish paper to an obscure social  studies journal, which accepted it. Less famous is a similar hoodwinking of the very prestigious British Medical Journal, to which a paper with eight major errors was submitted. Not a single  one of the 221 scientists who reviewed the paper caught all the errors in it, and only 30 percent of reviewers recommended that the paper be rejected. Amazingly, the reviewers who were  warned that they were in a study and that the paper might have problems with it found no more flaws than the ones who were in the dark.

This is serious. In the preclinical cancer study mentioned above, the authors note that "some non-reproducible preclinical papers had spawned an entire field, with hundreds of secondary  publications that expanded on elements of the original observation, but did not actually seek to confirm or falsify its fundamental basis."

This gets into the question of the sociology of science. It's a familiar bromide that "science advances one funeral at a time." The greatest scientific pioneers were mavericks and weirdos.  Most valuable scientific work is done by youngsters. Older scientists are more likely to be invested, both emotionally and from a career and prestige perspective, in the regnant paradigm,  even though the spirit of science is the challenge of regnant paradigms.

Why, then, is our scientific process so structured as to reward the old and the prestigious? Government funding bodies and peer review bodies are inevitably staffed by the most hallowed  (read: out of touch) practitioners in the field. The tenure process ensures that in order to further their careers, the youngest scientists in a given department must kowtow to their elders'  theories or run a significant professional risk. Peer review isn't any good at keeping flawed studies out of major papers, but it can be deadly efficient at silencing heretical views.

All of this suggests that the current system isn't just showing cracks, but is actually broken, and in need of major reform. There is very good reason to believe that much scientific research  published today is false, there is no good way to sort the wheat from the chaff, and, most importantly, that the way the system is designed ensures that this will continue being the case.

As Wilson writes:

Even if self-correction does occur and theories move strictly along a lifecycle from less to more accurate, what if the unremitting flood of new, mostly false, results pours in faster? Too fast  for the sclerotic, compromised truth-discerning mechanisms of science to operate? The result could be a growing body of true theories completely overwhelmed by an ever-larger thicket  of baseless theories, such that the proportion of true scientific beliefs shrinks even while the absolute number of them continues to rise. Borges' Library of Babel contained every true book  that could ever be written, but it was useless because it also contained every false book, and both true and false were lost within an ocean of nonsense. [First Things]

This is a big problem, one that can't be solved with a column. But the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Climate Science: 

Let's talk for a minute about the man-made climate change epidemic among noted scientist and some so-called psuedo-scientist like Bill Nye!

May 20, 2015 was a banner week for the unquestioning apostles of science,  specifically in the area of climate science—the one scientific discipline for which all questions have already been  exhaustively answered(at least in their narrow point of view).

First, there is flooding in Texas which everyone knows beyond all doubt is a result of man caused climate change. There is no other possible explanation. Just ask Bill Nye the Mediocre- Television-Comedian-With-A-Bachelors-In-Engineering Guy:

Second, a “study” was released which purports to tell us how the Montreal Protocol saved the planet from certain doom at the hands of the ozone hole (the notion that the dire predictions  about the ozone hole may not have come to fruition is not to be considered.) Like most of the unrealized predictions about man-caused global warming, the ozone hole study is based on  man-made simulations.
As it’s not possible to do a controlled laboratory experiment on an entire planet, computer simulations are the best we can muster. Unfortunately, that means we are required to take it on  faith that those who created the simulations did so with infallible knowledge of how a planetary atmosphere and climate will react to different inputs. That is “settled science” after all.

As I was pondering the god-like omniscience of climatologists and children’s television show hosts, I happened across a post on Slashdot asking whether “bad scientific practice” can be  fixed. Bad scientific practice? Is such a thing even possible? Has anyone told Neil deGrasse Tyson?
The post refers to an editorial in The Lancet by editor-in-chief Richard Horton. The Lancet is one of the world’s leading peer-reviewed medical journals. In a recent issue, Horton wrote this  heresy:
The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory  analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant  put it, “poor methods get results”.

What? How can this be? He went on:
The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they  retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours.

Horton even suggests that a purely objective search for truth may not be the only thing driving scientists. Can bad scientific practices be fixed? Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivised to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivised to be productive and innovative.
Granted, Horton is focusing on a different area of science, but is it unreasonable to believe the same problems exist in other fields of research? I submit that it is unreasonable to assume  that they do not.
In 2011, Stanford professor John P.A. Ioannidis wrote an article titled An Epidemic of False Claims in Scientific American.

Much research is conducted for reasons other than the pursuit of truth. Conflicts of interest abound, and they influence outcomes. In health care, research is often performed at the behest  of companies that have a large financial stake in the results. Even for academics, success often hinges on publishing positive findings. The oligopoly of high-impact journals also has a  distorting effect on funding, academic careers and market shares. Industry tailors research agendas to suit its needs, which also shapes academic priorities, journal revenue and even public  funding.

Wouldn’t it be foolish to presume that these factors don’t come into play with regard to the most politically contentious scientific claims of our time? The crisis should not shake confidence in the scientific method. The ability to prove something false continues to be a hallmark of science. But scientists need to improve the way they do  their research and how they disseminate evidence.
And therein lies the reason to be skeptical of dramatic climate predictions. There is no possible experiment that can prove them false. Claims that cannot be tested and falsified are not  really scientific, but Science! zealots still claim man made climate change is responsible for everything from drought to floods, wildfires, even terrorism. Yet while some scientists are  decrying an epidemic of shoddy research, skeptics of man-made climate change are derided as simpletons by journalists and politicians who know nothing about science themselves.

Science, at heart an enterprise for mavericks, has become an enterprise for careerists. It's time to flip the career track for science on its head. Instead of waiting until someone's best years  are behind her to award her academic freedom and prestige, abolish the PhD and grant fellowships to the best 22-year-olds, giving them the biggest budgets and the most freedoms for the  first five or 10 years of their careers. Then, with only few exceptions, shift them away from research to teaching or some other harmless activity. Only then can we begin to fix Big Science.

See you next blog,

Thursday, April 14, 2016

You're A Christian and you FALL...BIG! What Now?

As a Christian, all of your sins are forgiven! WHAT? ALL? You can believe that from the Bible although some abusive, unbiblical denominations deny it. But how do you respond to it? A friend who counsels many believers commented: “Some Christians don’t really believe they have sinned; others don’t believe they are forgiven.” What a mess!!! So what is the truth? Is this EASY BELIEVISM? NOPE!!! Understand this...there is a price to pay for sin! Yes, even though you are forgiven, still loved by God, the consequences of all sin is still coming your way. Yes, you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, forgiven by God, but all sin has consequences. Luke 12: 1b Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be[a] on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

I would like to help you appreciate both the reality of your sin and the reality of Christ’s forgiveness. How could I qualify for this job? I am a Christian, a past pastor/counselor who has failed more times than I care to recount, but God is faithful and does not leave us in this condition! Thank you Jesus!


Ernest Hemingway once said that if something is moral, you feel good afterwards; if immoral, you feel bad afterwards. In this day and age that has become a popular view of sin – many have lived by it. President Bill Clinton defined truth as this: my truth is not the same as your truth-WHAT A CROCK OF A LIE THAT ONE IS! Oviously, neither of the two is a Biblical view of sin and truth. Biblically, sin is an attitude of wanting your way instead of God’s way.

How much does sin matter to God? Simply put He cannot tolerate it. “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” (Habakkuk 1:13a) “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5a)

That may seem unimportant. Hasn’t Jesus paid for all your sins? Why be concerned about sin when God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life? Perhaps you should view sins as mistakes, mere miscues in life.

God never views sin as such. Because of one sin, Adam and Eve were exiled from paradise. Because of sin God brought a flood upon the earth’s inhabitants in the days of Noah. He brought fire upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their blatant immorality. Sin kept the original children of Israel in the wilderness for forty years.

God hates sin. Yet to us, sin feels good, and we do it. Like Adam and Eve, we think we can know evil and yet not be overcome by it. But we do not become like God. God knows of the existence of evil, yet God is not evil nor does He give in to evil. We, on the other hand, are attracted to it, and we give in to it.

You, As The Guilty Party

Whenever you sin, God’s Spirit inside you is grieved. Sometimes He’ll cause you to feel guilty. In sinning, you are choosing at that instant to live independently of the Lord’s will for you. That doesn’t cause God to hate you. He still loves you. But it saddens Him: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30) Did you see that? The term "by which you were sealed...NO ONE CAN TAKE YOU OUT OF HIS HANDS, NOT THE DEVIL, NOT YOUR FAMILY, NOT YOUR FRIENDS, NOT YOU, NOT YOUR PASTOR, YOUR CHURCH, NO ONE! To understand how sin does affect you, let’s look at the difference between your relationship with God and your fellowship with God.

Your relationship with God and your fellowship with God began when you received Jesus as your Savior(Colossians 2:6) It is everlasting just read Romans 8 and 1Peter 1:3,4) and it can be hindered by us(Psalm 32:3-5). Hindered does not mean means temporarily out of order! Your relationship is maintained pimarily by God(John 10:27-29) and the quality of it by you (1 John 1:9). In spite of us God never changes His Mind about us(Hebrews 13:5) but our fellowship changes when we sin(Psalm 66:18).

Sin does not affect God’s eternal relationship with you – that was established when you trusted in Christ’s payment for your sins. Christ died for all your sins – past, present, and future. At that time, your entire life was in the future. Because of your faith in Jesus, you are totally forgiven. Your relationship with God is secure.

However, sin affects your fellowship with God. (Fellowship means your earthly, moment-by-moment association.) Sin affects your communication with Him and your usefulness in doing His will. Sin dulls you to the things Christ wants you to be thinking about and to be doing.

Psalm 32:3-5 says: “There was a time when I wouldn't admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. All day and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ‘I will confess them to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”

This is the correct response to sin. He didn't deny sin. He didn't become preoccupied with it. He confessed it.

Confessing Sin and Repenting

What does it mean to confess sins and repent? First, confession means to agree with God. He already knows you’ve sinned, so you might as well be honest! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Confession means freely admitting our sin and accepting God’s attitude about our sin.

Confession does not mean begging God for forgiveness. Christ already paid the penalty for all of our sins, and God’s forgiveness is available automatically when we confess. The reason God can make this forgiveness available to you instantly is Christ’s death on the cross, not the strength or humility with which you confess your sin.

Repentance means to change your actions concerning your sin. It involves agreeing with God that you were wrong and that you do not want to continue to commit that sin. It literally means turn around and go the opposite way! Repentance is not just saying "I'm sorry!" or "OK, I admit I messed up in a few areas." Repentance is a change of heart and mind-agreeing with God in total!

How Come I Still Feel Guilty

There will be times when you still feel guilty even after you've confessed your sin. It somehow seems spiritual to berate ourselves for committing such an awful sin, and we think that if we can lower ourselves in our own eyes, God will be pleased with our humility.

But that’s not the way God sees us. Part of confession is thanking God that all of our sins have been paid for by Christ. On that basis God says, “I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) Thanksgiving involves faith because you are responding to what God’s Word says is true about you instead of how you feel. To berate yourself focuses on your sin rather than on Christ and His forgiveness.

Sometimes we mistake temptation for sin. But keep in mind that everyone is tempted. Even Jesus was tempted…but He didn’t give in to His temptations – He didn’t sin. If you are being tempted, don’t chastise yourself. You can choose not to dwell on tempting thoughts and you can ask God for the strength to avoid the sin. Don’t feel guilty about being tempted. A great verse to learn, to bring to mind when you battle temptation, is 1 Corinthians 10:13.

God has completely forgiven you of all the things you have done. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) He doesn’t look back now on your sins or your failures with condemnation, and neither should you, nor should you let anyone else! Again God says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) The cloud of guilt is gone! Accept God’s complete forgiveness.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:2) The Christian life is a life of freedom: freedom from guilt and freedom to live as God intends, which is ultimately the most satisfying life. It is a process of growth, of becoming like Christ and reflecting Christ. And it takes time to grow!

Recommended reading: Come Before Winter by Charles Swindoll and the blog called ( )

See you next blog,

(QUALIFIER: Most of this was written by a contributor, Steve L. Pogue ( )with revisions and additions by me because I care about all of you)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

If I Believe, Why Do I Doubt?

Have you ever prayed so earnestly about something that you really felt God put on your heart only to have that prayer not answered? Have you ever thought your prayers weren't going any higher than the ceiling? Have you ever lost a child and wondered what kind of God would allow that to happen? Have you been diagnosed with a dreaded disease and wondered WHY ME...why would a loving God allow that to happen...I have children to care for? Have you ever wondered if the whole God thing was real? Have you served God faithfully but seem to be getting nothing but failure and now you wonder if you just wasted your whole life? We all have doubts but that is not the end of the story friends. My friend, Pastor Ray Pritchard, wrote a booklet that I think everyone would benefit from...

Matthew 11:1-11

Let’s talk about doubt.

It seems strange to say it that way because we rarely talk about doubt in church. You don’t hear many sermons about doubt. I is an unfamiliar topic to most people, even though there are whole books of the Bible that deal with the issue of doubt in various ways, such as Job, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Habakkuk. Many of the Psalms touch on the theme of doubt and feeling abandoned by God.

We need this message because doubt is a hidden issue inside the church.
We need this message because sometimes it’s not easy to believe.
We need this message because we all doubt sooner or later.
We need this message because you may feel disqualified by your doubts.

I received an email from a soldier serving in Afghanistan who had been there since the beginning of the war. Over the years he saw a lot of combat, and it took a toll on his faith. Here is part of what he wrote to me:

    “I’ve been in the service since the start of the war, and it is getting emotionally taxing, being at risk so much with a family back home. To be honest, there are days when I doubt the existence of God even though I have grown up in the church. . . . I have struggled to find lasting peace . . . I had it for a few weeks, but I can see it slipping some.”

During my pastorate in Oak Park, IL, the young singles group invited me once a year to an “Ask Pastor Ray” night. That was always fun because the group was lively, and they peppered me with unpredictable questions. The last time we met, 50-60 of us sat in a big circle in the church dining room. I told them I would be glad to answer questions on the Bible, the Christian life, theological issues, or they could ask about my personal life. No topic was off-limits. Near the end of the evening, a young lady raised her hand and asked, “Pastor Ray, when I listen to you speak, you always sound so certain about everything. Do you ever doubt?” My answer was short and simple. Yes, I do have doubts. I don’t know how a person can be a Christian and not have doubts from time to time. Faith requires doubt in order to be faith. If you ever come to a place where all your doubts are gone and all your questions are answered, take a deep breath and relax because you've arrived in heaven.

Three Kinds of Doubt

Doubt itself is not sinful or wrong. Often it can be the catalyst to new spiritual growth. As I have pondered the matter, I have concluded our doubts tend to fall into three categories: First, there are intellectual doubts. These are doubts most often raised by those outside the Christian faith. Is the Bible the Word of God? Is Jesus the Son of God? Did he really rise from the dead? Is Jesus really the only way to heaven?

Second, there are spiritual doubts. These tend to be the doubts of those inside the church. Am I really a Christian? Have I truly believed? Why is it so hard to pray? Why do I still feel guilty? Why is it taking me so long to get better?

Third, there are circumstantial doubts. This is the largest category because it encompasses all the “whys” of life. Why did my child die? Why did my marriage break up? Why can’t I find a husband? Why did my friend betray me? Where was God when my uncle was abusing me? These are the questions we meet at the intersection of biblical faith and the pain of living in a fallen world. In my experience, these are the toughest doubts of all. Unfortunately, sometimes we tend to sweep them under the rug and to put down those in the church who struggle with these issues. When we refuse to deal with circumstantial doubts, they soon become spiritual doubts, and those spiritual doubts eventually become intellectual doubts. Then people start leaving the church altogether.

Three Crucial Statements

Lee Strobel frames the issue this way:

1) Many people think doubt is the opposite of faith, but it isn’t. Unbelief is the opposite of faith. Unbelief refers to a willful refusal to believe, while doubt refers to inner uncertainty.

2) Many people think doubt is unforgivable, but it isn’t. God doesn’t condemn us when we question him. Both Job and David repeatedly questioned God, but they were not condemned. God is big enough to handle all our doubts and all our questions.

3) Many people think struggling with God means we lack faith, but that’s not true. Very nearly the opposite of that statement is true. Struggling with God is a sure sign that we truly have faith. If we never struggle, our faith will never grow.

Many Christians struggle with doubt and then feel guilty. It is to those believers that my words are directed. In order to get a biblical perspective, let's focus on one godly man who doubted and how Jesus dealt with his doubt.

A Question for Jesus

Do you recall the occasion when Herod threw John the Baptist in jail because John dared to rebuke him for his gross sexual sin? It helps to remember that John went to prison not for doing wrong, but for doing right. He was a mighty preacher of the truth whom God used to prepare the nation for the coming of Christ. Yet here he is, in Herod’s prison, in a dungeon, in the wilderness east of the Dead Sea. He didn’t know when or if he would be released.

Days passed, then weeks, then months. Prison time is hard time. The days are long, the nights even longer. No doubt confused and frustrated by his incarceration, John sent messengers to Jesus with a very pertinent question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3). That's a powerful question if you think about it. Having read a few of the commentaries on this passage, I am struck by how many of them feel uneasy with John's doubt. They seem to want to explain it away. On one level, I can understand their discomfort. After all, we know John had made one of the earliest public confessions of Jesus when he cried out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Then he said, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (v. 34). Make no mistake. John knew who Jesus was. How could a man who was so certain about Jesus now harbor such doubt? The text does not provide an exact answer to that question, but I think I know part of the answer.

In 2000 I wrote a short "gospel book" for Moody Publishers called An Anchor for the Soul. It's a simple presentation of the gospel in "Wal-Mart English" for people who don't go to church and don't know much about the Bible. Over the last sixteen years we have given away over 750,000 copies, most of them to prisoners through a partnership with Prison Fellowship and Good News Jail and Prison Ministries. As a result, we have received over 12,000 letters from prisoners. Until I started reading those letters, I knew very little about what it's like to be in prison. My heart has been deeply moved by the accounts of the hopelessness most of them feel. No place on earth is more corrosive to faith than a prison cell. No place on earth is darker and more hopeless than a prison cell. I received a letter from a prisoner who said, "Being in prison is like being dead. No one wants anything to do with you.” One inmate called prison “Satan's playground.”

It is no wonder that as he languished in prison, not knowing when, or if, he would be released, John began to wonder, and then he began to doubt. He at least knew enough to ask the right question. "Are you the one sent from heaven, or is there someone else who will be our Savior? Are you really the promised Messiah?" The answer our Lord gives is very instructive. He does not rebuke John or put him down. He simply gives John the evidence he needs in order to regain his faith. Go back, he says, and tell John what you have seen. Then he lists six miracles:

    The blind see.
    The lame walk.
    The lepers are cured.
    The deaf hear.
    The dead are raised.
    The poor have the gospel preached to them.

Jesus essentially says, “Go back and tell John that in my name, the hurting people of the world are being totally transformed.” This is what people outside the church want to know:

Where is the power that can break the chains of sin?
Where is the power that can save my marriage?
Where is the power that can bring my prodigal son back home?

The people of the world don’t understand theology, and most of them don’t know much about the Bible. They aren’t interested in hearing more theories. But they will listen to anyone who can tell them where to find a fresh start and a new life.

"He's Still My Man"

Notice what happens next:

    As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist" (vv. 7-11).

John the Baptist sent his disciples from the prison to find Jesus in Galilee and ask him the all-important question. After giving his answer, Jesus then shares with the crowd his high praise for John the Baptist. He is "more than a prophet," he is the forerunner who was foretold in the Old Testament. No one born of woman has been greater than John the Baptist. Note carefully when Jesus says this. According to verse 7, it happened "as John's disciples were leaving." That means they heard the high praise of their master and no doubt relayed it to him back in the prison. But where was John at this point?

He's still in prison.
He's still wrestling with his doubts.
He's still living with uncertainty.
He's still unsure about Jesus.

He hasn't heard the answer yet. It's as if Jesus is saying, "John may doubt me, but I don't doubt him. He's still my man. He's still on my team. I still believe in him." He affirmed his faith in John while John still had his doubts. He knew that underneath those doubts there was genuine faith. Jesus is saying, "He’s still my man, doubts and all.” What an incredible affirmation.

Doubters Welcome!

Above the front door of every church in the world, we should erect a two-word sign: Doubters Welcome! That should be the church’s message.

If you have doubts, come inside.
If you have questions, come inside.
If you are uncertain, come inside.
If you are a skeptic, come inside.
If you are searching for truth, come inside.

Deep doubt is often the prelude to an even deeper faith. I love the way Frederick Buechner expresses it: “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving” (from the book Wishful Thinking). The greatest doubters often become the strongest believers. And honest doubts — once resolved — often become the bedrock of an unshakeable faith. It has been said no truth is so strongly believed as that which you once doubted.

Four Ways to Deal with Doubt

Doubt will not disqualify you as a disciple, but it can be dangerous if you don’t deal with it. It’s what you do with your doubt that matters. Here are four principles to help you handle your doubt:

# 1: Admit your doubts and ask for help.

That’s what the father did in Mark 9:24 when he cried out, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” That’s what John the Baptist did. And in a way, that’s what Thomas did also. He plainly stated why he could not and would not believe until he saw the evidence for himself. God is not fragile. He can handle your doubts, your fears, your worries, and all your unanswered questions. He’s a big God. He runs the universe without any help. Your doubts won’t upset him. Tell him all your questions and all your doubts, cry out and ask for his help. And don’t fight the battle alone. Go to a Christian friend, a pastor, an elder, a deacon, anyone with strong faith and godly insight. Ask them to walk with you as you face your doubts honestly.

# 2: Act on Your Faith, Not Your Doubts.

That’s what Noah did when he built the ark. That’s what Abraham did when he left Ur of the Chaldees. That’s what Moses did when he marched through the Red Sea on dry ground. That’s what David did when he faced Goliath. That’s what Joshua did when he marched around Jericho. That’s what Daniel did when he was thrown into the lion’s den. That’s what Nehemiah did when he built the wall.

Don’t you think all these great heroes of the faith had their doubts? Of course they did. They didn’t know in advance how everything was going to come out. But they took a deep breath, decided to trust God, and they acted on their faith and not on their doubts. If you do the same thing, your faith will continually grow stronger.

# 3: Doubt Your Doubts, Not Your Faith.

This simply means you should not cast away your faith because you are in the deep valley of darkness. All of us walk into that valley from time to time. Some of us spend a great deal of time there. When you find yourself in that valley where all is uncertain and you are sorely tempted to give in to your doubts, fears and worries, remember these two words: keep walking. You may be in a valley of doubt today, but you don’t have to stop and build a condo there. The only way out is to keep on walking. Every step forward is a way to “doubt your doubts.” Soon enough the light will shine again.

#4: Keep Going Back to What You Know to Be True.

This is the most important point. After considering the sufferings of this life, and the perils and tribulations of following Christ, Paul concludes Romans 8 triumphantly by declaring that nothing in all the universe can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In 2 Timothy 1:12 he says, “I know whom I have believed.”

Some things you think.
Some things you hope.
Some things you feel.
Some things you know.

Faith is not a feeling. Sometimes we talk about “feeling God’s presence” during a worship service. I know what people mean when they talk like that. I’m all for having a consciousness of God’s presence in your life. But what will you do when the happy feeling goes away? If all you have is a “God of the good times,” you don’t have the God of the Bible. What will you do when the boss says, “We’re letting you go?” What will you do when your spouse walks out of your marriage? What will you do when the doctor says, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing else we can do.” What will you do when your children end up in jail? We need a faith big enough to encompass the worst moments of life.

Going "All In"

When I was younger, I thought I had everything figured out. Life has a way of knocking us down a few pegs. That certainly happened to me. I’m not as sure about some of the details as I was 30 years ago. But what I know, I really know. I have a handful of convictions that cannot be shaken. I would include in that short list these truths: God is good, Jesus is Lord, the Bible is true, this world is not my home, and even hard times are meant for my benefit. At the core of my faith is an unshakable belief in the sovereignty of God. He's God and I'm not. He is sovereign over all the details of my life, and I can trust him completely even when those details seem to be spinning out of control.

Years ago I decided to go “all in” on Jesus. I’m “all in” that he is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for my sins, that he rose from the dead on the third day, that he is the Lord of the universe, that he is coming again, and that he will someday take me to heaven. Lewis Sperry Chafer said believing in Jesus means trusting him so much that if he can’t take you to heaven, you aren’t going to go there. I like that. If Jesus can’t take me to heaven, then I’ll never make it because I’m going “all in” on him. I don’t have a Plan B.

I ran across a statement that resonated with my own heart: “One who has never doubted has only half believed.” By that standard, I’m not ashamed to say I have fully believed because I have often doubted. But my doubts have only made my faith stronger in the end.

Just As I Am

In the 1830s a young woman named Charlotte Elliott was visiting some friends in the West End of London when she met a noted minister named Cesar Malan. Over supper he asked if she was a Christian. When she replied she did not want to talk about the subject, the minister said, “I did not mean to offend you.  But I want you to know Jesus can save you if you will turn to him.” When they met again several weeks later, Miss Elliott said she had been trying to come to Christ but did not know how to do it. “Just come to him as you are,” Mr. Malan said. Taking the advice to heart, she composed a poem that began this way.

     Just as I am, without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me,
     And that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

The third verse contains Charlotte Elliott’s own testimony:

    Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt.
    Fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

And the last verse contains the gospel promise:

    Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
    Because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

My doubting brothers and sisters, take heart.

Do not despair.
Don’t let your doubts take you away from Jesus.
Let your doubts lead you to Jesus.
Keep believing.

Come to him with your doubts, your skepticism, your unbelief, your hard questions, your uncertainties. Don't let your doubts keep you from Jesus. Come to him just as you are—and bring your doubts with you.

Take your fears to Jesus.
Take your questions to Jesus.
Take your doubts to Jesus.

He never turns an honest doubter away.

Here is a very simple prayer that could help you believe all over again. I encourage you to say this prayer out loud and then write it down or print it out where you can see it every day.

Lord God, take your Word and seal it to my heart. I believe you are who you said you are, and I believe you will do what you said you will do. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so I might move from doubt to faith. Thank you for not turning away when I am weak, fearful, and confused. Help me to go all in on Jesus with nothing held back. Amen.

Going Deeper

    When are you most likely to struggle with doubt?
    If you could ask God any question, what would it be?
    Read Romans 8:35-39 out loud each day for a week.
    Name something you can do today to act on your faith, not your doubts.
    Give this booklet to someone you know who is struggling with doubt.

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

CHOICES! Here's one for you to make...WHOM WILL YOU SERVE?

John 21:10-19

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus Reinstates Peter

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Everyone of us have decisons to make on a daily basis but only a few of them have to do with the course our life will take. Jesus will ask each of us the same question He asked Peter. He says to us, "Do you love Me more than these?" When times are going well, when things are smooth and seem orderly, we respond, "Yes, Lord, I certainly love You more than these." But sometimes a very bad situation comes along, or something we think is really good, and we must decide if we indeed love the Lord more than anything and anyone. You read this right. You may have to lose something or give up something you think is just right for you for the sake of following Jesus.

You might be asking the question, "To what is Jesus referring when He says 'these?'" For His question to us, the word 'these' refers to any thought, any deed, any person, any set of circumstances, anything at all. It is possible for us to fall into the trap of misplaced allegiance. Misplaced allegiance means that you will side with a person or thing or idea before you will side with what is right, what is holy, what is of God.

Loyalty is a noble trait, but if that loyalty makes you choose anyone or anything other than the Lord God, then it is time to abandon that loyalty. Sometimes that is painful for us, but we have a responsibility to choose: what or whom do we love more? One thing is certain you can't have your cake and eat it too when it comes to choosing right or wrong. What or whom do we put first in our life? As situations present themselves to us, as we develop friendships or personal habits, our loyalties and allegiances may actually become a barrier to Christian service. The Christian life often requires difficult choices, which may include the will and ways of the Lord over what is comfortable and easy for us.

For example, if you were asked if God's will should be done in your life, if Jesus Christ has first place in your heart, habit would compel you to say, "Of course." But what if tomorrow, it became apparent that a choice had to be made between God's will and, let's say, your job or your friend or your own life? Standing for what is right, for what God wants, is not always pleasant or convenient, but God has a purpose. It is in those moments that we discover if our devotion to the Lord and His will is genuine or merely lip service.

Peter had abandoned Jesus when Jesus needed him most. Later, he denied that he even knew who Jesus was. The reason? Peter chose personal comfort, an attitude of fear, and self above the Man to whom he'd pledged his undying allegiance not long before. Peter had to be confronted, and Jesus asked him point-blank, saying in essence, "Peter, it's time to choose. It's now or never. Do you love Me, truly love Me? Is that love deep enough to abandon everything and everyone that will try to come between you and Me? It's your choice to make. What will you choose?"

Jesus asks that of us who read this today... 

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