Welcome to tomthinking.com Saturday, June 23 2018 @ 06:00 AM UTC

You Want To Approach God? Who Do You Think You Are?

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Some people regard the God of the Old Testament as a judgmental God. Yet, in the book of Exodus God begins to make a way for the people to approach God, or rather, more importantly, for God to approach the people. Notice this progression in the book of Exodus about how people approach God.

The Trinity and the Holy Spirit

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One of the great difficulties of understanding the Trinity is that we have a tendency to want to think of God in completely human terms. We look at ourselves and we think that we are one and therefore since we are made in God’s image, he must also be one. Alas, scripturally, it doesn’t work that way.
The trouble with a unitarian or oneness view of the Trinity is that it attempts to explain God’s personhood within a purely human way of thinking about relationships. We also can, using human-based analogies, attempt to explain God as a Triune being. But our attempt by using analogy cannot convey the fullness of what it means for God to be a Triune being. I’ll touch more on that in a moment. First, we should clarify the existence of the Trinity.
What is the Trinity?
That the Trinity exists, as explained in scripture, there can be no doubt. The Father and the Son are clearly delineated in scripture as being one, yet different persons. The Father spoke from heaven during Jesus’ baptism while the Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon Jesus. This is probably the clearest picture of the Trinity’s existence in the New Testament. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name (i.e., authority).

I've Decided I Don't Want To Live A Moral Life. Really

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Recently, I posted a question on social media asking, “Can you live a godly life without reading the Bible?” As expected, the range of answers went from a simple yes or no to everything in between. But no one hit my perspective.


Yesterday I did not read the Bible even once. The day before I completed my reading of the Bible and then took a one day break. Did I sin? Was I less godly yesterday because I didn’t read scripture?


To answer my own question I’d like to change its terminology just slightly, but significantly. But before I do so, I’d like to define just what the Bible is. The Bible isn’t merely a collection of religious writings. Rather, it can be described as what theologians call, revelation. This means that its content is not simply writings of mere men. Rather, the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to man. This is significant because you can’t go anywhere else to discover the specifics of who God is. Now, some might argue that we can go to godly men to learn about God. But where do they get their information about God’s character? From the Bible. 

Where Is God When _______?

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I had an interesting exchange with a Facebook friend who asked, “Where is God when genocide, rape, and starvation are part of everyday life?” Our short discussion revolved around injustices done to South African blacks during the era of apartheid. Her challenge was a significant one, and usually many Christians have great difficulties answering it, often overwhelmed with the scope of evil in the world.
I’d like to try my hand at an answer. Actually, I want to give five answers to this question. This may be a little forensic for some. You may not like these answers, but they at least address the issue from a theologically biblical perspective, which is my objective.
First, we should recognize that there are four reasons why people sometimes ask this question.
  • They are seeking comfort because of a terrible trial or injustice
  • They are seeking answers to why there is suffering and injustice in the world if a good God exists
  • They are seeking to blame God for suffering and injustices when he doesn’t appear, from their perspective, to take corrective action, or
  • They are seeking to demonstrate that God does not exist since a so-called good God could not, from their perspective, exist and allow such terrible things to happen
All of these may be boiled down to a single question: Is God just? These questions apply to everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike. Even believers struggle with the issue of God’s justice. When bad things happen to good people we sometimes shake our fists at God and ask, “Is this how you treat your servants?” Many Christians go through their experience and wind up with the standard answers that we’ve all heard before: God is disciplining us, or God is punishing us, or God is teaching us a lesson, or God’s way are mysterious, etc. For a few people these pat answers may be enough but they really don’t tell us anything that addresses the issue: Is God just? The unbeliever hears these answers and usually turns away because these answers seem simple and unconvincing. They really don’t tell us much about God or about why he does what he does.

Misunderstanding Spiritual Warfare

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For many years I, like you, have heard numerous messages and read many text that all tell us an important truth about spiritual warfare. We have been told that Satan’s objective is to steal from us, kill us, and destroy us. The reference comes from John 10:10 when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees. Granted that we have heard this interpretation from many teachers over many decades but we rarely ask this all important question: Is it true?
I’d like to propose what many might consider a radical idea. Let me state it up front. Then you can stone me. Then I’ll pick up where I left off and explain myself. Got your rocks ready? Here goes.
John 10:10 is not about us. 
If we don’t want to misunderstand spiritual warfare then we have to recognize that our simplistic understanding of John 10:10 is not exactly right. You see, when we think that John 10:10 is about Satan stealing, killing, and destroying us we are taking the focus off of what Jesus actually said and placing the focus of our attention in this passage on us, instead of on Jesus, where it belongs. Think about it for a moment as I explain what most people think of when they read John 10:10.
I’ve taught this passage many times over the years and when I do I stand before a group with marker and giant pad at the ready. I ask everyone what it is that Satan wants to steal, kill, and destroy. Every time I’ve taught this the answers are always the same. We write them down. People say things like, he wants to steal my joy, he wants to rob me of my family, he wants to destroy the church, he wants to destroy my faith or my job, he wants to kill me so I can’t serve God, he wants to rob me of my money or blessings, and so on. Often there is a long list of things that people say Satan wants to steal from us or destroy. Now, do you see the thread that runs through all of these answers? It’s right there. The focus is…”me.” It’s then that I draw a big red X over everyone’s answers.

Hearing The Audible Voice Of God

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Have you ever heard God speak to you audibly? Surprisingly, according to a study by Tanya Marie Luhrmann, a psychological anthropologist, roughly 10 percent of Christians claim to have had an audible experience with God. And as she notes in an article on CNN, this does not mean that those who have this experience are crazy or abnormal.
Has Jesus ever appeared to you visually, or in physical form? For more than 20 years, throughout the Middle East, there are many converts from Islam that claim Jesus has appeared to them visually, and that experience led them to change their faith and become followers of Christ in lands where such a change can cost them their lives.
A few times in my life I have experienced auditory hallucinations brought on by extreme stress and fatigue, and even as a result of prescription medication. But I’ve never heard God speak audibly.
But he has spoken to me.

Why Does God Withhold Information From Us?

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Here’s a baffling question for those who read the Bible. Why didn't God tell Jacob that his son, Joseph was still alive? Jacob languished for years in mourning for what he thought was a dead son. At any time during his faithful service to a God, God could have spoken to his servant, Jacob, and told him the truth. Why didn’t he?


Now, I can think of a number of reasons why God remained silent on this issue. If God told Jacob then he would have likely discovered the truth of what his other 10 sons had done in selling a Joseph into slavery. There’s no telling what Jacob might have done.


Second, Jacob could have prematurely gone to Egypt, which would have blown the family’s need for time to work repentance in the hearts of Joseph’s brothers.


Third, before he was sold into slavery, Joseph had a prophetic dream that he would rule over his family. That fate might have been put in jeopardy if Jacob had discovered the truth.


But I think there’s a more important reason, which I’ll reveal in a moment.


Here’s an equally baffling question. Why didn't Joseph send word to his father that he was alive and ruling in Egypt? I find this question to be harder than the first. Once Joseph had solidified his hold on power, what prevented him from sending a messenger to his father with the good news that he was alive and well? But he didn’t do this. In fact, Joseph believed he would never see his family again. Remember what Joseph said at the birth of his son, Manasseh, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father's family” (Genesis 41:51).


Of course, all of this brings up a much deeper question. Why does God allow people to believe anything that isn't true at all? After all, most people on the earth who die, die never knowing the truth about Jesus. Why does God permit this? I’d like present seven possible reasons why this may be so.

You Lost Me

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Someone sent me this article recently by blogger Beth Woosley (http://bit.ly/2weq5EI) and I thought I'd share it here. It's a sad story of a woman who after growing up in a Christian home decided to abandon her faith in the Jesus she was brought up with for something different. Maybe you can identify with this? I hope not.

Now, clearly, she had experiences with other Christians that were problematic that may have helped drive her in the direction she ultimately went. She signifies this by saying, "You lost me," 29 times. She uses this turn of phrase to pass responsibility for abandoning Jesus onto the church instead of herself, where the blame belongs. Saying things like, "You lost me," is an attempt at blame-shifting. It shifts the blame for unbelief from self, where it belongs, to others.

Reaching Out To Jesus When You’re Not Supposed To

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Every time you reach out in prayer to touch Jesus you are doing a bold and remarkable thing. Think for a moment. Who are you to come to the throne of the Almighty, sinless God of the universe?

There is someone in scripture who did just that, knowing that if she reached out to Jesus her life would be changed forever. We know her only at the woman with the "Issue of blood."

"There was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, 'If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.' And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my garments?' And his disciples said to him, 'You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’' And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease'” (Mark 525-34).

Why was the way she reached out to Jesus so remarkable? It has to do with her condition and the society she lived in.

When He Is Master

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How often have you prayed to God about something and it seems like your prayers just hit the ceiling, never to be answered? God does indeed hear our prayers. But very often God does not give an immediate answer, or his answer is no. Sometimes God will say no several times before he says yes. Here's one such example from scripture: