TALKING TO A GOD WHO DOESN’T TALK BACK

I have always been a believer.

Since an early age I have believed in God. Nothing has ever changed that. Unfortunately, there have been times when I have been lazy and neglected talking to Him. Honestly sometimes my prayer life gets pretty boring. It hasn’t been because I don’t believe or care. The truth is that it’s hard to talk to someone who doesn’t talk back,

Yes, I know and have heard all of my life that God speaks in different ways. I have all heard all the explanations why He doesn’t talk back but – you know – sometimes those easy explanations just doesn’t cut it for me. It would be a whole lot better if God talked back in the way we communicate with others.

I’m sorry but I don’t believe these people who say that God told them something. God didn’t tell you who is going to be president or that an asteroid is going to hit the Earth. I can’t keep my eyes from rolling when I hear someone say that God told them something.

I went through a period in my own life when I was on a mission to actually hear from God. I did all the things that preachers and books said would work and none of those things compelled God to speak to Milton Hooper. Through that experience I came to a couple of conclusions as to why He never talked to me. I am not a super duper spiritual person or preacher and if He wanted to talk to me He would. He’s God and there is nothing I can do to make God do anything.

Even with failing in my quest to hear from God, I continue to believe.

So why doesn’t God talk back?

Billy Graham once said: “God does speak to us today, not in an audible voice, but in written words — the words of the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word, given to us so we can know Him and discover how He wants us to live. He also gave it to us so we can have hope — hope of God’s forgiveness, and hope for His presence with us, both now and forever.”

Other Theological experts say that God doesn’t speak is that we have the Bible and He has said everything that He needs to say.

Seriously?

God CAN talk to us but most of the time He doesn’t. I don’t know why. He’s God.

After years of sitting in churches with loud preaching and “moving of the Spirit” it wasn’t until I spent a week at a monastery that I learned the amazing discipline of silence. That is the closest I have ever been to hearing God. It seems that the noise of the world we live in drowns out any chance we have to hear God speak to us. Even with the discipline of silence, that still doesn’t mean God will talk back to us like you and I would to each other. The problem with anything else is that we are competing with other voices – especially our own.

This is why it would be so much easier if God would just speak. Then we would know for sure that we have heard from Him. I am very skeptical of people who say that God spoke to them. It is clear that He doesn’t make it a common practice to vocalize anything to us. That really puts us at a disadvantage in prayer. It also makes critical evidence of proving His existence to those who don’t believe. It sure would help if he spoke. I have never understood that. Wouldn’t MORE people believe if He did?

So why do I still believe in a God who does not speak?

Faith.

Faith isn’t always easy or something tangible like an audible response from a sovereign God. Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” I could probably do a lot better job in the earnestly seeking part. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee He will talk back but maybe I can more easily recognize other ways He communicates to me.

God doesn’t speak to us from a burning bush or in a conversational manner because He has given us free will. He wants us to choose to believe Him, not because He speaks from an audible voice. It doesn’t make it any easier. I still would like to hear Him. I would love to hear Him say my name.

Even if He doesn’t, I will continue to believe. One day it is certain I will hear Him.

Would Jesus Wear A Mask?

The big debate in today’s world seems to be about wearing or not wearing a mask in response to COVID-19. I am amazed how people will lose their minds over this.

It’s just a mask.

So if there were a pandemic like COVID in Jesus’ day, would he wear a mask?

During the time of Jesus, there was plenty of sickness and disease around. The most commonly feared sickness was leprosy. You can read a lot about that one in the Bible. There were also a lot of Old Testament laws regarding what to eat and what not to eat which was ultimately meant to be a way to protect people from disease. No one protested that these things were unconstitutional or violated their freedoms.

So what about Jesus? Would he had worn a mask?

There is a lot of confusion about Jesus because he was both fully man and fully God. It’s hard to know how he would he have been affected. You won’t find anywhere that he was ever sick but he did get tired (John 4:6), hungry (Mark 11:12) and thirsty (John 19:28). There aren’t any references to him being sick.

The first thing I thought about this was if he did get sick he could just heal himself. So why bother with a mask?

When the religious people (Pharisees and Herodians) questioned him about paying taxes to Rome, his response was to render to Ceasar whatever belonged to Ceasar. (Mark 12:17) He didn’t incite or encourage a riot or political debate about it. If the situation would have called for it Jesús would have worn a mask. He certainly wouldn’t have made it a politician thing or said if you wore a mask you were not one of his followers.

While Jesus was God and probably wouldn’t have NEEDED to wear a mask, he would have done it for others and promote safety for people who weren’t God.

It is sad to see such a insignificant thing has caused such a ridiculous debate in our times. Jesus would have supported public safety. While he wouldn’t have mandated anyone to wear a mask, he would have followed the laws and mandates of the government.

Wearing or not wearing a mask wouldn’t have been a spiritual thing with Jesus. You wouldn’t have been viewed as weak or living in fear if you wore a mask. He wouldn’t have questioned your faith about it. Jesus would have done whatever would have been a good example for the people to do.

Whether you choose to wear a mask or not to wear a mask, let it be. There’s no need to loose your mind about it. Jesus sure wouldn’t have.

Don’t Fall When Ministers Fall

People fail. It happens.

When a minister that you listen to falls into sin, it is disappointing. A punch in the spiritual gut. If you aren’t careful, it can shake your faith too.

A few days ago I learned that a popular minister confessed to acting inappropriately to his female employees. I was shocked. I still am. I enjoyed listening to his teaching – not so much his preaching – and I even went on a tour of Israel with him (along with 349 other people). I have to admit that the report of his fall threw me a bit.

I should know better. I have been disappointed by many ministers in my lifetime.

It’s a miracle that I have continued to be a believer at all. From having a father that was a minister who once told me his members were more important than me to my last pastor who kept looking at his watch when I needed someone to talk to. This latest disappointment reinforces my feelings about church and the ministry. I don’t foresee that I will even return to a church.

Again I have to remind myself that it is more important to follow God than to follow men. These ministers are not substitutes for a personal relationship with God. They aren’t God. They are human and humans fail. It’s just that we hold ministers at a higher level of expectations.

So what is a believer supposed to do when a minister falls? For me, I am removing this minister from my lists of podcasts and I won’t listen to their teachings in the future. It is important to keep focused and maintain my own relationship with God. I know what I am supposed to do and I need to continue to do it.

Yes, I know we are supposed to forgive and we know that God does forgive but we have to be honest that things won’t ever be the same. This minister is now on a “sabbatical” which means he will return when all of this dies down. He will ask a tearful forgiveness and continue his multi-million dollar business in ministry.

When a minister falls into sin and disappoints us, we don’t need to go down with them. What it should do is remind us to keep the faith and work on our own weaknesses. We all have something that wants to bring us down. I have been disappointed by ministers and the church way too many times to let this bring me down.

If I could tell you anything about this it would be that if you like a minister, you need to be very cautious and tie your faith into that preacher or church. It’s okay to like preachers and have your favorites but you’d better be vigilant. Put your faith in God, not man.

Fallen ministers usually trip up in one of three ways: sexual temptation, greed or pride. These things aren’t just limited to ministers but we all must be conscious of them as well but when these things trip up spiritual leaders, it really takes the wind out of us.

Don’t focus on the preacher or the church! It’s about God. Talk to Him for yourself. Just because a minister has a ministry on YouTube or Television doesn’t mean they are right. Just because they promise “blessings” if you will “sow a seed” into their ministry doesn’t mean it will happen. Don’t fall for it.

If you ever listen to someone, make sure you have your brain turned on and alert for those keys words “I believe” and “sowing a seed”. If you are not strong in your faith, you could fall for whatever version of Jesus they are selling.

Many years ago, I drove over a hundred miles a few times to attend a dynamic church in Atlanta, Georgia. The preacher had a TV ministry and it was an amazing experience. Years later it came out that he was having inappropriate relationships with women in the church and a DNA test revealed that his nephew was – in fact – his biological son. When all this came out I wondered if all of what I had seen and heard had been a lie. A show. Playing church.

If there’s one thing about this that I have seen is that if a minister is sinning in secret that God will eventually reveal it. He’s not going to put up with that crap.

Keep the faith. Don’t follow your faith in someone else.

Is Jesus Really Coming Soon?

I have heard all of my life that Jesus was coming soon. He was coming back in the 70s, 80s, 90s and every other decade. The most recent date he was supposed to return was on May 21, 2011 when a group led by the late Harold Camping made the bold prediction. This prediction was made in spite of the fact that the Bible says that no man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36).

So what does it mean when people say that Jesus is coming back?

For Christians, it means that this is a dramatic return of Jesus Christ. When Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, he told the disciples he was going to return in the same way. (Acts 1:11) At the time, most of the disciples thought that “soon” would be in their lifetime but, he we are over 2,000 years later still waiting for Jesus to return soon.

So what exactly is supposed to happen when Jesus comes back? According to most Bible prophecy experts, the next event on the prophetic calendar is what is called the rapture. This is when Jesus is supposed to return to the Earth to gather his believers in the sky. The dead believers are supposed to rise first then those who are alive at them time are to join them. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Even Christians can’t agree with the rapture or what will happen when Jesus returns. In fact, the word “rapture” isn’t even in the Bible although the description of it is there. (Matthew 24:40) There are a wide range of assumptions about how and when the rapture will happen. It will be interesting how the media will explain whatever event does happen when Jesus returns. Will it be so dramatic that there won’t be any doubt what is happening? Jesus said He would return but He didn’t say what the reaction would be here from the world.

Back to the present and we are STILL waiting for Jesus to return soon. Is Jesus coming back soon – or at all. It makes you wonder a bit sometimes. The return of Christ has been the next event on the calendar for a very long time.

I know many do not believe. This is nothing more than a fairytale to most but ultimately, everyone has to make that decision for themselves. You either believe He is coming or you don’t. There’s nothing I can say here that is going to convince you. As for me, I do still believe. I don’t know how soon “soon” will be. I think there are many times in history where the time looked pretty ripe for Jesus to return and once again it seems the stage is set for Jesus’ return. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world. Many had thought that the United States was invincible but I think we have all see how a virus could take us out even with all the military power we have.

Certainly this period of time looks ripe for Jesus to return. Sometimes it’s hard to keep waiting but there isn’t much anyone can do about it. You can rush God and his timetable. He will choose when the time will be. Soon could be today.

The “Real” You

Who are you?

No, who are you really? Who are you when no one else is watching? The “you” who doesn’t have to impress or please others. Are you truly being yourself or are you playing a role that others expect from you? Do you even know who you are?

God knows you.

Just that thought alone scares us because if there really is a God, He knows the good, the bad and the ugly about us. We don’t like knowing someone knows all of our skeletons and who we really are.

I often wonder about people who are different from their social media profile. They are one person on Facebook and totally different in real life. Sometimes we try to project ourselves as being something more than who we really are. We want people to like us and think that we are interesting or special in some way.

Why is that?

Did you know that God thinks we’re pretty special? In fact we are wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14). He also says that “the mountains and hills may crumble, but my love for you will never end” (Isaiah 54:10)

Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be enough for us. Instead, we try to play a role and be the person that others want us to be. Why do we feel the need to impress others? We do it because we want others to acceptance us or we lack the confidence in that people will like us for who we really are.

You are special in your own unique way. As for me, I know that I am quite eccentric at times and do things that are totally not what people expect but I am who I am. Some times, like many others, I get pushed to the side because I don’t always say much and not the center of attention in a group setting. You just have to get to the place of accepting yourself and feel good about the person you are.

Will the real you please stand up?

What are you afraid of?

Don’t be afraid to be who you are. What does it really matter if you lose some so-called friends over it? We are all special in our own way. We shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are. If you try to be someone you are really not to please others, you will be the one who is miserable. Don’t conform to the person people THINK you should be.

God has created you for a purpose and it isn’t to be a preacher or to be a missionary in a foreign country. Some think that God’s purpose is always something related to a ministry position in a church or religious organization. That isn’t always true for everyone. Maybe God’s purpose for you is to be the best you that you can be. Your purpose could actually be you secular work. Businesses are desperately needing good, dependable employees. It is becoming increasingly true that good help is hard to find. Just be careful to not let your work define who you are either. You are not what you do. Your job occupation doesn’t describe who you are.

People also tend to judge who you are based on your family. Some folks live off of their family name but that’s not who we are. For most of my young life people assumed that I would become a preacher simply because my father and grandfather were preachers before me. I have had to remind people that being a preacher isn’t hereditary. It’s not a family business. Sure, I would know how to be a preacher but that isn’t who I am. Don’t let people – or even your own family – dictate your life based on your family name.

Who is the person you see in the mirror? We either like the person we see or we don’t. If you don’t then what is it about yourself that you don’t like? Why can’t you look at yourself and accept who you are? You have the power to change things on your own.

One of Satan’s most effective lies is to convince you how unworthy you really are. God is holy and perfect and we are not so compared to that, we can never reach it but God doesn’t want us to compare ourselves with His perfection, He wants to simply love us. We have a hard time letting go because we don’t think we are worthy of that. We feel that somehow we have to earn it.

The end of Romans 8 is a place I always end up if I doubt about God’s love. It starts with verse 38 which says “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now that pretty much covers it.

We do not have to be bound by being the you that others will accept. IF they accept you they will accept you and if they don’t, they don’t.

Isn’t it time to be who you are?

You Ask Me How I Know He Lives?

Growing up as a child, my favorite song on Easter Sunday was the old hymn “He Lives” and it still is a good one. Easter Sunday was always my favorite day to attend church. It is still a day that is filled with hope and promise in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

Sadly, most people don’t believe that Jesus lives. It’s just another Bible story. A myth. Just another religious belief.

The further that our society is distanced from the resurrection, the more that people will drift into unbelief. Sure, it’s hard to believe in something that happened over 2,000 years ago. I know it is difficult in people to believe. Of course, the whole foundation of Christianity is based upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I have told you before that I prefer to call myself a “believer” rather than a “Christian”. That means I believe. I believe that Jesus is alive today. Do I have any scientific proof? No. I have none. So why do I believe that Jesus is alive?

So why believe in something that I have no proof about?

He lives.

That’s it for me.

If you need more, consider this….

Many eyewitnesses to the resurrection would not refute their claims even in the face of torture and death. Unlike martyrs of today who believe based upon traditions that have been passed down from generations, these eyewitnesses were first generation witnesses and they either saw Jesus alive or they didn’t. If they knew for sure it was a lie, why would they endure persecution which resulted in torture and death? Even the Apostles made a drastic change from hiding after the crucifixion to boldly going out into the world to preach about a risen Savior.

After the public trial and crucifixion of Jesus, if the Sanhedrin had wanted to put an end to the claims that Christ raised from the dead, they could have simply put his body on display.  Instead, they claimed that the disciples stole his body but if that were true, the disciples would have KNOWN that the resurrection was not true and wouldn’t have suffered persecution for something they knew was false.

The conversion of Saul to Paul was more proof of the resurrection.  Saul was hostile against Christians and supervised the beatings and killings of the followers of Christ until he had his own encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus.  This encounter totally changed his life.  He suffered for his conversion with severe persecution, beatings and – eventually – execution for his commitment to the resurrection of Christ.

If all of these “eyewitnesses” created some conspiracy, eventually someone would have confessed. It wasn’t the best choice of someone to be a first-generation Christian.  Believers suffered for their faith.  In ancient Rome, Nero brutalized Christians.  He even illuminated his garden parties with Christians whom he burnt alive. If these first-generation Christians had not been certain of the resurrection of Christ, someone would have confessed the truth under the threat of such terrible pain.

There are some who claimed that Christ faked his death.  With the beating and horrific public crucifixion, He suffered there would have been internal injuries, massive blood loss and a spear through His side from one of the Roman soldiers to verify His death.  There is no way Christ could have survived and sat in a tomb for three days without medical attention or food or water.

The fact that women were actually credited as being the first eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ would have been something that writers would have not made up since in both ancient Jewish and Roman cultures women were viewed less than men.  If believers created such a conspiracy or hoax wouldn’t they have credited the primary eyewitnesses to men to bolster their claims?  Basing an entire fake on the claims of women eyewitnesses would have been an embarrassment to them.

For me, I don’t need these supportive arguments of the resurrection or that Jesus is alive today.  I have believed it all of my life and will continue to believe it until my life here is over.  I don’t need proof.  The song “He Lives” ends appropriately with words:  “You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart.”

You either believe or not.  If you are basing your belief with your mind then you are already in the wrong place.  It is a matter of the heart.  He is our hope for eternal life.  Had He not risen from the dead then we would not have hope that one day we will rise like Him. 

You don’t have to be religious to believe in Jesus or do some weird stuff to follow Him.  You only have to believe. 

“I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  (John 11:25)

The Church of Social Distancing

Over the past month, our routines have been been changed drastically due to COVID19/Coronavirus pandemic. The term “social distancing” has become the current overused catch phrase.

Churches have also been affected by social distancing as they have stopped meeting in their church buildings and moving to having services online. I have monitored various responses and there are some who are not too happy about the pressure of churches not gathering together in person. Some have even challenged the government’s infringement upon their rights but it is really a matter of keeping people safe and healthy. The same has been true for other public events such as concerts, festivals and professional sports.

I spent a significant part of my previous life involved with a church as I was in the routine of attending Sundays and midweek services. The routine actually drove me into depression and frustration as I would leave feeling worse than I did when I arrived. I had to make a change.

As painful as this might be for some to believe, you don’t need to go to church to have a relationship with God. This crisis could really be a good thing for believers as they now have to change how they respond. It really isn’t that difficult. Here are ten tips I have experienced that could help you if you are having anxiety about not being able to go to church:

Tip #1 – It takes discipline

One thing that is the most important part in surviving without going to church is having strong self-discipline. You have to develop your own way of having church on your own. It isn’t easy but you can survive.

Tip #2 – Find Your Way of Reading/Studying the Bible

I know this sounds boring but reading and studying the Bible is important. It doesn’t have to be a dull discipline. There are many ways of doing this. Listening to the Bible is a good way and even the dramatic versions give you an exciting new way to experience the Bible. There are also many apps that can help you with studying the Bible. A good app I would recommend is one named “Got Questions” which answers hundreds of questions about God and the Bible. They feature a random question/answer every day.

Tip #3 – Build your music library

Download your favorite music and always look for new songs that will encourage you. I often like to sample new music in the iTunes Store. Always look for new songs to refresh you and renew your outlook.

Tip #4 – Maintain a consistent prayer life.

Personally, this is the most difficult thing to maintain. It isn’t that I don’t want to pray but it is always difficult to talk to someone who doesn’t talk back. It can be quite a challenge. I also don’t want it to always be a constant list of petitions. One way to maintain consistency with prayer is to change it up. Make each day a different prayer such as “Thankful Thursdays” or develop prayer themes each day that will keep your prayers fresh. The most important thing is to keep your focus in your prayer life.

Tip #5 – Be Quiet

One of the disciplines that I learned from a week I spent at a monastery was the incredible practice of being quiet. Just sitting quiet before the Lord for a few minutes is something that will change you. Of course, in a world full of noise, it can be difficult to find a place to be quiet. I recommend the mornings if you can get up a few minutes early. If sitting quietly challenges you, try setting an alarm. Dedicate yourself to spend a certain amount of time being quiet. Believe me – it isn’t as easy as you think but it does an amazing job of calming you.

Tip #6 – Subscribe to Podcasts

If you have a preacher, Bible teacher or program you enjoy, subscribe to their podcast. I have a few that I listen to daily. If you don’t like them you can always unsubscribe. My favorites are In Touch with Charles Stanley, A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, Rick Godwin and Fighting for the Faith.

Tip #7 – Look for ways to help others

You don’t have to go to church to help others. Unfortunately people tend to do it in church with a return of getting some form of recognition or credit. When you are doing church alone, you can really experience the true blessing of helping others. Look for ways to help others. Be kind to people and be approachable.

Tip #8 – Find Innovative Ways to Do Church

The key to having your own church without others is to keep things fresh. Don’t get stuck into a routine. Change things up and look for new ways to keep spiritually fit. Watch new Christian movies, go to concerts or whatever you find that will encourage you. One thing that I found that was innovative was when I was given some Virtual Reality Goggles. I am able to watch videos and even attend church feeling that I am there in person. It’s a whole new experience.

Tip #9 – Keep a Journal

Writing is a good way to keep focused. Start keeping a journal. There are no rules for doing it. You can write prayers, poetry or scriptures. A good idea to keep sharp with your Bible study is to write a Bible verse then explain how it applies to you and your life.

Tip #10 – Do something every day

Since this isn’t church you can do for two hours on Sunday, you can do this everyday. Although you may not be able to do everyone of these tips every day, you can do something. If you are experiencing life without church for the first time, this is your chance to do something new.

Don’t panic about not being able to go to church. This really isn’t a bad thing to experience. This will teach you that you can make it on your own. Believers need to be self-sufficient and not put so much emphasis on attending a church. Honestly, a lot of times the problem with church is people. There are some difficult personalities to deal with which can distract us from our relationship with God. This is a good time to take a break from those peer pressures of church and focus on what truly is important.

Not to be a prophet of doom and gloom, but there may be a time when people can’t meet in church. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to function without church now? This is a good practice for any “end times” scenario that has been prophesied to come in the future.

The church is people – not a building. If you are a believer then you ARE the church. People focus way too much on the building and group than they do on the real purpose of a church. This time of social distancing is a good time to do that.