Doom, and How God Frustrates It

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Elijah didn’t die but ascended to God in a flaming chariot. Most of us know the story. Elijah was certainly a man of God.

Elijah was also something of a depressed prophet. He was always complaining about apparent circumstances, what he believed to be true about his situation. No matter the case, though, God never abandoned Elijah—far from it—and yet Elijah kept up the doom-saying.

One of Elijah’s “personal doom scripts” that kept running through his head was that the bad guys had killed all the other prophets and he alone was left. You read the life of Elijah in 1 Kings, and he repeated that script a lot.

God finally had enough of it:

[Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
—1 Kings 19:14-18 ESV

And Elijah never again beefed about being the last one left.

God had His 7,000. God even had a successor to Elijah lined up. Despite Elijah’s office as prophet, he seemed blind to those possibilities. All he could focus on was the doom.

God has his 7,000 at all times. In your life and in mine, God has a form of that 7,000 on-hand and ready to supply.

Even if you don’t see it, that reserve exists. God had fed Elijah by ravens, but the prophet, so stuck in his doom, was unable to understand that provision or believe that God might have preserved other faithful followers to stand with him. All Elijah could see was his personal circumstance. God had to enlarge his vision.

Funny thing is, the prophet who followed in Elijah’s footsteps inherited nothing of his mentor’s doom and shortsightedness. A classic instance of how Elisha did better than his predecessor is found in 2 Kings 6. The king of Syria was frustrated because someone seemed to be telling all his plans to the king of Israel. Eventually, a servant told the Syrian king that Elisha was receiving this info supernaturally. The enraged king decided to put an end to that:

Elisha protected by GodSo he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” [Elisha] said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.
—2 Kings 6:14-18 ESV

Elisha understood that even in the midst of apparent doom, the apparency was an illusion. Something greater from God was present, and all it took was a greater vision of what God was doing. Elisha knew and could see what Elijah failed to: God frustrates doom.

Doom will never win because God is greater. Today, make that your personal script.

How Christians Can Demolish Atheism with a Word

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I’ve been listening to Unbelievable, a British podcast that pits Christians and atheists against each other on popular topics. Often, the battle is purely head-to-head, with no other topic than why atheism or why Christianity is true or not.

Here in the States, we had a slow news cycle leading up to the Olympics, so the Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate took on a life of its own, with even the secular press touting the “event.”

Urg.

I say this because all this logic and carefully worded argumentation misses the point. While I can see atheists not understanding how the point is lost, that Christians can’t see beyond is most troubling and says much about the state of the Church in the West.

What Christians forget is what places the Christian Church above all other religious groups and systems, including atheism. Christians believe God put His Spirit into each believer, which both empowers and grants the ability to experience true relationship with God through Jesus.

No Spirit, no Church. End of story.

And yet Christians almost never go to the Spirit when confronting atheism.

Paul preaching at the Areopagus (Mars Hill)All the reasoned logic in the world is unlikely to sway modern skeptics. We can appeal to Paul’s example at the Areopagus, but what was new to the ears of the Stoics and Epicureans in Paul’s day has had nearly 2,000 years to accumulate rebuttals. Reason alone cannot be our primary weapon.

While the Bible is God’s special revelation to mankind and contains what we need to know to have faith and to live the Christian life, many do not acknowledge it as such. To any who saw the Ham and Nye debate, Ham’s repeated returns to Scripture fell on Nye’s deaf ears. This is NOT to say the Bible as God’s Word is inadequate in some way, only that many have inoculated themselves against it when it is used alone.

But there is a word that can stop an atheist argument in its tracks. Why Christians today don’t use it is one of the great losses of our generation.

That word? The word of knowledge.

Yes, the charismatic gift.

A Christian and an atheist arguing presuppositions about the origin of matter can dispense with all the bilateral systematic dismantling if the Christian would simply say, “Your mother told you when you were 13 that she wished she had never conceived you , and you struggle daily to recover from rejection, don’t you?” Or how about “God revealed to me that you’ve been cheating on your spouse for the last two years”?

Any Christian out there wonder if that would change the direction of the debate?

If we’re talking whether God exists or not, connecting with the supernatural is the natural course of argument. A spoken word of knowledge immediately dismantles all opposition. Immediately. People who claim God does not exist must now explain that word of knowledge. Let them try. They won’t succeed. NOW who is on the defensive?

See, God intended us to be more than a Word Church. He intended us to be a Word + Power Church.

In the sidebar of this blog is an ad for Gospel for Asia. When you read the testimonies of the missionaries involved in that organization, nearly all came from non-Christian homes, and nearly all had some power encounter because of a missionary coming into their homes and bringing a miracle of some kind. Supernatural healing, deliverance, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, whatever—the Word was accompanied by a Spirit-filled believer operating in supernatural Power. The result was faith.

You see, the arguments against the Lord went dead in the face of God working through His people in power.

Is it any wonder why atheism has revived in the age of a Western Church that more likely than not DENIES the operation of the charismata? And is it any wonder that the Church is moving forward in leaps and bounds in those places where Christians place no such restrictions on the Spirit moving through charismatic gifts?

American Church, are you listening?

Get the gifts moving again and see the arguments against God crumble. Because they will.

And one more thing…

We always like to say that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. Why then do we Christians never press the relationship reality when we debate atheists? Why is it always a battle of logic? If knowing Christ is eternal life and relationship with Him is the cornerstone of our Faith, why do Christians never bring up this living relationship with Christ when talking with atheists? Ravi Zacharias is about the only apologist I ever hear who gets to the heart of relationship with Christ when discussing the uniqueness of Christianity and its superiority. More of us need to talk about our vital relationship with Christ with our atheist friends.

For too long the discussion has been from our heads. It’s time to take it back to relationship with Christ and to Word + Power. Because that’s what makes Christianity the only true answer.

The State of the Miraculous in a World of Unbelief

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One of the hallmarks of the final days, as noted by Scripture, is a horrifying level of unbelief.

Jesus said it Himself:

“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
—Luke 18:8b ESV

The end of all things depicted in the Book of Revelation shows that even when all of the earth is afflicted by the outcomes of supernatural wrath, mankind refuses to believe:

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
—Revelation 9:20-21 ESV

There are some today who want to cast aspersions on the Kingdom of God and its many miraculous components, and they want to question how the Holy Spirit works in believers. Oddly, many doing so call themselves Christians. Though they claim to abide by the authority of Scripture and not by personal experience, they regularly challenge the miraculous in the Bible’s pages by asking where all the miracles are today. And they ask why those Christians who still believe in the miracles that are the hallmark of the Kingdom can’t always manufacture those miracles when such is demanded.

These naysayers like to point fingers at the ones who still have faith that supernatural works can occur through the ministrations of simple believers filled with God’s Holy Spirit. When a miracle does not happen, the naysayers often mock those who still believe in the miraculous.

But what the naysayers never take into account is the power of unbelief within a community. They do not ask how it is possible for the Revelation passage above to be true, that despite all the unrepentant have seen and experienced, the recipients of unprecedented levels of supernatural wrath remain in the grips of the powerful delusion that is unbelief.

We turn to the authority of Scripture to explain what happens when an entire community is gripped by unbelief:

[Jesus] went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. —Mark 6:1-5 ESV

Jesus, the Son of Man, who was filled in all His being by the Holy Spirit, who was the sinless Messiah and Alpha and Omega, could do no mighty work in a community filled with unbelief.

When we consider the times we live in and the supposed paucity of miracles we see, do we ever ask if the reason for the lack of the miraculous is because the community around us is mired in unbelief?

Do we ask ourselves what a community of genuine belief can do when all unbelief has been thrown off?Christ and the Community

Do we ever think that the miracle denied the faithful person is because everyone around that faithful person does not believe?

Or do we blame the faithful person?

Or worse, do we blame God?

The question of the miraculous today never takes into account the crippling power of unbelief, especially when multiplied throughout a community. And those who would question the miraculous never ask if their unbelief and the unbelief of those they gather around them is what stands in the way of miracles.