May 24, 2023
Are you a Christian who sometimes experiences doubts about your faith? If so, you’re not alone. A recent study found 40% of “practicing Christians” say they at least “sometimes” doubt their religious beliefs.  The truth is, doubt is pretty common these days. But this is not anything new. It seems like doubt was also pretty common back when Jesus walked the earth. On several occasions the gospels mention people who were struggling with their faith in Jesus (Matthew 28:17, Mark 9:22-24, John 20:24-29).
Probably the most surprising occasion of doubt recorded in the Bible is found in Matthew chapter 11 (as well as Luke chapter 7). It tells of a shocking question asked by none other than John the Baptist.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples
and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
How could John, of all people, possibly still wonder if Jesus was the coming Messiah? By this point in his life he had already boldly proclaimed so much about Him. He had called Him, “The Lamb of God who takes way the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He had said He was “The son of God” (John 1:34). He had referred to Him as the Christ (which means Messiah)(John 3:28-30). He had said that people must believe in him to have eternal life and not experience the wrath of God (John 3:36). Yet somehow, despite all this, John found himself questioning whether Jesus really was who he believed He was.
Perhaps you can relate to John in some ways. Maybe you’ve long been a believer but still wrestle with lingering doubts. Maybe your faith has been infiltrated by unanswered questions. Maybe you sometimes wonder if Jesus really is who He said He is.
So what can this story teach us about doubt and how to respond to it? Here are five things that I think you should remember the next time you’re struggling in this area.
True believers sometimes experience doubt.
While John seemed to be experiencing some doubt and confusion in this passage, in no way was he rejecting his beliefs. Doubt does not equal denial. In fact, I’ve heard it said that every single example of doubting in the New Testament was by someone who was a believer. The fact that we sometimes have doubts is far less important than the fact of what we do with those doubts.
Life’s hardships and unmet expectations can lead to doubt.
While the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us what led to John’s struggle with doubt, it does leave us some clues. Perhaps the most obvious one is that John, at that time, was stuck in prison (Matthew 11:2). John the Baptist was special. He was called to be the prophet of the Most High and to prepare the way for the Lord (Luke 1:76). But now, there he was, trapped in prison, unable to even ask Jesus a question in person. Surely he knew that Messiah was going to be setting prisoners free (Isaiah 61:1), so his current status probably left him somewhat confused. Similarly, John was perhaps struggling with unmet expectations. Much of his message centered around coming judgment. So he likely was wondering why it hadn’t happened yet. Why hadn’t Jesus been using His power and authority to judge the ungodly? Wasn’t He the one they’ve been waiting for?
We should take our questions and doubts to the best source in order to find answers.
Rather than just sitting in prison and allowing his doubt and confusion to eat away at him, John, through his disciples, took his questions to Jesus. He didn’t rely on his own assumptions or other people’s opinions. Instead, he sought evidence from the best source available - Jesus Himself. Sometimes, in trying to deal with our own doubts, we lean far too much on our own understanding. Instead, we need to remember that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.
Jesus shows us evidence to speak truth to our doubts.
Jesus was performing many miracles around the time that John’s disciples came to Him (Luke 7:21). So he told them: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:4-6). Jesus wanted John to know the work He was doing and the prophecy He was fulfilling. In doing this, He was showing clear evidence of who He truly was. Similarly, God has shown us clear evidence of who He is in the Scripture. He hasn’t left us to try to figure out everything on our own. Through His word, through the help of His Spirit, we can find truth that speaks louder than our doubts.
Jesus was merciful toward those who struggled with doubt.
Jesus did not respond in anger towards John’s question. He did not go on a rant about how he should know better. He was merciful towards him, and responded in a way that was helpful and kind. Even if you personally don’t struggle with doubts, you should remember to follow the example of Jesus towards those who do. “Have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 22).
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 Source: https://www.barna.com/research/doubt-faith/
Not What I Used To Be
March 29, 2023
How well does this describe you?
I am not what I ought to be,
I am not what I want to be,
I am not what I hope to be,
But still, I am not what I used to be.
And by the grace of God,
I am what I am.
This short statement has been a recurring theme of our Adult Sunday School class in recent months. For Christians, it is an important reminder both of who we once were and of who God has now made us. It is based out of Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 15:10, where he says:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary,
I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
Even when our efforts to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called” (Ephesians 4:1) come up woefully short, we can still be thankful by remembering God’s amazing grace toward us, both to save us and to sustain us.
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Miracle Makeover for Your Vision
February 15, 2023
Recently, I received an advertisement in the mail for a product that promises to support better, sharper,
and clearer vision. Having experienced some small vision problems, this ad was attractive to me. While I
cannot speak to the veracity of this product, I can say that it caused me to reflect on how we view things from
different perspectives. When we are young, we may have great eyesight, but our limited experiences may diminish
our vision in terms of how we see and understand things around us. As we grow older and gain more insight,
our perspective or world view changes, hopefully for the better, but that depends on what or who influences us.
Many of us grew up without giving much thought as to how the culture we live in gives shape to our thoughts
and actions. We are now living in a culture where there are so many different ideas, choices, and opinions. We need clear instructions and directions on just how to navigate our way through what is true and what is false. How do you see things around you that affect your everyday living? More importantly, how do you see yourself and the world you live in? Nearly everyone will agree that the world in which we live is in a state of change and most of it is concerning. Do you see your life and decision-making contributing for the good or to the darkness that is rapidly approaching?
God, the Creator of all things, the heavens and the earth, and everything that's in it, gives the answers in His Word, the Bible. It is the Book of Life and God's love letter to his creation. More than that, if you put your trust in Him, He will give you the ability to see and understand what He is saying. He replaces what you thought you saw and understood, with His Truth.
"Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?"
Oftentimes, what we think we see and know is deceiving. This is because we see things only from a natural perspective and are spiritually blind. God loves you and has a plan and a purpose for each of us, but we can only see it if we are "born again" (John 3:3). Being "born again" means that we have responded to God's offer of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ and have invited Him into our lives as our leader and Lord. And when He comes in, his Holy Spirit fills us and changes us. Our vision and our world view are no longer just natural. God speaks to us by His Spirit and through His Word which is also spirit (John 6:63).
"But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him:
neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
1 Corinthians 2:14
The Bible tells us that we should not fix our eyes on the things that are seen, but on the things which are not seen, because the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). Jesus said,
"I am the Light of the world, He that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
If you feel like you are out of touch with things going on around you, and truly can't see clearly, or if you are experiencing anxiety, fears, feelings of hopelessness and are in need of a miracle makeover for your vision, then you should consider committing your life to the only one who can correct your vision: The Lord Jesus Christ! He has a free gift for you, and it is eternal.
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What Does It Mean to Be Human?
January 16, 2023
All humans are part of a very large family. Currently, there are about eight billion members on earth. According to the Bible, we all have some common ancestors. Even though we humans have some minor differences, we are all essentially the same. We are God’s special creation. In the first chapter of the Bible we read this:
“Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have
dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock
and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'”
The triune God made humans in “our image”. This, in Latin, is referred to as imago Dei, interpreted as the image of God. The Bible teaches that God is “Spirit” and that He is “invisible”, so what could it mean to be made in His image?
Genesis 1:26 also says that humans have “dominion” over animals. Humans and animals have some similarities. Both, after all, have the same Creator. But, no where in the Bible does it say that animals were created in the image of God. Humans have intellect. Animals don’t design and build rockets or skyscrapers. Humans are moral agents. Animals behave like, well, animals. Humans are able to communicate with God in prayer and receive God’s instruction by reading/hearing His Word. And in His Word it is clear that all humans sin (Romans 3:23) and face the consequences (Romans 6:23).
We, as humans, can decide if we want to accept God’s free gift of salvation from condemnation. This gift is exclusively offered to us. We receive it by putting our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Humans have eternal souls. When we die, it is not over. We need to prepare.
“And just as it is appointed for man (people) to die once, and after that comes judgment,
so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time,
not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
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Christ the Savior is Born
December 19, 2022
Whether it’s at a church service, or at a big family gathering, or maybe just at your home while you’re watching Charlie Brown on TV, there’s a good chance at some point this Christmas season you’ll hear these words:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Many of us (especially those who grew up in church) have heard this verse so many times that we could probably quote it from memory. And while familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed contempt, it does sometimes have the tendency to breed apathy. If you’re anything like me, you can hear a familiar verse like this and not even give it a second thought. However, when I actually do take the time to stop and think about it, I can see that there are several different words in this short verse that could be dissected and talked about at great length. For now though, please take a moment to briefly consider just one of them: Savior.
The word savior is pretty familiar to most christians. We see it throughout the Bible, we hear it in worship songs, and we listen to our pastors’ use it in their sermons. It does not take an advanced theological degree to know that for christians, Jesus is our savior. The question is, when we call Jesus our savior do we actually believe what we are saying?
Think about it - what is a savior? One definition I read said it’s “a person who saves, rescues, or delivers.” Another said it’s “one who saves from danger or destruction.” So by these definitions, if Jesus is our Savior, that means that He saves, rescues, or delivers us from danger or destruction. Do you truly believe He has done this for you? Do you believe that without Him your life would be doomed for danger and destruction?
The truth is, most of us would like to think of ourselves as being pretty independent people. We like the idea of self-reliance, we like not having to ask for help. But if we truly believe Jesus is our Savior we have to let go of these delusions. We have to acknowledge that we can’t pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We have to admit that without His saving we would be doomed for destruction. He will not be our Savior if we do not admit our need to be saved.
Some may say, “Yes, I acknowledge that I need God’s help.” But admitting you need His help is not the same as admitting you need His saving. One of the primary themes that we see throughout the entire Bible is that all human beings have a sin problem. Every one of us are sinners. None of us are righteous. Jesus said it like this, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). If someone is slave to something they don’t just need help, they need to be delivered. They need to be saved. Jesus was not born just to help us out and give us some good life advice - Jesus was born to save. Are you truly depending on Him to be saved?
“She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
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November 18, 2022
If you’ve ever sat in church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving there’s a good chance you’ve heard a preacher say something like this: “We shouldn’t just be giving thanks around Thanksgiving time, we should be thanking God all throughout the year.” Does that sound familiar to you?
The truth is, for believers, this is not a controversial statement. Just about all of us would agree giving thanks to God should be a consistent part of our daily lives. However, if we’re being completely honest about it, just about all of us would also have admit we still have plenty of room to grow in this area. It’s not that we never thank God - many of us probably thank Him for things every day. But can any of us honestly say we measure up to the Biblical standard of thanksgiving?
“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“… giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ …”
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
(Bold print added for emphasis)
Do you give thanks in all circumstances? Are you thanking God always and for everything? Would the people who know you best describe you as someone who is abounding in thanksgiving?
These verses (along with many others, especially throughout the book of Psalms) show us that the Bible takes thanksgiving seriously. However, it’s also important to note that the Bible takes the lack of thankfulness seriously. In both Romans and II Timothy we see that unthankfulness is a characteristic of unrighteous people who are opposed to God (Romans 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:2). So we should never act as if this is a small matter to God.
I’ll admit, I’ve had the tendency to think of myself as a relatively thankful person. However, (like so many other spiritual disciplines) the more I study about thankfulness and thanksgiving in Scripture, the more obvious it becomes to me just how far I fall short. And I don’t think I’m alone in this area. As believers, we need to grow from being people who are sometimes thankful for some of the things in our lives to people who are truly characterized by thanksgiving.
How do we do this? Let me share three ideas I believe will help us move more in that direction.
First, we need to know what the Bible says about giving thanks to God. And as we learn what it says, we should compare it to what we see in our own lives. We need to be honest in doing this. If we struggle with thanksgiving, let’s not pretend as if we don’t. You’re not going to convince God that you are something that you are not, and you’re unlikely to grow in an area where you deny your need for growth. So when you see a lack of thankfulness in your life, confess it to Him, experience His forgiveness, and ask Him for help in this area.
Second, we need to frequently remind ourselves to give thanks to God. Those preachers are right - many of us don’t focus much on giving thanks outside of the month of November - so we need to actively take steps to change this. Committing to thankful prayer at set times of the day, memorizing passages from Psalms, placing reminders around your home and in your vehicle, and starting a thankfulness journal are just a few ideas that could help remind you to give thanks.
Finally, we need to continually reset our focus on the right things. Colossians 3:1-2 says this:
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."
Many of us are so caught up with all the issues of our day to day lives and all the brokenness of the world around us that we lose sight of the bigger picture. We get bogged down by the “things of this world” rather than thinking about what is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and commendable and excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Instead, we need to continually preach the gospel to ourselves and remember that we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). If this is our focus, then giving thanks to God will be the natural result.
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