How Jesus’ genealogy shows He is real

Des Oatridge visiting with the people before sing-sing activities begin.

Des Oatridge visiting with the people before sing-sing activities begin.

If there’s anything in the Bible that’s difficult to read it’s those passages on the “begatitudes.” Most people ask why it’s even included but a tribe of Binumariens from Papua New Guinea remind us how important it is.

Des and Jenny Oatridge were a young couple with a baby daughter and working for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Around 1960 the family arrived in Papua New Guinea and went to live in a village among people of the Binumarien tribe. It was a small tribe shrinking in numbers and who spoke an unwritten language.

After several years Des was able to produce a copy of the New Testament in the Binumarien language. However, he skipped the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew and planned to revisit it at a later time, thinking that he wasn’t leaving out anything important.

He sent off the manuscript for printing and had copies delivered to the village by truck. Unfortunately, the primitive people were more interested in the vehicles than in the New Testament. After almost ten years of laboring to get this far the disappointment was devastating. Nevertheless, Des produces an updated edition with the genealogy included.

When the chief saw the updated edition, with the genealogy included, he asked Des to come to a village meeting and to read the added passages. In a crowded, tense room full of people hanging on his every word, he reads the opening verses of Matthew. When he finished everyone sat in stunned silence.

Then someone asked, “Why didn’t you tell us this before?” For the Binumarien people, no one recorded the ancestors of spirit beings. That was something that only real people did. The people came to the realization that this Jesus the missionaries spoke of was a real person. All along they thought it was just a legend, just white man’s magic.

Just when you think that something as tedious as a genealogical is not that important God shows us that every verse of His word is placed there for good reason. Who would’ve thought that the genealogy is evidence that Jesus was real and that He came to establish His kingdom? Stories like this help us to recapture the wonder of what God is doing as His redemptive plan unfolds.

How do you really experience God?

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When our church dived into Henry Blackaby’s book Experiencing God I reacted with my usual lack of expectation that it was really worth the excitement. I thought it was a typical, off-the-shelf, Christian self-help book until I read a few reviews. I then discovered a much bigger problem.

Blackaby’s book undermines the authority of Scripture only to replace it with subjective measures of the work of God, mainly our perceptions and feelings. He does a lot of harm to Christians by leading them to expect God to provide a special revelation, or assignment, just for them. It’s bad enough that many Christians have an unbiblical worldview (most according to many surveys). We need the kind of clarity that can only come from the Bible which is the word of God.

I thought it was a typical, off-the-shelf, Christian self-help book until I read a few reviews. I then discovered a much bigger problem.

I have heard people talk about the will of God in a mystical fashion my whole life. They told me to seek after it and ask God for it. I was supposed to follow the Holy Spirit’s “leading.” Of course, nothing ever happened and I wondered about what it took to gain this knowledge. And with each decision point I would reach where I hoped God would show me the way I was disappointed and increasingly frustrated.

The problem is that this is an unbiblical way of living the Christian life. I don’t know where it came from but it certainly didn’t come from Jesus. If we want to know the will of God then we must know the word of God. A healthy spiritual life is one where the believer is growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not passing from one emotionally stimulating experience to another.

Blackaby wants you to hear God’s “voice” and that includes the scriptures but is not limited to them:

“God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. He uses the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church (other believers). No one of these methods of God’s speaking is, by itself, a clear indicator of God’s directions. But when God says the same thing through each of these ways, you can have confidence to proceed.”

What?! The Bible, by itself, is not a clear indicator of God’s directions? Has Blackaby not read what Paul wrote to Timothy?

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Not only is the Bible a clear indicator but it is the ONLY clear indicator of God’s “directions.” Your goal is not to develop a spiritual 6th sense that will indicate when God is “leading.” Everything we need to know in order to live a Godly life is found in the scriptures. Whatever help we get from others only supplements what is in the word of God. It is never a substitute for the revelation of the Bible.

Lest you think that I’m just being a negative it’s important for me to say that we are so blessed to have the Bible as our guide. Peter himself said as much:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  

And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts…

Peter had an actual mountaintop experience. He saw things that you and I should never expect to see in our lifetimes. And yet, years later, he would go so far as to say that the word of God was far more valuable than any of those miracles he witnessed. It is so important that we understand this because of our temptation to think that if we see a sign then our faith will be solid.

The Bible is explicit, specific, and true. Spiritual maturity comes through time spent in the scriptures. Taking Blackaby’s approach means forever attributing your gut feelings to the Holy Spirit. You can see the fruit of that approach in your churches and among your family and friends.

If God did not reveal Himself to us through His word we would know nothing about Him. Hold fast to the word. It is the only firm foundation.

How firm a foundation you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Why do we doubt God’s promises?

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The story is a familiar one. A man who’s been struggling with sin surrenders his life to Christ. His life has been transformed and now everything is different.

But it’s not long before his sin is back and tugging at his elbow. He finds out that it’s not in the past where he thought he left it. He’s always taking one step forward and two steps back.

He wonders if God was enough, if his conversion was real, if there’s any hope of deliverance in the future. Why can’t he shake it?

You’ve heard a story like that. Maybe it even describes your life. This is the story of Israel’s history and it’s why Exodus 14 is relevant to us.

God delivered them in an amazing way but they fall apart when they see Pharaoh’s army approaching. They’re certain that God has left them to be killed by their former masters. They doubt this whole business of deliverance and pine for the days of slavery.

I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christian. It doesn’t take much to make you doubt that God is going to deliver you this time. We may say “Amen” and “Hallelujah” during the sermon but when we’re tested we often act as if we don’t really believe of any of that stuff we heard.

Some of us may even welcome the temptation. Sometimes we see Pharaoh coming and we’re not sure we don’t want him to catch us. Sometimes we seek comfort in our old, sinful ways because it’s familiar, even if it doesn’t make us feel any better.

What do you do when the doubts arise?

The most important thing to remember is that God sent Israel into that situation on purpose. God had a plan to redeem them and a bigger plan to redeem His creation. But that plan includes dangerous, painful, and stressful challenges.

God’s plan sends us into difficult situations but He also makes provisions for our deliverance. We don’t earn or win that deliverance through our own merit. God’s grace is necessary and sufficient. We can draw hope and confidence from knowing that we will be victorious because, ultimately, He is victorious.

Moses gave the people three easy steps to follow: don’t be afraid, watch, and shut up. Fear is of the devil, not God. Watch, because you’re not going to handle it yourself. Shut up is just good general advice and can solve many of your problems.

God is leading you in the bad times as much as in the good times. It’s good to know that we’re not the first ones to experience fear. Eventually we have to decide to believe God (not just believe in Him) and fight the good fight.

The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

What Does Symmetry Reveal About God?

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In Ezekiel 40 God casts the prophet into a trance and shows him a vision of a new temple with its courts buildings. You can see the symmetry from diagrams of the floor plan. Knowing that every verse of the Bible is there for a reason we have to ask ourselves what this means. What does it say about God? Why did He make it symmetrical?

The unity and diversity in symmetry struck me. It was right there in front of me and I never realized it. The reason why I think this is so important is because it gets to the essence of who, and what, God is.

Philosophers have tried to find the right balance between unity and diversity for thousands of years. They tried to reduce the world down to one essence from which everything emanates but they could only get to four: earth, air, fire, water. What was the fifth essence that unified these? What was the quintessential essence?

University is a combination of the words unity and diversity. There are a diversity of disciplines, sciences, but what is the one truth that permeates them all. This is probably a foreign concept for most college students who simply pick classes like they order off the menu at a restaurant.

The unofficial motto of the U.S., e. pluribus unum, is Latin for “out of many, one.” Unity in diversity.

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We see unity and diversity everywhere in creation but only in the biblical worldview do we see unity and diversity in the creator. We see in the godhead unity and diversity within the community of the trinity. We worship a triune God, one in essence and three in person.

When I think about the symmetry of the temple that Ezekiel saw I now think of how it reflects God’s unity and diversity. When I think of the three sides of the temple I think of the three divine persons. I also see that God brings order out of chaos.

Now we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God brings His holiness into us. He has brought peace and order to our chaos. Wherever we go we dwell in the holy sanctuary of the Most High.

The Dead Don’t Praise God

Psalm 88 is a psalm of suffering. It depicts the suffering of the people of Israel in exile. Christians can see the suffering of Christ depicted in it. Its language is universal and its applications are limitless which makes its relevance timeless.

I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, 

Forsaken among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, And they are cut off from Your hand.

You have put me in the lowest pit, In dark places, in the depths…

You have removed my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an object of loathing to them; I am shut up and cannot go out.

My eye has wasted away because of affliction; I have called upon You every day, O LordI have spread out my hands to You.

Will You perform wonders for the dead? Will the departed spirits rise and praise You? Selah.

The psalmist is in a dilemma because the same God who is faithful, just, righteous, merciful, generous, and mighty to save leads him through trials that cause him to despair even of his life (remember Paul and his despair?). But he makes an important point about the dead that we see in other scriptures too including Ps. 6:5; 30:9; Is. 50:10; Hab. 3:17,18.

Dead men are silent and they can’t praise God. He appeals to God for the sake of His own glory if for no other reason. The psalmist’s picture of death is a gloomy one indeed.

As Christians we need to complete the picture by adding a gospel perspective. This Christian view of death is found in 2 Ti. 1:10; Heb. 2:14; 1 Cor. 15: 17,18, 51-57. It is one full of light and hope.

As Jesus said in Matthew 22, the Lord is the God of the living, not the dead. We who were dead are now alive in Christ. The psalmist’s problem goes away because there will always be people alive to praise God and give Him the glory and honor that is due Him.

Spiritual Side-Effects Of “Alternative Medicine”

Yoga Christian

Some Christians, if they knew more about the religious connections of alternative medicine, wouldn’t want to participate. Some people I interviewed started off as enthusiasts for different alternative medicines. But once they found out about the religious dimensions, they didn’t want anything to do with it.

Alternative medical treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic are not just popular in the broader society but also in the church. What many Christians don’t know is that these practices are rooted in religious worldviews that are not biblical by any means.

I know how touchy this subject is because I’ve had many Christian friends who have used these treatments. I don’t have to be obnoxious about it but there is no alternative to getting informed and informing others because it’s a threat to your spiritual well-being.

Candy Gunther Brown is a professor of religion at Indiana University and has written about this in her recent book “The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America.” 

The most interesting thing she says, in my view, is that Christians who adopt these religious practices end up adopting the underlying ideas. It’s horrifying to think of what is happening to Christians in churches that provide yoga classes.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

What Being A Christian Really Means

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When you think of legalism you think of right-wing fundamentals imposing a demanding set of rules to follow. Today we have to deal with a different kind of legalism, one that has the face of “love” but still devoid of Christ.

I normally don’t pay much attention to articles like this one by Cherise Luter but a few things jumped out at me.

It’s frustrating to hear when someone rejects the gospel because no one could answer their questions. It’s even more annoying when they think they’re too smart for God or the church.

Then I read this:

At 25, I was still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (one of the levees broke a block from my apartment) and adapting to my new home in Houston. I was angry and in a lot of pain. I did everything right. I followed all the rules, I’d think bitterly.

My whole life, I had hung around the right people, stayed away from the wrong people, went to church every weekend, and even sang in the choir. I thought my religion would be my saving grace, but instead, I suddenly found that I had no real relationship with the God I’d claimed to serve. I had to make a change. I had to get real with God.

So I threw all of my questions at God. And God had a comeback for each of them: Just love.

This part of the article got my attention because she raised the same questions as Job, though I’m not sure she realized it.

Why do bad things happen to “good” people?

Job’s “friends” came to him and said that he must have done something wrong to cause his children to die. Job defended his integrity, though, almost to the point of prideful arrogance. How could this be his fault when he was above reproach?

After they went around in a few circles for a few dozen chapters God enters the dialogue and asks Job 66 questions, back to back.

When Job poses his questions to God, similar to Cherise’s, God doesn’t answer him with,”simply love.”

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

Job 38:2,3

God is certainly righteous but He is not stumped by Job’s questions. He has to remind Job that there’s lots that he doesn’t understand but takes on faith. Job can’t possibly comprehend the big picture.

The one thing he can be certain of is that God is sovereign and in control. That’s not a faith based on knowing nothing. It’s about knowing the most important thing. We read in Proverbs that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

job wife

Cherise sadly ends the article by arriving at a Christ-less Christianity, one in which the gospel is missing. Where is Jesus? What mention is there of His sacrifice to atone for our sins? How about the imputation of His righteousness to us?

It also bugs me that Cherise is certain she can love people the way God desires. The kind of love that God wants us to show each other is challenging and unappealing to our nature. It’s something that we can only do with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I fear that Cherise has substituted one form of legalism with another. All she has done is to lower the bar so that she knows she will come out ahead. That’s just a rigged horse race. My hope and prayer is that she encounters the only gospel there is and puts her trust in Jesus as her savior and redeemer.

It is only by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus that we can approach the heavenly throne. As the hymn says,”Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.”

Your Job Is Not Your Calling

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He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.

Lamentations 3:2

I’ve learned a lot about the meaning of God’s calling in my life last year. That time was the most difficult in my short life. i spent most of 2013 looking for a job and a sense of direction.

Being unemployed with no prospects is a horrible feeling. Every day a door was slammed shut in my face and the failure became unbearable. The only way to avoid it was to not try at all, which didn’t help much.

Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.

Lamentations 3:3

Thinking about the future filled me with despair. My life seemed to unravel the more nothing happened. I believe God was crushing every aspiration. It was as if every desire was on a board and God was erasing them one at a time right in front of me.

In our occupation-centric society we define ourselves by our jobs. It’s usually the first or second question we ask someone we’re getting to know. I felt the pressure to graduate college and find a lucrative job from myself and others.

I asked myself: what meaning is there in life if I could achieve nothing I desired? I began to realize that the only way life can be meaningful is if I am walking in the will of God.

Even though my life was a complete failure God would redeem it. Success is now defined by what He accomplishes in and through me. Only in this way will I understand that He must get the glory.

Success is now defined by what He accomplishes in and through me.

At that point I decided that God had to be in complete control of my life. If I needed it then He would have to provide it. If I don’t get it then it’s because He doesn’t want me to have it. God is good.

I had a new perspective on life but everything didn’t change right away. God kept me waiting and kept pushing me farther out on that limb. Months passed but He provided a job but the transformation already happened.

I learned that God did not call me to be successful. He didn’t even call me to a particular job. My calling is to follow Jesus, to believe on the one whom the Father sent. I didn’t need to find my calling. I needed to do it.

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began

2 Timothy 1:9

Did it matter that Jesus was a carpenter or that Paul was a tent-maker, as opposed to fishing or herding sheep or building boats? While we are called to work hard and be productive the Lord’s main concern is not my job.

Paul made tents to support himself even though his calling was to preach the gospel. His job was incidental to his calling, or his ministry, not central. I had that backwards for a long time.

But then how do I decide whom to marry, which job to take, where to worship, or in which city to live? I’d say that it’s not up to us to fulfill God’s plans. If it were we would be in big trouble.

If I’m trying to find out God’s purpose for me then I’m trying to take back control. Books that teach me how to know God’s calling for me are talismans I use to get what I want. Doesn’t that sound like paganism?

However, if He is going to accomplish anything in my life then it’s up to Him to make it happen. I am totally dependent on Him and incapable of accomplishing anything apart from Him.

This is a huge weight off of my shoulders because I don’t have to worry about anything. I can trust in the power of God. It isn’t up to me to make my life meaningful or happy or successful. The Lord will ensure that. I just have to wait on Him.