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Dry bones

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.

And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O LORD GOD, you know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the LORD GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.  (Ezekiel 37:1-8)

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Predestination and prayer

Those of us who are saved were chosen for salvation before the world was even created.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Since God has already decided who will be saved and who won’t there is no point in praying for the salvation of another person.  If he has been predestined for salvation he will be saved; if he hasn’t been predestined he won’t be.  Our prayers will have no effect.  This seems like an unanswerable argument against praying that someone be saved.  But Paul, the author of the above quote, wasn’t persuaded by it.  He prayed for the salvation of his fellow Israelites. Read the rest of this entry

Will you be rich or poor in Heaven?

Some people are rich and others are poor.  That has always been true and always will be.  Jesus himself said, “You always have the poor with you.”  I wonder how many realize that even in Heaven there will be rich and poor.

Salvation is a free gift from God, not something we can earn by anything we do.  But the goal of salvation isn’t just to get into Heaven.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

We are not saved by works but we are saved to do good works.  Our salvation itself is a free gift but our works after salvation will be judged and rewarded. Read the rest of this entry

Good Muslim, bad Muslim

When police interrogate a suspect they sometimes use a technique called “good cop,bad cop.”  The “bad” cop questions the suspect harshly and accused him of being guilty and refusing to cooperate.  Then the “good” cop takes his turn with the suspect, showing him sympathy and sometimes even agreeing with him that the bad cop is unfair.  This creates a bond of sympathy between the suspect and the good cop and can even lead to the suspect giving him the information he is after. Read the rest of this entry

Evangelizing atheists

I have spent a lot of time on internet forums debating atheists and trying to convince them that God exists and the Bible is true.  I usually tried to show them that the existence of God is the only logical explanation for the existence of the universe and I pointed out scientific evidence that shows that the theory of evolution can’t be true.  However I have come to believe that I was going about this in the wrong way.  This conclusion is based on hearing two former atheists tell how they became Christians.

The first is someone I know personally.  He had a long conversation with a pastor which ended with the pastor explaining to him how to be saved.   He said he was an atheist and didn’t believe in God, and that ended the conversation.

Over the next few days thoughts about God kept entering his mind and he came to the conclusion that there really was a God.  Since the pastor had told him how to become a Christian he knew what he needed to do and so was saved. Read the rest of this entry

Come down from the cross

When Jesus was being crucified some of the spectators challenged him to prove he was the Son of God by coming down from the cross.

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”
Matthew 27:39-42

If he had chosen to do so he could have come down from the cross.  He had earlier stated that if he asked, God would send twelve legions of angels to help him.

And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
Matthew 26:51-54

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Are you a Satanist?

Are you a Satanist?  The answer most people would give to this question is “No!”  The popular conception of a Satanist is someone who meets at midnight with other Satanists to perform Black Masses and other Satanic rituals.  There are probably some Satanists like this but the vast majority of Satanists are unaware of the fact that they are serving Satan and many of them even believe they are serving God.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul describes the condition of Christians before we were saved.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:1-3

Before our salvation we were dead in our sins and followed Satan, the prince of the power of the air.  God and Satan are moral opposites so there are different requirements for worshiping them. Read the rest of this entry

Acceptable offerings

Under the Law of Moses the Israelites were required to worship God by offering animal sacrifices.  There were several different kinds of sacrifices required but one thing they all had in common was that the animals had to be free of any defects.  In the time of the prophet Malachi many of the people were dishonoring God by offering imperfect animals.

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.

But you say, “How have we despised your name?” By offering polluted food upon my altar.

But you say, “How have we polluted you?” By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?
Malachi 1:6-8

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An excellent wife

The book of Proverbs ends with a tribute to an excellent  wife.

[10]  An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
[11] The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
[12] She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life. Read the rest of this entry

You can’t win Pascal’s Wager

Pascal’s Wager is an argument for believing in God even if you see no convincing evidence that he exists.  It was proposed by the 17th century mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal.

It is based on the premise that by the way we live we are betting on whether or not God exists.  If we bet that God exists and we are right we gain eternal life.  If we are wrong we simply cease to exist when we die and don’t suffer any penalty.  If we bet that there is no God and are wrong we suffer eternal pain.  If we are right we cease to exist at death and gain nothing.

Pascal’s conclusion is three fourths correct.  If there is no God it doesn’t matter whether or not we believe in him.  If we live as if there is no God and in fact there is one we will suffer eternally.  But if there is a God, simply living as if he exists is no guarantee that we will receive eternal life. Read the rest of this entry

When a Christian sins

Can a Christian sin after he has been saved?  Here is what the Bible says:

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
1 John 3:9

It doesn’t say a Christian will never sin but that he can’t keep on living a life of sin.  Someone who professes to be a Christian but lives a life of sin proves that his profession is false.  A comparison of two kings, David and Amaziah, shows the difference.

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The worst rulers

Israel had some very good kings, such as David, Hezekiah, and Josiah.  She also had some very bad kings.  The worst was Manasseh, whose story is found in 2 Chronicles 33.  He was the son of Hezekiah, who had destroyed the false gods the people worshiped and restored the worship of the true God.

Manasseh began his reign by attempting to undo the good his father had accomplished.

And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.”

And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.
2 Chronicles 33:2-6

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Aliens

Is there intelligent life on other planets?  That is a question people have been asking as long as we have known that there are other planets.  When the telescope was invented astronomers discovered that some of the “stars” we see are actually worlds like our own and this led to speculation about whether or not there were people living on them.  We now know that there is no other life in our solar system but the possibility remains that planets revolving around other stars might have intelligent inhabitants.

Christians are faced with another question.  If humans ever do contact aliens will we have a responsibility to tell them about God and preach the gospel to them?

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God will judge our works

The Bible teaches that salvation is a gift of God that we receive through faith and is not the result of any work that we have done.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

But the Bible also says that we will be judged for what we do.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
2 Corinthians 5:10

How can these two facts be reconciled?

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The shortest chapter in the Bible

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117.

Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 117

It is sandwiched in between two well known psalms of thanksgiving and praise and readers often don’t pay much attention to it.

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The sinner’s prayer

One technique used by evangelists is to ask those who respond to their message to pray what is called the “Sinner’s Prayer”.  The wording of this prayer varies; here is one version.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.
Amen.

This practice isn’t found in the Bible.  There are several accounts of people believing the gospel and being saved but there is no record of any convert being asked to say this or any other prayer.

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The theology of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is famous for his writing in several different fields.  He is well known as an author of horror stories.  He is famous as poet.  He wrote detective stories that have had such an influence that the Mystery Writers of America honors him by calling its award for best mystery writer the Edgar.  But I doubt if anyone associates him with religion or theology.

I recently came across a review he wrote of Incidents Of Travel In Egypt, Arabia Petræa, And The Holy Land by John Lloyd Stephens.  You can read the review here:

http://www.eapoe.org/works/criticsm/wrks4002.htm

In this review he expressed his opinions about Bible prophecy.

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Sand in the bread

Many people believe the earth is billions of years old; the Bible tells us that God created it in six days.  Some Christians try to reconcile these two beliefs by saying that the days of creation aren’t literal days but simply long periods of time.

The word “day” can mean an indefinite time period and it is used that way in the creation account.

These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
Genesis 2:4

Here the entire time of creation is called a day.  But what about the days in the first chapter?  Here is a description of the first day.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Genesis 1:3-5

Each day included a period of light and one of darkness and consisted of an evening and a morning.  Only a literal day consisting of the time the earth turns once on its axis has these characteristics.

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Your bucket list

Some people make a bucket list, a list of things they want to do before they die.  The name comes from the expression “kick the bucket”, a slang expression for dying.

If you are a Christian you don’t need to make a bucket list.  God has already made one for you.

We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

The purpose of these works isn’t to achieve salvation.  Salvation is a gift that God gives us by his grace and we receive it by faith.

By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

We aren’t saved by our works but one of the reasons we are saved is to serve God by carrying out the work he has given us to do.

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How to become a saint

Recently two former popes have been canonized as saints by the Catholic church.  According to the book Saints for Dummies these are the requirements a person must meet before before being considered a saint by the church.

To become canonized as a saint, a perfect track record isn’t required (or possible). Hence, being sinless isn’t on the list. So, what is required for sainthood?

Two verifiable postmortem miracles.

Evidence of having led an exemplary life of goodness and virtue worthy of imitation, having died a heroic death (martyrdom), or having undergone a major conversion of heart where a previous immoral life is abandoned and replaced by one of outstanding holiness.

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