nOFuTuRe
nOFuTuRe

Doctrines Of Demons


    Virtually all Christian groups and denominations around the world claim to believe and follow the Bible as their rule of faith and doctrine. However, a brief visit to a few random seminary or Bible college websites will reveal quite a variety of doctrinal positions, and often starkly opposing ones, which quite naturally make a person wonder what is going on here. Over the centuries, many theological disputes have arisen, sometimes violent, even starting wars between nations. Naturally, this has become one of the major pieces of ammunition that atheists have used to discredit Christianity. After all, if the Bible is really true, why can't Christians peacefully agree among themselves regarding its teachings? In fact, unbelievers love to use Bible passages to sharply point this out to us. For example, in John 17:20-23 below, Jesus' prayer to His Father reveals His effort to prevent this very problem from ever occurring. Unfortunately, this prayer has never been fully answered.

"I'm praying not only for them,
but also for those who will believe in Me
because of them and their witness about Me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind,
just as you, Father, are in Me and I in you,
so they might be one heart and mind with Us.
Then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent Me.
The same glory you gave Me, I gave them,
So they'll be as unified and together as We are,
I in them and You in Me.
Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
and give the godless world evidence
that you've sent me and loved them
in the same way you've loved me."
(The Message) 

    Jesus was obviously already well aware of His present disciples' tendencies toward pride, strife, competition and division, and was concerned about the negative impact this would have upon the way the world would view Christians later. Jesus was hoping and praying for the best though, as love always does. 

    So then, the question remains, if the Bible is true, why all the problems in the church throughout history? Why is the whole world screwed up for that matter? The answer is actually quite simple, and it is also clearly revealed in the Bible - we have an enemy! The Bible calls him by many names; Satan, devil, deceiver, dragon, father of lies, Beelzebub, Lucifer, and so on. He was formerly an archangel, but pride overtook him and he rebelled, taking along a third of the angels with him. Ever since Adam and Eve he's been telling lies about God, deceiving people, and then using those people to continue spreading his lies and confusion further. 

    In the Old Testament, for centuries the prophets repeatedly pointed out Israel's strayings and failure to follow the Lord's ways. Despite stern warnings from the Lord, the Israelites were continually being lured away by false prophets and the idolatrous teachings and religious practices of the nations surrounding them. Even from the very first days after the Lord rescued them from slavery in Egypt, the Jews with few exceptions just couldn't bring themselves to loyally place their whole faith in Him. They would always doubt that He had their best interests in His heart, and constantly complained about how and where He was leading them. 

    During the time of Jesus's teaching ministry, the Jewish religious leaders and teachers were totally infested with doctrines of demons. So much so, that Jesus flatly told them that they were of their father, the devil, and that they turned their converts into twice the sons of hell that they were. (John 8:44, Matt 23:15) They ultimately showed clearly who they were serving when they had Jesus arrested, tortured, and nailed to that cross. Amazingly, though, Jesus forgave them, and also went on to say before He died that they didn't know what they were doing. In other words, they were so deceived by Satan that they actually believed they were ridding Israel of some evil, not the true Son of God, their Messiah. 

    After Christ's resurrection, this pattern of Satan continued. He used unwitting people to oppose and attack God's newborn church. The first believers in Christ were fiercely persecuted and scattered throughout the known world. Saul of Tarsus, a severe opponent of the Christians, who later converted and became the apostle Paul, claimed later that he was ignorant of what he was doing. (1 Tim 1:13) What Jesus prophesied in John 16: 2-3 was indeed coming to pass...

"They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he
offers God service, and these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me."
(NKJV) 

    Revelation 12 describes how furious Satan was about Christ's coming and the birth of His church and His new growing kingdom. Consequently the dragon declared war against the church, for he knows his time is short. The devil knows he is powerless to hurt God in any way directly, so his only recourse to stop the kingdom of God from spreading is to attack God's people in many different ways. This is something he is obviously very good at up to this present day. Besides the use of overt external persecution that he employs against Christians all around the world, his most effective means of stopping a vibrant kingdom of God from manifesting is through the use of more subtle means... deceit, division, truth-twisting and confusion. This is where those doctrines of demons come into play. 

    Imagine with me for a moment what it must have been like for Satan and his demonic forces to see what was happening to their worldly kingdom. After all, the Devil was effectively the ruling god of this world (2 Cor 4:4) for thousands of years, and now he was seeing it all begin to slip away from him. First the Son of God appeared on the scene, casting out demons, healing all manner of infirmities, raising the dead, and delivering people from their sins. Then came His surprise resurrection on the third day after his murder, which must have blown the Devil's mind, and finally the last straw was the birth of Christ's church, made up of the very same people who used to be his own ignorant slaves and servants. The church was spreading the Good News like a wildfire and thousands were joining God's kingdom weekly. Desperate times called for cunning strategies to slow down or possibly even halt God's progress. Satan might be a fool for starting this futile war against God, but he's certainly not going to go down without a fight, and he is intent on taking as many people to hell with him as is possible. 

    The best way for Satan to mess up God's plans is to use God's very own people to wage war against each other. If he could find ways to ruin our unity, our oneness, our love for one another, then our effectiveness against the gates of hell would be severely compromised. If only he could get and keep us confused, lacking understanding, suspicious of one another, ignorant of God's Word, God's nature, and God's character, then he could possibly buy himself thousands of more years before God finally does away with him. What if he could actually infiltrate the church and take over most of the teaching and leadership positions like he did in ancient Israel? Imagine the carnage and destruction he could do! What would the world think of God's church then? Hmmm. 

    I think you can now understand a little bit of why the church around the world seems so impotent and dead for the most part. Additionally, whenever new, fresh congregations or movements of God spring up, Satan skillfully brings his forces in to deceive, tempt, confuse, accuse, wear them down, discredit them, and ultimately put their fire out. The New Testament is full of warnings against these things, yet we barely pay them any attention because we don't believe it can happen to us, to "our" church. Let's take a look at some of these warnings from the Gospels and Epistles...

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."
(Jesus, Matt 7:15 NLT)

"And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people." (Jesus, Matt 24:11 NLT)

"For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones." (Jesus, Matt 24:24 NLT)

"What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets." (Jesus, Luke 6:26 NLT)

“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following." (Paul, Acts 20:28-30 NLT)

"These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (Paul, 2 Cor 11:13-14 NLT)

"...because of some so-called Christians - false ones, really - who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us..." (Paul, Gal 2:4 NLT)

"Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them." (Paul, Gal 4:17 NLT)

"You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!" (Paul, Gal 5:7-9 NLT)

"When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God." (Paul, 1 Tim 1:3-4 NLT)

"Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead." (Paul, 1 Tim 4:1-3 NLT)

"For there are many rebellious people who engage in useless talk and deceive others. This is especially true of those who insist on circumcision for salvation. They must be silenced, because they are turning whole families away from the truth by their false teaching. And they do it only for money." (Paul, Titus 1:10-11 NLT)

"But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money." (Peter, 2 Peter 2:1-3a NLT)

"These false teachers are like unthinking animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed. They scoff at things they do not understand, and like animals, they will be destroyed. Their destruction is their reward for the harm they have done. They love to indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight. They are a disgrace and a stain among you. They delight in deception even as they eat with you in your fellowship meals. They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed. They live under God’s curse. They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice. These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before." (Peter, 2 Pet 2:12-20)

"Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world." (John 1 John 4:1 NLT)

"I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Jude, Jude 1:4 NLT)

“But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching ‘deeper truths’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually. I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come." (Jesus, Rev 2:24-25 NLT) 

    Well, I realize I made you look at a whole lot of verses here, but I wanted you to see that doctrines of demons are a very real problem that continue to adversely affect Christendom today. I am hoping that in light of this, you might carefully reconsider whatever it is you believe about the attributes and nature of God, in other words, your particular theology. For you see, although you may actually be a Christian on your way to heaven because you recognized your need for a Saviour and opened your heart to receive Him at one time, if you are subsequently taught and believe things about God that not true, they will eventually have a definite, negative impact upon your faith, especially in how you relate to God and to others in the body of Christ, reducing your effectiveness in God's kingdom. 

    Obviously, this blog is concerned mainly with a theology that has come to be known popularly as Open Theism. As you know, this is an alternative to the two main other theological positions taught in churches today, Calvinism and Armenianism. I, along with many other believers, (not a majority by any means yet), have come to the conclusion that the Open View of God more accurately fits what we read about God throughout the Scriptures, and seems to be much more satisfying to one's understanding by avoiding the incoherent paradoxes one faces when trying to comprehend those other theological systems. They just don't make sense, frankly, and make the living out of the Christian life in a practical way very difficult at times. 

    Prayer, for example, becomes a problem for both Calvinists and Arminians, but for different reasons. Since a Calvinist is taught that God has already predestined and foreordained everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen for all eternity, then prayer is practically a futile exercise. Let's say your dad is in the hospital for lung cancer and you feel the natural desire to pray to God to heal him, or at least to guide the physicians to help him recover, either through surgery, drugs, transplant, or whatever. Then, as you are about to pray, you remember all the teachings your pastor gave at church, how God, before the world began, had already predetermined everything your father would ever think, say, and do, obviously even including this horrible cancer and how and when your dad is going to die. You were also taught that God's will is perfect and that He never changes His mind...never. Suddenly you realize that praying is actually an empty exercise, a waste of time...after all, what will be will be. Oh well, back to watching the football game. 

    The Arminian has a different theology, however, and rejects the "God is in absolute control of everything" belief of the Calvinist. He actually, to his credit, believes he has a free will, and that he can choose how to live, where to go, what to do, etc., without being controlled and moved around like God's puppet or robot. It seems prayer should make more sense and be easier for him, but alas, he also has a problem. He has been taught and believes that the future exists and that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of everything in it, and moreover that God always had this knowledge, even before He created the universe. So, let's now imagine it is the Arminian guy who has his dad in the hospital with the lung cancer. As he begins to pray, He suddenly remembers what he's been taught about God's omniscience and realizes God already knows exactly what is going to happen to his dad and that God consequently can't change what He's already seen, or else He never really saw it in the first place. Thinking about this makes him crazy, so, it's back to watching the football game for him as well. Prayer is logically useless, both for the Calvinist and Arminian, because they've been taught God can't change the future. 

    Consequently, another problem that crops up in a practical way, is that both of those views of God tend to give a Christian a fatalistic point of view.  If a person believes his future is already foreknown or set in stone from eternity past, a resignation and false peace about this can set in, resulting often in a lack of responsibility toward everyone and everything, thinking everything is the way it's supposed to be anyway, so it doesn't really matter what daily decisions they make.  After all, what's the point of seeking God's will for your life if everything that's previously happened and is going to happen in the future is already God's will?  Any failures to succeed at doing anything for God are soothed with either this phrase, "I guess it wasn't meant to be",  or, " I guess God closed the door."  Can you see how the Devil can use this philosophy to make even a vibrant person eventually passive and apathetic?  It happens all the time.

    Open Theism, however, avoids these problems. We believe we have a free will and can choose our life's direction, and that God does not absolutely control and micromanage the universe. He does oversee and manage His creation, however, but more in a guiding, influential way.  He enjoys the daily interaction with us and helps us out when needed.  He of course also has His own plans and purposes, much of which He has already revealed to us in the Scriptures, and we are invited via his Holy Spirit to participate with Him as co-laborers, but not slaves.  

    We don't believe the future actually exists, and that therefore God cannot know it in an absolute sense. He cannot see what isn't there.  God's name is simply the "I AM". He always was, and will always be. He dwells in the eternally existent present, hence the "I AM". He is almighty, everywhere present, and all-knowing, but He only knows the knowable. He has exhaustive, perfect knowledge of the past and present. He is aware of everyone's thoughts, actions, and plans. He is all-wise. He is merciful, compassionate, forgiving, infinitely resourceful, able to deal with any situation that ever arises. He knows every possibility and probabability, and will never leave us nor forsake us. He loves us with an everlasting love. He is able to make macro or micro adjustments to anything as He sees fit, according to His plans and wisdom, but for the most part He allows us the freedom to make all of our life choices, and enjoys interacting with us through our prayers and willing availability to be led by His Holy Spirit. 

    Going back to that hospital scenario, an open theist has no problem praying for his dad. In fact, he has no problem praying for anyone or anything. He knows the future is open to infinite possiblities, it's not a fixed, a done deal. The future is a vast, blank playing field, our lives are an adventure, and God's is walking alongside us, experiencing all our ups and downs, joys and sorrows, in real time, moment by moment.  Best of all God is free to whatever He needs or desires to do, without being constrained or bound by what we call "the future".

    If I was the Devil, you can bet I would feed the church doctrines that would kill their prayer life and make them think their whole life and future is already a done deal. I would want them to think all the horrible things I do to them are actually God's will for their lives. I would want them to feel helpless in their circumstances, that whatever happens to them was "meant to be." I would love for them to think God is responsible for everything I do. Now, if I can think of doing just those few things to mess up God's people, you can be sure Satan has every type of deception imaginable going on. 

    In conclusion, always be on the lookout for doctrines of demons, teachings in the church that would rob you of your freedom in Christ, steal your hope, and ruin the joy of your salvation. Read and study God's Word for yourself. Don't believe everything you hear or read, even from people you love and respect, and especially question nobodies like me. Don't be sentimentally or emotionally attached to your beliefs. Your life is too important. Carefully compare teachings and doctrines to the whole Word of God, not just one paragraph or a verse here or there. Always read the context, and check different translations, and remember to pray without ceasing, believing it makes a difference, because it really does!           May God bless you all!

-nOFuTuRe

Because... WESAYSO!


    A number of years ago, when our five children were small, there was a half-hour animated show on television called "Dinosaurs".  It was about the Sinclairs, a dinosaur family that showed us week by week what it was like growing up in the age of dinosaurs.  It was, of course, a caricature and spoof of our own modern human culture, and like the "Simpsons" show which still airs today, it used humor and satire to point out the many day to day prejudices, inconsistencies and irrationalities woven into our lives that most of us are too preoccupied to even notice.  Brilliant idea, by the way.

    One of the main characters on the show was not really a person, but a self-serving, seemingly omnipresent, omnipotent mega-corporation called WESAYSO.   WESAYSO controlled not only the world's economy and all major institutions, but through every type of media it  molded the personal thoughts, beliefs, and opinions of all earth's inhabitants according to WESAYSO's best interests.  Whenever so-called "facts", "teachings", or "theories" were transmitted by the WESAYSO corporation to the public, anyone who dared question them was greeted with the authoritative response, "Because we say so!"  That would be the end of the inquiry... that is, if they knew what was good for them.  The hallowed "traditions" of the elders and forefathers would also often be invoked, and of course the very idea of questioning them was forbidden.  99% of the population simply accepted whatever they were told as being the absolute truth, and they just went along with their lives as best as they could.

    When we watch this kind of behavior displayed by animated characters on television, we immediately recognize the blatant propaganda and manipulation taking place and we laugh at it.  In our own actual world, however, when it is happening to real people and being perpetrated by real people in authority, we often don't recognize it, or just can't bring ourselves to believe that it is really happening.  From our early childhood we've all been conditioned to blindly trust our elders, teachers, clergy, police, politicians, and so on.  These people are supposed to be our public servants, seeking only our good.  However, most of us eventually learn over time that our world and it's institutions are actually run by flawed people, and sometimes very evil people.

  
  The WESAYSO Corporation kind of reminds me of the way many church organizations have promoted their traditions and teachings throughout history.  Every denomination or "non-denominational"  group has their own unique way of interpreting the Scriptures and describing who their "God" is, which is admittedly somewhat understandable, but then they often go overboard by holding their flocks captive by fear and intimidation, and slander other churches or individuals who hold differing views.  This can make life very difficult for the average churchgoer who is honestly just seeking simple, spiritual truth.  There seems to be a great lack of "academic freedom", so to speak, throughout the world of Christendom.  Free inquiry is strongly discouraged and suppressed.  Even when a particular church teaching clearly can't pass a simple biblical test, or even common sense, the sheep are nevertheless expected to wholehearted embrace it as absolute truth.  Then, of course, the leaders always throw in "God's ways are not our ways" for the clincher, as if that magically makes everything "they say" acceptable.

    We who have either embraced or are leaning toward Open Theism have done so not because we are rebels, but mainly because the classical forms of theism that have dominated Christianity over the last few centuries have failed to present a satisfying, coherent theology that makes sense spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and one that can be lived out in full practicality.  Things are beginning to change, however.  With the high literacy rate in the world today, and with the advent of the internet, Christians have been able to read the Bible in many various translations, and also now have free access to thousands of  commentaries and historical reference works that up until recently have only been available in theological seminary libraries.   Millions of lay people now have the tools to check for themselves if what their pastors are teaching them is true, or just tradition, hearsay, opinion, or an outright falsehood.   While this may be viewed negatively by church leaders, this is very good news for the church as a whole if we can take advantage of this opportunity.

    Up until now, the image we've projected to the world as the body of Christ has sadly been fragmented and confusing.  The church has literally become thousands of disagreeing splinter groups.  Jesus prayed to the Father that we would be One as He and the Father are One.  This unfortunately has not been our experience, even from the church's very inception 2000 years ago.  The world has noticed this and loves to point this out to us. The apostle Paul also noticed it in his own day and often tried to get the church to be of one mind.  Here in the following passage he states some of the obvious reasons why:

Ephesians 4:4-6
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

    Scripture, logic and intuition all tell us that there can only be one truth, one theology, if you will.  Therefore, it seems we should be able to come up with one body of truth that should clearly explain, without endless contradictions and paradoxes, what it is we all really need to know about God, the church, and our relationship to each other and the world.  I realize that this will be very difficult to accomplish.  Others in the past have attempted it and obviously have failed.  The devil has and always will continue to oppose this effort with all of his resources.  But despite these obstacles, I believe it's very important that all Christians everywhere see their need to experience that worldwide oneness that Jesus earnestly prayed for, and that we should use every means available to get there.  Open Theism at present doesn't pretend to have all the answers, but it's clearly a manifestation of a growing yearning for truth and real oneness within the body of Christ.  Hopefully over time, more and more godly, gifted scholars and individuals from many backgrounds will begin to work together on this project.  If they humbly share their biblical and Holy Spirit knowledge and understanding with each other, we will all grow ever closer to manifesting God's kingdom to the world.  Let's all put our personal pride aside, and prayerfully be willing to move toward this worthy goal.

-nOFuTuRe

God Has His Limitations

    I recently googled "open theism" on the internet, and I was saddened by some of the negative websites that appeared on top of the list of search results.  While not really surprised at the opposition against the teaching of open theism, I was frankly amazed at the unwarranted, vicious way some prominent Christian leaders have portrayed and misrepresented us.  Books recently published against open theism and it's proponents have likewise been very uncharitable and unprofessional in their approach.  I saw the words "dangerous" and "heresy" thrown around quite a bit, and if they could get away with it they would probably have many of us stretched out on a rack until we recanted.  Yet, beyond the emotional outbursts and fear-promoting, I couldn't find any logical, substantive, or Scriptural arguments that convincingly affirmed their classical view or negated the open theist position.

    One of the main accusations I saw being made against open theism was that it presented a limited, or lesser view of God than the classical view.  They are partially correct in this, in that we do see God as indeed having some limitations, but ironically, these very limitations are what actually make our God greater, not lesser than the God they espouse.

    You see, most people, Christian or otherwise, have the false impression that God can do anything.   They think that God is in every way infinite and without limitations.  But does the Bible really teach this?  I know this may sound shocking, but nevertheless it's true...God cannot do just anything and everything!  Many of us have been wrongly taught that God is whatever we can imagine Him to be, only infinitely greater.  However, our ability to conceive or imagine God as having certain attributes or abilities does not necessarily make it true.  The Bible tells us plainly what God is like...He is like Jesus!

Colossians 1:15
He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.


Hebrews 1:3a
And He (Jesus) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature...


    Whenever we depart from what is clearly revealed in the Scriptures and begin to trust in our imaginations or opinions, we are on slippery ground.  I am not saying that it's impossible to imagine truth, but we need to be very careful that our imaginations do not contradict clear Scriptures.  In fact, we are urged by the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 10:5) to cast down imaginations that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.  

    Let me now illustrate how God indeed is limited with some examples that are easy to comprehend.  I want you to think for a moment about sin.  Think of all the things that the Lord forbids His people to do.  God's laws and commandments prohibit stealing, murder, coveting, lying, and scores of other sins.  Does God do any of those things?  Of course not, because God does not and cannot sin!  A good working definition of sin, then, is any thought or action that God can't do.  So then, every sin you can think of is just one more thing that God can't do.  God's nature is clearly limited.  He will not act or behave in any way apart from who He is.  His very character actually defines or "limits" Him.  Does this mean God is small or weak?  Of course not.  The idea that God can do anything imaginable is actually a heathen concept, a product of Greek philosophy and Roman mythology, where their gods were indeed capable of anything, both good and evil.
  
    The apostle Paul in Titus 1:2 states that God cannot lie, and Hebrews 6:18 states that it is impossible for God to lie.  These verses clearly reveal that there are things that God can't do.  The plain fact of the matter is that God indeed has His limits.  He cannot act apart from His own nature.  This is why He cannot lie.  He is confined to His righteousness and holiness.  God's way is a narrow way (Matthew 7:13-15), and this is the way He desires us to walk, as His dear children, as lights in this dark world.  He wants to reveal through us what He is like.  He asks us to do what He does, and forbids us to do what He cannot.  He desires to limit us just as He is limited, in order that we might glorify Him with our lives.

    I hope that I have been able to show to your satisfaction that God definitely has His limitations.  Do you think God is any lesser or weaker because of it?  Do you trust Him any less?  I hope not.  You should actually feel more secure having a clearer, sharper view of what He is like.  A true and accurate view of God is far better to possess than a god of your own preference or design, no matter how "grand" a god you can envision for yourself.  Remember, God is not necessarily what we believe Him to be, but God is who He is, in spite of our beliefs.  Therefore, since the Bible nowhere states that God or Jesus can see the future, and furthermore calls "foretune-telling" a sin, then open theism should not be criticized or dismissed simply because we are "limiting" God to what the Bible says about Him.  They will have to come up with something better than that if they want to continue calling us dangerous or heretical.

    For the past 500 years, there have been two major opposing views about God vying for preeminence and influence over protestant Christianity, Calvinism and Arminianism, and these two can never be reconciled.  Each group claims the other is wrong.  Most denominations today find themselves embracing one of those positions.  Open theism suggests they are both wrong, exposes the obvious problems within each, and then presents us with an alternative, Scriptural, understandable, satisfying, and livable theology.   It is my prayer that all of us would honestly seek and desire to know what the true nature of God really is, no matter what our friends, parents, pastors or priests may teach or believe about Him.  Religious tradition and the current, prevailing, popular beliefs about God should be frequently subjected to examination and testing by every new generation, because historically it has always been the few, a small remnant, who have found and embraced great truths, who were then fiercely persecuted by the majority who saw their rich livelihoods being threatened.  May we all seek and speak the truth...in love.

-nOFuTuRe

    

In Order To Fulfill

    
    As I have shared in earlier articles, the accurate prophecies of God and His messengers are not the result of God or His prophets peeking into the future, nor can they be, but rather are simply the fulfillment or accomplishment of God's purposes, promises, and plans that He had revealed ahead of time.  God tells us about things He intends to do, then later makes them happen.  (ISAIAH 46:10-11)  Let's study some prophecies that have already been fulfilled, and I want you to pay close attention to how the Lord amazingly arranged events and motivated people in order to keep His Word and accomplish His purposes.  However, let me emphasize something very important right here to prevent any misunderstandings.  The fulfillment of any given prophecy is a miraculous thing, an exception to the natural order of events.  Therefore, although God has sometimes intervened in the affairs of men to fulfill a particular promise, we musn't make the common mistake of assuming that all of the other events that occur around us each day are likewise controlled and predetermined.  This is a false conclusion that has led to a lot of confusion in the church throughout history.  Keep this in mind as we go on from here.

    To begin with, let's take a look at one of the first examples the Lord pointed out to me when He patiently taught me how prophecy works.  We need to go back and look at the time of the prophet Jeremiah.  In his day, Israel was divided into two separate nations, Israel and Judah.  The Lord had purposely raised up Jeremiah to warn the people of Judah and Jerusalem of coming judgment because of their blatant sins and idolatry.  The Lord and His commandments had long been rejected by His people and His patience with them was running out.  Jeremiah was one of many prophets sent to call Israel and Judah to repentance, but the people scoffed and refused.  Finally, when the Lord was about to act, He first revealed His plans to Jeremiah and another prophet, Isaiah.  Let's see what He told them He would do.

Jeremiah 25:8-11 
"Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Because you have not obeyed My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' declares the LORD, 'and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, and against its inhabitants, and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them, and make them a horror, and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.  Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.  And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years."
 
    Here the Lord told His people through Jeremiah that because of their disobedience, He was going to bring the Babylonians into the land as His instruments of judgment and destruction, and that they would become the servants of Babylon for seventy years.  The accurate fulfillment of these things is amazingly described in 2 CHRONICLES 36.  We will be looking at that a little later.  But something more amazing was foretold by the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah prophesied with incredible detail how they would later be rescued by God and brought back to Jerusalem.

Isaiah 44:26-28 
"Confirming the word of His servant, And performing the purpose of His messengers.  It is I who says of Jerusalem, 'She shall be inhabited!' And of the cities of Judah, 'They shall be built.' And I will raise up her ruins again.  It is I who says to the depth of the sea, 'Be dried up!' And I will make your rivers dry.  It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.' And he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,' And of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.'"  
 
 
Isaiah 45:1-4 
"Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him, and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:  "I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze, and cut through their iron bars.  And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden wealth of secret places, in order that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.  For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me. 

    God is speaking here about His plans to raise up a Gentile ruler named Cyrus, to be instrumental in rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple after the Babylonians destroy them.  Incredibly, He names the man many years before his birth so that Israel would know that the Lord was responsible for the events when they came to pass.  Then the Lord even speaks a message to encourage Cyrus years before he ever took his first breath.  He wanted both Cyrus and His people to know for sure that these events were not merely coincidences when they came to pass.

    Jeremiah also promised of better days to come, as noted in the following verses.  Please notice again the prophet's emphasis on seventy years.  This is done so that Israel would know with absolute certainty that the Lord Himself was manipulating the events behind the scenes, faithfully keeping His promises, and strengthening their faith.

Jeremiah 29:8-14 
"For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.  For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,'declares the LORD.  For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  And I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.'

    So, we've seen here what two prophets said concerning the judgment and restoration of Jerusalem.  Now let's look in the book of II CHRONICLES, the historical record of the events that took place in Judah and Jerusalem, and see how the Lord kept His word.

II Chronicles 36:15-23 
"And the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.  Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand.  And all the articles of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his officers, he brought them all to Babylon.  Then they burned the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its fortified buildings with fire, and destroyed all its valuable articles.  And those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths.  All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!'"
  

    We see here how God's word was beautifully fulfilled to His people.  First there was the horror of judgment, but then came the thrill of witnessing that "in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah", after exactly seventy years of exile in Babylon, "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus", the king of Persia, to order the rebuilding of the house of God in Jerusalem and to let the exiles return home.  How miraculous!  What a clear demonstration of God's sovereign power in action!  God proved to His people His ability to keep His Word.  If these prophecies had merely been a telling of what God "saw" in the future, then God would not have had to do anything in order to fulfill them.  They would have come to pass by themselves.

    Prophecy has nothing to do with "seeing" the future.  God does not see the future and then tell His prophets what He sees.  God doesn't need to see the future in order to know what He's going to do next.  Our all wise God always knows the best course to take under any given circumstances.  

    Next I want to show you how He fulfilled His Messianic prophecies through various means, especially through the life and obedience of His Son, Jesus Christ.  You will probably see things you've never noticed before as we examine many familiar New Testament passages.  I think you'll find them encouraging, enlightening, and helpful for you to understand better what I've been speaking about.

    The events surrounding the first coming of Jesus, especially as recorded in the book of Matthew, are a clear demonstration of the capabilities and faithfulness of God the Father.  There we can observe Him using some simple (to Him), creative means to assure the fulfillment of His Word.  As you know, after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, king Herod heard of some wise men who were looking for the "King of the Jews".  Herod then asked the chief priests and scribes as to where this promised messiah was to be born.  He was then informed of a prophecy that the Christ was to come from Bethlehem according to God's word in MICAH 5:2.  Herod's inquiries are described MATTHEW 2:1-6

    But how did God insure that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem?  The Lord easily arranged the fulfillment of that Scripture by using Caesar at the right time to call for a census.  How did this happen?  Well, one way in which the Lord interferes in the affairs of men is by subtly planting thoughts and desires within the minds of key individuals who then unwittingly carry out His purposes.  In those days, a Roman census required that everyone had to register in the city of their family origin.  So, God used Caesar and Roman laws to get Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary to travel to Bethlehem, the city of David, so that Mary would be there in time to give birth to Jesus.  (LUKE 2:1 7)  (This is a technique that God sometimes uses to accomplish His will, and is described further in JOB 33:14-18.)

    Simple, right?  Well, that familiar episode is not quite the whole story.  There were complications.  The prophet Hosea had foretold that God's Son would come out of Egypt (HOSEA 11:1), and another prophet said He would be called a Nazarene, indicating that the Christ would be from Nazareth.  So, what's going on here?  How could the prophets announce that Jesus would come from three places?  How would God deal with this problem?  Let's see what Matthew reveals concerning this matter.
 
Matthew 2:13-15  
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."  And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt did I call My Son."

    Now isn't this amazing?  The Lord used a dream about an angel to get Joseph to flee to Egypt from Herod.  Joseph obeyed.  They could have gone to any number of other nations for refuge, but in order to fulfill the word of Hosea, God sent them to and brought them out of Egypt.  God's attention to detail and His interference in the normal course of events are plain to see.  He actually enlisted Joseph's help to fulfill His prophecy.  Now let's see how God again used Joseph to fulfill another prophet's word.

Matthew 2:21-23 
And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee, and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

    Again by a dream the Lord guides the steps of Jesus' parents in order to fulfill a scarcely known prophecy.  I'm sure by now you are beginning to see how serious God takes His own Word.  He will never be found to be a liar.

Matthew 5:17-18  
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished."
  
    Heaven and earth may pass away, but not one word of His promises and plans revealed to us will ever fail to come to pass.  This is truly wonderful, isn't it?  We may not have a God who sees the future, but we do have one who is so much better... an all-wise, almighty God, who faithfully keeps His Word!  Hallelujah!  Now let's look at a few more fulfillments that took place concerning Jesus.

Matthew 4:12-16  
Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles    the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned."  (See Isaiah 9:1,2)

    We see once more how the Lord does things with the intent of fulfilling His word.  Jesus was not just randomly roaming around the countryside.  He spent many hours in prayer, undoubtedly receiving detailed instructions from the Father from day to day.  He was on a mission...a very specific one that had to be carried out with delicate accuracy.  There was purpose and meaning to His every footstep, and every word He spoke.  Let's look at another passage.
 
Matthew 8:14-17  
And when Jesus had come to Peter's home, He saw his mother in law lying sick in bed with a fever.  And He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose, and waited on Him.  And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases."  (See Isaiah 53:4) 
 

    By now you can see that Jesus had a lot more to fulfill than His death on the cross.  Many of the things the ancient prophets had said about Him, He had to accomplish before He was to go to the cross.  So, carefully, at the direction of the Father, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, Jesus fulfilled them all.  Let's continue now with a few more revealing Scriptures.

Matthew 13:34-35  
All these things Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable, so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world."  (See Psalm 78:2)

    In case you ever wondered why Jesus always seemed to speak in parables,  now you know.  He did so in order to keep His word spoken by a psalmist possibly 900 years earlier!  The Lord doesn't forget a word He said.  If He said He'll do it, He'll do it, whatever it takes to accomplish it.  Now I want to show you one of my favorite examples.

Matthew 21:1-7 
And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me.  And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them."  Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"  And the disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid on them their garments, on which He sat. (See Zechariah 9:9)

    This passage shows clearly how God's knowledge and providence operates, how His creation is never beyond His control, and how He is in no way handicapped by not "seeing" the future.  The Lord Jesus, in constant communication with His Father and the Holy Spirit, knew about Zechariah's prophecy and was also aware of the available donkey and colt in the village.  He then simply sent his disciples to retrieve the animals, thereby assisting Him in fulfilling that particular Scripture.  Unable to "see" the future, however, He did not know for certain if anyone would try to stop them, but knowing all possibilities and the hearts of men, the Lord gave them instructions which would enable them to succeed in any event.
 I want to now show you a passage from Matthew that really emphasizes Jesus' conscious effort to make sure that He and His disciples fulfilled all the Scriptures concerning them.

Matthew 26:51-57 
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear.  Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.  Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?"  At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber?  Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me.  But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled."  Then all the disciples left Him and fled.

    Jesus above rebuked one of His followers for trying to protect and defend Him.  After assuring him that supernatural help was only a split second away if He should need it, He then reminds him of His main purpose for being there, which was to fulfill all that was written and spoken of Him.  Just before this incident had occurred, Luke recorded an additional event in his gospel account that again strongly shows the conscious effort of Jesus to fulfill the Scriptures.
                                                                   
Luke 22:35-38  
And He said to them, "When I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" And they said, "No, nothing."  And He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one.  For I tell you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'And He was numbered with transgressors'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment."  And they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough." 

    In this passage, we see again that Jesus is clearly making deliberate, conscious moves to fulfill the various prophecies.  He tells His disciples to buy swords if they don't have any, in order to fulfill what was written about Him.  Then the disciples said, "Lord, look, here are two swords."  This apparently was sufficient because Jesus said, "It is enough."  It was probably one of those very swords that later cut the ear off of the high priest's slave.

    Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  I've shown you just a small, representative sampling of the hundreds of prophecies and their fulfillments written in the Bible.  I hope I've been able to clarify for you any misunderstandings you have had concerning these things.  God does know some future events, but only in terms of what He has planned, purposed and promised.  He certainly has not planned and purposed every little detail of our lives, which thankfully gives us the great privilege and freedom to make our own decisions and to be responsible for our own actions.  This is extremely important for Christians to understand, because whatever you believe concerning this issue will have a powerful effect on how you plan and live out your life.  Believing that your entire future is already known by God can cause you to become passive and get stuck in a rut.  You will be prone to accepting the events of each day as inevitable, or "meant to be", rather than prayerfully approaching each day as a new opportunity to serve and please our Saviour.  Do you want to walk "by fate", or walk "by faith"?  It's your choice...

-nOFuTuRe

Judgment Day...Is There Any Hope?


    I often hear things spoken or taught by Christians that just don't make any sense in light of what they claim they believe about their God.  For example, the people who believe that God has total foreknowledge of all future events, nevertheless seem to fret over the eternal destination of non-Christians.  They irrationally spend huge amounts of time, effort and money to try to persuade "the lost" into accepting Jesus as their Savior.  In case you don't readily see the problem with that, let's look at it another way.  If, as they claim, God already knows the future exhaustively, then it follows logically that He already knows exactly who will be saved and who will be damned.  So then, all our worrying, praying, and sharing the gospel message with people is a total waste of time.  It is already a done deal in God's mind.

    By the way, this also applies to any future rewards coming to Christian individuals for service.  If God already knows how everyone is going to live out their lives, then He already knows the specific rewards that will be given out to all believers at His return, so any attempt on our part to try to please or influence the Lord in the present is useless as well.  None of our prayers or efforts can possibly change the future judgment that God already sees taking place.  For if God knows the future exhaustively, then that knowledge is no different than God's knowledge of the past...it lies fixed, certain, with no hope of any change or alteration.  It truly amazes me that people who hold onto this belief are not bothered by the contradictions and implications.  Many of them actually claim that God wouldn't be a God worth worshiping if we could understand Him.  They believe that an incoherent theology is somehow a proof that it must be true.

    If God's infinite knowledge, however, somehow did include all future events, then hundreds of Scripture verses would be rendered meaningless.  I'd like to briefly point out and comment on a few of these passages.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

    
The verse above was written in reference to the final judgment that will one day be upon us.  It clearly implies that God's promised coming as our Judge is being delayed because He is patiently waiting for as many people as possible to repent in order to be spared from the promised wrath to come.  This verse is incoherent if God already knows the future.

    In the book of Revelation, the risen Christ gives the apostle John some messages to pass on to various churches in the region.  To the church at Ephesus He says...

Revelation 2:
2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
5
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 


    It obvious that Jesus was intimately aware of all of that church group's thoughts, feelings and activities up to that particular point in time, but it is likewise obvious that the future was not something known and fixed from the Lord's perspective.  He urges the people to repent in order to avoid some unpleasant consequences that might otherwise come their way.  If you take the time to look at the other churches God addresses in Revelation, He similarly knows all about them up to that present moment, but then offers them guidance to insure a good future for themselves.  Their future is not seen as something fixed, but rather a mix of possibilities and probabilities that would flesh themselves out according to how they would choose to live in the present.  The future is always formed, built, and realized in the present, assembled by the interaction of God and men moving forward, moment by moment.

    "Hope" is another word related to this topic that makes no sense if God already knows the results of His coming future judgment.  Hope serves no purpose if the future is already known by either God or men.  

Romans 8:24
"...hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?"


    If God already knows our future, even if we don't also share that knowledge, hoping is useless on our part.  Hope cannot change a fixed future.  Hope by it's very nature assumes and acknowledges an uncertain future.  Hope involves the desire and expectation of a good future, while at the same time realizing there is no absolute certainty of this occurring.  We always hope for the best, but we know by experience that disappointments are often what comes around the corner instead.

    Interestingly, the apostle Paul includes "hope" as being part of the nature of love, stating that love "hopes all things" in 1 Corinthians 13.  He also says love "suffers long", probably because love's hopes and desires are often unrealized.  I want to point out that the word translated to us in English here as "love", was actually penned by Paul as the Greek word "agape", which of course is defined as God's very own love toward us.  Therefore, I believe it's safe to conclude that God Himself has hopes and desires, and that He, like us, also suffers and experiences true grief, sorrow and disappointment, whenever His own plans are not perfectly realized in the present.

    This idea of a hoping or grieving God that is plainly revealed in the Bible does not fit well with the theology of those who see God as a stiff Sovereign, controlling and predestining every event that ever has or ever will occur.  It is also hard to imagine God hoping or grieving over things that He has supposedly seen in the future from the eternal past.  No, God's hoping and grieving only truly make sense when His own experience of life is placed right alongside of us in this present moment.  The past is gone...the future doesn't exist.  It is in this context where the Scriptures make the most sense.  

Genesis 6:
6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

    
The passage above and many others like it in both the Old and New Testaments clearly show God being genuinely affected and disappointed by the actions of the people He lovingly created.  The Israelites continually frustrated His desires for them, generation after generation, right up until He sent His Son to redeem them.  Speaking of the Israelites and how they let God down, the prophet Isaiah wrote the following...

Isaiah 5:
1 My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. 
2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. 
3 “ And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. 
4 What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? 

    
Jesus had the following to say about them in His time...

Luke 13:
34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

    
Yes, the Lord has patiently tried for thousands of years, in many different ways to get all of us to turn from our sinful ways and embrace Him as our loving God and Creator.  Today we find ourselves in the final age of harvest, in which the Lord, by His Spirit, is gathering millions of lost, hurting sheep who will populate His promised coming Kingdom.  Today, however, even His redeemed ones living on the earth continue to alternately bring Him pleasure and pain.  The New Testament epistles address this often by exhorting us to turn away from our old lives and live our lives worthy of God's purchase of us by His Son's own blood on the cross.

Ephesians 4:
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

32
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Hebrews 10:
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 
37 “ For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

    
So then, getting back to the idea of the coming final judgment...is there any hope for any of us?  Or is the future already a foregone conclusion?  I believe there really is hope.  There is hope for every single person living on the earth today...if they will only humble themselves and cry out to their Creator who is patiently "hoping" they will do that very thing.  I pray we all draw closer in our relationship with Him, and that we discover more and more of the riches of who He really is...the great I AM!

-nOFuTuRe



Does Time Fly...Or Crawl?


Psalm 90:4

"For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in
the night."  (NKJV)

2 Peter 3:8

"But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand
years, and a thousand years as one day."  (NKJV)

    I'd like to consider today the concept of the "relativity" of time.  The verses listed above are
sometimes used by evolutionists to explain away the Genesis account of God creating the universe in six
days. They insist that the days mentioned are not literal, but stand for ages or thousands of years.       
While I
personally believe God did create everything in six literal days, I'd rather look at something
completely different revealed in those verses, and that is how God Himself perceives the passing of
time.

    If you've read some of my previous articles, you already know that I believe that God only and simply
exists in this present moment...eternally.  In other words, while God always was, and always will be, He
actually only dwells in this present moment, just as we do, experiencing the so-called passage of time
simultaneously along with us.  Of course, being Almighty God, He doesn't suffer any of our limitations.  His awareness and knowledge of this moment is infinitely vast, encompassing the activities of every single person, place, and thing that exists in the universe, from the largest galaxies down to the smallest parts of atoms.  Nothing that exists is hidden or unknown to Him.  It truly boggles the mind to think about it.

    But now let's consider how differently God is able to experience time's passage, compared to how we do.  As we all know, when we were children, time passed ever so slowly.  We seemed to be able to extract so much more out of a single hour or day back then, than we can today at middle or old age.  To a small child, summer vacation is like an eternity, yet to an elderly person, the seasons are barely noticed as they hurry by from one to the next.  Some people attribute this difference of perception to the comparison of a fixed length of time to the length of one's entire life.  For example, a year is fully one fourth of a four year old's life, while a year is only a tenth of a ten year old's life. The older we get, the smaller a year seems to be, in comparison to the whole. While there may be some truth to that, I don't think that tells the whole story.

    You see, as human beings, we experience and process through our five senses all of the
activities around us at a certain, typical rate.  While everyone clearly has different mental abilities,
we all tend to take in information within an average range of speed. Our minds take in huge amounts of
data and images, something similar to a movie camera, at a particular rate of frames per second. In
other words, there is a limited range as to how fast we can consciously learn and respond to stimuli.
This is an important concept to grasp, and I believe it truly explains why the young and old actually do
experience life at a different pace. I think that the amount of information that a child is able to take
in per second, is massive in comparison to that of a 70 year old, and it's mainly because our
neurological system is slowing down as we age.
 
    Now let's think about motion pictures again for a moment. Movie films are shot one frame at a time, but at a rate of 24 frames per second to make them appear to flow smoothly and life-like when they are played back.  However, a funny thing happens if you play the film back at a slower speed than it was taken at.  As you slow it down,  the movie will begin to appear jerky or jumpy, and if you slow it down further it will look like just an ordinary slide show.  There are high-speed movie cameras, however, that can snap frames at 250,000 or more per second.  Research scientists often use these cameras in order to clearly play back in slow motion such things as automobile accidents or bullets leaving the barrel of a rifle.  It's an amazing thing to watch something in this way, because at normal speed we can miss all of the action if we merely blink our eyes at the right moment.

    So then, I believe that the brain of a very young person operates much like that high-speed camera, able to quickly absorb, store and utilize vast amounts of  data. But when he grows older, this ability will gradually slow to a crawl. The rest of our body functions proportionately slow down as well. Consequently, as we age and slow down, everything around us takes on the illusion of speeding up.  It's kind of like running out of gas when going 70 mph. The other cars around you seem to pick up speed and pass you by, even though their speed really hasn't changed, only yours has.  So this is how our life is.  It is not that time flies when we get older, but rather our ability to experience life is slowing down, creating that perception.

    By now, you probably want to know what all this has to do with "With the Lord one day is as a
thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."  Well, this is the cool part.  Better than any high-speed camera, God takes in information at a virtually infinite frame-rate.  Consequently, He is able to experience and interact with everything at virtually any speed.  He can experience a day in such slow-motion that it would seem to us as a thousand years, and conversely a thousand years can go by while seeming like just another day to Him. He can choose to either observe us up close in super slow-motion, or watch us from above zooming around like high-speed ants in those time-lapse nature films.  While this all seems like fun stuff to ponder and amazing to contemplate, perhaps you are wondering what practical use this information is to us.
 
    Well, as we have been reminded here how amazingly God has individually created us, it makes us
realize how much more God Himself is aware of everything that goes on, and since He can operate
at any speed, virtually nothing is impossible for Him.  For example, if an unsaved person you know dies
instantly in a terrible car crash, and you think he didn't have a last chance to cry out to God for
salvation, you are wrong.  In what may seem like an instant to us, in reality it is more than enough time
for God to have a heart to heart chat with him, for him to accept Christ as his Savior, and to even begin enjoying his gift of eternal life long before his head ever hits the windshield.
 
    How can this be?  Well, obviously in our normal state of consciousness there wouldn't be enough time. However, have you ever had a restless night of sleep where you start to dream, then wake up, look at the clock to note the time, fall back to sleep, go back into your dream, wake up, note the time again, and so on? This has happened to me on many occasions and I've noticed something peculiar when it does.  I could be dreaming about something where days and weeks are going by, traveling around the world or whatever, and then wake up to discover that only 6 minutes have actually gone by.  This phenomenon proves to me that God or an angel can easily meet with us, spend what may seem like hours in conversation with us, all within a split-second.   Something like this happens when people "die" in the hospital, are resuscitated moments later, and then tell all about the long adventure they had in heaven while they were gone.

    This is what I meant at the beginning when I said this would be about the "relativity" of time. The way we experience time is totally dependent on the speed or rate at which we are perceiving things.  A person who lives a seemingly short life can still experience an incredibly full life.  In fact, there are insects and other creatures who live out their whole life cycles in just a few days, and yet to them, I'm sure, their lives seem full and complete.

    In closing, I've brought this subject to your attention mainly in order to magnify the greatness of our God, and to especially encourage us to pray without ceasing, because even when it appears to us that there is no time left for God to intervene, the reality is... that there is always enough time!

-nOFuTuRe
 

Why Time-Travel Is Ridiculous


    Time-travel is a concept that millions of people have pondered for generations.  Many of these people, some of them supposedly intelligent scientists, imagine that time travel may actually be possible for us at some future point.  As I tried to think of a clever title for this article, all I could come up with kept involving the word "stupid".  OK, I admit that the word "dumb" also came to mind.  But then, to be kind, I simply chose the title you see before you.  Perhaps I can persuade you to see why.

    First of all, if you've read any science fiction novels or watched any movies regarding time travel, there exists one glaring problem that is indeed often mentioned in the story line itself...that it would be very dangerous for you to travel back in time.  For example, let's say you went back and visited your great-grandfather when he was a boy, and then by some freak accident you killed him, then it obviously follows that you will never be born, and you would consequently never get the chance to go back in time.  You would cease to exist.  For this reason, "scientists" say time travel into the past may be impossible or at the very least should be forbidden.  After all, imagine how different our lives would be if some time-traveling terrorist ever went back in time and assassinated
Thomas Edison or someone else of equal scientific and technological importance.   Or, what if some do-gooder time-traveling idiot from the year 2150 or so decides to go back in time to the 1940's and prevents our country from creating the atomic bomb?  Then many of us here wouldn't exist and those who were left here would be speaking Japanese.  Actually, changing just the slightest thing in the past could have world changing effects.  As you can see, just thinking about time-travel into the past can make you crazy.  We can call this particular time-travel difficulty "the problem of the paradox".

    Secondly, if that problem wasn't enough to make you realize that time-travel is stupid, then I want you to consider it from an angle that most people miss altogether.  Let's call it "the problem of location".  Think about where you are right at this moment.  You are probably sitting in a chair, at a desk, in front of a computer, perhaps on the 14th floor of a high-rise condominium.  If you could enter a "time-machine" in your room, and go back in time 200 years, your high-rise condo wouldn't exist and you'd be falling about 140 feet to the earth where your body would make an awful thudding sound as it bounced.  

    Actually, what I just described is not even close to the truth.  You see, even if you were now sitting safely on the ground somewhere on the equator, and could somehow travel back in time just one hour, you would no longer be sitting in the same location...you would be sitting roughly 1000 miles away due to the fact that the earth's surface, where you were sitting at the equator, has moved.  You see, the earth is rotating at 1000 mph, or 25,000 miles per day, corresponding to the circumference of the earth.  That is about the speed of a bullet leaving the muzzle of a weapon.

    However, I'm afraid the truth gets even worse.  You see, while the surface of the earth is spinning at 1000 mph around its center,  the entire earth along with its center is also rocketing along at 66,000 mph as it speeds in its orbit around the sun.  So then, if you were able to simply travel back in time one hour, you would find yourself floating (or exploding) in outer space, thousands of miles away from the earth, and without a spacesuit!

    Finally, to continue on with this illustration, if you were also to take into consideration the speed of the sun revolving around our Milky Way galaxy (483,000 mph), as well as the estimated speed of our galaxy moving away from the center of the supposed big-bang billions of years ago (1.3 million mph), then in order to travel back in time just 21.5 days, you would also have to somehow relocate yourself approximately 670 million miles back in just the perfect direction to find yourself still sitting somewhere on the earth at that particuler time.  By the way, it would only take you about an hour, traveling at the speed of light, to go that far.  Now imagine how this problem multiplies itself if one desires to travel several years into the past.  Obviously, this problem also rears its ugly head if you are thinking about traveling into the future.  Therefore, I conclude that any time spent on seriously trying to figure out how to travel in time, is not only dumb, but truly is a waste of time.  Simply traveling to the nearest mall in the present can be quite challenging enough for most of us.

    -nOFuTuRe

Understanding God's Program


   While it is clear that we, as Christians, are all essentially free to do as we please, we are nevertheless very much susceptible to many influences that attempt to either steer or control our lives.  For the purpose of this message today, I would like to label those influences "programs", as in computer programs.  I am by no means a computer expert, but I definitely see many similarities in how God's Creation functions and how computers operate.

   A computer program is simply a written set of instructions, that when executed, performs an intended function.  I see God as the ultimate master programmer of the physical universe, with everything operating and interacting according to the amazing laws (programs) of physics that modern scientists have been steadily discovering and making use of.  In the field of chemistry, there are exact mathematical formulas for how all the different elements interact with one another.  Each element is unique, and the atoms that comprise it actually have a built-in characteristic or "program" that tells it how to react or respond to atoms of other elements that surround it, and this activity is observable, repeatable, and predictable.  

   For example, water is  actually made up of two elements, gases, two atoms of Hydrogen (H) and one atom of oxygen (O), or H2O.  While oxygen and hydrogen are flammable on their own, together they form water which ironically puts out fires.  Strange stuff, indeed.  Somehow, God has programmed these and all of the other various elements to act in certain ways under certain conditions, and by years of study and experimentation, chemists have been able to use these discovered "programs" to mass produce the thousands of chemicals and compounds we all use in our daily lives, from plastics to exotic metal alloys.  Every inanimate thing around us exists and acts according to whatever it has been programmed to do. 

   Now I'd like to look at another section of the Creation that is infinitely more complex and amazing, namely living cells.  While made up of thousands of individual chemicals that operate predictably according to fixed laws, there is something else at work in living cells that oversees the timing and control of the myriad processes and functions that occur within them.  Scientists have discovered a complex code of instructions within each kind of cell that orders the construction, maintenance, and exact reproduction of itself.  It's called DNA.  No cell can exist or replicate without this incredible program being present, so if you think about it, this fact alone proves that life did not begin by some random accident billions of years ago.  But that's another story...

   Beyond single-celled organisms, however, there exists even vastly more complex forms of life which includes the plants, animals, and yes, especially us.  While I have no clue how a plant controls all of its multicellular functions, scientists tell us that brains are behind all of the functions that go on inside the animal kingdom creatures.  The brain somehow has all kinds of programs running inside it that communicate messages to all the various organs that keeps everything coordinated and running smoothly.  Amazingly, and fortunately for us, most of these functions operate totally unconsciously.  We don't have to think or do anything to make our hearts beat, lungs pump, kidneys filter blood, intestines digest food, etc.  It's all preprogrammed and on auto-pilot.

   OK, now that I've laid some groundwork showing that all things are "programmed" in some way, I want to talk about what this means to us human beings, especially those who call ourselves Christians.  Unfortunately, there are many people who believe that not only are our unconscious bodily functions programmed, but that everything they say and do has also been programmed, even predestined, so that every single little thing that they and all that mankind has ever done has actually been meticulously controlled by a sovereign God.  They say that the future has already been set in stone as well, and that all of this somehow brings glory to God, and they are highly impressed with this "God" they've imagined for themselves.  Well, I'm not impressed, and hopefully you'll see why as we continue on from here.

   While I actually believe that all of us have indeed been programmed, it's important to understand what being programmed means.  God is the absolute master programmer, yes, but that doesn't automatically mean He's also the absolute, meticulous controller.  Our entire universe is kind of like a giant computer, and God, its designer, has written or spoken programs that caused things to appear and enabled them to function in certain ways, under certain conditions.  I said "spoken", because if you study the Scriptures, you'll notice that often when God speaks, things happen.  Genesis 1:3-26 almost looks like simple computer programming code.  God said "Let there be light" and there was.  Then He said "Let there be an expanse" to separate the waters and create the sky, and there was.  Then He said "Let the waters be gathered" into seas, "Let dry ground appear", and so on.  Like lines of computer code, each spoken command is obeyed by His Creation, and step by step His program is taking action and performing His desired result.

   God's program seemed to be running along quite well up until He put the finishing touches on the garden of Eden, creating plants, fish, birds, all other animals, and finally man and woman, after which He declared it all to be very good.  Everything was programmed to live without dying, with the animal kingdom feeding on the fruits and veggies of the plant kingdom.  So far so good.

   At this point I want you to think about how God programmed us in the beginning.  I want to emphasize again that "programmed" does not necessarily mean "absolutely controlled", and I hope to show you how this can and does really work.  Imagine for a few minutes what's involved in the programming of modern video games that many young people play today, in particular the complex role-playing games.  In case you are not familiar with them, brilliant programmers have  created vast "virtual worlds", in which you become a character and get personally involved as you live out your life in this other world.  While there are certain constraints and limitations on your character as it was created by the programmer, the program itself does not make you do anything, in fact the programmer has no interest in controlling you.  The programmer simply gives you an assortment of talents and abilities, as well as some needs, and has created a world for you to explore and interact with.  The programmer gets joy and satisfaction out of watching you play, enjoy, and succeed in his game. You just follow some simple directions to get you started, choose where to go, what to do, and how to do it.  Different games have different purposes, goals, or missions, but they all operate basically the same.  The main thing I want you to notice, is that while everything done within this "virtual world" is "programmed", your free will is left quite intact.  Characters and situations in the game can influence you, but you are not "controlled".  It's really quite amazing.

   So then, let's get back to the garden of Eden and see how God's program is moving along.  Adam and Eve were set up in a beautiful paradise where all there needs were met.  They knew God personally and so far He has only told them a few things they needed to know.  The only prohibition they had was to stay away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest they die.  Since they had no reason to doubt God, they probably would have lived happily ever after if they just stuck with God's program.  Unfortunately for them, another program was about to intrude upon their lives, produced by an evil programmer...Satan!

   You see, mankind was created in such a way that he could be influenced or "programmed" chiefly by words, and he is not immune to being affected by these words or "programs".  Satan's words that tempted Eve were a lot like when we first began surfing the internet, happily enjoying the miracle of email, when suddenly we saw a strange email appear in our inbox.  We were warned not to open email from strangers, and especially warned not to open any program attachments inside them, but because of inexperience, foolishness, and a very enticing subject line, we succumbed to the temptation and opened it.  The email then promised all the riches of the world if only we'd open the attachment and run the program...and so we did...then BOOM!  A virus program was suddenly let loose in the heart of our computer, often unnoticed, until the next day when we found our computer completely dead as we tried in vain to start it up.

   Well, I'm afraid that is exactly what happened to Adam & Eve in the garden.  They were infected by the sin virus and it was a deadly mistake.  You see, just like virally infected computers continue to spread that virus to every other computer it comes in contact with, the sin virus has been transmitted to all mankind down to the present day.  God would have to do something fast, and He did.  He made some changes to the original program, updates if you will, to change the way we would live from then on, and from time to time He has continued to make even more changes, as likewise Satan has continued time and time again to mess with God's plan.  In fact, Satan had mankind so screwed up in Noah's time that God had to destroy everyone but Noah's family and completely start over...kind of like when your Windows operating system gets so screwed up that the only solution is to re-format the hard-drive and re-install Windows, and then re-install all the good programs over again.

   Anyway, I stated earlier that I wasn't impressed by a so-called God who meticulously controls everything that ever happens forever and ever.  That would be too easy for God to do.  But to create a world where its creatures have truly free wills, and where God has to continually react to all our decisions moment by moment, and respond to the attacks of Satan and millions of demons, and yet somehow ensure that those of us who've come to love and trust in Him will eventually be resurrected into glorious new bodies, and be ushered into a wonderful new kingdom, where we will then live sin-free forever and ever.  Now that's what I call impressive!

Revelation 21:1-8

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
6 He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.
7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."


- nOFuTuRe


Walking In The Land Of Liberty


   I woke up this morning with an amazing awareness of the liberty we have in Christ.  We can daily choose to do virtually anything we want, according to whatever gifts, talents and abilities we have been endowed with by our Creator.   Many people think the Christian life is restrictive or stifling, but really the opposite is true.  

   I'm reminded of the situation long ago in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were only given one prohibition, and that was clearly for their own good.  They were simply told not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They could eat anything else but that.  Then, in a positive admonition, they were also instructed to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and be stewards or managers of all the other life on the planet.   Sounds like paradise to me.  From the very beginning, God was not a slave-driver, but a loving Father who wanted the very best life for His children to enjoy.  Unfortunately, Eve doubted God's love and started a terrible chain of events.

   Many years later when the children of Israel had found themselves in bondage and slavery in Egypt, God answered their cries and delivered them.  But when the Lord then attempted to bring them through the wilderness into Canaan, the promised land, that unbelieving generation stubbornly refused to enter in.  They also doubted the goodness of God, just like many people continue to do today.  For many centuries after that, the Lord continued to show Himself a loving, faithful Father to His people in many different ways, finally culminating in His own innocent Son dying for us on a cross to take away our sins and guilt once and for all.  What more can He do to prove His love for us?

   While a lot has happened in the world since then, including an ongoing war with Satan that certainly makes our lives difficult at times, life for the true children of God continues to be one of freedom and fellowshipping with God and His people.  We basically have only one rule to follow...to love.  Love God and love others.  That is the over-arching guidance God has given us.  As long as whatever we do is motivated by love, we are free to do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want.  This is true freedom as it is meant to be experienced.

   Finally, I have to concede that God has indeed warned us in the Scriptures not to do quite a few things, but again, these assorted prohibitions have only been for our good.  They are given to help us enjoy a full, abundant life that is as free as possible from unnecessary suffering.  I think of it this way.  Imagine we are all walking across a field where an enemy has hidden mines in the ground, capable of severely injuring or killing us.  God knows where these mines are, and puts little flags next to them to mark them so we won't go near them.  The sins God warns us not to commit are like those mines, ready to ruin our lives if we stumble or walk willfully into them.

   Lord, forgive us for doubting Your goodness at times, and help us to seek Your kingdom and live accordingly.  Thank You for all the wonderful things You've done, all the things You've given us to enjoy, and the presence and comfort of the Holy Spirit to hold us up when times are tough.  We look forward to the day of Christ's return and the fulfillment of all Your promises!

Romans 13:10-14

10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

-nOFuTuRe

What Is God’s Will For Your Life?


   Here is a topic that has caused great grief for most Christians, and I have to confess that my own life is no exception.  “What is God’s will or plan for my life?”  That is a question we all seem to wrestle with, both in our thought-life and out-loud verbally as we ask God, family, pastors and friends about it.  We tend to view Christian leaders like evangelists, teachers, pastors and missionaries as having found God’s perfect plan for themselves, but then we often compare our own mundane lives, feeling like we have somehow either missed God’s will for our lives, or worse, that perhaps He just doesn’t really have a cool plan like that for us.

   First of all, I want to assure you that most, if not all, full-time Christian workers continue to struggle with the same question, even while appearing to be doing great works for God.  Being a pastor, for example, doesn’t really prove you are doing God’s will any more than if you are a newspaper delivery boy.  I believe it is quite obvious that many Christian leaders have never been directed by God to do some of the things they do, but I don’t really want to go there right now. 

   I mainly just want you to learn how to be able to relax in your relationship with God, confident that He can be trusted to guide you even on a moment by moment basis, if that should ever become necessary.  I say “if” because, I believe for the most part, that God is pleased to see us simply live out our lives making free choices, using whatever gifts and talents He has given us to work with.  On the one hand it blesses us to know we are truly free, and on the other hand it blesses God when we use that freedom to bless others living around us.

   I heard a pastor once teach that God’s will consists not of what we’re doing, but rather who we are becoming.  I like that.  You see, it is God’s will for us to become more and more like Christ, and also that we would encourage others to do likewise.  Jesus made it clear that God’s will is not complicated, but that we are simply to love God and love man.  We are therefore all able to accomplish this, no matter what our abilities are, where we live or how we choose to make a living.  So then, being a full-time church worker is clearly not the only way to fully please God.

   In reading the Scriptures, I find it interesting that neither Paul or any of the other New Testament writers try to get people in the church to become so-called “full-time" Christian workers.  They rather focus on encouraging all of us to live full-time godly lives, whether we are rich or poor, slave or free.  That is God’s will for us.  Paul makes this quite clear in Titus 2:1-15, as he tells Titus what to teach the church.

1 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:
2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience;
3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—
4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded,
7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,
8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back,
10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.


   I think it is quite clear that while God’s plan or will for our lives is very specific in regard to our character traits, it remains quite broad in the way we can choose to live out our Christian lives from day to day.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul tells the church:

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,
12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

   I hope you can see by these verses that God clearly has no intention of micro-managing our lives. If you have been led to believe that God has a specific, perfect will, that includes what you will daily eat, what clothes you will wear, what job you will have, what people you will meet, and even what you will say to them, then you have been misled, and will only frustrate yourself to no end in trying to live that way.  On the other hand, always feel free to pray and ask the Lord what to do if you really find yourself stuck for some reason.  Reading God’s Word prayerfully, combined with what you already know about yourself, should give you lot’s of great ideas as to what you can do with your life that will bring satisfaction to you, blessing to others, and pleasure to our great God.  

   While God sometimes does set apart certain individuals for special, unique works like Paul, Jeremiah, and some others mentioned in the Bible, they are clearly the exceptions rather than the rule.  So then, since Christ has set you free, use your freedom, gifts, talents, along with His grace, to go out into the world and bring Him honor and glory.  That is God's will for your life!

-nOFuTuRe

The Truth Shall Set You Free

   
   Open Theism concerns itself primarily with one issue...the omniscience of God.  Omniscience defined,
simply means having the ability to know all things.  But what exactly does it mean to say that God knows
all things?  I believe that God only knows all things that are logically knowable or that can be known.  He has an intimate awareness of all events and things visible and invisible that have ever existed up until this
present moment.  I would even include all future possibilities to this vast sum of knowledge.  I'm sure
everyone who believes that there is a God would agree with this as far as it goes.  However, there is a
large, vocal group of believers who take the omniscience of God much further.  They believe that God also has certain, total, exhaustive, absolute foreknowledge of the future.  It is at this point where Open Theists and Classical Theists part company in disagreement.

   I titled this "The truth shall set you free" because I want people to see that if they believe in something that takes away their freedom, then it logically follows that what they believe in cannot in fact be true.  If you hold to a belief that robs you of your freedom to live and choose your own path in life, then that belief must be false, or even worse, a lie.  It's one thing to mistakenly believe in something that's not true, but when a person believes a lie, this also implies that there is a liar, and the one who believes the lie has therefore been deceived.  Hmmm, have we ever heard of a deceiver being mentioned to us in the Scriptures?

   I believe it's only been in Satan's best interest for people to believe that God sees the future, and
consequently he has been actively promoting this harmful idea to us for centuries.  How is it in his best interest?  As the enemy of our souls, he knows that if he can get us to believe that God already knows the complete future details of all our individual lives, then most of us will tend to resign ourselves to accept everything that happens to us without a struggle or question.  It especially harms our prayer life, by subtly undermining our confidence in it.  Why pray if God already knows what's going to happen? It also adversely affects our willingness to share the gospel with people, because if we believe God already knows who will be saved, as well as when and how it will happen, then why bother worrying about it?

   From man's perspective, there is really nothing freeing about believing that God knows our future,
unless of course we just want to continue living in sin and be able to use that as an excuse.  I've
heard several Christians play that card after committing some sinful act, saying "Well, God knew I was
going to do such and such."  "God knew I was going to this, God knew I was going to do that, God knows what I'm going to do tonight, tomorrow, next week, next year, blah, blah blah." This only results in an attitude of resignation which often keeps us locked into sinful patterns of behavior, or difficult life situations, from which we could easily break out of...if only we'd make the effort. We tend to take the road of least resistance, especially when we believe God already knows what's going to happen with our lives anyway.  Satan wants to rob us of having a joyful, adventurous life of spontaneous interaction with God, and he knows that convincing us that our future is already set in stone is one of the best ways of accomplishing this.

   Also, from God's perspective, God Himself loses all freedom if it were true that He could see the
future.  He would be completely forced to forever act out whatever He sees Himself doing in the future. 
He would have no flexibility, no alternatives, no options open.  He would be a helpless slave to His
vision of the future, which is of course a ridiculous idea.

   So then, if the truth sets us free, then the notion that God or anyone else can see the future must be
false, since it would only lead to a life of bondage and despair.

-nOFuTuRe

Are All Things Possible With God?


   There is a Bible verse (Matt:19:26) that many, if not all Christians, like to refer to, wherein Jesus states that "with God all things are possible".  People usually look for comfort in this verse when they are faced with some formidable situation in their life's path, such as inoperable brain cancer or something similarly impossible for mere man alone to deal with.  I find this to be an especially curious practice, though, particularly for those Christians who adhere to the belief that God already knows their future.  Imagining on one hand that their life is full of unlimited possibilities and opportunities, while at the same time believing that their exact future path is already known to God in every detail, is clearly illogical.  If God already knows your exact future down to the minutest, second by second detail, then your future holds no real possibilities at all.  It doesn't matter what you decide to do each day, because your choices are not real choices...you are only going to do what God already knows or sees you are going to do.

   So, getting back to the verse mentioned above, if God already knows your future, then all things are really not possible with God.  Only one thing would be possible, and that would be whatever God already supposedly knows will happen.  I don't see how anyone can hold to that belief and not be depressed by it.  The prophets throughout the Scriptures certainly did not see their future as something set in stone.  In fact, their main function as prophets was to warn the people of Israel that while their daily choices and behaviors were leading them into God's judgment and painful consequences,  if they only would repent and start making godly choices, God would begin to bless them again.  Their future was not fixed at all as far as God was concerned.  Take a look at what God told Moses to tell the Israelites after they had been wandering around the wilderness for 40 years...

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15 "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil,
16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them,
18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.
19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;
20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."

   We can see here that the future is not something already foreknown, but that we have rather been given the opportunity to fashion our own lives, one day at a time, into either a life that is blessed by God, or one that is lived in rebellion and judgment, forsaking the abundant life graciously offered to us.  The very length of our lives can clearly depend on how we choose to live.  All things are truly possible with God, but this can only be appreciated and experienced by those willing to believe.  Let me just show you one more example of this truth, in a passage where the Lord tells the prophet Jeremiah to speak to the people.

Jeremiah 26:2-3

2 "Thus says the LORD: 'Stand in the court of the LORD's house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD's house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word.
3 Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.' "

   God is obviously hoping that maybe, just maybe, the people will repent after hearing how He intends to punish them if they don't change their ways.  This and many other passages like it are incomprehensible if God already knows what they will choose.  His plea for their repentance would not be genuine if that were the case.  Thank God we have a Creator who has given us such great liberty, so that we can truly make our own choices, even the bad ones...and that He also is willing to grant us repentance after taking those wrong turns.  Thank You Lord for the wondrous love, grace and mercy You pour out on all of us willing to receive it, and for the unlimited possibilities that the future holds for us!

-nOFuTuRe

Was It Really Meant To Be?


   Today I feel like just rambling and I hope it makes sense to some of you.  I had a very close friend die for apparently no reason a few weeks ago, leaving behind his recent bride and a nine-year old son, and some of the comments I've heard from friends, family, and even his pastor just make me nuts.  I heard all the typical clichés and phrases like "It was his time", "God's in control", "God had a reason for this", "It was just God's plan", and so on.  To my ears, it sounded like they were in a sense blaming God, when in my own mind I was thinking, "This is the work of the Devil."

   Yes, of course, our heavenly Father could have prevented this death, but I really don't believe His intention for giving him life in the first place was for him to die in this way and to cause this massive grief to the many who loved him.  Ever since the fall of man in Genesis, it has been Satan and his influences that have caused all the death and suffering mankind has witnessed for these thousands of years.  When people claim calamity and death is God's plan or God's will, I believe that their attitude is highly insulting to the One Who has created, loved, suffered and even died Himself for us.  God is at war with Satan and his legions of demons, and as a result we see all around us the casualties and collateral damage of this war.  Rather than claiming all this to be "God's will", we should instead be looking forward to the fulfillment of God's precious promises that all of this carnage will one day be over, and that all of us who've placed our trust in Him will one day enjoy our resurrection with all the saints and participate in an eternal kingdom where sin, sickness, death and pain will never touch us again.

   When Adam and Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, do people really believe it was God's plan for Cain to later slay Abel in a fit of jealousy?  Did God create Abel just to have him murdered by his older brother on a specific day and time? Sadly, many Christians do believe it, even though the Lord seemed shocked when it occurred. If you look at the Bible account, God plainly didn't offer Cain any comfort or excuses by telling him "Don't worry, this is all part of my wonderful plan for you boys."  No, the Lord rebuked Cain and put a curse on him for doing such a thing.  God amazingly respects the free will he created us with, and attempts to teach us how to use it wisely, but He more often than not allows us do as we please.

   I guess what I'm trying to say is simply that when we lose a loved one to some horrible accident or disease, or a child is molested, or a sister is raped, or if someone simply slips on a banana peel and breaks his neck and spends the rest of his life in a wheelchair, we should not think that this was God's plan from before the foundation of the world.  Jesus asks us to pray that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  This makes no sense if everything that happens around us is already "God's will".  Do you follow what I'm saying?  In Romans 8 Paul states that God works together all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  This does not mean, however, that He firsts causes all the bad things to happen to us so that He can later turn them into something good.  God simply helps us get the most good out of any calamities that may come our way.  Anyway, that's my thought for today, and I welcome any comments...

   -nOFuTuRe

!! Warning !!


   Recently I have been considering the concept of "warnings".  I've been thinking about it because I've noticed over the years in numerous passes throughout the Bible that warnings seem to pop up everywhere from Genesis to Revelation. The fact that God either directly or through angels or through prophets gives warnings has tremendous implications as to the nature and content of God's knowledge.  The definition of "warning" in the Cambridge Dictionary of American English is:

   1. Notice of a possible danger or problem, so that it can be prevented or avoided.

   Here we can see that a warning implies an indefinite or unsure future.  Warnings deal with the realm of possibilities, not certainties.  This is important for us to understand.  If God is warning us about negative "possibilities" in our future paths, and is attempting to get us to change our direction, this clearly means that God does not see our future as fixed, or a done deal.  In other words, He does not know our future with absolute certainty.  He has good plans for all of us, and tries to steer us through various means into those plans, but obviously we all too often choose to foolishly go our own ways.  

   The wisest way we can live our lives is to study God's Word and attempt to live our lives according to His revealed will for us.  At the same time, we need to cultivate a life of prayer that keeps us in constant communication with God, so that we can ask God on a daily basis to lead and guide us to make wise moment by moment decisions.  The world around us is in constant motion and changing rapidly.  People around us locally as well as worldwide are all doing their own things, devising secret plans, and making their own decisions that directly impact our lives both for good and evil.  God is perfectly aware of all these events taking place and only He can be depended on to skillfully and safely guide us through this vast, changing maze we live in.  One of the many great blessings we have as born-again believers is the Holy Spirit who indwells us, and is ever able and willing to teach, comfort, warn and lead us.  

   To illustrate how this can all play out in our daily lives, let's look at just one of many clear examples of how this works in the life of David as recorded in 1 Samuel 23.  First let me give you a little background.  David and his companions had been on the road fleeing from King Saul for awhile, when they heard that the town of Keilah was being attacked by the Philistines, Israel's enemies.  David then prayed for guidance and the Lord told him to go ahead and attack the Philistines and save the people of Keilah.  David obeyed the Lord and successfully saved the town.  David and his men were then apparently feeling safe with their new friends in Keilah when they heard a rumor that King Saul knew David was in Keilah and that he was going to destroy the town to get to him.  Here's what happened next...

1 Samuel 23:10-13

10 Then David said, "O LORD God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake.
11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O LORD God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant."
And the LORD said, "He will come down."
12 Then David said, "Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?"
And the LORD said, "They will deliver you."
13 So David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah and went wherever they could go. Then it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah; so he halted the expedition.

   
This passage is really amazing.  David probes God for information and finds out that if he stays there, the people of Keilah, out of fear no doubt, will turn David over to Saul to be killed.  So David wisely leaves town and escapes.  However, if David hadn't prayed about it, and just assumed that the grateful town of Keilah would stick up for him and protect him, he would have been wrong, dead wrong.

   So, we see here how important it is to pray all the time, relying on God's knowledge of all the possibilities and probabilities that lie ever before us, so that we might always have the best chance of success in all we set our hands and hearts to do.  God's warnings are there to tell us not what definitely will happen in our futures, but what might possibly happen if we do not take the appropriate action to avoid it.

-nOFuTuRe

Testing...1,2,3


   If God can either see the future or if He has foreknowledge of all future events because He predestines all things, what then is the point of all the occurrences of God testing people in the Scriptures?  For example, in Genesis 22 God tests Abraham to see if he will sacrifice Isaac, then stops him moments before slaying his son, telling him in verse 12, "...now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”  This clearly doesn't make any sense if God already knew what Abraham would do. We see similar testings in the following Scripture passages...

   In Exodus 16:4-28,  God tests Israel to see if they will obey Him concerning the gathering and eating of manna.

   In Exodus 8:2,  God tests Israel in the wilderness in order to know what's in their hearts.

   In Deuteronomy 13:3,  God tests Israel to see if they love Him.

   In Judges 2:22,  God tests Israel to see if they will walk in His ways.

   In 2 Chronicles 32:31,  God tests Hezekiah to find out all that is in his heart.

   In Job 23:10,  Job is aware that God is testing him.

   If you take the time to study these passages in context, it is obvious that God is indeed testing people in order to find out something He doesn't already know about them.  People who believe God has exhaustive foreknowledge of the future have a tough time explaining these verses.  Instead of just accepting what God's Word clearly states, they claim that God is actually testing people in order for the people themselves to find out information about themselves. But if that were true, why doesn't the Bible simply state it that way instead of clearly saying that it is God Himself who is seeking the information?

   When I was taking tests in high school and college, the teachers who were testing me weren't testing me so that I would find out what I knew.  My teachers tested me in order for them to find out what I knew.  The tests gave proof to the teachers whether or not I learned the material they were teaching. If the teachers somehow already knew that I knew the required material, testing me would not make any sense.  It would simply be a pointless waste of time.

   When companies design and create new products, they put those products through rigorous testing in order to get more information about them before selling them to the public.  For example, a company that makes ceiling fans might run prototypes for years in order to make sure that the fan blades won't sag or fall off, that the motors run safely and quietly without overheating, etc.  If a company could somehow know for sure beforehand that the product they are producing would perform excellently and safely for many years, then expensive testing would not be needed and therefore not be done.  Likewise, if God already knows what all of us are going to do for the rest of our lives, then there would be no need for Him to test us.

   I do admit however, that certain types of tests can show us something about ourselves that we may not already know.  For example, when I first joined the Army they gave us a test to see how fast we could run two miles, how many sit-ups we could do in two minutes and how many push-ups we could do in two minutes.  Before I was tested, I had no clue, but neither did the drill sergeants.  The testing gave all of us new information we did not previously know, however the test was more for the Army's benefit because they would then know our weakest performance areas, and know better how to train us.  In the same way, God's testings primarily give God better information about us, while as a secondary effect we may learn more about ourselves as well.  If God tested us solely for us to learn something about ourselves, then the testings in the Bible would have been clearly worded that way...but in fact they are not.  Think about it...

-nOFuTuRe

Systematic Theological Illusions


      Today I hope to demonstrate visually a common problem inherent in many theological views promoted by various Christian leaders today, as well as throughout church history.  Taken in isolation, many doctrinal positions formed by interpreting various Scriptures in certain ways sound plausible and seem to make sense.  However, when several of these doctrines are then placed side by side in an attempt to assemble a systematic, logical picture of who God is, and how exactly He interacts with us and all of His creation, we often find that the various parts of the puzzle just don't quite fit together.  Many theologians, instead of humbly admitting there might be something wrong with their view of God and attempt to find a true solution, resort instead to various ways of twisting or shaving their pieces to make them appear to fit.  Other theologians simply pull out of context their trump card Bible verse that conveniently answers all difficult questions, usually Isaiah 55:8-9.  

   “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."  (NKJV)

   As a typical example, Calvinists often use certain Scripture passages to teach that God has sovereignly caused every single event that has ever occurred throughout the world's entire history up to this present moment, including my writing these words and you reading them.  They claim He has pre-ordained all events, including the past, present and future forever and ever.  Everything in the entire universe is under His total, absolute control.  Nothing ever happens that God has not already determined will happen.  Our free wills are just an illusion He has purposed us to think we have.  Allow me to begin drawing this picture in this way...


   As you can see from this drawing, something is beginning to take shape with the bits of information we have assembled so far.  It looks like three rods forming, which in this case represents several ideas forming about God, mainly that God is in control of every single thing that happens.  Many people find this plausable and comforting, especially if life is good for them.  But let's move on a little further.  

   Calvinists also claim the Bible teaches that we are responsible for our own actions, that God expects us to obey Him, to evangelize the lost, to pray, etc.  These ideas begin to paint quite a different picture of God.  They imply that we ourselves are to choose how we live our lives, and that we play a huge part in determining not only our own futures, but also of those around us.  Let me illustrate these additional concepts with the following drawing.


   Obviously, this drawing seems to be taking a different shape and direction than the other one above it with the three rods forming.  At this point after hearing these different teachings from the same leaders, some people begin getting confused and start asking good questions, such as the following...

   "If God has sovereignly pre-determined every decision I ever have or will make, why should I be concerned about obeying Him?  After all, He's the one making me do whatever I do!"

   "If God already knows ahead of time every person who is going to end up in heaven or hell, either because of predestination or if He can see the future, then why should I be concerned about evangelism?  What will be, will be.  Right?"

   "If God has already decided how, where, and when my cancer-stricken father will die, what is the point of me praying for Him?  If God already knows what will happen, how will my prayers change anything?"

   Here's where some theologians really begin to do their magic.  Through wordy explanations using terminology very few can understand, and emotional appeals to classical tradition, they skillfully re-arrange and paint a picture that puts all these incompatible, incoherent ideas together, and present it all back to us in a seemingly reasonable package.  They then label it a "paradox".  Below is the final picture they present back to us.


   At first glance, this does indeed look like a reasonable object.  Unfortunately, it's a just a nice, clear representation of nonsense.  It appears to be a real object, but in fact it is just an illusion, just like many ideas about God that are held today.  It doesn't matter who says the picture above is real, the fact of the matter is that while the picture can be drawn cleanly on paper, it cannot ever be formed into a real, three-dimensional object.  It just doesn't work in the real world.  In the same way, numerous theological perspectives have been assembled over the centuries in thick multi-volume sets and look good on paper, but they just don't make any sense when applied to real life.  

   One more thought.  When some people's incoherent and illogical ideas about God are challenged, they sometimes rely on a strange defense.  They claim a God who is understandable wouldn't be God to them.  They say God would be too small if they could understand Him.  I disagree with this.  While naturally I expect Him to have knowledge and abilities that go way beyond my present comprehension, I also believe that God created us in His image to be like Himself, so that we actually could have real fellowship, and that we could have mutual understanding.  Otherwise, what does it mean to be made in His image, if He is nothing like us and is incomprehensible?

   Let's all make a point of taking the time necessary to study God's Word completely by ourselves, before blindly accepting the first or the most popular theological positions pushed our way.  Let's read His Word prayerfully and carefully, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us all things.  It's better to be ignorant about certain issues and say so, than to embrace and spread doctrines that just aren't true.

   In conclusion, I would like to say that I recognize that systematic theology has been the grueling life's work of many learned men.  While some of that theology has proved to be flawed, I believe that most theologians in Christendom have been sincere and godly men, devoted to serving God and man in the best way they knew how.  It is a huge and worthwhile task to try to put together a comprehensive, coherent  theology that clearly portrays the God of the Bible as He truly is.  I am looking forward to seeing it happen one day, if and when anyone on earth is in fact able to accomplish it.  Toward that end, I believe that Open Theists have much to contribute.  Eventually, though, we will all certainly get to know Him exactly as He is, when we get to fellowship with Him eternally in heaven.  In the meantime, the drawing below perhaps represents just about how far systematic theology has come to date...



-nOFuTuRe

Our Spiritual GPS


   A while back I took a trip out of town and found myself hopelessly lost and disoriented in the middle of the night.  Besides being uncomfortable, my wife and kids were with me, and you know how tough it is for a man to admit he's lost.  Fortunately, I was able to use my cellphone to call my sister-in-law who lived in that town, who then, after I described my surroundings, was able to recognize where I was at, and then safely guided me to my destination.  After that incident, I began to research those portable GPS devices most of us have heard about in recent years.  

   GPS stands for Global Positioning System.  In case you don't know what these devices are, they look like small TV sets that you can mount on your dashboard, and by communicating with satellites overhead, they amazingly display your current position on a local street map.  You can then type in an address in any city, and a voice will begin giving you directions on how to proceed to get there.  

   Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I borrowed a friend's GPS device to try it out for myself on a road trip.  I fell in love with this thing.  After telling it where I wanted to go, it immediately prompted me on how to proceed.  For example, it would say, "In 300 yards, turn right."  Then, "Go one mile, then bear left, then take the next exit."  You could also see your vehicle on the screen, moving down the road as the map scrolls on ahead of you, and you could see the side streets, rivers, and so on as you passed them by as well.  In addition, the GPS is programmed with the locations of millions of points of interest you may want to visit, as well the all-important locations of gas stations and restaurants you may need to stop at along the way.  Even more, yes there's more, it can give you "live" weather information and traffic reports that can come in real handy on any given day.

   Best of all, however, is that if you get distracted and miss an important turn, all is not lost.  It announces "Re-calculating!" from its speaker, and then immediately advises you of a new route it has determined to best enable you to get to your destination.  Sometimes it's as easy as taking the next turn, sometimes it tells you where you can make a u-turn.  Whatever the case, though, while you may get delayed somewhat because you missed a turn, it doesn't mean you can no longer get to your destination.  The GPS will get you there, no matter how many times you screw up, as long as you are willing to persevere and obey its directions.  Finally, there is a button marked "Home", that you can program to your home address, so that no matter where you are in all of North America (or the world if those maps are included), you can simply push that button and it will proceed to guide you turn by turn, right to your home front door.

   As I was enjoying the wonder, comfort, and security of having this device to guide my way, something really neat occurred to me about God.  He has given all of us believers when we are saved, our own personal GPS to guide our lives.  GPS in this case stands for God's Providential System.  It consists of the Holy Spirit within us, who of course is in constant communication with our Father in heaven, as well as a large host of ministering angels that surround and overlook all of our comings and goings.  We all have this great resource to guide us along everyday.

   You see, the greatest part about all this is that we don't have to fret about how we are going to discover and follow God's plan for our lives.  He's promised to conform us to the image of His Son and to bring us to Himself in heaven one day.  All we have to do is trust Him and follow the directions He gives us through His Word, promptings by His Spirit, counsel from other believers, possible angelic visitations and many other signs He may put in our path as He sees fit to lead and guide us to our ultimate destination.  

   The thing I've really come to understand in recent years, is that, just like our GPS in the car, God is constantly willing and able to "re-calculate" our path when we get distracted and stray away from His earlier guidance.  God's plan for our lives is not some fixed, inflexible plan, that if we miss it, all is lost.  No, God mercifully goes after us like a good shepherd who goes after a lost sheep, gently guiding it back to safety.  God's goal and destination for us always remains the same, but His plan has infinite flexibility built into it to ensure that even the dumbest, most stubborn of us, will finally see our heavenly home.  Lord, You deserve all our praise!

-nOFuTuRe

The Biggest Word in the Bible


   Today I would like for us to take a look at a huge word that God uses when He speaks to His people. Often overlooked, it is comprised of only two letters that make it appear very small, but when understood properly, it has great implications for all of our lives.  This word is the key that unlocks our understanding of man's free will and the mechanism by which God's plan for our lives unfolds. This word determines the future course of our individual lives, down to the smallest detail.  It opens the way to God's blessings, and also His curses.  Do you want God's best for your life, His perfect will?  Then you want to take a good, long look at this tiny word and study how it's used throughout the Scriptures.  The word is "IF".
(Read Deuteronomy 11 for a graphic example.) 

   "IF"?  What's the big deal about "IF"?  Well, friends, the implications of this word, especially when spoken by God, are massive, even radical.  Let's first take a look at what the primary dictionary definition of "IF" is.

1.a. In the event that:  If I were to go, I would be late.
   b. Granting that:  If that is true, what should we do?
   c. On the condition that:  She will play the piano only if she is paid.

Core Meaning: It's a conjunction used to indicate the circumstances that would have to exist in order for an event to happen. It's used to indicate possibilities, uncertainties, doubt.

   Here you can see that the word "IF" implies an uncertain future.  This is an interesting word indeed, especially when God uses it.  Many people assume (wrongly) that there is nothing in our future that is uncertain to God, and that He has either already pre-planned everything that we do or that He already sees what we will do.  The Bible, however, reveals many examples where God obviously does not know exactly what we will do.  Consequently, since His own actions so often depend on our own personal choices, He doesn't know exactly what He will be doing either, except that He has a large, general plan within which He is more than able to adapt to any and all choices we may make.  He improvises, changes plans, and even outright changes His mind at times, according to the need of the moment.  He is truly awesome and we see Him in His glory as He skillfully manages His universe while at the same time leaving our free wills intact.  Let's take a look at some of these examples in the Scriptures.  Please read the following carefully.

   Exodus 4: 1-17
1 Then Moses answered and said, "But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, 'The LORD has not appeared to you.'"
2 So the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod."
3 And He said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail" (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand),
5 "that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."
6 Furthermore the LORD said to him, "Now put your hand in your bosom." And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.
7 And He said, "Put your hand in your bosom again." So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.
8 "Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.
9 And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land."
10 Then Moses said to the LORD, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."
11 So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?
12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say."
13 But he said, "O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send."
14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: "Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.
15 Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.
16 So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.
17 And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs."
(NKJV)

   
Above we see the amazing account of God attempting (successfully) to convince Moses to take on the mission of going to Egypt and setting the Israelites free.  Moses obviously has doubts about many aspects of this mission, and God is clearly playing this moment by moment as they have a discussion about the details.

   Moses was worried that nobody would believe his story that God had sent him.  He didn't want to look like an idiot in front of Pharaoh or his fellow Hebrews.  God  understands his fears, so He gives Moses three signs to perform in front of them, in order to prove that God indeed is behind all of this.  However, notice carefully what God says in verses 8-9, 

   "Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign. And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land." 

   God clearly uses the "IF" word, knowing the future is not a done deal.  While God knows all of our tendencies better than we know ourselves, there is no final certainty as to how any of us will act under most circumstances.  Then, in this same section of Scripture we see God is unable to convince Moses of his ability to speak to the Egyptians, so God in anger gives the speaking role to Aaron.  This is real drama being played out, with no exact script being followed.  God clearly experiences life alongside us in the present, moment by moment, interacting with and adapting to all of the millions of free choices we all make each and every day.  It's truly a monumental task that our Almighty God has undertaken, and yet one in which we can be confident in His ability to handle.  This is where our faith truly comes in...exciting, eh?  Let's look at one more of the numerous examples of this in the Bible.

   
Jeremiah 18:1-11
1 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,
2 "Go down to the potter's shop, and I will speak to you there."
3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel.

4
But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.
5 Then the Lord gave me this message:

6
"O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand.
7 If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed,
8 but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned.

9
And if I announce that I will plant and build up a certain nation or kingdom,
10
but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless it as I said I would.
11 "Therefore, Jeremiah, go and warn all Judah and Jerusalem. Say to them, 'This is what the Lord says: I am planning disaster for you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right.'"

   Again we see God telling us that our futures are not fixed.  In this case God says He will change His mind about judgments and blessings according to how we conduct ourselves.  This is the very thing about God that annoyed Jonah the prophet.  Jonah wanted God to destroy the Ninevites, so he didn't want to go preach to them, knowing that if they repented, God would change His mind about punishing them.  Also, when King Hezekiah was told by God through the prophet Isaiah to get his affairs in order because his sickness was unto death, he prayed and cried unto the Lord until God decided to respond and add 15 years to his life.  Read this amazing account for yourself in 2Kings 20:1-11.

   "IF" is the biggest word God uses to remind all of us that our futures are not written in stone, that our daily choices mean everything when it comes to shaping our lives.  Our future is whatever we choose to create moment by moment, not something already there that we simply watch unfold.  The devil is the one who wants us to think that the future already exists, because he knows that will cause us to become complacent and just take everything that comes along as "God's plan" or God's will".  Everything that happens is clearly not God's will, and this is why Jesus taught us to pray that God's will be done on the earth as it is in heaven.  Prayer is our opportunity and privilege to interact with and co-labor with God.  Prayer really affects God and moves Him to act.  It's not just an exercise in futility designed only to change us, as is commonly taught.  Think about it...

"If My people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."  2 Chronicles 7:14  (KJV)

"...You do not have, because you do not ask God."
  James 4:2b  (NIV)

-nOFuTuRe

It's About Time


   After years of prayer, deep thought and research, I've come to an amazing realization about time as we've been conditioned and programmed to imagine it.  It simply doesn't exist.  Yes, I know it sounds absurd on the surface, and I even used the term "years" in the previous sentence, but I think if you give me the opportunity to explain myself, and if you put on your thinking cap, I believe you can understand this for yourself.

   As one who declares that God doesn't know or see the future exhaustively, I want to put forth one of the major reasons why I say He doesn't.  God doesn't know the future simply because there is no future to know.  There only exists the present, the "now" if you prefer.  God hints strongly at this by telling Moses that He is the "I AM WHO I AM" in Exodus 3:14.  All of us, God included, live only in the present.  We always have lived in the present and always will.  We will never leave it.  Only our condition, situation, or location will change.  All activities in heaven and on the earth only take place now. 

   Although popularly taught today, the ideas that God dwells outside of time or that He somehow dwells simultaneously in the past, present and future are simply superstitious myths, not anything originating from the Bible.  All reality exists only in the present.  The past is at best a memory or a recording of the thoughts, activities, and events that occur in the ever-enduring present.  It can only be remembered, observed, or accessed on some type recording media, like a photo or an audio-video recording, or imperfectly within our brains.  We can only see representations of the past, not the past itself.  The past is gone.  It is not a real place that can be visited or altered, even by God.  It literally does not exist.  What happened in the past did actually happen, though, unlike the future.

   The future is a totally different concept.  It is simply a figment of our imagination.  This is why we say we "imagine" what the future will be like.  However, because mankind has talked about the future constantly for thousands of years, it's left us with the mistaken idea that it is a real place where other people not yet born are living out their lives, and if they ever invent a time-machine, they may someday come back to our time and tell us what is going on there.  Pure nonsense.  There is nobody and nothing living or existing in the future.  This popular concept of time, along with the theory of evolution, are two of the most widely held myths embraced on planet earth today, fit only for science-fiction books and movies, and I stress the word "fiction".

   Time is really just our way of comparing the motion of one thing against the motion of something else.  It's a convenient way of measuring various activities that makes our lives more organized and helps us to plan and prepare in order to survive.  Time is not some "thing" that God created.  God experienced what we call time long before He created anything.  How else could He think and plan out what He was going to create?  Perhaps a better word for what we normally refer to as "time" would be "duration", endless duration in God's case, since He is eternal with no beginning or end.  Time is simply a perception, something we all experience as duration in the present. It has no substance, visible or invisible.

   God's creation consists of all of the visible and invisible stuff that moves around us in the present.  Time does not go by, move, slow down, speed up, or anything else.  Matter, however, and all other created things do move around us, and the varying speeds by which they move around us and around each another is what we have measured and labeled pieces of time.  God has done some of this labeling for us back in the Genesis account, describing days and weeks to start us off.

   As you are aware, a day is simply one full 360 degree rotation of the earth as it faces the sun.  Likewise, a year is what we call one complete trip of the earth orbiting around the sun.  Further, because the earth's axis is tilted 23.5 degrees facing the North Star, the northern hemisphere is tilted more toward the sun for half the year, which we call spring and summer, and we call the other, cooler, darker half of the year fall and winter.  The opposite is true in the southern hemisphere.  To keep track of all these movements mankind has devised clever architectural structures like Stonehenge in England and pyramids elsewhere to tell us what season of the year we are in, as well as sundials and modern clocks that give us even more details such as what particular day of the year we are in, and further dividing days into hours, seconds, and so forth.  Today, computers can slice up movements even further into micro-seconds.

   So then, time itself is not really a "thing" we can observe or manipulate, but merely a way of comparing and describing the relative motion and position of things.  Similarly, aging, or getting old, is really not about time going by, but about friction and deterioration taking it's toll as we move around on this planet, walking, running, and working ourselves to death.  Even when we think we are lying still, sound asleep, our organs and cells are churning around, wearing themselves out.  The sun and stars are slowly burning out around us as well.  Eventually everything we see around us will be burned up and the Lord will create for us a new heavens and a new earth, and our spirits that have been given eternal life will also be given new bodies that won't wear out.  These are some of the awesome things God has planned for those who love Him.  These things don't exist yet, even in some imagined future, but they are certainly sure to come, not because God "sees" the future, but because God is trustworthy and able to keep His promises.  Enough for now...I have to go deal with some of those other things moving around me.  Blessings to you!

-nOFuTuRe

But Doesn't Bible Prophecy Prove That God Sees The Future?


   This is one of the first questions that comes up when someone first hears it suggested that God doesn't see the future.  How on earth can God foretell things that will come to pass days or months or hundreds or even thousands of years in advance if He doesn't already see or know the future?  In a word...elementary.  So simple, in fact, a child can understand it, and a child can even demonstrate how it's done, although on a limited scale.

   To illustrate this, let's suppose a seven year old boy one day announces to his mother that within three days she will have a flat tire on her car.  Startled by that declaration, the mother quizzes the child about why he would say such a thing, but he acts strange and offers no explanation.  The mother, while perplexed, decides not to pursue it any further. One day goes by, and nothing happens. The second day comes and goes, and again nothing happens.  Mom has forgotten the incident by now.  The third morning arrives, and when Mom goes out to do some shopping, she discovers that her car has a flat tire.  Frustrated, while shaking her head and wondering what to do about it, she spots her son looking out the living room window with a strange smile on his face.

"It's a miracle!",  she shouts, suddenly remembering her son's prediction, and she runs back into the house to talk with her son about it.

Mom: "Son, you have the gift! You can see the future!"

Son:  "What do you mean? Why do you think that?", he said, looking startled and confused.

Mom:  "You told me a few days ago that I would have a flat tire in three days, and it came to pass today just like you said.  You must be psychic or something."

Son:  "No, mom, I'm sorry, but I was just playing a joke on you.  I let the air out of your tire this morning before you got up."

   In case you haven't caught on, I just illustrated to you how prophecy works.  A prophet first declares that something will happen, then later on God makes it happen.  At least that is how it was clearly done in the Bible.  No gazing into a crystal ball, no fancy divination, no magic, no fortune-telling.  God simply says something will happen, and then He makes it happen.  It's as simple as that most of the time.  

   Below is just one of many examples of Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled in this very way.  Please notice the wording of this Scripture passage carefully.

Matthew 1:18-23 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”  (NKJV)

   In this passage we are shown how prophecy works.  Hundreds of years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote of a coming Messiah who would be born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14)  Now here in Matthew, Matthew tells us how God made this promise come true.  First God impregnated Mary by the Holy Spirit, and then He caused Joseph to dream about an angel of the Lord who then explained to him what was going on, so that Joseph would then cooperate with the Lord in order to fulfill His Word.  God first tells us what is going to happen, then He later intervenes in this world's affairs, using various means at His disposal, in order to bring His Word to pass.  Basically, God is just masterfully keeping a promise He made, and He is more than able to pull it off, no matter how difficult it may seem to us. 

   Sometimes God will share with us something in the short-term that is about to happen, in order for our faith in Him to grow when we see it actually come to pass before our very eyes.  Jesus did this with Simon Peter when He predicted that Peter would deny knowing Him three times during that very night.  How was God able to accomplish this? Simply because at any given moment He is totally aware of all mankind's thoughts, plans, intentions, and movements. He is also aware of the same concerning all of the angelic forces, as well as their demonic counterparts. For that matter, He knows the location and number of all the hairs on our heads, and beyond that He even knows the position and trajectory of every single atomic particle in the universe.  Nothing that exists can escape His gaze or His influence, should He choose to intervene.  

   God knew Peter's heart even better than Peter did.  God saw through Peter's boastings and knew without a doubt that Peter would deny Him once the pressure was on.  Further, God was easily able to cause people around Peter to recognize and accuse him, from which fear arose and caused him to deny his relationship with Jesus.  God also caused the cock to crow afterward, reminding Peter of what Christ had said to him earlier.  This was certainly no harder than causing Balaam's donkey to speak to him in Numbers 22:28.  God may not "see" the future, but being Almighty and everywhere present, He has absolutely no need to see it. He is in no way intimidated, worried, weakened or diminished by that fact.  He has the infinite ability to complete His plans for this creation, and carry out all His promises to us. He basically just keeps His Word. God is faithful. We can trust Him.

   Now that we've established the fact that "seeing the future" is not a requirement for God to fulfill Biblical prophecies, we can move on from here and address some of the other related questions and issues that you or others may have.  Have yourself a wonderful day with Jesus!

-nOFuTuRe

An Interview With The Living God



   When I became a Christian, I had no one to instruct or lead me.  I met the Lord alone in my room one night in February, 1976, when in desperate circumstances as a last resort I cried out to Him, and He mercifully answered me.  He cleansed me from all my sins and guilt, and then filled me with His Holy Spirit as a seal and promise of my salvation.  Among many other things, He promised to be with me always, and that I didn't have to worry about anything ever again.  It was such a wonderful experience.  God loved me!  Oh, what joy and peace that flowed through my veins!

   Every day for the next few weeks was so exhilarating.  I read the Word of God continually.  Nothing else was satisfying.  To think that I, a wicked, lost sinner could overnight become a friend of God and walk with Him forever was a dream come true.  Each day was a spontaneous thrill, as the Lord and I together labored to unravel the incredible mess I had previously made of my life.  We were creating a new life in it's place.  Oh, how I loved Jesus and everyone around me, even my old enemies.  I was free for the first time in my life!  I praised the Lord continually.

   Then something began to happen to take away my joy.  I began to meet "Christians" who, meaning well I'm sure, started inviting me to various Bible studies and church services.  In fact, just about every cult and denomination in Connecticut seemed determined to have me join them.  It was uncanny, because for all the years before my conversion, I don't recall anyone ever even asking me to church.  They were coming out of the woodwork from all directions, and they all had differing views of God and the Bible.

   After a few months of church hopping, I settled into a nice, conservative, evangelical church that faithfully preached the simple gospel message every week.  I felt pretty safe.  The congregation was warm and growing.  I dove into everything they had going on; the Bible studies, prayer meetings, neighborhood cell groups, seminars, retreats, potluck dinners, and so on.  They were a little suspicious at first of my "Damascus Road" conversion experience, but seemed to accept me fully as time went on.  However, they told me that being a young Christian, I should not trust my experience, but should rather trust the wisdom of their pastor and elders, and their interpretation of the Word of God.  Admitting that I was indeed new at this, I trustingly placed my life in their hands.

   In a few months I became weaker rather than stronger in my faith.  Step by step their teachings were stripping my Lord away from me.  I was taught among other things that "God stopped speaking to people when the Bible was completed."  "The gifts of the Holy Spirit ended when the last apostle died."  "Miracles of today are caused by the devil to deceive us."  "God sees the future and already knows everything you're ever going to do."  In other words, they were attacking the reality of my salvation experience.

   I was confused, tossed to and fro, and became double-minded on many issues.  Former sinful habits were reappearing in my life.  I was slowly beginning to wonder if I ever really was saved.  I decided that the best thing for me to do, since I really wanted to serve the Lord, was to go to a Bible college, where surely I would hear the truth that would deliver me from all the doctrinal chaos.  So off I went, and lo and behold, more confusion.  Not only was the school's doctrinal position different from my church, but I was then forced to study many other conflicting doctrines that have plagued the church throughout history.  My heart was aching.  I felt as if someone went into my garden, promising to plant good seed, only to find horrible weeds sprouting up to devour what little tender crop I had growing to begin with.  What a nightmare.  The worst part was that every conflicting doctrine seemed to have Scriptures to defend it.  Where was the truth, anyway?

   The doctrine that really bothered me the most concerned the omniscience of God.  Oddly, here was one doctrine that most theologians through the centuries rarely debated.  It is the one doctrine that is largely just taken for granted.  The idea of a God who knows everything there is to know made sense and was no problem.  The Bible is very clear about that.  However, when the definition of "allknowing" was stretched to include the future, something about it didn't sit right with me, although I tried to accept it in the beginning.  It sounded quite reasonable at first, but as I pondered the total implications of such a belief, and when I forced it to its logical conclusions, it began to eat away at my soul like a cancer.  If they were right, then I had no free will.  In fact, many respected theologians proudly declare this very thing.  I was merely a pawn in a sovereign cosmic play.

   In December, 1979, I found myself an honor student studying for the ministry, while literally wishing I were dead.  Recently married, I would spend many sleepless nights studying and pacing the floor over this issue.  My poor wife wondered if I would ever get any rest, but she was largely unaware of the depths of my torment.  I couldn't stop thinking, "If God already knows every single thing that I'm going to do for the rest of my life, what could I do right here and now that would possibly bring joy and pleasure to Him?"  The Bible plainly teaches that He created us for His pleasure, yet how can He enjoy watching robots?

   I was still in love with the personal, living God who had visited me a few years before, who brought me salvation and newness of life, but I now felt distant from Him.  I wanted desperately to show Him how much I appreciated Him by living a life that was pleasing to Him, but the "knowledge" I had gained about Him in Bible school was ruining everything.  How could I now please someone who already sees all my actions millions of years in advance?  Likewise, how could I grieve or upset Him if He already knows everything I'm going to do ahead of time?  If He already knows that I will fall into fornication or adultery, why should He be grieved when it happens?  His grief for all the world sins would have already been spent ages ago.  I had so many questions that no one had logical answers for. 

   The things I was being taught about God from theology books just didn't seem to fit together with the God I read about in the Bible or the God of my experience.  Things were not making sense to me.  If what I was being taught was the truth, then I wanted to die.  If I couldn't please the Lord, then I had no desire to live.

   One night, after my wife had gone to bed, I was doing my thing, pacing the floor over this.  Finally, I cried out to God, "I've had it, Lord!  Do You mean to tell me that thousands of years ago You knew what brand toothpaste I would buy this week?  You knew how many brush strokes I'd use on my teeth tonight?  I can't do a single thing that would ever surprise you or bring you joy?  What?  You knew I would be saying these things?  This stinks!  I know, you knew I was going to say that too, right?  Well, how about this, "I hate this life!  If this is Christianity, I quit!  Kill me, get it over with, take me home, do something, I can't stand it anymore!  I beg You Lord."  I fell to my knees, broken, exhausted.  (Suddenly the following occurred, but paraphrased, because I can't recall every exact word and detail.)

   The Lord's gentle voice called my name, and He spoke something incredible to me.

"Kent, I don't know what you are going to do tomorrow."  Startled and awed, I replied, "Lord, what do you mean?"

He answered, "My child, I cannot see the future."

"But Lord, what do You mean?  You're God, You must see the future!"

"Child, listen to Me.  There is no future.  There is only the present."

"But Lord, what about your omniscience?  If you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, then everything's out of control!"

"Don't worry.  Nothing can happen that I am unaware of, or that I cannot prevent.  I know where everything and everyone is at each and every moment.  Not a single atom escapes my notice.  I know what everyone is doing, what they're planning, and what lies hidden in every heart.  I know everything that is and everything that was.  But the future does not exist, and is therefore invisible to My gaze."

"That's frightening, Lord."

"Why is that?  Trust Me.  I am Almighty and everywhere present.  You have nothing to fear."

"But the Bible says that You see the end from the beginning, and everyone else says so, too!  And what about all the prophecies?"

"They twist My words.  Read them carefully.  I declare the end from the beginning.  I cannot "see" it.  I speak of My plans, then I fulfill them.  Who can stop Me?  A prophecy is merely a promise of what I intend to do.  I spoke of my plans and purposes to My prophets, who then passed them on to the people.  When I say that I will do something, I will certainly bring it to pass.  I am Almighty, so My words are sure and trustworthy.  I am not like a fortune-teller who pretends to see the future.  Read the prophecies in My Word, observe their fulfillments, and you will understand."

"What about our free will, then, if You are in full control?"

"Child, think of an earthly father.  His children have free wills, but they are held in check by certain limitations imposed by the father for the good of the child.  A good father desires his children to grow up to be responsible and of good character, but a father cannot by force alone make his children wise and obedient.  He loves, leads, teaches, and disciplines them.  His children then choose for themselves the paths they will take.  Hopefully, his children will respect and appreciate this freedom, bringing honor and joy to their father."

"Lord, does this mean we are free to do anything we please?"

"Yes, but within limits.  A father often interferes with a child's free will, totally overruling at times.  A father may, for example, allow his child to play anywhere in the yard, with his free will unchecked.  However, should the child leave the yard and crawl toward some danger, surely a loving father would interfere, plucking him up against his will back to safety.  An older child who knew better may even be punished.  I deal with you in a similar manner.  You are free to do as you please, but I may step in at times for your own good."

"But Lord, Do You mean You really can't see what I'll be doing tomorrow?"

"I cannot.  You and I walk together only in the present.  Each moment that passes by is as fresh and brand new to Me as it is to you.  I've never seen this moment before.  I enjoy every time you stop to speak with me.  I laugh with you and cry with you.  I feel everything you feel when you feel it." 

"Does this mean that You're pleased whenever I obey Your Word?"

"I'm thrilled!"

"Oh, Lord, this is fantastic.  Hallelujah!"

   I was so happy and excited that I cried and sobbed for joy.  I was free, and I could please the Lord!  I was in love with life again.  I couldn't wait to tell everybody!  I rushed to wake up my wife and tell her the "good news" of my deliverance.  But to my dismay, she was hesitant to believe me.  My heart briefly sunk again.  I realized that I would need a pile of evidence from the Bible along with God's help if I was to ever share this good news successfully with anyone.  People need to be gently deprogrammed from a lifetime diet of false assumptions and flawed presuppositions.  It took much study, many Scriptures, and a clear step by step explanation before my sweet wife finally saw and appreciated the truth.  Today, just because of this one truth, she along with others are enjoying a more wonderful relationship with God than they ever had before.  I hope that by now you are entering into it as well.  

   This is only one truth, however, one piece of the whole body of truth.  The implications of this are vast and varied for every believer.  As I've said, God is ever-present with us and waiting to interact with our lives according to our prayers, our attitudes, and our actions.  He is there to guide and assist us toward maturity.  I do not have all the answers, but God does.  It is my hope that you will be able to expand upon my efforts and see even more glory than I have.  The following is an attempt to describe in simple terms how God walks with us in our daily lives.

   Life is much like a chess game where we are playing against Satan.  The whole world is watching.  We are novices and Satan is a master.  Without outside help, we stand no chance of defeating Satan.  He can either swiftly beat us, or slowly torment us at will.  However, we have God, the game's creator, the grand master at our side, available for advice and support.  He won't control us or play for us, but He will play with us if we'll only ask Him.  We can still foolishly attempt to play without God's help and surely lose, or we can take advantage of His help and surely win.  Does God need to see the future in order to win?  Of course not.  Besides being able to read Satan's mind, God thoroughly and absolutely can anticipate every possible move and can therefore determine the best moves to counteract and thwart any attack.  We can't lose if we are obedient to the leading of His Spirit!  The following is a prayer which I share with the apostle Paul for all of us.

EPHESIANS 1:18-19a  "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe."

More to come, as I find the time, and I welcome any specific questions or comments...

An Interview With The God Who Sees The Future


   If God can see the future, have you ever wondered what it would be like if you were granted a live interview with Him?

Sheep:   "Oh, God! Thank You so much for this interview! Imagine me getting to talk to Almighty God! This is so exciting!

God:   "Not for me."

Sheep:   "Oh my, I'm sorry, did I offend You or say something wrong?"

God:   "No, it's just that I knew you were going to say that."

Sheep:   "You knew I was going to say what?"

God:   "Before you first spoke to Me, I knew what you were going say, and also what you just said now...and everything else you are going to say as well."

Sheep:   "Oh, hmmm, sure, of course...I forgot...uh, uhm, wow, uh, well, this is definitely weird trying to talk to You when you already know ahead of time what I'm going to say."

God:   "It might be weird for you, but you've no idea how weird this is for me...and boring too, like watching reruns on TV."

Sheep:   "Boring?  How could we who You've created in Your own image be boring?"

God:   "I knew you were going to ask that...maybe we should just end this conversation right now."

Sheep:   "No, wait! I don't understand. I've been told we were created for Your pleasure! What about me personally? Have you always thought of me as boring?"

God:   "Frankly, yes. Just imagine for a moment how this looks from My point of view. I actually already saw and heard this conversation a long time ago, and not just a week, a month, or a few years ago, either. In fact, I already saw us doing this interview before you were even born, before your mother was born, even before Adam was born. I also know everything you are ever going to say or do, how, where and when you will die, and what you will do forever and ever for all eternity. Now you please tell me if you would find this boring or not!"

Sheep:   "Wow, Lord, I never really considered Your situation before, in fact I always thought it would be rather awesome to be able to see the future."

God:   "It is not only not awesome...it's depressing."

Sheep:   "You, depressed? Can't You just do something to cheer Yourself up?"

God:   "Actually, no. You see my child, for Me, there is truly nothing new under the sun. Not only do I have the ability to see your future, but unfortunately I also see Mine, and I can't do anything other than what I already see Myself doing. My omniscience effectively imprisons Me. Our future is fixed, settled for all eternity. I can't change a thing from what I already see, otherwise how could I really have seen it, if I could just change it whenever I felt like it? That wouldn't make any sense."

Sheep:   "But what about prayer? People are always asking you to intervene in their lives, to change things for the better, and so forth. How does that all work?"

God:   "I knew you were going to ask Me that."

Sheep:   "Seriously, Lord, what's the deal? What about that new job I was praying to You about last week, and my mother's cancer I've been asking You to heal? Aren't You going to help me out here?"

God:   "This really is embarrassing. No, I'm afraid that what I already saw was going to happen in your life from millions of years ago is still going to happen...there is nothing I can do to change it. What will be, will be."

Sheep:   "Now I'm the one getting depressed.  It's really odd, because I used to take comfort in thinking You knew everything that was going to happen. Now I realize it's bad news rather than good. Um, I don't think I have anything more to say to You right now. Maybe I'll get back to You some other time."

God:   "I knew you were gonna say that..."


   Think about it...if God sees the future, the entire universe becomes incoherent and hopeless. Think about it. Just imagine yourself having your own conversation with a God who sees the future...

The Emperor's New Clothes


   I remember as a young child, there was a story told about a king who was duped by his tailors into believing they had made some fine clothes for him to wear, when in fact they hadn't made him any clothes. They helped him dress up in the "pretend" clothes, and although he himself could see in the mirror that he was naked, he was afraid to sound foolish by questioning them, so he decided to trust their word, and ventured out in public. The people in the kingdom, afraid of upsetting the king, kept their mouths shut as he paraded around town looking like a fool. Some little children would question why the king was walking around naked, only to be sharply told to "hush up" by their parents and elders.

   This story is actually a good parable about false teachings promoted in the church throughout history, and applies to many myths that persist even today.  Modern Pharisees and Sadducees parade around teaching nonsense that is plain to children and even the unbelieving world, yet most people within the church that see the truth are either too intimidated to say anything, or else they are severely censored or labeled a heretic when they do. Thousands of people in the dark ages were tortured and killed for pointing out simple truths...today they are usually just labeled some negative term and driven out of their fellowships.

   Today's Pharisees and Sadducees reside in two basic camps, called Calvinists and Arminians. While these groups don't correspond to each other exactly, my point is that there are basically two theological positions held firmly today and promoted by the "powers to be", much like two thousand years ago during the time of Christ. And just like it was back then, both groups are wrong, and woe to anyone that dares to point it out to them.

   You see, both groups claim that God knows the future exhaustively, but have different reasons for believing this to be true. The Calvinists claim God knows the future because He has preordained the entire future from the eternal past. They say God sovereignly, mysteriously controls everything that ever occurs in His entire creation. Free will is merely an illusion that we think we exercise, yet God still holds us accountable for our actions. God creates men to do evil, then punishes them for doing His will. This doctrine makes God not only the author of all that is good and glorious, but also of sin and evil. 

   The Arminians, quick to see the flaws of that perspective, instead claim that God does not control us, but only knows the future because He has the ability to "see" the future, so that way God is able to escape the accusation that He's created the mess we see all around us. This puts the blame and responsibility squarely on Satan and mankind instead.

   While the Arminian perspective makes more sense on the surface, the real problem with both points of view lies not in how the future is exhaustively known, but that God even knows the future at all. You see, if God knows the future in its entirety, whether by preordaining or seeing it, then either way the future is fixed, totally set in stone. If this is true, then there is nothing we can do to change what God already knows is going to happen. God would already know everything you would ever think, do or say before you were even born, before He even created the world for that matter. Your supposed "free will" practically amounts to nothing since you cannot do anything except what God already knows you will do. 

   Even worse, if God knows our future, then He also knows His future, which means that if God sees anything at all in the future that He doesn't like, He is powerless to change it. We would have to strike out the word "Almighty" from the phrase Almighty God. If God already knows everything that is ever going to happen, then there is no point asking Him to change anything. What will be, will be. But if God could change the future, that would mean He didn't truly see the future in the first place.  The idea of a God who both knows the future and is the Almighty God able to answer our prayers is an incoherent idea.

   Here's where the naked truth of the emperor's new clothes come into play. Everyone pretends God knows the future even though when examined logically and Scripturally, the doctrine just doesn't hold water.  In fact, just about everything we read about God in the Scriptures has to be discarded if God already knows the future.  Due to wrong assumptions and unfounded presuppositions, most people don't even notice this, but just a little digging makes this clear.

   Let me just give you a few of many examples to illustrate this. If God already knows the future in all its entirety, then why do we read the following in the Bible?

   Genesis 2:19  "Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name." NASB

   Here we plainly see that God wanted to see what Adam would name the animals. This makes no sense if He already knew what Adam would name them.

   Genesis 6:5,6  "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart." NASB

   We see that at this point in time God saw something terrible was happening with mankind, and He became grieved, something that makes no sense if He always knew what would happen.

   Genesis 22:1-2  "Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."  NASB
   
   Genesis 22:12  "He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."  NASB

   These verses reveal that God was testing Abraham, and that after passing the test, God then knew for certain that Abraham truly trusted Him.  Again, this is another example of God acting as if He doesn't know what will happen until it actually happens, leading us to believe that God experiences reality at the same time as we do. We've just barely looked at the book of Genesis here, yet you will find that the Bible is literally full of examples like this, even examples of God changing His mind.  If God already knows the future, His behavior just doesn't make any sense.

   But wait...what about all the prophecies? You probably think that they prove conclusively that God knows the future. The answer to that is very simply, no, they absolutely do nothing of the kind. God gives us prophecies by another way...and maybe I'll tell you how He does it in my next article, time permitting...

For Such A Time As This...


   Ah, what a long road it has been for me.  For almost 30 years I've been praying for a way to educate Christians to the fact that the future is not only unknown and unseen by us, but that it also unseen by GOD Himself. Shocking news to most people, I know, yet the reasons why this has to be true are simple, logical, and obvious.  Most importantly, they are clearly backed by the revelation of Scripture. Open Theism, as it is popularly called these days, may appear on the surface to be a "new" form of theology taught & debated in some Christian circles, but the fact of the matter is that the Bible has always presented the fundamentals of Open Theism plainly from Genesis to Revelation, at least to those with "ears to hear" and "eyes to see".

   While I felt very alone in 1979 when God first showed me these truths, it has been quite comforting over the past few years to discover that I actually was not alone. God had also stirred these things up in the hearts of other men of God, more learned and skillful than I,  who've since authored numerous outstanding books that explain Open Theism quite well. Greg Boyd, John Sanders and Michael Saia, to name a few,  have done a great job bringing forth these truths, but not surprisingly they've stirred up some opposition in the evangelical community as well.

   Did I say opposition? Opposition from within the church? Yes, sad but true. But if the ideas put forth by Open Theists are so obvious, you may wonder, then why have they been opposed and why is it that virtually all of Christendom today has never even heard of them? Good questions. You may even wonder what practical difference it makes anyway whether or not God sees the future. Ah, my friends, it happens to make all the difference in the world, and even in heaven! This issue directly affects our relationship with God, our prayer life, our attitudes toward others, our evangelistic efforts, our understanding of God's will for us individually and corporately, our understanding of prophecy, predestination, the problem of sin and evil, and most of all our very freedom to think and make our own decisions. The ripple effects go on and on into every area of our lives.

   My hope at this point in time is to provoke born-again believers to some good, old-fashioned thinking and studying, especially those who have real, honest questions and are frustrated by the canned responses and incoherent theological explanations coming from their leaders. Today, like always, the dead traditions of the elders and religious elite must be examined and challenged. Truth should be valued above any dearly held doctrines or beliefs. Unfortunately, truth is often set aside for a spectrum of reasons, ranging from fear to greed.

   In the coming weeks and months, I will attempt to post some relevant articles here that will show the true importance of this issue. To God be the glory!

Questions or comments: Email  nofuture@opentheist.com