What should a believer do when waiting on the Lord?

My oldest daughter began her Freshman year of high school back in August. Due to the late registration for classes, she wasn’t able to sign up for a couple elective classes because they were already full. She began the school year and had a good attitude about taking a couple of classes she wasn’t all that interested in.

One day, while talking to the band instructor about an after school club she approached the subject of her gift of playing the piano. Since he had no need for a piano player in the marching band, he suggested she speak to the chorus teacher. The chorus teacher was thrilled to have a piano player and made the arrangements for her to drop one of the electives she did not want.

Watching her demeanor throughout this time and this “trial” in her life, I learned the following about what we should do while we wait on the Lord.

  1. Be Prayerful and Thankful (Phil 4:6) – Be anxious for nothing, but by everything prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
  2. Be Content (Phil 4:11) – Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.
  3. Be Joyful (James 1:2) – Count it all joy when fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
  4. Be of Good Courage (Psalm 27:14a) – Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage,
  5. Be Strengthened (Psalm 27:14b) – And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait I say, on the Lord!

Finally, Isaiah 40:31 states the following:

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Be like a “Well” of Baca

Psalm 84:5-7 (NKJV)

5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.

7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.

Scholars suggest that the Valley of Baca (or Valley of Tears) was a desert-like area on the way to Jerusalem. Many travelers would pass through this barren area on their way to the Temple. This desert land is a symbol of our life and our walk without God. Jerusalem, of course, is the place of the Temple – the presence of God.

In this Valley of Tears, travelers to the Temple would create springs or wells for the rain to gather. This would provide refreshment and comfort to future travelers. As believers of Jesus, we are called to be like those wells. We are called to bring that refreshment and comfort of Jesus to those traveling through the desert experiencing a trial or tribulation. We are called to bring the Good News to those that do not know Him (Matthew 28:19).

Does Jesus Allude that John the Baptist is Elijah?

Introduction

In Matthew 11:14, it appears that Jesus is saying that John the Baptist is actually Elijah.

Matthew 11:14 (NKJV)

14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.

This is also seen in Matthew 17:12, Mark 9:13 and John 21:

Matthew 17:12 (NKJV)

12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.”

         Mark 9:13 (NKJV)

13 But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.”

In John 1:21, John states he is not Elijah:

         John 1:21 (NKJV)

21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

And he answered, “No.”

Analysis

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus is referring to John as the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 but not the literal Elijah or a reincarnated Elijah.

       Malachi 3:1 (NKJV)

The Coming Messenger

“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 4:5-6 (NKJV)

 

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

So, what do we say about John 1:21 where John says he is not Elijah? It is probably safe to assume that John didn’t understand the questions. John could have taken the question literally and answered it in truth by saying he is not physically Elijah when the question could have been asked if he was a “type of Elijah”.

Headdress – Should women wear them in church today?

Introduction

First Corinthians 11:4-7 seems to imply that women should wear a headdress when attending church services.

1 Corinthians 11:4-7 (NKJV)

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

Differing Analysis

Length of Hair – Some suggest these verses deal with the length of the woman’s hair and not necessarily about a headdress. They believe it has to do with a God-ordained distinction between men and women that is to be demonstrated by the respective length of their hair.

Authority – Paul is talking about authority. When we recognize the authority of God over us, we are subjecting ourselves to His authority. Likewise, women wearing the head covering were publically demonstrating their subjection to the authority placed over them.

Final Analysis

There is no such custom in the church:

1 Corinthians 11:13-16 (NKJV)

Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her[a] for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Elijah Ascends to Heaven – a Biblical Contradiction?

How many times are we told that the bible is full of contradictions? They say things like, “how can you rely on the bible? It’s full of contradictions and it can’t be used as a reliable source.” In this post, we’ll tackle one of those supposed contradictions.

Contradiction

Let’s take a look at two verses that seemingly contradict.

2 Kings 2:11 (NKJV)

11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

By reading 2 Kings 2:11, it appears that Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. However, if we read the following verse, John 3:13, it would appear that Jesus contradicts 2 Kings 2:11 when he says no one has ascended to heaven.

John 3:13 (NKJV)

13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

I agree at first read these verses seem to be an obvious contradiction.

Contradiction Explained

A reoccurring answer to this contradiction is the differences in the Hebrew and Greek meanings of the word “heaven” used in these verses. In John 3:13, Jesus, explaining the origin of His authority to Nicodemus, referred to Himself as the Son of Man who would ascend to heaven. The Greek work used for “heaven” in this verse is ουρανονBiblehub translates this word as  “the region above the sidereal heavens, the seat of order of  things eternal and consummately perfect where God dwells and  other heavenly beings”. Other sources translate this area of heaven as “abode” or home of God the Father.

In 2 Kings 2:11, Elijah went up into the heavens. Some scholars suggest based on the Hebrew word, shamayim, used here does not have the same meaning as that of the Greek word for heaven used in John 3:13. The Hebrew word for heaven in 2 Kings 2:11 means the “visible sky” and not the not the specific location of God the Father.

In conclusion, we can see that 2 Kings 2:11 and John 3:13 are not contradictions but simply a lack of translation from the original language to English. As Jesus tells Nicodemus He is the Son of Man, this is surely a place where He would’ve seen the face of God the Father. A place where no other “man” has been. Elijah indeed went up into heaven as the bible says, but he did not go to the abode of God the Father.

Added Commentary

A friend suggests the following commentary on these two verses. He states that the word, “ascended”, used in John 3:13 suggests this is something an action you can do yourself which only Jesus, the Son of God, could do. 2 Kings 2:11 says that Elijah “went up by a whirlwind” which implies he needed help to go up to heaven and could not do on his own. Reminds me of what Isaiah said in Isaiah 64:6, “…all our righteousness are like filthy rags.” There’s nothing we can do that is worthy of getting into heaven. I leave you with Romans 6:23:

Romans 6:23 (NKJV)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Altar Calls – Are they Biblical?

You’ve probably at one time or another heard an altar call. You may have even responded to one. Maybe it sounded something like this.

I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat right now – hundreds of you. Come and stand in front of the platform and say by coming I want Jesus Christ to forgive my sins and I want to know I’m going to heaven. I want him to take over my life and be the director of my life.

Up there—down there—I want you to come. If you are with friends and relatives, they will wait for you. Christ went all the way to the Cross because He loved you. Certainly you can come these few steps and give your life to Him.

This was an invitation to accept Jesus Christ by Billy Graham at one of his many Crusades. You can close your eyes and almost hear his distinctive voice, hear the music, and hear the clapping as 100s of people flood the aisles toward the altar.

This is an example of what is called an invitation or an altar call. Isn’t awesome!?!

There are those that refute this practice. They will tell you it isn’t biblical. A quick search of the Internet on the subject of altar calls results in much information on why some churches use altar calls and why some don’t. There is much debate on whether they are biblical or not.

Objections

Some churches and religious organizations object to the use of the altar call for a variety of reasons.

According to the Gospel Coalition, the following is a list of objections to altar calls:

  1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the bible (NT)
  2. Based on bad theology and man-centered, manipulative methodology
  3. It confuses the physical act of “coming forward” with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ.”
  4. It deceives people about the reality of their spiritual state.
  5. It partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.
  6. It misleads us to think that salvation happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of a services and only “up front”
  7. It is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.
  8. It is seen as the most important part of the service and de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship like preaching, prayer, fellowship and singing that God has prescribed.
  9. It is man invented and not prescribed or glorified by God.
  10. The “altar call” teaches the congregation to evaluate the “success” or “effectiveness” of the ministry on outward, visible actions and results.

Other objectors say the altar call is not a biblical practice but a relic of nineteenth-century American evangelical tradition introduced by Charles Finney. Charles Spurgeon said it is a false view of human ability. 

The Root of the Debate

Predestination versus Free Will (Calvinism vs Arminianism)

At the root of whether altar calls are biblical is debate between Predestination and Free Will or Calvinism versus Arminianism. Let’s take a look at a few definitions.

Calvinism – Doctrinal stance and belief that God predetermined who would go to heaven and who would spend eternity in hell. Predestined (chosen) and no free will to accept or reject salvation through Jesus. As a basis for predestination, Calvinists state God chose people for His purpose. Examples Calvinists cite are as follows:

    • David
    • The Levites
    • Abraham
    • God chose or elected those for salvation

Calvinists site the Greek work, eklektos in Romans 8:33 which says, “who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”.

Arminianism – Doctrinal stance and belief that God gave mankind free will which teaches every individual has the ability to choose or not chose salvation through Jesus when presented. The following verses are cited for support of free will belief:

    • Joshua 24:15 – And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
    • John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Biblical Evidence For Altar Calls

After researching this topic, I say altar calls are not “unbiblical”, in fact, they are biblical. I cite the following verses which support altar calls:

  • Matthew 10:32 – Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.
  • Luke 12:8 – Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.
  • Matthew 4:19 – Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.
  • Matthew 9:9 – As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
  • Matthew 19:21 – Follow me; Mark 1:17 – Follow Me; Mark 2:14 – Follow Me
  • Act 3:19 – Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20 – Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

Let’s take a look at the physical healing in Mark 10:46-52 which gives a picture of an altar call.

  • Blinded by our sin – 46Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging.
  • We realize just who Jesus really is – 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
  • People tell us we don’t need Jesus – 48 Then many warned him to be quiet;  but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
  • We hear His calling – 49 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”
  • We must die to self – 50 And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.
  • We ask for salvation – 51 So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.