It’s become inevitable, really. Every time there’s a major storm or tragedy that sweeps through our nation, certain Christians and so-called “prophets” waste no time in declaring that God is bringing judgment upon our country or the specific people affected by the events. While the body of Christ should be focusing their energy on sending out resources (money, supplies, water, etc.), mourning with those who mourn, and weeping with those who weep, some will always find it more important to use the latest tragedy as a way to prove their theological belief that their sovereign God is “in complete control.”
To be clear, I absolutely believe that God is sovereign. He is above all things and has the ultimate power and authority to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. I strongly reject the idea though, that God is orchestrating every single event that transpires in our world, especially when it goes against His nature as revealed in Christ.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is “the exact representation of His nature.” Throughout the gospels, we see the religious Jews quoting Old Testament scripture (thinking that because they memorized scripture, they knew God) and Jesus then having to correct them because they totally misinterpreted the true heart behind the text. Jesus not only came to provide forgiveness of sins, but He also came to reveal what the Father is really like. The veil has been torn, and we no longer have to guess what God’s heart is as we read through Old Testament passages. As Bill Johnson says, “Jesus Christ is perfect theology.”
Now, if we look closely at the life of Jesus as it relates to natural disasters and tragedies, then we see that He was always in opposition to these things. Jesus went about healing all who were sick and afflicted. And when Jesus was on the boat sleeping in the midst of a storm, He didn’t wake up and explain to His disciples that His Father sent the storm as judgment. Quite the opposite, actually. Jesus woke up and rebuked the storm, saying “Peace, be still.”
God did not send the storm!
In John 5:19, Jesus says that he “only does what He sees his Father doing… whatever the Father does, the Son does also.” If we claim that God sends storms and tragedies as a way to bring judgment or to teach us a lesson, then we must also be consistent and claim that Jesus was in opposition to the Father. In only doing what He saw the Father doing, Jesus calmed the storm. If it’s true that God sent this storm, then Jesus would have actually been acting in opposition to the Father by calming the same storm He sent.
We live in a fallen world that is going to have natural disasters until God’s kingdom has fully advanced throughout the earth and is fully realized at the final return of Christ. As Romans 8 tells us, “the whole earth groans, and as believers, we also groan as we eagerly await redemption.”
It’s time for the body of Christ to start showing the world how good our Father is. It’s His kindness that leads men to repentance, not judgment (or sickness, tragedy, punishment, etc.). When storms and tragedies do come, let’s rise up and show the world that our Father is not the author of death, but of life. He is the not the God who causes storms, but He is the God who sleeps through them. He is not the God who orchestrates storms, but He is the God who calms them.
Written by: Nate Ebel
I’m the type of person that likes to have all the answers. I like to understand… how things work, why things happen, and how things in life fit together. I’ve always been curious and I usually ask lots of questions. Sometimes this can work in my favor and sometimes it gets annoying. Just ask my husband 😉 But I think that the Lord gifted me with a strong desire for learning. I was always an excellent student and now as I’m in the “real world” of adult life, I strive to be the best employee and worker I can be. I always go above and beyond, striving to exceed expectations and be the detailed and thorough person that I am.
When I was 14 years old, I lost my dad to a battle with ALS. It was devastating, to say the least, and threw me in a loop of unanswered questions. I needed to understand why this happened, but my 14-year-old brain couldn’t rationalize how a wonderful, Christian father and husband would be taken from this Earth. He did all the right things. He played piano at the church I had been going to for 14 years. He was a loving and caring father, husband, teacher, brother, son and friend. He was the spiritual pillar of our family, leading and guiding us to be stronger believers and God-seekers. WHY would he be taken away so early? It really bothered me that I couldn’t figure this out, and to be honest, it changed my view of God for years to come.
Everybody kept telling me, “Everything happens for a reason” and “God works in mysterious ways,” but none of that BS ever helps. Has anyone ever been comforted by someone telling you that everything happens for a reason? Well I haven’t! So probably around the age of 18-20, I began trying to fill in the gaps myself. I started wondering why God would do this…
Was God trying to teach me a lesson?
Maybe He took my dad away to get my attention?
Maybe that was the only way I would have gotten closer to God was if my dad was taken away.
Maybe I would have drifted away from God had my life went on like normal. If God hadn’t taken him, I wouldn’t have been the strong Christian I am now because nothing would have pushed me towards God.
Maybe there was nothing left for my dad to do on this Earth anymore?
And so, that is what I started telling myself… that this was a lesson for me and that God was trying to get my attention. This was my view of God.
Fast forward to about two years ago: I got introduced to better covenant theology through the Bible school that my husband is enrolled in. I started learning about the God of the Old Testament and how the apparent differences between Him and Jesus weren’t what I had always been taught. I started connecting the dots to many things I had wondered about in my early years of Sunday school. I knew God wasn’t a mean God, but I couldn’t explain why. When confronted with questions about the God of the Old Testament in all his rage, killing sprees, and malice, I couldn’t answer. But through new teachings, my mind started to be renewed with fresh and contextual biblical understanding and interpretation. Mind you, I grew up in a non-denominational, un-spirit-filled church for 22+ years and through which laid the foundation for 99% of my theological and spiritual understanding. So many teachings were completely new to me and thus I’m still trying to unlearn a lot and relay ground work for a new foundation.
In the midst of these last two years, many times my thoughts have returned back to my childhood and my dad. The Lord has gently showed me how I have misunderstood many things about my past and many things about Him. My understanding of God’s character has probably seen the most transformation. Understanding the truth about the God of the Old Testament has freed me of so many things. The Bible is truly a love story and now I get it! I finally understand the full picture of God – not just the “New Testament” Jesus. God has always been for me and for my family, just like He was always for his people, Israel. He had perfect plans for them from day one. He wasn’t a punisher by nature. In the same way, He loved my dad very much and it was never his plan or desire for him to be stripped of this Earth early. It was never his desire for me to go through so much pain and heartache. ALS was never his plan or desire. He wouldn’t have tried “to get my attention” by taking away somebody that I love. That’s not how a good Father treats his child.
On a bigger scale, I have heard that the church is in a season of understanding and encountering God the Father, and this couldn’t be more true for my life right now as well. I’m getting to know and better understand God as my father. I’m not a parent yet, so I think even more revelation will come in that season of my life, but I am gaining deeper understanding about the relationship between a parent and child.
Over the last two years, I’ve started allowing God to fill in the gaps for me instead of trying to do it myself. I know that I might never fully understand why my dad died until I’m in heaven, but I can easily understand God’s heart towards me.
One of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 1:6-8.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious that gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Our faith is more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire. We aren’t promised a perfect life without trials, but we can hold steadfast to the hope of heaven! I can rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory knowing my Father is a perfect Father and loves me more than any earthly father could. Now, this is comforting!
I encourage you to allow God to fill in the gaps of your life. Allow your understanding of God’s character to penetrate your daily thoughts – especially the ups and downs that life brings. Give God the credit He deserves by acknowledging him as the God of the Bible – the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – and not just the God of the New Testament. Help others to understand this God too!
Written by: Kelsie Ebel
During the Christmas season, we often see plays and nativity scenes that depict events surrounding the birth of Christ. Some of my favorite moments during the Christmas plays that I have seen over the course of my life have always been when the angel Gabriel comes and announces to Mary that she is pregnant supernaturally with the Messiah. Scripture records that Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you,” and then goes on to tell Mary of the astounding yet wonderful news, that she, a virgin, is pregnant with the Christ-child (see Luke 1:28 and following).
Were these Gabriel’s own words that he was speaking to Mary? The answer to that is quite obviously “no.” The announcement itself gives us a clue that this particular Archangel was bringing words from God to Mary, even though the words were coming from his own mouth.
Many people within ministry and church culture circles refer to the Bible as “the Word of God.” Yet we see in the Bible itself that “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” referring of course to Jesus. There are two things in particular that I would like to mention about this passage as found in John 1:1. The first item of note is that when this passage was penned by John, our modern-day Bible of sixty-six books was not entirely written yet. The second item that I would like to note is that the Bible hasn’t always been in existence, as we know it or otherwise, “from the beginning.” Therefore, John 1:1 can not be speaking of what many term the “written Word of God.”
With that looked at, I would like to say from the very beginning as I write and lay the foundation for this article, I have the utmost respect for the Bible. I trust the words in the Bible, as studied out in the proper historical context with insight given by the Holy Spirit as to what the meaning is and how (if) it is applicable to our lives.
I do believe that ALL scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable in our lives. I do believe that the Bible is infallible (incapable of making mistakes or being wrong) AND inerrant, in the original tongue as written by the original author of each book. At the same time, probably as a result of seeing and knowing Jesus as the living, breathing and speaking “Word,” I prefer (at least for myself) the terminology “words from God” when giving a broad definition of what the Bible actually is. Some would not be satisfied with that description itself and would insist that it’s purpose is its definition – and for that definition they apply one-liners like these; “a love letter to mankind”, or the BIBLE acronym (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth).
I myself do not concur with either of these being complete and accurate definitions of what the Bible actually is and its purpose for existence that God intended. I have received many things from my time of being a student within Welton Academy’s Supernatural Bible School. One of the things that I have received is an accurate and complete description and definition of just what the Bible is and the purpose that God had in mind for making it available to us. In my own words, the Bible contains words from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and sent from Heaven to Earth through the different authors that wrote them out for us to read and study. The purpose of these words being to show and tell of God’s covenant journey with the people of His creation – human beings.
I am certainly fine when a person uses the term “Word of God” for the Bible; myself, I prefer to use the term “words from God.” I feel that I can speak and write that without it taking away ANY of the validity, inspiration of Scripture or inerrancy of the words within the Bible, when speaking of the original language that each book was written in by the original author. I don’t feel that I myself can properly call it the only word of God without taking away from what Jesus, the living Word, has done and is doing within our world today.
As any reader of this blog posting has probably surmised by now, I do believe that God still certainly speaks today! In the same manner of the Archangel Gabriel bringing a word to Mary from God, I see the ministers of God that hear His voice clearly and speak words from his or her lips straight from the heart of God. I have read books that have been written by people that have received inspiration from Heaven and the words within those books speak words from God right into the life of the person reading it, and they are touched in just the spot that God wanted to reach out and touch them. I believe that God speaks by His Holy Spirit into each of our individual lives, as we listen for that still small voice and He leads, directs and fully does a wonderful job of guiding us in and through this journey that we call life. I have heard His voice and it been confirmed to me too many times, by situations and by other people around me, for me to say that God doesn’t still speak today. God speaks today, just as He has been speaking since He spoke with Adam in the garden, into the lives of people all over the Earth, yes, even to this very day!
I have heard others say at times that “all I need is the Word of God” (referring to the Bible) and have no need to listen to or to read what another person says or writes.” I say that in taking that approach, a person is prone to cheat themselves out of hearing God’s voice for their own life.
In all of the ways that I have mentioned here in this article, among others not mentioned, I will conclude this post by saying this, yes, I believe that anything that a person hears from God today, by whatever means they hear it, WILL be verified, confirmed and line up with the Bible.
God still speaks today! Can you hear His voice?
Written by: John T. Argo
Have you ever had that gut wrenching feeling that “I’m late” or “I missed my flight?” How about as a kid, standing in line, hoping to be picked to play with the rest of the kids in a game of pick up basketball, “please don’t be last,” but as they get closer to the end you are thinking, “please just pick me, this will be horrible if I don’t get picked?”
When I was in 5th grade on the first day of school, something like this happened to me. My family had just moved from a small town to the suburbs and I didn’t know anybody. In the small town, I had lots of friends and was accepted as “cool” for the most part, but making new friends wasn’t easy for me and I had a lot of confidence issues because of my upbringing and personal health problems. On that first day, I was late walking into class and had that sinking feeling in my chest. As I walked into the room it felt like the whole room was looking at me… because they were. I scanned the room from the left to the right, making eye contact with each of the students. I didn’t get one inviting gesture, and it seemed like things were in slow motion. Like the scene in Forest Gump – where Forest was getting on the school bus and all the kids were saying “seat taken” and scooting over so he couldn’t sit down – I started to feel so rejected. As I got to the very end of the room, a kid (who that day became my best friend for life) waved and said “come over here man.” That feeling of relief is pretty great, right? Being accepted is probably one of the most important moments in our lives; I know it is for me anyway.
With this in mind, there are two things that I believe are very crucial for us to understand as followers of Jesus. Point number one: we need each other to feel accepted into the family of God in order for us to thrive and accomplish all that Jesus said to accomplish (1 Corinthians 12:12-21). We are the hands and feet of Jesus and He accepted us and continues to accept us at our absolute worst (Romans 5:8). From personal experience, many believers came to know the Lord because they were hurting, because they needed hope, and they wanted acceptance (Matthew 11:28-30). My entire life it was as if I was on the outside looking in. No matter where I went, how many friends I had, how good at sports I was, I was always looking for acceptance. Years later, I now know that this feeling was a desire to know God. A desire to understand my purpose and to know that I was loved.
As members of His church, we certainly aren’t the only people in the world who have the capacity to love, but we know where this love comes from and we have the fruit of the spirit, which gives us the capacity to love like He loves. In the Old Covenant, Jesus explains that we are commanded to love our God and love others like we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). But we are in the New Covenant, and we have a higher call. Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
When we accept people just as they are, and love them as if they are our friend or brother, no matter where they are, they will see the love of Jesus in us (Romans 2:4). This is absolutely foreign to the natural man in our world. Look at the comment of any news article that involves gross injustice and perversion and see some Christians say things like, “I hope he burns in hell.” Religion says to “clean up” so we can love you, fall in line and obey God, otherwise you might not belong to us. I am not saying that people shouldn’t obey their conscience; I am not saying that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions; I am not saying to turn a blind eye to injustice; I am saying, however, to love people no matter what they do. I believe people need to know how loved they are, and to see that God adores them. And that even though they might not be making the best decisions, even though they have hurt people and have done things they are ashamed of, feel guilty because of, and they might suffer consequences for their choices, they still deserve the love of God. Jesus says, “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45). And even though we could always do more to love, this isn’t to make you feel like you aren’t doing enough. The point is to start now. To love now. To forgive now. To release your fear and start loving people now. Life is short.
The second point, and this is pretty straight forward: how do you know you are in? First off, Jesus died for the sins of the world, and He tells us to believe (John 1:29; 3:16; 6:29; Romans 10:9-10). Early in my walk with God I was so happy and blessed and full of joy to know God loved me. I was hearing from Him regularly and amazing supernatural things were going on in and around me for several months. One day I woke up and I didn’t “feel” his presence. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, I begged and begged him to come back and I started to fear. I thought to myself, “Maybe I wasn’t saved, oh my goodness what do I do?” I started listening to my New Testament on my phone, and when I heard the verse where Jesus says “those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit won’t be forgiven…” (Luke 12:10), I freaked out! “Oh no, what do I do!” I started searching frantically online. I had that sinking feeling in my chest and anxiety started to rise up within me. I read a few things online that made some sense, but I came upon one page that said something that provided a ton of relief. It said, “If you have found this page, you have not blasphemed the Holy Spirit. The fact that you cared so much to find this out shows that you love God so much that it kills you to think that you aren’t forgiven by Him.” This isn’t exactly what it said, but it was very close. A peace and calmness came upon me and I called my mentor. He told me basically the same thing and then gave me a great verse that has helped me to this day, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but it is the glory of kings to search it out” (Proverbs 25:2). Another brilliant thought is that God wants us to live by faith, and that requires that we learn to trust whether we feel him or not. We live by faith and not by sight, and up to that point in my short walk with God He was giving me an encounter that I needed in order to know Him, but in order for me to grow in faith I had to learn how to trust Him.
I know a great woman of God who went to a new church in the past couple of years with her husband. Her husband has always struggled with this, knowing if he was saved or if he was “going to hell.” Through a very hard past and theology from churches that had made him question his faith by taking verses out of context like “I never knew you, depart from me….” (Matthew 7:21-23). He walked up to the pastor of the church, which was quite hard for him to ask him a question about his faith, and he said, “Pastor, how do I know I am saved?” The pastor replied, “maybe you are not.” With no love or explanation, he just dropped that on him. Devastated, fearful and heartbroken this man now doesn’t go to church. This man who is hurting refuses to go to church because of a theology that much of the church has that uses the Bible in a way to make people perform better, and even then God might not let them in. To that man, “God loves you. He has always loved you. And He will always love you. At your very worst, God was willing to lay his life down for you. He knows your struggle. He knows the pain you have and He isn’t happy it happened to you. He didn’t cause these things to you, He is for you. He wants you to give him your burdens, your troubles, the things you hold onto that you think you can’t be forgiven of. Jesus loves you because He loves you and you are created to know Him. Give him your burdens and you won’t regret it. The very fact that you care if you are saved, the fact that you care if you know Him, the fact that you don’t want to go to hell, the fact that you want to know if you are forgiven is evidence that you are. You are enough. Right now. Give him your life, and you won’t be sorry.”
I hope this post blesses you and gives somebody the piece of mind to know that they are loved by God right where they are. I hope this helps you learn the importance of loving people in this same way, that you grow in love and the goodness of God flows from your heart as you shine brightly to a world that desperately needs to know the love of our Father.
Written by: Andrew Strobel
I’ll never forget the moment I first encountered the Lord and surrendered my life to Him. It was the spring of 2010. I was 21 years old at the time, and for the first time in my life I felt an almost euphoric sense of peace and joy. In the blink of an eye, I went from depressed and confused to overflowing with hope and clarity. What a beautiful thing salvation is. For the next six months of my life, I felt like I was on a spiritual high. I lived from a place of total freedom and acceptance in the Lord. However, as time went on and I spent more time in church and learned from other believers, I became more confused in a lot of ways and the freedom that I first walked in seemed to be slipping away.
As I tried to put together the pieces of what it looked like to be a “good Christian,” questions started to flood my mind: Am I allowed to drink alcohol? Should I be watching this movie? How often should I be praying? Do I need to read my Bible more? What is expected of me?
Every Christian seemed to have their own opinions on these topics. As a new believer genuinely trying to walk out my faith the best I could, I wanted some real answers. Couldn’t someone just give me a list of rules or a set of guidelines that I could follow to know how I’m measuring up in my Christian walk?
Sadly, this is how so many Christians live their lives today. Having once tasted of the sweet salvation and freedom in Christ, they then subject themselves to rules and regulations, essentially putting themselves under “law.” They’re mixing the law with faith.
This is not a new issue within the church. In fact, this was something that Paul was constantly rebuking the early church for. In the 1st century church, there was a group of people called the Judaizers. This word stems from a Greek verb meaning, “to live according to Jewish customs.” Judaizers taught that for Christians to be right with God, they still needed to follow the Mosaic Law. For example, they promoted the idea that circumcision was a requirement for salvation. In the book of Galatians, we see Paul addressing Peter about this very issue.
“If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews? We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we have also believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:14-16.
Paul was reminding Peter that we are not justified by works, but through faith in Jesus and his completed work on the cross. By trying to abide by Jewish laws, we are only subjecting ourselves back into bondage.
Enter the new covenant.
When Jesus died on the cross, it instituted a new covenant between Him and the Father. This is great news for us, because there is nothing we can do on our end to mess up this covenant. All we have to do is simply receive Christ, and as His bride, we get to partake in all the benefits of this covenant deal. As new creations in Christ, we have been given a robe of righteousness and God says He will remember our sin no more.
During the time period between Jesus’s crucifixion (30 AD) and the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD), the old (Mosaic) covenant still lingered. God only recognized the new covenant between Him and Jesus, but many still operated under the old covenant system. We read in Hebrews though that God had plans to soon make the old covenant obsolete once and for all. “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” – Hebrews 8:13.
In 70 AD, God brought judgment upon the old covenant system through the destruction of Jerusalem and completely put an end to the old covenant way of life. The temple was burned to the ground and the genealogical records were destroyed.
So, why is this important to us today? Well, because the old covenant is no longer in place today, the only covenant that we partake in is the new covenant. And the good news is, this new covenant is infinitely better than the old. Hebrews 8:6 says, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises”
Throughout Hebrews, we also read that the new covenant has a better sanctuary (Heb. 9:1-10), a better sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-28), and better results (Heb. 10:1-18). Now, knowing this about the new covenant, how does it apply to the predicament I was in years ago – wondering what is required of me to be a “good Christian” and what I can and can’t do?
To put it simply, there is only one requirement of Christians today. That requirement is to love others as Christ loves us. The new covenant “law” is a law of love. In John 15:16, Jesus says, “This is my command: love each other.” Throughout the rest of the New Testament, Paul and the other writers give some other more specific “commands” to give practicality to what love looks like, but it always points back to this one charge from Jesus himself: love one another.
How freeing is that! We are not bound to a list of dos and don’ts, but rather we are called to walk in step with the Holy Spirit in intimate relationship and to abide in Christ’s love for us and each other. We have been released from the law and now serve in the way of the spirit, not the written code, which is what God always wanted from the beginning. As partakers in this beautiful new and better covenant, performance does not determine our value, but the fact that we’re sons and daughters does!
I encourage you to seek intimacy with the Holy Spirit in your life, because as you grow in relationship with Him, you will naturally walk in the law of love. You will no longer think in terms of dos and don’ts, but you will naturally flow in your identity as a son or daughter of God and your actions will be rooted in love. You will be free to experience life as God intended for you to experience it, abundantly (John 10:10).
Written by: Nate Ebel