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Prior Events

August 28, 2014 – Prior Events

Question from a Facebook friend:

I have been afflicted with seizures that started after hearing “that I did not help.” I was not sure what that meant. One day while walking around a voice quietly and firmly said “I will rip your muscles from your bones.” Later in the middle of a two lane street I was knocked out with a seizure. When I woke up going to the hospital I could not raise my arms, and suffered with excruciating pain. To this day they hurt and I know I need some kind of surgery. Any idea who or what did that to me?

I have no idea what “that I did not help” means. Was that also a “voice” or mental thought, or did he hear that statement from another person? Had he done something that was not helpful? We should always determine the context of certain events and find out what was happening just prior to the experience when helping people like this get clarity. There is always a cause-and-effect connection. The precipitating cause could be spiritual deception. If someone was paying attention to a deceiving spirit and acted it out, how could secular doctors or counselors arrive at the correct diagnosis? The man who asked the above question would likely be seen as schizophrenic by the secular world.

There are several accounts in Scripture of demons afflicting people resulting in symptoms similar to seizures (see Lu. 9:37 for one account), but don’t rush to judgment. It could also be a neurological problem. Good physicians don’t prescribe medicine or recommend procedures without doing necessary tests to arrive at the right diagnosis. Some procedures require written permission by the patients. If someone came to me with such a story I would seek more clarification about the man’s history and events leading up to his first seizure. I would also like to know what his health habits were, or lack thereof. Then I would ask his permission to lead him through “The Steps to Freedom in Christ,” which couldn’t possibly hurt him. If that didn’t resolve his issues, then I would recommend he see a doctor.

Finally, his muscles were not ripped from his bones, unless the seizures were so violent that tendons were ruptured in his arms (unlikely). Satan is the father of lies. Questions like this reveal how necessary it is to seek a wholistic answer, and why the Lord told us to seek first the kingdom of God.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Revelation Versus Evolution

August 27, 2014 – Revelation Versus Evolution

I don’t believe that there is any contradiction between divine revelation and natural law, because both originated from God. Conflicting views come from theologians and scientists. Theology is the Christian’s attempt to systematize truth/divine revelation. Science is humanity’s attempt to understand natural law.

As I have matured in Christ, my theology has changed over the years.  It should for everybody or they are not growing. What has not changed is truth. Science has also changed dramatically in my lifetime, but natural law hasn’t. Five years ago scientists and politicians were talking about “global warming,” but current data has forced them to moderate their stance. So the issue now is “climate change,” which leaves a lot of room for flexibility. No matter what change occurs they can say, “See, I told you.”

Scientists and theologians have two different agendas. Theologians puzzle over the nature of existence and seek to explain how something came from nothing. Scientists are differentiating between something and something else. Darwin’s theory of evolution says nothing about the origin of the species. It is a theory about something becoming something else. Most scientists are content to say, “Okay, “its” here, let’s try to understand and work with it.

There would be no discussion if all that existed was “it,” i.e. matter, as opposed to “he.” The creation of Adam in God’s image is where the two disciplines struggle to reconcile. If humanity is an accidental product of evolution, then so is the spirit. Then matter is the primary cause of everything. If that were true, then God vanishes along with any theory of creation. I believe that heaven and earth come from an intelligent design, which no mortal could possibly fashion. I also believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image so they and their descendants could rule over His creation. Part of that assignment was to use what God has created in a responsible way, which includes environmental protection.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

True Justice

August 26, 2014 – True Justice

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned in Russia for writing about social injustices. He was sitting on a bench in prison when a stranger drew a cross in the dirt in front of him with a stick. That served as a catalyst for the liberation of his soul. He realized he could be free in prison. After being released from prison he migrated to the States, but was so disillusioned by how we took our political freedom for granted that he returned to Russia.  Having experienced the Russian revolution and the oppressive rule of communism he wrote a book entitled August 1914. He told the story of two Russian students who were flushed with revolutionary idealism and patriotic fervor. They engaged in conversation with a wise man who attempted to explain that changing the world by rational intellect was a false hope.

The wise man said, “Who would be so presumptuous as to claim he has the ability to invent ideal conditions? . . . Presumption is the mark of limited intellectual development. A person whose intellectual development is limited is presumptuous; one whose intellect is highly developed is humble.” After much debate the young men asked: “But isn’t justice a sufficient principle on which to found social order?” The wise man answered, “By all means! But not on our own justice as we imagine it for ourselves in some comfortable earthly paradise. Rather, that justice that is before us, that exists without us and for its own sake.  And we must conform to it.”

Solzhenistzen never used the word God, but He was describing true worship. We don’t invent justice, we conform to a just God. That alone is the only guarantee of freedom for all people. What we are witnessing in Ferguson, Missouri is invented justice. Michael Brown, an African American, was tragically shot by a Caucasian police officer in a predominantly African American community. From a human perspective I can understand why there was an immediate rush to judgment fueled by past racial injustices. The Attorney General (considered the “top cop” in America), an African American, went to Ferguson and visited the family of Michael Brown. Suppose the policeman was African American and he was assaulted by a 300 pound Caucasian whom he allegedly shot in self-defense. Which family would he visit?

We all have our prejudices. Wherever Christianity has flourished there has been an elevation of social justice, but we will never have perfect justice in this world. That is why there is a final judgment, and in the end justice will be served. I pray that the people of Ferguson will not invent justice, but will humble themselves and conform to the only One who is just. That is their only hope for freedom and peace.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Golden Rule

August 25, 2014 – The Golden Rule

At the time of Christ, Rabbi Hillel was asked to summarize Judaism. He answered, “Whatever is offensive to you yourself, do not do that to your neighbor. That is the whole law. Everything else is interpretation.” That is the not-so-golden-rule of retaliation. We are witnessing that in Israel today. They are saying to Hamas, “Don’t fire rockets at us, and we won’t fire back on you.” Any reasonable person would say that Israel has the right to defend itself, and Hamas is totally wrong in trying to annihilate Israel. Hamas violated the rule of retaliation by initiating the attacks, but both sides have violated the rule of grace.

Jesus flipped the rule of retaliation from negative to positive when He said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). The doctor who took the Hippocratic oath to do no harm went to Liberia and put himself at risk to work with Ebola patients. That is the rule of grace. Christians are not just saved by grace, they are governed by grace, or should be. In the end, that will determine whether we are sheep or goats according to Jesus (see Matt. 25:31-46).

I have stayed at the same ELWA missionary compound in Liberia. Christine Norman is our representative in Liberia. She is the daughter of the President who was assassinated in 1980. The country immediately declined into a civil war that lasted for twelve years, which was followed by a ruthless dictator. The country is slowly coming back and I am sure that Jesus is saying to that doctor and Christine, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (vs. 40).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog


August 22, 2014 – Abandonment

The Apostles Creed states that Jesus descended into hell, which is a translation of the word, sheol. Hebrew has only one word for hell and death and that is sheol. The emphasis should not be on destination, but isolation. Death means to be separate from, which is what Jesus was experiencing on the cross and why He cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken Me.” Between the excruciating pain of the crucifixion and the resurrection Jesus descended into the abyss of loneliness – complete abandonment. He physically died and suffered utter loneliness, which is a frightening prospect.

Walking alone at night through the woods can be scary, even though there may be no physical reason to be afraid. Fear is much easier to resolve if the object can be identified. The fear that comes from being totally alone speaks to our vulnerability. We cannot rationally explain it away. After the planes flew into the twin towers in Manhattan, I couldn’t stay in my own home. I felt this urgent need to be with other people. From the beginning of time, God said it is not good to be alone.

Have you ever visited a funeral home to view a loved one by yourself, or sat in a room alone with a corpse? Did you feel uneasy? Eerie? Maybe you felt a little frightened even though you know that the dead person can do you no harm? This is not the fear of anything in particular, but the fear of being alone with death. This speaks to the most basic of human needs, which is to have a sense of belonging, and why many struggle with abandonment issues. Jesus took the plunge into the abyss of abandonment. Whenever we think we are totally alone – there He is. Hell and death are overcome. The gates of sheol have been opened. Life and love have conquered the grave. Because Jesus was abandoned, we will never have to suffer alone. He will never leave or forsake us.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Isenheimer Altar

August 21, 2014 – Isenheimer Altar

The Isenheimer Altar by Matthias Grunewald is a powerful painting of the crucifixion. It stood in a monastery of the Antonian Hospitalers where people were cared for during the plagues that afflicted Europe during the late Middle Ages. In the painting, His body is covered with boils. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried” (Is. 53:4). In His affliction He became one with the afflicted.

I fear that many have lost this understanding of redemption. Their view of Jesus is more like the previous verse in Isaiah, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (53:3). They don’t want redemption through suffering. They want redemption from suffering. They have given up expecting help from God, and seek to humanize all earthly institutions.

In the West, it began with the Enlightenment. If humanist philosophers, like Kant and Hegel, were right, then we should be more free, reasonable, and disciplined. That would require a higher view of humanity than God. Communism was the next movement to create a godless social order of equality, except the masses weren’t equal with the dictatorial rulers. Now we have liberal social progressives who are going to fundamentally change America – sadly they have mostly succeeded. Apparently they are mesmerized by the “progress” being made in Zimbabwe, Venezuela, South Africa, etc. The New Age movement says we are gods. Is not self-rule the heart of all these movements?

C.S. Lewis wrote, “to render back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain.” I don’t know any painless way to die to self-rule. “For we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal body” (2 Cor. 4:11). We are His children, “heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:17,18).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog


August 20, 2014 – Martyrdom

The liberal press has remained strangely silent about the persecution of Christians around the world. Twice as many Christians have died because of their faith this year than last year in Northern Africa, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. The rising state of Islam, ISIS, is committing atrocities that rival or exceed the holocaust. All this while six million Israelis struggle to survive as a nation while being surrounded by hundreds of millions of Muslims who want to annihilate them, while anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe.

It was one of the chosen people who first cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1), when Israel was being besieged for its faith. If the Son of God cried out the same words while suffering excruciating pain (Matt. 27:46), then where is God to be found? When Jesus uttered those words He was not declaring the absence of God. He was turning to Him in prayer. On the cross Jesus entered in and shared the affliction of the condemned. Those who only hear of such atrocities in the cushioned armchair of their own prosperity are often the ones who ask, “Where is God?”

Those who are in the battle are the ones most likely to discover God. It was no accident that the most despised and persecuted became the people of revelation, just as it was by design that the One who suffered the most was the ultimate revelation of God. Faith in God flows from the wounded head of the Crucified Christ. The satisfied onlooker sees the cross as a cruel symbol of human depravity, but those who have entered into the sufferings of Christ see the cross as the image of consolation and hope.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Not What I Wanted

August 19, 2014 – Not What I Wanted

Question from a Facebook friend:

When one asks God for something, and gets it, but it happens in a manner that is traumatic, is that God or Satan? The person does get what was requested, but in a way that the person did not want and is traumatizing.

It is impossible to say. First, the timing of the two events could be coincidental. It is very hard to establish causation when it comes to prayer. Every Christian has thanked God for answered prayer when circumstances have been favorable, but they may have been anyway.

Second, be careful what you ask for! The Israelites grew tired of the manna, and said, “Give us meat to eat” (Nu. 11:13). God gave them so much meat to eat that it came out of their nostrils and became loathsome to them (vs. 19f), because they had rejected the Lord. They should have been thankful that God had delivered them from Egypt. We should always come before God with thanksgiving, and with the right motives. James wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:3).

Third, God will give us want we need, but not necessarily what we want, because we really don’t know what is good for us. People pray to win the lottery, but it is an overwhelming negative experience for those who do win. “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matt. 6:31,32).

Fourth, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give  good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matt. 7:7-11).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Pure Thoughts

August 18, 2014 – Pure Thoughts

Question from an email friend:

When a person is lusting or angry in thought but not doing the sinful act itself, wouldn’t that be already sinning? If this is so, then how does threshold thinking work since one has already committed the sin the moment lust enters or anger enters the door? Same goes for envy. One can envy without acting it out. Would this be already sinning?

Those are rather convoluted questions!  Let’s not kid ourselves. Our life can only be as pure as our thoughts. “The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to Him” (Prov. 15:26). That is why the apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). If you want to live a righteous life, you have to continue with the next verse, i.e. live the truth, do the honorable and just thing, etc. Then “the God of peace will be with you.”

Just as living a righteous life begins by thinking/believing the right thoughts, sinning begins by entertaining wrong thoughts. We don’t do anything without first thinking it, because every action is proceeded by a thought. So when you are first tempted, choose the way of escape by fixing your eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Paul wrote, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

This really underscores the problem of legalism; priding ourselves for not murdering, envying, or committing adultery, when in fact we have in our hearts. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:27,28).

In our ministry we help people win that battle for their minds, but we do it under the grace of God. Nobody’s thoughts are perfectly pure, and in a real sense we are all guilty of murder, envy, and adultery, but we are forgiven. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Let’s be honest with God and ourselves and learn to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog