Are There Ghosts?

As a part of our annual Q Series, this was a question that was turned in: Are there ghosts?

Check out the video below…

The Scriptures I reference in this answer:

For other Q&As from this series, check out discussions about the Bible here, and questions about the mark of the beast here, and a question about a Christian losing his/her salvation here.

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The Q Series—Parables, End Times, And Prayer

Our annual Q Series is where folks send their questions to me on a variety of subjects and we do our best to answer them. This week we tackled questions like:

  • What does Christ’s Parable of the Sower mean?
  • Can people lose their salvation?
  • Are micro-chips implanted in humans the start of “the mark of the beast”?
  • What does “666” stand for?
  • Why aren’t all of my prayers answered?

Here’s what we discussed, along with the time this discussion appears on the video:

  • The Parable of the Sower [1:27]
  • What is a parable? [2:19] **Be sure to check out What Was Jesus Teaching In The Parables? on Biblegateway
  • Who is the farmer in this parable? [4:30]
  • “The best commentary on Scripture is Scripture” [5:14]
  • Can someone lose their salvation? [7:42]
  • Keep sowing seed [11:51]
  • Eternal security? [13:50]
  • The Scripture has “a lot of faces” [17:20]
  • Are micro-chips “the mark of the beast”? [20:37]
  • What is gematria? How does this fit with 666? [22:58]
  • 666 falls short of God’s perfection [25:54]
  • The antichrist is a parody of Jesus Christ [26:08]
  • What is the significance of 666 on the right hand and forehead? [27:31]
  • To understand the future, look to an historic event [29:05]
  • A lesson from the socialism of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler [29:49]
  • A quote from Dr. Erwin Lutzer [31:15]
  • Why did Jesus talk about material possession so much? [32:48]
  • Why aren’t all my prayers answered? [36:36] **Be sure to check out Praying With Authority on Biblegateway.
  • How do we pray “in Jesus’ name”? [37:07]
  • How did Jesus speak to His Father in prayer? [39:10]
  • James on unanswered prayers [41:32]
  • Perseverance in prayer [43:30]

We will be answering your questions one more time next Sunday. Please click here to find all the ways you can submit your questions.

11 Quotes From “Shade Of His Hand”

The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible can be a challenging read for many people. In Shade Of His Hand, Oswald Chambers walks us through this biblical book of wisdom chapter-by-chapter. Shade is a great companion for your personal Bible study time in Ecclesiastes. Check out my full book review by clicking here.

Below are just a few of the many (many!) passages I highlighted in Shade. Some of the longer passages I have already shared in my weekly “Thursdays With Oswald” posts. You can read those by clicking here.

“We always get out of touch with the Bible attitude to things when we come to it with our own conclusions.”

“The intellectual order of life does not take things as it finds them, it makes us shut our eyes to actual facts and try to live only in the ideal world. … Solomon is fearless in facing facts as they are. … It is not a question of living a blind life in the brain away from actuality, not of living in dawns or on mountain tops; but of bringing what you see there straight down to the valley where things are sordid, and living out the vision there.”

“Unless you bank your faith in God, you will not only be wrongly related in practical life and have your heart broken, but you will break other things you touch.”

“Almighty God does not matter to me, He is in the clouds. To be of any use to me, He must come down to the domain in which I live; and I do not live in the clouds but on the earth. The doctrine of the Incarnation is that God did come down into our domain. The Wisdom of God, the Word of God, the exact expression of God, was manifest in the flesh.”

“To serve God in order to gain heaven, is not the teaching of Christianity. Satisfaction cannot be found in gain, but only in a personal relationship to God. … A man is not to serve God for the sake of gain, but to get to the place where the whole of his life is seen as a personal relationship to God.”

“Whenever we put theology or a plan of salvation or any line of explanation before a man’s personal relationship to God, we depart from the Bible line, because religion in the Bible is not faith in the rule of God, but faith in the God Who rules.”

“Sometimes it is cowardly to speak, and sometimes it is cowardly to keep silence. In the Bible the great test of a man’s character is his tongue (see James 1:26). The tongue only came to its right place with in the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, because He never spoke from His right to Himself. He Who was the Wisdom of God Incarnate, said ‘the words that I speak unto you, I speak not of Myself.’ … We are either too hasty or too slow; either we won’t speak at all, or we speak too much, or we speak in the wrong mood. The thing that makes us speak is the lust to vindicate ourselves.”

“The general history of Christianity is that it has been tried and abandoned because it is found to be difficult; but wherever it has been tried and honorably gone on with, it has never failed.”

“The Christian faith is exhibited by the man who has the spiritual courage to say that that is the God he trusts in, and it takes some moral backbone to do it.” 

“We reap terrific damage to our own characters when we vow and do not perform. … Promises are a way of shirking responsibility.”

“It is appalling to find spiritual people when they come into a crisis taking an ordinary common-sense standpoint as if Jesus Christ had never lived or died.”

More quotes from Shade Of His Hand are coming soon…

Becoming Spiritually Fit

To me this sounds weird: Jesus grew spiritually strong. Think about that: Isn’t He already God?!

When Jesus came to Earth as a man, the writer of Hebrews says He was made like us humans in every way. So just as you and I have a spiritual health to maintain, so did Jesus while He was on earth.

Dr. Luke noticed this as well when he noted that Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Luke notes His spiritual growth by saying Jesus “grew…in favor with God.” In other words, God was more and more pleased by what He saw developing in His Son.

Yesterday I listened to Pastor Josh Schram explain the parallels between our physical health and our spiritual health. He said that we all know what we need to do to grow physically strong—eat the right food, exercise, get proper rest, and have some way of monitoring our health.

It’s exactly the same way spiritually! We need…

…a good dietMan does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus repeated this truth when He was confronted by the devil, and lived it out every day.

…proper exercise—All the health food in the world won’t do us a bit of good if we just sit around. It’s the same with the Bible: we can read it, memorize it, and talk about it, but if we don’t exercise it we won’t get spiritually fit. Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (James 1:22).

…the right amount of rest—We can’t be in perpetual “go” mode if we want to be healthy physically or spiritually. Jesus knew the value of rest, and frequently He would “withdraw to deserted places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

…to monitor our progress—James talks about the Word of God being a mirror for us, and Paul advises us to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

But here was the most important takeaway for me in Josh’s message…

Health is not just one big one-time choice. Health is small daily choices.

A good question for all of us to ask ourselves: Am I making good daily choices which will help me grow spiritually fit like Jesus.

I so enjoy sharing the teaching duties with a couple of really solid pastors-in-training in our church. They have helped me develop this series called Wholly Healthy, and have taken part in sharing messages in various aspects of this series. Please watch how Josh lays out the plan for our spiritual fitness.

How Do You Start A Conversation With God?

pray-through-the-bibleLast week I asked you to imagine how your relationship grew with your best friend. You probably found that this special friendship was formed during hours and hours of talking.

I’m going to guess that at first your conversation was a little on the superficial side. You talked about “tame” topics like sports teams, or your job, or the city you lived in. But at some point you took a huge riskyou became vulnerable by sharing something really personal. Perhaps you shared a time that you got hurt, or something that makes you anxious, or maybe a big dream you carry around in your heart. But if that friend is still your friend, that means they treated what you shared reverently. They didn’t laugh at you, belittle your hurts or dreams, nor did they share with others what you said.

The relationships became deeper and more special because you now knew each other on a more intimate level.

Prayer is a conversation with a Friend. Of course that Friend is God, so some people wonder, “What do I talk to God about?” The simple answer is anything and everything!

Time and time again God calls us to come closer to Him (see Isaiah 55:1-3), to discuss with Him things we don’t understand (Jeremiah 33:3), or to be assured that He is intimately tuned in to what’s happening in our life (Psalm 139:17; 1 Peter 3:12).

How do we get there? A good place to start is with our Bible. Dwight Moody said:

“The two first and essential means of grace are the Word of God and Prayer. … If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

Scripture was written to point us to Jesus. So we don’t read the Bible just to read it; we read it to get to know God.

We don’t want to know the Word of God; we want to know the God of the Word. 

A great place to start is in the book of the Psalms. Many of these were written as prayers, so it’s a good way to start our conversation with God. You can also search in the New Testament for all the places that biblical writers said, “I pray…” or “This is my prayer….”

I share a personal example of this in this video, especially if you want to fast forward to the 36:00 minute mark.

Don’t just read through the Bible this week—pray through the Bible. Use it as a means to have a conversation with the very Best Friend you could ever know!

I encourage you this week, as you think about this topic, to get together with an earthly friend and discuss these questions:

  1. How can I use my Bible as a “conversation starter” with God?
  2. How can I get into the regular practice of talking to God as a Friend?

Talking With Your Best Friend

john-14-16I would like for you to get a really clear picture in your mind of your best friend. This is someone you have opened your heart to, and they have opened their heart to you as well. This is the friend that encourages you when you’re down, but never when you’re on a self-destructive path. This is the companion that cries with you when something is broken, but who also challenges you to accept responsibility if you are the one who broke it.

Do you have that friend clearly in mind?

Now I’d like you to imagine if your interaction with your friend went something like this. Every day around 7 o’clock in the morning, you call your friend and say…

“Good morning! I’m so grateful you took my call. Listen, I’ve got a few things that I’d love for you to help me with today. I’ve been fighting a cold and I’d really like you to help me feel better. My Aunt Sally is in the hospital, and it would be great if you could stop in to see her. Also, that guy at work has really been on my nerves lately and so I need some insight on how to deal with that. It would so great if you could help me with all of this. If you do, I’ll be singing your praises to everyone I meet. Have a great day. Thanks!”

And then you hang up and never talk to your friend again until the next morning when the exact same scenario is repeated. How do you think your relationship would progress? Do you see your relationship getting deeper over time, or becoming more distant? I’m guessing that, like me, you don’t see a future in this relationship.

Sadly, this is how many people treat prayer! We come to God once a day with our list of concerns, ask Him for His help, then say “goodbye” and never think about Him again until the next day. Or until we find ourselves in desperate need.

But we forget: God never leaves us!

We also forget something even more vital—God wants us to talk with Him, and He wants to talk with us, as a friend to a friend.

Abraham was called a friend of God—Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend (James 2:23).

Moses, too, was also God’s friend—The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11).

This isn’t something that was just for them, but it’s relationship that’s available for ALL of us—For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God (Romans 5:10-11).

From the moment we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit took up residence in our heart. Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He promised us, “I will talk to the Father, and He’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16).

Amazing! Astounding! Mind-blowing! But totally true—Prayer is conversation with a Friend!

How would your day go differently if you kept up a conversation with your Best Friend all day long? How much more wisdom do you think you would receive? How many mistakes could you avoid if He was telling you which way to go and what to say?

You don’t have to live with the “what ifs.” He IS your constant Companion, your most loyal Friend, your wisest Counselor. All you have to do is keep the lines of conversation open!

Application questions:

  1. How can I know God wants to be my Friend?
  2. Have I been introduced to God?
  3. How can I make the time to deepen my friendship with God?
  4. What does it mean to me to have God as my Friend?

Rick Warren On What Mercy Means

rick-warren“Mercy means…

…being patient with people’s quirks (James 3:17)

…helping anyone around you who is hurting (Proverbs 3:27)

…giving people a second chance (Ephesians 4:31-32)

…doing good to those who hurt you (Luke 6:35-36)

…being kind to those who offend you (Jude 22-23)

…building bridges of love to the unpopular (premeditated mercy) (Matthew 9:13)

…valuing relationships over rules (Romans 13:10)” —Rick Warren

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