Experience God?


There were men in the 17th and 18th Centuries who desired another way to determine what can be known. They were called “empiricists” because they taught knowledge can only be gained through sense experience.

The philosophy they espoused gained acceptance and has had a tremendous influence through the ages even up to this day. John Locke, one of the greatest empiricists, influenced Thomas Jefferson in the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Locke was one of the first (if not the first) to write that the governments of men only rise to power through “the consent of the governed.”

Knowledge arrived only through sense experience is not always true. For example, how can a person multiply large numbers? Can one line up 1,000 things and multiply it by 1,000 using only sense experience? The solution to this problem will not come empirically but through reflection and reason. How can a person know the answer to 1+X=4 through sense experience? Empiricism is not the be all end all of knowledge.

Locke’s empiricism has spilled over into religion. Some people say we must “experience God.” How can that be done? Can anyone see God? Feel God? Taste, hear, or smell God? If God cannot be known through sense experience, then the idea of having an “experience” with God cannot be true. When faced with such an inconsistency, the “experience” becomes one that is better felt than told. It cannot be put into words because there are no words.

If so, then why was the Bible written using languages people wrote and spoke? Also, if God chose to reveal himself in a miraculous way to one person and not to another, then isn’t God showing respect of persons? But, the Bible teaches God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). Since that is true, God is not going to reveal himself to one person and not to another.

The apostle John wrote that no man has seen God at any time. If true, then how can God be known? John said God has been made known by his son Jesus Christ who has explained him (John 1:18). The word “explained” is the word exēgeomai in the original language of the New Testament. It is defined “to bring out the meaning.” It is where we get the English word “exegete.”

If it is possible to experience God with our five senses, then why would it be necessary for his son to explain him to us? This is the problem that many religious “leaders” have. Many have claimed to talk to God, hear God, see God in some way all because they believe it is necessary for them to show they have experienced God and therefore know him so much better than anyone else, including his only son.

Instead of “experiencing God,” the gospel was given to man to read, hear, believe and obey. Such a system takes away any idea of preferential treatment. It places all of us in possession of one way to learn about God and thus obey him: his word. Jesus prayed to the father, “Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth,” (John 17:17 NKJV). All of Jesus’ followers are made holy, sanctified, by obedience to the truth of God’s word.

Under the system of obedient faith in Christ (Romans 1:5; 16:26), we are all saved by the same gospel, we are all baptized into the same body, all are cleansed by the same blood. There is no partiality. Each one of us has the choice of obeying God or refusing him. We all receive the same knowledge of God through his only begotten son who has explained him to us in the New Testament.

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God knows us well


It’s easy to think that no one understands me, no one knows me. No one cares what I’m going through.

So many people have said this and ARE saying it.

Christians, however, have someone who knows them and understands.

PSALMS 139:1-4: “You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. ”

God knows each one of us better than anyone could. He made us. If God doesn’t know us, Then no one ever will. He knows our minds. He knows our thoughts. He knows!

PSALM 33:13-15: “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”

God understands every emotion we have. He understands we are often troubled, misunderstood, or unloved. He sees. He understands. There isn’t one feeling we have nor is there one tear that we shed but that he understands each one.

God knows us better than anyone. Whenever we think he doesn’t, we need to remember what God says about how well he knows us. We need to remember how much he loves us: he gave his son to die in our place. That’s how much he knows us. That’s how much he loves us. No one knows us as well as God does!

More gold from Cecil May Jr. “Preacher Talk”


The Spring 2018 issue of “Preacher Talk” is out and there is more gold from Brother May in an article entitled, “Just Be There.” Many preachers ask what they should say when a member loses a loved one. Bro. May has the best answer.

“Job’s three friends were a comfort to him for a full week. They were silent, but there (Job 2:13). When they spoke they were ‘worthless physicians,’ (Job 13:4) and ‘miserable comforters,’ (Job 16:2).

A little girl was adopted as a grandchild by a couple next door. The wife died, and the girl went next door and sat outside with the old man for a couple of hours. When she came home, her mother asked, ‘What did you say to him?’ ‘Nothing, the girl said. ‘I just sat with him and helped him cry.’

When death or other tragedies occur, often there are no appropriate words to say. To be of genuine comfort, just be there.”

There are gems of gold in short lines like these!

 

Preachers needn’t bore when writing


Four of the first articles in a church publication I read recently began with a preposition. Three of them started with “in.”

Just because we are preachers doesn’t mean we must write poorly. We ought to get better at editing, too.

Writers may compose their articles that way, so readers will think they are scholarly. Actually, it’s just dull. In one of the pieces, the first three paragraphs began with a preposition. My reaction was yawning.

Writers need to capture the attention of a reader. That can’t be done with a preposition. It might sound scholarly to write that way, but it’s really boring.

Am I saying you can’t start a sentence with a preposition? No, I’m just pointing out that if a writer wants to catch a reader’s attention do it with a subject and predicate and not with a weak word like “in” or “with.”

The best thing a writer can do is to edit his or her own article before sending it to an editor. Writers should ask themselves if the article captured attention or if it sounds dry and uninteresting. Editors should demand better of writers than dry, boring items. Editors should ask writers to give them something interesting and not something boring.

Short pieces are better, too. My friend Randal Matheny, who edits “Forthright Magazine,” has a motto: it’s “Be Pithy.” That’s good advice. Few readers are going to read an article that is more than 300 words.

 

God is a white man?


A researcher with the University of North Carolina has released a study that says many people think of God as a white man, according to http://www.nbcnews.com.

“I think it’s because for millennia Christians have been led to think of God as male and white,” Professor Kurt Gray told NBC. “It’s changing a little now, but the church hierarchies are still mostly male and mostly white. In the Catholic Church, for example, the Pope is male and the priests are still only male.”

This misconception exists because people like to think that God is human. He isn’t. Jesus said, “God is spirit,” (John 4:24a). God is a spiritual being and is not human. He has no eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, or fingers as humans do. In fact, we do not know what God looks like because no human being alive on the earth has ever seen him (1 John 4:12).

Why do many people believe God has human features? It may be a misunderstanding of a passage in Genesis which says, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness,'” (Genesis 1:26a NASB). Since God is speaking of a spiritual likeness, he is not speaking of a physical resemblance, but a spiritual one. Man’s resemblance to God is an immortal soul he received from God.

Of course, there are many false conceptions of God that mankind has (and will continue to have). Why? Because many people base their ideas of God on their own thinking instead of shaping them according to the inspired word of God, the Bible, which they either won’t read or mistakenly apply.

Good Items from Cecil May


Bro. Cecil May publishes “Preacher Talk,” and there is almost always more than one great thing in the little paper. For his Winter 2018 publication, Brother May wrote the following:

Present Situation: “Status Quo” is Latin for “the mess we’re in.”

Ever felt like Moses: A longtime small-town preacher went to the train station every afternoon to watch the daily train pass through. Someone asked, “What is it about the daily train that fascinates you so much that every day you watch it go through??

The preacher responded, “It is the only good thing that ever goes through this town that I don’t have to push.”

Small-town preachers (like me) can commiserate.

No Secrecy


Roman Catholicism developed an interesting practice to produce revenue.

Priests sold “indulgences” which allowed people to commit a sin. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” described an indulgence as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saint.”

Understand that? Well, neither do I. Obfuscation seemed to be part and parcel of religion for many, many years. It seemed to me like a way to commit any sin you wish if you just have the paid permission of a priest to do so.

Jesus, in Mark 4:21-22 made a common sense statement. He asked if it was the usual practice to light a lamp and set it under a bed. Of course, it wasn’t! That kind of thing is just stupid. The light needs to be placed on a lampstand so it can provide its light unimpeded. The truth will be seen, but also will the sin. Nothing is done in a vacuum.

In verse 22, he said the human-loved practice of trying to obfuscate the truth will never succeed. Nothing will ever remain a secret, Jesus said. Count on all those so-called hidden things in your life to become known by all.

There is no such thing as a permitted sin. The Bible teaches that sin is a transgression of the law (1 John 3:4) and that sin brings a punishment (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). The only avoidance of the punishment of spiritual death is forgiveness and is predicated on repentance and obedience (Luke 13:3; Matthew 28:18-20).