Should I expect a special message from God?

When I was in college, a friend of mine grew uneasy. Should he keep dating Wendy, his long-time girlfriend, or did God have a better plan with someone else?

John decided to ask God for a sign.

Since he and Wendy enjoyed playing cribbage, a card game, he prayed something like this:

“God, if you don’t want me to date Wendy anymore, please give me a 29 hand.”

In cribbage, 29 is the most points you can score on your own with the five cards in your hand. The odds of getting a perfect 29 hand in a 2 player game are 1 in 216,580.

John got a 29.

Then John felt even more confused. Was God giving him a sign in answer to his prayer? Or was it all just an against-all-odds coincidence? Was the devil involved?

Neither of us knew. We all should know that God is a) under no obligation to tell people anything and b) not in the habit of providing direct verbal answers to prayers via, say, skywriting – John, break up with Wendy.

Yet couldn’t we ask God for a sign, at least occasionally? Hasn’t God ever given people signs?

Yes. God appeared to Abraham with a smoking firepot and a blazing torch to give him a sign (Genesis 15:8-17)

The LORD gave signs such as a staff that turned into a snake and a hand that turned leprous to help Moses reassure the Israelites (Exodus 4:1-9).

Gideon asked for and received a sign of a fleece that was dry while the ground all around it was wet with dew. The next morning the reverse happened (Judges 6:17, 36-40).

God showed King Hezekiah that he would not die from a dread disease; God made a shadow go backwards ten steps on a stairway (2 Kings 20:8-11).

On the other hand, Jesus orders us not to test God (Matthew 4:7). We should never demand a sign or message from God while thinking that if God fails to come through, we will refuse to honor him.

We should also never ask God for a sign about something he has forbidden. Don’t pray, then, “God, if you want me to move in with my boyfriend before we’re married, please do this or that.”

Instead, recall what Moses told the Israelites, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Unpack that:

  • God keeps secrets. There are many things he won’t tell you, even if you ask.
  • God has uncovered many things to us in the Bible. Confused? Facing a tough decision? Read and treasure God’s Word (Psalms 23 or Psalm 25 are great places to start). God’s Word lasts forever.
  • Whatever God has uncovered in the Bible will lead us to obey all God has told us to do. No Bible verse will lead us to disobey God.

What happened to John and Wendy, by the way? They broke up. Both later married other persons and had children. They remain happily married. Above all, they trust Jesus as their Savior.

Sure and Certain of the Unseen

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

It is amazing that with only a few clicks on a computer, we can dramatically alter photos. Such capabilities have led us to be a bit more wary. We find ourselves saying, “Unless I see it with my own eyes, how can I believe that it hasn’t been touched up? I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Often this cynical attitude can touch our spiritual life. How can I believe that God loves me and knows what is going on in my life considering all troubles and disappointments I have to deal with?

It doesn’t take much for us to see where one of Jesus’ own disciples was coming from when he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25). I’ll believe it when I see it.

That is in stark contrast to what we read in the Bible, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” How can we be sure and certain of things we can’t see, can’t prove?

Think of a father and child playing the game where the father stands behind the child and tells him to fall backwards. The child, unable to see his father, still trusts that he is there and is certain that his father won’t let him hit the ground. The child leans back and falls, fully convinced that his father will keep his word and catch him, because his father has always proved trustworthy.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Though we did not see the creation or the crucifixion, though we were not present to witness the Savior rising from the Easter tomb, though we have not heard his actual voice forgiving our sins and promising his return, we believe.

How can we be so sure and certain? God’s word is true and trustworthy. Our forgiveness is certain because Jesus did die and rise from the dead. God’s love for us today and every day is sure. Every promise our Father has made about our eternal future, he will keep.

Faith is sure and certain of unseen things simply because it takes God at his word.

Is There a God?

The Bible doesn’t try to prove that there’s a God.  It simply assumes that there is.  People who ask this question are usually looking for a logical proof that God exists, and there have been many attempts to construct one over the centuries.

Let’s begin with another question. “Does this world have a meaning or a purpose?”  The two questions are closely connected.  If the universe is here intentionally—in other words, if it has meaning–there must be somebody or something who “meant” it.  On the other hand, if the universe is nothing more than one massive accident, that would seriously damage the argument that there has to be a God.

Most people can see the problem with the second view.  Think of it this way.  Suppose you and I are hiking together in a forest.  We come upon a tree with an indentation in the shape of a heart on it.  Inside the heart are more indentations in the shape of these letters:  TREVOR LOVES TIFFANY.  You remark that somebody carved the design into the tree—probably Trevor, who wanted to impress Tiffany.

I argue, “How do you know?  Grubs, woodpeckers, or lightning could have done that.”

You say that since grubs and woodpeckers can’t spell, in my scenario the design would be a completely chance event.  The odds would be astronomical against a chance event producing a design with a message that makes sense.  It’s a lot easier to think of somebody carving the design into the tree on purpose.

I answer, “But the ‘sense’ that the design ‘makes’ only exists inside your head.  Objectively, that design is nothing more than some indentations on a tree.  You can’t prove that a person exists who meant to put it there.”

How impressed would you be with my argument?

Most people understand that the odds against this world being a product of blind chance are astronomical.  The beauty and purposefulness of nature are one reason.  The spiritual dimension of a human being is another.  Atoms crashing into one another just can’t explain love, kindness, humor, or pleasure in what’s beautiful or true.  Above all, how could a meaningless universe produce a being (me) who cares about meaning?  If there is no point to the universe or to my own life, then how did the idea that there should be a point get inside my head?

In the end, if I were determined to keep doubting that there is meaning (and therefore a God), how could you prove to me that there is?  Think back to the tree in the forest.  The only way to really convince me would be if Trevor came around the bend in the trail and you introduced me to him.

That’s what happens in the Bible.  In it, the writers introduce us to God, the Author of all things.  And the message isn’t just that he loves “Tiffany.”  It’s that he loves you and me–more than we will ever know.

What makes a person prepared to take communion?

You’ve noticed not everyone goes up to take Communion.  How come?  What prepares you to take Communion?

He who believes these words, “given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins,” is prepared.  “But whoever does not believe these words or doubts them is not prepared, because the words, ‘for you’ require nothing but hearts that believe.”

Do we believe what Jesus is saying about Communion?  Do we believe we are sinners?  Communion is for sinners.  Do we repent of our sins and want to change our life?  If we think we don’t have any sin we need neither forgiveness nor a change in our life.  Do we believe Jesus when he says “This is my body…this is my blood?”  Do we believe we are somehow, some way, because of the power of Jesus’ words, receiving his true body and blood, the same body that hung on the cross, the same blood that he shed from the cross?  If we don’t believe that, we are not prepared to take Communion.

We need to repent. If we don’t even know what Jesus is saying to us and how all of this can be true, we are not prepared to take Communion, and we need to learn more about it.

When we take Communion we are saying we are prepared. We know what we are receiving and, because everybody else taking Communion believes the same thing about what Jesus is saying, we all believe the same things together. How do I know I believe the same thing all these other people believe?

How do they know they believe the same thing I believe?  That’s the point of making a public confession of our faith—usually through our church membership, saying “I believe Jesus’ words say this, just like you do.”

If we don’t know what a group or congregation of Christians believes, or if we have our doubts about what they believe, we shouldn’t pretend we’re on the same page.  We shouldn’t take Communion until we know more about them and what they teach. We need to talk to the pastor to find out how we can learn more about them so that we can take Communion with them.

But if you do believe, this supper is for you. If you do hunger and thirst for forgiveness, this supper is for you. If you do long for the power to change your life, then this supper is for you. If you do understand what Jesus is saying, and if you have revealed what you believe by confessing your oneness in faith, no one can say that you are not prepared.

Come, this holy supper is for you.

What is the point of Holy Communion?

The point of communion is to give believers comfort that our sins are forgiven and that nothing stands between us and God.  That is the whole point of the message of God’s love to us spelled out in words, the Gospel. But holy communion is even more pointed, more personal.

We all have a little pipsqueak inside of us.  That pipsqueak tries to exempt us from the rules.  I’ve got that little pipsqueak.  That’s why I smoked for years.  I’m not an idiot.  I knew it was bad for me, that it could give me lung cancer or emphysema.  I watched people die from it.  But the little pipsqueak inside of me told me it wasn’t going to happen to me.  That pipsqueak also told me I didn’t need to be wearing a seatbelt as I was turning into the driveway to go to traffic school—right before the garbage truck totaled my car and almost put me through the windshield.

But you’ve got that pipsqueak, too.  It convinces you you can drive faster than the speed limit, you don’t have to be on time for work and you can lose weight without exercising. Now that pipsqueak goes to work on God’s Gospel promises to us.  He takes a passage like “God so loved the world”— except me!  “God was reconciling the world”— except me!  It tries to exclude us from God’s love so we think that while God loves everybody else, he doesn’t love me.  While he has forgiven the world, he hasn’t forgiven me.

That’s why Jesus commanded us to take the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion.  That’s why he made it what it is, his giving us his true body and blood, in with and under that bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins.

“Take eat, take and drink.  This is for the forgiveness of sins for you”— except me, my pipsqueak interrupts.

“Oh, no!” Jesus says.  “If you can see it, touch it, taste it, feel it going down your throat, my forgiveness for you is real.”

Like a persistent father who keeps moving toward us while he is making his point crystal clear, even as we are backing up, trying to get away, Jesus backs us into a corner so we can’t get away.  He intrudes into our space so we can’t ignore him.

He died for me. He took away my sins. He endured the punishment I deserved.

To prove to me that it was for me, in a miraculous way through holy communion he is giving me his very body which hung on the cross.  He is giving me his true blood which he shed on the cross.

I am forgiven by God.  I am loved by God.  I am saved.

And that pipsqueak of a sinful human nature inside of me can’t say otherwise.

How do I achieve enlightenment?

It’s a familiar story line: the wandering soul climbing to the top of a mountain in search of a bearded guru. The searcher has traveled the world seeking enlightenment and is just about to meet the wise old man with the flowing white beard, sitting serenely on the mountain peak. The long expensive trip has been worth it because, it is said, the wizened teacher knows the meaning of life. What will he say?

Have you been searching, too?  Maybe you haven’t climbed to the top of a mountain, but who of us hasn’t wondered about the meaning of life?  “Is that all there is?” the plaintive song asks.

Who of us hasn’t longed for enlightenment?

Over 1500 years ago, there was a great Christian theologian by the name of Augustine of Hippo (a city in N. Africa). He was a Bishop — a kind of “guru” for people who sought enlightenment, as in fact he himself had done earlier in his life. He summed up such human longing in a prayer to God: “Lord, you have created us for yourself, and our hearts will never be at rest until they rest in you.”

Augustine did not consider himself to have all the answers. In fact, he told searchers: “You may be looking for the right thing, but aren’t you looking in the wrong place?”

He did, however, know the right place to look for enlightenment from God. He went to the Bible.

The late Johnny Hart wrote a popular and provocative cartoon strip called “B.C.”  In one scene a searcher climbs a mountain to visit a bearded guru at the summit. He asks, “Tell me, O great guru, what does the future hold?”

The old man answers: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”

Shocked and appalled, the seeker asks, “How do you know such things?”

The guru held up a Bible and answered, “No one escapes the Gideons.” (You know, those people who place Bibles in hotel rooms.)

His point: instead of looking to a guru on a mountaintop, you can go to the Bible and find life’s answers. There you can find enlightenment.

Perhaps you are climbing a mountain—a mountain of information on the internet to see if there may be some truth to be found in the gazillion terabytes of information floating around out here in cyberspace?

Somehow, your climb has brought you to our site, “What About Jesus?” And as St. Augustine would do, we direct you to the best place to find real enlightenment: to the Bible, God’s Word.

Here you will find Jesus, who also climbed a mountain. He climbed the mountain called “Calvary” where he offered his life as the atoning sacrifice for everyone in the world, including you and me.

Here is where your true enlightenment will begin—at the Lord’s cross of salvation. As you read and learn more, your knowledge will grow and you will find comfort and peace. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are indeed my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Is not this wonderful enlightenment?

Of course, you will have many more questions as you search the Scriptures (i.e. the Bible). Please contact us to receive a free Bible in your language, plus we can provide you with many other Bible study helps to lead you on the path of enlightenment. Also, throughout these web pages, we are glad and privileged to help you find the truth.

Our prayer for you is taken right from the Bible, a prayer written by St. Paul, another great teacher (“guru”) who pointed seekers to Jesus:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance…”  (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Am I good enough to go to heaven?

Mom went over to the slow cooker where the turkey had been all day. As the lid was taken off, a shriek filled the air. The slow cooker had been unplugged hours before to make room for Uncle Bob’s famous sweet potato soufflé.

Tears filled Mom’s eyes. “My dinner is ruined!” she cried. Dad chimed in, “Oh, honey. I am sure that it is good enough.” However, the half baked turkey was not good enough, nor was it safe to eat.

In our lives we probably hear or say those words often. “Oh, the lawn looks good enough. I can wait another couple of days to mow.” “Oh, the house isn’t that dirty. It is good enough for now.” “My job was done well enough for today. I am going home!”

What about when it is quitting time here in this life? Are we sure that we are going home to heaven? Are we good enough?

We may be individuals who settle for good enough more than we like to admit. However, we have a God who doesn’t settle for anything but perfection. Jesus says, “Be perfect . . . as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48.

So are we good enough to go to heaven?

God takes the “lid” off of our hearts and tells us what he sees. “Every inclination of the heart is evil from childhood” Genesis 8:21. Even if we try hard and work at being kind, good, and perfect we still fail. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

So now what do we do? Similar to an uncooked turkey, does the heat get turned up on us in hell? Is our hope to have life in heaven ruined?

Thanks to Jesus Christ our Savior the answer is, “No.” We do have hope because Jesus has forgiven our sins by dying on the cross and he has declared us to be innocent by rising from the dead. Because of what Jesus has done, every time that God looks at us he sees “you holy in his sight without blemish and free from accusation” Colossians 1:22.

Are you good enough to go heaven? Jesus did not just make you good enough but he made you perfect! Through faith you receive “the gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 3:23.

Why Do I Feel Guilty?

You have seen the struggle before, haven’t you? The TV sitcom shows the main character with an angel in white on one shoulder and a little devil, complete with pitchfork and tail, on the other side. The good angel is encouraging the individual to do what is good and right. The bad angel is encouraging that same individual to do something that he knows is wrong.

Although the scenario is set up to amuse us, it is surprisingly close to what goes on inside of us.There are times in our lives when we are forced to make tough choices. Some choices we are able to take time to consider. Other choices must be made quickly without giving them much thought. No matter what types of choices we make, we are forced to live with them. Living with choices that we know are wrong produces guilt.

Guilt is a tough thing to live with, and it is even tougher to get rid of it. But, as disturbing as guilty feelings are, they are really a gift from God. Guilt leads us to ask the question, “What can I do to make up for all the wrong that I have done? How can I fix it?” Unfortunately, most wrong decisions we make cannot be taken back or undone. As a result, many people live with guilt for years without any place to turn for help.

Thank God that he has a way of taking care of guilt. Instead of having us try to make up for what we have done, he sent a Savior to remove our guilt. When Jesus went to the cross, God placed all our wrong, including the guilt and blame that come with it, on Jesus’ shoulders. When Jesus died, his last words were, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) which means, “It is paid in full.” Jesus paid the price for and removed our sin. It is as if the wrong that we did that produced the guilt never happened.

Are you feeling guilty today? Don’t live with it another day. Turn to Jesus who forgives sin and removes guilt (Psalm 25:4-18).