Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Fortune Teller's Demise

A long, long time ago, I went to a fortune teller. It was probably back in the early seventies. I would never go now. My trust and confidence is now in God alone. Back then, my spiritual maturity was pretty much zilch. I went for fun, sort of on a dare, with a skeptical attitude. 

The fortune teller was an elderly lady who lived in an old house on a city street. There was a small sign out front, "Fortune Teller". I don't remember in what city the house was located, but I think maybe Elmira, NY. My wife, Francie, was with me. After being greeted at the door, she agreed to talk with us, brought us into the living room, and charged us a few dollars. Then, one at a time, we met with her, upstairs in a small, plain, empty room with 2 wooden, creaky chairs. There was nothing fancy about the room. It was like a scene out of a haunted house movie. 

Francie was first, while I waited downstairs. Then after about 15 minutes, Francie came down the stairs, looking like she'd seen a ghost (just kidding). It was then my turn to talk to the fortune teller, so I made my way up the staircase. I don't remember much of our conversation. She said some general statement about my grandfather that apparently didn't mean much to me since I can't recall it now. However, I distinctly  remember one thing she said - that I would come into good fortune and be successful in music, but not until late in life.

Well, here I am in my sixties, and yes, I am incredibly blessed at this stage. Not with much money or wealth, but with a loving family, great friends, and an intimate relationship with God, which gives me contentment, peace, joy, and hope. I've been in a full-time music ministry for the past 11 years that gives me purpose and fulfillment, living my passion, and playing music. I didn't have all this early on. I didn't even care about God until I was in my late thirties. So, yes, as I reflect back, the fortune teller's prediction seems to have come true. 

But, there is a warning in all this. Although it may be true that there are some fortune tellers who can actually predict the future, where is their ability coming from? Is it from God, or is it from the dark side? In whom or in what are you putting your trust, your hope, and your confidence? That's the issue. God wants your trust, hope, and confidence in no one or nothing else but Him alone. That's the problem with going to a fortune teller.

God despises divination (the practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means). That's because in God's eyes, it's placing another god before Him. It's turning to some other 'divine' supernatural nature other than Himself. Remember the first of the 10 Commandments....."I am the Lord your shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:2-3)

God does not like the idea of His people, His children, turning to other sources. "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." (Deuteronomy 18:10-11) And it's not that the other sources are all fake! There is a spiritual reality which includes the devil. That's what's scary.

An interesting event involving a fortune teller is recorded by Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts. Luke was traveling with the Apostle Paul as they encountered a female slave who had an evil spirit. She was possessed, yet was actually proclaiming truth.

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. (Acts 16:16-18)

It seems that this incident of a demon possessed person speaking truth about Paul and his fellow workers was something that really annoyed Paul. It just didn't seem right. There seemed to be deception involved. She was speaking what seemed like good news alright, following them around for days, but perhaps her motives were wrong. One thing is for sure - she was gaining credibility for herself, which she could use for evil purposes later.

This section of scripture really got me almost laughing out loud. I could just see Paul getting more and more fed up with her until finally enough was enough. Alright already!! At first she may have seemed harmless, but after a while, she became obnoxious. Maybe I think it's funny because sometimes I can relate to what Paul was feeling when I deal with certain people. And I think you can too. Paul became so aggravated that he turned around and performed a miracle, casting out the evil spirit from the possessed woman. Thus ending her career, to her demise. And her owners weren't too happy with Paul either, as you can see in the rest of chapter 16. But, hey!! Think about was this slave girl's demise as a fortune teller, but it was her release into freedom from being in bondage by an evil spirit! I like to think that she took heed of Paul's message after that incident, and became a believer and follower of Christ.

So I guess the lesson is this.....there are such people as fortune tellers even in today's world. Some are fake, but some may be real. Regardless, stay away from them. If they are real, what source are they tapping into? Certainly not God since He teaches against trusting and confiding in such people. Instead, put all your hope, all your faith, all your confidence in Almighty God, and in Him alone.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Monday, April 21, 2014

5 Ways The Resurrection Affects You

Christians all over the world are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the most significant and powerful event in the history of mankind. But how does His resurrection affect you? Here are five ways. 

1. It Demands Your Attention
You can't disregard it. The resurrection of Jesus is not only well documented in the ancient manuscripts that make up the Bible, it has been talked about and believed in for the past 2000 years! That's how powerful it is. Something of such significance demands your attention. You need to either believe or not believe that it happened. If you don't believe it, then stop here. If you do believe it happened, but only from a historical perspective, also stop here. However, if you believe it from a personal, spiritual perspective, in other words, you believe in Jesus, His sacrifice for you, then go on to the next point. 

2. It Changes Your Life
If you believe Jesus died and resurrected from the dead, then you must believe He is who He claimed to be......the Son of God who died for your sins, for your sake. There's a difference between simply believing from a factual, worldly standpoint, and believing from a inner-spiritual, personal standpoint. That's because believing that He died for you personally, draws you in to a personal relationship with the Him. You begin seeking Jesus (through the Bible), finding out more about who He is and what He teaches. Then you progress to following Him, His teachings, and His ways. This changes the way you think and act. Once you take belief to the heart, it begins to change your life. 

3. It Removes The Fear Of Death
Without the resurrection of Jesus, our faith would be futile, and we would be doomed to die, still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). In other words, without the resurrection, the crucifixion would be void and meaningless. But, He did resurrect! Therefore, we resurrect too. Not only after we die, but we also go through a death, burial, and resurrection in this life, spiritually. At least, that's how it's supposed to work (Colossians 2:12). Once we as believers with a repentant attitude are baptized, we bury our old self, and connected with Jesus, forgiven of our sins, and we rise to walk in a new life with Him. At least, that's how it's supposed to happen. Once we are Christ Followers, we have no fear of death because we know that since He defeated death, we do too.

4. It Gives Hope 
His resurrection gives us hope in this life and in the life to come. I think of hope, spiritually speaking, as an expectation that something in the future will turn out positive with God's hand involved. God is in control. Knowing that God had the power to resurrect Christ from the dead gives us hope that He has the power to do anything. Once we are in a loving Father/Child relationship with God, then His grace is upon us, and He listens to our requests through prayer, ultimately works things in our favor, and even in bad times, He will help us through, be there for us, and somehow, something positive will come out of it (Romans 8:28). Our faith in God, in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, is the basis of our hope.

5. It Provides Promise
The resurrection provides promise. Jesus promised that He would rise from the dead in 3 days, and His promise came true. He demonstrated His faithfulness. Now, in faith, hope, and trust, we know that His promises are trustworthy, and that His words are true. Not only can we count on the promises He gives for this life, but we can count on the promise that there is life after death. As believers, as Christ Followers, we can hold on to these promises - that there is hope, and peace, and joy to be found in this life. And that there is a Heaven, eternal life in paradise with Him, where we will be united with our loved ones who also have believed. Then, He will wipe away our tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, only joy and peace and love forever. (Revelation 21:3-5)

All this because Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and resurrected from the grave victorious. Hallelujah!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Movie Noah - The 'Watchers' Steal The Show

I saw the movie Noah today. It's got drama. It's got thrills. It's got action. It's got a few moments that bring a tear to your eye. It's actually a well-made production, with excellent acting and amazing photography and effects. 

A warning though - if you are going to see Noah expecting true-to-the-Bible accuracy, forget it. Don't even go. You need to realize that it's not entitled "Noah - The True Story". If that was the title everybody would be up in arms including me. If you go looking to tear it apart for inaccuracies you won't need to watch very long, and you would need a big piece of paper. I guess I would describe it as a spin-off fantasy that's based on a Bible story. But that's just what the film makers wanted it to be. 

What bothers me are the movies or shows that actually claim to be a accurate representations of the Bible, but are filled with false doctrine. See my previous posts on such productions, for example the History Channel's Bible series. What is especially offensive to me, and I believe to all Christians, are those movies that portray Jesus Christ inaccurately. After all, now you're talking about our Savior and Lord, and if you are making a movie about Him, you better step very carefully. 

The movie Noah doesn't claim to be that type of a movie at all. Paramount Pictures actually issued this press release on 02/27/14 to help audiences better understand that the feature film is a dramatization of the major scriptural themes and not a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story. Here's what they are adding to all future promotions, as well as the movie's website: "The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."

Unfortunately, this press release was issued too late, after they received negative publicity. It's unfortunate that this statement was not incorporated at the very beginning of the movie. If it was, it would have removed a lot of criticism about it's accuracy, right up front. I wish it was there, because this statement by Paramount really helped me get a good perspective on the movie. And talk about artistic license, that's putting it mildly. 

Obviously, what's good about this movie is that it prompts people to read the Bible rendition of Noah found in Genesis, and get into discussions about it, although I wonder if any non-believers would do that. I certainly have spent a lot of time in Genesis because of it. What's bad is that it is filled with so much distortion of truth, that those who don't bother to learn the true story from the Bible, will come away wondering what was true and what wasn't. 

What I didn't like about it was that it took, what I thought, excessive liberty in trying to convince us that Noah was human in his weaknesses. They really played on his hypothetical faults, one of his children's supposed disobedience, and all kinds of twisted un-truths. But, it's just a movie, right? That's what I needed to keep reminding myself. 

There are some things I liked. For example, how they were creative in coming up with a process of putting the animals in the ark into a hibernation state. Or how they showed how the rains and flood started. 

Probably, looking back on it, the most memorable characters were what they called the Watchers. They were supposedly fallen angels originally, who were turned into huge rock-like, transformer creatures by God. These were sort of good-guys in the end. If there were any heroes in the movie, the Watchers were it, and if you ask me, they stole the show.

So, yes, I recommend you go see Noah. Just realize what kind of movie this is before you see it. It's well done as a stand alone adventure. And remember it's got a little truth with a whole lot of artistic license. Most importantly, let this whole Noah thing prompt you to read Genesis chapters 5 through 9.