Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Bible vs. Nostradamus

Michel de Nostredame, popularly referred to as Nostradamus (1503-1566), is synonymous with secular predictions of doomsday. Nostradamus was an apothecary, astronomer and self-proclaimed prophet. His best known book, The Prophecies, has remained in print since 1555. The infamous predictions made by Nostradamus were written in a coded format called “quatrains,” which are mysterious poems of four lines. In order to conjure up his visions Nostradamus reportedly used an occultic method called “scrying” in which he would enter a deep trance while staring into a crystal ball or pool of water. 

There’s a familiar story that Nostradamus even predicted his own death. According to the legend, on July 1, 1566, when his assistant wished him goodnight, the soothsayer responded, “You will not find me alive at sunrise.” He was found dead on July 2, 1566. Since his death, some who have studied his cryptic writings acclaim Nostradamus as a seer without peer. Some say that he predicted events such as, the rise of Hitler, the assassination of JFK, even the attacks of 9/11. How should we view such predictions in comparison with biblical prophecy? 

First, many predictions of the future made by men like Nostradamus are simply too obscure or ambiguous to interpret. The vast majority of prophecies made by seers are so vague that they could be twisted to fit any number of events. 

Second, even his most ardent supporters admit that Nostradamus was often wrong. However, the Scriptures are very clear that if a prophet receives a revelation from God then he will be right 100 percent of the time. According to the Old Testament if the events that a false prophet spoke about did not come to pass then he was to be stoned to death (Deut. 18:22). 

Third, the Bible strictly prohibits the use of occultism and divination to discern future events (Deut. 18:10-12). What Nostradamus engaged in wasn’t harmless, but demonic. Therefore, the predictions of men like Nostradamus cannot be put on the same platitude as biblical prophecy. 

The Bible has a stunning track record of declaring history in advance. Daniel predicted the rise and fall of four world kingdoms: the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans (Dan. 2,7). Isaiah named Cyrus as the King of Persia 150 years before he was born (Is. 44:26-28). Ezekiel predicted the destruction of Tyre and Sidon hundreds of years before Alexander the Great toppled them (Ez. 26:3-6). Jesus fulfilled at least forty Messianic prophecies just on the day of His crucifixion (Is. 53, Ps. 22). The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecies calculated that 27 percent of the entire Bible contains predictive prophecy. This is true of no other book in the world and it is a sure sign of its Divine origin (Is. 46:10). In God, history and prophecy are one and the same.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Do Miracles Lead to Maturity?

A boy's sack lunch fed the hungry masses. Jesus multiplied two sardines and a five tortillas into a banquet. Everyone went away with a doggie bag. A smashing success right? Not exactly. Mark adds an insight at the end of the scene where the disciples were in the storm-tossed boat, "for they did not understand about the loaves, for their hearts were hardened" (Mark 6:52). 

From a spiritual standpoint the feeding of the 5,000 was a total flop. The disciples failed to comprehend the lesson that Jesus really wanted to teach them, which was that He was the God of the impossible. So, like any good teacher does, He gave His pupils a retest by sending them into a storm. 

This got me thinking about miracles. Many of us pray for them everyday--God heal me of this disease, give me this job, make our dollars stretch to the end of the month--yet I wonder if we receive a miracle if we will actually learn the real lesson God wants us to teach us? Jesus literally worked one of His greatest miracles through the hands of His men and it was about as successful as a concrete balloon. 

Perhaps the miracles that we so earnestly pray for will do little to cultivate what God is really after--long term faith and obedience in us. It could be that God's direct intervention would short-circuit the real growth He is trying to achieve. What good is a miracle if we miss the message that its intended to convey?

The Power of Small Things

On Friday June 12, 2013 a passenger train carrying 370 people derailed just miles outside the city of Paris. Six people were killed and twenty-two others injured when four cars of the train went off the track. Surveillance footage from the station showed a scene of devastation, with the derailed train cars twisted and crumpled across the platform and track. Rescue workers searched frantically through the wreckage for the dead and injured. The president of France witnessed the carnage and immediately launched a full investigation for the cause of the debacle. Authorities claim that the train was traveling at a normal speed, so the culprit was not due to human error. Turns out, the cause of the fiery crash was a small part that disconnected from the switching mechanism on the tracks. Investigators suggested that a “fishplate” or joint bar that bolted two rails together on the track was loose and prevented the train’s wheels from staying on course. 

As I read of that tragedy the thought occurred to me how small things can cause big problems. Doesn't it seem unbelievable that a powerful, swift-moving locomotive can be felled by one piece of defective steel? Yet when we turn into the Bible we find warnings in both Old and New Testaments that it just takes a little sin to do much harm. Solomon warned against the “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards” (Song 2:15) and how one dead fly can cause “the perfumer's ointment to give off a stench” (Ecc. 10:1). Paul added that, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9). 

Just as a train can be derailed by one faulty switch so too a person’s life can be devastated by small intrusions of sin and moral compromises. The danger is that many of us are not aware of these seemingly innocuous character defects until the damage has already been done. Knowledge of this should keep us humble and on our knees asking the Lord to reveal potential places of weakness in our lives. When He identifies them we should be quick to shore up those places where we know we are susceptible. The Bible continually reminds us that we must be on guard: “testing our faith to see if it is genuine” (1 Cor. 13:5), “putting to death the flesh” (Col. 3:5), “watching and praying lest we enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). Have we been honest enough with God and ourselves to give Him the freedom to point out where we are weak? Let’s ask the Lord to help us inspect all areas of our lives and be obedient to His promptings towards holiness. -DM