Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What is The Lamb's Book of Life?

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12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  (Rev. 20:12)

When the wicked are judged at the Great White Throne they will be measured against several standards. In fact, we are told that God has several books in his heavenly library. In Rev. 3:5, Christ promises the faithful believers at the church of Sardis, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” This is an allusion to the so-called, “Lamb’s Book of Life,” where God is keeping a record of all who have placed their faith in Christ.

The Roman cities in Jesus’ day had a register that listed the names of every citizen. If people committed crimes or dishonored their standing in the city, they could be called before a tribunal to have their names removed—or blotted out—from the city’s registry. It seems that this is the concept behind the Book of Life as well. The names of all the people ever born were originally contained within its pages, but those who rejected Christ have their names deleted.[1]

Along with the book of life, we also read about other books being opened at this judgment.
The question that arises from this passage is what are the other books that will opened? 

·         Romans 2:15-16 speaks of Christ judging the secrets of men. This suggests that one day the human conscience may play a role in judging the sinner. The conscience is not an infallible guide to what is right and wrong, but when the conscience is violated it shows an attitude of sin that could be brought against the sinner.

·         Matt. 12:36-37 speaks of Christ judging the words of men. As the saying goes, “If you give a man enough rope, he will hang himself.” This appears to be another book that could be brought against sinners as they will be judged by their own words.

·         Matt. 16:27 speaks of Christ judging men by their works. “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” 

          I recently read an article in USA Today about tech-giant Google. According to their stats, Google processes on average 40,000 search queries every second, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.
            If that wasn’t staggering, get this—Did you know every Google search you’ve ever performed is stored on the search giant's servers? With that mountain of information, Google can tell a lot about you: where you live, your hobbies, age, health problems, religion and more.
Of course, Google uses that data mostly to target you with ads. But the point remains, anything you’ve ever done on a computer with Google is instantly recorded and can be recalled.[2]

Now the folks at Google are smart, but they are not omniscient like God. What Google can do pales in comparison to Almighty God. The Lord has the facts on everyone who’s ever lived and He is keeping an accurate record so that one day He can render a verdict that right and true.

Erwin Lutzer adds, “Think of how accurately God will judge every unbeliever! Each day of every life will be analyzed in minute detail. The hidden thoughts and motives of each hour will be replayed, along with all the actions and attitudes. The words spoken in secret will be made public for all to see. They will have no attorney to whom they may appeal, no loopholes by which they can escape. Nothing but bare, indisputable fact from a perfect Judge.”[3]

What about you? Will your name be found in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” The Bible solemnly warns, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Like the old hymn says, you can make sure that “when the roll is called up yonder” you will be there by repenting of your sins and trusting in Christ alone for salvation.  -DM

[1] David Jeremiah, Agents of the Apocalypse (New York: Faith Words, 2014), 259.
[2] Kim Komando, “How to Protect Your Privacy on Google,” USA Today, 17 May 2013 <http://www.usatoday.com/
[3] Erwin Lutzer, One Minute After You Die (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), 110.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Preaching to the President

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In his autobiography, Billy Graham wrote about how he got the call of a lifetime in 1953 from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Eisenhower was elected, he called Billy to help him write his inaugural speech. Even though he wasn’t a believer, the president wanted Billy to help him pick appropriate Bible verses for the speech.   

A friendship blossomed between the two and Eisenhower asked for Graham’s counsel at many points in his presidency. Billy, being the great evangelist, prayed for the right moment to present the Gospel to Eisenhower and it finally came. One day Eisenhower invited Billy to tour Gettysburg battlefield with him, “Billy, do you believe in Heaven?’ he asked. “Yes, sir, I do,” Graham answered. “Give me your reasons,” Eisenhower asked. Billy wrote, “With my New Testament open, I gave the President a guided tour through the Scriptures that spoke of the future life.”

The President did not make a commitment that day and for years Billy wondered about Eisenhower’s salvation. He finally got the answer, years later in 1968. Graham met with Eisenhower at Walter Reed hospital a few months before the president passed away. Graham recalls the conversation:

“As my scheduled twenty minutes with him extended to thirty, he asked the doctor and nurses to leave us. Propped up on pillows amidst intravenous tubes, he took my hand and looked into my eyes. ‘Billy, you’ve told me how to be sure my sins are forgiven and that I’m going to Heaven. Would you tell me again?’ I took out my New Testament and read to him the familiar Gospel verses. Then, my hand still in his, I prayed briefly. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘I’m ready’”[1]

When I read that story, it reminded me of what happened to Paul and Barnabas while they were preaching in Cyprus. Paul stormed the island with the Gospel and eventually gained an audience with the Roman governor, a man named Sergius Paulus, who according to Acts 13:7, was “a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.” At first Paul was opposed by sorcerer in the governor’s cabinet, a nefarious character named Elymas the magician. Undeterred, Paul rebuked Elymas and blinded him by the power of the Holy Spirit and when Sergius Paulus saw what had occurred, he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (13:12).    

So what are we to take away from these two stories: First, the Gospel is for everyone. Both Billy Graham and Paul got to preach to people in positions of high authority. Often times, I think we make the mistake of assuming that the Gospel is just for a certain class of people—the poor, the outcasts and the lower ranks of society. The reality is that everyone, even presidents and kings, need the Gospel because they too are sinners in need of a Savior. We may not have an audience with our national leaders, but we can certainly pray for their salvation (1 Tim. 2:2).   

Second we learn that, soul winning is spiritual warfare. It took the blinding of the false prophet to open the eyes of Sergius Paulus. In fact, this is the only convert that Luke mentions from their efforts on Cyprus.  Like Jesus’ parable in Luke 15, Paul and Barnabas had left the ninety-nine to go after the one and Paul had to fight off the son of the devil to win just one soul. Soul winning is not for the faint of heart. When you share Christ expect all kinds of Satanic opposition. The good news is that “greater is He that is within me that he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). -DM

[1] Billy Graham, Just As I Am (Ney York: Harper Collins, 1997), 238-241.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Answering Islam: The Substitution Theory

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A few years ago, I befriended a Muslim man from Africa at the gym where I worked out. I tried several times to witness to him about the Gospel. I even had the opportunity to give him a Bible. I explained to him, “One of the greatest differences between Christianity and Islam is that your religion says, ‘Do” (pray five times a day, give to the poor, make a pilgrimage to Mecca, etc.) but Jesus says “Done.” Your religion is based on works, and how do you know if you’ve ever done enough to merit God’s love? Meanwhile, Christ is about grace—salvation is a free gift.”

He listened intently and was kind. I never had the privilege of leading him to Christ, but I hope a seed was planted in his heart. One of the main objections that he had to the Gospel was that according to the Koran, Jesus was never crucified. “What?” I thought to myself, “How could anyone believe that—the crucifixion of Jesus is one of the best attested facts of history.”

Millions of people across our globe are professing Muslims and they believe just like my friend did—that Jesus never went to the cross, and therefore He never rose from the grave. After hearing about this strange teaching, I started doing some research and sure enough, in the Koran, Sura 157-159, we read about this alternate explanation to the Easter story:

“That they said, “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”—but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not—nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”

The Koran claims that rather than allowing Jesus, who was one of Allah’s prophets, to be crucified, Allah is said to have respected his prophet and saved him by crucifying someone else who was made to look like Jesus. This is known as the “Substitution Theory.” In fact, a highly respected Muslim commentator claims that Judas was crucified in the place of Jesus. According to this scenario, Jesus asked His disciples which of them would like to have His likeness cast upon him in order to be killed and enter paradise. Judas volunteered and replaced Jesus on the cross.[i]

Where in the world could Muhammad have gotten this idea? One theory among historians is that he actually got it from heretical Christian sects, such as the Gnostics. One of the Gnostic gospels from the third century, The Apocalypse of Peter, makes this bizarre claim.

Erwin Lutzer writes, “That Muhammad reiterated the common fables of the day explains why he taught that Jesus was born under a palm tree and that Jesus made clay birds come to life as a boy . . . Being an illiterate merchant, Muhammad got much of his information for his religion by plundering history and popular tales to solidify himself as a legitimate prophet of God.”[ii]  

There are several problems with the so-called, “substitution theory.” First, there isn’t a shred of historical proof to support it. This assertion from the Koran comes more than 600 years after the lifetime of Jesus. How can this source which contradicts all the eyewitness testimony be considered more trustworthy? Moreover, Muhammad was illiterate. How could he do a thorough historical investigation? Is your baloney meter going off yet?  

Second, this theory raises more questions than it answers. If Jesus wasn’t killed, then why was the tomb of the man who took his place found empty? And if Jesus wasn’t killed and not raised then why do we have people willing to die for their belief in the resurrection (i.e. Paul)?

Third and most importantly, this theory implodes under logic. Interestingly, even the Koran says that Jesus predicted his death and resurrection, “Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive (Sura 19:33).” Since Jesus predicted his resurrection and Muhammad regards him as a prophet, if Jesus didn’t die and rise again that makes him a false prophet. If Jesus died a violent death, the Koran is wrong. If Jesus did not die a violent death and rise, then the Koran is also wrong. Either way, this puts the Muslim on the horns of a dilemma.

Praise God we don’t make a pilgrimage to see the occupied tomb of Jesus as the Muslims do Muhammad! Our God is not dead. While Muhammad's bones are moldering in the ground, Jesus is alive, seated at the Father’s right hand in power and glory! And one day, every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess Jesus as Lord, yes even Muhammad! What a day that will be! -DM

[i] Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), 67.  
[ii] Erwin Lutzer, Slandering Jesus (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2007), 42.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Little Tent

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During Billy Graham’s historic 1949 Los Angeles evangelistic campaign, a big tent that held over 6,000 people was filled to overflowing every night for 8 weeks. Hundreds of people came to Christ during those meetings including high-prolife celebrities like radio personality Stuart Hamblin, Olympic runner and WWII vet Louis Zamperini and former gangster Jim Vaus.  

Close by the big tent was a smaller tent set aside for counseling and prayer. Cliff Barrows, longtime music director and close friend and associate of Graham, has often said that the real work of the gospel took place in “the little tent,” where people gathered on their knees to pray before and during every evangelistic service. A local Los Angeles woman, Pearl Goode, was instrumental in organizing those prayer meetings and many that followed.[1]

Will Graham, the grandson of Billy, wrote about Pearl Goode’s ministry like this, “In the annals of world history, you won’t find many mentions of a lady named Pearl Goode. She never ran for political office, never commanded troops, and never served as the CEO of a Fortune-500 company. Pearl became a prayer warrior for the crusades, at first without anybody on my grandfather’s team even knowing. She would spend her own money to travel by Greyhound bus to wherever they were holding an event, quietly check herself into a motel near the venue, and immediately begin praying. Pearl estimated that she covered 48,000 miles by bus, simply to pray for the Crusades. Even later in life when Pearl could no longer travel, or when my grandfather was preaching overseas, she would make it a point to know exactly when he would be preaching, and she would spend those exact hours in prayer. In an address he gave in 1994, my grandfather said, ‘She prayed all night many nights, and I could sense the presence and power of that prayer. When she died, I felt it.’”[2]

Pearl Goode

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he assured them that he and his colleagues were praying always for them, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (Col. 1:3). In closing Paul mentioned Epaphras, a founder of the Colossian church, who is “always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12).

Some people are given the high visibility task of preaching the gospel in “the big tent.” But God has extended to us all, just as He did to Epaphras and Pearl Goode, the great privilege of kneeling in “the little tent” and bringing others before the throne of God. We get to be intercessors for the lost and those Christian soldiers on the frontlines, and what we do in prayer may help turn the tide in our spiritual battle for souls.

In one of his books, Charles Spurgeon, spoke about “a certain preacher whose sermons converted men by the scores.” Later, this preacher believed that he received a revelation from God in a dream, “that not one of the conversions was owing to his talents and eloquence, but all the prayers of illiterate lay brother, who sat on the pulpit steps, pleading all the time for the success of the sermon.” Spurgeon continued, “It may in the judgment be so with us. We may discover, after having labored long and wearily in preaching, that all the honor belongs to another builder, who prayers were gold, silver and precious stones, while our sermons being deficient of prayer, were but wood, hay and stubble.”[3] -DM

[1] David C. McCasland, “The Little Tent,” Our Daily Bread, 16 January 2014 <https://odb.org/2014/01/16/the-little-tent/>
[2] Will Graham, “Will Graham on Pearl Goode and the Power of Prayer,” Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,
5 May 2016 <https://billygraham.org/story/will-graham-on-pearl-goode-and-the-power-of-prayer/>
[3] Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2016 ed.), 48.