Are You an Atheist?

Are you an atheist?  “Well, of course not,” you say.  “No way would I be an atheist! I know that God exists.”

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)  This verse is often used to teach that a person who does not believe in the existence of God is acting foolishly.  I couldn’t agree more!  A person who says there is no God is a fool.  But, is that really what Psalm 14:1 teaches?

If you read further into Psalm 14, you’ll notice the psalm describes the fool’s behavior; he is corrupt, he has done abominable works, there is none that doeth good, they are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy.   Also notice that reading Psalm 14:1 from the King James Version, the words “there is” are in italics.   This italics indicates these words were not a part of the original text but were inserted by the translators to help convey the meaning of the text.  Without these words, Psalm 14:1 would read, “The fool hath said in his heart, no God.”  Is the fool in Psalm 14 one who denies the existence of God?  Or is he one who, in rebellion, lives as if there is no God?  Is his conduct such that it fails to convey his belief in God to others?

Let’s look at three passages where men believed in the existence of God, but acted like atheists.  First, from the book of Exodus, chapter 14.  When the Pharaoh found out that God’s people were fleeing from Egypt, his heart was turned against God and he decided to pursue God’s people.  When the children of Israel saw the Pharaoh and his army coming after them, they became very afraid the – KJV says they were sore afraid.  They thought they simply had no way out – no way of escape.  Their backs were to the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was quickly drawing closer to them.  They began to chastise Moses – “Why didn’t we stay in Egypt?  Why did you take us out here just to die in the wilderness?  Were there no graves in Egypt?” 

Now notices Moses’ response from Exodus 14:13-14 – “13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. 14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”

What was wrong with their thinking? They wondered why Moses took them to where they were, yet they were exactly where God had led them.  They thought the Red Sea was an insurmountable object, yet God led them right through it.  They saw nothing in store for them but death and defeat.  Oh, they believed in the existence of God.  But they were acting as if God was unaware and uncaring about their situation.  They had no faith that God would deliver them through their hardship.  There were acting like atheists.

Keep reading and you’ll find out that God parted the sea, allowing His people to cross on dry ground.  When the Egyptians followed after them, God brought the waters together again, overthrowing the Egyptians in the sea.

Sometimes, life can throw us a curve.  It may be financial struggles, health problems, marital problems, or difficulties with our jobs.  You and I can experience such hardship that we see no way out.  We feel hopeless and helpless.  We still believe that God exists, but we forget that He is always there to carry us through life’s struggles.  You might say we become practical atheists.  Oh sure, we believe God exists, but we act as if there is no God.  But remember, God may not take you around your Red Sea, but He will part it for you and carry you through it.

Next, consider Matthew 6:25-33 – “25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

In verse 24, Jesus said that no man can serve two masters; he will hate the one, and love the other.  He went on to say “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  The word mammon refers to material gain or financial profit.  Among Jesus’ audience there must have been some who placed unnecessary thought on the things of this world.  Jesus assured them that God would take care of them, just as He cares for the fowl of the air.

If we’re not careful, we can take on this same attitude today.  We can become overly concerned with the things of this world.  We take on a desire for material gain because of our concern over meeting our simplest needs. Someone stays up late at night, unable to sleep because they are worried about making a living.  With prices going up the way they are, how will the bills be paid?  Have you been to the grocery store lately?  Prices are out of sight!  How will I be able to keep food on the table?  Then there’s the unexpected visit to the hospital, doctor or dentist.  How am I supposed to make ends meet?

Sometimes we forget that God is there the whole time, taking care of us. We believe God exists, but we act as if He doesn’t – we act like atheists. 

Next, let’s look at James 4:13-17 – “13 Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

James wrote about a man who had big plans.  This man was going to start a business venture and, over the coming year, make a big profit.  But this man needed to be reminded that his life was a vapor that was here for a short while and then vanishes away. Sadly, in his boastings, the man left God out of his plans.  He should have been saying, “If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.”  James describes this attitude – boasting of the future and leaving God out of our plans, as evil.  It reminds me of Proverbs 27:1 – “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

Now notice verse 17, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  I have often heard this verse used to teach that there are sins of omission.  That is, we sin not only by the things we do; we can also sin by the things we do not do.  While this may be true, I don’t believe this is what this verse is teaching.

The ESV translates James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  I believe this conveys the meaning of James 4:17 more clearly.  If boasting of our plans, while leaving God out of our plans, is evil, then the “good” of verse 17 would be to include God in our plans.

Sometimes we can make great plans for our future, but leave God out of our plans.  When it comes to planning our future, we believe God exists but sometimes act as if He doesn’t.  We act like atheists!

Although we believe God exists, we act like He doesn’t when (1) we forget that he will help us through the struggles of life, (2) when we forget that He will provide all of life’s needs (3) when we forget to include God in our plans.

Now do you understand why I began by asking the question, “Are you an atheist?”

If you say, “of course not!  I’m not an atheist, then make sure you don’t act like one.

The Lord Will Fight For You!

The book of Exodus begins with God’s people, the Israelites, in Egyptian bondage. God heard his people’s cries of despair and called Moses to deliver the Israelites out of their bondage. Of course, the Pharaoh refused to let the people go. However, after the plagues, the Pharaoh eventually let the people go. After doing so, the Pharaoh had a change of heart and pursued the Israelites. Let’s consider several points from Exodus 14:10-31).

First, consider the people’s restlessness (14:10-12). As the Israelites were against the Red Sea, they saw the Egyptians approaching. Feeling trapped, they had an “I told you so attitude.” They forgot that God was in control.

Next, consider Moses’ reprimand (14:13-14). Moses commanded the people to fear not and stand still. Moses assured the people that the Lord would fight for them. When we are experiencing the trials and difficulties of this life, we need to remember that we do not have to endure our trials alone! God is on our side (Philippians 4:13).

Third, consider God’s reassurance (14:15-18). God assured Moses that, while the Israelites would be able to cross on dry land, their enemies would be defeated (I Corinthians 10:1-11).

Fourth, consider the people’s rescue (14:19-22). It is significant that God did not lead his people around their obstacle, but through it. Perhaps when we are praying for God to remove certain difficulties from our lives, we ought to be praying for the strength to endure those difficulties (James 1:2-4).

Fifth, consider the enemies’ resourcefulness (14:23-25). Despite having experienced the plagues and witnessing God’s power first hand, Pharaoh and his army refused to give up! Pharaoh is a tragic example of one whose pride and worldliness prohibited him from yielding to God’s will. Likewise, Satan is persistent in his pursuit of God’s people (I Peter 5:8). When we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7). But we can be sure he will be back if we give him opportunity.

Sixth, consider the recognition of God (14:26-31). When the children of Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore, they feared God and believed Moses. When the sea overcame the Egyptians, they also believed. Unfortunately, for them it was too late.

What is the “Red Sea” in your life?  Whatever difficulty you are trying to conquer, stand still and let the Lord fight for you!

Living Certain in an Uncertain World

Sleepless Young Man

Seems like I’ve been hearing the phrase “We are living in uncertain times” a lot lately.  Folks, ever since Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and Eve was formed from one of his ribs, people have always been living in uncertain times.  The word “certain” can be defined as “free from doubt, confident, sure.”  Synonyms that come to mind include “unquestionable” or “indisputable.”  When, in the history of man, could a man be certain he would live a long life?  At what point in the history of the world could a man be certain he would always enjoy good health?  Could a man ever be certain his standard of living would always match, or surpass, his previous standard of living?  Could a man ever be certain the value of his investments would always increase and be sufficient when he hoped to retire?  When could we be certain our country would be safe from enemy attack?

Friends, we have always lived in uncertain times!  But, before you start to wring your hands in despair, can I remind you of some things of which I am certain?  First, I am certain God created me and loves me. Some would have you believe you are here as a result of the process of evolution.  Such foolish nonsense! The epitome of ignorance! To borrow a phrase from the late Curtis Cates – “that’s hyper-stupid!”  David wrote, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalms 139:14) My physical body stands as a witness to the creative powers of God!  Because I am a product of God’s handiwork, I know He loves me and cares for me.  Peter wrote, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Second, I am certain there is a Savior who loved me enough to die for me!  I have sinned.  There is nothing I can ever do to remove sin from my life apart from the blood of Jesus Christ!  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) Because of Christ’s sacrificial love, I am certain I can be forgiven and live this life (as uncertain as it may be) with the hope of an eternity in heaven.

Third, I am certain this world is not my home.  Paul described my earthly, physical body as a tabernacle (II Corinthians 5:1-4).  My physical body can be compared to a tent – temporary, a place where my spirit dwells for a short while until I am clothed with my immortal body (II Corinthians 5:2).  I am merely a pilgrim on this earth (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 2:11).  One day, this sinful world in which I now live will come to an end (Hebrews 1:10-12).

Fourth, I am certain that life is good.  Sure, life on this earth has it troubles.  I would not be so foolish to deny that!  Jesus said “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) But I am certain that life is still good!  Life is good because I’m a Christian!  I enjoy greater blessings than money can ever buy – I experience the joy of my salvation.  I understand that the troubles of this world are temporary and pale in comparison to the glory of heaven (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

Fifth, I am certain an eternal hell awaits the unrighteous (II Thessalonians 1:8) and an eternal heaven awaits those who keep the faith – those who fight the good fight and finish their course (II Timothy 4:7-8; Revelation 22:1-5).

I’m aware of how the headlines read.  I know what the “talking heads” are saying on tv.  But I also know I can live certain in an uncertain world!

Better Than Any Safe Room

Safe-Room-by-Titan-Home-SecurityThe internet site, www.fema.gov/safe-rooms, defines a safe room as “hardened structure specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria and provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.”  Safe rooms are becoming more common in new home construction.  They are indisputably a good idea as they provide enhanced safety to the home’s occupants.

Thankfully, Christians have a refuge that provides, not near-absolute, but absolute protection. This refuge provides protection, not from extreme weather events such as tornadoes and hurricanes, but from the more extreme events of life – events that challenge our faith and  test our hope.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.” (Psalms 46:1-3)

Overcoming Worry

worry.pngHave you ever heard someone say, “I can’t help it if I worry. That’s just the way I am!” Perhaps you have even made this statement yourself. It’s safe to say that many of us know how Martha felt when Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). Consider just a few of the many things men worry about. If a man is physically ill, he worries about whether or not he is going to get well. If a man is enjoying good health, he worries about whether or not he is going to get sick. If he does not have a job, he worries about whether or not he will get one. If he has a job, he worries about whether or not he will lose it. If he does not have a car, he worries about how he is going to get transportation. If he has a car, he worries about whether or not his car is going to break down. If he does not have an education, he worries. If he is getting an education, he worries about whether or not he will pass the course. And the list could go on and on!

But the Bible teaches we are not to worry! Listen to the words of the apostle Paul, recorded for us in Philippians 4:6-7. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The word “careful” has a somewhat different meaning to us today than it did at the time the King James Version of the Bible was written. Paul was not teaching that we are never to be concerned about our lives. For example, a person who is concerned about his health will be more likely to live a lifestyle that is conducive to good health. A person who is concerned about not having an auto accident will be motivated to drive safely.

Paul was not teaching we are never to plan for the future. Consider the words of James: “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For what ye ought to say, If the Lord wills, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:13-15). Don’t misunderstand. It is necessary to plan for the future, provided we never leave God out of our plans.

What then, did Paul mean when he wrote, “Be careful for nothing?” Paul was teaching against an unhealthy anxiety, what most of us would call worry. Paul’s words serve to warn us against being overly anxious about our lives. Consider some of the negative aspects of worry.

First, worry is in conflict with God’s commandments. It is inconsistent to pay heed to God’s commandments to pray, to study, and to assemble to worship while at the same time ignore the simple command not to worry. A person who loves God will strive to obey all that God has commanded.

Second, worry is a wasteful way to spend both our time and our energy. The time a person spends in worry would be much more profitable if it were spent in other ways.

Third, worry can be detrimental to a person’s health (both physical and mental). You’ve probably heard someone say, “He’s going to worry himself sick.” There may be more truth to this than we realize. In his book, “None of These Diseases,” Dr. S. I. McMillen includes a list of diseases that can be caused, at least in part, or worsened by emotional stress. Included among this list are ulcers of the stomach and intestines, high blood pressure, panic attacks, diabetes, asthma attacks, fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancers of many types. Someone has said, “Worry is the sexton that digs an untimely grave.”

Fourth, worry can be a robber. The word “worry” comes from a Middle English word that means to strangle. When a person experiences the emotional strain produced by worry he begins to feel as if someone were grabbing him by the throat, refusing to let go. Worry is slowly but surely choking him of the joy, the happiness, and the peace we all desire.

Fifth, because worry is often a sign of a lack of faith, worry can hinder our prayers from being answered. When we pray to God, we are to pray in faith, without doubting. James wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

But friends, it is possible for us not to worry! How do I know it is possible? Remember Paul’s words, “Be anxious for nothing!” What can we do to eliminate worry from our lives?

First, we must learn to live our lives one day at a time. Dale Carnegie wrote a book entitled, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” The book begins by emphasizing the need to live in “day-tight compartments,” that is, living life one day at a time. Mr. Carnegie described a ship where the captain, while standing on the bridge of the ship, could operate a number of controls that would close watertight doors, thus isolating various parts of the ship from one another. Theoretically, if the ship were damaged, these watertight compartments would serve to keep the ship afloat.

By living in “day-tight” compartments, we are able to shut out the past and put the cares of yesterday behind us. We are able to refuse to allow the thoughts of tomorrow to rob us of the joy today presents to us.

Many people have benefited from Mr. Carnegies’ book. But the idea of living in “day-tight compartments” is not original with Mr. Carnegie! In fact, any self-improvement book that is worth the paper it is printed on is based upon sound, Biblical principles. It was Jesus who said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34.) Many times people go to a bookstore, earnestly searching for that ideal self-help book, one that will reveal the secret to a truly happy life. But these people already have the only truly worthwhile self-help book in their possession. The greatest self-improvement book man can ever read is the Bible!

Second, in order to eliminate worry from our lives we must remember that much faith drives away worry while little faith invites worry. Matthew the eighth chapter records a time when Jesus and his disciples were in a ship. A great storm arose and waves covered the boat. Soon the waves partially filled the boat with water. Imagine the scene as, in the midst of the storm, Jesus lay sleeping in the boat. Jesus’ disciples were afraid, just as many of us would be. The disciples woke Jesus, saying, “Lord, save us: we perish.” When they did so Jesus asked them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”

This was not the only time Jesus taught worry results from a lack of faith. In Matthew the fourteenth chapter we read about a time when Peter walked on the water with Jesus. But when Peter saw the waves and sensed the wind was strong, he became afraid. Peter began to sink. He cried, “Lord, save me.” Immediately Jesus reached forth his hand and caught Peter, saying, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

Our sea of life often has many waves that cause us to become afraid and doubt. But Jesus taught that as our faith increases, our worries decrease.

Our faith in God involves much more than merely believing God exists. Faith in God involves trusting in God. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Friends, what a beautiful picture this is! When we place our trust and hope in God we are able to endure any difficulties that may come our way.

Often times we are faced with situations we simply do not understand. But we can trust in our God who will carry us through those difficult times.

Consider the following example: We trust our lives everyday to bridges built by man. The piers supporting these bridges are placed deeply underwater, unable to be seen by man. Yet we drive our cars over these bridges without any hesitation. We do so with confidence because we trust the men who built the bridges. More importantly, God can provide a bridge over every problem we face if we only learn to rely on him.

It was the wise man Solomon who wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Third, in order to eliminate worry from our lives we must hand our burdens over to God. Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:6-7).

Many times a person is burdened with a load he simply cannot carry on his own. But we will never bear any burden that is so great we cannot bear it with God’s help. The apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13.)

We humans ought to learn a lesson from the camels. A camel is able to carry a heavy load throughout the day. But at the end of the day, the camel kneels down in order to allow his master to remove his burden. To bear the load day and night would cause the camel to eventually become weary and collapse.

Likewise, we ought to kneel before God at the end of the day in order to allow him to remove our burden. In Psalm 55:22, David wrote, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Fourth, whatever your worry may be, take it to the Lord in prayer. Remember the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Paul is literally saying, “Stop spending all of your time constantly worrying about every little thing!” But notice Paul’s words in the latter portion of verse seven: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” When we take our worries to God in prayer, his peace will act as a barrier or wall of defense, thus preventing the intrusion of worry into our lives.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I can’t help it if I worry. That’s just the way I am!” The next time you hear someone make that statement, remember; it doesn’t have to be that way. Thankfully, it is possible to eliminate worry from our lives! We can do so by: living our lives one day at a time, remembering that much faith drives away worry while little faith invites worry, handing our burdens over to God, and taking our worries to God in prayer.

In God I Put My Trust

david_and_goliathAfter David killed Goliath, all Israel, including Saul, loved him.  When David became known for his military successes, the women sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”  Saul, out of jealousy, eventually became David’s enemy.  At one point, David fled to Gath.  When he was recognized by one of Saul’s shepherds, David acted like a madman in order to keep from being harmed.  It is said that this is the only record of David ever being afraid of man.  Many feel it was during this time that David wrote the 56th psalm.

David asked for God’s mercy because his enemies wanted to “swallow him up.”  David’s enemies wanted his life just as a wild animal seeks after the blood of its prey.  Yet David said, “When I am afraid I will trust in God.”  David did not fear what man would do to him because he knew God was on his side.

David ended the 56th psalm by expressing his thanks to God.  Although David had not yet been delivered from his enemy, he used the past tense form of the verb (thou hast delivered.)  David spoke as if it had already been done.  David’s faith caused him to know his prayer would be answered.

Today I, like David, will put my trust in God

Never Underestimate the Power of God

power of GodGod created the world from nothing (Genesis 1:1); parted the Red Sea and allowed His people to pass through unharmed (Exodus 14:19-22); caused the walls of Jericho to fall down (Joshua 6:20-21); enabled David to kill Goliath (I Samuel 17:45-49); took care of Daniel while he was in the lions den (Daniel 6:22); cared for Jeremiah while he was in a dungeon (Jeremiah 38:7-13); watched over Paul and Silas while they were imprisoned (Acts 16:25-28) and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 17:44).

What do you have going on in your life right now that God cannot handle?  Then let him!

Rod Halliburton