Duty by Grace

I didn’t want to go to the store for milk, but my husband needed it for breakfast next morning and it was my duty to get it. I didn’t want to trim shrubs, but it is my duty as a steward of our landscaping to get out there and care for the plants. I didn’t want to go visit _____, but loving others is a duty commanded in Scripture. I didn’t want to study for the next counselee, but it is my duty to rightly handle the Word of God and love her by service with excellence. I didn’t want to do acts of kindness to the person who acts as an enemy toward me, but it is my duty to love my enemies.

The word “duty” sometimes gets a bad rap. When we don’t feel like doing what we know is right, then we might view the word “duty” as equivalent to drudgery rather than joy, even legalism rather than grace. Is it?

Certainly, we can do our duty out of legalism, to earn merit with God. But consider this. Duty is a moral or legal obligation, a responsibility. A responsibility is something that is in accord with what is right, not wrong. When we consider that carrying out our God-given responsibilities is obedience to the King of heaven, why would we consider duty to be drudgery or legalism? Is it not because of how sin twists our perceptions, not because the obedience is actually legalism? After all, the King whom a Christian serves is compassionate, gracious, holy, perfectly just, and intent on blessing abundantly. God is love. Don’t this King’s commands show us how perfect He is, school us in our need for Him, and provide guidance on how we might show love for Him and be productive for His glory? His commands are grace to us. Instead of drudgery we should view it as a privilege to serve such a King!

The older I grow the more I see how God’s commands protect me from sin because they aren’t optional. If He says “be anxious for nothing” then that obligation upon me is the gate to freedom from the sin of worry! Obedience, sometimes very hard to do, produces joy. His commands are grace to us.

So, are duty and grace mutually exclusive? Titus 2:11-12 says,……

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

Grace demands duty. The grace of God agrees with the law. Grace demands that the saved put off ungodliness and live “sensibly, righteously, and godly.” This is not legalism; it is fruit-bearing.

Duty requires grace. Fulfilling duty requires grace because obedience achieved by our own strength is merely humanistic self-improvement and is not pleasing to God. “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). We must live righteously, but we are dependent upon the Lord to will and work in us (Phil. 2:12-13). It is only by the Spirit’s enabling grace that we are motivated and empowered to practice the obedience that pleases God and grows a Christian in godliness. 

Like draft horses teamed in harness, Duty and Grace pull together carrying an increasing load of godly fruit toward home in heaven where it will delight our Father and heap glory upon our Lord Jesus for eternity.

Posted in Christian Living, Gospel Sanctification | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trials are a Tool of the Potter (for missionaries, too)

(Today’s post is by Ruth Rising.)


As a missionary, I know that I can run the risk of presenting myself to the people and churches who support me as someone who is mostly put together, who thinks rightly (most of the time) about things, who can put together fairly good visual presentations of the ministry I am in, who can write a prayer letter filled with what I want people to hear (leaving out the messy stuff), who can speak knowledgeably about the people I work with and the country I call my current home, etc. Social media also helps because I can present a very filtered picture of what I want people to see (currently, you might think my life is all about wildlife photography and a crazy labrador puppy, but obviously that is a very small slice of my life).

I believe that most people know better, but it seems that on occasion, people view me and other people in ministry as more than we are. This can lead to pride – or at least being tempted to pride if we choose to believe what people say.  While parts of the above list might be true some of the time; once people get to know me, they also know that I get easily frustrated, that I am often wrong about what I think I’m seeing, that I can be unnecessarily hard on people, that I struggle to be content at times and that I have a fairly selfish view of the world and how it should treat me (i.e… I should NEVER have to deal with long lines at the bank, very slow computers like the one I’m working on right now, or deal with irritating taxi drivers, or worse, slow drivers in the fast lane…ei yi yi!).

There are times when my head screams out, “Why am I here (at Bethesda, in SA, in ministry, in the world)?” or “Why don’t I or other people change (students, people around me, etc)?” or “How many times must I say the same thing before ‘they’ get it?” (you can tell I wasn’t a mother to a toddler!)

The truth is, and many before me have said it better, ministry can be a challenge and sometimes pushes me to the edge of what I think I can endure. That being said, the reality for me, is that usually what pushes me to the edge is not so much what God allows and ordains for my life but my response(s) to what He puts into my life. When I teach and teach and teach and I see very little change or people still just don’t get it, it’s easy to get angry, discouraged and almost flippant about who you are teaching or what you are teaching. In my head, and occasionally out of my mouth, I have said something like, “Whatever!  I’ve taught what they need to hear and if they don’t want to change or take it to heart, that’s their problem.”  Or, “I’ve been saying this over and over and it’s your fault if you don’t want to change or learn from it so the consequences are on you.” I do realize how horrible those sound and while they sometimes make perfect (horrible) sense in my head, they are shameful responses to what God has given me to do.

Now… no one reading this and who knows me need be deeply concerned, freak out, or wonder if something big and horrible is happening in my life right now – it’s not. But I’ve been here before…several times – and I know I’m not alone. Unfortunately, I am a slow learner. God has used those moments to reveal what is happening in my heart (mind). He uses these situations to lovingly show me what I have wrongfully assumed is more important than faithfully teaching His truth and leaving the results or the “success” in God’s hands where it belongs. God could justifiably shut my voice down or remove me from ministry and I hope and pray He doesn’t do that; but I need to be a learner – probably a faster learner! I need to pay attention and learn what He is teaching me and not avoid what He wants me to learn. If I (or others) deal with my frustration with emotional eating (wish I could say that has never happened…hello Pringles and Pizza!) or becoming super busy to distract myself for the purpose of not dealing with my sin problems – God will wisely keep the pressure on because He cares more that I learn and that I come to know who He is rather than merely making my life simple and personally fulfilling.

You don’t need to be in full-time ministry to understand what I am saying. Most mom’s, dad’s and teachers who routinely teach (and teach and teach and teach…) and train people could write this with as much or more experience and authority than I ever could. But the answer is the same – God is wise and He knows exactly what you and I need to make us holy and more like Him. Our response to trials and difficulties will either increase pain and anger in rebellion or increase the thankfulness and joy in growing to be like Christ.

So…It seems obvious but….

  1. God brings trials out of His love for us – to make us more like Him
  2. God cares about my holiness – not my comfort and ease of life (even though He gives those!)
  3. Putting myself in the place of God and demanding my version of “success” in ministry will never give me what I think it will (sin is deceitful like that….)
  4. Trusting God with what I cannot control (like the outcome of ministry) will ALWAYS bring joy and comfort from God (talk about grace!)

Proverbs 3:5-7 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.”

Psalm 135:6 “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”


Ruth has been a missionary in South Africa for the past 20 years serving in both church planting and child care ministries. Ruth is currently serving at Bethesda Outreach Ministries in Hammanskraal, South Africa. For several years she was the principal of their school, Jabulane Christian Academy and is now working in public relations, communications, and finance. At her church, she teaches a ladies Bible study, plays on the music teams, and does some counseling when needed.

Bethesda Outreach is a ministry who’s mission is to “glorify God by assisting local churches in orphan care through a working model of…Christian families magnifying Christ” and the training and encouraging of churches, pastors and parents in orphan care. They employ and train national, mature Christian couples as houseparents for homes for orphans. The elementary age children attend Bethesda’s school, Jabulane Christian Academy. See more at http://bethesdaoutreach.org.

Posted in Devotional, Suffering, Adversity | Tagged

Is Self-Esteem in Psalm 139?

It was in the 1970s that the self-esteem movement seriously infected the U.S. culture and grew to epidemic proportions. It didn’t take long for Christians, myself included, to catch the virus and claim the need for a higher self-esteem. To justify the concept as a Christian worldview many put forward proof-texts. One of those proof-texts is Psalm 139, especially verses 14-15: 

“I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.”

This passage has been used to insist that the woman with low self-esteem is extremely valuable to God and, therefore, needs to feel better about herself. Now think about that: a woman who identifies her main problem as low self-esteem DEMANDS that Psalm 139 teaches that she has great worth.

Was David intending that Psalm 139:14-15 be used to teach people to think better of themselves? Such a proposition misses the point established in the very first verse of the psalm:

“O Lord, Thou hast searched…”

From the get-go it is obvious that the psalm is about God, not man. It is about God’s inestimable attributes–God’s omniscience, God’s omnipresence, God’s wisdom, God’s creative skill, and God’s providential involvement in the details of His work among men. The emphasis is God’s worth, not man’s.

This isn’t to argue whether or not man has value. I believe we do, but not to our credit because it is bestowed, not inherent. But as to rightly understanding Psalm 139, whether man has value is not the issue of Psalm 139. God’s perfections are the subject. 

Even if we use verses 14-15 to make a side-note on the value of man, it has to be taken in context. Psalm 139 proclaims the same message as the whole Bible: it is not for man to claim self value but for man to worship God in awe of God’s value. That is David’s direction. The wonder of how man is made is not for man’s benefit, but for God’s. David cites the amazingness of man’s formation as evidence of God’s greatness not his own, to build a high view of God not a high view of self.

How did David apply the truths in Psalm 139, including how amazingly man is made? To relate it to the modern emphasis on people esteeming themselves I’d like to observe also  what he didn’t do.

He didn’t meditate on his own worth. He meditated on the inherently precious value of God’s character, knowledge, and works. It is God’s thoughts, not his own, that David valued (139:17-18).

He didn’t claim significance. To David it was God’s reputation that mattered (139:19-22). 

He chose a low view of self. Esteeming oneself highly is what led Adam and Eve to the Fall. Self-esteem is just a psychologized, socially acceptable term for pride.

The response of David to the knowledge of God was the opposite. In light of God’s value David admitted his unworthiness to be esteemed. He agreed with God about reality. First, man is merely a creature, a created being totally inferior to the Creator. As Thomas Watson commented on Psalm 139:15,

“Thy being curiously wrought, may make thee thankful; but being made of the dust, may keep thee humble. If thou has beauty, it is but well-coloured earth. Thy body is but air and dust mingled together, and this dust will drop into the dust.” (Body of Divinity, 113)

Second, man is sinful. Acknowledging how prone he was to think too well of himself, David pled for God to open his eyes to his sin and to purify him (Ps. 139:23-24).

We are wonderfully made. The wonder of how we are made is evidence that God is awesome and worthy of all thanks, praise, and adoration. It is God who deserves our high esteem.

Posted in Christian Living, Psalms, Psychology/Psychiatry, Self-Esteem | Tagged ,

Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders

When I was teaching my children history we went beyond history textbooks to read some original writings of America’s founders. One observation that took me by surprise was the vagueness of their references to Jesus, God, and Christian faith. I had always thought these men were Christians, but from what I read they didn’t sound like Christians, not even like the Christians of their own day. More recently, I was glad to discover a book that deals with those inconsistencies.

How is it that many claim that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were deists and yet both men encouraged prayer and wrote of a God personally involved in current events? How is that some people claim that George Washington was a Christian and yet he refused to profess faith in Christ, crossed Jesus’ name out of speeches written for him, would not kneel for prayer with his congregation and pointedly refused to ever take communion? How is it that many founders can be called both deists and Christians and yet not exactly fit either category?

Gregg Frazer tackles these questions in his book The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution. Mr. Frazer is professor of history and political studies at The Master’s University. He suggests a third option–theistic rationalism. Frazer arrived at his third option by searching for the founders’ real beliefs in their private writings more than in what they wrote for public consumption. In his book, he focuses on the eight most influential founders. He says they weren’t deists because they believed that God was involved in present events. Neither were they Christians because they rejected the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and other doctrines central to Christianity. Instead, they were rationalists; they believed that reason was the highest arbiter of what is true. 

“Your reason is the only oracle given you by heaven” – Thomas Jefferson (125)

“The Scriptures…do not supersede the operations of reason” – James Wilson, one of four key framers of the Constitution (164) 

What is theistic rationalism?

Theistic rationalism is a “hybrid belief system mixing elements of natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism, with rationalism as the predominant element” (14). For the founders, while believing in God (theistic), any Christian ideas that did not seem reasonable could be rejected and God could be defined as seemed reasonable to the individual (rationalism).

Key clergymen were on board with the primacy of rationalism. Chapter 2 reviews the religious beliefs of those clergymen who most strongly influenced the founders and promoted the Revolution. For example, one of the divines who most influenced Thomas Jefferson was Joseph Priestley. Priestley was unitarian and rejected the deity of Christ and the Trinity.

Didn’t the founders promote Christianity?

The founders promoted religion. Why? They knew that for their system of government to work it needed a moral people. “Morality was needed to get men to live in civil fashion without coercion in a free society; and religion was the best source of morality” (179). Any religion that promoted good morals would do. 

The founders could sound like Christians while rejecting Christ. How? They consistently referred to God in generic terms–Creator, Divinity, Providence, Author–not Christian terms–Christ, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Why be vague? Why did they not speak like the committed Christians we’ve been told they were? Generic God-words are interpretable, maleable. Enlightenment ideas sandwiched between God-words could be fed to the church-going masses without offense to most denominations and religions.

How did they get past Romans 13?

Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 stood as sentinels against the rebellion of the American colonials. Romans 13:1-2 says,

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

The revolutionary clergy shot the sentinels. Turning that passage on its head, they preached that Paul advocated a duty to resist tyrants. How did they arrive at the opposite of what the passage clearly says? Pages 66-67 in chapter 2 walk the reader through Boston pastor Jonathan Mayhew’s application of human reason to Romans 13.

  Chapter 3 explains how it came about that, in the mid-1700s, pastors of the era shifted away from use of the Bible as their primary source and instead incorporated Lockean Enlightenment political philosophy into their sermons. Turning from Calvinism, they taught enlightenment ideas as though they were Bible-based principles, ideas like natural law, natural rights, government by consent of the governed, and accountability of rulers to the people. They persuaded their congregations that rebellion to tyranny was a Christian duty. Frazer quotes Michael Zuckert on the political function of using Scripture to undergird the teachings of rationalism:

…the higher or more intense authority of religion now stands behind the cool rationalism of Locke. There can be little doubt that the enlistment of St. Paul in Locke’s army had much to do with the fervor Americans of the revolutionary era brought to the political conflicts of the day. (231)

What did the top eight key founders believe?

In chapters 4-7, Frazer analyzes eight of the most influential founders in depth. For example, he shows why he categorizes John Adams as a theistic rationalist rather than a Christian, and Benjamin Franklin as a theistic rationalist rather than a deist. A surprise to me is Alexander Hamilton. I had never heard that late in life Hamilton apparently repented to faith in Christ and one of the changes was that his terms for God and salvation shifted from vague and generic to specific and biblical.

So what?

In the final chapter, Frazer answers, so what? He explains the ramifications of theistic rationalism on our founding documents and American civil religion. Is patriotism part of Christian piety? (Implication: Should a U. S. flag stand in our church auditoriums?) Is the language of the Declaration of Independence Christian? Did the freedom of religion in the Constitution originate in Christianity?

You may believe that the founding fathers of the United States were mostly Christians and that this country was founded on Christian principles. You may believe they were mostly deists and that our founding was built on natural religion and Enlightenment rationalism. You may have been taught a Christian founding but felt confused by the founders own writings and inconsistencies between founding documents and the Bible. No matter what your persuasion, as a part of education on U.S. history, The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders ought to be required reading for all adults and high school students.

Amazon.com: The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution (American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)) (9780700620210): Gregg L. Frazer: Books

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , ,

When You Know Someone Whose Child is in Residential Treatment

The idea of residential treatment for a child’s emotional-behavioral problems carries the connotation of trouble, behavior out of control, intense conflicts between parent and child, failed efforts to overcome a serious problem, a prodigal child. If you know someone who has delivered their child into a residential treatment program you might have some thoughts about it or questions about how to respond to the family. Thank you for caring about your friend or family member.

When you first learn of the situation, you might wonder, do I say something or not? You don’t want to seem calloused by ignoring the significant situation, but neither do you want to embarrass the family. What are some ways to be thoughtful toward these parents?

Sympathize. Many people try to be understanding of the difficulties of other parents. What a blessing to hurting parents! See “When You Send Your Child” for more elaboration on what the family might or might not be experiencing. Meanwhile, I think that asking where the child is is not too invasive and a natural question we commonly ask when a friend is suddenly not in attendance.

Be slow to criticize. You probably know this point, but it bears saying because residential treatment seems a bit radical, especially when all you have seen in the child is model behavior. We naturally give children the benefit of the doubt and tend to blame parents for recalcitrance. There is some truth to that; parents can provoke children to rebellion, even unintentionally. Or, adoptive and foster children who presently have good parents can drag reactions from past abuse and neglect into the present.

Parents certainly carry responsibility for their influence but they are not at fault in every case (Ezekiel 18). Children really are so sinful at heart that they can become the provocateurs in the household (Jeremiah 17:9). Unless you’ve seen unbiblical parenting, and especially when the situation involves adoptive or foster children, be slow to arrive at a negative conclusion against the parents.

Avoid minimizing speech. It is kind of you to want to empathize and right to direct your heart to compassion, but there are some pitfalls to sidestep (Prov. 15:28). Some respond by comparing the case to teen-age rebellion or “just a stage” in maturation. Those assertions implicitly call the parents’ judgment into question. Some well-intentioned people misapply Proverbs 22:6. “You’ve trained your child in the way he should go. When he is older, he’ll come back to the Lord. He’ll thank you some day.” You and the parents don’t know that. Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise.

“Well, it could be worse.” “It could be worse” doesn’t lessen the pain parents presently feel; it belittles it. Proverbs 14:10 says that “the heart knows its own bitterness.” Their pain is real no matter what could be and no matter the more tragic situation someone else is experiencing.

“God won’t give you more than you can handle” implies that we don’t need the Holy Spirit. People commonly suggest that the suffering person find what “God is trying to teach you.” (Does God ever “try”?) God does not hide lessons from us. Trials are not revelatory. A hunt for hidden meaning actually distracts from present responsibilities. What if the trial is not intended to teach but simply for the glory God will receive if the sufferer practices contentment without knowing the why or some lesson to learn?

Pray for them. Talk to God first. He can best minister to their hearts.

Give benefit of the doubt. This is the flip side of being slow to criticize. It is likely that something very serious has driven the parents to this extremity. You don’t know all of the circumstances involved. Perhaps they have sought counsel and submitted themselves to all authorities with all humility, willing to do anything to change. They may have actually exercised better parenting than you. Give benefit of the doubt that they did what they thought was best. (1 Cor. 13:7)

Listen to Learn. If you are related closely enough to talk with the parents, approach not with solutions at hand but with readiness to learn. (Prov. 18:13)

Offer hope judiciously and respectfully. You may not be the right person to say anything. “He who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19b). If not, pray that God will use someone else.

If you’re like me, you have to work at developing the most loving and appropriate set of words to minister to someone. While you avoid platitudes (“everything will turn out all right”) it is also true that there are universal hopes for any Christian in difficult circumstances. God is sovereign over all and is at work providentially in all situations. God loves His children. No matter the trial, there is a way for a Christian to trust God and experience joy.

May you be effective in ministering to those you know who are in this situation or any other difficult situation.

Posted in Christian Living, Parenting, Child-rearing, Reactive Attachment Disorder | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Did God Speak to Me? A Personal Experience

I thought I was done writing this series on hearing from God in the heart. Then an experience crashed into my worldview. I was standing at a table in the classroom on a Tuesday morning organizing my materials for Bible class and thinking about what I needed to do next. Suddenly, as clear as can be, to my mind came the voice-like sentence, “Lunch will be at Bandana’s today.”

Weird! I thought, It was like someone just spoke to me, and How could I know where lunch will be? Well I guess I’ll find out if the voice is right. It was as vivid as when I used to believe I could hear God. I said nothing to anyone.

Two hours of Bible study passed. As we prepared to leave someone began the usual group decision process. “Are we going to lunch today?” (We almost always do.) “Where do you want to go?” I said nothing and left the room. When I returned I asked what the ladies had decided. The answer? “We’re going to Bandana’s.”

I have written energetically and repeatedly against the idea that anyone today hears from God subjectively like what so many women claim, like what happened to me. Did my experience contradict my theology?

Lest I be misunderstood…

I don’t want to be misunderstood. I totally believe that God is intimately, lovingly involved in every detail of our lives. If a sparrow does not fall without God’s say-so, then He actively cares for us in specific, personal ways (Matt. 10:29-30). I even believe He uses subjective experiences like gut feelings and intuition to influence our choices. This use is called providence. So if I have a sudden impression to pray for someone, by all means I pray and give thanks to God for the opportunity. If a gut feeling “coincidentally” protects me, I thank God for His providence.

What I do not see biblical evidence for is God speaking through gut feelings, intuition, impressions, unexplained thoughts, hunches, forebodings, amazing coincidences, even promptings to pray. Nor has anyone ever provided authoritative evidence to me that God does. Nor can anyone infallibly, authoritatively discern that the source of her impression or prompting is God.

Did my experience contradict my theology?

Interpretations are different from experiences.

First, it helps to separate the experience from the interpretation of the experience. As to the experience, it is true that:

  • It really happened. (However, without objective evidence and on the testimony of just one, you have strong grounds to challenge my claim.)
  • God can directly cause thoughts if He so chooses.
  • Ability does not necessitate practice. Just because God can does not mean He is now.
  • Experience is not self-authenticating.

As to the interpretation, I could interpret through the same assumptions so common today and call them evidence that God was talking to me.

  • Since the voice came involuntarily it must have happened to me, not be generated by me. (It’s too humiliating to think it is just in my head!)
  • Since I can think of no rational explanation, the intuition must be of spiritual origin.
  • I heard a voice. I am a Christian. Therefore, the voice must be from God.
  • I received a message. It came true. Therefore, the prediction must be from God.
  • This is how my favorite authors and speakers describe it, so it must be from God.

The rationale in each of these interpretive arguments is faulty. I can claim all I want, but I can’t prove my claim, especially when there are other possibilities.

What could it be?

People credit reincarnation, infringement of an alternate universe, demons or their favorite deity. Christians default to God. In additional to some rational options here, I’d like to offer another.

Dare we consider that it might be something as mundane as a false sensory perception? At one time or another, most people see, hear, smell or feel something that isn’t there. For example, cell phone hallucinations have become so common they are being researched and discussed in “Psychology Today.” “Phantom vibration syndrome” is the perception that you hear the phone ring or feel it vibrate when it doesn’t. [1]

Out of body sensations are called “proprioceptive” hallucinations. Think near-death stories, floating above yourself, visits to heaven (heaven-tourism books). A well-known hallucination is feeling pain from an amputated limb. Another is the sense of the ground rolling when you step onto land after hours or days on a boat. Your brain feels something that is not there to feel. Déjà vu with premonition fits here. [2]

A common auditory hallucination is a grieving person hearing the voice of the deceased loved one. According to one report, as many as 13 percent of normal people hear unspoken voices at one time or another. I suspect the number is higher. I mean, who wants to admit to hearing voices? Sometimes, physical sensations accompany the voices, like agitation, tingling in the hands and feet, pressure in the head, feeling warm or hot, and the sense of feeling detached from the body. [3] The voices may be thought-like or have an auditory quality as if in the same or nearby room, like this:

Early one morning, University of Queensland psychiatrist John McGrath had just turned off the water and was stepping out of the shower when the new dad heard one of his children calling for him. He poked his head out of the bathroom door and called the kid’s name, but got no response. He started to panic — but then stopped short. That’s right, he remembered. His children weren’t actually home. [4]

How can a normal brain see, feel, or hear something that isn’t there?

Visually, normal brains fill in missing visual gaps, using previous visual information. [1] Various hallucinations may be due to drugs, migraines, lack of sleep, starvation, emotional upset, and religious fervor. The changing brain chemistry of someone whose body is shutting down to die could produce hallucinations of visits to heaven. Habit and anxiety contribute. For example, by repetition brains grow neurons and connections highly sensitized to phone vibrations and sometimes those neurons fire independent of the phone. Scientists think that memory function with interpretive disagreement by parts of the brain plays a role in déjà vu. [2]

So how do I explain my prescient thought?

Personally, I wonder if a long-unused neural circuit, habituated by my Charismatic ways of old, fired.

How could the voice-thought have predicted correctly? It could be that I am so familiar with the habits of this group that I unconsciously sensed that the weekly lunch pattern was ripe for Bandana’s. Just like any palm reader, if you make enough educated guesses you’re bound to be right sometime.

In the end, I don’t really know, nor does faith in God require that I assign it an explanation. Nor does it furnish the slightest benefit to others to spiritualize an experience into a supernatural message from God (Jer. 23:32). Actually, assigning mysterious experiences to God gets in the way of humility and decision-making. Instead, I can rejoice in living by faith, trusting the providence of God, who brilliantly incorporates such coincidences into providence. In fact, I thank God for ordaining that by providence I had this experience so that I could write about it in this post.

What other reasons would dictate against my experience being given directly by God?

  • Revelation to an obscure person about her lunch does not at all fit revelations seen in the Bible. Revelations in Scripture are those which advance God’s kingdom plan–the gospel and God’s glorious rule.
  • It does not follow that because the prediction was correct it was necessarily from God. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 allows that false prophets can prophesy accurately and still not have a divine source for their prophecies.
  • Jeremiah 17:9 says that my “heart is deceitful.” If it happens to predict correctly every once in awhile I should be all the more skeptical lest I be tempted to trust in my senses. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26).
  • Scripture tells us to not “go too far,” don’t “exceed what is written” (2 John 9; 1 Cor. 4:6).
  • The canon is closed (Heb. 3:1-2). There is nothing to add. The word of God is sufficient counsel.

Important: Falsely crediting God with something He did not do is a serious offense (Deut. 13:1-5; Ezek. 13:8).

And by the way, nothing super-spiritual happened during lunch at Bandana’s.


[1]   https://www.today.com/series/wired/are-cellphones-causing-hallucinations-reason-why-you-felt-phantom-buzz-t67231

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180301125046.htm?utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ScienceDaily_TMD_0&utm_source=TMD

[3] http://www.medicaldaily.com/what-hearing-voices-told-those-auditory-hallucinations-325552

[4] https://www.thecut.com/2015/11/perfectly-healthy-brains-hallucinate.html


“Intuition and Superstition: An Admonition”:
(an excellent concise summary with four lessons and a practical example in the question-and-answer)

“Providence is Remarkable”: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/TM13-15 (excellent lecture, of which the last half especially pertains to the topic of intuition and hearing from God)

By Gary Gilley: https://sharperiron.org/article/cessationism-revelation-prophecy  (Don’t miss the comments, especially the rebuttals on 11/24 and 11/25.)

“The Still, Small Voice”: http://www.thegracelifepulpit.com/Sermons.aspx?code=2013-11-10pm-PJ

Déjà vu is the sense of strong sense of familiarity with something that should not be familiar to you, like the sense of having previously been in a location which you know you haven’t. It can be accompanied by a sense of premonition. Depending upon the person’s belief system, it is attributed to a past life, infringement of an alternate reality, magic, and the supernatural (evil beings or one’s god).

Secular Sources:



“Talking to ourselves and voices in our heads”: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171208143043.htm  The pdf of this report contains more links.

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