Before Amen: Q&A with Max Lucado

In Before Amen best-selling author Max Lucado joins readers on a journey to the very heart of biblical prayer, offering hope for doubts and confidence even for prayer wimps. Distilling prayers in the Bible down to one pocket-sized prayer, Max reminds readers that prayer is not a privilege for the pious nor the art of a chosen few. Prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and his child.

Max took some time to answer a few questions about his new book and the nature of prayer.

Q: Your new book, Before Amen, gives readers a simple way to incorporate prayer into their everyday life. But it’s more than just creating a prayer wish list for God, it’s about learning how to experience a heart connection with God.
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God Is Amazing

Everything changes when you see God for how He really is.

A little more than 15 years ago, as the 1990s were coming to a close, Bruce Bickel and I wrote a book called God Is in the Small Stuff. We must have hit a nerve, because the book has sold more than a million copies.

Fifteen years ago the world was a much different place. The Christian life was easy. You could relax and rest in the knowledge that God was interested in every detail of your life. No matter what you were going through personally, you could count on God’s involvement.

How times have changed. Over the last 15 years there has been a generational shift, a culture shift, a technology shift, a global political shift, and a faith shift that no one could have anticipated. Today’s world is massively different than it was in the closing years of the twentieth century. For one thing, there’s more hostility towards God now than there was then. In the view of many people—including many Christians—God is no longer great and powerful. Instead, He is ineffective and rather weak.

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Resources to Help You Defend the Deity of Jesus

Skepticism related to Jesus of Nazareth generally takes one of two forms: those who don’t even believe He ever existed, and those who acknowledge Jesus as an historical figure but deny He is God. The case for the Deity of Christ is centered on the Resurrection, but there are many other cumulative circumstantial factors to consider. I’ve written quite a bit about the Deity of Jesus, and I’ve assembled these articles to help you make the collective case. All these resources are available as downloadable PDF files:

1. The Conception of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity:
Articles related to the Virgin Conception of Jesus

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Did God Appear in Bodily Form Before Jesus?

The Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building (Genesis 11:5).

 

>How could God “come down” to the earth prior to him taking on human form in the person of Jesus?

 

Explanation: Prior to the incarnation—God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus—he did in fact make his presence known. Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8 niv). God appeared to Abraham (Genesis 17:1 and Genesis 18:1), Jacob (Genesis 32:1), and Moses (Exodus 3:2).

 

These appearances or manifestations of God are called theophanies. It is when God makes himself tangible to the human senses, as when Job was able to hear God in the wind (   Job 38:1), or when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. But in a more restrictive sense God has “come down” and made himself visible in the form of a man, like he did with Abraham and Jacob. Some scholars believe certain appearances of God were the pre-incarnate Christ. Other possible pre-incarnate appearances include the meeting between Joshua and the “Commander of the Lord’s army” (   Joshua 5:13-15) and the fourth man “like a son of the gods” who was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:23-25). But in any case God did make appearances in tangible form prior to the appearance of the God-man Jesus.
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Why Does Christianity Hang its Hat on Jesus' Resurrection?

Some Christian leaders and pastors make the resurrection of Jesus central to Christianity. Others say that it’s almost as if such people believe that Jesus dying for our sins wasn’t enough. And isn’t Christ’s death on the cross the central issue of Christianity, not his resurrection? Because it is Jesus’ death that redeems us, right?

There is a reason Jesus’ resurrection is so central to the Christian faith. It is not an optional article of faith—it is the faith! The resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christianity stand or fall together. One cannot be true without the other. Belief in the truth of Christianity is not merely faith in faith—ours or someone else’s—but rather faith in the risen Christ of history. Without the historical resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is a mere placebo. The apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Worship, fellowship, Bible study, the Christian life, and the church itself are worthless exercises in futility if Jesus has not been literally and physically raised from the dead. Without the resurrection, we might as well forget God, church, and following moral rules and “feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:32).

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Is there Proof for Jesus as Messiah?

God promised the nation of Israel that he would raise up a descendant from King David who would one day establish a righteous throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:11-16). The Hebrew word Messiah, the equivalent of the Greek Christ, actually means “Anointed One.” And it was this person who would usher in God’s eternal kingdom on earth.

More than 400 years before Jesus was born there existed over 60 major Old Testament prophecies about this coming Messiah, made over hundreds of years. This is of great historical and spiritual significance, because it is the Messiah who Isaiah prophesied would one day

remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mocking against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 25:7-8).

The Evidence of Prophecy

Of course Jesus did claim to be the “Anointed One.” But do the prophesies of the Old Testament confirm that he was actually the Messiah? The answer is yes. It’s as if God gave us a specific way to recognize who the “Anointed One” would be, through what has been called Messianic prophesies.

It seems impossible, but because of these prophecies, out of billions of people born over thousands of years we are able to pinpoint one person in history as the Messiah. It is as if God had an answer waiting for us when we asked, “How will we know who the Messiah is?” Imagine we are having a conversation with God as he uses these prophecies to pinpoint who this Messiah would be.

God begins by saying, “You will know he is the Messiah because I will cause him to be born as an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham” (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16).

“But God,” we protest, “Abraham’s descendants will be many!”

“Then I will narrow it down to only half of Abraham’s lineage and make him a descendant of Isaac, not Ishmael” (Genesis 21:12; Luke 3:23-34).

“That will help, but isn’t that still an awful lot of people?”

“Let him be born from Jacob’s line, then, eliminating half of Isaac’s lineage” (Numbers 24:17; Luke 3:23-34).

“But—”

“I will be more specific. Jacob will have 12 sons; I will bring forth the Messiah from the tribe of Judah” (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:23-33).

“Won’t that still be a lot of people? Again, we may not recognize him when he comes.”

“Don’t worry! Look for him in the family line of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1; Luke 3:23-32). “And from the house and lineage of Jesse’s youngest son, David” (  Jeremiah 23:5; Luke 3:23-31). “And then I will tell you where he will be born: Bethlehem, a tiny town in the area called Judah” (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1).

“But how will we know which person born there is the Messiah?”

“He will be preceded by a messenger who will prepare the way and announce his advent” (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-2). “He will begin his ministry in Galilee” (Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:12-17) “and will teach in parables” (Psalm 78:2; Matthew 13:34-35), “performing many miracles” (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35).

“Okay, that should help a lot.”

“Oh,” God responds, “I’m just getting warmed up. He will ride into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:2; Luke 19:35-37) “and will appear suddenly and forcefully at the temple courts and zealously ‘clean house’ ” (Psalm 69:9; Malachi 3:1; John 2:15-16). “Why, in one day I will fulfill no fewer than 29 specific prophecies spoken at least 500 years earlier about him! Listen to this:

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Was Jesus a Real Person?

In recent years some people have questioned the actual existence of Jesus. Some claim that the idea of a Savior was manufactured by certain people and it ended up becoming a religion.

The problem with this thinking is that there are simply too many biblical and extra biblical writings that attest to the real person we know as Jesus Christ, who lived and died in the first century.

An Untenable Idea

First, it is absurd to believe that in the first century thousands of people would devote themselves to a person who never existed. By AD 100, about 65 years after Jesus had been on earth, there were some 25,000 people who called themselves Christians—named after Christ who they believed in. Many of these Christ-followers were persecuted not just by governments but by family and friends. Some even gave up their lives as martyrs for this person. Would so many people do this for a person who had never lived? And within 200 years (AD 300) the faithful band of Jesus-followers grew to over 20 million.   It is inconceivable that such a large following would have lasted had it been based on a phantom Christ.

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God's Will: A Top Ten List

Wouldn’t it be great if you could know God’s will every day of your life? Actually, you can, at least that part of God’s will that generally applies to all people and specifically applies to all those who follow Jesus fully. Here’s a Top Ten list of those things God wants you to do: 

1.  God wants you to believe in Jesus and accept Him as your Savior.

This is number one on God’s list of things He wants you to do. Contrary to what many people believe, God doesn’t want anyone to die in their sins without knowing Him personally.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

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Is God a Jealous Sinner?

The Bible says God is a jealous God. But getting jealous is wrong. So how can that be if God doesn’t do anything wrong?

 

If God is anything, he is perfectly good. “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect,” the Scripture states. “Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Additionally, the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us God bound himself with an oath when he made a promise to Abraham, and these two things are based on his sinless character that is unchanging. “God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). For God to do wrong would go against his very nature and character, which he cannot do.
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Tags | Theology | God | Jealousy | jesus | sin

Was the Virgin Birth Incorrectly Prophesied? Part II

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will call him Immanuel (which means “God is with us”) (Isaiah 7:14).

 

Difficulty: This verse is commonly used to refer to Jesus as virgin born, but isn’t it merely referring to the natural birth of King Hezekiah?

 

Explanation: Conservative scholars say the prophet Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be born of a virgin seven centuries before the event took place. However, critics point out that the New Testament writer “misquotes” the word virgin from Isaiah 7. The Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 is almah, meaning “young woman.” Yet in Matthew 1:23 the Greek translation of the Old Testament is quoted using the word parthenos, meaning “virgin.” Critics say that Matthew is twisting what Isaiah was saying.
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