Sermon 6 Questions – Creation/Evolution (Part 2)

Two Sunday’s ago I sought to answer the question – How did God create the earth? The topic came from a variety of questions about evolution. During the message I had additional questions texted in to me, and I addressed a few of those already. Here’s the final questions and answers for this topic.

Archeological remains indicate millions of years of existence of creation.  How long ago was Adam created and when did the dinosaur age happen?

We do not know for sure about this. There is much debate and little resolution about the carbon dating process along with other means by which scientists determine the age of the earth. I will say that the liberal media and the scientific establishment represented in many places of higher learning are biased toward evolution, regardless of the evidence, those who control media and education will always lean toward anything that supports evolution. I know this sounds like I believe it is all a conspiracy, but there is something to it. We have numerous examples of scientists who hold to anything but creationism even when the evidence supporting their theory crumbles. For example, Dr. Francis Crick, one of the scientist who discovered structure of the DNA molecule, made this statement, “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” Because Crick believes there is no way life could have evolved on the earth because of the intricacies of his discoveries, he believes there has to be some other explanation for human life. He called it “almost a miracle,” but instead of taking the next logical step saying God created it all, he now says life had to come from another planet. It seems that scientists who refuse to believe in God will go to any length to avoid the obvious: incredible design requires an incredible designer. There are numerous interesting facts that would support a young earth. For example, scientist discovered through tests, etc. that DNA would break down after 10,000 years and not survive. The significance of this is that they were saying one would not find DNA molecules in ancient bones, etc. The problem with this declaration, from an old earth perspective, is that ancient DNA started turning up. Ancient dinosaur bones and foliage that was preserved somehow in strata that was said to be 17 million years old somehow had DNA. Scientists said DNA could not exist past 10,000 years. One could then deduce that the dinosaurs and the magnolia leaf, among other things, had to be 10,000 years old or less because of the existence of DNA. Instead of accepting this based upon valid tests, scientist jumped on another not proven hypothesis that these discoveries must have been preserved in something that halted the disintegration of the DNA. This is an example of the tail wagging the dog. Because these scientist are bent on the fact that the earth is old, when they discover something contrary to this theory, that must alter the discovery instead of change their theory. With all that said, I am comfortable saying we really do not know how old the earth is. I do not always trust scientific discoveries because many of them seem to have an agenda beyond science. At the same time, I do not think creation is dependent upon a young earth. The Bible, nor does science, support evolution, so regardless of whether God created the earth in a literal 6 days or in 6 epochs, He still created the earth. I personally believe in a literal 6 days which would make the earth 6,000 – 10,000 years old. Obviously dinosaurs became extinct in some way. It probably happened either before the flood, or immediately after the flood when the earth did not provide enough nourishment for them (I lean toward before the flood). We should not have such a hard time with an animal becoming extinct and dying out. It happens! You might enjoy reading this article and others on the Answers in Genesis website: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/why-christians-shouldnt-accept-millions

If Genesis says sin came into the world thru Adam, and death entered into the world due to sin…then does alternative creation theories that imply death in the world before Adam negate “original sin”?

If you mean alternative creation theories stating other human beings were made other than Adam, then yes, those theories would discount the biblical doctrine of original sin. I do not believe in alternative creation theories involving other people being created because the Bible is clear that Adam was the first man and sin came through him (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:45).

Where did God come from?

The Bible says God is eternal – having no beginning or ending. Revelation 1:8 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Consider Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Frankly, this concept is difficult for us to grasp because from our perspective, everything has a beginning and an ending. I just accept the fact that God does not because the Bible says so.

 

Sunday’s Questions – Creation (Part 1)

This past Sunday I preached a sermon in our “God, I have a question” series on how did God make the world. Obviously the theme brings up the debate between creationists and evolutionists. You can hear the whole sermon by going to our church website. During the message, additional questions were submitted. I will begin answering them to the best of my ability:

If God created the world “by the word of His mouth” can we expect that same power in our daily life through His Word?

There’s really two key things we must consider when looking at the work of God. The will of God and the word of God. We cannot just take his word and apply it to any situation as if it is a magic formula. Many people think they can manipulate God with faith or scripture. This is not so. God does not bend to our will. With that said, God is the same today as he was 2000 years ago. God will act and move in our world and in our lives with the same power he had during and before the bible days. When we apply to the truth of God to the will of God, we will see the power of God!

Your key passage in Gen 1 says God created light.  Did God also create darkness, or is darkness simply the absence of light?

Yes, I believe that would be true. Genesis 1:2 says “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…”

At the end of Genesis 1 God created man in His image and allowed them to be fruitful and multiply. In the beginning of Genesis 2 God created Adam and Eve. Aren’t there already people everywhere multiplying according to the end of Genesis 1? How are we all from Adam and Eve if there are people already created on earth?

I believe, along with many (if not most) bible scholars, that Genesis 2 is a passage giving us more detail into how God created mankind on day 6. I do not believe that Adam and Eve were secondary to other human beings created on day 6. If this were so, sin would not have passed down to all humanity through Adam. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” The New Testament confirms that Adam was the first man in 1 Corinthians 15:45: “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being…”

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

The chicken

Where do dinosaurs fit into creationism?

I believe they were created on the 5th (water/birds) and 6th (animals) day. They died out just like many species have. I think they died out before the flood, but there is no proof as to exactly when this happened.

Were Adam and Eve cavemen

The bible does not use the word “caveman” to describe anyone. Even the concept of prehistoric could not apply because “prehistoric” means “before recorded history.” Obviously the bible records history before the world began. It is possible that Adam and Eve lived in a cave after the fall. Frankly, had I been around in that time, a cave may have been a cozy place to live. The concept of caveman leads one to think of man evolving, and evolution does not agree with the teaching of scripture. For that matter, the evolution of man does not agree with the findings of science. Consider these facts about supposed prehistoric men:

–          The Nebraska Man – The Nebraska Man was a fabrication created in the creativity of  a scientist who worked hard to turn a tooth, found in 1922, into a prehistoric family. Scientist applied their imagination and created a jawbone, skull, skeleton, body & fur and created the “Nebraska Man” all from one tooth. By the time the London Newspaper got it, there was also a picture of a “Nebraska mom.” Sometime after this discovery, an identical tooth was found attached to a skull and body of a wild pig. One writer said, “Ironically, while scientists were attempting to make a monkey out of a pig, the pig made a monkey out of the scientists.”

–          The Java Man was found on the East Indian island of Java in 1891, and the find only consisted of a skullcap, femur (thigh bone), & three teeth. The femur was actually found fifty feet from the skullcap a full year after the skullcap had been discovered. Worse than this, Eugene Dubois also found 2 fully intact human skulls in close proximity to his original finds, but these facts were not reported at the time.

–          Henry Gee,  Chief science writer for Nature:, summarized: “Consequently, human evolution is a completely human invention created after the fact, shaped to accord with human prejudices. To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story – amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific.”

Where did Cain & Abel’s wives come from?

As I said Sunday, Cain never had the privilege of taking a wife. We do know the bible does not give us details of all of Adam and Eve’s children. Genesis 5:4 says, “After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.” Cain’s wife may be the most talked about wife in history. William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor in the Scopes trial in 1929 was asked this question, and he could not give an adequate answer. There is no indication how old Cain was when he married, so it is possible he could have been 50 and married a 25 year old sister. He could have been 100 and married a 50 year old niece. The only conclusion is that Cain married his sister or another relative. Cain’s wife suddenly appears in Genesis 4:17, but there is no indication exactly how much time has passed at this point. Evolutionists, like the famed Scopes Trial ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow, seem to think this is a big deal that supports the possibility of other people evolving. The fact is that God gave us some detail about some births (Cain and Abel) while leaving out a lot of other detail (like Cain’s sister and following relatives).

If God created the heavens and the earth why did he not create life outside of earth?

He could have. I really do not believe that life in another galaxy would disqualify any of the teachings of the scripture. I don’t think He did, but I could be wrong. Obviously the Bible doesn’t give any indication He did.

Where did the water come from Genesis  in Genesis 1:2.

If you look carefully at Genesis 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth. When he began this process on day one, water was a part of that creation. We know that water is made up of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. God created the water as a part of the beginning of the creation process.  The scripture doesn’t go into great detail, it just indicates it was a part of the “earth creation.”

Sunday’s Questions – Heaven and Hell

I have done the best I can to answer the questions that were submitted to me during the sermon last Sunday. This posting concludes last Sunday’s topic. The topic was heaven and hell, and there were a lot of good questions. As with all of these weeks and topics, I do not presume to have all the answers. Sometimes the Bible gives a real clear answer, and sometimes there’s not a lot in the Bible to answer the question. Nevertheless, I’ve done the best I can. Please feel free to add your comments.

What will people do in Heaven?

There’s not a lot in the Bible that really answers this question. We do know that there will some incredible worship experiences. We can look back on Adam and Eve before the fall and get a little idea. They had responsibilities – like taking care of the garden, naming the animals, etc. They also fellowshipped with God. The Bible does hint to working or serving when it talks about reigning with Christ (2 Timothy 2:11-13). We can also look at God’s nature and character. He is a purposeful God and is always at work (John 5:17). I do not believe this will stop. While we do not really know the details, we can be sure that if this life has purpose, which it does, the one to come will be even more purposeful. If this life was challenging, exciting, and fulfilling, imagine how much more so will be the life to come.

Can you get kicked out of heaven after the rapture?

No. I do not believe that once a person a REALLY saved or becomes a Christian, he or she cannot lose their salvation. If you could get kicked out of heaven after the rapture, then John 3:16 and other verses would not be true. Satan was kicked out, but he is not a human being. His circumstance, then, is different than ours.

Do children who have not accepted Jesus yet or are too young to have done so go to hell?

You mentioned that the Bible says “The only way to heaven is through Christ”… What happens to children that die at a very young age and were never introduced to Jesus or had the chance to accept Christ as their Savior?

I do not believe so. I must point out that the scripture does not say either way. The only hint is in 2 Samuel 12:23 where David speaks of his dead son. He says, “He cannot come to me, but I can go to him.” If you think about God’s nature, which is love, grace, and mercy, it is hard to imagine God sending a child to hell who is psychologically and spiritually unable to understand sin and his or her need for salvation. I was raised hearing the phrase “age of accountability.” This phrase is not in the Bible, but I believe the concept fits with God’s nature. I do not believe there is a set age. For some children, that age could be six or seven while others it may be much older. I do know that children are not mentally able to grasp concepts until older childhood years. Salvation is more abstract than concrete, so God made a child unable to grasp his need for Christ until he or she would be somewhere around 10 – 12. That does not mean a younger child can’t be taught to understand enough to be saved younger than that.

Do you think there are different “stages” or “levels” of hell based on your sins on earth?

There is really nothing in the Bible to indicate different levels of hell. There are some places that refer to a “greater condemnation” (Matthew 23:14 for example), but we don’t really know what this means. We do know that James 2:10 says that if you commit one sin, you are guilty of all of them. The bottom line of sin is rejection of God. That is why people go to hell. It’s not really because they committed a particular sin but because they rejected God.

If Satan would have asked for forgiveness would God have granted it?

This is a great question, and I received a similar one from one of our children. I plan to mention this in a few weeks during my sermon. I think the answer would have to be yes. Of course all of this is hypothetical, and because God knows everything that will happen, he knows Satan will not repent. Still, the concept of God’s grace, I believe, would apply to Satan. That’s just my thought.

When you said when we get to heaven we will not be married why do we promise to God that we will stay with them through sickness and health and in the end we end up divorced?

The Bible clearly says that God hates divorce. I believe He hates divorce because he loves us so much. He knows that divorce scars us, and we (along with our children, friends, church, etc.) carry the baggage of divorce for the rest of our lives. Also, our marriages are supposed to be a picture to the world of God’s love for His church. When we divorce, we are marring the image of God to the world. I believe that regardless of the circumstance, a couple can work through their problems and honor the Lord with a life-long marriage. The bottom line answer of why we divorce has to be sin. It could be the sin of one person who will not repent thereby leading to divorce. Like in the case of marital infidelity – if a person does not repent and ask for forgiveness, God does give the other partner permission to divorce. Is this best? If there is not repentance, and this goes on and on, I do not believe that divorce dishonors the Lord. I do think people are too quick to go to divorce court. God commands us to stay with the husband/wife of our youth. Regarding marriage in heaven, Jesus does say we will not be married in heaven (Matthew 22:30), and I believe I addressed this earlier this week.

Questions regarding Heaven and Hell from Sermon 5 (Part 2)

Here’s a few more responses to questions submitted to me during my sermon last Sunday. The theme of that message was on Heaven and Hell.

If the dead could look into heaven, when we go to heaven will we be able to see friends and loved ones that are in hell?

There is nothing in the Bible that says we can. You may have noticed during the message on Sunday, Luke 16 does not say that Lazarus could see the rich man in hell. It seems to me that if it were possible for me to see loved ones in hell, it would be incredibly sorrowful. We do know there will be no sorrow in heaven.

You said people chose to go to hell, what about those who have never heard?

Will people that have never heard or not allowed to hear the word of Christ be allowed to go to heaven?

I addressed this a little bit on Sunday. I want to first say that I share a burden about this issue. I know the Bible says no one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ. In my mind, it seems this means they will not only need to know that God exists, but they would need to at least know enough of the Gospel message to know they need to repent of their sin and place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. With that said, I also fully believe the Bible. The Bible says in Romans 1:18-20 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” This verse clearly says several things. 1 – God has made what may be known about him plain to humanity. 2 – God’s qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, are clearly seen and understood from looking at and experiencing creation.  3 – Because of this level of revelation, people who reject God are without excuse. There is a missing element in this verse, but I still trust God with the issue. One cannot gaze at a sunset and know through this experience they must repent of their sins and trust Christ as their Savior. The way I sort through this is to know that creation alone is enough to prompt people to seek after God. While Jeremiah 29:13 was specifically written to a Jewish people in captivity, I believe the principle also applies to us: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” This say that if an individual begins to ponder his origins and the source of all life by experiencing the creation and he really begins to seek after God, he will find God. There may be additional things God does to reach across the chasm to make himself known, but the impetus for that search is God’s creation, which is available to all. Granted, those of us who live within Gospel rich societies certainly seem to have an advantage, but at the same time, God is not limited. If someone is seeking God, he can make himself known to that individual. I’ve heard and read many stories about God doing just that.

How do you know that “Abraham’s side” means heaven and not a holding place where Abraham happens to be (Abraham’s bosom)?

I think Abraham’s side could very well have been a holding place for believers as they awaited the resurrection of Jesus. I call it heaven because it could be considered pre-resurrection (Christ’s resurrection) heaven. The post-resurrection concept of immediately being in heaven and not in a holding place comes from several places. 1 – In Luke 23:43 Jesus told the thief dying on the cross “today you’ll be with me in paradise.” The thief did not have to go to purgatory or some holding place waiting on a more opportune time. It was to be instant. 2 – 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 clearly says there are two options for Christians: in the body and away from the Lord or out of the body and present with the Lord. 3- Ephesians 3:15 indicates we already have family in heaven.

Will Jews, the chosen people of God, get to be in heaven even though they never believed in Christ?

No. Jesus said “No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6). Jews fall under the “no one” clause. Eternal life requires salvation and that must come through Jesus Christ.

Will we eat in heaven?
I believe the answer is “Yes.” Jesus made reference to eating together in the Kingdom in Mark 14:25. Also Revelation 21 talks about fruit bearing trees that will line the river of life. I personally think Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice-cream will be like health food in heaven.:)

Will animals be in heaven?

The Bible does make reference to the lion lying down with the lamb in the millennial reign of Christ. It is also interesting to note that animals were a part of the creation of the world before the fall. The scripture also says the creation is groaning (Romans 8:22) in response to the broken state of our world. I do not believe our animals will be resurrected, so any animals that might be in heaven will be new. When I asked my mother this when I was a little boy, she asked me, “Will it take Prince being in heaven for you to be happy?” She then told me that God says I will be eternally happy in heaven, and if my eternal happiness depended on my dog’s presence, then he would be there. That comforted me as I stood by my little Prince’s grave, and the concept is true. Now, however, as an adult, I realize my happiness will not depend upon my dog’s presence.

Will there be our Earthly hobbies in heaven.

While we know heaven is going to be a wonderful and amazing place, we do not fully know what we will do. It seems we will work and have projects, etc. We do know there will some ruling going on during the millennial reign, but the Bible is not real specific. It seems to me that there will be a lot of really rewarding, fun, enjoyable things going on throughout eternity, so hobbies could very well fit into the concept. With that said, the Bible really does not give us an answer to this one.

If God knows the plans for our life does he know if we are going to end up in heaven or hell when we are born?

Yes. God knows everything. He sees the beginning at the same time he sees the end. We call this “foreknowledge.” God has foreknowledge, which means He knows ahead of time not only who will be saved, but exactly what is going to happen around us.

Do we keep our personalities in heaven

Jesus seemed to keep his in his resurrected form. The Bible really does not address this. My only thought is that God is a creative God, and part of His creativity is seen in our unique personalities. It does make life more interesting and varied. It seems to me there will be personalities in heaven.

Questions from Sunday (Sermon 5 on Heaven and Hell)

As in the past, questions were submitted on Sunday morning during my sermon that I was unable to fully answer at the conclusion. Each Sunday I am spending about 10 minutes at the conclusion of my sermon to address that questions that came in by text. Below you will find my thoughts to some of the questions that came in this past Sunday.

How can there be hell if the earth’s core is solid.

We really do not know where hell is located. Hell could very well exist on a totally different dimension that would be impossible for us to grasp with our human limitations. I do not believe the solid core of the earth has anything to do with hell.

If God knows all, couldn’t he have known that Satan was going to create Hell, and could’ve he prevented the evil of Satan and Hell? Why would God allow this?

For starters, Satan did not create hell. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25:41 –  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” While Jesus didn’t say “the eternal fire I prepared for the devil…” I think his words obviously point out Satan did not create hell. I think the issue of God preventing evil goes back to our familiar friend “free will.” Relationship is a top priority for God. He does not want robots. With the option of obedience or disobedience comes the possibility of evil. While God did not create evil, he created the possibility of evil. He even knew we would sin, but the choice still had to be offered. It is all based upon God’s nature of love and love requires an object – us. If we did not have free will, we could not love God. The bottom line is that while God knew Satan would rebel, and he knew mankind would fall. He still made us because He is love.

Will other forms of believers be allowed to Heaven, such as Mormons, or other forms of Christianity?

I addressed this somewhat at the conclusion of the sermon. Only true born-again believers who surrender to Jesus Christ as the God of the universe and the Lord of their lives will go to Heaven. While I do not consider Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses Christians, I need to hasten to say that not all Baptists are Christians. Now by virtue of our doctrine, if you are a Baptist, you are supposed to be a Christian. This is different between us and Mormons. While Mormons say that Jesus became a God just like we can all become Gods, they deny that Jesus is THE God. You cannot be a Christian if you deny the deity of Christ. The only “form of believers” who will be in Heaven are the saved kind- that is the kind who have repented of their sins and surrendered the lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Will there be waiting in Heaven?

It depends upon what “waiting” means. When we wait for something, we endure the passing of time while longing for something to take place. Eternity is not limited to time as we know it, nor will we have a feeling that something is being delayed that we want. It is really difficult to answer this question because I do not believe we can understand what it means to exist in a timeless reality. It is interesting that numerous times in the Bible we find God telling us to wait (Psalm 5:3, Psalm 40:1, Isaiah 40:31). I guess my response is that while something may be delayed, we will not long for it as if God is late or we are being neglected.

Why no seas?

I do not think this means there will be no ocean or large fresh water bodies. I need to point out up front that we really do not know what this means. There are a variety of opinions; we must remember they are but opinions. The sea in the scripture presents a sense of danger or turmoil. It is possible the scripture is pointing to the fact that in Heaven there will be no turmoil. Whatever it means, it is pointing to something that is negative. The ocean to me is not negative unless I have a shark get a little too close for comfort while I’m scuba diving. Seriously, some scholars think the sea represented death as it was so dangerous in ancient times. These scholars think John was saying there is no more death. This may be one         question we have to save until we get there.

Will our earthly spouse and family be our “family” in heaven?

Matthew 22:30 says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Note this does not say we will be angels, but regarding the issue of marriage, we will be like the angels. This also does not say we will not know our spouses nor does it say we will not have close relationships. It does say that in heaven, marriage as we know it will not exist. There is nothing in the scripture that says we will not be close to our family in heaven. It is possible that we will have meaningful relationships and even unique relationships with our families. We just don’t really know how that’s going to be, but we can be sure that whatever God has made Heaven to be, it will be better than earth.

What if your spirit goes to heaven but your family doesn’t accompany you later?

I’m sure this happens all the time. It seems that if I have family members go to hell, I will be quite sad. The Bible teaches there is no sorrow in heaven, so I’m not real sure what we will know or not know.

Is the term “sheol” in the scripture a reference to hell?

Not necessarily. It means the place dead go (like the ground or a tomb). While it could just be referring to a grave, it could be referring to heaven or hell.

Where did Jesus go for the three days when he died on the cross?   Some scholars say he went to hell to preach to the lost souls.

I addressed this on Sunday. 1 Peter 3:18-20 addresses this. The Bible is not real clear exactly what this mean. This passage does say that he went to the imprisoned spirits. Again, we are not real sure who these people were. It does make a vague reference to people alive in Moses’ day. If Jesus went to those who rejected God and were in hell, this would be contrary to the rest of scripture. I think he went to followers of God who passed before the death and resurrection to tell them the anticipated sacrifice had been made and call them to believe in Him.

Final Questions from Sermon 4 on Same-sex marriage

Here’s a few lingering questions from the message I shared two Sundays ago on same-sex marriage. These questions came in via text during the sermon:

Is it wrong to have a best friend who is homosexual?

No. Jesus was called a friend of sinners. I would ask how are you using your friendship to help your friend either come to know Christ or repent of his or her sin?

Do you believe god will eventually “change” all homosexuals in his own time if we are not able to reach them?

No. Homosexuality is like any other sin. God will not force people to live rightly. We must choose to repent and embrace righteousness. That sounds a whole lot easier than it is because many sins are tied to real challenging circumstances. For example, some homosexuality is tied to growing up in a home with a very domineering mother. As a young adult, you can’t change the environment of your home. With that said, you can change whether or not you respond to the urge for same-sex relationships. There are many examples of homosexuals who repented, found help and support from Christian friends, and found rewarding and enjoyable heterosexual relationships.

Is it wrong to be a homophobic?

Yes. Homocautious – no. I would caution anyone about hanging around someone practicing any kind of sin. Is it wrong to have a fear of drug addicts or child abusers or habitual liars? The problem with being afraid of homosexuals is that they need love, encouragement, support, and prayer. We cannot help someone overcome something if we are afraid of them. If homophobic means “gay bashers,” then is not just wrong it is terribly wrong. John 3:16 says God so loved the world. This means that if we are going to be like God, we too must love the world, including homosexuals.

Is it wrong to vote for a political leader who supports same sex marriage?

This is obviously your personal decision. I will tell you that I base my vote on Proverbs 14:34 – “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” I chose to vote for politicians that will help us to be a righteous nation. For me, that means I do not want to vote for someone that upholds immorality in any form, supports abortion, promotes injustice, denies civil rights, etc. It is interesting that the Bible does not say a balanced budget exalts a nation or even a healthy military exalts a nation. It is righteousness that exalts a nation. That’s just me. You have to decide for yourself. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I seek God’s will as best I can and vote for the men and women who will best help us move toward righteousness.

So are you saying that gay people are not happy?

No. I think they are deceived. Some of them are confused. Some are miserable, but some are happy. Let’s face it. Sin can be a lot of fun…at first. It won’t be fun when they face a holy God who specifically said it is immoral.

God I Have A Question Series – Same-Sex Marriage questions from Sunday (Part 2)

If you have been following my blog lately, you know that I am sharing a message series on Sundays entitled “God, I Have A Question.” I put the series together based upon questions submitted to me through our website: godihaveaquestion.com. Now that the series is created, and I’m sharing it on Sundays, we are inviting questions during each service via text message. If you attend SonRise, you know that at the end of each message I am spending about ten minutes responding to these texts. Obviously ten minutes is not enough time, so I am addressing additional questions/comments on this blog. This past Sunday the topic was same-sex marriage, and I received a number of questions. I addressed some of them earlier this week. Below you will find additional questions and answers. Please fee free to comment/reply below as you may have some good insight on this topic as well.

How can you convince the nonbeliever that homosexuality is wrong?

The nonbeliever’s concept of right and wrong is many times determined by the standards of society or what feels right or wrong for them personally. The non-Christians I have spoken with about this subject have basically taken the position that it doesn’t personally affect them so they do not see any problem with it. I think it is good to engage non-Christians on societal issues or consequences and not just biblical rebuttals. I addressed this somewhat at the beginning of my message, though there are many additional thoughts that can be pursued. I usually use the issues of rights, financial consequences and the effects on children and casually include biblical thoughts, whenever it seems appropriate. I do think non-Christians are interested in the fact the Bible says it is wrong. I’m amazed at the number of people (Christian and non-Christian) who do not really know the Bible says homosexuality is wrong.

 What.do you do if you have a cousin who believes that God made him gay?

I would engage him in conversation about why he thinks this and point out there is no scientific evidence that says there is a “gay gene.” He obviously believes in God, so you could point out that the God who made him is the same God of the Bible. God will not contradict Himself. How could God be responsible for his homosexuality when God says homosexuality is a sin? Does God make sin? Even if he has a proclivity toward same-sex relationships, that does not mean he should pursue it. We all have a proclivity toward sin of some kind, but through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, we have the fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

 The issue is ALREADY politicized. How do Christians engage in the political arena? 

This has indeed become a hotbed of political discussion, and I’m not very confident that conservative Christians will win this debate. The number way for Christians to get engaged is to correspond with their congressmen and/or congresswomen on a regular basis. I think it’s good for our representatives to hear from us on a regular basis letting him or her know that we support them and are praying for them. We should let them know of our convictions and concerns. We can also get educated about the consequences of same-sex marriage and prepare ourselves to discuss it from a non-biblical perspective. We could write editorials about it, generate discussion on social media, and discuss it with our friends. It will obviously be an issue congress and the Supreme Court decides, even though God has already clearly conveyed His truth about the matter. Speaking of the Supreme Court, we should also realize that the future of our country may very well be determined by “the Supremes,” so we should carefully consider our presidential votes. I do believe “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people” (Proverbs 14:34). For me, this means I vote for men and women based upon rather they will lead us into righteousness. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be a Christian, but I prefer men and women of character who uphold biblical values.

 What are Good guidelines for Talking about this with People? Be patient? Listen a lot? Talk a little?

This is a great question, because too many Christians have become militant on this issue. If we’re not careful, our spiritual arrogance will push someone over the brink into Hell. It is interesting that Jesus never held signs or yelled at struggling sinners. He did raise his voice at hypocrites, but he comforted sinners. People accused Him of being “a friend of sinners.” I really believe love is the most crucial element when dealing with any topic. I said one Sunday that it is possible to win the debate but lose the soul. We must work hard to demonstrate the love and grace of God in everything we do. This means that we love the sinner, just like God does. We cannot turn this into a debate or an attack on individuals. I’m not without sin, so I definitely cannot cast the first stone! I think the key on helping people who struggle with homosexuality is relationship. We must love them unconditionally and gently help them see that God has a better plan for their life. I know I mentioned Dennis Jernigan earlier, but I love the fact that a friend stepped into his life and walked with him toward Christ. This friend refused to give up on him and loved him, even though he was probably disgusted with his lifestyle. Good communication skills are a must (listen a lot/talk little). Make the other person know he or she is respected and valued. Know the person is the most important issue here not the principle. You may not win someone over through debate, but you could win them over with love.

How does the church deal with it INSIDE THE CHURCH?

It is important to know there are two perspectives in this issue. When we are dealing with the issue of homosexuality in our society or community, that is one thing. If a church is dealing with it inside the church family, that is another thing. To start with, if a gay couple came to our church and wanted to join, I could not allow them to become members. The same is true with someone who is practicing adultery, living together without marriage, etc. I would welcome them to attend and love them as Christ loves them. I would talk with them about their sin and encourage them to obey Christ. If someone in our congregation is struggling with homosexual tendencies, I would love them and encourage them to follow Christ and be obedient. If they are openly sinning and refusing to walk in righteousness, then the church would have no alternative but to practice church discipline and withdraw fellowship from the individual (Matthew 18). Obviously withdrawing fellowship is the last thing we would do. Much work would first go into helping the individual(s) repent. Withdrawing fellowship should only come in response to someone obstinately refusing to follow the scripture and showing an open spirit of rebellion and disregard for the church, the Word of God, and God Himself. If they would allow us, we would offer to help them move forward and deal with whatever issues may be leading them into this lifestyle.

 Why would you support the gay marriage if you are a Christian?

This is a good question, and honestly, I don’t know how to answer it. One would have to choose to not believe the Bible and choose to not interpret it literally. The only way someone to claim to be a Christian and not believe homosexuality is wrong is to not believe God inspired the Bible, but rather individuals wrote about theological ideas that may or may not be true. I think it’s also to be a Christian and not feel strongly against gay marriage if the Christian believes gay marriage doesn’t personally affect them or our society. They would obviously not be aware of the scripture that clearly states God cannot bless an immoral nation.

 What age is appropriate to talk with your young children about homosexuality to ensure they learn about it at home and not at school?

Excellent question and I’m not real sure there is a specific age. I do think the topic will be discussed in different ways depending upon age. I choose to protect our children’s minds from evil and help them maintain their innocence for as long as possible. At the same time, our children do live in a fallen world, and they must be equipped to deal with real issues. Romans 16:19 has been a guiding principle for me in protecting the delicate minds of my children when they were young: “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” Of course Paul was writing to adult believers in Rome, but I do think Satan uses evil seeds planted in the minds of the young to grow vineyards of evil over the course of their lives. Because this sin will become very public in the future (I believe), we do need to think about ways to communicate this to our children as wrong. I think the best way is to first instill God’s way into the minds of our children by making sure they understand that God’s plan is for men to marry women. We should model healthy marriages before our children, and our marriages alone will become compelling to our children. We can protect our children by making sure their innocence is intact and by maintaining communication with them about the things going on in their lives. If the model of biblical marriage is presented to them and they encounter same-sex marriage, hopefully through regular communication we can deal with that issue. At the same time, I would gently present to my first grade child the possibility of relationships in our world that do not honor the Lord, so if they encounter anything contrary to a biblical marriage, they will have a mental category in which to place this deviation. It would be a category of something not pleasing to God. As with the other questions, I would sure welcome additional discussion on this, so feel free to reply below.

Sermon 4 Questions regarding same-sex marriage (Part 1)

I am into the fourth week of my message series, “God, I Have A Question.” This past Sunday I responded to questions submitted related to same-sex marriage. This is obviously a very controversial subject in our society today, but the Bible is actually quite clear about what is right and wrong. As Christians, we do have a challenge to first know what God says about it, but secondly how to respond to it. I think our response can push people away from God or compel people to God. I love the story of Dennis Jernigan where he tells of a close friend who walked with him through his experience of homosexuality helping him find freedom in Christ. You can read his story on his website. As in the past messages in this series, I received numerous questions via text while I preached this message. While I responded to some of them at the end of the message, I was unable to get to many of them. I am beginning to post my responses to these questions. Below, you will find a few additional questions answered.

Should homosexuals be allowed to serve in leadership positions in church, particularly with students?

I believe that anyone practicing immorality without contrition or repentance does not need to be serving in any leadership position. Scripture addresses the need for church discipline under such circumstances (1 Corinthians 5, 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15, & Matthew 18:15-17).

Is it considered sin if we are are a Christian and support same sex marriage, even though we are not a homosexual?

There are more ways to sin than to actually commit an act. The scripture does command us in Ephesians 5:11 says we are to expose the deeds of darkness, and this is actually a command. With this passage in mind, I would have to conclude that it is a sin to support deeds of darkness (and the Bible does call homosexuality sin) and not expose it for what it is. I do believe, however, it is critical that we love the homosexual.

A recent article claims that the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL needs a “gay” Jackie Robinson to break the barriers. How do you defend against a statement like this without being considered a bigot or full of hatred?

This is a great question and does underscore a serious problem in our society. Any time a Christian speaks out about his or her conviction, he or she is considered a bigot or a gay basher. It is interesting that Black Entertainment Television (BET) conducted a poll and determined that 55% of African Americans do not believe gay rights are the same as civil rights. One writer said “To argue that the Constitution guarantees equal treatment to all citizens, both men and women, does not say anything about what constitutes marriage, or a family, or a business enterprise, or a university, or a friendship. An appeal for equal treatment would certainly not lead a court to require that a small business enterprise be called a marriage just because two business partners prefer to think of their business that way. Nor would equal treatment of citizens before the law require a court to conclude that those of us who pray before the start of auto races should be allowed to redefine our auto clubs as churches.” I think a simple reply to someone thinking gay rights should be a civil right would be to point out that the majority of African Americans would disagree with that statement and that there is nothing in the constitution saying we have a right to re-define marriage.

Can you explain the difference between the Civil Rights movement and the Same Sex movement?  Racial discrimination is obviously not biblical but was often displayed by “Christians” in the past.  People often use a parallel with these movements and say that our nation will look differently on same sex marriage in the future. I feel these are very different movements.  Can u explain right or wrong view?

See my comments in the previous question. I would also like to add that I believe the church in the 50’s and 60’s by in large was very wrong. Christians were hesitant to speak out against racial discrimination and many Christians were prejudice. I believe this is wrong, and Christians should be ashamed. With that said, same-sex marriage is not in the same category as it even defies the definition of marriage. Just because someone wants to call it a marriage does not mean it’s a marriage. I can call a dog an elephant, but it doesn’t make it one. It is absurd to think that I am going to go before the Supreme Court and try to convince them to call a dog an elephant, and if anyone speaks against my dog being accepted as an elephant, they are discriminating against me and are basically elephant bashers.

Are you born gay?

There is no scientific evidence to support the belief that people are born gay. The fact is that studies have been done on homosexuals who are identical twins. If homosexuality is a natural thing and there is a gay gene, then both sets of twins would be gay because they share DNA. There are a number of examples of one twin who is gay and the other is straight. This alone dispels the “gay gene” belief.

Can homosexuals go to Heaven?

1 Corinthians  6 :9  –  homosexuals  nor sodomites will inherit the kingdom of  God.

If anyone repents of their sin and trusts Jesus as their Savior, they are saved and will go to Heaven. The question we have to ask is can a Christian sin and still go to Heaven? The answer is yes. Can a Christian knowingly sin and still go to Heaven? I would say yes. Can a person practice sin for a season and still be a Christian? It is difficult to understand how someone who calls themselves a Christian and has submitted to the Lordship of Christ can still get caught up in sin, but I know it happens. Paul called the Corinthians “carnal” in 1 Corinthians 3:1 and a member of the Corinthian church (therefore must have been a Christian) was caught up in a lifestyle of sin (1 Cor 5). If someone is a Christian, they will go to Heaven. We have a tendency to make homosexuality a worse sin than other sins, but James 2:10 says if you are guilty of one sin, you are guilty of all. We might could then ask the question can deceivers go to Heaven? or can thieves go to Heaven? (what about the last time you made personal copies on the company’s dime?) With all that said, I will also say that if someone continues to practice sin with no remorse and no repentance, I think we have every reason to wonder if they have an authentic faith. The scripture says we are new creatures in Christ. I believe that is why 1 Corinthians 6:9 and other similar passages would say homosexuals, etc. will not go to Heaven. If it means that someone who has struggled with homosexuality cannot be a Christian, then verse ten would also indicate that someone who has been even a little dishonest on income taxes (thief), taken a paper clip from the office (thief), secretly taken more banana pudding when no one was looking (greedy) or spoken badly about someone (slanderer) cannot go to Heaven. It’s interesting that while I’ve seen people standing on street corners holding signs telling a homosexual they are going to Hell, I’ve never seen a sign telling slanderers they too were going to Hell. Now, if someone practices sin all their life and never is sorry for it or repents of it, we have reason to think they may not be saved to start with.

Questions from Sunday 3 (Part 2) – Does God really care?

Here are my thoughts in response to additional questions that were submitted during my sermon on Sunday. My message Sunday was related to the topic of evil and suffering in our world.

You mentioned pre-destined…so what is the thought on pre-destination and how does that fit with “free will” if we are all pre-destined.

I mentioned the word “predestined” in my message from Sunday when I read Romans 8:29, which says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” It seems the word “predestined” or “predestination” is a hot button that automatically evokes a fixed definition in our minds. For most people, predestination means that God picks some people to be saved and some people to be lost before He even created the world. To those who subscribe to this belief, it means that people do not have free will or the ability to choose whether or not they want to be a Christian. The word “predestined” simply means “something that was predetermined.” You have to look carefully at this verse to determine what was predetermined. According to Romans 8:29, God predetermined ahead of time that Christians would be conformed to the image of His Son. This does not say that God restricts our free will but rather that God wants us to be like Jesus.

Does God hurt when we hurt (suffer)?

Yes. I believe He does. If you remember in John 11, Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus knowing He was about to raise him from the dead. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Isaiah 63 also speaks of God suffering with Israel. I think he hurts when he sees our struggle and knows our pain.

Why does God give us free will/choice when ultimately we have to choose Him/Jesus or be punished? 

What God wants most is a relationship and a relationship (love) requires choice. If we are forced to choose Jesus, then its not love to begin with. It is true that we either choose Jesus or go to Hell, but people choose Hell every day (by virtue of denying Christ). God’s nature is love (1 John 4:8) and therefore requires an object (us). If He forced us to choose Christ, it would be contrary to His nature.

Why did God create Earth when he knew it’d become corrupt? Why not just keep everyone in Heaven with him to begin with? 

See my reply to the question above.  I’m not sure that I can thoroughly answer this question because in some ways it is circular. Obviously God could have not created mankind at all…It goes back to God’s nature. He is creative and He is love (among other things). If you think about it, the Garden of Eden may have very well been like what Heaven will be like for us. The world at that time was the best of all possible worlds. Because God is love, however, Adam and Eve had a choice. Choice led to sin causing the earth (and the people on it) to become corrupt.

What crime deserves an eternity of punishment? If someone lives a good life but never knows Jesus or trusts him, how is this a crime worthy of eternal damnation? 

We view sins in categories. God does not. I think it is impossible for us to see sin as God does because we are sinners looking at something that is not necessarily an affront to us. Though sin is the “crime,” the real crime is rejecting God. The fact is, no one lives a good life. Romans 3:10-12 says it clearly: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” A relationship with God and an eternity in Heaven is available to anyone who repents of their sin and trusts Christ.

If God is the ultimate, superior being, why does he need and create humans to worship him? Is He bored?

To start with, God wanted to create the world. Why do you do certain things? Sometimes we do things because of our need, but sometimes we just do it because we want to. I said above that God is love and God is creative thus resulting in the existence of our world. No, God does not need our worship. God is perfect and complete in Himself and needs nothing. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us that God needs to be worshipped. Since God does not need our worship, one writer suggested a better question would be “Why does God request or command our worship?” God does know that if we are going to find joy and meaning in life, we must be right with our Creator. Being right means we recognize who God is and we stand rightly before Him. Being right with God means that we recognize His nature and being and that requires worship. Also, we are the beneficiaries of worship. Being right with God and worshipping Him brings us joy and fulfillment. If one does not worship God, he or she is not finding the abundance for which he or she was made.

If my troubles are the results of my own sin, is God going to still be with me?

Yes. If you are a Christian, the Bible says God never leaves you or forsakes you (Heb 13:5). While Old Testament illustration are different because the role of the Holy Spirit changed at Pentecost (Acts 2), we can see that while Israel was rebelling, God did not leave them. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers from the point of their salvation. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 8:9 says that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ. I know our sin must break God’s heart (not that God literally has a heart, I don’t think) as it is a constant reminder of Christ’s death.

What about 2 Kings 17:25 that says since the people didn’t fear God, He sent lions in to kill some of them.

Whenever a person or a people choose to go their own way instead of Gods, there will always be consequences. Sometimes it comes in the form of results from their sin (someone dies from a drug overdose). Other times it comes as a result of moving out from under God’s protection. It is almost as if God is saying, “If you will live according to my plans, you live under the umbrella of my protection. If you step out from under the umbrella, the rain will fall on you.” For an example, God admonishes us not to practice immorality. As long as sex is confined to marriage, as God commanded, sex is beautiful, safe, and fulfilling (safe sex is married sex). If someone chooses to be immoral, the consequence might be a sexually transmitted disease. Sometimes troubles come as a result of God’s discipline. Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Sometimes it not a case of God bringing discipline on one of His children, but rather it is judgment on one who refuses God. In the case of the story in 2 Kings 17, the lions came as a result of God’s judgment on a people who rebelled against Him.

How can God allow others to misuse the Bible and misrepresent His Name and identity to oppress and abuse others?

Partly because, once again, God has made us as beings with free will. Free will either brings great blessing as a result of someone freely choosing Christ or great sorrow as a result of one choosing to reject Christ. When one refuses Christ, others are also affected by that choice (for example, a husband gets drunk and beats his wife). This does underscore how important it is that we know the Bible and are able to present the truth in our world. This is why 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Why does God allow families to fall apart?

Free will and consequence of sin. God clearly instructs us in the Bible how to live as a family. For example, Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” How many marriages can be described as a relationship where the husband really loves his wife selflessly and sacrificially (as he loves himself)? How many can be described as a relationship with the wife truly respects her husband and shows that respect in every area of life? The husband is commanded to love his wife this way and the wife is commanded to respect her husband this way, yet many Christians ignore these commands. God commands the wife to do this because the husband needs respect. God commanded the husband to love his wife because the wife needs love. God told us what to do to have strong families yet we disobey God. There are consequences for sin. We tell our children not to do certain things because they will get hurt. When our child disobeys and gets hurt, the pain came as a result of the child’s disobedience.

If God cares about his people why does he let us have wars?

Wars are horrible things and are simply a reality because of sin. Wars always start because of greed or some sort of injustice. This is a result of sin. The fact is, the world is not the way it is supposed to be because of the presence of sin. Like anything else, God can stop whatever he chooses to stop, but the world is spinning out of control because of sin. God would have to stop evil in order to stop war thereby removing mankind’s privilege to choose. If mankind has free will, then wars will be a natural consequence. I think all the evil and wars in our world should give us a longing for the return of Christ.

Sermon 3 Questions from Sunday (Part 1) – Does God Really Care?

This past Sunday, I preached a message entitled “Doe God really care?” I dealt with the problem of suffering, pain and evil in our world and sought to dispel several myths propagated by the presence of difficulty. You can listen to the whole message by clicking on the following link, which will take you to our church website where we post a recording of all my messages.  During my message this past week, a number of comments and questions were sent into me by text. I addressed a few of them at the conclusion of my message. Below, you will find answers to some I did not get to on Sunday. This is only some of the questions. I will add some more questions and answers later in the week.

Are some translations of the Bible better than others?

Yes. Some are better because they were translated from more reliable text. Others are better because newer discoveries make the translation closer to the original text. Some are better because of the method of translation. For example, the New International Version uses a form of translation called dynamic equivalent. While the translators were concerned with the individual words, they were more concerned with the phrases. The translation is accurate, but the focus was on the phrase. The New American Standard uses more of a word for word. It is because of this the NIV is easier to read but the NAS is a better study Bible. The Message is not as accurate of a translation, but it is very easy to read. I enjoy reading it for devotional purposes. If I’m going to do serious Bible study, I like the New American Standard.

You said the scripture is God breathed. Doe God really breathe?

Jesus did. With that said, God uses human terms sometimes to describe non-human concepts. For example, does God have an arm (other than Jesus)? Maybe not, but he uses the concept to present an image to human beings when the Bible talks about the arm of the Lord. The idea is that even as we have breath, God breathed the word into existence or spoke the word into existence.

Do you believe all things happen for a reason?

Yes I do. I do not want to say that God is necessarily the cause of all things, but rather God certainly uses all things. It is because of this that Romans 8:28 says that “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” God’s greatest goal is that we become Christians. His second greatest goal for us is that we become like His Son. He will use circumstances to shape our character and mold our lives. I have found that He is more interested in my character than He is my comfort.
Why does God lead some people to stay married to somebody when they would be better off without them?

One will have to first answer the question “Is divorce ever the best option?” before you can really answer this question. I have a predisposition based upon the Word of God that says divorce is never the best option. Even in the most horrific circumstances, God’s best option is personal, emotional, psychological and marital healing and restoration. I realize I’m dealing with an elusive Utopia in a way, but maybe not. Imagine if you have a marriage that has gone terribly wrong, but both parties are willing to do whatever it takes to find the ultimate marriage. Is it better to end a marriage and carry the baggage with you for the rest of your life (and into your next marriage) or discover the kind of marriage that brings you ultimate joy and God ultimate glory? With that said, I realize that sometimes there is abuse, immorality, etc. that leads to divorce and these problems cannot be overcome (for example the one committing adultery will not repent and return to his or her commitment). I probably should interject here that I do not believe adultery should automatically mean divorce. It is possible, and even better, for the couple to find healing and forgiveness. In the cases where that can’t happen, then God does say divorce is okay. Now to the question…When a person stays married to someone in the midst of a bad situation it is because they are staying true to their vows and because they refuse to give up on God. 1 Peter 3 says that a wife can actually win her husband to Christ through a godly lifestyle. It may very well be that a godly wife may win her lost husband to the Lord through her patience and God-inspired love. A person will stay in this kind of marriage when they look at marriage and time from God’s perspective. God hates divorce and time is only temporary. I would rather spend a life-time walking in accordance with God’s plan than an eternity outside of His will. I’m not saying that if you get divorced you’re going to Hell, but I do believe divorce is not God’s best plan. I will be preaching on “marriage God’s way” on Sunday and deal briefly with divorce and same-sex marriage.

In choosing, why are the ones who have chosen God the ones that usually suffer the most?

I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with this conclusion, but I will say that Christians are in a spiritual battle. Once you become a Christian, Satan cannot steal your salvation, but he can rob you of joy and destroy your testimony. He does work overtime to accomplish this purpose. The Bible does say that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing. Romans 5:3-5 says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

When needing to make a big life decision, and as I pray for God ‘s will and study God’s word, how do I know God’s will?

Discerning God’s will can be a challenging experience. First of all, He has spoken clearly through His Word. I approach big life decision with the understanding that God is more interested that I know Him than that I know what to do. I find that out of the context of a growing and passionate relationship with Jesus that my “God’s will antennas” become more sensitive. Romans 12:1-2 does address this: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
If God’s Will for us is to be in poverty or sickness or pain, isn’t He also causing those conditions?

Consider this verse from 2 Peter 3:9: “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” That verse clearly says that it is not God’s will for anyone to perish, but rather He wants everyone to come to repentance. You and I know that some people do not “come to repentance” but rather spend eternity in Hell. When a child grows up in poverty, is that really God’s will? Could be simply because the child’s father is a drunk, because the government gives financial benefit to unwed mothers thereby promoting single parenting, and because unjust practices at his mother’s job forced her to be fired? Many things happen in this world because the world is broken. It will one day be fixed, and frankly the brokenness around me makes me long for Christ’s return. Though God is not the cause of everything, he certainly uses everything (see my comments above). He could stop some suffering, but I suppose I wonder where would he draw the line? It seems to me that most of the time he chooses to use suffering and allow the consequences of sin to play out. He gives us the strength to deal with our circumstances and the opportunity to see those things Satan meant for harm be turned around for good.