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.

Sunday 2 Questions (Part 2)

During my messages on Sunday morning in this “God, I Have A Question” series, questions are submitted to me via text message. While I attempt to answer the questions at the end of the sermon, I only have time to address a few. I am attempting to answer the remaining questions in my blog. These questions I’m addressing are NOT the questions submitted to me ahead of time through our godihaveaquestion.com website or through written questions that were turned into me through other means. Those questions were used to form the whole eight-week teaching series I am sharing on Sunday mornings. The questions I am addressing in this blog are just the ones submitted on Sunday mornings. Hope all of this is helpful. Feel free to comment below.

Can you ever lose your salvation? No. I do not believe you can. First of all keep in mind that salvation is not dependent upon works: “For by grace are you saved through faith; not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). It makes since that if God says works are not part of the equation, that means you can’t work to earn it nor can you work to keep it. Also consider John 3:16. God said that whoever believes in Him has eternal life. I trusted Christ as my Savior when I was 7 (believed in Him). If I could lose my salvation at 17, that would mean I only had life for ten years, not “eternal life.” John 10:28-30 also says no one can take us out of the Father’s hand and Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30 says we were sealed by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us as a down payment guaranteeing our complete redemption.

Since men were responsible for which books are contained in The Holy Bible, how can we be sure that it is complete, or that it doesn’t include books which shouldn’t be there? First of all, I trust God to be able to deliver to us exactly what He wants us to have. It makes sense to me that God wants to reveal Himself. If He wants to reveal Himself, one would have to ask what His options are for making this revelation. The most likely answer is something written. It also seems to me that since “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” then God would be able to make sure we have his word so it can be heard. I also really don’t believe men were necessarily responsible. The way the early church first determined books to be inspired was through observation. The early church fathers noted the books that seemed to not only be accurate and consistent, but also effective and cherished by the early Christians. I believe God was involved in this process of convincing and convicting the early church about His word. Obviously a formula for authorship was important. It seems, for example, that the Gospel formula was either someone who was with Jesus or connected to someone with Jesus. The other New Testament writings were from either Apostles or from Paul, who had a personal encounter with Jesus (Acts 9) and called himself an Apostle (1 Cor 15.9). There is also amazing agreement between the books of the Bible and consistency in the message. It is true that other letters were written during the first century and other Gospels were written in the 3rd Century. These letters either did not survive or contained error. The Gnostic Gospels (dating 250 A.D.) are not considered part of the “Apocrypha” or “hidden books” because they are not just hidden but heretical. I do trust the consensus of the early church and the early church fathers as they concluded the canon of scripture to be complete. In addition to all of this, Revelation 22:18-19 does speak seriously toward anyone who adds to or takes away from this scroll. One might say these comments refer only to Revelation. Being that Revelation is the last book of the Bible written by the only living Apostle at the turn of the century, John, if something is added to the Bible, it would be added to Revelation. One might could work their way mentally around this argument, but it must be considered.

Will we know those in heaven who have gone before us? I believe the answer is yes. Peter, James and John recognized Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Mary and the other disciples recognized Jesus. It seems that when Jesus said to Mary, “Do not hold onto me…”, he had a resurrection body but not an earthly body. This may also explain, at least in part, why God has planned for a bodily resurrection. He plans to use our existing DNA in our resurrected form.

Why was the gospel of Judas not included in the Bible? First, it was written around 300 A.D. and could not really be included in the Bible because it contradicts all the other Gospels. God would not inspire something that stood totally against the rest of His word. I also think that anything that claims authorship by an Apostle but indeed was written by someone else is suspect. It contains late 2nd century theology and does not reflect the typical content/style of the 1st century Gospel writers.

Can you address the age of the Earth according to the Bible, versus the scientific age (carbon dating, fossil records, etc)? I’m sure this will come up on the Sunday I address evolution. I will speak to it briefly. There are some who believe Christianity, salvation, and biblical inerrancy rests upon accepting the young earth theory (not more than 10,000 years old). Though I prefer to think of the earth as young, I do not believe inerrancy or Christianity hangs in the balance. If God chose to use the word “day” in the creation story as referring to an “epoch or time” and not just a 24 hour period, I do not really have a problem with that. There is scientific evidence that many of the changes in the earth that scientists claim would have needed millions of years to happen could have happened suddenly in response to a cataclysmic event. For example, when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, significant changes took place in the affected area that many had previously thought would have required a long period of time. At the same time, there is a lot of evidence of an older earth. I’m not an expert on this, and personally, it is not a hill for me to die on.

Would LOVE I hear your thoughts on Joel Osteen resigning and leaving the Christian faith. I’m personally not a big fan of Osteen’s teaching because I feel that he leaves off important teaching about holiness, repentance, suffering, salvation, etc. I also realize there are some people who might say they are not a fan of my teaching for one reason or another. With that said, this internet story seems to have been a hoax.

Sunday 2 – Questions (Part 1)

Sunday was a great day as we looked at the question, “How do we know God’s Word is reliable?” You can hear the entire message through our website by Wednesday. While I tried to address as many questions as possible at the conclusion of the service, I did not come close to accomplishing that. I am including some of the questions/comments here:

What are some scientific facts backing up the bible?

There are several scientific facts mentioned in the Bible that scientists did not discover until many years after the Bible was written. For example, Job 26:7, “He [God] hangs the Earth on nothing.” I mentioned Sunday how people in ancient cultures thought the earth was on the back of Atlas or something else. Obviously God presented the truth in the oldest book of the Bible. Another example is where astronomers of old thought the stars could be counted. Up until the 17th century, astronomers were working to offer a correct count of the stars. Too bad they didn’t read Jeremiah 33:22 “The host of heaven [a reference to the stars] cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured.” Another is the Hydrological Cycle that is so common to us. We are quite familiar with the process of evaporation and rain clouds, but this was not really discovered by scientists until the 16th century. Had scientists just read Job, the oldest book of the Bible, they would have had a better understanding of this phenomenon: Job 26:8 “He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.” Job 36:27-29 “For He draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down  and pour abundantly on man.  Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of clouds, the thunder from His canopy?”

Is any sin too bad for God to forgive and wipe us white as snow?

The short answer is “no.” God does not grade sins like we do. We have a tendency to see certain sins as being worse than others. Sometimes we even assign colors that denote severity: “white lie.” It is true that some sins have greater negative consequences, but the fact is that Jesus had to die for every sin, regardless of the color. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Some people make a big deal about “the unpardonable sin.” The unpardonable sin is simply rejecting God. Matthew 12:31 calls it “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” For us today, blasphemy in this way is denying God. 1 John 1:9 tells us that all sin is forgivable, but obviously if you continue to say no to God and deny His deity right up until your death, you cannot go to Heaven.

Is there any evidence to support a global flood? Have remains of Noah’s ark been found?

Different people through the years have claimed to have found the ark, but to date, no solid proof has been given. The most recent discovery happened about two years ago, but unfortunately it turned out to be an elaborate hoax. Robert Ballard (Titanic discoverer) recently announced he was going to set about proving the flood really happened. There is scientific evidence that such a flood with waters flowing 200 times the speed of water going over Niagra Falls happened in the Middle East about 7500 years ago. You might want to read the article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/evidence-noahs-flood-ark-real-robert-ballard-archeologist-titanic_n_2273143.html

How was it determined what order the books of the Bible were published, besides Genesis, which means “beginning?”

It was sort of a process. Though we do not know all of the process, we do know that the scholars who translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek (called the Septuagint), put the O.T. in its current order. You can see the chronological order in part of it. The poetry follows the chronological history and the writing of the prophets follows that. The prophets are organized by major prophets (longer books) and minor prophets (shorter books).

 

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

There is a term that is useful here: “anthropomorphically”. Next time you want to impress someone, throw that word around. It comes from the Greek word “anthropos.” We get our word “anthropology” from it: the study of man. Anthropos simply means man. When you say that God spoke anthropomorphically, you are saying you used human terms to describe himself. Basically there are many things about God we do not understand, but God uses terms we do understand to describe the indescribable. For example, the bible talks about the breath of God and the arm of God. So, does God really breathe? Probably not. He did use this term to describe the moving of the Holy Spirit as God breathing the word into existence.

I will send additional responses as soon as I can.

Tim

Questions from Sunday 1 (Part 3) – God, Are You Really There?

I am posting the final questions that were submitted last Sunday during my message, which focused on the existence of God: God, are you really there? I have answered the questions below to the best of my ability. Tomorrow, we will be looking at a second questions: “Is the Bible really God’s Word?”

With the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle, is the field of evolution getting closer to having an explanation for the origin of life apart from Intelligent Design?

I only read of the Higgs boson discovery a couple of months ago and came to some preliminary thoughts. I’m sure someone more versed in the field of physics would have a greater understanding of these things, however, I do see this topic as great fodder for evolutionists propagandists. I do not believe the Higgs boson particle discovery gets evolutionists any closer to affirming the theory of naturalism or evolution. I like this definition of evolution: A theory that states the universe is self-contained, and that the origin and development of all its complex systems (the universe, living organisms, man, etc.) can be explained solely by time, chance, and continuing natural processes, innate in the very structure of matter and energy. I share this definition because evolutionist’s propagandists are pushing the discovery of the Higgs boson particle as being
the coup de grace to creationism. They even came up with the nickname “The God Particle.” It is interesting that many scientists do not like this nickname because it does not adequately represent this discovery. Jake Hebert PhD made the following comment about the Higgs
boson discovery:

The Higgs mechanism does not miraculously create mass out of “nothing.” Rather, the mass is transferred to the particle from the Higgs field, which contained this mass in the form of energy. Thus, the Higgs mechanism does not account for the origin of mass in the ultimate sense.
If God chooses to use a Higgs field to set the masses of all particles, He can certainly do so. The fact that such physics is possible or even meaningful would only make sense in a created universe that is controlled by the mind of God anyway. The study of how God upholds the universe today is the very essence of science. So the possible discovery of the Higgs boson falls under operational science, not origins science.

If Predestination is true, is there anything I can do to keep someone from accepting Christ?

First of all, one must define predestination. I do not believe the Bible teaches that God predetermines individuals to be saved and individuals to be lost before the world began. The Calvinist perspective presents salvation as being predetermined in that grace is irresistible and atonement is limited only to those who God predetermined to salvation. I don’t agree with this teaching. I believe it was predestined before the creation of the world that those who were in Christ would be saved. We still have a choice as to whether or not we will be in Christ. All of the
“whosoevers” of the Bible reveal Christianity as an invitation to everyone thereby giving us free will and a choice (John 3:16, Revelation 22:17, etc). We also see examples in the Bible of people saying “no” to God’s offer, thereby making grace and the Holy Spirit resistible (Mark 10:17-27, Acts 7:51, Mt 23:37). Also the Bible is real clear that Christ’s death was for the sins of the whole world and not just for those who would respond to God’s offer of salvation (1 John 2:2). Secondly, we must not presume that we are God’s only tool for someone’s salvation. You may be unfaithful in sharing the Gospel, but God can use others. For that matter, the Bible says God can even use creation to draw someone to Himself (Romans 1:20) I think this question is pointing to the fact that if Calvinists are right and people are chosen for salvation before creation, then will that person be saved regardless of what anyone does. The answer is that if Calvinists are right, and I do not believe they are, then the answer would be yes. The people God picked for salvation will be saved regardless and those He did not pick would have no choice but to go to Hell. It is difficult, if not impossible, for me to see the God of the Bible choosing me for salvation (that is I could not resist God’s grace but would have to be saved) and not choosing one of my children (that is they would have no choice but to go to Hell). How would I feel about a God like that? That teaching about God does not agree with what I believe the Bible teaches about God’s grace and love and free offer of salvation to whosoever.

If Christianity is a “faith-based” why is evidence” necessary?

I have addressed this question previously this week, but allow me to add one more thought. We cannot be saved without faith. It is true that you cannot use science to conclusively prove the existence of God. You can, however, use science, history, logic, etc. to give clues or evidence to the existence of God. If one concludes God exists, the natural next step would be to accept the Bible as God’s source of truth. One must also come face to face with either accepting Jesus as God’s Son or not. The reason evidence may be necessary is because we live in a world where the enemies of Christianity seek to win people to their “camp” by presenting evidence against the claims of the Bible (for example evolution). Satan is clever and is a deceiver. We must be willing to show people the truth about these matters. Science is not an enemy of God. True science cannot disprove God, but rather gives support to the teaching of scripture. One must reach beyond science to make science support the beliefs of naturalism.

What “evidence” does God require for allowing man to come into a relationship with Him?

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (“evidence” in KJV) of things not seen.” One need not have any evidence that God exists and that Jesus died and rose from the dead in order to believe these things to be true. Salvation is by grace through faith.

This is all the questions that were left over from this past Sunday. I look forward to addressing new questions during tomorrow’s message. If I am unable to answer all the questions during the service, I will continue doing so next week on my blog.

 

Questions from Sunday 1 – (Part 2) – God, Are You Really There

Here’s some additional questions and responses to my message from Sunday. Please feel free to respond.

If you were born in a Muslim household would someone be able to convince you Jesus is the son of God when you had been taught differently your entire life.

The short answer is “yes.” According to Al-Jazeerah, 6,000,000 Muslims convert to Christianity per year in Africa alone, not to mention the rest of the world. That means that in Africa, 684 Muslims repent of their sins and trust Jesus as their personal Savior every hour, 24 hours a day! I do not believe, however, the “someone” that convinces them is a human being but rather it is God Almighty. God is not constrained by race or religion. While it seems challenging for a Muslim in a Muslim country to become a Christian, it is happening in record setting numbers.

What does the suffering of millions and billions of people have to do with his “master” plan.

God’s ultimate master plan is to save those who respond to His offer of grace and remove them from the presence of sin and suffering. While we will deal some with this topic in a couple of weeks, I will say here that God is not the cause of the suffering of “millions and billions of people.” Remember that Jesus said he came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He also came to testify of the truth (John 18:37), to reveal the Father (Matthew 11:27), and to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) which does involve alleviating the suffering of people. People’s suffering doesn’t have anything to do with God’s master plan other than the fact God’s plan will rescue us from the suffering
caused by sin and Satan.

What are your thoughts about the History Channel’s BIBLE mini series?

I have not watched every week of the mini-series, but the ones I have watched have been good, by in large. The writers have added a few things where I didn’t think anything needed to be added (like the little hand-to-hand combat of the spies within the city of Jericho). I also thought Moses looked a little delusional, but the parting of the Red Sea was pretty amazing. While there are a few inconsistencies with the Bible, the TV series has been good over all in that it has presented the basic story of the Bible. It is unfortunate that it has to move so quickly. You almost have to be familiar with the Bible to understand the series. I think the greatest value for us as Christians is that many people are watching it, and it gives us a great opportunity to share our faith in response to discussions about the series. I have found it to be too violent for children. I’m going to guess it would be given a PG-13 rating because of the violence, so I can’t really call it a family-friendly series. I’m disappointed
in that and have chosen not to watch the second half of the series as a family because of the blood and violence.

If God knew there was going to be sin why did he make us?

While there is no Bible verse to answer this question directly, I will give you my thoughts along with related scripture. God made mankind because of his nature. The Bible says God is love, and love desires an object. I want to quickly say that God did not create mankind because of his own needs (Acts 17:24-25), but rather because of His own nature. What God wants from us is relationship. Relationship involves choices. God chose not to stop evil and sin from entering the world, I believe, because love and relationship necessitates us choosing God over sin and Satan. Obviously whenever Satan fell (see Revelation 12:9), the potential of sin entering God’s creation was unleashed. Part of God’s plan
is to also involve us in defeating Satan. I, for one, am grateful that He chose to make me. While sin is frustrating and sometimes defeating, God ultimately is my victory, and I enjoy the thrill of a relationship with my creator, the exhilaration of the daily victories God gives me over the evil one, and the anticipation of spending eternity with Him in Heaven.
With the evidence that you shared today what is our part in speaking to those who do not believe in God?

God commands us to spread the Gospel to those who do not know Him (Matthew 28:18-20) as we seek to make disciples. We are also commanded to be prepared to give an answer to those who ask us of the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15-16). We can speak of the logical, historical, and scientific evidence of God and his salvation plan as well as share the biblical truth that presents God’s plan of salvation. Sometimes people are not prepared to receive the biblical witness until they see that God’s word is accurate, true, and logical. Some people will be closed off to the teaching of the Bible because secularists try to say science, history, logic, etc. makes believing the Bible impossible. I believe the opposite to be true. Believing the Bible is very logical. Many people, who are a lot smarter than many of us, have pledged their lives to proving God
doesn’t exist only to find that He does exist. Their logical response to their quest was to become a Christian (Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, C. S. Lewis, Alister McGrath – to name a few). I would like to again emphasize that our purpose is not to win a debate about spiritual things. Our purpose is to lead others to faith in Christ. I think we do need to learn how to speak intelligently about these matters but also use discernment. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). We can win the debate and lose the soul. It is God’s role to convict, not ours. We should build loving relationships with people who do not know Christ and share with our friends the truth of scripture. Sometimes this “evidence” is needed to help people get past hindrances to faith.

Questions from Sunday 1 – God, I Have A Question

I began our new teaching series at SonRise Baptist Church on Sunday called “God, I Have A Question.” We created a website (www.godihaveaquestion.com) where people submitted questions on their minds. We gathered all the questions together and created eight summary questions that would answer these questions. We are also doing something quite unusual during the service by allowing people to submit questions/comments during the sermon via text message. I am attempting to answer some of these questions at the conclusion of my sermon each week, but due to time constraints, I can’t get to all of them. I will be using this blog to address the questions I could not answer during the service. This past Sunday, I preached a message on the existence of God by answering the question “God, are you really there?” After the sermon, I was able to address three questions that were texted to me during the message. I would like to answer some of the questions I was unable to get to below. While this post will not address all the questions, I will add  more answers to Sunday’s questions throughout the week.

One question submitted on Sunday asked why we needed to consider evidence for the existence of God when we have the Bible. One thing I did not mention in response to that question was the Bible says in First Peter 3:15-16 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Many people do not believe the Bible to be God’s word, and they are asking for answers as to why you believe in God. This passage says we must be prepared to answer their questions. They may require that we consider evidence through science, logic, or other means that present the case for Christ.

Here are some additional questions and answers I received on Sunday:

What do you do when someone continues to deny the existence of God?

This is something we face as Christians because people sometimes have opinions that grow out of painful experiences or unfounded biases. I think our role is to present the gospel and communicate the evidence of the God’s claims, but beyond that we must simply love the person and pray for their salvation. It is critical that we not seek to win “the debate” but lose “the soul.” The best way to lead anyone to faith in Christ is through friendship. It is in the context of that friendship that we build trust and have opportunities to live out our faith before our friends. It will not be a fast thing. It may take some of our friends years of true friendship before they trust Christ.

Why did God  create the devil?

Satan was created as an angel, and when he was first created, he was very different than he is today. The Bible does indicate he was beautiful and obviously cunning. He was God’s servant before he rebelled against God. The short answer is that God created the devil for the same reason He created all the other angels. The real question is why did God allow Satan to rebel? God knows everything and sees the end at the same time He sees the beginning. He knew before He created humanity that Satan would wreak havoc on the world. I believe part of the answer has to do with the fact that when God created beings, he created them as beings of choice. The fall of Satan reveals that even angels have a choice. While God did not create evil and sin, God allowed it to happen in response to Satan’s choice to rebel against God. This choice also put in motion the fall of humanity. Mankind is also presented with this same choice, and this choice is a critical part of what it means to be in relationship with our Creator. If choice were not an option, then we could not call our response to God love. I don’t want to go so far as to say God wanted Satan to fall so mankind would be tempted, but I will say that God even uses Satan to show people their need for a relationship with Himself.

Why would regular people be as jealous as the devil was?

Jealousy is the pinnacle of pride, which is at the heart of sin. We can fall into the same trap as Satan in that we too want to be god of our own lives. Even as God demanded that position in Heaven before the creation of the world, He still demands it in our lives. With that said, he still gives us the option of choosing God or refusing God. When we refuse to repent, we find we are battling for the throne of our own hearts. The
bottom line answer to this question is sin. Because of sin, we are jealous of people who have things we do not have. Sometimes our jealousy moves us away from God even as it did Satan before time began.

Science can’t prove the Bible to be fake so they go together.

This is a great point. Science only measures natural responses. Anything beyond the natural falls out of the realm of science. God is not contained to the natural and is not governed by the laws of nature. One cannot presume to know so much as to say it is impossible for anything to exist outside of the realm of our comprehension or out the realm of our understanding. Proving the Bible to be fake is beyond the  oundaries of science.

Miracles are a stroke of luck and coincidence.

I would disagree with this statement simply because God is not confined to the natural laws of the universe. He can perform a miracle because the laws of science do not apply to Him. For example, Jesus could ascend to Heaven because He is beyond the law of gravity. Because God is all powerful and not confined in any way, miracles are a work of God not a stroke of luck.

What was God doing before creation?

I spoke to this on Sunday morning, but I would like to share some thoughts that came from one our members (Jared Osterhage) after the service was over. I am using his comments with his permission.

The question as stated implies that God experiences time in a linear fashion, so that at some point in the past He was doing something else, now He is managing human history, and in the future He will do something else, but I think that is probably not the way God interacts with time and history.  He is equally present in all moments and all places, which would mean that all moments and places are “present time” to Him.  The question can be restated as “Is God doing anything else beside managing His natural creation and human history?” I think the Bible indicates that He has done/is doing other things.

We know that He has done other things because the angels came from somewhere and we have no biblical account of their creation.  At the end of human history God will have perfect harmony and relationship with millions of saints who have been battle-tested in their mortal lives and chose to follow Him through faith in Christ.  We will be able to join in whatever He is doing as His willing servants, and therefore with full access to His power and wisdom.  We don’t know the answer to what He did “before”, but I believe that God is doing something WITH creation that will carry forward into other things He is doing which we cannot currently comprehend with our human minds, but in which we will actively participate in ways that are only made possible by our experiences as sinful human beings redeemed from a fallen world.

Who wrote Genesis and where did the inspiration come from?

There is no name attributed to Genesis in the book of Genesis, however, there are other places that the early writings of the Bible are referred to as the “Book of Moses” (Mark 11:26) Tradition, along with these references to Moses’ writing, attribute the first five books of the Bible to Moses (except for the part of Moses’ death. We assume Joshua completed Deuteronomy after Moses’ death. As far as where the inspiration came from, I believe it came from God just like the rest of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). We can only assume that during the wilderness wandering, God inspired Moses with the words that became the first five books of our Bible.

Is God made of the same type of elements/atoms we are or did he create them new?

There really is no way to fully know the elements that make up God, but we do know the Bible says He is Spirit while we are body and spirit. (John 4:24). We can therefore assume that the atoms/elements God used to create the world were created out of nothing. We can also go to the meaning behind the word “created” in Genesis 1. The Hebrew word is bara and it means “to create something new” or “create something out of
nothing.”

I welcome your comments. I’ll share more questions and answers later this week.

Standing Firm in the Last Days – The Breastplate of Righteousness

I am currently sharing a series of messages at SonRise Church called “Standing Firm in the Last Days.” I personally believe either this generation will be (or maybe – are) living in the last days or our children will be. The question is whether or not we are ready to stand. I read Ephesians 6:10-20 with fresh eyes and spirit some months ago and believe God gave us the list of spiritual armor we are to put on so that we can not only endure any evil days that may come, but also stand against the evil day, which must point to the last days the scripture talk about leading up to Christ’s return. You can listen to any of the messages by clicking here. Today, I shared some thoughts about what it is to put on the breastplate of righteousness. I think we have a difficult time with this piece of the armor, and I think our spiritual success and victory hinge on whether or not we fully apply the truths represented by this piece of the armor. If we are going to put on righteousness, we must first come to the place where we realize the righteousness we put on is not ours but Christ’s. It is interesting that throughout the scripture, God uses the phrase “put on” to admonish us to apply a certain truth or live out a certain truth. It is like putting on a piece of clothing. God says we are to put on the righteousness of Christ. Isaiah 61:10 explains it well: “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness…” Note the prophet said it is God who clothes us with his robe of righteousness, not ourselves. Why do you suppose this is such a difficult concept to grasp? I think it’s because we have a hard time realizing God is the only one who can credit righteousness to our account (see Romans 4:1-8). We are somehow naturally wired to depend upon ourselves for our own righteousness. It may somehow be connected to our sinful pride as we think that we can possibly earn a right standing before God through our righteous acts. Our righteousness begins with Christ’s righteousness being given to us. We must not be deceived by the evil one into thinking we do not need Christ’s righteousness in order to right before God. It is only as we first receive Christ’s righteousness that we can ever hope to live in righteousness through obedience to Christ’s command. With all of that said, why do you think the breastplate of righteousness is included in the list of spiritual armor? Do you think this armor is offered to us for last days living? It has occurred to me
that we will not embrace righteousness during a time when “wickedness increases and the hearts of many will run cold” and during a time when people will pursue sin instead of righteousness (2 Timothy 3:1-5) if we are not covered and consumed with Christ’s righteousness. It is then, and only then, that we will act and will to fulfill God’s good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

Reading the Old Testament

I have to admit I favor the New Testament, however, when I spend time in the Old Testament, I am challenged and encouraged by the obvious plan of God he established from the beginning of time. If you are planning to read the Old Testament this summer (We have a 90 day plan you can follow. We will get it posted on our website – www.sonrisebaptist.org – but in the mean time, today’s reading is Genesis 1-5 and Job 1-6)., today’s reading will present the first presentation of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15. Though the comments to Satan are a little veiled, God is indicating his plan for Jesus to die but also to rise again (crush his heal). This plan would totally foil Satan’s plan and destroy him (crush his head). It is amazing to me to think that at the beginning of time, God not only knew I would be a sinner in need of a Savior, but he also planned for Jesus to be the Savior reaching out to this sinner. When God made the world, He loved the world and developed a plan to save the world. The creation not only declares the glory of God, but it also reveals the grace of God. I hope you will join me in reading the Old Testament this summer. Share your thoughts along the journey.

Unmasking the Lie of Naturalism

While many Christian have a strong reaction to the teachings of evolutionists, the real issue is not that we are told we evolved (though I feel it is an affront to God and it denies the clear teaching of scripture). The real issue is if evolution were true, there would be no need for God. It seems many evolutionists are on a crusade to remove God from the equation of life. They may say if a person needs to believe in God for some sort of emotional crutch, that is okay, but there must be a system for origins that would not require belief in a supreme being. Evolutionists present the belief, though unfounded and untested by any scientific method, that the universe came into existence through natural means and chance occurrences.

I recently preached on this topic during a series I entitled Masquerade – Unmasking the Lies We Believe. I used a number of quotes and thoughts in this message, and I would like to share some summary thoughts from this message along with a listing of the quotes.

Evolution can be defined as “A theory that states the universe is self-contained, and that the origin and development of all its
complex systems (the universe, living organisms, man, etc.) can be explained solely by time, chance, and continuing natural processes, innate in the very structure of matter and energy.”

As Time Magazine reflected back on the 20th century in its December 31, 1999 issue, editors concluded “Darwinism remains
one of the most successful scientific theories ever promulgated.” Is Darwinism really the most successful scientific theory? I believe the methods used to support this “theory” should make scientists a little red with embarrassment.

Evolutionists would like us to believe that all of science and every reputable scientist support the theory of evolution. A seven-part series aired on the Public Broadcasting System stated “all known scientific evidence supports [Darwinian] evolution as does virtually every reputable scientist in the world.” In response to this series, 100 scientists with degrees from such prestigious universities as Cambridge, Stanford, Cornell, Yale, Rutgers, etc. took out a two-page advertisement in a national
magazine. These scientists included professors from Yale Graduate School, the Massachusetts Institutes of technology, Tulane, Rice, Emory, and elsewhere. They included world-class scientists like Nobel nominee Henry F. Schaefer, the third most cited chemist in the world; James Tour of Rice University’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, and Fred Figworth, professor of cellular and molecular physiology at Yale Graduate School. This two-page ad was entitled: “A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.” They stated: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account
for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

One scientist was asked why he signed this document.  Philip S. Skell (Member National Academy of Sciences, Emeritus Evan Pugh  Professor at Pennsylvania State University) stated: “Scientific  journals now document many scientific problems and criticisms of  evolutionary theory and students need to know about these as well. … Many  of the scientific criticisms of which I speak are well known by scientists  in various disciplines, including the disciplines of chemistry and  biochemistry, in which I have done my work.” Since the original document was published, more and  more scientists are adding their names to the list. You can read more  about this and see 20 pages of names of scientists who have signed this  document. http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/

Evolutionists would also like us to believe recent discoveries add weight to the theory of evolution. Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, graduate of Cambridge University, director and senior fellow at the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle stated, “I believe that the testimony of science supports theism. While there will always be points of tension or unresolved conflict, the major developments in science in the past five decades have been running in a strongly theistic direction. Science, done right, points toward God.”

Even Charles Darwin knew the fossil record did not support his claims, but he believed that in time these so-called
“transitional forms” would be discovered. Since Darwin’s writings, no transitional forms have been located. There should not only be evidence of creatures that are combinations of two species in the fossil record, but we should still see them around us today.

Michael Behe wrote about discoveries being made in molecular biology. He wrote of what he called “irreducible complexity,” which refers to the minimum level of complexity that must be present before such a tightly integrated system can function at all. Natural selection is said to work on tiny, random improvements in function – which means it does not kick in until there is at least some function to select from. But irreducibly complex systems don’t have any function until a minimum number
of parts are in place – which means those parts themselves cannot be products of natural selection. Though Charles Darwin didn’t use the term “irreducible complexity,” he still spoke of the concept: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would
absolutely break down.”

I choose to believe the Bible, which says “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth.” I realize that creation requires a miracle and will include ideas or events I could never understand, however, I’m okay with not being able to fully
comprehend God. I realize it is difficult to fit miraculous events into “science,” but with honest inquiry, one would have to agree it is just as difficult to place evolution into the study of science. A definition for science is “A systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning (found, for example, in Aristotle), “science” refers to the body of reliable knowledge itself, of the type that can be logically and rationally explained.” The problem with evolution is that it is not testable, logical, or rational. Ernst Haeckel, a
German biologist and philosopher of the 19th century realized this problem and therefore modified his drawings of embryos to offer support to the theory of evolution. He presented the idea that all embryos looked the same in the early stages and became a model of evolution. The problem is that his peers recognized his fraudulant drawings, but for some reason, these drawings are
still used today in textbooks to present aspects of the theory of evolution. You can find discussions on this issue and other evolution frauds online at websites like http://www.nwcreation.net/evolutionfraud.html.

Two quotes about God being the “cause” of all things: Stephen C. Meyer: “Most scientists now believe that energy, matter, space, and time had a beginning…You can invoke neither time nor space nor matter nor energy nor the laws of nature to explain the origin of the universe. General relativity points to the need for a cause that transcends those domains. And theism affirms the existence of such an entity – namely, God.”

Nobel Prize winner Arno Penzias said about the Big Bang: “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the first five books of Moses, the Psalms and the Bible as a whole.”

I spoke of how ludicrous it is to see everything as random chance and included these thoughts:
George Sim Johnson: “Human DNA contains more organized information than the Encyclopedia Britannica. If the full text of the encyclopedia were to arrive in computer code from outer space, most people would regard this as proof of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. But when seen in nature, it is explained as the workings of random forces.”
In the 1890’s a hieroglyphic inscription was found in an excavation in Egypt. No one thought this table evolved through natural causes and random chance, but rather everyone knew someone wrote it. If you came into the kitchen and saw the Alphabet cereal spilled on the table, and it spelled out your name and address, would you think the cat knocked the cereal box over? How can evolutionist, with a straight face, say the DNA code with all its complexity was written by chance over time?

Nancy Pearcy summed it all up: “The issue is not fundamentally a matter of evidence at all, but of a prior philosophical commitment.” Naturalists are really pushing a philosophy not science. The philosophy is basically “There is no God.” Sir Julian
Huxley: “Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion.” Oxford evolutionist Richard Dawkins: “The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from an agnostic position and towards atheism.” The Psalmists summarized it well: Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Daniel Daniel Dennett underscored evolutionists attempt to make sure our children bought in to this philosophy and abandoned the teaching of the Bible and the belief of their parents: “If you insist on teaching your children false-hoods—that the Earth is flat, that “Man” is not a product of evolution by natural selection—then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity. Our future well-being—the well-being of all of us on the planet—depends on the education of our descendants.” (He is co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University – near Boston Massachusetts)

These are a few thoughts underscoring the challenge presented to us by evolutionists and what appears to be the real issue. I would welcome your comments below. It’s not really science verses the Bible, but the philosophy of naturalism versus the teaching of the Bible. You can hear my entire message by visiting our church website: www.sonrisebaptist.org. Click “listen online.” It should be posted by Wednesday or Thursday (March 28 or 29).

Are We Like the Pilgrims?

Billy Graham wrote an article called Six Things We Can Learn from the Pilgrims and shared some interesting insight about some needed lessons. In his article, he made an interesting contrast between people of our day and the Pilgrims of yesterday when he wrote of their faith and persistence: “In our day, agnosticism, anxiety, emptiness, and meaninglessness, have gripped much of our world—and even the Church. People are broad but shallow. By contrast, these Pilgrim forebears stand as shining examples of people who were narrow but deep. When I think about the Pilgrims, I would agree with Graham that they were “narrow but deep,” but are we really “broad but shallow?” I am afraid the answer is probably yes. How could the Pilgrims withstand all of the difficulties they faced (a nearly impossible voyage filled with stench, sickness, and even death; losing
about half of their number to death during their first year; and coming close to starvation because of their lack of wilderness skills) and still stand strong in their faith dedicating a special time for thanksgiving as they reflected upon God’s blessings on their lives? The answer is they were “narrow but deep.” They knew the word of God and stood strong on their faith. They
understood God’s call on their lives and took their steps of bravery out of obedience to God’s will in their lives.

I have a question I’m pondering on this day after Thanksgiving. No, it’s not should I have gone to Best Buy at midnight last night to see if I could have gotten one of the 9 cameras on sale for $149.99. The question is if we faced such difficulties in our lives right now as 21st century Christians, would we (as the church of Jesus) stand strong in our faith and even set aside times of thanksgiving and prayer for all of God’s blessings? While some would, I think many would not. Why? The answer is as Graham stated: we are “broad but shallow.” This needs to change. We will face days of growing difficulty, and a shallow faith based upon a shallow knowledge of the word of God will not provide us the spiritual resource needed to stand during the evil day. 2 Thessalonians 2 was written with the last days in mind, and God told us to “stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you.” So, maybe this Thanksgiving season could challenge all of us to prepare ourselves to always be able to give thanks to God and serve Him continually.