Should We Try To Forgive Ourselves?
Rick Booye, Sr. Pastor, Trail Christian Fellowship
Greetings Pastor Rick,
A few weeks ago you made a statement that got me thinking. Maybe I misunderstood it. You said that we cannot forgive ourselves; we don't have the power to do that. I get that I can't forgive my sins like Jesus does, or that I am not able to forgive others sins, that this is Gods job not mine. But I do think I can forgive people for hurts they have caused me, and I can forgive myself for hurts I have caused myself. This type of forgiveness is not the same as what God does obviously. Am I wrong, did I miss-understand what you said?
That’s a great question,
First, about “forgiving ourselves.” We may be just talking semantics here, or I could have miss-stated what I meant. I completely agree with you that we are able (and required in fact) to forgive others for the hurts they have caused us (I assume this means real sins against us, not just hurt feelings, though that too requires grace from us). This is completely biblical. But the idea that I need to forgive myself for the hurts (sins?) I have caused myself is a bit opaque to me. I guess that if all I’m talking about is the “hurts” I have done to me, then the Me that is offended can say “I forgive me.” Maybe that’s a way of getting through our internal stuff. It might be a helpful process. But if the “hurts” are real sins, real crimes in God’s court, then Someone greater than me needs to do the forgiving or it won’t work. The Bible is utterly silent on people “forgiving themselves,” which strikes me as odd in light of the heavy emphasis many Christians place on the concept. I think we mean by that phrase that we should take seriously the fact that the Lord has forgiven us, appropriate it personally and live in the reality of it. If that is our intent then I have no objection to the phrase at all. But I wonder if that is what we mean.
What I was trying to address in my statement is the fact that many Christians don’t reach a sense of true peace about their forgiven sins, and they suppose that it is because they have not “forgiven themselves.” My suggestion is that that is the wrong way to put it. I would say that they haven’t really trusted the Lord to forgive them in a tangible way. My reason is that the Self is not the agent of forgiveness because the Self doesn’t have the authority to forgive in the first place. Which is in fact precisely why these folks can’t seem to find the peace of God in the situation—they’re seeking the peace from within themselves (a very western and American idea, and utterly absent from the biblical worldview). They seem to attribute more authority (and far more attention) to their own feelings about themselves than they do to what the Lord thinks about them. I suspect this is because in our culture for about the last 100 or so years we have gradually come to believe that what we think about ourselves (or anything else for that matter) is the ultimate arbiter of reality on the subject. But this is not true. What God thinks about us is infinitely more important and making that adjustment in our thinking is crucial to living in the grace of Christ. The Self is not Lord, Christ is Lord. What I’m wanting Christians to realize is that if Christ Jesus forgives them, then they should take is word for it rather than try to do it themselves. When they feel “unforgiven” (as happens often in cases of real sin) what they need to do is continually remind themselves of the gospel, that they are not at the mercy of their conscience but at the mercy of Christ (1 Jn.2:1-2; 3:19-20). And the cross of Christ has really, truly, eternally, completely wiped away their blame for the evil they committed. I think this is part of “taking every thought captive to obedience to Christ” (2 Cor.10:3-5).
It seems to me that Paul alludes to something like this in 1 Cor.4:3-5. There he says, “…But it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself [un-confessed sin], but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
The key phrases in this passage for our thoughts here are, “I am not by that acquitted,” and “In fact, I don’t even judge myself.” Paul was criticized by people for being a bad steward of the ministry. His response to this is at least two-fold. First, he says that he is not aware of any unconfessed sin in his life, but that his clear conscience is not what acquits him of guilt. In other words, it is not his sense of being clean that makes him really clean. This is an astounding statement when you think about it. He consults his conscience obviously, but he does not let it stand as the agent of forgiveness or guilt. The second thing he says is that not only did he not care that much what his critics thought—he didn’t care that much for what he himself thought of his work. Instead he only cared what the Lord thinks and he recommends letting all judgment rest there. It seems to me that, based on this statement regarding his faithfulness in ministry, Paul would have thought it strange that on the much more important issue of forgiveness of sins, he should rely on his own ability to forgive himself in order to come to peace.
I think what happens for many of us is that we unconsciously make a distinction between our theoretical and general “forgiveness of sins” and our daily, oh so specific, sense of shame and guilt. We subscribe theologically to the lofty doctrine of “forgiveness,” but we don’t let it actually penetrate our feelings about the way we have failed today in the myriad small sins we all are aware of. For those daily pangs and heartaches we take the over-the-counter advice of our world and try to “forgive ourselves.” But I’m encouraging Christians to apply the blood of Christ to those small issues as well as to the big ones. Jesus washed the dust off his disciples’ feet even after they had “bathed” in his eternal grace (Jn.13:10).
Hope this clarifies a bit.
Grace and peace,
Did people who lived before the death and resurrection of Christ go to heaven, and if so, how?
Good question. I assume you mean people who died in real faith, shaped by the Old Covenant. The answer is that they went to a place where they were conscious and blessed. It was known as “paradise” (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor.12:3; Rev.2:7) and Jesus calls it “Abraham’s bosom” or “Abraham’s side” because getting there involved having the sort of covenant faith Abraham had (Luke 16:19-31). It is a tangible dimension in the Spirit realm where they enjoyed the presence of God. If by “heaven” we mean being in God’s presence as a forgiven and blessed person then, yes, they “went to heaven.” Ultimately, the final state of the universe will be on earth, however, when the New Heavens and New Earth are joined. In the symbolism of Revelation 21-22 we find that after the final judgment the Lord creates a new universe and comes into it, joining the spirit realm and the material realm forever. This is the ultimate state of things and the final goal of the gospel itself—a regenerated material world completely filled with God’s presence. Jesus calls it “the regeneration” or the “new world” in Matt. 19:28.
How did they “go to heaven”? They went there by faith (in Christ), just like we do. Their faith in God’s promises and his Word connected them, through the Mosaic sacrificial system, to the cross of the coming Messiah (Luke 24:25-27; 44-47). So, they were “saved on credit” so to speak. After the death, resurrection,, and ascension of Christ, however, there may well have been some increase in the experience of that state.
Hope this helps, Greg. Thanks for asking.
Grace and peace,
I do remember you, Rebecca (as Becky). Thanks for your questions. If I’m hearing you correctly, there are two:
· What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?
· Why don’t all Christians agree on what the Bible teaches?
What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?
The phrase occurs in 1 Cor.2:6-15. It means to think like Jesus about everything, beginning with the gospel and branching out from there. It is an entire worldview, a whole new way of life. This passage contrasts the way the world thinks, evaluates life, sets priorities, and so forth, with the wisdom that God gives in the gospel. The mind of Christ is God’s revelation, through the Spirit, of the nature of the gospel and all that stems from that profound reality. The Gospel is who Jesus Christ is and what he has done: the incarnation, his perfect life under the Law, his death in our place, his resurrection, his ascension, and his promised return. It includes the Spirit’s regeneration and the life that flows among all Christians. All the practical ramifications of that message combine to form “the mind of Christ” in and among us as Christians.
Why don’t all Christians agree about what the Bible teaches?
There are several reasons. First, it is important to note that they don’t disagree on the big things as much as people think they do. Who God is, who Christ is, who the Spirit is, God’s plan to regenerate the universe—there is broad agreement on most of these things across denominational boundaries. And there is ongoing discussion among good theologians about how best to communicate these basic truths, which actually ensures that the blade remains sharp as we seek to penetrate our culture with the gospel.
Yet disagreements do occur on how to interpret scripture, even within groups that all claim to believe the Word completely. One very practical reason is that the Bible is not equally clear on all points. There are many passages in the Bible that lightly touch on subjects without filling in the details. This leaves much room for people to question and argue, but we must remember that if the Bible leaves something un-explained it is because that thing is not essential to the message of the passage. An example of this is the perennial question of where Cain got his wife. It doesn’t say because it’s not germane to the purpose of the text. But we want to discuss it and so we have different opinions.
Another reason is that interpretation (hermeneutics) is not as simple as it looks. It takes a lot of work, some experience, and a broad acquaintance with different disciplines (history, theology, languages, and so forth). It also takes the humility to learn from others who have been seeking accurate understandings much longer than we have. We need to think long and hard about the Bible passages and a lot of people aren’t willing to do that. So, misinterpretations proliferate. Over time, however, most of these problems reach resolution when the people involved stay at it and stick to the primacy of the gospel.
Also, people often misinterpret passages because of presuppositions they bring to the passages, traditions they have been taught that may or may not be really biblical, and desires they have that the Bible doesn’t even address. There are lots of reasons people read the Bible and not all of them coincide with the Bible’s own purposes, which focus not on our curiosity, but on the gospel of Christ (see Luke 24:25-27, 44-47). When we try to make the Bible say something it did not intend to address (such as the timing of the 2nd coming of Christ for instance) we often become enmeshed in interpretive quicksand and generate many different views.
Something else to remember is that not all differences of opinion are equally important or valid. Many “differences of interpretation” are silly mistakes made by people with inadequate knowledge of the Bible. Many more are “tempests in teacups” in that they are big fights about comparatively insignificant details. Much of what Christians fight over is only of interest to one or another small group, tradition, or denomination.
And finally, there are many false teachers within the ranks of the church and always have been. Most of the New Testament letters were written to combat various false teachings introduced within the Christian ranks by unbalanced or non-Christian teachers and prophets. Many “differences” are actually heresies that can be put to rest by a simple reading of the actual texts involved.
I hope this answers a bit of what you asked, Rebecca.
Grace and Peace to you. It was good to hear from you after all these years.
The difference between being spiritual and religious?
Thanks for your question. Your niece is expressing one of the most common sentiments among young non-Christian American adults today. What they almost always mean (though you should ask her to clarify what she means) is that they are internally aware of some sort of immaterial reality (New Age, quasi-Christian, Buddhist, or what have you) but they have no intention or need of going to “church” or of considering the gospel of Christ. Furthermore, they don’t need any information about God, thank you, because they are quite satisfied with the “spiritual side” of their life right now. There are variations on this theme, but the main element is that the person wants to make it clear that they are not a “church” person. They’re above all that.
One of the best things you can do in this conversation is get her talking about what she considers the difference between being “religious” and being “spiritual.” Don’t argue or defend Christianity; just ask questions to let her clarify in her own mind (and in yours) what she is thinking about spiritual things. Let more than one conversation happen along these lines, with you not adding, correcting or defending the gospel.
Eventually, you should ask her if she thinks that Christianity (real Christianity of course) is spiritual, and why or why not. What does “spiritual” mean? Then ask her if she is willing to consider one of the most ancient spiritualities—a personal relationship with God. On your own, look up in the New Testament all the places where spirit and spiritual are used. The fact is, Christianity is the ultimate spirituality and that’s what keeps the church in existence. But often “church people” misrepresent the gospel in this regard.
As time passes and you have opportunity, try to get your niece to understand that Christianity, the gospel of Christ, is conveyed by the Holy Spirit, the very mind of God himself and that the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what he did has changed the destiny of the entire universe. The gospel may be communicated in that sort of conversation, but it takes a while of “dialoging” before this can be clarified.
Hope this helps a bit, Carol. Please stay in touch if we can be a resource for your discussions. We’ll be praying for you.
Grace and Peace,
Responding to gay marriage...
This is not an uncommon dilemma these days, unfortunately. Our culture has completely lost its way regarding sexuality. It seems you have a couple of different yet related questions. One is how to best honor and bear witness to your husband. I think going to the wedding for that reason is a good idea (1 Peter 3:1-2). He knows you don’t agree with gay marriage and he will appreciate your willingness to do something gracious here. Also, in my view you are not condoning gay marriage by simply being there under these circumstances. Everybody knows how you feel about this.
But another question that presents itself is how to represent your position in the long run before your husband and his family. In responding to your mother-in-law’s email I suggest you honestly explain it exactly as you did to me. The truth is that you weren’t sure they were announcing yet, and that the whole thing seems so odd and counterintuitive (homosexuality is profoundly counterintuitive) to you that you didn’t quite know how to talk about it without being a hypocrite. The point is that you do love these girls, but that you are certain that this “marriage” is a huge mistake on a number of levels. Loving people does not mean agreeing with them all the time, nor does it mean doing everything they want you to do (everybody over the age of ten knows this). You may need to gently remind some family members of this. You might just ask, “Do you think that the only way to show that you love someone is to agree with all their moral decisions?” Any parent knows the answer to that. Another question you might consider is, “Do you believe that the gay way is the only way to view sex?” “It seems to me that the traditional view that sex is sacred (belonging to God and to be entered only in a life-long heterosexual union) has as much going for it as the gay view and that I should be allowed to hold my opinion without being accused of being evil.” These are simply examples of the types of things that you might say in a conversation in which you need to defend yourself. In many of these situations the folks who haven’t thought seriously about the subject and who just drift along with the moral under toe of the day do not really want an “upset” any more than you do. If you can give them a plausible reason to accept you and your right to abstain from enthusiasm about something that is against your faith, they may well take it and in the long run respect you for gently but firmly standing your ground. I believe that is a good witness in this sort of situation.
A couple of thoughts: First, you do not need to convince non-Christians of your position in order to be a good witness for Christ here. Though they know, I’m sure, that you would be willing to defend it in a serious conversation. All you need to do is be honest about how you feel, both in your love and in your disagreement. If they won’t accept you holding your own view that’s their intolerance, not yours. You have a right to your opinion.
Second, remember that these girls intend to live together whether the state says they’re married or not, and that the state’s endorsement of gay marriage means precisely nothing in God’s court. In other words, the marriage doesn’t actually exist in God’s view, no matter what the enlightened state of Washington says. The ceremony changes nothing in any way as far as God is concerned and your role as a friend in these girls’ lives will be exactly the same as it would have been had they remained “roommates” indefinitely. God is not wringing his hands wondering what to do now that gays are getting married. They’re not actually getting married. It’s all pretend. They’re just living together in sin like bazillions of humans have done throughout this fallen age. By accepting the fact of sin in this culture, without condoning it or freaking out about it, we can still represent the gospel. Life is long and hard, and homosexual relationships are very painful over the long haul (as are many heterosexual marriages). When pain presents, the gospel begins to make more sense. So time is on your side as a witness to these girls of Christ’s forgiving and cleansing grace.
Third, 2014 is a ways off, and homosexual relationships are notoriously short-lived (statistically). They may not actually make it to the altar anyway.
You asked for some Bible verses. Two that are clearly focused on homosexuality are Romans 1:24-26 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. There are OT verses as well, but they require more nuance in our interpretation because we are under Christ’s authority rather than directly under Moses’ (Rom.10:4). The NT verses are ample to demonstrate the following two broad realities.
1. Homosexuality is a subset of sin/evil under the broader idea of “sexual immorality” (fornication: sex outside of marriage by unmarried people); adultery: sex outside of marriage by married people; homosexuality: sex outside of gender limits).
a. The Bible teaches that sex is sacred and should be experienced in a heterosexual, life-long, socially sanctioned (legal) union (1 Thess.4:1-8)
2. Homosexuality can be forgiven like any other sin when a person repents and comes to Christ. Christians who have repented of their homosexual immorality are not “worse sinners” than Christians that have repented of their heterosexual immorality.
a. All humans are tempted in many ways and most humans are tempted sexually whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. We all need grace to repent and come into Christ’s gracious kingdom.
For your own research into homosexuality and the Bible I recommend the following books:
· Simple, clear pamphlet: Ron Rhodes, Homosexuality: What You Need to Know, (Harvest House, 2008)
· Simplest short book: John Stott, Same Sex Partnerships?: A Christian Perspective, (Fleming H. Revel/Baker Books, 1998)
· More academic book: Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate, (InterVarsity Press, 2000)
· Absolutely exhaustive and scholarly academic book: Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, (Abingdon Press, 2001)
This is a very tough question and the practical elements of it vary considerably with each family. I hope these thoughts are helpful. We’ll be in prayer for your wisdom and witness.
Grace and Peace,
Much has been written about "where" Adam was when Eve ate the fruit. I referred to four different translations (of scripture) which state "her husband with her" so the idea that Adam was with Eve as she was tempted has come up. You know the old tongue-in-cheek blame game... Where was Adam and why wasn't he protecting Eve? Does the original language explain? Was he there or out playing golf somewhere?? Seriously, do we know for certain if Adam was with her at the time she was tempted? What is the meaning/purpose of the phrase "with her?"
Good question. The Hebrew text probably does indicate that Adam was there when the serpent tempted Eve. I say “probably” because the phrase “…husband, who was with her…” does not require us to interpret that he was present at that moment, since the snake is only speaking to the woman and the phrase could mean that they were simply companions, like in the phrase “she was in England and her husband was with her” might not mean that she never had a moment alone. Nevertheless, the natural way to take the phrase is that he was standing there at the time of the conversation, and the plural pronouns “you” in verses 1-5 seem to indicate that he was there.
Why didn’t he stop this from happening? Good question. And God judges him for it (v.17). Don’t forget, however, that Adam and Eve had absolutely no awareness or experience of lying. They had never been lied to and probably didn’t know that such a thing was even possible. Nevertheless, the Lord expected them to trust his word in the face of opposing messages, even without the experience of evil beforehand. They were to take the Lord’s word as reality, especially in the areas in which they were actually ignorant. They were not to deify their own “Reason” over his thinking and word.
Paul emphasizes that Adam was not deceived (1 Tim.2:14); he didn’t actually believe the serpent. What then? I think he realized that once his wife had eaten the fruit, he was faced with either losing her or following her. He chose her over God’s own word and presence, a sort of relational idolatry that continues to this day. Gender attraction is good, part of the creation, but it may easily become idolatrous, and has in our culture.
In Genesis 4, why was Cain mad at God? Why didn’t he just change his sacrifice and get over it?
It seems Cain was angry at God for not accepting his offering, but that anger actually indicated a deeper problem--true faithlessness—which is why the Lord warned him about sin crouching at the door. His heart was not right with the Lord or he would have repented and made a better offering. Interesting that the offering of Able was from the firstborn (the best) of the flock, but Cain's was just "some" of what he had (rather than the firstfruits). Maybe this is a hint about Cain's motives. Maybe he just wanted to "keep God happy." Regardless, Cain apparently didn't have a loyal, loving, repentant heart before the Lord. His anger (instead of contrition) revealed that much (see Ps.51:17; Isa.57:15). The Bible clearly says that sacrificial acts are useless without genuine faith.
Also, just a thought, but Cain was no atheist. He knew God was there and talked to him personally! Yet his attitude toward God was not real love, awe (Pr.1:7), or loyalty. We must remember that faith is not just a mental agreement that God is there; it is coming under the blood sacrifice (another difference between Abel's and Cain's offerings) of Messiah and desiring a relationship with the Lord for who he is, not just what he can do for us. In this regard Cain represents the vast majority of humanity to this day. Repentance and faith in Christ is turning from the Cain attitude to the Abel one, complete with Christ's blood-bought forgiveness.
What was under Cain’s attitude that made him not repent? It seems that a person would want to turn to God and be forgiven. Did he doubt God’s goodness?
The basic answer is that underneath Cain's attitude is what the Bible calls sin, a spiritual condition of the heart that (irrationally) sets the human will against God's will and word, sees the self on a par with God, and resists any sort of guidance, correction, or repentance. Cain's problem was not that he doubted God's goodness (at least the text doesn't give that impression), but that he had too high a view of his own will and desire and no awareness of his own sin. He did not sense that he was in the wrong really, that he should feel bad for the evil he had conceived, which then gave birth to the murder of his brother (Jas.1:12-15). Even when the Lord drives him out he does not repent, but only fears for his own safety and security, complaining that his punishment is too much to bear. He wanted independence from God, not a relationship with Him. This is very much what humans do. Romans 1:18-3:20 tells the story of the human heart apart from God's grace. Also Eph.2:1-3. Both of these passages are followed by passages that show God's mercy and grace, by the way. Nevertheless, the human will is deeply broken. Cain becomes the archetypical WorldThink man. This moral trajectory is carried into the next generations, too. See Gen.4:17-24, where Cain's murderous propensities seem duplicated and multiplied in his family line. The text clearly wants us to see this trend. As you read further in Genesis you find increasing evil among humans, though there are exceptions, until you get to Noah, the flood, and the Noaic Covenant in chapter 9. That covenant specifically addresses the murderous tendencies among humans (Gen.9:5-6).
It is this Cain-like, fallen human sin-nature that must be forgiven and regenerated by the Spirit of God if we are to live with him in his kingdom. This is why the Lord came and let himself be murdered as an innocent victim to pay for the evil humanity has inflicted. (See Titus 3:1-8)
Did Jesus know everything before it happened as a boy and later as an adult? Or did He know only what was revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit?
The short answer to your question is that Jesus knew all he needed to know when he needed to know it by the Holy Spirit. This is actually very critical to our understanding of Jesus Christ. Philippians tells us that when Jesus became human he truly gave up the divine privileges he enjoyed as a member of the Trinity (though not his essential deity Col.2:8-9). We also know that as a boy (Lk. 2:40) and as a man Jesus was ordinary enough that many people found it difficult to believe that he was the Son of God (Jn .8:55-59). In the Gospels there are instances where Jesus truly didn’t know something such as when the woman in need of healing touched his garment (Lk. 8:44-45) or the day of the Second Coming (Mt.24:36). Jesus boldly claimed his words and his very life are Truth (Jn. 14:6) and so it is doubtful that he would say he didn’t know something if he really did.
On the other side of the equation, Jesus spoke with great clarity about his death and manner of dying long before it happened and also knew his betrayer long before there was a concrete plot to kill him (Mt.20:17-19). Jesus also had a penetrating insight into people’s motives and actions that was beyond the limits of normal human understanding (Jn.4:16-18; Mk.9:33-37). So, how should we add all this up? I think the clearest way to understand this is that all Jesus knew, said, and did, was done through the agency of the Holy Spirit (Is. 42, Acts 1:2, Heb. 9:14) and the direction of the Father (Jn. 5:19-20) in complete dependence. This was a growing knowledge and awareness that matched his stage of life. As an infant he knew he wanted his mother’s milk and to be kept warm but he knew nothing of the scriptures, as a teen he had deep insights into the law (Lk. 2:46-48) but probably did not have a full grasp that he himself was the fulfillment of the law. As an adult this obviously increased as he came to baptism and began his public ministry with a visible reception of the Holy Spirit and the vocal affirmation of the Father (Lk. 4:18-20).
There is an important reason for Christ’s apparent limitation in his earthly life that is at one time theological and didactic. Jesus came to live the life we should have lived which is one of faithful obedience and dependence on the Father (something Adam utterly failed in when he disobeyed God in the Garden by joining Satan in a life of rebellion against the Lord), and Jesus died the death we should have died thus taking our sin and punishment upon himself. In living a life dependent upon the Spirit, Jesus is teaching us how we should live as his people. Jesus tells us to follow him in all things but he never asks us to follow him anywhere he hasn’t gone before. Now that Jesus has ascended to heaven, he does know all things and this too speaks to our future. Though we will never be exalted as deity, in Christ we will be glorified and while this won’t entail omniscience (knowledge of all things) it will certainly entail an incredible increase in our knowledge and understanding of God and the universe (1 Corinthians 13:12)
My husband is not a Christian and will not believe the Bible especially because of things like Noah’s Ark that he finds very questionable. How could the whole earth be flooded or all the species of animals fit on one boat? How would you answer that and are there any books you would recommend?
Before I offer any answers to this question I would like to ask one myself. If it could be proven that Noah’s Ark had a sufficient basis in truth, would that convince your husband that the Bible is trustworthy and if so, would he then believe in God who claims to be the source of the Bible’s message? For many people this would still not be enough to change their minds because they come with a prejudice that there is no God. This prejudice is not founded in insufficient reasons for faith, but rather the intuition (rightly so) that if there is a God, we would have a moral obligation to follow His path and not our own. Lack of faith in God is rarely due to countervailing facts but rather countervailing desires.
With that said, let’s consider a few of these questions related to the Noah’s Ark story:
1. Could all the animals have fit? Given the dimensions of the ark, if all the animals of the world were not fully grown (i.e. infants or young) they could easily fit using only one third of the ark’s internal space. This would also leave room for provisions which would ensure their survival.
2. All the species, really? I believe this story leaves room for adaptations in the animal world even as humans adapt to their geography.
3. A worldwide flood or a local one that seemed like the whole world to Noah? Nearly every culture in the world has a flood/ark story in its memory. This would be quite peculiar if it was only a local phenomena. What we know of tectonic plates and geology shows a world shifting, changing, moving. Mountains grow taller in time others melt away through erosion. Valleys are cut where mountains once stood. The world before the flood was probably a lot different topographically. I have personally found seashells in rocks on top of mountains and in the desert. This would suggest the land of today was configured differently in an earlier time.
4. Human genomes. As DNA has been studied and mapped there is a belief that humanity passed through a genetic funnel many thousands of years ago. In other words there was once great genetic diversity, something happened and the human genome narrowed considerably. One (and certainly not the only way) to explain this would be if Noah, his wife, three sons and their wives were the only to survive a worldwide flood.
What many people miss in the Noah’s Ark story is that it is a microcosm of God’s redemptive purpose for the world. It is there to show us that God will judge between the wicked and the righteous. The righteous are those who trust God and believe Him not who are morally perfect. That the world will be saved by God through one family (the Jews and their eventual descendant Jesus Christ) and that through the redemptive purposes of God the world will not be destroyed again but will be remade for the righteous.
Regarding a helpful book, my favorites on the topic are The Genesis Record by Henry Morris and The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris. However, the market is literally flooded (pardon the pun) with all sorts of other helpful books on this topic. I would use Google and Amazon to poke around on this topic.
My husband wants to believe in a "higher being" but doesn't believe in God because he feels he would be disowning his sister who is a lesbian (because the Bible says it’s a sin to be gay) and was probably born that way. Can you point me to some helpful scriptures my husband could read on this issue?
Ultimately the question of whether homosexual behavior is a sin or not comes down to the issue of authority. A simple way of stating this argument is “says who?”. If a person holds the view that all of reality is merely here by chance and that what we call ethics and values are simply cultural prejudices, traditions, and predispositions, then it would follow that any view of homosexuality whether positive, negative, or neutral would have equal validity. In Western society there has been a long-term campaign to reshape societal mores to be accepting and positive, even celebratory, of homosexuality. I call it a reshaping, because whether people were practicing Christians or not, most public discourse and thinking was shaped by the Holy Bible and Christian morals and ethics. This has been changing for some time now and in America especially, morality has become more rooted in public opinion and personal preferences versus Biblical revelation. Now if a person believes that there is a God who has created and has spoken to mankind through the Holy Bible then it would follow that God’s opinion on any topic would take priority over any human authority. That said, the Bible is unequivocally negative towards homosexuality (Lev.18:22, 20:13, and I Cor. 6:9-11). I would add here that the Bible equally condemns heterosexual sex outside the bounds of marriage. Lest the wrong impression be given, the Bible is very positive about the sexual dimension of marriage, as sex is a gift from God for the joy, pleasure, and continuance of the human race.
Regardless of one’s views about homosexuality, positive or negative, the Christian is under no obligation to hate anyone. In fact Christians more than anyone are no strangers to the idea of sin and know well that homosexuality is but one of a whole constellation of actions that reveal mankind’s alienation from God. It is Jesus Christ and Him alone that is the remedy for our failure to keep God’s law and the healer of our minds and desires. Because of this we place our hope in Christ, knowing our own failings and God’s generous forgiveness, and we are able to love the sinner while simultaneously not supporting the sin.
Was Jesus really born on December 25? It sounds like he was 'created' in the womb of Mary during this time but, not actually born on the day. A non-Christian coworker stated that Christmas is on the 25th because 'the church' was replacing the pagen holiday that was on the same day.
Many experts on the Bible lean towards the idea that Jesus was probably born in the early spring rather than in December. Because the Gospel writers were concerned with presenting an evangelistic portrait of Jesus rather than a historical biography, they didn't bother with giving us exact dates and times as we would expect if they were writing today. The important thing is that the incarnation happened and the mystery of it is that God actually came to us in the same way we all arrive: as a helpless and totally dependent baby. In doing this the Lord shows that all stages of human life are valuable in His eyes and that He came to redeem the totality of our lives not just parts of them.
As to the tradition of Christmas, it does have its origins in Late Antiquity (4-5th centuries AD) when Pope Julius I designated that the feast of the Nativity be celebrated on December 25. Christians in the Mediterranean celebrated the birth of Christ but it was unofficial before then and not celebrated at the same time or in all places. The Romans had a winter solstice festival as did many of the other tribes of Europe. This was a time of gift-giving, feasting, and all sorts of other excessively indulgent behavior. As the Roman Empire grew more Christianized, the pope thought that it would be possible to make people a little more temperate during this holiday by shifting it's emphasis on the person of Christ and away from overindulgence.
I wish I could say pope Julius' idea was a success, but in fact nearly every culture in Europe mixed the Christian theme with aspects of their pagan celebration and it remained as it does today, a time of overindulgence and excess. Not to make light of this, but Western Civilization has always tended to work too much and play too little. Perhaps the reason this holiday has had such staying power through the centuries is because at the end of a busy year we all need to blow off a little steam, forget about diet and exercise, and reconnect with friends and family. As heaven will have much joy and celebration, maybe Christmas is merely an imperfect foretaste of what lies ahead!
This email question comes from one of your east coast members! I was wondering about the Christian beliefs on cremation. I would like to be able to make an informed decision based on the Bible but haven't found any information. Thanks Kim
Thanks for writing to us, it's good to hear from our far away members. You've touched on a very sensitive subject among Christians and one for which there is very little information found in Scripture. Our best source is probably the passage from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 15 (verses 35-57) Paul describes the varieties of flesh God has created and goes on to explain that the body we will receive in the resurrection is a "spiritual" body, not a "natural" one. But even though "spiritual", it will be a real body which can be touched and perceived, just as Jesus' body was when he appeared to the disciples in the upper room after His resurrection (Luke 24).
The major difference Paul identifies is that this new body will be "imperishable" (unlike our earthly bodies) and will house our spirits for all eternity. From there it is possible to make some simple deductions that will help us get a handle on cremation vs burial. These earthly bodies perish....bottom line, they go away and return to the dust from which they were created whether they burn or decay. We also know that the Lord doesn't lose track of a single electron, much less a whole atom, so we can be sure He'll be able to reconstitute us on the day of resurrection. We're not told however whether He'll use our old original atoms or create brand new ones out of nothing (He can do that you know....;).
Where does this leave us? The Bible doesn't seem to give us much to go on. As far as traditions go, the early church was concerned that resurrection would be more difficult if the body was burned...besides the pagans routinely burned or abandoned their own dead and the early believers felt that was a sad commentary on the value of each individual human being. The Church weighed in with a preference for burial because the physical body was the vehicle through which sacraments were received (the Catholics today are still reluctant to cremate for this reason). Over time however the idea of cremation became more & more acceptable within orthodox Christian circles and today it is an acceptable practice among most Christian communities (The Eastern Orthodox Church is the standout exception here).
Many other faiths & traditions still frown on the practice of cremation. Muslims, B'hai, Zoroastrians & Native American Spiritists forbid the practice, Mormons & Jehovah's witnesses strongly discourage it while Hinduism endorses it. Old Testament Jews on the other hand used to forbid the practice of cremation but in modern times have reluctantly come to allow it. In the end it seems to boil down to what an individual believer thinks will be pleasing to God. In such a case, prayer and the remembrance of God's ability to bless an abundance of alternatives in the presence of faith really comes in handy. As Rom 14;22 reminds us..."The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves." It's really your call Sis. I hope you found this helpful.
when choosing a children's church director is it typical for a pastor to ask a congregation member if a candidate is gay (simply because the candidate is divorced and not re-married but does have a son) when the pastor and his wife have spent many hours with the candidate discussing the bible and is aware how much the candidate loves the Lord and believes in the written word of the bible?
I am assuming from the question that the person being asked about their sexual orientation is someone who is a candidate for a top leadership position in the church. I am also assuming that the person in question also holds to the values of the scripture which would preclude a homosexual lifestyle as a viable option. That said, I would probably NOT ask the question. However, at our church all leadership is required to sign a morals clause which widely covers all areas of forbidden sexual acts (fornication, adultery, homosexuality) as well as substance abuse. The morals clause provides for immediate dismissal if the person is found to be living outside of its boundary. Our movement to such a clause is a protection against a situation where we would have to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. That said, although it is a painful question to ask someone (especially if they are not gay), with sexual scandals rife in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches and the huge damage it causes to young people, I could certainly sympathize with a head pastor who would ask such a thing. He has a grave responsibility before God to act in the best interest of the Lord's flock. Hope this is helpful to you.
warmly in Christ,
Pastor Chris White
What is reformed theology and is it biblical?
Reformed Theology is the theological method and system that traces its origins to a specific group of non-Lutheran Protestant Reformers in the 16th century, especially Zwingli, Bullinger and Calvin. In its most basic form it undergirds almost all Evangelical Protestant theology to at least some extent, though there are always ongoing debates as to how to how the Bible should be interpreted in specific texts within the tradition.
For most folks today the term Reformed Theology is synonymous with Calvinism, which in turn is represented in the (conservative) Presbyterian denominations, Reformed, Dutch Reformed, and other denominations that trace their roots back the Calvin’s work. But Reformed Theology is not limited to denominations that carry that label. It is a way of understanding the gospel and the whole Bible that is shared across denominational boundaries. Current writing pastor/theologians who are Reformed in their approach are men like John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle. Current writing theologians of this tradition (whose names might be recognizable) would include R. C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries; J.I. Packer of Regent College in Vancouver BC; John Frame of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando; Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary; and D. A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. These and others like them heavily influence Evangelical thought and practice internationally. Reformed theologians tend to be very heavy hitters in theological circles, even among those who disagree with them at certain points.
Is it “biblical?”
Yes, in that it seeks to consistently interpret the Bible as the Spirit- inspired and sole rule of faith and practice for the Christian (as Calvin and all the Protestant Reformers taught). This does not mean that there are no disagreements even within the Reformed tradition on details of how to interpret some Scriptures. But Reformed Theology is famous for affirming that the Bible and the Bible alone is the supreme authority through which the Lord shapes our minds into Christlikeness and the Church into His body. It takes the Bible literally and affirms verbal, plenary inspiration and inerrancy, insisting loudly that the Church steep its collective mind in the biblical text constantly.
As I mentioned, almost all Evangelical groups and denominations are influenced to some extent by Reformed thought if for no other reason than because Evangelicalism grew out of the Protestant tradition of taking the Bible literally and God personally in Christ. But on some traditional particulars there are wide variations within the biblical parameters.
Hope this sheds some light.
Soli Deo Gloria
Pastor Rick, Trail Christian Fellowship
I recently attended a wedding at a church and during the ceremony it was told to me that the bride and groom were having the ceremony in the church, but were not officially having a state license. Basically going through a church wedding but not being married according to the State they live in (no license) because they would lose some of their government benefits if they really got married. They had a church wedding and now live as husband and wife but are not married according to the state. They are both Christians. Now another friend has asked if I think they could do the same thing so they don't lose their benefits. And she wants to know if God would recognize this as a 'marriage'. I understand economic hardships and I feel compassion. I have known couples who were married for years and years and who had to divorce when the husband went into a nursing home so that they would not lose their only home. I don't know what to say. I don't feel this is the right way to handle these situations but yet I know the hardship the people endure. My heart tells me it is a deception. How would you counsel someone who asked if they could have a 'church wedding' and live together yet not get a license and file the marriage with the state? Thank you for your reply.
Here is a copy of my answer to a similar inquiry just a month or two ago....I would agree with your assessment that this sort of "spiritual" wedding isn't all it's cracked up to be. Note also that there's no legal or social consequence for abandoning a "secret marriage"...only a spiritual one.
What you propose might be possible if a couple were married, then moved to another country where they wished to keep their union a secret. However, the nature of marriage in our culture makes it both a spiritual reality (as we Christians are well aware) and a Civic reality (for couples who do not honor God). Our government recognizes the unique & special character of this relationship (even though they can be confused about it's essence as the current conflict over gay marriage makes clear)...for this reason our govt has put regulations in place to define the legal status of the marriage relationship and protect the rights of those who marry.
As Christians we are compelled to seek the Bible's guidance on an issue like civil obedience. Paul tells us in Romans 13:1-6 "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." It is true that governments can reach a point of evil where it becomes our godly duty to resist such authority, but we are nowhere near that point yet in America. This is why Paul adds in verse 5 "Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake." This means God doesn't hold us responsible for all the actions of government (except insofar as we support them with our vote)...in other words, we should obey lawful authority even when we disagree with it.
I know it seems odd that such a sacred relationship should be subject to the rules of humanity, but this is how the Lord has commanded us to observe marriage. A marriage in God's eyes will have honored the legal customs of the culture in which it occurred (even where that culture imposes economic hardships on those who obey such laws...we shouldn't be surprised that our culture is more than a little cuckoo). Please feel free to give us a call if you would like to talk about this some more.
Blessings, Pastor Matt
I have a friend who goes to a Penecostal church who has told me that despite my belief and faith in God, despite my baptism and repentance, that I am unsaved. I have always gone to non-denominational churches that are trinitarian based. His words are causing me a lot of doubt and I am unsure how to respond. If my salvation is at risk, I need to change that. If it isn't, I need to know how to address this issue as it is destroying a valued friendship.
His basis for this is that when I was baptized it was by a trinitarian church and was most likely done in the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost. He claims that Acts 2:38 clearly states it can only be done in the name of Jesus Christ. I am not understanding how my baptism was faulty and is wrong as God the father, the son, and the holy ghost are all of Jesus Christ. I don't know if I should get rebaptized or if this is a seed of doubt that needs to be stomped out.
His 2nd reasoning behind this is that I have not talked in tongues. We did a 5 hour bible study on different verses and I agree that speaking/praying in tongues can and is a gift from God and a sign that a person has the Holy Ghost. But is that the only proof of the Holy Ghost? Honestly, the few times I have seen people speaking in tongues, which was mainly growing up at Assembly of God type churches, it scared me and I have remained uncomfortable with the idea of speaking in tongues. I never saw an interpreter on those occasions and quite honestly I questioned if it was of God.
I have always felt a peace that I thought came from having the Holy Spirit in me. Lately I haven't had that peace and am afraid that God hasn't chosen me to be part of his kingdom based on my friends beliefs.
I have not been actively going to church or reading my bible like I should. I have resumed reading and studying, but these doubts are plaguing me and I seem not to be able to find a definitive answer. I know that my walk has faltered and am going to change that. I am going to start going to TCF this sunday as I recently moved to Eagle Point.
I guess my question is how to address these issues. I love the Lord and do not wish to be left behind. I can resume my walk and be in the word of god and be active in church. But should I be rebaptized? If speaking/praying in tongues is the only representation of the Holy Spirit, than how do I achieve that?
I'm delighted to welcome you to Eagle Point and to Trail Christian Fellowship. I'm also pleased you are seeking Biblical counsel regarding the issues your friend has raised. Before we take a look at that I want to reassure you that God's Word makes very clear your salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ...there is Nothing that must be added to that in order for you to be saved. Anyone that teaches differently does not really know Christ or they are laboring to prove (through their works) that they're "good enough" to go to heaven. Please stop worrying on that score.
You're absolutely right to get back into the Word & regular prayer...we are most vulnerable to falsehood & manipulation when we are spiritually starved...it even happens to pastors so don't be too surprised that the enemy is pressuring you. The answer, as always, is to dig in & see what God's Word has to say, trusting His love and His Spirit to guide you and keep you safe....just as a child does cradled in Mom & Dad's arms.(Mk 10:15)
There are several places in Scripture where Jesus describes the requirement for salvation...one of my favorites is John 11:25-26 where He reminds Martha, sister of Lazarus, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Nothing about baptism, tongues, communion or church membership...just "believe". He also reassures our fears that we could be lost after believing in Him when He tells the Jews in John 10:27-30 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 "I and the Father are one." By the way, if you didn't have the Holy Spirit working within you, you probably wouldn't give a hoot about your sin or salvation....take comfort in your discomfort....;)
Add to that the witness of Paul (Rom 10:9, Gal 3:22) and of John (John 3:16, 1 John 3:23, 5:10-13) and the full picture begins to come into focus. If any doubt remained, Paul exhorts the Galatians (in 2:16) "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified" (not to mention Romans 3:20 & 28). If a person thinks they're going to impress God by following a list of rules & being extra "religious", Scripture is quick to point out that "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." (James 2:10). If salvation were about keeping the Law (or any list of requirements), we'd be toast....It's about faith alone....pure & simple.
As for your friend's claim that only baptism in the name of Jesus is valid.... consider the Resurrected Lord's command to all believers in Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Your friend can only be right if Jesus is lying or confused....or the Bible is mistaken. God clearly commands baptism in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit....you needn't worry about being rebaptized ....;) Sometimes I like to ask folks (like your friend) in whose name was Jesus baptized? (He can't be baptized in His own name... maybe that's why the Holy Spirit was there as a dove & the Father's voice had to put the "Amen" on the proceedings!). Just a fun little brain twister....;)
I'm also in agreement with your understanding of tongues Sister....Paul was troubled by this same insistence on outward signs & tried to make it clear to the young & immature believers in Corinth that tongues weren't a membership badge...as a matter of fact he clarified that tongues were a sign for the benefit of unbelievers not for the faithful (1 Cor 14:22). He also carefully explained (several times) that not everyone receives the gift of tongues (1 Cor 12:10, 28-31). Sadly some people are too uncomfortable to just trust God so they feel they have to add their own requirements to secure a sense of control (even though Paul condemns this sort of foolishness as sinful...Rom 14:22-23).
Bottom line, is the guideline Christ gave us in Matt 22:37-40...love God with all your being & your neighbor as yourself....this IS the Law & the Prophets. He has also given us a way of testing the truth of a believer's faith (or a "make-believer's" lack of faith)... in Matt 7:16-20 16 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 "So then, you will know them by their fruits."
And how to tell which is which? Galatians 5:18-23...... 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds (it's OK to think "fruit" here) of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." What sort of fruit do you see in your friend's behavior? From his church? The Lord's "Fruit Test" is a trustworthy tool to evaluate who's on the altar of a person's heart dear Sister.
Excuse such a long answer to your inquiry, but you touched on a number of complex issues. I hope this has served to give you comfort and reassurance that you don't need to worry about your friend's warnings...they are carnal & human...not Biblical. If you would like to come in & talk about this at greater length, please feel free to give me a call & we'll set a time (I'd even enjoy a chance to talk with your friend....;) Don't be afraid to lean on the perfect completion of Christ's work in your mind & spirit...if we really do trust & believe in Him, we are in no danger (if our salvation depended upon our own perfect understanding of God's Will, we'd be up a creek...that's why it must be His gift by grace....we could never earn it or deserve it....He simply loves us.....WOW!!!).
Peace & Blessings on you & yours, Pastor Matt
I am currently doing a study on God's design for sexuality, called Return to the Garden, by Kay Arthur. My study group came up with a question for you: If it is God's design for one wife/two shall become one, then why did the men have so many wives in the old testament, even when they were following God's laws? Also, at what time did the culture change to one wife, and why?
You pose a most interesting question...I rummaged about my ancient culture texts looking for additional clues on this topic but haven't found much specific information. With that caveat in place I will give you what I know to be true of the Ancient Middle East cultures as well as what Scripture has to say on the subject (and will continue to hunt for further data...great topic!).
In terms of the general culture, some givens are obvious. First, the status of women in the Middle East (then as now) was somewhere south of "low"...they could not own or inherit property (Moses' concession to the daughters of Zelophehad was both gracious & unusual in that day Num 27), their testimony was given half the value of a man's in courts, they were usually considered as "property" & had no say in any but domestic matters....not an enviable state.
Second, polygamy was a widespread practice throughout the ancient cultures of the Middle East (as well as Africa, Asia & Europe). Third, regardless of low status, a woman was expensive to keep (as were the children she would produce), so this practice was most often confined to men who were wealthy, having the room & resources to maintain a larger family. By and large, monogamous relationships in marriage were the practical rule...but were by no means obligatory.
Which brings us to Biblical material. Although the Man - Woman relationship was the standard (and indeed was mandated by God from the Creation Gen 2:18-24), it was not uncommon for even the Patriarchs to compromise when pressed by the need for an heir (Sarah gives Hagar to Abe Gen 16)), the right partner (Jacob & Leah Gen 29 ff) securing an object of lust (David & Bathsheba 2 Sam 5:13,12:24 ff)...or in serving the demands of political expedience (Solomon & his wives & concubines 1 Kings 11:3).
None of this changed the basic standard of monogamy among the common people but there was no prohibition which forbid the practice. We even read of commands regulating the practice of polygamy under certain circumstances (Ex 21:10, Deut 21:15-17). Polygamy does seem to taper off with time in Israel however and by the time of Christ we note the Pharisees regarding monogamy as the normal practice as they ask Jesus "whose wife will she be?" (Matt 22). Also consider Herod's difficulties in securing the single spouse he desired...Herodius (Matthew 14) & note that Pontius Pilate had only one wife (Matt 27)...as the Romans looked down on multiple spouses as a degrading practice (OK to have several mistresses, but just get married to one at a time).
Where we really begin to see definition is in Paul's Apostolic directives regarding the selection of Elders in 1 Tim 3 & Titus 1:6....now we are told that monogamy is a requirement for leadership in the church & see it offered as an example of true discipleship. Still, polygamy wasn't forbidden....probably because some new converts from pagan Middle East cultures had several wives when they came to Christ....God allows this change in awareness & practice to develop over time. Around the 4th cent AD Augustine made monogamy official policy. Practically speaking, I don't recall anything that indicates this practice continued within the Church after about the first half century AD....(it was even a point of contention when the missionaries reached the South Seas Islands...what to do with converts who had multiple spouses?).
Aside from the Mormons, I'm not certain how extensive the practice of polygamy is in the world today...I know it exists in Africa & the Middle East but not sure beyond those cultures...it will make for an interesting study. I hope this has proved helpful.
Many Blessings, Matt
Who was Mary Magdalin and please explain her dealings with Christ?
The best answer I an give is to simply lift the entry on "Mary Magdalene" out of the "Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible" by Jerusalem Publishing House....
"Mary Magdalene - a woman from Magdala (present day Migdal) on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee, who, having been set free from evil spirits (Luke 8:2), became a faithful follower of Jesus. She was present at the crucifixion, "looking on from afar" (Matt 27:56, Mk 15:40, John 19:25) and was one of the women watching when Jesus was laid in His grave (Matt 27:61, Mk 15:47). On the third day she & others went to anoint Jesus' body (Mk 16:1), but found the grave empty. An angel told them that He had risen from the dead. According to John, Jesus Himself appeared to her. but she did not recognize Him until He called her by name (John 20:14ff). The disciples at first did not believe her story (Luke 24:11)"
There are additional ideas & "wonder ifs" associated with Mary Magdelene, such as the possibility that she was the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus with her tears (Luke 7:37-38) but this has no biblical support....some of the stories about Mary that circulated in the heresies of the early church after the 3rd & 4th centuries were especially bizarre (the one in Da Vinci code was one of the wackiest....;), but the Bible only speaks of her as listed above. Hope this was helpful to you Geordeen...call if you have more questions.
Blessings, Pastor Matt
I was wondering if it was at all possible to be married in the eyes of God and NOT be commited to revealing your marital status to any goverment agency?
No, such is not possible. Marriage is not solely a private commitment between two people and God, it is a public commitment before the community. It must be public because we are all sinners and covenant breakers by nature. A public commitment puts a fence of reality around your choice to be married. It makes you serious about entering and slower to leave when things don't go well (which happens to all couples). That aside, we are taught in scripture to be honest and to obey the government in all things reasonable and neutral towards our holy faith and living God. Thus, to not disclose a marriage as such is to purposefully defraud and deceive the community of faith, the community at large, and the government. That would be an act of sin and therefore should be rejected.
What is the belief of TCF on a) women pastors and b) the gay marriage issue?
I'm sure the other pastors will want to weigh in on this but I couldn't resist getting my 2 cents worth in just for fun....;) (Actually, the more opinions we offer, the better a picture you'll have of our collective heart on these issues).
Our bottom line is God's Word....even where we still question or feel we don't have a complete grasp of what He's trying to tell us in a given passage, we are compelled to receive the Bible as God's revelation to humanity....His "written speech" through human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit. Having established that, we can look at your questions....
The first is not too difficult.....Given the nature of the mandate given by God concerning the union of men & women (Gen 2:20-25, repeated by Christ in Matt 19:5 and Paul in Eph 5:31), it's pretty clear that marriage as we know it is something only a man & woman can enter into. The idea of civil unions is a sociological function of secular government and one our culture will have to figure out...but whatever they decide, it won't be a Biblical union.
There are a raft of verses which make clear the sinful nature of homosexuality....not that it's worse than adultery, idolatry or fornication...it's sin because its hurtful to the human spirit & body. It represents a submission to the appetites of the flesh....a spiritual slavery no Christian can endorse. We are commanded to love gay people (among many others) and as a church we haven't done a great job of that...I hope we improve. But as for endorsing a violation of Scriptural admonition in the name of political correctness...we can't do it. All we ask is that the gay community be subject to the same subduing of the flesh that every Christian must struggle with (we ALL have issues in this area). Our challenge is to offer the same welcome, forgiveness, encouragement & loving support to a gay Christian that we would offer to any other sinner seeking to achieve a true surrender to Christ.
Your other question is more difficult (you did choose some good ones Sis!...;). We often ponder how we can honor the gifts and ministries of our beloved Sisters....obviously men aren't smarter or holier, so what's the holdup on equal representation? Well, the Bible presents a picture in which men & women have differing roles in accordance with their "hard-wired" distinctives. It's likely that Paul's admonition to the Corinthian women (ch 11) carried some cultural application that would not carry the same authority today...plus he was clear to identify & honor the women ministers who taught and worked under his "umbrella" so to speak. Still, his cautions are there and as we consider that Jesus chose only men as His disciples we are drawn to a conclusion that seems to endorse women for every position in ministry except that of "elder" (episkopos in Greek). There is much more evidence to consider but it all seems to point in the same direction. So even if we were to desire a more egalitarian stance (which I'm very much in sympathy with), our reliance on the authority of Scripture compels us to observe a more conservative policy. We do let women teach here at Trail (like our keynote speaker at a Biblical Gender Conference this coming week) and several women on staff fill positions that are pastoral in all but name (Sunday School, Womens' Ministry, etc) but only under the clear covering and authority of the Board of Elders.
Figuring out what the Lord has to say on these and other issues is a full time job for those in ministry and we take it very seriously (and hopefully don't take ourselves half as seriously....;). I hope my response has provided you clarity & satisfaction. Please feel free to press for more detail & discussion should you feel the need.
Blessings on you,
I recently saw a video of a lady preaching and she experiences a stigmata in her body. You could easily see that on her hands. There seems to be three groups of thought on this: One says it is a sign from God, another says it is fakery, the last says it is a sign from the demonic. I am curious. Is this something that God would manifest in the physical? Thank you for your input.
Regarding the phenomena of stigmata I must confess a full-orbed agnosticism on the matter. Within the pages of scripture we do not read of any of Christ's direct apostles being marked with stigmata (unless that is what the enigmatic "thorn in the flesh" that the Apostle Paul bore in his body). In Christian history the first recorded person to receive the stigmata was St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century and although some at the time sought to discredit it as fiction, there were also many credible witnesses who testified positively in the matter. Following Francis, there have been others (although less than 100) to experience the stigmata and many of these cases have been well-documented. One thing that is difficult to understand is that to a person, everyone bearing the marks of Christ's wounds that has been documented has been Roman Catholic. Perhaps the reason for this is Roman Catholicism tends towards a greater focus on the suffering of Christ whereas Protestants and Pentecostals tend to emphasize the victory of Christ. As for being fakery, I think the evidence shows otherwise. Of those cases we know of, the persons bearing the stigmata were greatly troubled and suffered great pain from them. They also were not prone to exhibiting them, but rather sought to conceal them from the public and considered them to be a real burden that they wanted lifted. If this was about public attention and had been self-inflicted, one would expect more of an effort at self-promotion and definitely eventual deliverance. Demonic activity related to stigmata also seems suspect. Those who have received the stigmata are people deeply devoted to Jesus Christ and fully identify with Him in his suffering and ministry. I would think the last thing I would want to do if I were a demon would be to call any attention to Jesus. What if someone accidentally got saved? So, is it a sign from God? If it is, it is not something He has explained to us in Scripture nor is it something He has widely distributed within the experience of the Body of Christ. And since God doesn’t need our permission to do things, we would probably be wise to commit ourselves to a healthy "I don't know" in the matter and trust that God has His own purposes in certain matters that defy human explanation. After all, God doesn’t need our permission.
Hi Chris, I was a little confused by something at the Muslim Workshop. On the one hand the guest seemed to say that Muslims believe in one God and we believe in the Trinity
(1 vs 3), so he said they are not the same God. Yet later he implied that Allah (Elohim) was the same God we believe in, and was here before Islam. And the Jews only believe in one God, not the trinity, and yet we think the Jews and Christians have the same Father God. So in a nutshell, is their God and our Christian God the same one?? or not? He seemed to never be quite clear on that. Or maybe I just had a hard time understanding his answer. Some pastors say the Islam God is a god of hate, and not our God, but he implied at times that it IS the same God as ours. ????
This should be easy to clear up. He was actually referencing a
controversy in missions/Bible translation about using the word "Allah"
in Arabic Bibles for the generic noun "God". He was pointing out that
Muhammed's father's name was Abdullah which means servant of Allah.
Thus, before Islam the religion existed, Arabic speaking people used
Allah as a generic name for God. Muslim people do not believe in the
Trinity, Jews would not properly believe in the Trinity. Islam is a
corruption of Judaism and Christianity and therefore I would say they
are referencing the same God as we do but their understanding has been
greatly defaced even though they are not entirely incorrect. Hope this
To Pastor Chris:
I'm confused about the Trinity...Father, Son and Holy Spirit...I believe that Jesus Christ is God's begotten son and that God and Jesus Christ are not one in the same...Is that correct? What does the bible say? What parts can I read to help clarify this for me? Thanks in advance.
God is the general English language name that we give the all-holy
Deity. In the scriptures He says of Himself that He is one. Yet, He
also reveals Himself as three distinct persons--The Father, The Son, and
The Holy Spirit. Each of these Persons are co-equals which means they
are all fully God and yet one God! Thus, God obviously exists in a
dimension we cannot fully understand because we have no corollary in our
existence. We have a faint hint of this in that we are made in the
image of God. We exist body and soul and have a spiritual relationship
with Christ which seems a form of triunity. A married couple is united
in soul and body and begets children. Together they are one family, yet
distinct persons. The Church is a multitude of different people in
unity with one another and Christ. Once again, a multi-faceted unity.
But as I said, these only give us a faint hint of God's triune dimension
of living, they are not analogous to it. This partially explains to us
the importance of Jesus Christ. For in Him the fullness of deity
dwells. Thus, Jesus was truly the God-Man which becomes a point of
reference in our existence to understand who God is and what He is
like. Jesus says, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. He
also says He will send the Holy Spirit, which the Apostle Paul says is
the Spirit of Christ. This would mean that encounter the Holy Spirit is
to encounter Christ which is to encounter the Father. Now, you see why
theologians refer to the Trinity as a mystery!
Helpful Scriptures: Gen. 1:26, Ex.20:1-3, Deut.6:4-5, Jn. 14:7,17-18,
Col.1:13-20, Heb. 1:1-3
I would like to know how to encourage an unsaved friend to stay married to her drug addicted husband. I believe the only way for her husband to truly change and experience life long recovery is through salvation, but what if she is not open to that truth? How can I witness and encourage her?
This is not an easy question to answer.
What you believe is true in regards to the husband. He needs Jesus. He needs the power of the Holy Spirit to break free from his bondage to chemicals.
He may need her to leave in order to wake up to the reality that he is showing his love for drugs more than he is showing his love for her.
But it is difficult to know what she needs. She may need space to breathe. She may need to break free from the maddening cycle of abuse and frustration.
Is your friend open to discussing the Lord with you? If so, then I would ask her if she would allow you to pray with her and for her for a week while she decides what to do. During that week you should pray that God will display his power and love toward this woman and her husband. Also that she would have God's perspective on what to do next.
Before you fight this battle in the seen realm, I would encourage you to fight it in the unseen realm on your knees. Ask the Lord for his wisdom and power to approach this woman caught in a very difficult situation. If she is not open to your input I would give her space and let her know you are available to talk if she needs someone to talk with.
Without knowing more details that is probably the best I can offer you.