Signs of the End Times?

October 16, 2019 at 10:05 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: It seems like every year somebody comes up with some sign of the end times, whether it’s lunar or solar eclipses, natural disasters, or some political figure who is secretly supposed to be the Antichrist, and there are all these preachers or internet prophets who have supposedly been given visions that the world will end at a certain time. Isn’t it silly to pay attention to these things?

Answer: Well, I would be cautious about mocking people who are interested in these things. Certainly, there are charlatans and frauds who promote end times prophecies in order to make money or get attention, and the majority of them seem to be severely lacking in sound Biblical support. However, as Christians looking forward to the return of Jesus, I can certainly understand the desire to be aware of how current events might or might not be signaling the approach of the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy (II Peter 3:12-13; II Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13).

There are two competing ideas at work here. Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders for their insistence on seeing miraculous or prophetic “signs” that would demonstrate the credibility of Jesus’s ministry. He rightfully rebuked them as being part of a wicked, adulterous, and sign-seeking generation (Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11:16-29). However, when His Disciples asked Him about the sign of His coming and the end of the world, He gave them a good bit of information (Matthew 24), without chastising them.

The key for us today is to focus more on getting ready for the return of Christ by living holy lives, and staying busy carrying out His great commission (Matthew 28:19-20), than on idly (or obsessively) speculating on dates or trying to match current events to some of the apocalyptic language in Scripture. However, I would certainly not want to make fun of anyone who is earnestly trying to understand Biblical prophecy, or who is seeking to view current events and even astronomical phenomena through a Biblical worldview.

Did God Have to Go Down and See?

September 27, 2019 at 10:24 am | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: My question is about Genesis 18:20-21: “And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” If God knows everything, and if He is omnipresent, why did He have to “go down and see” Sodom and Gomorrah?

Answer: First of all, we need to determine if these verses are setting forth a clear precept about the nature of God. Since Genesis 18 is a section of the Bible that is written in the genre of historical narrative, rather than a sermon on the attributes of God, we must balance it against other Bible verses, especially those that speak directly about the question of what God knows in a general way.

For example, Job 37:16 says, “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?” Not only is the Book of Job considered wisdom literature, but here God Himself is addressing the question of His own knowledge directly. To be perfect in knowledge is to be complete – to lack no knowledge whatsoever.

Another example is Psalm 139:1-4: “O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.” Psalm 139 is specifically about how God knows all our thoughts, “ways,” behavior, actions, and even our words before we say them.

So, if we apply this to Sodom, God knew more than the general condition of Sodom. He knew everything that each individual was doing and thinking and saying – and why they were doing it! Psalm 147 is perhaps the most explicit precept concerning God’s omniscience: “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5). This means that God possessed all knowledge about Sodom from all eternity, but it also begs the question: Why is He making it sound in Genesis 18 like He’s not omniscient?

The answer is that God often uses anthropomorphism to describe His actions: anthropos = man; morph = form. Anthropomorphism means “man-form.” It is when the Bible describes God as a character in the narrative using human terms that help us understand His point of view. In Genesis 18 it helps us to understand how seriously God took the sin of Sodom, and how much He immanently (not just transcendently) cares about the events of this world. It also records God’s way of letting Abraham understand His thinking, since these statements are part of an actual dialogue between the Lord and Abraham.

Another reason for the statement that God would “go down to see” Sodom and Gomorrah is to let us know that this was a type of Theophany (or perhaps even Christophany): an instance where God appeared to humans in bodily form. God wanted to have a personal visit with Abraham, who was called “the friend of God.” This establishes the trust the God had placed in Abraham’s faithfulness, which will be a key later in the Genesis narrative to understanding the Lord’s testing of him with Isaac.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings?

September 13, 2019 at 8:34 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: I don’t see the big deal about going to church on Wednesday nights, especially if it’s just a prayer meeting. I can pray at home. Why should I go listen to other people pray?

Answer: Well, attendance numbers indicate that the vast majority of Christians agrees with you, but there are many reasons why the members of a local church body should meet together when the church has a regular service, whether or not it’s a prayer meeting. Instead of addressing that, though, since your question is specifically about prayer, take a look at how church meetings took place in the Bible. If you read through the Book of Acts, you will see the Church of Jesus Christ, from its very inception, has been dedicated to the practice of corporate prayer (praying together as one body), and physically meeting together for this purpose. It is difficult to read very far in Acts without coming upon a passage of Scripture alluding to prayer. Just two examples:

And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where MANY WERE GATHERED TOGETHER PRAYING.

Acts 12:12

And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and PRAYED WITH THEM ALL.

Acts 20:36

I capitalized the key words for emphasis, but you can also check out Acts 1:14, 3:1, 6:4, 12:5, and 16:13-16. If you pray by yourself or with your spouse and children at home, that is great, but, as Christians, we must have a deep concern with obeying the Bible, and with involving ourselves in church according to the Bible’s principles and precepts for what our responsibilities as Christian church members are. Remember, corporate prayer in a church meeting should not be one person praying aloud and everyone else listening in. It should be a group of people unified by the Holy Spirit, all praying mentally to the same Lord, even while one person is leading by speaking aloud. Don’t cut yourself, or your family, off from this crucial means of grace and growth in Christ-likeness. “Our” denotes plural – a group of people praying together – in “Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9).

Why Read Other Books?

August 26, 2019 at 10:57 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: I read my Bible. What does it matter if I read other books or not?

Answer: I agree that if you are only going to read one book, read the Bible. That’s the most important book. However, one reason adults – especially Christian adults – should read other things, too, is that the ability to read is a great gift from God, and a great way to acquire information and knowledge about areas where the Bible gives principles, but might not go into a lot of detail. Also, I’m concerned about our brains. The part of your brain intended for reading comprehension will get atrophied (like a muscle that never gets any exercise) if it is not used. The result will be a decreased ability to understand concepts, to apply information or knowledge to circumstances (wisdom), a poor vocabulary, and a failure to be able to properly explain what you are trying to say when it might be important.

Also, I’m concerned about how social media and television have come to replace reading. These activities are far more mentally passive, and they don’t use the same part of your brain. Also, they are addictive in a bad way. According to studies, when you get attention on social media or achieve a goal on a video game or app, your brain releases dopamine which creates a sensation of pleasure. However, you soon develop a higher tolerance level, and you need to feed the unconscious craving for dopamine more and more, so you spend an inordinate amount of (mostly wasted) time playing silly games or checking your status for “likes,” hoping to keep your dopamine receptor engaged. It’s just not mentally healthy the way reading is.

A Marvelous Work?

August 5, 2019 at 10:38 am | Posted in Isaiah, Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: In Isaiah 29:14 the marvelous work that God promised to do for His people seems to be something bad, instead of something good like revival. Why would we want something bad, or what am I missing?

Answer: The word “marvelous” is a little tricky because in modern English it typically means something that is delightful, or “wonderful” in a positive sense. In the Bible it can mean that, too, but its literal meaning has to do with something that causes people to stop dead in their tracks and “marvel” at something. To stand silently still and gaze with amazement. Or to gasp with surprise that something so extraordinary is happening. So, depending on the context, it can be something marvelously beneficial and joyful (Psalm 17:7), or it can mean something marvelously horrific (Daniel 11:36). And, yes, you are correct that the “marvelous” thing God is saying that He will do in Isaiah 29 is that He will bring judgment and destruction upon the people of Jerusalem because of their spiritual hypocrisy and their failure to heed the warnings of His prophets. The “marvelous” thing about it is the extreme nature of it. God would use Godless heathen nations and armies to punish His Own people and to destroy His holy city (29:1-9)! He would even take away their ability to hear and understand His Own Word (29:18), and their ability to see the truth (29:11)! It would be horrendously marvelous, not happily marvelous. So, in that sense, I would like to experience a spiritual revival in my heart, home, church family, community, and nation that would PREVENT this type of “marvelous” work, not the continued apathy and hypocrisy which would bring it to pass. I think that may be what you are getting at with your question.

Celebrating at a Funeral?

July 17, 2019 at 10:08 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Someone in my family died, and this person had a strong salvation testimony and lived for many years the way the Bible says we would expect a Christian to live. The funeral was more like a party than a funeral. Everybody was laughing and joking, and they even played upbeat party music. Is this okay, since everybody agreed that the person had gone to Heaven?

Answer: Well, I don’t want to say it was NOT okay. There is certainly a sense in which it is okay to celebrate when we believe someone we love has gone to Heaven. But I wouldn’t want to tell people they are not supposed to grieve when someone they love has died, either. I Thessalonians 4:13 says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Some people take that to mean we shouldn’t sorrow at all when a Christian dies, but I think it means that it is okay to sorrow, just not the same way we would sorrow over someone that died without ever having trusted Christ. After all, Jesus Himself wept when Lazarus died (John 11:35), and He knew He would bring him back to life!

There are two considerations that might temper the celebratory atmosphere at the funeral of a Christian. One is compassion for those in attendance who may not feel like celebrating (Romans 12:15). It would be callous to act irreverent in the presence of people who are going to miss the person who has died. Two, the Bible makes it clear that death itself shouldn’t be frivolously talked about as some “natural, circle-of-life, blessing-in-disguise” occurrence. Death is caused by sin (Genesis 2:17, 3:6; Romans 5:12, 6:23). Death is an adversarial invader into God’s originally “very good” (Genesis 1:31) creation. Every time someone dies, we should grieve over the fact that we ourselves engage in behavior that our Creator deems worthy of death, and a funeral is a stark illustrated sermon on the seriousness of sin and its consequences.

Is Cremation Allowed?

June 12, 2019 at 9:07 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Does the Bible say that cremation is allowed?

Answer: The Bible – to the best of my knowledge – doesn’t specifically forbid or authorize cremation. In the vast majority of instances, the bodies of dead human beings in Biblical accounts were buried, rather than burned, although there are a handful of instances of burned bodies in the Bible. Because the Bible offers no specific commands on the subject, I would not be comfortable in saying that cremating the body of a deceased loved one is a sin. Faced with a choice, and the ability to afford a burial, I would go with the burial, simply because – as stated above – it seems to have been the preferred method during Bible times, and because burying a body whole seems to more properly symbolize our hope of bodily resurrection, as emphasized in I Corinthians 15.

Having said that, it is also necessary to point out that there will be a bodily resurrection of believers whose bodies were cremated, were donated to medical schools to be used as cadavers, were blown to smithereens in turkey-fryer explosions, were completely decomposed, were melted in hot lava, were “sawn asunder” (Hebrews 11:37), and were eaten by sharks. How will God resurrect a body which has disintegrated and been blown by the four winds of the four corners of the earth? I have no idea, but it won’t be difficult, because – you know – He’s God.

How to Deal with Flaky Church Attenders?

May 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: Okay, so… there’s this couple that used to come to church faithfully for a long time, but then they stopped coming. Their church friends tried to encourage them, but nobody could really get a straight answer about why they stopped coming to church. They would just sort of mumble about not feeling connected, or going to a different church, or feeling let down by such and such church leaders, and things like that, but they wouldn’t be specific. People kept trying to follow up and encourage them for a long time, but finally just accepted that they weren’t coming back. Now, once in while, maybe a couple of times a year, out of the blue, they show up on a Sunday morning, and all their old church friends just go nuts. They fawn all over them, and tell them how glad they are to see them, and make a really big deal out of the fact that they’re back, but the next Sunday they’re not there again, and it may be five or six months before they’re seen again. My question is this: Is it right to make such a big deal over them when they show up, or should people just be polite, but have more of a wait-and-see attitude, unless they come for at least two or three weeks in a row?

Answer: That’s a tough question. I know it is disappointing when people leave the church for superficial reasons – especially young married couples who really need the blessing of fellowship and service in the Body of Christ. And, yes, it can be frustrating when (from a personal standpoint) it looks like people that we care about are being flaky about church attendance. However, it probably wouldn’t be wise to try to put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm over their friends showing up at church – even if it can be kind of a set-up for disappointment. There may be a temptation to judge the motives of the couple you are describing as being attention-seeking, and to try the tactic of ignoring them when they come to church to see if they will come for several straight weeks until they satisfy their desire to be noticed, but I can’t find any Biblical support for that sort of judgmental speculation or pragmatism, and it’s usually not wise to judge someone’s inner motives. Probably the best thing to do is be happy when they do come to church, keep praying for them, and try to be happy for the people who are absurdly overjoyed to see them. Romans 12:15 says that we need to rejoice with those who are rejoicing (unless they are rejoicing in something evil – I Corinthians 13:6), so that seems to be the best attitude to have in this situation.

[One caveat is that there are people who wish they could come to church WITHOUT being noticed or fawned over, so when a big deal is made about the fact that they finally showed up, it has the opposite effect of making them not want to come back, but I honestly do not know how to combat that attitude. We can’t reasonably ask friendly church members to ignore guests or former members, and when friendliness is seen as a detriment instead of a benefit, there’s not much we can do about that.]

Why Did God Make Fire Ants Mean?

April 26, 2019 at 9:43 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question (from a four year old*): Why did God make fire ants mean?

Answer: In the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve sinned, ants were not mean, and they didn’t hurt anyone. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He cursed our world with pain and death (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12). Now, He allows fire ants to hurt people to remind us that we live in a sinful world, and that we are sinful people, and that sin hurts, so that we will also remember that we need God to forgive us, and that, if we trust Jesus, we can live in a place where fire ants are nice again, and no one gets hurt or dies.

*Here is a more “grown-up” response: https://answersingenesis.org/evidence-for-creation/design-in-nature/design-in-the-curse/?utm_source=twitter-aig&utm_medium=social&utm_content=designinthecurse-4314&utm_campaign=20150702&fbclid=IwAR3vm_nkOUD824tX8ZaxcIFzUjyq_sr6B1YWged2JMU7DimZI8ZEileT1us

Babysitting Tips for Dads?

April 9, 2019 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: Tonight is NFL Thursday Night Football, and my wife is going to a ladies’ Bible study, leaving me to babysit. What do I do?

Answer: Concerning the football game, hopefully your TV is equipped with one of those devices that lets you “save” the game while it’s playing in real time, so you can watch it later. If not, you may want to go old school and google “VCR.” This is like a big tape recorder from the olden days that you can somehow hook up to your TV and make a video copy of the game to replay later at your leisure.

Concerning the babysitting, you may want to rethink calling it that. Personally, I don’t care about the semantics, but there is a whole culture out there known as “Mommy Bloggers,” and they absolutely hate it when us dads call watching our own kids “babysitting.” Just FYI.

Concerning the “what do I do?” question, there are two schools of thought. The first school of thought involves duct tape, Benadryl, a continuous loop of YouTube videos showing monkeys chasing baby pigs on a propped-open laptop, and probably a visit from Social Services later this week.

The second school of thought involves you getting down on the floor with the kid – I’m talking about WAY down there, like flat on your stomach or at least sitting Indian-style – not just casually leaning over the edge of your recliner with one arm – and playing with tiny little baby dolls, action figures, trucks, dinosaurs, or tea-party sets, depending upon gender or interests. Really get into it. Give the little characters different voices, act out some age-appropriate drama or humor, make the dolls/action figures talk about God and Jesus at some point, and pretend like you are totally having the time of your life, and that this play-time is the most important thing you’ll do all year – more important than a business meeting, more important than shooting a 12-point buck, more important than getting the high score on Halo Kill Zone or whatever “grown-up” video games you’re into. Go all out, and give the kid total undivided attention for a long continuous period of time.

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