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.

Why Not Get Divorced?

March 29, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: I know I’m a Christian, but I’m completely unhappy in this marriage. I don’t love my spouse anymore, and I don’t think my spouse really loves me. I’m miserable, and I deserve to be happy. I just want to get out and start over. Can you give me one good reason not to get divorced?

Answer: I can give several reasons, but I’ll give you three right off the top of my head.

1. God designed your marriage to be an illustration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important thing in the universe. If you take the gift of marriage which God gave you, and you choose to mar the illustration or to portray it inaccurately and misrepresent what it means by getting divorced, then you are telling the world that Jesus does not love His bride, the Church (Christians), with an everlasting, forgiving, unbreakable love. The reality is, in your own life, you have hurt Christ more than your spouse has hurt you, and Christ has been through far worse for you than anything you’ve had to endure in your marriage, yet He loves you eternally. You would be dishonoring the Savior Who died for you if you choose divorce. See Ephesians 5:22-32.

2. You will be breaking a solemn vow that you made before God. Unless you had some sort of whacky pagan wedding ceremony, you and your spouse promised each other that you would stay together until death, and the name of God was invoked. It is a dangerous and foolish thing to break a vow made before the holy God. See Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 and Numbers 30:2.

3. Your children. Children do not benefit from divorce. In most cases they either witness conflict or become a part of it, but, even in cases where the divorcing parents get along relatively well for the sake of the kids, it still sends a message that the two people they love most in the world did not love them enough to stay married, and it will affect them later on if not now.

There are many, many more reasons not to get divorced, including the fact that God hates it, and the choice to do it effectively places your happiness in a place of exaltation above God’s revealed will and the belief that He can overcome temporary unhappiness and misery with eternal joy when we patiently wait, obey, and trust Him.

Finally, I strongly recommend that you meet with someone for serious counseling who knows and understands what the Bible teaches about marriage before you go through with this. Once you announce your intention to be divorced or state that your marriage is making you miserable, you will attract a certain group of people that you love and trust, and who genuinely think they have your best interest at heart, and many if not most will encourage you to get divorced, and tell you that it’s not that bad. You owe it to yourself to speak with someone who will stand up for Christ and present His point of view to you, even if it’s not necessarily what you want to hear, or even if it comes from someone who doesn’t have as close a relationship with you as those who are telling you to go through with it.

In Whose Name Do You Pray?

March 13, 2019 at 11:12 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: When I pray I usually end my prayer by saying something like, “in Jesus’s name,” but other people say, “In ‘Your’ name we pray.” Which one is right?

Answer: I’m not sure there’s a “right” or “wrong” to this one. I think it may depend on to Whom you are praying. Jesus, in His model prayer, taught us to pray to God the Father directly (Matthew 6:9). Of course, we only have access to the Father through the Son, Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit. However, you can also speak directly to Jesus in prayer. If you are praying privately, then you do not need to be concerned about formalities, but, on those occasions in which you may be called on to pray publicly, in my opinion it’s best to clarify which member(s) of the Trinity (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) to Whom you are praying, and to pray in the name of Jesus (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17), rather than just ending in an ambiguous, “in ‘Your’ name.” I wouldn’t be dogmatic on it, though. Certainly there is room for disagreement.

Signs from Beyond the Grave?

February 27, 2019 at 11:21 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Some people (even Christians), when they have lost a loved one, believe they are getting “signs” from that person. Am I closed-minded to think that this can’t be true? I just don’t see God letting someone come back to earth to make an object move by itself across the room, or perform some other “trick.” Our final destination is either Heaven or hell. There is no in-between, right? I guess some people feel so much grief, that maybe the idea of a “sign” from their loved one brings comfort. Is there Scripture on this?

Answer: When this happens, I don’t think the person grieving his lost loved one is really thinking correctly about what he is feeling or thinks he’s seeing. The Bible says that, for a Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:6-8), so you are correct in saying there is no “in-between.” When someone dies, his or her soul and consciousness go directly to Heaven or hell (Hebrews 9:27).

It’s hard, because when a person is seriously grieving, we have a tendency to be glad when they find any sort of comfort. “If it makes them feel better or helps them get through it, where’s the harm?” we tend to think. The problem is, like you said, nothing in the Bible says this is okay. In fact, it’s really the opposite: Job 7:9-10; Ecclesiastes 9:5-6; Psalm 146:4. And we are even warned not to get involved with attempting to communicate with people who have died: Isaiah 8:19-20; Leviticus 19:31; I John 4:1,4.

Finally, it may sound harsh, but I do not really think that, once we get to Heaven, and especially once we see Jesus face to face, we will even have a desire to come back to this world to visit our loved ones or to try to make them feel better. They are supposed to be finding their comfort in Christ through His Spirit (Philippians 4:19), anyway, not from mysteriously mobile objects or spooky feelings or rainbows or old notes stowed away in dresser drawers. In the passages in the Bible which describe Heaven, the focus is always on the Lord and the worship of Him, not on what we left behind.

We should really pray for pastoral staff members who are counseling and helping people grieving over the death of a loved one. It is very easy to say the wrong thing, and there is always a temptation just to let them take comfort in whatever seems to work, but these “signs” and “messages” and “visions” can easily become an unhealthy fixation. In the Bible, the spirits of the dead were referred to as “familiar” spirits, which means people wrongly associated them with “family” members who had died. Of course, Satan can take advantage of this and prey on people’s emotions (II Corinthians 11:14-15), so it’s better to deal in truth even when we’re trying to deal with someone who is very distraught.

Are People Still Possessed by Demons?

February 18, 2019 at 10:37 am | Posted in Q&A | 4 Comments
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Question: While studying Mark 5:1-17, I realized that how this “wild man” was described sounded a lot like someone who today would be called mentally ill. People say there are no demon possessions anymore, but our hospitals are full of people cutting themselves and crying out in despair (Verse 5). Could mental illness be less of a “chemical imbalance” and more of a demonic presence?

Answer: That’s a great question. I do not think the Bible says anything to indicate that demon possession can’t still occur today, although it is true that it may be misdiagnosed as another problem, because, like you said, “people SAY there are no demon possessions any more.”

There are a couple of issues here, though. First, a person who has trusted Christ unto salvation is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so that person can not be truly “possessed,” although he or she may be what we call “oppressed,” meaning that sometimes God allows demons to have access to the lives of Christians to cause problems for them as part of God’s secret plan for our good. You can see this happening in Job Chapters 1 and 2, for example. But Luke 5 clearly shows that people without saving faith in Christ can certainly be possessed, controlled, and driven mad by demons. Thankfully, they can also be delivered and set free by Jesus!

Second, some mental illnesses are caused by physical things, such as chemicals in the brain. The doctors examine the levels of certain elements in their blood, and, when certain chemicals in their blood are low or high, they act crazy (crazier than the average person, anyway). They are given medicine, and after a while it gets into their systems, and they start acting normal (or at least some reasonable semblance of “normal”) again. There are Bible verses that encourage us to treat certain illnesses with medication, since God created the chemicals that the medicines are made out of, and since He gave doctors or scientists the wisdom to figure this out. So there’s nothing wrong with doing that, when it is in fact a physical, rather than a spiritual, problem.

Of course, if there are no conclusive medical results, it’s hard to tell demonic activity apart from a chemical imbalance, or conditions caused by past mental trauma, which is why we always need to pray for healing and trust God before we go to the doctors, and even while they’re trying to treat it. He is the one who ultimately gets credit for the healing, regardless of the means used to accomplish it.

Furthermore, one thing that often gets overlooked is that physical illness – in both the body AND the brainCAN be caused by unconfessed or unrepented-of sin in our life, even though that’s not always the cause. Some verses that show this are: Psalm 38:3-8; Pslam 6:2-3; Psalm 51:8; Psalm 32:3.

Personal anecdotes are not authoritative like Scripture, so you don’t have to read this part unless you want to, but I will share one very strange experience I had. At the church where our family served at the time, a young man (mid-20s) came forward at the end of a worship service. His father-in-law, who was one of those big muscular motorcycle-gang-looking men, had dragged him to church against his will. I took him back in a little prayer room we had and talked to him about being saved. He said that he went to church when was a kid, but when he was about 12 he went to some kind of heavy metal rock concert, where they were singing about the Devil and hell and had those pentagram things on the stage. He said that, afterwards, he got out of church and started drinking and doing drugs and other stuff. He looked truly miserable to be in church that morning, and his in-laws and his wife were outside the room praying for him. This dude’s face was just strange. His brows were furrowed down, his teeth were kind of bared, he had a wild look in his eyes, even his hair looked all disheveled and strange. It was so weird, because I don’t think he was trying to make a monster-face, but he just sort of looked like that. However, the longer I talked to him about Jesus and showed him from the Bible how his sins could be forgiven, the more intently he listened, and he started to look more scared and sweaty than mean. Finally, I asked him if he wanted to trust Christ, and we prayed. When we finished praying, he looked up, and it was so bizarre! His whole face looked different! He almost didn’t look like the same person. He was smiling and crying at the same time, his hair was laying down, his facial features were uncreased. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out, and I was thinking, “Is there an invisible demon flying around loose now!?” I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it. When we came out of that room, his family saw the same thing. They kept saying how different he looked, and he kept saying how free he felt. He started coming to church regularly after that, and got involved in some kind of motorcycle-riders-for-Jesus outreach program with his father-in-law. About 4-5 years later I saw him at the local convenience store by our house early Sunday morning on his way to church, and he was still serving Jesus! So, I don’t know if he was really demon-possessed or not – but it sure seemed like something happened to him in that room.

Will Heaven be Boring?

February 6, 2019 at 10:20 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: My eight year old son knows that people die, and that if they are saved they go to Heaven, but he’s all mixed up on the eternal part of it. He said,” I just don’t understand how I’m gonna do it, live forever in heaven, like what am I going to do for that long?” What should I tell him?

Answer: That can be hard to explain, because I don’t think even the term “that long” will make sense in eternity. For one thing, there won’t be any “time” there, so all the joy and pleasure we experience won’t be tinged with the nagging thought, “yeah, but this is going to come to an end eventually,” that we experience with everything good here on earth. If he doesn’t like bedtime, you can tell him Heaven will be like never having a bedtime, but never getting sleepy either, or tired, or bored.

God is “infinite,” meaning that He goes on forever, so we will never stop learning new and exciting things about Him in Heaven, and He will have wonderful things for us to do which won’t be burdensome the way work is here on earth.

We will have perfect fellowship there with other believers, so everyone will seem interesting and no one will be unlikable or annoying.

Our glorified bodies will be able to do things our earthly bodies can’t – like move through space instantaneously, and possibly even fully access all our senses in combinations that are beyond our ability now. Tell him that in Heaven, we might be able to “see” music, and “taste” colors, and “hear” odors.

Most of all, tell him that seeing Jesus face to face will be the most joyful thing possible, and we’re not just going to do that once, and then leave. We’re going to be with Him forever.

How to Explain the Afterlife?

January 21, 2019 at 11:52 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: What is the best way to explain “the afterlife” to a very confused eight year old boy?

Answer: It depends on what he means by “the afterlife.” If he is talking about what happens when you die, then you can explain to him that those who have trusted in Christ will go to be with the Lord in Heaven (Hebrews 9:27; II Corinthians 5:8). I don’t have a ton of experience with boys, but I know that when I was helping in children’s ministry, they sometimes had trouble grasping the concept of having a soul or a spirit apart from your body. Boys tend to be more “physical” and girls tend to be more about “feelings.” So for the boys, they would think of someone dying and being buried, and they would think that the body was still the person. So, I would try to explain how, when a person dies, the thing that really makes him who he is – his thoughts, his consciousness, his “mind” – leaves the body behind. You can illustrate this by going up to a mannequin in a department store and slapping it in the face: no reaction. That’s how a person’s body will be when he dies. But the part that would have gotten mad or sad or hurt about the slap is now with Jesus, where there is no “mad, sad, or hurt.” Then, after Jesus comes back, the body that we left here on earth will be resurrected and made “super-powerful” (aka “glorified”) and rejoined with our spirit in Heaven.

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