Old Testament Prayer

January 5, 2018 at 10:59 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: In Exodus Moses talks to God and relays messages back and forth between God and the people. Did people in the Old Testament pray in the way that we do?

Answer: That’s a really good question that forces us to think about the nature of prayer. We know that people prayed in the Old Testament, even before Exodus. Two notable examples are Abraham in Genesis 20:17 and Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24:12-14. After Exodus the Old Testament is replete with all kinds of prayers in all kinds of situations. Many of the Psalms are in the form of prayers, although sin could always serve as a hindrance to prayer (Psalm 66:18).

It is possible that in Exodus 2:24-25 when God heard the “groaning” of the Israelites in their bondage in Egypt that this groaning was a type of call to God for help, but it is also possible that, after hundreds of years in Egypt, the people had forgotten about Abraham’s God and did not practice prayer. It may be that through the ministry of Moses and the priesthood the practice of praying to the one true God was reinstated.

Your reference to Moses, though, is especially astute, because it reminds us that, while Moses interceded with God on behalf of the people, under the New Testament we have a better Intercessor (Romans 8:34) and Mediator (I Timothy 2:5) that allows us to call upon the Lord in His Name freely whenever we want (Hebrews 4:14-16).

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Purple or Scarlet?

November 27, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: John 19:2 and Mark 15:17 say that the robe which the soldiers put on Jesus shortly before His Crucifixion was purple. However, Matthew 27:28 says that the robe was scarlet. Which one is true?

Answer: “Purple” and “scarlet” and sometimes “crimson” are variations of the same color when used to describe fabrics in antiquity. Back then, garments were hand-dyed and hand-washed, often exposed to harsh scrubbing and extreme weather, so they faded much more easily than our garments today. The Holy Spirit caused different Gospel writers to describe the robe that the soldiers put on Jesus as both purple and scarlet, because, from Pilate’s and the Romans’ point of view, it was just a faded old garment used to mock Him, but, from our point of view, the royalty symbolized by the color purple was suitable to the King of the Universe, God Almighty, which is Who Jesus was.

Biased Marriage Counseling

November 10, 2017 at 11:31 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: I have Christian friends who are thinking about ending their marriage. Someone told me to give them this advice: “Before making your decision about divorce or reconciliation, seek balanced counsel rather than biased counsel.” What do you think of that advice?

Answer: Sorry to be blunt, but that advice is garbage. I’m sure whoever came up with that had good intentions, and there is a line of thinking out there that says, talk to some people who think you should reconcile, and talk to some people who think you shouldn’t, and weigh the pros and cons. But think about it! Stop and really think. Does the Bible say anything like that about marriage? Tell your friends to talk to people who are EXTREMELY biased – biased in favor of Jesus Christ. He let vile wicked sinners nail Him to a Cross so that we would have the power and the freedom to forgive, to reconcile, to restore, to promote righteousness – not to drag through the mud a relationship that He created to glorify Himself. (See Genesis 2:21-24; Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5:23-33; Hebrews 13:4.)

Why Get More Involved?

October 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: I’m not sure if I want to get more involved with Sunday School and church because I’m not totally comfortable with it. Before I moved here, I had a church I really liked. For my sake and my wife and kids’ sakes, I’m not going to commit myself until I find a place that makes me feel the way church should make me feel.

Answer: That’s a tough one. The important thing is, if you are a Christian, you need to be serving somewhere. That’s not really an optional thing in the Christian life. See I Peter 4:8-10. Ideally, you would be able to serve at a place exactly like the place where you were the happiest, but finding two identical churches is probably not a real possibility.

Maybe you can try to think of it like this: Some days you come home from work and the house is spotless. The kids are delighted to see you. They run up laughing, and hug and kiss you. Your wife is cooking your favorite meal. Her hair is perfect and she’s wearing your favorite outfit. You are ushered to your easy chair, and handed the TV clicker and a cold drink, and told to relax. But other days, you come home and the place is a wreck. Kids are crying and fighting. Your wife has a headache and she’s surly. There’s no food in sight. And somebody forgot to buy the poster board for a big school project that’s due TOMORROW. Guess who they’re expecting to do that?

In the first example, it’s a no-brainer, right? You’re glad to be home, and all is well with the world. But the second scenario is tougher. You feel like turning around and going back to the car and leaving, right? Wrong! They’re both no-brainers. Why? Because you are a dad and a husband and you are there to love and serve your family, not to be served! That’s the Bible’s opinion, not mine (Ephesians 5:25; 6:4).

See, you go to a restaurant, you get lousy service, the food stinks, it’s too expensive, you don’t feel valued as a customer, whatever, fine, you leave and don’t go back. But your home is not a restaurant. It’s where your family is. So you sacrifice and you serve and you commit yourself to be faithful, no matter what. Same with church. That’s where your spiritual family is – the family of God in Christ. Now, if you’re not saved, then you can’t be expected to serve. But if you’re saved, you’re in the family of God, and you need to be serving, not demanding (or even expecting) to BE served.

I know that there are certain perceived “perks” (if you can call them that) to hovering around the edge of a local church family – showing up just often enough not be forgotten – but not often enough or on time enough to really be depended upon to do anything difficult or sacrificial. But those perks aren’t really benefits. They are really missed opportunities to glorify and thank the Savior who poured out His blood for your soul while they cursed and mocked Him. I would encourage you to jump in with both feet when it comes to Sunday School and church involvement. Nobody will go see Jesus at the end of this life and say, “Man, I can’t believe I spent that time serving Him!” I promise, you will want to go see the King saying, “I’m glad I did” a lot more than “I wish I had.”

The Statute and the Ordinance at Marah

October 12, 2017 at 9:56 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: In Exodus 15:25, after the Lord made the bitter water at Marah drinkable, it says that “there he made for them a statute and an ordinance.” What was the statute and the ordinance?

Answer: Moses probably wrote this section of Exodus many years after the events took place, so the Holy Spirit is referencing the giving of statutes and ordinances by God as a foreshadowing of the formal “giving of the Law” which will come at Mount Sinai a few chapters later. The expression, “a statute and an ordinance,” is an example of a hendiadys, meaning that an idea is used and then repeated after the conjunction “and” for emphasis and for clarification. For example, sometimes I refer to “a basic and fundamental” fact. Basic and fundamental are nearly synonymous in that context, but I want to make the point strongly and use two similar words in case one or the other might not be as familiar to everyone who hears or reads it. Lawyers do this when they draw up a “last will and testament.” The “statute and the ordinance” referenced in Exodus 15:25 is described in the next verse:

If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes…

Exodus 15:26

God had Moses tell the people that one of His general laws, even before the Covenant at Sinai, is that His people are required to be attentive and loyal to Him. It will be a really good day for you and me when we understand this and accept it.

Did Jesus Claim to be God?

September 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: I am having trouble understanding how Christians can believe in one God, and still believe that Jesus is God. It seems like Jesus never actually said, “I am God,” and if I worship Jesus and the Holy Spirit wouldn’t I be committing idolatry by making them equal with God the Father?

Answer: Jesus did claim to be God, and proved that He is God by rising from the dead. Jesus said:

I and my Father are one.

John 10:30

Jesus was claiming to be God when He said this because that is what “one” means. God is one in essence, but is three in “person.” This does not violate any law of logic because “person” and “essence” are not the same category. You are judging God by human standards, but He is infinite, and we are finite, so we would not expect Him to be limited in the ways that we are. He is free to take humanity unto Himself while still remaining fully divine, and this in fact is what He did so that He could identify with human beings in our suffering because He loves us even though we have sinned against Him.

The Bible does not record Jesus saying “I am God” in those exact words, because God was never bound to express Himself in terms just to satisfy our objections. When Jesus said the words “I AM” (at least seven times in the Gospel of John), that was clearly a claim to be God, because “I AM” was the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses in the Old Testament. Furthermore, look at the evidence: (1) Jesus said that those who had seen Him had seen God (John 14:9). Jesus is equated with the Creator of the universe (John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:16-17). Jesus said He existed before Abraham (John 8:58). The Bible calls Him God manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). He claimed to be equal with God, and only God can be equal with Himself (John 5:18). He forgave sins, and only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7).

You may or may not like these particular expressions that Jesus used to claim that He was God, but His enemies obviously understood what He was saying. They did not arrest Jesus and sentence Him to death simply for being a prophet (John 10:30-33). They wanted to kill Him because He claimed to be God.

The Psychic Hotline May be Hotter than You Think

August 24, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Posted in Q&A, Where There's a Way There's a Will | Leave a comment
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Question: (1) Are mediums and psychics really communicating with the spirits of dead people, or with demons? (2) Based on Deuteronomy 29:29, is it okay to even ask this question?

Answer: I tend to think the majority of “mediums” and “psychics” are really con artists that prey on gullible (sometimes desperate and distraught) people who want some type of closure with a deceased loved one, or some kind of hope that their future is going to be okay. However, the Bible does not rule out the possibility that some of them could be communicating with demons, either willfully or unwittingly. Satan is a great deceiver, and he would like for people to look anywhere besides the Bible for comfort, guidance, and truth. Possibly for both of these reasons, the Bible clearly condemns all of the following: fortunetelling, sorcery, witchcraft, magic, necromancy (trying to talk to dead spirits), soothsaying, sign-reading, consulting familiar spirits, divination, trance-induced visions, horoscopes, and false prophecy (Exodus 7:11; 22:18; Leviticus 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:9-12; I Samuel 15:23; II Kings 21:6; Isaiah 8:19; Acts 8:9-13; 16:16; Galatians 5:20-21; Revelation 21:8).

As to your second question, God’s will about certain things is intentionally hidden from us for our good and His glory. It is wrong for us to inquire into what He has chosen to keep secret for now. However, a question like this, which is just about how we are to think about those who attempt to violate Deuteronomy 29:29, is not itself a violation. It is right and good to think about anything God has revealed in Scripture, including the revelation that there are some things He has chosen not to reveal.

A Fawning Farewell

August 8, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: I don’t understand why the Egyptians would give the Israelites their gold and silver and jewels when they were leaving.

Answer: There are a couple of possible reasons found in Exodus 12:33-36. One, it could be that the Egyptians were anxious to get rid of them, since the plagues were obviously because of their presence in Egypt. They had come to recognize the truth: God was going to keep sending plagues until the Egyptians let them go, and they already thought of themselves as “dead men” because of all they had suffered. That is indicated by Verse 33.

And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

Exodus 12:33

Giving them gifts was a way to encourage them to hurry up and leave.

Second, Verse 36 indicates that this was a supernatural phenomenon where the Lord simply made it so that the Egyptians “favored” the Israelites with gifts without fully understanding why they themselves were doing it.

And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:36

It says that they “spoiled” the Egyptians, which is language used when a victorious army takes away the property of a defeated army after a battle. The Irsaelites had won a war without lifting a finger (which means that God actually fought and won it for them).

There is another possibility which I stumbled upon while researching something else. Apparently all ancient cultures practiced some form of “exorcism” (casting out demons). In most cultures this was done by berating or commanding demons, trying to force them to come out of their hosts and leave. However, the form of exorcism practiced in ancient Egypt was quite different. Egyptians priests believed that the way to get rid of demons was to be extremely polite to them. This is pure speculation, but it is fun to imagine the Egyptians (wrongly believing that the children of Israel were under the influence of agents of Yahweh, whom they considered “demons”) trying to coax them to leave the land. “Would you mind taking my coat, sir? I shan’t need it anymore. Oh! and here you are mi’lady, please take this gold necklace and these silver earrings. We fixed you a canteen and a picnic basket for your trip into the wilderness. So sorry to see you go!”

Does “Everyone” Include Satan?

July 21, 2017 at 10:01 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: We were telling our children that God loves everyone, but then they asked, “Does God love the devil?” What should I tell them?

Answer: First of all, you are correct in telling them that God loves everyone “in the world” (John 3:16). Of course, we also need to let our children know that God loves in greater ways than we do, and that God is so much greater than, and different from us, that it is possible for Him to harmonize His will and His feelings in ways that are not possible for us. In other words, God’s feelings are perfectly controlled, and are more holy than ours, so it is possible for Him to love His enemies (Romans 5:8) and hate His enemies (Psalm 5:5, 11:5) at the same time.

When it comes to the devil (and the angels for that matter), the Bible does not give us specific information on God’s “feelings” about them. He created them, and the angels obey Him, which must please Him, and He is love (I John 4:8), so it is possible that He loves them, but the Bible never really emphasizes that, as far as I know. Satan and his demons, on the other hand, disobeyed Him, and He cast them out, and He has not devised a plan of redemption for them the way that He has for us fallen human beings, so it is probably reasonable to say that God does not love them in the same way that He loves us (if He loves them at all).

What I would emphasize to children is that the devil made a horrible choice in trying to make himself equal to God (Isaiah 14:12-14) and he paid for it. Still, he does not want to be forgiven. He hated God first without a cause, and that will never change. Our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, committed the same sin: disobedience and self-idolatry (and, sadly, we still do it too, every day). But the fact that God was still willing to die for us, and forgive us, shows how great His love for us truly is. Meanwhile, no matter what His feelings toward Satan are, because He loves us, He will one day imprison Satan forever and ever in order to protect us from him (Revelation 20:3-10).

What about Those Who Haven’t Heard?

July 14, 2017 at 9:36 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: If there’s an isolated community/tribe that has little to no contact with the outside world, and have never heard of the Lord, how are they judged on Judgment Day?

Answer: Let’s start by thinking about the reason for God’s judgment in general. For what is He judging anyone and everyone? As noted in the Children’s Bible Catechism, specifically questions 6,7, and 8, and the Bible verses that answer them, people are judged for sinning against God.

So how can people be guilty of sinning against a God about Whom they’ve never heard, and by breaking laws they did not know existed? The answer is found in Romans Chapter 1, starting in Verse 18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”

Everyone in the world knows that there is a God. They may not know His name, but His external creation and their own inner consciences reveal that He exists and that some things are “right” and some things are “wrong.” Sinful people have access to this truth, but “hold it unrighteousness,” which means they try to suppress it or hold it down by pretending it isn’t really there.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Romans 1:19

This attempt to suppress whatever revelation of truth that a person has received is, in itself, also a sin, which means that no one has a valid “excuse” for rejecting God and His revelation of Himself and His “wrath” against sin:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Romans 1:20

Those of us who live in America often think of rejecting Christ as the sin which would condemn us on Judgment Day, and it would definitely be one of the sins (probably the worst) for which we would be judged. But rejecting Christ is not the only sin which will merit judgment on Judgment Day. Those who die apart from Christ will also be judged for lying and stealing and immoral thoughts and immoral actions and covetousness and idolatry and many, many more sins. Romans 3:23 tells us that everyone does these things, but Romans 1 tells us that the people who do them KNOW that they are wrong even if they don’t have immediate access to a Bible or the name of Jesus.

One reason why it is so important to try to get missionaries and the Gospel to remote people groups – from the Inuit people in the Arctic, to villages in Togo, West Africa, and everywhere else – is so that they can hear the Truth that Christ is their only hope for forgiveness. A heart that has been “darkened” (Romans 1:21) needs special “illumination” from the Word of God.

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