A Fawning Farewell

August 8, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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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.

God’s Wrath: Attribute or Reaction?

June 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: The Bible makes it clear that God does get angry. Is the anger of God something that resides in him by nature, or is His anger only a provoked response to the existence of sin or evil?

Answer: I am not aware of a Bible verse that indicates that God’s anger is merely a provoked response, although I believe if we took a poll of Bible commentators, that would be the majority view. Let’s start out by affirming what the Bible does affirm, though: God is love (I John 4:8). Also:

The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:-7-8

These verses do show that the attribute of love is something inherent in God’s divine character, but they do not rule out the possibility that wrath is one of God’s divine attributes, also inherent to His character or nature. Love and wrath existing in the same being are not logically contradictory, and, while it is true that the Bible does portray God’s wrath as being EXPRESSED against sin or evil, the Bible does not state that the entrance of sin and evil into the world CREATED God’s wrath or provoked something which did not exist in Him before. I believe the Bible teaches that all human emotions were originally given to man as a part of the God’s Imago Dei creation, so that they existed in God before being communicated to His creatures, but that the entrance of sin into the world warped these emotions in us, so that they are often expressed sinfully by us. If God had chosen not to allow sin to enter His creation, His attribute of wrath/anger would have still existed, only it would be expressed by us as righteous indignation or “holy wrath,” rather than as the loss of control or temper. For example, the serpent’s twisting of God’s words should have (and could have) made Adam and Eve angry and wrathful toward the serpent, and that anger would not have been sinful. It would have been an obedient and worshipful expression of God’s wrath. In fact, one reason why God allowed such a thing as sin in the first place might have been to show His righteous wrath, thereby demonstrating the glory of the full spectrum of His attributes for all eternity.

The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Proverbs 16:4

Blessing the Food?

June 26, 2017 at 9:43 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Before we eat, we ask the Lord to “bless this food.” Why do we do that? What does it mean to “bless” the food?

Answer: Not everybody prays that way. Sometimes people just thank God for the food, but, yes, asking God to bless the food “we are about to receive” or asking Him to “bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” are very common pre-meal prayers. Sometimes, we even call it “saying the blessing” or “saying grace” instead of “praying” before we eat.

I suppose if we ask God to “bless the food” we are asking Him to make it good for us, or to put it to work in the strengthening and health of our bodies. Sometimes, we are asking Him to “bless” it in a way that would supernaturally make it taste better! I once saw a video where a Christian comedian was joking about asking the Lord to “bless this food” before eating a Cheeto. He said, “Lord, miraculously change this Cheeto into a carrot as it travels down my esophagus…” Pretty funny, since it does seem a little hypocritical to ask the Lord to bless our own unhealthy eating choices, although we should certainly be grateful for everything that He provides for us. It is very important to think about what we are saying when we pray, rather than praying out of habit or repeating something vain and meaningless (Matthew 6:7), so good question!

Who Is Leviathan and What Is He Twisting?

June 8, 2017 at 10:31 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Is there an evil spirit named Leviathan who “twists” communications between Christians in order to cause division and trouble in the Church?

Answer: Leviathan, in the Bible, was some sort of giant sea serpent. Some commentators believe it may have been a reference to huge crocodiles which grew to greater sizes in the ancient world than they do today. It is used as an example of God’s awesome creation and His power over it. However, a few years ago a preacher named Ron Phillips published a book on “spiritual warfare” in which he attempted to give names to some of the demons (formerly angels which fell from Heaven when Lucifer rebelled against God). He decided to call one of them “Leviathan” even though “Leviathan” is never used in the Bible as the name of a demon or a demonic spirit. This sort of teaching is fanciful at best and outright heretical at worst, but it became extremely popular among many Charismatic and Pentecostal preachers. The idea, I suppose, is that, since “Leviathan” is like a serpent or a crocodile which “twists” its prey in a death roll after it strikes, then the “Leviathan spirit” must be a demon which “twists” the communications of human beings to cause conflict and disunity and miscommunication. Certainly, we can not put it past Satan to attempt to cause trouble in the lives of believers in whatever ways he can, but we need to stick to what the Bible actually says, rather than naming and blaming supernatural beings when we ourselves fail to heed the Word of God.

How Do We Get the Answers to Our Prayers?

May 18, 2017 at 9:24 am | Posted in Q&A, Where There's a Way There's a Will | Leave a comment
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Question: When you’re praying for a specific thing, how do you know what the answer is? Is it like a sign, a gut feeling, an unexpected blessing? How do you really get or “see” the answer to your prayers?

Answer: That’s a good question, and one that is often asked. When we ask God for a specific thing, He may or may not give it to us or show us the answer in a specific way. Our task as Christians is to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6), with the idea that God’s will would be done (Matthew 6:9-10), asking Him for wisdom to help us see the answer or know what He would have us to do (James 1:5). Do not seek a sign (Matthew 12:39); do not trust gut feelings (Jeremiah 17:9); and attribute all blessings – expected and unexpected alike – to God (James 1:17). Our task is to pray about it, determine whether what we are asking for is permitted or forbidden by the Scriptures, and trust that God will work out the “answer” for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

God knows everything, but Ephesians 5:10 indicates that we are supposed to discern the will of God not by expecting mystical clues, but by going to the Bible, and asking ourselves, “Is what I’m asking for, or what I’m thinking about doing, in line with what the Bible says I should be getting or doing?” If you have a Bible reason for doing something, do it. If not, don’t. Our job is not to “get answers.” Our job is to “prove God’s will” (Romans 12:2).

Authority vs. Empathy

October 26, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Q&A, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 1 Comment
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Question: People always use that same Bible verse when saying homosexuality is a sin. Is that the only place that addresses the topic? What is the context of it? Having memorized the 10 Commandments in Catholic school, I know they don’t address homosexuality. I don’t think homosexuality should be called sinful because I empathize with people who aren’t hurting anyone. I understand that for a gay man the thought of being with a woman is disgusting, and that, for him, being with a man feels normal. So what should a gay person do? And when gay people fall in love and have sex what do you think will happen to them?

Response: You say: “People always use that same Bible verse when saying homosexuality is a sin.” I’m not sure what people you’re referring to who always use the same verse. There tends to be a big difference between real-life face-to-face discussion and internet polemics, but I’m assuming you mean Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. I’m only assuming that because you listed some of the other things that Leviticus elsewhere prohibits, which have to do with clothing and unclean foods and tattoos and beard-grooming and so forth. As I stated before, dietary, grooming, clothing, and things having to do with hygiene and tabernacle worship were specific as to time and place and location. The moral laws – against things like lying and stealing and cheating and adultery and fornication (including homosexual activity) and bestiality and incest and dishonoring your parents and murder – were of a different nature, and are reiterated as being sinful in the New Testament. Romans 1:20-32 are especially graphic and clear on this topic, along with I Corinthians 6:9-10. Anyway, those are some, but not all, of the passages that address the topic – which was one of your questions – so I hope that helps. But I can elaborate more if you’d like.

You say: “Having memorized the 10 Commandments in Catholic school, I know they don’t address homosexuality.” Actually the 7th Commandment (prohibiting adultery) does. The Bible’s definition of adultery would include having sex with anyone outside of your own marriage, and the Bible’s definition of marriage is what people are now calling “traditional marriage.” In other words, people of opposite genders – you know, male husband and female wife (readers are free to hurl epithets such as bigot and Bible-thumper at me for saying that, but that is what the Bible teaches). Your Catholic school teachers – sorry to be critical of them when they’re not here to defend themselves – may have taught the 10 Commandments merely as a list of rules to follow, which is a common mistake, rather than as a mirror in which we can look and see how truly wicked we are, despite our smug feelings about our own goodness, so that we can then humble ourselves before our kind and loving Maker and admit we need His Son. And that is a great segue into another one of your questions!

You say: “So what should a gay person do? And when gay people fall in love and have sex what do you think will happen to them?” That question is begging me to be all “preachy,” which people typically can’t stand, especially when I’m not in their shoes, but, since you asked, I’ll tell what the Bible says about it. A gay person who truly repents and trusts and receives the Savior, is “born again” (John 3:3-7). The Bible describes this in different ways. It means an “ontological” change – a change in the essence of who you are on the inside. You get a new “heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). It makes you a “new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). You no longer love sin more than God. The sinful stuff you used to love, you begin to hate. You still struggle with desires and sinful tendencies but now God’s Spirit will live in you, and will remind you of the love of Jesus who shed His blood for your soul, and you will want to please Him more than satisfy those desires and tendencies, and they will be replaced by new passions. Some people fake it for money or parental approval or whatever, but Jesus – the only One ever to get up from the dead by His Own power – certainly has the power to transform a kleptomaniac, a heroin addict, a compulsive liar, a prideful jerk, a Satan-worshiper, a womanizing sleazebag, a person who likes to have gay sex, someone who self-righteously thinks he’s a good person – even IRS agents, lawyers, and those awful Westboro fake-Baptists!

One more thing. You say: “I empathize with people who aren’t hurting anyone.” I think by this you mean that your own personal moral compass points to murderers and thieves as being “bad” because their sins hurt others, but that gay people aren’t hurting anyone by having gay sex, so your personal moral compass departs from God’s right around that point? Tell me if I’m wrong, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I hear that line of thinking a lot. It sounds good – except: all sinners – all those who break God’s moral laws – are hurting someone. They are hurting the very God who is causing their hearts to beat, Who gave them life, Who is giving us air and food and water and children and families and friends and jobs and homes and brains that could be used to glorify Him rather than defy Him, and Who proved His love by giving up His Son for the people who hated Him. I know it sounds mean, and I know that few people will want to hear it, but no one has ever been kinder to us than Jesus. If He forbids us some things, even if we don’t fully understand why, and if He promises to change us so that we don’t want those things any more anyway, and if He’s really in charge of eternity – which He demonstrated by rising from the grave – then it is perfectly reasonable and right to do what He says.

Bible Verses Don’t Always Feel Good

October 1, 2015 at 11:44 am | Posted in Q&A, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Question: Why would you throw Bible verses at gay people? It doesn’t feel good to be accused of something you can’t help. You need to research how many “ex-gay Christians” struggled to be heterosexual, but then returned to a gay lifestyle because that’s who they really are.

Response: If you want to state that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual practices must be wrong because some professing Christians are hypocritical, or because it just doesn’t feel good to hear the Bible verses that you don’t happen to like “thrown at you,” then I would like to point out that such an opinion makes no logical sense. The existence of hypocritical professing Christians doesn’t change the truthfulness of the Bible any more than the hypocrisy of some gay people changes the fact that gay people do exist. And as far as our “feelings” being the barometer for truth, think about it this way: It never “feels right” to your toddler when you tell her that she can’t have as much candy as she wants, but, let’s face it, the occasional denial of candy-all-the-time is good – objectively good – for a toddler, despite her strong feelings. In other words, nobody likes being told what to do when we are told we can’t have something we want really badly, or when it’s something we feel like we have to do, or something that we think we were born to do. We live in a culture deeply affected by what is known as “postmodernism” and it has become very common for people to horribly confuse “preferences” with “truth.” However, there is such a thing as absolute truth. If you love someone who is in danger, you warn him or her of the danger. If you don’t really care for the person, you just let him do what he wants, or, worse, encourage and celebrate his “right” to do it.


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