Itself or Himself?

June 26, 2020 at 9:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: On the whiteboard left in our Sunday School classroom from children’s church someone had written out Romans 8:26, but over the word “itself” had written “Himself.” Does this mean that the Bible has the wrong word there?

Answer: Let me copy and paste the verse here, so we can see the context:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Romans 8:26

The “itself” refers to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is a Person (which we often call “Him”) as opposed to an object or thing (which we usually refer to as an “it”), so I’m guessing that a children’s church teacher was trying to make the point that the Holy Spirit is the third “Person” of the Trinity, and, as such, is a personal being, not a force or an inanimate substance. But I’m just guessing. I don’t know who wrote it or why.

As to your question, though, my understanding is that the Greek word for “Spirit” in Romans 8:26 is pnuema, which in the Greek is a “neuter” noun (as opposed to a “masculine” or “feminine” noun). The word translated as “itself” is autos, and it is there not to determine the gender or personhood of the Holy Spirit, but to emphasize that the VERY SPIRIT OF GOD!, as opposed to something lesser, intercedes for us with God the Father in prayer. Sort of the way we would say, “I know that Louisiana mosquitoes really CAN ruin a picnic – I have seen it ‘MYSELF‘ with my own eyes!” “Myself” in that statement is not necessary for the sentence to make sense, but it’s there for emphasis.

So, I don’t think the KJV translators were denying, or were mistaken, about the personhood of the Holy Spirit. I think they were just matching up a neuter emphasis word (“itself”) with a neuter noun (pnuema). Most of the other translations translate it “Himself,” and I can’t fault them for being theologically accurate, but neither can I fault the KJV translators for trying to be grammatically accurate.

For comparison, look at John 4:22. Jesus said to the woman at the well: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” Jesus knew that the true God is a “Who” and not a “what,” but He used a figure of speech as if to say, “You worship a you-don’t-know-what. At least the Jews worship a they-DO-know-what.” The Holy Spirit probably had the Apostle Paul use a similar technique in writing Romans 8 just to anticipate or overcome the objection that other intercessors might be available for us in prayer, when we already have the greatest intercessor possible in the Holy Spirit.

That’s probably more information than you wanted, but the “TL/DR” version is: Yes, the Holy Spirit is a “He” and not an “it,” but, no, the KJV translation of Romans 8:26 is not wrong.

Grace Negated by Anger?

June 15, 2020 at 10:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: Since, as a Christian, I am supposed to show grace to others, the best opportunities to do that, it seems, will happen when I encounter people who don’t “deserve” the kindness or love I am commanded to show them. If I am kind or loving to someone even though I don’t like them, or even if I feel anger toward them, does it even still count as “grace?”

Answer: Let me start by stating that I don’t believe the Bible teaches that ill will toward the people we choose to try to help negates the concept of grace, although unjust anger or hatred or even frustration toward a person, depending upon what is causing us to have those feelings, could be sins in and of themselves.

Certainly, being irritated by someone and choosing to help him or her could result in only one sin, whereas being irritated and refusing to help, out of spite, would be two sins instead of one, so there is at least a measure of grace involved any time we show undeserved kindness to someone else.

If I am angry at someone because they have personally offended me by intruding on my personal sensibilities or selfishness, that is sinful in and of itself. However, there are times when our feelings of frustration and anger are justified and not sinful, but to withhold kindness or love would be the sin. The Bible acknowledges our anger, but admonishes us not to let it cause us to sin (Ephesians 4:26). We also see Jesus (Mark 8:12-18) expressing something akin to frustration (maybe “holy grief” would be a better term for it), and we know He never sinned in thought, word, or deed (John 8:29; Hebrews 4:15).

Our sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is a lifelong process, and it may be that the ability to control our attitudes toward people who make us mad or frustrated is further down the road than we would like, at a stage of our sanctification that we haven’t yet reached. However, don’t exacerbate your tendency to let your emotions get the best of you by refusing to show the love of Christ to the people who seem the hardest to love.

Repentance Through Divorce?

June 5, 2020 at 9:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Question: I believe divorce and subsequent remarriage to another woman are sins, based on Matthew 19:9, but let’s say a man divorces and remarries another woman. Does that mean the only way to repent of the sin of divorce and remarriage is to now divorce his second wife?

Answer: I have heard some people teach that, but I do not believe it is correct according to the Bible. Although the act of remarrying in the situation you are describing would be sinful, so, too, would the act of committing a second divorce. There is support for this idea in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. If the man in your scenario is a Christian, he must confess the sins of divorce and remarriage, but he will receive forgiveness (I John 1:9). There will very likely be consequences and chastening for these forgiven sins, but he should repent by keeping the vows of his second marriage and loving and serving his second wife the way he should have done with his first wife.

Did Jesus Cancel Our Debt?

May 22, 2020 at 8:58 am | Posted in John, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: I heard a song that says Jesus cancelled our debt. Is that correct?

Answer: It is correct in a sense, although a little nuance might make it more theologically clear. Just before Jesus died on the Cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and He used a form of the Greek word tetelestai, which was used back then to mean that a debtor’s obligation to pay back a financial debt was “finished” – similar to the way you will sometimes see a mortgage instrument or promissory note stamped “paid in full” today.

Jesus, on the Cross, paid the complete price that all of His people would ever owe to God as punishment for our sins against Him. In that sense, if you have truly trusted Christ unto salvation, then your debt has been cancelled, but it is important to remember that it wasn’t cancelled because God decided to stop being just and overlooked our sin. It was cancelled because it was actually paid for fully by Jesus Christ as the perfect Sacrifice and Substitute.

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Colossians 2:14

Our salvation was not accomplished because God stopped being holy and just. It was accomplished because Jesus took our sins upon Himself and bore them in His body on the Cross, allowing both them and Himself to be nailed there for the satisfaction of God’s justice and wrath.

For those reasons, while it is not technically incorrect to say that Jesus “cancelled our debt,” it might be better to say that He cancelled our debt by paying for it in full with His life and blood.

Evil Energy Drinks?

May 15, 2020 at 9:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Question: You brought a Monster energy drink to church. Did you know it has the mark of the beast on the can? We shouldn’t promote anything Satanic.

Answer: I did bring a Monster energy drink to church. I drink one of those about once every five or six weeks, and I have brought them to Sunday School or Tuesday morning men’s prayer meetings, or other morning church activities on several occasions. I don’t drink coffee, but there are times (not often, like I said, maybe one day out of every 35-40 days) when I like to have some caffeine in the morning, and energy drinks have a lot of caffeine and sugar and probably other stuff that is not very good health-wise (which is why I only do it once in a while). I used to drink Rock Star energy drink because, to me, it was the best-tasting one, but it said “party like a rock star” on the can, and, let’s face it, that’s false advertising in my case. I haven’t really partied like a rock star since my sixth-grade birthday party.

So I switched to Full Throttle, which has a citrusy, although strongly medicinal, taste.

Finally, I found Monster tea-and-lemonade flavor, which actually tastes like tea and lemonade (except with melted iron ore mixed in).

It doesn’t make me twitchy, but it does keep me alert in the morning if I didn’t sleep well the night before and have to go to court or teach Sunday School.

A while back someone showed me where “a lady on the internet” said that Monster energy drink cans have “the mark of the beast” from Revelation 13 on the can. This is supposed to be a number (666) that signifies the Antichrist, and that the people who will be on earth after the Rapture and during the Tribulation will have to wear on their right hands or foreheads in order to buy or sell things. From this, people associate the number as being Satanic. The Monster energy drink cans have three monster claw marks on them, which, I thought, was supposed to symbolize a monster (full of caffeine, sugar, and adrenaline, no doubt) tearing his way through a wall. I guess this appeals to their target audience, which are mostly young men into skateboarding and skydiving and cage fighting and other “extreme” sports, not elderly Sunday School teachers and lawyers trying to stay awake during a three hour drive for a court hearing that starts at 8:00 a.m. If you don’t see the connection between the monster claw marks and the “mark of the beast” from Revelation 13, you are not alone. Neither did I, until the lady on the internet pointed out the Hebrew symbol for the numeral 6 looks a bit like a monster claw mark. Who knew?! So, with three marks vaguely resembling Hebrew sixes on my favorite energy drink, I was faced with a tough choice: go back to putting duct tape over the phrase “party like a rock star” or continue supporting the devil. I did neither, because, while we all know that “ladies on the internet” are very knowledgeable about almost everything, they do occasionally make a mistake. It turns out that Revelation 13:18 is describing the number six hundred sixty-six, not three consecutive numeral sixes. So, even IF Revelation 13 was originally written in Hebrew (it wasn’t; it was written in Greek), then it would not be written to look anything like three monster claw marks. I honestly think the so-called resemblance between a Hebrew six and a monster claw mark is purely coincidental, although, if you hear of anyone being tempted to worship Satan because of my morning beverage choice, please let me know, and I will stop immediately out of Christian love (I Corinthians 8).

As an aside, let’s suppose that the devil decided to get out of the “stealing, killing, and destroying” (John 10:10) business, and stopped opposing Christ’s Gospel and God’s kingdom, and stopped trying to tempt people into sin, and stopped trying to ruin lives and destroy families, and instead he got into the energy drink business. Not to be irreverent, but I would think we should rather want to encourage him in such endeavors.

Teachers Sharing TMI?

May 4, 2020 at 9:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: My kids’ teachers seem to be sharing an unusual amount of information about their own personal lives. Should this concern me?

Answer: I’m hesitant to sound too authoritative on this for three reasons. 1. You didn’t specify whether the personal information about the teachers is being shared by the teachers themselves with all the teachers’ students generally and publicly, or just with your kids individually and privately. 2. I’m a “Sunday School” teacher, not a “regular school” teacher, and I teach adults, not kids, so this is outside my realm of expertise. 3. I have a personal bias based on being a parent of school-aged kids for something like 24 years now.

1. I would be more concerned if your children are being singled out for private conversations with any of their teachers about the teachers’ personal lives. That would be a red flag to me. We would expect adult teachers to have other adult friends, counselors, advisors, or family members to share their personal lives with, and the idea that they feel comfortable sharing “TMI-type” details from their personal lives is troublesome for a number of reasons, including an unhealthy blurring of the teacher-student authority structure on one end of the spectrum, all the way to possible “grooming” or predatory behavior at the other end of the spectrum. We don’t like to impute ill motives to our children’s teachers, but, as their parents and protectors, we have a solemn duty to be vigilant.

If, on the other hand, your child has a teacher that just likes to talk about herself/himself in class (in front of the class as a whole), this may not be as potentially dangerous, but still raises questions of why class time is being spent on personal venting or the like. Is the teacher using her/his own life experience as an example or an object lesson, or does she/he just get a kick out of being egotistical before a captive audience?

2. We have several friends who are terrific teachers. I would love to hear some input from them on this. I’m probably guilty of talking about myself too much in Sunday School, but I try to stay focused on the lesson, and, since we’re all adults, there’s no danger of my abusing the teaching position by inducing another adult student to inappropriately trust me by sharing questionable details about my life.

3. When I was a kid (can you hear my “grouchy old man” voice?) we knew next to nothing about our teachers’ personal lives. My best friend ran into his second grade teacher at the Piggly Wiggly with her husband, and was shocked because he had no idea she was married and thought she lived at the school. We called our teachers by their last names, not their first names. If one of our teachers had told us she was having marital problems, had filed for bankruptcy, drank too much wine on the weekends, or the age she lost her virginity, we would have been expelled from school just for being there to hear about it. I am using those somewhat extreme examples because those are all things that various teachers over the years have shared with our daughters and/or their classmates. Maybe it’s because I’m old, but I thought all those were inappropriate to share with students. That’s why I’m admitting I’m biased on this issue.

I did, out of a sense of fairness, try to do some research in this area, and I was surprised. I thought that teachers sharing TMI would be roundly condemned by all educational authorities, but nearly every single article, blog, teaching journal, and guidebook I found online actually RECOMMENDED that teachers share personal information about themselves with their students. The reasons given had mostly to do with “gaining their trust” and “building rapport.” Goes to show what I know! Still, though, for the record, I see it as a major red flag, and I wouldn’t encourage it. The Bible, to my knowledge, doesn’t address the issue with any specific precepts, but I did find a number of verses and principles showing the wisdom of being “discreet:” Psalm 112:5; Proverbs 1:4; 2:11, 3:21, 5:2; 11:22; Isaiah 28:26.

There are two other issues, not specifically spelled out, but implied, by your question, that I would like to address. First, I would caution parents to be wary of teachers texting students, even in group texts with groups of students, where personal information is shared. There is something about the perception of privacy in text-messaging for young people that lends itself to speaking openly about things that ought to be kept private. Second, teachers should not share personal information about students from their school records, whether it is a health issue, a behavioral issue, attendance records, disciplinary problems, or the teacher’s personal opinion about a student, with other students or with the parents of other students. There are actually laws about this, and it is very unprofessional.

Ghosting Based on Hearsay?

April 23, 2020 at 9:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: We signed our son up for little league baseball. His coach turned out to be a Christian, and, over time, he did a number of things for our family. He would tell us he was praying for us. He would invite us to church and talk to us about Jesus. He would get us anniversary and birthday cards and gift cards to restaurants. He even came to the hospital when one of us got sick or when we had another baby. He always showed up on time for baseball practice, and he was always well-prepared for the games. Then, one day, a couple of the other players’ parents told us that he did something we just didn’t agree with, so we took our son off the team immediately, and stopped coming to the games. Do you think this was the right thing to do?

Answer: I’m confused about why you didn’t ask the coach about his reasons for what he supposedly did wrong, or even if what you heard about him was true. It doesn’t make sense to simply take what someone says about a third person at face value, especially when the coach had demonstrated good character and loyalty to you for a significant period of time. Matthew 18:15-16 comes to mind. I know a little league team is not a church, but you did say the coach was a fellow Christian, and the principle (if not the precept) of going to someone personally if you have a problem with him, rather than just assuming the worst, would seem to apply. Also, Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” It is foolish to decide to be upset with someone about something he allegedly did without even getting his side of the story. The Bible even says it is shameful. So, to be blunt, no, I don’t think what you did was the right thing to do.

Equipped to Eat Meat?

April 13, 2020 at 8:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: If God designed us and He designed animals to be our food, then why are humans so ill-equipped to eat meat?

Answer: I’m not sure I agree with your premise. Although, most humans do not have claws or fangs or venom or the sort of speed, strength, or stealth that compares well with many predatory animals, we do still seem fairly well-equipped to capture and consume animals, with our superior intelligence, as well as teeth capable of chewing. Certainly, for most of us, our bodies do well processing protein and turning it into fuel.

In any event, the original human beings, Adam and Eve, before sin entered into the world, were limited to a vegetarian diet (Genesis 1:29-30, 2:9). It was only after the Noahic flood that God authorized the eating of animals by humans (Genesis 9:1-3), but, when it happened, there is no doubt that the people were well-equipped to domesticate, catch, kill, eat, and digest the animals for which they had an appetite.

Scars in Heaven?

March 23, 2020 at 10:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: For Christians, if our bodies have scars in this life, will we still have those scars in Heaven?

Answer: I wish I could be more definitive on this one. I don’t know for sure how this will work. It is clear from Scripture that true Christians will have “glorified” bodies after the final resurrection (I Corinthians 15:42-54). These bodies will not experience pain nor sickness nor aging nor decay nor any infirmities, but they will still be “our” earthly bodies which God will somehow transform into a glorified state or form. Most of what we know about these “glorified” bodies comes from what the Scripture teaches us about Jesus’s glorified body after His Resurrection (Luke 24:39-43). They will be magnificent, but I do not know for sure if they will have scars.

I will speculate a little if you will not hold it against me 🙂. Jesus’s resurrected body still had the places (the “imprints” if you will) where His hands/wrists were pierced by the nails and where the Roman soldier’s spear pierced His side (John 20:24-29). I don’t know if those count as “scars” or not, but it may indicate that scars received in our earthly lives which bring glory to God will remain with us for a joyful testimony in our glorified bodies in Heaven. Perhaps other scars will disappear. I don’t know. As my wife has said, scars are, in a sense, evidence of healing, so we might value having those as eternal reminders of God’s grace in Heaven. Whatever the case, God will do what is best, and everything He does will bring eternal joy to true Christians once He calls us home.

Here is an article my wife wrote several years ago for one of our friends, which contains some great encouragement concerning scars: “From Battle Scars to Beauty Marks.”

Was St. Nick a Real Person?

March 5, 2020 at 10:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: Was “Old St. Nick” a real person?

Answer: I’m glad you asked about this, not because I know a lot about it, but because there’s a funny story that goes with it. There was a real person named Nicholas of Myra. He was born in the 2nd Century, and he became bishop of a place called Myra. He is known in the Roman Catholic Church as “St. Nicholas.” Because Roman Catholic tradition is notoriously unreliable concerning the people that they have declared to be “saints,” it is hard to tell for sure how many of the stories about Nicholas are real and how many are legend. I’ll tell you the story about him that I read and that I would like to be true, even though there is a lot of disagreement about whether or not it is.

One of the arch-heretics of the early Christian church was a man named Arius. He denied the doctrine of the Trinity, claiming that God the Son was not equal to God the Father, and some other stuff (later known as Arianism). Arius was wrong, but he was supposedly something of a smooth-talker, and had a way of being charming, especially to the ladies. He became very popular for the wrong reasons, and his false teachings became such a problem that the church convened a special council to deal with them.

Nicholas came to the council, too, but he wasn’t like Arius. He wasn’t eloquent or socially charming, but he was well-respected for being holy and generous, while also being a little hot-tempered when someone denied the Deity of Christ. At some point during the council debate, Arius stood up on a chair or a desk to make a speech and promote his heresy. Nicholas couldn’t bear it, and marched over and smashed him in the face. (Some historians say it was a punch, some say it was a slap.) A big melee broke out and chaos ensued.

Ultimately, another man named Athanasius was instrumental in formulating a correct creed expressing what the Bible teaches about the Trinity, and Arius was declared a heretic. I’m not sure how the idea of “Santa Claus” was derived from “St. Nicholas,” but I did find this hilarious meme:

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