Bring Your Cell Phone to Church 2014 Questions

iphone-screenHere are the questions that I couldn’t get to Sunday.  If you’d like to listen to the one’s that I was able to answer, you can hear our podcast here, or click here to watch it online.

I do want to readdress a question that I was asked, because it leads to another question about Asbury.

Part of my salary is cash which I tithe on. Part is not which I don’t tithe on. Is this wrong?

I answered this question basically by saying that God is a giver and that He is not (nor am I legalistic) about giving. Give to God what you think is the proper amount.  Really.  God is giver (John 3:16) and we are called to be like Him and give.  I do a straight 10% of everything that I make and give it as a tithe.   But honestly, that’s between you and God.

In this, I made the statement that our church is not as far along financially as we should be.  Which lead to this question.

Our bulletin says we are in the black by 18K. So can you or finance committee explain how we are in tight times?

Great question. Our finance committee meets monthly, and any member is more than welcome to come and be present. Times and dates are always in the bulletin under the calendar and also on our church calendar on our website.

Where we currently are right now is we are in better shape than it appears, based off a single large gift that has placed us further in the black. Take out that gift and we would be in the red (running a deficit). Our overall giving numbers have never kept pace with the growth of our church. There are lots of reasons why that is so; we are middle-class church, with few large donors. We are a young church with over extended families, and to just be frank, I have done a poor job of teaching stewardship.

We are good shape, but we are not where we’d like to be. But, that’s true for all of us in probably every area of our lives! Our job is just to be faithful, in all things!

What’s the best way to explain the Holy Trinity to a Jehovah’s Witness?

Great question.  I was doing some reading on this, and I found a website that reminded us first – “Remember that JW’s are people first, and JW’s second. Be really, really nice to them. People who come out of this cult say that they were led out more by love, and less by the arguments. Provide them snacks when they come for the appointments!”

I think that’s the key to really any interaction to anyone that’s trying to convince you of their point.  They are there to show you that they are right, not to be persuaded.  Show them love, first and foremost.  They are people that Jesus died for.

Specifically, they will say that the word is Trinity is not mentioned in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not found in scripture.

My favorite example of the Trinity is at Jesus baptism as seen in Matthew 3: 13-17.  What I like about it is that in this passage we see all three person of the Trinity present.   The Son being baptized, the Father speaking, and the Spirit descending like a dove.  We see them as separate and distinct, while at the same time, they are one.

If God’s a selfless God, why does he want us to worship him?

Great question.  How can a loving God be all about Himself like that?  Here’s the thing, worshiping God is our purpose. It isn’t that God really even needs our worship.  He doesn’t need us to complete Him.  He is complete as it is.  But, as we talked about last week, we are made in His image, and He is a God of trinity.  And the trinity is about relationships.

And so God really desires relationship with us.  As we desire relationship with Him.  And for us humans, one of the ways that we best experience that relationship with Him is through worship.  In worship we can fully know and experience the glory of who God is.

In many ways, worship is how we most connect to God. And that is what God truly desires.  That connection. So the question is why does God want us to connect to Him?  It’s who He is. And it’s what we are made for.

Is there any correlation between Malachi 4:5 and Chapter 11 of Revelation?

There is, there is an established connection between the two, but there has never been a clear conscious of what it exactly means.  As I tell folks, I’m not an expert on Revelation, there are folks that know a lot more about it than I do.  I found a really good link that shows the connections between these two passages and some the different thoughts about what it could mean and who the witnesses are.  Click here to learn more!

If all is in God’s hand, what it is the purpose of prayer?

This is one of those great mysteries of God.  We know that God is in control.  We know that He has plans that no one can thwart or change.  We know that.  But yet, we are told that our prayers matter.  Scripture tells us that our prayers can change things.  So, which is it?

There is Biblical evidence that prayer has some effect on God.  So, our prayers do matter and do make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.  But I think that the key thing for us to remember about prayer is not that it changes God, but I think the key to remember is that it changes us.  CS Lewis put it like this – “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

The more we pray, the closer we are to God.  And the more we pray, the more He changes us into who He wants us to be.

Why is it the harder I try to be what God wants me to be I face more struggle?

Remember God is not the only force at work in the world.  There are the forces of evil at work in the world.  There is the power of the evil one at work through our flesh, through the culture we live in, and through his evil schemes.  The last thing that the devil wants to happen to any believer is that they grow close to God.  And sometimes these challenges and trials are ways that he tries to stop us from growing.

So see these things as things that can let us grow closer to God.  Let these challenges make you cling to Jesus even more tightly.  Listen to what it says in James 1: 2-4:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

See these challenges for what they are, things that can draw you closer to God.  And all them hold onto to Jesus even more tightly.

How do you have a solid relationship with God/Jesus when you repeatedly do things that you know aren’t right to do by the word. How can you still have that relationship when you don’t feel guilt over what you do

Paul understood that feeling.  Listen to what Paul writes in Romans 7: 15-19:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

We all struggle with that.  We do.  Don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes.  If you are a believer, then you are free in Christ.  You are not condemned.  You are forgiven.

But, how do you avoid it those things?  I think that is the key.  Stay away from things that are destructive. Stay away from things that are harmful.  And do the things that will help you grow.  The way that we put it at Asbury is we pray, we read our bibles, and we go to church.  We grow closer to God.  That gives us strength to resist the temptation that comes.

And it reminds us of grace that picks us up when we fall.

It is very mentally exhausting to be around someone who is sees the world through negative eyes. What is the best way to deal with them, esp if they are someone you cannot get away from?

Somes folks are just negative. They are.  And it can be a real challenge to keep ourselves optimistic and focused in those tough times. And so, in those times, the key for us is our focus.  In the midst of negativity, we have to be even more determined to keep our focus.

So, where is your mind at?  What are you thinking about?  Are you giving into the negatively all around.  We have to do what Paul says in Philippians 4:8: – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Keep your mind on things above.  Keep your mind on the positive.  The hopeful. The good.

And also know that folks that are that negative usually just aren’t happy.  Let their negativity, let that drive you to pray for them.  Because that is the thing that will help them in the end.  The grace and mercy of Jesus, changing their lives.

If God is all-knowing, and he knew Lucifer would destroy God’s beautiful creation and beloved people, why did He create him?

It says in the Bible that Jesus was the lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. So before He ever created us, or even the angels, this was his plan.

Why?  Because God so values our free will.  God wants us to choose Hm.  God want us to choose right over wrong, good over evil, life over death. That’s God’s plan and Gods’ will for us.  And here’s the thing, He used the devil to accomplish that.  As hard as it may seem to believe, God used the devil as tool to accomplish His ultimate plan. He used Him to draw us to Himself.

And He still does.  He still uses temptations to allow us to have to choose Him.  That’s God’s desire and God’s hope!

Who were Goliath’s parents?

So will say that they were Nephilim as mentioned in Genesis 6, but remember the flood reset everything.  So, that’s probably not likely.  More than likely, he was just a very large man that appeared to them to (rightly) be a giant.

Where is Jesus right now?

The bible tells us that He is at the right of Father.  And He is physically there.  It tells us in Acts that He physically and bodily ascended to heaven and He will physically and bodily descend in the second coming.  So, at this moment, He sits that right of God interceding on our behalf.

I thought I had forgiven someone that did an evil, horrible thing to me years ago. I’ve tried to heal and to rebuild my life. Hate and vengeful thoughts keep invading my heart. It is hard for me to feel joy in my life now. How can I find peace?

Believe me, I understand. I’ve been there myself recently. Just wrote about it.  And still, some days, I still am there. I think within this; we have to understand the difference between forgiveness and restoration. To forgive, in my opinion, is simply to wish no ill-will against someone. To hold nothing against them. To not wish them harm.

And let me say this. This is a choice. Not an emotion. It may be a daily choice for the rest of our lives. We may not feel anything but hurt or anger at this person that has wronged us. We may never feel good about that person. Hatred and vengeance may bubble up. The deeper the hurt, the more likely it is that we will feel that way.

And we have to choose to forgive. We have to give over and over and over to God. We may never “feel” right about it. But remember forgiveness (like love) is a choice. It is not a decision. It is not an emotion. It is a choice.

Reconciliation is everything being back to normal, back to square one like it never happened. And that may never happen on this earth. And that’s ok. Our calling as Christians to forgive. That’s choice.

And that choice i sonly possible through prayer. Through growing closer to God. To having Him change us. It’s not “us” that forgiveness. It’s God through us that forgives.

Keep giving. Keep choosing to forgive. And let God work through you. Especially when it is the hardest.

How do the seven years after the coming work? What happens? Describe the tribulation.

That is a great question, and as I often say when it comes to Revelation, I’m no expert.  The thing that I always take away from Revelation is that God wins in the end, and He will protect His people.  To me the book of Revelation is a book of great hope because of that.

Here is an a GREAT explanation of the different views of Revelation. I found this to be helpful and one of the better explanations I’ve ever found.

Where was God before people of the earth?/Who is God’s father?

Yes, God has always existed.  He was before time and always present.  The Triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) have always existed and are the only uncreated parts of the universe.  Everything existed because God spoke them into being.  Where did God came from?  Excellent question.  No one knows.  That’s one of the questions that I’ll ask Him one day! 🙂

Is God and Jesus the same person or are they father and son?

When we say “God” we are actually referring the Triune God.  God that is Father, and Son, and Spirit.  They are one, the are made of the same “substance” and they are united in the Godhead. Jesus also tells us that He and the Father are one.   So, they are one, but at the same time, they are three distinct persons.  I mentioned above but think of Jesus’ baptism when we see the Father, the Son, and the Spirit all at work in the same place and same time.

So, they are one. But they are separate.  That is one of the mysteries of the Trinity!

I wonder if God cries when one of his children doesn’t love him?

I think it hurts Him when His children don’t love Him.  I think of Matthew 23:37, where Jesus is heartbroken over Jerusalem’s rejection of Him.  Listen these words.  You can almost hear the pain in His voice:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

He so wanted to love them but they wouldn’t let Him.  I think it broke His heart.  So when we don’t love Him, I do think it pains Him.

How do you politely tell an elderly Jehovah witness that comes to your home two times a week that u don’t believe what she believes?

As you said, politely. Just be gracious.  You won’t change their mind, and they think they have an obligation to try to change yours.  Just be nice, be sweet, but compassionate.  Pray for them.  But honestly, I am pretty direct with them, I’ve my religious convictions and they are going to change them.  I am loving, but I also am fairly direct with them.

Above all, let Jesus’ grace shine through.  You won’t convince them of anything by the words you speak.  But your grace may change them in powerful ways.

Are all sins equal? And is there scripture about related to it?

The first thing we need to understand in this question is that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). When we actually read through the book of Romans we see that so much of what Paul is trying to accomplish is this. He wants to show that all of us stand condemned in our sins. Our big sins, our small sins, all of our sins. All sins make us guilty before God.

And that’s the miracle of grace, no matter what the sin, we can be forgiven.

So, all sins condemn us, yes. But, there is some biblical evidence that God looks at some sins more severely than others.

First, in Matthew 18:6 it says – but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

So, it seems like those that cause someone weaker than them to stumble will face more serve judgement. Those who are strong have an obligation to those that are weak. And to cause them to stumble seems to be worse.

Also, look at Matthew 11:23-24 – And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Capernaum rejected Jesus and His ministry, and He’s saying that choice will cause them greater judgement one day.

So, it seems like choices that negatively affect those that are weaker as well as an out and out rejection of Jesus seem to be more harshly judged.

What did it feel like for God to be alone before he created everything?

No one know what God was thinking; none of us can fathom the mind of God.  But we do know this.  When He made us, when He formed us, He looked at man and said this.  It is good.  So we don’t know how He felt before we were made.  But we know when He made us He felt great joy!  He delighted in us.  And He still does.

Any advice on getting my family into church?

That’s a tough thing.  Sometimes family is the hardest place to share our faith and tell others about church and Jesus.  It can be a real challenge sometimes.  I know I have felt that in my own family at times.  I think that the thing that we have to do is this – let our light shine before others.  Let the grace of Jesus shine though.  Live with grace, with mercy, with hope.  Live differently, so folks will want to know why we are like we are.

It says in 1 Peter 3:15 – but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

So, live your faith.  Don’t pound, don’t nag.  Don’t beat up.  But, live our faith.  Read, pray, go to church.  Live gracefully and hopefully. And I promise in time, they’ll want what you have.  And that will make all the difference.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

That’s one of the great questions of faith, why do bad things happen?  The easy (but not easy) answer is free will.  God gives us free will.  He let us make choices.  He gives us the power and the freedom to make good choices and bad choices.

As people that are fallen and sinful, we are going to choose wrongly a lot of (most of) the time.  Where there is free will, there will be bad things.

But, what about things aren’t choices?  What about tornados and other disasters?  Paul tells us in Romans 8:20-22 – For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

What does that mean?  It means that when Adam and Eve fell, they didn’t just mess up things for me and you, but for all creation.  After they feel, there are natural disasters (that aren’t Gods’ will) and these things are consequence of the fall.  When Jesus returns, He will fix all that is broken.  And their won’t be any more disasters like this.  All will be right, all will be as He intended it.

And what I tell folks is this.  The power of God is not that He stops bad things from happening, but that He can bring good out of anything.  It says in Romans 8:28 that all things work for our good, all things.  God will bring good out of everything.  And it says in Genesis 50:20, what man intended for evil, God will use for good.

So, see that’s the thing.  Even the bad things, God will use.  God will use even the bad things and bring something good out fo them.  That’s what He does.  That’s’ His power.  Not that He stops bad things.  But that He brings good out of everything.

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