Friday, December 2, 2016

Q&A: In Mathew 21:22 where Jesus says "...you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." —can you explain the correct meaning of "ask" here?

QUESTION: In Mathew 21:22 where Jesus says "...you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." —can you explain the correct meaning of ask here?

Answer: Although this verse has been challenging for many people, there's nothing mysterious or difficult about the word ask. It's the Greek word aiteƓ and it simply means to ask or request.

The verse actually goes like this:

"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 (ESV) 

I think what challenges some believers is that this verse sounds a bit like a blank check promise. In other words, all it takes is faith and you can have anything. And believe me, some people have believed that very thing. But wait a second. Our understanding God's Word can't rest on any one single verse. Christians need to have a fuller, more complete understanding of the revelation of Scripture, and that includes the following passage:

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14 (ESV) 

John gives us an important insight that adds to our understanding of prayer, faith and receiving what we ask for. He reminds us that our requests need to fall in line with God's own will. So the real key is discovering God's will.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Q&A: What is Ezekiel 16:44 trying to say?

QUESTION: What is Ezekiel 16:44 trying to say?

“Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’” Ezekiel 16:44 (ESV) 

Answer: I have to confess when I first read your question I wondered if you gave me the right passage. But assuming it’s correct, the context of the passage (in verse 1 of the chapter) tells us this is a message from the Lord to the city of Jerusalem. During the chapter the Lord likens Jerusalem to a woman and other corrupt cities (Samaria and Sodom) as her “sisters.” Then, in verse 44 the Lord speaks of the evil and pagan-corrupted Canaanite cities that had taught Jerusalem how to abandon God and sacrifice her own children — likening those cities to Jerusalem’s “mother.” This “proverb” of “Like mother, like daughter” is a way of accusing Jerusalem for being just as guilty of pagan idolatry as her non-Jewish neighbors.

This passage is NOT stating that a daughter is going to be exactly like her mother, or is destined to repeat her mother’s mistakes in life. If you have heard such a thing, you have been exposed to a very unfortunate interpretation of God’s Word and I would personally steer clear of anyone who took such liberties with God’s Word.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Q&A: How do I respond to someone who says my faith is "blind faith"?

QUESTION: How do I respond to someone who says my faith is "blind faith"?

This can be very challenging to hear, and I think there are a good many Christians who aren't really sure how to respond. And the main reason why is because they're not really sure what the term means.

To claim that someone has "blind faith" is to suggest that there is absolutely no evidence for the things that person holds as true. In other words, they are telling you there is nothing that backs up your beliefs in any way.

All I can say is "Wow!!" 

Let me be clear. For anyone to make that claim about Christians proves only one thing: THEY KNOW ZERO ABOUT YOUR CHRISTIAN FAITH.

I can't emphasize this enough. There may be some belief systems in this world that truly require blind faith, but Christianity isn't one of them! 

So, if someone said that to me, my first reply would be: "The term blind faith suggests you think there are things which I believe that have no supporting evidence. Of which of my beliefs do you speak?" 

Now is when you have to be ready for their response. It could include doubts about the Bible, or the existence of God, or some other topic that troubles them...and you need to be prepared to give them an answer for the reason for your hope. (See 1 Peter 3:15) But let me just say that you should never consider yourself at a deficit in this discussion. Christianity has the most incredible evidence known to man! But the followers of Jesus need to know what that evidence is and they need to also know how to defend it.

Here are some links to help you out from a series I did the Summer of 2016:

How can I know the Bible is reliable? Listen | Watch
Responding to Misconceptions and Objections to Christianity Listen | Watch
How Should Believers Respond to Evolution? Listen | Watch
Knowing What You Believe and Why (Part 1) Listen | Watch
Knowing What You Believe and Why (Part 2) Listen | Watch
Knowing What You Believe and Why (Part 3) Listen | Watch
Knowing What You Believe and Why (Part 4) Listen | Watch


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Q&A: Where in the Bible does it say a woman should take her husband's last name?

QUESTION: Where in the Bible does it say a woman should take her husband's last name? 

ANSWER: Nowhere! A woman taking her husband's last name in marriage is a tradition, not a biblical command. There is nothing in the Bible about this tradition because in biblical times most people didn't have last names. They were identified by the area in which they lived (i.e. Jesus of Nazareth) or by their spouse (Joanna, the wife of Chuza) or even by their birth father (James the son of Alphaeus).

A woman taking the name of her husband comes more from Western culture and tradition, therefore there's nothing inherently biblical in the practice. By the same token, there's nothing inherently unbiblical if a woman chooses to maintain her maiden name or even use both her maiden name and her husband's name.

Taking someone's last name in marriage is far less important than truly understanding what God intends for two people when they come together in marriage. God refers to a married couple as "one flesh" which speaks of an incredible intimacy and oneness. The sharing of a surname is one way of identifying that a man and a woman have entered into that union.

See also: Living together outside of Marriage


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Q&A: [Recently] you were talking about Jesus' appearances to the apostles and you said he breathed the Holy Spirit in to them. But haven't we learned that the Holy Spirit is a person based on the language used in Scripture?

Q&A: [Recently] you were talking about Jesus' appearances to the apostles and you said he breathed the Holy Spirit in to them. But haven't we learned that the Holy Spirit is a person based on the language used in Scripture?

Absolutely!! The Holy Spirit is, indeed, a Person and equal to God the Father and God the Son. Several passages in the New Testament use a personal pronoun like "he" or "him" when speaking of the Holy Spirit. (Personal pronouns are only used for persons.) When we speak of impersonal forces, such as wind or gravity, we would correctly employ a non-personal pronoun like "it." Additionally we see in the Scriptures that personal traits are ascribed to the Holy Spirit (i.e. He can be lied to and grieved).

I'm assuming from your question that you are troubled by the language of Jesus breathing on the disciples as if it somehow makes the Spirit appear more like a force than a person. Let's look at the passage in question:

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit." John 20:21-22 (ESV) 

First of all, there is absolutely nothing about this passage that suggests in any way that the Holy Spirit is less than a Person. The fact that Jesus breathed on them is incredibly important and full of meaning.

Do you recall how the first man became a living being? The Bible tells us God formed him from the dust of the earth and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. (Genesis 2:7). But sin entered into God's otherwise perfect creation, and now, according to Jesus, man needs to be REBORN. (John 3:3) How was that rebirth accomplished? Once again God breathed into mankind the breath of Life. But this time, it was the Spirit of Life Himself—the One who imparts eternal life to all who place their faith in Jesus.

So the fact of Jesus breathing on the disciples is hugely important. It not only points us back to the original creation of man, but it also shows us how God accomplished the re-creation of the man or woman of faith, and how they are now infused with the Holy Spirit and made children of God.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Q&A: Is there anything in God's Word forbidding a believer to get a tattoo?

Not really. People love to quote Leviticus 19:28 which says:

You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD. (ESV)

But this prohibition was centered around forbidding the Israelites to mimic the worship practices of their pagan neighbors. Since modern tattoos are not connected with pagan worship practices it really doesn’t transfer.

I think the best consideration for either getting or not getting a tattoo is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which says:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 

The first consideration every Christian ought to have concerning a tattoo is whether the Lord has given the go ahead. According to the passage above, your body no longer belongs to you. It’s His—bought and paid for by His blood—so you need to make sure He’s okay with it.

Secondly, any consideration for a tattoo needs to be in keeping with the exhortation to “…honor God with your body.” Is the tattoo something that will bring honor to the Lord?

Finally, Christians are to be influenced by the Word—NOT the World! If the motivating factor for getting a tattoo is simply because they’re popular then you might want to reconsider your decision. As a believer, you are to be led by the Spirit of Christ, not the spirit of the world.

Now, I understand that these comments don't touch on the issue of someone who has gotten a tattoo which they now regret. It's not uncommon for an individual to come to Christ after having received one or more tattoos of questionable or even objectionable content. What does a person do in such a case?

Looking at a tattoo that only reminds you of your foolish past is probably similar to the memory the Apostle Paul retained of his own life before Christ. It wasn't something he was proud of, and he even wrote to the Corinthians about it saying:

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1 Corinthians 15:9 (ESV) 

But this statement wasn't meant as an expression of self-regret or self-disappointment. Instead Paul's past was a vivid reminder to him of the grace that had been shown him and his new calling as an apostle. Paul knew that he wasn't worthy of God's love and attention, and he certainly wasn't worthy of his position in God's Kingdom. His past only underscored that truth, and continually reminded him of the depth and beauty of God's unlimited grace.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Q&A: How do we recognize those who are out to destroy our faith?

QUESTION: How do we recognize those who are out to destroy our faith (i.e. the swine we may be casting our pearls to)?

I find this a very insightful question mostly because people don't often associate casting pearls before swine as a potentially dangerous activity. It's mostly just seen as a waste of time. But check out the warning of danger issued by our Lord:

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot AND TURN AND ATTACK YOU." Matthew 7:6 (ESV my emphasis

It's truly amazing how many Christians ignore those last five words, but there's an unmistakable warning in this verse. Let's see if we can unpack it a little and discover where that danger comes from.

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs...

Immediately before this verse, Jesus had been talking about not being critical and judgmental of others. But with this verse we're reminded that we can't throw out discernment altogether. Frankly,  there are some precious spiritual truths that should not be given to those who will only receive them with derision and contempt. Just as a dog or a pig has absolutely no appreciation for the value of a pearl, there are some people who place no value on God's Word or His promises.

...lest they trample them underfoot and turn and attack you.

Dogs and swine were considered filthy and useless in ancient Jewish society. Pigs were unclean under the Mosaic Law, and wild dogs ran in packs, rummaging through garbage and even attacking people on occasion. Therefore it's not hard to see how the reference to dogs and swine in the Matthew passage would point to those hostile to the Kingdom of God and the Good News that we share. And whenever there is a hardened rejection of God's message, there will always be the possibility of God's people suffering some kinds of personal attack.

Matthew 7:6, therefore, calls us to walk in a level of discernment concerning those with whom we share the spiritual realities of the Lord. It behooves all believers to ask God for a heightened understanding concerning those we should and shouldn't approach.