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Q&A: How can I know for certain that God exists?

Q: All of my adult life I have tried to remove the doubts I have on the existence of God. My feeble brain has a hard time wrapping itself around eternity, infinity etc.

I don't think your issue is not being able to wrap your mind around eternity and infinity. Your issue is that you somehow believed you were capable of doing such a thing in the FIRST place. Other people don't have faith in God because they can wrap their minds around those things. They believe in God and eternity and infinity IN SPITE of their lack of understanding of those things. The human mind CAN'T comprehend the incomprehensible. It never could, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just blowing smoke.

God has given humans the capacity to know that something exists, even if we can't know HOW that thing exists. For example, I can know that there is such a thing as timelessness (eternity), and yet, as a creature of time, I also understand that there is NOTHING in my life experience that I can point to that displays the characteristics of eternity. In fact, EVERYTHING around me is just as much a prisoner of time as I am. So, how do I know that there IS such a thing as eternity? Simply because God communicates it to me in His Word. I accept it on faith. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, "...he has put eternity into man’s heart..." It's in our hearts, but NOT in our minds to comprehend it. We must leave room for that as a mystery of God.

Were I to say that eternity cannot exist simply because I cannot comprehend such a thing, I would essentially be declaring my mind to be the greatest thing in the Universe, and anything outside my mind (or beyond my mind) cannot possibly exist and is therefore untrue. That would be the height of human arrogance.

Many people over the years have confessed to me their inability to accept that God is a Trinity — one God and three Persons — because they cannot fathom how such a thing could be. But what they fail to realize is that if they COULD fathom the nature of God, their mind would be EQUAL to God. But, by definition, God MUST be greater than man, otherwise He would not be God. And if God is greater than man, then it is logical to believe that His nature is also greater than man's comprehension (or ability to know).

Now, the EXISTENCE of God is somewhat easier to establish, because unlike eternity, God has left His fingerprints on everything that I can see in my daily experience. The Apostle Paul explains that God's "...invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." (Romans 1:20) The reason they are "clearly perceived" is because God has also given all of humankind the ability to recognize that which is the by-product of a designer versus that which is the by-product of random forces. For example, if an earthquake were to knock our Scrabble board game off the shelf and onto the floor, I would look at the arrangement of the letters and I would KNOW that the game ended up on the floor as a result of a random event. The very way they were sprawled on the floor would tell me that. If, however, I found that all the letters from the Scrabble game on the floor were arranged in such a way as to spell out a specific message to me with each word spelled correctly, I would know that someone (a designer) had arranged them that way. Why? Because random events of disorder never result in order and intelligence. 

You have convinced yourself that your inability to fathom the incomprehensible is actually a "doubt" as to the existence of God. It is not. It is simply the result of your being a finite human being who CANNOT comprehend what is incomprehensible. The God who created all things and Who is yet uncreated has expressed it in His Word to us, when He says: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8–9)

The Apostle Paul expressed it this way: "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable* his ways! (Romans 11:33)

*impossible to understand or interpret.

Q&A: What does the Bible say about generational curses?


Q: What does the Bible say about generational curses?

I’ve had quite a number of people ask me this question before. Some variations to the question include: How can I break a generational curse? Is my family under a generational curse? Is it because of a generational curse that bad things are happening to me? Could it be that a generational curse is the reason I am unable to get past some areas of sin in my life?

Let me begin by citing the passage from which the belief in “generational curses” has emerged:

You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me… (Deuteronomy 5:9)

A great many Christians have been taught about generational curses from this passage. They have been told that an ongoing curse from the Lord may be happening in their life resulting from the past sins of family members, perhaps even before they were born. This has given rise to complex strategies on “how to break generational curses” and the constant blaming of such curses for anything bad that may be happening in their lives. 

But is this true? Is that what this passage is saying?

The answer is NO!! But the reason so many stumble here is because they ignore the five very critical words found at the very end of the verse — “of those who hate me.” This passage teaches us that God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation OF THOSE WHO HATE HIM. In other words, the children are carrying on what the parents started — a hatred and rejection of God. This is the reason why the judgment continues “to the third and fourth generation.” 

But about those who come to Christ — who love the Lord? Are these still under the Lord’s judgment for the sins of their parents or grandparents?

There is a fundamental truth that all Christians need to learn and accept and it is this: generational judgments are broken when we repent of sin and turn to Jesus in faith. I will say it again: coming to Jesus in faith breaks every chain. I can’t emphasize this enough — Jesus is the One who sets us free from every tie to the past. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Notice Paul mentions nothing of generational curses. Why is that? It’s because if generational curses still exist for the believer, then the old has NOT passed away and the new has NOT come. Paul’s statement would be categorically false if generational judgments are still in place for those who have put their faith in Jesus.

Jesus breaks every chain when we come to Him by faith! You are a new creation! Do you know what that means? That means your past, even the horrific things done by you or your relatives — even strongholds of sin — cannot control you or dominate you any longer. As Jesus declared, “...if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

But be careful here. Just because Jesus has set you free from the dominion of sin doesn’t mean you can’t go back and live in your sin once again. There may no longer be anything compelling you to live the way you did before you met Jesus, but you can still choose to be under the dominion of sin. That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote what he did to the Galatians when he said, For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1). Jesus set you free from the chains of your past, so you no longer have to live that life of slavery to your sinful impulses. But that doesn’t mean you can’t choose to go back and live like a slave. Sadly, some people do.

I hear Christians saying: “This stronghold of sin has taken control of my life,” or “This is why divorce is rampant in my family.” Still others say: “We have a spirit of anger over our family,” or “We’re all struggling with a spirit of fear and that’s why our family is so fearful.” 

They say such things as if there’s no power in the Gospel — no overcoming victory in the cross. And yet, the Bible says that we are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37). I sometimes wonder how many Christians are living defeated in the condemnation of their family’s sinful past, enslaving them to a hopeless existence that robs them of the joy that ought to be theirs in Christ Jesus? 

I’ve got news for you. If you’re in Christ, you ARE a new creation! You’ve been birthed into a new family with an entirely new family identity. This new identity is what controls your life — not your family’s sinful past. The Bible declares that we are from God and have overcome...for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Greater is He that is in you NOW than the old self that controlled you in the past. 

You have a new “family likeness” not founded on the past patterns of family-related sins but rather on the Person of Jesus Christ. Just respond with a heart of faith to what the Bible tells you about your new life in Christ, and boldly declare, “I am no longer bound to my past or the past of my family. I am free in Christ to follow a new Master — Jesus Christ my Lord.” 


Q&A: If Jesus' death on the cross is an atonement for sin and the price is paid in full, why then do we need to ask for forgiveness in our daily prayers?

Q: If Jesus' death on the cross is an atonement for sin and the price is paid in full, why then do we need to ask for forgiveness in our daily prayers?  Isn't the payment for sins already complete?

This is a fairly common question and the Bible provides a good answer. Allow me to explain.

When a person recognizes their sinful condition and comes by faith to Jesus, accepting the sacrifice He made on the cross and receiving Him as their Savior, that person is born again and completely forgiven of all their sins — past, present and future. This forgiveness is FOR SALVATION and it is perpetual. (1 John 1:7)

Why, then, does the Bible tell us to come to the Lord and say, "Forgive us our trespasses..." if we are already forgiven by the cross of Christ? The reason is for RELATIONSHIP. 

If you are a Christian, a believer and follower of Christ, you are in a relationship with God through the Son, and that relationship can easily become strained and sullied by living in a world where sin is commonplace. This creates the need for us to come to the cross and find forgiveness so that no barriers exist between us and our Lord.

I’ll use the analogy of marriage to explain our relationship with God and why we need to come to Him and ask forgiveness. My wife and I are married and our status as a married couple is perpetual, but because we have a close relationship we sometimes do or say things that hurt the other person. When we do, we remain married, but there now exists a breach or rift in our relationship that needs to be mended before we can move on and be close once again. So, we come together and confess our wrong attitudes, words and actions, and we extend forgiveness where it is needed. In this way, the closeness of our relationship is restored through forgiveness. But throughout this process our status as a married couple never changes.

In the same way, your relationship with God can easily become strained and distant through sin. It doesn't mean you've lost your salvation or are no longer a child of God — that status cannot be affected by sin. But it DOES affect your relationship with God, and that relationship (closeness) needs to be restored. This is why we come to the Lord and confess our sins — so that nothing is able to create distance between us and our Redeemer. 

This picture of cleansing is powerfully depicted in the foot washing that occurred during the Last Supper. Jesus explained, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean...” John 13:10 (ESV) When we accept by faith the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross we are "completely clean." But the reality of everyday life causes us to occasionally need to wash our feet because we're walking every day through a world that is filthy with sin.


Photo: BigNazik/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Q&A: Where did Cain get his wife?


Where did Cain get his wife?

This is a very common question, because when reading through Genesis we come to chapter 4 where Cain is punished by God for murdering his brother, and immediately afterward we're told that "Cain knew his wife." (v17) People quite naturally want to know where this woman came from since she seems to pop up out of nowhere.

One key element that most people don't take into consideration when dealing with this question is the fact that Bible writers tend to ignore anyone who doesn't make a contribution to their narrative. In other words, we read about Cain, Abel and Seth because their contributions to the story line are critical. But that doesn't mean they were the only children born to Adam and Eve. Not by a long shot.

Cain and Abel are introduced to us in the opening verses of Genesis chapter 4, but in verse 3 there's an important phrase, which says: In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering... (Genesis 4:3) The phrase "in the course of time" presents for us the passage of a considerable amount of time, during which the world's population obviously grew very rapidly. How did it grow? Adam and Eve had many more children, who grew and had children and whose children grew and had children. (see Genesis 5:4) 

The Bible doesn't record how long Cain lived, but if his lifespan was anywhere near that of his brother Seth it would have been in excess of 900 years. In just a fraction of that time the population growth would have been sufficient for Cain to have had several choices in a wife. And even though the woman he married would have been a close relative, the purity of the gene pool in those early days of human history allowed for healthy children. 

Q&A: How can Christians make sense of all the gender confusion in the world?

How can Christians make sense of all the gender confusion in the world?

You are absolutely right, there is a world of confusion out there concerning gender. From what I’ve read, when you create a new Facebook account you are now presented with multiple gender identities to choose from. And if none of those seem to suit you, you’re given the option to create your own. Reading through the morass of gender options it becomes very clear that confusion is the order of the day.

Understanding gender from the perspective of God’s Word isn’t confusing at all. In fact, the Scriptures are very straightforward on the subject:

God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

There you have it. God made two genders — male and female. So, where did all this other gender uncertainty come from? Simple answer: the unregenerate, darkened heart of man.

Ever since the corrupting influence of sin entered the human race, mankind has been in open rebellion against God and His sovereign rule. The Lord our God decreed in the beginning that mankind is "male and female" but the sons of Adam would have none of it. "No!” he shouts in angry defiance, “we refuse to submit to God's definitions!” So man sets out to recreate the world in his own distorted image. 

This rebellion on the part of mankind is powerfully expressed in the Psalm 2:

The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers gather together

against the Lord

and against his Anointed One.

“Let us break their chains,” they say,

“and throw off their fetters.” (Psalm 2:2-3)

All this talk of alternate expressions of sexuality and transgenderism is nothing more than man throwing off what he considers to be the shackles of God's sovereign rule. Man doesn't want to be ruled by God and he chafes under what he deems to be God’s unfair dominion. Mankind desires above all to be his own ruler. Just as it was said of the nation of Israel in the time of the Judges: Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25b) 

This is where we currently live. Isaiah’s description of Israel is no less true of our modern world, “righteousness stands at a distance” and “truth has stumbled in the streets.” (59:14)


Q&A: Can God help me to break this cycle of sin?

Q&A: Since giving my life to Jesus I have been struggling to overcome a specific sin. As much as I desire to be free and try to walk in victory I seem to keep failing. Can God help me to break this cycle of sin?

I understand your problem and I know your pain.

Let me begin by encouraging you. You said that you have a desire to be free from the sin that you repeatedly commit. That's good news because the Apostle Paul wrote, "...it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) Your desire to be free from the cycle of sin tells me that God has already given you the will to do His good pleasure. You're just stumbling in the area of carrying it out.

You must understand that sin creates very deep ruts in our lives (the world calls them addictions) and breaking free from those ruts is extremely challenging. It takes dedication, and faith. Let me share some suggestions as well as some pitfalls that you must avoid:

1. Do not doubt your salvation. Doubt is one of Satan's most effective tools for bringing discouragement to the believer. Struggling with sin is not a sign that you are unsaved. It's simply a reminder that sin is a very challenging thing from which to be free. 

2. Do not doubt God's love for you or His willingness to help you. One of the biggest pitfalls for those struggling with some besetting sin is the temptation to become overly introspective. They analyze their every thought and motive and they also analyze God's attitudes and motives as well. "Maybe God doesn't want to help me. Maybe my sin is punishment for my past. Maybe God has given me over to my sin and there's no hope for me." Those who give into such thoughts eventually fall into a maze of confusing and errant notions that bear no resemblance to the truth. It only breeds discouragement. Don't go there!

3. Do NOT focus on self-effort. You cannot break free from this sin on your own. It simply isn't possible and you need to come to the Lord DAILY and remind yourself of this in prayer. Tell the Lord that you need Him to set you free and that you are waiting on Him to give you strength DAILY. The Apostle Paul wrote that we put NO CONFIDENCE in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3) Tell the Lord that you place NO CONFIDENCE or hope in your own power to break free from your sin, but that your confidence and hope is completely in Him alone.

4. Do NOT look to the world for answers. The world in which we live knows only the power of "self" so don't go looking there for answers. Keep your heart focused on the Lord and His Word. Expose your heart to the Word daily and make sure your heart gets filled. (Psalm 119:11)

5. Make no provision for the flesh. "...put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Romans 13:14) There's an old saying that goes like this: If you don't want to fall off the cliff, don't play around the edge. This means you need to be careful about needlessly placing yourself in the path of temptation. You also need to think about what things in your life make it easy for you to sin. Are you watching movies or reading books that portray sexual acts, or is the Internet a constant temptation to go where you shouldn't go? Remember that Jesus told us to be radical in our dealings with sin. (See Matthew 18:7-9) Sometimes we have to be radical to disconnect our lives from the things that cause us to fall into sin.

6. Take each day as it comes. If you're having trouble trusting God for the whole day, then pray for strength for the next HOUR. Literally, set your watch ON THE HOUR and pray, "Lord, I ask you for the strength to get through this next hour." Then, as you get stronger pray for the MORNING, and then pray for the AFTERNOON and then pray for the EVENING. Then eventually pray for each DAY. Take it SLOW. Only take as much of your day as your faith allows.

7. Do not allow failure to deter you from pressing onward. Satan wants you to give up and he will highlight your failures to get you to feel hopeless. Don't let your feelings rule your life. It's natural to feel bad when we mess up, but ultimately we need to listen to God rather than our feelings. And God wants you to press on and press in. 

8. Pray for an accountability partner. Ask the Lord to bring a mature believer into your life who you can talk and pray with, but most of all, someone who will ask you the hard questions and hold you accountable. 

9. Stay in the Word of God. It is through the Word that we build up and strengthen our faith (Romans 10:17) so stay connected to the Scriptures. Remember: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) I would encourage you to spend time reading and meditating on the Scriptures each and every day. Memorize passages that speak to your specific issue and recite them often — especially when you're feeling weak.

And finally,

10. Cry out to God. The Psalmist wrote: When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17) Believers are made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ, so what remains for us is to cry out to the Lord with our whole heart. 

Don't give up! Stay on course. There is freedom at the end of this road.

Q&A: Should small children be baptized?

 

Q: Should small children be baptized?

This question is one I have agonized over for the most of my time as a pastor. And it’s not because the Bible is ambiguous on the subject, but because there's never a shortage of parents wanting to see their children baptized. I can't blame them for that, but many times I find myself in the position of having to speak with the parents and explain to them that water baptism does not guarantee one's salvation. I know of several instances when parents rushed their children into being baptized for the wrong reasons and this often brought about confusion later on. My own parents had me baptized as an infant although I'm not certain what they really believed it accomplished.

A little background may be helpful. In the early 5th century AD, a man named Augustine rose to prominence in the church and became bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Augustine was brilliant and his writings are still studied today, but some of what he believed wasn't thoroughly biblical. On the subject of water baptism, for example, Augustine believed that all who receive water baptism become recipients of a regenerating grace. This belief was passed along to the Roman Catholic Church and continues to be a popular idea today. It's actually a lovely thought. The only problem is that this idea is nowhere found in Scripture. Even so, there are still many people today who are stuck in the mindset that baptism guarantees one’s future salvation and because of this, they wish to have their loved ones baptized.

But what does the Bible really say about water baptism?

Water Baptism is only ever portrayed in God's Word as an act of obedience on the part of those who have already come to faith in Jesus as Savior. The act itself of being baptized is a declaration of one's identification with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection — all depicted beautifully as the new believer is lowered into the waters of baptism (signifying our identification with Christ in His death) and then immediately raised again (indicating our identification with Jesus in His resurrection). 

While I completely agree that children can fully know and understand the Gospel and truly be born again, I do not agree that they can fully grasp the idea of water baptism in terms of what it represents. This is because the idea of entering into Jesus' death (which we depict in water baptism) speaks to the issue of dying to self and recognizing that we are now called to choose Jesus over the life of the flesh that wars against the life of the Spirit. And having died to self, water baptism goes on to symbolize the reality of being raised to new life through the power of the Spirit. The life of the Spirit and the life of the flesh are concepts that small children find very difficult to grasp, but I believe they are essential for making our motivation for being baptized in water truly biblical.

My wife and I raised four kids of our own and I have to tell you I wish I had encouraged them to wait until they were older and better able to understand what they were doing. I believe I robbed them of what could have been a more meaningful and genuine expression of their faith.

So, what age is best? That's hard to say because we grow and mature at different levels. When a child comes to the place of understanding the life of the flesh versus the life of the Spirit, and how we are called to die to self and live to Christ, they will then be ready to express that understanding in the waters of baptism. Until then, the very last thing we want to do in a child's life is to leave them with the impression that they were baptized in water and as a result, everything concerning heaven is all settled. We are not saved by being baptized in water. We are saved by placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.