Thursday, September 24, 2009
Never will? If I could provide him with convincing proof, would you still say that? The Bible is absolutely clear on this, so your questions hinges on the reliability of the Bible. Are you willing to do the homework to discover the reasons why we know it to be reliable? I can point you in any number of directions to learn this on your own if this is your major stumbling block. A careful study of all the facts will give you confidence in its reliability. There is a historically verifiable path you can follow – real places, real people, witnesses and evidence.
Statement: I’ve read a lot about other religions, and they claim to have answers, too.
I like to summarize comparative religion in a nutshell like this…All religions in the world basically establish the format, regulations, and requirements, whereby mankind can earn his way back to God, heaven, Nirvana, etc. Christianity is different, because, right from the outset it admits that this is impossible to accomplish. Further it states that God in his love for us came down to us (since we couldn’t make it to up him), took our place. Christianity is a relationship with the One who saves me from my own rebellious, selfish, harmful actions and even our well-intentioned, but weak efforts at altruistic behavior.
The distinction that I like to make regarding other religions is that of revelation (in other words, God reveals it). Man has always sought to understand the nature of God. Unless man rejects God all together, he is left to wonder and to try to come to conclusions about what God must be like, which accounts for the many varieties of religion in the world. Man also seeks to understand how to be made right, knowing that he has failed some kind of moral code that he senses in his own heart. But God did not leave us to figure out for ourselves. He came and lived as a man so that we would know. He did not leave us to repay or make up for every sin we have committed. He died for our sins in order that they would be settled in the eternal account of grace and mercy that God provides. And He left a witness not only in the Bible, but importantly, in the Holy Spirit who speaks into the heart of all who seek Him earnestly. The questions that other religions leave unanswered are answered completely in Jesus Christ.
Question: What about Heaven and Hell? How can someone who has never heard of Jesus be condemned to hell? Hell must be filling up pretty fast if every person who has ever lived without hearing about Jesus is in hell.
This is the uneasy reality of the honor God has bestowed on man’s free will. We are not forced to go to heaven. God says that there is enough witness in nature itself for men to acknowledge Him. In our day and age, such an acknowledgement will lead to openness to the Gospel, which answers the very question in man’s heart – “if you are out here God, do I matter and will you speak to me?” The resounding answer is yes and yes. The fact is that men’s hearts are inclined inward and we reject God, until He does something to replace our “heart of stone” with a “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). He doesn’t condemn us for not hearing about Jesus. We are condemned already, by our own actions and inactions. Hell doesn’t sit well with God either and he determined to do something about it. He sent Jesus to make it possible for us to be set free from the penalty and power of our sin, at the horrible cost of his own life. He took our penalty upon himself because he loved us.
By the way, we make a leap when we assume that God is not able to meet people in ways that we do not understand – regardless of whether a Christian trudged into the village with a message. As Abraham asked God, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” He is a superb communicator. Hell’s doors are locked from the inside. The sad reality is that even when people are provided with compelling evidence of God, some still would say, “No, I will be my own god over my life.” God honors that response.
Question: How do you know your religion is right?”
First, we do not believe in something that is not reliable – the historical witness of the Bible is something that can be verified (see the first statement). It is not too difficult for people to understand – it is told in plain language. But more importantly, we know because the Holy Spirit lives within us and God is able to reveal it to us personally. We who know Him could no more deny His presence than deny our own existence. We have seen the difference He has made in our own lives and the lives of others. Encounters with God are always one-on-one. Our prayer is that you will have such and encounter and will be able to rely on the witness that God gives you in a direct revelation.
Answered by Pastors Mark and Greg
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
This is a great question Will! It is a struggle for most of us to figure out “what a real man is.” Whether we were raised by a single mom, or had an emotionally distant, or physically absent father or a dad that was abusive or inconsistent at best, it is a question more men today should ask. Even good fathers and husbands make misstates and fall short! We all have to learn to trust God and follow his lead on a daily basis if we hope to be a good example to others, to our spouse, and to our children. We can’t help the example or lack of it we had when growing up. What we can change is what we do going forward!
The most important thing in discovering how to be a “real man” is to have a personal, vital, growing relationship with our heavenly Father. We can allow him to be our mentor, our teacher, our coach in the process. I once had a youth leader that was supposed to be discipling me, but he kept missing our meeting times. Later I bemoaned the fact that I had never had anyone disciple me and someone said to me, “That’s not true. God discipled you.” Take advantage of God’s narrative history in the Bible (how he reveals who he is and what he is like through history). Intentionally look at Jesus’ life and relationships as a model for masculinity. Look at the apostles and other heroes of the faith. Get involved in one of our men’s ministries or serving God alongside other men and you will have a wealth of examples to learn from even as you are being an example yourself.
If I had to sound like a preacher in addressing this question I would suggest four things (all starting with “S”) that are keys to becoming the man that God intends for you to be. They are . . .
1. Seek: Real men admit need. They confess when they are wrong and seek to make things right. Real men are comfortable seeking the biblical Jesus (as opposed to some feminized cultural Jesus) as a mentor in being a man. They also are teachable and seek to learn and grow, celebrating lessons learned and answers discovered and then seeking to apply them more consistently in their lives.
2. Study: What the Bible says about being a man; the lives of men who left a lasting positive impact on the world; books and other teachings on being a man of God; with other men, especially intergenerationaly, to encourage each other in the journey “as iron sharpen iron.” We facilitate many men’s study groups, journaling groups, and support groups at many different times during the week.
3. Serve: Children only want to be served. Real men serve others. One of the best ways to learn about being a man is by joining other men to serve others. I can think of many projects hosted through our Missions department locally (Vernonia relief, Season of Serving), at a distance (Biloxi rebuilding), and overseas (Sierra Leone, China, Indonesia). There are great opportunities to serve here at the church with mature men (Ushers, Safety Team, CM, Youth, even the Library)
4. Share: Real men don’t isolate themselves from others. They are generous with what they have and what they learn. They seek to encourage others with the encouragement they have received. Our cultural heroes of masculinity may be loners (Superman, Spiderman, etc.) or nearly so (Lone Ranger, Batman, etc), but we are placed by God in a community and need to function effectively within it. That only happens when we share our life with those around us. Just as you would want someone to come alongside you and show you the way, be such a person for others behind you.
- Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes
- Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards
- To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up without a Father, Donald Miller
- Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart, Stu Weber
- Man to Man, Charles Swindoll
- Every Man’s Battle, Steven Arterburn
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
This has been asked many times over the years, and is kind of a trick question as it applies to a far larger set of commandments than just the ones pertaining to the Sabbath. I think that we need to consider three separate biblical issues regarding the Sabbath: Commandments, Purpose, and Principles. There were many prohibitions established in the Old Testament (OT) that applied to ancient Israel but no longer apply today as commands, but are still part of God’s Word and are useful for instruction on many levels. Those commands were part of God’s covenant (contract) with Israel. Today, if we are Christians, we are not under obligation to the requirements of the old covenant; instead we are part of the new covenant. Interestingly, all the moral commands of the OT are repeated in the NT, but the ceremonial, dietary, public worship, public health, and anti-idolatry laws are not renewed. Don’t misunderstand me, the NT is very strong in its stand against idolatry, and other sinful lifestyles, but does not contain commands to enforce physical punishment upon those choosing to live in rebellion to God’s plan like the OT does. So to answer your question about the command to "remember the Sabbath and keep it holy", I would say that we no longer have the weight of such a command upon us just like we no longer need to travel to Jerusalem three times a year to worship God in Israel’s great national festivals.
Now let’s consider what the purpose of the Sabbath was. Jesus said on more than one occasion that the Sabbath was created for man and not man for the Sabbath. Jesus also said that He was the Lord of the Sabbath and that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Jesus provoked considerable anger against himself from the religious leaders of his day by violating their legalistic Sabbath commandments. What did Jesus do on the Sabbath? He taught in the synagogues, healed the sick, delivered the oppressed, taught his disciples, and went about his Father’s business. Here are a few passages from the life of Christ that are a helpful study—Matthew 12:1-12; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-11; Luke 13:10-16; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-15; John 7:21-24; John 9.
The Jewish Sabbath celebrated a finished creation. It involved mandatory resting from one’s normal work in order to trust God for provision. The Sabbath was a revolutionary concept in the ancient world . . . a six-day work week; because God loved us he gave us a day of rest.
So what is the Sabbath principle? Regular weekly sabbath rest is a good thing for us:
- physically—to rest. Our bodies need a break and if we don’t take one they will.
- economically—to trust God, not our own efforts, to provide. Can God make up for the time we take to rest from the insidious intrusion of worldly cares, or do we live like we have to handle it all ourselves?
- socially— to gather in community with family and fellow believers to remember what the Lord has done for us and to encourage each other –Heb. 10:25.
- spiritually— to take time to serve someone besides ourselves, to worship God, and to quiet the other noises and demands of life to listen for the Shepherd’s voice).
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 ESV)
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
What are some good resources on the historical accuracy, or that support the validity, of the Bible?
It is not new, though it is surprising, that professors at reputable universities seem unaware of current scholarship on the historicity of the Bible. In my view, it undermines their credibility. It is as though they are operating in an echo chamber with other skeptical professors. The proliferation of theories and books claiming the Bible is not historically accurate has kept evangelical scholars busy, even when they have little more than opinion to stand on. Frankly, it has been a bit of a blessing, since we have had to sharpen our own skills and resources and to delve into the rich history of the time of the Bible – it gives new cultural understanding and context to those who study and proclaim the Bible. Be assured, that there is exhaustive research in response to the revisionists’ theories of the past century and the scholarship is both broad and deep. I can point you in a number of directions that might help you in responding, if you want to invest the time (see the book list below).
However, it is important to understand that the hinge on which rejection or belief of the Bible turns is not information, but revelation. God has given us a revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ – for which the Bible serves as the prime testimony. We know and trust God because He has revealed Himself to us, not because someone gave us a carefully crafted syllogism. We know and trust God because in the simple story of the Gospel our hearts responded with faith (1Cor 1-2). Our hearts became tuned to the reality of God’s love and promises – a relational reality for which logic has never had an answer (the rubric from which the naturalist determines his beliefs has never been able to deal with non-Cartesian evidence). We testify of God not because we are history scholars, but because God is a supreme communicator who has revealed Himself to us in our lives. Let God continue to speak to your heart in this matter.
As far as the Bible is concerned, Jesus Christ affirmed the Old Testament, so the question of the historicity of the Old Testament rests on Jesus’ credibility. We now have copies of the Old Testament from the 2nd century prior to the birth of Jesus, so we have the very word that Jesus affirmed, not a revision. As for the New Testament, it is a collection of writings that had to undergo the test of eyewitnesses. They were not written centuries later by a one-to-one transmission, each person picking up something new and passing along a mix of understanding and confusion. They were written within the time of living witnesses. And these living witnesses continued to affirm it. Before the close of the 1st century, Clement of Rome (1Clement) was quoting from the Gospels. Throughout the 2nd century, there were writers who continued to hold these Gospels to the test by asking living relatives whether they were trustworthy accounts. The early church had prolific writers, which alone is a worthy study (many of these can be found in text form on the Internet).
Rejection of the Bible as historically reliable is not based on a careful study of the facts, but an a priori conviction that it cannot have been inspired by God. For the naturalist, or for the skeptic, or for the person who does not want to consider the implications of God’s word, the Bible is rejected before it is even considered carefully. The best current book that gets to the heart of the witnesses is the book below by Richard Bauckham. It pretty much puts the nail in the coffin to those revisionists who claim the Bible is without historical basis. If you are ready for some heavy reading, I recommend it.
/font> font="">/> font="">/>>/> font="">/>>/>>/>>/> font="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>I hope this helps. Feel free to write with more questions. We could even meet me at church when you are there for a discussion. I am praying for your triumph in a spiritual battle that Jesus Christ has already won.
Here are some books that might help you…
• Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, by *Richard Bauckham – a tremendous work – recently released – that answers the major critics claims by careful weighing of the evidence.
• Jesus was a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell – a simple and easy read – some things that critics have not been able to respond to effectively.
/font> font="">/> font="">/>>/> font="">/>>/>>/>>/> font="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>• The Testimony of the Four Evangelists, by Simon Greenleaf – an agnostic professor (Jewish by birth), this is a work of legal apologetics. He wrote it after being prompted by his students at Harvard into examining the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Gospels (after which he became a Christian).
• Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell – the body of work behind Jesus was a Carpenter. A scholarly examination of the facts surrounding the life and testimony of Jesus Christ in the Bible and the early Church.
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/font> font="">/> font="">/>>/> font="">/>>/>>/>>/> font="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>Early Church Authors and Writings…
- Clement of Rome
- 2 Clement (not authored by Clement of Rome)
- The Shepherd of Hermas
- Ignatius of Antioch
- The Martyrdom of Polycarp
- Epistle to Diognetus
- Fragments of Papias
- Quadratus of Athens
- Justin Martyr
- Claudius Apollinaris
- Minucius Felix
- Melito of Sardis
- Dionysius of Corinth
- Athenagoras of Athens
- Irenaeus of Lyons
- Theophilus of Caesarea
- Theophilus of Antioch
- Maximus of Jerusalem
- Polycrates of Ephesus
- Clement of Alexandria
- Serapion of Antioch
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Question: Can you explain BFC's (and, perhaps, the Foursquare movement's) position on whether someone can lose their salvation? If so, what are the circumstances under which that might happen?
As far as I can tell, the Foursquare denomination does not have a written “position” on this issue. It is a question that has been hotly debated in the church for the last 500 years and before! Both sides of the issue are represented by sincere, intelligent, Christians. On one side you have those who believe in a “once saved-always saved” position, also called “Eternal Security,” or the “Perseverance of the Saints.” Those who hold this position are called Calvinists, or “Reformed”. On the other side you have the Arminian/Wesleyan/Holiness positions that while not denying the certainty of salvation for those who believe would also say that the possibility exists that by an extreme, conscious act of the will someone could renounce Christ. The Foursquare movement as a Pentecostal denomination is more closely related to the Arminian/Wesleyan roots from which it sprang than to Calvinism.
Years ago, I had a godly Bible teacher (actually a Quaker) who answered this very question by saying something like, “I don’t think that you could lose your salvation the way you might lose your pocket knife, or your homework paper, but I do believe that a person could publically renounce Christ and the Lord would sadly honor that request.”
Actually, like many issues, it is one that gets weirder the further you go to either extreme. On the one extreme you have people saying that having once professed faith in Christ for salvation it doesn’t matter what you do (an ancient heresy called antinomianism and practiced widely on college campuses!). Not too many Calvinists would go that far. On the other hand, you could be so freaked out by the personal responsibility/holiness passages that you live in constant fear and think you’ve lost your salvation every time you fall short of perfection. Thankfully there is a lot of real estate in the middle where most Christians live! The interesting thing is that the net result in both cases is sadly the same. Let’s say that a person “came to Christ” at some point in their life but then later renounced Christ and became an outspoken infidel attacking the things of God and then dies. In such a case the Arminian might say that the person had “lost their salvation”. The Calvinist would say that he was never saved in the first place…that he had only the appearance of being a Christian. We see that both sides agree on the tragic outcome, but use different reasoning to get there.
I know that this is part of a huge theological debate, and while I have strong opinions on this subject, I have no thought that I can solve it by writing this blog. When I read the Bible, I try to take the text for what the text says, rather than superimposing my frameworks on top of it (and squeezing doctrines out like so much Play-Doh). In my Bible, I see passages that look a lot like Calvinism and I see a lot of others that sound like Arminianism. Can it be that the Bible teaches both God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, the perseverance of the saints and personal responsibility? I’m just simple enough to believe it!
We can say that Beaverton Foursquare Church, as a congregation that is:
- Biblically conservative (i.e., we believe the Bible is the Word of God), and
- Experientially moderate (e.g., no snakes, no Kool-aid, no chandeliers to swing from, no ranting screeds, but we do raise our hands!),
- Enthusiastically desiring to be spiritually passionate Christ-followers!
If we are wholeheartedly following Jesus, and have a desire to please him, then the possibility of losing our salvation is a moot point and the question nothing more than a, irrelevant hypothetical. We choose faithfulness!
I would like to share a few Bible passages, a sampling, for you to wrestle with if you want to do the homework.
- Ephesians 2:8-10
- Romans 6:1-23
- Romans 8:31-39
- 1 John 1:9-10
- Hebrews 3:12-14
- 2 Timothy 2:8-13
Finally, one of my favorite statements on this subject was given by the late Dr. Guy P. Duffield in a sermon (he was in his 80s at the time) entitled, “Mind your own business!” He said,
“I feel as if I am standing in a great gabled house. I look out the window on my right and I see the rafters of Calvinism. Then I turn and look out the window on my left and I see the rafters of Arminianism . . . and where these two great rafters meet is . . . somewhere way over my head."