Friday, 12/28/18 – Tough Question

“Should a Christian make New Year’s Resolutions?”

note notebook notes page
To resolve or not to resolve…

After all, doesn’t the very idea of resolution-making suggest one’s belief that a firm resolve of the will is all that is needed for one to begin to do or stop doing a thing? Yet Jesus teaches us “apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).

Paul found this to be true and confessed, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out… I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:15, 18-19). It seems that for Paul all his “resolving” accomplished nothing!

If we ‘by our own selves can do nothing’ then what is the point in making any New Year’s resolutions?

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me…” Paul cried (v. 24) Not till he surrendered his resolution-making – let go and let God — did he learn “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

So what’s the deal here? Can I do NOTHING or can I do ALL THINGS?

Two questions must be confronted here:
1. What is my motivation? — Is it for the glory of God, or self?
2. What is my power? – Is it by the working of the Holy Spirit within me, or by my own mortal strength?

Jesus, as always, is our example. Ponder His statements regarding His own incarnate ability:

Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does… By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5: 19, 30)

When the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin for preaching the gospel of Christ a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel cautioned the assembly against acting rashly. He reminded them of others whose endeavors had come to nothing, then advised

“Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39).

The flesh fails; the Lord brings victory!

Commit your way to the Lord;” wrote David, “trust in Him and He will do this” (Ps. 37:5). When we do, we find as Paul did that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37).

Resolutions made and carried out on one’s knees are the best for believers to begin.

Check out godly resolutions by great men of faith like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitfield and others. Be inspired to “find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph. 5:10) and resolve to give yourself more fully to Him.

Press on…

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 12/21/18 – Tough Question

“Can Satan know what we’re thinking or control our thoughts?”

Satan existed long before human history began. What went on in that pre-humanity heavenly realm we cannot imagine, but we are given glimpses.

20181215_143445Ezek. 28:11-19 and Isa. 14:12-17 offer some insight. While referring to two earthly kings at first, the King of Tyre in Ezekiel and the King of Babylon in Isaiah, the text segues or has dual reference to the satanic influence behind them, thus informing us about the devil, aka Satan, or ‘Lucifer.’

Lucifer was a created being, an angel, blameless, sinless, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty…

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you… Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.” (Ezek. 28:15, 17).

So self-enamoured was he that he had aspired to become “like the Most High” (Is. 14:14) – like God Himself!

20181215_143445So I threw you to the earth...” says the scripture (Ezek. 28:17). Isaiah 14:12 echoes “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” Jesus also testified to seeing this event. “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18)

sky earth galaxy universe

While Satan still has limited access to heaven (Job 1:6-12; Zechariah 3:1,2), he is now primarily a nomad prince of darkness wreaking havoc against God.* Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and Paul described him as “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). But this does not mean he has control over earth’s inhabitants. For example, Satan had to ask God’s permission to afflict Job in various ways (Job 1:1-12; 2:1-6.).

The devil can suggest thoughts to us, “Did God really say…” tell us lies “You will not certainly die” and twist what is true “…your eyes will be opened, and You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:1-4), but he cannot read our minds. Only God can know our hearts and thoughts and motives.

“…you perceive my thoughts from afar…. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” (Ps. 139:2b, 4)

“…the word of God… judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12-13)

“…the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought….” (1 Chron. 28:9)

20181215_143445Satan does have a lot of insight as to what makes us humans tick. He has been observing and tempting humans since the very beginning of their creation! “…roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” (Job 1:7; 2:) He, being fallen, knows our fallen human nature. He cannot read our minds, but he can guess very accurately what we may be thinking.** Our job is to be ever vigilant to his schemes:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8)

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

man holding bible

Jesus defeated the devil by quoting the Word of God (Luke 4:4,8,12) So can we! As David expressed, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11)

We are responsible for the sin we commit. (See James 1:14-15). Flip Wilson’s “Geraldine Jones” was wrong; The devil cannot “make us do it!”

Press on…

*See my blog of 11/9/18 – “Is the devil everywhere like God?

**A married couple may say they know what the other is thinking, but of course this is not ‘mind-reading!’

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 12/14/18 – Tough Question

“Do Animals go to Heaven?”

Let me just say right off the bat that on this question I really don’t know the answer. The Bible, however, has much to say to tickle our imaginations on this. Let’s have a look together…

In Romans 8, speaking of our present suffering and the glory to come, Paul writes,

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul states “the whole creation” is yearning along with us for that future day of redemption. Does this include the animals? If the animal kingdom “waits in eager expectation” then certainly it is expecting something good – not its annihilation!

black chimpanzee smiling

Scripture tells us that animals and mankind alike have the “breath of life” (Gen. 1:30; 2:7), though only mankind is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). “Man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7) says the scripture. But upon deeper study whether or not this indicates an added spiritual dimension to our being remains unclear. Throughout the Genesis 1 creation account the phrase “living creature” uses the same term (nephesh) as it does for “soul” in 2:7.

In Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 A pessimistic Solomon speculates,

19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?

portrait of a dog

This passage is often taken out of context. Here Solomon is in mid spiel about his conclusion that life is meaningless. Solomon had strayed from God and lost touch with his own wisdom. Having satisfied every pleasure and found nothing enduring in them he concluded that life had no lasting purpose. He was dead wrong!

We often hear people incorrectly citing the last part of verse 21 saying the human spirit rises upward (goes to heaven) and the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth (returns to dust) as if this was a statement and point of doctrine. But It is not a statement; it is a rhetorical question: “Who knows…” it begins. Solomon, in his darkness, is suggesting there is no hope for man nor animal, “the same fate awaits them both.” Why then is this passage even in the Bible? It shows us the futility of trying to find meaning in life apart from God.

Matthew and Luke both record Jesus’ statement that even the sparrow is not “forgotten” when it perishes (Mt 10:29; Luke 12:6). Does this mean they have an afterlife?

However, Peter and Jude liken sinful man to the beasts which they describe as “unreasoning,” “born… to be captured and killed,” “unreasoning animals.” (2 Pet. 2:12; Jude 10).

nature animal fog freedom

The book of Revelation – a book about end times and the heavenly kingdom of God – is filled with animal beings: there are living creatures like a lion, a calf, a man and an eagle (Rev. 4:5–9), there are the four horses of the apocalypse in chapter 6 and the white horse of chapter 19.

Rev. 20:1-7 speaks of the thousand year period when the devil is bound and Christ reigns triumphantly upon the earth. Several Old Testament prophets speak of animals being present during this time.

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.” (Isaiah 11:6–8; see also Isa. 65:25, Zech. 14:20)

Throughout scripture as well Jesus Himself is referred to as both a Lion and a Lamb.

Whatever eternity holds we know we can trust God that heaven will contain everything necessary for our happiness. “…no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Ps. 84:11).

As one mom replied to her young child, “Heaven is a place of happiness; if our pets are necessary for our happiness then our pets will be there.”

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 12/7/18 – Tough Question

“If Christians have already died and are in heaven with the Saviour, why would their bodies rise from the grave?”

This question came to me from a Bible study group looking at the following passage:

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29)

Studied against the broader teaching of scripture we come to see that this passage is referring to two separate instances of resurrection: first the resurrection of the believers, and later the resurrection of the lost. More on this later, but for now let’s consideration the resurrection of believers…

In 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 Paul writes,

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

When a believer dies his soul goes immediately into the presence of the Lord, as Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). We understand from Revelation 6:9-11 (and other passages) that these souls are conscious entities.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

These souls are presently bodiless. Judgment against their murderers has not yet occurred and they are asking how long it will be until this happens – i.e. until the end of the age and the Judgment of mankind. They are told to wait. More souls would yet join them after which would come the judgement — the end of the Age, “the last trumpet,” spoken of above in the Corinthian passage.

Many Christians tend to think that this spiritual only existence of our souls will be our state for all eternity. But Paul clearly talks about this mortal being transformed… putting on immortality… the redemption of God is ultimately a complete redemption. He transforms this mortal body into an immortal body, this perishable body into an glorified and imperishable one. This all happens at the end of the age, at the return of Christ.

Paul comforts The Thessalonians with these words,

we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:15-18)

Jesus returns… there is a shout… there is the trumpet call of God, and the bodies of all believers emerge from their burial places, or scattered atoms, or far corners of space, and in an instant are transformed from mortal, perishable bodies to immortal, imperishable bodies. (The souls under the altar along with the rest are now clothed in their imperishable forms.) Then believers who are still alive are caught up and transformed instantly as well so that those who died and those who never tasted death are all transformed and together as similar immortal, imperishable and glorified beings “and so we will be with the Lord forever.”

This is “the first resurrection” spoken of in Revelation 20, “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6) Another resurrection comes later: the resurrection of the lost, followed by their final and eternal judgment.

Here are some further passages that address the two resurrections and the fate of the lost…

Daniel 12:2 – Daniels vision of the end times…

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

Acts 24:14,15 Paul’s trial before Felix…

“…I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

Rev.. 20:11-15 – The Judgment of the Dead…

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Which resurrection will you take part in?
Not sure?
Use the Contact page. We’ll lead you to the One Who can help.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/30/18 – Tough Question

“Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?”

In January 1964 an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” aired In which in a dystopian future everyone, upon turning age 19, must undergo an operation to become beautiful according to approved standards of perfection.

On Aug 2, 1985 The movie Weird Science opened in theatres across the continent. High-school geeks Gary and Wyatt are inept with the opposite sex and create a computer generated “ideal woman.”

On March 10, 2000 The Outer Limits featured an episode called “Simon Says” in which an engineer, grieving the loss of his son who perished in a car accident, constructs a robot that incorporates the memories of the deceased child.

accomplishment accuracy accurate achievement

We seem almost obsessed as a society with the notion of creating or re-creating our image in perfection. But none of these recreated ideals seem to quite make the grade. Perfection always robs us of something essential to our humanity.

When we ask “Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” we forget the reason God created us at all. God already had a heaven filled with perfect angels, “ministering spirits” ready at any time to do His bidding. But these we’re unable to provide that for which the Creator longed: a relationship with other free-thinking beings, beings who loved and interacted with Him not from design, but from desire.

Love always entails risk. The only perfect companions, it seems, are those with imperfections. The only perfect love relationships, it seems, are those where hurt and hate are also possible. So God made us perfect from the start, perfect with the power to choose.

We chose poorly.

Yet God has made a way to make us perfect again! “Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” That’s exactly what He is doing, right now, in you. As you come to the multiple crossroads and decisions that accompany each day, you make decisions. Decisions to move a little closer to or away from holiness. With each one you are changing.

God is at work within you too (Phil. 2:13). He is committed to seeing this transformative work get done (Phil. 1:6)… “from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7), “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17), “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” He is doing that now. Our job is to work with Him until that day when the job is done.

“…now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/23/18 – Tough Question

“Where did Cain get his wife?”

Adam was made from the dust of the earth, Eve was formed from one of Adam’s ribs, but Cain was formed by the union of Adam and Eve – he was not only the firstborn child of Adam and Eve but also the firstborn child of all humanity. “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man,” Eve exclaimed (Gen. 4:1). I have to chuckle trying to imagine her surprise!

Well, perhaps you know the story… awhile later Eve gives birth to her second child, Abel… also a male. As the two brothers grow Cain becomes a farmer while Abel tends to flocks. Both boys decided to bring an offering to God. The Bible tells us what happened,

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Gen. 4:3-5)

Despite reassurances and warnings from God Cain lets his anger burn and in the end commits the first murder, killing his brother. (see Gen. 4:6-8)

photo of person walking on deserted island
Photo by Tomnnen on Pexels.com

Because of this great sin the Lord banishes Cain from the area and sentences him to become “a restless wanderer on the earth” (v.12). Cain heads east and eventually settles in a place he names Nod. He is fearful for his life though thinking others may kill him. But God marks Cain in some way to prevent this (v.13-16).

The last thing we hear about Cain is this: “Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.” (Gen. 4:17). For generations skeptics and Christians alike have asked “Where did Cain get his wife? Did God make other first couples like Adam and Eve? Did Cain marry his own sister? Where did this wife come from?”

I believe the answer to this enigma has more to do with genetics than it does with theology.

Genesis chapter 3 we read “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” (Gen. 3:20). That statement alone demonstrates that there were no other divinely created couples on the earth. All of humanity sprang from Eve or by procreation by her offspring. Cain’s wife must therefore have been a close relative. (As would have been all those Cain had feared might kill him.)

Now… a little Genetics 101…

We all have two copies of most of our genes: one from each parent. If one parent’s gene is defective in some way the copy from the other parent is usually sufficient to ensure the health of the offspring. If both offspring get one good and one bad version of the same gene pair and then have children together the likelihood of their offspring having two defective genes of the same gene pair (one from each parent) is much higher. If that happens then the child will develop the disease or genetic disorder associated with that gene pair.

man wearing white and gray striped polo shirt

This is much less likely to occur when the parents are from separate family lines. While their offspring may receive some defective genes it is far less likely that they will be of a common gene pair, so the complementary good gene will protect them.

It’s all actually somewhat more complex than this, but boils down to the same thing: defective genes of the parents.

Adam and Eve were created by God, flawless in their genetic makeup. Neither Cain nor Abel could have received any defective genes from their parents because their parrnts had none — nor could have Seth or any of the “other sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:3-4) born to the genetically unflawed Adam and Eve.

As the gene pool grew, however, the possibility of defects in some genes grew too, simply by virtue of being copies of copies of copies of… You get the idea. At this point the danger of siblings transmitting defective genes of the same pair emerged.

But at this point too our wise and loving Creator stepped in, giving the law to His people, and defining the sin of incest: “Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.” (Leviticus 18:9). Subsequent verses in this chapter apply the rule to various other family members, explaining “because [he/she] is a close relative.” Thus today we recognize the sin of incest, provided by our loving Creator for our good.

 

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/16/18 – Tough Question

“What is the difference between soul and spirit?”

This is a particularly difficult question to answer because in the scriptures both the words “soul” and “spirit” have multiple meanings depending on their various contexts. The question is further complicated by the fact that two languages are being used: Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament.

We encounter this in English too. The word “run” is s classic example:

I’m going to run (to the office.), I’m going to run (for office.) My brother won’t run. My clock won’t run. My car is running. My nose is running. The river is running. …a running total. …a running commentary. …a run in with the law. …a run in with the in-laws. I ran into Fred at the mall. I ran into Fred (as I backed the car up) at the mall.

Well, I’ve run on with these examples long enough! Clearly, what the word “run” means depends greatly upon context.

So it is with the words “soul” and “spirit.”

Depending on context the word “soul” may mean an individual personthe soul who sins will surely die” (Ezek. 18:20), biological life “…those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (Mt. 2:20), intellect and emotionAnd now my life ebbs away” (Job 30:16), and of course it is that eternal entity which Christ Jesus came to save “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mt. 10:28).

Depending on its context the word “spirit” may mean breath or wind “…striving after the wind (Eccl. 1:14,17, a non-material beingGod is spirit…” (John 4:24), angels are spirit beings “Are not all angels ministering spirits…” (Heb. 1:14), a person himselfBeloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1). It can also be used to describe one’s attitudespirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7), “meek and submissive spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4), “spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1). Most confusing of all is that in some contexts “spirit” refers the inner person “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16) — in other words as a synonym for “soul.”

Humankind was created in the image of God, so it should be no surprise to find that just as God is a triune being (Father, Son, Spirit), so are we (spirit, soul, body). Paul mentions these three aspects of our being in his letter to the Thessalonians,

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:23).

What is important for us to understand is not so much the lexicons and idioms of Hebrew and Greek, but the fact that we are eternal and God will bring us safely to Himself as we turn our souls toward Him. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb.4:12). One day we shall be like Christ, transformed by God: “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” (1 Cor. 15:45).

We do not need to master the inner structures of the dichotomy of mankind. We need only collapse before Him, and acknowledge Him as our Lord and God. When we do, He will see our souls safely home to Himself.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.