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Ask Christian Leaders

Questions are sent to 42 Christian Leaders and all that respond by deadline are published. Those that come in late will be included with the others on The Messenger’s blog site at https://hismessenger.wordpress.com. If you are a Christian Leader and would like to be considered to join this panel – OR – if you have a question you would like answered by Christian Leaders, please email your contact information to media4him@yahoo.com.

from March 16, 2017

Question:

A new hot button came up at youth group, and we are hoping for adult insight. We are told that as Christians we are forgiven, and as such our sins are forgotten, cast as far as east from west. This week in group the scriptures in Luke 8:17 and Luke 12:2-3 were discussed. These discuss secrets we have being brought to light for all to know. Isn’t this making all aware of each of our sins? In that, it seems sins were not forgotten, so possibly not forgiven? If God truly forgives and forgets, why would he feel it necessary to embarrass and hurt us by making all our secrets and sins known to all? What insight can you give us?

Answers:

This is a passage that does not speak to believers as much as it speaks to the people who are playing church. Jesus in the verse prior had been speaking to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees when He spake concerning their motives. They were religious on the outside but spiritually dead on the inside. They appeared to be righteous but were not. So Jesus is saying that on the judgment day for the lost, nothing will be hidden and all of mans motives and desires will be made plane and judgment will be based on these. He did this so the Pharisees would understand their sins would not be made public. Jesus was not speaking to sins of the redeemed that have been forgiven These sins of believers will not be mentioned when we receive our rewards from Jesus. Believers are not judged for sin, but are given rewards on judgment day, based upon the works and service we have given to Jesus. I hope this helps.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

Technically of course God never forgets anything!  When one finds a passage such as Isaiah 43:25 or Jeremiah 31:34 (which both have the prophet claiming God will remember one’s sins no more) it just means the day will eventually come when God will no longer hold His people accountable for the sins they have committed.  Luke 8:17 is found in the middle of a number of disparate sayings of Jesus by which the Lord is reminding us nothing we do or say is lost to the sight of God (so we’d had better watch it!  Right??).  Seriously the Lord there is simply referring to the omniscience of God and how he will recall and consider such things at the final judgement of all human beings who remain unredeemed.  Luke 12:1-3 is a related saying.  Jesus prefers in both passages to refer to God’s present and future knowledge in the passive voice; but such statements of his remind us of truths God tells us in other places:  we will be judged according to our deeds in the body (Romans 2:6).  But just because God knows every little thing we’ve said or done does not mean such things preclude us from His forgiveness!  That is a wholly different subject indeed for the Christian.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

The references you used in Luke 8 and 12 are not primarily referring to anyone’s personal sins. The context of these verses is more about what one believes. James 5:16 deals with open confession of ones sins so that they may find prayer support  from the church. Peter also says that we should not forget where we have come from – II Peter 1:9

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

from February 24, 2017

Question:

Have you ever thought about being a missionary and taking the gospel to a foreign land? I have. Seems some dreams (make that ALL) are in God’s hands to work out. Is there something / anything we should be or must be doing to cooperate with His Sovereign plan for our lives?

Answers:

There are many things but the most important of all is what Mary of Bethany chose: Luke 10:38-42 – she sat at His feet and listened to His words. Just stay in the Word, obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and follow the path He leads you on.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

The short answer to your question is YES!  If you believe God is calling you to serve on a foreign mission field, there are several things you can do to prepare for this. First find out in your church or denomination who, what, and where your church’s mission board is. Then write and send a letter of inquiry about serving on one of their fields. (E-mail works too.)  Follow this up with a phone call.  Even if you have to leave a message with your contact information this will be a good thing (it lets them know you are really interested). Perhaps God is directing you to a specific part of the world.  Please make this known in your letter. If your chosen mission board does not have work in that area, they can refer you to another agency. Also in your contact letter and telephone call be sure to let them know what your skills are. Needless to say let your own pastor and church know of this suspected calling; do that so they can pray for you.  If you are truly called to serve as a missionary, then no one and nothing can stop you! No one except God. And if God stops you then He has not called you to this special work.  At least not yet.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

When people are called to be missionaries, they are to be available and to be sent by the Lord. Our mission mentality in years gone by was to go to some foreign country, and yet the biggest missionary challenge America faces are its inner cities and different people groups. To go

overseas you will need a sponsor and support to meet your needs while you are there. There may also be the issue of language training depending on where you go. In Acts 1:8 God gave the power to be witnesses but His commissioning first started at home in Judea before it was expanded to other areas. Seek the Lord and His direction and I have no doubt if you are called to be a missionary, that He will have a place just for you.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

 from February 10, 2017

Question:

The Bible says we have the mind of Christ, but exactly when is that true, all the time, or only when we read and trust His written Word?

 Answers:

 In this passage Paul is speaking of the Spirit of God living in us and because He does, we have the ability to understand life through the Holy Spirit of God. When we accept Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit joins with our Spirit and abides in us, see 1 Corinthians 2:19. Therefore we receive His wisdom, conscience and spiritual understanding. We still have carnal problems because we live in a fallen body, but we have the Holy Spirit of God who becomes our interpreter for spiritual things. We do understand that the Holy Spirits leading will be stronger or weaker depending on if we are seeking Him and feeding ourselves through the reading of Scripture, prayer, assembling together and making Him a priority in our lives. So the mind of Christ is always with us, because when we were born again, He took up residence in our lives.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

We always have the mind of Christ available to our every decision before we make it. The conveyor of this mind is the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of Truth and of Jesus. We are daily prompted by the Spirit to follow and obey the teachings of Christ. These prompting a come by reading and meditating on Scripture, prayer, conscience, and the means of grace like preaching and Bible Studies and also Godly Counsel from elders in The Lord.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

There are two places in Paul’s writings where the idea of having Christ’s mind in us are found.  One is 1 Corinthians 2:16.  It reads as follows:  “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”  Read the earlier context, and you will see that everyone who becomes a believer in Him and receives His Holy Spirit has something of Jesus’ mind within himself.  This means that the mentality and “guiding star” of that person’s life become Jesus and His will. The other passage is from Philippians 2 where Paul states this famous wish:  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . . .”  An examination of the context of this sentiment reveals that Paul urges one to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Thus having Jesus’ mind in us means to understand people and the world as He does (at least in some small way).  It enables us to be unselfish (and Jesus certainly was that!).  So the idea of the “mind of Christ in us” is a metaphor for the Spirit of Christ guiding us day by day.  Of course regular worship, scripture reading, and small group studies help us have “this mind.”
Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

from January 26, 2017

Question:

After years of regular church attendance, due to many circumstances my family gradually stopped attending at all for nearly a year.  A few months ago I was determined we would recommit. My husband and youngest child were on board and has joined me at church each week. But we struggle with our teenage son who once was the first out the door for church activities. We hate going without him, but he causes such an uproar on Sunday mornings we hate to force him and have him be disruptive. How do we get him involved and interested again? Is it more damaging to leave him out, or to force him to attend? If he is forced we’re afraid he will turn against God completely and never be open to His teaching.

Answers:

The parent with the best communication relationship should talk with your son and simply ask why he refuses to attend?  Perhaps, he is embarrassed to just show up again.  Was he accepted by the youth before?  Was he ridiculed, even accidently?  Is there a teen or adult who could call and reconnect with your son?  We should assemble with the saints because we love the Lord and want to grow spiritually, but the spiritually immature often need a personal connection to feel as if they “belong.”

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood

(El Paso, TX)

My answer may shock you.  Regular attendance by teenagers is often sporadic.  Even in families where the parents are Christian and when those parents have raised their children as Christians.   It is part of the rebellious stage adolescents all go through.  You are right that to press the matter and make a scene can drive them away from Christianity and the Church.  I have seen it happen.  Just go slow, make worship available to them, and continue to invite them from time to time.  In particular invite your adolescent child to those church events (indoor or outdoor) where food is involved.  Teenagers love to eat!  There are Christian singers and bands that come to our area pretty often.  Offer to take your child to a concert. (Casting Crowns has been in the area recently.)  Sometimes when your teen hears a preaching challenge from one of these bands they respond more readily.  Sometimes that can be the spark to get them back in a Christian worshiping community (I’ve seen it happen!)  And if you choose this option, let them invite a friend (and pay for the friend’s ticket).  Don’t forget the recent Christian movies that have come out in the last twenty years (since the Sherwood Baptist Church produced “Fly Wheel” back in 2003.  Whenever a new one comes out, take your teens!

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist

(Las Cruces, NM)

There is no easy answer to the question as to why children do not want to attend church. Every person is different, so our approach to each child is different. It appears communication is needed because something has changed. There may have been a bad experience at church, maybe

there are no other teenagers or teens that your son may have issues with. There might be something that has changed his attitude, such as habits, games, or people that he is spending time with. Until you find out what has caused his negative feeling, it is hard to know what decision

to make. Maybe there is a youth leader or person who he respects that might be able to encourage him. But don’t give up and don’t give in because his spiritual future is in the balance. I suggest fasting and prayer asking God to give you spiritual insight where your son is concerned.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

After a year of not being in church he has lost his interest. To him, attending church is irrelevant to his needs. He can be saved and not attend church. He is reacting to you because you made the choice yourself a year ago. You need to humble yourself and ask his forgiveness for the action you took last year. Give him time to come around. One thing may be true in this situation: he now believes he can make his own decision about church. Pray that the Holy Spirit will stir his heart. Read Psalm 51 and cry out to God for him and for you.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

from January 12, 2017

Question:

Proverbs 10:22, “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” There are other verses in the Bible such as this that make it quite confusing, or at least not encouraging. Because my family is not, nor has ever been financially secure – does this mean we aren’t considered blessed by God? Same with sorrow – we have suffered immense sorrow – so this means we aren’t and can’t be blessed by God? Seems each church we visit it is a different story, or take on these scriptures. Some say that not all Christians will be blessed with wealth. Yet others make it sound like if you aren’t wealthy, you must not truly be Christians. I feel my husband and I are living the Christian life, and raising our children properly with Christian foundation, morals and ethics. But we struggle financially, and have many sorrows, etc. Does this mean God does not call us His own? That he hasn’t and won’t bless us? That somehow we need to be MORE Christian to be more financially stable?

Answers:

I believe that the verse you quoted is saying that our greatest asset in life is our relationship with God. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul. If we are rich in faith then there will be nothing to regret. Continue to be faithful in little things and God will supply in bigger things.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

One of the false teachings today is that if you have enough faith then God will bless you financially. God does promise to meet your needs but He never promised to make us rich in this worlds goods. The early church was rich in the spirit but poor in worldly goods. When you look at the great heroes in the faith in Hebrews 11:37 it speaks of men and women who were “stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted and tormented.” In many countries today people are poor as compared to Americans and yet they are rich in the spirit and blessed of God. Many young families struggle with finances, this has been the norm in our history until the last few years. God tells us in Galatians 6:9 “for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” If you are faithful to God, you are rich in Him. Don’t listen to men but read the Word of God and He will bring the peace you desire.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

Proverbs is teaching that you may “not have two pennies to rub together” (an old saying for extreme poverty), but because of the blessing of being in God’s favor – YOU ARE RICH!  This passage is not telling us that God will make us rich or even well to do.  A child of the divine is rich in spiritual blessings and the coming inheritance.

Psalm 73 expresses the difficulty of the faithful servant who observes the prosperity of the wicked while struggling with the trials of life.  He begins to understand at verse 17.  Do not look on your prosperity or lack of it as a barometer of God’s blessing.  Financial wealth is never the measure of God’s blessings or favor.  It is twisting scripture to suggest otherwise.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ, Eastwood

(El Paso, TX)

 

from December 22, 2016

Question:

 My friend quotes his Pastor things like, “All who believe in Him shall be saved.” He thinks that just because he believes Jesus exists that he can live however he wants and still go to heaven. I believe there is more to it. Yes, I believe in Jesus, but also believe one has a changed and transformed life after having accepted Jesus as my Savior. Is just believing in Jesus being saved, and gets you into heaven?

Answers:

What a wonderful question. The answer to your question is a qualified, “yes.” Romans 10” 9-10 states clearly that if one confesses Jesus as Lord believes with the heart that God raised Him from the dead, that one will be saved. The problem is in how we define belief. In the New Testament, belief is never simply an intellectual acceptance of something as being true. You are absolutely correct that one must experience a transformed life. Belief from a biblical perspective involves a committal of one’s entire life to God; a committal that results in a total change of focus. It is a self-denial that says, “I will no longer go my direction, but instead turn the control of my life over to God because of what Jesus did as He died in my place on the cross.”

Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.” The key here is ownership. For one who truly believes in Jesus with a saving faith, that person’s life is changed and he or she literally belongs to Jesus. We are never master of our own destiny. We either belong to the devil or to God. Belief in Jesus is transferring ownership to God. Romans 6:16 clearly says, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

If your friend thinks that he can say, “I believe in Jesus” and then live any way he pleases, he is presenting himself as a slave to sin (his own sinful desires) and it will result in spiritual death, not salvation and life in heaven. He must (as we all must) believe in Jesus completely and give his life to obedience to everything Jesus taught, and in that way, have his life result in righteousness. Only then will he be assured of being with God eternally.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

 To believe in Christ means to trust in, cling to, and rely upon Him in every area of our lives. James 2:19 says, the devil believes and trembles. Belief without obedience doesn’t change anything in our lives. We must bring forth the fruit of a repentant spirit. Faith without works is dead.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

19You believe that there is one God. That’s fine! Even the demons believe that and tremble with fear. 20 Do you want proof, you foolish person, that faith without actions is worthless? Jesus is Lord, accepting and even surrendering to that is essential, but that’s the easy part. Living like He is Lord of your life is so difficult we can’t do it without Him.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

The Branch Church

(Chaparral, NM)

The saving faith in Jesus is linear, ongoing or continuous, and it is life changing. Saving faith is obedient to the commands of the NT on what the lost must do to be saved: believe (Mk 16:16; Heb 11:6), repent (Lk 13:3; Acts 17:30), immersed (Acts 22:16; Rom 6:4) and live faithfully (Mt 7:21; Heb 5:8-9).

Punctiliar is the faith of the Demons, who believe, even to the point of trembling with fear, but fail to obey Jesus. (James 2:18-19) It is not enough to believer, one must follow, obey, presenting his body (life) as a living sacrifice. (Rom 12:1-2: James 2:24-26).

The Christian will sin; however, they are cleansed because they are walking in the light and are washed by the blood of Jesus. (1 John 1:7-9) When one leaves the path of righteousness, they also leave the purifying blood of Jesus.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

There are many who believe that Jesus is alive and real including Satan himself. In James 2:19 it says, “Even the demons believe and tremble.” Christianity is a relationship, which is more than just having knowledge. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold

all things have become new.” The word repentance means to turn around and go in a new direction. So salvation involved a change of lifestyle with Jesus on the throne of our lives and not self. There is a shallow understanding of salvation being taught today, where people say just pray a prayer and you are saved. Just being born does not mean a baby will live. It has to be fed and nurtured. We are to embrace Jesus as Lord and turn our backs on worldly values.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

 

from December 8, 2016

Question:

I found myself in a debate over Biblical truth and conspiracy theory stuff with a relative. He claims that there is proof in the Bible that the Earth is actually flat. I was raised to believe the Bible proved it is round, but can’t come up with Scripture to prove it. Is there Scripture that explains whether Earth is flat or round? Please share if there is, and if not – how can Christians combat conspiracy theory followers that insist their view is right and the Bible is not true?

Answers:

Biblical cosmography (understanding the features of the universe and earth) reflects that of the Ancient Near East and uses phenomenological language (descriptive vocabulary based on common subjective perspectives and observations). This pre-scientific view understood the earth as a flat disk with waters surrounding it; because, from their experience (without today’s technology), that’s how the earth appears. For example, the sun ‘appears’ to rise and set from our view on earth. Therefore, we say, “The sun sets at 6:00 pm.” We typically don’t discuss the scientific explanation of the earth’s rotation when we experience dawn and dusk from our specific geographical location. Phenomenological language must not be used to draw objective scientific conclusions. The Bible (and more specifically, this form of writing) is being misused in your debate by referencing it to support or disprove arguments it was never intended to address. My concern is less winning debates with “truthers” using biblical proof texts and more facilitating a proper understanding and handling of God’s Word.

Pastor Marc Wilson

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM) 

Science has proved that the earth is round. There is a verse in Isaiah that speaks of the circle of the earth but honestly, NASA has done an awesome job of proving this. There are some excellent books on Christian Apologetics that you can get at the Christian bookstore as well.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

There will always be people who will doubt what is true no matter what takes place. When people refuse to believe the Word of God, it does no good to argue, but just pray and ask that God would open their eyes. Concerning the earth being round, there are two passages that speak to it. In Proverbs 8:27 it says “God prepared the heavens and He drew a circle on the face of the deep.” We can also go to Isaiah 40:22 speaking of God when it says, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth.” If people would stop and think about this, common sense says the earth is a circle as we look at the moon and planets that are circles. Many who doubt just like to be stubborn.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

The Scripture you need is Isaiah 40:22, He sits above the circle of the Earth. This was written 700 years before Jesus the Christ.

 Pastor Herb Pinney

Agape Christian Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

from November 24, 2016

Question:

 A guy in my college Bible study group has started drinking and members of the group are divided on what we should do. Part say we should kick him out, stating he could be a bad influence on younger members of the group. Others feel we should let him stay, stating that we in the group would be a good influence on him. Along with drinking he is using vulgar language and his attitude has changed. How would you suggest we handle this? Is it more important for us to remain a good influence on him, and not concern ourselves that he could badly influence others? We want to be a good friend to him, however, also feel obligated to protect other members.

Answers:

In the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17, one or two members of the group who are close to him should have a private meeting and share the group’s concerns. The purpose being to help one who has gotten away from the stated purpose of the group:  seek to share loving concern and learn how to help.  The university experience can be more difficult for some than for others.  There may be other problems unrelated and unknown that are behind his behavior. Let him know of your loving concerns.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

church of Christ in Eastwood

(El Paso, TX)

Church discipline is a tough subject in our culture because the culture wants to dictate behavior to the church. But culture will pass away and the church will live eternal. You cannot allow bad behavior to taint and influence young believers. Matthew 18:15-17 speaks to church discipline. The group should pray and send one person to him to confront the sin. If there is no change then two or three should go to restore this person to Jesus. This should be redemptive in nature and done in love. Should he not respond positively then, ask him to separate himself until he can bring his body under subjection to the Lord. There may be something driving his behavior, so try to listen and if possible deal with issues that may have influenced him. The end goal of church discipline is restoration of the person to Jesus.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

No one can live wrong and feel right. He is obviously miserable though he may pretend to be ok. I would say that you warn him about his decisions and the negative effect they are having on your group. Then if he still continues on that path I would ask him to take a time away until he can conquer these behaviors. 2 Thess. 3:14-15 and other references will back this up.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

First thing I would try is prayer, I have been astonished by the miracles that God can do when the Almighty is invited into a situation by someone. Second, I would go back to the bible for instruction. Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and confront him while the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you so that ‘every word may be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If, however, he ignores them, tell it to the congregation. If he also ignores the congregation, regard him as an unbeliever and a tax collector.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Branch Community Church of the Nazarene 

(El Paso, TX)

Two key passages speak directly to your group member issue. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  Restoration of one in sin is the key, both in this verse and in the passage in Matthew 18:15-18. There Jesus outlined a clear procedure to restore one in sin.  Again, the desire is to renew the one spiritually, so those in your group wanting to be a friend to the disruptive person are correct.  But in the procedure Jesus laid out, there is also a clear path to protect others from sinful influence. The most difficult aspect is in Matthew 15:17 where Jesus tells us that if the one needing correcting refuses to listen to the entire church (or Bible study group in your case), then to treat that one as a Gentile – in other words, put them outside the community. The point is that the person so treated is not “a Gentile” (one outside a faith relationship with Jesus), but is acting as if he is without faith, and cannot be allowed to lead others away as well.  In this instance, it is imperative to keep lovingly reaching out to the individual, but not allow the destructive influence to hurt others. One other suggestion:  as a group, those in the Bible study may want to draw up a covenant outlining a set of standards to which all will commit to abide by. Each one will need to sign any such covenant, which would also provide you a clear standard about what is and is not acceptable behavior. Please remember that the attitude of those trying to reach out to the one with the problem is critical. Any action must be made with the sincere desire to restore the one out of favor, and not simply condemn him and “write him off.”  Such action is so hard to take, and yet so necessary for the health of both the individual and the group.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

from November 10, 2016

Question:

 My parents divorced when I was very young, so I grew up bouncing back and forth between the two families since each of them remarried. Both were good homes, however, two different “religions” which always made it difficult. Both insisted their religion was best and the only “right” one.  At 20 and on my own now, I realize I am an adult and must choose one or the other, since the Bible does state we must not be hot or cold. Which is how it feels going back and forth between the Catholic church and Protestant church. I am torn. Each family acts as if I am wrong if I choose opposite of them, and I want to remain close to both families. However, I know I must make the decision best for me, and my spiritual life. Unfortunately, I am lost at determining how to choose. Can you share with me any insight, or Biblical truth that can show me without doubt which choice I should make?

 Answers:

When seeking a church family, the key word is family. A church family should be like your personal family providing nurture, encouragement and support. The decision on where you should worship should only

be made after seeking the wisdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 it says we should seek the deep things of God, to desire and follow His leadership in spiritual decisions. God may not lead you to worship with either of your parents but may lead you to a totally different fellowship where you can grow and be fed. But this decision should only be made after much prayer as you follow the leadership of the Spirit. Men cannot make the decision on where you should worship, but the Holy Spirit should lead you in your search. I hope and pray that your parents are mature enough to be pleased that you want God’s will in your life regardless of what fellowship you choose.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

 As a 20 year old the decision to follow Christ is completely yours alone. You can find ways to honor both of your parents while at the same time not dishonoring your Lord. For one thing, never argue with them about religion. Try to focus on agreement and not the areas of disagreement between the two religious viewpoints.

Get into the Bible each day to build up your faith. Faith comes through the Word of Christ. Also, let your light shine before them that they may see your good life and praise your Heavenly Father.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

I am sorry for the distress you are having.  It is unfortunate that you are being pressured to make a choice under these circumstances.  Actually, it is the individual decision of every person to make regarding the following of Jesus, no matter of their family situation. The choice is not to go with one family member or another, but to follow Jesus.  I encourage you to begin a study of the Bible that will allow you to choose to follow Jesus as the New Testament teaches us. The choice should not be between one friend or another, but to follow the teaching of the New Testament.

Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  In the seventeenth chapter, Jesus prayed for all disciples to be united as one and He and the Father are one. In spite of this there are thousands of denominations.  The only authority should be Jesus and His word. 2 Tim 3:16-17.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

church of Christ in Eastwood

(El Paso, TX)

Your dilemma is not uncommon given the melting pot nature of American society.  You are the child of divorced parents, each of whom has worshiped God under a very different Christian banner.  I write to you with a built-in bias against any form of Catholicism since I have lived to see how it misleads so many of the masses with its false information, false teaching, and non-understanding of economic and liberty-based realities.  You should make your decision (as to which church to attend) by doing what every normal Christian does with all big decisions:  1.)  Ask Jesus Himself directly (the Catholics, for one thing, will not encourage you to do this!); 2.) Read the Bible, and ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as to where He is now guiding you.  3.)  Choose the congregation which you believe to be the most in accord with the teaching of scripture.  I mean especially the New Testament scriptures, since they speak of the true nature of the eternal Church of Jesus Christ.  There you have it!

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

from October 27, 2016

Question:

My fiancé and I rented a house together to cut costs so we could save for our wedding. I recently began going to church and got saved. This week a lady at church said it is sinful to live together if you aren’t married. I’m new to all this so my question is: is it OK since we are getting married next year? If we move out we will lose a lot on the deposit for breaking the lease, and neither of us can afford the house alone. Would it still be considered sinful if we didn’t share a room? I don’t know how to explain this to my fiancé, can you tell me where to find help in the Bible to help him understand?

Answers:

Thank God for your decision to accept Him as your Savior.  The question you ask is an important question, but, the question that needs to be addressed first, I believe, is “should you get married to the man in question”?  Read II Cor. 6:14, and once you have an answer, from God, on that, your question is almost answered.  If you have settled in your heart that God has approved your decision to get married, I would suggest that you inquire from your family the possibility of living with them (no rent) until after you are married.  If that is not possible, your fiancé should inquire the same from his family.  Since you are part of a church, your pastor or his wife should be able to guide you through this journey.  I would inform you though, the journey will not be easy, but doable.  You had the faith to ask Christ into your heart, now exercise your faith to follow Christ.  Your questions are going to become more and more frequent, I would encourage you to continue going to church and prayerfully read and study the Bible.
Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith

(El Paso, TX)

This cannot be adequately answered in this newspaper column. You should meet with your pastor.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

Living together before marriage is condoned nowhere in the Bible. I understand your concern for money problems and expenses. But you got yourselves into this jam because you didn’t consult the Lord or His Word before you took this plunge. If you had you would have learned that Jesus lives to help people find a way to remain chaste in appearance and chaste in fact! You could have asked him for His help in determining where each of you should and could live prior to the wedding. For instance, you might have found His help to pay for separate housing one way or the other. Perhaps one or both of you would have rented separate loft or studio apartments (much cheaper locations in other words). Or you might have made arrangements to live with a friend or relative and pay a much smaller share of the rent (without paying an expensive deposit for a house!). As it now stands you have made your lives harder and more complicated.  But that is still no excuse for continuing as you are in the same house. Since you are Christians now, it is not too late to ask Jesus Christ for His help to get you separated in separate residences as quickly as possible. He is the One who wrote the book on avoiding even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). He can most certainly help you discover how to apply this in your present lives.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

We live in days when men, not God are setting standards for morality. And yet all of us will stand before God one day to answer for our lives. Concerning living together, Galatians 5:18 says the works of the flesh are adultery and fornication.  Adultery is having sexual relations with another partner while married.  Fornication is having sexual relations when you are not married. Concerning both, Paul says that those who do this in verse 21, will not inherit the kingdom of God. As believers we no longer follow the worlds morals but follow Biblical teaching.  I know living apart may hurt financially but believers need to stand for truth. Show your fiancé what the Bible says and pray he will understand. If not, then he may not be the right partner. The Bible also says we
are to marry believers not unbelievers, so this now is also an issue. Christian beliefs are not popular but the eternal rewards for the faithful will outweigh the burdens we have now. 

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

from October 13, 2016

Question:

Often in our prayer life when seeking the Lord’s guidance my husband and I tend to ask for a sign that something is of his leading. Many times we receive a sign and believe it to be from the Lord. Matthew 16:4 states, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign…”  Does this mean it is sinful when we’ve prayed in this way? And therefore that what we saw as a sign is not actually from the Lord? Is there perhaps other scripture references that reveals it is okay to seek signs from the Lord?

Answers:

 When talking about signs we always want to check the Word of God to have a better understanding of what Jesus was speaking to.  In Matthew 12:38 and Mark 8:11 the Pharisees were wanting Jesus to do a miracle

on command to prove He was the Messiah.  Jesus refused to do this because He knew they would not accept the miracle or Him as the Son of God. He had already done thousands of miracles in their presence.  When

seeking direction in a situation we don’t always need a fleece but we can wait upon the Lord and in most cases He will speak to our spirit. Often times two people praying for direction will come to the same opinion of

agreement.  I don’t think it is a sin to ask for a visible representation from the Father.  But understand, the evil one can put signs out there as well. So search the Word of God concerning an issue to make sure it follows

His will and seek confirmation from others who are praying.  I don’t think there is only one way that God will speak to you.  Be open to the leadership of His Spirit.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

The reference in Matthew 16 was aimed at unbelievers not believers. Isaiah 7:11 says, Ask The Lord for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. While king Ahaz would not ask for one, God himself gave Ahaz a sign. The sign was the birth of Immanuel. If God wants to give you a sign about something He will do it just to encourage you in your faith.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

There have been times when my wife and I have asked in prayer for a sign from God. But this has not been often!  (Maybe only three times in 34 years of marriage.) You definitely are in excess of this, and I believe it is a problem for you and your husband. You rightly cited Matthew 16:4 as Jesus’ final word against seeking a sign.  But go back and please read the entire context of this in Matthew 16:1-12. The reason Jesus does NOT want his people seeking signs from God is because since He has come to this world we are now perfectly able to receive ALL of our answers directly from Him. This is what His incarnation means for us once we become believers.  Jesus, living in us, enables us to know the will of God. If we need to know something more precise from God about specific matters, we do three things:  1.)  we keep at prayer, and involve others in our quest; 2.)  we fast as necessary so we can concentrate on learning God’s will; and 3.)  we seek other wise, experienced Christians for their counsel. These three means of grace have worked perfectly well for countless other Christians and for nearly two thousand years. Use them.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

If you read the scripture in context it’s talking about the Pharisees and Saducees asking for a sign that Jesus was the son of God. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking for a sign in prayer.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson 

The Branch Church

(Chaparral, NM)

from September 22, 2016

Question:

Is it possible for someone to put a curse on someone else? Can a Christian be cursed? Was reading a book today written by a Christian author and he mentioned having people in our lives that put curses on us.

Answers:

Is it possible to get wet while standing in the rain? Not if you are properly covered with an umbrella. If you are in a right standing with The Lord Jesus Christ then no weapon formed against you will prosper.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

In the Old Testament the two words used for “curse” usually refer to the ritual of wishing something bad to happen to someone else (perhaps an enemy).  To add power to the oral curse, one would usually invoke the name and character of one’s deity.  However, such words or intentions have no power over any of God’s people.  Christians are protected from all such things by the grace of God (like a mighty, invisible shield).  So if curses are powerless on others (as God has rendered them), we should by all means cease saying or thinking them.  Jesus, by extension, does not want His people tossing around idle speech about anything (see related, Matthew 5:33-34).  The unbelieving world of course does not know any better; and people of different world religions still think there is evil power released or applied when someone is cursed verbally.  We call that superstition.  If there is any doubt that this is appropriate behavior for anyone (Christian or not), look again at the apostle Paul’s stern admonition about this (in Romans 12:14) as well His other stern admonitions to refrain from any evil speech (Ephesians 4:29-30).

 

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

When we talk of curses, I think we need to define what we are talking about.  God told men in Genesis 12:3 that He would curse those who curse Israel. What was God saying?  I believe He was saying that those who do harm to Israel, God will do harm to them or judge them. I don’t believe that God was speaking of some magic spell that people would hex them with. Can people bring evil against Christians; yes I believe that they can. But I believe they do this by asking Satan to attack them. We are in a spiritual battle and we do have evil angels who come against believers. However, I don’t believe men in their own power have the ability to pronounce curses on other men or women. But understand we also have a covering of protection from our Lord and we need to be praying this over ourselves, our family and our church family. We have not because we ask not.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

There are no scriptures that suggest a person can put a curse on another person.  God through his prophets would place a judgment on Israel as a nation and in some cases on individuals. Jesus cursed a fig tree as an object lesson for his disciples.  Never was there a case of vendetta or evil revenge.  The writer needs to reconsider his idea.

A person may be a curse on another because they live an evil life.  Addicts destroy relationships in families, consume finances through excess, legal fees, etc.  Abusers are a curse to spouses, children, siblings and parents.  Evil conduct by an individual, even curses their own happiness and lives, but it is not something placed on them by another.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

from September 8, 2016

Question:

My wife and I have struggled financially since moving to EP. I work very long hours and volunteer for all over time possible. My wife is still unable to find work in her field here as she is not bilingual. We had no idea this would be an issue when moving here 3 years ago. We have continued to tithe to our new church although have been unable to meet all our other debts. However, now it is becoming impossible to skip old debt and the only way to pay those is to skip tithing until these are paid in full. My wife is fearful that this will cause us to fall out of God’s will, and will be sin against Him. I remind her that it is also the Lord’s will that we pay our debts. These things must be paid, and without two incomes as we had before our family can’t pay the back debt and tithe. Do you have words of wisdom I can share with my wife?  Will we be out of the Lord’s will during the time we are unable to tithe?  Also, she feels if we can’t tithe we should not attend. I feel we are to attend regardless of ability to give. Which is correct?

Answers:

My dear brother in Christ. What you and your wife are currently experiencing are major, and I’m grateful to God for you taking the initiative to lead you and your wife through this difficult time in God’s grace and in a manner that honors our Lord Jesus. Praise and thanks be to God for your faithfulness. Brother, you are absolutely correct on one account: do not stop attending your new church regardless of your ability to give financially. Rather, I encourage you to please talk about all this with your pastor. Pray with your elders and read God’s Word with them, so they may faithfully and lovingly shepherd you and your wife through this very difficult time; being assured of the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

Pastor Marc Wilson 

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

The solution to your problem is easy in some ways (and is endorsed by financial leaders like Dave Ramsey).  Make your debt payments the priority, and give what you can to your local church!  Eventually you may be able to tithe again.  You do not earn God’s favor by giving, tithing, or by doing neither of the two!!  If you are a believer, you are already fully in God’s favor.  So put that worry away please, once and for all!  Being a border town, yes, El Paso employers tend to hire people who can speak English and Spanish fluently; but there are many other jobs available there that do not require bilingualism.  Your wife should be open to some flexibility here.  Instead of praying specifically for a job in her field, just pray for a job in general.  Then be willing to take whatever Jesus sends your way.  In doing this, make your actions part of your prayer:  keep on applying for work, but cast your nets wider.  Apply to more things.  Expand the scope of your creativity in terms of what you can do and what you have done in the past.  God is more concerned with your finances (and indebtedness) than you are.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

Many people are facing financial issues. Concerning the tithe, in the Old Testament, the tithe was to keep the temple and the priests who minister there. It was like our income tax today. We pay our tax today to the government to keep the nation going. The New Testament tells us to give, 2 Corinthians 9:6 says “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.” You may not be able to tithe but give what you can and do it with joy. Concerning your bills, listen to Dave Ramsey, who says get any kind of work you can until a better job comes to you. Pick out your smallest dept, pay them off and go to the higher. You may be able to also negotiate on the older debts and pay a smaller amount. But you have to continue to attend church and know God loves you even though finances are tight. Don’t quit attending and not quit giving. Give what you can until you can return to tithing.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

You are going through a test of your faith (James 1:3-5). Being faithful to God is your number one key to receiving His help. Check your reason for tithing. Is it so that God will bless you and prosper you or is it to bless Him and love Him with all your being. Have you shared your need with a pastor who is an authority over your spiritual life?

Above all else, seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

from August 25, 2016

Question:

The Bible talks about angels that watch over us and protect us and in Bible times even spoke to the Disciples. But, we believe that family members can’t see down on us from Heaven because there is no pain or sadness there. How do we explain this? Do those angels not see pain or sadness when they visit us or the Disciples?

Answers:

While I am unsure if I’m understanding the questions properly, I think there might be a common misunderstanding that equates the departed souls of humans with angelic beings. Angels are not disembodied human beings who have died. Angels are ‎separate created beings that exist within the heavenly and spiritual realm. They interact within our earthly and material realm in ways ordained by the Lord. Because of the Fall and our humanity, our means of interacting between the spiritual and material realms is different than that of angels who, generally speaking, serve as God’s messengers to us.

Pastor Marc Wilson 

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

You are absolutely right.  God does indeed have angels that interact with humanity.  And our family members who accepted Jesus as Savior prior to their death are in God’s presence.  I do not believe they can see what is being experienced by us, in spite of the popular notion by many that deceased family members are watching over us.  The real confusion is that most take their theology from popular culture rather than the Bible.  Angels, seraphs and cherubs are all heavenly beings, but they are a separate creation from humanity.  The Bible is not clear, but most scholars believe they were created sometime before God made Adam and Eve.  People who die do not become angels – please forget all about the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  It’s a fun fiction, but people do not die, go to heaven and “earn their wings.”  Hebrews 1 speak of Jesus as being much higher than angels, who are God’s ministering spirits.  Humanity was created in God’s image, not that of angels (Genesis 1-2).  That fact that humans are distinct from angels is seen clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:1-3 where we read that God’s saints – people who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior – will be judges over the world, and even will judge angels (v. 3).

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

There is a lot of information we do not have about the ministry of angels, their knowledge of us or their mission in the world. So, the answer is left unanswered for now. As for our deceased family members, they are at rest in Paradise. They are no longer laboring or carrying any burdens. However, Christ Himself is interceding for us.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

First, you are correct:  there is no biblical evidence that believers who have died can either see or influence anyone or anything in “the land of the living.”  That is merely an old Hollywood-style idea arising from popular folklore.  There are several Bible passages about the work of angels in helping us and protecting us (among which are Genesis 32:1; Psalm 34:7; 91:11; Mark 1:13; Matthew 18:10; Acts 5:19-20; 27:23-25; Hebrews 1:14; 13:2).  So in order to care for us of course the angels of God must be able to see and be aware of us.  Above all however, the Bible makes clear their first prerogative is to obey God in everything and carry out His plans.  But then so must we. The Bible talks about angels that watch over us and protect us and in Bible times even spoke to the Disciples. But, we believe that family members can’t see down on us from Heaven because there is no pain or sadness there. How do we explain this? Do those angels not see pain or sadness when they visit us or the Disciples?

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

There has always been a question as to whether our loved ones who are in heaven have an understanding on what is taking place here on earth. The answer to this is that we don’t really know. We do know that when sin has been judged and we have the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 20, that there will be no sorrow or crying. We do not want to confuse the angelic host with saints who are in heaven. When we pass to heaven, we do not become angels. Angels are the workers and messengers of God created by Him to serve him and humanity. Yes, they have knowledge of what is taking place on earth, but the saints may not be able to see what is taking place day to day. One thing I do know is that heaven is a blessed place for God’s children and there will be nothing that will take away our joy and peace.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

from August 11, 2016

Question:

As Christians are we required to vote in the Presidential election? I have friends that say they will not be able to vote for either candidate left, yet have been informed that it is a Christian duty to vote, therefore sinful if not doing so. Is this Biblical? Are there Scripture references to this fact that would point to this one way or the other?

Answers:

If you are an eligible voter, you have an obligation as a citizen to participate in the selection process of our nation.  As one seeking to follow Jesus, you need to realize that you need to approach the decision of how to vote from a spiritual perspective based on the Bible.  Look at two key passages.  The first is 1 Timothy 2:1-4.  Verses 1-2 speak about offering prayers on behalf of “kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”  If we are to pray for those in authority over us, doesn’t it make sense that the process in determining who to vote for in any election should also be bathed in prayer?  We must remember that everything we do needs to be approached asking, “God, what do you desire?”  The second passage to keep in mind is Romans 13:1-7.  The first two verses of this passage stress that God is the one who places persons in authority, while verse 5 says, “Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”  Our voting choices must be guided by our relationship with God.  We must remember that God is not on the side of a political party or an individual candidate.  He is working to accomplish His perfect will.  As a Christian, we must seek to know all we can about the issues and the candidates, and prayerfully seek to know which candidate more closely aligns with the principles laid out in the Bible.  I would strongly urge every Christian to get and read a short book, “How Should Christians Vote?” by Tony Evans.  He gives solid, biblical guidance that I believe would be extremely helpful.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

In what way is this supposed to be sinful? Voting is a privilege first and foremost. It is a civic opportunity not a moral obligation. If one chooses not to participate then neither can they gripe about the election results.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

Arguments have been made for both extremes: from not voting, to actively seeking the overthrow of oppressive governments.  Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, but he did admonish his disciples to “render unto Caesar.”   In the case of a government of the people, like the USA, that would include voting and participating in the government.  Christians should vote in massive numbers and run for office, to insure the best government possible.

The point of not voting because there is not a perfect candidate is not wise. When has there ever been a perfect candidate for any office in our country??  If Christians do not vote, that leaves to selection of our government officials in the control of nonbelievers.  This would not be what the founding fathers envisioned.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

Romans 13:1 clearly states that governments are ordained of God and as Americans we have been given by God the freest, most prosperous government this world has ever seen. America in the past has been the example of what Christian precepts could for a people. I say that knowing that our country has many flaws because it has sinners who govern it. Our Declaration of Independence states clearly that the rights we have are God given. If we have been given this government and the rights we have from God then we should and need, I say, be ever vigilant to keep the type of government that God has given us and to protect the rights given us by God. Do I see a command to vote in our elections? No.  However, we are focused on just the national race and let the state and local elections become unimportant. Yet the freedoms we say we love, are often directly affected in state and local elections as well. All too often we are simply looking for a way to escape being involved and for Christians not to be involved is foolish and showing ingratitude to God who has given us the ability to govern ourselves and to have the leaders we desire. Is there a command to vote, no, but what group should be more active and involved in the governing of our country than Christians?

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

First of all, the Bible says nothing decisively about the whole question of “voting.”  That is because, quite simply, the earliest societies were all totalitarian (dictatorships).  Democracies evolved first in ancient Greece as early as the seventh century.  In the Greek city-states all males who owned property within the district were allowed to vote for community decisions and some local representatives.  But no such thing was known in ancient Israel or later Judaism.  What we do find is that believers are expected to support the system of government that they live within (Romans 13; 1 Timothy 2).  By extension this means, since we have a system of electing our leaders, this is something one should do to be a good Christian citizen.  However, it is no sin if one chooses not to vote.  If you believe you cannot vote for either of the candidates from the two party conventions, then writing in someone else remains an option in most states.

 Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

This election is one that does make Christians think about what should be done.  The Bible does not address voting and no person was ever voted into office in the Bible.  They did cast lots to select a replacement

for Judas.  The Bible does say in Romans 13:7, render to the rulers their due.  Where candidates are concerned people should follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  We should always vote Biblical standards as much as possible.  You should not vote for a person who takes a stand against Biblical values, those who embrace abortion or gay rights. You do not sin if the Holy Spirit tells you not to vote.  Voting is a right but not a commandment.  But if we refuse to vote against evil, then we cannot complain when it rules in our country.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

from July 28, 2016

Question:

As a fairly new reader of the Word I was confused and concerned when a friend pointed out, Isaiah 65:20 “No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life. No longer will people be considered old at one hundred!  Only the cursed will die that young!”  As my family has lost many children and young adults to death, I would appreciate insight into this verse. I know my loved ones were saved, and can’t accept they died because they were cursed as this verse alludes to. Please help us understand and give clarity so that we can affectively explain to others.

Answers:

Your question emphasizes the importance of context.  Who is speaking, to whom are they speaking, when are they speaking and under what circumstances? A prophet of God in 6th century BC is speaking to God’s people in exile.  Yahweh is calling for repentance by his children and promises better days when they repent.  This does not apply to Christians because the church is not an earthly kingdom, nor does it mean that those who die young are cursed.  Application may be made for today:  when we sin, we destroy our lives; when we repent there can be restoration. i.e. addicted vs breaking our addiction.  Rom 15:4 “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us.”

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

The verse you’re considering needs to be looked at within the proper context to help our understanding. Isaiah 65:17-25 looks to the future from both Isaiah’s perspective and ours. The prophet is looking forward to a time when the effects of the Fall will be absent from the lives of God’s People. In figurative and pictorial language, Isaiah describes a future time when we will not be cursed with the toil, loss, suffering, conflict and death we currently experience. Such blessings within “a new heavens and a new earth” (also called “Jerusalem” and “my holy mountain”) are for the LORD’s “servants” mentioned in the preceding verses 13-16. Therefore, verse 20 is less of a reason for your personal losses and more of a promise of future hope to all Believers that there will be no more of the sadness, loss and death that your family has suffered. This is the Good News of Jesus’ Kingdom which will be completely fulfilled upon His Return.

Pastor Marc Wilson 

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

There is always a problem in choosing isolated verses for which to learn of God’s will for people in general. Two things are needed for interpreting a verse like this. First, one must observe the context. Isaiah 65:20 is part of an oratorical vision of Israel’s future contained in 65:17-25. There are many such prophetic visions found throughout all the classical prophets. God gives this word to the prophets to encourage his people, to let them know that though they are currently suffering, the day will come when His full and complete deliverance will arrive. Isaiah 65:17-25 is in addition part of a larger poem about Israel’s survival in its current environment, surrounded by hostile nations and peoples. The second thin that’s needed for understanding this passage as a whole is recognizing the kind of biblical literature it is. This portion of Isaiah is classified as apocalyptic. God in the past inspired such literature when his people were oppressed by others and depressed in themselves. In your case one who has lost children in an untimely manner may find comfort in such passages, rightly understood. They point to the truth that one day God will raise us to be with His Son, and like His Son in the resurrection. And then indeed, as Jesus promised, there will be no more death. For anyone.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

from July 14, 2016

Question:

Please explain Ecclesiastes 12:14, “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” Are we then not forgiven of our sins upon accepting Christ as we are taught, and told the Lord casts them as far as the East is from the West?

Answers:

When we are saved our sin is removed but we will appear before the Bema judgment seat of Christ to determine the rewards that we will receive in heaven. We see this again in 2 Corinthians 5:10. If we had an opportunity to serve the Lord, but were lazy or afraid, then our rewards will not be as great as someone who served faithfully. There is another judgment seat, the Great White Throne, for the non-believing in Revelation 20:11-15, where those who never accepted Christ as Lord will be judged to determine their eternal punishment. Believers will not come before Jesus at this judgment. Again we do understand that believer’s sins are forgiven, but we may get to heaven without any rewards to give back to Jesus, if we don’t want to serve the Lord, or if we serve Him for the wrong reasons. A service bringing no reward, would be service so we can get men’s applause.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

The verse you found from Ecclesiastes represents the viewpoint of people who did not possess the view of divine atonement that God revealed later when He sent His own Son into the world. This later, larger view of atonement means that God’s forgiveness for sin is available to everyone through faith in His Son Jesus. However curiously neither Jesus nor the other New Testament writers left behind this more ancient view of divine judgement. That’s because God wants all people to be responsible for their actions. The statement from Ecclesiastes 12:4 is carried forward into the New Testament because otherwise believers might assume they can get away with anything and avoid duties and responsibilities without any repercussions. All persons will be judged, and all will be judged for their works.  Even Jesus mentioned this in one of his teaching sayings directed toward his disciples (Matthew 16:27). Paul in Romans 2:6-11 says much the same thing. So God forgives us through faith in Jesus, but we are still held accountable by God for everything we do or say.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

To fully understand Ecclesiastes 12:14, it must be considered with verse 13 as the two verses together form a conclusion to the entire book.  “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is:  fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 NASB).  Many times in Ecclesiastes the author has called the reader to fear God, meaning we are to honor and revere God and to worship Him as God.  But there is also the sense of fearing God because He is all-powerful, but not because He is petty and hurtful without reason as people can be.  We are to fear God because his work is eternal (3:14) and because he demands holy worship (5:7).  He has told us to fear God in times of adversity as well as prosperity (7:14–18).  He has told us that if we do fear God, it will go well with us (8:12).  Now we are told to fear God and to obey him because one day we will stand before him for judgment.  We must remember that God is holy and just, and we are sinful.  He knows everything – even the most secret feelings of every person.  Even Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 12:36 when He said, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”  We will have to account for everything we have done and said, yet the bottom line is what we have done in response to Jesus.  You are correct in that the Bible promises that one who has trusted Jesus and given one’s life to Him has been forgiven.  God will not count our sins against us for condemnation.  The Eternal Judge has declared us not guilty from a legal standpoint:  we are no longer condemned for our sins.  Some would say this judgment referred to is for eternal rewards rather than our eternal destination (heaven with God or hell apart from God).  In a real sense they would be right.  But Jesus also told us to obey all His commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10; Matthew 28:20).  While our salvation is secure, and God will not count our sins against us to condemn those who have truly given their lives to Him through faith in the atonement provided by Jesus, we are still called to live holy lives as God directs.  We cannot fear that judgment, but it’s a great corrective to remember we are to live in obedience.  And the really frightening truth is that we must warn those who do not know Jesus personally that they need to trust Him alone for their salvation, because we are all going to stand before God one day.

 Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

Ecclesiastes was written long before Calvary. Under the blood of Christ our sins are forgiven and are already paid for. However, the truth remains that God will examine our lives thoroughly at the judgement seat of Christ where our works will be tested as by fire.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

from June 23, 2016

Question:

Why was Jesus baptized? Baptism symbolizes being washed clean of our sins but Jesus was sinless.

Answers:

It wasn’t for His sin that He was baptized (He knew no sin) but it was to identify Himself with the human race – as the Son of Man.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

Jesus as the Son of God was completely without sin.  Baptism in ancient times carried with it more than one meaning.  John’s baptism was a sign that people had confessed and were repenting of their known sins.  Read Matthew 3:1-17 to see how that story unfolds.  Luke, in telling this story goes further:  he indicates John’s baptism was about receiving God’s forgiveness for sins once the person had confessed them and repented of them (Luke 3:3).  Both John and Jesus knew that none of this applied to Jesus as the Son of Man and Son of God.  Jesus tells John in 3:15, he must baptize Jesus also in order to “fulfill all righteousness.”  Jesus means this:  in order to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) he had to identify with them fully.  He had to experience their rituals of life and of revival.  His reception of baptism is that giant step of identification for which God the Father was pleased (Matthew 3:17).

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

Jesus’ baptism by John identifies Him with God’s People. Jesus is God’s True Servant and Faithful Israel. Jesus was perfectly obedient to God’s will. Jesus succeeded where Israel, as a nation, failed in their faithfulness to God. Additionally, Jesus’ baptism confirms John’s ministry as the Messiah’s Forerunner, and it connects Jesus with the faithful remnant of Jews who responded to John the Baptist’s call to repentance in order to enter the coming Kingdom of God. Being baptized by John marked one’s repentance and cleansing. This was typically a ritual used for Gentile converts to Judaism. Therefore, John’s baptism was offensive to the Jewish religious leaders; because, it presumed they, as Jews, were unclean. Jesus voluntarily took on their uncleanness and sin. The accompanying voice at Jesus’ baptism reveals Him to be God’s unique eternal Son, and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus marks His anointing as God’s Chosen King, the Messiah.

Pastor Marc Wilson

St. Patrick’s Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

The New Testament indicates that Jesus was baptized for a couple of reasons.  The first is simply to identify fully with humanity.  The Jewish Mikvah bath from which we derive our modern baptism was used for ritual cleansing after a person became considered unclean under the Law given to Moses (such as by touching someone with an illness or touching a dead body).  After the prescribed period of time and the offering required by the Law, the person would wash in water and be considered ceremonially clean.  Even though Jesus was absolutely sinless, He underwent baptism to identify with us, as He came to be our substitute in His death on the cross.  Another reason Jesus was baptized was to serve as our example.  In commissioning His followers after the resurrection, Jesus commanded us to baptize new disciples of His (Matthew 28:19).  Jesus was baptized at the beginning of His ministry, and as new believers and disciples (followers) of Jesus, we need to be baptized as a testimony of what He has already done in our lives.   Baptism does not “wash away our sins,” but is a picture of what happened to us spiritually when we accepted Jesus (Romans 6:1-7).  It is through baptism that we symbolically identify with Jesus in His death for us (Romans 6:3-4).  Jesus did everything for us, including modeling being baptized (even over the objections of John).  If He did this and so much more for us, why would we not be willing to be baptized after coming to trust Jesus for our salvation?

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

Jesus was baptized because it was part of His Father’s plan. We often try to figure things out where God is concerned according to our limited understanding. Jesus said in Matthew 3:15 “Permit it to be so now, for thus

it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was starting His public ministry and was being set aside by His Father.  He was not ordained of men but was blessed by God.  is example of obedience would set an example for us. Yes, it is a picture of the old life passing and a new life coming forth in the Spirit. But it is also an act of obedience and a public profession that we like Jesus are a new creation with the Spirit of God leading us in the Father’s service. Jesus has always been the first fruits for everything He expects men to do.  He would not ask us to submit to baptism unless He has set the example. No He had no sin but know that baptism does not cleanse from sin. We are cleansed as we ask God to forgive our sin and remove our guilt. I hope this helps.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

from June 9, 2016

Question:

It is said that the Trinity has always existed. God is three in one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And said God created everything. How can Jesus be the one referred to as the Son if God created everything when everything was already created when Jesus was born in the New Testament?  Or was it only Father and Holy Spirit when they created all things, and then Jesus became part of the Trinity as the Son after the Resurrection?

 Answers:

Christians do believe in an eternal triune God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Three persons, but one in nature and unity.  Your question does not preclude the original, eternal existence of one God in three persons.  It sounds like your difficulty here is in the nature of the incarnation.  Jesus existed always as the Son of God.  It was in approximately 6 B. C. that He took on the form of a man in human birth (as we reckon time).  But He pre-existed with God the Father and God the Spirit prior to His birth as a human.  And therefore He was most certainly involved in the creation of all things from the very beginning.  You can actually read this in the Bible at John 1:3, and see a related passage in Colossians 1:15-17.  Paul uses the phrase “. . . the first born of all creation” (Col. 1:15).  This accounts for His human birth as the Son of God who alone bears the image of the living God.  To believe that Jesus was Himself created by God would be something akin to the ancient Christian heresy of adoptionism.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

The Son is pre-existent with the Father and the Spirit. This is what gives Christ His uniqueness. John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:15-17. The Son is God in the flesh. Jesus was God in human form. Rather than beginning as a Child, Christ (the Son) has always existed. Hebrews 1:1-4

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

It is a tremendous challenge to understand the Divine. How can the finite mind of mankind understand that which is infinite, divine, spiritual and eternal? Jesus repeatedly said, “The kingdom of heaven is ‘LIKE.’” This is because man does not have the experience or vocabulary to understand. Imagine, you could communicate with an unborn child, how you would describe what it is like to live in the world outside the womb? It would be impossible, the unborn child does not have the ability to comprehend what it has never seen or experienced?

The Word, Jesus, was not only present at the creation, Jesus was the creator. (John 1: 3) The Godhead or Divine Nature is explained as best as we are capable of understanding it in this life. (Matt 28:19; Acts 17:29; Rom 1:20; 2 Cor 13:14; Col 2:9) The relationship of the three entitys is so close that they are as one.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

God has always existed as one God in three persons:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus existed in a spiritual form before ever being born as a human through Mary.  This is seen throughout the Bible.  Let me give just a few examples.  John 1 tells us that Jesus – whom John refers to as the Word – existed from the very beginning and was in fact God (John 1:1).  Yet in John 1:14 he writes, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  This same Word who was God also was born as a human being.  Philippians 2:5-11 is a beautiful passage where Paul emphasizes that Jesus existed in heaven before becoming a human man.  In verses 6-8 he says that Jesus was willing to set aside equality with God the Father and “empty Himself” and become a human being in order to carry out the divine plan of the Father.  One more example:  In Colossians 1 we read about Jesus where it says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).  Please don’t let the phrase “the firstborn of all creation” confuse you.  It is not saying that Jesus was born first.  The word “firstborn” is actually a title of status, placing Jesus above all creation, because the next verse (16) goes on to say He created everything, both in heaven and on earth.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(EL Paso, TX)

from May 26, 2016

Question:

Does God have favorites (people)? I assumed God loves us all the same, we are all equal in his site from what I’ve been told. But at youth group last night a girl said her parents told her that God definitely has his favorites and that is why some people have so much hardship and problems in life, and others seem to skate through life with everything always going their way. If he does have favorites, how do you get to be one? My family seems to always have troubles and I sure would like to know how to get us on his good list. At my church they always say it is not about works – the things we do. So then how do some get to be favorites?

Answers:

God tells us we are not to show favoritism because He does not show favoritism. We are also not to compare ourselves with one another. Trials in the life of believers are a sign of God’s loving discipline and not of His displeasure. Read Hebrews 12 for more info.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

God does not have more favored people in the sense of your question.  We need to remember that Israel is God’s chosen nation and were favored in the sense that God worked specifically through that nation, and it was through Israel that Jesus the Messiah came into the world to complete God’s will in providing salvation for all who will receive Him.  The answer to why some seem to always prosper and others suffer is simply that we live in a world and society that has been devastatingly impacted by sin.  Sometimes suffering comes as a direct consequence of our own sinful rebellion and choices, and sometimes because of the sinful decisions and choices of others.  Please remember the promises of God to never leave us or forsake us, and to be with us in every experience of life – the good as well as the bad.  When we struggle the most is when our faith must be all the stronger in God, knowing that He sees from an eternal vantage we do not.  Sometimes God allows us to endure trials because He is using them to develop us into those through which He can work and use to assist others.  Remember the promise of James 4:8 – Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Also, Hebrews 7:25 (speaking of Jesus) says, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

God’s favorites are those who believe and obey Him. Among the body of believers, those of great faith were often given responsibilities to carry out for God: Noah, Abraham, Moses. Read Hebrews chapter eleven. God loves his children equally, but how we respond in life with faith, will give us opportunities to honor him.

Troubles are not an indication that one has lost favor with God. Troubles come to everyone, but we tend to focus on our own troubles and the blessings of others. Your blessings and my troubles are not an indication that God loves one more than the other. Ultimately, all troubles are rooted in sin. Sin that may have been by another person: i.e. drunk driver kills a loved one.

Jesus did not promise riches and ease. Read these scriptures: Mt 5:11; 5:44; 10:23; Lk21:12; Jo 15:20; Rom 12:14.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

God is not a respecter of persons but He does honor those who honor His Son Jesus.  In 2 Chronicles 19:7 it says “there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality nor taking of bribes.”  People should understand that our relationship to the Lord determines the blessings we receive.  James 4:6 says “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  God tells us that when we turn away from sin and seek His face then He hears our prayers. Matthew 6:33 says, “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”  Historically God has worked through humble people because proud people find it hard to bend a knee to Him.  In short, God has no favorites but He does bless those who obey His Word.  He says in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” When we do this, be assured He will love us and be with us.”

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

When it comes to individual believers, God does not have or play favorites, period!  God does have some persons who have more valuable spiritual gifts than other people (like the gift of prophecy/preaching).  See 1 Corinthians 12-14 (3 chapters), and you will see God’s apostle urging people to “seek the greater gifts.”  That’s because some gifts can accomplish more for building up and strengthening the church.  As to “how to get on God’s good list,” you are already on it and have been since the day you first believed!  God has loved you from your conception.  It is a simple fact that life is hard for everybody.  To make your life easier, we Methodists would tell you, be disciplined and frequent in your use of the means of grace.  They include 1.) works of piety (reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others) and 2.) works of mercy (doing good works, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, and giving generously to the needs of others).  If ever there was a formula for a more joyful life, this is it.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

from May 12, 2016

Question:

Do we have free will in heaven? How did Satan turn against God as an Angel if not?

Answers:

Yours is a question that many have debated for centuries.  The best Scripture I can point to is in Revelation 21:1-4 that speaks of a new heaven and a new earth and emphasizes that God is dwelling with humanity.  After this world order is done away with following the return of Jesus, everything will be recreated anew.  Those of us who know Jesus as Savior will also receive imperishable resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).  God will recreate us in the same form as humanity before sin ever entered into the world.  However, unlike Adam when he chose to disobey God, we have already lived in a world horribly impacted by sin.  While we will have free will, we will also have full knowledge of what it was like separated from God by sin, so we would never choose to rebel again and forfeit all we will be experiencing in eternity.  I wish I could point out a Bible passage that clearly states this, but the best I can do is quote 1 Corinthians 15:49: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”  In heaven, where there is no pain, sorrow, suffering or temptation, what could entice redeemed and recreated people to use our free will to forsake God?

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

In heaven, Christians will continue to have free will. That means we freely choose to do what we desire to do. Christians, by God’s grace, are given a new heart desire to serve and please God. The Holy Spirit empowers us and leads us to live in this way. Nevertheless, in the world, we still struggle against sinful desires that remain in our “flesh”. Not only do we battle against works of the flesh, we fight against evil in the world and Satan (who also possesses free will) that tempt us. Jesus defeated Satan and sin by His Cross. We experience a foretaste of this freedom and victory in Jesus now, but we will experience full unhindered freedom to serve God as we desire with transformed minds and bodies when He casts worldly evil, Satan, and death into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 14); forever removing sinful influences from the presence of His glorified holy People.

Pastor Marc Wilson

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

In the new heaven and earth things will be completely different and new, even beyond our imagination. Since we are created in God’s image and likeness it may be safe to say that we will always be free moral agents. However, we will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2-3) and so we will no longer be in subjection to the desires of the flesh – therefore our free will will be in total oneness with God’s will.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

As far as our free will in heaven, I believe the easiest description would be we will have “perfected free will”.  Scripture tells us there will no longer be the presence of evil and in heaven we are in the absolute presence of God so our free will is perfected into complete harmony with God’s will.  So our will is ours but it is completely formed and expressed in total submission to the will of God.  Just the opposite of the sin that caused Satan’s fall.  Arrogance and pride leading to the desire to be god unto himself.  This sin still influences us today when we see the many signs of people wanting to be god unto themselves.

Pastor Bill Belgie

Open Gate Community Church

(El Paso, TX)

We saved humans will have free will in heaven but with obvious limitations.  Some of the things we enjoy doing now, will be unnecessary in heaven.  We will not feel the urge to do them, so we will choose other things that please our Heavenly Father.  Also the realm of the eternal God is a place without sin, so we will never choose to do anything that is displeasing to God.  It will not even occur to us to consider such choices!  As for Satan’s choices, he was not and is not a human being.  The realm of choice God allocated for him was of a different order than what is permitted for human beings.  And no one saved by Jesus who gains Heaven with Him in the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10) will ever want to depart that blissful experience.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

Concerning free will, there are some things that God does not tell us but maybe we can draw some conclusions. Free will goes along with our sin nature and our desire to be independent. Satan had free will and so did Adam. Since Satan exercised his will, there has not been another rebellion because the angels understand what their punishment would be. I believe God gave Satan free will, so there would be a fall and man would have to make a choice between God and his desire to rule his own flesh. When we get to heaven, we will not be living in a flesh and blood body so we should no longer have the temptations of the flesh. Since Satan will be bound and we will be living in sin free bodies, there should be no desire to sin or to exercise free will, which is sin. Our desire will be centered in pleasing the Father and our Lord Jesus, and not ourselves. So my opinion is that free will would not be an issue.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

from April 28, 2016

Question:

The Bible says Jesus came to save us from our sins, to give us eternal life. So before Jesus was crucified did everyone who died go to Hell?

Answers:

Biblically there are two places that a soul would go to upon death: Paradise or Hades (Hell). Paradise is likened to bliss or heaven (it means a park in Greek) and Hades is a place of torment and flame (Gehenna). Read Luke 16 for more insight.

 Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

The Bible is very clear that even persons living prior to Jesus’ coming to earth were saved or considered righteous by their faith in God.  The Old Testament sacrificial system was designed to provide a temporary covering for unintentional sins.  Deliberate sin still needed God’s grace and mercy to be forgiven.  Paul, in Romans 4:3 quotes from Genesis 15:6, and points out that even Abraham, from whom the nation of Israel descended, was considered righteous (we would say was saved) because of his faith, not anything he did.  Romans 4 also quotes from Psalm 32:1-2 where David wrote about a person’s sin being covered, not by a person’s effort, but by God.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  That chapter is filled with people who are examples of those saved by their faith in God and the promised Messiah (Jesus) – most of whom lived before Jesus came.  God has always saved persons of every age by His grace and as an act of His mercy.  But we need to remember that we must be saved by placing our faith in Jesus and the fact that He was our substitute by taking our punishment for sin in our place.  We must commit our lives to God as a result of what Jesus did for us.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

Before the Crucifixion the old system of animal sacrifices for sin was in place. Jesus’ death and resurrection tore the curtain in 2 that separated us from the holy of holies. This is why Jesus is called the Lamb of God. His death replaced the sin offering of the Lamb without blemish in Exodus 12:5.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

The Branch Church

(Chaparral, NM)

So many millions of people died before Jesus was crucified, and yet many of those, all over the world still finally received the gift of eternal life and heaven itself.  This is true for several reasons.  First the Old Testament in various places (from Exodus to Malachi and including the Psalms) insist that people will be judged by what they actually do with regard to God’s revealed law.  The New Testament (written by Jewish Christians) maintains this same idea in a number of places, such as Romans 14:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10.  Moreover Paul in Romans 2:6-16 explicitly talks about Gentiles who lived according to the spirit of the Jewish law even though this law had never been revealed to them.  They lived according to God’s law because their own conscience led them to do so.  Finally, Christians should understand that the value of Christ’s sacrifice is eternal.  This means it extends both forwards and backwards in time, offering atonement for all who lived and truly sought the truth and heart of God the Father.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

The righteous before God are saved by grace through faith in God’s promises. God’s promises are revealed through His Word and recorded in the Bible. Jesus is the fullness of all God’s promises in the Old Testament; therefore, those who trusted in God’s promises, even before seeing them fulfilled in Jesus, are saved from the punishment of “hell” (i.e., the eternal “second death” for the condemned / unsaved). The foundation of being saved from sin for eternal life is the Cross of Christ. This saving effect of the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus’ Blood is applied by the Holy Spirit to all who have saving faith (i.e., trust with obedience) in God’s promises both before and after Jesus’ crucifixion. In summary, Believers in the Old Testament were saved from their sins and have eternal life based on their faith in what God revealed to them at that point in history.

 Pastor Marc Wilson 

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

Before Jesus was crucified on the cross, humanity was saved by faith looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Men and women repented of their sins as the blood of animals was taken to the high priest who would offer it on the mercy seat in the temple. By faith they trusted that Messiah would come and redeem them just like we today look back at Jesus and ask forgiveness. In the Old testament when people passed, those who knew Jesus as Lord went to Paradise. Paradise held the blessed of God until Jesus would come as the first fruits and open heaven for the redeemed. See Luke chapter 16:19 for the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus. When Jesus ascended to heaven He brought those in Paradise to heaven with Him. The saved and redeemed of God have always experienced His blessing when they have passed from the physical body. Romans 8:1 says “There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL

from April 14, 2016

Question:

I read today in Mathew 6 about how we are supposed to pray in secret. The verses 5 & 6 say not to pray publically on the streets like hypocrites. Does this mean the sidewalk counselors and people praying out in front of abortion clinics shouldn’t be doing so? Biblically? Please explain why or why not, and if not then, what should they do?

Answers:

In Matthew 6, the key is whether or not such public demonstration (including praying, giving to the needy, and fasting) is done in hypocrisy. The hypocrite claims to be serving God, but they really desire to be recognized by others. Hypocrites are self-serving and want to receive personal glory rather than properly give glory to God. Hypocrisy is motivated by self-interest rather than a desire to faithfully serve God and others for their good and God’s glory. Therefore, according to Matthew 6, whether or not people should be counseling and praying in front of abortion clinics depends on their motivation. Are they seeking to glorify themselves, or are they seeking to glorify God in love for their neighbors? While we may not be certain of people’s intentions, God knows their hearts. The hypocrite receives their reward when being seen, praised and acknowledged by others. Those who do it to please God out of love will be rewarded by Him.

Pastor Marc Wilson 

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

Matthew 5-7 is called the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus taught these things to his disciples on a hill in Galilee.  In much of this sermon Jesus sets his teaching in direct contrast to the practices of the “hypocrites” of his day.  Those were mostly scribes and Pharisees as we learn from Matthew 23.  So in contrast to those Jewish leaders, followers of Jesus are to pray in secret, that is in the private of their own homes.  Our duty is to pray to God as groups and individuals so that only God sees into our minds and lives.  We are not to show off to others in our prayers.  As for street preachers and such, only God knows what’s truly on their minds, so only He can judge them.  As for those who pray outside abortion clinics, those people are witnessing to a very terrible evil, and they are not praying in order to show off.  However, Jesus the Son of God still condemns church groups who pray outside just so people will see them doing that.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

As always, the context of a passage is vital to understanding the meaning of select verses.  Verse 5 reveals the motivation of the hypocrites: “For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”  The Greek behind the English word “hypocrite” came from Greek drama, where the actors would literally wear masks so that the same actor could portray more than one role in a play.  The idea of a hypocrite in this passage is one that is not praying sincerely, but merely “playing a role” in order to receive the praise from others thinking he was devout.  In the case of a counselor praying with someone on the street, one would assume they are sincerely helping the one praying to seek the Lord.  That one would not be trying to garner attention, but genuinely help the one with whom they pray spiritually.  So in this instance, Jesus’ words of prohibition would not apply because of the motivation of the one praying.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

In this text Jesus challenges the standard idea of righteousness for his day. Worship is about YHWH: His awesomeness, His holiness, His love. Religious leaders made worship about man. Note the narcissistic nature of the prayer in Lk 18:11. Jesus made an identical application in the previous paragraph of Mt 6 about good acts and in the following paragraph about fasting. The objection is not leading a public prayer for a group; it is about glorifying yourself instead of God. Disciples were told in the previous chapter that they are the salt and light of the world, not to be hidden but made known to those around us. We are not to be secret disciples that hide our faith from the world, but we seek to glorify God through Jesus the Christ.   Regarding those who lead pray on sidewalks, I cannot judge their hearts or attitudes, but only their words and deeds.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

Jesus was addressing the subject of prayer understanding that there were those in Judaism that were more concerned about their public image than their relationship to His Father. Prayer should be centered in our personal communication with our Father who is in heaven. We as His children want to talk with Him about anything and everything that takes place in this world around us. It is not a public show and it should not always be about us. James 4:3 says “You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  If all we do is to pray to be seen by men or we pray for selfish reasons, then we are not as effective as we should be in our prayers.  Prayer should be intimate between us and our Father.  It is not a public a performance.  There are times when we pray in public, but the focus should be centered in our Father and not in men.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

There are all kinds of public prayer meetings throughout the Scriptures. Many of these were led by the apostles, Jesus was warning against praying for men’s recognition and personal reward but not to stop praying in public altogether. If we pray with humility and brokenness over the spiritual condition of our culture, we are doing right. Check out 1 Timothy 2:1-3.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

from March 24, 2016

Question:

I am a new Christian and recently stumbled across Deuteronomy 23:2 which states, “If a person is illegitimate by birth, neither he nor his descendants for ten generations may be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” I am deeply saddened as I am illegitimate as is my first child. Does this verse mean I nor my descendants should be allowed in church or in the kingdom of Heaven, or both? I was told once I accepted Jesus my sins were forgiven but if that is true why should I and future descendants not be welcome? And why should a child be condemned for something they had no control over?

Answers:

Please understand in the Old Testament man lived by the law and in the New Testament Jesus brought grace and with it forgiveness.  In the Old Testament if a woman was taken in adultery she was stoned.  The woman at the well in John chapter four was not condemned by Jesus but returned and shared that Jesus was the Messiah.  The woman taken in adultery in John chapter eight was not condemned by Jesus but was told to go and sin no more.  Jesus forgives any sin that men commit and all He asks is that we change from sin and follow Him as Lord and Savior.  Please know that God will accept both you and your child as you ask forgiveness and commit your life to Him.  All sin separates us from God and there are no big or little sins where Jesus is concerned.  He forgives murderers and those who gossip.  He has forgiven you is you have asked Him to.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

First, it is important to be involved with a congregation. A pastor or mature Believer discipling you can answer questions and assure you of who you are in Christ. Second, Deuteronomy 23:2 addresses specific restrictions within the Old Covenant assembly and should not be equated with attending church, entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, nor your salvation. Third, we are all spiritually “illegitimate” children by natural birth in this world. We become adopted children of God through faith in Jesus Who is the Father’s unique and eternal Son. Jesus is the first born legitimate big brother for us. In Jesus, we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).  This is the Good News that frees us from our condemnation under the Law. This is why we must never think we can earn our way into God’s Assembly by our works. We are accepted by God as His children in Jesus, alone.

Pastor Marc Wilson 

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

Not to worry. Deuteronomy is referencing the Jewish Tabernacle and what would be the future Temple under the Old Covenant. Romans 8:1-3 assures us that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

Fear not.  As the Apostle Paul would say (through the direction on the Holy Spirit) “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:” (Romans 5:20).  If you have made a profession of faith in Jesus the Christ, you fall under the grace of God rather than the law of man.  The Church should not shut anyone out that desires to know God better or to hear the word of God.  There is much more to say on this matter.  I would encourage you to please find you a Church that will guide you as you continue your walk with Christ.  Word of caution, make sure the church is going to speak the truth of God and the will of the church.  Blessings to you.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director

El Paso International School of Faith

(El Paso, TX)

 17“Now if some of the branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive branch, have been grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree,” 18 “do not boast about being better than the other branches. If you boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

The scripture in Deuteronomy talks about the high standards God set for the Israilite’s. There are may others in the Old Testament and they are important. The verse above in Roman’s talks about how we are grafted in by Jesus’s sacrifice. God loves you and you are welcome in any church that worships Him.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

The Branch Church

(Chaparral, NM)

The key to understanding a verse like this is to recognize the context.  Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final address to the Israelites prior to their entering the land of Canaan to possess it.  Moses reminds them of all the laws God had given back on Mt. Sinai along with the 10 Commandments.  These included instructions for the tabernacle (which preceded the permanent temple built centuries later under Solomon).  Initially, only pure Israelites could enter the tabernacle for worship.  As they were about to enter Canaan, strict commands were given to prohibit intermarriage with the people they would dispossess, not because God is racially biased, but because their idolatry and pagan worship would draw the Hebrews away from God.  The term “illegitimate” here carries the sense of one born of a forbidden marriage with a non-Israelite rather than one born out of wedlock as we think of it today.  Because God is holy, and the tabernacle represented God dwelling in the middle of His people, the Hebrews needed to be holy and pure as part of God’s chosen nation.  You are absolutely correct in understanding that trust in Jesus cleanses from all sin.  Please know you are loved and accepted by God.  Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.   For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.   Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Because of who you are in Christ, you no longer need to be worried about being excluded from God because of past sin or circumstances.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

Thank you for a question that is obviously personal and important to you. In a nutshell, the Old Testament does not apply today. Space does not permit printing the scriptures, please look them up and read them. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant (Mt 5:17-18) and thereby removed it as authority over Israel (Col 2:14). Jesus lived and died under the Covenant through Moses. On His resurrection and the preaching of the Gospel in Acts 2, Jesus became the law giver for all mankind, not just the children of Abraham (Heb 2:8-10; 3:3).

Worship and service to YHWH is now through Jesus and His teachings (Jo 14:6). The Bible is a continuous love story from beginning to end. The Law of Moses gave commands designed to show that God had kept His promise to bring a Savior to redeem the world (Gen 12:3). It served as a tutor (Gal 3:24-25, Rom 7:7) to prepare the way for the Messiah (Mk 1:2-3).

Today, disciples serve under the New Covenant, but continue to read the Old to learn the examples of faith and obedience by our forefathers in faith (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11-12). We do not go to an earthly temple or worship through a priest. Jesus is the only High Priest (Heb 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:9-10; 7:12, 24) and every disciple is a priest (1 Pet 2:5, 9). There is no animal sacrifice, Jesus gave Himself as an offering for all the sins of all mankind in every age (Heb 9:25-28). John 8:11

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

from March 10, 2016

Question:

The other day I had posted on my Facebook that I had decided to boycott certain companies, because of their ungodly policies. I received a comment that said, “I don’t know man, I don’t think Jesus would avoid a business just because they supported something ‘sinful’…just sayin’.” This response got me to think a little more about my decision and now I’m curious. Is it wrong for Christians to boycott?

Answers:

It is not wrong to boycott any company, business, or store if you see them openly committing sin or operating by “ungodly policies” as you call them.  Remember, if you look around a bit, you can obtain most anything you need from a business that operates according to Judaeo-Christian ethical standards.  The whole idea of a boycott is to offer consumer pressure on businesses to get them to change their practices.  So if enough people feel the way you do (and take their business elsewhere) it could create a real incentive for that store or business to change and improve.  But before you decide to do this, please be very certain that the policies you observe in the questionable business truly go against the revealed will of God.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

Maybe the more important question is: Is it wrong to violate your conscience in order to support a business? I would say YES. James 4:17 says, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

While there’s nothing wrong with personally boycotting certain businesses, we should avoid placing that expectation on all Christians. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul warns Believers to avoid individuals who sin AND call themselves Christians. We are to separate from those who call themselves Christians but don’t live accordingly. Additionally, Paul wants Christians to AVOID applying this principle of separation to non-Christians; because, that would imply separating ourselves from the entire world. If we consistently applied the criteria of ungodliness to boycotting businesses (especially those run by non-Christians), it would restrict us in our Godly witness to a corrupt world. For example: Could the criteria you use to boycott certain businesses be applied to Facebook? We must avoid isolating ourselves within a Christian ghetto. While not endorsing sin, we must engage with non-Believers outside the Church at various levels as Jesus did (Mark 2:13-17). This grants Christians the opportunity to share the Gospel.

Pastor Marc Wilson 

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

Those apart from God in our society boycott and specifically target Christian businesses and churches all the time.  Yet Christians have even more reason to be motivated to carefully evaluate those they give their business.  In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 it says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols?”  Some try to apply this passage only to a Christian and a non-Christian getting married, but the context applies being “unequally yoked” to every area of life.  Our secular society refuses to understand that a person’s faith cannot be restricted only to one’s thoughts or attitudes in some spiritual way that is unseen to the world.  A faith that does not affect one’s public behavior is not genuine faith.  That passage goes on to say, “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Cor. 6:17–18.)  We are to be separate from the sinful practices of those around us – including businesses, yet still seek to have genuine, loving relationships with people who do not know God.  We must remain pure and healthy in order to be able to minister effectively to them when their lives crash and collapse as a result of their sinful choices.  It is right to boycott sinful activity, in individuals and in our business dealings, but we must also do so in a loving way that allows God to be glorified rather than discredited.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

Christians, according to the guidance of the Holy Scriptures, are to live a life that is of Peace (Romans 14:19).  Furthermore, we are instructed to not be consumed by the cares of this world (Mark 4:19).  History will prove time and time again when Christians engaged in the world affairs such as boycotts, the world sees it as Christians imposing their belief system on them and that is when the world fights back.  Jesus gave the course of our mission (Matthew 28:19-20) and by engaging in the cares of world may close the door of opportunity of presenting the Gospel (Salvation, Peace, Love, etc.) of Jesus Christ to a lost and sinful world.  It is okay to disagree with the attitudes of the world, but how we approach the lost can make the difference in eternity for them.   Remember, it seems that a sinful world knows how Christians should conduct themselves better than some Christians do.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director

El Paso International School of Faith

(El Paso, TX)

from February 25, 2016

Question:

My question pertains to the upcoming visit of the Pope to Juarez. This topic of discussion came up at my school. Many people view the Pope as the closest person on earth to God. If he is so saintly and close to God, then why are both El Paso and Juarez spending huge amounts of money on protection for him? I mean, we are told all the time to not fear, and that we are supposed to just put our faith and trust in God in all things and believe he will take care and protect us. So, if that is the case with us little people – why doesn’t that also hold true for a man that is considered so close to God? I’ve had adults tell me I lack faith or am far from the Lord when I express my fear or admit I am afraid. So if the Pope is so close to God, why would he fear others and feel a need for such extreme protection? Should this make us question his walk with God as not a close one, as others do of us when we are afraid?

 Answers:

Ezra 8:22 talks about how Ezra returned to Jerusalem. He did not ask for a royal guard but for God to protect him. We’ll, they made the long journey from Babylon to Jerusalem with Gods hedge of protection. But in today’s world perhaps God would protect him through this means of police. They are ministers of God for good – Romans 13:6

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

Your question answers itself.  Your thought is on track.  God did not give His children a Spirit of fear, but of Love and of Sound Mind (II Timothy 2:7).  The Pope is no more closer to God than the repentative sinner or the confessing Saint.  The purpose of the protection is a matter of protocol call due to, as you stated, his influence on so many people.  I cannot speak to the thoughts of the Pope concerning all the attention to protecting him, but I can tell you can, as you have stated, God’s children are to “walk by faith and not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).  However, that does not mean that from time to time additional measures need to be made because of the knowledge we have of the task given, and preparing for the task is not a bad thing (Proverbs 22:3).  The expectations of God’s children is that “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Psalms 118:8).  Finally, if you are not active in your church’s Bible study or discipleship training, please find you a church that will assist you in strengthen your Faith as you continue to walk with God.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director

El Paso International School of Faith

(El Paso, TX)

Your fear doesn’t have to mean you are separate from God if you offer those fears to Him and let Him carry them. As for the Pope from what I’ve seen of him he isn’t that worried, most of the protection is to make us feel better that he is safe. Remember no one is.

1 Peter 5:7  Throw all your worry on Him because He cares for you

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson 

The Branch Church

(Chaparral, NM)

Your question is an unusual one given the truth of Scripture for Christians. First, the pope is no more special to God than you are! He has been given a special, high office by his church electors (the cardinals), but his reward in heaven may be far less than any lowly Christian servant who has no title and no office; Second, God never promised any believer He would protect them from death by the hands of other people, or even accidental death. Part of our life as people of Jesus includes the likelihood that in some way we will all be forced to imitate Him by suffering as He did. That means the possibility of death, including death at the hands of others (unbelievers or ignorant believers). Third, Juarez and El Paso (both secular cities) are still heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. Therefore, they want to do what they can to protect Pope Francis. Many people like or love this man and what he stands for (historic catholic doctrine). It certainly would not serve to have him murdered on any of his journeys. That’s why heightened protection is necessary.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

Your question is as much political as it is biblical. No state or country wants to have any celebrity or head of state assassinated in their area. Or even to be injured accidently because of lax safety. It marks the place with a bad reputation even when underserved. A family was visiting Nebraska when JFK was assassinated, on their drive back to Ft. Worth, they were run off the road, cursed and had objects thrown at them simply because they had Texas license plates. No community wants to be labeled as the place where bad things happened. The man serving in the office of pope, is just a man.   He has no special powers to protect himself or others. Christians look forward to heaven, but that does not mean we hasten to death or live recklessly. Disciples have a mission to spread the Gospel and lead others to the Father. Trusting God does not mean we can live dangerously and that God will snatch us from danger. Satan tempted Jesus in such a way and Jesus replied with scripture, Deut 6:16, Mt 4:7. We are not to tempt God.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

While the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic church, the Bible is clear that all who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are equal before God.  Galatians 3:25-29 says, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”  If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you are God’s adopted child and are as precious to Him as anyone else.  We are all at different stages in our relationship (closeness) to God, but all are valued by God equally.  The reason for the extreme protection for the Pope’s visit is that in addition to being the head of the Roman Catholic Church, he is also a head of state, as the Vatican is considered a country in the world, and he receives the protection just as would the President of the U.S. or the Prime Minister of Great Britain.  As far as personal fear is concerned, we all experience fear.  Even the apostle Paul dealt with it as he indicated in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, stating that he and his companions “were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”  But Paul also went on to state the assurance he had in God and was able to rely on God rather than himself in that same passage.  Fear is natural, but we are to place our trust in God.  That doesn’t mean the fear disappears, but that we are ultimately confident that God is with us and will enable us to remain obedient to Him in spite of our fear.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

from February 11, 2016

Question:

I heard it stated on Christian radio that Communion should be observed at every weekly church service. Every church I have attended since childhood has only observed this either quarterly, or others just a bit more often.  Are we not covered by the blood of Jesus if our church doesn’t practice this weekly? Do we need to seek out a church home that practices this on a weekly basis?

Answers:

I encourage you to talk to your local pastor about this before listening to me or to the radio. You don’t want to be a “Lone Ranger” Christian. Rather than submitting to local pastors, many people obtain information from the radio, Internet, or publications (like this). However, such issues should be prayerfully discussed with someone who knows you and who can disciple you according to God’s Word. We all need this accountability within the covenant community of Christ, and such covenant community (“communion”) is a key aspect of the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper, we look to our brothers and sisters in Jesus with whom we are in fellowship and called to love and serve. If the Lord’s Supper is regularly celebrated as a reminder of who we are because of what Jesus did, then it serves the intended purpose. Do not ‘excommunicate’ yourself from your fellowship because the Lord’s Supper is celebrated only quarterly.

Pastor Marc Wilson 

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

There are differing traditions but it is not a sin. Paul said “As often as you take this bread and drink this cup”. He never specified how often, just whenever you do. It is believed that the Corinthian church celebrated a love feast weekly but it was not commanded by Paul in any other of his epistles.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

I have no doubt that the speaker you heard believes this as a deep spiritual conviction.  While tradition – at least early in the church seems to have been a weekly observance, there is no clear teaching in the Bible as to frequency of the observance.  The only Bible passage that hints at frequency of this observance is in Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 when he writes in verse 26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”  The words “as often as” indicates that the first century church did observe Communion regularly, but there is not a direct command in the Bible as to a specific schedule.  Church historians mostly agree that early on the majority of churches did observe it weekly, but the passing of time saw changes in frequency.  There are even some that hold because Jesus initiated Communion during His final celebration of the Passover meal with His apostles – which was an annual feast – that churches should only serve Communion once a year!  The Bible is clear that believers always remember what is symbolized in the bread and the cup, which is the willing offering of Jesus’ body and blood on the cross as the sacrifice necessary to cover the sins of all who will accept Jesus as Savior.  Whether done weekly, monthly, randomly throughout the year or even just annually, it is to be a most meaningful remembrance of what our salvation cost – the life of our Savior.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

It is common in the history of the church for certain practices (including the sacraments) to become so locked into a specific schedule, that new generations of Pharisees crop up to steal peoples joy and freedom.  I think perhaps church history as a whole reveals a new legalism for Christians and churches in nearly every century (if not every generation).  Paul, for instance, had to deal with this kind of legalistic thinking in Galatians as regards circumcision and Judaism.  So it is with your question about necessary and mandated Holy Communion.  As far as Jesus and the Bible go we are to observe this sacrament as often as we can (Paul remembering Jesus’ teaching as he writes to Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 11:25).  But by no means does this require ANY believer to take communion every week or else!!  Our salvation is in no way tied to the regularity of any certain practice (we’re not Pharisees!).  See Ephesians 2:1-10.  If your church has this ritual and you like it, that’s fine.  And if not, that’s all right too.

Paul Duerksen, Pastoral Assistant

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

When we look at communion, different denominations have different understandings on why we do it and how often. Some believe that the contents of the cup turn into the blood of Jesus and the bread turns into the body. They believe that when this is done, it provides salvation to the one who partakes. The Bible teachers however, that salvation comes when we commit and submit our lives to Jesus in faith after we have asked for the forgiveness of our sins. I believe communion should be a time of remembrance of what Jesus did when He died for us, see 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. So it does not provide salvation, it is a memorial encouraging us to be faithful to Jesus. Since it gives no saving grace, we should do it only as often as it is truly meaningful. So how often we take it, should be centered in how effective it is to us. We do not want it to be a routine.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

from January 28, 2016

Question:

 In Genesis 9:4 it states we aren’t to eat meat with blood still in it. I’m concerned about those I know that eat their meat rare, According to this, it is a sinful act. Are they to seek forgiveness after these meals? Even if they do, isn’t this considered willful acts of sin? Would God still forgive?

 Answers:

A closer look at the verse in question would reflect that of the human nature and not of the beast of the earth. In vs. 3, of the same chapter, God states that “very moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you” and He examples this as the green herb of the field. In vs. 4, God states that “flesh” (human nature Cannibalism) with blood we shall not eat.  Jews had issues with this in the New Testament until Jesus revealed to Peter in a vision (“that wild beast, four legged, and creeping animals”) that all animals are clean to eat. Therefore, the concern in vs. 4 can easily be taken out of content and become a stumbling block if one will allow it. Based on the scripture, there is no indication how well cooked or prepared the meat has to be before eating it.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director

El Paso International School of Faith

(El Paso, TX)

Genesis 9:4 is elaborated in Leviticus 17:11-12. Blood represents life, and all life belongs to God. When we sin against God, the punishment due to us is the loss of our life. However, God temporarily allowed the blood of animals sacrificed to make atonement for our lives. There were proscribed ways of slaughtering sacrificial animals, many of which were eaten in sacred fellowship with guidelines as to what could be eaten and by whom. Consumption of blood was associated with the pagan worship of surrounding peoples (Leviticus 19:25-28). The Good News is that Jesus’ shed Blood is the fullness of all these prior animal sacrifices; because, Christ’s Cross is the once-for-all eternal sacrifice for the complete forgiveness of our sins (Hebrews 9:12-15, 25-28). In light of the religious / sacrificial context of animal sacrifices and their fulfillment in the Gospel, I do not think it’s sinful for someone to eat rare meat.

Pastor Marc Wilson

St. Patrick’s Church 

(Las Cruces, NM)

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is not healthy to eat rarely cooked meat. But God’s reason was specifically stated that the life is in the blood. Though we are far removed from Noah’s day and time, it is still wise to heed this commandment but to balance it with Paul’s statement in I Timothy 4:3-5.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

In the Old Testament God introduces his law to humans a little bit at a time.  The prohibition on drinking blood is connected to the fact that the circulating blood of an animal or human is what keeps humans alive.  The prohibition of Genesis 9:6 is spelled out in this way because this is the first time that God has permitted humans to eat meat as a part of their food.  Rare meat may in fact contain some of the animal’s blood, but in this case the animal was killed for food intentionally and not murdered.  There is no sin in eating rare meat (though I like my steaks medium well!).  Therefore, there is no need to ask God for forgiveness if one eats a rare steak.  One should simply return thanks to God for the wonderful gift of that delicious meal!

Paul Duerksen, Pastoral Assistant

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

The point is not the level to which your sirloin is cooked, but is rather a prohibition of eating raw meat from an animal from which the blood had not been drained from the carcass.  This command is first in Genesis 9:3-4 where God told Noah He was now giving them animals to eat in addition to plant life.  Verse 4 states, “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, with its blood.”  It was evident to all ancient people that a person or animal would die without blood. In a wide range of pagan cultures (ancient and contemporary), consumption of blood is considered a means of appropriating the life force of one’s victim—and perhaps even its attributes. This prohibition teaches that only God bestows life.  This was later repeated in the covenant law delivered through Moses to Israel.  Again, this not a prohibition of rare meat, but requiring the draining of the blood from a slain animal prior to preparing the meat for food.  In the sacrificial system, the blood of animals offered would be drained and a portion thrown against the side of the altar to illustrate sin required a life.  Deuteronomy gives the later law to drain the blood from the animal and states, “Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the earth like water” (Deuteronomy 12:23-24).  This clearly refers to blood in the circulation system, not what is retained in the flesh itself.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

(El Paso, TX)

There are two things I want to consider here. God wanted man to prepare his food before man would eat it. Animals would eat meat while the prey was still alive and the blood in it. But God commanded man to prepare and cook the meat for health purposes. Secondly, the life of the living is in the blood. So the life or the blood, was sacrificed for the remission of sins that men could be forgiven. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission Hebrews 9:22. Until Jesus came animals were killed and their blood was offered in the temple for man’s sin. When Jesus shed His blood on the cross, these sacrifices were no longer necessary. So the prohibition ceased. I don’t believe that a man sins when he eats rare meat, but for health reasons we should not partake in the blood. Many pagan cultures still do this and we don’t want to identify with them.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

Some commands were given for the health and well-being of Israel, Deut 23:13. Plus, some who worshipped idols would drink the blood of the sacrifice. In either case, Disciples of Jesus are not under any of the laws that preceded the will of Christ unless they are repeated in the new. Christians follow the New Covenant of Jesus. The old was in effect until Jesus fulfilled the promises and prophesies Mt 5:18. God’s plan was always to make a new covenant to replace the old. Heb 8:8, 13; 9:1, 10, 15-17; 12:24. Jesus lived a perfect life under the Old Law, he was the embodiment of the law. When He was nailed to the cross, the old law was nailed to the cross, Col 2:14. This removed the old and brought in the Covenant of Jesus. While it might not be my choice to eat rare meat, the old restrictions would not be applicable today. Gal 1:14-16.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

*****

From January 14, 2016 

Question:

Why did God use Mary for the birth of Jesus, when he created Adam and Eve from dust?

 Answers:

It is clear that God chose Mary because he wanted to have his son born to an earthly father who was descended from the royal line of David.  Mary was engaged to just such a man, and though Luke says little about Joseph, Matthew makes up for it.  The writer of Matthew makes clear the high character of Joseph (a descendant of David) in the very first chapter of his Gospel.  It sounds to me like your question is, “since God created the first humans from the dust of the ground, why couldn’t he just create another man who would be His Son on Earth.  Or perhaps you’re wondering why the Messiah did not just appear on earth as a man in the way angels sometimes took on the form of humans.  The answer is that Jesus called Himself and was called “the son of man.”  By the time Jesus was born, this phrase had come to mean one who would be among his people, one with his people, and yet also a representative of God for the redemption of His people.  Jesus’ natural birth by a human woman was one essential thing that helped him truly be “one among many humans.”  It helped him truly identify with the rest of us.  That’s what made him fully human which is one half of his eternal nature.

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen

St. Paul United Methodist Church

(Las Cruces, NM)

Jesus was birthed by Mary because He had to come in human flesh and experience everything that we as human beings experience. Being born as a child and coming of age was part of what we live with, so He had to do this as well. In Philippians 2:7 it says Jesus came in the likeness

of men. Then in verse 8 it says He was found in appearance as a man. Jesus came as a man to die for all men. He had to be a complete man in every way to humble and offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice and shed His blood for the rest of humanity. Satan would have accused God, saying Jesus would not be fully human if He had not been born of a woman. So it was necessary that Jesus go through childhood and remain sinless to be our perfect High Priest. The One who sits at the right hand of God ever making intercession for you and me.

Pastor Brooke Davis

First Southern Baptist Church

(Greenup, IL)

The Messiah had to be born of a woman. Hebrews 2:14-18

Pastor Fred Grenier

Church of the Nazarene

(Winslow, IN)

This is an interesting question that I have not heard. First, if Jesus had been created from dust, he would have had to be grown or nearly so. He would have just appeared without any connection to family or community. He would not have experienced life for the first 29 years of his existence as a man. He would not have experienced the temptations and trials of a normal life. His temptations did not begin after he fasted for 40 days following his baptism. He lived the normal life of a young man growing to maturity.

Second, the original promise of God was for the chosen one (anointed, Messiah, Christ) to be a descendent of Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). Also, the Messiah was to come from the house of Judah and be a descendent of King David. This is the reason the descendents of Abraham maintained records of their family ancestry. Everyone knew their family linage and had the records to prove it. The evidence points to and proves that YHWH/God keeps his promise. What YHWH says will come true, even it is centuries or millennial later.  The Immanuel was to be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem. These seemingly unimportant details provide evidence supporting faith in the Jewish people and people of the world.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Eastwood church of Christ

(El Paso, TX)

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