ASK 2009 – 2015

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

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)

There are many nuances to a full understanding of why God used Mary to bear Jesus as a baby. If the sole reason God came as a man was to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, He could have simply appeared as an adult man and been crucified. Yet in order to be an acceptable sacrifice, Jesus had to fully identify as a human being – He had to be born as a human and experience life as a man with all its problems, limitations and temptations. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus had to be a human being to fully identify with humanity, and received His humanity through being born of Mary. Yet by being conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was also fully divine and lived a completely sinless life. In this way, Jesus lived the life we cannot and became our perfect, unblemished sacrifice that was acceptable by the Father to cover our sin. But as Jesus lived, He also demonstrated what God is like. At the final time with His disciples before His death, Philip said, “Jesus, show us the Father and it will be enough for us.” Jesus disappointedly told him, “Have I been with you all this time and you still don’t know Me? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (see John 14:8-11). Jesus was saying, in effect, “If you want to know what the Father is like, watch Me. If you want to know what the Father would say, listen to Me.” The incredible truth of what we call the incarnation is that God showed up, took on a real human body and chose to live among us and interact with us, and ultimately give His life willingly for us.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

from December 24, 2015

Question:

I came across Scripture that mentions Christians confessing their sins to others. I have always been told we only have to confess to our Savior. I know Catholics believe they must confess to their Priest; but that Christians pray and confess, straight to our Father in Heaven, that no human on earth has the power to forgive our sins, only Jesus Christ. What is correct? Can we not go directly to the Lord seeking forgiveness of sins? Are we not truly forgiven if we don’t go through our Pastors to confess and repent?

Answers:

Some passages of scripture need to be received in context of the situation. James 5:16 tells us to confess to one another. This passage deals with illness. The Jewish mindset thought illness was attached to sin. So they thought confession was required. This passage does not mention the forgiveness of sin which only comes through Christ. The implication here is that if sins were confessed, the person would feel better and the conscious would be free so healing could take place. We understand that to have sins forgiven, we ask Jesus for forgiveness since He is the only person who can grant forgiveness. Jesus is our High Priest, see Hebrews chapter five and seven. No man has the power to forgive. So confession to men offers no forgiveness but may lighten the conscious. Please understand that many sins we have are private and should never be shared with men.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

God’s word teaches that Jesus is our high priest (Heb 3:1) (read all of Hebrews). Scripture also teaches that every child of God is a priest (1 Pet 2:9). There is no need to go through a priest, for every Christian is a priest. Confession and forgiveness are a continual part of the disciple’s life. (1 Jo 1:7-9)

The passage you reference (James 5:16) tells disciples to confess their sins to one another and to pray for one another. The verse is in the middle of a section admonishing disciples to pray to the almighty God, but to also support and encourage one another. It is about mutually supporting one another and being involved in each other’s lives. We don’t live in isolation from other disciples.

The practice of auricular confession is not supported here or anywhere in scripture.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

The scripture you “came across” must be this one which should be read in its fuller context about prayer (James 5:12-18). Here is the most important part: 15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.

If this passage is God’s Word, and I believe it is, then we must simply do what is stated without arguing! The practice among Catholics (to name but one denomination) of only confessing weekly to a priest is not biblical and is way too limiting. James meant for sinning Christians to confess their sins to other Christians. God uses that moment of verbal confession to bring forgiveness, and therefore healing, to our lives. Yes, of course we should confess our sins directly to God, but when we confess sins to other Christians that is exactly what we are doing. James’ other point is that God makes the prayer of believers powerful! Praying for one another helps guide people to God’s healing and forgiveness. There is the physical healing of the sick, but forgiveness is spiritual healing or our sick nature. So confess as an act of faith! Then rejoice!

Pastoral Assistant, Paul Duerksen
St. Paul United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The passage that talks about confessing sin to others is James 5:16 – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” The verses leading to this one speak about prayer for healing. Verse 15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Forgiveness for sin comes from God alone – not from any human mediator such as a priest, pastor or other. When James writes about confessing sin to one another, he is speaking about accountability. We want to keep everything hidden and between us and God only, yet the New Testament teaches repeatedly that we are to encourage one another, support one another and even confront one another when we sin (see Matthew 18:15-18; Galatians 6:1). In the same context James goes on to say, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20) The attitude in the body of believers we call the church must be that we will love, accept, support and pray for one another, and never condemn someone for sin. We are all capable of any act of sin, so we need the support and encouragement from our fellow Christians – not guilt or condemnation.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

Perhaps you are referring to James 5:16. If so, the preceding verse (15) may help our understanding. Forgiveness has, as its goal, reconciled relationships. Primarily, we are reconciled to God. Secondarily, we are reconciled to others. Therefore, genuine repentance for our sins and confession to those harmed brings healing and reconciliation to the Body of Christ (Matthew 6:12; 18:15-21). The basis for forgiven and reconciled relationships is Christ’s Cross which is the only means by which God forgives sins. The Roman Catholic sacrament of penance may lead to a neglect of genuine repentance and an avoidance of accountability to those we’ve harmed, but the Bible requires confession to God and to one another. While going to pastors is not necessary for confession, it may help in two ways: 1) facilitate confession and reconciliation directly between guilty and harmed Believers, and 2) assure the genuinely repentant Believer of the certain forgiveness that God, alone, grants through the Blood of Christ.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

James 5:16 is probably the most taken out of context verse used in the Bible. The Bible states that we have One mediator (Advocate) and One only. To better understand the text of James 5:16, we need to look at the whole verse and then reference that verse with Matthew 18:15. The purpose of confessing fault/s is to keep order, unity, and harmony, in the church. The text in James should not be used as a text to hold individuals accountable for faults of a personal nature or fear of dying in their sins. Confessing our faults refers to faults that will have a negative impact of the church as a whole.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Confessing one to another is found in James 5:16. Its purpose is for clearing the conscience. Whenever a person humbles themselves by confessing a need or a sin before the church it can and many times does lead to revival. It must be assumed that the one making the confession has already dealt with the sin alone with The Lord. This is following through with any restitution and honesty before our brothers and sisters. This is something we need more of.

Pastor Fred Grenier
Church of the Nazarene
(Winslow, IN)

from December 10, 2015

There was not a question for this issue.

from November 26, 2015

Question:

Discussion came up in a group I am in that confused us and we’d like any clarification you can provide. Topic was about how in Biblical times people sacrificed children and the Lord told them they were not to do this. Yet, God called Abraham to sacrifice his child, Isaac. Why would He contradict Himself? Yes, God provided a way out and Isaac was not sacrificed, but He did call for it. Can you help us understand this?

Answers:

The difficulty in answering comes because scripture does not give us God’s motivation. However, it seems clear to me that YHWH was both testing and strengthening the faith of Abraham. Gen 22:2. This son, named “laughter,” because Abram and Sari did not think it was possible to have a child at their age, is loved by Abraham as anyone would understand. But, is it simply the earthly love of any normal parent or is it the love of God’s promise.

God did not want Isaac’s life, he wanted Abraham’s heart, soul, commitment or dedication. God is asking, “Abraham do you love me more?” see John 21:15-17. We do not always know our capability until we are pushed to our limit.

There is no contradiction here, except in the mind of man. Each time Abraham used Isaac’s name, he was reminded of when he and Sarah did not trust YHWH and he may have been ashamed. Imagine the laughter when God stopped Abraham and provided the ram.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

The notion of sacrificing children to a deity is foreign to our sensibilities. Therefore, when we read of the LORD’s prohibition of this form of worship, we tend to emphasize the nature of the sacrifice rather than to whom the sacrifice is being offered. Sacrificial worship is an act of service and dedication that demonstrates our loyalty and commitment. The LORD’s people are commanded to be exclusively loyal to Him as His holy people (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 6:5-6; 11:13-17; Numbers 15:40-41). To sacrifice, serve, and pray to other gods or idols denies exclusive loyalty to the God Who saved a people for Himself so that He may be their God and they may be His People. The amazing thing is that this covenant God is also the One Creator. The LORD is not only faithful and trustworthy but He has power over life and death. Abraham believed this (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Abraham came from a place and time when Human sacrifice was common, so this would not have been a strange request to him. According to Hebrews chapter 11, Abraham believed God who had told him that in Isaac he would have his promise of a great nation, therefore he believed that God would raise him back from the dead. The command not to sacrifice humans came at a later date so there would have been no conflict as far as Abraham was concerned. God was testing his (Abraham’s) faith and did not allow him to actually go through with it, so on God’s part there was no conflict. Read the account in Heb. 11.

Rev Julius O. Martin
Church of God
(El Paso, TX)

To better understand this event, we need to remember the incredible context of Abraham and his relationship. God first called him in Genesis 12 and we discover Abraham was 75 at the time. The promise included descendants, yet Abraham had no son. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old – 25 years after the initial promise (Genesis 21). Abraham had an elder son, Ishmael by means of Sarah’s slave, Hagar, but Isaac was the son of the covenant – the son of promise. When God called for Isaac to be sacrificed it was a test of whether Abraham would still believe God would still fulfill the covenant through Isaac. In Genesis 22:12 when the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham, God said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Prior to going to perform the sacrifice, Abraham had told the servants that accompanied them, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Genesis 22:5). Abraham believed Isaac to be the son through whom God would fulfill the covenant of descendants too numerous to be numbered. He also knew God had told him to offer Isaac. His dilemma was whether or not to obey this latter command that seemed contradictory to God’s initial promise. His placement of faith was the test – was he counting on God or on his son, Isaac to complete God’s covenant. He knew God would still somehow allow Isaac as the son of promise to continue, even if he were slain. The angel of the Lord said, “…now I know you fear God…” The willingness to sacrifice Isaac and the substitute of the ram for him points to the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for the sin of everyone who believes in Him. This is the only time God ever called for a human sacrifice, and it pointed to Jesus’ willing self-sacrifice as our atonement. Our understanding may not be fully satisfied, but I hope this helps.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

God called for this to test Abraham’s faith and obedience. A lot of the child sacrifices we read of in Scripture came later than Abraham’s time during the days of the Kings. Something else to wonder at is that God is God and He does not always act in the confines of His own limits in other words in the box we put Him in. Just saying.

Pastor Fred Grenier
Church of the Nazarene
(Winslow, IN)

There is no contradiction at all! It is a fact that several non-Israelite nations surrounding ancient Israel practiced human sacrifice. However Israel’s God (our God) expressly prohibited Israel from doing what these other nations did. Deuteronomy 12:31 is one of several passages which both mentions the fact that some Canaanite nations did this (sacrificing children to a deity), but that Israel must not. It is even labelled an abomination. On the other hand to bring up God’s test of Abraham in Genesis 22 is to mix apples with oranges! The writer makes it clear that this is a test of Abraham’s faith (obedience), and even skilfully gives hints that Isaac’s life is not in any danger (see 22:5 and 8). Since Abraham was chosen by God to be the sole ancestor (with Sarah) of whole nations, God decided a challenging test was required as a part of this great beginning. But this is a narrative about how the founding patriarch was tested. Nowhere in the Bible will you find God commanding (as a law) Israelite/Jewish families to offer any sort of human sacrifice.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

from November 12, 2015

Question:

Do any churches still practice the “laying on of hands” while praying for people? Many years ago prior to moving here my old church did this. It was always such a comfort and brought peace when we could go forward and elders and/or Pastor would lay their hands on us while they prayed for our needs. Since moving here, I’ve not experienced or heard of this at any local churches. Is this a denominational or doctrinal issue? Do churches feel it is a waste of time? It certainly is a Biblical practice, as Jesus and the disciples did it. Can you explain why it isn’t practiced today?

Answers:

Various congregations continue to lay hands on people while praying for them in addition to when they appoint deacons and elders / overseers for ministry. For example, St. Patrick’s Church in Las Cruces, NM is a traditionally Reformed Anglican (Church of England) congregation. The official Book of Common Prayer from 1662 has “The Order for the Visitation of the Sick.”‎ My practice as an elder/pastor, along with other traditionally Reformed Anglican ministers, is to lay hands upon individuals who are sick or suffering when praying for them. We may also anoint the person with a small amount of olive oil as a sign of the healing “salve” (i.e., “salvation”) of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ Name. These practices are based on Scripture, such as Mark 6:7-13 and James 5:13-16. This can be done privately at any time, and we do it on the first Lord’s Day of every month within the Assembly.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The early Christians did practice placing hands on someone for various reasons. Paul recommended it to Timothy for setting apart persons for a certain ministry or task (see 1 Timothy 5:22). You can also find numerous instances where Jesus and the apostles touched people in some way while they prayed for their healing. Churches still do this today during healing services and other occasions, so it is not a “denominational thing.” However one must be careful in these modern times! Many people do not want to be touched when they receive prayer! When in a hospital often you should not touch the patient, in order to avoid transferring germs or bacteria (this is especially the case for patients in isolation or intensive care). There is nothing magical about laying hands on someone when you pray for them; we are not “transferring the spirit” to them by touching them! As you yourself said, some people find it comforting, and this is likely the reason, as much as anything, that the Lord (and other Jewish rabbis) did this.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul United Methodist Church
(El Paso, TX)

We do this practice in the Church of the Nazarene unashamedly.

Pastor Fred Grenier
Church of the Nazarene
(Winslow, IN)

Yes there are many churches that still practice the laying on of hands. I don’t think it has anything to do with denomination but how the pastor and the elders see this need. We are Baptist and yes we lay hands on the sick and pray for them. Both Jesus and His disciples did it. This practice understood that the anointing and the power of God moved from God, through men to the person who had the need. We see Jesus laying hands on a woman in Luke 13:13 who had an infirmity, so we have His blessing to do it. As the church gets more liberal, we lose some of the practices that we once did. I hope this helps.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

from October 22, 2014

Question:

Please explain why as Christians we aren’t to “believe in karma”. At school today a friend commented about believing in karma, and I didn’t comment. My mom told me that we don’t believe in karma, because it is wrong for Christians. I asked why, and all she said is that they were told that at her church when she was younger, but she really doesn’t know why. If it is wrong I want to tell my friend – but I don’t want to say that unless I know and can explain why. As Christians aren’t we supposed to know why we believe in and don’t believe in things? Am I disrespecting my mom for not just believing what she said, and wanting to find out on my own?

Answers:

Christians don’t believe in Karma because it is centered in Hinduism and Buddhism. Their belief systems say if you are good, then good things happen to you in the future and if you are bad, then bad things happen to you in the future.They also believe that your reincarnation in the next life either up or down, will depend on how good you are.If you were bad you might become an animal or a human of lower status in a future life.

Christianity puts our salvation and our future in the hands of Jesus Christ our Lord. When we confess our sins to Jesus and repent of them, they are forgiven and not held against us. So our future and our salvation is not from the works of our hands, but is centered in the grace and mercy of Jesus. We don’t believe in reincarnation which says we might be born into another future life. But we believe that we will have a perfect, glorified body with which we will serve our Lord forever. There is no luck or chance involved, only an obedient life centered in Jesus Christ.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Your mom is right. “Karma” is a term from the Hindu (and Buddhist) religion. Basically in theosophical terms this means the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person’s deeds in the previous incarnation. The reason this is flawed thinking, compared with a Christian perspective, is that there is no reincarnation! We do not exist from generation to generation, being born, and then dying again as a different creature or person. Instead we are born once, we die (Hebrews 9:27), we face judgment by God, and we hope to pass on to the resurrection of the body. All persons at death will be judged, including Christians! But our judgment results in a pardon because of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. The event of personal resurrection is a “once for all time” event, in contrast to reincarnation. When you trust and serve a living Savior, you learn to take whatever He sends you in life, and you do so without ever accounting it to the work of some impersonal force like “karma.”

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul United Methodist Church
(El Paso, TX)

My son joked when something bad happened saying it was “karma.” While I’m no expert, we discussed concerns. I would be pleased if he sought out additional information from others to witness to his faith. Karma involves a belief in cycles of reincarnation. ‘Salvation’ means absorption into an impersonal universal spirit. This is achieved through good behavior (good karma). One is reborn to suffer for their bad behavior (bad karma). First, this denies the personal Triune Creator God. Second, it denies we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus who, though sinless, suffered for our sins on the Cross, so we may live eternally free from suffering. Third, it denies we have one life with one body and soul that will be resurrected. Upon bodily death, our soul is assigned to an eternal state of rest or suffering. Karma denies the Gospel by claiming we are saved by our works and that suffering is proportionate to those works.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Wisdom teaches us to recognize the cause and effect of our actions. If you do this, then you can expect such and such to happen. Karma is a term that comes from the Eastern religions. The Bible doesn’t use that term to explain cause and effect. The Scriptures use the term ‘consequences’. If or when we are caught in a sin or fault we repent and confess, many times we will escape the full force of our consequences, thus, we avoid ‘Karma’

Pastor Fred Grenier
Church of the Nazarene
(Winslow, IN)

from October 8, 2015

Question:

I am a Christian and my husband is not (he was raised catholic but not practicing). I feel it heavy on my heart to tithe. I am a stay at home mom in college so I do not bring money into the household. My husband recently got a better paying job and has qualified for additional funds coming into the household on a monthly basis. I mentioned us tithing more now and that it was on my heart to do so and he said “it’s on your heart” meaning it’s not on his….. When I do get him to agree to do so it is never more than $20 and that isn’t even close to 10% of what we get a week. I hate this fight. The bible states to be a joyful giver and if you aren’t (hubby isn’t willingly or joyfully giving up his money and fighting with him about it isn’t making me joyful either) not to bother. What am I to do here? I know “pray” but aside from that how do I deal with his greed while waiting for God to make him a giver?

Answers:

Thank you for your heart to support God’s work through your giving financially. Many Christian wives are married to men that either have never given their lives to Christ, or are not committed to living in keeping with biblical principles. It seems many in our society struggle with placing their finances under God’s lordship. The verse you referred to in your question is 2 Corinthians 9:7 which says, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” A key phrase in this verse for your situation is that “each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart.” Your heart is to be a faithful tither, but your husband is unwilling. Do you have in your family finances monies that are for you personally, to spend on yourself or as you desire and that will not affect paying your bills or household expenses? If so, it would be very appropriate for you to give from that as you feel would honor God. Do not try to give based on the entire household income, as that is under your husband’s control as the primary wage earner. God will honor your heart and your faithfulness to do as you are led with what you have available. Faithfulness is an expression of the attitude of your heart. Do not feel condemned because you cannot do what you are not permitted by your husband. Be obedient in what you can do before the Lord, and continue to ask God to help you present a living, joyous testimony before your husband. A side note – if you have not seen the movie War Room, I would encourage you to see it. That film would greatly help you as you pray for your husband and home.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

I realize how hard emotionally this is for you. Be at ease! There is a perfectly good reason that God asks us to “submit to one another” (Ephesians 5:21) as married couples. However the inspired apostle also wrote, “. . . wives be submissive to your husbands . . . .” (Ephesians 5:22-23). You are to submit to his wishes whether he is a Christian or not! I know that will be a challenge for you, but your primary goal here is peace and contentment within your marriage. Your job is not to harass or argue with him. It is to be obedient, humble, and loving. I know that’s not popular today even among Christian wives, but it is still God’s truth! In place of your fretting and stewing over this, God commands you to pray for your husband. As Paul was inspired to write, “how do you know if you will convert your husband or not?” (Read 1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Pray without ceasing, pray without worry, and above all, be patient.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul United Methodist Church
(El Paso, TX)

You shouldn’t expect him to feel any obligation or prompting from the Holy Spirit to give or to serve The Lord as you do. You are only “responsible” if we can say it that way for giving out of what God has entrusted to you as income. God will not chastise you for his decisions.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

This is a difficult situation but it is not uncommon. In 1 Corinthians 7:14 it says “the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife.” You will have to be your husband’s covering because he has not accepted his responsibility. Knowing that, submit to him and live a Christ centered example in his presence. You can share with him Malachi 3:10, that when we tithe, God pours out a blessing that there will not be enough room to receive. Also point out that God will rebuke the devourer and protect your household furnishings, cars etc. from falling apart. You can only tithe what is available to you. So whatever funds you receive, tithe on them and continue to pray that God will convict your husband. Continue to be an example of submission and don’t nag your husband. Your joy in submission will be a great witness unto him. God knows your heart and understands that you desire to give. He is pleased with your love and obedience.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

A believing spouse should seek to be a loving and joyful disciple as a testimony to the unbeliever. This is more likely to draw the unbeliever toward Jesus, than making a battleground over a point of dispute. 1 Pet 3:1-2. Yes, there is the desire to do more for Jesus in every aspect of life, but the point is not to destroy a relationship but to make it stronger. Keep loving and encouraging as you patiently wait.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Eastwood Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

from September 24, 2015

Question:

In John chapters 20 & 21 several times it makes a comment about the disciple Jesus loved. We’re told he loves everyone, so what is the significance of this statement? And, is the particular disciple spoken of to be John? And, why does he love this particular disciple so much more that it is stressed in this way?

Answers:

The disciple “whom Jesus loved” is found in John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, and 21:7, 20. It is understood to be a reference to John; the author of this Gospel. John, and his brother James, were sons of Zebedee. John also mentions Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, in John 11:3, 5. This reveals how some of Jesus’ closest friends, including the Gospel writer, felt especially loved by Jesus. This affectionate description does not imply Jesus lacked love for others. Rather, this is a way of illustrating Jesus’ closely unique relationships with various individuals. Jesus, as fully human, experienced the same emotions we do, yet without sin. As we are particularly close to certain friends and family whom we trust and depend upon, there is evidence of this in the life of Christ. Of the Twelve Disciples, John, alone, stood at the foot of the Cross where Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to him.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

It is John. He was thought to be the youngest of the disciples. He had a tender heart of love for Jesus. He did not name himself other than the nickname the other disciples gave him – “the disciple Jesus loved”

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Early Christian tradition has it that the “beloved disciple” is John — one of the first, original disciples that Jesus picked (see Matthew 4:18-22). If, as is likely, he is also the author of this Fourth Gospel, then we have to keep in mind he is writing the story of Jesus from his own special point of view. Scholars believe this gospel was written last, and probably when the author was an old man (possibly in the 80s A. D.). So through the distance of time and the lens of his own special relationship with Jesus, John has made it sound as if he was singled out by Jesus. He writes as if Jesus needed at least one special friend and confidant, and He found that in the young disciple who would one day grow up to write this wonderful gospel. But yes, Jesus Christ definitely loves everybody without question! We know from scripture He has a special love for His own people in the church. But while he walked this earth as a man it is also likely that he sought a special, trusted friend with whom He had more in common. Why not? We do the very same thing! Whereas the other gospels seem to hand this relationship to Simon Peter, it is no great surprise that the author of John would “write himself in” as having a special relationship. I hope that helps.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Scholars are in general agreement that while the apostle John penned the Gospel, he typically identifies himself only as “the disciple Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26-27; 20:2-4, 8; 21:7, 20-23) or simply as “another” or “other disciple” (John 18:15-16). The fact John referenced himself this way speaks more to his amazement that Jesus loved him than it should be taken as Jesus somehow holding John with more love than He did others. Remember that John, along with his brother James, had been called by Jesus “Boanerges,” which means “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). John and James later had asked Jesus for permission to call down fire from heaven to punish a Samaritan village for refusing to receive Jesus as He made His final trip to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56). John had what we would call today a real “anger management problem.” The consistent love which Jesus poured out on all who responded to Him in faith was absolutely overwhelming and life transforming to John, which is why he wrote of himself as he did. We know Jesus’ love was life altering in John because of the tender compassion with which he addressed those he wrote in the three letters that bear his name in our New Testaments. Please don’t think that John received favoritism or more affection from Jesus than anyone else did. He was sincerely humbled by what Christ had done for him and typically did not use his name in direct reference in the Gospel.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

The Greek language has at least five words that are translated love in English. The agape love in 1 Cor 13:4-7 is the love of will and action. Every word that describes this agape love is a verb. This is the love that is commanded, the love you can do for an enemy.

The love in the passages you reference is that of friendship, as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. It is believed the author is modestly omitting his name, but uses a description. Many commentators believe it is the apostle John (13:23) and some say his student or disciple. At least, one thinks the author may have been Lazarus (11:5, 36).

The Divine loves the world with agape love and disciples are to do the same. We do not like or consider as friends those who commit evil in our world, but we love them as the Lord loves them.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Eastwood Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

from September 10, 2015

Question:

I have attended services that mention seeking signs from God, and for years have prayed asking the Lord to show me signs to help me determine decisions I am to make. However, recently in my reading of Scripture I read in Matthew 12:39 – that it is only evil ones who seek signs. I don’t know how I have not noticed this before and am distraught that I have done this for so many years. Is this indeed sinful, and could this be the cause of the trials I experience? And, if this is wrong – why are there services that lead us to, or teach us to seek signs and wonders?

Answers:

Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:39 was in reply to religious leaders who were asking for proof that He was the Messiah. His statement that their only sign would be the sign of Jonah is a reference to His death (in the tomb 3 days) and resurrection. People are always impressed by miraculous events, which is why we are so easily led astray when something unexpected happens – we forget that Satan is powerful and is a counterfeit who mimics the things of God. God did allow “signs and wonders” to accompany the works of Jesus and the early church as a way of furthering the gospel. They always attested to truth of God, not simply for the benefit of the person affected. This was the exception more than the rule, however. Henry Blackaby in his book and study “Experiencing God” points out that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in these ways: through the Bible, through prayer, through other Christians and through circumstances. If you are seeking direction from God (“signs”), look for God to answer by spending time in prayer and Bible reading. Pay attention to what others say that speak to your need, especially when they have no knowledge of what you are seeking, and watch how God uses circumstances to direct you. God always moves and will confirm His direction in your life in more than one area. The inner voice of the Holy Spirit always will be confirmed in at least one of these other ways.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

Context, context, context. Jesus never indicates that we (His children) not come to, rely on, or make our request known to Him. The verse you are having difficulty with deals with individuals that are religious in nature and not seeking no able to understand spiritual truth. Jesus defines evil individuals as those that are evil and adulterous (lustrous physically and materialistic) in their ways of living. True believer cannot make it throughout life without casting our care upon Jesus. Read the following: Matthew 11: 28, 29; 1Peter 5:7; Hebrews 4:16.

Mark Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Matthew 12:39 records Jesus’ response to Pharisees after He healed a demon possessed man. Rather than accepting that healing as a sign of Christ’s divine authority and coming Kingdom, the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul; thus blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Their request for another sign reveals their evil blind hard-heartedness to that earlier sign. As a Christian, you seeking a sign is not the same as those whom Jesus is addressing here. I can’t speak to your current trials or why some seek signs. I can say that God has spoken to us through His Word recorded in the Bible. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to understand God’s Word. God’s Word reveals God’s will for us; that we be holy / sanctified in His Word made flesh, Jesus, by the Holy Spirit Who enables us to live lives pleasing to God in love, generosity, and respect (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12).

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Rom 10:17 reads “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” NIV. Nevertheless, many who talk the most about faith, are often the ones who tell you to seek signs. We should not ask God for a sign. We can look back on our life and in faith, say, I believe that was God working in my life. This does not make it a sign, but a statement of faith.

The struggle of disciples is our desire to remove faith and replace it with “I know.” We want faith to change into knowing, not fully grasping that the full knowledge of God will not be ours until the Lord Jesus returns.

Hold to your faith and remain in the Word of God. 2 Tim 3:16-17 That is all you need.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

The text you quoted from Matthew shows us Jesus berating those who continue to seek additional signs and wonders to prove He (or anyone for that matter) is the Messiah. Those that seek these signs are the Jewish upper class, the scribes and Pharisees. They ask Jesus for a sign, and that must have frustrated him terribly. He had already given many Jewish people a great many signs: the wonderful works He himself did, the forgiving love he showed, and the great things He taught. Yet His opponents remained unconvinced that He was the Messiah, and they sought still more. But God still makes use of signs and wonders to convict and convince those who have not yet believed! Read Peter’s sermon on Pentecost Day, and you will see him referring to such things as evidence that Jesus is the Christ and the Savior (Peter also quotes Joel 2 which refers to signs and wonders). Moreover, if a Christian individual is troubled about a decision he should make, then, in fellowship with others and with much prayer, it is all right for him to seek some kind of sign from God to help him make his decision. I have done this, and God has indeed provided a sign. Sometimes we need this in order to be sure about which way to turn. So seek and rejoice!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Speaking of signs and wonders, the Jews were challenging Jesus to perform at their request. He had already done thousands of miracles in their present and their hearts had only become harder. We are told to walk by faith and not by sight. In this day, so many are preaching emotional experiences and telling their flocks to seek them. And yet Jesus said we are to operate by that which is not seen, which is faith. He devotes a whole chapter to faith in Hebrews 11. That which is seen is temporal or temporary and that which is not seen is eternal. We are told to seek the eternal. Concerning God’s direction in your life, pray and ask for His wisdom and leadership. You can be sure as you wait upon Him and listen in your spirit, that you will hear the still small voice of direction that you need. God will not leave you to hanging, He will give you wisdom as you seek His face.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

It is wrong to seek proof that God exists by Him showing signs and wonders to get us to believe. This is not an act of faith. Read Hebrews 11:6. But it would be great to see some genuine signs and wonders taking place in our American churches! In the New Testament, signs and wonders were done to evangelize the world. They were not sought after but came through the apostles as they ministered to unbelievers. They were of God not of men.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

from August 27, 2015

Question:

A “new Christian” friend from church recently wronged me by taking advantage. I could ignore it and just forgive so as not to risk running her off from her new faith and our church; or I could confront her to make her aware this is not proper or acceptable Christian behavior to help her grow in her Christian walk, but risk running her off. What do you suggest the Christian, Biblical choice should be? Can you share Scripture references to point in the right direction? And if I am to confront, is there Scripture I can share that would apply to such a situation?

Answers:

The choice to either address the offense (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 2:11-14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15) or ‎allow love to cover the sin (1 Peter 4:8) depends on how you were “wronged…by taking advantage”. In light of personal trespasses against God and neighbor that we’ve been forgiven by Christ’s Cross, allowing love to cover the sin is the way to address offenses most of the time (1 Peter 2:18-25; 3:8-18). While our culture encourages us to exercise our “rights”, this approach fuels conflict (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31-33). If it is necessary to confront, then love is to be maintained as you “walk by the Spirit” according to God’s Word (John 13:34-35; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:3-18, 22-24; 1 Corinthians 13:1-7; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 John 3:11-24). Prayer, patience and kindness will allow you to avoid addressing conflict according to “the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21, 24-26; James 1:19-20). Ultimately, there should never be a desire to seek retaliation (Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:9-21).

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Two very important passages in the New Testament that deal with confronting sinful behavior in others are in Matthew 18 and Galatians 6. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus directs you to go directly to the one who has sinned against you and share with them. If they are not responsive, to then go with two or three others with the attitude of restoring the one in error. The context is absolutely critical. Jesus has just been teaching about not causing someone else to sin and to seek diligently one who is lost to restore him or her. The motivation of restoration is overriding. In the same way Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Here again the attitude is one of reaching out in loving concern to restore one who is in error, but it is coupled with the warning to guard your own heart and attitude so that you also do not fall into sin. The following verses speak of bearing each other’s spiritual burdens and recognizing that we are easily subject to prideful attitudes.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

I don’t know what your new Christian friend did to cheat you, but if this person was invited to become a Christian with the challenge of discipleship, and if she is serious about her walk with Jesus, then she should be open to your gentle rebuke. That we must do so with our weaker brethren is clear from the Lord Himself: (Luke 17:3-4) Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

If your friend so-called friend “turns and runs” after being confronted by sin, then her faith was weak in the first place — too weak to make her of much use to Jesus and His work of building a strong church in this world. What you want to do here is help your friend learn to “nip in the bud” such cheating behavior early in her walk with Jesus. If you don’t help her do this now, only trouble will come later.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Matthew 5:9 says, Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. We are fulfilling an important ministry when we promote reconciliation in the midst of a personal conflict.

Galatians 6:1 exhorts us to restore one who sins or offends us in the spirit of meekness. Meekness is developed by submitting control of the situation to The Lord and allowing Him to handle the conflict. When offenses occur do three things: face it, forgive it, and move forward – forget it. See Philippians 3:12-14

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

We live in times where morality and character follow the standards of self-interest. When a person is born again, some of these standards are carried in their Christian life and it may take some time for these to change. When we are wronged Matthew 5:11 says we are blessed. We have some guidance in Matthew 6:38-48. Jesus told us to allow ourselves to be used and to love those who take advantage. New believers often have thin skins. When we bring correction, their immaturity comes forth and they fell persecuted. We should never bring correction unless it has been bathed in prayer. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can change a difficult situation into a blessing. In this situation if wrong has occurred, it is evident that this person is still moved by the flesh. Give it some time and if the immature attitude does not change, then address it in the love of Christ. Continue to pray that their eyes may be opened and conviction will bring change in their lives.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

To be honest it depends on the situation. If this is a situation that is truly wrongful and hurtful then I would suggest following the model for biblical confrontation. (found in Matthew 18:15-17).

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

If it’s just an insult then I would turn the other cheek

Pastor Rick Roberson
The Branch Community Church of the Nazarene
(Chaparral, NM)

from August 13, 2015

Question:

In Matthew there is a verse that talks about “Ask and you shall receive, continue asking and it will be given to you; knock and the door will be opened for you.” My family has been praying for a health situation and a financial situation for a very long time and nothing has changed. We are all saved and serving the Lord. Help us understand this verse. We trust and believe in His Word — but it isn’t coming true for us. Others tell us we are “loco” for continuing to believe — when our lives are in such turmoil. Can you share something with us to help us, and can share with those who question us? Why is this only for some, and not for all believers?

Answers:

Thank you for serving the Lord. The text you are referring to is Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” To help you bettr understand this text, began with what the text is not saying. For example, the text is not saying that God will provide for all “wants” or “desires”. The word “continue” is stated in your translation which is not in the orginal text. So, continuing to pray for the same could be saying that you don’t believe God is listening. Scripture is clear that God knows how to provide for His children. Secondly, God will not give more than we can bare (I Cor. 10:13) we means that we will not be tempeted nor blessed beyond our ability to handle it. Third, the focus of the text is to seek after God and His work. If we are abounding in the work of the Lord, then the Lord is faithful to provide according to His riches and glory. There is a lot more that can be expounded upon in regards to this text. Please seek assistance from your Pastor and Church for more in-depth understanding.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Sometimes this is the way it goes. But God does not show favoritism by answering some people’s prayers but not yours. For whatever reason He is delaying the answer you are expecting but I’m sure He is working in your lives on ways you cannot see. The testing of our faith develops perseverance- James 1:3-4. Jesus said “men ought always to pray and not faint.” Keep on seeking!

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

The verse you mention is in fact found in Matthew 7:7-12 in its full context. The important points that Jesus underscores here are twofold: first, there is the importance for His disciples to ask and keep on asking with persistence. Notice I mention disciples here — not unbelievers! No unbeliever should expect to have this work magically for them. (God despises magic or anything that resembles it!) No Christian should expect this predictive behavior from the Divine either. Too often today there are so many immature Christians who believe God’s only purpose (apart from saving us) is to operate like some kind of giant vending machine. We put in our “money” (= or prayers), and out pops the very thing for which we asked. Suffice it to say God has NEVER behaved that way in either Testament. But the Father and the Son look for persistence in our asking. We ask until we know His answer. And if the answer to our request is finally “no” then we move to point number two: that is underscored by Jesus’ emphasis that God the Father desires to give us (His children) good things, even the best things. If, finally, we receive from Him a “no” answer, that’s because we are not asking for His best, and He has something much better in mind.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

This passage in Matthew chapter 7 has had many people over the years wondering why we have to struggle in life. What most people don’t understand is the verb tense here. In the Greek this action on our part is translated keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. The very translation tells us we are to labor and continue. Understand that if God answered every prayer immediately, then we would seldom seek Him. But our infirmities keep us looking to God and seeking His face, which is exactly what we need. Every person has a burden to bear. There will always be things that God allows in our lives that will keep us seeking Him. Through the many years of facing the same things you are facing, I have found that in time, these prayers are finally answered. Then we look back and see how God’s hand was upon us. So don’t get weary, keep on trusting God, making sure your requests are obedient to His word, and in due time, I believe you will see Him move in these prayer requests.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

The question comes up and we ask WHY? Then we receive no answer. My wife Rosie passed away 10 months ago and for three years I Asked, I Sought, and I Knocked, I Cried out to the Lord daily and He still took her home, a true woman of God. The world throws the Word in our face and tells us if there was a God then why did he not heal your wife as that verse says. Sometimes God Gives Us What We Need and Not What We Ask for. God hears all of our prayers and they are answered; Yes, No and Wait. Through all of our suffering God’s answer to my prayers was not, my will be done but HIS WILL BE DONE. He taught me to Ask for more of Him, less of me, Seek humility and servanthood, and Knock and take what I thought as an unanswered prayer to the lost and show them Christ in me because God healed my wife when He took her home.

Pastor Richard Plock
Chaparral First Baptist Church
Chaparral, NM

from July 23, 2015

Question:

With the legalization of gay marriage it has brought up discussion everywhere I go. So many questions are posed. I know gay couples that attend church. People say that they couldn’t go to heaven since they are living in sin. Now that they can get married, would they go to heaven? Is there somewhere in the Bible that would explain this for them?

Answers:

No. God is very clear on this matter. Regardless of the saint or sinner status, a person that lives a life contrary to Christ is living a life that will end in destruction (I Timothy 1:10; Rev. 21:8). Christians need to keep in mind that the Word of God is the overall guiding principle of how we need to live. I am puzzled how gay people that claim to be a Christian (Follower of Christ) can believe that God approves of their conduct. Christians need to reach out to those that are lost with the saving gospel of Christ and the Church needs to hold those that claim Christ to higher accountability of behavior. How sad for the Church to have to deal with this issue among its own.

Mark Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

For Christians, God’s Word is our ultimate authority, and His Word is revealed in the Bible. It is our fallen human nature that seeks to ‎determine for ourselves that which is good and evil apart from God’s Word. As a result, we ignorantly get things backwards by calling bad things good and good things bad. This is the case with the legalization of gay “marriage.” While marriage is good in the Bible and defined as a union between one man and one woman, our confused Western culture has: 1). denied the goodness of this definition of marriage and 2). incorrectly defined same sex relationships as good which the Bible clearly condemns as evil. When earthly rulers, like the Supreme Court, contradict the ultimate authority of God’s Word, we must obey God rather than human authorities; even if that means unjustly being called names in our community or punished by our government. -Acts 5:27-32; Romans 1:16-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; Galatians 5:13-26

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Anglican Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

What people today do not understand is where God is concerned there is no debate on the issue of same sex marriage. In Genesis 2:24 it says “man shall be joined to his wife (female) and the two shall become one flesh.” God created different genders for man and woman. God only recognizes marriage of these different genders or men and women. Where God is concerned there is no such thing as same sex marriage. When we come to God in salvation we surrender everything to Him and accept His word and His teaching. John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” If a person is in rebellion against God and His word, that person cannot be saved. Unsaved people do not go to heaven. A person must repent to have their sin covered. Homosexuality like any other sin must be surrendered to God, so His forgiveness can cover the sin. Any sexual sin, heterosexual or homosexual will keep people from going to heaven, if they don’t repent and allow God to change them.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Many people confuse human law with God’s will by thinking that if something previously illegal is made legal, it has somehow become acceptable to God. It is God who established marriage and the family, not humanity. First Corinthians 6:9-10 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Just because five Supreme Court Justices have legislated by judicial action, it does not change what is right or wrong in God’s evaluation. God alone, not human law, determines one’s eternal destiny. Notice in the above verses homosexuality and the effeminate (what some would classify as “transgender” or “bisexual”) are listed along with non-sexual sin as well as heterosexual sin: fornication (pre-marital sexual relations) and adultery. Every sin one commits is against God and all sin separates us from God. The only solution and way to receive eternal life is to confess all our sin (agree with God that what He calls sin is sin), repent of that sin (turn away from it) and receive His forgiveness by accepting what Jesus Christ did by taking our punishment in our place by His death on the cross as our substitute and invite Him to come and take authority over our lives as Savior and Lord. That means we must be willing to forsake or set aside our sin (all forms) and live according to God’s perfect design as revealed in the Bible, God’s word. Many fine Christian leaders have written extensively on the SCOTUS decision (see the lead article in the previous edition of The Messenger). If you are interested, I invite you to read my longer blog on this same subject at http://www.sbcelpaso.org/page/blog.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

When man changes the definition of a word or bad behavior is not only called legal, but is also declared a human right, it does not alter the word of God. We are all sinners, but as Christians we repent and attempt to abandon our sin. In our effort to live righteously, we often fail and are ashamed by the failure. This is different from living a life of sin, while claiming it is okay with God and even celebrating that God likes for me to live in disobedience because it is who I am.

Pick any sin and ask yourself, does God want me to quit this sin or to continue in the sin and brag about it. What about lying, murder, fornication, drunkenness or another? The Roman Empire declared in the first century that everyone in the empire was required to worship Caesar every year. Christians died because they would not worship the emperor. It was not only legal, it was required, but it was wrong for the child of God.

Only sinners will go to Heaven, sinners washed in the blood of Jesus. 1 Cor 6:9-11

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

You are correct that this — highly unnecessary — issue has been thrust upon us by the recent U. S. Supreme Court ruling — one that should have been left in the hands of churches (first) and states and municipalities (second). I too know of homosexuals who are faithful church members. Some of these in fact appear to work hard at being good disciples, following Jesus, loving others, and pursuing the Lord’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Because they have been active church members for so long, most of them already know every passage in the Bible (Old Testament and New) which speaks to the issue of homosexual relations and practices. The gay persons I have known seem content with the lifestyle they have chosen (and they have either chosen it, or chosen to remain in it), and no amount of arguing or convincing is going to change their mind! The Church distinguishes rightly between homosexual identity (so-called) and homosexual practice. God in the Bible condemns homosexual practice: this is the act of trying to have sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex as you. It is condemned by God and nothing any court says will change that. This means there may well be persons who believe they are a.) homosexual, and b.) cannot change no matter what. But as long as they refrain from doing what God condemns they can be saved! At the end of the day — and the end of the age for that matter, Jesus will be the judge of all such things. I am very glad this is in His hands, not mine.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

from July 9, 2015

Question:

In Isaiah 40:18, 25 and elsewhere, we are taught that we are to not have idols or things created in His (Jesus) image. Are we sinful then to have pictures and statues portraying Jesus in our homes? My in laws have told me that I have created a graven image of our Lord by having these in my home and therefore, am guilty of this sin. If this is so, why is it alright that similar items are displayed in our churches? Or again, is this just an Old Testament law that is no longer relevant today?

Answers:

The Second Commandment flows from the First and targets our deeply ingrained propensity to make and worship idols; even idols we may claim represent the One True God. The difficulty for us to acknowledge this Commandment’s plain and clear prohibition and to devise very elaborate explanations on its limitations over our lives of worship reveals the depth of our sinfulness. A major problem God’s People have always had is wanting the One True God of the Bible and other false god’s with idolatrous representations. Nevertheless, we are only to approach God through His Word and by His Spirit. Hearing, not seeing, is believing. J.I. Packer helpfully states that “the positive force of the second commandment is that it compels us to take our thoughts of God from his own holy Word, and from no other source whatsoever. The mind that takes up with images is a mind that has not yet learned to love and attend to God’s Word.”

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Anglican Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The issue about idols and pictures of Jesus has been around for years. In the Ten Commandments we are told to not make a carved image of any god and we are not to worship them. Most people would think this is foolish but in Moses day, it was normal for men to carve an image of a false god and worship it. The intent here is that there would be no other gods before God our Father and Jesus our Lord. A picture of Jesus would not be worshiping a false god. If it is a reminder of our relationship to Him, my own opinion is that it is not a sin to have a picture of Jesus on the wall. But please remember our relationship with Jesus is enhanced by reading His Word, the Bible, and by speaking and communicating with Him through prayer. This picture should not in any way substitute for our personal and vital relationship to Jesus.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

This whole section of Isaiah (chapters 40-55) deals with the foolishness of worshiping idols. The prophet goes to great lengths to describe their powerlessness in contrast to the powerful, Redeemer God of Israel. He writes such things because, of course, he, like many Israelites of his day, recalled the great prohibitions against making and worshiping idols or graven images. See the Ten Commandments, especially Exodus 20:3-6. Therefore I would ask your friend why it is so important for her to have those pictures and statues of Jesus (or, as some people do, of the saints) around the house? Is it to worship them? Is it because of some subconscious superstition? As you know we live in a region in which many, many people are very superstitious about such things. They believe these pictures, statues, and images have power to change one’s fate. THIS IS IDOLATRY, and it is a very great sin! On the other hand if you or your friend have a couple of pictures or paintings of Jesus up on the wall in order to remind you of our wonderful Redeemer God, then that is all right. However it is best to let the Bible be your main source of memory about such things.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

from June 25, 2015

Question:

Jeremiah 17:19-27 speaks of Observing the Sabbath. In today’s society so many of us have to work on Sunday. Is this sinful? Is this perhaps the cause of so many things going wrong in our lives? Or, is this one of those things that is just an “Old Testament” law and we are no longer held by it?

Answers:

Jesus said regarding the Law and Prophets: “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matt 5:17 NIV. So, mankind was not left without instruction, but transitioned from the Law of Moses to that of Jesus the Son. The Apostle Paul wrote. “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Col 2:13-14.

All but one of the Ten Commandments is repeated in the NT and that is the fourth, to keep the Sabbath. Disciples began immediately to meet on the first day, the day of resurrection. Acts 2 when the church started/established on Pentecost, Acts 20:7. 1 Cor 16:20. John seemly makes a reference to it being the Lord’s Day. Rev 1:10.

Israel was given the Sabbath as a reminder of their deliverance from Egypt. Deut 5:15. Christians observe communion on the first day because we were delivered by Jesus from sin via his death and resurrection.

While disciples are not required to follow the OT, it still has valuable lessons regarding faith and principles to learn. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” 1 Cor 10:11.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Church of God
(El Paso, TX)

Jeremiah 17:19-27 speaks of Observing the Sabbath. In today’s society so many of us have to work on Sunday. Is this sinful? Is this perhaps the cause of so many things going wrong in our lives? Or, is this one of those things that is just an “Old Testament” law and we are no longer held by it?

To answer this question we need to have a better understanding of exactly what the Bible is saying. The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat. The word means “intermission or break” It in no ways gives any distinction of days.

Mark 2:27 tells us “And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 ESV) Our focus therefore is not on a particular day. Our focus is on what the day represents: rest, worship, meditation on the Word, and time out from the world. God created for six days and then rested. He never created a calendar of those days, man did.

Tradition was that the Jewish people took Sabbath on Saturday because of their calendar. The problem came when we turned the Sabbath into church day. Every day is for worship, any day can be for church, but one day should be set aside for the Sabbath rest. Yes you can go to church on your Sabbath.

Pastor Michael Dickey
Clint First Baptist Church
(Clint, TX)

For a proper understanding of the original Sabbath Law, the best place to go of course is the original Ten Commandments. There the Sabbath commandment is found both in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15. The sermon from Jeremiah 17 is from a frustrated prophet, preaching eight hundred years later and observing in his generation ordinary businessmen completely ignoring the Sabbath rule in the course of their every day affairs. Jesus however taught that the “Sabbath was made for Man and not Man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Therefore God’s people may work to help others on the sixth day of the week (Saturday, the true Sabbath) if other humans have an urgent need. Jesus was also teaching that the spirit of this law requests that all humans take one day out of seven with regularity to rest from their normal labors. By “normal labors” both Moses and Jesus meant those normal things we do to earn money and provide for our families. God still makes it possible for all of His people to observe one day of rest out of seven if they earnestly seek to please Him in this way. We should in other words view the Sabbath principle as God trying to help us; we should not reject His help!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

from June 11, 2015

Question:

At church we are in a sermon series on “Origins” and have been discussing the fact that in the earlier books of the Bible, the people of that time lived such long lives. It was stated that it was because all the water was in the atmosphere protecting people from the harsh UV rays that we are subjected to now. After the flood, people began living less years because of this. My questions are: if all the water was in the atmosphere and it didn’t rain, how did plants grow for the people to eat? The Bible states that the people lived off of the plants (prior to the flood) then after the flood were allowed to eat the animals. Also, we’re told some UV rays are good for us as they provide Vitamin D. So, in the early years did the people get this solely from the plants they ate since they didn’t get it from the “atmosphere”?

Answers:

Prior to the flood, yes it had never rained and the plants were watered from the mist of the ground. In Genesis 2:5-6 we see that God had not caused it to rain. Then in verse six we see God watering from the mist coming up from the ground. Most Bible historians believe there was a canopy of water over the earth which protected man from the sun. In Genesis 7:11, it says the windows of heaven were opened when the flood came. Two things explain the longevity of man. One is he was living in a protected environment. The second was sin had not yet ruled the earth. But we see in Genesis 6:3 that man’s fleshly desire began to rule, so God would reduce his days to 120 years. God said, My Spirit will not strive or live with man because of man’s sinful nature. So God reduced man’s lifetime. When sin is removed then man again will start to live longer lives in the Millennial Reign.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

It is interesting to surmise about our beginnings and how things were back then. Another suggestion is that ancient amber has been found with tiny air bubbles which show the oxygen level was higher and that is why people lived longer. One more suggestion is, because they were closer to the perfectly created pair (Adam and Eve), their genes or DNA were cleaner allowing people to live longer.

Gen 2:6 suggests a dew or natural irrigation watered the plants.

Remember, the purpose of scripture is not to explain all the questions our curious minds might generate, but to explain the plan of God to demonstrate his love in bringing salvation through His Son Jesus the Christ. God created mankind and loves all of us. We are created in his image, so we have the power of choice to be obedient to the most high God or rebel. Since we rebelled, God has provided salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

I cannot answer your questions; because, the premise that humans lived longer due to water in the atmosphere restricting UV rays cannot be proven from Scripture. A possible biblical explanation for the progressively decreasing life span of humanity after the Flood lies in Genesis 6:3. More fundamentally, these questions are not something the Bible addresses. For example, Genesis is not designed to answer the “How” questions our naturalistic and materialistic minds may ask with scientific categories. Rather, Genesis provides the true answers to “Why” we exist and “Who” the Creator is as a polemic against deceptive ancient creation myths. We may make assumptions based on our contemporary world view that were not held by Old Testament writers. While I do not think science based on God’s general revelation in creation and His special saving revelation in the Bible are mutually exclusive, we may ask inessential questions the Bible is not intended to answer.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

When God created the world He gave creation enough natural resources to sustain human life forever. He also created human beings to live forever. There was an ecological balance like we’ve never known. Now even creation exists under the curse. So whatever it was that gave us longevity no longer exists with the same potency or balance. Sin is to blame.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

It is obvious that in your “Origins” class you have a teacher who is treating the Bible as a scientific text. It is nothing of the kind! It is ancient, religious literature, created through the centuries by Spirit-inspired persons for instruction and edification of God’s growing, community of people. Christians believe God spoke and still speaks from this ancient collection of literature. All ancient Middle Eastern cultures believed in the great longevity of their ancestors, so the Bible’s early stories are not unique in this respect. The story of the flood in Genesis is based on their primitive cosmology (view of the world). They believed the world was flat, built like a layer cake, with a great dome covering over this vast, flat, landscape. Even after the flood stories of Genesis, the Israelites never lost this view of the world — we find it continually in the Book of Psalms and in the Classical Prophets for instance. So please “ditch” the idea that an atmosphere of water held back the ultraviolet rays of the sun thus preventing human aging. There was never a time in earth’s history (certainly since man was created) when we had anything but the atmosphere we now have. This is simply true!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

from May 28, 2015

Question:

We are told to pray about everything; to talk to God as if he is right with us as we would a friend or loved one; and that he is interested in every aspect of our lives – nothing is too large or too small to take to God. If this is true, then please explain Ecclesiastes 5:2, “…don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are on earth. So let your words be few.” So then, does this mean we are not to talk to God with all things in life, as we are told to at church?

Answers:

I think the Ecclesiastes passage is not talking about bringing our heartfelt petitions but more about boasting in His presence.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Jephthah’s rash vow in Judges 11:29-40 may shed light on Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 which highlights that “fear of the Lord” means being mindful of our speech in the presence of God. We will be accountable for our words which reveal our hearts (Matthew 12:34-37), and careless vows demonstrate our hearts’ depravity. Jephthah bargained with the LORD foolishly thinking he could manipulate the good sovereign Creator. This is how a pagan worships. While Paul encourages Believers to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we do so to conform our will to God’s; not to use God for our hearts’ fallen folly. Thankfully, we can confidently with a pure heart pray by the Spirit for God’s will to be done; because, Jesus wholeheartedly desired to do His Father’s will which meant suffering and dying for us and our self-centered hearts. Jesus didn’t bargain with God but submitted to and trusted in His Father’s promise of glorious vindication through self-denying service and suffering.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

There are two things to consider here in evaluating this single isolated passage from one of the later books of the Old Testament. (Ecclesiastes, with its late Hebrew style, and Hellenistic mid-Stoic view dates no earlier than the fourth century.) The first thing to consider is the kind of book Ecclesiastes is. It represents a specific form of late Wisdom Literature which urges well-to-do people to shun excesses (either too little or too much) and to seek a middle way. This middle way is about people learning to be content with what they have and not to be consumed by the worldly ambitions which were much in evidence during the early Hellenistic age. As such the book as a whole has some good things to say to us about our own stewardship as followers of Jesus Christ. The second thing to consider is the total range of the Bible’s teaching on prayer. What we find when we consider this “big picture” is that God desires to hear from His People always and often about everything (large or small). Even the Old Testament Book of Psalms suggests as much (let alone the full weight of the New Testament’s teaching). Please take that into account, so as to avoid the stumbling block of “proof-texting” like this.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

As always when we look at a verse of scripture, we have to look at the context of what is written. In this passage concerning prayer, it is talking about making a vow to God. In verse one it says don’t offer a foolish prayer centered in personal desire. It continues in verse two saying don’t offer a prayer before you take time to consider what you asking. Often times we ask and pray for things that are not good for us that cause us trouble because they are centered in desires of the flesh. Concerning prayer, Jesus said in Matthew chapter seven, ask, seek, and knock. When we do this with a right heart, we are assured that our prayers are heard. In Hebrews 4:16 it says “let us come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” So yes, be assured that you can come to God anytime in prayer and yes He does have a desire for you to seek His face.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

from May 15, 2015

Question:

My question is: Are we supposed to tithe on our tax refund checks? My husband says that we don’t have to tithe on tax returns because we already tithed on the money when we received it, and that our return is just paying us back for how much we over paid the government. Is this correct? AND, if we do tithe on it – I had heard that since it was extra and would be over and above our tithing from income – that we didn’t have to tithe to the church, but could choose another non-profit we wish to help. Is that correct? Or does tithing only count when giving to the church?

Answers:

Tithe means 10% of one’s gross income. With the Levitical, Festival and Poor Tithes combined (Numbers 18:21-24; Deuteronomy 12:6-12; 14:22-29), Israelites gave 22-23% annually. Therefore, it is better to describe such giving to God as “expected giving” rather than “tithing”. 10% was not the total minimum. Today, “expected giving” is toward the local congregation (1 Corinthians 9:13-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Offerings (almsgiving) exceeds “expected giving”. An example of such an offering is described by Paul regarding the collection for needy Believers in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15). Today, this could be a special benevolent offering for Brethren within the larger Church or for needs outside the Church. Either way, it is to be generous and cheerful giving above the pledged “expected giving”‎ to support your local congregation.

Whether 2% or 22%, it’s not the amount you give but what you keep for yourself and why (Mark 12:41-44; Matthew 6:19-34; Acts 5:1-11).

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The tithe was to be brought into the storehouse of the temple. For us that would be our local church. There is only one thing to remember when giving: DON’T BE STINGY WITH GOD!!! Honor The Lord with ALL your increase – Proverbs 3:9-10

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Many people tithe AFTER TAXES. This means they are paying taxes on their “net income” (as opposed to their “gross income” — which is the total amount they make before any taxes are withheld). Lots of people I know tithe on their net income because the amount taxed is often never even seen by the employee — it is simply filed, and withheld. It does not appear in their pay check. They get none of it back until and unless the employer files a tax return. If you are fortunate to receive a so-called “tax return” and you pay your tithe on your NET income, as opposed to your GROSS income, then yes: you should tithe on what the Department of the Treasury sends back to you. But if in fact, you tithe on the gross amount of your income, then your husband is right: you have already tithed your ten percent to the full. Now, if you are interested in giving MORE than ten percent, you can always try that. But that takes strong faith!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

There are many different views on tithing. First, if you practice tithing, do you give your tithe based on the gross earnings (before taxes) or your net or take home pay? Strictly speaking, if you base your tithing on your net income you have not given a tithe on your refund yet, so yes, you should tithe on that refund. If you tithe based on the gross earnings amount, your husband is correct that you have already tithed on that amount and anything you give can be considered an offering over your tithe. As such, you should pray for God’s direction in giving any amount from the refund, and how you are to give – through your church or though whatever ministry God might direct you to support. I strongly believe that the bulk of your giving to the Lord should be through the church with which God has led you to belong. The New Testament clearly teaches that when you come to Jesus as Savior, you are to give Him your whole life – 100% – and that includes our finances. A tithe of 10% is a great beginning point for financial giving, but we must be open to give any amount God directs. In writing about giving in 2 Corinthians 9:7 Paul taught, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Often concentrating on just a specific amount to give (10%) makes financial support of God’s work or church a duty, not a joy such as when Paul writes that we are to give “not grudgingly or under compulsion.” Also remember Jesus’ observation about the widow who gave just a tiny amount at the Temple: “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44). Her generosity in giving to God was in keeping with the pattern of the early Christians in the first church in Jerusalem: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44-45).

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

The tithe belongs to the church as we see in Malachi 3:10. When Malachi wrote this the tithe took care of those who ministered in the temple and also took care of temple upkeep. When it comes to taxes, if you tithe before taxes, then what you get in a return has already been tithed on. There are however times today with income tax credits and other benefits paid to people from the government, where people get more money back than has been paid in.This extra or increase should be recognized where the tithe is concerned.

Offerings are given over and above the tithe and can be given to needs as God lays them on an individual’s heart. So when the tithe is given, if a person has extra then he or she can give this to needs outside of the church.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Giving should be in response to our love for the Lord. There are many worthy causes that deserve our support, but they do not replace what we give to God. 2 Cor 9:7 “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Christians should give because they love and not from a sense of rules or duty.

2 Cor 8:2 “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”

Israel had three tithes, two were yearly and the last was every third year, for an average of 23%. Christians give from the abundance of their love and not because someone “guilts” them into it. Some argue that when one gives this overflow to God, there is nothing left for other causes, I find nothing in scripture teaches all our charity goes through the church, but it would be after we have given to God.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

from April 23, 2015

Question:

In Revelations is anti-Christ to be an actual person or a group of people? For thirty years I have only heard it taught it was one person that would rise up. This week on the radio however I heard a teacher saying that it would actually be a group of people, not any one person. Is this a denominational difference, false prophet issue or just difference of opinion?

Answers:

In Revelation the anti-christ is a person and the spirit of anti-christ is a group of people. Please read 1 John 2:18; 22; II John 1:7. These verses refer to a group of people. Matthew 24:15 and Daniel 12:11 refers to one person that is the one Anti-christ. In Revelation 13, the beast (individual) mentioned here is the same person mentioned in Matthew 24:15. Your question is one that demands clarity for understanding. As shown, one anti-christ refers to a group (followers of) while the later anti-christ refers to the one (person) and governs and leads people to blaspheme God. There should be no denominational difference on this subject or opinion on this matter. Please seek out a church that can teach you through the Bible the truth on this subject. Not knowing could make the difference of eternal life and eternal damnation.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

When it comes to the book of Revelation it is probably more opinion than dogmatic. However, the political, economic, and religious systems of the Great Tribulation will be enhanced by a global network of enforcers so you could possibly say it is an antichristian group as much as it is one lawless man.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

First of all you need to be aware that the actual term translated as “antichrist” (Revised Standard Version, among others) occurs not at all in the Book of Revelation! Rather the term occurs four times in the Johannine Epistles (4 occurrences total in First and Second John. Of the antichrist we learn this: a.) he is anyone who denies the Father and the Son or who denies that Jesus is the true Messiah/Christ (1 John 2:22; b.) that there is a “spirit of the antichrist.” This is any spirit that will not confess Jesus (as the Son of God; 1 John 4:3. That writer claims that these persons and spirits are already present in the world of his day. Finally, c.) an antichrist is “men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh” (2 John 1:7). Again by John’s lifetime, as he claims in this letter, these persons already exist in the world! So according to the Bible your radio preacher is actually right: there are many persons who fit this description, and they have wielded their negative Satanic influence in the world since the First Century, A. D. You don’t have to wait for them; they have been present since the beginning of the Church.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Remember there are different schools or ways to interpret Revelation: Philosophy of History, Continuous Historical, Futurist, Preterist. Additionally, there are three ways to understand the 1,000 years: post-millennial, pre-millennial and a-millennial. Next is whether the book was written during Caesar Nero or Caesar Domitian.

Revelation was written to 1st century disciples about their hardship. Not to those who would live 1,500 or 2,000 or 2,500 years after. We learn the message to the original audience and then apply the principles to now. The Anti-Christ is anyone who opposes Christ and they exist in every age.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

Looking at the book of Revelation, in chapter 13, we see a beast (The Antichrist) who is given power by Satan the Dragon and he is The Antichrist that people have always talked about. This is one man indwelt by Satan, who will lead the world into sin and destruction. But we also have to understand that there are many antichrists today. When you read 1 John 2:18 it speaks of The Antichrist but also many other antichrists. Who are these? John tells us in verse 22 that he who denies that Jesus is the Christ, is an antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. So in your question, both you and the Pastor teaching were correct. We are seeing many today who are leading people away from Christ to Satan. These would be lesser antichrists but not The Antichrist who will take center stage during the 7 year Tribulation.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

from April 9, 2015

Question:

A friend is asking why God allows elderly people who are suffering ailments such as herself to continue living — and allows such horrible diseases to happen to young people, some die, others who suffer the rest of their lives? I would like your insight on what to share with her to help in this difficult time. What Scriptures should I share with her to help her remain strong in her faith, and encourage her? She’s asking, “What is the purpose of making old people remain in their suffering instead of letting them go home? And, why wouldn’t he take home the elderly who are sick, and let the young remain healthy to enjoy a long life?”

Answers:

Our creator placed mankind in a perfect world, which man corrupted through sin and continues to do so. The freedom of choice given to humanity means God does not determine everything that happens in this world. The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:20-30 regarding his struggle between wanting to go and be with the Lord Jesus and staying to be a blessing and example of faith. Faith of old people is not a small thing. Would a disciple of Christ want to speak to yet unborn generations about the love, mercy and salvation from Jesus? Then let your faith speak to those who surround you and write your story for those who will follow later.
God does not punish or reward either the young or the old with death and disease. It is a lie of Satan that God makes life hard for mankind. We do it for ourselves. Our challenge is to be an example of faith, regardless of our circumstances.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

Sickness and suffering are addressed in Wisdom literature of the Bible (i.e., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, etc.). We must avoid putting ourselves in the place of God by answering the question of ‘why’ certain people suffer certain things. This was the error of Job’s friends who wrongly insisted Job suffered as a direct result of sin he committed. Jesus cautions the disciples against this form of “retribution” theology by stating that a blind man’s condition was so God’s works would be revealed through him (John 9). Suffering reveals the condemnation we are under which the Lord uses to stimulate the faith of those who trust Him and His promises. Biblical Wisdom shifts us from the ‘why’ questions of suffering to the comfort and assurance of knowing ‘Who’ is in control. God uses suffering for His good purposes. While there is mystery here, God’s use of suffering for good is most clearly revealed in the Cross of Christ Who suffered for our salvation.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Questions like these seem to haunt the minds of western civilization societies. Behind the questions of why lies the belief that God has got it all mixed up and He is to be faulted for the world’s ills. I believe that this line of reasoning is humanistic and not Biblical. God cannot and will not be put in a box of our own making. He does what He knows is best, without flaw or miscalculation, including all the days of our lives. Psalm 139.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Let me answer your question based on the age groups you asked about. You witness many older persons suffering terribly primarily because of changes in federal and state laws since Medicare was created (1965). Prior to this older persons who got sick or worn out were allowed to die at home in peace. Due to legal changes (and many, many unjust law suits peddled by “trial lawyers” it is practically against the law to allow an older person to die at home — even if they are well attended (and not all can afford hospice care, by the way). So, whereas a man of 65 with a heart attack might have died within minutes quite peacefully at home, now everyone has been “programmed” to call an ambulance, prolong his life artificially, and rush him to an emergency room; otherwise they might be sued or at least investigated by local law enforcement. I have seen this occur! The result of this mess is that life is often artificially prolonged, while quality of life is not. This is nothing but man-made suffering!

As for younger persons suffering and dying, this is nothing new in the history of the world — people of all ages die all the time due to natural and “unnatural” causes (if there really are any). But you are young, so the presence of suffering in the world is new to you. I am glad to remind you that through all such suffering God loves us. He will see us through life to the very end — whenever that end might be, and no matter how it came about. This is His promise from passages like Romans 8:35-39. I do hope this helps.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

One of the hardest things we have to live with is physical suffering. But we have to understand that we live in a fallen world where man gave dominion to Satan. John 10:10 says “the thief (who is Satan) cometh not but to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus said, I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Man lives in a physical body subject to heredity of parents and pathogens of the world we live in. There has always been sickness and disease and people will always have to suffer them. God allows this because man chose to live under this curse. But we can break this curse through Jesus. Man will never be free of sickness but Jesus came to walk with us through life’s turmoil. As to life and death, Jesus holds both in His hand. We as men want to control both, but God has a reason to leave the elderly and take those who are young. Understand, when He takes a young person home, he may save them from something terrible in their future. If Jesus receives a child, that child will know the blessings of heaven, where an adult may turn their back on Jesus and never find heaven. We have to trust the Lord and know His ways are higher than our ways.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

from March 26, 2015

Question:

My group is doing the Bible in a Year study together. I have always been told that every part of the Bible is pertinent to our every day lives, and that we should read each day, and then determine how to apply those particular passages to our lives. I’m perplexed about the sections that are all the so and so begat so and so; and all the listings of the lineages. I feel guilty when I read this because to me it is boring – and also, I do not see how that pertains to my life and how I can make those passages apply to my life. Others in the group feel the same way. Perhaps you Pastors can give us explanations as to why this information was important to be in the Bible, and how do we use that to apply to ourselves? Also, I would like to know, is it considered sinful of me that I find these areas boring and hard to follow?

Answers:

Luke 24:27, 44-47 and John 5:39-40, 46 demonstrate the Bible is primarily not about us but records God’s historical Self-revelation as He speaks and acts to save a People. God’s final Self-revelation is in the Person and work of His Son and Word, Jesus. The Bible is about Him Who demonstrates how God saves us in perfect love and righteousness on the Cross. Faith in this Gospel is required for our conversion and continued growth. The genealogies are, in part, written to demonstrate the family line from which Jesus would come. Other parts highlight human sinfulness that continues to reveal our dependence on God. Understanding that the Bible emphasizes our need for a Savior and records God’s progressive accomplishing of this through Jesus may help you joyfully see our Lord throughout Scripture. Applying the Bible foremost to Jesus Who fulfills every “jot and tittle” FOR us is different than reading it as a book of personal application.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Many of the names in the long genealogy lists are totally obscure to most today. No, it is not sinful to find these lists boring and irrelevant to you personally. One thing I remind myself of when reading through such lists is that every single name is an individual with whom God was dealing. God was involved in real person’s lives at every level. Often we think God just dealt with the nation of Israel as a whole, or even the churches in the New Testament as a unit – but God was working intimately in and through individuals. You are as important to Him as was each person whose name is listed in Scripture. When reading the personal greetings at the conclusion of most of the letters of the New Testament it is a reminder that God was using people we have no record of other than the mention of a name without any detail. That means God wants to use you also in His kingdom work today! Get excited and realize you are not some obscure person in God’s eyes!

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

As a pastor I do understand that some passages take some discipline to get through. Some of these may not speak to the most believers but these passage allow theologians and scholars to put together some understanding of what was taking place in the times they were written. Even in the midst of these passages concerning the priesthood and the temple, there can be some jewels if we look for them. For new Christians I always encourage them to first read the gospels, and the New Testament and then read the Old Testament. However, even when reading the Old Testament, I encourage then to read from the New Testament at the same time in case they get overwhelmed with Old Testament information. As to being bored, I do understand. Some passages can be tedious, but God understands your concern and will give you grace to endure.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Let me start with the end question to answer the start question: No, it is not sinful of you to find lineage passages boring. Heck, I yet to find anyone that begins a walk (study) through the Bible excited about reading such passages. However, there are reasons for the boredom and that is how I will address the start question. There are several Biblical passages that can illustrate the importance of knowing the history of our Christian lineage. Without knowing the lineage of our Biblical forefathers, it will hinder the Spiritual growth of understanding the importance of Jesus and His purpose for coming to earth. Without knowing the blood line of Jesus and why understanding the blood line is important, then we (Gentiles) can never appreciate the precious gift of Salvation offered by Jesus the Christ. Please get involved in a Bible study that has the leadership that has the knowledge and know how to present such a difficult area to study through.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Like most new (and many old!) readers of the Bible, you find the passages that contain lists, laws, and old genealogies useless. You tend to think this, because you are going to the scriptures with only one question in mind: “what’s in it for me?” Or in other words, you ask, “What is the practical thing I can get from this passage?” And if you read a genealogy (the “begats” sections of Genesis and elsewhere) your answer to yourself might well be, “nothing useful here.” But you have to understand the Bible contains all kinds of ancient literature! And literary forms from the ancient world are often completely different from ours. Therefore you should know that the passages you have mentioned and others like them are a part of what we might call “stage setting.” God is setting the stage for a great and saving drama. Unlike real plays on a stage, you (the reader/spectator) are being given an opportunity to watch the stage hands decorate the stage and bring on some “props”. They are getting ready for the main story that is to come. Some of this introductory work reveals to you the human characters (“actors”) God is going to send onto the stage later to tell the main story. The genealogies (in particular) perform the role in ancient times that they still do, in some part, today: they help you understand those main characters when they finally appear on stage. So they do serve a very vital purpose!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

There is risk in the approach your group is using. Scripture must be understood within context: context of a word within a phrase, of a phrase within a sentence, of a sentence within a paragraph, of a paragraph within the book and of the book within the entire collection of books we call Bible. Then, we apply that lesson to ourselves. This said, what is the value of genealogies given in scripture?

First, to understand the implementation of God’s plan. The Bible is the account of God’s love for mankind and God’s effort to bring mankind into harmony with God. God promised to send one to save us (Gen 3:15), he promised to bring that one through the descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:3). We see God at work to bring salvation to the world. While we may not commit these sections to memory, our faith is strengthened to see God’s plan working.

Second, Paul asks in Roman 3, “What advantage is there in being a Jew?” His answer is “Much.” Jews and Christians should have a respect for their heritage. My faith and yours comes through a series of likeminded people of faith. Perhaps, it would include parents or friends who taught and mentor us to our present state. Faith comes from hearing the message of God, Rom 10:17, but those who spoke that message are part of my spiritual heritage. I am proud of that heritage, not in a boastful way, but rejoicing in their faith that was handed on to others. I now have a responsibility to live up to the example they set for me. I honor them, when I honor Jesus Christ.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

from March 12, 2015

Question:

I heard a radio evangelist state on the radio that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father in his “glorified human body.” This confused me – I was always taught that Jesus, and those of us in Christ – would be in Heaven in glorified spiritual bodies. Will we have human bodies in Heaven? Is there somewhere in Scripture that explains this? If so, please share scriptural address so I can read for myself.

Answers:

You are right concerning the glorified body being a spiritual body. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in His glorified body, but that body is not flesh and blood as we know it. John 4:24 says “God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, it is devoted to saying that this body of flesh we live in cannot go to heaven. This body is sinful and no sin will enter heaven. It explains in depth the difference between the body we live in now and the body that will go to heaven. Finally it says in verse 50 that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” We will live for eternity in an incorruptible glorified body, but this eternal body is not flesh and cannot be. When we have questions about the things of God, we always go to the Word of God.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

In Genesis 1:26, God said, let Us make man in our image, thus we have the human form in the image (likeness) of God. In John 1:14, the write states that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” God in the form of human man. In Luke 24:39, after the bodily resurrection, Jesus tells His disciples “Behold my hand and my feet (human form)…handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, ye see me have.” Remember, in the Godhead, at the second coming of Christ, our human form and spiritual form are reunited completing our full likeness of Christ as stated in 1 John 3:2 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.”

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

We will absolutely have glorified human bodies in heaven! Jesus’ resurrection body was a physical, flesh and blood human body. Remember the appearances He made to His disciples? He ate in their presence to prove He was not a spirit and invited them to touch Him (see Luke 24:39). Acts 1 records where Jesus physically ascended into heaven while the disciples watched, and then they were told by angels that Jesus would return again in the same manner – physically. Paul speaks of our being given resurrection bodies like Jesus, meaning that our failing, imperfect human bodies will be transformed in the instant Jesus returns into perfect re-created bodies that will no longer fail, be subject to sickness and weakness and will last for eternity. God made the original physical creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and therefore there is nothing inherently sinful, evil or unspiritual about the physical bodies that He gave us at creation. Humanity’s sin has caused the physical as well as spiritual problems that plague us in this life, but all that will be remade at Jesus’ return (1 Corinthians 15:20-58). Paul specifically addresses the question “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35) by saying, “There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly one is one, and the glory of the earthly is another… So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body” (1 Corinthians 15:40, 42). Those living when Jesus returns will be transformed instantly physically to incorruptible bodies that will be like the bodies God gave Adam and Eve at creation before sin entered the world. What a glorious future we have to look forward to enjoying. But receiving these wondrously recreated bodies at Jesus’ return is totally dependent on our decision now, in this life, to trust in God’s offer of salvation by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior now.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15 that our earthly body will be changed to an imperishable body. Perhaps, the speaker was referring to this change. We tend to understand things based on our background or past: life experience, education, hope. When Paul wrote of his revelation from Jesus in 2 Cor 12:2, Paul admits he did not know whether he was in his body or not. Likewise, we don’t know exactly what heaven will be like or precisely what kind of bodies we will have.

Jesus repeatedly said when he was teaching on this earth, “Heaven is like.” Mankind does not yet have the vocabulary to completely understand heaven and how it will be for us. For instance, the book of Revelation says the streets will be made of gold, but in the highly figurative language of this book that is largely hyperbole, “gold” should not be taken literally.

You are correct regarding the spiritual nature of our bodies in heaven. Our understanding should be that heaven is going to be even better than we can imagine. We will be with the divine surrounded by the multitude of faithful. How beautiful heaven must be.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood Church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

In the kingdom of God we have both in sense. The spiritual body will preserve us for eternal ages and the human body will be sinless and perfect like Christ’s body. He is our man in heaven. I John 3:1 and following verses, 1 Corinthians 15

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

from February 26, 2015

Question:

I was told that it is sacrilegious to have crosses either in jewelry or on display that are not just straight vertical and horizontal lines. Supposedly if there is any design to them, or gems added, etc. that wearing them displaying them is sinful. Is this true? And if so – why do so many Christian stores sell them? I have seen decorative or adorned crosses in many churches – and I know many Christians who wear beautiful cross jewelry that is not just straight lines. I have many myself and would hate to have to get rid of them, yet I want to be obedient to the Lord. Can you share scripture or insight to help with this?

Answers:

‎I think the underlying issue has to do with the heart-based intention for wearing or displaying a cross (or a fish, dove, Scripture verse, etc.). First, I am doubtful that the type, adornment, or artistry of a cross is significantly relevant. Second, if one is a Christian, a genuine Believer in what the Cross represents which is the saving truth that Jesus suffered and died in your place for your sin, then I think a cross can serve as an evangelistic witness to others. Christians are called to make disciples and to proclaim ‘Christ and Him crucified’ which is key to the Gospel. Lastly, wearing or displaying a cross (or any other symbol associated with Christianity) is not what identifies one as a true disciple of Jesus. Others will know true Christians by their sacrificial and serving love for one another (John 13:34-35).

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Two New Testament passages which come to mind are as follows: 1 Timothy 2:9 (see context); and 1 Peter 3:1-5. The first passage urges moderation and modesty in one’s choice of adornment. The second one speaks of the high importance of spiritual adornment for women. In the days of the apostles pagan women habitually wore heavy make-up. Those who became Christians carried this custom with them into their new-found life with Christ. Paul and Peter spoke of moderation outwardly and the cultivation of an inner beauty that comes from the growth of Christian character. They were trying to help women in their day learn what kind of beauty God preferred and was most pleased with. I believe you would be well-guided by these teachings in your modern day decisions about make-up, cosmetics, fashion, and (frankly) “bling”. It is not sinful to wear your jewelry. Nor does it matter if the cross is bejeweled or not. But you should seriously consider whether you wear this jewelry to witness to Jesus Christ or call attention to yourself. Be governed by your honest answer before God.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

When we talk about wearing jewelry and in specific crosses, we have no exact guidance in the Bible. It does say that we are to adorn our heart or our spirit, as opposed to adorning the outside of our body. The principle being, we should never fix ourselves up to look good and neglect our walk with the Lord. Concerning the wearing of a cross, I don’t think Jesus would condemn us for wearing one with jewels in it. After all, the foundation of New Jerusalem with be adorned with all kinds of precious stones. Knowing this Paul said we should be sensitive to the conscious of others. So if we have liberty as seen in 1 Corinthians 8:9, we never want it to be a stumbling block for others. So if what we wear offends others, then we should not do that which brings an offense. But if there is nobody offended by wearing a cross, then you have freedom to wear it.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

There has been innumerous amounts of discussions, teachings, and ordinances established in every known religion among men concerning the reverence of the cross. However, this issue of the design of the cross and if a person of faith should display it or not. The Bible gives instruction on the practice of creating and displaying images. In Exodus 20:4, God gives the command not to make any graven image (pretty straight forward). However, in Leviticus 26:1, clarity is given to the command not to make no idols or graven images “to bow down unto it”. The text in Deuteronomy 4:16, provides the rationale behind responding to an idol or graven image in that we corrupt ourselves. In Romans 1:23, Paul shows the end results of creating an idol and graven image in that man fails to keep faith in God and puts faith in a man created image which is corruptible and reject the incorruptible God totally in violation of the commandment mentioned in Exodus 20:4. So displaying the cross is not the issue (regardless of how one may see the design) but rather how the image is being utilized. Finally, if we as Christians are going to create a dividing point on images, then the state of Israel has a real problem (hint the Star of David).

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

All you know now is not to give them a cross as a gift. It is not wearing/or not wearing a cross but taking up yours daily that marks you as a Christian. Matthew 16:24 states “Then Jesus …”Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (NIV). All symbols draw meaning from the message it communicates to the viewer and the wearer. Traditionally Peter was executed on a cross that was upside down so it become a symbol for humility of Peter for centuries. But recently the upside-down cross is used as a symbol of atheism, humanism, and the occult so many find it offensive. Just like some readers right now who are offended that I quoted from the NIV and not the KJV. Whatever you decide, you will offend someone so do not fall into the trap of substituting obedience to the “weaker” or “legalist” for obedience to Christ. So ask yourself are you wearing it to remind yourself to take up yours or offend your “weaker” brother?

Pastor Bill Belgie
Open Gate Church
(El Paso, TX)

I don’t know of any Scripture to back up the claim of this being a sin.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

from February 12, 2015

Question:

I’m confused about sin. One leader says as Christians we are to be perfect like Christ – citing His telling, “Go and sin no more.” While another says, we cannot be perfect, that Christ is the only being that can be perfect. That even as Christians we still sin – even he (a Pastor) sins. On one hand I am told that the “go and sin no more” refers to big sins – like sexual things, or stealing, etc. And that the sins the Pastor must be talking about is little things like telling a fib, or drinking alcohol. Yet on the other hand – I’m told that sin is sin to God – that there is no judgment in the size of sin. To him murder and a lie are both the same size of sin. As new believers we want to understand correctly ourselves before trying to teach our children. Can you help us please put this into perspective and what exactly is what God wants us to believe about sin?

Answers:

God is holy, and His People must be holy. While there are degrees of sin, we must be sinless to be saved and to stand before God as righteous. Here’s the problem: No human, apart from Jesus, can be holy and sinless because of our fallen condition. Here’s the Good News: Jesus was sinless FOR us! Even more, Jesus endured the punishment we deserve for our sins to cleanse us. God’s commandments against sin are intended to reveal our condemned condition, so we will turn to God for His mercy. God then graciously does for us what we can’t do for ourselves to meet His holy and just requirements. This is fully revealed in Jesus Who is sinless, perfect and holy on behalf of fallen and sinful humanity. Christ’s righteousness is counted as ours before the Holy Father if we trust in His sinlessness for us rather than hopelessly trying to be perfect ourselves.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

You are understandably confused about sin for it is a difficult and multifaceted concept in the New Testament (and indeed in the Bible as a whole). The Greek New Testament itself uses a number of terms which range in meaning from simply “missing the mark”, to “trespass, transgression,” to “disobedience,” to “sinful nature,” to “willful evil”. Let me put you at ease immediately by telling you that no human has ever existed now or in the past who lived a completely perfect, holy, sinless life, except for one: God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Being One with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, He was and is as sinless as God. It requires that kind of life to redeem the rest of us from sin and the deadly consequences of sin. Some of the sayings you paraphrase refer to the need for believers to refrain, in so far as they are able, from willfully disobeying God. As long as we are in this life with its body of flesh, we will remain prone to wander, stray, be faithless, and disobey. But, marvel of marvels, Jesus has given us the gift of His grace and His Holy Spirit. These gifts enable us to live a life of obedience. Not PERFECT OBEDIENCE, but obedience none the less that is acceptable to God our Father. Worry no more!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

In reality there is only one sin, the sin of “disobedience”. The fact that we sin does not mean the desire of our Spirit is not in compliance with God. Take for example the life of King David. David was a man of many sins as a result of one sin “disobedience” and yet his Spirit was one of God’s own heart. Since we were conceived in sin and will live in sin (Psalms 51:5; 58:3), it is the Spirit that dwells in us that makes us perfect. In I John 3:2, we (those that believe) will not see our perfection until we come face to face with God and with that understanding we are compelled as zealots to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Do not worry so much about being perfect, focus more on doing the work of Christ and let Him perfect you. Hope this helps.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

We are no longer dominated by our sin. Romans 6. We are not to habitually sin as we did in the past – I John 1:7-2:3. We are to be perfect in love with God as Christ was – I John 4 and Matthew 5. Read II Corinthians 6:16-7:1.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

As we deal with sin, we do understand that nobody is perfect and that everyone will sin. I believe there is a difference between willful sin and situations that we get caught up in and find hard to control. Willful sin, is premeditated, when we plan to sin ahead of time. God has a problem with this as we see it mentioned in Hebrews chapter ten. When Jesus said, “go and sin no more”, He was telling us, do not go with a desire to sin. All of us have issues that we face that are sin where God is concerned. But we should never plan to sin or desire to sin against God. We do understand that all sin separates us from God and has consequences. But willful sin that is planned by us, puts us in rebellion against God and will bring discipline from God. So what we have to understand is the difference between responses of the flesh, that we don’t plan to do and the sin that we want to do in rebellion against God. Understand that God will forgive both when we truly repent and show remorse for what we have done.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

from January 29, 2015

Question:

We have been concentrating on reading a specific passage of Scripture and praying a specific prayer for weeks now, pertaining to the situation we are in. I mentioned this in a group setting and was told that we shouldn’t do this, that we have “gone back to the law” and was being “religious” versus living as Christians. Is it wrong for us to do this, to read same passage and recite same prayer that fits a particular trying time in our lives? If not can the leaders give us insight as to how to combat those saying we are wrong? Are there particular Scriptures you advice to use to focus on in prayer for help in hard situations?

Answers:

There are a lot of voices that are in the world today, telling us to do this or not do that. The only voice we should be listening to is the voice of the Holy Spirit where our needs are concerned. For some clarification on prayer, you can look at the Parable of the Persistent widow in Luke 18:1 who came to an unjust judge and would not stop her petitions until they were answered by the judge. We also get some understanding from Matthew 7:7-12, where the Greek translation tells us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. If the unjust judge heard the petitions of the widow, how much more will your Heavenly Father hear your petitions? When trying to seek the will of God in any situation, go to God’s Word, find a passage that speaks to your need and listen to the leadership of His Spirit in your life.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

If it is the prayer of Jabez keep on praying it in faith. Paul prayed about his thorn in the flesh often. Daniel prayed for God’s mercy on his nation three times every day. I don’t believe we need to be concerned about praying too much but about praying too little. Matthew 7:7-11.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

There is nothing wrong with using the same prayer and using the same scripture which, you say, applies to a certain situation. In fact many books of prayers (used by Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Catholics) contain long established prayers that individuals and churches can use for specific situations. The main thing for you to evaluate in saying your prayers is to ask whether or not the prayer is biblical. Does it draw from a biblical text or make use of biblical ideas and themes? If it is not, you should probably consider using another prayer. Additionally, there’s nothing wrong with praying extemporaneously; that is, have someone familiar with your situation just pray for you in their own words. God loves prayers like that because often they are more sincere than written prayers, and they come from the heart. In short, I see nothing wrong with what you are doing, but there’s no reason why you cannot branch out, and pray more of God’s Word to cover your situation. Don’t be afraid to try this.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The Word of God have numerous passages on prayer and many books have been written on the subject of prayer. Jesus address the subject of prayer when ask by his disciples on the manner in which to pray. Matthew 6:7-9, Jesus points out that prayer is not to be repetitious as the heathens and pray in a manner that is directed to the Father. As for praying the same prayer, I would leave that up to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There are Christian that feel that praying for a situation one time is sufficient and believe that God has heard them the first time. In the same thought, there are those that believe that they to pray to God on a particular situation until they feel at peace that God has heard their petition/s as understood by some in I Thessalonians 5:17. I have also come to believe that prayer is one of the ways we communicate with our Father and no one really can dictate the frequency a prayer in prayed. Hope this helps.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We are also told in 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” The main concern in praying about a specific need is to avoid seeking to manipulate God into giving you the answer or solution that seems best to you. We are to seek God and to make our requests and petitions to Him. If a specific passage of the Bible seems to speak to your need, there is absolutely nothing wrong with mentioning that to God as you pray. Yet in prayer we must always remember that God is great and sees from a much larger perspective than we can. That’s why Isaiah 55 tells us to call upon God and seek God, yet realize that His ways and ours are much different. We often quote Isaiah 55:8-9, which are powerful reminders that God moves at a higher level. Yet we need to read them in context. The entire chapter is a call to seek God first, to forsake sin and to recognize God above all else, understanding that He will accomplish His desires. Yes, pray continually as the Bible commands, but also seek to draw close to the Lord and realize that He is walking with you in what you are experiencing. There are many fine resources on prayer you can read. I would greatly recommend anything on prayer by the author E.M. Bounds. They are classics and would guide you well. Keep praying and seeking God’s will in all areas of life.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

January 15, 2015

Question:

In a group we were discussing the Scripture where Jesus tells the people they must hate their mothers, fathers, children, etc. and follow him. I can’t remember where it was located in the bible. This seems mighty harsh, and frightened off some of our new attendees. Please explain this. Since Jesus always pushed that we must love one another – “the greatest of these is love” – then how can he turn around and say we must hate those closest to us? If we are to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves” why then should we hate our family members to follow him?

Answers:

Let me begin by saying that Jesus never stated that we (they) must hate their mothers, fathers, children, etc. What he does say if that; “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth some or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me” and, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against his mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (Matthew 10:27, 35). Jesus goes on to say; “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or fathers, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19: 29). This scriptures are not intended to promote hate by love of the Father unto the Father. It has often been said that Love will make you do silly things, however, True Love will make one do the Right Thing, like dying on a Cross for the Sin of the World. Total commitment to God in Love produces results of separation from those that do not Love God first. This teaching is probably the toughest test for Christians to live out. Final word, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33)

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

I understand the difficulty your Bible study friends are having with this idea. The precise passages (and their contexts) are as follows: Matthew 10:34-39 and Luke 14:25-33. The difficulty for a modern reader of the Gospels comes on two fronts: first, the historical and literary context of those passages; and second, figures of speech used among the Jews of First Century, A. D., Palestine. First: In Matthew (likely the earliest occurrence) Jesus is addressing His disciples as a part of His training to go out and imitate His ministry. In Luke, Jesus addresses a nameless crowd of people who badly need to understand just what it takes to be a genuine follower of His — clearly, not just anybody can be that! That Jesus required His followers to live at a very high level of faithfulness is completely understandable given all that happened to Him! Second: Jesus spoke often with speech forms we no longer use: intense exaggeration and hyperbole were common figures of speech for Jewish teachers who spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic 2000 years ago; but they are hard for us to hear today, since we seldom use them now. In that light Jesus simply means our love and commitment to Him must be far beyond anyone or anything else. I hope that helps!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

This is a comparative statement. The emphasis is not on emotions toward loved ones but that our commitment to Jesus will make all other commitments look pale in comparison. He is saying that we should put Him in first place. One must be willing to follow Him no matter the cost. Do not pull a verse like this out of its larger context or you will run people off.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

The passage you are referring to is in Luke 14:26-27 and also Matthew 10:37-38. When Jesus is speaking here He is using a figure of speech and does not mean we are to hate our families. The Ten Commandments say we are to honor our fathers and mothers. What Jesus is telling us is that our relationship to Him takes precedence over every other relationship. Often times we put family, friends, or things before our commitment to God and to His Son Jesus. Again the Bible tells us that we are to have no other gods before God our Father. If we put our family before our spiritual relationship to our Father in Heaven, we have made family a god. Matthew 6:33 says “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Jesus is saying, if you put Me first in your life, then I will teach you how to love your families as I love you. I will teach you to love them without conditions or stipulations with a pure and selfless love.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

December 25, 2014

Question:

We’ve been hearing much lately about books of Maccabees. Somehow this correlates to biblical times yet is not in the Bible. Is this considered “God breathed” info such as the Scriptures – and if so why is it not included? Or if it isn’t, as Christians, should we read it? Or would it be wrong to read it – misleading, etc.? We don’t want to read anything that could steer wrong, but if it can be an asset, then we do.

Answers:

The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are part of the Apocrypha, a collection of writings done in the period between our Old and New Testaments. While included in the Bibles of Roman Catholics, the vast majority of Protestants do not consider these books to be divinely inspired or “God-breathed” as the Old and New Testament books. This is for good reasons. Most probably the last of the Old Testament books written was the book of Esther, about 465 BC. The Jews of the first century, while much aware of the writings of the Apocrypha, did not accept any writings after 465 BC as holding the same level of authority or inspiration. The second main reason these books are not accepted as divinely inspired is that Jesus and the New Testament writers quote various parts of the Old Testament Scriptures as authoritative over 295 times, but not once do they mention or refer to the apocryphal writings. The Apocryphal books do not claim for themselves that authority either. They are helpful to give us insight into some of the history of the period between the Testaments, and clues into how people thought during that period, but they are not inspired and should not be included as equal to the 66 books of our Bible today.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

The books of the Maccabees are historical accounts of the Jewish revolt against the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphany. The setting was between Malachi and Matthew during the last century before Christ. This revolt actually prompted the Romans to march on Judea. They are not recognized as inspired as the Old and New Testaments. You may read them but they are not very exciting in my opinion.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Maybe you are hearing about “The Maccabees” now because the book of this name describes the tradition of Hanukkah, which many Jews are celebrating in these earlier days of December. The story which forms the basis for Hanukkah is found in 1 Maccabees 4. It dates to that period nearly two hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ. At that time, the Jewish Temple, once recaptured in battle from the Syrian forces of Antiochus IV, required a process of cleansing (which involved completely replacing the altar for burnt offering and the temple utensils). This tradition did not carry over to the practices of early Christianity, and that is one reason why these books, among others, were rejected from the New Testament canon by the third century A.D. Criterion for acceptance in what later became known as the Protestant Canon included: a direct or indirect witness to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, presenting a background or preparation for His coming; or offering the Teachings of God which served to build up and increase the Church in power and numbers. The books later deemed “apocryphal” (or “hidden”) did not do this. Find the full list here for your own pleasurable and beneficial reading: http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Apocrypha-Books-List/ They will edify you and will not steer you off course!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Concerning the books of the Maccabees, we go back to the time when the Bible was canonized or measured, with a determination made on what books would be put in the Bible. Some believe that the Maccabees were excluded during the Council of Jamnia in 90 AD. Others believe they were set aside at the Council of Trent in 1546. In either case these books do not appear to stay true to the Inspiration of Scripture that is “God breathed.” Even though men determined not to include these in our Bible, we believe God had a hand in this.

As to whether you should read them, if you are well grounded in the Word of God and mature in your faith, reading them should not hurt you. They have some value as historical books but should not be used to determine foundation principles for your faith. It is good to know and understand what other people are concerned about.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

The four books of Maccabees are named after Judas Maccabaeus‎ (‘The Hammer’) who led a Judean revolt in 164 BC; a time between the writings of Malachi in the Old Testament and the Gospels in the New Testament. The Maccabees re-instituted temple sacrifices, and the re-dedication of the temple is commemorated by Jews today with Hanukkah. The success of this revolt established the Hasmonean dynasty in contrast to the proper Davidic line, and the Maccabees failed to reinstall a Zadokite as High Priest. Some consider 1 and 2 Maccabees as part of the Bible; however, none of the four books are inspired Scripture. While some advocate reading these and other apocryphal / deuterocanonical books for devotion or history, I am hesitant with the books of Maccabees because of unorthodox content and a misleading propagandizing for the validity of Hasmonean rule. If read, I encourage discernment with a conscious reminder they are not part of the inspired 66 books of the Bible.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

These questions surrounding the validity of various books that some consider to be part of the Old Testament can be a great hindrance to some. For example, the validity of the books of Maccabees; why is it not considered to be acceptable to other religious writings. Of course these books in question are part of some religions’ bibles and not others. The fact that they are or are not part of a bible does not mean that there is not important information that can shed light on a subject, topic, or event in history. For instance, I was speaking to a Jewish friend of mind and we were discussing the biblical foundation for Hanukah. According to his understanding, Hanukah is only mentioned in the book of the Maccabees and there is no Jewish law or commandment to how Hanukah is observed. However, the Jewish do a time of observance when God blessed the Jewish people with the possession of the Temple, so the Jewish people observance by having eight days of celebration to commemorate that time in their lives. In fact, according to this Jewish friend, that the actually celebration is known as the Feast of Light and not the Festival of Light as we know it today. There are a myriad of spiritual literature that enlightens our knowledge, however, keep in mind that while these writings are good in and of themselves, they do not represent the systematic flow of the gospel (the whole bible), but do make for interesting research.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

December 11, 2014

Question:

In Revelations, are the visions John saw actually literal and will happen that way, where there will be creatures with multiple heads and eyes all over or was Jesus giving him these visions as parables as he spoke while on earth? If so, why would God need to go to this extreme? And if not, why couldn’t he just make things clear to help us understand?

Answers:

The genre of The Revelation must be considered. It has aspects of the Epistle and Prophecy genres, but its main genre is Apocalyptic and grounded in the Old Testament. “Apocalypse” is Greek for “revealing.” Think of God showing us invisible spiritual realities behind our physical visible experiences. The genres of Parable and Apocalyptic‎ both illicit shock and misunderstanding for those lacking spiritual eyes to perceive their meaning. Parables use familiar concrete illustrations while Apocalyptic uses significant images and symbolism to communicate deeper spiritual truths. For a literal interpretation, we must acknowledge the Apocalyptic genre’s use of ‘word pictures’ as signs to communicate the revealed spiritual reality. The first verse of The Revelation supports this interpretation: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him…and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (KJV). John may be using imagery to communicate a similar experience “heard with inexpressible words” (2 Corinthians 12:4). The goal of Parable and Apocalyptic is to stimulate us out of spiritual “anesthesia” by confronting us with the gravity of a greater spiritual reality of which we may ignore or be unaware.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

First of all, the type of literature in Revelation is apocalyptic. This means that it is both literal and symbolic at the same time. Secondly, the Holy Spirit inspired the writing and John simply wrote what he saw as it was revealed to him. Remember, eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has it entered into our imagination the things God has prepared. Just live as Christ lived and some day you will see it for yourself.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

The book of Revelation uses a myriad of symbolic visions in order to stress the point. For example, the vision John has of the beast coming out of the sea. The sea, represents the people of earth and the beast represents a person among the people. The use of the symbolic sea is much more comprehensive than attempting to put a number to the people. It is not uncommon for preachers to use hyperboles to stress or provide a more comprehensive meaning of the text. I would agree that for most people, reading Revelation can be mind blowing, but Jesus states that “blessed is he who read and understands”, which indicates that not all who read will understand what the scripture say. However, if one seeks to know, then applying one heart to know will understand and hopefully help others to, at best, realize that what Revelation speaks about is for our learning that it should not be avoided just because we don’t see the whole picture. A word of warning, be careful of those that say they have it “all” figured out. The church has spent its entire existence attempting to explain the book of Revelation and has not been able to.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

John when he wrote the book of Revelation, was given a vision while in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day and actually saw what would take place in the last days. Jesus allowed him to see actual events that would be unfolding in days to come or the last days of man’s dominion on earth. The problem was that John was seeing future technology but had no way to describe it in his understanding. Seeing modern weapons of warfare, he could not give us terms that we understand today. So he wrote what he actually saw and what I believe things that will come to pass. There is some question as to whether the three sets of judgments happen in sequence or simultaneously, but we can be sure they will take place. So yes, I believe that all these events will happen as shown and will unfold very shortly. This tell us we need to be ready and have our hearts right where our
Salvation is concerned.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

The man, John, of the Book of Revelation saw a vision of Jesus Christ. What he saw was real to him. It is not possible for us (who did not receive this vision in person) to know the details of what might lay behind the reality of his vision. Did the strange creatures of chapter 4 and beyond represent something or someone else? Or are they actual creatures that everyone will on day see and meet? This is impossible for us to know from where we all are now. The thing to do is not get bogged down by whether the vision offered exact realities or symbols. You can still understand and appreciate the message of the Book of Revelation without getting stuck on the details you mentioned. And the message of the book is that though God’s people will suffer for their faith in Jesus, their Lord will not forsake them. Rather, Jesus Christ, will conquer all the evil in the universe and replace it with His own glorious, eternal reign.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

November 27, 2014

Question:

My heart is saddened as I have recently been told by two people that they are atheists. What advice, or Scripture could you give me to share with them that would be simple, quick and easy that could help them understand that there is a God, and the importance of becoming a Christian? I want to share with them, but know they won’t listen long, and don’t want to offend.

Answers:

Dealing with atheists, in my view, is no different than dealing with any other non-believer. When I deal with atheists, instead of attempting to prove that there is a God and that He Loves them is not a very effective approach. Rather than assisting them is validating this argument, ask the atheists to validate their rational for why there is not a God. In other words, rather than theory, request for physical evidence. The down side to discussing God with atheists, is time. The Word of God states that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing…I Corinthians 1:18). Why it should be the desire of every believer to reach the lost, there will be those that reject the message and spending God’s time on debating or arguing God to them actually goes against the directive made by Jesus the Christ (And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet (Matthew 10:14). Summary, the burden of proof is on the non-believer not the believer (Luke 20:4).

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

We are living in times when people say they do not believe there is God because they do not want to be accountable to Him on judgment day. Good scriptures to share are Romans 1:18-32, Psalms, 19 and Revelation 20: 11-15. The problem is that people who are living life on their terms don’t want to hear the truth from the Word of God. The best thing you can do is share some scripture while praying earnestly. Prayer and the Word of God are the only two things that can change a hard heart. The words from men have no power unless they are bathed in the power of the Spirit and the Scriptures. But please understand that this process of working with hearts that are hard is not a short undertaking. This will be a long term battle so be prepared to fight for their
very souls.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

I commend you in your patient desire to continue arguing with these people even though their minds may well be made up. Some people use the word “atheist” but they really mean “agnostic”. This is a person who needs experiential proof that God exists; but at least they are open to this truth. If your friend is still open to discussing this with you, you might refer to the Apostle Paul’s encounter with the intellectual Greeks at the Hill of Mars in Athens. There Paul encountered real Hellenists (non-Jews) who believed in a variety of Greco-Roman deities, but the belief of many was not strongly held. So the apostle argues from the subjects of creation and inspiration: everything in nature, by virtue of its observable existence has come from a wise and all powerful God. This same God also inspired (Greek) poets to write of His creative work. Out of ignorance the Greeks have come to worship created things, but not the Creator. The proof that this time of ignorance must come to an end is God’s raising from the dead His own Son Jesus. Share the story from Acts 17:16-34. Paul’s arguments (combined with your prayers and the Holy Spirit) are still powerful!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Atheism is often attributed to a person’s own problem with the evil and pain that exists in the world. Many are embittered at their own life’s circumstances which have turned them off to Christianity. It is a choice they have made because it allows them to live in denial of their personal responsibility to love and honor God. There may not be anything you can say without stirring up their emotions. Just pray for their eyes to be opened and their hearts to be softened before they die and discover He was there all the time.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

First, pray that our Father claim them as His own‎ in Jesus and that He equip you to witness to them by His Spirit. Remember, while we labor to ‘make disciples’, it is God Who gives the ‘increase’. Second, love and be patient with them as our Lord Jesus loved us with long-suffering to the point of the Cross. Third, help them see how their serving idols does not ultimately satisfy. Jesus will bring them the deep long-lasting joy we all seek. In Jesus by His Spirit, we worship and serve the Father. This brings deep joy and satisfaction; because, it is for this humans were created. Fourth, two Bible passages highlighting the gospel are Romans 3:21-26 and 2 Corinthians 5:21. I pray this helps as you desire to make disciples of our Lord Jesus.

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

November 13, 2014

Question:

When we accept Christ we are told that our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus and that they are cast as far as the east is from the west. Because of this, does that mean that in Heaven on Judgment Day it will only be those who refused to accept Christ that faces judgment? Of, if Christians will face judgment also – then how can it be so that their sins were forgiven and cast away and forgotten?

Answers:

First, there is a difference between “judgment” and “condemnation.” For those “covered by the blood of Christ,” we stand righteous before God in Jesus. This is what it means to be justified by grace through faith in Jesus. Therefore, Believers are saved from God’s just wrath and delivered from eternal condemnation (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Secondly, Paul states that every person will give an individual account of their works before God who will render to each of us according to our deeds (Romans 2:6-16). In Romans 14:10-13, Paul further articulates that each Christian Believer will give an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ. R.C. Sproul calls this Jesus’ “evaluative judgment” of Christians. The Final Judgment upon Christ’s Return will be perfectly just (1 Corinthians 4:5). There will be degrees of eternal rewards for Christians according to what we have done as His disciples ‎during our earthly lives (2 Corinthians 5:9-11).

Lastly, Christ’s judgment of everyone’s words and works ‎will reveal whether or not one’s profession of faith as a Christian Believer was a genuine profession coming forth from a regenerated heart (Matthew 12:33-37, 25:34-46). Those who have been justified by grace through faith in the merits of Christ have also had God’s just wrath against sin satisfied (propitiated) in the hellish punishment Jesus endured on the Cross for us. Therefore, those saved by Jesus’ Cross are delivered from the divine condemnation we deserve as cosmic rebels; because, God no longer remembers our sins as warranting eternal punishment (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hebrews 8:7-13, 10:12-18).

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

This is a common question that many believers have. When we were saved our sin was paid for by Jesus, taking care of past sins and future sins. When we sin, we don’t lose our salvation and go to judgment, but we lose fellowship with our Father. This fellowship can only be restored when we humble ourselves and confess our sin before the Lord. There is a judgment at the Bema seat for believers, see 2 Corinthians 5:10, but this is not for sins but for rewards that will be given to us. Our life will be reviewed and we will receive crowns based on our faithfulness to Jesus. Then we give these crowns back to Jesus as a gift.

There is a judgment for the lost who have never made Jesus Lord of their life. This is the Great White Throne judgment seen in Revelation 20:11-15. Following this judgment the lost are separated from God and sentenced to eternal punishment.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

This question is one that for some reason gets confusing among believers. The judgments fall into two categories: 1) The judgment of the unsaved (rejection of Jesus as Savior and Lord) and 2) The judgment of the saints (how they served the Lord while living in this present world. We find in Revelation 20:15 the judgment of the unsaved and their fate. In I Corinthians 3:12-15 the works of the saints being tested by fire and then judged. While this is just a quick reference the question, it is imperative that believers find a church that will teach, live, and hold into account the teaching given by our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Your question involves two problems: first, you quote, not scripture (and not accurately) but accumulated, preached doctrine! “Sins covered by Jesus’ blood” is not an exact phrase (or part of a verse) anywhere in the New Testament. The nearest thing to it might be His own explanation of the new sacrament He gave to His first disciples at the Passover meal before He was crucified (where you find the phrase “blood of the covenant” Matt. 26:28). Further the idea of sins being removed from us or from God “as far as the east is from the west” is the Old Testament acclamation found in Psalm 103:12. This refers to God’s act on behalf of the psalmist and his people; Jesus is not mentioned, nor is this language used of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Finally, everyone will be judged — and that means all Christians! Hebrews 9:27 and Jesus Himself in the Gospels makes this emphatically clear (Luke 16:19-31). But it is the case that Christians will, at the final judgement of Christ, be given the fullness of the gift of eternal life. Non-believers — especially those who had the chance to receive Jesus but did not — will go to eternal punishment.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

October 23, 2014

Question:

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” 1 John 4: 18-19

Would like to hear what Pastors have to say about this verse. It was given to me by a “friend” who said that I must not be truly saved, that if I was I wouldn’t ever be afraid, worried or fearful. Is that really what this verse means? If so, I know an awful lot of folks who think they are saved, that must not be. It is hard to live in this society and never fear or worry about something. Please share how this is meant to be taken.

Answers:

Perfect love is a process of our maturity in The Lord. There are different kinds of fear. Fear of fire is good. The fear John is referring to is fear of judgment not fear of evil or satan . God wants to bring to a fullness the presence and revelation of His agape love in our hearts. Romans 5:1-5 tells us the process- through trials in life. I would not doubt my salvation because someone pulls a Scripture out at you!

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

There are three questions to ask in understanding the meaning of the Bible; 1) What does it say, 2) What does it mean? and 3) How do I apply it? The subject of this question is two-fold, the first is the subject of fear and the second is of love. In this text, the fear indicates that if there is Love (Spirit filled) then there is no fear of what the world can do to God’s children. The other indication of the word fear is that a person who is not filled with Love (by the Spirit) has both the world and eternity to fear (Matthew 10:28). The indication of perfect love is one that represents the Love of God to those who are lost (without Christ) and to the brothers and sisters of God. Perfect Love indicates that God is alive and well within our hearts and compels us to act accordingly to the actions that Jesus did when confronted by both the sinners and the Saints.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

We Wesleyans typically read these verses as pointing toward the goal of Christian perfection. In other words, as one grows in love for God and one’s fellow man, then fear diminishes (except of course for the fear of God, which properly always belongs as a part of our normal approach to God). In short, as one grows in love toward God and Man one also becomes less fearful of all earthly things. Then one’s love is perfected, sufficiently to drive out fear of anything in this world other than God. “Therefore” (as the psalm writer declares) “we will not fear though the earth be changed, or though the mountains be carried to the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:2) So until God has worked in you to render you perfect in love, expect to be afraid of many things! And remember: your fear of man and “what man can do to you” (paraphrase of Psalm 56:11) does not change the fact that Jesus remains Lord of all, including your life!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

When we look at a passage of scripture we have to put it in context. Verses 18-19 follow verse 17 which is dealing with the Day of Judgment. It is saying that we do not have to fear judgment because the Father loves us and we should love Him. We often fear about standing before God. But our sins have been covered if we are a child of God. God’s children should not fear about a loving Father hurting them. This perfect love that the Father has for us should allow us to cast out our fear of judgment.

Concerning being afraid of things that happen in this world, fear is an emotion that God gives us. We should not be afraid, but we are not lost if something comes along that causes us to fear. The flesh has many emotions and we have to learn to control them. There will always be an emotion that we will fight and bring under the control of our Lord. Fear is one of these emotions, but we can have victory over it.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Southern Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

October 9, 2014

Question:

We would like the opinion of Pastor’s in regards to wrong done to Christians. In speaking with a group recently we learned of several cases of Christians being owed money by employers and others, wrongful terminations, automobile accidents causing injuries, etc. These people have all been told that since they are Christians it is against Biblical principles to take the wrongdoers to court. They’ve tried handling things on their own – to no avail. Court seems the only way to hold these wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Is this against the law of the Lord? Would they be in the wrong for suing their offenders? And if so — isn’t it just as bad to allow people to continue being unaccountable for their wrongful actions?

Answers:

We are citizens of a nation whose courts are established to protect and defend its citizens. In Moses’ day he set up judges to settle disputes among God’s people. The only New Testament directive is to not take a brother to court but to let the church settle the issue.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

This is a classic case of “who is my brother, sister, etc.” I Thessalonians 4:6 states that we (brethren) are not to defraud each other. Paul shames the Church in Corinth (I Cor. 6:1; 2) for not settling matters among themselves and going before the law of the unjust. As stated at the start, when “brothers and sisters” have wronged one another, then it is the accountability of the person that is wrong to be responsible and correct the matter. The key word in these text is the work “brethren”. If a person that claims to be a brother (neuter case) and does not wish to resolve the infraction with another brother, then this could very well represent the true nature of that person/s relationship and/or fellowship with God. If a brother wishes not to resolve this matter through the Spiritual guidance of the church or scripture (should be the same) then the recourse is to forgive the brother and turn it over to the courts of sinful man and let the consequences befall that person. Believe me, it is much better to settle the matter through the spiritual law rather and through the law of man (Matthew 18).

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Your confusion arises from an incomplete and inaccurate reading of the Bible. In Paul’s time believers were in fact urged (not ordered!) not to take one another to court, but to settle matters by seeking the wisdom of Jesus through prayer (First Corinthians 6:1-11). However Paul knew perfectly well that the majority of persons in the world would never always be Christian. And so it is. This means that there are bound to be disagreements between believers and non-believers over all kind of matters. The examples you suggest (a Christian employee not being paid what he is owed for instance) may well require the intervention of lawyers and judges and even a day in court. Jesus Himself knew that we tend to be so sinful that we would always need His own verbal admonition to settle matters together if we could. He also knew that sometimes this would simply be impossible and therefore certain ones should be taken to a judge (Matthew 5:23-26). Paul knew that one of the main things that every society needs in order to endure is the rule of law! (Romans 13:1-7). And sometimes the only way for a society to maintain this is for a Christian to sue someone who is not abiding and will not abide by the law. In doing this we make public examples of genuine law breakers, and there is nothing wrong with that!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The principles given in Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 clearly give us the right to use the legal system to solve differences. The question comes when the other party is a Christian. Than we are instructed not to sue unless certain steps are taken. If there is a sin or legal question which arises between two Christians the matter should first be handled between the two believers themselves. If the issue cannot be resolved than two or three witnesses are to go to the two parties and hear out the grievance and resolve it. If one party refuses to repent and to follow the direction of the church than the matter should be taken to the whole church which would handle the matter. If there is still no resolution than the one who is unrepentant can be cast out of the church and can be declared an unbeliever. Before you say the church does not have that authority read Scripture. In I Corinthians the church should have acted and did not and Paul is critical of the church because the sin causes the church to have a bad reputation in the community. God does allow us to use the legal system we live in, we see that in Romans 13, however it should be resolved in the church first. The failing is in the church not taking its responsibility to handle sin within the body of Christ. It is non-Christian not to pay your bills, to fulfill your obligations, and other things which cause splits in the body or give the church and other Christians a blot on our testimony. The problem goes back to a bad interpretation of …”don’t” judge…” Scripture says to judge righteous judgment not just to allow people to continue to use other people.

Pastor Jack Berg
Sun Valley Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

September 25, 2014

Question:

What is your opinion on the book, “Killing Jesus”? Much of the information is not found in the Bible. The authors state that they researched many other works to fill in the blanks. Are there books you could recommend that we could find this info ourselves? Just curious as to if we are to believe that all the authors reported is true. For example: I was taught Jesus died at age 32 – the book states 36. The book also went into detail about a particular king being homosexual – I don’t recall every reading that in the Bible – or being taught that over the years. Are these facts true?

Answers:

When it comes to my opinion to writer’s that expound on what the Bible entails, I really don’t give much credence to it. Every writer, even myself, has the right to write on any subject they deem necessary, but when it comes to writing on subject matter within the Bible, a lot depends on the topic and content on the material. Individuals that write in an attempt to provide more insight to what we as Christians accept by Faith, indicates to me two things; 1) They are questioning their own faith and 2) They are attempting to add to the knowledge of a topic that requires faith to accept rather than evidence. Take for instance the age of Jesus when He died, does the age really matter in the process of being saved? Not really. What matters is the faith to believe that he died, was buried and rose again all for redemption of mankind. Be careful of reading material adjacent to the Bible, remember, Christians were warned that in the last days people will turn away from the truth and turn to fables. Read the Bible, let the Holy Spirit guide you in the truth of that word. Other written books (as much as they may assist) cannot defend or prove any truth that the Bible does not. Kind of harsh I know, but the attempt is to keep you in the Word of God and not the knowledge of man.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

I have not read the book in question here, so I can’t make a specific judgment on what is in it. What I
do know is this, we are living in the last days and as noted in 2 Timothy 4:3-4,where there are many
who disregard the sound doctrine of the Word of God and are following fables or untruths. When it comes
to Jesus and His life, there is only one source of information that God has given us and that is the Bible.
There was much heresy in Jesus day and many writers were caught up in it. The Bible and only the Bible
is the only inspired word that God has given us. Anything else can be used to gather understanding of the
day and culture, but when it comes to the life of Jesus, we have to rely on the scriptures. Most books that
are not commentary on the Word of God, will contain man’s opinion and man of himself is full of error. Most
movies that are made on Biblical themes do not follow scripture and therefore contain error. In both books
and movies, men are trying to sell their works to make money. We cannot rely on anything outside of the
Bible to give us accurate insights on our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope this helps a little.

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Bill O’Reilly is very liberal in his theology. He is a Catholic and has accepted the liberal bias that is part of the Catholic Church. He does not accept the authority of Scripture and one book is as good as another when it comes to getting information from about our Lord. Some of the information is taken from Gnostic gospels which I have heard him use in an authoritative way in the past. I would be careful on anything that he writes on Christianity. In passing I would have to believe that Jesus died at 33, since He started his ministry at 30 and died 33 1/2 years later. However the most significant fact about Christ is who He is and what He accomplished for us. It is clear that Christ is the only way to heaven and O’Reilly takes issue with that Scriptural fact which keeps O’Reilly from being a good reference.

Pastor Jack Berg
Sun Valley Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

September 11, 2014

Question:

Please help me clarify this for my husband. We are discussing the meaning behind Mark 12:13-17, mainly when God says to give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods. Since the coins had Caesars likeness on them – we take it to mean that the people are to give to Caesar. So then, what was to be given to God? How does this pertain to us in present day? My husband says we are to give our money to taxes – and our time and talent to God, so no need to actually tithe with money. Is that what this Scripture is explaining?

Answers:

Jesus acknowledges Rome’s government, so Christians should honor civic authority (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 Peter 2:13-17). How does this pertain to present day? Submit to government by paying taxes and obeying laws as long as they do not deny one’s greater commitment to God. What do we give to God? Everything is from God to be used for His glory in love. This is the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). This includes giving financially to the Church which fulfills the Second Greatest and New Commandments (Matthew 22:39; John 13:34-35). Financial giving provides for pastors, fellowship, and brethren in need (1 Corinthians 9:13-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Acts 2:43-47, 4:32-37). Israelites gave more than 10% annually (Numbers 18:21-24 – Levitical Tithe; Deuteronomy 14:22-27 – Festival Tithe; Deuteronomy 14:28-29 – Poor Tithe). It is not about the amount you give but about what you keep for yourself and why (Mark 12:41-44; Matthew 6:19-34; Acts 5:1-11).

Pastor Marc Wilson
St. Patrick’s Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The practice of tithing was determined before the law (Jacob – Gen. 8:22). The text indicates that a tenth of ALL that God would give Jacob, he would return back to God. This text is a core text when speaking of tithing. The text in question, if left alone could very well indicate that money would go back to the government. However, a closer look at the text, Jesus states that we are to “render” unto Caesar the things that are Caesars meaning that we are return the amount that the government is requesting. For example, would you return your all paycheck to the employer, government, etc. of course not, but you have no issue (I hope) allowing the amount due to the proper entities being drawn from your check. Also, if we are going to use time and talent as a payment, then we fall guilty of paying more than a tenth of what is due. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus commends the religious people for paying tithe (money). In short (too late), tithing is God’s method of financially supporting the Kingdom work and the local Church needs. Without the tithe, the Church could do very little to advance the Kingdom work. Don’t forget, God created all things for His good purpose.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

In interpreting Mark 12:13-17 one should of course take into account the full and wide range of Jesus’ teachings on money and stewardship in general. It is frankly impossible that Jesus meant ONLY to give money to the ruler of that day, and our time and talents to God through the church. In this chapter-setting of Mark’s Gospel the Pharisees came to trick Jesus with what they thought was a tough question. They thought they could expose him publicly, with many witnesses, as one who was against Caesar and Roman control of Israel-Judah. Jesus turned their question back on them with his typical, marvelous sense of humor! In doing so he answered with a sneaky ambivalence which (as the Bible says) left them all amazed. But that larger context of Mark — and indeed of all the Gospels — reveals that the Son of God owns ALL of our lives. Becoming a follower of His means we learn that He owns us and anything we might do, manage, or earn. So therefore, the tithe of one’s income, as the MINIMUM standard of giving is still in effect and heartily endorsed by our Living Lord. (Please tell your husband at once!)

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

We are to give according to our income as people who are made in the image of the Giving God. Your husband is revealing his lack of gratefulness for the Body of Christ that is created in His image and likeness.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

It sounds like your husband is looking for a clever loophole to justify not supporting the local church finically. Sorry, no loophole here. While I agree with his premise that tithes includes our time and talents, he errors that the verses preclude the bringing of the “fruits of our labors” to the Lord. Jesus’ response was to foil their attempt to trap him in to saying not to pay taxes and get him in trouble with the Roman authorities, or to say pay the taxes and create dissension among his new following. The coins which Jesus asked for had the image of Caesar on them and were in fact not accepted to pay the temple tax. So Jesus’ response could refer to the only acceptable coins to pay the ½ shekel of silver temple tax which were the Tyrain shekels. (This created the demand that the temple money changers derived their living and Jesus’ wrath). I believe that “give back to God what is God’s” go further than the type of coinage and refers to all that we have. So the standard Jesus sets in scripture clear. We are to honor God joyfully with our time and talents and the fruit of our labor.

Pastor Bill Belgie
Open Gate Community Church
(El Paso, TX)

When referring to this passage, the key is, what are the things of God that we should render to Him? The answer is everything we have belongs to God, including all of our money. He gives us the ability to gain wealth, so we should give back to the kingdom. Malachi 3:8 asks, “would a man rob God? In what way have we robbed You? In tithes and offerings.” In 1 Corinthians 16:1 is says “on the first day of the week we are to lay something aside as we prosper.” So tithing is is taught in both the Old and New Testament. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 it says, if we sow sparingly then we will reap sparingly. If we are a blessing to God He will bless us. If we hold back what is rightfully His financially, then He will not bless us financially. The government demands their share for taxes but God allows you to have an opportunity to give unto Him. When we do this, God opens the windows of heaven and pours out a blessing on us that is more than we can imagine.

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

August 28, 2014

Question:

What would be the Lord’s will in this situation: A young married couple, with two children – learn that they are actually brother and sister. They had no idea -as the oldest was put up for adoption at birth and was raised in another town. Since this is incest – should they divorce? If they stay together is this sin? Or if they divorce – would that then be considered a sin because God hates divorce?

Answers:

This question sounds like this more familiar absurd question: “Can God — who can do anything — make a rock too big for Himself to lift?” It is a seemingly impossible situation for the modern world, since births are carefully documented either at the time of birth or whenever the mother/dad applies for credentials for the child or obtains medical assistance (immunization records, etc.). This is so even in the case of young mothers who offer their children for another family to adopt. (No agency allows the identity of siblings to become separate and isolated from one another; nor are their origins kept hidden from the adoptive parents.) However, marriage is marriage!! Should your scenario occur, of course this couple should not divorce! They are married before God (even if the ceremony was a secular one); and likely they chose each other because of a mutual attraction and strong feelings of commitment and support. Though their sexual unions may have resulted in offspring that are genetically defective or prone to disease, the same God who helped them discover each other, can and will find a way for them to raise their children to sound spiritual health, if not physical.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

This is a difficult situation because the Word of God would say that both options, staying together or divorcing creates problems. So in this case, since this is not addressed directly in His Word, we should take the path that creates less distress. God discouraged close relatives marrying because of birth problems with the children. We do see in Genesis 20:12 that Abraham had married his half-sister Sarah and God blessed them.

I cannot speak for God here, but I give an opinion that since the marriage was innocent and there are children, I believe the couple should stay together. Divorce would wreck the home and devastate the children. If the couple had known ahead of time that they were siblings, then they should not have been married. God is a God of grace and understands when people without knowledge get into situations that He would not approve of. We should pray for this household and hope that this does not create havoc in their home.

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

God, who knows the true intentions of our hearts, judges us accordingly. There was no deliberate rebellious intention to enter into a relationship contrary to God’s revealed will in the Bible. While we will continue to struggle with sin and its messy consequences in our relationships ‎until Jesus comes again, God is concerned with our desire to be obedient to His Word revealed in the Bible. This is a willingness to live, not perfectly and not sinless ‎(only Jesus did that for us) in submission to God’s authoritative Word. This desire to want to honor God and one another within marriage and the family only comes with the recreating life of the Holy Spirit granted through the Cross of Jesus Who paid the price for our sin and all its messy and hurtful consequences. ‎While details regarding this situation would need to be prayerfully worked through in love and submission to God’s Word, what is liberating is one’s heart’s desire to submit to God’s will and to seek out that which honors Him. Such a heart-desire comes through the Cross of Christ which makes them accepted before God as righteous with a willingness to devote the blessings of their lives (their marriage and their children) to God the Father with thankfulness in the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Marc Wilson
Saint Patrick’s Church
Las Cruces, NM

Great question. The answer is not simple. For an appropriate answer, more questions need to be asked and addressed before a Godly answer can be given. For instance, how did they find out they were brother and sister? How old is this couple and their children? I would say that getting a divorce would not change the fact they are siblings with children, or the fact that they were unaware of the fact they were siblings. How is the couple feeling about their situation? What impact is this situation having on the couple? As far as the incest goes, if the Bible is going to be the source (which it needs to be), then we are all guilty of incest. Christians refer to Abraham as our Father even back to Adam and Eve. During the beginning of creation, it was not uncommon for siblings to marry and have children. Over time of course (tower of Babel) humanity separated and became unknown to each other. The question would be, does that time in the Bible change the origin of where we came from? Answer―No. I would encourage this young couple to seek a good Bible believing and teaching church and stay focused on God’s desire and not the law of what if.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

August 14, 2014

Question:

As Christ followers, what should be our stance on social media? I’m new to Facebook, and my husband said I should not accept “friend” requests from non-Christian family, friends, or co-workers because of things they may post that does not match with our beliefs. Yet I feel perhaps something I or other Christians post could possibly be what turns them around. How is the best way to handle this in your view point?

Answers:

Electronic communication is a tool. Just like a hammer. It is how you use the tool that determines whether it is good or evil. The number one search subject on the internet is porn, if this were the only measure, than no disciple would use the internet.

There are dangers connected with social media. First, is the addictive nature that causes people to lose themselves in the screen, cutting off family and friends for the trivia they find on the internet? Another danger is the anti-Christian influence from people and organizations. This reveals the always present challenge to disciples to “be in the world, but not of the world,” which applies not only to social media, but every area of life.

The Apostle Paul wrote: 2 Cor 6:14 “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” and 1 Cor 15:33 “Bad company corrupts good character.” NIV. Still the driving force of Christianity is evangelism: “go into all the world.”

The choice is yours. Use every opportunity to have a positive influence on others for Jesus because as Jesus said, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” Jo 17:18

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

Social media without a doubt has become a two-edged sword in the lives of many people. However, on the same token, ministries have found social media as a means to reach out to those that the church may never have the opportunity to reach personally. As for the use of social media as a personal medium, well just remember that we (Christians) are commissioned to “Go into all the world” and share the Good News to all people. Also, bear in mind that if Christians close communicate to just fellow Christians then we are not fulfilling the charge God has given to us. I personally would endorse the use of social media as a tool to reach out to the lost and in need. There will be individuals that get caught in the web of worldly conduct within social media we proclaiming to be Christians, but remember, Philippians 1:8 states that whether they preach for selfish gain or means, Christ is being preach and in that I will glory. One last thought. Getting caught up in the hype of the social media environment can only be control by the person engaging within that medium. So remember, each one of God’s children must give an account of them self before God. Go shall the love of God and let God do the rest.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Facebook and other aspects of social media are with us! Like all new discoveries these are morally neutral. That means as Christians we can use them for Christian influence. Facebook is nothing more than a new form of communication which makes use of digital and wireless computer technology. It has the potential for reaching many unchurched, lost persons for Jesus Christ if used in the right way. As to your “friend list” and who should be included on it, I say this: you should never add as friends people you do not know!! That can be dangerous. So-called “Facebook friends” are often nothing more than a status symbol; they do not count as real friends, because they mostly will never do for you what real friends (by definition) actually do. But many of us have non-Christian friends or acquaintances, and these are people we hope to reach with the saving message of Jesus. So while you’re at it, yes, I believe you could add them as Facebook friends. I am assuming of course that you actually see them or talk to them on a weekly basis in real life.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Concerning social media, Jesus did not have newspapers or Facebook but He did leave us some examples by the way He did ministry. Jesus always went to those who were shunned by society in His day. He ate with sinners and healed those that the Jews thought were beneath ministry. Jesus was there for those who needed a physician. I believe the application is that we need to be light to those who are in darkness. Yes, there are some who will do nothing but tear down the kingdom. But there are also those who are open for an opportunity to hear about our Lord. I am just giving an opinion but you could
keep in contact with those who are open to spiritual things and remove those who tear down our Lord. We never want to open ourselves up to anything satanic, but we should always we willing to share the hope that is in us, who is Jesus Christ our Lord.

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

July 24, 2014

Question:

In a devotional book I recently read it stated that since God has known everything from the beginning of time, our prayers aren’t really necessary, because he knows what will happen, and the outcome to everything already. If this is true is there then any reason to pray? And is praying really for our benefit rather than God’s then? This book states the only reason to pray is to praise and worship the Lord, there is no reason to petition him for our well being, etc. True or False? Please explain.

Answers:

That is false. Prayer is an invitation to enter communication with our Lord. Jesus taught us to pray in petitions and so did all the apostles. Praise is one aspect of prayer but it is not the only aspect. Petitions and supplications are vital parts of a Believers walk in faith.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

I would very much like to know the title and the author of the book that you read! God does in fact know everything in advance, and He has in fact ordered the great events of His plan. It is a fact that there is nothing any human being can do or pray which will change the main sweep of that divine plan (such as the creation of the world, the creation of man in His image, the plan for saving the world, and His plan for creating a new heaven and a new earth). But remarkably this same powerful God does in fact seek our prayers! He has shown in scripture that He wants His human creation to converse with Him in order to devise and arrange many of the small details of life and history. What a great privilege the Father has given His people! So His Word offers us stories like Joshua ordering the sun to stand still in order to complete the defeat of Israel’s enemies (Joshua 10) and so forth. So, yes, by prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord we are used of God to influence history itself, and we must use this gift relentlessly!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

While it is true God is omniscient (all-knowing), it is also true that the Bible commands us to pray. The apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6 writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (NASB). Note he specifically states, “… let your requests be made known to God.” Why make requests if God has already decided everything and is not moved by our prayers? Throughout the entire Bible prayers are recorded for us. I believe we are to study them to learn not only the great truths they teach, but to learn how to better pray ourselves. In the model prayer Jesus gave (Matthew 6:9-13) He taught we are to ask God for our daily needs (“daily bread”), protection (“keep us from evil”) and even for forgiveness and the ability to forgive others (“forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors”). While many prayers include towering praise to God, many also include very practical petitions for both self and others. Pray, and open your heart to God. Remember the promise we find in 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (NASB). We must seek to know and understand God’s will, but we can pray with confidence that if we are in keeping with that will, God not only will hear us, but He will respond and grant our requests.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

I find it totally amazing that today’s Christians are still questioning the concept and power of Prayer. Jesus Himself called His own house a house of Prayer. How much harder can we make it? We are not God, yes God knows everything and we don’t, that’s one reason why we pray, because God knows and we don’t. I cannot stress enough the importance of prayer. Communicating with God through our actions is not enough without prayer. Look at this way: My dad knew how I would respond to certain situations in life but did not interfere with my response until I ask. Did my response disappoint my dad, sometimes it did, and sometimes it didn’t. Even though my dad knew the outcome he did not engage until I ask. When we pray to God (our heavenly Father) the Bible says He hears and answers (responds). In fact, God invites us to come before His throne with boldness making our request known. If God knows everything, then the questions should be; why would I not pray to Him? And if not Him, then who?

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Your question hinges on the issue of Freewill or Predestination. The author accepts total predestination, which I do not. God has predetermined that those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God and obey His commands will be saved. God has NOT predetermined who will believe and who will obey. Even the devil believes, James 2:19, but he refuses to obey.

The Great commission of Mt 28:18-19 and Mk 16:15-16 commands disciples of Jesus to be engaged in spreading the Gospel. Why would God command evangelism if God has already predetermined who is going to be saved? The very essence of the Gospel is believe, repent and obey, all of which are responses that require freewill.

There are multiple commands and examples that Christians are to pray for strength, steadfastness, wisdom and other subjects besides praise and worship. Eph 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” NIV

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

Many people do not understand how God works in our lives. God does know what tomorrow will bring, but He allows us to make decisions that affect our lives. Since we do have a bearing on the lives of those around us, we should always seek leadership from God to be able to lead people to have a better understanding of who God is. Men seek God when they are moved by His Spirit. God sends His Spirit to speak to men, as we pray and ask Him to do this. God loves humanity, but He has called men to share the gospel and to be His hands and His feet.
We know this because of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. So we pray to move God to speak to the hearts of men. But we also pray because Jesus told us to pray. All through the Bible, God’s Word tells us to pray. This is reason enough that we should pray.

Yes, God knows what men will do, but much of what men do is influenced by the prayers of
people who love God. If prayer could not impact humanity, then God would have not told us to pray
and would not have given us His model prayer in Matthew chapter six.
God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

July 10, 2014

No questions came in in time to get responses prior to deadline. However, I have once again been hearing much talk and concern regarding Angels – so I thought it would be a good time to rerun these responses to the question that originally ran in the August 8, 2013 issue.

Question:

Are the angels in heaven people that have died and turned into angels or were they created to be and always been angels?

Answers:

The Bible uses common words to communicate to mankind. We have a tendency to create special meanings and even exclusively “heavenly” meanings. Angel means “one sent” or “messenger.” The angels of God are heavenly beings and their existence supersedes mankind. Since they are to be with God in heaven, it was an easy transfer in poems and literature to see mankind as like beings, or angels, when we get to heaven.

Christians will be given “heavenly” bodies in eternity, but will not be angels. 1 Cor 15:52 “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” NIV

Scripture says Christians will be judges over angels. “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” 1 Cor 6:3. We don’t understand all there is to know about angels. We become intrigued because it is a mystery.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

Awesome question. Simply put, angels were created. We find in the Bible that Satan was a created Angel and duties assigned to him. Angels appear in the Bible as messengers of God (ex. Gabriel, Michael, and the Angel of Revelation) all created. Individuals that pass on from this earth are appointed to their proper place until the Day of Judgment (Luke 16:24.25; Romans 14:12). Also, we find in the book of Revelation 6:9-11) John, sees those that were tormented beneath the throne of God. As far as the saints becoming angels, the Bible declares that we will not be angels, but we (the Saints), will become like God (characteristically, but not God) 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1John3:2.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

There is no evidence in the Bible that angels are humans who have died and then gone into the service of God in a second life. Rather, angels are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him. We find angels intervening in human events to notify certain persons whom God has selected and to influence them (see the story of Manoah, the father of Samson, in Judges 13). In the New Testament angels announce God’s soon-to-be realized plans. They direct His chosen human agents to participate in those plans. See the story of Joseph, in Matthew 1 or Zechariah in Luke 1. The intervention of angels helps God’s chosen humans to make the right decisions — decisions that please God and are in accord with His plans to bless many. Indeed the writer of Hebrews claims, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (1:14).

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Angels are created as ministering spirits sent to minister to those receiving salvation – Hebrews 1:14. Hollywood came up with the idea that dead people would be sent back to influence those who are living. And to possibly earn their wings.

Cute – but not true as far as the Scriptures are concerned.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Angels are created spiritual beings who have been in existence before the creation of man. They were created to serve the Father but also humanity. They were created as spirits (Colossians 1:16, Psalm 104:4) and not flesh,
so they dwell in the dimension of the spiritual realm and not the physical realm. We know that they are not physical, because if they were, we could see them. We know they were created before man, because Satan who was an angel tempted Adam and Eve. He and a third of the created angels were cast down from heaven because of their sin, prior to the creation of man. Since angels are not human, they can never experience salvation.

Humans will never be angels but we will live in the presence of angels for eternity. When we die, our physical bodies will be laid down, and we will exist in the spiritual realm, being able to see these angels who are all around us.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

June 26, 2014

Question:

Can people have demons in them today such as was in Bible times? And can people in cults or others put curses on people, on Christians? If the answer to either of these is YES – why does or would God allow this, and how can we make either go away?

Answers:

There were demons in the days of Jesus and the Bible gives us no indication or reason to believe that they have disappeared, or simply go by other names today. Demon possession is still a reality. Believers in Jesus Christ cannot be possessed, but some persons who fall deeply into sin or who reach out to the wrong sources for spiritual help (such as séances or mediums) can become possessed by evil spirits. As Jesus taught “prayer and fasting are necessary to drive (many of) these out” (Mark 9:28-29). As for God allowing this, God has given us all the gift of free will. If a person uses his gift of free will to choose to go in a terribly wrong direction, God will allow him to do this. The idea of putting curses on others is however another matter. No one is able effectively to put a curse on a Christian! They are shielded from such things by God’s protective grace.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

This issue concerning the possession by demons is one most people do not understand. When a person accepts Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the believer. The new believer becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and we are sealed until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13). A house divided against itself cannot stand, so the Spirit of God and the spirit of evil cannot dwell in the same house. Therefore believers cannot be possessed by demons.

However, they can be oppressed and plagued by demons. When we become a child of God, then we become a target of Satan, who will do everything to keep us from sharing the love of Christ. So the attack from evil starts and will continue until we go to heaven.

The unsaved however, have no immunity from Satan and can be possessed. But when the lost are saved, the Holy Spirit drives out the demonic spirit and takes up residence. God does protect His children but those who reject Jesus, are subject to Satan who is the god of the unsaved.

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Your question/s are not easy to address in this venue. However, in attempt to address your concerns, there are two teachings that should be understood in the life of the believer: 1) Christians cannot be demon possessed but can be demon oppressed (dominated). 2) People (non-believers) can be demon possessed just as it is mentioned in the Bible. The thought of making either go away, well, that’s not going to happen until Jesus comes back to receive His children unto Himself. It is easy to look at the cults as bad, but God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit use the demonic ways to demonstrate the Power of God. The Bible gives massive examples of how God showed His power, mercy, grace, deliverance, and salvation through what we as Christians perceive as evil. I encourage the writer of these questions and anyone else concerned with this subject to find a Bible teaching church and get involved to study to know how to stand in tough times.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

June 12, 2014

No questions came in for this issue, but I’ve heard much conversation lately on this topic so felt it would be a good time to rerun this that originally ran in the July 11, 2013 issue.

Question:

I’m conflicted about contradictory statements about fearing God. For years I constantly heard that we are to fear the Lord. But recently have been hearing that we are NOT to fear God, that there is no reason to. And that by people saying we should fear him that we are negating his goodness and mercy making people think he is a mean and fearful God reigning over us. What’s the deal? Can anyone give biblical references how to know the truth – do we fear him or not?

Answers:

Should we fear or not fear God? First, Proverbs 9:10 states that “The fear of Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” Then, Deuteronomy 4:10, God instructs Moses “…that they may learn to fear me…” Two types of fear illustrated here. The first is a fear of failure; look at it like a person training, working hard to achieve a reward. This person learns what not to do in order to win the race. In other words, they fear failure. The second fear is fear of uncertainty. Romans 3:11-18, vs.18 “This is no fear of God before their eyes.” Individuals that have no knowledge or understanding of God tend to do those things that are pleasing unto themselves without regard of any repercussion or respect for people. Matthew 10:28, Jesus gives perfect insight to fear “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able t destroy both soul and body in hell. I often tell individuals fear God for He will do, not for what He can do.

Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Translating is always difficult because of the shades and variety of meaning of words in each language. The Hebrew and Greek words of the original text mean both fear and reverence or respect. A good illustration to use is electricity. We fear electricity, but not to the extent that we think it is going to jump out of the wire and strike us as we drive down the street. The fear is not irrational, it is a healthy respect.

God is all powerful and he controls himself. His love offers power for our salvation. It is only when mankind abuses the power of God that it will be unleashed against man in the final judgment. Respect God and hold him in awe for all that He is to us: creator, savior, judge. God loves His children and only wants what is best for them. Respect what he has done for mankind.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

The fear of the Lord goes way beyond an emotion of fright or of being scared to death by His awesome power. It is having a proper respect for God and a reverence for His holiness.

A proper relationship with God requires that we treat Him as more than a good buddy, but as an authority to be submitted to with love and respect.

Learning to fear the Lord involves several aspects:

1) Know that He is God – not us. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. He is the Master.
2) Recognize the superiority of His wisdom and His ways as opposed to our limited understanding.
3) Remember that He is the judge of our thoughts, words, actions and deeds.

Solomon said: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 says, “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

You are right about the ambivalence many people feel with regard to this subject. Often in the Old Testament, God urges His people not to fear (numerous times in Isaiah for instance); usually such admonitions come through the prophets, and are intended to encourage God’s people during otherwise discouraging times. But those verses do not have to do with the fear of God Himself. That is always necessary to true and healthy growth as a Christian person. It is true God does not want us to cringe in fear of Him! If we let that kind of fear control us we would never get around to learning how to love Him for His mercy and grace (as you say). Biblical ‘fear’ means a healthy respect for God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the open acknowledgement to God that He is always greater than us and is our final Judge. Paul urged this for His Christian friends who sought growth in holiness: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Most people who talk about fearing God do not understand what the Bible teaches. God is our Father and we should see Him from that perspective. We both feared and respected our earthly fathers as they loved us but also
disciplined us. We are to do the same thing with our heavenly Father. Since God determines whether we live in heaven or hell, we should have a reverent fear of Him. But we should also love and respect Him, knowing at
Salvation we establish a personal relationship with Him. The Bible says we should fear him and keep his commandments (Psalm 111:10). Matthew 10:28 says we should fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. In 1 John 4:18 is says perfect love casts out fear.

A better understanding is that we should respect God, even as we love Him. He loves us and disciplines us as we stray from HIs commandments. But He only disciplines us because He loves us.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

May 23, 2014

Question:

Do children who accept the Lord young, say 4, 5 or 6 years old fully understand what they are doing? Are they truly saved? I’m concerned for a family member who went forward at 5. By age 10 the parents divorced and he was no longer taken to church, He is now in his late 30s and ill. Will he go to heaven, even though he was so young when he went forward to be saved and has not furthered a relationship with the Lord in all these years?

Answers:

It would really be easy for me to pass the eternal state of humanity if I were to do so, which is the case with most of humanity (thank God it’s not). Your concern for your loved one is not uncommon and should be revisited even without illness. God’s grace is immeasurable and cannot be fully understood in this world. Never forget that we do not choose God but God chooses us (II Thessalonians 2:13), when we accepted His innovation of Salvation, it is by His hand that it is secured, not ours. Often times, in illness, we often reflect on the life that one has lived and begin to wonder if God is as faithful as we claim Him to be. Consider thinking this; maybe God is just being God and allowing us to see if we are as faithful to Him as He is to us. Last thought: Jesus said that unless to come to Me as a child you cannot enter the kingdom. I know this is referring to child-like faith and the measure of our faith is given at the time of salvation and can only be exercised as God allows. Let God be God and you be the child He requires of you. Not always easy, but doable.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Every individual is different. I have known small children who became Christians at the age you mentioned, and I have no doubt that their step of faith was genuine and sufficient in the eyes of God. With careful teaching and leading by their parents, their childlike faith grew into a strong and mighty thing. However you mention a child whose parents got divorced and all the regular faith practices fell by the wayside. I think many people make genuine commitments to Jesus Christ, and then they drift from those commitments for a variety of reasons — including the ones you mentioned. Will such persons be saved? I think only God knows how real their commitment was/is to Him. I think God knows how hard it is to make it through this life and how many temptations and distractions there are to walking the straight and narrow path. But this is why He sent His Son Jesus to be one of us and to save us! His is the perfect sacrifice for a very imperfect people.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Your friend definitely needs to revisit this issue and recommit his faith and trust in The Lord. Philippians 2:12 says we are to continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Many children who have been raised in Christian families make decisions when they are very young. They want to go to heaven and they know that Jesus is the only way. They do not understand some of the things concerning doctrine and even the commitment that it takes to continue to walk with Jesus. When they get older, many will make a commitment to Jesus in their teenage years saying they did not have a complete understanding of what they were doing when they were younger. The real proof of knowing Christ as Lord is whether these who have made commitments when young, have stayed faithful to the Lord. If they have no desire to be in church, to pray and read God’s word, then there is a problem with their salvation. In John 15:5 it says that those who abide in Jesus will bear fruit. If there is no evidence of fruit, there is a problem with the relationship with Jesus. For this one who is in harm’s way, someone should go to him and share again the gospel message of salvation. This message is centered in repentance, a change in life’s direction and in making
Jesus Christ Lord our Lord and Savior.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

May 15, 2014

Question:

As Christ followers, what should be our response to the movie – Heaven is for Real, or the many other books about people going to Heaven and returning? I’m told that the Bible states that no one will see Heaven and return to life on Earth – so we are to see these movies and books as blasphemous. Is it possible that these experiences are real, and that the Lord has allowed them to happen to speak to an unbelieving world, to draw people to the kingdom? Or should we just see it as all falsehood?

Answers:

Let me begin by saying I have not seen the movie nor read the book upon which it is based. It was written by a protestant minister detailing the recollections of his son who had a near death experience on the operating table as a preschooler. Such accounts must never be our basis of faith in heaven, as many are directly contradictory. In Luke 16 Jesus told a parable about a rich man who died and went to hell and a poor beggar, Lazarus, who died and went to heaven, referred to by Jesus as “Abraham’s bosom.” The rich man, after being denied relief from his torment begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers living on earth so they would repent and not end up where he was. Jesus concluded: “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:29-31). Human tendency is to place faith in popular belief more than Scripture. Having just emphasized the resurrection of Jesus from the dead at Easter, we need to place our trust in Him and what Scripture teaches, not the dreams or imaginations of individuals having experienced extreme physical duress such as being restored from the brink of death. Can there be positive ideas from such a film? Perhaps, but we need to point others to the only source of absolute truth concerning both this life and the next – the Word of God. There is only one sure way to heaven. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

In the Baptist Press online newsletter was this opinion article reflecting on the movie Heaven is for Real, visit this link for an in depth discussion) http://www.bpnews.net/firstperson/42465/firstperson-a-holy-god-in-heaven-is-for-real It is written by Todd Brady who is vice president for university ministries at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He goes into more discussion than what your column allows, but is well worth the read. He points out that in the movie there is no searching of Scripture for the truth about heaven among other important points.

Pastor Robert Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

A lot people are wondering about some of the movies being made with Biblical themes. Anytime a movie is made concerning the Bible, heaven, or hell, the movie has to be examined in the light of Scripture. If it agrees with the Bible, then it should be ok to watch. There have been many books written on “out of the body experiences.” Is there a precedent for this? We have men in the Bible who had visions; Paul, John, and Isaiah are examples of men who did. So yes, a person could get a vision of heaven. However, most of the books written and movies made are not Biblical and give man a false sense of security. Our theology and what we believe, can only be centered in God’s Word. If the movie exalts God and is viewed for entertainment only, it should be ok. But if you want to change your beliefs based on a movie, then don’t watch it. I have not watched this movie and cannot give an opinion on “Heaven is for Real”.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

This issue is one that I have come to accept as a personal acknowledgment to that person. It is very difficult to tell a person that claims to have experienced such an event in their lives that what they experienced did not happen. Biblical speaking, the Bible does indicate that no one has seen God at any time (John 1:18). With that said, the individual/s that have claimed to have had “near death experiences” have never claimed, to the best of my knowledge, to have seen God, just heaven and its surroundings (people, surrounding, etc.) but not God. The Bible, in II Corinthians 12:2 Paul states that he knew a man in Christ that was caught up to the third heaven and this person heard words that were unspeakable and is not lawful for a man to utter. Along with that verse, there are two scripture references that I would give heed too as far as accepting the testimony on this subject. 1. I Corinthians 2:9 and II Thessalonians 2:11, both of these scriptures address the present world in which we are living. Remember, walking with God requires a walk of Faith (Hebrews 10:38;11:1, II Corinthians 5:7). On a final note, I will take the Apostle Paul’s overall stand and say “What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). Be Blessed and Rejoice in the Lord.

Mark A. Rawlins, Director
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Since the book, “Life After Life” by Raymond Moody (1976) and the related work by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came out in print, people have become even more curious about what to expect immediately after we die. This curiosity has in turn created a book/movie market for other related experiences (“Ninety Minutes in Heaven,” by Don Piper, and the book that led to the movie you mentioned). I don’t think God is necessarily allowing those experience to find their way into print or the silver screen in order to convince or convert people. I think the very best you can do with such books or movies is to say, a.) “Gee, that’s interesting!” And b.) Find a way to be content with the teachings of God’s Word (see 1 John 3:2, for instance). And what does God’s Word say on this subject? We just had Easter day, so I know you have heard already lots of great teaching about the resurrection of the dead. God says to us this does not just apply to His Son, but to everyone who believes in His Son. I know it must be hard for some, but we must be content with what He has already said to us, and not allow all the speculation from such movies to distract and divert us.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

April 24, 2014

Question:

When it comes to Spiritual gifts are we all given all of them if we are truly saved? A man recently told my husband that since he could not speak in tongues or heal people that he wasn’t truly saved, because according to him if you really know Christ you have been given all the gifts. I know I don’t have them all either, and I don’t know anyone that can heal people except doctors! Is this man right? Should we all question whether we are truly saved because we can’t do these things? We both accepted the Lord more than 10 years ago.

Answers:

Any time we have questions about what is right and wrong concerning our faith, we always go to the Bible. In 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 there is a complete teaching on the gifts of the Spirit. We also see them in Romans chapter 12 and Ephesians chapter 4. Contrary to what you have been told God does not give everyone all the gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 it says that God gives different gifts to different people as He wills. These gifts are given to minister to and to encourage fellow believers. Not everyone is given the gift of tongues and this gift does not convey salvation. Salvation comes by the grace of God through faith as we repent, see Ephesians 2:8-9. You can rest assured that as you repent, put trust in the Lord and allow Him to change you, that you can be saved and know Him as Lord. But salvation is more than a prayer, it is a change in Lordship from self to Christ and it requires submission to Him for the rest of your life.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Your husband was given wrong information Biblically. The understanding of spiritual gifts is complex: there are motivational gifts as found in Romans 12, there are administrative gifts and then there are ministry gifts as found in 1 Corinthians 12. Only Christ was given the Spirit without measure. Believers receive various gifts when they are born of the Spirit but not all have the same gifts. I assume that the person who told your husband this has a bias toward seeking “evidence” of the Spirit in a person’s life based on Mark 16:16-18. To me, the best evidence of a Christian life is found in the “most excellent gift” – love, followed by a pure heart.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

The Bible does not say that believers receive ALL of the spiritual gifts! Nor does it say anywhere that the gifts are a sign that we are saved. In First Corinthians 12-14 it is very clear that everyone gets some gifts, and that there is a hierarchy of the gifts (i. e., some are more important and desired than others). Not everyone has the gift of healing or of tongues or of interpreting the tongues of others. And that’s all right! We may ask for gifts that we do not have (“seek the greater gifts”, 1 Corinthians 12:31), but it remains for the Spirit of God to distribute those gifts in the way that He chooses. We must learn to be content with what God is pleased to bestow. And having those gifts let us them in the Body of Christ to bring glory to God in the Church.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

No. While it is very possible for a child of God to have several gifts, the amount of gifts have no reflection on a person being saved. Unfortunately, there are religious organizations that put a heavy “millstone” on individuals when it comes to the gifts distribution. I Cor. 12:9 states “To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;” The word other in this passage is indicating to many not just one person or gift. The question centers more on the gift saving rather than the gift being a blessing after receiving salvation. A person that is “truly saved” is not concerned with how many gifts that have been given, but rather if they are using the one/s that they are sure they have received. Sadly, so many Christians are concerned about their gift rather than utilizing their gift. To the receiver to this question: be encouraged in this “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Philippians 1:6. Christians work because of the salvation not to get or earn salvation.

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

No place in scripture is salvation tied to the gifts of the Spirit. In every place that speaks of salvation and forgiveness it is always a matter of our faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross and in the resurrection. (Romans 4:25) Read 1 John 1:9, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8-9. Spiritual gifts are given to the church to empower the church to do the work of Christ. We should desire to be used of Christ in any way He desires. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of the Gifts as He sees fit. John 13:35 says that all men will know we are the Disciples of Christ if we LOVE the believers. Read I Corinthians chapters 12, 13, 14. Anyone who tells you that you must have all the Gifts to be saved has just demonstrated that they do NOT have them all, because the very first one is the Word of Wisdom.

Pastor Julius O. Martin
Church of God
(El Paso, TX)

The best discussion of spiritual gifts and the misunderstandings of the gifts can be found in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Paul makes it clear: NO ONE HAS ALL THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS. The simple reason revolves around the fact we are the body of Christ and each one of us has a part to play. Paul drives home this point when he wrote: “Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor. 12:30 NIV). In the Greek language these rhetorical questions have a clearly implied answer, and the answer is NO. The New American Standard Bible captures this Greek nuance by translating the verse this way: “All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?”

Simply put all God’s children are “gifted” but none of us have all the gifts.

Dr. David Lowrie
El Paso First Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

April 10, 2014

Question:

For Lent rather than give up something, I opt to work on something in myself I feel is lacking. It is my prayer that by doing so for 40 days, it will then become second nature to me to have made this change in myself for the better. Although I am working on getting closer to Christ during this time, rather than things getting better, my family and I are being bombarded with nothing but bad things happening. Is there a reason for this? Is it spiritual warfare or just coincidence? Is there a biblical explanation, or way I can know for sure why this is happening?

Answers:

The battle that you are experiencing is normal for people who go to prayer. Yes, you are in spiritual warfare with the Prince of Darkness. In Ephesians chapter six it says “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age.” Until you go to prayer you are not threat to evil. You are powerless until you start relying on the power of God, which is manifest through prayer. In 2 Corinthians 10:4 is says the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down of strongholds.” So when you start coming against evil in prayer, you have a battle on your hands. But good news, you can be victorious over evil through fasting and prayer, see Isaiah chapter 58 and Matthew chapter four. God desires that you would seek Him in prayer. That is how you get to know His heart and how you start making positive strides in service to your Lord.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Yes to all the internal questions inside the question. Your situation is not unique. King David ask of the Lord to “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts…”(Ps.139:23), and in vs. 24 of the same chapter, King David ask the Lord to lead him in the “way everlasting”. While this should be (and most Christians should desire) the daily goal, often times Christian don’t realize the process that in involved in requesting of the Lord in order to get closer to Him. Ask yourself this question: Do I really want to deny myself (total release) and take up the cross and follow Him? Most Christians would say yes, but when God begins to clean the house (heart, spirit) of the person making their request, often it is believe as long as they release one or two areas of their life for a moment then God has met their obligation and life should be better. Don’t forget that the word “cross” means to die through sacrifice. Your struggles is common to a person that knows that the issues being brought forward are areas that need to be addressed and resolved before God can continue the “Good Work” that “HE began in you”. Let me encourage you to stay faithful and in the fight, God knows what HE’s doing and HE also know what you’re going to do. Stay strong in Power of the Lord and in HIS Strength and know that Victory is yours.

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

We don’t know what “bad things” may be happening to you now as you didn’t go into specifics. But I will guarantee you they have absolutely nothing to do with the way you have chosen to observe Lent! There is NOTHING superstitious about the Christian faith or Christian life, and you should banish from your mind any such thoughts or suspicions. As for the season of Lent (primarily observed by Roman Catholics and their derivative denominations) one usually practices some kind of self-denial during these forty days before Easter. It may be refraining from some favorite food or some fun activity. It may involve skipping a meal weekly as a part of fasting. The idea is to give one some concentrated practice in self-denial in accord with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 16:24. Then, when Lent is over, perhaps the believer can continue this discipline of self-denial. I too have heard of adding some devotional practice to one’s life instead of giving up something, and this makes sense. However whatever happens to you after that, good or bad, has nothing to do with your decision to observe Lent or not; nor does it have anything to do with the precise way in which you choose to observe Lent.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Every commitment we make is tested. James 1:2-4 is a good Scripture to base this on. Remember though that if God called you to it He’ll bring you through it.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

March 27, 2014

Question:

Is it wrong or sinful to not pray over a meal when eating in public? When I dine alone in public I do silently. But while with others I/we don’t. I suppose it’s because we all have in mind the scripture about not praying in public to call attention to yourself. There are those who feel we should do it in public and believe that by calling attention to ourselves praying it may make others realize they should do it to. I’d like to know from Pastors point of view which is right. Are we sinful by not praying in public; or sinful if we do?

Answers:

My opinion is that it’s a matter of your conscience. James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. If you feel the prompting to pray you should pray as a matter of conscience and not be concerned about what others may think. I believe it is a good witness.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

While the Bible states in 1 Cor. 10:31 “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” the following verses give insight to the conduct of such actions. Verse 32 instructs us to give no offence to the Jew, Gentiles, or even the Church, while verse 33 states that even if we please all men in all things, we are not to seek the profit of many, so that they may be saved. All that to say this; if you feel that your praying in public is pleasing to God, then pray. If you feel your prayer is offensive to the party you are with, and they know you are a Child of God, then prayer can be lifted prior to the dinner and a statement can be made in general that a prayer was lifted on their behalf for the evening meal and festivities. Always remember, you, and you alone must give account to GOD and GOD alone for your service to HIM and not the people. The people just need to see GOD in and from you in all you say and do. If in public, then so be it. If in private, GOD still knows the desire of your prayer and heart. Don’t get caught up on when and where we pray being a sin or wrong, just be faithful to pray as the Good LORD gives movement. You’ll know.

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

It is not wrong or sinful to pray or not pray over a meal in public. Your scenarios are correct, it is a good example to others, but we should not do it in a way that leaves the idea of self-righteousness. I have known those who assume a posture that draws attention to them and then pray with a voice that is heard throughout the restaurant. Personally, I find this obnoxious and it does not leave a favorable impression.
Gratitude to God for the blessings of life is always appropriate, but how we do this should be in a manner of humility and not arrogance.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

I think your sensitivity for such matters is commendable. We are to give thanks for everything in every situation, and we typically do this in prayer (1Thessalonians 5:18). If you know yourself well then you know whether you are praying to show off or not. If you are praying in public to call attention to yourself and your faith, well then of course you know this is wrong (see Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:5-7), and you should avoid doing this. On the other hand if your personal faith in Jesus Christ leads you to pray spontaneously wherever you are, then that is just fine! God will use your devotional life (public and private) as a witness, but He will do this in His way and in His time.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Many people wonder whether they should pray over their meals in public. I believe that we should. We should be thankful in all things and God’s provision should always be recognized. Not only should we be thankful but we should ask His blessing over what we are about to eat. When food is prepared outside of our home, we don’t know what may have taken place behind closed doors. Especially if someone in the kitchen is having a bad day and wants to take it out on a customer.

When Jesus fed the five thousand, it says in Matthew 14:19 that He blessed the loaves. At the last supper in Matthew 26:26, Jesus blessed and broke the bread. Whether you bless the food openly or in a private prayer is up to you. I believe God wants to bless us with strength and health, but to appropriate this, I believe we should ask God’s blessing on everything we put in our mouths.

God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

March 13, 2014

Question:

On Christian radio I heard David Jeremiah explaining we will all have occupations/jobs in heaven. I have never come across that description while reading the bible. I was taught that once in heaven we will pass our time by always singing, praising and worshiping the Lord, and fellowshipping with one another. Is it true we will still have to work once in heaven? Can you point me to the scriptures that explain or prove this? Or is this just his perspective?

Answer:

You got it. Perception is a two-edged sword. While we as leaders attempt to stay within the confines of the scriptures, we often use hyperboles to bring a point home. However, the other side of using such a method often adds to or takes away from the truth therefore leaving sheep wondering. In answer to your question, again, you are correct. Like you, I have no such reference to working in Heaven that is assigned to the Saints. Singing and Praising God is the key and I suppose I could look at working as a form of worship. The scripture I often refer to in such a quandary is: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

I listen to David J. too sometimes, but I think you are taking him too literally, and worrying needlessly. What I think he means is that we will have activities of some sort. In other words in the fullness of God’s Heaven we will likely have things to do other than just singing praise. After all the Father of Jesus Christ assigned us work to do in this life that is specific to our created nature. When each believer discovers God’s will for His life, then God assigns a special task or vocation commensurate with our personality, skills (acquired or inherited), education, and above all, in accordance with the spiritual gifts Jesus has given to us. As we use these gifts and do God’s will we become a redemptive influence in the world, and we bring glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It seems logical that we will continue in a similar way after the resurrection from the dead. At that time I suspect work will be even less of a burden and more of a joy, and we will do it with inner and outer peace and contentment. And no, there is no specific teaching of scripture that spells this out. We just know we are to be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30).

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Everything we will be given to do in heaven will be as a spiritual worship to the glory of God. I Corinthians 2:9 says that “eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” It’s almost certain that we will be given a special calling from God to fulfill. I hope we have a ministry to do for all eternity!

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Living in the eternal reign of Christ often makes us wonder what we will do. We have some insight into the one thousand year millennial reign which should help us. During this reign, it says in Revelation 20:6 that we “shall reign with Him (Jesus) a thousand years. In Isaiah 61:6 it says of the Jewish people, “you shall be named priests of the Lord, they shall call you the servants of our God.” In Revelation 19:14 there is a picture of the armies of heaven which are the saints, coming back with the Lord on white horses, when Jesus sets up His 1000 year reign. What do all of these pictures have in common? The saints in heaven are busy and active serving the Lord. We shall indeed worship the Lord, but we shall also reign with Him, which tells us we will rule with Christ over the earth for 1000 years.

We don’t have a lot of information concerning the eternal reign, but if we are busy in
the millennial reign, then we will probably be busy during the eternal reign. In either case
we will be blessed because we will be with Jesus.

God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

February 27, 2014

Question:

Recently on a Sunday morning televised church service, a Pastor was speaking about angels. Basically he stated we all have at least one angel assigned to us, and we can pray to it and have it do things for us! Is this Biblical? And if so, where would it state this in the Bible? I have always been taught that we pray only to the Lord; and also that the Lord is the only One who can instruct angels to do anything. If I am wrong, please instruct me where to find this proof. If I am correct, please clarify so if any other readers heard this telecast that they won’t be led astray.

Answers:

What you have always (previously) been taught is correct! Nowhere in the Bible does it have humans praying to angels. This sounds like a perversion of some side stream to older Catholic beliefs (where humans pray to dead saints for their help or intercession, which is itself not based in Scripture). Jesus did say that people who die become “like the angels” (which is why they are no longer married to other deceased humans, Matthew 23:30). Jesus also mentioned in an offhand way that (with regard to children) the angels of children always see the face of God the Father (Matthew 18:10). Evidently this means that young children at least are assigned an angel, but can we assume this applies to adult Christians? I don’t know, and the Bible is silent on this. What we do know is that the angels are sent by God to serve those (Christians) who are to inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). Our prayers are always directed to God the Father or Jesus the Son, just as Jesus Himself taught during His private ministry with His disciples (John 13-17). Your pastor is in error: we must never become preoccupied with angels.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The bible gives indication that God will give His angels charge over His children (Ps. 91:11; Matt. 4:6; 18:10). However, as to making our petitions to angels, the bible states very clearly that there is only One mediator between God and man and that is Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). However, it is important to understand that God uses angels to carry out certain tasks. Take for example, after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, angels came and ministered to Him, and after Jesus was finished praying in the garden, angels came and ministered to Him. God has used angels throughout the ages and will continue to do so as He sees fit. In summary, here is how I have come to understand it; make your prayer to God, Jesus mediates on our behalf, and by God’s choosing, sends angels to administer (answer) our prayers. If God does not send an angel, then it would seem that God Himself will address your prayer. Hope this helps.

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

This is a great and important question. In the years that I have been reading and studying the Bible. I do not see a biblical basis to establish a doctrine as such. A doctrine is a teaching. I believe in Angels and I have a Pentecostal and charismatic background. There are plenty of great verses in the Bible that give us a glimpse into the work of these powerful angels but the scripture verses regarding our own personal angel is limited; I believe to establish such as a doctrine is error. If we do or we don’t have an assigned angel to us, let God be the one to decide how angels are used. My advice to you, Christ is the head of the church. It will always be, For Christ, Through Christ and because of Christ. Nothing more nothing less.

Pastor Hector Saucedo
Iglesia Vision
(Forney, TX)

As we look to the Bible (Matthew 4:10) we are told that we are only to worship God the Father. We understand that the Trinity is part of God. In Colossians 2:18 it warns against the worship of angels. I do believe that we have guardian angels, but our Lord and our God is in charge of the angels. Therefore we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus. To pray to an angel is to put an angel in the place of God. Satan wants to be there but he was kicked out of heaven for trying to be God.

Jesus through His Spirit works in us and does what is best for us. We cannot manipulate angels to do what the Holy Spirit was sent to do for us. So pray to the Father in Jesus name and He will continue to take care of us.

God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

We know that Jesus said that the angels of little children always behold the face of the Father. Hebrews 1 says that the angels are ministering spirits sent to assist those who are being saved. Outside of this I don’t think we should dabble in angelology. It’s too close to the New Age Movement. Jesus is our only Mediator to the Father.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

February 13, 2014

Question:

On multiple occasions in the past few weeks I have heard comments made such as, “If a person is walking right with the Lord they will prosper.” and other similar comments about businesses – that if the owner is right with the Lord their business will flourish. I disagree. I know many wealthy people who couldn’t be further from the Lord; and I know many such as my husband and I that are walking with the Lord, yet we struggle financially. My husband is ready to shut down our business because he believes that since we are struggling that all Christians must believe we are doing something wrong, illegal or sinful. I explain we are prosperous in our relationships, family, health and love — and that counts; that being prosperous doesn’t have to mean you will be wealthy financially. Please help. I feel it is doing a disservice when Christians make comments such as this – of course it always comes from those Christians who ARE rich, but as a whole not all Christians are wealthy. As Christian Leaders – what is your point of view on this? For example, I know very few rich Pastors, so are we to believe they are not walking right with the Lord?

Answers:

I commend you on your insight to know that a healthy relationship, family, health and love, are a blessing from God. One of the biggest teaching/preaching errors over the past few decades (yes decades) is the teaching that if your life is not financially prosperous then a person is not exercising or living by faith. This teaching does not reflect the life of Jesus. Jesus instructs us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). While this verse is widely used, it is often mis-applied. Jesus stresses here that the heart of the Christian is set on His kingdom and righteousness and not on the kingdom and righteousness of this world. In fact, a true believer that has financial wealth has no concern of keeping the wealth but how to use that wealth to reach those in need of the gospel. Jesus also stated that “all that desire to follow Him will suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12). Christians’ have showcased throughout the entire Bible the fact that there is joy in suffering for the cause of Christ and not for the cares of this world. Let me encourage you and your husband to follow what we as Christians know about God and living in this world “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

I agree with you! It is true that some of the teachings of the Book of Proverbs (for instance) suggest that if one fears the Lord (or obeys the Lord) then one can experience His blessing. That blessing is to be expected in the form of increased possessions, or wealth. Proverbs was designed as a book of shorthand godly knowledge on how to succeed in life. There is danger in taking any of the individual sayings and pressing them too far — especially in light of the teachings of Jesus, and the New Testament in general. Jesus knew some men were wealthy and others were not. But He gave no simple formulas on how the poor were to become rich (financially). He simply took all kinds of people as He found them and revealed the Kingdom of God to them. Moreover, the writer of Hebrews spends part of his eleventh chapter talking about people who were exemplars of faithfulness to God — and yet they ended up poor, tortured, and even martyred. I myself have been a Christian for many years. I have tried to follow basic financial teachings of the Bible (tithing, avoiding cheating people, etc.), and yet I am not a wealthy man. Indeed there seems to be no correlation whatsoever between one’s Christian walk and one’s financial success. Nor should we look for such!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The prosperity gospel that many have preached is not of God. In 3 John 1:2 it says “beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” God is more concerned over our
Spiritual health than our financial status. God promises to meet our needs, see Philippians 4:19, but He never promised to make us rich in worldly possessions. Most people cannot handle financial wealth and keep their eyes on God. Many people are put to the test to see if they will trust the Lord in the midst of the struggle.

The hard times in life keep us close to God, while the ease of life only gives us a desire to trust ourselves. God deals with each of us in a way that keeps us close to Him. What may be a blessing to one, may be a stumbling block to another. Stay faithful to Jesus, and He will bless you.

God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

It is true that God has promised His blessing for those whose ways are pleasing to Him. This is His ‘Shalom’ – which is ‘well-being’. But Jesus said that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Peter and John said they had no silver and gold – but they had something far more enduring and strong – they had Jesus! Philippians 4:19 says God will supply all our need – this goes far beyond finances but includes the daily necessities not the abundance of wants. Truth must always be balanced with truth. No single text of Scripture is enough to build a doctrine around.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

First of all, I want to commend you and your family for the years of hard work to build our community. We live in difficult times, economically and spiritually. For many Christians it is difficult to discern when they are blessed. It must be remembered that even the chastisement of the Lord could be a blessing (Heb. 12). You have rightly stated that wealth is not always a good indicator of one’s status before the Lord. The Lord gives to the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45, ESV). The daily life of Jesus is sufficient for us to understand that neither poverty nor wealth provides a total key to God’s favor. Jesus said of himself, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20, ESV). Luke recorded that Jesus and his disciples depended on several women like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna to provide for them (Luke 8:1-3). No one would claim that Jesus was out of favor with God.

Outreach Minister Darrell Clark
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

January 23, 2014

Question:

My sister accepted the Lord as a teen but as an adult she married and converted to Hinduism at her husband’s request. I am very concerned about her place in eternity. On one hand I feel she’ll be OK because we were taught “Once saved, always saved.” On the other, we also were taught that “No one comes to the Father, except through Jesus Christ.” In speaking with others the past few months I’ve gotten very conflicting answers as to if my sister will go to heaven or not. I’m reminded repeatedly that Jesus is the only way to the Father, thus to heaven and that any who don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah and haven’t trusted in Him as their Savior – won’t have a place in heaven. Can you provide insight: since she did accept Jesus once is she still saved and go to heaven? Or, since she has now denounced Him, will she perish? Is there Scripture you would suggest I share with her that would be more clear on this matter?

Answers:

You will find passages in the scriptures (Old Testament and New) that support either position quite frankly (“once saved always saved” or the life-long freedom of believers) — and I have been studying this issue for decades! Make no mistake about it: Jesus in the New Testament Gospels and all those who wrote about Him or interpreted His life and teaching have an extremely high view about the necessity of dedication to Him. Belief in Jesus is obedience to Jesus. Commitment to Jesus is obedience to Jesus. Faith means obedience. So it is no wonder Jesus Himself took an extremely dim view of those who had in fact been His disciples, but then who deliberately turned away from Him whenever His person and teaching became offensive (as happened in John 6:60-69). You are right to be worried about your sister! All you can do now is pray for her and love her just as she is. God may use your prayers and your Christian love to turn her around, and finally save both her and her husband. But that will ultimately be their decision; and their final judgement is in fact in God’s hands and no one else’s, according to the Bible. In other words, your sister has made a very serious mistake!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

You are correct in stating that “No one can come to the Father…” However, the last part needs clarifying. The Scripture states that “No man can come unto the Me, except the Father (Spirit) which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Verse 65 of the same chapter reiterates “And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father (Spirit)”. These verses indicate that there needs to a move (wooing) from the Holy Spirit for upon the person before can receive the salvation. Also, Salvation belongs to God (Titus 2:11, Rev. 19:1). A person’s confession is between them and God, but is evident through their life (Matt. 15:8). We must also remember that Jesus said they if you confess me before me, I will confess you before my Father which is in Heaven (Matt.10:32). We need to understand that confession in more than just words spoken, it is a life style. Your sister, if she really has confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, God will deal with the life she has chosen. This assessing (judging) other individual’s salvation is one of the biggest mistakes we as Christians make. We can assess the life they life to see if it reflects the life of Jesus and if they are living contrary to the life they confessed, then pray the God will intervene, then be there when she returns. There are times that Christians take the prodigal son path, but when the error of their way is realized, the will return back to their first love (Jesus). Don’t give up on God, just believe that His Word is Truth and man’s word is just words.

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

This question is one we should all understand. When a person comes to Christ, they are a new creation, see 2 Corinthians 5:17. That means that Jesus is the Lord of our lives. Just because we prayed a prayer does
not mean we are saved. Philippians 1:6 says “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God also said I will have no other gods before Me. Matthew 10:33 says “Whoever
denies Me (Jesus) before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” It does not appear that your sister truly embraced the Lord. It does not appear that a true marriage between the bride and Groom ever took place. It this case the Groom, Jesus, has been forsaken. You should be in prayer for your sister and speak the Word of God to her.

God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

January 9, 2014

Question:

My family is dealing with an individual that hurt a member of our family very deeply. Am I correct that we can forgive this person although no longer having a relationship with them? I believe we have forgiven, but don’t believe that to forgive we must also continue some type of relationship. However, they are touting that we cannot really be Christians and truly forgive if we won’t remain in relationship with them. Please advise us, and relay any scripture that may help prove the point.

Answers:

We are not God and cannot know the hearts of men. Therefore, my forgiveness will not mean they are restored to the same trusting relationship as the one they destroyed. If an accountant for a company stole money because they were in that position, the owner might rehire the thief after they served their prison sentence. But, the owner would not be obligated to put the “former” thief in the same position of authority, just to prove his forgiveness.

Trust is more difficult to earn after betrayal. It the responsibility of the destroyer to restore the trust if possible, but realize it is not always possible or may take years. Families are often torn by the destructive behavior of some members. Battered wives have fallen into the trap of thinking that if they have forgiven their husband, they must stay with him. Forgiveness does not mean we must make ourselves vulnerable to the destructive behavior of others. I recently read, “The most expensive thing in the world is TRUST. It can take years to earn and just a matter of seconds to lose.”

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

Looking at this situation, what I don’t know is if the offending party is Christian. We as Christians are told to forgive, see Matthew 6:14-15, because our forgiveness is based on how we forgive others. If we refuse to forgive, then the forgiveness that we receive from the Lord, could be a problem. So we are commanded to forgive. We should forgive others but if a relationship is to occur, both parties have to be humbled and submitted to the Lord. It is hard to have a positive relationship between a believer and a non-believer. If one party has forgiven, while the other is full of pride and has a judgmental attitude then relationships will be impossible. We all know people that we don’t desire to spend a lot of time with. It is not a sin to love and forgive at a distance.

God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

I tend to agree with you. Once a person has established himself as being dangerous or troublesome, your gift of forgiveness is not going to make him any less dangerous. That is a matter for God (who will make use of law enforcement authorities, counselors, and other preferably Christian influences in his life). You are right that forgiveness is important for us to offer to those who sin against us, even if they do not come to us and request it (see Jesus’ stern teaching about this in Matthew 6:12-15, which includes the last part of the Lord’s Prayer). But you must then exercise Spirit-guided discernment as to whether you should continue having a friendly relationship with this person or not. The fact that they keep taunting you by saying you are not a Christian (if you don’t continue befriending them) is something you must learn to ignore. The fact that this person keeps saying this would surely suggest that this is not a person worthy of your friendship, or attention for that matter.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

You are dealing with a very sensitive matter. Yes, it is true that often times when people ask for forgiveness, the impression is that we (Christians) are to act as if nothing wrong has taken place. Let’s clarify two important differences in this situation; 1) A relationship is one that is by birth or inheritance (father, mother, brother, sister, brother, in-laws, wife, son, daughter, etc.). 2) Fellowship is the way in which we interact with those we engage with (parties, church, family members, trouble/hard times, good times,). In the Christian life, one cannot lose their relationship with God, however, they can fall out of fellowship with God. King David would ask of the Lord “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation… Ps. 51:12” while the Apostle Paul would instruct the church to “deliver such a one (who does not turn from their sin) unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” I Cor. 5:5. In short, a Christian can forgive but does not have to engage in a fellowship with a person that claims to be a Christian if that person does not forsake the error of their action. There is a lot more to this matter that a good bible study won’t fix. If you have not done so, I encourage you to find a good bible preaching/teaching fellowship that can enlighten you further on this matter. Keep in mind that we (Christians) have a tough task of being in the world but not of the world.

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Forgiveness is a vital issue for us all. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV). Perhaps more importantly to your question would be Colossians 3:12-13 (ESV) which says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” The key phrase to answer you would be “as the Lord has forgiven you.” The entire reason Jesus came and died a substitutionary death on the cross was to not only provide us with the forgiveness for sin we could not attain any other way, but to restore us to a right relationship with God the Father. In the Bible the goal of forgiveness and even discipline is always restoration. As hard as it is to forgive, such forgiveness must always contain some measure of restoration/relationship. When one has hurt us, we must forgive and seek to have some level of relationship. That one must also understand he or she must earn back your trust and it may not come easily or quickly. But if you have truly forgiven, you must be willing to continue some level of relationship even if it is guarded and not fully restored as it was previously.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

December 19, 2013

Question:

I was raised up to believe the Scripture about, “Be fruitful and multiply” was in regards to us bearing fruit in our walk with the Lord, and leading others to Christ. Recently, I had a friend tell me I committed a sin against God because I had just gotten my tubes tied. Is that correct? She tells me this Scripture pertains to us having as many kids as possible, that the Lord will give us how many He wants us to have. My husband and I are only 24 and 25, have been married three years, have had two kids in that time even though we were on birth control both times. We both have barely over minimum wage jobs – we didn’t plan to have kids for at least five years hoping we could more afford it. We love our kids, but we were in no position to provide for them the way we wanted. So, we felt it best to stop at two because we know there is no way we can provide for three and ourselves. Please confirm what this Scripture truly means, and also if I have sinned against God by taking the step I have in having my tubes tied.

Answers:

First of all, no you are not sinning by limiting the number of children you have! The original divine command (found in Genesis 1:28) was intended for the first couple that God had created. The presumption of the text in Genesis is that God gave this command to the man and woman because the land was unpopulated. It was God’s plan for them to increase the number of persons in the world by joining in sexual union often. This ancient command does not apply to ANYONE today! Today with our medical system so incredibly and artificially expensive, it is no wonder that many married couples (including especially Christians) limit the number of children based on the family’s budget. One thing to consider in order to save money in the event other readers decide to have another child: use a midwife to deliver your next child (whenever that will be). There are several in the area, they are much cheaper, insurance (if you have it) will usually pay for their services, and your baby can be born in the familiar surroundings of your home.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

In Acts 15:10, the scripture says “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” The scripture does state in Genesis 9:1, to Noah, “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” I am not sure the Biblical intelligence of your friend, (there are a number of individuals and religions that teach that belief) but, if you look at the scripture, in context, God is instructing Noah to be fruitful and multiply after the earth was destroyed by water. While children are a blessing from God, God would expect us to know the limits of our abilities. I would not get discouraged with what other individuals want you to believe God desires for your life, for them, that’s fine. God does expect to bear good works for His glory, so you keep your faith focused on God and God will do the rest. To the best of my knowledge and experience, you have not sinned against God.

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

The instructions to “be fruitful and multiply” were given three times in the book of Genesis and each time was special circumstances. First, was to Adam after the creation, the second, was to Noah after the flood and third, was to Jacob/Israel when he was told he would be the father of a nation. Another situation involved Onan refusing to provide offspring for his brother’s widow as God instructed. He interrupted intercourse, spilling his seed on the ground. These are part of the rational against birth control. Adding also, the idea that intercourse by a married man and woman is fornication unless they intend to create a child.

Besides this tangled logic, the New Testament supersedes the Old Testament (Col 2:14) and it does not have restrictions regarding birth control. Heb 13:4; 1 Cor 7:2ff teach that a married couple should satisfy the physical needs of one another as a preventive course against fornication. Scripture does not prohibit birth control to prevent pregnancy.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

In one sense your friend is correct. The phrase “be fruitful and multiply” when used in the Bible is in reference to having children. It was given first to Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 1:22; 1:28) repeated to Noah following the flood waters receding (Genesis 8:17; 9:1, 7) and even given to Abraham concerning his offspring that would become the nation of Israel (Genesis 35:11). Your understanding of leading others to Christ is seen in Jesus’ statement in John 15:16 when he said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (ESV). As far as whether or not you committed a sin against God by your surgery, the appropriateness of various forms of birth control (including surgical methods) have been debated by sincere Christians for decades. As a rule I would say that whether you and your husband decide not to have additional children is between you two and the Lord. I would strongly advocate no one use any form of birth control that does not prevent conception, but instead causes miscarriages or spontaneous abortions. That would result in the destruction of a human life that God has created. The world is fully populated, and so in the context of the biblical phrase that always included “filling the earth,” I would not consider your surgical procedure to be a sinful act as it is a way to prevent conception.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

In Genesis 1:27-28 we see that God has created man in His own image both male and female. Then God says “Be fruitful and multiply.” To understand God’s intent, we have to go back to the original language and the meaning attached. God created man as male and female just like He did the animals. When He said be “fruitful” He was bestowing on them the ability or capability to have children. He did not mean that they should continue to have children as long as they were of child bearing age. God also gives us wisdom to live in this fallen world that sin has created. We should always pray about what is best for our family and for children brought into this world. God will always lead us into what we should do. I don’t believe you have created sin by having your tubes tied. You did what you thought was right at the time when you did this.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

December 5, 2013

Question:

I recently heard on a radio program that we won’t spend eternity in Heaven, but will spend it on earth after Jesus returns. I was taught when I was young, and believed all my life that eternity was to be spent in Heaven, as the Bible says that Jesus was going to prepare a place for us in Heaven. We’re told we will have a mansion in Heaven and walk streets of gold. It’s confusing, which is the truth? As an adult I attend a different denomination than did as a child. Is this just another of the differences in denominational beliefs?

Answers:

The answer is this questions is simply complicated. Religious orders tend to expound on scripture that needs no collaboration. This is such a Scripture. The writer is correct to believe what the Bible states. John 14, Jesus promises that “HE” has and “HE” will. The writer is also correct in questioning this issue. According to I John 4, we (Christians “True Believers”) are not to believe every spirit, but to try (test) them, because many false prophets are in this world. Sadly, these religious orders truly believe that they are conveying the understanding of these verses correctly. However, the interpretation does not follow the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Let me conclude with one last scripture. Writer, the center of the Bible is fascinating, look at Psalms 118:8. This verse is the center (equal distribution of chapters and verses) of the Word of God. There are times that we must trust what the Spirit of God states rather than trust what man has taught the scripture to say (not be). Hope this helps.

Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Many people are confused about what will happen when evil is judged and God sets up His eternal kingdom. In Revelation chapter 21 it speaks of a renewed earth and a new heaven. The earth will continue to exist but it will be restored. Jesus has created New Jerusalem, with mansions for all redeemed people. This New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and stand off from the earth. It will not replace the earth. New Jerusalem is where God’s throne will be. There will be no night there because the glory of the Father and the Son will illuminate it.

So the renewed earth and New Jerusalem with coexist like the earth and the moon now. Our mansion will be in New Jerusalem, but we will serve the Lord, moving between New Jerusalem and the earth. In chapter 22 we see the throne of God and the river of life located in New Jerusalem. Keep in mind that where Jesus is, that is our heaven.

God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

It is amazing to me how adamant some become over an issue in which we have absolutely no control. Will Jesus set up an earthly kingdom, where he will rule over his disciples, because all others have been removed? 1 Cor 15:35-58. Or will he take his disciples to live with him in the house of God? John 14:1-4; 18:36; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess 4:13-18. My understanding of scripture is the second answer, Heaven, the abode of God. Read the scriptures noted here.

The earthly kingdom idea comes from the book of Revelation. A book that is full of hyperbole and figurative language. The NIV uses the word “like” 66 times. Revelation is not intended to be taken literally, it is an effort to explain the unexplainable to humans who do not have the vocabulary or experience to understand. Therefore, it is “like.”

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

Your question shows that you have come under the influence of both a.) the popular culture’s view of what heaven is to be (“mansion in heaven”, “streets of gold”), and b.) certain radio preachers who often exalt one Bible passage over all others in their search for answers to some basic questions. The Bible itself offers several images of what a believer can expect after death. Jesus did not say “I am preparing a place for you in heaven;” only that He was going to prepare a place for His disciples and that He would, afterwards, return and bring them to this place with Himself (John 14:1-4). Jesus offers no details about the nature of this place to which He refers. In other places, like Philippians 1, we receive a similar word: for a disciple — like Paul — to die meant to go and be with Christ (wherever that might actually be). Jesus also tells us that the dead rise to life again and when they do “they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30 in 22:23-33). The Bible — in the Book of Revelation — does mention a New Heaven and a New Earth, but it gives no real description of what the life of redeemed persons will be like on that “New Earth”. The main thing to know is the most important thing: to die is to be with Jesus Christ. And that is good enough for anyone!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

November 21, 2013

Question:

There has been much talk lately of New Age, Emergent Church, and something like Contemplative Spirituality. My husband and I are new believers, seeking a church home and now are being warned of these “false teachings” I listed. If these are not good, how would one know which they are? Are these found in non-denominational churches or denominations as well? Are these led by people who purposely set up to deceive people or were normal churches that got led astray themselves? It is so frightening, we are new to this and we want to be sure we are following the true Lord, and not being led down a path of destruction, or attending more of a cult. Are there signs or buzz words to watch for, do they openly pronounce themselves as these types of churches? How do we determine which is a properly functioning church to attend?

Answers:

The New Age, Emergent Church and Contemplative Spirituality are all movements centered in the theology of man and not the Bible. All deal with man’s emotion, with a desire to get away from the Word of God. All would deny basic Bible doctrines, centering on man’s emotional experience. Inspired by Satan, they deny accountability to God, emphasize works and doing good things. Sin, repentance, conversion, salvation by faith, the authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Second Coming of Christ are all denied. Man is the center of this system and not God.

To find a Bible centered church you should ask for a statement of doctrine and beliefs from a church you are interested in. Ask for the church’s view on the authority of Scripture. Main line denominational churches tend to follow more traditional worship practices. Your best filter is the Holy Spirit. Pray and seek the leadership of God and He will lead you.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

As new believers in Christ you will want to immerse yourselves in the Word. When looking for a church you will want to find one that centers on the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will guide you in all things and will only lead you to the truth for He is “the Spirit of Truth”. Jesus told us to “watch and pray” that we would not be led astray or fall into fleshly temptations. When it comes to guidance He promised to give us wisdom (James 1:5) and counsel (Psalm 32:8).

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

God bless you and your husband for your desire to carefully seek to follow the Lord. Unfortunately, false teaching and heresy both have been present since almost the very beginning of the church. While it does seem many of the churches that are involved in false belief and practices are independent, non-denominational because there is little accountability, there are also many independent churches that are solid and biblical in what they both teach and practice. By the same token there are also denominational churches that accept non-biblical teaching as well. There are aspects of biblical truth that have been disagreed upon for centuries, but these are matters that do not affect one’s salvation and security. There are many who hold different views as to the exact circumstances concerning Jesus’ return at the end of the age, for example, but all genuine believers agree that He promised to return and will return physically to earth in God’s timing. As you look to become a part of a local church – and you definitely need to do so – there are some key things to look for. I would recommend that you ask to meet personally with the pastor and ask what he and the church believe and teach about the key truths of Scripture. Most pastors would welcome such a discussion. If you find one that does not – leave immediately! I would recommend you seek to learn what any church teaches about three very key areas of Christian faith: what they believe about the person of Jesus; what they believe concerning the Bible; and what they teach and believe about salvation.

There are many aspects to all three of these, of course, but you do not want to be part of a church that does not believe that Jesus is God incarnate – the divine Son of God who became a human while retaining His deity (see John 1:1-18; Colossians 1-2; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 1-2). What about the Bible? Is it the divinely inspired Word of God, without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21)? Do they teach that what God calls sin is sin, or do they interpret the Bible according to contemporary views of society that are constantly changing? Finally, seek to determine exactly what they believe about salvation. Is it fully dependent upon our accepting what Jesus did as He died a substitutionary death on our behalf (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 5:20-21), as a free gift of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 10:9-13), or is it dependent upon what we do, either to earn salvation or to maintain it having received it as a free gift? Finally, pray and ask God’s discernment as you worship at different churches, and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to identify anything that doesn’t sound right. Do they take Bible verses out of context and twist them together to try and teach something different than what they mean in context? While supporting Scriptures can and should be used, the main truth being taught should be solidly drawn from an extended passage in context. God bless you as you seek His direction for the church you and your husband need to both actively participate in as part of the Body of Christ.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

One question is; “Are these led by people who purposely set up to deceive people or were normal churches that got led astray themselves?” Yes on both accounts. The Bible speaks (read the book of I & II Timothy) very clearly that in the last days prior to the Lords’ return, the church will take up teaching for themselves deceiving and being deceived. Also, the Bible states that God Himself will allow a strong delusion that the church (people) would believe the lie. I encourage this writer to seek a church that is equipping the true Saints of God to be steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord. I know this is a hard task for new believers and I suggest that the writer test every statement that is grounding said church by the authority of GOD’s word. Jesus made a promise to His children that He would guide us in Spirit and Truth (HIS Spirit and HIS Truth). Also, don’t be discouraged by the test, embrace it to show that you have the strength to “fight the good fight of Faith”. Ask questions (or the question) until you have found peace with the Spirit of God within you. If a church cannot provide you with a peaceful spirit grounded answer, seek another church or person to assist you. You are not alone, many seek answers to the same questions. There are good churches that stand on the promise of GOD, sadly, few Christians want to stand on the promise of the church and not GOD. Stay strong, and stay in the fight.

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Scripture repeatedly warns disciples about false teachers. Paul writes in 2 Tim 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” NIV

Doctrine is important to the Disciple. The place to find doctrine is in scripture, which is the Word of God. As Paul says, we must learn to “correctly handle the word of truth.” First, we learn that previous covenants God has made with mankind have been replaced by Jesus Christ. Read Heb 7:18-19, 22; 8:6-7, 13; 9:15; 10:1-4; Col 2:14. It is important to understand the New Covenant as a whole as well as the individual stories and verses.

Some estimates say there are thousands of “churches” in the world, all of which would claim to be following the Word of God. This seems unlikely since they are not only different from one another, but most importantly different from what is taught in the New Testament. I urge you to read scripture.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

Matt Slick, a Christian blogger writes of the emerging church, “The Emerging Church is a . . . term used to describe a broad, controversial movement that seeks to use culturally sensitive approaches to reach the postmodern, un-churched population with the Christian message. Some Emerging Churches might use props such as candles, statues, and incense along with poems, open mics, and videos, etc. EC services are sometimes extremely informal, while others are more formal. Emerging Churches seek to reach the lost by focusing on relationships and developing a “story,” a “journey of life” that is expressed through the “narrative” of learning. These words and others are often used by emerging teachers in describing their religious experience.”

This movement seeks to draw people to church and the Gospel of Jesus with many informal and modern techniques, such as those described above. But is it genuinely Christian? No two congregations of this movement are the same. You can evaluate this movement for your own spiritual needs by 1.) Testing whether or not they preach all of the Bible and believe all of it; 2.) Emphasize the cross of Jesus Christ as the center of Christian tradition, faith, and experience; and 3.) Trains members to pursue and obey the great commission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), namely to make new followers of Jesus Christ in every culture and language group. If the congregation you found passes these three tests, and your family feels welcome and spiritually fed in that place, then it would certainly appear to be satisfactorily Christian.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

November 7, 2013

Question:

We hear often in the news about bullying in schools and how it should be handled. One would think that bullying wouldn’t take place in the church, but it does. How do or should church leaders deal with it? I ask because as we visited a church in consideration of joining we learned afterwards that our 7 year old had been made fun of, called names, and pushed several times in his class. We went back to speak to the teacher in the class who said she would deal with it. We returned the following week, and after our son informed us the same two boys who were 8 did the same. Again we sought out the teacher who had already left the building so we talked to the aide. She told us that unfortunately most likely the teacher wouldn’t speak to the parents or the children since they were long term members and wouldn’t want to “upset the apple cart”. Aren’t visitors kids supposed to be as important and cared for as member kids? Of course we did not join that church, and frankly caused us to refrain from church visiting for a time. We watch several services on TV, but we would like to be part of a church body as we once were prior to moving here. But, we feel kids experience enough in the secular world, they should not be abused at church. Are people who deal with kids trained or screened in any way to be sure they should be working with kids? Any suggestions?

Answers:

Our children have been influenced by the evil times that we live in. Children who have not received Christian love often hurt others because of the hurt they feel. The church has many children who suffer from lack of discipline and lack of love. Proverbs 22:15 says “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” All children need discipline given in love.

In this situation, chances are that the pastor, the children’s director or Sunday School director have no idea what is happening. Since every pastor wants to see his church grow, a contact explaining the problem should be made. Since the teacher has done nothing, the parents should be contacted from church supervison to address the issue. I believe this situation is not the norm. There are many churches who have great children’s programs and would love to have you attend.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

It is sad that your child experienced this bullying. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to stop bullying. Bullying is prevalent in the American work environment also. Bullying is a sign of immaturity and fear, so they are usually cowards with low definitions of character. Often they have been bullied themselves. Intimidation has become their method of social interaction. They gain a sense of power. Bullies usually operate with others because they are cowards. This makes it difficult for any of us to “stand up to the bully.” In their group, they are popular and do not realize how they are disliked by the bulk of fellow classmates and co-workers.

Bible lessons on the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:33) and “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt 7:12 NIV), have little impact unless personal application is made. Parents should teach the lesson to their child as well as teach the child to be strong in the presence of bullying: avoid the bully, keep with groups, speak out strongly “leave me alone,” tell a responsible adult.

Most Bible class teachers are probably not screened the way you ask. Well-meaning people volunteer their time because they want to do the right thing. You did the right thing, speaking to the teacher. The next step would be to speak to one in higher authority.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist
Eastwood church of Christ
(El Paso, TX)

How sad. These questions are very loaded and have more to them than just the surface question. The answer to the first question “How do or should church leaders deal with it?” Answer: I agree with the writer, the church is the last place that bullying should be an issue. The Church is responsible for the training of its members (even visitors) of all ages, to practice their faith in Love, Patience, and Humility, etc. While the may be performing these task, it is very possible that teachers don’t enforce the teaching of the church and the church leadership (deacons, associate pastor, or pastor) should be informed in the concern is not dealt with in a timely manner. However, the church is only a vessel that God has established to assist parents in the responsibility of raising their children and not the only source. I would encourage the writer to follow-up with the church leadership, but also be willing to listen to both sides of the child/ren stories. Yes, there are some mean kids (just like adults) in this world and the parents know it, but it should not keep us from seeking a church that can meet the need/s and fellowship can continue in a healthy manner. To not continue seeking a church is stereo-typing the church and is not being honest with the purpose of why we need the church (a whole set of lessons all to itself).

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Ah, the problem of ‘bullying’! I am certain that what we today call “bullying” has in fact been with us since the dawn of God’s creation of man. You certainly see something like it in the early encounter between Cain and Able (Genesis 4); or it is at least implied there. What is it really? It is in fact the natural settling of relationships among peers so that a certain pecking order is established. This goes on in much of the animal kingdom, and it happens among all the family of man as well! Nor does it end when children grow up. All the dictatorships of the world (and there are far too many of these) are usually never determined by genuine, honest elections, but by the competition and struggle of adult “bullies”. In the muslim world for instance, “the strong horse wins” (their phrase) — it’s just another form of bullying. But for adults and dictatorships it is unfortunately much more bloody. You should of course seek another church (sitting at home and watching worship services on television is not an option if you are healthy and mobile!). And when you spot bullying, there is certainly nothing wrong with notifying the Sunday School superintendent and/or the pastor about the problem and asking them to intervene.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

October 24, 2013

Question:

My husband passed away 9 months ago. Is there a biblical or scriptural reference about how long a widow is to grieve before remarrying? Friends and family are pushing me to date and remarry stating it is biblical that I am not to be alone and am supposed to provide a father figure for my children. While others say that I am to never remarry stating it is biblical I should be with only one man. I am very lonely and fear the future raising my kids alone. Yet, I can’t imagine being with anyone but my husband. Is there scriptural reference to help me with this?

Answers:

Having faced this personally and as a pastor with others, the Bible is clear that a man or woman who has lost their mate in death is free to remarry. 1 Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:3, and 1 Timothy 5:14 are scriptures which come readily to mind. The Bible has several examples of widows who remarry and there is no restriction placed on it. The length of time before the remarriage would be up to the individual and their personal feelings and situation. Your fear of being alone and raising children alone are certainly understandable, but let the Lord lead in who, if anyone, that He would have for you. We are not meant in general to be alone and I can understand your desire for a mate, again be careful that you let God guide you.

Pastor Jack Berg
Sun Valley Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

Let me begin to try and answer your question by stating that mental health professionals – both Christian and secular – stress that the grieving process after the death of a loved one takes a minimum of two full years. Because death makes us uncomfortable in our society, those outside the immediate family often expect things to revert to “normal” as soon as the funeral services have been completed. Do not let anyone pressure you into dating because they think “it’s time.” As for Bible passages to aid you, some may look to 1 Timothy 5:14 where Paul says, “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.” Yet it is important to note that the context for this verse is Paul’s discussion of younger widows who cannot control their sexual desires and who has not lived a godly life. These are condemned in verse 13 for idleness and gossip, which leads directly to his admonition for younger widows to marry. As for those who say you should never remarry, show them 1 Corinthians 7:39 which says, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” God’s best is for one man and one woman to be married for a lifetime, but when one partner dies, the living spouse is able to remarry “in the Lord.” This assumes that one she marries is a godly man, who has not been involved in sexual immorality. I would add that remarriage “in the Lord” should also indicate a clear impression that the person you might someday wed is one God has led you to meet and develop a friendship with as well as an emotional love. Let God direct you, not societal or family pressures!

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

First of all, I am so sorry for your loss! It is not unusual at all for grief to continue for a year or more with the loss of a spouse (and I know of one woman who has never really gotten over it, though it is seventeen years later!). I can see why you would be confused. You’ve heard advice from very different sources, and both claiming to be biblically informed! So let me tell you straight out there is no set biblical formula or commandment that requires that you marry again soon. Period!! The only Person in the world who can let you know when (if ever) it will be time to re-marry is God. If you are feeling lonely, you should definitely speak to Him about it — often! Also find fellowship and friends with your fellow church members and Christians.

Specifically you can find a fellowship in your area of people who are like you: single parents who struggle with loneliness and the challenges of raising children. As to needing a “father figure” for your children, often you will find those persons (more than one!) if you are active in a local church. Finally, because child raising is difficult work and easier for two, pray about God sending you someone special who will love you and your children; and love them enough to be their adoptive father. But God isn’t pushing or rushing you — He is guiding you, and that’s as it should be.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

You have my sympathy for your loss. It has also been my sad experience. The word of God does not instruct Christians regarding a mourning period. Many years ago, some observed a custom of widows wearing black for a year. This was not based on any Bible teaching toward Christians.

It is recognized that the first year is the most difficult in grief. This is because you are experiencing the “firsts”: first birthday, first holiday(s), first anniversary, etc. Each person will grieve in their own way and with their own time schedule; it is not something you should try to hurry.

At the same time, you should not seek to remain maudlin or to continually seek sympathy from others. Yes, you have experienced a deep, indescribable loss. But, Christians have a life to live to the glory of Christ. You may be alone when you feel the need, but stay involved in life: volunteer, take up a hobby, visit family.

There will come a time when you will want to date and possibly even marry. It should be when you want to do so, not because of a need or pressure from others

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

Yes, you can remarry. Death of a spouse does not negate God’s original design of creation. The purpose that God created woman was so that man would not be alone (Genesis 2:18). I would also reference two other scriptures that validate (supports) the right for re-marriage (1 Timothy 5:11, 14). As for grieving, scholars and theologians would teach that in the Old Testament, the grieving process was a 30 day ordeal and after such, the grieving process was over and life continued. Please bear in mind that family and friends are doing what they feel is correct according to what they believe and may God bless them. I would direct you to find peace that God is in control and allow God to fill the void you are currently feeling.

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

The Bible does address the remarriage of a widow. You will find guidelines in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 and also Romans 7:2-6. Scripture does give widows the freedom to remarry. It says it is easier to serve the Lord when we don’t have family responsibilities. But it also says, if you have a desire to be married, then it is permitted. It does say that a Christian should marry another believer.

As to whether you should remarry, only the Holy Spirit can give you the guidance that you need. This is not a decision that should be made by anyone except you and the Lord. People have opinions but the Holy Spirit
has understanding that is beyond ours. You should not make any decision until you have committed yourself to prayer. Give yourself time to heal and then seek wisdom from the Lord.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

First of all I do not believe there is any set length of time for one to find a companion following a death of a spouse. For most it usually takes 2 years to get to a place of readiness to marry again. Secondly, a death frees you from the laws of adultery – Romans 7:2-3. Thirdly, God is a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow. During this time of grieving seek His heart and His fellowship in your spirit. Then do wait Psalm 27:14 says: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

1 Co. 7:8-9 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Verse 9 talks about those who cannot control themselves because of passion. But the same rule applies. If you find the right person and you feel like he will help you raise your children and be a blessing to you, then go ahead and marry. Either way God is glorified.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson
Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

October 10, 2013

Question:

I recently saw on the internet that President George HW Bush was a witness at a same sex marriage. I’m wondering as a Christian how I should handle a similar situation. My husband’s cousin has invited us to his gay wedding and we are torn what to do. We love him and were a big part of his life growing up. We know that we are to show Christian love and all that, yet we feel to go to a gay marriage we would be misleading all the gays in attendance that this is accepted behavior before the Lord. And we are concerned about the confusion it would cause with our three children ages 5 to 14. Can you lead us biblically, as a Christian how we should handle this – should we go, should we not? Would it sadden the Lord if we went, making him feel we support this behavior?

Answers:

The work of the Holy Spirit is an awesome reality. I commend you and your husband on the sensitivity that you have on this matter. Yes, it is burdensome to think a family member has decided to walk the way of the world. However, your concern is one that is paradoxical; when we as Christians walk the path of righteousness, God will allow us to be tested (by Satan) for us to see the level of our faith. Jesus has told us that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword and that He was going to separate the Mother from the Daughter and Son from the Father. I believe that it is a situation such as you have found yourself fits this guidance. On one hand, if you go to the wedding, then those that know your walk will have mixed feelings due to the fact that it will show the love you have for the cousin. On the other hand, those that don’t know your testimony may feel that you support the gay agenda. By not going, you show your cousin that even though you LOVE him, God LOVES him more and does not approve of this type of conduct. If you are having such a struggle, it very well could be the Holy Spirit telling you to stand strong and follow God. If you believe it will send a mixed message, then send only one message; Obedience to God is greater than obedience to society’s expectations. Romans 12:1-2, Paul instructs the Christian to “be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…that you may prove that which is acceptable unto the Lord.”

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

As to whether your presence at a homosexual wedding would upset the Lord Jesus, I believe it would. Here’s why: He has called you to witness for Him and the salvation He alone offers. By your presence at such an event, you likely will not be given any opportunity to witness for Jesus, and even if you did you would then just be doing what Jesus called “casting your pearls in front of pigs” who then turn and trample on them (Matthew 7:6). In addition, by your presence at a homosexual union, you will be sending the subtle message that you condone or support this behavior. Clearly you do not. But far more importantly than that, God does not condone it! The thing to do, if these people really are your friends, is to continue being their friend in other venues or on other occasions. I would never send a card that says anything like “congratulations on your marriage.” In God’s eyes (and God defined what marriage is, not man) they are not now and never will be married. This sounds stern I know, but it’s our job to report God’s truth.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

As Christians our manual for living is the Bible. The Bible says there is no such thing as gay marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman, (1 Corinthians 7 and Titus 1) and two men or two women are not to be joined. God says same sex unions are an abomination (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). The real issue is who defines sin, man or God. Christians have to choose who to follow. If God forbids a sinful act, we should not take part in it. Being part of anything that God forbids, says that we are in agreement with it. We would not take part in theft or a murder or even condone it. We have to understand that God sees all sin the same and forbids it. I suggest you tell your husband’s cousin that you love him, but explain from the Bible, why you cannot be part of this gathering. If we are Christians we have to take a stand for Biblical truth.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

I can only speak for myself but I would not attend nor would I allow my children to be exposed to such a travesty of moral behavior. As Christians we have been put on the defensive by all the rhetoric of being haters of homosexuals when nothing could be further from the truth. One thing we are called to do and that is to hold to the standard of Scripture. The Proverb says: The fear of man will prove to be a snare. Fear (reverence) God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) At the end of the day you will have followed your conscience which is of good repute in the sight of God.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Jesus told us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. This means we need to be a part of their lives to have the right to share the gospel with them. We have to value a relationship with them and let them know that Jesus does too. As a minister I would not perform such a ceremony. But as a friend or a family member I would attend if asked to. Why do you ask? The bible tells us what God thinks of homosexuality, and I believe what the bible says but the bible also tells us that God is a God of relationships. People won’t care what we know about Jesus until they know that we care! At the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine, how many Christians were there? None yet. Jesus did what he did because someone he loved asked him to.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson
Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)
September 26, 2013

Question:

Is there anywhere in the Bible that states that a person who is divorced is not allowed to work in ministry? If the Lord forgives us of past sins, why does the church not, and hold this over a person’s head as if they are unfit for service?

Answers:

There is no verse that would preclude a person from working within the ministry because of divorce. However there are restrictions that come about from divorce. I Timothy is clear that a pastor must be the husband of one wife, Christ is clear in Matthew 19:1-12 that the circumstances of the divorce would make a difference in where a divorced person might be placed in the ministry. It is not a lack of forgiveness it is the keeping of the picture of Christ as the bridegroom that God does not want broken. As much as there may be some restrictions there are other places within the ministries of a church where a divorced person might serve. It is all too often thought that forgiveness includes the dismissal of consequences which is not true. A thief might be forgiven by God for his sin, yet he might have to spend a jail sentence as a consequence of his sin, the same is true with divorce.

Pastor Jack Berg
Sun Valley Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

The Bible does tell us that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), but it does not say He hates people. Many refer to I Timothy 3: 2 as a requirement for ministry that the minister be the husband of one wife, but this would exclude single people from being elders in the church. Many denominations have opened their arms to divorced people to pursue the calling they believe God has placed on their lives. It is a wise practice for denominational leadership to examine the circumstances that led to the divorce and then go from there in a redemptive spirit (Galatians 6:1).

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

The issue of divorce is one that has created much turmoil in the church. Many have seen it as a sin that can never be forgiven. People see some sins as bad and some as not so bad. But all sin is against God and can be forgiven. When God forgives, then we as believers should forgive. To say that a divorced person cannot serve the Lord, is to say the call to service has been cancelled.

Knowing this, Rahab the harlot was is the lineage of Jesus. Moses a murderer was used by God greatly. We have David a man after God’s own heart, being a murderer and adulterer. Many people who love the Lord are victims of divorce against their desire. Where spiritual failure is concerned, there should be a time of waiting to determine the true heart of a person. But when faithfulness is determined, then a person should be released to serve their Lord.

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
Greenup, IL

There is no place in the Bible where it says specifically that someone who has gotten a divorce cannot serve in ministry leadership positions, like pastor, bishop, choir director, or any other such position. Some conservative denominations restrict access to certain positions based on marital status. The United Methodist Church did this too, though it was never a feature in our written law code; only something desired and enforced by our bishops and superintendents. That unofficial practice came to an end in the 1970s. I don’t know if we are stronger for that or not. When clergy persons are divorced, then they lack the good model of their own family life as an example for all others. The desire to have all church leaders (workers) exhibit marital fidelity is certainly stated well in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 where Paul lists the qualifications for elders: they are to be the husband of one wife. That implies marital exclusiveness and commitment. However even in earlier times there does not appear to be a restriction for divorcees from working in the church in some capacity. The Lord forgives the sin of divorce and so must His Church.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

No. This question is one that has infected the church for years. While Jesus set the parameters for divorce (Matthew 5:32), I have yet to find anywhere in scripture that a person who has been divorced cannot serve in the church. The belief that the church does not forgive sin and holds that sin (in this case it seems to be divorce) over a person is also non-scriptural. The church has the responsibility to examine anyone willing to serve in the church according to scripture. This venue does not allow for a full study, but in brief, the church needs to examine several areas (just a few to start); was the marriage equally yoked at the start? What was the cause for divorce? Was reconciliation (counseling) pursued? Both, the church and the individual/s within the church need to be careful not to prevent the Holy Spirit in service to God.

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

The Bible never prohibits divorced persons from ministry in the sense that all Christians are to be doing the work of ministry. However, those serving as an elder (what most churches consider to be the pastor) or a deacon are to meet specific qualifications. One of those qualifications is that they be “the husband of one wife” (see 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 for elders and 1 Timothy 3:12 for deacons). The elder’s wives (and by implication the wives of deacons) also have standards set for them: “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11, ESV). Many Christians and denominations interpret these specific requirements to prohibit divorce. The principle in these qualifications is that one called to these specific offices within the church are to be held to a very high standard so as not to bring reproach on the name of the Lord Jesus. While all people are sinners, leaders in particular are to be mature in their spiritual relationship to God and as much above reproach as possible. First Timothy 3:4-5, speaking of the elder, says that “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” If a man is unable to succeed at the most vital of all human relationships – that of having a solid marriage that is pleasing to God – why should God entrust to him the leadership of the local church? It is not that God does not forgive any Christian that divorces for other than biblical grounds (that is, infidelity), it is that He desires the most visible leaders in the church not be easily criticized and have obvious failures that people can point to as a reason to not follow Jesus. God calls all followers of Jesus to a higher standard than those in the world. Should not those in leadership in the church be as exemplary as possible in their lives and relationships?

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

You are correct; the day that you accept Christ as your savior all sins are forgiven. It is amazing how some people believe the sin of murder can be washed away by the blood of Christ but divorce is unforgiveable.

Let us not forget that divorce is also a Biblical means to terminate the marriage when a spouse has been unfaithful and committed the sin of adultery Mathew 5:31-32. The Bible also teaches in 1 Corinthians 7:15 if your unbelieving spouse leaves you; you are no longer in bandage and free to remarry.

The misinterpretation of 1 Timothy 3:2 creates the false premise that a divorced person is unfit for service. The Scripture phrase “husband of one wife” means a one woman man. That is being married to one woman at a time. God wanted Church leadership to set the example in monogamist relationships. In the Middle East it was and still is acceptable for men to have two or more wives at the same time. Divorce is not the issue here; polygamy was.

Because this can be a divisive topic we inform prospective members of our churches position with the following statement. “Some churches will not allow people who have been divorced to serve in a leadership capacity. We believe that any of our church members that are striving to walk with God can have a place to serve the Lord including leadership positions”.

Dr. Max Perkins, Pastor
Temple Baptist Church
Las Cruces, NM

September 12, 2013

Question:

Is “God helps those who help themselves” in the Bible or not? If so, what is the scripture verse? If not, how did this begin and why do so many Pastors and others quote this?

Answers:

“God helps those who help themselves” is one of the better known “Bible verses”. It ranks up with the verse about “a little wine for the stomachs sake”, and “don’t look on the outward appearance”. The most commonly quoted verse is “judge not”. These quotes, which are not quotes, are heard repeatedly by people taking Biblical principles out of context and using them to prove a point. The saying that is in question is not in Scripture, at least not word for word. It reflects a lack of Biblical knowledge and probably reflects American thought on our work ethic. There is a great deal in Scripture about our work ethic and our responsibility, and diligence in what we do. However in the work of salvation this quote is very misleading since we have nothing or little to do with our salvation. Towards much of our life we find we have little to do with our success since we are given the ability we have by God. In Our spiritual struggles we are clearly told to die to self and let Christ live through us and in us. God’s grace, mercy, and peace give us victories in life and our work does nothing but hinder God’s work. God works long before we know He is there and if God waited for us to help ourselves we would all be lost.

Pastor Jack Berg
Sun Valley Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

The saying is an old American saying, often attributed to American Founder, Benjamin Franklin (from his “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” 175). However in reality, it is actually a quote from a Mr. Algernon Sydney, found in his pamphlet, “Discourses Concerning Government.” The saying appears to mean that if one is responsible for shaping his own destiny, then he should do this, and God will approve. This is shaky, incomplete theology, and is not based entirely on the Bible. In fact, God’s Word actually teaches us quite the opposite of this: God (in the Old Testament and New) actually desires to help the helpless — those who cannot assist themselves. Consider these passages: Isaiah 25:4: “For you have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat . . . .” Or in the New Testament, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) illustrates this. Finally, consider Paul’s assurance in Romans 5:6: “For while we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Always we are to ask God to help us.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Once again, this is another good question. Christians need to realize that the Bible is the blueprint that helps those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Bible is not written to those who are condemned. The saying “God helps those who help themselves” goes against the very purpose of why Jesus died on the cross. If man could help themselves, then Jesus dying on the cross would not have been necessary. The Bible does in fact say “that if a man does not work, then he doesn’t eat” II Thessalonians 3:10 (paraphrased of course). There is a charge before Christians to assist those in need (Matthew 25) which I guess one could interpret to mean that God does help those who help themselves, but there is no direct quote to validate the statement.

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

This quote is possibly the most often quoted non-biblical saying or proverb among English speakers. It was stated Benjamin Franklin in his “Poor Richard’s Almanac” in 1575. I personally do not know of any pastor that has quoted this common proverb except in pointing out the misconceptions of so many in our society and the level of biblical illiteracy in our culture today. The Bible clearly teaches the exact opposite by showing that God helps the helpless and comes to the aid of the defenseless as in Isaiah 25:4: “For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain storm against a wall” (NASB). Many seem to believe that we have to clean ourselves up or improve ourselves in order to become acceptable to God. However the Bible clearly teaches this is impossible and that God has made provision for our inability by offering salvation as a free gift of grace: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NASB). Please also note what God has said in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Part of our sinful nature is the desire to make our own way and earn our acceptance with God, which is why many may try to live by this quote they mistakenly attribute to the Bible. The apostle Paul discovered in his own relationship with God just how insufficient his own efforts were and how dependent he was on God when he wrote that God told him, “And He [God] has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I [Paul] will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB).

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

This saying is not in the Bible. There is an understanding that we are not to be lazy, see Proverbs 27:13-16. We are commanded to work, with the Bible telling us that a person who refuses to work and not support his
household is put in the same category as an unbeliever.

But we are called to be servants to others and not worry about ourselves. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom and all of our needs will be taken care of. In Luke 14:11 it says that whoever humbles
himself shall be exalted. In Luke 14: 26-27 we are told to forsake all, which means our own desires, and follow Christ. Jesus said the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The teaching of the Lord, is to put others before ourselves and we shall be blessed.

The message from Jesus says, take care of others and I will take care of you.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis
First Baptist Church
Greenup, IL
August 22, 2013

Question:

Is there anything in the Bible that says we will know and converse with our loved ones in Heaven? Recently I heard on a radio program that we will spend our time singing and praising the Lord. Nothing wrong with that but I’ve heard my whole life I will see my loved ones again and have looked forward to that as well. Please share and versus that may make this clear to me.

Answers:

I’m not sure about the actual conversing but it does talk about how we are “running the race” with a “great crowd of witnesses. Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

I tend to think of heaven like one of our worship services, at some point in every service we have visiting time, our people love it because we are a (huggy) church, I think this is how heaven will be, we will be singing and praising him for eternity, and then, maybe there will be visiting time. Can you imagine getting to hug Jesus?

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson
Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

It is a dream and hope of Christians that we will be reunited with our friends and loved ones after death. This is a hope that is intrinsic to human beings since it is not limited strictly to those of the Christian faith. Unfortunately there is nothing explicit in the Bible which substantiates this! There are hints and suggestions here and there — such as the story that Jesus tells of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Both the rich man and Lazarus seem to know who Abraham is, for instance, though he lived before their time (and of course he was not an immediate relative of either person). Paul speaks of visions and revelations in which he was taken up to the highest heaven, and was allowed to hear things which “cannot be put into words”. At the end of the day, God simply asks us to have faith along with our hope. We are to believe where we cannot see or know for sure that He will care for us for all of eternity. We know He has great things in store for us. So since you know that, why not go ahead and have the hope? It certainly doesn’t hurt anything!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The Bible gives indication that we (Christians) will be able to recognize and speak with those that have gone on before those that are awaiting the return of our Lord and Savior. In Matthew 17 verses 1-4 we find Peter, James, and John being led (by Jesus) high on a mountain and vs. 3 states “And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him, (indicating interaction with them) vs. 4 “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias (indicating recognition and acknowledgment of those present). The great aspect of this knowledge is that we (all who believe) get to worship and praise God and His Glory together. That, to me is why, spreading the gospel is important.

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

When we get to heaven we will have an understanding of all of the things that we did not know while we were here on earth. We will not only know the hidden things of God but we will know each other. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 it says we see dimly now, but when we get to heaven we shall know as we are known. God knows us completely, even our heart and we will then know in this same understanding. That tells us we will know each other.

Also, all through the book of Revelation (Rev 7:9-10) we see believers gathered around the throne worshipping God. As a group, they see and know. In Revelation 19:9 the marriage supper of the Lamb takes places. All believers will gather with Jesus. It is understood that we will fellowship as a group and will be a blessing to the Lord and each other.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

August 8, 2013

Question:

Are the angels in heaven people that have died and turned into angels or were they created to be and always been angels?

Answers:

The Bible uses common words to communicate to mankind. We have a tendency to create special meanings and even exclusively “heavenly” meanings. Angel means “one sent” or “messenger.” The angels of God are heavenly beings and their existence supersedes mankind. Since they are to be with God in heaven, it was an easy transfer in poems and literature to see mankind as like beings, or angels, when we get to heaven.

Christians will be given “heavenly” bodies in eternity, but will not be angels. 1 Cor 15:52 “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” NIV

Scripture says Christians will be judges over angels. “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” 1 Cor 6:3. We don’t understand all there is to know about angels. We become intrigued because it is a mystery.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

Awesome question. Simply put, angels were created. We find in the Bible that Satan was a created Angel and duties assigned to him. Angels appear in the Bible as messengers of God (ex. Gabriel, Michael, and the Angel of Revelation) all created. Individuals that pass on from this earth are appointed to their proper place until the Day of Judgment (Luke 16:24.25; Romans 14:12). Also, we find in the book of Revelation 6:9-11) John, sees those that were tormented beneath the throne of God. As far as the saints becoming angels, the Bible declares that we will not be angels, but we (the Saints), will become like God (characteristically, but not God) 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1John3:2.

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

There is no evidence in the Bible that angels are humans who have died and then gone into the service of God in a second life. Rather, angels are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him. We find angels intervening in human events to notify certain persons whom God has selected and to influence them (see the story of Manoah, the father of Samson, in Judges 13). In the New Testament angels announce God’s soon-to-be realized plans. They direct His chosen human agents to participate in those plans. See the story of Joseph, in Matthew 1 or Zechariah in Luke 1. The intervention of angels helps God’s chosen humans to make the right decisions — decisions that please God and are in accord with His plans to bless many. Indeed the writer of Hebrews claims, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (1:14).

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM
)

Angels are created as ministering spirits sent to minister to those receiving salvation – Hebrews 1:14. Hollywood came up with the idea that dead people would be sent back to influence those who are living. And to possibly earn their wings.

Cute – but not true as far as the Scriptures are concerned.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

Angels are created spiritual beings who have been in existence before the creation of man. They were created to serve the Father but also humanity. They were created as spirits (Colossians 1:16, Psalm 104:4) and not flesh,
so they dwell in the dimension of the spiritual realm and not the physical realm. We know that they are not physical, because if they were, we could see them. We know they were created before man, because Satan who was an angel tempted Adam and Eve. He and a third of the created angels were cast down from heaven because of their sin, prior to the creation of man. Since angels are not human, they can never experience salvation.

Humans will never be angels but we will live in the presence of angels for eternity. When we die, our physical bodies will be laid down, and we will exist in the spiritual realm, being able to see these angels who are all around us.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

July 25, 2013

Question:

In the Bible when it speaks of Sheol and the Pit is that the same as hell or are they different places? And is Levithan and Satan one and the same?

Answers:

The terms Sheol and the Pit are one in the same, but they are different than what we understand Hell to be. Sheol is an Old Testament term, which was the abode of the dead. Prior to the coming of Jesus, when people died, they went to Sheol. The place of blessing was Paradise and the place of torment was the Pit, Hades, or Tartarus. When Jesus arose He took Paradise with Him to heaven, leaving Sheol or Hades. The final resting place of the fallen angels and those who reject Jesus will be Hell or the Lake of Fire. This final destination does not happen until after the last judgment or the Great White Throne judgment. The only residents of Hell today are fallen angels.

Leviathan and Satan do have some connection in Satan worship, but in the Bible Leviathan normally designates a sea monster or a large fish.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

Sheol and its synonym “the pit” are terms for the places of the dead in the Old Testament. Old Testament persons (both the writers and the people they are writing about) have for the most part no developed concept of “life after death”. When persons died in ancient Israel the living spoke of them as “having being gathered to their fathers”, and also referred to them as “going down to the pit” or “to Sheol”. We must understand that in those ancient times, and in ancient Canaan the dead were often “buried” in the family cave or grave. They were literally placed with “their fathers”, or at least the bones thereof. As for “going down to the pit”, this is what the relatives did with a dead body: they lowered them down into pits, holes, or caves, some of which were found, and others of which were dug. As for your other question, Leviathan is not a synonym for Satan. It is a transliteration for the Hebrew word which could mean anything from sea monster to sea dragon. It may actually have been used in ancient Israel to describe the Hippopotamus — a creature which to the highly provincial Israelites of that time would have been all but legendary.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

The purpose of translations is to communicate the message to the audience in words they can understand. Consider not only the word, but also the context of the sentence and paragraph. “Sheol” is used 66 times in the OT and depending on the context has one of two meanings: death or the place where the dead are in a conscience but spirit state. “Pit” is a hole in the ground which could be empty, a grave, a cistern with or without water or a tar pit.

“Leviathan” is used in Job 40:1. It is obscure but likely means some kind of large water creature which broke most fishing lines and nets that may have been used in an effort to catch it. The Lord’s point is this: “Job, since you know so little about the environment of this planet, you are hardly qualified to pass judgment upon Him who made the entire Universe, together with its wonderful and baffling creatures.”
There is no biblical suggestion that Satan is being described.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

When reading the Scriptures, it is very important not to un-contextualized (out of context) the text. Meaning, that while words can have similar if not the same meaning, they can have different meanings based on the context in which the word is used. For instance, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the word Sheol means “grave” while its synonym means “pit” which Jesus refers to in the New Testament as “bottomless pit”. Relativity speaking, each of these words can imply a separation from God both physically and spiritually. As stated earlier, keeping the words in the context of the scripture will give better understanding of the word is implied. As for Levithan and Satan being one and the same, in short, no. While Satan is referred to as a serpent (that devil, snake), which is one of the many forms that Satan can take, while most research will identify Levithan as a “sea monster” that Christ defeats meaning that Satan is busy all the time while Levithan is for a specific purpose in time.

Blessings,

Associate Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

July 11, 2013

Question:

I’m conflicted about contradictory statements about fearing God. For years I constantly heard that we are to fear the Lord. But recently have been hearing that we are NOT to fear God, that there is no reason to. And that by people saying we should fear him that we are negating his goodness and mercy making people think he is a mean and fearful God reigning over us. What’s the deal? Can anyone give biblical references how to know the truth – do we fear him or not?

Answers:

Should we fear or not fear God? First, Proverbs 9:10 states that “The fear of Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” Then, Deuteronomy 4:10, God instructs Moses “…that they may learn to fear me…” Two types of fear illustrated here. The first is a fear of failure; look at it like a person training, working hard to achieve a reward. This person learns what not to do in order to win the race. In other words, they fear failure. The second fear is fear of uncertainty. Romans 3:11-18, vs.18 “This is no fear of God before their eyes.” Individuals that have no knowledge or understanding of God tend to do those things that are pleasing unto themselves without regard of any repercussion or respect for people. Matthew 10:28, Jesus gives perfect insight to fear “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able t destroy both soul and body in hell. I often tell individuals fear God for He will do, not for what He can do.

Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

Translating is always difficult because of the shades and variety of meaning of words in each language. The Hebrew and Greek words of the original text mean both fear and reverence or respect. A good illustration to use is electricity. We fear electricity, but not to the extent that we think it is going to jump out of the wire and strike us as we drive down the street. The fear is not irrational, it is a healthy respect.

God is all powerful and he controls himself. His love offers power for our salvation. It is only when mankind abuses the power of God that it will be unleashed against man in the final judgment. Respect God and hold him in awe for all that He is to us: creator, savior, judge. God loves His children and only wants what is best for them. Respect what he has done for mankind.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

The fear of the Lord goes way beyond an emotion of fright or of being scared to death by His awesome power. It is having a proper respect for God and a reverence for His holiness.
A proper relationship with God requires that we treat Him as more than a good buddy, but as an authority to be submitted to with love and respect.

Learning to fear the Lord involves several aspects:
1) Know that He is God – not us. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. He is the Master.
2) Recognize the superiority of His wisdom and His ways as opposed to our limited understanding.
3) Remember that He is the judge of our thoughts, words, actions and deeds.
Solomon said: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 says, “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

You are right about the ambivalence many people feel with regard to this subject. Often in the Old Testament, God urges His people not to fear (numerous times in Isaiah for instance); usually such admonitions come through the prophets, and are intended to encourage God’s people during otherwise discouraging times. But those verses do not have to do with the fear of God Himself. That is always necessary to true and healthy growth as a Christian person. It is true God does not want us to cringe in fear of Him! If we let that kind of fear control us we would never get around to learning how to love Him for His mercy and grace (as you say). Biblical ‘fear’ means a healthy respect for God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the open acknowledgement to God that He is always greater than us and is our final Judge. Paul urged this for His Christian friends who sought growth in holiness: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Most people who talk about fearing God do not understand what the Bible teaches. God is our Father and we should see Him from that perspective. We both feared and respected our earthly fathers as they loved us but also disciplined us. We are to do the same thing with our heavenly Father. Since God determines whether we live in heaven or hell, we should have a reverent fear of Him. But we should also love and respect Him, knowing at Salvation we establish a personal relationship with Him. The Bible says we should fear him and keep his commandments (Psalm 111:10).

Matthew 10:28 says we should fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. In 1 John 4:18 is says perfect love casts out fear.

A better understanding is that we should respect God, even as we love Him. He loves us and disciplines us as we stray from HIs commandments. But He only disciplines us because He loves us.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

There was no question received for the June 20th issue

June 6, 2013

Question:

At youth group they say we have to repent and confess our sins and God will forgive us. Do we have to confess to another person or just to God to be forgiven? When we pray for forgiveness do we have to be specific and remember each thing we’ve done wrong, or is it ok to be general? Like if someone has issues with lying, can they just pray, forgive me for lying, or do they need to list each lie they told?

Answers:

I want to commend you for having a desire to confess you sin. God promises that when we confess, He will cleanse us in 1 John 1:9. When we confess, we do not confess to men, but to God. It is not men we have offended, but we offended God with our sin. God created us perfect without sin. When Adam sinned
then it brought separation from God, because God is Holy and sin is not in Him.

When we give our lives to God in salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. One of the things He does is to convict us of sin. When He convicts us, then we confess this sin to Him. We cannot remember all of the small sins we have committed, so when we lie, then we can confess the sin of lying and God will cleanse
us from all lies. Please remember the confession is done daily, as we sin. Jesus is our High Priest, so we confess to God through Him.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

There many facets to answer this question. Admitting a specific sin to God means we are not downplaying our sin, our personal responsibility. Praying “forgive me of my many sins,” could allow us to excuse our lack of repentance.

Next, as we attempt to live as Christ, we are not perfect and will sin. Every sin is against God and we should admit our sin rather than make excuses for ourselves. The process of being faithful is to walk in the will of Christ and immediately make our course correction when we understand what we have done. (1 John 1:7-9)

Many sins are against others. The unity of the church is first about doctrine, but it is also about relationships. It is always our responsibility to mend the rift between others and ourselves, whether we are the offender or the offended. (Mt 5:23; 18:15-20) If someone hurts you, then asks God to forgive them and act as if nothing has happened between you, it would not mend your relationship.

Last, we are strengthened to overcome sin in our life when we admit to fellow disciples and ask for their support. (James 5:16) Most recovery programs (AA, NA) recognize the need for support.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood
(El Paso, TX)

God knows our hearts. He can read our thoughts and sincerity. He will point out to us the specific offenses that are standing in our way of being truly forgiven and cleansed of our sin. “God, be merciful to me a sinner” was the prayer that led the publican to be justified (Luke 18:13-14). There is also the act of restitution and reconciliation which God may require for those sins which have caused others to stumble. These can only be overcome by confession and humility before those we have offended (Matthew 5:23-24). James 5:16 reveals the power of such restitution when it is received by the offended person.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene
(El Paso, TX)

First John 1:9 is the key passage to which you are referring. Confession of sin to God is all that is necessary. Yes, we should be as detailed as possible, because each sin has a name. Each sin is tied to a specific incident of our commission or omission. If we remember them in detail, then we should confess them to Christ our Forgiver in detail. And we should do this daily or as necessary. Because Christianity is a corporate lifestyle, we should in fact confess our sins to one another — certainly you should confess sin and ask for forgiveness of those whom we have wronged. Another feature of human existence is the fact that we often just “feel right” if we confess our sin to someone else. We experience an inner resolution if we do this. Faithful catholic Christians understand this in their regular use of confession before Mass. But all can benefit from confessing sin to others. If the one you have sinned against is no longer present, or too far away, you can confess sin with a letter or phone calls. And it helps to talk to a pastor as well.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
(Las Cruces, NM)

Thank you for this great question and for having an open heart before God! As a general rule, the one we must confess our sins to is God. A great Bible verse concerning this is 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NASB). If God has burdened you about a particular sin, always confess that sin to Him immediately. The word “confess” in this verse carries the idea that we are agreeing with God that what He calls sin is, in fact, sin.

To use your example of lying, I do not feel it necessary to rehearse every single lie you may have told since you last asked God’s forgiveness. He knows each one already. What you need to confess is your propensity to lie, and ask God’s help to overcome this that leads to the individual acts of lying.

As a rule, I would say it is not necessary to confess your sins to another person. Yet James 5:16 does say, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” A good guideline is that if confessing your sin to another person would lead that person to be tempted to sin or would hurt that one because they have been affected by your sin, then no – do not articulate that sin to that person. You might say something like, “Please pray for me, because God is dealing with me concerning some sin in my life.” No details need to be given.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church
(El Paso, TX)

During my time as a youth minister, I found it quite interesting how young people would come to our meetings and express what others (youth ministers, peers, parents, etc.) instructed them on God’s awesome forgiveness plan. So, let me see if this will help; Yes, God will forgive our (Christians) sins if we confess them: 1 John 1:9 states “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is God’s promise to His children and therefore governs that promise.

Your concern is about confessing to another person. Again, the Word clearly states in 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Here again, God promises, through Jesus to hear our prayers without the assistance of any outside intervention. I wish I had the power to remember all the sins that I personally commit without knowing it, or wait, maybe I don’t. Look back at 1 John 1:9, if we confess; it is important that when we know and realize that our action was outside the will of God’s expectations of His command, then we need to confess it even if it is a continual struggle. God again says that He will not allow any temptation to overtake His children (I Cor. 10:13). However, before someone says it, intercessory prayer is fine, there is nothing wrong with the prayers of God’s people joining together for a common goal (Acts 2:1).

There is a scripture (Matthew 18:15-17) that states if a person has fault against another person then that person needs to go and settle the matter among themselves. I know there are times that it seems that we’re not wrong, but I would argue that if you become bothersome by the issue, take the first step and go and settle the matter before it gets out of control. Remember, God gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us in all truth (John 16:13). Seek God, and the rest will fall into place.

Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
El Paso International School of Faith
(El Paso, TX)

May 23, 2013

Question:

The third commandment says: Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Galatians chapter 3 says that we are no longer governed by the Mosaic Law. Does that mean we no longer need to keep holy the Lord’s Day? The early Christians chose Sunday the day of the resurrection as the Lord’s Day. Does that make Sunday the new Sabbath, the new day of rest or is there no day of rest?

Answers:

You are correct that with the death and resurrection of our Lord, we are no longer under the law of the Old Testament, but are now in the risen life of Christ. The first day of the week is for us the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. This event is the beginning of the new creation promised by our Lord. This is been the primary day of worship for Christians since the beginning. In the early 4th century, the Roman emperor Constantine decided to placate rival religious factions including the Christians and he made Sunday into public holiday. Previously, Christians would gather after sunset on Saturday and pray through the night until dawn on Sunday and get back to work. After this, they were free to worship on Sunday and even experience some leisure time.

Fr. Thomas Rowland
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Truth or Consequences, NM

Israel was given the seventh day as a remembrance of their slavery and deliverance. Deut 5:15. Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week. The church was established on Pentecost, the first day of the week. The disciples met for the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, Acts 20:7. It is a normal transition from the Law of Moses to the will of Jesus for Christians to meet on the first day of the week.

Sabbath is for rest under the Law of Moses. It is not repeated in the New Testament. The first day of the week is not commanded as a day of rest and under circumstances of persecution in the first century, was not possible. The first day of the week is for worship and remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus for mankind. The gathering of disciples in corporate worship on the first day of the week has been practiced since the beginning of the church in A.D. 33.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Great questions: It is important to understand that the 10 commandments were written in such a way that it encompasses the past, present, and future for humanity and Christians alike (i.e., Jews and Gentiles). God certainly did not intend for His children not to obey the law since the law was presented in such a way the law, if not followed would be of no use. In reference to Sabbath, one great aspect of the law is that the law is religious and personal in nature. Religiously, the law guides the conduct as a body of believers and personally it convicts when we fail to keep it. God in His omnipotence realizes that life is going to happen and that the religious practice of the Sabbath would have some struggles, so, when the practice of the commandment is one that becomes personal in nature rather than religious. Example of this would be the instruction that Jesus gave when speaking about the Sabbath, “And answered them, saying, ‘Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day?’” Luke 14:5. I believe this is one of the main reasons that churches need to be sensitive to the needs of their people and provide a time and place for individuals that personally want to keep the Sabbath on a day of the week that allows them the opportunity. Of course it is just as important for the believer to set aside a day (normally one of the days off from work usually works) of the week and “remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy”. Last point, remember, when we stand before God, our work (church and personal) will be accounted for to see the true merit of why we do what we do.

Be Blessed my Friends,
Pastor/Director Mark A. Rawlins
EPISF (El Paso International School of Faith)

Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” and the next three verses describe it as a day of rest, giving God’s ceasing from creation activity as the basis for that rest. It is important to note that the commandment never states that the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week or Saturday on our calendar) is to be the only day for corporate worship. It is to be a day of rest from labor. This is because God created us to need rest. It is not healthy for us to work non-stop without a time for rest and giving our bodies as well as our minds a chance to recuperate. Because the Sabbath was a day of rest for Israel, it became very natural for it to also become the day for corporate worship. There are many Christian groups today that worship on the Sabbath as opposed to Sunday, and feel this is what best honors God and is the proper observance of this commandment. However, Colossians 2:16–17 says, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (NASB). It is interesting to realize Jesus was criticized more by the religious leaders of His day for what they considered “breaking the Sabbath” than for any other single thing! Jesus emphasized the truth when He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NASB). The idea of Sabbath is taking time to rest, not a legalistic observance of a particular practice to earn acceptance with God. We need both a time of Sabbath rest and a regular time to gather with other believers to corporately worship God, but the focus of our time of worship needs to be our adoration and honor of God, not on a particular day of week. I hope this gives you something to prayerfully consider.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Galatians chapter three deals with salvation by grace, as opposed to salvation by keeping the law. Salvation comes by faith in Christ, not by keeping the commandments. The commandments were a guideline to tell us how to live our lives but were never meant to save. Therefore they lead us to Christ who saves us. Jesus came to fulfill the law, Matthew 6:17, not to destroy it. So the commandments are still valid for us today.

Concerning the Sabbath, God created for six days and rested on the seventh. We are to do our work and business for six days and are to rest on the seventh. I see no conflict between the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday. As long as we give to God what is rightfully His. But please understand that the seventh
day is the Lord’s and not man’s.

May God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Paul’s principle in Galatians 3 only means we are not justified by the Jewish Law; yet its principles remain foundational for Christians today. The Sabbath commandment commemorates God’s own ceasing from His creative activity on behalf of mankind. God’s people are to remember it and keep it sacred (Exodus 20:8(9-11)), because — weekly — it connects us with the foundational work of God on our behalf. Early Christians, including Paul, observed both the official Sabbath and the Lord’s Day (the first day of the week). The Father of Jesus still wants all of us to have one day out of seven in which we rest — that is, we do not do what we normally do to raise money and pay our bills. For those of us who work on shift it may be impossible to observe a day of rest on Sunday or Saturday. Therefore our “Sabbath rest” will be another day of the week. In any case, taking time once a week to cease from our labors and remember God’s creative work is His good command for us, and one that all should still observe (whenever we can).

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

May 9, 2013

Question:

I have a friend whose adult child (after being raised in a Christian home) claims to be an atheist. There was a major traumatic incident that changed this person’s whole life many years ago, and because of that they can’t believe there possibly is a God. This person has recently been talking about suicide. The mother and others have tried to witness to them about God – but to no avail. Is there anything specific you can advise to help in the witnessing? Specific scriptures or what to say that can turn this around for them?

Answers:

Any talk of suicide should be taken seriously. Encourage the person to seek immediate help from a trained profession. Do a web search, if necessary, but quicker is better than later. They are in depression and it can be treated.

Some think believers will not have trouble in life. A casual reading of the Bible reveals that is not the case. Christians suffered because they were followers of Jesus. If we have trouble that does not mean God is nonexistent. It is our trust or faith in God that gives us the strength and courage to get through difficult times.

Hope is what keeps us going. After experiencing great loss, some doubt there is hope and ask, “What is the use?” Note the thoughts of Job: “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” Job 3:11 NIV

Your friend should be reassured there is hope after tragedy and that they are an important part of a family. Prov 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Even the apostle Paul had his struggles “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Phil 1:20

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist
Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

It is actually not uncommon for someone who is raised in a Christian home with active Christian influences to go away from Christ and the truths of His Church. I know of several persons who, though raised in Christian homes, yet abandoned the faith and became atheists (unbelievers in God). But when such persons begin to speak openly of suicide, then we must always take them very seriously! I would help this person by reminding them that belief in God does not guarantee anyone an easy life. The Son of God’s horrible, unjust death shows exactly what can happen to any of His followers today. As an act of Christ’s love, find immediate professional counseling help for this person, and offer to go with them to the first sessions. Above all, pray in Jesus’ name that God will become real to them, and that they will begin to recover the roots of faith which they have abandoned.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

We are living in times when many who have been raised in the faith have turned away. The battle here is a spiritual one, so it has to be fought through the spirit. The first thing you claim is Proverbs 22:6 which says if a
child has been raised in the faith, when he is old he will return to it. The second thing to be done is pray against Satan, who desires to take life. Never let a day go by that you don’t pray for life and the desire to live where
your child is concerned. Also if the child is open to it, make an agreement to pray about an issue and wait on God to bring the answer. The child has to know what it is that you are praying about. Many times God will answer prayers to show the doubting that He is still working. Remember, so often we want to change situations in our strength. You have to depend upon God to take care of this. Also don’t get impatient. It takes time to move mountains.

May God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

April 18, 2013

Question:

Most people get frustrated reading certain parts of the Bible – those that have all the so and so begat so and so. It gets confusing to say the least. I’m told that these lists were included to show how important God saw each person so that we would understand how important we are to him. So, I’m confused why – in reading 1 Chronicles 8:34 and 9:40 it lists Merib-baal as Jonathon’s son but does not mention Mephibosheth who in 2 Samuel 9:6 is said to be Jonathon’s son. Why is he left out here? In many cases people’s names were changed, but I don’t recall reading anywhere that Mephibosheth was changed to Merib-baal. Is it sinful to find these Genealogical listings boring and rush through or avoid them?

Answers:

First of all just realize that the ancient writers included what you consider to be “the boring parts” because the things that mattered to them back then, do not matter quite as much to many modern readers — particularly in the Western World. So it is definitely not a “sin” for either 1.) not wanting to read in detail the genealogies of the Bible; or 2.) just skipping them entirely and moving on to the narratives and the beautiful and striking poetry. You should however take time to at least scan over the genealogies from time to time. That’s because they will often contain the names of persons who will be mentioned later on in the text. As to Mephibaal and Mephibosheth, you should remember that the Book of Samuel was written first, and several hundred years before the Chronicler wrote his story of the Kingdom of Judah. Jonathan may have had more than one son, and that would account for the distinctly different names. Mephibosheth (from Samuel) means “man of shame”; we do not know the reason for Jonathan’s selection of that name for his son. Merib-Baal means “one who contends, or strives, with Ba’al (the Canaanite storm god). It is a more favorable or positive meaning. If they are one and the same person, then the Chronicles author is simply putting better “spin” on the character of Jonathan’s son (Saul’s grandson). He is doing this by applying to him an alternate, more pro-Israelite, name which was available to him at the time. It was the author’s discretion to do this!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

I want to commend you first of all, for finding what many people would never notice. To answer your question, yes Merib-ball and Mephibosheth are the same person. Jonathan only had one son. I am not aware that there is a passage in the Bible that says they are the same. I assume that people in Jonathan’s day understood they were the same person and recorded it in Jewish history.

I understand and sympathize with you, knowing that some passages are hard to focus on. They do have value to Biblical historians, but if we are reading for devotional purposes, they may not reach out to us. It is good to know that they are there for a reason, but you are not sinning if you are not drawn to them by the Spirit of God. Stay faithful in studying the Word of God and He will bless you.

May God’s blessings be on you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

I can understand your frustration with all the genealogies found in the bible. At face value, they can seem a little pointless for us living in 2013, especially when you read them in the Old Testament. However, for those who want to do a deeper study of the Scriptures, these genealogies provide valuable information. Look to Luke 3 for example; Luke’s reason for writing the Gospel was to give a detailed account of Jesus Christ’s life. Through a study of Jesus’ genealogy, Luke was able to trace Jesus’s line all the way back to Adam. Matthew 1 gives us similar proof through His genealogy. May the Holy Spirit guide you to a deeper knowledge of the truth found in the Bible.

Pastor Alex DiMatteo
Oasis Community Church (El Paso, TX)

April 4, 2013

Question:

What effect do you see the new Pope having on the Global community? Or does he only affect the Catholic community, and not the Christian, Jewish or other communities at all?

Answers:

The Pope always has a tremendous effect on the global community both Catholic and Protestant. With 1.2 billion Catholics across the world, he sets the tone for doctrinal issues that guide the Catholic Church. Since there are so many who follow his leading, it effects the leadership of nations and the people who live in them. Issues like birth control, same sex marriage, abortion and many other doctrines taught in God’s Word, are addressed under his tenure.

Catholic prophecy and tradition given by some sainted men of the Catholic faith, have also said that Pope Francis will be the Pope ruling when Christ comes back for His church. This would make him unique and set him aside from every other Pope. If this is true, then we should make sure that we are in right relationship to the Lord. Only the Father knows if this will in fact take place.

May God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Pope Francis will have some affect on worldwide Roman Catholicism if he is successful in pursuing his strong interest in personal evangelism (which is “making friends directly with Jesus Christ,” to paraphrase his words). The Catholic Church worldwide has let evangelism fall by the wayside, and has for decades just assumed that people would love it and flock into it. A bad assumption! But there are people everywhere who are attracted to the traditional ritual and the connection with the earliest churches; they have felt the call to Catholicism, and have joined. Pope Francis’ emphasis on evangelism will bring in more members because of its intentional and biblical nature. The Catholic Church’s pope is always of high interest among the “talking heads” of the worldwide secular news media. They all keep hoping the cardinals will elect a pope who will relax the high standards this denomination has for the priesthood, marriage, birth control, etc. With Francis, they are once again disappointed, because this pope is a doctrinal traditionalist. By virtue of his standing strong on these points, we are all left with a high, moral example of the Christian life. And yes, this does in fact in an indirect way positively influence Christians in other denominations.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Well, since Catholics are in fact Christians, I would hope he would have a great influence on the Christian community. Whether or not he actually does depends on how serious he is about making the kind of changes he has been hinting about recently. The thing we need to realize is, while we may believe to see the difference between Catholics and other Christians, people outside of our different churches, people who don’t attend and don’t have a relationship with God don’t see a difference. A black eye for their reputation for whatever reason shows up on our face as well.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson
Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

March 21, 2013

Question:

Kids at school are talking about things they’ve given up for Lent. This is not a concept I’ve grown up with, so wasn’t aware I was supposed to do it. Is this a sin and something I need to repent of? Would it count for me to choose something now and do it until Easter? Will that make up for not doing it before?

Answers:

Lent is all about getting ready for Easter, the most important day in the universe. On this day Jesus overcame the destructive forces of sin and death and hell and Jesus allows us to share in his glorious victory by giving us new life. We go to church on Sunday-the first day of the new creation-because Christ rose on a Sunday. Lent is a time of 40 days of self-discipline. Giving up something we love like sweets, Facebook or TV and doing something positive like reading the Bible, praying more, helping people etc. discipline us and strengthen us to take up our cross. Fasting during this time along with the majority of Christians joins us with the poor of this world for whom Jesus came. In most denominations, Lent is a time for soul searching and repentance. This is the time of year we survey the old rugged cross of Jesus and this makes his victory at Easter all the more meaningful.

Fr. Thomas Rowland
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Truth or Consequences, NM)

The term “Lent” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word for “spring” and is related to the English word “lengthen.” By the second century many Christians had begun observing periods of fasting leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Probably because Jesus’ fast in the wilderness was 40 days, the 40 days preceding Easter eventually became known as “Lent” by the Roman Catholic Church. The observance of Lent was created after the Bible was written, and is not an observance commanded by God in Scripture. If done for genuine, spiritual reasons observing Lent could be a profitable spiritual discipline to draw one closer to God, but failing to observe Lent is not a sin; you have nothing to repent. It is a man-made tradition not universally observed by all Christians. You can learn more by reading about Lent in a good Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia.

Pastor Robert Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Giving up something for Lent is a long-time practice mainly from Catholic roots. Anything you may choose to do is totally freewill and not mandatory. This is an extra-biblical practice. It may be linked to Jesus’ words to His disciples to “deny yourselves”.

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (usually in February), and ends at sundown on the Saturday before Easter Day itself. It is forty days long, not counting Sundays. From Medieval times the Western Church began to encourage its members to practice various forms
of self-denial during the forty days of Lent. For hundreds of years now, Christians around the world still do this. We do it because Jesus did without food for forty days while being tempted in the desert. We also do it because Jesus said we cannot come after Him unless we take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Him (Mark 8:34). It is common to deny oneself some kind of food as a symbolic denial of the whole self. However one may also “give up” other things which distract from learning more from the Master — such as watching television for instance.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

March 7, 2013

Question:

In trying to witness to several colleagues similar questions keep coming up. (1) Where in the Bible does it state “God will never give you more than you can handle”? (2) Where is it stated that God wrote the Bible? (3) Where specifically does it state same sex marriage is a sin? These are the three main questions that come up repeatedly and I have not been able to answer, please help me so I can be a good witness to the people around me.

Answers:

I want to commend you for being an active witness for your Lord. Your witness becomes effective when the Bible is established as the Word of Truth and the authority that gives direction in our lives. God’s word is the only stable foundation in this world that never changes. The Scripture for question one is 1 Corinthians 10:13. There God promises that He will never give us more than we can bear. Question two dealing with God writing the Bible, is found in 2 Timothy
3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21. Both of these passages tell how God spoke through men to record His word for us. Finally question three dealing with homosexual behavior is found in Romans 1:26-32 and also Leviticus 18:22. God says this behavior is an abomination which expresses His extreme displeasure. Keeping in mind, God hates sin, but He loves all of humanity who does sin.

May God bless you,
Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

First question seems to be a misrepresentation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 …He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability… Know that God may in fact allow you more than you can bear so that you learn to trust and rely on Him more than self.
Second question, 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “All scripture is inspired by God….” 2 Peter 1:20-21, Peter reminds the reader to “know this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, … but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Simply put, inspired by God, written through man.
Third question, the Bible never states that same-sex marriages are a sin, because the bible cuts it off before that and says that even the act of homosexuality is a sin (Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:26-28).
Hope this helps,
Pastor Alex DiMatteo
Oasis Community Church (El Paso, TX)

Question #1 – The Bible doesn’t say that in those exact terms but the principle is implied in I Corinthians 10:13 and Philippians 1:6.
Question #2 – II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:20-21
Question #3 – Leviticus 18; Romans 1:18-27

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The Bible never promises that God won’t give you more than you can handle – this is a misapplication of 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Notice that the promise is that you will “be able to endure it” as you rely on God’s provision. This relates to temptation, not difficult circumstances or the trials that come through daily life. But God has promised to never leave us, and will be with us through everything.

God inspired the human writers of the Bible to record what they wrote. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states clearly, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Finally, there are many Scriptures that condemn homosexuality as a sin. One New Testament passage is Romans 1:26-27 – “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Homosexuality is included in several lists in the Bible with other sins that God hates, such as 1 Corinthians 6:9. If the act of homosexual relations is a sin, how could God ever approve of so-called “same sex marriage”? I hope this is of some help.
Pastor Robert Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Perhaps in your first question you are referring to a paraphrase of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (concerning temptation to sin): “. . . with the temptation (God) will provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” As to the question of God’s writing the Bible, it does not say this in the Bible anywhere. What we do have is the attestation by various writers that they themselves were inspired to speak (then write) by God’s own Spirit. 1 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 are two good places to start your understanding of the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture. Finally there are several places where it is clearly stated or implied that willful sexual relations with a person of the same sex is a sin; by extension and by clear implication then, God excludes marriage by persons of the same sex. Romans 1:24-27 is one clear statement which implies the ban on same sex marriage. But of course it never entered the minds of people back then that anyone would ever desire such a union!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

February 21, 2013

Question:

I recently heard a Pastor on a syndicated talk show on Christian radio state during his commentary that satan still has access to heaven and can go back and forth from heaven to earth. Is this true? I have been under the understanding that he was cast out of heaven and could not return. That there is no sadness or anything bad in heaven – so how could satan have access there? Please explain.

Answers:

Perhaps this pastor was referring to the Book of Job where satan appeared to give an account of his activities before God. Other than that I can’t think of any other Scriptures that would indicate any access to the throne. Besides, he surely can’t stand anywhere near holiness because he flees even from those who resist him (James 4:7).

Pastor Fred Grenier
First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Most conservative scholars who hold the Bible in high regard would agree that Satan fell from his position as an angel in heaven prior to the creation of humanity. Job 1:6 and Job 2:1 record separate times when “there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.” This seems to indicate that God allows the devil to enter His presence and speak with him. Just as Satan has a period of freedom to interact and tempt people on earth presently, it appears he can still speak to and appear before God. This does not indicate he has any influence over the residents of heaven and his ultimate defeat is assured in Scripture. We must simply rely on the sovereignty of God to allow or restrict the enemy’s abilities as is appropriate. God is in control.

Pastor Robert Warmath
Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The first thing you have to understand is that our ideas about heaven and hell, or the place of God and the place of the devil, very likely do not correspond with the reality. That’s because the reality of the spiritual realm in which God dwells, is unlike anything we can ever imagine. We are bound and limited by this fleshly, temporal life, just as the writers and characters of the Bible were. So when Jesus claims (Luke 10:18), “I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven” (for instance) he is using the language which accommodates those humans who were alive in His time so that they could understand. This statement can indeed imply a “separation of realms” for God and the devil, but it does not necessarily have to imply this! For instance God’s realm includes the universe, and certainly the Earth (our home). And yet, the devil is alive and at work also on Earth. Otherwise he could not have been present to tempt Jesus, the Son of God! The main thing to remember is that if you are a believer, you need never fear the power or influence of God’s (relatively weak) enemy, either here and now, or afterwards!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

We see two accounts of Satan being cast down and out in the Bible. We see him cast down in Isaiah 14:12 and we see Satan cast out in Revelation 12:9. Some students believe Satan was cast out of the third heaven where God reigns in Isaiah 14 and that he then ruled in the first and second heaven, which is our atmosphere and the space above it. I don’t believe Satan can access the third heaven, but he can still accuse believers either by speaking to God from where he is, or by making accusations to the angels who report to God. We have to understand that just like us, when we speak, God hears us. When Satan speaks, God can also hear him. So he will continue working against us until he is chained and finally cast into the lake of fire.

I hope this helps,
Pastor Brooke Davis
Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

February 7, 2013

Question:

I have decided to attempt a Bible in a Year readings I’ve learned of. But what is the best version to read? I struggle understanding the King James. I’ve been told to beware of The Message and other New Age Bibles – but how do I know which are, or aren’t?

Answers:

What a great question! There are so many different modern translations available. Many deeply love the King James Version but seem to forget that it also is an English translation, and it was not even the first English language Bible. In looking for a reliable translation you want one that is done by a large committee of scholars from various backgrounds (denominations) to prevent one particular doctrinal view from dominating. I greatly recommend a literal translation that goes back to the original languages the Bible was written in and make an accurate translation of the actual words of Scripture. Some translations, such as the NIV, use what they call “dynamic equivalence” where they try to expresses the thought behind the passage rather than the actual words. I would strongly recommend the New American Standard Bible (NASB) or the newer English Standard Translation (ESV) or the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The last two are well received for being very readable as the English construction is like we speak today, while still being very literal translations from the original languages. The NASB is a bit older (last updated in 1995) but still an excellent translation of what the original human authors God inspired wrote. It is the NASB that I most often read from in our church services because it is such an accurate, literal translation.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Congratulations! You have made a wise decision. You may know, that if you read for 30 minutes a day, you can read through the New Testament in 30 days. And it will only take 90 days to read through the Old Testament. Reading in larger sections is preferred over reading a snippet of verses. Some “plans” have you reading three or four verses in the New and about the same in the Old. It can become very confusing.

The first recommendation for a translation would be the New American Standard Version, it is the most accurate, but is smoother reading than its predecessor ASV. The second recommendation would be an older version of the New International Version, if you could find a NIV that was printed in the 1980’s or before. The most recent is the NIV that has made changes based on political considerations instead of accuracy.

Recommend that you begin with Luke, then Acts, Mark, Romans, Matthew, Hebrews, 1 and 2 Corinthians, finish the letters and John before Revelation.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

I want to commend you on wanting to read the Bible in a year. This is a great way to mature in the faith. As to what version is best, everyone has a different opinion. I would recommend that you read an actual translation of the original manuscripts. Paraphrases often contain the personal bias of the writer. A translation brings the Hebrew and Greek alive in today’s language. I use the King James to memorize scripture, because of its beauty. I read from the New King James, because it brings the Bible alive in today’s language, but still has sound doctrine.

Some of the newer Bibles have compromised the deity of Jesus as the Son of God. So I tend to recommend translations that have been tested. When in doubt, ask several mature believers and get their opinions.

In Christ,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

I too have trouble reading the King James at times while The Message can seem to leave something out. I tend to read the NIV. The King James can be closer to the original in some ways for study purposes. But if you don’t understand it, it won’t reach you; you can’t lock it in your heart as the Bible says to if it doesn’t get into your head in the first place.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

That’s a noble plan — reading through the Bible in a year! You are right to avoid using “The Message” version of the Bible. That’s because it is a paraphrase of the Bible, and not a translation. The same goes for the old, 1970s “Living Bible”. There are many translational problems with both of those paraphrases, especially for someone who desires (as you do) to get as close to the original meaning as possible. A paraphrase simply will not do that! But translations of the Bible seek to render accurate phrase by phrase equivalents of the Hebrew or Greek text into modern English equivalents. Many translations are available, and most are pretty good. My favorites are the Revised English Bible (not The New English Bible), the New International Version (NIV), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the old Revised Standard Version (RSV). Each of these was created by having a panel of Bible language scholars review ancient manuscripts of the biblical texts, and then agreeing upon a verse by verse translation. It is “translation by committee,” but generally this has been very effective and produces a number of good Bible versions today. Enjoy and be nourished!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Some easy to read Bibles include the New King James Bible, the New International Version, the New Living Translation and the Revised Standard Version. A more literal translation is the New American Standard Bible.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

January 24, 2013

Question:

1 John 3:6 says, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. And vs. 9 says, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin for His seed remains in him and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”  I’ve heard in church services my whole life that we are human, therefore we sin. I’ve heard many a preacher state that even he sins. But according to these scriptures – anyone who still sins does not know the Lord. So does this mean that no one is really saved, not even the preachers?

Answers:

Being saved or born again by Jesus, we get a new nature and a new mind, which is the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and we are not the same person we were. This divine nature does not sin. However, we still live in bodies that are flesh which are plagued by natural desires. When we follow the leadership of the spirit and abide in Christ we do not sin. When we follow fleshly desires, then we do sin.

Knowing this, our sin has been paid for and is not held against us. Jesus forgave our sins past, present and future. If we are saved, we should never want to sin, but if we do fall, we will be forgiven. Attitude is everything, a person always yielding to the flesh, needs to check their relationship to the Lord.

God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

1Jn 3:6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

“No one who LIVES in Him keeps on sinning” (capitals added) Oh how I could say that I completely lived in Jesus! That I completely focused on His Holy Spirit every moment of every day. Unfortunately I am distracted (as we all are by the stresses, the woes, and the temptations of this world. When we feel stress or fear because our focus is on the pressures of this world instead of being excited about what God is going to do, then we are much more likely to surrender to rage or anger to vent, or to use lust or some other temptation to medicate our stress. No one is perfectly focused and lives on God 24/7 Accept Jesus.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

This is a confusing passage to many as it seems to disagree with normal Christian experience — namely that after we are saved (and know that we are saved) we still commit sin. Remember that we must read it in its immediate context, minimally 1 John 3:4-10. Secondly, and related to this, we must take into account the tenses of the verbs found throughout this paragraph; they are very important for understanding what this apostle meant. He is speaking of habitual sin, since the verb for doing or committing is in the Greek present tense. One who continually, habitually commits sin, may have “gone through the motions” of becoming a Christian; but this person is not abiding or remaining in Jesus. He is in fact “of the devil” (v. 8). Thirdly, John wrote this letter as a very old man. From his perspective of walking with Christ for decades he knew (and he communicated) that it was very difficult, willingly, to turn one’s back on the Savior, and dive fully once again into a life of sin.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Excellent question because the problem seems contradictory. 1 Jo 1:7-9 explains that as we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. The cleansing process is continuous because we do sin. So, what does John mean in chapter 3?

Paradoxically, he does not expect the statement to be taken literally. He is presenting the ideal. He is sharpening the difference between genuine and pretend discipleship. It is a general rule. Sinless is the standard and goal we seek. You cannot, at the same time: do good and do evil, go North and go South. You cannot serve two masters. Luke 16:13

Grammatically, John is using “present tense of continuous action” and referring to habitual action. It might read, “cannot continually live in sin.”  He is not saying we cannot sin or if we do sin we are lost, rather that we correct our path and return to following Jesus, when we do realize our sin.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

These verses you have given are best understood from the Greek than from the English. They are saying that the person who is born again does not continue to habitually sin against God. He or she has left the life of self-centeredness and is walking according to the Spirit of God. I John 1:9-2:3 tells us what to do when we sin. Sin is ‘missing the mark’. It is falling short of the will of God in an area of our lives where we know what we should do but fail to do it. If we confess then He will forgive and restore us to fellowship with Himself – I John 1:7

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

In 1 John 1:10 we read “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” Then in 3:6 John writes, “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” What John is saying is that if one abides or dwells in Christ, that one is unable to continually or habitually sin. Sin is no longer a way of life for the one who has truly entered into a personal relationship with Jesus by faith. In other passages the Bible says we are no longer bound by sin or are slaves to sin. Jesus brings real victory over sin. Romans 6:6 -7 is a wonderful passage: “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” It is not that a Christian never commits an act of sin; he or she is no longer a slave to sin and unable to keep from sinning as are those who have not trusted in Christ.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

January 10, 2013

Question:

We’re told in the Bible that we are all to be like Christ. He was a Jew – so if we are all to be like Him why aren’t we all Jewish?

Answers:

When we are told to be like Christ, the likeness that we should have is not in a physical sense but in the spiritual. The Bible says that God is a Spirit and we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. In Romans, it says that as many as are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. The Jews were the chosen people of God, but when they rejected Jesus, not knowing that He was Messiah, it says that we as Gentiles were grafted into the vine. We were adopted by God the Father as joint heirs of Jesus. So we are not Jews in a physical sense and may not have the tribal lineage

of the Jews, but we are still children of God and we can be like Jesus. When we surrender our lives in salvation to Jesus, we become spiritual Jews in God’s eye.

God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Paul makes mention of his own imitation of Christ here: Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul did not mean that we are to become Jewish as Jesus Christ was. Jesus’ own expansive view of the religion into which he was born gave plenty of evidence that God was going to open His Kingdom to people who were outside the confines of the Jewish religion. And indeed Paul appears to be the first apostle who really understood that the Good News about Jesus was intended for all persons, and not just the Jews. When we speak today of imitating Christ today, we mean (as Paul did) imitating the holy, loving, forgiving character of the Son of God. And His Spirit enables us indeed to imitate Jesus!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

We’re told in the Bible that we are all to be like Christ. He was a Jew – so if we are all to be like Him why aren’t we all Jewish?

Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

As you said Jesus was a Jew, he followed Jewish law, and he originally came for God’s chosen people:

Ro 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Jesus came to save us from the curse of not following the 10 commandments, He came to save all of the nation of Israel, He was the Messiah the old testament talks about, unfortunately most of the Israelites didn’t recognize Him as this, current Jews worshiping in the tabernacle are still looking for a messiah that has already shown up.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Paul said we no longer know Christ after the flesh. Being a Christian does not affect or change our nationality. Being Jewish is secondary to being circumcised in our hearts.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

December 20, 2012

Question:

I am told time and time again not to judge others. Is it REALLY not ok to use judgment on anyone? If we didn’t judge we wouldn’t keep our children away from child molesters; we wouldn’t care if, as teens, they hung out with other kids who drink or do drugs; and we would make friends with people who have opposing values and views. I find it hard as a Christian to be friends with a non-believer not because I judge their every move, but because I am completely different than them. When is it ok to use judgment (if ever) and not ok?

Answers:

Judge not! This is probably the most quoted verse in the Bible, next to “Take a little wine for the stomach!” Both are used as excuses to either avoid our responsibilities or to excuse our sinful habits.

I say to avoid our responsibilities because we are told to “judge righteous judgment”, we are told to examine the fruit of a person’s life and by that examination be able to tell whether they are true or false in their profession of Christ. See Matthew 7: 15-18. Here is our protection against false teachers and prophets and of being misled by others into false worship.

Judge righteous judgment is in John 7, also look at 1 Corinthians 6 where are told that we should judge the things of this life and that in the future we shall judge the angels. We are also clearly told to judge ourselves and to cleanse our selves of the things which are sinful. What we cannot do is to judge a person to a person in final everlasting judgment. Your reader asks how we protect ourselves and others without judging, we could not without measuring a person’s life and actions against the standards of Scripture and acting accordingly. But we need to act with great care as we do so.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist Temple (El Paso, TX)

When we think about judgment, we are thinking about one who is elected to sit in judgment over another person. The Bible teaches that the only one qualified to judge another is our Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father has set Him in the place of judgment over all of humanity. He will judge human beings based on their relationship to Him. Jesus says “judge not, that you be not judged.”

We never want to take the place of Jesus when we try to determine another person’s salvation.

But God also gives us the gift of discernment to make decisions in this life as we are led by the Spirit. The Spirit tells us what is of God and what is not. We are called to be wise and to listen to the Spirit as we make decisions in everything we do. We are not judging but following leadership of the Lord.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

1Sa 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

This is the kind of judgment God uses, God judges from the heart, we can’t do that. We should of course use discretion about who our kids hang out with,

1Co 15:33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

What Jesus was talking about is looking at someone as less than what they are because they aren’t saved or because of their behavior. God loves those that we may not want in our home or around our children because of their bad choices.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Jesus told His disciples to “judge righteously”. God has given us His Word as the standard for judging righteously. What we cannot do is condemn another to an eternal punishment – that is God’s work, not ours. What we must exercise is DISCERNMENT – knowing what to look for in evaluating people, problems, and things, while not being drawn into a compromising situation of our God-given standards. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.”

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The best and most concise word about humans judging others is found toward the end of the “Sermon on the Mount”, in Matthew 7:1-5. There Jesus Christ is talking to His disciples about standing in the place of God and judging others as worthy of eternal punishment or eternal salvation. No human has that power (or should have!). Therefore His instruction to us all is to cease acting as if we do. But the kind of “judging” you are referring to in your examples has to do more with the ordinary, routine kinds of discernment or evaluation. Certainly we must always be vigilant to evaluate persons so as to determine if they are suitable for our children (or ourselves) to befriend. Moreover we will, as Christians, evaluate other Christians to determine what spiritual gifts they have, and how they might serve the best. But this is not what Jesus our Lord meant in Matthew 7.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

A preacher from a previous generation once responded, “I am not a judge, I am a fruit inspector.” The passages of MT 7:1; LK 6:37; JO 12:47 emphasize two points. First, is the hypercritical opinion we many have toward another, while overlooking our own sin. Excusing self while condemning others is a common practice. Then, ultimately, my opinion has no bearing on the final judgment of any person or group of people. The final judgment of mankind’s destiny belongs to God and God alone.

However, when the Gospel is preached, repentance is a part of the message. A person cannot repent unless they are aware of how their life is inconsistent with God’s will. And as you have noted, we must be aware of associates for ourselves and teach our children to also be aware.

1 Cor 15:33 “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” NIV

Worldly culture always wants to be tolerated and accepted, it is common for the ungodly to challenge disciples to “Not judge others.” We do judge, we must judge. We must not judge unfairly and we cannot judge for eternity. We are fruit inspectors who prefer the good fruit rather than the evil fruit.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Your question is referring to the much misused statement of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” It is misused because many who quote it fail to include verse 2 where Jesus added, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” What Jesus is prohibiting is not judging by spiritually evaluating things, ideas and persons, but judging hypercritically from a fallen, human perspective. The Bible continually commands us to carefully evaluate all things according to God’s standards. In that same passage Jesus commanded us to beware of false prophets and stated that we would know them by their fruits or by their works (see Matthew 7:15-20). In 1 John 4:1 we are told to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” and in the following verses we learn how to do this. We do not judge harshly, but we must evaluate all our world presents to see how they line up with or go against God and His principles. When we judge we are to be guided by the Holy Spirit and the principles of the Bible, not our own human attitudes and prejudices that result in error.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

December 06, 2012

Question:

The Bible says to give 10%. My pastor just preached on this last week. I’m not sure how that 10% is supposed to be broken up, if at all. Like do we give 10% to the church and anything else, Like Operation Christmas Child, National Right to Life, and other Christian organizations; is that extra? Or would God consider that part of his 10% since you are still spending your money to give for the glory of God to something else?

Answers:

The Bible teaches that the tithe is to be brought to God’s house. We see in Malachi 3:10 and 1 Chronicles 26:20 that this is God’s desire. We also see in Genesis 14:20 that Abram brought a tithe to Melchizedek who was the high priest of Salem. The local church is the vehicle that God’s uses to spread the Gospel message. The church births, disciples and equips believers to go into the fields that are white unto harvest. Without it the work of the kingdom cannot be done.

There are many Christian organizations doing great work for God, and we need to encourage and support them as well. Our support for them is given after we tithe to the local church. When we give to these needs, we give offerings and not the tithe. An offering is that which is given over and above the tithe.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

There is a difference between tithes and offerings. The 10 % rule (by the way that’s a minimum) is considered tithe on the first fruits of what God gives us. Donating to operation Christmas child, or KLOVE, or other things of that nature would be an offering but another way to think about it is tithing time, or talents. When I was first saved I didn’t have anything monetarily to give God, but I had my skills as a musician.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Probably one of the most well-known verses about tithing is Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” The storehouse is the local church, and I firmly believe that the entire tithe – the 10% – is to be given through the local church. Yet in the Bible, people worshiped through given of both tithes and regular offerings. It is most proper to give the tithe through your local church, and additional support to other ministries would be offerings that go above and in addition to your tithe. My wife and I faithfully give our tithe to the Lord each week in the offering at our church, but we also give offerings to God’s kingdom work through ministries that would be classified as “parachurch ministries” – ministries that function alongside of the local congregation. This would include those mentioned in your question as well as many others. Remember that your giving is an act of worship. In the Bible one could not worship without bringing an offering of some sort. If God impresses you to support a particular ministry in addition to the church, and you are faithfully tithing through your church, then give in faith and know that God will supply what He has prompted you to give.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

Tithing is mentioned first in the Old Testament in a world where people do not have the kind of regular income that we have (mostly farm produce). Jesus mentions tithing with respect to the corruption of some of the Pharisees in His day, so we know it likely was still a practice for Jewish people of every walk of life. With the coming of the church, believers experienced freedom from the Jewish law, so many followers gave less and some gave more than ten percent. For today, ideally, one should give ten percent of income (after taxes!) to one’s local church. However some feel impressed to support other charities like the ones you have mentioned. We will always need to ask God how much of His money we should share with such groups outside our local church. And because Jesus Christ is alive, He will answer that question for each family!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

As a rule of thumb our 10% ought to be given to the local church where we are being nurtured and any other giving should be considered our love offerings to God. There is no dogmatic rule on giving in this way but I’m sure it will please the Lord. He loves a cheerful giver!
Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

November 22,2012

Question:

The Bible says do not add or take anything from it and if you do it is detestable to the Lord. So how are all these different versions of the Bible (NIV, KJV etc) and study Bibles ok? Or are they?

Answers:

When it comes to His word, God has made it very clear that we are not to change it. He or she who does, stands in a place of judgment. What many people do not understand is how the different versions of the Bible came about. For Scripture to be accurate, it must be translated from the original manuscripts. The Old Testament Hebrew was carried forward from Moses’ day. The New Testament Greek manuscripts are dated as far back as 300 AD. The older the manuscript the more credibility they have.  A Bible that is not translated from these manuscripts is not accurate. The real indicator of accuracy is how the Bible treats the person of Jesus. If it detracts from His deity as the Son of God, it is a work of heresy. Some works are paraphrases, and are not considered a true Bible. Most of the older translations are reliable, but the newer works need to be checked.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

The reference to the biblical warning against adding to or removing from the Bible is actually a paraphrase of the “postlude”, or concluding section of the Book of Revelation (22:18-19). This warning, as is clear from its context, applies, not to the entire Bible, but only to this Book of Revelation. As to the plethora of translations in the English language (and in other languages), the various translations have been deemed necessary for three good reasons: 1.) remember that a translation is working from the original text-language, which is in Hebrew, Aramaic, and (for the New Testament) Greek. There has always been more than one way to translate a given text. 2.) The English language is a living language, and therefore it is changing all the time. It gains new phrases, new expressions, and its words sometimes have acquired new meanings. The opposite also occurs with older words and phrases falling out of use. New translations are necessary to reflect the way a majority of people in an English-speaking country speak in any given generation. 3.) Because not all people possess the same level of proficiency in the English language, it has become necessary to translate the Bible to meet the educational levels of different reader-audiences. The New Living Translation, for instance, is designed for people with no more than an eighth grade education.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

I admit I’ve asked the same question. Translations and Versions are seeking more clarity and not to rewrite or twist the Scriptures. There is a lot of trustworthy scholarship involved in the process. Always check the Editors Notes in the front of the particular Bible you are purchasing to find out the sources they are using. Unless you can read Hebrew and Greek, you really need the help these Bibles give.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)
Excellent question and goes to the heart of religious division in our day. Deut 4:2; 12:32; Prov 30:5-6; Rev 22:18-19. Accurate translations are important for the Gospel to be spread and disciples to grow spiritually. An example would be: the Greek word baptismos, baptisma, baptizo, it was not translated in the Bishops Bible of 1561. A new word was created by changing the Greek letters for English letters. This process is called transliteration. It allowed them to translate, but hide the meaning of the word, which is immerse. King James ordered the same practice to be continued in 1611.

The problem in not translating or commenting, the problem is changing the meaning that God intended to something else.

It is best to choose translations/versions that are made by several scholars, rather than just one. Also, when you study, it is beneficial to use different versions to see how they vary from one another. It is good to know the background writers of commentaries. Those written by the members of a particular religious group could be expected to support the positions held by that group. Ultimately, it is each individual’s responsibility to know God’s will and obey Him.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

November 08, 2012

Question:

Does God hear and answer prayers of non-believers? A friend I’ve tried to witness to at school says he won’t accept the Lord because he has prayed about serious issues before and God didn’t answer. Because of this he says either God doesn’t exist OR if he does – since he hasn’t answered his prayers he won’t accept him.

Answers:

God hears all prayers, but he does not necessarily answer prayers like we want them answered. James wrote in his epistle (4:3) “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” NIV So the question becomes, are we praying for the Lord’s will to be done? Mt 26:42. Jesus endured, he did not escape. Often we must endure, so our prayer should be for strength. Phil 4:13. Also 1 Pet 4:11 “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

Overcoming selfishness is part of the Disciples task. If we, as James said, pray selfishly, there should be no expectation of receiving. Some today teach a selfish message, “do this and God will do that.” The message of Jesus was sacrifice and service, NOT give a little and get a lot.

Proverbs also addresses those who refuse God’s will, but still want God’s blessings. Prov 28:9 “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.” Selfishness is not a new phenomenon.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

This sounds like another person who believes that God is more of a Santa Clause than a wise Heavenly Father. Humanism, the belief that the world revolves around us has ruined the faith, trust, and reverence of many. James 4: 3 offers a good reason why prayer goes unanswered. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”Answered prayer is usually always conditional. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

God does in fact hear and act on prayers from unbelievers, all the time, and every day. There are at least two main categories of people from which God can hear: those who have heard enough of the Good News to respond in prayer. At that point of their seeking they are still officially “unbelievers” and on their way to being “believers”. For many of these the process of becoming a serious seeker of Jesus Christ may take months or years. During that time, God hears their prayers. He answers them by bringing them closer to that point at which they can confess their sins and receive the Savior. The other category of “unbeliever” that God hears from are people who are of another religion entirely. They are searching for the real God through their own religion. Paul speaks of them in Romans 2:12-16 and in Acts 17:26-28, the “Mars Hill Sermon”. God knows people have to start from “somewhere” so He listens to their earnest prayers, and works through events to bring them to the Cross of Jesus.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Answered prayer is based upon our relationship and submission to our Lord. We are children of God as we have been adopted by God, because we surrendered our life to His Son Jesus. Romans 8:15 says, we receive the Spirit of adoption and we cry out Abba Father. John 9:31 says, “God does not hear sinners (lost), but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” God only hears the prayers of His children. When we pray and ask the Lord to forgive us and save us, then our prayers are heard by God. We have just opened our channel of blessing.

Jesus said “ask and it will be given unto you.” What is understood here is that we are children of the Lord and we are praying in His will. Self centered prayers in opposition to kingdom principles, will not be heard.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

October 25, 2012

Question:

Why does the bible end? Like why isn’t there still stuff being added to it?

Answers:

To understand why God does things is to understand God, which is impossible. I believe that the Bible is (God breathed) and is the inspired Word of God. He dictated to men, exactly what He wanted to be written. The Old Testament was written to bring about principles for the Jews to live by, but also to point to the first coming of the Messiah. When Jesus came, the Old Testament was fulfilled or complete.

The New Testament was written to show the life of Jesus and to follow the evangelical expansion of the early church. When the disciples and eye witnesses to Jesus ministry ended, then God chose to stop the inspirational writings. These writers shared the teachings of Jesus with men and women as they traveled the world in their day. To stop heretical influences, I believe God stopped the Biblical record as these men passed away.

God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

The apostles were commanded to preach to others and teach them to also preach the message of Jesus. Mt 28:18-20. The inspired writers recorded what mankind needs to be in harmony with God. A few years later, Peter wrote these words, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Pet 1:3 NIV.  We have everything we need; therefore, we don’t need anything else.

The claims of later revelations fail an important test Gal 1:8 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” There is only one message, Eph 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

Don’t look for quick answers that fit only our time in history. Study the Bible and find the answers you need. 2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Rev 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

Yes the works of the saints continue on to this day, but the bible is the bible, it has no additional books, it was written as an instruction manual for us and there is no further instruction needed

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

One reason I’m sure is that those who knew Jesus personally or were original apostles had all passed away by the end of the first century A.D.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The Bible ends at the Book of Revelation. Believe me this was not decided overnight! It took about two centuries for the various early churches to reach the conclusion that the 51 books (66, in the Protestant Canon of the Bible) formed a single unit. The churches began to reach that conclusion by the end of the third century, A. D. One important factor in their reaching that conclusion was that the last of the apostles — men who had known Jesus in the flesh — had died off.

Another factor was that these particular books, from Genesis to Revelation, seemed to hold together, and deliver the full and highly satisfactory account of the coming of God’s Savior and Messiah to the world (see above about “forming a single unit”). A third factor was harder to measure or put into words. It was the time-tested idea that these particular books seemed to be the way by which God would continue to offer His guiding word through the teaching and preaching of his new generations of prophets and preachers. A fourth factor that determined the end of the full biblical canon at Revelation was the belief by the earliest churches that the books of the canon had known and easily recognized authors. This claim could not be made for many of the so-called pseudepigraphal books which followed.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

October 11, 2012

Question:

How do you save someone who has no relationship with God but yet thinks they are saved due to their religion’s rituals? I have been able to get in to pretty deep conversations about God with my husband who is of a different faith and I have asked him before if he’s ever prayed the prayer of salvation and told him if he ever wants to I will pray it with him. He says in his religion (which he no longer practices) he is saved and doesn’t need to pray a prayer of salvation. He says Saint Paul or Peter or whoever it is will decide if he gets to go to heaven at the gates when he dies and there is no other way of KNOWING you are saved and will go to heaven until then. How do I change his view on this? I do take him to my church and I do pray for him, but how do I explain it to him that he is not saved?

Answers:

Paul tells us that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” NIV Rom 10:17. He also said “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom 2:13. Peter adds “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” 1 Pet 3:1-2.

The only way any person is saved is to hear the word of God, believe and obey God’s instructions. You may (and should) live the best life as an example to be admired by your spouse. Let the Word of God speak to your spouse about his condition, not your words. Be patient.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me

These are t the words of Paul, St Paul as your husband calls him. Paul and Peter both served Jesus, one walked with him in person while the other only knew Him in spirit. They were both servants of the Jesus. Would they not both still be in heaven? And would they not both still do what Jesus asked them to do? Then why not walk and talk to the guy in charge?

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

First of all, we do not save anyone. God saves everyone through the finished work of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for the sins of the world, and by vindicating Jesus as Son of God by raising Him from the dead. But, as you note, it is true that all of our churches are filled with people who are just not clear about how one gets saved, or (in other words) gets to be put right with God. There are many people who have bought into some sort of “pop theology”, and the belief that St. Peter (or another dead saint) sorts that out when a person dies is a common one in the Western world. Your first thought is your best one: we pray for persons like this to be receptive. But this means we also pray for ourselves that Christ will give us the loving disposition to draw these persons to the cross. We also pray that God will give us the words from His Word to share with them at a time of His choosing.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Please understand that Satan is a deceiver with one of his best deceptions being salvation by works. Many people take salvation from the Lord’s hands and trust it to a baptism or another work. The hardest people to deal with are those who are lost but think they are saved. The best tool that God has given us is prayer. It is God who convicts the lost that they need to be saved. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” John 1:12 says “Yet to all who received Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Salvation does not come from throwing the dice in the hope we will be ok. Peter and Paul don’t stand in judgment, Jesus does. He is the only way to

Salvation (John 14:6).

God Bless,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

September 20, 2012

Question:

Is it considered to be unequally yoked for a couple of different denominations (Christian churches such as Baptist/Methodist) to marry? I thought it meant believer vs. unbeliever or Christian faith vs. other type of religion (Hindu, Buddhist etc.). My fiancé and I were recently told we shouldn’t marry since I am Baptist and he Methodist that we would be unequally yoked and one forced to choose a church/denomination over the other. To me – if that is true then people are only allowed to marry within their own church and that is not always possible. Please give us biblical guidance in this matter.

Answers:

Paul’s words in II Corinthians 6 are specifically related to believers being united with unbelievers, light with darkness, etc. I would tell you that what you’ve been told does not find an application in Paul’s context. Read Mark 9:38-40. Just because he’s not “one of us” in the same denomination does not negate Christ’s acceptance.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The key to your question is in the verse itself: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…” (2 Corinthians 6:14, KJV). Both Baptists and Methodists are Christian congregations. You are correct the Bible forbids believers being bound with unbelievers. Nothing restricts this close partnership just to marriage, however; every area of life should be included. From a practical standpoint I would strongly advise you and your fiancé find a church where you both feel at home as a couple. If married persons try attending separate churches, invariably one or often both end up dropping out of church altogether. You could chose a church of either denomination, and you might consider attending a different fellowship than the one either of you currently attend; that way it would be your church as a couple and not one of you “giving in” to the other. A home based upon mutual dependence on God and unity in worship is much stronger and will succeed with less conflict than a spiritually divided home, even when both are believers.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The passage reads “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” NIV and “unequally yoked” in KJV, ASV, NKJ. The verse is applicable to any relationship (personal or business) that limits or works against our service in the Kingdom of Jesus. The degree in which it is applied will vary with different people. Some have married one in their own church and been disappointed with the level of faith and commitment in them.

Agreeing to disagree will typically lead to frustration or apathy for one or both parties.

Jesus used the phrase, “not of this world” Jo 15:19; 17:14-16, to suggest the importance of the spiritual over the worldly. If a couple is divided on how they will serve Jesus, how children will be reared and how important Christ will be in their daily lives, it needs to be discussed and resolved in advance of marriage.

In the premarital counseling I do, faith is an important part of the discussion.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

The idea comes from this specific quote (2 Corinthians 6:2): “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” You should of course read the entire paragraph (6:11-18). But it is very clear that Paul there was talking about UNBELIEVERS. That is, people who are not of the Christian faith at all. (And most people were not in his day.) It is true that some members of the Church of Christ and the Baptist Churches do not believe one can be a Christian if one is a member of another denomination or Christian fellowship. But of course real Christians can be found all over the world, ranging from high church settings (Eastern Orthodox) to independent fundamentalists and Pentecostals. The apostle’s point was, as long as one is contemplating marriage at all, one should pick someone who is already a believer. And for today, it doesn’t matter what denomination that might be. What does matter is that the married couple should work out an arrangement whereby they can worship together at least occasionally.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

When the scripture about being unequally yoked was written there were no other churches. Whoever told you this must be very concerned they are going to lose a good church member. Thank God for your value to this church and follow whichever denomination suits your husband and yourself. Try both churches if you like and decide which one is the best fit for you. Jesus loves you no matter which one of your houses you worship in

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The apostle Paul speaks to the issue or being unequally yoked in 2 Corinthians 6:14 when he says “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” He is concerned not only with marriage but also with general relationships that we have. Paul gives marriage principles in

1 Corinthians chapter 7, but here he is expanding the relationship to any person that we have close fellowship with. He is trying to say that we should  not allow people who are unbelievers to influence our spiritual condition or our morality in a negative way.

As to people who are saved and born again, Paul does not stop them from having a marital relationship in the Lord. I believe that marriage between denominations is acceptable as long as both people know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

September 6, 2012

Question:

My question is in regards to Matthew 6:14-15 that speaks about if we do not forgive others, our Heavenly Father will not forgive us. It’s always been taught that Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins as the ultimate sacrifice. But according to this scripture – it seems that is not the case. Forgiveness is not always an easy, quick response – one normally has to work towards that goal. My question is – if someone dies unexpectedly before they’ve reached the goal of forgiving someone – does that mean they won’t go to heaven because since they haven’t forgiven, the Lord hasn’t forgiven them?

Answers:

Jesus died to save all mankind that does not mean all will be saved. Not everyone will believe (Rom 16:26), repent and serve Jesus. Those who refuse to serve Jesus are refusing the Savior (Acts 13:41).

As a Christian lives, they are to be forgiving toward others. We are not to carry a grudge or harbor hatred toward those who have hurt us in some way (1 Cor 13:5). Forgiveness does not mean we forget or cease to be hurt. And it would be absurd to give a thief another opportunity to steal, it could even be considered a sin to place them in a tempting position (1 Cor 8:12). You can forgive someone and still not trust them.

Christians are not perfect; they are forgiven by Jesus Christ. The sin of a Christian is forgiven even before he realizes his sin, because he is walking in the Light of Jesus (1 Jo 1:6-10).

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

The context of the verses is critical to understanding the answer to your question. They came as part of an extended teaching by Jesus recorded in Matthew 5-7. Chapter 5 states that while the crowds that followed Jesus were there, He was teaching His disciples – His followers. This indicates Jesus was referring to an aspect of an ongoing relationship with God rather than the requirements to receiving God’s forgiveness that results in salvation. The Bible is clear salvation comes by our confessing our sin and asking God to forgive us on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice in our place, not anything we do – including forgiving others. But Jesus is very concerned we forgive rather than continue alienated from others. Our ability to forgive is a direct result of the forgiveness we have received from God in salvation. He has forgiven me far more than any wrongdoing I have experienced from others. But my refusal to forgive others as a believer damages my relationship with God and prevents me from relating to God and to others as God desires.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, NASB). We are to exhibit God’s love toward others, not harbor hurt and resentment and ill will against those who have hurt us. We must forgive to be able to live fully in His continuing forgiveness.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

If a Christian dies (especially if it is quite sudden) prior to forgiving every possible person, he or she will still go to heaven. The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15 do indeed sound severe and harsh, but consider this: Jesus uses an Aramaic word which (through the New Testament Greek) is translated as “transgressions” or “trespasses”. This really heightens the importance of forgiveness to someone else. Trespass means that someone knew what would be a wrong thing to do to us, and they did it anyway! That is they were very deliberate in stepping over the line (“trespassing” into our lives). If you can sincerely offer forgiveness to someone in that kind of situation, then you have gone a long ways towards a genuine imitation of Jesus Christ. Jesus simply desires to impress upon His followers that if we really are going to follow Him (and “be a disciple”); we must imitate God in offering forgiveness — even to those who directly transgress against us. Where possible and practicable, we can always depend upon the Holy Spirit to move us into a condition whereby we can forgive.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

This question has several parts: 1) Jesus did indeed take away the sins of the world in His death on the cross. 2) While that remains true, there is a condition to receive the benefit of His death. That condition is repentance and belief in Christ and His resurrection (Romans 10). 3) Jesus is showing us how seriously we need to deal with forgiveness. If we believe it would cost us God’s forgiveness then we would not delay in offering forgiveness to those who offend us.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX) 

When we come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, our sins are forgiven past, present and future. Jesus is not speaking of salvation here but is talking to those who know Him. When we accept Christ, we must come to Him with an attitude of surrender and forgiveness because He has forgiven us a great injustice, so we should forgive others a small injustice.

Following salvation, when we sin and refuse to forgive, then fellowship is broken with the Father. That means the communication process is broken and our prayers are hindered. We lose the joy of our salvation giving Satan an opening to work in our lives. If we continue in unforgiveness, then bitterness sets in and our joy is lost. We become a stagnant vessel who cannot fulfill our role in the kingdom, for which we were created. When we forgive others,

our relationship with the Lord is restored, and our fellowship with Him is renewed, resulting in the blessing of joy and peace.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

August 23, 2012

Question:

Why do some churches baptize people of any age and others only after a certain age?

Answers:

There are several facets to this question. First, is the teaching that infants have the guilt of original or inherited sin of Adam. Those who believe their new born is condemned without being baptized will resort to sprinkling of babies in the belief it reconciles them to God. In contrast to this idea, the New Testament teaches we must become like little children, there is no condemnation of children.

Second, the New Testament teaches a person must hear (Rom 1:17), believe (Heb 11:6; Mk 16:16), and obey the Gospel to be saved (Mt 28:18-20; Acts 10:48; 22:16). An infant or immature child is not capable of understanding and following Jesus. Yes, a two year old can be taught to say George Washington was the first president of the USA, but they do not understand our republic form of government and how to participate in it.

It is not unusual to hear the phrase “age of accountability,” meaning a person has reached a point in mental development that they grasp abstract concepts. Generally, this is around puberty or the age of 12 years. Jesus went to the Temple at the age of twelve. Those who are accountable, can hear, believe and obey. Discipleship is voluntary; no one would forcibly immerse an adult thinking it would make them right with God.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

The reasons that people baptize at different ages are as varied as the theologies that they embrace. Some churches believe that baptism is part of, or necessary to, the salvation experience. Therefore if an infant is sprinkled or baptized, the assumption is made that this saves the person.

The Bible teaches however, that every person is accountable to God and responsible for their sin. To be saved, true repentance is required when a person is old enough to understand the consequences of sin. Only a repentant heart can receive salvation through Jesus Christ. Baptism

does not save but is a public testimony from the person who has given their life to Jesus. The reason then that some baptize at an early age, is that they believe it saves the young person. The more mature person surrenders their life to Jesus and is baptized as a public testimony of the change that has taken place in their heart.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Probably, it is how some view the age of accountability (usually set at 12 years of age). I personally make sure that a young person desiring water baptism first receives Biblical instruction on the meaning of baptism. Acts 8 records the question and answer of Philip and the Ethiopian – “Why shouldn’t I be baptized? Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. The Eunuch answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God…and Philip baptized him.” (V.36-38)

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Great question. Every church is different and has its distinct values or policies according to each Pastor. I believe some churches have a requirement in age because they hold the belief that an older person is able to make a responsible decision. Others believe that some at an early age do not have the capacity to make such a decision for themselves till they reach a certain age. I hope I was helpful.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Iglesia Vision (East of Dallas, TX)

Some churches today come from the Catholic stream of tradition. This dates back to at least the second century A. D. At that time we have historical records that indicate whole families were being baptized, if the father of the family became a Christian. This included any infants or toddlers in the family at that time. In fact that same practice may have been taking place during the Apostle Paul’s life time. For instance we read of the Philippian Jailor (a new convert), that he was baptized that night, and “all belonging to him” (which is a fairly literal translation). This may have included very small children. Recall also that families in the ancient world were typically larger than now, as they included not just children and siblings living under one roof, but slaves and servants as well. On the other hand, churches in the free or Protestant lines of tradition prefer what is called “believer’s baptism”. According to this understanding, one should not be baptized until one is old enough to understand what it means to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Only older children and adults are included in this. There is certainly a biblical warrant for this as well. So today, you must decide where you fit in the grand scheme of church tradition!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Ro 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Baptism is a heavy concept. Heavier than most of us who are adults realize. It is an outward act specifying an inward change. The death of sin in our lives and our rebirth in the Holy Spirit is something that younger children don’t really understand. The baptism itself doesn’t really have supernatural power, but it does specify the change taking place in the individual that change is supernatural. It requires knowledge of concepts that most adults won’t fully grasp until they’ve been Christians for a while. Because of this our church and others, will christen babies in the Lord but generally won’t baptize until they are old enough to understand the concept

Associate Pastor Richard Roberson

Open Gate Community church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

August 9, 2012

Question:

I am checking out this Christianity thing. I’m told a Christian “knows God” and has “relationship with God”. How is that possible when he is not here physically? How can I KNOW God? And how can I have a RELATIONSHIP with him?

Answers:

What wonderful questions! For some today the idea of “knowing” God is hard to grasp. For many others who believe in the “paranormal,” it is less of a challenge because they acknowledge that there are non-physical “entities” that exist. Jesus once told a woman who was trying to evade His intimate knowledge of her past by changing the subject that “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). As a spiritual being God is not limited to time and location like a physical person, and is therefore able to have a personal relationship with anyone who calls on Him regardless of where they are around the world.

The resurrected Jesus had appeared to Paul, which led him to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah the Jews had waited centuries for. Well over a decade after this encounter Paul wrote to a church who had believed in and accepted Jesus this: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection … in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11).

Because we are spiritual in nature, we can have a relationship with the Spiritual being who created us – God – by a faith relationship. This is more than a wishful thinking, but a real, dynamic relationship that is not limited by our physical senses. I am excited that you are checking out Christianity. It is very probably full of confusing concepts to you. If you will sincerely pray to God and ask Him to reveal the truth to you, He will come and touch you in a spiritual sense that will aid you in your search. I and any of the ministers who respond to this column would love to help you in your search. Please feel free to call upon us or another Christian pastor of a friend or family member. I am praying for you as you are seeking the truth.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Thanks for a very astute and penetrating question. Read the scripture references below, when not quoted.  Rom 10:17 reads “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  The central message of the New Testament is summarized in 1 Cor 15:1-4 “… of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”  The required faith comes through a knowledge of his word. Heb 11:1.  We then “know” God through His word, 1 John 2:3-4

Jesus came to reveal not just God’s word, but God. John 1:1, 14.  We “know” him, not from a personal face to face, nor from some emotional experience. 1 John 1:5.  Your relationship comes from a knowledge of God’s word and obedience to what you learn. 1 John 5:13

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

When it comes to knowing God and having a relationship with Him, people often seek proof prior to their exercise of faith. But to know God — that is to understand His reality and character — does in fact require an act of faith first. It doesn’t have to be great faith; even a little trust in Jesus can open the door to knowing the reality of God and His character of holy love. Read Romans 8:6-14. There you will see there is such a thing as a “spiritual life”. This is the life of the Holy Spirit which one receives through faith in Jesus Christ. Once one has entered into that life it then becomes more possible to believe that God is real, even though we cannot see Him. It is then — after the act of faith — that one really understands the meaning of the word invisible. The word means something (or Someone) who is real and present, even though we remain unable to see this something or Someone. But only faith in Jesus takes you through the doorway of understanding this more fully. And yes, it is then, that we experience a personal relationship with God. Faith opens the door to that as well.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

A person can never know God until they are born again, when their sin is removed by Christ. This is done as a non-believer surrenders their will and submits their life to Christ, making Him Lord of their life. When we do this, His Spirit comes to live in us. With Jesus living in us, then He becomes our teacher and starts to identify with our Spirit. Jesus says in John 14:7. “If you had known Me, you would have also known My Father.” We know Jesus by reading and meditating upon the Bible. When we are saved by Christ, the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God comes to dwell in us. Jesus said in John 14:20 “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” So Jesus starts abiding or living in us, when we are saved and He then draws us to Himself in a personal relationship. When we know Jesus, then we also know God.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

The beginning starts with an introduction. God as the creator of the universe, savior of all sinners. Us as the sinners. We surrender to him and allow him to work by not shutting him out. Prayer and scripture reading is communication with God. In the bible God speaks to us, it is the living word and the words leap off the page to those of us who are hungry enough to listen. Prayer is speaking to God, sometimes asking our requests, but hopefully also being thankful to him for the things he has done.

The deeper part of this comes when things here start to fall apart and we need to lean on something else.

Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

July 19, 2012

Question:

I recently became a member of my new church. I know that one of my responsibilities as a member is that I am to tithe. My husband is the breadwinner, and does not attend church with me. He has informed me he does not want me to give HIS money to the church. We are a young military family and most times his income doesn’t cover our expenses. As a result, I find myself not attending because I feel bad I can’t put money in the plate. How should I handle this? Should I continue to not attend while I can’t contribute? Should I pressure my husband to allow me to give? Should I not have “joined” the church while I can’t give?

Answers:

You are contributing to your church every time you are present in the services! Give some extra time if you can and give whatever talents you have – VOLUNTEER!

This will be a blessing to your pastor and to your own heart. Let the Lord deal with your husband in His time and in the way He chooses.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Mk 12:41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.

Mk 12:42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Two things to remember first, God wants us to give; the amount is between you and God. The bible talks about 10 percent, that is a rule, some give more some give less. The other things to remember is that we can tithe time, talents, or money. We should in fact try to tithe all these things, not just money. Most importantly we should understand that whether it be time, tithe, or talent, it all belongs to God. Never feel guilty for what you can’t give, be grateful for what you can. And pray for your husband that he can see your example and be moved by your compassion and charity to others. Remember the “little drummer boy” who could give nothing to the baby Jesus but his song. I was in the same boat when I came to the lord, the only gift I had was my musical talent. Maybe you have the gift of service and can serve others. Whatever, give cheerfully

Associate Pastor Richard Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Yours is indeed a difficult situation, but unfortunately not a unique one. Many who are married to pre-Christians or non-involved spouses are placed in the same situations. The Scripture is very clear that you need to be submitted to your husband as God has made him responsible for your household. First, be very thankful that God has led you to a church that can come alongside and be your spiritual family. Get involved; do not stay away because you are unable to give based on your husband’s income. Do you have money that is designated for you personally, for you to spend on your own needs? You could chose to give even a little of that money. Do not “pressure” your husband to allow you to give. Simply share that your relationship with God is very important to you and you wish you could give something on a regular basis. If he still says no, honor that. Make it a matter of prayer and ask God to draw your husband to Him. Try and make friends with other military couples in your church that you and your husband could do things with socially. Perhaps another military husband could become friends with and ultimately invite your husband to some men’s events at your church very naturally. Also check and see if your church offers any financial training classes to help you and your husband learn to budget and manage your finances well. Many younger adults today have never been taught how to budget and save and mange money effectively. In addition to being very helpful to you on a practical level, it might also allow your husband to meet and grow to appreciate others in your church. When he sees your church is willing to help him improve in handling his money well, he may be more prone to give later.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

What should you do? Your own commitment to Jesus Christ comes first over all other things. Yet Jesus — who with His Father created and sanctified marriage — would have you honor your marriage vows and your commitment to your husband. You should pray for him that he will one day become a believer. God’s Word also instructs you to live a holy example before him as an additional important influence upon his own spiritual growth. Since he is the head of your household you should honor his wishes in all matters financial. We pastors understand that these are very hard times for younger families — especially those on a single income! And I can promise you no pastor or usher will look down on you because you are unable to give (either due to poverty or because of the wishes of your husband). In addition, however, you can ask the Lord to provide you with some income, or some gift of volunteering by which you can support the local work of Jesus Christ in that local Body of Christ. God appreciates even the small gifts and counts them as precious (see the story of the widow at the Temple treasury: Mark 12:41-44). But regular worship and Christian fellowship is important for your own spiritual growth, so you should pray about participating in such as occasion allows.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

The courts would argue that half of everything in a marriage belongs to each spouse. It does not matter which mate has the larger income.

But, it would be unwise to approach this in an adversarial manner. 1 Peter 3:1 says to win the husband, “without words (but) by the behavior of their wives.” Scripture is not saying you should be a doormat or that you have no rights. It is the same thought expressed in a common saying, “you draw more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Allow your husband to experience how much better you are because of the influence of Jesus in your life. Let your goodness multiply and bless your husband, so he will be attracted to what you have found.

Do not turn away from Jesus because you cannot give as you desire. Do what you can, when you can.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

The issue here is not a money issue but a spiritual issue. A believing wife has a responsibility to live a Godly example before her husband who may not know the Lord. Your first priority is to be surrendered to the Lord. Your second priority is to be submitted to your husband. If he is to be saved, then you have to be faithful to the Lord by attending church and reading the Word of God. When you live a Christian life in front of your husband, then he can be changed by your love and commitment. If you cannot give because you don’t have money, then you give your life and service to the Lord. Concerning the tithe, God blesses us when we tithe. He keeps Satan away from our finances and we have fewer bills because God’s care covers a believing and giving household.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL

July 5, 2012

Question:

In John chapter 20 Jesus gives the apostles the authority to forgive sins. I read early church history that bishops are forgiving sins. Can you bridge the gap between the apostles and the bishops having authority to forgive sins?

Answers:

First of all, you have rightly discovered that Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins directly to his first apostles. The question becomes, did the office of “apostle” evolve within a few decades into the office of “bishop”. The answer to this is yes! In the early church the persons known later as bishops (episkopos in Greek) are mentioned in Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1 & 2; and Titus 1:7. It is often translated as “overseer” also. Catholics in particular trace the succession bishops in the church as beginning with Peter (based on Matthew 16:17-19 — the “keys” passage). Those ordained elder in this line of succession could be selected as bishops by prayerful consensus. Thus the authority to forgive sins is to this day passed down through the sacrament of ordination. This is the case also for those independent Christian denominations who do not trace their origins to the first apostles/bishops of the early church. That’s because God raises up apostles from among any congregation in any age. as He proved in His selection of the Apostle Paul. (Recall that Paul also was not one of the original “Twelve”.)

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

In John chapter 20 Jesus gives the apostles the authority to forgive sins. I read early church history that bishops are forgiving sins. Can you bridge the gap between the apostles and the bishops having authority to forgive sins?

Jn 20:23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Sounds pretty straight forward doesn’t it? The problem comes when you take this scripture out of context. Just before Jesus told the apostles told them this he breathed the spirit into them. They only had authority to forgive sins through the power of that Holy Spirit

Unfortunately when the later church leaders were forgiving sins they were selling the privilege and labeling them “indulgences”. Turning a profit for the gifts of God, even if it keeps the lights on is not what God is about. In this case it’s even what caused the split between Catholicism and Protestantism. Martin Luther the father of the split in the church and the writer of the theology of the Lutheran Denomination, had issues with the catholic church doing this and charging for it because Only God has the authority to forgive sins.

Associate Pastor Richard Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The real issue here is not when the bishops were given the power to forgive sins. This passage has been misunderstood. The power to forgive sins has never been given to any man. Only God can forgive sins through His authority that was given to Jesus. In verse 22 the Holy Spirit and His power was given to men to preach the gospel which tells how man’s sins are forgiven. Man is only given the power to declare on what terms that sin is forgiven. This requires repentance as a man humbles himself before the Lord.

Jesus Christ is our High Priest who stands between us and God (Heb 4:15). After the apostles died, the church fathers took supervision over the church and later bishops filled this role. But they were only men, who also had to have their sins forgiven. Only Jesus can forgive sins, since only His blood was shed for the forgiveness of sin.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

This is a touchy subject because we know that only God can pardon our sin. I believe that Jesus was giving the apostles and leaders the authority to proclaim that sins have been forgiven when a person repents and believes in Christ for salvation. He also gives us the power through His grace to forgive those who offend or wrong us.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

June 21, 2011

Question:

We’re taught to believe that God is all loving and forgiving. So why are we also told to “Fear the Lord?”

Answers:

It may be that your understanding of the word fear is too narrow or limited. Words can and do have a variety of meanings. We have a fear of electricity, but it is a respect from knowing its power and potential. We do not fear that it will do something irrational and jump out of the wall to get us.

The fear of the Lord is a wisdom which understands that God is the powerful creator and savior of man. Our admiration does not cause terror, rather an effort to imitate his righteousness. Anyone who handles or deals with powerful entities understands the importance of respect for that power. Those who do not respect the power of the motorcycle or automobile may find they are seriously injured. Be careful how you handle a sharp knife.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

For those who are walking in the light of Christ and keeping their paths clear of sinful habits and actions, the fear of the Lord is not a warning but a blessing. The fear of the Lord, which is reverence and trust, brings many benefits to our lives. Most of these benefits are listed in the book of Proverbs. II Corinthians 7:1 says, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

God is loving and forgiving, but we must also remember that God is absolutely holy and righteous and just and therefore must punish sin because of His nature. If God did not punish sin, He would violate who He is. It is for this reason that Jesus had to come and die in the place of sinful humanity. In this way God satisfied both His holy righteousness and was able to pour out His grace and forgiveness. We forget that the price of our sin required death – which is why Jesus died. Many will point out that the Biblical terms for “fear” include the idea of reverence and awe, and they downplay the aspect of terror we typically associate with fear. However I think we truly need to have a quality of being afraid of God as well. He is, after all, the all-powerful Creator who simply spoke and all of creation sprang into existence! Also, why else would Jesus say, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). We must not forget that God has a holy wrath against sin. His hatred and rage against sin and His love for sinful, fallen humanity is not a contradiction, but two aspects of His nature. We can fear the god of righteous judgment and still love and adore and cling to the loving, grace-filled Father who has done everything to provide us with forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

In the full scope of the Bible, the invitation or reminder to “fear the Lord” is extremely common. Deuteronomy 6:13; 1 Samuel 12:14, 24, and Job 28:28 are just a few of the passages that remind us God is a being who is all powerful and awesome. Even the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that man’s just fear of God does not end when he becomes a Christian (Acts 9:31). No man can stand before the fullness of His presence for that man would literally be “scared to death”. “Fear” however in all these contexts means more than just being afraid of a powerful Being who is completely beyond our control, and completely in control of all of us, and all things. Fear means respect. Humans, being made in God’s image, are to respect God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, above all others and all things. We are to have that same healthy respect that we have for our parents when we are small. This kind of fear is (as the Proverbs writers say) “the beginning of wisdom.” With this kind of “fear” as a foundation to our relationship to God, we can begin to appreciate Him fully and love Him as deeply as He desires. It is only then that we grow wise enough to understand the full dimensions of His deep, deep love for all of us (as well as His covenant kindness).

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Most people do not have an understanding of who God is. When people get a picture of God, they get a preconceived idea of Him and limit His person. God has many sides to His character. We should view him as a Godly parent. Our parents show us love, compassion, forgiveness and often they have to discipline us. When they discipline us, we show both fear and respect. This respect that we develop does should not cut of the feelings of love and compassion that our parents also give us. As circumstances change in our daily lives, our parents display different sides of their character to assist us in our growth process. That is how God works with us as well. He is both Abba Father (loving parent) as we see in Romans 8:15, but He is also a God of justice

who disciplines sin, see Genesis 32:34-35.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Yes, God is all-loving and forgiving; yet, in both the Old and the New Testaments we are told to fear the Lord. To fear the Lord does not mean to be scared of Him, but to have a reverence, or respect, for the God of the Bible. Look to Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, verse 13 says to fear God and keep His commandments. Verse 14 tells us why; because all of our deeds, good, evil and things we do when we are alone will be judged by God. As Christians, we must be the best examples to the world as possible. When we conduct ourselves day-to-day with a healthy fear of the Lord, we have a better chance of winning people to Christ. To fear the Lord is to bring blessing to your life. Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Alex DiMatteo, Evangelist

Absolute Truth Ministries (El Paso, TX)

June 7, 2012

Question:

We all are given different spiritual gifts. However, is discernment a gift given to some, or is it a gift all Christians should have?

Answers:

Pr 3:21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;

Pr 3:22 they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.

Pr 3:23 Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble;

Pr 3:24 when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Pr 3:25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,

Pr 3:26 for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared

I believe discernment can be a gift. But I also think we all should practice it. There are people who are unsaved who have a certain amount of discernment because of lessons God has allowed them to learn even while outside of a relationship with him. Some people have more discernment, street smarts, common sense, whatever you want to call it but we should all try to practice discernment in our lives. Even if you weren’t blessed with more discernment than others are, you still need to cultivate as much as possible in your own life.

Associate Pastor Richard Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Discernment is included in the list of spiritual gifts Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 12:10, often translated as “distinguishing between spirits.” While each of us can develop a certain level of discernment – the ability to “read” others and understand possible motivations and other character insights, I believe there is a true spiritual gift of discernment that goes beyond this level of understanding. The spiritual gift would be a clear knowledge of an individual or situation within moments of being introduced to them that can only be ascribed to a heavenly insight. Peter displayed this in his answer to Jesus’ question on who the disciples thought Jesus was when he answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). We know this is spiritual discernment because Jesus told him, “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The Word of God is a discerner of all that is good or evil. (Hebrews 4:12) Hebrews 5:14 indicates that every Christian train themselves in distinguishing good from evil. Discernment is a result of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our renewed mind, thus all Christians must exercise this gift, though some are given a greater discernment of spirits perhaps than others. The answer to your question is that it is both an individual gift and also an ability of all believers.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The spiritual gift of discernment is alluded to in detail in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. There Paul the apostle states that it is necessary to be a person of the Spirit in order to judge (or discern) the spiritual truths of God. In 1Corinthians 12:8 Paul also mentions the gift of “knowledge” which is like what he describes in chapter 2. To some extent, yes, all Christians are spiritual beings and therefore they have a gift of discernment. By means of this gift one can determine what is right or wrong in the eyes of God. One can identify truth from God as opposed to the numerous contemporary falsehoods of modern man. This is an essential gift for all Christians, and it requires experience and growth in Christ to know one has it, and to know its importance in practical life almost daily. However there appears to be an additional gift of discernment that is given to select believers. By means of it these believers can help others determine their spiritual gifts. It is something like the ability to “recognize certain abilities” in a person; and it is related to the gift of counseling others. Whatever your gifts are, they came from God, and He believes they are “just right” for you! So use them well to honor Him.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

from May 24, 2012

Question:

I’ve always been told as a Christian we shouldn’t drink alcohol, but have recently met others who do drink, yet are Christians. According to them, as long as it is in moderation it is OK. My question is this: is it OK for Christians to drink alcohol as long as it is in moderation?

Answers:

This is a relevant question for our day. Most of us judge things by our own modern experience. Alcohol in Bible times was wine that was naturally fermented and then diluted with water. Today wine is fermented by adding sugar and doing other things that increase the alcohol percentage. Our wine is stronger than theirs. “Strong drink” in Bible times was a mixture of half water and half wine. Wine was used to assist in water purification. Typical drinking in the home would be 3 or 5 parts water to one part wine and some used more water. Paul did suggest that Timothy take a little wine for medicinal purposes. 1 Tim 5:23.

Today alcohol is not used for medicinal purposes or purification of water. It is used to get drunk. People drink to get the “buzz”, which is drunk, even if they don’t admit it. Can a person drink in moderation and not get drunk? Yes, but it is a dangerous practice. When you observe where drinking takes place and the activities surrounding it, why would a disciple want to drink?

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Many face this same dilemma today. I have a number of Christian friends who like alcoholic beverages (beer and wine, with an occasional hard drink). As a Christian minister I believe it is important for folks like me to set the best example. Other mature Christians should do the same thing. We should use our Christian freedom always to glorify God but never to break down or damage the faith of those less mature (see Romans 14, as Paul wrote an inspired word about this back at the beginning of the church). It will never be “all right” simply for Christians to drink in moderation or socially as long as there are other weaker Christians around whom this will hurt. Jesus would always have us think of them. That said, and as long as you are with those who are like minded, there is nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional alcoholic drink. After all, God’s Word says He created these things for people to enjoy (Psalm 104:15), and Jesus and others in his day drank wine with nearly every “sit down” meal (it was far safer than water). It is the case however, that weak humans can often fall under the sin of addiction, or be tempted to drink more than they should. For these drinking of any type could be sinful.

New wine in new wineskins, Friend! Love Jesus Christ and the freedom He gives.
Matthew 9:14-17 AND Deuteronomy 6:4-5.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Jesus drank wine, I know we hear people insist that wine was really grape juice but I don’t think the rest of the wedding party would have been drinking just juice. The point here is where is your head at?

A glass of wine with a meal is one thing, if it’s a glass (6-12 ounces at most) and that is just one. Anything that begins to put you under the influence is numbing you out and you’re using something besides what God has given you to cope. This is the heart of the problem with illegal drugs and Christians. You can’t smoke one joint and not walk away with your mind unaltered, but you may be able to have a glass of wine with a meal, or a beer with a hot dog at the park without crossing the line.

The other question is who is watching you? If there are people in your life that would be led away from God because they see you drinking, then you shouldn’t do it.

1Co 8:10-13 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. Either way you need to be careful with alcohol. Your right to drink isn’t nearly as important as your responsibility to others in your life.

Pr 20:1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene.

The issue of alcohol will not be resolved by what a pastor tells somebody because most people already have their minds made up. Paul told us that a little wine was good for the stomach. Many people will take this and run with it. Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 8:12 “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

The issue with alcohol comes from using it wrong. Paul said “drunkards will not enter the kingdom of God.” People abusing alcohol have killed people in accidents and many homes have been broken because of it. The harm from alcohol outweighs the good. It has been branded evil by society so we should consider what it does to a believer’s conscience. If our drinking hurts someone or causes a brother to sin, it is wrong.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

I wouldn’t do it for my conscience sake. I wouldn’t do it for the simple reason that it calls my Christian walk into question. I wouldn’t do it because Jesus delivered me 40 years ago from alcohol. I wouldn’t do it because I’d rather please God than myself. I wouldn’t do it because I don’t need it to be joyful or social.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

No person should drink alcohol; Christian or unbeliever. Name one good thing that comes from drinking? If fun is your answer, it’s easy to have fun in so many other ways. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. We need to treat the bodies God gave us in a way that honors Him. Alcohol kills brain cells, ruins livers and destroys families. All throughout the Bible it talks against “strong drink” (ex. Prov. 20:1). Biblical wine is comparative to today’s grape juice. Remember, distilleries weren’t invented until the dark ages. So any alcoholic drink we have today would be considered strong drink according to the Bible. Now as far as “moderation”, should we have marijuana, cocaine or crystal meth as long as it’s in moderation? These are my convictions; I don’t force them upon anyone else.

Alex DiMatteo, Evangelist

Absolute Truth Ministries (El Paso, TX)

from May 10, 2012

Question:

My husband is “recovering” from addiction to computer porn. He has been attending a group regularly that has really been helping him and he has done well. When I agreed to take him back our agreement was that he would begin attending church with me again. But, where church should be one of the places he can feel most comfortable and grow in the Lord, now that the weather is getting warm again he struggles with the distraction of females in low cut, cleavage showing tops, and too short skirts. I know that the Lord wants us to come as we are to His house of worship, but aren’t we supposed to be respectful in His house as well? I feel that of all places a person struggling with porn and/or sexual addictions, should not have to suffer with temptation such as this in the Lord’s house. We’ve now tried three different churches in as many weeks with the same outcome. Should we remain at home and worship via services on the internet until colder weather when women will dress more conservatively? Is it possible that churches could require women to dress appropriately for church, or would that go against the “come as you are” principle? We also are concerned about the distraction this has become for our 13 year old son when he sees females of all ages dressed this way. I realize this is more than 1 question but we really need answers and help in how to deal with this for our family.

Answers:

First of all, the “come as you are” principle is not a biblical or even a traditional Christian approach. It is purely an invention of white churches from the late 20th century Churches in the United States, especially since the 70s. In fact, if you ask older white Christians of almost any denomination, they will say that in the 40s, 50s and 60s people took church as seriously as going to work or going out, in fact it was even more serious. Men and boys shined their shoes on Saturday night. Shirts, trousers, blouses, skirts and dresses were all dressed. When people didn’t shower every day, they bathed on Saturday night to be clean for church the next day.

In developing countries around the world, churches, like schools have dress codes. This isn’t a bad thing. Even Jesus tells the parable of the wedding garment, without which one may not enter the party. Revelation 22 says that those who have washed their robes are blessed.

These things go in cycles. The “come as you are” idea came when America was quickly abandoning any kind of formality. For example, hats and ties and jackets instead of being everyday wear became associated with formality. The same with women’s clothing, it became more and more casual. I’ve known people who would go to church in T-shirts and jeans picked up off the floor, but who wouldn’t be caught dead going to a party unless they had fresh, clean and stylish clothes. Many people wear the same to church as they do lounging around the house. Neither is considered special.

Going to church should be special. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We need to worship together and church is the last place we should condemn or judge one another. If someone comes dressed like they are going to work in an office, and another dresses like they’re cleaning out the garage, no one has a right to judge either of them.

I think it is time for each congregation to consider sprucing up worship a bit and encourage Christians to see the weekly act of worship as an event worthy of getting dressed up for. This way modesty and care for each other can trump immodesty and not caring for each other. But remember, church is never the place to show off expensive accessories, modesty and restraint are the best choices. But remember, no Christian has a right to judge another, that is the Lord’s prerogative.

Father Thomas Rowland

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

Your concern is well taken! The “come as you are” culture is damaging to young men and to all men! Unfortunately, this is seldom addressed. I would like to see the standard raised but it will take time to undo what our culture has set as a norm. Ask God to direct you to a fellowship where this will not present itself as a temptation to your husband and son.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (NIV, 1 Timothy 2:9-10)

This is the original church, I know here they are talking about gold and pearls and such but they also spoke about decency and propriety. I don’t know where you have tried going to church but part of the problem here even with well-meaning Christian women sometimes is we live in the desert. It gets hot, and women have options that men do not that may reveal more skin. I can understand how if your husband is in recovery from that sort of addiction that might be a distraction, and if your son is 13, well, any sort of skin showing may be a distraction for him as well. What your husband is really struggling with is an addiction to the hormones in his own system and how they react when stimulated. Your son because of his age is just being introduced to large amounts of these hormones and is learning to cope with them. We had more problems with this at Open Gate when we were in the old sanctuary that didn’t cool quite as well. In the new building we have refrigerated air, it’s a little cool sometimes on the older folks but the younger ladies don’t dress down quite as much.

We certainly all want our church to have a come as you are kind of feel to it, we don’t want to make anyone feel unwelcome, but something you may need to understand is that many of these women wearing low cut whatever may be struggling with their own relationship with God. Also the yearnings that your husband and your son feel are natural inclinations that God gave man toward woman to enjoy within the confines of marriage. It’s the devils way to take a gift from God and distort it. In the meantime, remember Freon makes ladies wear sweaters!

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Your concern with the way young women dress when they attend religious services is noted. It is important that Christian women dress with decency 1 Tim 2:9. The parent should control and teach girls to dress appropriately. It is a difficult battle for parents because of the pressure of media, peers and their own hormones.  Fathers have a great role in determining a girl’s conduct by the love and acceptance he gives, so the daughter does not feel the need to seek that love and acceptance in the secular world. As disturbing as it is to see how young women dress, that is only half the problem.

Men need to control themselves. Don’t look at the scantily dressed. They are everywhere, not just at religious services. Does a man stay home rather than work? Not shop, or attend a ball game? While it is difficult, self control is at the heart of Christian living.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Many pastors have encountered the serious problem of male church members falling under the devastating influence of pornography (internet-based or otherwise). In the first place your husband is doing the right thing to remain a part of an accountability group (with other men) as part of his recovery phase. He may require participation in such a group for years, not just months. Secondly, the problem you speak of is certainly a valid one: we want young ladies to attend Sunday school and worship, but it is the case that many of them do not dress in a modest way. Instead they dress as if they are going to a “club” or a very public place so as to attract males. If you have found this phenomenon at a number of different worship services, then I suggest you return to your home church. Ask the pastor, or other preaching staff to preach a sermon on “how best to use our freedom in Christ”. Use Romans 14:1-12 as the text. He should make the point that a Christian has no right to use her freedom (to wear short dresses, etc.) in a place where “the weaker brethren” (men like your husband) also exist. AND you should carry on your own quiet campaign of supporting this important biblical guideline among all the women you know at your congregation. It is in accord with Christian love.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

The real issue that we are facing is not a social issue where dress is concerned, but a spiritual issue. I agree that neither men nor women dress as they should to honor the Lord. But we have to understand that we cannot change society to change our behavior. There is a battle going on here between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh represents the carnal or lost man and the spirit represents the man who is born again by Jesus Christ. We only get victory when we aresurrendered to Jesus.

A battle to control the flesh without the Holy Spirit of God (Romans 7 and 8) living in us, is a lost battle. The struggle to control human desire is impossible unless Jesus helps us. Unless we a new creation in Jesus, see 2 Corinthians 5:17, Satan will continue to have the upper hand in our battle with sin.

May God bless,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

While it is good that your husband is attending group meetings that have helped him, I believe there are still “root issues” that need to be dealt with in order for him to walk in complete freedom.

Computer porn has destroyed countless marriages and relationships. It is a destructive trap that counts many ministers as its victims.

You bring up many valid concerns but the real issue lies in the heart of your husband. Please allow me to ask a difficult question, how badly does he want to be free?

Men are experts when it comes to hiding our hearts, emotions, motives and desires. I would say the first order of business is not in finding the “right church” but rather in finding a mentor (close brother in Christ/spiritual father) who will commit to meet (disciple) your husband on a one to one basis and hold him accountable throughout his healing process. In addition to this mentor it will be critical to connect to a spiritual/covenant family that will provide an environment of love, accountability and affirmation as the entire family is restored (1).

It is unreasonable to ask or to even expect that any church should impose special rules so as to make your husband’s plight easier. Rules do not change people, real change occurs when we connect with our heavenly Father on a deep heart level, thereby allowing us to surrender to His perfect plans and purposes and walk in the total freedom made available through Christ (2).

A dear friend of mine went through a very painful divorce after his porn addiction surfaced. He was raised in the church, was called of God to serve but fell to this addiction which stole many years of his life.  The above mentioned steps played a key role in his experiencing deliverance from this devastating addiction. After many years of being divorced my friend is now happily engaged to a beautiful sister in the Lord. They both are called of God and have plans to minister together. Their future truly knows no boundaries.

It is a joy to see how God truly restores what the enemy has taken from us.

Joel 2:25a, I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten…….

(1)   I Peter 4:8, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

(2)   John 8:36, So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Pastor Ray De La Cruz

Seed for His Harvest Ministries (El Paso, TX)

from April 19, 2012

Question:

My friend and I often get together and “vent” about issues we have in the workplace. I’ve always heard that “venting” is healthy since having pent up anger etc. can be harmful to your health. My husband tells me this is sinful nature that it is gossiping. Is venting sinful? Or, what is the difference between venting and gossiping?

Answers:

“Venting” is defined by the user. Are you nitpicking about coworkers and supervisors? Are you complaining about perceived injustices at work? Are you attacking others for their shortcomings? If so, it does not sound very healthy for the spirit or psyche.

There is also the chance that at some future date there could be a falling out with your friend and it could be used against you. You are promoted ahead of her and she attacks you with your own words. People, who talk with you about others, will usually talk to others about you.

A positive attitude is fed with positive thoughts and comments. When we look for the good things, we can encourage others by reinforcing their conduct. Most of us, respond better to positive reinforcement, than negative remarks. Try to turn your sessions together into a positive, uplifting and encouraging time. Start with her. What is it about her that you admire and seek to imitate?

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

I think the difference is in why you’re doing it. If your venting (to a friend or to some other sort of counselor) you are getting something off of your chest for your own benefit without trying to injure someone else if instead you are trying to tell anyone you can tell about someone behind their back to poison the well then that is gossip.

In either case there is something wrong inside. I like to compare it to pneumonia. There is bacterial and viral pneumonia. One is contagious and one is not. Venting is like bacterial pneumonia, there is something you need to get off of your chest because it’s suffocating you. You try to tell someone because you feel you can’t keep it to yourself, but you don’t want to hurt anyone, not even the person who hurt you. You tell your friend, your pastor, or maybe a counselor what is on your heart, you ask for prayer, and you pray to God together for the individual, but it goes no further.

Gossip is more like viral pneumonia, it’s contagious! It spreads quickly and can be deadly to someone’s reputation! You tell as many people as possible about what the other person has done for you! They can’t get away with this!

either way it’s poison and it’s not good for you.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Venting about your work place? It is normal and natural to experience anger from time to time. However it is unChristian to let such anger lead you to harsh words about anyone or anything. Of course it is wrong to let anger push you into “gossip” about anyone. By venting, I assume you mean finding a constructive way to express your anger. The best way to do that is find a close Christian friend (perhaps your spouse), and begin by saying, “I am angry, and this is why . . . .” Often describing the fact that you are angry and the reasons for it to someone who loves you will go a long way towards lessening or eliminating your angry feelings. The other side of it is to look carefully at the cause of your anger: if it is work-place related, you might well be able to communicate with a superior or administrator who can listen to your concerns and take steps to repair the problem. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:30-32 and Colossians 3:7-9 to recognize anger when it affects us, and put it aside. Prayer will enable you to accomplish this more effectively.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

I believe there is a difference between venting and gossiping. We can vent about the fallen nature of our world and not be guilty of gossiping. The issue here is that both venting and gossiping lead to negative attitudes. When we vent, we are complaining about situations that confront us. When we continue to dwell on these, our attitude takes a nose dive.

In Philippians 4:8 Paul tells us to dwell on things that are noble, just, pure and lovely. When we face tough issues, we are to take them to the Lord and put them in His hands. That gives us a positive outlook and allows us to present a better witness for our Lord.

Venting changes nothing but prayer can change anything. Instead of venting take time to pray about the situation you face. Prayer will change both you and the situation at hand.

God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Very few of us can really handle information about another person without taking up offense and entangling our own emotions and conclusions toward the “offender”.

Proverbs says: “In the multitude of words sin is not absent.” It is always wisest to follow the Matthew 18 model: Go directly to the person involved before sharing a frustration with a third person. Gossip takes place when you or the person you are “venting” to is neither a part of the problem or part of the solution.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Venting or gossiping –different names for the same thing? It is vital to release pent up stress and harmful emotion. Yet the method of release has to be of concern to a believer. “Venting” more often than not takes the form of railing against others, job and circumstances. At the least it is complaining, but it is typically negative expressions. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, NASB). Philippians 4:8 admonishes us to focus on what is good and positive rather than the negatives. How about instead of “venting” about all the problems (and people) you get apart and sing praises to the Lord at the top of your voice? You may find this boisterous release to be just as effective in releasing the pent up emotions.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church

I have never answered a question regarding venting. I guess Gossiping would be talking about others with malicious intent. Venting would be sharing to someone else your problems. I could see how they both would differ, just be careful your venting don’t turn into gossip. I would suggest a better idea; you and your friend could get together and pray for your workplace. Praying would be much more productive for you and everyone else.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

from April 5, 2012

Question:

It’s always said that God is only good – but I am currently reading in the Bible about King Saul, and so far have come across several times where it mentions that God sent the spirit of evil to Saul. If He is only good, and has no evil in Him – then how can He send an evil spirit?

Answers:

One of the problems that humanity has is trying to understand God. We want to fit Him into a mental box that we have made for Him. We don’t understand the sovereign rule of God in the universe. In 1 Samuel 16:14 we see this distressing spirit on Saul. Saul had rebelled against the Lord, so God had withdrawn His Spirit. God then gave permission to Satan to plague Saul, just like He gave permission for Satan to test Job. When we choose evil over God and He withdraws HIs Spirit, there is only one spirit that remains. God does not send an evil spirit, but He allows Satan to trouble Saul. This does not make God good or bad. God is Supreme Ruler of the universe and He does as He wills. The same principle applies, as He does not send people to Hell. They choose not to surrender to Jesus, which is a choice for the alternative, which is Hell.

God Bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

The story you refer to is found in 1 Samuel 16. God sends the evil spirit into Saul, after first withdrawing His own Spirit (v. 14) and right after young David is anointed by Samuel to become the next king of Israel. Recall several things here: 1.) Saul was given several important chances to obey God and bring honor to Him alone; Saul chose not to do that even when given explicit instructions. 2.) God wanted to introduce David to the court of Saul. Sending the troubling evil spirit was His way of doing that. A member of David’s court knew of David from Jesse’s family, and recommended David to play for Saul whenever Saul was particularly troubled. 3.) God’s greater purposes required that disobedient Saul be set aside to make room for a replacement from another family line. The line of Jesse would eventually lead to the Messiah Jesus. This is an example of God the Potter producing one vessel for ignoble purposes and another for noble (see Romans 9:20-21). Saul had his chance; but God retains His sovereignty!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

This is a good question, Yes there are several verses that read as you have stated. As a bible student it is important to have an understanding of the whole Bible. There are certain truths (teachings, doctrines) that we are able to establish in the light of the entire scripture. One of those truths revealed throughout scripture is that God is Holy, He is Light, He cannot Lie, etc. There is no darkness in Him. The letter of 1 John speaks about the evil one, being Satan. God calls us to hate evil and whoever does evil has not seen God. It is an established foundational doctrine, that God cannot be evil and God at the same time.
The story you mentioned and others similar to it teach and reveal Gods sovereignty, For instance, in the book of Job God lifts his protection off of  Jobs life and therefore Satan is able to attack Job. Many times after Israel has disobeyed God gave them over to their evil enemies, He lifted his protection. In the same way God could allow evil spirits to attack Saul because of his refusal to obey God. It was Saul reaping the fruit of his actions. God is not evil but He could lift his protection due to our rebellious ways. These are some verses you could look up, 1 John 1:5,James 1:17,3 John 1:11,1 John 3:12

I hope I was helpful,
Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

God allowed this to happen in Saul’s life due to the nature of Saul’s attitude toward God and His commands. Perhaps it was a disciplinary measure to grab his attention and turn Saul back to the Lord. In theology this is referred to as God’s permissive will – when He allows things to take place but if He does allow it, it’s because He has a purpose behind it. James 1: 13-15 assures us that God does not tempt us with evil or send it to defeat us. We do that because of our stubborn will.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

1Sa 16:14-15 Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you”.

Mt 12:43-45 “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

The evil spirit comes when God allows it, not creates it. This can happen because of our sin, or because God wants to test us as he tested Job. But for evil to move in, God has to step out of the way, evil is the absence of good as light is the absence of darkness.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from March 22, 2012

Question:

What exactly does it mean that our body is a temple? And what is my responsibility because of it? Am I considered to have sinned and destroyed my “temple” because I have piercings and tattoos?

Answers:

The phrase about our bodies being a temple of the Holy Spirit comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19, in its greater context of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. The idea of a temple in Paul’s day had to do with a building, set apart for worship, in which a deity was supposed to be present in some form: generally with a statue or likeness of the deity. It was a common understanding among many pagan and Hellenistic religions that the deity could appear invisibly or even take the form of a human as well. Paul speaks of our bodies as temples in the greater context of human freedom. There was a great deal of sexual license in the ancient world. Paul maintains we are free in Christ but we are not free to abuse in any way the temporary body that God has given us. For believers the body becomes the temple — not for a pagan deity — but for the invisible Holy Spirit. Therefore we are never free to act contrary to the leading of that Spirit and the Word of Jesus Christ. Instead we honor God with our bodies, and worship Him from the inside out.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19 “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own.” Again in 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul says “you are the temple of the living God.” When we come to salvation the Holy Spirit of God comes to live in us. John wrote as Jesus spoke in John 14:16-17, that He would send us a helper and He would dwell with us and in us.

In the Old Testament, the High Priest offered sacrifices for sin to God, believing He dwelt in the temple in the Holy of Holies. Jesus taught that we are now His temple and that His Spirit dwells in us. It is not what we look like on the outside, but what comes from our heart that God is concerned with. Our bodies belong to the Lord and we should live as a vessel that honors the Lord since He resides in us.

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Lev 19:28 “ ‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.

I’ll be honest, I have honestly looked for another way to interpret this but there isn’t any. I have some tattoos from my past, all some sort of skull or something else like that and I have thought about getting some Christian ink that glorifies God and gives me an opportunity to talk to people about what they mean, maybe use them as a tool for evangelism, but I really can’t get past this verse in Leviticus. That’s a shame too, because there are some good ones.

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit that means that your body is where the Holy Spirit resides. It was a gift of Jesus after he died to help us live a godly life. I know people who consider tattoos that lift up Christ just decorating the temple, like putting up tapestries or posters or pictures or something and I like the idea. I just haven’t been able to get past this verse.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)
A question for every generation. Scriptures teaches the body of man is the Temple of God. The temple is not a wood or brick building. Our body first houses the spirit/soul of man and when born into the family of God we receive the indwelling Spirit of God. Read these references. Mt 26:61; 1 Cor 3:16-23. Man and the universe are God’s creation, what we claim is ours, is
actually God’s that we are allowed to use. Ps 50:12 “for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” NIV.

If you went in mission service for a year and allowed a friend to have your house, ask how you would feel, if you returned to find your house in shambles? They had not only failed to do routine maintenance, such as patching a leaky roof or repairing a leaking water heater, they had
intentionally destroyed parts of the house and changed other parts to make it suitable for some ridiculous practice.

The difficulty is in our practice. How does this teaching apply to smoking or drunkenness or drugs or gluttony or tattoos? Each of us must make the decision to glorify God.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Let’s just say that we are to honor God by respecting our body as a holy habitation. He no longer dwells in buildings made by hands but in bodies of clay. Whatever things we do in our bodies we will ultimately have to give an account for. Now, if the Spirit convicts your conscience about these things – do not go any further with piercings or tattoos.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from March 8, 2012

Question:

We recently learned that a few organizations my family and I participate in/with donate to Planned Parenthood, therefore support abortion. As Christians should we cease our involvement with these organizations? Would it be considered sinful to continue a relationship with these organizations? Is there any Biblical reference you would recommend that would help explain?

Answers:

Yes, by all means you should immediately cease your support of those organizations which in any way offer funding to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is not a government organization, yet it receives (under the Obama and other previous administrations) a great deal of tax payer funding. It is in fact an evil organization because its primary purpose is the destruction of pre-born human beings! As for scripture all you need are Genesis 1-3 (stories of God’s creation of man: man is created in God’s image); and a couple of Psalms: Psalm 8 which declares the wonders of humanity as God’s creation, and Psalm 139:13-16 which speaks of our being “both fearfully and wonderfully made” and of God’s knowing us and seeing us prior to our birth. The infant at conception is an incipient human being, made in the image of God, and it is a sacred life. Nor does it doesn’t matter how that conception came about!! And yes, you are committing sin to support any organization which supports Planned Parenthood, because they believe in and practice great evil in God’s sight.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

When we become Christians, God gives us a God consciousness that comes from His Holy Spirit. The fact that you are asking the question, tells you that He is convicting you that something is wrong here. James 4:17 says “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and

does not do it, to him it is sin.” Abortion is a sin against God. Since God created man and gave man life, then He is the only one who has authority over life. God has a plan for every life, including when man is born and what he is called to do. Jeremiah 1:5 speaks to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

When we know an organization is working against Biblical teaching, then we should sever all ties with this organization and no longer support it.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

If it violates your conscience and you ignore it then it is an act of transgression. James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” Romans 16:19b says, “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” One more verse: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God.” I Corinthians 15:33-34

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

I think it depends on the organization. I understand that we need to take a stand about abortion. But I also believe that groups like scouting (you mentioned the girl scouts) have many other positive traits. I became an eagle scout in 1979 and I was not thrilled when scouting talked about the scouts and homosexuality, but the scouts have many other positive traits and are a positive effect on the community. You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater as they say. Think about these organizations and what else they support, the choice is up to you.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Very good question. There are many verses in scripture that imply that we will be accountable for the light (knowledge) that we have. There are many things that are difficult to change in the environment we live in. I am sure that our tax dollars are spent on many things that are not Christian and our power to change it is very limited. On the other hand, there are things where I am in a direct position not to support because it’s against my values. In this case, I should obey my conscience and take direct action because I can and I should. Bible verses, James 4:17, Hebrews 10:26 etc.

I hope I was helpful.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

The Apostle Paul answers this question very eloquently. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”(Romans 12:9 ESV) The definition of abhor is to detest something, to disapprove of or to reject very strongly. Some other words that we could use here are: hate, loathe, despise, and be repulsed… you get the picture.   With that said I would say that any organization that so very clearly abhors the Word of God is not worthy of a Christians support.

Pastor Michael (Mike) Dickey

First Baptist Church Clint (Clint, TX)

from February 23, 2012

Question:

My husband and I got married 5 years ago at a justice of the peace. We were not Christians at the time, but have both accepted the Lord in the past 2 years. Our concern now is if we need to now get married in the church for our marriage and life to be blessed by God? And if that is the case, should we stop living together until then? My husband’s family says that we have been living in sin since we were not married in the church.

Answers:

The first miracle Jesus performed was at a wedding in the “village of Cana in Galilee” (John 2.2). The place where people gathered for worship at that time was Temple, not a church. I cannot locate a one piece of biblical evidence of an approved marriage just because it was held inside of a church. The discussion of marriage in Genesis certainly precluded the church age, yet God spoke of a couple in marriage.

The validation of a “real” marriage in a church is typically associated with tradition. I have conducted marriage ceremonies in backyards, on the beach, hotel banquet halls, in churches, in parks, and in small classrooms at churches. The issue in the marriage isn’t the location of the ceremony, but the covenantal understanding of the man and woman of what God desires from a biblical marriage.

Teaching Pastor Larry Lamb

Cielo Vista Church (El Paso, TX)

If you were married by the Justice of the Peace, you are legally married. Is a baby less alive because it was born at home rather than in a hospital delivery room? You are not less married because the ceremony did not take place in a church facility. Initially in the Bible there was no wedding ceremony – the man and wife came together and consummated their union sexually. Genesis 24:67 says, “Isaac brought her [Rebekah] into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah [he was intimate with her], and she became his wife, and he loved her” (NASB).

God’s blessings on your marriage is not dependent on when or where you were married, but on your personal relationship with Him both as individual believers and as a couple. If you pray together and sincerely dedicate your marriage to each other before God and invite Him to be the head of your home and family, then God will generously and graciously bless you. I know your in-laws probably feel very passionately, but I simply must disagree that you have been “living in sin” since you were not married in the church. That is a phrase once commonly used to describe a couple not married but living together and engaging in intimate relations. The sin there is because God designed a sexual relationship to be a perfect expression of unity and intimacy between a man and a woman in a marriage relationship; it was never designed to be a “recreational” activity to engage in or to have casual significance – no “friends with benefits.”

If you desire to pledge yourselves to one another in a fresh way before God and honor Him in the ceremony, I would suggest you consider a renewal ceremony on your next wedding anniversary, conducted by your pastor in your local church. My wife and I were both Christians at the time we were married, but still wanted to reaffirm our vows and commitment to one another in our marriage and had a wedding renewal ceremony when we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a very special and memorable occasion.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

You are married. The Bible does not prescribe that a wedding has to be done by a minister. If you are married by a JP or Judge or anyone that meets the legal requirements of the state in which you are married, you are married. Those who require that a marriage is to be performed by a minister are adding rules to the Word of God. It is my understanding that the government of Mexico does not recognize religious marriages, therefore many choose to be married by a civil authority then head to the church building for a religious wedding with family and friends.

The USA and the state of Texas recognize religious weddings and do not require any additional civil marriage.

God has not specified in the Bible any ceremony or any person that makes the marriage real in God’s eyes. God accepts the wedding rules of the culture in which we live.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

I don’t see a passage in the Bible that specifically speaks to this issue, but we are given guidance by God concerning marriage. Marriage is ordained by God and blessed by God when it is done between two believers. The Bible teaches that if a believer and an unbeliever are married, they are not yoked as they should be. Therefore, I believe that men and women should be saved first and married under God’s blessing. Concerning separation, I would say no. I would rather see you married in your pastor’s office immediately, than to see you separate. Later you can plan a church wedding as a public testimony of your faith in Christ. If there are children, you absolutely should not separate. Concerning living in sin, if you both repent before God and commit your lives to Him and each other, I believe God will bless you until you can have a pastor marry you.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Marriage is an institution created by God from the very beginning! It was His plan for a man and a woman to live together, help each other, and bear children together from the dawn of time. That means marriage was God’s plan long before there ever was a Church. He blessed marriage from the very beginning, and in His wisdom God did this so that people in all cultures, races, and religions could experience the unique, lifelong joy in every age and situation. No doubt after you were married in a secular way, you began to experience the blessing of God, and it is clear to us that you did: after all, He brought you both to faith in Jesus Christ His Son! That is the greatest blessing there is. So no: by no means do you need to undergo a wedding ceremony in the setting of Christian worship for you to both be right before God. You were living under His blessing before you realized it. I hope that helps.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

My opinion is that when you accepted Christ He forgave your sins of the past. If you would like to renew your vows in the church go ahead and do so as a testimony to your faith but I don’t feel it is necessary to prove your marriage is valid.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Good question. You are not in sin and your marriage done by the justice of the peace is still marriage in God’s eyes. Yes, it would be nice to get married through the church, if you feel that you need to now that you’re saved. The institution of marriage is sacred whether by law or through the church. Your husband’s family is dead wrong.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

from February 9, 2012

Question:

It is said that to be jealous, or jealousy is a sin. Is also said that Jesus (God) never sinned. Please explain the verses in the bible that tell us that God is a jealous God. Since Jesus (God) can’t sin – does that tell us jealousy is not really a sin?

Answers:

Jealousy is indeed a sin for human beings. Your confusion comes from the fact that in the Old Testament Hebrew the term often translated as “jealousy” is the verb, qa-na’ (“to be zealous”); or the adjective, qeen-ah (“zealous”). The Hebrew term has a range of meanings which include one extreme, “to be zealous”, and the other extreme, “to be jealous” (for something or someone). So yes, God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit zealous particularly for His integrity, His covenant, His character, and His Covenant People. These are good and positive qualities, and are almost as central to the nature of God as His holiness. But the other meaning of the term refers to the sinfulness of humans in being jealous for (or even coveting) that which does not belong to them. The Greek root/term used for translating the Hebrew is zaelos (adjective), zaeloo (verb), and it has the same range of meanings. Thus Paul claims “jealousy” (the bad kind) is a sign of people living or remaining in their carnal, fleshly nature (1 Corinthians 3:3).

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

God is a jealous God, but in being Jealous God (or Jesus) does not sin. You see God, the creator of the universe and the savior of our souls, is the only one worthy of all of our attention, so He is the only one worthy of the emotion of Jealosy. When we are jealous, when the green eyed monster comes up in our hearts, what we are really saying is we want it to be all about us, we want to be God. Jesus, the only one worthy of that type of attention turned it down for us.

Phil 2:4-8 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing,taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Jealousy is a response of the heart when someone you love looks at or desires another’s love, and they give their attention and affection to someone else. God is indeed a jealous God when His people look to the world to have their needs met instead of to Him. Envy or coveteousness is the sin of wanting or lusting after something or someone which God has not given to us to have. Jealousy is a provocation we cannot ignore. Envy is a desire we can refuse to follow. Both of these need to be cast upon the Lord for His help.
Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

This is difficult to understand. The jealousy God experiences is not the same as the petty jealousies that people experience. It is based completely on God’s character. If a man makes a pass at my wife, I could respond with jealousy which would be based on my insecurity, wondering if my wife might respond to that person. When God says He is a jealous God and we are not to have any god beside Him, it is based on the incredible nature, character and Personhood of God. He truly has no equal. What God is jealous of is not another false god that we would worship, but rather the sin that would come between Him and we who should worship God only. His jealousy is a jealousy for us – to remain His alone. Not a jealousy of someone or something else that could take His place, because God has no equal. My jealousy is indeed a sin, for I am capable of doubting myself and those around me. There are many who are my equal (and indeed superior to me) who might draw my friends and/or family away from me. God’s concern is for the sin that might divert us away from Him. When God states He is a jealous God it is a statement that He is intolerant of our worship of anyone or anything else, since all else is truly inferior to Him.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Is all jealousy a sin? No! God’s jealousy is a righteous jealousy the same as a spouse has a right to be jealous if their spouse has broken their vow to be true to them. Exodus chapter 20 and several other places both Old and New Testament tell us that God is a Jealous God. He has chosen us to make be His bride. God is the bridegroom and He has a right to expect us to keep our vow to worship Him and Him alone. When we are married we take a vow that we will leave and forsake all others in the same way. Our spouse has ever right to expect our loyalty and love. The command for adultery in the Old Testament was stoning and the penalty for false worship was the same. A spouse who is cheated on would be jealous and would have every right to be under the principles set forth in Scripture. The problem is our modern lack of Biblical study and the belief that any show of anger or jealousy is wrong. There are circumstances where anger or jealousy or both are perfectly permissible and correct. See Matthew 5:22 in the KJV. If we are angry without a cause we are wrong however if there is truly cause than anger that is focused on resolving the conflict is correct. The Old Testament carries the same principle. What is needed is Bible study and application of Scriptural principles.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The Bible says that God is a jealous God as seen in Exodus 20:5. Jealousy is not always sinful, even an anger is not always sinful. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin”. Jealously is only bad when it is applied like envy, where we desire or envy what somebody else has. God is supreme in His being, power, and authority, so nobody can compare to Him. If He allows a created being to take His place, then He has elevated them to His place. To allow a lesser being to share His throne would be a sin because lesser beings do not share His attributes. Both Israel and the church are betrothed to God. If He would share them, then it would be like a husband sharing his wife with others. That would be a sin. God will not and cannot share what is rightfully His. To do so would lessen His Divine Person.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

from January 26, 2012

I understand that everything we have is from God, and that we are to give back to God. Also, we are blessed for our giving – whether it be tithing, or giving to other charities. What I don’t understand is that I know people who are wealthy Christians, that do not tithe, and don’t see a point in giving to others – so why does God continue to bless them with more wealth? How is it that they are blessed, while others give and give yet stay in poverty?

Answers:

Mt 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Mt 5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous

I’m not saying that people who don’t tithe are our enemies, what I am saying is that the sun shines on us all no matter who we are. Rain comes to those who are saved, those who are unsaved, and those who do things that with their money that we don’t agree with or think is right. Some people have better jobs, better education or made better choices earlier in life. Also some people do seem to have abundant good fortune. That is all stuff in this world, they won’t take it with them, but if they misuse it they may have to answer for it later when the roll is called up yonder.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

About wealthy Christians that do not tithe: It is possible to be a Christian and remain immature for most or all of one’s life. The practice of selfishness or stinginess is such a mark of immaturity — and especially in the life of someone whom God has so evidently blessed. God may have simply given to such people the ability to generate wealth; but He also gives them free will. He hopes that they will be generous to others and to their churches with His abundance, but God will not make them be generous! As to the other part of your question, there is simply no set formula in the Bible or in God’s Kingdom whereby you can guarantee yourself more wealth by being generous. Not even Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38 (“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you”) can be taken to mean that God is bound to supply you with more just because you practice generosity and/or tithing. Sometimes God’s additional blessing to you (for your generosity) might come in the form of the gift of inner contentment; the blessing of abundant, genuine friends, or other intangible, yet valuable things. One more thing: above I mentioned God’s gift of free will to men by which they may choose to be generous (or tithe) or not. The other side of it is God’s own fore-ordination: the Lord may actually will that some of His people remain less than successful financially, — for reasons known only to Him!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Don’t let appearances fool you. They may seem to have it all but ask yourself: Are they storing up any treasures in heaven? Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In the final analysis, we all must be faithful in giving.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

There are times when it appears that God allows evil to flourish. Matthew 5:45 says “God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” One of the biggest questions that man has is why, good people suffer and evil people prosper. Sound financial principles will work for either believers or unbelievers. An unbeliever who saves and

spends wisely will accumulate wealth. A believer who does not save and spend wisely, will have little. Tithing promises to bring God’s blessing, but is wealth a blessing? Many people who are faithful to God, if blessed with wealth, would turn away. God promises to meet our needs, but does not promise worldly wealth. God blesses us when we trust in Him, not when we trust in our wealth. Most Christians in the world today are poor according to America’s standards. But

they are blessed, because they trust Jesus for their needs.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

I want to encourage you to keep your eyes on the Lord. As believers sometimes things don’t make sense but despite what we see in the natural we have to keep trusting God (Proverbs 3:5). Take care of your relationship with God and don’t let what others do or do not do distract you from serving Him. If you can do this, you will prosper in your walk with God and in due time he will give you understanding regarding all your questions.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

Giving is indeed a privilege and God does keep perfect records of each gift along with the motive behind the gift. The underlining of the question appears to be “a God this is not fair” kind of question. It unfolds like: “God, I give my tithe and see little or no residual value to my giving while some Christians who are loaded don’t tithe (how do they know they don’t?) and they live in the lap of luxury?” Sometimes others have been more judicious in their financial habits and that’s how wealth was created. Placing attention on others is typically a waste of time. Keep your eyes on Christ and His mission for you, not on what others have or don’t’ have. God blesses whom He chooses. Period. Give as an act of worship, not as a way to get more cash. The heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask.

Teaching Pastor Larry Lamb

Cielo Vista Church (El Paso, TX

from January 12, 2012

Question:

I’ve recently heard that a lot of the Christmas story we grow up to believe is not all true. For example, there may have been more than 3 wisemen, and they were not at the manger scene when Jesus was born – they came much later. Is this true? What is the TRUE story of Jesus’ birth and where can we find it – because that is what I want to raise my kids with – not made up stuff I was raised to believe. Also – I was informed that God likely is not happy with all the made up stuff we do like decorate trees, and give presents – I was told it states in the Bible somewhere that he is against this. Is that true, and if so where at because I’ve never seen it.

Answers:

The simplest and in my opinion, best Christmas story is Matthew 1:18-25; it’s the story which focuses on Joseph and his dilemma over finding that his betrothed woman was already pregnant. The Matthaean story focuses on Joseph, and apparently has its setting in Bethlehem, not Galilee. The Lukan Christmas story is told primarily in chapter 2: the most famous part is that which deals with Jesus’ simple birth (2:1-7, where no stable is mentioned!), followed by the angelic announcement to the shepherds, and their discovery of the child in Bethlehem. You were told correctly that the story in Matthew 2 is not really a “Christmas story” at all, because when it begins Matthew tells you that it is “after Jesus had been born” (as correctly translated). And yes, by this time, Jesus is a toddler (Herod wants to kill male children under two years of age). Joseph and Mary are in fact living in a house when the Magi arrive (2:10), probably the home of a close relative. Usually this story is read on Epiphany — January 6, or the Sunday just before or after. The story of the Magi began to be conflated with the birth stories (real Christmas stories) from the late Renaissance on.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

I don’t know of any verse of Scripture forbidding our remembrance of Jesus’ birth but neither are we encouraged to do so. I believe St. Francis of Assisi was the one who used the nativity scene with the Wise Men coming to the stable as a teaching tool illustrating the events surrounding Christ’s birth. Most likely though, He was not born in December. The December 25th date was used by Christians when the Romans were celebrating their gods.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The Christmas story is often changed by men because of their misunderstanding.

In Luke 2:15-20 we see that only the shepherds came to the stable and saw

the Babe lying in a manger. They had been told of His birth by an angel of the Lord.

In Matthew 2:1, we see wise men from the East came to Jerusalem. It does not

say how many came. Men have used tradition to number three of them. In

Matthew 2:16, King Herod kills all the male children two years old and under, in an

attempt to kill Jesus. This leads us to believe that the wise men came to

Herod two years after the birth of Jesus. They gave Herod information concerning

His birth in Matthew 2:4.

Concerning the tree and presents, we give presents because Jesus was the

gift of salvation given to mankind. God resents the idols that decorations and

presents have become. The Bible does not mention a Christmas tree.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Yes it’s true, there are many Christmas traditions that are not accurate with the Bible; like the three wise men. The three wise men are a part of catholic tradition. Other Christmas Traditions are not all bad or sinful just because they are not found in scripture. Some traditions create family unity and a giving spirit in the community (if Giving is not of God I don’t know what is). As believers we should always direct our attention to Jesus during Christmas time and teach our children to do the same. Regarding the Christmas tree, some people have used a verse out of context to condemn the use of a Christmas tree. That verse is talking about Idols that were made of wood and used to worship the false gods (Baal worship),this was done all year around. I sure don’t think that people are worshiping Christmas trees.
Personally, I enjoy many of the Christmas traditions and I strive to keep Jesus as the Center Point; but I always educate my kids on the Biblical truth when needed.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

from December 22, 2011

Question:

For years I’ve heard at church that we are all sinners, that even Christians sin because none of us are perfect. Even Pastors have admitted to sinning. Please explain this Scripture, “Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in Him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:9. We’ve always been told that we are to confess our sin, but this leads me to believe that IF we indeed sin we are not truly Christians, is that true? Or how should we take this Scripture?

Answers:

It is in that very same First Epistle of John that the writer urges all readers to confess their sins to God. He writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9). That’s enough to remind us all that we have sinned and as Christians will always have sins to confess to God right up to the day we die. Those who have the seed of Christ in oneself do not sin, as this same writer also says. But what is unsaid is the fact that this seed of Christ does not always remain in us. God plants it in us through faith; but we very often remove it. Then we do sin; but when the seed is present and is growing and governing our actions and thoughts, we do not sin — in accord with this wonderful scripture of 1 John.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

When we say we are sinners, there is some truth in that. Our carnal flesh desires to sin, but our spirit has been redeemed. Therefore we see the battle that Paul says we fight in Romans 7:15 saying “what I hate, that I do.”

The passage in 1John 3, speaks to our desire to sin. If we are born again, we no longer have a desire to sin. Our desire is to be obedient to Jesus and keep His commandments. I understand that we may have habits from our old nature that we still battle. These are sinful, but they are covered by the blood of Jesus through forgiveness. So in a sense, we are sinless, because our sin is covered by Jesus.

In 1 Peter 1:23, he says “we are born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible.” A believer in Christ should never have a desire to sin. If we desire it and it controls us, then that person may not be in Christ but lost.

May God bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Here is the dilemma, in 1 John 1:8-10 seems to contradict 1 John 3:9, but in reality there is no contradiction. On one hand we have sin but on the other we are not suppose to be sinning. I believe that scripture is explicit in the fact that we are born again and the seed of God is in us (Holy Spirit), this is what makes us children of God. We were sinners because we practiced and lived a lifestyle of sin, our sin was normal to us. We were in the sinners path, Paul says “we were slaves to sin but now we are slaves to righteousness. Personally I have never been comfortable with Christians referring to themselves as sinners, because it implies that we are still living for sin, when the Bible says that we are a new creation. Paul also says to the Romans that “sin shall not have dominion over you because you are under Grace”. Despite this truth, As Christians we still live with our sin nature; the potential of sin still lives with us but it doesn’t have the same power over us as it once did. For this reason we are to abide in Christ and live in the fear of God etc.
We also have a saying in the body of Christ that nobody is perfect, something you mentioned in your question. I believe that if we are not careful as teachers of the Bible that the message becomes a convenient theology with no discipleship involved. Yes, according to Romans all have fallen short of the glory of God. Our righteousness will never meet Gods standards; on the other hand Jesus taught his disciples in the beatitudes to be perfect like their father in heaven. It is rare to hear someone today teaching about being perfect because it makes people too uncomfortable, but what did Jesus really mean? He did not mean that we are not to make mistakes and live error free but in its context he was teaching about being perfect in love and in the attitude of our spirit toward God. In this sense God does want us to be perfect.
In closing, I will make it simple. If we are saved there should be a change in our lives, small or big there should be a visible change because the Holy Spirit lives in us now.

Because He first Loved Me,
Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

At first reading it seems 1 John 3:9 states if we sin at all we cannot have been born spiritually or saved. Here is where context is critical. Please remember what John wrote in 1 John 1:8-9 – “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Remember John was writing Christians to encourage them. So how are we to understand what he is saying in chapter 3? Here is one reason God inspired our New Testament to be written in Greek. In English, verb tenses deal mainly with the time the action occurs. In Greek, tenses express the type of action more than the time it takes place. The present tense in Greek expresses continual action or continual results. What John is saying all through the 3rd chapter when he speaks of sin is in reference to habitual or continual sin. He does not say that a Christian never sins, but that we cannot sin habitually because of the transformation Jesus has done in us as God’s children. This is where other translations can help. In the New American Standard 1 John 3:9 reads, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The use of the word “practices” is the translators’ way of indicating the continual type of action in the present tense verb “sin.” We do not as Christians practice (or continually indulge) in sin as a way of life because we have been born of God as we have trusted Jesus as Savior.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

I John 3:9 is a good starting point to an understanding of the nature of salvation. This verse must also be balanced with other verses such as I John 2:1 which says, “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Also, I John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” To sin, is to miss the mark! Therefore, sin may occur either by fault or by default (committed or ommitted actions). Salvation is not lost at that point but once we recognize any wrongdoing on our part confession is needed to restore our standing in His grace. II Corinthians 5:17 may also help!

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The scripture you’ve read is accurate as far as our being FOCUSED on the seed of Christ in us. We all have a bad case of spiritual ADD and we are distracted everyday by every thing around us. As long as we can focus on Christ and How He sees us, then yes we can be without sin, it’s when we trust what we see with our eyes and not with the eyes of Christ.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from December 8, 2011

Question:

I’m new to Bible studies and recently have been hearing that words in the Bible have different meanings than what they are. For example: sheep means God’s people; desert means the trials and problems in our lives; rain means the blessings the Lord will give us. How do people get this from those words? I’ve been told that we are not to add to or take away from God’s Word – so are these people correct to say these things? And if so, how do they learn the different meanings to the words? I want to get all I can from reading and studying the Bible so do I take classes to learn this or is there books that tell us?

Answers:

It is wonderful you desire to follow 2 Timothy   2:15, “accurately handling the word of truth”   (NASB). Yes, certain words in some contexts do carry symbolic meanings. Jesus   often used the term “sheep” in His teaching to refer to both Israelites and   His followers. But it is vital to realize that not every word has symbolic   meaning, and even words that are symbolic at times are not used that way   every time they appear in Scripture. Recognizing the symbolism of certain   words in specific passages comes as you read and study the Bible. We all need   to follow basic principles of sound Biblical interpretation. First, always   pray and ask God for wisdom and discernment as you read, that you may   understand the truth. Secondly, always read verses in context – don’t pull   out isolated verses to make them say something they don’t. What does that   word, verse or passage mean when taken with everything else in that   particular chapter? In the overall message of that book of the Bible? How   does it fit with the general teaching of the entire Bible as a whole?   Thirdly, ask what that passage meant to the original recipients. Any modern   interpretation must reflect the original meaning. Finally, in light of the   context of Scripture and the original meaning, what are its implications for   us today? Remember that God is consistent. He never inspired a message that   had one meaning for the original recipients and a totally different,   unrelated meaning for us today. Most people get in trouble when they take   verses out of context and try immediately to apply it to their own needs and   desires and circumstances without consideration of how it fits into the total   message of the Bible and with God’s nature and character.Pastor Robert   H. WarmathSkyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)A wise Bible teacher of mine from years back   had a famous saying for his students (not original to him): “context is   everything.” That means the context of a Bible passage will generally   always be the first guide to our understanding of the meaning of the terms   and phrases which occur in a paragraph or a chapter. The Bible was written in   Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. All of those languages, like English, make use of   a variety of figures of speech. Hebrew and Greek make extensive use of   metaphors and similes. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is   renamed for another. Hence the psalm-writer’s word for “flock” can   also refer to people who are the flock of our Good Shepherd God (see Psalm   100), for instance. The psalm itself makes it clear the writer is talking   about people, not sheep. The scripture is God’s Word, but always requires   intelligent interpretation. We should not shirk this responsibility but   embrace it.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

The answer to your question is Hermeneutics! This is the study of Biblical interpretation which includes an in-depth study of signs, symbols, numerology, parables, types, and analogies. You can find helps at the Christian Bookstore in the Biblical Commentary section and in Bible Dictionaries.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Studying God’s Word is a life-long pursuit. To understand the Bible, it helps to understand the times in which the different books were written. An example is the rain and desert. In an agricultural society, when men disobeyed God, he withheld the rain and drought resulted. There have been many Bible commentaries written which can give you this background. A good study Bible will also have footnotes to explain the context of the passage. One good help to determine word meanings is a Bible dictionary. These and other reference books can be found in a good Christian book store. There are people there who can advise you on what you seek. Concerning adding to or taking away from the Bible, intent is everything. A desire to understand God’s Word is different from editing God’s Word to meet a personal point of view.

God Bless you,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

That is a very good question. Much of the Bible language has plenty of illustrations, using things that are around us to describe and teach principles or convey a message. Even today in everyday practical English we use allegories and illustrations to teach so that one can get a better understanding. Regarding the Bible, the Bible confirms itself. In order to prove that one word like desert means trials, there must be enough evidence in the Bible to prove that. In many instances there is, for example the Bible says that we are His sheep.  It is obvious that we are not sheep but He is teaching us something through this illustration.  Again, we use this type of language in our culture all the time. If you are not American you may not understand, so in the same way God used language that the readers of that time could understand.

Blessings,

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

This is a direct reference to Jesus and the sheep

John 10:4-7 “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.”

A psalm of David, when he was in the Desert of Judah. Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Matthew 5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

(Sun or rain could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the timing, the point is that God supplies both to the righteous and the unrighteous.)

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from November 24, 2011

Question:

Our family seems to struggle constantly with money problems and other issues. My parents have friends that constantly tell them that they must have hidden sin or unforgiveness in their lives because God wants prosperity and abundant life for Christians. I’m just a teenager, but from my teachings and study I’ve learned that Christians aren’t handed an easy life, read the Bible you see all kinds of suffering. And I also don’t believe that “abundant life” means we will all be rich. My family struggles financially, but we are all healthy and happy. What is right here? Are my parent’s friends right, or am I on the right track?

Answers:

You are right on target with your understanding of Scripture. Check Philippians 4:11-12. Jesus told us in John 15:19 that because He chose us the world hates us! Most of the apostles were executed for their faith and Paul lists many of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:24-33, yet they all received the abundant life Jesus promised. The abundant life contains real, spiritual blessings and life purpose, not physical comforts of this world. God certainly can and does bless some with worldly goods, but it is not “guaranteed” to all believers as some teach. The reason many Christians struggle financially and in other ways is not due to “unconfessed sin,” but rather not understanding the Biblical standards and use of money. For help in this area specifically, check into materials by Crown Financial Ministries (www.crown.org) or Dave Ramsey (www.daveramsey.com), two solid Christian financial ministries that teach biblically sound principles.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

You are on the right tract. God blesses his people, but not necessarily the way we expect or desire. Notice in Psalm 73, the wicked are often blessed physically above the righteous. Financial problems are best handled with discipline and restraint. Pay bills first and refuse to go in debt for short term activities. Consumables (food, gasoline, movies, etc.) are the bulk of credit card debt, we end up paying interest on things that were enjoyed or used up many months ago. If we can’t afford it, don’t buy it. There is an old couplet from WWII, “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This verse pretty much says it all, your parents friends have fallen victim to the beliefs of the prosperity gospel. A belief that God wants us all to prosper to glorify His name. The idea is if we aren’t all happy and healthy and wealthy then there must be something wrong with us or wrong with our faith. The problem with this idea is that even the apostles lived simply, without an abundance of finances, and most of them died horrible deaths for their faith. To tell you the truth I wish they were right sometimes. If I could trace all my physical or financial problems to some hidden sin or unforgiveness I could solve many of my problems in one weekend of confession. Life just isn’t that simple, be grateful for the blessings you have and remember what Jesus said about the rich man and the eye of the needle:

Matthew 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

We may have difficulty in life because of a refusal to repent; we live with the guilt or have

broken relationships. But there is no teaching that suggests God is going to punish us in this life.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Christians struggling with finances appears to be a common predicament. I believe it is because Christians expect to be blessed financially no matter who they are or what they do! That belief leads them to spend beyond their means. Additionally, living in open sin can itself be very expensive. People pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to support porn or drug addictions, for instance. If that’s a problem a normal pay check will not go very far at all. From my reading of Christian financial counselors, I learn that it is possible to learn how to curb excessive spending, get out of debt, and offer a tithe in worship to God. We start by believing our Father really will supply our every need, through our faith in Jesus Christ. Read Adam Hamilton’s Enough for instance.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Yes, you are on the right track, just be careful to not get unbalanced. Abundant does not mean He wants all of us to have material things we don’t need but I do believe he desires good things for us just like a father wants for his children and He wants to bless us to help others. Many believers go through times of financial hardship at one time or another.  It is during these times that we learn to trust in God and our faith grows; saying this I don’t believe that God wants us to live a life where money problems are a lifestyle and it seems like a never ending cycle that cause stress on marriages and families. The root of financial problems could be for various reasons but I wouldn’t blame it all on sin, if that was the case then drug lords and so many music artists etc; would not be materially rich because they promote sin at its worst.
Keep praying and search for Christian resources on finances, there is so much material available today. Knowing God’s purpose for our money will give us a new perspective on finances.
Blessings,

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

from November 10, 2011

Question:

What is it that divides Catholics and Protestants in our modern church age; aren’t we all saved by God’s grace
through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Answers:

The biggest item that separates us from Roman Catholics is their insistence that
early church tradition is just as normative as the Scriptures are to us. In
accord with that Catholics believe that there is a succession of popes who can
(with some question) be traced back to Peter. Catholics interpret scripture on
the basis of classical Christian (Western European) tradition. Protestants
(which is everybody else, including the thousands of independent congregations
today) believe just the opposite: that Scripture interpreted by the Holy Spirit
defines and describes all Church doctrine and practice for every age and
culture. When it comes to normative beliefs and practices that conflict with
the Bible, Catholics will not compromise. After the Protestant Reformation, many
believers formed churches which restored the original primacy of Scripture.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

The differences that divide non-catholics and
catholics will vary because the non-catholics differ from one another
also.  There are too many to include in
this short answer, but some major ones are:

  1.  Spiritual authority: it is the Word of
    God, not councils, creeds, traditions or special interpretations, but the Word
    itself.  Many of the differences rest on
    this issue. Whether man can make rules and claim they are the will of God.  2 Tim 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:23, 25. When anyone
    adds to the word of God or takes away from it, they are in violation of God’s
    will Rev 22:18-19, Deut 4:2.
  2. Priesthood:  scripture teaches there in only one High
    Priest, Jesus Christ Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:5; 6:20; 9:25. ALL Christians
    are priests. 1 Peter 2:5, 9. No one is between the Holy God and the Christian,
    but Jesus. Jesus is our only mediator 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24; 3 John
    9, 10.
  3. Depravity of infants:  The
    teaching that new born babies are damned to be lost is not in scripture. Every
    part of the Gospel message demands a response that infants are incapable of
    doing: believe Heb 11:6, repent Acts 2:38, confess Rom 10:10, be immersed for
    the forgiveness of sin Acts 22:16.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Both groups believe that Jesus died for our sins and is the Savior of the world. The differences
are the extras added to the Bible.

Protestants believe:

1. The Bible is God’s only revelation and message to mankind.

2. We can pray directly to Jesus.

3. We confess our sins directly to God.

4. A person must have a conversion (born-again) to enter God’s family.

5. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial service where Jesus is remembered

and the believer recommits his life to Christ’s service and Lordship.

Catholics believe:

1. God’s revelation and message come through the Bible, tradition and

the infallibility of the Pope.

2. We pray through Mary and the saints to get to Jesus.

3. We confess our sins through the priest to God.

4. Person must be baptized into the church (mostly as infant) and then

confirmed in the faith.

5. In the eucharist (Lord’s Supper), the emblems actually transform

into the body and blood of Christ.

These are a few of the major differences and I hope this helps.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

The split initially happened in the 1500’s with people like Martin Luther. Luther
had issues with Pope Leo selling indulgences. Indulgences were pieces of paper
that could be purchased from the church that would forgive sins for a price.
Martin Luther contended that only God could forgive sins and not even the pope
had that right.

The Catholic Church has since stopped such practices and has apologized for many of
the issues that caused the split in the church, but protestant churches have
continued to exist and to thrive. The Catholic Church was historically the
original Christian church established after the Romans excepted Christianity,
and there are still those in the Catholic faith that believe they are still the
only Christian church. All of that said, you are right, we all should be saved
through grace and faith in Jesus Christ.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Nothing should separate us, but religious and ritualistic acts do. One group assumes that
their method of reverence to God is the right way when it should be in Spirit
and in truth, not in your garments or lack there of. We are all saved by grace
not by works. We divide ourselves thinking that we have cornered the market on
true worship when we should be focusing on those who don’t know Christ as the Savior.
Religious division is destructive to the lost soul, because it’s them that are
confused on who to follow. Follow Christ, He is the way.

Pastor Eric Hallback, Sr.

The Rock Faith Center (El Paso, TX)

This is a very important question because there is much confusion regarding
Catholics and protestants.

There is a great void today of fundamental Christian doctrinal teaching. The
Pauline epistles (Paul’s Letters) exhorts believers to stand fast in the
doctrine of Christ. To understand and know the doctrines of salvation are
absolutely vital to our faith.  Paul
believed it was important for us to be rooted and grounded in Christ and Christ
alone.

Catholics do not hold the scriptures (the bible ) as their authority of faith.
Their main Authority comes from Rome (the Pope), the church. Example, Tomorrow
if the Pope or the main church in Rome declares
something as law; it will be law for all Catholics even if it is not biblical.

Protestants hold the scriptures (the bible) as their standard of authority.
Their origin  began because they
protested against unbiblical teachings of the catholic church.  The catholic people are sincere people, but
the system and leadership in my opinion is false. It is not the gospel of the
Bible.

Remember a lie is something with part truth in it. The Catholic doctrine has
some truth but adds so many other practices that are Anti-Scripture. I love the
catholic people, they are good people but it is the system in Rome that I
declare to be false and deceptive.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

Even though we in live modern times,
the conflict between Protestants and Catholics is centuries old. Coming out of
the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church was the only church. Persecution arose for
those who opposed it’s teachings. Martin Luther came out of the Catholic Church
in the

Protestant Reformation, when he realized that salvation came by faith and not by the sacraments.

A split arose when salvation by sacrament (Catholic), opposed salvation that
came by grace through faith (Protestant). This conflict has carried over to
many places in Europe today,

but is not as sharp in America. The truth is that those in both the Catholic and Protestant churches today,
understand that we come to Christ by faith and not our works (Eph 2:8-9).

I know many Catholic and Protestant
believers who worship Christ as Lord. The sad truth is there are many on both
sides who believe they can work their way into heaven.

May God bless you

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

from October 27, 2011

Question:

How are we to have faith in and believe the Bible when the Bible was written by man, and the reason we are
told to believe it is we’re told it’s what GOD tells us to do. Which is really
just what the person who wrote it SAYS. How can we know it is truly the Word of
God and not just what some man writing it wants us to believe?

Answers:

Great question because it begins with the basis of faith. Our faith is in Jesus as
Christ. Our faith is in the death, burial and resurrection, 1 Cor 15:1-4. We
believe that Jesus is the Son of God because the resurrection demonstrates it
to us. We accept his Apostles teaching because he gave them the responsibility
to spread the Good News of salvation through the blood of the Son of God. Mt
28:18-20.

Our faith is not in the Bible, it is in the One who delivered the message. This may
seem like a fine line, but we do not believe “in” the book, we believe in the
one who wrote the book. We believe the message that is delivered because it was
inspired John 14:26, 2 Tim 3:16. The words were written by men, but they were
not the words of men.

The God who resurrected Jesus is able to insure that the message of salvation
remains intact so mankind may follow Jesus.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

The first question I have for you to ask yourself as you study scripture is
“What did Jesus believe?” The resurrection is one of the most
investigated and verified facts of history, confirms our salvation, His claims
about himself and indirectly the scriptures he presented as truth. Fulfilled
prophesies and historical accuracy are great but the fact is Jesus confirmed the
truth recorded in the Old Testament. As for the accounts of the life of Jesus
recorded in the New Testament Gospels research show that even is detractors
confirm the accurately of their record of teachings of Jesus. Which leads me to
my second question to you, “Do you believe Jesus?” If you do then
build your understand from that starting point. If not nothing else matters. If
start with your understanding that Jesus is the resurrected Christ and
confirmed the truth then you have a foundation to answer your own question.

Pastor Bill Belgie

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The Bible was indeed written by men but authored by God. According to 2 Peter 1.21
the Holy Spirit moved (breathed upon) men as they wrote. That alone dispels the
“only man’s opinion” clause of the biblical text. While that one
slice of Scripture would suffice some, it still leaves gaps for others. I would
ask a skeptic or someone with high levels of curiosity to skillfully study the
authors of the Bible, the three languages of the Bible, and the 100% prophetic
congruency. It’s astounding. The ultimate proof is in the millions of lives
that have been transformed by its pages. While that reasoning does not equate
in academic circles as sophistication, it does not need be for a child,
student, nor adult who knows that Jesus loves them so, because the Bible tells
them so. God’s # 1 best seller is a timeless collection for any generation.

Dr. Larry Lamb, Teaching Pastor

Cielo Vista Church (El Paso, TX)

God did in fact see fit to use human agents to record His Word. It is likely that
He did this, because He knew He could trust certain individuals living in a
certain period of time, to record His message using terms, phrases, and
language that people of their own cultures and regions could understand. They
did this faithfully, as they heard God speak within their souls. The reason we
can appreciate, understand, and trust the truth of this Word of God is revealed
in the consistency of the message throughout the scriptures in all of its
parts! We also know that the folks He chose to write did so (quite often)
during times of intense persecution. They had experienced the power of God and
they had to record what they saw and knew. Even non-Christians who read the
Bible with an open mind can discern the One true God and Father of Jesus
speaking to their minds and lives.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

The bible was written by men but these men were inspired by God. The first five
books of the bible are believed to be written by Moses; Moses was given those
five books by God Himself. When you add to that the idea that the bible covers
events spanning thousands of years and yet there is still continuity among
various writers none of which could have known each other (Moses could not have
known Luke who wrote the book of Luke) and yet there is still a common theme,
the theme of an eternal God trying to have a relationship with man, the bible
becomes more credible as an authority of God, not the men He commissioned to
write it.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The Bible tells us that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” or is God breathed. We accept
Jesus and His Word by faith. After we trust Him, then He becomes reality in our
life and we experience His personal presence.

Concerning the Bible, the Old Testament books were written shortly after the events took place. The five
books of Moses were written 40 years after Moses’ death. The Old Testament was
complete at the end of the 1st century AD and the New Testament by 397 AD.

Secular (non-Bible) history gives evidence of Jesus, written by Thallus in 52 AD when they tried to understand
the eclipse of the sun and the earthquake at Jesus’ death. Luke wrote his
gospel as an eye witness account of the life of Jesus (Luke 1:1-4). Men wrote
what they saw and it was understood as truth. These facts have been
meticulously kept since Moses’ day, so we would believe.

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

Good question, your question is probably one of the all time most asked questions. If
you do not know the origin of the Bible it is natural to question its authenticity
as the word of God. Your question is based on the lack of knowledge regarding
fundamental theology truths regarding scripture.

There is not enough time to answer your question in detail but there are some things
you should study in order to answer your question. Study the canonicity of the
Bible and What inspired by the Holy Spirit means. After studying this for
myself it strengthened my faith and gave me great confidence in the Scriptures
which we call the Bible

F.Y.I- (If the Bible was manmade, they did a great job because it is the all
time, undisputed, champion in book sales. Not!!! Man is not capable of that.)

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

For the most complete answer to your question I suggest you read the book Evidence
that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. Josh was an atheist who investigated
the claims of Christianity to disprove it, only to be convinced by the evidence
he uncovered about God and the Bible. Understand that the Bible, unlike the
writings of other world religions, was not written by one man over a relatively
short period of time. It was written over a period of about 1,500 years by over
40 different individuals ranging from shepherds to fishermen to kings to
prophets to soldiers to poets to include a tax collector and a physician. Yet
the message is unified over all the centuries and the diverse backgrounds of
the various human authors. We also have more ancient copies and fragments of
copies of the Bible than for any other ancient historical document. The
discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947
resulted in copies of every book of the Old Testament except for the book of
Esther, and they were approximately 1000 years older than any other copy known.
Yet when compared with what existed, there was over 95 percent agreement, and
the bulk of the differences were nothing more than spelling differences – no
variance in meaning. This suggests that what we have is what was originally
written and is completely reliable. How could copies of copies of copies of
copies been made without major differences being introduced were it not for God
superintending the transmission process? No part of the Bible has ever been
disproven by archeological evidence, and in fact has been verified by
archeological finds over and over. In the first 200 years after Jesus, letters
between Christians quoted the New Testament to such an extent that the entire
New Testament could be extrapolated from those letters. The message of the
Bible has also been backed up by non-Christian historians such as the Roman
historian Tacitus and the Jewish historian Josephus and others who were not
followers of Jesus. These and many, many other evidences testify that the Bible
was inspired by God and that it was recorded faithfully, relayed accurately and
verified externally. You must decide for yourself if it is truly the written
word of God. But before you dismiss it, please investigate it by reading just 2
percent of the Bible by reading the Gospel of John. If you will honestly read
those 21 chapters with an open mind, I believe you will hear the truth in your
heart and mind as you read. Be an honest seeker and check it out before you
dismiss the Bible as just a work of man.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from October 13, 2011

Question:

Ecclesiastes 7:17 says, “Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool – why die before your time?” We’re
told since children that God knows the day we will be born and the day we will
die. So – does this verse mean that we can do something that changes the
planned time of our death? We’re always told when people die “it was their
time to go” but this verse makes me wonder.

Answers:

The full text of Ecclesiastes 7:17 includes the question,
“why should you die before your time?”

Of course we know from the New Testament that no one knows the day or hour of
his death (unless perhaps God singles him out and tells him). But the writer of
this book assumes two common beliefs of his time: (1) that God will punish a
wicked man by killing him or allowing him to die prior to the natural course of
life; and (2) that the natural course of one’s life would take one well into
old age, which for folk of that time was about 50 years.

Thus the assumption is clear from this writer that how we live has
something to do with how long we get to live in this world. In general
that is true. Certain acts of wickedness will lead to a shortened life: commit
murder and in most states, you will be put to death, etc. The main thing for a
believer to know is that Christ calls us to make the most of every minute He
has given us, living righteously for and with Him.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

The idea of predetermination varies widely among supporters and is not accepted by
everyone.

Freewill is given to man by God. When scripture raises the idea of judgment, it is about
the responsibility of mankind to make right choices. Some choices may indeed
cause death.

Heb 9:27  “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Yes, man will die, but the time, place and circumstances are not determined by God.

Taking care of one’s body will lengthen one’s life, just as abusing the body, will
shorten one’s life. Sinful conduct will often cause a life to end “before his
time,” which means the person did not live a normal life span because of their
actions, not that you overcame God’s power by dying early.

If everything was predetermined by God, the judgment and punishment would be
unjust. God is a just God.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

No. God knows every step of our lives including when we will die and how. We still
have free will, but God knows the choices we will make before we make them.
This is wisdom from the bible asking us to:

1Pe 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a
roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Psalm 90:10 says “The days of our lives are seventy years and if by reason of strength they are eighty
years.” We were “elect by God according to His foreknowledge,” 1Peter 1:2. God knew what we would do before the world was made. But He gave us free will to conduct our lives. If we make bad life choices, our life can be shortened. Since God is not locked by time, He could see our life and our choices and recorded
our years in His foreknowledge. Yes we can add to or shorten our years here on earth. God knew ahead of time, what we would do and recorded our time and lifespan in His books. Ephesians 1: says we were chose in God before the foundation of the world. Our lives should honor God, so our days will be
longer.

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

from Sepember 29, 2011

Question:

I am in 10th grade and recently at a youth group meeting was informed that I
should not wear the shirt I had on because it had peace signs on it. The youth
leader said that it was a symbol mocking God, and as a Christian I shouldn’t
wear it. My parents bought me the shirt, and other things with the peace sign
on it for school. My dad said the symbol became popular in the early 70’s
because of the Vietnam War and that it stood for”peace not war”. That is why I
wanted the shirt. I don’t want to make God sad, or mock him. Is this symbol
mocking God? Am I sinning by wearing it or having it on my school supplies? And
if it is against God will you tell me how or why that is?

Answers:

The peace sign is one of the most famous signs in the world. It was devised
in the late 50s for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in London by Gerald
Holtom, a famous artist, and represents the semaphore signals for N and D,
(nuclear disarmament) and in the 60s and 70s became associated with the
anti-war peace movement. Many Christians have warn it since its beginning to
show that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, he is our shalom, and that he
said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Father Thomas Rowland

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

Your father is right; the symbol was made popular in the early 70’s because of
Vietnam. It was a popular sign for the counter culture that (unfortunately) was
entirely too wrapped up drug scene of that same era. It is not however
necessarily mocking God. One of my favorite names for God is “Yahweh Shalom”
Which means The Lord is Peace.

Jn 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the
world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Take the sign on your shirt to stand for the peace between you and the Holy Spirit.
If your youth pastor has a problem with it, don’t wear it out of respect but
don’t worry about sinning against God by wearing it. I was told once that a
soldier prays for peace but prepares for war. Pray for peace with God and
prepare for spiritual battles like these as you grow in your walk with Christ.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

When my child asked if a word he heard at school was a bad word, I replied, there
are no bad words, it is the way we use them that make them bad and we choose
not to use some words in our family. Gerald Holtom is credited with the Peace
Symbol design around 1958. Several different meaning have been assigned by
different people: Holtom said, (1) it represents the flag signs, “semaphore”,
for the letters “N” and “D” which stand for Nuclear Disarmament. Others claim
it is (2) an upside down and broken cross representing the anti-Christ. Some
claim it is (3) an abstraction of the B-52 bomber. It has also been said (4) it
dates to Nero and the upside down crucifixion of Simon Peter. It has also been
said it (5) was used by the Nazi’s in WW2.

The evidence of mocking God is not strong, but why be unnecessarily offensive.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso,TX)

I lived through the sixties like others you have met, and I know that in its origins the peace sign can be (and is) viewed as insulting to Christianity. It was designed originally with the idea of turning the cross of Jesus upside down and breaking the arms off the cross (hence their bent position). The idea of the leftists who invented it was that
“Jesus cannot bring peace! Therefore we must bring it ourselves!” The
operative word from the Bible is what Paul wrote in Romans 14:1-12 (to
paraphrase): don’t do something you believe you are free to do if you know it
offends a “weaker” brother or sister. I bet you have a number of
other t-shirts you could wear to the youth group. That’s what I suggest you do,
and now you know why.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

When I was a hippie I wore that symbol. When I came to know Jesus I heard that it represented an up-down cross.

Since then I no longer embrace that symbol as something I should display.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Don’t be discouraged and keep strong in the Lord. Regarding your question, there are
many symbols and things that are all around us that are not of God. It takes
some believers time to discover these things as they grow in their walk with
God. Today we live in an age of information where it is almost impossible not
to get some facts about almost any subject. My advice to you is to do some
research for yourself and let God show you through experts who have dedicated
themselves to issues such as these. Once you have the facts then you will be
responsible for the truth that you know.

Be blessed,

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

Thank you for a great question. I would first of all encourage you to
nicely ask your youth leader to explain in exactly what way he/she felt the
peace symbol was mocking God. Assure your leader you have no desire to mock
God in the least, but rather want to honor Him by your choices and you
really want to understand. I think partially there may be some confusion as
to the meaning of the symbol. I understand that the peace emblem is
supposed to represent the footprint of a dove that is enclosed in a circle
or oval shape. However, when Occult and Satanic groups recruit members they
ask the new person to audibly renounce any allegiance to Jesus while holding
a wooden cross upside down by the cross bars on both sides of the upright
piece. As they make their renunciation, the person then breaks the cross
bars downward, resulting in a shape that looks very much like the peace
symbol. Some hold that it is this Satanic ritual that is the true source of
the peace symbol. I cannot speak knowledgably to that. I would encourage
you to not wear or display the symbol while meeting with your church youth
group in deference to the feelings of your leader.

When Paul was questioned about the practice of eating meat that had first been
presented before pagan idols as an offering before being sold in the market, he
affirmed that since idols did not exist, there was nothing wrong with the meat. However he did also say, “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never
eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1Corinthians

8:13, New American Standard Bible). You might consider the principle Paul
was presenting to apply to your wearing some apparel around your youth
group.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

For good insights into the “Peace” symbol go to google.com and search for Peace Sign. Wikipedia has some good information and there is a link entitled “The peace sign and
Satanism”. Both of these sites offer further information. Then you can
decide for yourself. Remember, we have been commanded to abstain from the appearance of all evil. If we knowingly agree with evil that puts us opposite from God.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The peace sign has been around sincethe time of Christ. It was first used with the lines or arms down, by early Christians, to symbolize the death of Peter when he was crucified upside down. To the early Christian, it spoke to the idea of humility or
unworthiness. It has been used as a symbol of many things since, including the Nazi Panzer divisions in WWII, communism, and some associations with Satan worship.

More recently it was used by Gerald Herbert Holtom in 1958 as a protest against nuclear war. The symbol represented the code letter ND for nuclear disarmament.

When displayed in the upright position, arms up, it means we have victory over death and hell. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.” Wear your shirt and tell skeptics of the good it can represent.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church (Greenup, IL)

from September 15, 2011

Question:

We’re told that if we repent and ask forgiveness, that the Lord forgives and
that our sins are cast as far as the east is from the west, or in the sea of forgetfulness, never to be thought of again. But – we’re also told that when we meet our Maker we will be held accountable for all we’ve done. So were sins not really forgiven and forgotten? Because if so – why would they be brought back up once in Heaven? Please explain.

Answers:

 When God forgives us for the sake of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven indeed, forgiven
in full, and forgiven for all time. But remember, it is God’s great love for us
that makes forgiveness and redemption even possible! It should not surprise us then
that out of that same great love He should want to provide each one of us with
an opportunity to review our lives in detail in His presence. This is not to
give God an opportunity to “change His mind” about our eternal fate.
It is to help us view our lives in the light of God’s holiness and grace, and
be faced with the great difference between the Creator and us. The passage, by
the way, about this divine personal examination is 2 Corinthians 5:10; there
are others like it throughout the Bible.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

I believe there is a difference between our inheritance and our reward. An inheritance is based on something someone else did for us and a reward is based on what we do. Forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life in heaven is the inheritance of anyone
who accepts the free gift of salvation. I believe under the covenant we don’t
get forgiven by repenting of our sins we accept a forgiveness that was once and
for all earned by Jesus Christ for us when he died on the cross. There is no
condemnation to those in Christ because there is now no basis for the accuser
to condemn us since Jesus died in our place, taking our sins and giving us His
righteousness. Believers will be in heaven based solely on accepting what
Christ did and not on what we did.

There are rewards in heaven based on what we
allow Christ to do through us. These rewards are based on faithfulness. Though
we will all be filled with God’s perfect glory in heaven, some will have a
greater capacity to experience His glory than others. Just as a thimble and a
swimming pool can both be filled, one will be more filled because it has a
greater capacity. So it will be worth all that it costs to live a committed,
faithful, sold out life for Jesus.

Pastor Dale Walker

Heart for the World Church (Las Cruces, NM)

The New Testament is a collection of twenty-seven missals that are written to
different people under different circumstances. The questions to ask are: who
is speaking, to whom is it addressed, and also, what is the context of the
specific setting and the NT in general.

Forgiveness by God means that we are no longer held responsible for that sin. As we serve Jesus, we are continually forgiven by Him 1 John 1:7-9

However, if we start the Christian life and then turn back to the world, we will answer
for those sins. Disciples are warned in  Heb 10:26 “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” NIV When one is saved, then rejects the one who saved him, there is no other savior available. Peter describes those who do as being repulsive.  2 Pet 2:22 “Of them
the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed
goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’” NIV

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

2 Co6:2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of
salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation NOW
is the time of salvation NOW is the day of salvation.

Remember when the Israelites were in the wilderness and they were asking God for food? God gave them manna but manna wouldn’t last. They had to get fresh manna every day except on the Sabbath God’s forgiveness is eternal, but our behavior is
not. It is vital that we continue to look within ourselves and ask God for
forgiveness for the shortcomings we find between God’s standard and our
behavior. All of us will come to a point of judgment in heaven, even the
unsaved. This is the point where the blood of Jesus is vital to cover our sins.
But we need to look at ourselves and not kid ourselves about our own behavior.
Judas was a disciple of Jesus; he performed miracles and preached the gospel
just like the others. But because he did not examine himself he fell into a
trap of the devil and betrayed the Lord.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Great question, I believe this is an important question for many people because it is
regarding their salvation.

First of all, I would like to suggest that you study the doctrine of
Justification. There is a lack of basic doctrinal teaching today, therefore the
foundations of many believers’ faith lack substance and strength. The New
Testament letters emphasize the importance of continuing in the correct
doctrine, which were established by the first Apostles and more importantly the
Apostle Paul.

With that being said, our sins are forgiven through Christ Jesus our Lord.
People will give an account to God regarding the plan of Salvation. Did we
receive His plan which is Jesus, or reject it. “There is therefore now no
condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the
flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:1). As long as you remain in
Christ and you are trusting in Him, your sins will not be counted against you.
There is so much more to be said but I hope this brief answer was helpful for
you.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

The bible tells believers in Roman 14:10, “We shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ”with verse 12 saying “So then each of us shall give account of himself
to God
.”

There are two judgments that take place. One for believers at the Bema judgment seat, where Jesus judges the works of those who know Him, but men’s sins are not an issue here.

Colossians 2:14 speaking of Jesus says, He “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

Every believer will be judged to see what crowns, they will receive. These
crowns are then prizes that we will lay at the feet of Jesus. All unredeemed
people will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment, where their sin will
be judged to determine their eternal punishment.

Pastor Brooke Davis

Greenup First Baptist Church
(Greenup, IL)

from August 25, 2011

Question:

 Are there any biblical passages about suicide that Jesus
used to teach about? I know that if you have given your heart and soul to
Jesus, suicide is never in the picture, but are there any bible passages Jesus
used to encourage or inspire that “Suicide” is never the answer?

Answers:

Jesus never spoke directly to the question of suicide, at least according to the
Scriptures. That may be because the underlying Jewish culture and theology of
life as a sacred gift from God was so deeply ingrained in everyone that the act
of suicide was rare. In the Old Testament Samson took his life in an attempt to
destroy many of his enemies. Saul took his life on the field of battle in order
to avoid falling into the hands of the Philistines. The writer does not pass
judgment on these actions one way or the other, but the entire tone of the
Bible is such that we can be assured that God frowns on anyone committing
suicide at any time. In the New Testament Judas is said to have taken his own
life (either by hanging himself, or throwing himself from a cliff). That story
is told to show us what end awaits anyone who deliberately opposes the plan and
will of God in the revelation of His own Son.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Jn 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I don’t think there are any actual
references to the word suicide in the bible, but to there are 2 basic ideas
behind the idea of suicide:

1. The decision that your current situation is unacceptable

2. The decision that there is no hope of any change, you’re
stuck there.

I have experienced both of these,
the first is one of the main reasons I gave my life to Christ in the first
place, the second gets much closer to happening when I take my eyes off of
Christ. There is a better place than this, but suicide makes a statement that
we have no faith in the power of the one who rules there and created where we
are now. Jesus could leave us peace because He was the son of God and was God.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Jesus never directly addressed the issue of suicide. There are six instances of
suicide recorded for us in the Bible; 5 in the OT and 1 in the NT. Some debate
that Sampson’s death recorded in Judges 16 is not technically a suicide, even
though he may have realized that he also would die, as his objective was to
kill his enemies. The Bible never gives moral approval of suicide, but merely
records that they did occur, even in the case of Judas Iscariot who betrayed
Jesus and then killed himself. The Bible never views suicide as a legitimate or
viable option, even in the most difficult of times. Suicide is, by definition,
self-murder and so it is a sin. Many claim that it is unforgivable by God
because the one committing it cannot ask for forgiveness since he or she is
dead. But it is vital to remember that the act of suicide does not condemn
anyone to eternal

punishment and separation from God. Salvation and eternal life are gifts that
God freely gives to all who acknowledge their sinfulness to God and trust
personally in the death of Christ on the cross as the just payment for their
sinfulness (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8–9; Rom. 8:31–33; 2 Cor. 5:21). The manner of
one’s death does not determine salvation any more than the manner of one’s life
– salvation is always based on a person receiving Jesus as personal Savior and
Lord. Because Jesus is Lord, a true believer should never seek to end life, but
rather to draw close in personal relationship to God to find the strength and
help necessary to cope with whatever issue is leading to thoughts of suicide.
For more information a good resource would be Gary Stewart’s book, Basic
Questions on Suicide and Euthanasia: Are They Ever Right? by Kregel
Publications.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

I do not know of any specific scriptures which mention suicide. The Bible does talk about murder being wrong in God’s sight. I guess we could say, suicide is self murder so it is a sin against God. But suicide is not the unpardonable sin. When Jesus died on the
cross, His sacrifice paid for all sin, including suicide. If someone becomes
desperate enough to commit suicide they are guilty of sinning before God, but
not in danger of being damned to hell any more than any other sin. Jesus
encourages us to come to Him and He will give us rest, His peace, and strength
to face and overcome every trial which comes against us in this world.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso,TX)

The message of Jesus and the New Testament is one of hope. Despair brings one to suicide. There are no scriptures that specifically forbid the taking of one’s life,
except the command, “Do not murder.” Which is defined as taking the life of
another.  But it goes against the entire tenor of what the Christian is as a disciple. Sooner or later, everyone will come to a point of despairing about their life. This is one of those times we trust on Jesus.

Some mistakenly believe that suicide is an unforgivable sin, condemning one before God. Personally, I am not willing to make judgment against a child of God. God is a
loving and forgiving God. The blood of Jesus Christ will wash away every sin.
The appeal of Jesus is: John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and
have it to the full.” NIV

Paul speaks of himself and his companions this way. 2 Cor 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.” Isaiah says. 40:31 “but
those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings
like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

from August 11, 2011

Question:

 I recently read somewhere that to resist or conquer against satans attacks that a person needs to quote exact scriptures to him, not just paraphrase. I have always had a terrible time trying to memorize things so have always paraphrased. In my day, we were taught just to say things much like “I bind you satan in the name of Jesus” when we felt he was
tempting us or wreaking havoc on us. First is it true that we must quote exact
scripture to fight him off? Second, for those of us who can’t memorize, what
would you suggest we do? Third, what specific scriptures should we use on him?

Answers:

Dear Friend: First, no it is not true that you must precisely quote scripture to
ward off the attacks of the Evil One. First of all which scripture would you
quote from? There are many new English translations now, and several of them are
paraphrases, and not even good ones at that! They are an attempt to put the main
thought
of that passage of scripture into one’s own summarized thought.

What one must do is simply know God’s Word! Know it inside and out. Know it
internally, and digest it so that you can put the Truth in your own words. If
you can do that, then you have it!

Moreover, be sure your relationship with Jesus Christ is strong: that you know
He is your brother and your savior. Take your stand against the enemy primarily
on that basis, and the Spirit of Jesus will tell you what to say or pray when
you need to say it or pray it. Fight on in His Name then!

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

God says “My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will
accomplish what I desire… (Isa. 55:11) and that “not one jot or title
(the smallest letter, or least stroke of a pen) will disappear from the Law
(Word) until everything is accomplished. (Mat. 5:18). In light of this I
believe the simplest phrase from Scripture has sufficient power to defeat the
thoughts, impulses, temptations, and distractions of Satan. I encourage people
to get simple phrases under their belt often which they can learn through the
choruses and songs we sing. Phrases such as “There is no condemnation to
those in Christ Jesus,” or “greater is he that is in me than he that
is in the world.” These simple phrases are more than enough to defeat
Satan. As Martin Luther in the great hymn “How firm a foundation”
wrote, “the prince of darkness dim, we tremble not for him, one little
word shall fell him.”

As important as the Word is, it is also important in speaking that word to understand your authority and position in Christ. Christ won the battle at the cross and resurrection for every spiritual battle you will face. It as though we are delivering a supoena to someone
called to a trial or an eviction notice from a judge to a tresspasser. The word
is enforcing the fact that Satan legally lost the right to oppress and torment
anyone in Christ because he was defeated at the cross of Jesus. The only
grounds by which he had any right to torment us was on the grounds of
“unforgiven sin.” But because Jesus nailed our sins to the cross,
there are no unforgiven sins in our lives and therefore no basis for Satan to
have any continued access to our lives.

Pastor Dale Walker

Heart for the Word Church (Las Cruces, NM)

Ps 91:14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect
him, for he acknowledges my name. Ps 91:15 He will call upon me, and I will
answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. Ps
91:16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” I love this
part of psalm 91, I have it memorized and call on it every day for my personal
time as well as for strength when the world (or the devil) overwhelms me
temporarily. The important thing is your faith in God to be with you in times
of struggle whether its with temptation, spiritual attack, or just dealing with
the sorrows and struggles we all face in this world. Find encouragement from
God’s word and lean on it when you need something to hold you up, there’s the
real power! To fill the GAP in your life God Answers Prayer!

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

If you quoted exact scriptures word for word, which translation would you use? I think the attitude of your heart is more important than the formula you use against our enemy. Paul gave instructions about putting on the whole armor of God, which includes the sword
of the Spirit (which is the word of God). As long as we know the word of God
and have it in our hearts, the Holy Spirit will use it as we resist the Devil
and flee from the temptations he places in our path. Loving God above all
others and all else is the best defense against Satan. We are no match for him,
no matter how much scripture we know or what formulas we can recite. We have no
power but the power God gives us; and no power in heaven or on earth can stand
against Him. Love God first and foremost and He will lead you safely into all
righteousness.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from July 28, 2001

Question:

I recently joined a study group and they were speaking of “putting on your spiritual
armor”. What is this, and exactly how do you do it?

 Answers:

This comes from the sixth chapter of blessed Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus,
beginning at the tenth verse. In this famous passage, the Apostle is
encouraging his listeners to “put on” spiritual virtues or powers or graces as
if they were protective armour. As a knight’s armour protected him from
physical harm, so a Christian must be clothed as it were with spiritual armour,
or protection in our fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. Priests,
monks, and nuns have traditionally pray verses from this passage when they don
the various items of their sacred vesture or habits. All Christians need daily
reminders when they stand, that truth will be around them as a belt, the
righteousness will protect them as a breastplate, and as our feet are shod, so
may we be ready to spread the Gospel of peace. Faith will be to us a shield, to
quench the fiery darts of Satan. Salvation itself is our is to be prominent in
our thoughts as helmet would be on our heads, and the sword of the Spirit, is
what early Christians called the Spiritus Gladius, the Word of God is to be our
primary source of defence, as a sword was to a soldier.

Father Thomas Rowland

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

The idea of “putting on one’s spiritual armor” is usually taken to be a
reference to Paul’s great extended metaphor from Ephesians 6:10-18. As a Roman
soldier of his day would put on each piece of armor and fighting equipment one
item at a time, he would be going through a check list that he had learned in
his soldier’s basic training. Likewise, for the spiritual warfare every
Christian must face daily, one needs protection. One needs both offensive and
defensive weapons. The “helmet of salvation” is, for instance, our
best defensive weapon. The “sword of the spirit” (the Word of God) is
our primary offensive weapon. Paul’s metaphor invites us all to ask, “Am I
equipped the way God would have me be equipped in order to live for Him
today?”

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

The apostle Paul wrote about the “Armor of God” in his letter to the Ephesians in chapter 6. He wrote about the struggle God’s people have against powers and forces which are not of
this world.

We need supernatural power to battle against these spiritual enemies. God provides for His children His protection against every evil which comes against us. As we live by God’s truth we become partakers of His righteousness which will enable us to stand up against the lies of our enemies. As we live by faith in God’s word, we can repel every
attack by the enemies of God. God’s salvation, provided through our faith in
Jesus, protects us from the fatal blows any ungodly force may attempt to
inflict upon us. God’s armor is essential for healthy Christian living.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Howdy pardners, I know that that comes from the book of Ephesians Let me rephrase that for y’all:  So stand ready, with truth as a belt buckle
tight around your waist, with righteousness as your vest and as your boots the
readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as your
chaps; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by
the Evil One. And accept salvation as your cowboy hat, and the word of God as
the pistol which the Spirit gives you. Truth, Righteousness, Faith, Salvation
and the Bible, now git out there and punch those doggies! God, Guns and
Guts, the three that made us free!

Pastor Martin Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church (Socorro, TX)

Eph 6:14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

Eph 6:15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

 Eph 6:16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the
evil one

The spiritual armor can be found in the book of Ephesians.

1. The belt of truth is the truth of
the gospel that Jesus, the creator of the universe and the savior of our souls
died for us on the cross. Much like a belt it helps hold us together.

2. The breastplate of righteousness
is the righteousness protects us (notice it covers your heart) and we get it by
trusting Jesus and following his teachings to the best of our ability so we are
protected by His righteousness and not ours.

3. The sandals are the readiness
that comes from the gospel of peace, and they spur us on to tell others the
good news.

4.The shield of faith protects us by our trust in God from the fears, troubles
and worries of this world, we may go through things but God will keep us safe
by our faith in Him.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The Spiritual Armor is recorded for us in Ephesians 6:10-18 where Paul used the image of a Roman Soldier dressed for battle to make comparisons to the spiritual warfare believers in Christ are involved in. Each part of the armor represents something spiritually. The belt
that holds the soldiers breastplate against his body and his sword scabbard is
like the truth of God. The righteousness of Christ which is given to Christians
is compared to the breastplate that would protect a soldier’s heart and vital
organs from attack. The sandals of a soldier were studded to give his traction
in battle and they represent the gospel of peace. The shield represents the
believer’s faith that is able to withstand the spiritual enemy’s attacks. The
battle helmet is representative of the salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ.

The only offensive weapon Paul mentions in this passage is the sword which he says is the word of God. All these things: God’s truth, the righteousness of Christ, the gospel of peace,
our faith, our salvation and the word of God are all given to us by God to
enable us to stand firm (mentioned three times in this passage – vs. 11, 13, 14) against the power of Satan and his forces.

Putting these spiritual weapons on may be done through prayer, thanking God for each one – His truth, our righteousness from Christ, the gospel message, the faith God gives us, our salvation which is a gift from God and the written word of God. You can pray and ask God to help you remember each of these gifts and blessing during times of the day when you
might otherwise struggle or feel overwhelmed. Of course the best way to be
“armored up” is to constantly seek to keep your personal relationship with God
fresh and intimate through regular reading and study of God’s word, the Bible,
and praying continuously and joining in the fellowship of other Christians.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Good question. This meaning comes from Ephesians 6:10. Paul reminds us that our battle is a spiritual battle against dark forces therefore he exhorts us to put on the
armor of God. It would take long to go through every detail which Paul
describes as the armor but it is crucial that we have a good understanding of
our spiritual armor as a believer. For instance the shield of Faith, faith is
described as a shield. We must build our faith through the word of God,
“faith comes by hearing of the Word of God”. Read and study the Bible
and mix it with prayer. Your faith grows the more you understand, through every
storm you will learn how to stand on God’s Word. This is only one example. May
the Lord keep you as you continue to grow in Him.

Blessings,

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

Hopefully, this may help:

BELT of Truth = Believe right;

BREASTPLATE of Righteousness = Live right;
FEET = Walk right;

SHIELD of Faith = Link
with others for protection; HELMET of Salvation = Think right; SWORD of the
Spirit = Speak right;

PRAYER = Pray right

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from July 14, 2011

Question:

I can’t help but be proud of my kids when they do well in school and other
things. Or even proud of myself when I’ve accomplished a goal. But I am
continuously told that I’m wrong for this because pride is a sin. Please help
me to understand this, am I really sinning each time I am proud of my kids or
myself for doing well?

Answers:

I don’t think so, I think this goes to our attitude. No matter what we have or
what we do here on this world it all belongs to God.

Jas 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of
the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. .

We are just stewards of the things God has given us here, our children don’t
belong to us though we have been trusted to care for them and love them. Our
own lives and the gifts or talents that we have, even our own health good or
bad is something we have received from God to take care of. This is the
attitude we need to use with all the things in our lives. It will give God the
glory when things go well, and allow us to trust in Him when the things we look
at here don’t look so hot.

Associate Pastor Richard D. Roberson

Open Gate Community Church (El Paso, TX)

There’s nothing wrong with a certain level of personal pride. It is a God-given trait
to be proud of one’s own children when we see them take larger steps or
accomplish goals in life. Likewise, because we are commanded to love ourselves,
one of the things we love is the fact that God has enabled each one of us to
accomplish certain things with the gifts and abilities He has provided us. But
our sense of pride at having accomplished a difficult task should quickly be
turned into praise toward our Father who enabled us to do the work in the first
place. The kind of pride that is sinful or that leads to sin is that described
in Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before
destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” The inspired writer is
speaking of the arrogance which leads some to claim there is no God or if there
is, we do not need Him. That is the pride that leads to perdition.

Incidentally, you might like to know that now in my retired capacity I will be
working part-time as visitation pastor and assistant to the senior pastor
beginning now.

Pastoral Assistant Paul Duerksen

(Las Cruces, NM)

The apostle Paul boasted about the
faithfulness of others and even desired for others to see their deeds so that
they could verify his boasting. But, he boasted about those who were bearing
the Spiritual fruit of walking with God. In another place, Paul boasted about
his own credentials but was very quick to say he was acting as a fool. The
writer of Proverbs said, “A wise son brings joy to his father…”.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of our children and working in such a
way so that we are proud of the work we accomplish. The problem comes when we
measure ourselves against others instead of being satisfied to please God in
always doing our very best for His glory. Paul’s rule on boasting seemed to be,
if I boast of anything, I will boast in the Lord. He gives us our abilities and
opportunities and the strength to do good.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Personally, I believe there is a distinct difference
between the pride that leads to a sinful attitude, and being proud of the
accomplishment of your children or even yourself. When my heart is filled with
sinful pride  I tend to turn the
spotlight on myself, and make myself the center of the universe. It is all
about me. However, when I am proud of an accomplishment or in the achievement
of my children, I rejoice in the good things that God has enabled me to
accomplish or the exciting things I see my children doing. I believe God takes
great pride in His children, so when we rejoice in our children we reflect His
glory. The pride that goes before the fall obscures the glory of God, but the
joy and pride of accomplishment celebrates the power and presence of God in our
lives.

Pastor David Lowrie

First Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Sinful pride is far different from
the pride we all take in our kids and our accomplishments. Sinful pride leaves
no room for thanking God or anyone else for those accomplishments. What you are
feeling is praiseworthy to God not strictly to yourself. Galatians 6:4 says,
“Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself,
without comparing himself to somebody else.” What we all share in I like
to call “sanctified pride”.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Christian tradition understands that pride is the first of the seven deadly sins. In
Latin, pride is superbia. The ancient Greeks called it “hubris”. It is
arrogance and affects almost everyone.

Pride is an inordinate love of our own excellence. We want to be the center of attention
and have others circle around us. This type of pride is a spiritual handicap
and can only be overcome by the God-given grace of humility in a lifetime of
Christian living.

The weakness
of the English language is evident in that there is another concept which uses
the same word for another concept. This type of pride is different. This isn’t
an inordinate love of one’s excellence, but is the attitude that makes one care
for what one does, it makes one want to look good and do the right thing. It is
the feeling of satisfaction in accomplishments and a feeling of love for our
loved ones.

If you acknowledge that it is God alone who gave you what you have, then these
feelings may not be sinful at all. They may be a healthy part of Christian
humility.

Father Thomas Rowland

Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

I think this is all a matter of the heart. The scriptures say “rejoice with those
who rejoice.” As a pastor I rejoice that my four daughters have grown and are
all actively serving the Lord. Many pastors have lost their families for the
sake of the ministry and my wife and I decided we did not want this to happen.
We are thankful to the Lord for what He has done. We do not laud it over
others, we do not speak about this often, but are happy with what God is doing
in all our lives. The pride issue comes when we are always bragging about what
is happening, always talking about the accomplishments of our family, or
talking about what we are doing. When it becomes “one-up-manship,” pride and
competition occur. Everyone you know has 24 hours a day with events to talk
about and if you talk more about your life than those around you, then you may
have a problem. Is the emphasis of your conversation about you or about God?
Something to think about.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

from June 30, 2011

Question:

What does it mean when I hear people say about someone “He is born of the Spirit” or “She
walks in the Spirit”?

Answers:

The two questions are not two ways of saying the same thing. They actually imply
two different ideas. To be born of or in the Spirit is Jesus’ own metaphor for
what happens when someone becomes a believing Christian. They were born from
the womb at the first, but now through faith they are born from above (John
3:5), or born of God. God adds His Spirit to their life so that now they have a
new eternal life from God.

But to “walk in the Spirit” is an idea from Paul’s writings. It
refers not to the moment of new creation by God but of the ongoing life in this
world of the believer. The Spirit of Jesus actually leads us if we want Him to
lead and allow ourselves to be led. As we respond to His call or nudge, we are
in fact “walking in the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, 4; 2 Corinthians 12:18; Galatians 5:16, 25). This will insure that we are not
following the call or nudge of our sinful flesh.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

Jn 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God
unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

Being born of water talks about the normal issues of child birth.. Being born of the
spirit is more about being open to the spirit working in your life, it has more
to do with the spirit of God working in your
life to do a new work in you where natural child birth is something working to
create the life of a child, the spirit works in us to create a new person.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

I understand how Christian language could be difficult to comprehend sometimes
for someone who is new to the church culture.There are many phrases used by
Christians, depending on what circle of Christianity you are in. This phrase is
based on the Gospel of John Chapter 3, Jesus defines
the difference of one born naturally and someone who is born again by His
Spirit.

Walking is another word for living, my day to day life. The New Testament is clear about the human nature and the new life we have in God through his Spirit that lives in us. We are to follow the new life or be like Christ,that is walking in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-26 will give you a good idea ofthe difference between the nature of the flesh and Spirit.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

Jesus said in John 3:5,
“…unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the
kingdom of God.” He was saying we must have the Spirit of God (Holy
Spirit) born in us if we expect to come into God’s kingdom. Paul wrote to the
church in Ephesus (1:13) that God’s Spirit is God’s deposit in us who
guarantees our inheritance until God takes us to Himself. Paul told the
Galations (5:16) “…live (walk) by the Spirit and you will not gratify
the desires of the sinful nature.” So, we are born of the Spirit when we
place our trust in Jesus. We walk in the Spirit when we obey God and allow His
Holy Spirit to guide us decision by decision.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Being born of the Spirit is a phrase Jesus used to Nicodemus
in John 3.5 referring to being born again into the family
of God. Walking in the Spirit is a term
the Apostle Paul used in Galatians
5.16 in reference to a life that is in sync with the manifestations of the
Spirit’s work that followed in the later part of that chapter. Being in step
with the Holy Spirit is actually the fruit of the Spirit which is: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. With
this lists we are able to check ourselves instantly to the Spirit’s control.
Either we are in sync or need to be synced up to the Spirit’s control and
power.

Teaching Pastor Larry Lamb

Cielo Vista Church (El Paso, TX)

To be “born of the Spirit” is a shorter way of saying “born of water and the Spirit”
(John 3:5). It means this person has been baptized in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and has therefore received the gift of
the Holy Spirit. Before His crucifixion, Jesus promised to send the Spirit (see
John 14, 15, 16) and after His resurrection He charged His disciples to “Go
therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19-20). Christ’s promise to not
leave them as orphans, to abide with them and them with Him, and to always be
with them (“and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Amen.”) all refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit. When you receive the Spirit
you also receive the Father and the Son, for they are all God and God is one.
To be “born of the Spirit” is to become a baptized child of God, an heir of the
promise, and a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Your name is written in the book
of life. You belong to Christ, and no one can snatch you from Him. Neither
death nor life…nothing…can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus,
our Lord (Rom. 8:37-39).

To “walk in the Spirit” is to live in accord with the reality of your new being, that
is, your new life as a baptized member of the family of God. Paul writes, “If
we live in the Spirit (and we do through baptism), let us also walk in
the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). And the fruit of the Spirit is: “love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such
there is no law” (Gal. 5:22). You were set free from sin and death in your
baptism when your old sinful self was drowned and a whole “new you” was raised
up to live forever in Christ (Rom. 6:4). Paul reminds his fellow Christians of
the grace that God has granted them—redemption in the gift of the Spirit and
justifying faith—and he exhorts them to live a life that reflects their walking
in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9-18, Gal. 5:13-26). Walking in sin is slavery but
walking in the Spirit is salvation and freedom. Ultimately, the hinge of
Galatians (5:1) sums up the whole matter: “For freedom Christ set us free;
stand fast (firm) therefore and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Pastor Lenae Rasmussen

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church (El Paso, TX)

from June 16, 2011

Question:

 When a person who is redeemed in Christ dies
does he/she go directly into God’s presence or do we “fall asleep”
and wait for Jesus’ final return and our ultimate resurrection?

Answers:

 The Bible itself gives us some indication that there is an initial resurrection to
immediate eternal life at the moment of death itself. Paul indicates that to be
away from the body is to be present with the Lord Jesus (Philippians 1:21-24).
He also indicates that now we have the fleshly, perishable body, but after this
life we have the spiritual body, and that this latter body is the resurrected
life that God will give to us for Christ’s sake (see 1 Corinthians 15:42-49).
The word for “sleep” in Greek, of course, was originally used as a
euphemism for death; but it does not necessarily imply that there will be this
“holding period” of quiet, semi-conscious, or unconscious rest, while
we wait for a final resurrection. The great Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner,
also taught (from the Scriptures!) that the best way to understand the promise
of resurrection for us was that it is instantly realized at the moment of
death; and the resurrected body is a spiritual body, like that of the Second
Adam, Jesus Christ . .

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

There are outstanding Christian leaders on both sides who seek to be careful in their handling of
God’s word and yet come to opposing views. As always we need to let the
Scripture be our guide. Consider first Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 5 where
he uses the analogy of our bodies as temporary tents and how we long to be
clothed with the resurrection bodies “not made with human hands” in heaven.
Then in verses 5-6 he writes, “Therefore, being always of good courage, and
knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for
we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer
rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” Most who
read these verses will look at that phrase “while we are at home in the body we
are absent from the Lord” and conclude (rightly, in my opinion) that as verse 6
ends, “to be absent from the body” is “to be home with the Lord.” Those who
believe in what has been termed “soul sleep” would argue that Paul was merely
stating that this is our desire, rather than a direct promise that immediately
when a person dies their soul leaves the body and goes to be with the Lord. Yet
if that is the case there are a few instances in Scripture that don’t fit.
Jesus promised the thief on the cross that “this day you will be with me in
paradise.” The “this day” certainly sounds like there is no delay between death
and heaven for the one trusting in Jesus. And what about when Moses and Elijah
appeared to Jesus on the mountain during what we call His transfiguration? If
these two Old Testament saints are not “sleeping” until Jesus returns at the
end of time, why should God require New Testament believers to “sleep”? Space
does not allow for more discussion, but I believe if you carefully read the
Bible passages in context you will see that a believer goes immediately to be
with God in heaven at death.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

1Th
4:14
We believe that Jesus died and rose
again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen
asleep in him.

2Pe 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like
a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

I believe both of your questions can be answered in these two verses. Those who
have fallen asleep in Jesus will sleep but it will be perfect sleep of peace. I
don’t know how long it will take but I believe as Peter said. “With the Lord a
day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.” God will
raise us and no matter how long it is, it will seem like the blink of an eye.
We will go to sleep and wake up rejoicing!

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The members of the early church had many members who were concerned about those who had died as
believers in Christ. The apostle Paul had words of comfort for them. He wrote
to the church in Corinth (II Cor.5:6,8) that when we are at home in our bodies
we are absent from the Lord and how Paul preferred to be absent from the body
and be present with the Lord. Paul told the church in Thessalonica (I Thess.
4:14) that God will bring with Jesus (when He returns) those who have fallen
asleep in Him. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him that
very day in paradise. Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah present with
Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. It appears that there is much evidence
to support the belief that when we die we go into the presence of Jesus.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 is one of the
key passages to understanding the scriptural answer to your question. The key
phrases in the passage are these “…knowing that while we are at home in
the body we are absent from the Lord…” is contrasted to “…
preferring to be absent from the body to be at home with the Lord…”

Paul is speaking to the church, (believers in Jesus Christ,
indwelt by the Holy Spirit) as you stated, the “redeemed in Christ.”
I suppose it is possible that some may question whether the soul is absent from
the body that they observe at a funeral. However, it is very evident to me that
the soul is absent from the body, and thus in the case of the believer, present
with the Lord. In fact earlier in that passage in 2 Corinthians, Paul refers to
the body as an “earthly tent”, a temporary dwelling as compared to
the “permanent dwelling” that awaits us in the resurrection, which is
then the basis of the encouragement in the passage.

Pastor Josh Meier

El Paso Bible Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The term “fall asleep” is used in the Bible to convey the
idea that when we die to this world, we are still alive. Paul said “I prefer
rather to be absent from the body and be at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor.5:8)
Solomon said “man goes to his eternal home and the mourners go about the
streets.” (Ecc.12:5) There is no soul sleep there! We live in a time/space
world and when we die, we leave this world and go into eternity, where there is
no time as we know it. We are therefore in God’s presence, it’s judgement day,
and we are with the Lord forever. Paul says it is better to die and be with
Christ. (Phil. 1: 21-24) If “soul sleep” were taught in the scriptures, these
verses would be meaningless or the apostle Paul was deluded and did not know
what he is talking about. The joy of the Christian faith is to know when we
leave this world we will be in God’s presence for all eternity. Jesus has made
this possible.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

from June 2, 2011

Question:

For months people have heard that Judgment Day
was to happen May 21st, and did not. There will now be even more who doubt
Christians and Christianity. What would you as Pastors say to these doubters?

Answers:

Christ warned
that throughout what we commonly call the church age there would be false
prophets who would predict His coming or even claim that they are Christ. In
one way a wrong prediction makes Scripture look bad, yet in another way it
confirms the accuracy and validity of Scripture. The key is Scripture and
knowing for yourself what the Bible truly states about the 2nd coming and what
it says about a great many other subjects. It is not what a given man says or
predicts it was does Scripture say. Even Christians will disagree about details
at times, especially about the events of the 2nd coming, but Scripture gives a
clear and very distinct warning that no man can know the “day or hour” of
Christ’s return. When that warning is disregarded by people then the fault lies
not with the Scriptures, but with the individual who disregards the warning
that Christ Himself gave us. When we fail to take note that the man making the
prediction has made false prophecies in the past and distorts Scripture on a
regular basis then the validity of Scripture is not in question it is the
common sense of the people who believe that person. A prophet is 100% accurate
or is a false prophet. When we disregard the warnings it is our failure not God’s.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Throughout history there have been those
who have tried to predict the day of Jesus’ return. All have ignored Jesus’ own
statement in Matthew 24:36: “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither
the angels in heaven, nor the Son–except the
Father only.” This statement (along with all the other teaching Jesus gave in
this chapter) was in direct response to the disciple’s question recorded in
Matthew 24:3: “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of
Your coming and of the end of the age?” I want desperately to remind everyone
that in spite of the irresponsible statements and actions of those who state
they know the exact day of Jesus’ return to earth,
that His coming is completely on God’s timetable, and that has not been made
known to any human. In the days and weeks prior to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem
which we celebrate at Christmas, no prophet had
announced the exact day or manner in which the Messiah was going to be born.
Yet they had all the Old Testament prophecies
about the coming of Messiah and still missed it! Why should we arrogantly think
we can accurately know everything about His second coming? The most important
message concerning Jesus’ return, however, is not when or even all the circumstances
surrounding it. The vital point no one should miss is that Jesus will indeed
return as He promised, and we must be ready before He comes by confessing to
God that we are a sinner, and ask God to forgive us for our sin because Jesus
took our punishment for our sin by His death on the cross, and we must ask
Jesus into our lives to be the Lord and Savior of our lives. If we will
sincerely do this and wholeheartedly trust in Jesus alone, seeking to follow
Him faithfully, we will truly be ready for His return.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

It is true that when one prominent Christian attempts to predict something so big
and important he/she will often draw public attention to himself. Jesus Himself
of course never intended that any of us would go out on a limb and predict a
precise date for His return and/or the end of the world.
It is also true that the Church as a whole is mocked when one member
embarrasses himself publicly. The way for us to recover from such embarrassment
is for each of us to continue as witnessing disciples. By this means we show
our pride in the Lord Jesus, and proclaim His great love for us. Then, whatever
“the world” thinks those individuals whom we meet will be impressed
in the Savior we serve.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

The truth of the matter is that Jesus said that no one knows the date of his
return. He told us to be ready. If Jesus does not know, how would anyone else
know the date? All of these date setters are false
prophets and that is why May 21st came and went and nothing happened.
Jesus is coming back like a thief in the night,
not to rob or hurt you, like a thief, in other words, he is coming when you
don’t expect him. So this episode should put you doubters on the ready. Will
the last day be today or tomorrow or 2012? Who knows! But if you’re  not ready, not saved, not in the family of God, Woe is you!

Pastor Martin Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church (Socorro, TX)

Yes, I agree that there will be more who doubt because of the latest May 21st prediction;
unfortunately predictions like these do hurt the mission of evangelism.

We must never forget, despite these types of incidents that God is in control
and He knows exactly what he is doing. Predictions or not, we the Bride of Christ (the church) are waiting for the coming
of our Lord. We should always be watching and ready for the trumpet call.
Doubters will have a greater excuse and less concern now but this goes to show
that the illustration of Jesus coming as a thief in the
night to those that are in darkness will come to pass.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

I would remind them that these
people are not God, and they don’t know the things God knows, like when the end
will come. The 13th chapter of Mark is where Jesus talks a lot about the end
and where this individual says he got his information but I don’t read anything
here that talks about when exactly the end will be. Read it for yourself and
see what you decide. (that’s what a lot of other people should have done before
they backed him financially.)

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from May 19, 2011

Question:

 All there is in the news
right now is word on Bin Laden’s death. Is it sinful for Christians to be
joyous about this news? As Americans we can feel safer, but I know that as
Christians we are to be sorrowful when anyone dies without knowing the
Lord. How do you as Pastors feel that God thinks
about this man’s death?

Answers:

Jesus
Himself said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of
them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.”  (Matthew
10:29)

God certainly knows of the death of all people, including unrepentant
sinners.  The reason many people in the world are rejoicing that bin Laden
was killed is because they knew and had seen all the evil he had done for
nearly two whole decades.  Psalm writers claimed repeatedly that God would
bring an end to evil-doers, and they (as an example to us) rejoiced in
anticipation of such events.  We can feel sorrow that another sinner has
gone to the place of judgment for the damned.  But we are also right to be
glad that a very dangerous man has been removed from the stage of history.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

In I Samuel 25 David rejoiced over the fact that God had brought vengeance upon
Nabal who escaped death by David’s sword – but as David felt – he got what was
coming to him at the hand of God. Who’s to say
how we should respond to this question. In battle however, it is often the case
that there is celebration when a victory is won. Proverbs
11:10 says, “When the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

It is not sinful for us to rejoice in victory over someone who
attacks us. I have no doubt the Lord was saddened when Bin Laden died without
having a relationship with the true and living God but no more than He wept for
those who died in the twin towers who didn’t know Him. Anytime someone chooses
something else over the Jesus the Holy Spirit
is grieved. Unfortunately, free will means that we can make that choice even
though we have to live with it for eternity. As a country, we still have to
defend our own.

2Co 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

2Co 10:4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

2Co
10:5
We demolish arguments and every
pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take
captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Associate
Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Osama was responsible for the deaths of over 350,000 innocent people. More
deaths in his home country than in America. His evil needed to be stopped, but
that should not mean his death is a time of rejoicing for Christians. God wants
repentance, Ezek 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the
Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that
they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will
you die, O house of Israel?’” NIV If this is the Lord’s eternal perspective, how
appropriate is it for us to sing and dance in the streets.

Were the actions of our government justified? Yes, it was and we rejoice with
those who accomplished a successful mission with no loss of life and low
collateral death. But, now a man must meet his creator without hope in the
Savior who died for us all.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso,
TX)

God’s heart is broken over Osama bin
Laden having entered eternity separated from the Lord just as He grieves over
every individual who dies having rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior.  You
are right in that we as Christians should grieve also over the fact that bin
Laden is eternally lost spiritually, yet it is correct to be glad that his
influence is removed from those who would seek to overthrow our nation.
We must remember that bin Laden is part of that extreme, radical segment of
Islam who are committed to killing every person who will not accept his false
religion and convert to Islam.  He had dedicated his life to destroying
all those who did not adopt his radical view, regardless of their nationality
or ethnicity.  We must remember that all those who oppose God are subject
to His judgment.  Just read many of the psalms where David and others
called out to God to destroy those who opposed God and them as His
servants.  We should never stop praying for and seeking to reach people of
all the world’s religions and help them see and accept the truth of Jesus’ statement
recorded in John 14:6 where He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the
life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.”  Only those who embrace God’s
grace by faith in Jesus Christ as He paid the penalty our sin required in our
place will be with God for eternity.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from May 5, 2011

Question:

 Many people I know talk about their spirituality but admit they do not have a relationship with Christ. Is it possibly to be spiritual and not be a Christian?

 Answers:

 This is a great question. I have preached a sermon on this topic.  In today’s culture it is popular to classify oneself as spiritual. It is a trend from Hollywood to mainline which may sound good at the surface.  It is important that we define spiritual; there are many people from different religions such as Hinduism who would be considered spiritual because they believe in spiritual things. Many ordinary people consider themselves spiritual because they believe in a higher power and try to be good people.

As Christians we must be careful to understand what it is to be Christian. We are Christians because we follow Christ not because we are spiritual.  Our Goal is to Obey and follow Christ and be more like Him, yes we may become spiritual because of the Holy Spirit but it is because we follow Christ first, His word is our main authority; we are not trying to be spiritual just to be spiritual. There are many deceptive Spirits but the Spirit of Christ is the spirit of truth.  There are different spirits, people can be spiritual but is doesn’t mean they are founded in the spirit of Christ.  Sometimes People can be spiritual but it is only a form or counterfeit of goodness and kindness.  They try to be spiritual without any accountability to the truth, trying to make their own way for salvation.  Remember it is only a form, counterfeit based on deceptive spirits.  The answer is yes, but it is not the spirit of Christ.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

When God created mankind He made us all spiritual as well as physical beings.  We are both spirit and body inseparable.  Thus people can indeed be spiritual and speak of their spirituality without being Christian.  They are speaking of the world view that they hold or the persistent attitude of the mind that directs the rest of their lives.  If such persons are not Christians they will always have the incorrect view of the world and they will behave accordingly, living out their selfish sins.  But our spirit is brought fully alive when we become believers and the Holy Spirit comes into us.  Then we are spiritual in the best sense of the word!

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

Absolutely! The American believed in strongly in the Great Spirit, the spirit that runs through everything. Much of eastern culture and just about all thinking behind the Chinese martial arts is based on the idea of “Chi” the power that runs through everything including us.

Here’s the problem. Both the American Indian and far eastern philosophy were right about the spirit that lives in everything, they were wrong about where it came from. We can be the same way when we say we are spiritual or “Christian” but don’t pursue a relationship with God. We admit to the existence of a God but basically say we don’t want to hang out with Him. Jesus said Himself:

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)

The question is, how willing are we to not just admit that there is a God but admit that we need to have a relationship with Him? Not just to others when they ask but to ourselves? And if someone says they are spiritual, what spirit are they talking about?

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Your question hinges on the meaning of spiritual. Scripture reveals that it is spiritual to be obedient to the will of God, to be in harmony with God. Spiritual is to focus on the eternal things of God in contrast to the temporary things of this world.

The world says spiritual is feeling good, yet the apostle Paul said: Acts 23:1   “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” NIV Even when Paul/Saul persecuted Christians and cheered the stoning of Stephen, he had a clear conscience. So feeling good about oneself is not a good definition of spiritual.

The ancient Gnostics argued that it did not matter what you did in the body because being Christian was in the spirit. The First letter of John answers this heresy.

Most people today probably consider emotion as spiritual. I feel good. I am excited. I am happy. This understanding would allow a person to feel “spiritual” about any religion or activity.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

In I Corinthians 2:13-14, Paul writes, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things which come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are Spiritually discerned.”  This indicates that someone cannot be “Spiritual” apart from having the indwelling Spirit of Christ in them to help them understand the things of God.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

“Spirituality” has been a real buzzword since the dawning of the New Age Movement some 25 or more years ago. It is an umbrella term meaning any kind of mystical emotion or experience that comes from “the unseen side of life.”

We are created with a “spiritual” component and so we are spiritual beings in a sense.

I John 4:1-3 has advice for a Christian to follow in discerning true spirituality.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from April 21, 2011

Question:

 I was not raised around Christians, so just got to learning about Christianity in the past year.
I got saved in January, and just heard someone say that only 144,000 would go to heaven. If this is right, then none of us that get saved now have a chance do we? Wouldn’t there have already been 144,000 and more saved since Jesus’ time?

Answers:

 The passage that is misinterpreted is from Revelations chapter seven. This takes place during the tribulation and in the previous chapter as the sixth seal is opened judgment is declared upon the earth. As the angels of judgment prepare to execute their mission an angel comes to halt them until the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel are sealed. (Vs 4) In verses 5-8 twelve tribes are mentioned with 12,000 from each tribe being sealed. In verse 9 we are told that there was a large group which no man could number from all the nations of the earth standing before the throne of God. No place in scripture has God limited the number who would be saved. God wants everyone to accept Christ and be saved. Heaven is more than able to accommodate us all.

Pastor Julius Martin

Church of God (El Paso, TX)

The reference to 144,000 persons comes from the Book of Revelation, chapter 7, verses 2 – 8.  These are representatives, evenly divided, among the twelve tribes of Israel (12,000 from each tribe).  But there is no indication that this particular number or reference, highly symbolic as it is, is intended to limit the number of all those persons finally saved.  Otherwise what would be the point of the closing admonitions of this book?  Recall also that immediately after this passage comes the reference to a great multitude from all parts of the world which cannot be counted!  And they are praising God and to Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.  It is this number to which you (the questioner) have now been added.  So the final number of those saved will be an unimaginably high number!

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces.

Those who state only 144,000 will go to heaven take their totally mistaken view from Revelation 7:4-8.  These verses are in the book of the Bible that deals with events occurring at the end of human history, the “end times.”  Those who say only 144,000 go to heaven take these verses completely out of context and ignore the clear sense of what they say.  These verses refer to the time of devastating events that will occur.  Revelation 7:3 records the words of an angel calling to other angels that were given the authority to harm the earth and sea saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of  our God on their foreheads.”  Then verses 4-8 record that those who are sealed or marked by God for preservation are 144,000 Jews – 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.  To say that only these will be in heaven is to claim that in order to go to heaven you must be among the 144,000 Jews living during the period of Great Tribulation at the end of time that are especially marked by God.  The Bible clearly promises that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).  Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day…. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (John 6:44, 47).  All who have trusted in Jesus for salvation are saved and will be with God for all eternity.  Please do not fear this terrible contortion of Scripture by those who do not understand it.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

This idea is out of Revelations in chapter 7 and chapter 14:

Rev 7:3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

Rev 7:4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel

These could mean those saved from the nation of Israel, the original of God’s children if you read the verses after this.

Unfortunately, it is greatly misunderstood. As I said the idea is out of Revelations but nowhere is it said that they would be the only ones saved. Some people think that they are martyrs for God, but no one really knows any more than what it says in chapter 7.

This verse is drastically over used by the Jehovah Witnesses as part of their doctrine and in assuming that they are the 144,000. The problem is that when I searched their own web site today there were 7,508,050 of them reported so by their standard all of them aren’t going either! Our God is a God of hope, hope for everyone.

God wants us all to be saved and the ones called first are no more important than the ones called last. Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven being like a vineyard in Matthew 20 verses 1-16. The paper asks us to keep answers as close to 150 words as possible so I can’t print all of that out now but PLEASE! Read your bible, read these verses I suggested and don’t give up hope. God loves you just as much as someone who was saved 50 years ago, and the angels in heaven will rejoice just as much for someone saved 20 years from now as they did for you.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Welcome to the body of Christ, I pray that God reveals himself to you every day as you learn to walk with him.  It’s a good question but I would encourage you not to be caught up with trivial theology about the end times. As a new believer, focus on growing and learning the basics. In Math you cannot go from addition to algebra right away, it is a process and you need to understand one to go to the next level. Focus on knowing Christ and understanding what salvation is.

As far as your question goes, some scholars believe that the 144,000 will be Jews who are instrumental in the salvation of many Jews and Gentiles during the Tribulation. God will seal 12 thousand from each of the 12 tribes.

Be blessed, and may you continue to grow in His grace.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

The 144,000 are mentioned in Revelation chapters 7 and 14.  Since the book of Revelation uses much symbolism, some believe the number is symbolic of the whole number of believers for all time.  Others believe it actually is the number of Jewish believers, or a symbolic number representing the full number of Jews, who place their faith in Jesus as the Messiah.  As you read in chapter 7 of Revelation in verse 9 and following, you will see a great multitude no one can count who are dressed in white robes.  These are the Gentile believers in Christ who also have a place prepared for them for all eternity in heaven with their redeemer, Jesus.  So the 144,000 are the Jewish believers or representative of all believers of all time which is a number no one can count.  So, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from April 7, 2011

Question:

I recently was told that a person isn’t truly saved until they are baptized and if they were to die before baptism they would not go to heaven. Is this true? I have always heard at church that Jesus’ blood is what saved us, and that once we believe upon him, accept him, and confess our sins – HE saves us. I know that we are to also be baptized – but was not aware that that is the act that saves us. Please explain.

Answers:

When it comes to salvation, I chose to put my trust in the words of Jesus. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV). As you can see Jesus points out that salvation comes by faith or by believing in him. Therefore baptism is an outward act of obedience that identifies us as fully devoted followers of Jesus. Baptism does not save us any more than wearing a wedding ring makes you married. The wedding ring is a symbol of our commitment. The baptism symbolizes and tells the story of your salvation. Your salvation is secured by the death and resurrection of Jesus on your behalf and is received when you put your faith and trust in him alone to save you.

Pastor David Lowrie

First Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

What you heard is a matter of interpretation from Acts 2:38 as well as other verses like I Peter 3:21. Acts 2:38 says: “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” This is understood as two distinct acts: Repentance and then Baptism before one’s salvation is valid. The question is: What then do we say to the thief on the cross who didn’t get that chance but was promised from the lips of Jesus that he would be with Him in paradise? (Luke 23:43) It’s a matter of interpretation.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

You are absolutely right, you do not have to be baptized to be saved. There are some people who might disagree with that but the simple truth is that baptism is an outward representation of an inward act of God’s grace. The act comes before the baptism and is not a saving act in and of itself.

Ac 1:5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

That’s the inward act, get the outward one in whatever church you like, full emersion or sprinkle, whatever floats your boat but pursue the Holy Spirit working on your inner self because that’s the biggie

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The apostle Paul was the first missionary who spread the good news about Jesus.  He was used of God to introduce many to faith in Jesus.  He wrote to the Corinthian church that, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel (good news about Jesus) – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church he wrote, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Baptism is an act of obedience to Christ by those who have already been saved through their faith in Christ.  The scriptures plainly teach that we are not saved by what we do (including baptism) but simply by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church  (EL Paso, TX)

All things being equal, yes, we should all be baptized.  The New Testament is not lock-step anywhere in maintaining that someone must be baptized in order to be fully saved.  It is simply an outward sign depicting an inward divine work by God that is appropriated at the proper time by the new believer. There have no doubt been many times in history when persons became believers in the Savior Jesus, but could not be baptized for one reason or another (not enough time, no water around, etc.).  The most famous case is the dying thief on the cross near Jesus (Luke’s Gospel account).  God affects our salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ.  We appropriate that salvation through faith in Him.

Reitred Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

Some believe that  if a baby isn’t sprinkled in the Catholic Church and dies, he/she has died with their original sin. The Catholics teach that the water washes away original sin. Some teach that if you ask Jesus to be your Savior and you die in a car wreck on the way home without being baptized, you won’t go to heaven. Others under-emphasize baptism as to make it an option. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commanded baptism to those who are His children. It wasn’t an option and in Romans 6, it is by immersion with the symbol of burial and resurrection. We are dying to our old life of sin and rising to a new life in Christ. In the New Testament baptism always followed belief and committal to Christ so it was for those who were not infants. If someone has come to Christ and refuses to be immersed, I would then question if they are saved. If they are not willing to keep Jesus’ commandments, and Jesus said, “if you love Me, you will keep my commandments,” then there are questions about whether they are His children or not. Obedience is essential, not picking and choosing what we want to do or believe. I hope this helped.

Pastor Wally Chapman 

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

A common verse that is used to support the theory that baptism is necessary to complete salvation is found in Acts 2.38, Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (NLT) The science and art of interpreting the Bible is called hermeneutics. This means that accuracy is applied in the truest since of the word. Scripture supports scripture so in the case of searching for water baptism to support the completion of one’s salvation lacks substance. The Bible is replete with verses that support salvation is by faith and faith alone: Romans 4.5, Ephesians 2.8,9; Titus 3.5.  These verses alone support a patterns of precedence. Remember, the thief on the cross was not baptized, yet he was promised a place in Paradise by the Lord on the Cross.

Pastor Larry Lamb

Cielo Vista Church (El Paso, TX)

from March 24th, 2011

Question:

The Bible tells us that in the end times there will be wars, rumors of war, and great disaster. We have been having multiple wars, had the terrible quake in Haiti a little over a year ago, and now all the disasters in Japan. So as Christians should we consider that we are in the ends times?

Answers:

Jesus said when we see these things it is only the beginning of the end. Christians have lived as though they expect the return of Christ at any time since the first century. When we live as though Jesus could return any moment, we will certainly be more serious about witnessing and doing everything God expects of us, without delay. There is no doubt we are closer to the end times than any generation which has gone before us. Jesus will come as a thief comes in the night when we least expect him and are least prepared. So, we should be careful to make the most of every opportunity to do the good work God has prepared for us to do. Only God in heaven knows the day and the hour of the end, but the signs of the times indicate an urgency to be about our Father’s business.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

It is expressly Jesus who tells us these things in Matthew 24:6  “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”  Since Jesus himself says these things will happen, but they do not signal the end of history as we know it, the answer is plain and simple in this case:  these things do not point to the end of time, his return, or the coming judgment.  Rather such events point us to a season of prayer for the life of other suffering persons, and lead to examine the state of our salvation and our own growth in personal holiness.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

The bible calls these you have listed things “birth pangs” and says that they “must happen” and are the “beginnings of sorrows.” The bible also tells us that such things must happen but the “end is not yet” (Mark 13:5-8). The comparison to birth pangs is telling, as birth pangs before the birth of a child tell us, one important thing. Birth pangs tell us a birth is coming. They do not tell us however, how long the labor will be, or what the birthday will be. For those things, we pretty much have to wait and see.

Now, as to whether we are in the “end times.” We know that we are in fact living in what scripture calls the last days, though we do not know when THE Last Day will be (We have birth pangs, we see the labor, but we don’t know how long it will be, or what the birthday will be). Hebrews 1:2 calls the time of Christ’s ministry the last days. 1 Peter 4:7 says “the end of all things is near.” Peter was living in the end times, and so are we.

Pastor Josh Meier

El Paso Bible Church (El Paso, TX)

Yes! We have technically been in “the last days” since the days of the apostles. But since one day is as a thousand years to God, we’re only beginning day three.  II Perter 3:8-9

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Zazarene (El Paso, TX) 

Rev 22:7 “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

The answer is . . . Yes! Though maybe not like you think, these are the types of things that Jesus talked about but you may also remember what else he said:

Mt 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

He goes on to talk about nations rising up against nations, and increase in evil so bad that it will cause the faith of many to grow cold, and the rise of false prophets. But you have to keep in mind Matthew 24:13

Mt 24:13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

We have to take heart and pray for those in need, especially those in Japan right now whose suffering seems to be progressing and getting worse, Jesus called us to be compassionate about the suffering of others but we have to remember that we can be compassionate because we know what the outcome will be.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Do the signs we see around the world indicate the end of the age or the end times? Theworld has always had wars and rumors of wars, tsunamis and many other naturaldisasters. Where these events are taking place are a key in determining whether or notthese are signs of the end times. Remember that the Bible is Jerusalem centered.Prophecy centers on the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem in particular. Sincemany of the events, the revolts in the Middle East, the conflict between the Palestiniansand the Israelis are all centered in the Middle East it is reasonable to assume that theseare signs of the end times. Remember the end times start in the book of Acts and weare now moving toward the culmination of the age of Grace or the Church age. Are wein the end times? I think so, but keep in mind that I need to stay focused on Israel andthe prophecies which involve the Jewish people, the other disasters and happeningsplay into Godʼs plan, but the center is Jerusalem. Godʼs wrath has not started and whatis coming is infinitely worse than what we see now. The real question is what is myrelationship with Jesus Christ? Then I have no reason to fear what I see around me.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Every Christian Generation believed that they were living in the end times, biblically speaking, the end times began with the birth and resurrection with our Lord and Savior. The fulfillment of the coming Messiah was the beginning of end times.  A major part of Paul’s letter refers to the 2nd coming of our Lord. The Bible is a prophetic book and I do believe that the early church was living in the last days, that was about two thousand years ago. That was then, today I believe we are in the last minutes and I also believe that this age of information that we live in, is the only age that could fulfill the prophecies. Nobody knows the exact hour but God calls us to stand watch as children of the light. As children of the light we are not to be surprised by the signs of the end times that are taking place all around us.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

from March 10, 2011

Question:

I know that in order for our sins to be forgiven we are to pray, confess, and ask forgiveness. Are the only sins forgiven those that are spoken specifically, or can we say, “Forgive all my sins”? For example, say a person commits a particular sin several times in a day, say cussing. But when praying just says, “forgive me for cussing” is it all covered, or must they mention each specific time? My fear is that many times we sin and don’t realize we did, therefore don’t ask forgiveness for that specifically. So would we remain unforgiven and not make it into heaven because of that? I know this is multiple questions, please help us understand these best you can.

Answers:

Let me begin by saying that I believe that you should do your best to confess each individual act of sin of which you are aware. 1 John 1:9 says ” If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This passage teaches that we are to confess the sins that we realize we have committed. As a result, not only will God forgive us the sins that we confess, but he will also remove ALL of the impurity, or the unrighteousness of all our sins, known and unknown.

Your final question is perhaps the most important. This forgiveness spoken of in 1 John is a matter of blessing and fellowship with God in this life, not the basis of eternal life. The basis for eternal life is always trust in Jesus Christ. If you trust or believe in Jesus Christ, you shall be saved, period (Acts 16:31).  There is no cause for fear of failure to confess, because “making into heaven” is the result of receiving a free gift from God (Romans 6:23).

Pastor Josh Meier

El Paso Bible Church

Christians are walking in the light of Jesus (read 1 John 1:7-9), because of this, their sins are forgiven even before they ask for forgiveness. However, the Christian will ask for forgiveness because it is not in our nature to take the death and blood for granted. We ask forgiveness for specific sins because we recognize them in our lives and want to stop. Repentance is stopping sin and living Christ-like. The course of life is more zigzag than straight line. Jesus is our compass. We continuously make corrections to our lifestyle as we steer toward him. Life is a state of repentance with constant corrections.

When one rebels and leaves the path of light in Jesus, there is no forgiveness until they return to his Way. It is rebellion against Jesus and not an unrecognized sin that separates us from God.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

Within your question I am hearing two different things: 1) Remorse without repentance – that’s when a person cusses and says, “oops, I’m sorry, Lord” – and then keeps doing it. This kind of praying for forgiveness is not whole-hearted. God may not even hear that kind of request according to Psalm 66:18 which says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me”. 2) Repentance which accompanies our prayer is heard and will lead us immediately out of a cussing lifestyle or whatever “habitual sin” we’ve been involved in. Just remember: You can’t live wrong and feel right.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

First and foremost I want to address your last question about not making it into heaven because you have not confessed specifically all your individual sins.  We must recognize that we are all sinners – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but realize the reason Jesus died was to pay the penalty of death that every sin requires under a holy God!  “He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Our receiving eternal life is dependent upon our accepting that Jesus’ death was in our place and trusting God to forgive us of our sins because of what Jesus did, not because we could earn or deserve it, even if we could confess every act of sin we make.  See Romans 10:9-10 and also Romans 10:13.  Certainly if God convicts you of a specific act, you should immediately confess that it is a sin and ask God’s forgiveness.  But there is absolutely nothing wrong with sincerely asking God to “forgive all my sins.”  Remember the promise in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Our confession must be sincere and seeking God to direct us into right behavior, and not simply trying to take a spiritual shower so we can go out and get dirty all over again!

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The forgiveness of our sins is not based on our confession and asking God for forgiveness.  When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for every sin we will ever commit.  When we place our faith in Jesus’ death to pay for our sins, all of our sins are forgiven.  All of our sins were in the future when Jesus died on the cross.  So, when He paid for our sins, He paid for them all and God forgave all of them.  When John tells us to confess our sins (I John 1:9), he means God wants us to admit that we have become aware of sin in our lives.  God will then cleanse us of the effects of our sin and restore all the freedom His forgiveness was purchased for us to receive.  We may be very aware of particular sins or we may notice the joy of God’s salvation is no longer with us.  As we become aware of sin(s), confess and be cleansed and have your joy renewed.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The questioner appears to have the source and means of forgiveness confused with the requirements of a devoted Christian life.  The source and means of our forgiveness for all sins, at all times came when Jesus Christ died on the cross outside the wall of Jerusalem in the spring of 26 or 27 A. D.  By this one act God secured forgiveness for all, “once for all” in all of history.  Individual persons make this act of forgiveness effective for themselves when they receive the gift of God’s grace; and that gift is Jesus crucified, but now also risen from the dead.  But then, in the course of our frail and tempted lives we experience sin and often give into sin:  decisions and acts which displease God.  When His Spirit makes these sins known to us, He moves us to repent and ask for forgiveness.  This is simply part of our ongoing life of discipleship.  It is a pattern of devotional life which will always be with us until we die.  But these are all the “small acts” of rekindling our love for God.  Such “small acts or moments” have nothing to do with our eventual, eternal fate.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

Jesus Christ, while he may speak for our behalf in heaven, is not a lawyer. He doesn’t get caught up in legal loopholes trying to trick us into losing our salvation. He loves us, we ask for forgiveness for our own benefit not for His. He already knows what we’ve done. We should be as exact about it as possible for the cleansing of our own consciences but Jesus knew we were going to say or do whatever we did before we ever committed the sin. Any prayer for forgiveness when asked with a true repentant heart is heard and answered.

Ro 8:27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from February 24, 2011

Question:

Is saying things like, “Oh my G-*-d” using the Lord’s name in vain? I hear it all the time at school and I feel it is wrong because they aren’t saying it in a nice way in reference to God. And if they change it to “Oh my gosh” is that ok or does it give the same reference?

Answers:

I think you have the right frame of mind on when it is all right to use God’s name.  To take God’s name in vain is to use His name in an irreverent or flippant way.  To reduce any reference to God to a by-word or slang expression is to take the name of the most holy and awesome Creator of all things and Savior of our souls, and express a failure to recognize those aspects of the ultimate supreme being in all of existence.  God is the exception to every rule because He is utterly holy (set apart from all of creation) and must be addressed as holy.  We must guard ourselves from mishandling the holy things of God, including His name.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

O-M-G!  Your right, the term gets way overused, and usually not in anyway that glorifies God. Yes you can use oh my gosh, I have heard that referred to as a “substitution” but I don’t suppose that matters. Yes I suppose that is using His name in vain but you might find a kind way of telling others in your life how much it bothers you. (To be honest I catch myself saying the same thing without thinking about it.)

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

My feelings are like yours on this issue. The world is too loose with language. The best practice is to think before we speak. Just tell them: “He really is your God so be careful how you use His name!

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

To answer your question I need to ask you a question.  Is the term being used as a prayer or simply a habitual expression devoid of substance or meaning?  If it is an expression of wanting God in the situation then it is not using the Lord’s name in vain.  If it is a habitual expression devoid of substance or meaning then yes it is using the Lord’s name in vain.  To me the use of the term is much like those irritating phone callers who constantly dial the wrong number and when you answer the phone they simply hang up.  God is a party of all conversations and when we invoke his name it should be to consciously engage His power, influence, and guidance for all facets and dynamics of the event which has evoked the response of “Oh My God” in the first place.

Pastor William Belgie

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Technically the answer is “no” because in the Bible God’s name is not “God”.  That word comes from the translation of a generic Hebrew term which can mean either “god” or “gods” depending on whether the singular or plural is used.  The name of God in the Bible is the one that is traditionally spelled JAHWEH (or even “Jehovah”), a name which means, “one who causes to be”.  On the other hand saying the phrase “g-d dam*” is considered insulting and impolite, and those who say it do so for shock or interjectory value.  They usually do not mean that they hope God will damn someone or some thing.  People who say it are usually just angry, vulgar, and thoughtless.  Paul speaks about that in the Bible in Ephesians 4:29-31.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

Thank you for your sensitivity to the use of God’s name.  Yes, the flippant use of “God” or the name of Jesus in a casual exclamation certainly is using His name in vain.  In the Bible names are critical because they encompass more than simply a tag or label by which we identify a person we are speaking about or addressing.  Names are seen in Scripture as including the character and nature of the person.  This is why God and Jesus changed the names of people in the Bible (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter and others).

Orthodox Jews are so concerned about not violating the Commandment to not take the name of the Lord in vain that in their writing they do not spell out the word “God” or “Lord” but use only the first and last letters with an underscore between, such as “G_d” and “L_d.”  This is because they feel if the paper on which the name would be written out would be torn or crumpled or fall on the floor and stepped on, those acts would dishonor God’s name and violate the Commandment.  In fact, they often will not even speak those words, but simply say, “Ha Shem” which is Hebrew for “the Name.”

Many Christians may feel this is going to extreme, but isn’t it better to be overly protective of God’s Name rather than dishonoring it?  By that same token, I would strongly advise you try and refrain from similar statements using substitutes for God’s and Jesus’ name like “gosh,” “goodness” or ‘jeepers” or “Judas.”  Using a substitute in a phrase is immediately recognized for what it is – a substitute for the name of God or Jesus.  The intent may be to protect the use of God’s name, but wouldn’t the intent also be to use the name of God in a casual or flippant or disrespectful manner?

Years ago while working with a man from Iran (who constantly was using the name of Jesus as profanity), I asked him if anyone in his country ever used the name of Allah or Mohammad as a curse word.  He was repulsed by the idea and told me those names were never used.  From a spiritual standpoint I believe the reason for this is simple – Satan doesn’t care about mocking or denigrating the names of leaders or founders of world religions or even the gods they worship, because those names have no power or authority.  Speaking about Jesus’ name Peter said, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Over and over the Bible also states that whoever calls on (invokes or places their trust in) the name of the Lord will be saved (see Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13 and others).

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from February 10, 2011

Question:

I discovered that my husband has been playing virtual games and viewing sites that I feel is pornographic. I’ve asked him to get counseling, but he refuses saying that the sites aren’t really pornographic since the people are not having sex. I feel it is destroying our marriage. My friends say I should leave until he agrees to get help, and if he still refuses, that I should get a divorce before his sinful behavior destroys me. What advice can you give me as a biblical perspective? I know the Lord hates divorce, but would it be acceptable in this case?

Answers:

You and your husband probably started out in marriage very much in love and willing to dedicate your lives to each other.  If you are both willing to try and rebuild the trust which has been disrupted by this outside intrusion, I suggest you find a Christian counselor who can help you both work through this dilemma. You both need to take time for some real soul searching and prayer. Only God has the solution for both of you.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Pornography is a growing problem in our country. The definition changes because of the acceptance by our culture. What would have been considered porn becomes common fare in commercials and advertisements. Christians will occasionally swing so far away from porn, that the old “Monkey Wards” catalogue would be tossed in the trash if it came in their mail.

The real issue is the communication between husband and wife. Yes, counseling is important, but it should be about the direction of your marriage and the inability to communicate. Try to find times to talk, when both of you are rested and not involved in another task. Such as, Don’t barge into TV or computer time and demand- WE HAVE TO TALK.

Many men become obsessed with pornography. When this happens, the ‘virtual’ becomes real in the mind and replaces normal relationships. People are then shutout, especially wives and children. Then it is a big problem.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

Your friend gave you good advice!  I am assuming that you also clearly made your wishes known.  Namely, you said to him (as I hope to imagine), “Dear, your watching such things offends and hurts me very deeply!  You are being unfaithful to me with your mind.  Please stop!”  And if you have done that, then you should consider leaving, if it is at all financially feasible.  And are children present?  That’s another consideration:  take them with you!  Your husband must learn that pornography is not just videos or games (on television or online) where people are depicted as having sex.  It is also anything which excites men to fantasize about sex — especially sex with someone else.  You love your husband, but now your love must be tough!

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

There is no doubt your husband is sinning by going to these sites and playing these games. However, he is either deceiving himself and you by saying it’s not sinful or he is truly deceived. He either doesn’t see or doesn’t want to see the truth of what you’re saying. He prefers the sin. What can you do? First of all, pray, pray, pray, for God to convict him, break him out of this deception, and show him the damage he is doing. Secondly, talk straight with him (if you have a pastor or counselor, try to get him to go with you to them, so they can serve as a mediator between you.) Tell him that this is so serious to you, that you are considering leaving if he won’t wake up, see the evil of it, and repent. Love means we adapt and change for one another. If you as his wife cannot tolerate what he’s doing, he must lay it aside if he truly loves you. If he won’t, you must see how the Lord leads you from there. One other thing: if he were in a small group or in relationship with other Christian men, this issue would probably have never gotten to where it is today. Christian relationships are essential!

Pastor Warren Hoyt

Jesus Chapel (El Paso, TX)

This question has about as many facets to it as an emerald cut diamond. Angle # 1 is the clueless nature of the husband who rationalizes his behavior over virtual games. If it bothers his wife because she feels “less than” in his eyes because of his viewing habits he should have the love, maturity, and devotion to his wife to stop. The phrase that lingers is “should have.”

Angle # 2 is her view of what’s pornographic and what he defines as pornographic. Not knowing exactly what he’s viewing makes it a challenge to comment on, but again, there is a red flag of concern if his wife is concerned. Pornography is not just two people engaged in sex, it’s imagery that stimulates lust and moves someone to sin. Sexual sins begin in the mind long before the act is displayed.

Angle # 3 If a spouse (in this case the wife) says to their mate, “I feel it is destroying our marriage” regardless of what “it” is the other spouse should listen and respond with care and love unless they are coated with their own narcissism.

Angle # 4 I would tell this caring woman that as difficult as the situation may be and as hopeless as she may feel, her husband doesn’t have the power to destroy her. Prayer is more powerful than we could ever imagine. Psalm 120:1 states, “I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.”

Teaching Pastor Larry Lamb

Cielo Vista Church (El Paso, TX)

I guess my first question is, does he actually need counseling or does he just need to realize it for the sin that it is and lay it down for the offense it causes to God. An addiction my require counseling, but first he needs to accept it for the sin that it is.

Mt 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

As far as divorcing him I suppose it depends a lot on how offensive this is to you, and how serious this is to him. If you see this as a direct offense to your marriage and he insists on being stubborn about it then that is either a sign that he is in denial, or that he needs to sit down and ask how important this is to him when placed up against his relationship with you. Sometimes you just need to stop and Jesus is the best counselor.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from January 27, 2011

Question:

I went to church with my parents until I was 16 and moved out. I’m now 25 and have begun going to a different church with my girlfriend. At a recent “event” the speaker mentioned something about “once you become ‘a child of God'”. I asked my girl later what he meant, because I was raised that we are ALL children of God. So why was this guy saying I had to do something to become a child of God? If I have to do something – what is it? I’ve believed my whole life I was already a child of God so this is upsetting to me.

Answers:

Your inquiry is a valid one, and your confusion no doubt comes from the unintended ambiguity which Bible itself supports.  We are all children of God in the sense that we are created by Him.  Yet also there is New Testament language, used primarily by the Apostle Paul, that states we become children of God in a brand new sense.  This happens when one is put right by faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul’s word for that is usually translated as “justification.”  This act of God, created through the life and death of Jesus Christ, makes possible the adoption of every person as a son or daughter of God.  See Paul’s use of the idea of “adoption as sons” in these passages for instance:  Romans 8:15, 23;  Galatians, 4:5; Ephesians 1:5.  I hope that clears up the confusion.

Thanks for asking!

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

This is disturbing news! It’s difficult to say but we are all “born losers”! That is to say that we inherited the fallen nature of our forefathers and so we must be redeemed by the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. I Peter 1:18 says: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ…”

To receive status as a child of God we all must believe and receive His merits of salvation.

John 1:12 says: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” The preacher was right in what he was saying.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

When I was in Bible college a man got up and prayed and said, “Lord, we all come here as sinners in your eyes.”  I thought, “I’m not a sinner.  I’ve lived a good life and haven’t done any of the biggies.”  I had given my life to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade and had learned some verses but my concept of a sinner and the Bible’s concept of a sinner were different.  Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned,” so if all have sinned then “all” need a savior.  He only becomes “our” savior when we ask Him to be.  I had gone to church and was even baptized by immersion but was not a believer.  When I invited Jesus into my life at the crusade, God began a process that completely changed me.  I thought I was in His Kingdom but I was not.  Invite Jesus to come into your life and be your savior.  If He already is your Lord, another asking won’t hurt, but if He is not, there is a whole new world waiting for you.  God bless you in your journey.

Pastor Wally Chapman   

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

You are right, we are all children of God in the sense that he created us all. What the speaker was probably talking about was our spiritual rebirth.

Jn 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

What Jesus was talking about is that moment when we accept Jesus as our savior and confess our sins to him. The moment of our salvation. This is the moment when we are forgiven for our sins and receive our inheritance as co-heirs with Christ.

Ro 8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Ro 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Mankind is made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and in that sense all are children of God. However, Jesus came to save fallen man and said that man must be born again” (Jo 3:3).  During his ministry among the Jewish nation, Jesus repeatedly said they must believe in him and repent of their wicked ways. After his crucifixion and resurrection he instructed the apostles in Mt 28:18-19 and Mk 16:15-16 to carry the message throughout the world. Those who believed the message and were immersed were born again into the kingdom of Christ. As promised in Acts 2:38 those who obey are saved and given the indwelling Spirit which then testifies to our relationship to God Rom 8:16-17.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 prophesies the time is coming when, unlike Israel, there will be a kingdom of God where men will not be taught to know God. This is because the perquisite to be in the kingdom is knowing God.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter 3 that, “Unless a person is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  In Galations 3:26 Paul wrote that, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”  In Romans 10:9 we are told, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  We must choose to believe Jesus died for our sins and accept God’s offer to forgives us based upon what Jesus did for us.  Even though God created us all, only those who place their trust in Jesus have the privledge of being called children of God.  You can express your faith in Christ and receive His forgiveness any time you are ready to turn away from your sins and give your life to Jesus.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church

From a creation perspective, ALL PEOPLE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD.  Christians believe that God “created me and everything that exists,” and He sustains our life and being, and the world, out of His goodness and mercy.  That is straight forward “First Article” theology.

Christians also believe that after the Fall (Adam/Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden) man is separated from God by sin, death and the devil.  That means that you are in rebellion against God even though you are still His child.  God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save the world not to condemn it.  Hence, God reckons you righteous for His Son’s sake, and you are put right with God by faith alone in Christ alone.  In His baptism, Christ repented for everyone and took on the sins of the world.  This is what Martin Luther called “The Happy (or Great) Exchange.”  When Christ was nailed to the Cross, all the sins of the world were nailed to it with Him (Col 2:14).  Christ died for your sins and rose for your justification (Rom 4:24).  Christ did all this to make you His own for all eternity.

Finally, Christians believe that Christ sends us His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and give us faith in Christ crucified and risen “for me.”  Luther referred to faith as the wedding band in the “Happy Exchange” in which Christ, the bridegroom, gives you His righteousness, and then takes all the sin of His bride (you) with Him to the cross.  Christ did all this for you, but He sends His Spirit to give you faith to believe the Gospel that your sins are forgiven for His sake.  Even faith is not your work, it is something God creates and gives to you.

Some people teach that faith is your work, but that is the heresy of trusting in my decision to believe (“fideism” or “faith in my faith”) rather than trusting in God’s gift of faith in Christ.  Works righteousness is the heresy of pelagianism.  Thinking that you are saved by a combination of faith and some works is the heresy of semi-pelagianism.

We accept people into the church through Baptism and many traditions confirm youth after an intensive two or three year study of the Bible and Christian teaching (the Catechism), but you are a child of God and an heir to the kingdom of Heaven in God’s eyes through His gift of faith in Christ.  He freely gives you His gift of faith through His preached Word and His sacraments–Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  This is most certainly true!

Pastor Lenae Rasmussen

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church (El Paso, TX)

Thank you for being sensitive enough to realize that you heard one is not automatically a child of God, but some experience is necessary for that to be true in a spiritual sense.  In the Bible God chose to move and work especially in the nation of Israel – they were His chosen people.  By the time of Jesus the majority of Israelites felt they were automatically accepted by God just because they were racially of Israel (i.e., Jewish).  That is why Paul devoted so much of the early chapters in Romans to demonstrate that while Israel was privileged to be especially chosen by God, they still had to be saved by their faith in Jesus, just as the non-Jews (Gentiles) were.  John’s gospel makes this very clear.  Speaking of Jesus he wrote, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13, New American Standard Bible).  The “His own” referred to here were the Jews or Israelites.  Most of them rejected Jesus as the expected Messiah, but those who did trust in Him became “children of God.”  John 3 records where Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and explained that to enter the kingdom of God one had to be spiritually “born again.”  By nature, we are all sinners.  We can’t keep from sin, and therefore God – who is absolutely holy – must punish us for our sin.  But God loved us so much that He came as a human – Jesus – and when Jesus (who was completely sinless) died on the cross, He was taking the punishment we deserve for our sins.  But to receive the benefit of Jesus dying in our place, we must receive what He did as being for us.  Romans 10:9-10 tells us, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confess, resulting in salvation.”  To believe in this way means more than just mentally accepting that Jesus was real or even that He died in your place.  It means to trust everything you are and everything you are counting on to Jesus alone for your acceptance with God.  If you will do that you will be “born again” as Jesus told Nicodemus, and you will become a child of God.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from January 13, 2011

Question:

I am in 11th grade and just found out that one of my new friends is gay. My mom says that I have to stay away from him, and that I am supposed to hate him. But doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that we are to hate the sin, love the sinner, or something like that? And isn’t it possible that I could be a good influence on him, by showing and sharing my Christian faith?

Answers:

Your mother is concerned for your welfare, and doesn’t want you to be wrongly influenced by your gay friend. But we are not to hate anyone. We’re to love even our enemies (Mat. 5:44), so we certainly need to love lost people, no matter how sinful they might be. Love means you want God’s best for everyone, it doesn’t mean you think what they’re saying or doing is right. We are all sinners, but we’re to hate sin and overcome it through the power of the gospel and God’s Spirit. Yes, God would have you be a friend to this gay person and tell them the truth, that sexual immorality (whether of the hetero or homo variety), is wrong, is sinful, and destructive to our lives. You might share 1 Cor. 6:9-11 with him. Sexually immoral people won’t inherit the Kingdom. But through the gospel and God’s Spirit, we can be washed, forgiven, and transformed!

Pastor Warren Hoyt

Jesus Chapel (El Paso, TX)

I have no way of knowing your maturity level but the way you formed your question leads me to believe that you need to be more involved  with good faithful Christian companions before you begin to reach out to someone caught in the sin of homosexuality. You are correct that the principle of hating the sin and loving the sinner is biblical but  there are other biblical principles which need to be taken into consideration.  First is the principle expressed in: “Bad Company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV) and Psalm 1:1 “walking in the counsel of the ungodly” (KJV).  At your age it is critical that you exercise sound judgment about the choices of friends you are around.  The second principle is found in Eph 6:1 about honoring your parents.  Your mother knows your ability to handle various situations and you need to trust that she has your best interest at heart.  Your friend does need to hear the gospel message and you could be an influence in his life but the same is true in reverse.  Your mother is in the best position to discern about his influence on you so trust her judgment

Senior Pastor William Belgie

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

You have some interesting questions.  Firstly, the Bible says God will punish sin.  He hates sin.  God loves people and wishes that none should perish.  It also says you are to obey your parents.  I know several people who have left the homosexual lifestyle and God has set them free.  I also know that in the homosexual community, 90% of males and 70% of females have had a bad or non-existent relationship with their fathers.  With the breakdown of the family, there are many hurting people in our city.  Why don’t you and your mom do some positive education together.  Focus on the Family has a branch of ministry called Love One Out, people who have left the homosexual lifestyle. They have come to Christ, and have fabulous resources.  Call 1-800-A- Family or log on to www. loveoneout.com. If I can help out feel free to call me at the church, (915) 566-1771.

Pastor Wally Chapman 

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

You are right that a Christian is supposed to love all others as they love themselves, but we are to hate sin, all sin.  Homosexuality is like other sin in the fact that it leads a person away from God’s perfect will.  Your parents are responsible for you before the Lord, and I am sure they are trying to protect you.  Many a well meaning Christian has been tempted to sin in ways they thought they never could by taking a sympathetic view of sin (“I’m ok, you’re ok” type view).  A Christian can be loving toward an unrepentant sinner without condoning their sin.  But, as your parents know, friendliness with sin usually influences us no matter how harmless it may seem when we choose to become friends with one who has such a different view from God.  The world has some logical sounding arguments (based on wrong information) for homosexuality, but God still calls it sin and an abomination to Him.  Remember, the first and greatest commandment is to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church

It is so wonderful that you want to be an instrument of God in influencing your friend for Jesus.  No, we are not to hate anyone, for Jesus died for everyone.  God hates sin and because He is holy must judge sin.  But homosexuality is like every other sin – no worse than any other – and it will be forgiven by God if the person repents and asks God for forgiveness.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 begins by saying, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” and then goes on to list several examples of sin including homosexuality.  But verse 11 adds, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”  Notice the past tense – “such were some of you…”  God can and will change anyone who comes to Him, regardless of the sin that seemed to control their life before.  By the way, just realize that homosexuals are not “born that way” and God did not “make them that way.”  The human genome project, which is a multi-year scientific study of the human gene system and DNA and RNA structures of people clearly stated at the conclusion of the study that they did not identify anything that could be considered a “homosexual gene.”  Be careful to not do or say anything to indicate you are accepting of homosexuality, but I would encourage you to seek to remain friends with your classmate and seek to lead him to a relationship with Jesus.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

We are all “equal opportunity offenders.”  Jesus was known, and reprimanded, for hanging out with sinners.  It’s not like he had a choice: we all sin.  “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22b-23, NIV).  Jesus, and His disciples, hung out with people who were “obvious” sinners, like prostitutes, but he also hung out with people who were just not “preferred” by the religiously pharisaic, like tax collectors.  Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the religious, while he invited those on the “outside” to experience forgiveness and abundant life in his name.  “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24, NIV).  Yes, we sin.  Yes, Jesus will deal with that sin.  But those we ignore, and those we chase away, will not hear the good news of Jesus Christ… at least, not from us.

Rev. Jon Moore, Senior Pastor

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church (El Paso, TX)

This is a good question with wider implications than seen on a first reading. Paul said, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you. 1 Cor 5:9.

He ALSO wrote, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Cor 15:33.

And “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Cor 6:14 NIV.

Christians have the challenge of being connected enough to reach the lost with the gospel, without becoming entangled in their sins.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

You are living in a very difficult environment as a young believer, I have a daughter in high school and I know that the challenges young Christians face today are tremendous.  Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.  About your question, You have to make a choice first, are you serious about God or not.  If  He is first in your life, then you must keep away from anything that hinders your relationship with Him, including friends. There are close friends and people we know, we should respect everyone; but you must choose carefully who is going to be a close friend. The scripture is clear about the issue of homosexuality, God calls it an abomination (that means it makes Him throw-up). It’s nice to know you want to be a witness to him but if that’s truly your intent, yes we are to love. Jesus died for everyone but it does not mean that He agrees with everyone’s actions. He died to set us free from sin, it was our sin that took him to the cross.  He hates sin. We should have a clear conviction of this.  Make sure you’re not condoning his sin by acting like it’s ok around him.  If he is not interested in your faith and you continue to keep him as a close friend, sooner or later you will be affected.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center

You say he is a new friend.  So in the course of getting to know him you learned that he is homosexual or “gay”.  I do agree that a good summary of biblical teaching on this is to hate the sin but love the sinner.  If you like this young man as a friend and have other “normal” things in common, I see no reason why you may not pursue this friendship.  I suggest this for the very reason you gave:  because out of your loving friendship, you may show him the just requirements of God which call for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

from December 30, 2010

I apologize – this file was somehow deleted

from December 16, 2010

Question:

How do I witness to someone who doesn’t even believe there is a God, or heaven and hell?

Answers:

First do not quote Psalm 14:1 (The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God)  The short answer is share your life with them and let God use you to be a channel of Light and love.  I believe the best way to witness is to share the salt and light that enters into your life. So  1)Guard your relationship with God  2) Be there for them in the love of the Lord 3) Actively pursue them in prayer and fasting.

Remember that there are many reasons to reject the concept of any god or creator.  Many times they have had negative experiences that have corrupted their image of God.  Many refuse to believe in God of the Bible because God has been presented in the worst possible light by an event, an author, or issue that has shaped their belief. Ask why with a ready heart and just to listen prayerfully.  Finally honestly share your faith struggles and how God is helping you,  Honesty opens many hearts

Senior Pastor William Belgie

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The simplest and best way to witness always is through relationships.  Get to know this person as well as they will allow if you do not already have a strong relationship with them.  By our genuine friendships and caring we earn the right to be heard.  The most effective way of witnessing is to simply share how you came to understand your need for God’s forgiveness and how you placed your trust in Jesus and what that has meant in your life.  Because this is your personal experience, others can dismiss what you know happened as being irrelevant for them, but they cannot deny it happened as it is your personal experience.  A couple of great resources for you might be Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christianity and Josh McDowell’s revised book New Evidence that Demands a Verdict.  Both men claimed to be atheists early in life and sought to disprove Christianity and the Bible, yet as they honestly and openly examined both Bible and the claims of Christianity, they were driven to conclude that both are true and valid.  Now both have been successful ministers for many years.  I would also as often as is appropriate (without being overly aggressive) quote the Scripture to your friend as it is relevant to whatever you are discussing.  He or she might not  accept it as being God’s word, but there is great power in the Bible.  Hebrews 4 12 (HCSB) says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  We are also promised in Isaiah 55:11 (HCSB), “so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Such a person has preconceived notions about what the Bible says and what Christians believe.  However a strong witness is still possible.  Such persons will be moved and attracted by the witness of a loving life.  As Jesus fills our lives with love for God and man, we will find it far easier to love the unlovable.  We will find it possible, with Christ’s help, to shine His light on unbelievers and even atheists.  God’s love is a language that every human being understands and craves — whether they know it or not.  Even atheists are open to attending Christmas Eve celebrations.  This could be your opportunity to invite someone like this — and then invite them over for Christmas goodies.  This is the beginning of your witness.  The words will come later.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

I appreciate your desire to be a witness for Christ.  I have discovered that there are all types of people, some are genuine in their unbelief and have honest questions regarding God and some do not believe in God because they simply do not want too, regardless of the proof that is shown to them. If the person is sincere and is truly looking for answers, there are many books you can give them but if they have decided to be anti-God, my advice to you is not to waste your time trying to convince them, just pray that God will intervene in their life.  We cannot force people to believe, that is left to the Holy Spirit.  Our job is to preach through word and deed the message of the cross.  God will do the rest but never get discouraged while being a witness for Christ.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

The best way to begin to share Christ with someone is by the life we live.  When people around us see the glory of God lived out in our lives, we can begin building a bridge of genuine relationship with them.  The Christian life must go beyond simply telling people about the incredible life available through Christ and come to include living a life that reflects the grace, mercy, love and holiness of God.

It is said that Saint Francis of Assisi said something along the lines of “preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”  That little saying is good advice for Christians today.  If we live by this saying people who have no belief in God begin to see our living Lord because they have seen Him at work in us.  Then they will be more open to our verbally sharing the good news.  After all they have seen the reality of His transforming work in us.

Now we must remember this Christlike life is not a life that we can live in our own power or by sheer determination.  The Christlike life is lived by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through us.

Pastor Brent Herren
Trinity Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

We cannot prove the existance of God, nor can anyone prove that God does not exist.  Only God can speak to a person in such a way to let them know He is real.  We can encourage those who say they do not believe to be honest and give room for God to speak to them.  The Bible tells us, “No person seeks after God, but all men are like sheep who have turned to their own way.”  So, if a person has an interest in God, then God must be the one who has placed that interest in him.  All we can do is to be faithful to share the truth God has given us and share how God has made Himself real to us and changed our lives.  We must then trust God to do the rest.  We can share and pray and love, but God is the one who makes the seed grow and bear fruit.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

All I do is tell them how Jesus has changed my life.  What personal things He has done or is doing in my life.  People can argue about all other things but they cannot argue with you personal experiences and how God has become real in your life and how He has change you.  They may say these events are coincidences but eventually there become too many coincidences.  This may put a crack in their shell.

Many people say they do not believe in God because they do not want to change their sinful lifestyle.  Without God their conscience is relieved of some guilt.  Keep that in mind as you talk to people.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

I would begin with the simple question, what if you’re wrong? What if there is a heaven and a hell and everything we say or do counts and God is watching and when we leave here we will be held accountable. What will he or she tell God then? It’s easy to say we don’t believe in God when nothing’s on the table, but if I live like I believe in God and I’m wrong I lose nothing. If I live like there is no God and I’m wrong I lose everything!

Eze 3:21 But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

If you can get them to attend church or get them interested in a Bible study. I was able to talk an individual into doing a short bible study for the sake of showing him why I believed what I believed. He was not sure that there was a God, heaven or hell. I started in Genesis with the fall of man and man’s need of redemption. Then moved forward to Jesus Christ is the Redeemer. This was a series of four or five lessons. After the last lesson he accepted Christ in a church service.  The bottom line is they have to come to the point that they will accept God’s Word. If they can come to a point that they will accept the Bible, then with more exposure the Holy Spirit will bring conviction into their heart. If they do not accept the Bible, then you will have no common ground to build their faith upon. It ends up being your opinion against theirs.  Another factor is your personal walk with the Lord and prayers for the individual.

Pastor Max Perkins

Temple Baptist Church Las Cruces, NM)

from December 2, 2010

Question:

How do you know the difference between Jesus speaking to you and you over thinking?

Answers:

Four step process

1.       Start where you are by identifying what you currently believe about the issue/topic in question.  What are your life experience, prejudices and concepts which caused you to develop these beliefs? Then commit yourself to submit honestly evaluate them in light of what the Holy Spirit reveals during the next 3 steps.

2.      Review what all of scripture has to say or not say on the topic.  Avoid commentaries, sermons or other people during this step.

3.      Review the found scriptures with what reliable commentaries, sermons and people have to say about these verses and then write down what scriptures teach

4.      Make a prayerful comparison of step one and three and apply what God has revealed

Senior Pastor William Belgie

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso)

This is a case where familiarity breeds friendship and intimacy.  We know when Jesus is speaking to us by because of several things.  First it is a given that we have established a relationship with Him through faith.  But then we must do our part to strengthen that relationship, so that in fact we know when this Good Shepherd is speaking to us.  He Himself said, “my sheep know my voice” (John 10:27).  We do this by regular prayer (talking to Him and listening for His response), regular Bible study (personal and group), and regular worship.  Then when we ask for something big — like His direction — we will know when He, Jesus, has answered.  Also we will know it is His voice by virtue of the fact that the message we get conforms to what we find in Scripture.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

God reveals His will in the New Testament. Disciples who read the NT will remember we are taught to “do good unto others” and the story of the Good Samaritan. Therefore, when they find a person in need they will feel compelled to aid that individual. Jesus spoke to them through his word and they lived it in their life. Jesus does not speak directly to people today.

Heb 1:1-2 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” NIV  Rom 10:17 “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  2 Pet 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

That is a great question, first of all anything that God speaks to us will not be outside of His written revelation. In other words God’s will is in His Word, the scriptures.  When He speaks to us it must line up with the Bible.  I do understand that our overthinking and reason prevent us many times from obeying His voice.  I do believe we don’t see God’s glory because we reason within ourselves.  All I can tell you is simple; you will never know if it was God or not till you step out in faith and do it. When you do it you will see Him move through you and the more you practice obeying His voice the easier it will get to distinguish His voice. It cannot be taught it can only be learned by doing.

Pastor Hector Saucedo 

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

I think the best rule of thumb is

1.      How is this going to glorify God?

2.      How is this going to help others?

Having said that, Jesus sometimes tells us to do things that we may not want to do in our own strength. Jesus when He was walking on water and told Peter to come out with Him was talking to someone who may not have been able to swim! Certainly the other disciples were more than likely thinking “Hey Pete, he’s talking to you!” If it’s just to make your life easier, it may not be Jesus, but that doesn’t make it wrong, it depends on what you’re talking about.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The scripture teaches us that no one seeks after God, but each of us, like sheep, have turned to our own way.  If we have a desire to bring glory to God, it could be God speaking to us.  But be careful, even if we tell ourselves what we are thinking will please God, we may be only trying to disguise some prideful selfish ambition of our own.  Henry Blackerby, in his study “Experiencing God”, quoted a great man of God who said he tried to get to the place where he had no preference of his own but to do the will of God.  When I am in doubt I ask God to give me a report from His word.  Blackerby points out that God speaks through His church, the circumstances of life, prayer, and through His word.  God will never lead us in any way which is contrary to His word.  So, pray, read, meditate, and listen and God promises, those who seek Him, find Him.

 Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from November 18, 2010

Question:

Why do Christians say it is against God’s will for a woman to abort her child, when I’ve been told that my miscarriage was God’s way of doing exactly the same thing? Why is it considered murder when a woman makes the choice; but not when God makes the choice? I do not feel abortion is right, but I need to understand this. Are there scriptures that can help?

Answers:

The answer to the first part of your initial question is that Christians take a stand against abortion primarily because of the value of human life.  When we begin to determine for ourselves which human life is valuable or worth keeping, then we say that the life God created in his own image is worthless based on our own human criteria.

The second part is more complicated.  To imply that God allows a miscarriage to take place in order to protect that child from some unknown future event is a way many Christians simplify life.  With this type of over simplification we are left trying to determine whether or not our God is a murderer. Unfortunately, realities of life are more complicated than the simplification. 

The reality is that bad things happen, even to righteous people.  We live in a world that is impacted by the consequences of sin and therefore we have to deal with life altering events, such as a miscarriage.  However, by faith we continue to believe that even through it all God is at work, and that “all things work together for good for those who love the God, who are called according to his purpose.”  And this faith statement is sometimes the most difficult.

“In His great mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope…”
1 Peter 1:3

Pastor Brent Herren
Trinity Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Thank you for such a thoughtful question. Life is a gift from our creator and we honor that gift by how we care for ourselves. Paul wrote to disciples, 1 Cor 3:17 “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”NIV.  His instruction is to correct destructive practices by the disciples.

One of the earliest recorded sins was the murder of Abel by Cain. God commanded in Ex 20:13 “You shall not murder.” It seems obvious that life is precious and God does not want us to willfully take the life of an innocent person. When a child is conceived, it has life. If it does not develop properly the body God created senses this and naturally miscarriages or aborts the child.  This is not the same as taking the life of an innocence child because it will be an inconvenience to us.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

In Psalm 139:13 we are told that it is God who knit each of us together in our mother’s womb.  God is the only creator of life.  A man and a woman do not create the life which grows inside of a mother, God takes the father’s and the mother’s contributions and adds life to them.  Just as with any creation, mankind does not have the right to question what the creator does with His creation.  Who understands the mind of God or could comprehend why He does as He chooses to do? When we decide to abort a life that God has created, we act as if we know more than God.  God tells us not to murder.  The creation of life and the termination of life is to be reserved for God.  We can trust in God even when we do not understand.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Prov 3:5).  We may have a lot of questions and attempt to reason with God’s commands but the truth is that God is God and we are not.  When he allows a miscarriage, only he knows why.  He is God Almighty; we are flesh and blood saved by grace.  There is no way I can even compare His choices with mine. Scripture? From Genesis to Revelations, He is the creator, from everlasting to everlasting, He is Holy, Heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool, the Great I AM, etc, etc, etc, How could an imperfect woman’s choice be equal to His. This is the simple reason, He made us and only He knows what’s best.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

There are two important things to consider here: 1) God is the only One with authority and power to give or take life. When a baby (or an adult for that matter) dies naturally, we say God determined their life would end at that point. If another human being takes that life, whether by violence, or through a medical procedure, we call it murder, because human beings don’t have that right or authority. 2) When you say God took your unborn child’s life, that’s true in the ultimate sense, since the Sovereign God could have prevented his/her death. But it’s not the same as saying God killed your child. In this fallen world, death comes through all sorts of things; disease, violence, accident, etc. Though God allows these things, we should be careful about attributing them to Him directly. Abortion is a direct act of murder. Miscarriages, like any other calamity, happen because the world is fallen.

Pastor Warren Hoyt

Jesus Chapel West (El Paso, TX)

I assume that whoever told you that was trying to offer you consolation.  If one views God as completely sovereign — and that is the way the Bible portrays our God — then everything that happens, He either directs or allows.  Mankind, as God’s creation, has been given free choice by this very same sovereign God.  He hopes we will exercise our choices to obey and glorify Him.  On the one hand since God has made us in His image and ordered us not to take the life of another human (the Ten Commandments), we may not end a human life after conception.  At the other extreme the prophets teach that forced abortions (miscarriages) were God’s way of punishing a people to the max.  This depicts His own distaste for such acts when freely made by humans.  Miscarriages in the Old Testament are treated as very bad news or God’s judgment.  But it is also the case, that sometimes, in the mystery of the Deity, He allows them to happen for our good.  That will not make it easy on you who suffer, but I mean it in love.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

There are a lot of scriptures you could use against abortion including

Ex 20:13 “You shall not murder.

The idea being that life is God’s, our life and the lives of others are in God’s hands, not ours. God has a plan for all of us, even those who haven’t been born yet. To take the life for any reason other than war or self-defense is a going into God’s realm. It is His choice how long another will live not us. I am sorry to hear about your miscarriage, but if God allowed this loss in your life there was a reason for it. Abortion takes the choice out of God’s hands.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from November 4, 2010

Question:

With all the turmoil going on in the nation, and our own families to pray about – how do we keep ourselves from getting so overwhelmed we can’t pray? How do Pastors do it with so many in their congregation to pray for? I admit that I don’t pray often because I am so overwhelmed with all there is to pray for that I don’t know where to start or how to pray for it all. Please help me so that I can learn to pray the way God wants me to. I am a young mother of two and I want to raise my children to pray.

Answers:

Jesus is our great Burden-Bearer and prayer is God’s ordained method of releasing our burdens into His care. When we feel overwhelmed we just need to lay it all down again.

Jesus said, “Come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I Peter 5:7 reminds us to “Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”  Call out to Jesus and He’ll do the rest!

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Mt 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

Mt 6:10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Mt 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.

Mt 6:12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, God, you are the father, the creator, the one who we lay it all down in front of. You are the real one in control not us (obviously!)

Your kingdom come YOUR WILL BE DONE! We surrender all the things in this world we have no control over which is basically everything

Give us this day our daily bread, give us our needs, help us in our weaknesses, feed us physically and spiritually.

Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors, forgive us for our sins, for our shortcomings, for our debts to you and to others and help us father please to show the same mercy and grace to others that you show to us.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

What a fantastic question.  Thank you for your heart to desire to intercede for others.

Each week our church prints a prayer list for our members that is separated into topic areas:  Ministers and Ministries (of our Church); Missionaries and Ministries (beyond our local church); Government, Military and their Leaders; Persons In Need of Salvation; General Needs (usually things like employment needs, finances, relationship problems, persons grieving a death, persons in jail or prison, court or legal hearings, vehicle needs and such); and Health Needs (sick, terminally ill, medical tests and so on).

If you have such a list, one could pray for the needs in a different category each day rather than try to cover all needs each day.  Another way to pray is to set your own prayer journal, listing different needs each day of the week to be remembered.  One list would be “personal prayer requests” – specific requests you have been asked to pray for that you feel the need to pray about every day and would contain a variety of persons and needs to pray for.  In addition to these requests you could then set a different “category” to pray for on different days of the week.

Examples of categories are family members; relatives; close friends; business associates; those in authority; missionaries; church leaders, disciples, countries of the world.  Remember, you prayer journal is personal – designed to suit your own needs as an individual believer.  You might want to further break down lists within each category according to the frequency with which you will pray.  In other words, determine requests you will pray for daily, weekly, monthly or even annually.

The needs of our world and even just those closest to us can become overwhelming if we seek to remember them in our own strength.  Don’t feel you have to remember every single request every single day.  Organize your prayer requests in a manageable way to where you can be faithful to remember them in prayer.  Always seek the Lord’s direction in whom to pray for as well as how to pray for the various needs of which you are aware.

Remember Romans 8:26 – “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  Ask God to place on your heart what you need to pray for each day as you approach Him.  He will guide you as seek those things that need pray that day.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians (5:17) that we are to “pray without ceasing.”  Anyone who is a believer in Christ is filled with the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit then calls to mind what we should pray for and when.  So He is the One who prioritizes things.  That makes our lives of talking to God so much more efficient.  And yes our nation is in great turmoil now:  we face devilish threats from persons and institutions which will cause us to lose our identity as a free American nation; we even face threats to deprive us of our God-given freedom.  So in the course of a busy day with children and errands, make time to pray for our nation and its leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  Perhaps you have added too many “busy things” to your day to make time for serious prayer?  Do your children really need to be carted all over town to play soccer, for instance?  Check your schedule and ask Jesus to help you make quality time for prayer the priority!

Retired Pastor Paul Duerkson

Las Cruces, NM

What a great question!  The sad fact is that many pastors do not pray as we should either.  One thing I learned in a prayer seminar years ago is to organize your prayers.  When I pray for the members of our congregation I pray for only one part of them at a time.  Instead of praying for everything everyday it may take me a week to pray for all the members of the church.  In the same way you can pray for certain items on certain days of the week or multiple days of the week.  Pray for your family and those concerns closest to you every day but divide the rest between the days of the week.  Of course, be aware of God’s leadership in prayer and pray for the things He brings to your mind.  A prayer journal is a wonderful item to keep track of your prayers; when you pray them, and when God answers them.  Prayer is the key to fellowship with God.  As you walk daily with God, talk to Him and listen to Him.  Pastor Bill, Scotsdale Baptist Church

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ASV)

1 Thes 5:16-18 seems like mission impossible but in many ways I think it is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer life.  First, recognize that you are already engaged in prayer.  God is the witness to every thought and word so just by desiring to engage with God over the events and people you are concerned about you are already engaged in prayer. Remember James 5:16b. and do not just read the newspaper, instead see it as a guide for your prayers and pray your way through it. Ask God for insight into what you are reading and the issues the articles raise.  As you read about the events in El Paso, Juarez, national and local leaders in the news immediately lift them up in prayer.. Also support the local churches by reviewing the upcoming events in the community and lift them up in prayer. Also your cell phone’s contact lists makes a great prayer list to pray for people in your circle and I often use it when I am waiting for an appointment.

Senior Pastor William Belgie

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Turmoil in a nation, a family, or even an individual is just a part life. To believe that trouble will somehow vanish forever is naïve. If the focus of one’s life is on one crisis after another as opposed to Christ then the feeling of being overwhelmed or anxious will be unending. On the flipside of anxiousness is trust. To start each day with the fact that I am a child of God and that His love is unwavering toward me gives me confidence to pray in His strength.

Often people feel overwhelmed in prayer because God hasn’t answered their prayer in a specific time frame. Waiting on God is never a waste of time. In fact, behind the scenes God is working His plans and agenda out perfectly. Even when you feel like God has forgotten you, isn’t answering prayer, and things are getting worse keep praying in faith because the answer could be nearer than you think.

Larry Lamb, Teaching Pastor

Cielo Vista Church (El Paso, TX)

from October 21, 2010

Question:

Does God hear and answer the prayers of unbelievers [the lost, non-Christians].

Answers:

I wonder why an unbeliever would pray to God?  I believe God will hear and answer the prayer of a non-Christian if he is sincerely praying to God and if answering his prayer will bring glory to God and lead the non-Christian to faith in Christ.  God will not bless the unbeliever’s prayer or an insincere payer.  Whatever is not of faith is sin to God.  Of course God can and will do as He desires to glorify His name.  It is all about Him.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Yes, God does!  Otherwise it would be impossible for many to be saved!  Recall that people in the Old Testament were not Christians.  They were not believers in the sense that we are, yet God heard their prayers.  He even heard and answered the prayers of many former idol worshipers, who, at the word of a prophet, repented and turned back to the One God, Yahweh.  In all ages many non-believers have been moved to pray sincerely, seeking the proof of God’s existence, or simply seeking His help.  The Father of Jesus Christ did not (and will not) disappoint.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Currently resides in Las Cruces, NM

God must hear the prayers of unbelievers since the prayer of salvation is made by unbelievers. God hears all of the prayers of that are offered since He is aware of the thoughts and intents of the heart (for example Gen 6:5 records “…the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”).  Since God is aware of the intent of the heart of the unbeliever and as long as their intent is not in line with His will or are rooted in an evil intent God in his mercy does not answer those prayers just as he exercises that same mercy in the lives of his children.

Senior Pastor William Belgie

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

A usual reference is Isa 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” NIV and others that state God will not hear the prayers of the wicked. Understanding the verse in context, reveals that the nation of Israel or Judah is being addressed. The people, who know God, have become evil, but still think God will deliver them from danger.

The New Testament reveals occasions when God heard the prayers of believers in God but not in Jesus. Cornelius, a Gentile, was devout and God fearing man who prayed to God regularly. (Acts 10:1-48). God heard his prayers and in a vision directed him to send for Peter, who would teach him how to be saved.

Like the Apostle Paul, neither was saved by prayer, but directed to receive instruction from one who taught them the way of salvation. Acts 22:10-16.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

Absolutely He does! Intercessory prayer is very important on the part of saved Christians for the unsaved but God absolutely hears the prayers of the unsaved just like the prayers of the saved! He hears their prayers, He feels their pain and He may well act on their behalf. I can guarantee He spread his protection over me before I was saved or I wouldn’t be here now! The biggest prayer I pray for my unbelieving friends is not just that God help them, or that God be with them, but that He opens their eyes so they can see His work in their lives.

Ex 33:19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Very Good Question, I believe only someone who has been born from above (Born Again) can have a relationship with God, because it is the Holy Spirit in us; the seed of God who makes us children of God.

Yet I believe that if someone regardless of who they are calls on the name of the Lord with all their heart God will answer.  God knows the hearts, we don’t. Someone who is not a practicing Christian or per say unchurched may still believe in God, during a crucial moment in his or her life, they may call on God with all their heart and God will them. When God does hear someone and answer them, it won’t be long that they will become a committed believer. People are searching and looking, God knows those who are truly searching the truth.  If they are, I believe eventually they will run into Jesus.

There are some that take praying as traditionalism. They may live a lifestyle completely lacking the fear of God.  They may pray out of tradition but it’s not from the heart, yes thousand probably fall in this category. In this case I don’t believe God hears, yet something may happen in their lives that will turn and make their prayers real.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

from October 7, 2010

Question:

Can a person be a Christian and be pro-choice? I don’t see how, but a friend has told me that supposedly the Bible reinforces a woman’s right to make the choice. Can you explain this to me, and how I can help her to see the light?

Answer:

Psalm 139:13-16 offers a very clear statement about God’s creation of each individual.  He is the author of life and knows the number of our days of life on earth before we ever see the light of our first day, if indeed we see life outside of our mother’s womb.  Since He is the creator of all life, that includes baby’s formed inside of a rape victim and baby’s who are born with severe and non-severe handicaps, all life is sacred.  What we may call an accident or a mistake, God does on purpose.  That is what the Bible says.  There are hard questions about the danger to a mother’s life or if the baby can survive the birth, and only God knows the answers to such questions, and they are better left to Him.  Being pro-choice is not something which will keep a believer out of heaven but will certainly be something for which we will be called to give an account of before God.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

The short answer is “yes, but –“.  I say that because in reality many people become Christians from all backgrounds and walks of life and with different histories of a sinful past.  When a person becomes a Christian God does not usually change their entire way of thinking and behaving in one quick flash.  Instead He works in that person’s life through the study of the Word in the Bible and through fellowship and worship with more experienced and mature Christians.  At the right time God shows those new believers that He loves and values every human life (including the pre-born), and that all lives are created in His image.  At that point He expects such new believers to leave behind completely their sinful ideas.  Thus God works over time literally to “change the mind” of the Christian pro-choice person.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

Thank you for the kind of question that challenges many on both sides of many issues. The answer is yes. We are all permitted to be wrong.

Any time an issue is emotionally charged and supported from Biblical principles it is not unusual for those on both sides to say, “How can you be a Christian and support…?” Each is completely convinced their position is based on a Biblical understanding and clearly correct, therefore the other side must know they are wrong.

The way you “can help her to see the light” is patience, calmness and a reasonable approach in your explanation. Obviously, name calling and denigrating remarks are unacceptable. Listen and learn the foundation of their argument. It will be of little value to argue for the beginning of life at conception, if her decision is based on something entirely different. Perhaps she thinks it is only “fair” to the expectant mother. You then would discuss how “fair” it is for the child.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Being a Christian is not defined by a check-list of stances, which often have more to do with denominations and politics than they have to do with Biblical Christian faith.  Christianity is about being in a relationship with God in Jesus Christ whereby people, “turn from darkness to light… receive forgiveness of sins… and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:18, NIV).”  The “light” is not found in arguments over the validity of stances, but in God’s Greatest Gift, the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

Accordingly, a person can be a Christian, and be any number of things, including pro-choice.  I’d be happy to introduce any reader to some disciples of Jesus Christ who are pro-choice and live the reality of Acts 26:18.  Christians should be undergoing sanctification (becoming more holy), but we should be cautious defining that holiness with politicized terminology.  Personally, I don’t call myself “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”  Both life and free will (choice) are essential gifts from God.  I guess all of these things make me “pro-gift?”

Senior Pastor, Rev. Jon Moore

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church (El Paso, TX)

This issue needs to be tested by 10 principle questions:

1. The Purity test: I Corinthians 6:19 – Can I do this in the body where Christ dwells?

2. The Participation test: I John 2:15-17 – Will doing this take my eyes off Jesus?

3. The Polite test: Romans 14:7, 21 – How will doing this affect others?

4. The Partner test: Colossians 3:17 – Could I invite Christ to do this with me?

5. The Public test: I Thessalonians 5:22 – Will doing this give the appearance of evil?
6. The Presence test: I John 2:28 – Would I be ashamed to be found doing this upon Christ’s        return?

7. The Problem test: Hebrews 12:1-3 –  Will this hinder my race in Christ?

8. The Proof test: Romans 12:2 – Will this prove to be the will of God?

9. The Proclamation test: Philippians 2:15 – Will this ruin my witness for Christ?

10. The Peace test: Philippians 4:6-7 – After praying about it, can I do it and have peace with God?

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The answer is . . . drum roll please. . . . Yes! You can be, totally believe that abortion is murder however I am not and have never been a woman and will never have to make the choices that a woman would have to make. I think it’s a little arrogant for me to tell women what to do in a circumstance that I will never be in.

Having said that I really don’t have a better scripture for this question than the book of Isaiah:

Isa 49:1 Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.

God called Isaiah before he was ever born! God knew who he was while he was still in his mother’s womb! God knows the soul and spirit of every child. A woman absolutely has the right to make the choice, it is her body, but attached to her body is a living soul. I know what choice I would make, if she can make another, that’s between her and God.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from September 23, 2010

Question:

With all the bad things going on in the world today, does it even make sense for us to pray the Lord change or fix it? We’re told these things are fulfillment of prophesy, if that’s the case – are we wrong to even desire and pray for change?

Answers:

 I’d like to answer the question by offering help on how we think about the purpose of prophesy in the Bible, and in Judeo-Christian tradition.  For us, the purpose of prophesy is not to simply reveal the future.  Prophesy is not about giving Christians information about the future that is available only to a “chosen few.”  Instead, the purpose of prophesy is to urge people to modify their choices and behaviors today, in the hopes that the future might be different.  Prophesy is, in essence, an invitation to repentance and forgiveness.  This understanding of prophesy does not undermine our view of prayer, but strengthens our call to pray and hope in the transformation God brings.  If you read the Old Testament prophets, or the book of Revelation, you’ll find this purpose of prophesy rise to the forefront over and over again.  Because of prophesy, and not despite it, we “need to pray always and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1).”

Senior Pastor, Rev. Jon Moore

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church (El Paso, TX)

Mt 24:10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,

Mt 24:11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

Mt 24:12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,

Mt 24:13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Mt 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Here’s the point of this verse. Praying for the world as well as those we care about may not make sense, but faith isn’t about making sense. It’s about asking, begging, God to come into our lives, the lives of the ones we love and this world that seems to get worse by the day. We need to be so desperate for God to move, even if it’s moving by wiping it all away and sending us all away to be with Him that nothing but HIS will instead of ours whatever that may be!

Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Heb 11:2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

Heb 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Think about it this way “DO STUBBORN RIGHT” not inflexible and cranky, but stubbornly praying for the world and those we care about, stubborn about doing good works and holding onto our faith that God is coming soon no matter what the world shows us Amen, so be it!

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Even though God is the God who stands by His word, He is also the God of mercy.  In II Samuel 12, when David was confronted with his sin with Bathsheba and told of the punishment God would bring on the child Bathsheba would bear, David cried out to God pleading for God’s mercy on the child.  He later commented, “Who knows, the Lord may be gracious and allow the child to live.”  There are many ways God can be true to His word and still reveal His mercy.  He delights in the prayers of His people, James said, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  Someone said, “We should pray for the burdens of our hearts and trust God to do what is best according to His perfect will.”  Who knows, the Lord may be gracious and act according to our prayers.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

I believe that prayer is THE BEST thing we can do! We just need to focus our prayers on the right thing. Perhaps it would benefit us more to pray for a steadfast and faithful heart rather than asking for God to change the current circumstance our world is in. Think about it.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

If something — anything! — about what is happening in the world troubles you, you should by all means pray to Jesus Christ about it.  You do not know precisely which event is malleable or not.  God may be waiting on your prayerful participation to adjust something He has planned.  And in any event, Christ will help prepare you to face the trouble you see when you pray.  So pray!

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

Scripture tells us that the “heart of the king is in the Lord’s hand”, so yes we should pray that God might change the leadership’s mind or change the leadership. We are commanded to pray without ceasing and part of our prayers should be for wisdom for our leadership. One of the ideas we miss about prayer is not asking for change to meet our desires or needs, but for understanding and acceptance of what God is doing in the world and in our lives. You are right some things will not change because of God’s will and plan in the world, but what can change is my acceptance of God’s actions and my responses to His actions. God is going to “fix things” and “change things”, but in His time and way. We often want immediate change and relief from the tension and pressure we feel as a result of God’s workings. God uses these events to strengthen us, change others, and work events to His glory. I have had to learn that,”God does all things well”, is not just a saying in the Bible, but is a reality in the history of the world. I might not understand all that He is doing, might I have learned He does all things well and I need to keep praying that I will remain in His will and seek His guidance as I see God working.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

One thing for sure, as long as we are here on earth, there will be bad things happening.  I believe at one time or another we all have asked that question.” Lord, do my prayers do any good or am I just blowing wind.” An obvious and serious weakness from which we all suffer in the realm of prayer is that in so many situations we have to admit that we do not know the will of God. We know not what we should pray for. (KJ Rom 8:26)

This may be too simple of an answer, when I do not know what to pray I simply thank the Lord that His plan and purpose will line up with his will for the end time revival, which will line up with end time prophesy. Then we may be at greater peace and be about the Fathers business, being a part of winning souls to the kingdom of God.  Sounds a little like “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”

God Bless and we will be praying for you.

Pastor J.R. Camfield
Mercy Foursquare Church (El Paso, TX)

from September 9, 2010

Question:

My husband is out of the country and looking to change jobs so that he can come home. We’ve been praying that something will come up right away since he’s been gone a year. Recently, and offer became available, but it’s a job we’re certain he will be miserable in and he would have to keep it for two years before being allowed to switch. How do we know if this is God’s answer to our prayers (and he should take the job), OR if this is a test of our faith (and he should hold out for a better job)?

Answers:

 I guess my question would be “What have you been asking for?” God doesn’t want the two of you to be separated forever and he may not necessarily want your husband to be in a job he will be miserable in. But if the focus of your prayer has been changing his job instead of for God’s will, then God may answer your prayer, give him another job, and satisfy His will by another route.

When the people of Israel demanded a king for themselves instead of being ruled directly by God as they had been, God answered their prayer, but warned them of the negative consequences:

1Sa 8:18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day. ”

I’m not saying that you are in rebellion to God but maybe you should ask Him which road you should take (and try to wait until He answers) If the wait is too long and you lose the opportunity that may be an answer from God.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

I tend to believe that the first answer is the one God has provided to you in answer to your prayer.  That’s assuming you are both Christians and were both praying for the same thing.  When you asked did you request a certain kind of job?  Did you spell that out?  If not, then I believe this could be the answer.  God’s test would be to see if you accept His answer or not.  And I personally have worked more than two years at employment I did not like or prefer.  But Jesus Christ taught me many valuable lessons in the course of that difficult time.  And some of those lessons I did not quite learn or get until I had left that job and moved on.  I hope this helps.  And I am praying for you both!

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

I believe this is something between your family and God.  Nobody can answer it for you. God knows you and your husband more than anyone.  He knows exactly what your situation is.  Keep praying and he will give you a peace about your decision; whatever decision it is, remember we will need to keep trusting God. Despite our circumstances, we are called to trust him and know that he is in control.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

This very well could be an answer to your prayers.  This job will allow your husband to be home for at least two years.  God may be providing this, “a job that has come up right away” to get him back home.  Only you and your husband can verify if this is, indeed, God’s answer.  Ask God to give you a report from His word.  Read God’s word looking for a confirmation one way or the other (be careful not to look for a proof text to do what you want to do).  If God can be glorified through this opportunity then accept it and trust God to accomplish His will.  I pray for God’s leadership for you in this matter.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from August 26, 2010

Question:

In the Bible God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, which he obeyed, but just prior to killing his son God provided an animal to sacrifice instead. As a Christian I don’t understand how God could require someone to kill their own child. Does he ask people of this today? I love the Lord but I know that I could/ would not be able to do this if asked. Does this mean I am not truly a Christian? Would I go to hell because of not being able to do it?

Answers:

 If God were to ask someone to do this today, He would know two things off the bat.

1.He would know that persons heart the same way he knew Abraham’s

2. He would be prepared just like He was here.

God knew that Abraham needed a test of faith, after weakening to Sarah’s insistence that He use Hagar as a surrogate, so God used the sacrifice as a way to test and stretch Abraham’s faith. Remember the answer Abraham gave to Isaac?

“God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son,” Genesis 22:8

God knew Abe’s heart, he knew how much he loved his son, how much he meant to him as the father to a nation. God understood completely because God the Son was already in heaven with God the Father, and they both knew the sacrifice that was going to have to be made for us all to get to heaven. God never calls us to do anything he hasn’t prepared us to do, even if that preparation means the sacrifice of his own son.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is a unique case that is never repeated anywhere in Scripture.  It is important to note several features to this event.  First, Abraham was specifically chosen by God to be the human progenitor of His special nation, Israel.  It was through Isaac Abraham’s descendants would be born and become the nation through which Jesus would come.

Secondly, the incident you refer to is what Bible interpreters call a “type” – something that occurred in the Scripture that gives an example of something more fully completed in Jesus.  The “types” include the requirement of offering Isaac that represents we all deserve death for our own sin.  A second type is that a substitute was provided so Isaac did not have to die – in this case a sacrificial ram.  This points to Jesus as our substitute as He willingly died on the cross in place of all humanity, taking our sin upon Him.

The third feature (and a third type as well) is the faith of Abraham displayed in this event.  As they were traveling Abraham commanded the servants to remain while he and Isaac went alone to the place for the sacrifice.  Genesis 22:5 records his words to the servants:  “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (NASB, emphasis mine).  As they continued Isaac asked where the sacrificial animal was.  In Genesis 22:8 Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  I firmly believe Abraham  believed that even if Isaac were killed and burned as an offering, God would miraculously restore Isaac to life and wholeness to complete the promise He had made to raise up a nation through Isaac.

Here we see in Abraham’s faith a picture of the resurrection of Jesus and the eternal life we all can experience as we place our trust in Christ.  God made the command to Abraham as a test, but would have never allowed Isaac to be killed.  The circumstances are totally unique to Abraham and has not or will not ever be asked of anyone else.  Please remember that throughout the Old Testament God always condemned the sacrifice of children done in the name of pagan gods.  This is the only instance where God asked for a human sacrifice – other than the substitutionary death of His own Son, Jesus – and He had already planned a substitute for Isaac, even though Abraham was unaware of it at the time the command was given.

You need never fear God would ask you to sacrifice your child/children in this manner. There are many things we do not understand and things with which we struggle as we grow and develop in our relationship with God.  If you have truly accepted Jesus as your personal Savior and you are allowing God to transform your life, you also need not fear you are not a Christian and are facing an eternity separated from God in hell.  Keep reading the Bible and make certain you are in a solid Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church so you can receive the guidance you need personally as you grow as a child of God.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

This woman’s question is based on the ancient story found in Genesis 22.  The first verse sets the stage for any further interpretation which one might offer to this entire text:  God deliberately chose to test Abraham.  The test involved the question of the depth and intensity of Abraham’s faith.  God wondered, “will Abraham risk even that one precious possession — that son that I myself promised to give him — in order to show He trusts in me?”

The story itself shows God never intended to have Abraham obey the initial command to its point of completion.  But Abraham demonstrated his faith by showing he was willing to do what God asked — whatever it was!

This person’s question also assumes that what God required of someone in the Bible, He will also require of us.  But that is a very bad assumption, in light of the New Testament of grace through faith in Jesus.  In fact God would not ask us to sacrifice a child.  That was God’s one and only test of the Father of Nations and the archetype of our faith.  But God will, God has, and God does test and refine our faith in other ways.

Retired Pastor Paul Duerksen

Las Cruces, NM

The only way that someone is going to hell is if they deny the Messiah, the Saviour.  As a Christian, which means that you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you will not go to hell.  The enemy would have you believing that, and many other things to confuse you and cloud your judgement.  The story about Abraham shows us a couple of things.  First, his obedience to the Lord. Second, his faith in the Lord which was without question. Finally, we see how the Lord saved Abraham’s son by providing a sacrifice in place of Abraham’s son.  See something familiar?  This story shows us again how God will provide the necessary sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, Jesus.  The enemy wants us to see with our fleshly eyes, but thanks to Abraham, we can see without spiritual eyes that only God could be the one to provide His son as a sacifice for us. God Bless Y’all. YeeHaw WaHoo

Pastor Martin Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church (El Paso County)

Faith is like a well, some are deeper than others. God has never required people to kill their children to worship. He stopped Abraham, but Abraham’s obedience demonstrated to God, Abram and us, his faith.

Jesus taught Matt 10:37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” NIV and Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters– yes, even his own life– he cannot be my disciple.” Yet Jesus also taught

Matt 19:19 “honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

It is a question of priorities in your life. Those who abandon God because they are too busy with their family or friends have mistaken their priority, even though they may say “God wants me to spend time with my family.”

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

God deals with each of us as individuals.  He told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor.  He could not because his riches meant more to him than pleasing God.  God was testing Abraham’s willingness to give God his most treasured possession, his son of God’s promise.  Abraham showed his willingness to withhold nothing from God.  I do not believe God tempts anyone to do evil today (or yesterday either).  He may call on us to leave cherished possessions behind to follow Him and we must then choose.  We do not go to Hell for disobeying God’s commands, we go to Hell for rejecting God’s only provision to pay for our sins, Jesus’ death on the cross.  For those who never heard of Jesus, we trust God to deal them as He sees fit, but, we have heard of Jesus and are accountable.  Our obedience of God’s commands shows the depth of our love for Him.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

I think there are two issues here.  The first one deals with your question.  It is answered in Hebrews 11:19.  He knew God could raise his son.  God forbade sacrifice of people.  So this is special.  His son was Abraham’s future, his security. Through him, Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  The question to Abraham was, “do you trust me or are you going to protect yourself and your future.  This was his most treasured possession.  The question to us is, “do we trust God with everything or are we holding on to something?”

The second issue is your concern for your salvation.  As a boy and teenager I lived in fear of hell.  I was told by the church if I did this or that I would go to hell.  I came to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade here in El Paso.  A man showed me 1 John 5: 11-13 and my fears disappeared.  It says if you have the Son in your life, you ‘KNOW’ you have eternal life.  I lived on that promise and life has been free and enjoyable.  Memorize those verses and see the freedom you will receive.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

Great Question, in order to understand the Bible in this portion of scripture; it’s important to comprehend the whole plan of redemption illustrated from Genesis and ending with Jesus. The whole Bible is the story of God’s redemption plan for humanity.  That being said, Abraham also is an illustration of God’s plan. He used Abraham to demonstrate to us faith and grace.  God never intended to kill Isaac but was testing Abraham.  Isaac was the promise, Abraham believed that God would raise him up from the dead if necessary because God had given him a promise through Isaac (Heb). It is all an illustration of salvation. God gave his own Son to die for everyone. God put Abraham through a test, to teach us something, it was not the norm.  During Old Testament times there were pagan nations that worshiped using human sacrifice, God disapproved.  He told his people to come out from it.  The law came after Abraham, Tho shalt not (murder).

Today the plan of salvation has been written, Jesus died for our sins.  No other sacrifice needed.
Abraham’s event was for a particular purpose that would be used for ages to come to demonstrate God’s redemptive plan for the world.  It is done.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

One of the great aspects of The Bible is that it is so instructive. The activities of God and His people teach us so much. However, we must keep in mind that these events that God and His people share are one time events. Moses is the only one to have a burning bush; Naaman is the only Syrian general to be cleansed of his leprosy; Mary is the only one to give birth to our Messiah. Abraham is the only one to be asked to sacrifice his child. There are reasons for all these events: instructive to us as followers of Christ and signposts of God’s plan of salvation revealed through His Holy Word leading to His Son Jesus as Savior of the world. God is not going to ask you or anyone to do what He asked Abraham to do; this applies to Abraham only and is instructive to us that He is a merciful and loving God. As Father of all nations, Abraham showed his faith in the one and only God by doing what was asked of him, and God showed His love of Abraham by stopping short and not having Isaac killed. Read the Bible as instructive as to how God works in His creation and how we can respond — with faith and trust that God is always faithful. Just by asking this question, you show you are on the right path to salvation. Blessings,

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

from August 12, 2010

Question:

I’m 12 and I’ve prayed for something for 2 years, but God has not answered. My brother told me that I must have sin and that is why he won’t answer. I pray for forgiveness for everything I can think of that might be wrong, but God still doesn’t answer. How do I find out what I did wrong so he can forgive me and answer my prayer?

Answers:

Maybe God is answering you and telling you to wait on Him.  God is not tied to our time tables.  The scripture promises that those who wait upon God are rewarded.  Two years seems like a long time to us but to God it may be only the beginning of the answer to your prayer.  His ways are not our ways and no one of us can understand the mind of God.  If you do have sin in your life blocking your prayer, God will reveal it to you, in His perfect time.  Never give up on God but keep doing what you do know pleases Him and keep your eyes open for His work.  He may have already answered your prayer in a way you have not recognized.  God alone is faithful so trust in Him and lean not on your own understanding.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Maybe God has answered your prayer but it is not the answer you want or He answered it differently. God has His plan and maybe what you asked for is outside His plan. Maybe the answer is in the time ahead of us and you must wait. Maybe He answered it for someone else. The answers are almost endless, Maybe He said no to your prayer. I have had many circumstances where I thought my prayers were unanswered when in time I realized they were answered afterall and I could not see the answer yet. Sometimes I have prayed for things that are outside of what I should pray for. You did not indicate what your prayer was for so I do not know. I find when I pray for God’s glory, for His praise, for His kingdom, my prayers are always answered. Pray to know how to pray. Keep praying and forget the answers, pray for the wonder of God’s relationship with you.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

People struggle all the time with this mystery of prayers being answered or not being answered. As humans we try to figure out why our sincerest prayers go unanswered. Sin in our heart is only one reason God may not show us His answer. At 12 yrs. of age I seriously doubt that is the reason. The other big reason is what you may be asking God to do. Check out the verses of Scripture that teach us about prayer. Remember this, “Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of His willingness” (Phillips Brooks).

God always answers His children with a YES, a NO, or NOT NOW!

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

It may not be sin in your life, it could just be that God is working on it. You see, God hears every prayer, and He answers them all in time. Our timing isn’t God’s timing and sometimes the difference between the two is so big that we feel like God hasn’t heard us at all or he has forgotten about us or is ignoring us because of sin. Sin can be an issue but not always, God answers every prayer, sometimes yes, sometimes no because I have something better, sometimes not yet because we’re not ready, but God knows our hearts and answers every prayer we make, we just have to wait on Him in trust

Ps 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

God knows you and loves you more than anyone, He knows exactly what you need and what’s best for you. Sometimes what you want is not what you really need and many times we don’t really know what we want. Think about how many times we change our minds in one year.  Let me give you some advice;  Don’t focus too much on getting your prayers answered, praying is good; continue to pray but let God answer it the way He wants and when he wants. Focus on enjoying your relationship with him.  The bible says in Psalms 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” He knows your hearts desires better than anyone.  Be glad for your salvation and live a grateful life, go to church and get involved in serving others. I guarantee you, if you do this he will give you your hearts desires.

Pastor Hector Saucedo
Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

First, I want to commend you for wrestling with this question and for your prayerful diligence.  Obvious your prayers are not about a passing concern.  At the root question  you are wrestling with is your own impatience with God.  If you look at the Psalms 10:1 and you will see that you are not the first. The very name “Israel” means to “wrestle with God”.  God’s desire is through our ongoing struggles and interactive conversations we grow and learn to trust in Him.  Keep praying and wrestling with God and trust that His purposes in how, when, and if he chooses to answer your prayer in the way you expect.

Pastor William Belgie

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

God has commanded you to pray to Him and He certainly listens to your prayers, but sometimes the answer is “no” for reasons you may not understand now…however, you may look back some day and think, “wow, God knew what He was doing when He didn’t grant that request!”

God did not send His Son to earth to “do business” with you but rather to save you for all eternity.  Faith and salvation are not a department store where you get to pick out what you want to take home.  Faith in Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit, fulfilling our prayer “Thy kingdom come” for all eternity.  God has answered that prayer for you and it is the other thing that matters for all eternity.

Remember, all creation groaned for Christ’s arrival, Paul writes, and even when we don’t know what to ask for the Holy Spirit prayers for us with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8:19,26).  You may not like God’s answer to the specific prayer you mentioned but be assured, your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake and nothing can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:37-39).

Pastor Lenae Rasmussen

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church (El Paso, TX)

You have a good heart and it is wonderful that you are praying. Yours is a common question for many believers who have something on their heart and seek God’s help with a solution. You do not have any sin that is stopping God from giving the answer you seek. The sin that hinders our prayers is the rebellious and disobedient, not a sin we have forgotten.

God does not force his will upon us. For instance, if I pray for a husband wife to love one another, God will not force them to do so. God will provide opportunities for their hearts to respond to one another, so they will become loving. The final decision is between the husband and wife.

Nor does God force a person to become a Christian, it is their free will, that decides to believe, repent and be immersed to have salvation in Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for every person who has ever lived or will live, but each person makes their own choice to follow Jesus. I should not only pray for a lost friend, I should share with them the Gospel of Jesus.

 Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

from July 22, 2010

Question:

I was raised to think that aliens and UFO’s were all man-made hype and not to be believed. I recently spoke with someone who helped me see that since the Lord created us, who can say He did not also create aliens that live on other planets? As Christians, how should we believe in regards to aliens from outer space?

Answers:

Jn 10:16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

I have heard this verse used to defend the idea of alien life forms. I think Jesus could just as easily have been (and to most probably was) talking about people from other nations here on this planet, but I don’t know.

I am an ordained minister of the church of the Nazarene (harrumph!) I have been trained in Wesleyan Theology, and I believe in the doctrine of Entire Sanctification! (well excuse Me!)

Having said that I was also a kid who grew up on reruns of the original Star Trek series and (while I will admit that yes, it’s a television show) it is a darn good one!

I am not God (a statement that should surprise absolutely no one who knows me) and I don’t know the entire purpose for the universe that He created. If it was all for the purpose of our enjoyment and the contemplation of His majesty and power then I would have to say “Good Job”. But on the other hand, it has been my experience that God almost never does things obvious way to us. If He did there wouldn’t be miracles, so unless they touch down sometime between now and when this is put in the paper I guess that decision will have to be up to you. The one thing you have to remember though, whether life is on other planets or not, God Loves YOU! You are not a lesser life form, you are one of His children.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Thank you for your willingness to be open and ask your question. As a fan of science fiction and space travel, yours is a normal and frequent question. There are many fiction tales on TV and in movies that raise questions in other areas also: witchcraft, time travel, immortals, etc. These may be enjoyable as entertainment, but are not to be confused with reality.

Regarding aliens, often the question is: How could you be so arrogant to believe, that in a universe so large, we are the only ones here? Personally, I prefer to take the position that we are to fill the universe. How do we know that we aren’t the first ones here and it is our responsibility to fill the universe and populate the habitable planets? Scripture says (Heb 10:10) Jesus died once for all mankind. This rules out his repeated death on other planets.

Instead of disconcerting ourselves with questions which will probably never be answered, why not be engaged in serving Jesus to the fullness of our ability?

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

That’s a very good question. The truth is that I don’t believe in Hollywood type aliens, the reality is that If you’re a born again Christian you are an alien to this world.  We have been born from above; we are in this world but not of it. Our true home is in heaven. We are only here on a temporary mission, cool huh?

I do believe there is an unseen world filled with demons etc. Sometimes they become visible in our realm. Maybe they could be mistaken for aliens.

As far as God creating another system with other creatures is too farfetched for me. I will stay within the parameters of what He has revealed to us.  Our universe is amazing as it is. It will take many lifetimes to understand everything about our world. I sure don’t have time to be thinking of another universe.

My humble opinion,

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

I think it is enough for us just to stay focused and to abide in His word, don’t you?

God is not the author of confusion and studies of this kind will only become a source of confusion for your faith. I haven’t found anything in God’s Word to substantiate any claim that we would have visitors from outside our planet.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

In Genesis chapter one we read that God created the heavens and the earth.  In verses 16-18 it seems as though God created the stars to give support to the earth.  I see creation with the earth as the focal point for everything that has been created.  Man, then, is the only creature created for fellowship with God and in the image of God.  Mankind was given dominion over the earth.  If everything was created to support God’s Earth, then man would also have dominion over all it is possible for him to govern or subdue.  So it seems to me that if there are other creatures in the vast universe God created, they would be subject to mankind.  However there is no evidence of any other life-form in our universe.  God could have certainly created other forms of living creatures elsewhere, but I believe all of His creation was created to make the earth the focal point and the place where He chose to place those whom He loved so much, that He chose His own Son to come here and die to save our souls.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus)…” John 3:16

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

I have had this same thought! If God is capable of anything, certainly he is capable of creating life on other worlds. Why not? Now, whether the UFO stories we hear about on Earth are real, I am not so sure. However, if aliens did come to Earth, it would not shake my Faith or Belief one bit. Until then, though, I will focus on the basics of prayer, Bible reading, loving God and my neighbor. And who knows who my neighbor someday might be!

Blessings,

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

from July 8, 2010

Question:

I’ve been told that God disciplines His children, those who are “born again” just as earthly parents would their children. In what ways does He do this?

Answers:

The greatest discipline a Christian can receive is conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). This is the conviction of sin, or missing the mark. We all know how it feels to disappoint. A born-again Christian lives by the  Spirit, not by the law, so it is the continual calling of the Spirit in us that disciplines us when we go astray. We should at all times seek the voice of Jesus our Great Shepherd, and the Spirit works in us when we allow that voice to become dim. Read John 16:7-11 to hear Jesus’ own words about the conviction of sin by guilt for the whole world. Let His voice answer your question. Blessings to you.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

I had a conversation with someone over dinner last night, she said she didn’t agree with spanking, that in her home all it took was just a look and her siblings knew they were in trouble and that was enough.

God can discipline us the same way, sometimes especially for a child of God just the “look” as it were, the separation from him after we have done something we know is wrong is enough punishment for us. God can also allow us the other negative consequences of our actions, but sometimes the best discipline God can have for us is the question Jesus asked when He died on the cross for our sins, “why have you forsaken me?” forsaken by God, that’s quite a punishment for someone who is seeking His presence.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Paul in his instructions to the church in Corinth (I Corinthians 11) cautioned them about God’s jundgement against some among them because they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. He told them God’s judgement came in the form of weakness, sickness, and even death. Paul said if we would judge ourselves we could save ourselves from falling under God’s judgement. He went on to say when we are disciplined by God it is so we will not be condemned with the world. Like a parent must sometimes practice “tough” love with a stubborn child, so God chastens those whom He loves for their own good. The reason is to restore the close relationship He died to establish with each of us, which our sin interrupts.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

God deals with us first through conviction; we feel the sorrow of hurting God’s heart (Psalm 32:3-4; 2 Corinthians 7:9-11). He may then withdraw the joy of His presence (Psalm 51:10-12). If we continue to rebel, He may allow natural consequences to take affect (Proverbs 1:23-31; Proverbs 14:14). Continued disobedience brings harsher consequences (Proverbs 29:1). Eventually, God may even allow the enemy to sift us ) Luke 22:31, 1 Corinthians 5:5). The ultimate consequence is death (1 John 5:16-17). All of this is not to punish, but to bring to repentance. God is love and whatever He does is an expression of that love (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Pastor Gary Wilcox

Restoration Fellowship (El Paso, TX)

This is a great question. In the time that I have known the Lord I have realized that God loves us so much that he will not let us stray further than we should. In my personal walk this seems always to be true. In the same way a shepherd may discipline his sheep for its own good, Yes I do believe that God corrects us when needed. I can not tell you the details of the correction of the discipline but he is faithfull to bring us back. I believe only God knows how to correct us, every child is different. When we are believers and knowingly are living against God’s word, eventually His correction will but only He can decide how that will come.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

Were you ever taken out back behind the outhouse and received a lickin with a swith? It might have happened to some. We received “correction” in many ways as a child. Was it, because we had done something wrong, maybe? The point was to get us back on the right track. Our heavenly Father also wants us to get on the right track. We are His creation. He loves us so much that He allows for correction. He won’t take us physically “out back” but when we decide to “walk on the wild side”. He will allow all kinds of things to happen. We get the “switch out back” however that comes, illness, tragedy, losses etc… When we “feel” the disconnect with Him and we wonder where He is, it’s really our doin’. The good thing is He will take us back, if only we will humble ourselves, ask for forgiveness and believe.

Pastor Martin Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church (El Paso County)

from June 17, 2010

Question:

I’ve led a good life, and been a good person most of my life, so won’t God let me in heaven?

Answers:

Many people hold this view because they feel they have not committed any of the “big” sins and God is a forgiving God.  Here’s something to think about.

Suppose I invite you to my house for dinner.  I know you like omelets and so I prepare dinner with an omelet as the main course.  You give me what you like in your omelet from these ingredients: cheese, bacon, ham, sausage, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, chili, etc.  You give me your list ahead of time and I have everything ready when you arrive.  I put the ingredients in a bowl mix them and then add the eggs.  It is a six-egg omelet recipe and when I take the eggs out I give a sigh of relief when I discover there are only 6 eggs left in the carton.  I start cracking the eggs and put them in another bowl to beat them. As I crack the sixth egg, I realize by the smell that it is rotten.  I throw it in anyway because the recipe calls for 6 eggs.  The smell is horrible. I cook it anyway and then give it to you.  Would you eat it?  Almost all of the ingredients are good.  There is just that one egg!

Isn’t this what we say to God?  My life is mostly good.  Here it is, please accept it.

God is holy and cannot be in the presence of sin.  That is why Jesus came to pay the penalty for the sin of the world so all who receives Him as Savior can be cleansed and made pure in God’s eyes.  We cannot get there on our own merits.  Ask Him to forgive and cleanse you.  Ask Him to be your Savior and give your life to his purposes.  Then read 1 John 5: 11-13 and see the promised God has for you.  God bless you your journey with Jesus.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

Congratulations on being a person that seeks to do good. Our nation needs individuals who are good citizens and neighbors. I commend you for your efforts.

When you read Acts chapter two (please do), you will notice the events that happen at the Temple of God. Thousands of people have gathered for the express purpose of worshiping God, people who have served God for most, if not all, of their adult lives. This is an assembly of some of the best people on earth, the best of the best.

Peter clarifies their relationship with God when he declares they had been responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, God’s son. (Read 2:37-38)  These are good people who had rejected Jesus. They are “cut to the heart”, pained with the knowledge of what they had done. They did not understand their need for Jesus. Paul expresses the same emotion in Romans 7:9 “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” NIV

We are happy, until we learn where we are without Jesus. Satisfaction with our goodness is not the same as being right with God.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood  (El Paso, TX)

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

No matter how good a person you’ve been you’re still a sinner just like me, there’s no getting around that. If there was we wouldn’t need Jesus.

Before Jesus died on the cross, the only place to get face to face with God was the holy of holies in the temple, and even then only the priests could enter and if there was sin in their lives God would kill them on the spot. Not because He’s just mean like that but because He’s God, He is Holy by nature and for sinful man to come into contact with Him meant death. . Jesus paid the price for that so we could go to heaven and be in God’s presence.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church (El Paso, TX)

The reality is that everyone has fallen short of God’s standards.  The Bible says that we have all fallen short and nobody is without sin. We are imperfect and inwardly corrupted.  The bible doesn’t say that good people go to heaven. Nicodemus, a teacher of the law, came to Jesus and asked him regarding the kingdom of God.  He was most likely a good moral person in his own eyes.  He was a religious leader. Jesus told him that in order to see the kingdom of God that he must be born again.  You see, our goodness compared to Gods is as filthy rags (that’s scripture) because he knows everything about us and I mean everything. There is no way that a person can enter heaven without a change or transformation, God is completely holy. That’s why Jesus shed his blood, to die for our sins, the sin that separates us from God.  He makes us into new men not better men.  I must surrender all.  It’s all or nothing and be born again. No other way, our own nature is sinful, fallen and in a state of corruption. Rich, poor, educated, or not, black, white, yellow and brown, we all need a savior.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

God will make decisions about the New Heavens and the New Earth at the Final Judgment. But just living a good life is not enough. Accepting Jesus as Savior and living a life according to his teachings is the way to eternal life. The Bible shows us God’s plan for salvation, so it is important to read his Word, attend Church and be part of a worshiping community. Jesus is Lord is the basic creed for all who desire life eternal with God, so in addition to living a good life, one must claim Jesus as Savior.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

 The scripture is very clear when it states that our salvation is not earned by any work on our part and that all of our personal righteousness is like filthy rags to God.  We have messed up our lives so much we can never undo or make up for the many wrong things we have done.  God’s forgiveness of our sins can only be purchased by the perfect sacrifice made by God’s perfect Son (Jesus).  If any of us could be good enough to please God or do enough good things to earn our place in heaven then God would not have needed to sacrifice His Son on the cross.  God’s perfect plan is perfect and cannot be improved upon.  He sent Jesus because He knew what Jesus accomplished on the cross is impossible for any man, woman, boy, or girl to do on his or her own.  God proved that He accepted Jesus’ sacrifice by raising Him up from the grave.  There is no escaping God’s judgment if we neglect so great a salvation as Jesus purchased for every person who will place their trust in Him.  If we refuse to turn to Jesus, all we will hear from God is, “Depart from me…I never knew you!”   It is in the word!

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Being a good person is its own reward.  You say most of your life you’ve been a good person, what happened?  Did you fail at something?  Was it intentional or perhaps by neglect or omission, maybe?  How could we ever tell if we missed an opportunity to do “good” if we did not know about it?  Good does not get anyone into heaven.  You can’t work your way into heaven.  You can’t give your way into heaven.  You can’t buy your way into heaven.  You can’t wish your way into heaven.  You and I and the rest of us are doomed, unless we ask for and receive the free gift, given by God.  What is this free gift?   Accepting this Gospel truth, God gave his son Jesus to take all your sins and pay the price for you.  If you would only believe, change your ways, God will let you into heaven. YeeHaw WaHoo!

Pastor Martin Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church (El Paso County)

from June 3, 2010

Question:

I am looking into this Christianity thing. I haven’t figured out how I decide which denomination to settle into.  Maybe it would help me to know – how did you as Pastors decide?

Answers:

Becoming a Christian is a personal matter.  God deals with each person in a very personal way.  I would suggest you start by simply asking God to direct you to the place He has for you.  God is already at work in your life for only He can give you a desire for Him.  The Bible tells us, “No one seeks after God…” so if you have an interest in God, He must be calling out to you.  Since He is, He will direct you to the exact place He wants you to learn about Him and serve in His kingdom.  So, my advice is to start visiting Bible believing churches until God lets you know which one He has for you.  No church is perfect but God can work anyplace where His word is taught.  God bless you in your search.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church  (El Paso, TX)

Thank you for being open to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is a wonderful life. Acts 17:11 describes one who searches scripture as fair minded or noble. You should begin with scripture, read the Gospels of Mark and John, followed by the book of Acts.  You will find a simple scripture study at wbschool.org. Heb 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” NKJ. Evidence will be found, but not absolute proof. After all, it is about faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

Various religious groups happen because of differences in teachings. These distinctions are important. Foremost would be the inspiration of scripture. Some other major variances would be:  the authority of scripture vs manmade teachings;  inherited sin vs innocence born;  predestination vs free will.

Some choose based on where friends go, or the friendliness of the group or the most entertaining preacher or service. Adherence to scripture and its teachings made the determination for me.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

I was the President of a local bike club when I came to the Lord. Our church had been doing an outreach to the biker community called Biker Sunday. One day when I walked into church (looking for someone I knew not God) there were people praying for me at the altar who didn’t even know me! They knew my name from the outreach but very few of them actually knew me. That these people would drop a knee for someone they didn’t even know touched me. I began to go to Open Gate on a regular basis and eventually gave my life to Jesus here. I serve as associate pastor in the same church I was saved in but I’m a Nazarene by happy accident. If some other church had been  reaching out to me and the people I hung around with at the time I could be a Baptist, or Lutheran or whatever. The important thing is that you find a church where you feel welcome and where you are comfortable, then get plugged in to bible study and find what God wants for your life.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Choosing a denomination is the first step, finding the right church is the next. Denominations vary in doctrine and style. Churches vary in practice and personality. I was raised Episcopalian, however, I have visited numerous denominations and churches over the years. I like the Liturgy and order of my denomination, it fits my style. I enjoy the prayer book and celebrating the Lord’s Supper every week. This “fills my cup to overflowing” and I know the Holy Spirit in me is satisfied. I suggest you take a year and spend time in a few denominations and churches. It is difficult to know anything with just two visits. Most importantly, pray about this question and then spend time listening. Blessings to you.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

As a child I was raised in a ritualistic church.  I would ask questions and was told not to ask questions, just believe.  I always felt that was weird because there should never be a problem examining truth.  If it is not truth, you will find out.  We moved to a different town and quit going to church.  As a teenager I accepted Jesus Christ at a Billy Graham crusade and we found a church that believed  the Bible was God’s word and would answer questions.  The people showed that God was living in their lives. God called me to be a pastor while in that church.  During that decision I prayed that God would show me He was real because I did not want to waste my life in something that wasn’t genuine.  He has confirmed to me throughout my life His existence and leading.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian (El Paso, TX)

I will share what I told my two sons about choosing a church. Although I’m a Baptist, I do not believe we are the “only one.” I told them to read 1 John to confirm what they believe. Then seek a church that teaches the core truths. The Apostle’s creed is a good standard in seeking a church.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost; born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven; and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy universal church the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Find a church that teaches this, and you will be fine. God Bless!

Pastor Jim Horton

First Baptist Church  (Anthony, NM)

from May 20, 2010

Question:

In Matthew 25:35-46 it talks about what will happen if you do or do not feed hungry, give to the poor, help those in prison etc. I help all I can when I know the need and can provide what is needed. But I don’t give to the beggars on the corners, as I’ve been told not to. And I don’t go into the local jails. Does what I do count – or do I have to start doing the others to avoid going into eternal punishment as stated in 46?

Answers:

Please do not be afraid of eternal punishment. Believing in Jesus Christ is what saves you and gives you eternal life. A true believer will have mercy and compassion on people who are in need and will do whatever they can to help meet those needs. One way to demonstrate our love for God is by loving others (whether directly or indirectly). If you share your blessings with others or are involved in and/or contribute financially to a church or ministry that visits those in prison and helps the poor and homeless, then you are among the “sheep” that Jesus describes in this parable.

God’s nature is to give; to love and to serve. He is selfless. A child of God has the same nature. The “goats” are selfish and uncaring of others. Those who have this nature are not born of God and therefore will not inherit eternal life.

If you are a female and don’t feel safe giving to male beggars on street corners, then that is understandable… you need to be wise. If you give to a beggar who spends the money on drugs or alcohol (or any other vice) then that is between him and God. The Lord will reward you for your obedience and your giving because he sees your heart.

Be blessed and “…rejoice because your name is written in heaven!” (Luke 10:20)

Pastor Charlie Alvarado
One For Life Ministries (El Paso, TX)

I appreciate your desire to do God’s will. If you are convicted by those scriptures and you sense that God wants you to do something there are many responsible ministries that you could support that focuses on feeding the poor and jail ministry.  There might be something through your church if not then maybe you could ask the pastor if He knows of one.  We all need to be obedient to God’s word.  Whether you help directly or indirectly the important thing is that you are doing something about it.  Only God knows the street beggars situation.  Maybe buy them a meal if you’re not comfortable giving them money.  I hope I was helpful.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

These words of Jesus make all of us a bit uneasy about the amount of good things we do for the less fortunate. I’m not sure any of us ever feels like we’ve done enough. I believe that we need to examine our motive for helping others just as much as what we do for them. I Corinthians 13: 1-3 makes it clear that the only rewarding motive is love. Agape (love) is meeting the needs of others without a motive of receiving in return. We know what God is after – it’s our heart! Give Him your heart and He’ll lead you to those you may help.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

In Matthew 25:35-46 it talks about what will happen if you do or do not feed hungry, give to the poor, help those in prison etc. I help all I can when I know the need and can provide what is needed. But I don’t give to the beggars on the corners, as I’ve been told not to. And I don’t go into the local jails. Does what I do count – or do I have to start doing the others to avoid going into eternal punishment as stated in 46?

I guess the first question I would ask is who told you not to, your pastor or God? I understand the pastor is considered the leader of the church under Jesus Christ but I have to admit that even I (as much as it pains me to admit) am not always perfect. . . .  what no objections?

Your pastor has told you correctly, most of the people on the street panhandling are either on the scam or would be served better at the rescue mission or somewhere else where they could get the help they need. But there have been times when the Holy Spirit has prompted me to put a dollar in the gospel of John and plant a seed. This is not wrong, and while it isn’t always wise, neither is ignoring the Spirit.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

This Matthew passage needs to be read in its context when the hungry, poor, prisoner, widow, orphan, etc.  were marginalized more than today. I am not saying that these people are not in need now, they are in need. However, it sounds as if you are doing all you can do. Remember, there are others who are doing like you. Of course, we can never do enough. Turning our backs on people in need is the real issue. We are saved only by the merits of Christ. By claiming Jesus as Lord of our lives we show the fruits of His work through the work we do.  We can never do enough to save ourselves. He is the vine and we are the branches. We show ourselves as His disciples by the fruit we bear. So continue to bear fruit as a way of spreading the Good News. Eternal Punishment is not a concern for those of us who claim Jesus as Lord.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

Relax!! Our following Jesus does not give us merit avoiding punishment.  Our eternal destiny is a gift from God.  We serve Him out of love for Him.  When He becomes our Savior, we are born into God’s family and we receive the fruit of the Spirit. Joy and peace are two aspects of the fruit the Holy Spirit gives.  God created you with certain abilities and gifts.  Use them for Him.  Have fun doing it.  If there is something you cannot do, then they may be for someone else in the Kingdom to do.  Build your skills, love the Lord and don’t let the devil steal your joy.  We cannot do everything, but it is important to do the things we can.  Have fun serving our great Savior.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian (El Paso, TX)

from May 6, 2010

Question:

The Bible talks a lot about demon possessed people. Can that still happen today? And if so – is it true that demons cannot possess Christians?

Answers:

I believe that what one will experience is demonic oppression but not demonic possession in a regenerated (born-again) believer. Demonic oppression will be a result of some area in their lives where they have resisted the grace of God, thus giving “ground” to the enemy of our soul from which he can launch a spiritual attack. Psalm 143:3-4 describes this:

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.”

The way to find freedom is by full submission to God. James 4: 6-10 is the answer.

Pastor Fred Grenier

Fist Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Anyone who claims Jesus as Savior cannot, in my interpretation of Scripture and Church doctrine, be possessed by demons. However, we can be oppressed and depressed. Satan has no power over God and if the Holy Spirit lives in us and we follow His lead, then we are protected. Yet Satan can still whisper in our ears and make suggestions that can, if we let them, weaken us and oppress us, leading to depression and other medical difficulties, which in turn, could turn us from our strong faith. The key is to yield to the Holy Spirit at all times and seek holiness in all we do. Attend church, pray, read the bible and surround yourselves with others who do the same and continue to tell others that through Jesus is perfect freedom, the opposite of oppression.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

Since we believe in and serve a supernatural God who indwells His children by His supernatural Spirit; we must believe there is a supernatural foe who opposes God and those who serve Him.  I do not see in the Bible where demon possession was only for Bible times.  Since flesh and blood people can be indwelt by supernatural spirits I believe it is still possible today for a person to be indwelt and possessed by demonic spirits.  I do not believe it is possible for a true Christian to be possessed by a demonic spirit.  Read Mark 3:23-30.  Jesus said in order for a thief to steal your possessions he must first tie up the strong man of the house.  God is almighty and cannot be overcome by any force in this world or beyond this world.  The Bible tells us, “Greater is He who indwells us than he who is in the world.”  We can, however, be influenced by demonic spirits.  They can offer us temptations which appeal to our own fleshly desires which will certainly drag us into sin if we choose to give in to them.  Paul tells us we are in a war against powers and forces not of this world.  We need the full armor of God to withstand the flaming darts of our enemy.  “Fear not!” Jesus said, He has overcome our enemy.  P.T.L.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

I suppose it depends on what you mean by a demon. If you mean the sort of creature that causes people to babble and run around like Jesus removed from various people during His ministry I would have to say yes. However there those who consider various addictions such as drugs or alcohol as demon related. Meaning that there is a dark force that is tempting us to go back to something God has already delivered us from. That, is something we need to be careful of, once God has delivered us from that life of darkness, we can be setting ourselves up for real trouble if we choose to revisit our past temptations.

Mt 12:43 “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.

Mt 12:44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.

Mt 12:45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Demons were around during the time of Jesus and they are still around today.  Yes, of course demons can posses people just like in biblical days.  This is not a regular occurrence but it is possible and it does happen.  Can demons posses Christians?  No, because a Christian is someone who is a living temple of the Holy Spirit.  The problem is that not everyone who says they are a Christian is Christian.  Someone who is submitted to the Lordship of Christ and bares the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a Christian.  There is no way that a Christian surrendered to God can be possessed.  Demons or the Devil can influence all of us when we are walking in the flesh. Possession and influence are two different things.  I hope I was able to help

Pastor Hector Saucedo
Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

from April 22, 2010

Question:

 My friends and I love to dance but don’t want to go to clubs to do it. I suggested we all get together at each others houses and dance to Contemporary Christian music. But one of my friends’ mom said that it is against God to dance to Christian music. Is this a sin? If not, is there any advice you can give us to share with her mom?

Answers:

There is a wide difference of opinion on the subject of dancing within denominations and between them, too. As an ordained Minister, I believe that anything that is made holy is good. If you want to dance and keep it sacred, like many of our Biblical examples, then great. It’s when the activity begins to take on a worldly slant that people can be tempted to do things that may be sinful. Moderation in all things is a wise statement. However, if parents are against a certain activity, then listen to your parents. I now know that most, if not all, of my parent’s advice, in hindsight at 54 years of age, was correct. Blessings to you as you honor God and His Kingdom. 

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

The act of dancing itself is not condemned anywhere in Scripture.  There were times when people involved in sinful acts included dancing, (such as when the Hebrews worshiped the golden calf Aaron made – Ex. 32:19) but the dance itself is not what made the people’s behavior sinful, it was the idolatry that led to immoral behavior.  The majority of verses where dancing is mentioned in the Bible dance is described as an act of celebration (Ex. 15:20; 1 Sam 18:6: 1 Sam 30:16; Jer. 31:4, 13) or as an actual expression of worship (2 Sam 6:14-16; Ps. 30:11; 149:3; 150:4).  Even Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Growing up attending a Baptist church I had heard others say at various times that Baptists believed dancing was sinful.  When I asked my mother about this she explained it is not dancing that was condemned, but the types of places where one had to go to dance that often lead to sin (such as bars, roadhouses or today many clubs).  She then told me that when she was in high school they would push all the furniture to the side in the large living room of their home, invite their friends over and hold a dance at their home using the radio for music!  This kept them out of the places that supplied alcohol and provided parental supervision.

I once asked a minister friend in another denomination why their particular church forbade dancing.  His reply indicated it was the familiarization between unmarried partners that began on the dance floor that might lead to immoral behavior they were guarding against.  He knew of several couples whose marriages had broken up because of relationships developed with others met while square dancing.  He blamed close physical contact with someone other than one’s spouse in dancing as opening the door to sexual temptation.

Many activities if unchecked could lead to sin.  It is the excesses that make something sinful.  Again, I am not aware of any passage where God specifically bans dancing or identifies it as being sinful.  Honor your parents and your friend’s parents.  But I don’t see that God would be offended by your dancing appropriately to Christian music in a safe environment.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

You are to be applauded for wanting to avoid the clubs. The atmosphere in these establishments is not conducive to Christian conduct. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and promiscuity is frequently the result.

Those who oppose dancing, do so because of its inherent sex appeal. The purpose is to tantalize and titillate. Some see the dance as the opportunity for a woman to manipulate a man. Others see the reverse. You can see why clubs and dancing can be a dangerous combination.

If there is danger in dancing, the genre of music seems of little consequence.

There are different styles of dance. Some less provocative than others, those who follow Jesus should always consider their conduct and its effect on themselves and on others.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

I don’t think there is anything wrong with dancing per say. From a secular perspective dancing between a man and a woman can be looked at from a romantic perspective and for some people that may make them uncomfortable while Contemporary Christian Music is playing. I guess my question would be what kind of dancing are you doing? If the dancing itself is appropriate then the music should be even better. Either way you’re in a better (and probably safer) environment in somebody’s house than you are in a club.

For the mother’s perspective I would think about this

Ac 10:15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

As long as the dancing is not openly suggestive, then I think there is probably more right in your idea than wrong. Having said that, her opinion and her house should be respected and if she has that big an issue with it, then you should choose not to meet at her house for dancing.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The Bible does mention dancing in several places.  David danced before the Lord in the joy of the Lord’s presence.  The music to which he was dancing was not “Christian” music but it was music which was honoring to God.  David was called a man after God’s own heart.  So it seems as though there is a place for rejoicing in God’s presence with dancing.  But, the scripture does not indicate that David had a partner in his dance.  Dancing with joy in the presence of God is different from dancing with a partner, especially if romantic feelings are present.  Anything or anyone who distracts us from pleasing God causes us to sin.  Sometimes dancing with a partner can involve touching or even rubbing against each other which could open the door to un-Godly thinking.  I have seen exercise classes which use Christian music and offer a group setting without touching those who are enjoying the music and the exercise you do together.  The Bible is clear when it tells us to abstain from every appearance of evil.  You may be able to control your emotions but those with you may not be as strong.  Do not allow your freedom to become a stumbling block to someone else.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

from April 8, 2010

Question:

I’ve recently been hearing the term “I’ve been Sanctified” and Sanctification. How does this differ from Salvation, and what does one have to do to achieve it?

Answers:

Sanctification is the process by which God makes a person holy.  “Sanctify” is really the verb form of the word “holy.”  We cannot make ourselves holy but God can and does make us holy when we commit our lives to Him through His Son Jesus.  You might notice that the New Testament often uses the word “sanctify” in a passive sense; sanctification is something God does to us when we are willing.  A good example is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 : “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.”  And in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 the Apostle Paul wrote, “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”  Notice these 2 important words: belief and sanctifying.  Our part of salvation is believing in Jesus; God’s part is sanctifying us.

Pastor Howard Bryan

Westside Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

Sanctification is the process of being made holy, or sanctified. It is something that happens daily as “we work out our sanctification.”  Once we have accepted Jesus as Savior and begin our walk with Him, we then open our hearts to the healing of the Holy Spirit, which hopefully creates in us more of Him and less of us. This process, which lasts all our life, is a result of the free gift of Salvation, which we accept, even though we are not worthy of it. It is through Christ’s worthiness that we are saved, then comes our daily walk into sanctification. As we reject what the world has to offer and accept what the Kingdom of God offers, we become more holy. Sometimes we take a step forward and sometimes a step or two backward, yet, every day we continue to seek the loving hand of God as  He pulls us forward toward Him and the day when Jesus returns.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

Salvation is our deliverance from our sins and refers to God’s forgiveness of our sins.  Jesus died to save us from the punishment God requires for the breaking of His law.  We are saved when we receive the salvation Jesus purchased for us on the cross.

To be sanctified means to be set aside for God’s holy purpose.  In one sense; when we are saved we have been set aside for God’s holy purpose for us, although we do not always choose to yield to God’s sanctified plan for us.  When we choose to seek God’s will and determine to obey Him in all things, we have chosen to set ourselves aside for God’s holy purpose (sanctify ourselves to God).  This, by the way, is God’s will for everyone He saves.  This is what it means to live with Jesus as Lord of your life.  To live only unto God is the normal Christian life.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

There is no difference in being saved and being sanctified. Both words refer to the change in relationship of an individual to God. When a person is cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus (Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; Ac 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11; Heb 10:22;  Rev 1:5; Rev 7:14), they are made pure of sin, saved and therefore, do not need any additional sanctification.

People are made holy by the blood of Jesus (Heb 13:12). When we remain in his way, the blood continues to cleanse (1 Jo 1:7-9). Justified is included in 1 Cor 6:11. The words holy and sanctify mean to be set apart for God, this happens when one is obedient to the command of the Lord as listed above.

It is erroneous to say there is a “second act of grace” that makes one better, or superior, or more advanced, or have a great gift.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Sanctification is a part of our salvation experience and does not really differ from being saved. In our salvation experience of new birth we have given our sins to Christ. In our sanctification we give ourselves to God. Romans 12:1 speaks of this altar of consecration (the offering of ourselves) to God. I Thessalonians 5:23-24 is Paul’s prayer for this full consecration to permeate our spirit, soul, and body. It also tells us that God does this in us because He calls us to it. It is an experience of the fulness of the Spirit – Ephesians 5:18; and it is attained by faith – Acts 15:8-9.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Sanctified and Sanctification in the context of sin is twofold which is to be cleansed of sin or to separate from sin. Upon accepting Christ as your personal savior an individual is sanctified (cleansed of their sin) by the blood of Christ. Hebrews 10:10, By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. To serve Christ, Christians are to practice sanctification (to separate from and abstain from sin). That is God’s requirement and the individual’s choice. 1 Thes. 4:3-8  For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: [4] That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; [5] Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: [6] That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. [7] For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. [8] He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

Pastor Max Perkins

Temple Baptist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

When I was getting ready to be questioned for ordination, an old preacher gave me this: There are three parts of salvation. Justification–the once for all payment for our sins. “Just as if I never sinned.” Sanctification is the present process of our growing and becoming like Christ “A saint am I.” Glorification is that future reward of our resurrected body “Glory to be like Him.” Hope this helps.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim Horton

First Baptist (Anthony, NM)

from March 25, 2010

Question:

Is it wrong (a sin) for me to have cosmetic surgery? There is nothing medically wrong – I just want to change things that I don’t like about myself. My husband says that I would be playing God and that it is a sin, that I should just stick with how I am.

Answers:

It is not a sin to have cosmetic surgery. However, we live in a culture that sets unrealistic standards for what is called beauty. Just a few years ago, the “Twiggy” sensation swept the world. Young girls and women were starving themselves to achieve the ever elusive goal of beauty. Some died; others ruined their health, because they were never skinny enough.

Even the “beautiful people” are not perfect. There are hair stylists and make up artists present when the cameras are present. They constantly strike a pose and say, “photograph from my ‘good’ side.” Whether driven by vanity or career, beauty becomes an obsession. Some have become obsessed with cosmetic surgery.

I am sure you are an attractive person and loved by those who are really important to you. May I raise some questions? Do you love yourself? Are you striving to be someone that is not you? Do you have a history of disapproval from an authority figure?

Everyone seeks to put their “best foot forward.” If you can afford an expensive surgery that is not covered by insurance, it is not a sin. Just don’t cross the line into vanity.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

The Bible does not say anything about changing our appearance.  It does tell us that God is the one who knit us together before we were born.  He knows the number of hairs we have on our head.  God knows everything about us and loves us just the way we are.  Paul mentioned that bodily exercise benefits us a little but godliness has value for all things (I Timothy 4:8).  Solomon observed that everything he attained in this world was nothing more than vanity.  Jesus, in His “Sermon on the Mount” asked His listeners, “Why worry?  Your worry will change nothing.” (Read Matthew 6:25-34).  Ask yourself why you want to change your looks.  If the answer comes back, for God’s glory, then by all means change.  But, if the answer comes back for any other reason then be careful.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Sin can be many things, Many things are wrong for us but wrong or right is not the issue.  As Christians God is interested in the condition of our heart.  Out of the heart flow out the issues of life.  Christ desires to be your everything.  As you grow in God their is a contentment that comes through your relationship with him.  I will not tell you right or wrong answer. Seek God and let the Spirit of the Word search your heart. He will let you know.

Pastor Hector Saucedo
Sun City Christian Center

It sounds like you do not have a burn scar or some growth on your body but are unhappy with wrinkles, a nose, etc.  As a boy I was made fun of because of a physical oddity.  That can hurt.  I saw as a teenager 1 Samuel chapter 16.  Samuel was sent by God to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king to replace Saul.  He did not know which son.  God told him in verse 7 as he looked on one of his sons, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”   Samuel anointed David, the youngest as the next king.  I would first suggest you find some mature Christian friends you respect as godly, and ask them to guide you in finding your identity in Christ.  Remember, you are created in the image of God and an object of His love.  That relationship is primary, then the physical.  God bless you in your journey.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

The surgery itself may not be a sin but the reason for it may be showing an issue with your focus. The bible says that these bodies of ours are just “Earthly Tent”

2Co 5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

2Co 5:2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,

We all have physical issues that we may not be crazy about, if you have to money to fix something doing that in itself isn’t necessarily a sin, but if your focus is on your external “tent” and on fixing that, you may not find real satisfaction with the results. Remember at some point all of our bodies will not look the same as it used to, and at another our heavenly bodies will not only be more beautiful (thought maybe not by earthly standards) but they will also be free from the pain and suffering we experience here.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

We must always question our underlying motives for making changes in our bodies that require surgery. If there is nothing wong, then why undergo a surgical procedure? I beleive that some counseling about self esteem is in order before you spend the time and money on the work. Understanding why you want the change and coming to terms with this is important. Although this may not be a sin, the underlying motives might show that there is an area of your life that is in trouble that you hope to cure with cosmetic surgery.  The idea of the surgery might be symptom of a larger undiscovered problem. Slow down, mediate, and see a trained, licensed counselor first. You might not be playing God, but you might not be in accordance with His plan for your life and the surgery is like Job running to Tarshish.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

Whether cosmetic surgery is a sin or not, it isn’t my concern for you. You said there were some “things I don’t like about myself.”  Looking better is not a bad thing. But, the best way to feel good is to know that God loves you. Psalm 139:14 says you are “wonderfully” made; Romans 8:15-17 says you are His “child” and His “heir.”

Whether you have cosmetic surgery or not, like yourself because God likes you. Don’t forget He chose you.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Jim Horton

First Baptist Church (Anthony, NM)

from March 11, 2010

Question:

Every now and then my friends and I have our palms read just for kicks. We also like to read our Horoscopes in the magazines. It isn’t that we believe any of it, it’s just for fun. Is it really wrong for us to do this even though we don’t believe it all?

Answers:

Dt 18:10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft,

Dt 18:11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.

Dt 18:12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.

Dt 18:13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God.

To many this is an obvious sign that we should not go to palm readers or trust in horoscopes. Having said that though, what did the apostles do when they needed a replacement for Judas? THEY CAST LOTS!

Ac 1:23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.

Ac 1:24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen

Ac 1:25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”

Ac 1:26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles

I guess the question is why are you going to these people, is it really just for fun or do you act on what you are told without asking God what He wants? Either way there is still the mindset of the person telling your fortune. Leaving a vacuum by not inviting God may leave the chance to invite something else.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

It is always fun to read a fortune cookie or look at the outlandish horoscopes predictions. I would draw the line at giving my money to support a false and fraudulent activity. Note these scriptures which warn against supporting false teaching.

Eph 5:6-7 “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” NIV

2 Cor 11:3 “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

1 Tim 4:7 “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.”

II Jn 1:10-11 “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.”

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Paul in his writing to the Thessalonian church told them to avoid every kind of evil.  Telling the future by reading signs in the heavens or consulting mediums is forbidden by God.  Although you and your friends do not believe in such things; what if something the Horoscope said came true?  Would you believe it any less or continue to see it as some foolish amusement?  Some doubt might be placed in your mind or in the mind of your friend(s).  You, by your indulgence in this amusement, may be encouraging your friend(s) to go deeper into this forbidden area.  Our influence reaches much farther than any of us can imagine.  This may seem innocent enough but could have eternal consequences.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

There is a reason that the Old Testament laws required complete separation from those labeled “diviners” or “spiritists” – playing around with the things of Satan leave us open to his influence even if we “don’t really believe at all.”  To dabble in the occult to any extent (yes that includes horoscopes and palm reading) is to make ourselves open to suggestion.  While the vast majority of horoscopes are so generic as to apply to 70% of the population and most palm readings are directed by body language or unintentional signals of the one receiving the “reading,” the danger comes in relating daily events or circumstances to what was “predicted.”  Like all forms of suggestion and superstition, they gently and steadily wear away our total commitment to follow God with absolute trust.  The best passage to look at concerning this and similar questions is 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NASB):  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord.  ‘And do not touch what is unclean; And 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.”

Pastor Robert H. Warmath 

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Seers, Soothsayers, Diviners, Sorcerers, Enchanters, Wizards, Charmers, Mediums, Fortune Tellers, Necromancers and those with familiar spirits are all found in the bible.  It can bring a sensation of wonder and amazement at what they may say.

Be careful because they open a person up for unclean spirits to harass you.  The only way to fight a spiritual battle is to believe the gospel truth of Jesus Christ.

Not one of them can or will tell you the truth because there is only one truth.

That truth you can find for yourself in the bible.  In every instance, there are warnings to stay away from them because they make fools of wise men and defile the people.  It provokes God to anger when you seek out any of those described.  Ask God for the things you seek.  He will give you all that is good for you in great abundance.

Pastor Martin Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church (El Paso County)

Sorry to say, it is wrong and you should seek your fun through more sacred activities. By reading these articles and visiting these people you support their efforts which go against our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I too have been tempted to visit “psychic readers” for kicks, but my Spirit always pulls be away, and I honor His guidance. Jesus is our advocate sitting at the right hand of God. He is the once and final sacrifice for our sins and through His work we will be able to stand at the Judgment seat some day. I would hate to have to answer for what I thought was harmless fun and have it take glory away from Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and all the company of heaven. Instead, open up a devotion or the Bible and sit and have a cup of coffee and have fun discussing the beauty of His kingdom and what he has in store for each of us as we seek the Kingdom of God today.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

Webster’s define, Divination – The act or practice of trying to foretell the future or explore the unknown by occult means. This is only one definition.  God commanded his people not to practice divination (Lev 19:26) for a reason. I understand they may be fun, but you are dabbling with real forces that do not have your best interest in mind.  God knew that His people would be tempted by the practices of the people around them.  I believe demon spirits have limited power, through that power they are able to captivate peoples curiosity and get their attention.  Do not open a door for demonic activity to begin to work in your life.  It may seem like you can control everything at first but at the end its purpose is to control you.  Bottom Line….. Obey God, He knows what’s best for you.

Pastor Hector Saucedo
Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

February 25, 2010

Question:

My husband has been asked to join the Mason’s but his mother has informed him that Christians should not get mixed up with the Masons. Is this true? And if so, why is it wrong?

Answers:

If you will “Google” “Freemasonry” and look at the Wikipedia entry it will answer many questions about the Masons.  They claim not to be a religious organization or to have a unique Masonic diety.  They just ask their members to agree that there is a supreme diety without defining who he is.  So any person can be a Mason who follows a one diety (whether real or false) religion.  They are moral people who do benevolent work.  Although they do not claim to be a religion I have seen some members treat the lodge as their church and base their acceptance to God on the work they do through the Masons.  There is much mystery and secrecy in the organization.  I have known many good men who have been Masons.  Each person must decide for themselves how they feel about Freemasonry.  I encourage your husband to study and pray about his participation and ask himself if he thinks Jesus would join. I pray for God’s leadership in his decision.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Freemasons have been the subject of many studies and inquiries by various Christian groups over the years.  There are many believers that both condemn and praise the Masons.  I understand they perform many community services, but from what I have learned (much more than can be shared here) I really believe one who truly desires to follow Jesus needs to stay away from Masonry.  (I say that even though I have an uncle who was a 32nd degree Mason!)  If you do a little research you will find a great deal of information on Masons, including transcripts of the swearing in oaths for many of the lower degrees, even though these are to be highly guarded secrets and not to be revealed on pain of death (literally).  When I worked for the security department for the university I attended, one of my fellow security officers was a third generation Mason.  He shared with me that once he accepted Jesus as Savior he had no choice but to tell his Dad, Grandfather and several uncles who were all Masons that he was going to have to resign as a Mason.  He stated that when he considered everything Masons require one to swear to it was totally incompatible to being a follower of Christ and making Jesus the Lord of one’s life.  My co-worker also told me that one wishing to be a Mason had to use the key phrase, “I earnestly desire to become a Mason.”  As a believer, the only thing we should earnestly desire is Christ!  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount not to make oaths, but to simply let “yes” mean “yes” and “no” mean “no” (please read Matthew 5:33-37).  Yet the Masons require every member to swear to very long and elaborate oaths with achieving each and every rank or degree within their organization.  Masons also claim to not be a religion, yet they have “temples” with “sanctuaries” in them.  The most basic question when we consider Jesus tells us to “Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, HCSB), is why would a Christian trying to follow God obediently care to be involved in any secret organization?  For these and many more reasons I would strongly encourage your husband to not pursue becoming a Mason.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

There are many references in the bible about the Truth.  There is only one God.  His name is Jehovah.  Nowadays, with the computer you can search the internet and find a reference to pretty much anything.  I found a site that is named emfj.org.  It stands for Ex Masons for Jesus.  It is for better that you get a witness to tell you the truth about any such matters.  There are more that you can look at and determine for yourself what Masonry or any other organization is about.  The most important factor is that God’s word, the bible, is sufficient for all of us Christians.  Meditate on it.  If good works is at the heart of your husbands interest, then praise the Lord, then come on down to the Southwest Cowboy Church!

Pastor Martin Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church (El Paso County)

I have to be honest,  I did not buy the book that I got these references from, I just boiled it out of someone elses opinion. In the “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry” on page 618 (so the article I read says) Dr. Mackey, the writer of the encyclopedia states:

1. That Freemasonry has it’s own religion

2. That religion is not Christianity

Please don’t take my word for this, you can get this book on Amazon for relatively cheap. Read it for yourself and make your own opinions based on that.

Jn 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Senior Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

February 11, 2010

Question:

I have a friend whose baby was stillborn. She grew up with the understanding that we are all born in sin so feels her child is not in heaven. I believe her baby is with Jesus but need help explaining it to her. How would you explain it? I will share this with her and hopefully it will help her.

Answers:

It is with great sadness that I write this response. Losing a child at any age is a terrible situation and I grieve for all who have lost children, especially in a stillborn condition. However, the belief that this lost one will not be part of the New Heaven and New Earth is a misbelief. God is to be feared and He is a God of Vengeance, but nowhere in The Bible does it say anything close to this disbelief. Sin is “missing the mark” and in no way did this poor baby even have a chance to aim, much less miss, God’s enduring love. Tell your friend that her child rests in God’s loving hands and to rejoice that this is true. Always base your teaching on biblical facts, not on man’s own poor interpretations about the Mysteries of God’s Will.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

The scriptures tell us God does not punish the innocent.  There is no one more innocent than a new born baby.  It is true every baby inherits the sin nature passed on to every human through Adam, but until the child knows the difference between right and wrong, it seems to me he will remain innocent; especially in the case of a stillborn child who has had no experience in this world to know right from wrong.  I see this child in the same category as the aborted fetus.  Does God have mercy?  Does God love the life He knit together inside the mother’s womb?  Did God know the number of days, hours, minutes, or seconds of life he ordained for this child when He created him?  God can be trusted to be just, merciful, and loving in every decision He makes.  His ways are beyond our ways but just as Jesus wept with Mary and Martha at the grave of their brother, He understands our grief and can be trusted completely.  I do not know of any scripture which supports the “age of accountability” teaching, but I believe God will not condemn those who are innocent before Him.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

 1 Jn 3:4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” NIV.  Children are not lawbreakers and certainly an unborn child does not break the law.

David believed his child had gone to heaven.

2 Sam 12:23 “But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

We read in Ezek 18:4 “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” and in verse 20 “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.”

A child is not guilty of sin, therefore, has only joy for the coming judgment.

Rev 20:12 “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ, (El Paso, TX)

This is a difficult question! Our human logic tells us this would be unjust of God – to condemn a child to Hell when that child never had a chance to do either good or evil. However, we must not trust only in human logic. Our thinking must be molded by the Word of God. Is there then, any scriptural reason for believing that a stillborn child would not perish in Hell for all eternity? I believe there is. Romans 5:18 says that one man’s sin (Adam’s), led to the condemnation of all men, but one man’s act of righteousness (Christ’s obedience to the Father in dying on the cross for our sins) led to acquittal and life for all men.

So then, it’s true that Adam and Eve’s fall into sin brought condemnation to all of us. Their original sin passed on the sentence of death to all human beings. However, an infant has not yet been able to enter into that death by making any wrong choices. When they reach an age of accountability and decide to sin, they, in a sense “ratify” what Adam and Eve did in their own lives and become accountable and worthy of judgment. Before that time, they are still innocent, even though they have inherited Adam’s guilt of original sin. They are in a state of grace because Jesus said of children, “of such is the Kingdom of Heaven ” (Mat. 19:14) and because His death on the cross provided atonement for all men.

Once a child reaches an age of awareness and accountability and they make wrong choices, they enter into the condemnation Adam brought upon us all. They identify themselves as sinners like Adam. Then it is necessary for them to make a willing choice to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, and thus “ratify” what God has done for us in Christ and be saved. So before the age of accountability, they’re under grace. Once they reach that age and willingly sin, they need salvation just like all the rest of us.

Pastor Warren Hoyt

Jesus Chapel (El Paso, TX)

This question is one many struggle with, even concerning children who die in infancy or as toddlers.  Yes, it is true that we are all born with a sin nature – it is that which causes us to ultimately choose to sin.  Yet God commanded, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16, NASB).  Why would God prohibit putting to death children for their parents sins and yet do the same?  No, we are condemned because of the sin we willfully commit, not simply because we have a sin nature.

Two verses we use in seeking to convince a person of their need to accept Jesus are Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23.  These verses speak of how we are all sinners and that the penalty for our sin is death.  Yet a stillborn infant or a child who dies before they know the difference between right and wrong and can consciously choose to sin; have they truly sinned?  Sin is a willful decision to disobey or reject God.  It involves a choice, just as Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge in Eden.  That is why many Christians refer to a child’s “age of accountability.”  This is when the child can knowingly choose to sin.

Your friend’s stillborn baby never willfully determined to sin and so that child’s spirit is with God and is not in hell.  Recall the case of David and Bathsheba’s first son who died in infancy.  His death was to punish David for his sin of adultery, not because of any sin of the infant.  This is seen in David’s remark at the baby’s death when he said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23, NASB).  Although he was a sinner, David had experienced God’s grace and forgiveness on many occasions and fully expected to enter God’s presence at death, and his remark indicates he also expected that child to be there with God as well.

Remember Jesus’ words as He rebuked His own disciples who had tried to prevent children from “bothering” Him:  “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16, NASB).

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

There is a “age of reason”.  It is not a numerical age but a time when children recognize the difference between right and wrong.  Before this time we say that they are “innocent”, Innocent of all sin that will condemn us to the pit.  A baby cannot make this choice obviously.  Neither can someone who does not have the mental capacity to express their free will choice.  Jesus told the disciples to allow the children to come to him and not to hold them back because this is how we needed to be to inherit the Kingdom. We need to be humble, teachable, without prejudice, free from malice and dependant on God like children depend on parents.  Your friends baby is in heaven with Jesus because He paid the price for all innocents.  When the day of our lord comes we will see our loved ones. I hope she has accepted the Truth of the Gospel.

Pastor Martin Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church  (El Paso County)

What can we say? Yes everyone is born in sin, yet the bible says for all who have received him he has given the right to become children of God.  All who believe in and put their trust in Him. It is obvious that a stillborn baby has not had the opportunity to believe in Jesus therefore I know that our God is Just.  Jesus said ” Let the children come to me”  I believe the child must reach the age of accountability and God is the judge of what age is appropriate for each child. This baby has not been given a chance to choose.  How can God judge the baby when it has made no decision?  The baby is in Gods merciful and loving hands.

Pastor Hector Saucedo
Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

 January 28, 2010

Question:

I’m afraid to witness to others because I’ve heard that anyone who “takes away from or adds to” the Word of God will have their name stricken from God’s book of life. Is this true? And – how can I witness to others without knowing the whole Bible by heart? For instance, I was told and have told others that “God helps those who help themselves” only to learn now that it isn’t in the Bible. So is my name now erased from the book of life?

Answers:

When we witness for Christ we must remember that the effectiveness of our witness does not depend on our words or persuasion.  Just as God brings people across our paths who need to hear the gospel, He will certainly prepare us to share the good news with those individuals.  Not all of us have been called to teach God’s word.  Not all of us have been gifted to be evangelists.  But, we all have been given the command to be witnesses.  Since God demands that of every believer He will equip us to share how Jesus saved us and how He will save others if they will place their trust in Him.  We do not have to share anything which we have not experienced personally. A witness is one who shares from his/her own experiences.  Use only the scriptures you have looked up and know.  The errors we commit in ignorance with good intentions can be confessed and forgiven.  It is when we add to or take away from God’s word purposely for our own gain that we get into trouble.  Jesus told His followers in Matthew 10:16-20 that when they would be called on to be witnesses, the words would be given them by God’s Holy Spirit.  We should witness with joy and confidence.  “God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity) but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

II Timothy 1:7 God does not leave us alone to do His work, He is with us and will work in and through us.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

There is no fear in telling others how Jesus Christ has made a difference in your life. Likewise there is no fear in preaching the same commission Jesus gave to his apostles in Mt 28:18-20 and MK 16:15-16. Which they preached as shown in Acts 2:14-41. Peter says, near the end of his discourse, “save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”(NIV) Does Peter mean that man can save himself without God or Jesus?  Of course not, Peter is saying that God expects man to respond to the news that Jesus is the Son of God, resurrected from the dead to offer salvation to those who obey Him. It is not necessary to have a complete understanding of the Bible to share the Gospel. The likelihood is all disciples have an incomplete understanding to some degree. This does not remove them from the “Book of Life.”

The proverb “God helps those who help themselves” is credited to Aesop,  paraphrased by Algernon Sydney in 1698 and printed in Ben Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac. Like many proverbs it is true and it is not true, depending on application. In the same way that Peter was not declaring that Jesus is unnecessary for salvation. Mt 6:33 challenges disciples to “seek first” the glories of God and other blessings will follow. 2 Thes 3:10 connects a man’s eating with his willingness to work. God expects man to respond to his opportunities and his needs.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

I read The Bible to be guided into a closer relationship with God and that is how I teach The Bible. Even though I have studied for years, I still make mistakes when talking and teaching others and do not believe my name will be removed from “God’s list” when I am doing the best I can to be incarnational (making The Word flesh). Your question is a good one and your concern is genuine, however, I doubt you are intentionally trying to place yourself above God when you talk to others about Him. Our best witness is not the sermon we preach but the sermon we live. Jesus invites everyone to come and see what Church is all about. Memorizing The Bible, while commendable, may not be your gift. Instead focus on building your Church by inviting others to worship with you and let the Holy Spirit do His work. From the honesty of your question, it seems to me you are on the right path and God is slowly pulling you forward where He wants you to go. Relax and let Him be your guide.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

Firstly, the verse I think you are referring to is Rev. 22: 18-19. This was written solely for the Revelation God gave to John.  There are 66 books in the Bible, each standing on their own and then compiled into one volume as God led his people to discern what were His words and what were not.

Secondly, “all scripture is inspired by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16) and therefore I do not change it and make sure I am teaching what it says.

Thirdly, every pastor and evangelist doesn’t know all the scripture and according to your comment, none of us should tell anyone.

Fourthly, you sound like a person who loves the Lord and desires to be faithful to Him.  Enjoy your walk with Him and don’t let the devil steal your joy.  Witnessing is one begger telling another begger where to find food.  The begger may not know much but he knows where to tell his friend to go.  Share with others what you know, direct them to Jesus, and keep growing in your walk with Him.  Just remember, it is OK to tell someone you don’t know and that you will find out.  Then go get the info they need.  God bless you in your journey with Jesus.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

That’s true the bible does not say “God helps those who helps themselves”, in truth, God helps us even when we are helpless to help ourselves, but a mistake like that isn’t going to keep you out of the book of life. If you feel convicted, ask God to forgive you, and please don’t be afraid to witness to anyone, when God wants you to tell someone about Him, He will give you the words.

Isa 51:16 I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand—I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, “You are my people.”

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene

When you professed Jesus as Savior of your life your name was written in the Book of Life. Having truly accepted God’s Word, repented of your sins and changed your life to produce good works is a testament of true believer and someone whose name is in the Book of Life.  Someone once said go and give good testimony of the Gospel of Truth and sometimes USE WORDS!

The bible is the source of all wisdom.  Look in Proverbs and the Psalms for the answers to life’s dilemmas.  The rest of the bible tells us the story of the Messiah.  The proof of His existence, the prophecy of His coming, the story of His ministry, The miracle of His resurrection and the promise of His return for us.

Those who “take away or add to” often do it leaning on their own understanding of the Word and not leaning on the Holy Spirit for the truth.  Knowing the bible by “heart” means trusting God for the words, so lean on the Holy Spirit and he will give you the words to say at the right time.

Here now are some sayings from the Cowboy Sense Version(CSV).

ever ask a barber if you need a haircut!

Always drink upstream of the heard!

It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep!

Pastor Martin L. Wilson

Southwest Cowboy Church (Horizon City, TX)

Editor’s Note: I was going through my many thousands of past emails cleaning out my inbox, trash box etc. I came across this response to a question we posted in October 2009. Somehow I did not see the email at the time so it was not included in that issue. I felt so terrible when I found the email and realized I hadn’t included it – that I decided to go ahead and include it now – as the question continues to be one that is voiced often. I apologize Pastor Hughes for not seeing the email at the time it was written.

Question:

What is the proper thing to do when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door? In the past I felt I had to be nice so stood and listened. However, as a fairly new Christian now that they are coming around again – I just say “No thank you, I’m a Christian” and shut the door. I feel that probably isn’t the best way either. What is the proper thing to do in this situation?

Answer:

Many years ago I had a pastor friend who had two of these representatives at his door. In those days they carried a small record player and played  records  of their spiel. When they had finished they told him they had to go. He answered “Oh, no.  I have listened to you now you must listen to me.”  He proceeded to tell them of Jesus and His plan of salvation.  They couldn`t leave because he was sitting in front of the door.  When he was finished he let them go and from that day on he was never bothered by their group.   I`m not saying you could do this, but you could tell them that you have accepted Christ as your Savior and are not interested in their thoughts.  Gently say good bye and shut the door.

Retired Pastor Hubert Hughes

(former Pastor of Urbana, IL First Wesleyan Church)

from January 14, 2010

Question:

My wife and I are starting a new business and are wondering if we are supposed to tithe from the business? We already tithe our incomes – but are unsure if we should have the business tithe as well.

Answers:

I believe that tithing from all of our income fulfills God’s principle of giving and allows His blessings to flow into and out of our lives. Tithing is not a legalistic practice which buys us His favor, but a character quality of generosity which is pleasing to God. Anyway, we cannot outgive God!

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

************

Under the Mosical Law, Israel was commanded to give a tithe (10%) every year to the priestly tribe (Lev 27:30-33), a second yearly tithe (Deut 14:22-27) was part of the Passover and the third tithe was given every third year (Deut 14:28-29) for the poor. This would add up to 23%.  Additionally, they gave the first fruits, first born of livestock and redeemed the firstborn children. Then they gave their Freewill offerings (Deut 16:10), payment for vows (Lev 27:9,28), remission of debts (Deut 15:1-4), Thank offerings and they left the corners of each field un-harvest, so the poor could glean them. The devout Jew gave at least 1/3 of his total earnings to God.

The New Testament does not give a percentage or number for the Christian to give. It does say that disciples should give generously (Rom 12:8; 2 Cor 9:6), according to our income (1 Cor 16:2) and as a sign of our love (2 Cor 8:7-8).

Income is income, no matter the source.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

*************

First let me congratulate you on even considering tithing from your business. Most don’t ever consider business or inheritance monies in their church tithes. If you are already tithing on your income, the question is do your business profits increase your total yearly income? If so, then it should be part of your tithe, since your business value is God’s gift to you and a portion should be given back to Him. We should always make sacrifices to God’s Heavenly Kingdom on Earth (His Church) so it continues its Gospel work. Even if you cannot give much from your business to the church in addition to your personal tithe, in doing so you give honor and glory to God who is the giver of all. I hope this helps and may God bless you and your business.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

************

Mt 6:3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

Mt 6:4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you

This scripture talks about giving to the needy but tithing to the church has the same principle. If you are able for your business to tithe ten percent then praise God for your business prosperity! There is never anything wrong with that but look at your businesses financial situation first to make sure that you can do it. If it’s going to be a burden, or a problem for you, then don’t. That’s OK don’t stress it either way, if you do, you’re probably carrying a burden Jesus didn’t mean for you to carry.

Rick Roberson, Associate Pastor

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

*************

When the tithe was first ordered by God from His people, it was to be a tithe from all of a man’s flocks, heards, and crops.  It seems right to me to expect God to bless that which honors Him and looks for His favor by looking for ways to honor Him instead of looking for ways to side-step what He may or may not expect.  Perhaps a good rule of thumb would be, “When in doubt, err on the side of that which glorifies God.”  A friend of mine once said, “You can’t outgive God but it sure is fun trying.”

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

**************

I became the financial officer of our family business and it was in sad shape.  I began giving to the Lord’s work.  I had known businessmen who had used their business to build the Kingdom of God and I had always wanted to do that but never had the opportunity.  I estimated the business may last, if nothing changed, about 8 months.  I would not be in debt when I closed the business, so we would only operate in the black.  I had 8 months to give to God’s work and I did.  We were in the red each month and so everything I gave was well above a tithe.  We had a month to go before closing and we received our first check for a large contract.  I believe if you give for the right reasons, you are careful with your money, and you tithe on your profits, God will honor that.  That is my experience and I continue to tithe on our income from the business.  Areas of His Kingdom are being blessed. This would not be happening if the business wasn’t giving.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

*************

First of all I’d like to commend you for your obedience and faith regarding the principal of tithing. Many Christians have a difficult time walking in the principal of tithing, therefore they do not reap the promises that come with that command.  Tithing is honoring God with your wealth, expressing to God your gratitude; recognizing that everything you have comes from Him.  If you believe that your business belongs to God than tithing from it would be a great demonstration of your belief. You will never be able to outgive God.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Fellowship (El Paso, TX)

*************

Tithing is a principal which is established early in Scripture and is based on giving of the first fruits or the first of all of our gain or income. We have limited space in this article so let me take my answer from Nehemiah 10:37 which tells us to give of the first fruits of everything we have produced in the year. It is put into an agricultural setting, but the principle is still one of giving of all of our increase or produce. The income from the business is coming from the Lord so The Lord should receive His portion of the income. Tithing is another way of showing our faith in God and showing our thanks to God for what He has provided to us. The promise for our obedience is shown in Malachi 3:10 where God promises to open the windows of heaven to us when we simply obey, in faith, His commands. The only other time in Scripture where the windows of heaven were opened is in Genesis where they are opened for the flood. So may God bless your new business the same way as you are faithful to Him with a super abundance of success.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist (El Paso, TX)

from December 31, 2009

Question:

I did horrible things before becoming a Christian in my adult years. The Bible talks about “sins of the father passing on to the children” so is this why so many things have gone wrong for my child? If so – is there any way for me to fix it? I am now a Christian and so is he. I hate to think that he will suffer his whole life because of my sins.

Answers:

We read in Ezek 18:4 “For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.” NIV and in verse 20 “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the quilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.”

A child is not guilty of a parent’s sin, but they may suffer the consequences of a parent’s sin. i.e. A disease is passed to them or a parent is in prison or spends food and rent money foolishly.

May your past motivate you to live a godly life. 2 Cor. 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

Ex 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

Let’s look at that for a minute, FOR THOSE WHO HATE ME!  Do you still hate the Lord? Didn’t you surrender to him? Then those sins are forgiven. There can be consequences but those usually involve children of alcoholics drinking problems and even at that we all come to a point where we have to make our own decisions. Things go wrong in life for all of us and probably will until the day Jesus comes to take us home.

Rick Roberson, Associate Pastor

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, everything has changed. Rasie your children with the truth of the gospel and show them that the Kingdom of Heaven is here right now and that the choices they make through God’s mercy and grace will make the Kingdom a place for them to be part of today. Your life is between you and God. Jesus’ atoning sacrifice ended any carry over from generation to generation. Our salvation is assured through belief and acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Be a good role model, don’t discuss your past with them (in detail), and take them to church. Pray daily, read your scriptures together and know that Jesus loves you and your children. Blessings on your journey of faith.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

I believe one way the sins of the father are passed on to the children is by the examples we live out before our children.  Our children still are free to choose for themselves how they will live but they draw from their experiences and observations from their parents to make their choices.  One encouraging thought is that our influence can be for good just as it can be for bad.  Just as a bad influence touches our child so does a good influence.  As our children mature they will be able to evaluate each situation and draw from their experiences and from God’s truth to make the best choice.  We can help our children make the best choices in life, and overcome many of our prior bad examples, by modeling how to seek God’s will in every choice we make.  There is nothing we can do about our past except confess our sins and God will be faithful to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).  I cannot put a book, chapter, and verse to this but I believe God tells us in His word that no longer will the sins of the father be carried over to his sons but each person will be held accountable for his own sins.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist (El Paso, TX)

Let’s let the readers hear the passage you are using to beat yourself up: Exodus 20: 4-6.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. (Have you been guilty of these things?) You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the 3rd and 4th generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Ezekiel 18:2-4 says that the proverb: “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” will no longer be true or even spoken! He says, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”

You need to begin studying the New Testament so that you can learn who you are in Christ

For God so loved the world… He shows His love now to you and your son because you are in Christ! Believe this and rejoice!

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from December 17. 2009

Question:

When I was young I married and it ended in divorce within 2 years. Years later I married – and that ended in divorce. Now ten years later my first husband and I have both found the Lord and plan to remarry. We are both concerned about the Scripture in Deuteronomy 24:4 that says “the first husband who sent her away may not marry her again after she has been defiled, because that would be detestable to the Lord.” Does this mean we should not be together?

Answers:

Disciples of Jesus follow the New Testament: Col 2:14 explains that Moses Law was nailed to the cross and Heb 9:15 says Christ has ushered in a New Covenant. The decision to marry your first husband is not forbidden by the New Testament.

It is a sin to destroy one’s marriage, so every effort should be made to stay with one’s mate. Divorce for trivial reasons is a breach of God’s law, forgivable, but a sin. Our instruction is to not continue the practice of divorce. I advise some counseling sessions to insure the previous problems have been resolved and that you are basing your decision on a sound reasoning. Getting back together will not be the same as the first time.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

Mt 19:8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

God hates divorce, marriage was meant to be an example of two people learning to love each other for the rest of their lives so they would be better equipped to love Him for eternity. We live in a broken world but if you have fallen back in love with your first husband then that too is biblical

1Co 7:10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband..

1Co 7:11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife

Rick Roberson, Associate Pastor

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Divorce is not what God intends for his beloved creatures. Unfortunately, it does happen. Hopefully, you have repented and asked for forgiveness for your divorces through your pastor or other minster, open-heartedly confessing to Jesus that you have sinned. His grace is enough for you once you have confessed and been absolved. I commend you and your first husband on your faith journey and celebrate with you that you have come back together. What a joyous occasion! Enter into this relationship with Jesus as your guide, knowing the mistakes you made in the past, truly forgiving one another, and this time walk with Christ and boost each other with the Good News of Jesus, His Church and His coming again. Blessings to you and your husband.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

Divorce is also detestable to the Lord.  God hates divorce but divorce is not the unpardonable sin.  I believe the sins we commit before we become children of God are forgiven completely when we come to faith in Christ.  But, when Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, they were all in the future.  So, I believe, when Jesus died He died for every sin we have ever committed or ever will commit.  Concerning the remarriage of two who have been divorced I would counsel the two parties to seek God in the matter.  Pray together and look into God’s word for a report on the matter looking for God’s grace and forgiveness.  God will give you peace about His will in this matter.  They may even seek out a minister who can give wise Godly advice.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist (El Paso, TX)

from December 3, 2009 issue

Ask Christian Leaders

Questions are currently sent to 38 Christian Leaders. Not all are able to respond at any one time. If you are a Christian Leader and would like to be considered to join this panel please email your contact information to media4him@yahoo.com. If you have a question you would like answered by Christian Leaders, send it to the same email address.

Question:

In Deuteronomy 23:2 I read “No one of illegitimate birth may enter the Lord’s assembly; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, may enter the Lord’s assembly. A friend told me that even though my child is now a Christian that he won’t go to heaven. Is this true?

Answers:

The New Testament teaches Christians to serve God through Jesus.  The old law (Old Testament) does not apply to Christians, it was for Israel.  Col 2:14 “having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” NIV and  Heb 9:15 “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance– now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Deuteronomy does not apply to Christians and has no effect on the eternal destiny of any person today. Any sinner who hears the Gospel, and accepts the death, burial, resurrection and second coming of Jesus, should repent of their sins and obey the Lord’s command to be immersed in water to have their sins washed away. Read Matt 28:18-19; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! Deuteronomy is great and everyone should read the entire bible but Jesus died so we all could go to heaven without the punishment of the law, the law was sent so we would know where the standard was and know how badly we need Jesus. God loves us too much for any of us to be excluded from heaven because of the laws he gave the Jewish community. They couldn’t follow the law either, that’s why they needed Jesus. (remember all of the original Christians including Christ himself were all Jewish)

Jn 12:47 “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.

Rick Roberson, Associate Pastor

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

If your child is a Christian, meaning that he is born again of God’s Spirit and is living in relationship to Christ then he has been given eternal life through Christ. Your friend is taking the law of Moses and trying to make it apply to those living in the New Covenant. If you look at this verse in Deuteronomy, it has a limit of ten generations. The next verse speaks the same of any Moabite. Ruth the Moabitess was accepted into Judaism and is listed in the very genealogy of Christ.  Remember: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Cor. 5:17)  Rejoice in the truth!

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Let God take care of the New Heavens and New Earth when that time comes. We might spend our time now seeking sanctification, or working out our holiness daily. Let us put aside the worldliness of this life and accept the grace and mercy of God’s Kingdom which exists for us now, before we die! There are many statements in the Hebrew Scriptures that can cause us concern, and they should. They are all intended for us to live as God’s children, for only He knows what is best for us. With the Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost, we now have the assurance that Jesus forgives those who truly repent and seek a new life walking in God’s holy ways. When the Day of Judgment comes and each of us must answer for our lives, those who have sought Jesus by the leading of the Holy Spirit have no worries. Jesus will stand for us since he has already taken the punishment. Seek holiness, seek a sacred life. Love the life God has graced you with and seek Him in all you do.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

One of the potential explanations for the verse you referenced is that it was to prevent a temple priestess/prostitute from continuing to lead people in false worship while allowing her children to join with the people of God.  By definition her job would be to lead people in worshipping other gods, and obviously the Lord could not allow a person to worship or lead others to worship another god.  “You shall have no other gods before me.”  The danger would come in the child joining with their mother in worshipping her gods and trying to worship the one true God.   Is this exactly what Moses had in mind when he gave the people this law?  We do not know with certainty.

In relation to your son, when we read Isaiah 56:1-8 we find that the Lord extends the covenant to all who obey.  This includes the eunuchs and certain foreigners mentioned in Deuteronomy 23:1 and verses 3-6.  The implication seems to be that as time went by even those who had previously been excluded from the Lord’s assembly will now be welcomed if they are obedient to the Lord.

Through the new covenant we see Jesus extending compassion, love and hospitality to those who had been marginalized in the Jewish culture of his day.  He spoke openly with a Samaritan woman, he was touched be an unclean woman, he offered the “crumbs” to one that some would have considered as no better than a dog, and many other examples are seen throughout the gospels.  Jesus reminded the people in Matthew 9:13 that they needed to go learn what was meant when God had said “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”  The idea being that in the process of keeping all the “laws” the people had missed that this was about living for God and not about checking off a list of laws.

Let us be careful in our walk that we do not become so legalistic that we fail to live out and understand that Jesus sacrifice was so all men and women could walk in right relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Pastor Brent Herren

Trinity Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

As you read further in Deuteronomy 23 you read that no Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord to the 10th generation.  But when you read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 you see where Ruth, who was from Moab, is listed.  A prostitute, Tamar, is also listed, as is Mary, a young woman who was found to be with child before she was married.  Bathsheba is likewise mentioned. She had an affair with King David.  She became the mother of King Solomon, the wisest of all kings.  God told Peter on the roof of Simon the tanner, as he saw a sheet descending before him from God filled with all kinds of unclean food (for a Jew to partake); take and eat, and do not call anything unclean which the Lord has made clean.  Jesus came to take away the sins of the world.  There is no sin for which He did not die (except the sin of rejecting Him).  So, what God has declared clean through the blood of Jesus, has been cleansed, not based on the merit of demerit of man but due solely to the grace of God.  We can trust that God had special reasons for emphasizing the purity of His people as they were being delivered out of bondage and into the Promised Land.  He demanded perfection from His people.  Of course none of us could measure up so Jesus came to live a perfect life and die as the perfect substitute to pay for all of our (and every person’s) imperfections.  Paul tells us the law was given to show us that we all are guilty of breaking God’s law.  Jesus came to fulfill the law and meet its demands so that we can be free from the law.  Praise God!

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Of course it is not true.  The new covenant is clear.  Jesus fulfilled the law and is our justification.  Our salvation is based on our trust in Jesus.  It is only by Grace and through faith that we have salvation.  Jesus came to seek and save the sinner.  The gospel is clear.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Fellowship (El Paso, TX)

It is important to remember that the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem was the symbol of God’s residing among His chosen people, the nation of Israel.  It was a reminder of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity.  There was the court of the Gentiles, beyond which a non-Jew could not pass.  There was also a court of women, and only a male Israelite without physical defect could enter the inner court.  Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only on the Day of Atonement, once a year.  On that day the high priest offered sacrifices on behalf of the entire nation.  These restrictions were to emphasize our inability to approach a holy God.  But with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, the way was created for anyone who would repent of their sin and ask God’s forgiveness to be forgiven, cleansed and adopted spiritually into the family of God (see Ephesians 1).  In John 3:16 the “whosoever” of that verse covers anyone who genuinely repents and trusts in Jesus alone for salvation.  Romans 10:13 also promises, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  In John 6:40 Jesus said, “For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  If your son truly has accepted Jesus as personal Savior and Lord, then he is saved and will be saved and in God’s presence for all eternity!  God’s revelation of His plan of salvation was progressive, but has been completed in the work of Jesus as He willingly died in the place of every sinful person who ever has or ever will live.  It is up to us to accept God’s grace gift.  Do not worry or let others place doubts in your heart and mind.

Pastor Robert H. Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

I don’t know who your friend is listening to but they need to find a new Bible teacher! First the word was used in the Old Testament toward people who were 1/2 Jewish and gentile. The prophet Jephthah was born of a harlot, yet God called on him to lead His people. If there is a sin which keeps people from heaven and a close and eternal relationship with Christ it is not mentioned in the Old or New Testament except for the sin of unbelief. In fact in 1 Corinthians 6 there is a list of sins which are considered abominations in the Old Testament but it is clear from verse 11 that those people have been placed into the same relationship with God that all Christians are in: “6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” If there is some separate category of sins or class of people which cannot enter into God’s presence than the statement that Jesus made on the cross that “it is finished” is not true.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist (El Paso, TX)

from November 19, 2009

Question:

We’ve been hearing a lot on KLOVE about a man that has been corresponding with Charles Manson trying to win him to the Lord. My husband gets furious each time we hear about it. He can’t grasp that someone like Manson could end up in heaven after all he’s done. He thinks it wouldn’t be fair to all the Christians who have lived their lives for the Lord for many, many years. What can you say to him to help him understand? 

Answers:

Dear Friend,

We are always going to have strong emotions toward those who do extreme evil. But, salvation is not in our hands to decide. Peter says “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). Only God knows when or how to extract vengeance (see Rom. 12:19). And, the easiest reply is to remember the promise Christ made to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43).

God Bless,

Pastor Jim Horton

First Baptist Church (Anthony, NM)

Mt 20:10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 

Mt 20:11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner

Jesus loves us all equally (yes that means all of us) and to God sin is sin, it sounds strange to us sometimes but someone who tells a lie is no better and no worse than a mass murderer in the eyes of God sin is sin, it all falls short of His glory and His plan for our lives. I struggled the same way when Jeffrey Dahmer claimed to be saved, but judgment is God’s job not mine. I wasn’t raised in the church, I didn’t grow up going to church and I’ve personally done some things in my past that might make you mad to think I was saved too, but I am, because God is better and bigger than me or anything I’ve done.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

The loving forgiveness of God is demonstrated by the grievousness of those he forgives.  Some today have said they refuse to be Christian because they have sinned so seriously God would not forgive them.  Not so!  The Apostle Paul considered his sin so horrendous that he called himself the “worst” or “chief of sinners.”  1 Tim 1:15.  However, Paul was forgiven and so can any man or woman be forgiven of their sins, no matter how horrible those sins may be.

Our second issue is being able to accept those who turn to Jesus for salvation. When Saul/Paul was converted (see Acts 9:17-18 and 22:16) the disciples were afraid of him (Acts 9:26) and did not want Saul in their presence. Imagine the emotions of those who had lost loved ones because of Saul. I admit it would be hard to accept the likes of a Manson with the same loving embrace as we do those whose worst sin was an occasional bad word or suggestive story. It is God’s will to avenge, not ours. Rom 12:19

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

I support the work of all who tirelessly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will pray for your husband that he can see the will of God being carried out. Regardless of the response of the Gospel, we are all called to announce it at  all times and in all places. This does not mean there are not consequences for our actions (such as Manson’s incarceration), but acceptance of Jesus’ as Messiah is available to all who accept him. I suggest we let God decide who will “go to heaven” when that time comes.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

God’s mercy and Grace is uncomprehendable, It reaches further, goes deeper than we can ever imagine.  There is a parable about the 11th hour worker in the gospels who received the same compensation as the first hour worker. It is difficult to accept with my human reasoning but who am I to judge who deserves God’s mercy? As a man, I completely understand your husband’s point but Gods thoughts are higher than ours.  I must trust that God is just and He enforces his justice his way and at his time. Regarding Manson, The scripture is clear, anyone who repents and turns to Jesus has access to His forgiveness.  That does not mean he will not reap what he sowed in this life.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Fellowship (El Paso, TX)

from November 5, 2009 issue

Question:

Years ago I falsely accused someone of something while I was living a life of addiction. It destroyed his life, but I didn’t care at the time. He’d hurt me and I wanted him to pay. I’m clean now and suffer from anxiety attacks, depression and eating disorders. No medication seems to help. Is it possible for mental health issues to be related to guilt? If so – does that mean my issues will just worsen?

Answers:

Your question goes beyond my small area of expertise, but I hope you are praying, listening, reading your Bible and counseling with a Christian therapist (I recommend Living Hope in El Paso). Also I pray you are going to 12-step meetings, have a sponsor and are working the steps properly. This program(s) has brought freedom from addiction and psychological healing to millions. I am aware of many who still suffer as you do over a past life that still stays fresh in their mind. All must be left at the cross, where Jesus will restore your dignity, integrity and self worth. By attending a solid Biblical church you will get good teaching. Also, surround yourself with dedicated Christians who are themselves in recovery. Another excellent program is called Celebrate Recovery. By the way, I have attended Alcoholics Anonymous and CR and believe they do work if you are willing to go regularly. Whether mental health issues are related to guilt or vice versa I do not know, but I do know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Seek Him and in time His peace will calm you and He will refresh you.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

Even though you are unable to undo the wrong you have done, you can apologize to the man for the lie.  You can ask for his forgiveness.  If it is impossible to make contact with the man, write a letter expressing your sincere regret for the lie.  This may help with the problems you are having or may not, but you will know you have made an attempt to right the wrong you have done.  Doing the right thing always gives God room to work His healing.  Because God has forgiven us, through Jesus’ death on the cross, we can forgive ourselves.  This is only possible by trusting God to do what He promises.  God loves you no matter what you have done.  Jesus suffered to bring God’s healing to every person who believes in Him.  I suggest you read I John 1:9.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist (El Paso, TX)

The answer is yes, guilt and shame can affect you physically and mentally. Have you asked God for forgiveness? If you have and have repented (meaning you have turned away from this behavior) then God has already forgiven you, your sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus but you may not feel like rejoicing. Some things that God forgives us for we struggle with forgiving ourselves for. God forgives completely and chooses not to remember, that’s one of the amazing things about God is that He can simply choose not to remember and it’s gone! We’re not so lucky sometimes, we often remember our sins and have trouble forgiving ourselves. If you’re familiar with the 12 step recovery program, one of the steps is to ask others for forgiveness for the damage you’ve done them. If you caused this person that much damage he may not be willing to forgive, but it’s worth a try.

Ps 25:18 Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.

Senior Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Yes, you should write a letter of apology to the offended person. If there are others you could contact to seek correction for the damage you have done, do so.  However, do not expect your guilt to just vanish. If you are genuinely repentant this memory will stay with you for a long time. The apostle Paul felt guilt for his involvement in the death of Stephen. Peter felt guilt for denying Jesus three times.

What must be accepted is forgiveness: forgiveness from Jesus, hopefully from the person in your past, but also from yourself. It is not healthy to dwell on past sins beyond the point of repentance and seeking to correct the wrong when possible.

However, if this is an effort to get back with a lost love, it will not solve your problem. Write the letter and get on with your life.

Charles Clodfelter,Evangelist

Eastwood Church of Christ (El Paso, TX)

Dear Miss Anxiety,

Thank you for acknowledging that you once were living a life of addiction.  It takes courage to admit such a human frailty. I hope you continue to work your program of the Twelve Steps for Recovery.  As you may know the Twelve Step programs were built upon a foundation of Christian discipline known as the Oxford Movement. There were eight steps in that spiritual discipline; Dr. Bob and Bill Smith along with a Lutheran pastor in Pennsylvania developed the Alcoholics Anonymous program and added the other steps and made it accessible to people who did not confess a Christian faith.

In either case, confession (both fault and faith) is the key. That unlocks the door to a life of renewal.  But, it seems that in the full blown destructiveness of addition, much harm is done.  One harm is the collapse of the moral self, and you are suffering its aftermath with a sense of guilt and anxiety that comes with the memory of harming someone.  I hope you are working steps eight and nine in the Program.  Is it possible for you to make amends with this someone?  If you pursue this path, that someone might come to forgive you.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  Once you have done the best you can to make amends, rely on the forgiveness that is yours in the saving grace of Christ our Lord.

Peace,

Pastor Rod Hansen

Mount Hope Lutheran Church (El Paso, TX)

from October 22, 2009 issue

Question:

Some time ago I did some work for an elder of a church. He told me the church would pay me – and after months of calling, and many excuses he’s never paid me, nor has the church. As a Christian I felt it wrong to take him to court; yet it is also wrong for him to deceive me and the people whom God entrusted him to lead. I’ve recently been told that I should expose him to his congregation because he should not be leading a church when he isn’t truthful and honest in his dealings in the community. As Pastors yourselves, how do you suggest I should handle this?

Answers:

This is a pretty touchy subject.  At the risk of sounding too “Spiritual”, I suggest you take a scripture passage or two from James or from Moses and try one more time to reason with your brother.  Offer to pray with him about the debt he owes.  Tell him you are sending the information and the bill to his church as well.  Then leave it with God.  God can apply much more pressure through your loving attempt to collect the debt than any other attempt you or the court may apply.  When you release the matter to God, He will be able to work.

Pastor Bill Fuller

Scotsdale Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

How long has it been since you’ve talked to this gentleman? How much does he owe you? Is it putting you in financial trouble? It could just be that he is very poor at administration, or it could be that he’s embarrassed about the fact that his church can’t afford to pay you, I don’t know what their financial situation is and it’s probably none of my business. Just try to remember, the verse about forgiveness sometimes (depending on the bible translation) can say, “forgive us our DEBTS as we forgive our DEBTORS) Jesus owed a debt we couldn’t pay, and He paid it all. Pray about it, give it to God and let Him decide.

Rick Roberson

Senior Associate Pastor

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

I’m sorry you had this unfortunate experience but you are not the first one with this type of circumstance.  I apologize for the misrepresentation of Christianity that you witnessed.  I am confident to say that there are many Church Leaders who are of good character and highly credible. Yes, there is a few who cause damage to the body of Christ for their lack of character.  Talk to the Pastor and take it from there.  Take it a step at a time.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Fellowship (El Paso, TX)

My advice to is to pray and see where the Holy Spirit leads you. Perhaps you can write a letter to the church board outlining the job and the agreement and ask for payment, giving them a deadline. Hopefully you have something in writing from the elder who hired you. You must weigh the costs of taking this any further, and I mean the costs of litigation, too. If you get no response from the church board, you might ask a lawyer to write an official letter.  This may cost you a few hundred dollars, unless you know a sympathetic lawyer. This is one step away from going to court. I agree as Christians we should handle these issues between us, but that only works if both sides agree to this. If the costs are not too high, court may be your only alternative. Blessings in your journey.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

Since this is only one side of the story, you should make sure you did the work as requested and that it was satisfactorily completed. When workmen do shoddy or incomplete work, the withholding of payment is typically the only way to get them to return and do the work as it was prescribed. Disciples should always work as if their work was for the Lord Eph 6:7. Perhaps you should ask if your work was satisfactory and is that why payment is being withheld.

Jesus in Matt 18:15-17 tells us to first go to the individual, if he does not listen, then return with witnesses. The purpose is to have a fair and reasonable discussion before impartial disciples who will help to bring the disagreement to reconciliation. If the work was done for the church, then it has a responsibility to see that you are paid.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

This is the reason for the instructions given in Matthew 18. Since you have already gone to him privately, then take a witness with you to talk to him. Then if you still get no response ask for a meeting with the board and the pastor. Perhaps this might be a god place to have another pastor go with you to the church to help explain what you are doing. It is not a matter of exposing the person but getting that person to recognize his sin and to repent of it and to see him restored to the church. If the church does nothing and again look carefully at Matthew 18 then take them to court. I really feel that is why those verses are given to us. We can declare a person an unbeliever which permits us to take them to the world’s legal system to deal with them. If you don’t want to do that, then write it off on your taxes and forget it.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist (El Paso, TX)

Of all the questions I have seen in The Messenger, this one makes me the maddest.  Christians stealing from Christians!  God will never honor the leader or the church, for a lack of integrity.  I have a Christian friend who owns a business.  He says some of his worst debtors are churches and pastors.  What a disgrace to our God.  If your church orders a sign, office supplies, a refrigerator, etc. then you are responsible to pay.  If times get hard, work out a payment plan with the creditor and admit your mistake.  If you make this mistake more than once, then question whether you are hearing from God.  Maybe the voice you are hearing isn’t Gods voice but the enemy or your own desires.  Don’t listen to it again.  God does not lead us to bring disgrace to his name.

I believe it is time for the people of God to clean up their messes.  It is time to repent, own up to our mistakes, and settle the issues with God and others.  If we do not we may receive the words of Isaiah to those who turned their back on God, “this is what you shall receive from my hand: you will lie down in torment.” (50:11) I believe our churches aren’t making a great impact in the city and the world because of the “sin in the camp.”  It’s time to deal with it.  Send the church another invoice with the articles on this page.  It may give them the chance to repent, set things right, and become free again so God’s spirit will flow again.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

from October 8, 2009 issue

Question:

What is the proper thing to do when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door? In the past I felt I had to be nice so stood and listened. However, as a fairly new Christian now that they are coming around again – I just say “No thank you, I’m a Christian” and shut the door. I feel that probably isn’t the best way either. What is the proper thing to do in this situation?

Answers:

I know you feel you may be acting a bit rude to the Jehovah Witnesses at your door, but that may very well be the best way to deal with them.  Jehovah Witnesses are very well trained at presenting their views and overcoming objections.  In fact they are so well trained before being sent out that even many who have been solid Christians active in their faith for many years find it very difficult to speak effectively about Jesus to them.

Jehovah Witnesses deny that Jesus was God in the flesh, and so deny His deity – one of the most primary truths of genuine biblical faith.  They are a cult – a group who purport to be Christians but who deny at least one of the basic principles of Christianity.  If Jesus were not divine (i.e., God in human form), He would not have been able to pay the price for our sins by His death on the cross.

I had a dear pastor friend who had a great approach in dealing both with Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons (who also deny Jesus was God in the flesh).  He would offer to listen quietly and politely to them as they presented whatever they wanted to share about their faith as long as they would agree to listen for an equal amount of time quietly and politely to him as he shared with them his faith.  He would then listen without asking any questions or offering any alternatives to their beliefs, then he would simply open his Bible and share with them for an equal amount of time (often an hour or more) about Jesus.  If they tried to interrupt him or argue, he would simply remind them he had not objected to their presentation, and that they had agreed to do the same as he shared his faith.  He also told me that after he did that once, they typically would not come back again or even send different representatives to his home.

Cultists like the Jehovah Witnesses are typically very well schooled and grounded in their error, and it is very difficult to gain an honest and open hearing with them.  The best recourse often is to simply refuse to be drawn into a conversation with them and pray fervently for them as they depart.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

Wow! That is a great question, and I’m sure that you’ll get many different replies including mine! Apparently, your heart is telling you that there is a better way for you to respond to Jehovah’s Witnesses. For each person, it may not be the same because we’re all at different levels in our walk with God. Those who are mature and well-versed in Scripture may welcome the opportunity to have Biblical discussions with the visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the other hand, others who may not be as knowledgeable may feel threatened that one is trying to talk them out of what they believe. Either way, it is good for a believer to have a plan for how to respond to these kinds of situations.

One thing you should know; Jehovah’s Witnesses are usually very informed in what they believe and are also taught how to refute Christianity. They have a way of twisting scripture to get Christians to believe that the Bible contradicts itself and that the Watchtower is what you should be reading and believing.

Unless you are secure in what you know about Christianity, I suggest that you not get into any debates about scripture. You seem to be a very polite person and are troubled by closing the door on someone. Therefore, I offer two suggestions:

1. Don’t answer the door!

2. Say, “Thank you for visiting; I am at peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Is there something I can pray with you about?”

Either way, they probably won’t stick around!

Pastor Charlie Alvarado
One For Life Ministries (El Paso, TX)

We have all been in this same situation at one time or another. As Christians, we are so afraid that we will offend or bring a bad name to our faith that we actually find ourselves putting up with something we have no interest in at all. But, we need to remember that as Christians we are not on their list to witness to. They are not interested in our arguments about the Trinity or the eternal aspects of the Son, or the personality of the Holy Spirit.

So just inform them that you are saved and if they would like to hear your testimony you’d be happy to share it with them.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

I have talked to many JWs who have come to my door. I enjoy it, but not everyone does. Just be polite as you would any vendor trying to sell you something. If they don’t take no for an answer, just close the door gently as you say goodbye. Remember, they are doing what they feel called to do and they understand being turned away. When I listen to them I always ask if I can pray for them then send them on their way. My prayer is that they delight in God’s perfect will and know Jesus as Savior.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (La Union, NM)

It’s a great question.  As a new Christian, I believe you are doing what you should.  There is nothing to be afraid of when answering the door to them.  Since they believe that the Holy Spirit is just a force, they will never be able to combat His spirit that is within you as a new Christian. For now I believe you are doing right by shutting the door and excusing yourself, the time will come when you will be more confident in your knowledge of God.  He will give you an opportunity to witness to them about what Jesus has done for you.  The Holy Spirit will speak through you.  The Bible says that we should not welcome someone with a different gospel into our homes.  You are doing the right thing; one day God will prompt you to share your testimony to them, all in the right time.  In the mean time, get to know what you believe, get rooted in the word of God and love Him with all your heart. God will take care of the rest.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Fellowship (El Paso, TX)

One problem with attempting to enter into direct confrontation is that those outside of Christ are often trained to debate their beliefs and most Christians simply have not been.  Many Christians have settled for a shallow relationship with Christ, rather than going deeper into the Living Word and the written word.  This stunts our growth and makes us susceptible to false teachings and belief systems.

Another item to keep in mind is that we are called to love, even our enemy. For those who do not know who Jesus Christ truly is, the best thing we can do is to simply love them through our words and actions.  Pray that His glory will so shine in and through us that Christ is seen and they long for what we have.

I believe, when we live out Matthew 16:24, that Christ will give us the words and message we need to share with anyone who challenges our beliefs.  When the time comes that you feel the Holy Spirit leading you to speak, simply share what God has done in your life.  May the Spirit lead you to speak when the time is right.

Pastor Brent Herren

Trinity Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

Jehovah’s witnesses don’t believe in Jesus as the son of God, they believe only God Jehovah (or what we call God the father) is God. As such they don’t believe in the risen Christ or the Holy Spirit. Their bibles have been rewritten to back up their beliefs and they are trained to debate what they believe. Most Christians aren’t ready for this so, if you encounter them again, tell them you’re a Christian now, ask them if they would like to hear your testimony and, since they probably won’t you should be off the hook before long.

Senior Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

2 John 1:9 – 11 I think the above Scripture should give us good direction in how to deal with the cults. In the case of the JW’s there are several sites on the internet, Google “An Open Letter to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you can print off a copy of a letter to keep by your front door to give to them. I also have one at church if you want to drop by and pick one up. It prepares you to answer them and to give to them if they will accept it. I am usually polite, but short unless they will trade literature. We need to be polite, but firm in what we believe.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist (El Paso, TX)

What I usually do is be polite.  They generally have their spiel and it is hard to get them off their “job.”  If you have time to spend with them, give them your testimony.  No one can deny what the Lord has done in your life.  Remember, Jesus to them is not God but the first created by God.  Jesus has changed your life and they can hear this.  All the cults, JW’s, Mormons, Unity, etc. have condemned Christianity and said it is wrong, and so their founders have received a new revelation of the truth.  When you give the truth, you are not attacking them but defending what Jesus has taught.  One final thought!  If they offer you some free literature, take it and destroy it.  It will stop someone else from getting it.  If they are selling it, don’t buy it, you are supporting their cause.

God bless you as you stand for Him.

Pastor Wally Chapman 

Park Hills Christian (El Paso, TX)

from September 24, 2009 issue

Question:

 I’ve been told that God has each person’s life mapped out since before we were born. If this is true I wonder why I should even try to figure anything out on my own. I find it hard to believe that God would have planned all the bad things that have happened to me already. So is it true that he has planned everything or do things happen for other reasons?

Answers:

You are discussing an issue that has divided Christians, formed denominations, and given different definitions of the scope of salvation. Many times this discussion is about the word “election.” May I give you a response from a strong Bible teacher and may it help you.

From Herschel H. Hobbs:

“Two truths, therefore, must be recognized in regard to election: God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Both are abundantly taught in the Bible.

In the abstract, God’s sovereignty means that he can act as he wills without any outside counsel or permission. But in the concrete, as taught in the Bible, God has placed certain limitations upon himself. In that sense his sovereignty must be viewed as his power to act as he wills in keeping with his own laws and according to his nature as righteousness and love.

On the other hand, the Bible teaches that man possesses a free will. God made him so. And while man is free to choose, he is responsible for his choices (Gen. 3; Rom. 1-3). This fact must be kept in mind as one considers the doctrine of election. Otherwise, man is not a free person capable of fellowship with God. And in the ultimate sense, God himself would be responsible for man’s sinful acts.”

Pastor Jim Horton

First Baptist Church (Anthony, NM)

_________________________

While Determinism, Fatalism and Predestination are held by some as true, the Word of God repeatedly calls for mankind to repent. Repent means to turn from the path you are living to following God’s Way. It seems unfair for God to demand repentance of men unless that repentance is a possibility.

Each person chooses the direction of their life and will live with the consequences of those choices. God has not chosen your education, career, spouse or eternal destiny. They are your choices to make. Therefore, choose wisely.

Deut 30:19  “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” NIV  choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” Josh. 24:15; John 7:37 Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Acts 2:38  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

__________________________

You are mis-informed about the Scriptures.  He knew you before you were born but that does not mean that he has ordained everything that happens to you.  You are missing a big factor, and that is our will.  He gave us the ability to make choices and to make decisions. He did not create robots.  He gave each person a will.  He wants you to choose Him.

We live in a fallen world, it is imperfect, it was never meant to be this way.  All things will be made new one day.  There will be no more sorrow nor suffering when he comes again to be King once and for all.  If you choose him today, you can be with him forever.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Fellowship (El Paso, TX)

_____________________________ 

 This is probably the most common question pastor’s get and one we also ask. Does God map out our life before we were born? The answer is yes. But since we are created in God’s image we also make decisions that affect that plan. When we ignore God’s warnings and commandments or when we make decisions in ignorance of God’s wisdom, God always knows those decisions and how it will affect us and can use them for our good. Since you seem to be a believer you can, through Scripture and prayer, know what God wants you to do in various situations. Take physical ailments that we have to live with that occur because we are in a fallen and imperfect world. God knowing those ailments can even use them to guide us in life to fulfill His will and provide true happiness that we would not have otherwise known.

Sometimes God uses the “bad things” in life to get our attention focused back on Him. These are most often caused by our own decisions that we have made contrary to His will.  He uses the consequences of these decisions to cleanse us of things that keep us from being what He wants us to be (breaking our pride, etc.); and because of what we see sin do we should learn to hate sin in our own lives and in the lives of others. Often the things that happen to us are to prepare us to help others through the same things in their lives. Yes, God has our lives planned out and we often cannot figure things out at the time things are happening and may never figure them out, but always remember that Romans 8:28 will always be true when it tells us that “all things happen for good to those who love the Lord”.  Also always remember that others are going through the same things and can often be a source of answers to you.

Pastor Jack Berg

Sun Valley Baptist (El Paso, TX)

____________________________

God has a plan. The plan begins when an individual chooses to repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Accepting Christ as your savior guarantees that you will go to heaven when you die. After accepting Christ His plan includes church attendance and baptism which is also a choice.  The Bible teaches that we are to renew our minds with God’s word (Romans 12:2). Studying the Bible enables us to grow in our faith and to trust God for miracles, His help and the impossible. If you choose to live life in the manner that God reveals through the Bible you can experience peace, victory or deliverance in bad times. Remember, nobody gets out of this life without bad times.

Hebrews 13:5

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

 The Bible teaches that good things come from God (James 1:17). God’s plan provides you with choices. We can do things His way and experience help and enablement or we can do things our way and be limited to our own resources and abilities.

Psalm 37:23

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.

Philip. 4:13

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Pastor Max Perkins

Temple Baptist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

___________________________

This response came in too late to make the 9/10 issue but wanted to make it available to the readers.

Question:

As a means of exercise I am involved in Yoga. I was recently told that as a Christian I should not be doing this because it has something to do with Hinduism and is inappropriate for those of Christian faith. I was told that it is somehow summoning other gods etc. This is the first I have ever heard anything like this – is this true? If that is not why I do the exercises – would I be wrong to continue?

Answer:

I do not have enough information about the class to give a definite yes or no on this matter.  According to Wikipedia, “Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice. It is a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation.   Some Western forms have little or nothing to do with Hinduism or spirituality, but are simply a way of keeping fit and healthy. Asana is a body position, typically associated with the practice of Yoga, intended primarily to restore and maintain a practitioner’s well-being, improve the body’s flexibility and vitality, and promote the ability to remain in seated meditation for extended periods.  These are widely known as Yoga postures or Yoga positions, which are currently practiced for exercise and as alternate medicine.

The common and popular movement of exercise yoga is  Surya Namaskara  (lit. “salute to the sun”), is a common sequence of Hatha yoga asanas. Its origins lie in a worship of Surya, the Hindusolar deity.”  

John 14:25-27

These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. [26] But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

[27] Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Speak to your Pastor about these classes.  Seriously seek God, pray about it and follow the leading of the Holy Ghost. The rule of thumb is, if you do not have peace about something God is probably not in it.

Pastor Max Perkins

Temple Baptist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

________________________

I think the answer to your question falls into the same context of eating meat offered to idols found in I Corinthians 8-9. I like the New Living Translation of these chapters. It is my belief that yoga, as an exercise, is not wrong in itself as was the case of eating meat offered to idols. For Paul, it was a matter of conscience PLUS a matter of sensitivity to those whom he was trying to reach. Read about it in Scripture and then you decide.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from September 10, 2009 issue

Question:

As a means of exercise I am involved in Yoga. I was recently told that as a Christian I should not be doing this because it has something to do with Hinduism and is inappropriate for those of Christian faith. I was told that it is somehow summoning other gods etc. This is the first I have ever heard anything like this – is this true? If that is not why I do the exercises – would I be wrong to continue?

Answers:

I have heard this same thing about yoga and have dismissed it. Just doing the stretching exercise movements that are called yoga is a great way to stay healthy and flexible. Go into it with a heart for Christ, and come out of it with a heart for Christ. If the instructor asks you to do things that you feel go against your faith, do not do them or find another yoga instructor. There are many who teach the basics without bringing in the non-Christian teachings. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in what you do. If you feel convicted by Him then listen. If your heart is right by the Spirit, then continue. Blessings and stretch away.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (El Paso, TX)

__________________

Yoga was invented by Hindus to help people become Hindu. It is designed to “acclimate” people to Hindu philosophy and help them transition into it. You can study this in more detail by reading recent articles in the Christian Research Journal among others. (Try going to http://www.equip.org/articles/yoga-exercises-and-christianity for one example.) There are health benefits to yoga. It is good for stretching and toning up, as well as for relaxation. But the worldview behind it is definitely non-Christian! Though you may not involve yourself in any of the Hindu spirituality behind it, I would warn you that it still is dangerous because of its roots. The danger of yoga is that when you experience benefits from it, your tendency is to say, “Well, if this was good, what else does Eastern philosophy offer? I wonder if some of their religious ideas might not be right as well?” Why not exercise in a more non-threatening, non-dangerous  and more Christian way?

Pastor Warren Hoyt

Jesus Chapel (El Paso, TX)

_______________

As far as Yoga’s history, the answer is yes, it has direct links to Hinduism and their faith. It was used to summon other Gods however, if your focus is on Christ while doing these exercises, if perhaps you can recite scripture or pray instead of whatever you are being asked to think about during your Yoga time then it can be used for Christ.

There are even some Christian versions of the Yoga practice. Though I don’t know if they are any good because I haven’t tried them, here is at least one example from the internet:

http://www.praisemoves.com/dvds.htm

Paul talks about eating meat sacrificed to idols in Romans. His take on it is that if it causes your brother to sin you shouldn’t do it in front of him. If doing around your brothers and sisters causes them to stumble or makes them uncomfortable then you maybe should find a dvd and try it at home. This could be the one I don’t know.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

_________________

Great question, throughout your Christian walk there are many things that people will say they are wrong to do.  It is important that you find out for yourself.  I recommend that you do the research on yoga regarding its origins and purpose.  Once you have done your own research, search the Bible and find out what it has to say on the subject.  After diligent study, pray and let the Holy Spirit tell you if it is right or wrong.  This is part of growing in maturity in the Lord.

Blessings,

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Fellowship (El Paso, TX)

_____________ 

Yoga is not wrong as an exercise. It includes stretching and relaxing of the muscles that have proven to be helpful and healthy. The issue is generally with the eastern religions meditation technique of quietly repeating or chanting a phrase or name. Unknown to most practitioners the name was that of a god. Personally, I doubt if any disciple would be converted by such a practice.

The purpose is to relax the mind along with the body to reduce stress. Repeating a word we do not understand seems mindless, which is probably the purpose. Most could relax with another simple word, such as oatmeal or sea breeze.

Scripture encourages us to meditate on the word of God. This means to study for the true meaning of scripture and how we may improve our lives by obeying our Lord Jesus.

Charles Clodfelter, Evangelist

Church of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

__________________

Yoga is a discipline that combines physical postures and exercise with mental and spiritual “meditation” in an effort to combine the “inner person” with the infinite Brahman (eternal self).  “Brahman” is the term used by Hindus to refer to their concept of God, which is not at all the God revealed to us in the Bible.  True yoga enthusiasts will tell you that you cannot separate the physical and spiritual sides of the discipline.  In yoga meditation that is to accompany the physical exercise includes an opening and emptying of your mind.  This is a horribly dangerous practice as it simply invites Satan and his forces to enter the thoughts of a person and exert great influence.  The question is can you separate the exercises of yoga from the philosophy and spirituality inherent in yoga?  Yoga purists will tell you the answer is a resounding “no.”  I would advise you to research the history of yoga.  The website “All About Spirituality” gives a good summary at http://www.allaboutspirituality.org/history-of-yoga.htm.  Once you learn more about the background, you need to then make it a serious matter of prayer about your participation.  Even if you feel you can effectively isolate the physical exercises from their philosophical and spiritual components, please consider Paul’s teaching on engaging in practices that might become a stumbling block for other believers (see Romans 14).  Also please consider that in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 we are admonished, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV).  Most modern English translations will render that verse to say “all forms of evil.”  We must be aware that our spiritual enemy hides his attacks in many different forms.  Be careful about practices that might make you open to his influence.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

_____________

(this response came in too late to make it in the paper – but wanted to be sure it was available here for the readers.)

I do not have enough information about the class to give a definite yes or no on this matter.  According to Wikipedia, “Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice. It is a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation.   Some Western forms have little or nothing to do with Hinduism or spirituality, but are simply a way of keeping fit and healthy. Asana is a body position, typically associated with the practice of Yoga, intended primarily to restore and maintain a practitioner’s well-being, improve the body’s flexibility and vitality, and promote the ability to remain in seated meditation for extended periods.  These are widely known as Yoga postures or Yoga positions, which are currently practiced for exercise and as alternate medicine.

The common and popular movement of exercise yoga is  Surya Namaskara  (lit. “salute to the sun”), is a common sequence of Hatha yoga asanas. Its origins lie in a worship of Surya, the Hindusolar deity.”  

John 14:25-27

These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. [26] But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

[27] Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Speak to your Pastor about these classes.  Seriously seek God, pray about it and follow the leading of the Holy Ghost. The rule of thumb is, if you do not have peace about something God is probably not in it.

Pastor Max Perkins

Temple Baptist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

(Somehow I missed this email so the response didn’t make it in the paper)

I think the answer to your question falls into the same context of eating meat offered to idols found in I Corinthians 8-9. I like the New Living Translation of these chapters. It is my belief that yoga, as an exercise, is not wrong in itself as was the case of eating meat offered to idols. For Paul, it was a matter of conscience PLUS a matter of sensitivity to those whom he was trying to reach. Read about it in Scripture and then you decide.

Pastor Fred Grenier

First Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

from August 27, 2009 issue

Question: I am currently expecting and my husband and I disagree on the circumcision topic. I was raised Christian/Baptist, and He was raised Catholic. I disagree with not circumcising because of how I was raised to believe on this topic but someone has recently pointed out to me a few Bible verses saying that if we are not Jews, we do not circumcise our sons. And not to circumcise in the name of Christianity.Galations 5:1-4, 6,  Galatians 6:12-15, 1 Corinthians 12:18, Romans 2:25-29, Genesis 17:9-14, Leviticus 12:3 So when it comes to Christian beliefs, Am I SUPPOSED to circumcise my son, Or will it matter in God’s eyes either way??  Answers: The New Testament does teach that Christians need to circumcise their sons. Normally unnecessary, it would not be wrong to do so for medical reasons, but should not be done for religious reasons. The verses given apply to the promise God gave to Abraham and his descendents. Paul teaches Christians are not to follow the Law of Moses and if circumcised as a Jew we should follow all the Laws of Moses.Col 2:11-14 “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,        having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. NIVCharles Clodfelter, evangelistChurch of Christ Eastwood (El Paso, TX)__________________May your son grow perfectly in your womb and be born on the right day; at the right time and in perfect health! The New Testament scriptures that you listed prove that circumcision has no spiritual value to one who believes in Jesus Christ whether he is a Jew or a Gentile. What matters to God is that we be led by the Holy Spirit and not be ruled by our carnal desires (Galatians 5:16-25). There are, however, certain medical benefits to having your son circumcised (although there are those in the medical profession who may disagree). I recommend that you and your husband research the medical benefits and then pray and agree on your decision. If you do circumcise your son, then do it because you believe it is for his health and not a spiritual obligation. Blessings to you and your husband!
Pastor Charlie Alvarado
One For Life Ministries (El Paso, TX)
________________________Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Think about this verse and what Paul is saying here. His entire point is that it doesn’t matter! Paul had serious issues with the circumcision crowd because they insisted that Christians had to be circumcised. Most of these people were Jerusalem Jews, the ones that lived in Jerusalem. While a lot of the ones that Paul was ministering to were either complete Gentiles (like most of us) or they were Jews of the dispersion, the ones that were sent into exile when the Babylonians took over and decided to stay where they were when the return to Israel occurred. These people were called Samaritans (the story of the good Samaritan) Paul’s point was that circumcision of the flesh made no difference at all, just circumcision of the heart! Having said that I understand it can be more difficult as far as hygiene issues if you circumcise, but that’s up to you, God looks at your heart!  Associate Pastor Rick RobersonOpen Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX) _____________________ It is honorable to want to do what is right before the Lord.  As a christian, Salvation is not based on physical circumcision.  This is not a right or wrong issue for a believer.  It should be a health issue between you and your doctor.  Whatever is best for your childs health.Pastor Hector SaucedoSun City Christian Fellowship (El Paso, TX) ______________________The answer to your question is found in the Book of Galatians, especially chapter 5, vs. 6. Circumcision is no longer necessary for the Christian. We are justified by the grace of God through faith alone. Now some would say circumcision is a matter of health. If you want to do it for health reasons, that’s fine. But it must not be thought that circumcision brings the blessing of God upon our children or something of that nature. They are blessed when we submit our lives to Christ’s Lordship and covering, endeavor to live godly lives ourselves, and teach them to do the same! And by the way, doctors nowadays disagree as to whether or not circumcision is even necessary for health reasons. Hope this helps!Pastor Warren HoytJesus Chapel (El Paso, TX) ________________________ It is correct that circumcision has nothing to do with a Christians walk with Christ.  However that does not mean that there are no physical advantages to circumcision. Check with your pediatrician as to the pros and cons of circumcision. Pastor Max PerkinsTemple Baptist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

from August 13th, 2009 issue

Questions are currently sent to 36 Christian Leaders. Not all are able to respond at any one time. If you are a Christian Leader and would like to be considered to join this panel please email your contact information to media4him@yahoo.com. If you have a question you would like answered by Christian Leaders, send it to the same email address.

Question:

I was raised in a Christian home, but my husband was not. I’ve been trying to convince him that we need God in our lives and need to begin going to church. He says he doesn’t need it, that he believes in God and believes that God wouldn’t keep him out of heaven because he has been such a good person all his life. I tell him that being good won’t get us to heaven. Can you give me advice on what else I need to do or say to help get him in church with me?

Answers:

Mt 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Not be a good person, not be better than everyone else, not even the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” but be PERFECT!!

I’m sure you’re husband is a wonderful person but there was only one perfect person, and the only reason Jesus was perfect is because He was submitted to God the Father completely.

Only because of the sacrifice of Jesus can God look at any of us and see us as perfect. Heaven is about a relationship with Him and God can’t look at sin, so only by being washed in the blood of Jesus can we meet the standard.

Mt 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Associate Pastor Rick Roberson

Open Gate Community Church of the Nazarene (El Paso, TX)

______________________________

Never underestimate the power and influence of a good example. Peter wrote: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives” 1 Pet 3:1 NIV The submission would not include abandoning the Christian life, but is about being the best spouse possible.  Do not withhold your affection, do not be a harasser, do not complain about his lack of involvement.

Tell him you respect his decision, but you have the need to worship and serve the God you love. It is your intention to get involved, and you would love to have him participate anytime he wishes, but you do not expect it. It is his choice. Over time, introduce him to Christian friends you make and let him make friends with them also.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

______________________

You’ve raised a very good question that really requires more space than I have hear to answer. But here is the gist of what you need to try to convey to your husband, and pray that God would somehow convey to him. Why does he need God? Because God has already pronounced judgment on this earth, and time is fast running out before He carries out the sentence! Most people feel that if there is a God, He’s a “good old boy” like Santa Claus, and He wouldn’t hurt a fly. They simply don’t understand the truth as revealed in scripture. The Bible says “The soul that sins shall die” (Ez. 18:4). Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mat. 5:48). God could have just destroyed mankind as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, but He didn’t. Instead He launched the plan of salvation which would culminate when Jesus died for our sins on the cross. None of us is owed anything from God. He has already done more than we deserve. There is one way out of the coming judgment. It cost God His only Son. It cost the Son a horrendous death of torture and agony on the cross. If you want to be saved, you must recognize that sacrifice was made for you and come on your knees begging God to have mercy on you. If you think everybody is going to make it, you haven’t thought much about the cross. If we could be good enough on our own and God was going to just say, (as Phil Donahue said on TV once, years ago), “Aw, come on in!” then Christ went through all that suffering for nothing. God doesn’t require a blood sacrifice. Sin isn’t serious. Everybody hasn’t fallen short of the glory of God. We’re all gonna make it! Don’t believe it for a second! Judgment is coming The earth is already condemned (Jn. 3:18) Your husband needs to know this truth. Now, I wouldn’t blast him with this in the form I’ve given it here – I had to cut to the chase. But these truths are what he eventually, by God’s grace, needs to know. You need to pray most of all, and share what you can in love, and ask God to put others in his path to share this as well. Hope this helps.

Pastor Warren Hoyt

Jesus Chapel (El Paso, TX)

___________________________________

The Bible declares that there is only one way to get to Heaven and that is by personally accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  The Bible also teaches to lead by example (1 Peter 3:1-4). If your husband does not object to you attending a church then start going by yourself.  Make sure that you find a church that presents God’s plan of salvation during the Sunday morning worship service.  As you make new friends in the church invite those over who have common interest with your husband. Encourage him to attend special event days at the church.  Ask the pastor to come by and visit.  Above all pray that God would draw him to Christ.

John 6:44

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Pastor Max Perkins

Temple Baptist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

______________________

Your situation is, unfortunately, not unique; in fact, it is all too common for spouses to have divergent views of God and of the role and necessity of being involved in a church.  From the phrasing of your question (“…we need God in our lives and need to begin going to church”) it seems as though neither of you are currently involved in a fellowship.  Would your husband oppose or make it difficult for you to become involved in a church by yourself?  You are absolutely right that we need the support and fellowship of other believers.  I would strongly encourage you to be faithful in a church that will feed you and minister to your spiritual needs and for you to faithfully pray that God will reveal Himself to your husband and help him to see that he actually does need God on a personal level.  Only the Holy Spirit can convict your husband of his need.  As you personally grow in your relationship to God it will affect you in ways that will become more apparent to your husband.  As he sees changes in you because of the positive difference God makes in your life, he will very possibly grow more open to thinking and talking about the role God needs to have in his own life.  1 Peter 3:1-4 speaks of the impact of the way a godly wife’s life can have on her husband.  Let me give it to you from the newer Holman Christian Standard Translation of the Bible:  “Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live, when they observe your pure, reverent livesYour beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes; instead, it should consist of the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes”  (emphasis mine).  Please continue to speak with him about the need of every person for God’s forgiveness in a gentle and non-condemning way as you pray for your husband and as you personally seek to draw closer to God.  Your faithfulness to God and your consistency in living for Him will make an impact on your husband.  God will not force your husband to turn to Him, but He can lovingly use your love for Jesus to draw your husband to Him.  Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  Above all, do not wait for your husband to be interested in seeking God for you to seek Him.  Find a church that ministers faithful and get involved.  It will make a difference in both your lives.

Pastor Robert Warmath

Skyline Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)

___________________________________

Many wives have been in your shoes,  It’s a good desire that you have for your husband but the truth is that you cannot change him. There is someone who can, his name is Jesus.  The bible is clear, if we pray and knock he will answer.  In may ministerial experience I have seen situations change through the power of prayer.  Don’t stop believing, be patient, Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Pastor Hector Saucedo

Sun City Christian Center (El Paso, TX)

___________________________________

I would begin by asking you to think carefully about why you want him in church with you.

You mentioned “being good won’t get us to heaven,” but neither does “going to church” get us to heaven.  If you’re worried about his soul, think about that and then talk to him about it.  If you’re worried about his relationship with God, think about why you believe participation in church deepens that relationship.  If church is important to you, and you want him to participate in something important to you, then tell him that right now it’s about you.  Don’t mask your needs behind “God language.”

Once you have some clarity about why you want him in church with you, I urge you to communicate honestly and openly about your reasons.  Some candid conversations about concerns he has would help as well.  And don’t forget to pray before, during, and after your conversations.

He is affirming he has a relationship with God outside of a community of faith.  If he sees church participation as being part of his relationship with God, or with you, he may be more inclined to explore participation.

If your church, or a church you visit, doesn’t meet him where he’s at… keep searching, with him.

Pastor Jon Moore

Morning Star United Methodist Church (Las Cruces, NM)

 _________________________

 This often happens when we marry a person not committed to the Lord as we are.  Here are some ideas that may help with the issue.

  1. Keep praying for him and pray God will send a Christian man into his life to relate to him.
  2. I went to church to play basketball and then found Christ.  Is there a hobby he has that can tie in with other Christian men?  Our church plays golf once a month for this reason.
  3. Guys like short term projects.  If he could help at a work day at church or go on a short term mission trip, or do some project with some church men.
  4. Read the book, Why men hate going to church.  You may get some ideas there.
  5. Keep praying, don’t be a nag, and be a great wife to him.

I hope this helps.

Pastor Wally Chapman

Park Hills Christian Church (El Paso, TX)

 _____________________

 Your heart is in the right place. Both of you should attend church together. It is in unity that we once a week praise and glorify God in one voice and celebrate his glory in Word and Sacrament. However, your husband, even though misguided, must make this decision on his own. Pray for him to be moved by the Holy Spirit to desire to attend church. Go yourself and always be encouraging and uplifting about your experience. Treat him with kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. Many times the behavior we desire in others begins with transformation in ourselves. Hopefully as you speak well of church and move away from trying to convince him to go, God will act. What is God’s will in your life? Be patient with your husband and never give up.

Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

____________________

 Sadly, you are in the company of many wives who desire their husbands to be at their sides in church.

Possibly, you need to back away for a moment and just allow God to move. Maybe you should not rely only on words to solve your problem.

Listen to Peter’s admonition in the third chapter of his first letter (The Message).

“The same goes for you wives. Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance–the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes–but your inner disposition.”

My prayers are with you!

Pastor Jim Horton

First Baptist Church (Anthony, NM)

 ________________

Ask Christian Leaders (from July 30, 2009 issue)

 Questions are currently sent to 36 Christian Leaders. Not all are able to respond at any one time. If you are a Christian Leader and would like to be considered to join this panel please email your contact information to media4him@yahoo.com. If you have a question you would like answered by Christian Leaders, send it to the same email address.

Question:

 I recently found out an adult I know did something wrong. In God’s eyes am I just as guilty as he is if I don’t tell on him? I am afraid to tell since I am just a teenager – I figure no one will believe me. I just don’t want God to hold it against me for not telling.

Answers:

First, pray for strength, confidence and wisdom. Ask God to direct your heart and find peace through Him. This is not your guilt and by asking this question and praying you are demonstrating your love of God and His people. Then talk to a responsible adult and confide in he or she for advice, then, if he or she agrees, go and talk to the adult who engaged in the wrong doing.Explain what you witnessed or found out, how you feel and then based on the response, you can decide what to do. Things are not always what they seem. I know this first hand. I have been accused of things that were not correct once the entire situation was disclosed. Bless you and you are in my prayers.

 Father Jeff Lambert

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal (La Union, NM)

Scripture teaches that the person who sins is the person who is guilty. Ezek 18:20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. NIV.  Knowledge of another person’s sin does not make you guilty before God.

If the adult is committing a crime, you may call Crime Stoppers and report them anonymously. (915) 566-8477. Please remember that you may not know all the facts. If you saw a person do something that you did not completely understand and made assumptions, you may be wrong. Use caution before accusing another of wrong doing. Perhaps it would be wise to talk with a trusted adult and give more details to them.

Charles Clodfelter, evangelist

Church of Christ in Eastwood (El Paso, TX)

Something wrong? Was someone hurt because of what was done? Is someone in danger because of his/her behavior? If this is a situation where someone else is danger of being hurt then I would say to go tell someone immediately! If not then the sin is probably an issue between them and God and depending on the issue, you may not have to tell anyone. Pray about it, rely on God to tell you what you should do, then go with the backup of someone you can trust, a parent, your pastor, someone else to cover your back.

Mt 18:16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

Associat