The Salvation of the Soul

What is the salvation of the soul, and what does it look like? The first few verses of 1 Peter chapter one give us a strong sense of this salvation and then concludes with, “receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). What is this salvation, and how can we know whether our spiritual growth is heading in the right direction? Continue reading

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The Neglected Deliverance

We tend to seek the Lord’s deliverance when we get into personal trouble. But there is a deliverance that keeps us out of the trouble in the first place. Which would you like – to fall into trouble and try to get out of it, or to avoid it in the first place?

For instance, the word tells us about deliverance from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence (Psalms 91:3). Our first impression of this deliverance is that we’ve fallen into a trap or are experiencing a spiritual plague and the Lord promises to rescue us from it. But that’s not the best way the Lord delivers us. For instance, Proverbs identifies the promiscuous woman and tells us to avoid her (Proverbs 5). Avoiding her, we avoid a terrible fate. Thus, by heeding the warnings of Scripture we identify and avoid the traps beforehand while the more simple-minded don’t pay attention – and fall right in (Proverbs 22:3). Continue reading

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Faith and the Spirit’s Leading

What is faith?

A definition is in order. What is faith? If faith means to believe something without proof, as many claim, then how is it different from blind faith? What I find funny is that those who dislike faith because it believes without proof, believe in this definition of faith – without proof!

The word faith appears many times in the Bible in the New Testament, which was written in Greek. If we turn to a Greek scholar’s work, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and look up faith, we find it is the word pistis, which means “primarily, firm persuasion (akin to peitho, to persuade), a conviction based upon hearing, is used in the N.T. always of faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual.”

To have faith means to have a firm conviction about something. How one comes to faith is not in the meaning of the word. One may have faith based on a wide variety of evidence, or not; the proof is not part of the semantic meaning of the word. The meaning of faith is centered on the persuasion you have, not on how you arrived by that persuasion, or even what you believe in.

Those who say that (true) faith is blind or that it means to believe something against all reason are wrong. Religious faith is based on a Greek word with a real definition found in a Greek dictionary which derives its meaning from the N.T. context in which it appears. Faith means to be persuaded of something. (The only biblically sound reason for faith to mean something different is when it’s said to be “the faith,” in which case it is talking about the Christian life and doctrine in general.)

If you strongly insist (have a firm conviction, have faith) that faith means to believe something in spite of the facts, then your personal faith is real, but based on false information.

A wrong meaning of faith will result in wrong practices and a wrong understanding of the Scriptures in which the word appears. Continue reading

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What was Jesus’ understanding of being born again?

Was Jesus’ explanation of born again outside the norm of Christianity? People say, “It means to become a Christian,” or “to believe in God,” to have your life changed, to start again on a spiritual level, to have God do a spiritual work in your life. Is this what Jesus taught when He used the term born again? Continue reading

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Does the Holy Spirit still lead believers today?

The book of Acts relates several accounts of men who were directed by the Holy Spirit to say certain things, do something, or go somewhere. Is this direction of the Holy Spirit supposed to continue in today’s church? Or did it stop back in the days of the apostles in the first century? Continue reading

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Evolution vs. Creation: Collision of Two Worldviews

Neither creation nor macro-evolution have physical proof for their positions. Rather, each party looks at the scientific data from their own perspective and looks for evidence to support it. For instance, the people who are convinced that macroevolution has occurred look at all the fossils unearthed over the centuries and concludes, “Well, since we all evolved, then these invertebrates probably evolved one after the other and the vertebrates branched off and evolved their own way. All these bird-like creatures evolved in order and the mammals branched off and evolved, splitting up more and more, based on the similarities among them.” The evidence is plain.

Those who believe God created each kind of creature by itself, seeing the same data the evolutionist sees, concludes, “All fossilize skeletons are full and complete. All parts needed to be a living creature are all accounted for. There are no in-betweens. These skeletons illustrate the biblical account, that God formed each animal according to its kind. They did not evolve but were created as is.” The evidence is plain.

Same data; same science; different viewpoints Continue reading

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Book Review: When the Storm Hits

When the Storm Hits
by Chuck Smith
Copyright 2013 The Word for Today
http://www.twft.com

What do we do when the storm hits; how are we to react when the troubles come?
This book reminded me of several perspectives regarding our trials that I had forgotten. God has a purpose for our trials that Christless people cannot share in. Our trials will not overwhelm us when we see them through God’s eyes. Here are just a few thoughts that were prompted by the pages of this worthwhile book by the late Chuck Smith, who pastored the Calvary Chapel church in Costa Mesa, CA.

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What is intimacy with Jesus?

What does it mean when Christians talk about having intimacy, or a deep relationship, with Jesus? There are many ways to describe it and experience it. I will talk about one way of entering into that intimacy or fellowship with Jesus and continuing in it all day. Continue reading

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Do we need the power of the Holy Spirit?

Recently one of my prayer group regulars talked about our need of the Holy Spirit’s power upon us just as it was on the disciples in Acts. He seemed to think it was a matter of just asking for it and the power would be given.

Based on the stories of the empowering of the apostles in Acts, I wonder if there is more to it than that. The apostles had a goal that was bigger than them, so they required God’s own power to make it happen. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.” That’s a God-size task requiring God’s power.

I suspect that most of us have much smaller goals in mind and we pace ourselves so that we can accomplish them in our own strength. Our goals may be work-related, hobby-related, or something to do with home or school. But for the most part we won’t be asking for God’s empowering because our tasks are modest and doable on our own. Continue reading

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Why macro-evolution doesn’t make sense

One major barrier against the gradual evolution of relatively simple organisms into complex ones rests on the organism’s inability to understand its environment and adapt to it.

For instance, how could a blind organism understand that color is produced by light waves reflected by or absorbed by objects, and correctly deduce that it must create an eye composed of rods and cones to capture these rays and correctly interpret them? How could a blind organism know that light could be too bright or too dark and create a pupil which dilates and contracts to monitor the correct amount of light?  It just doesn’t make sense that something blind and primitive could instinctively understand that color is seen according to an object reflecting certain invisible wavelengths of light. Continue reading

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Why can’t we explain our faith to the skeptic?

I’ve had a hard time using logic to explain to skeptics why our Christian beliefs are true and defensible (and even logical). Why? Because some of the wisdom was gained through the logic of life experience, and no shortcuts exist.

When getting to know a stranger for the first time, we may start out with distrust or indifference. That’s normal. Respect or trust for the other comes with experience spent with that person or hearing of his or her admirable exploits. So it is with people who don’t know Jesus or the Father. Their questions are sometimes filled with mistrust, doubt, or anger. Jesus said to abide (remain) with Him, then we’ll bear much fruit (John 15:4-7). There are no shortcuts to being a fruitful Christian; but when the fruit is attained and God gets the glory, the Christian can look back and trace the work of God, and it all makes sense. It’s a logic born of experience. Continue reading

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Aren’t Jesus’ words more authoritative than Paul’s?

Someone asked this question because they saw a verse where Paul seems to contradict Jesus. (In that instance, Jesus said the law will not pass away, yet Paul wrote it was passing away.) Also, since Jesus is God and Paul was a mortal, it makes it easier to prefer one over the other when these kinds of issues arise.

We must remember that Jesus Himself chose Paul, so we should not count Paul out too quickly. Jesus spoke directly to Paul in a vision in Acts 9:1-6. Then Jesus called an unnamed servant to lay hands on him, telling him that Paul was “a chosen vessel to me” in Acts 9:10-17. Paul was then filled with the Holy Spirit.

Paul testified of being taught by Christ and that He is the source of his wisdom (Galatians 1:10-17). Paul acted as an ambassador of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and was careful to represent His perspective in all his words and conduct. (Oh, that we would do the same!)

Much of his writings were derived from the Old Testament, which was written under the inspiration of God. In the end, Paul’s epistles were entered into the biblical canon as also inspired by God. In other words, his words are given equal weight as those in the OT. All his words, as well as Christ’s, were of God, so whatever they wrote will be in agreement when correctly understood. This is because God, being the author of the Bible, doesn’t contradict himself. So if you find a contradiction between Jesus and Paul, you need to search deeper.

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Through the sciences we have gained much knowledge about how the world works, so why do we need a god?

This kind of question is usually asked of those in the sciences who are personally pursuing knowledge. If they write a book, they’ll usually write about ancient man’s inability to explain the forces of nature, and so they invented a divine being and attributed all the unknown processes to that god.

Since the author himself is in the field of knowledge, it makes sense for him to view the whole world through his personal, narrow lens. If the person is in psychology, he will write about ancient man’s inability to understand himself, so he invented a god who gives him worth and understanding. But now that we have psychology, we don’t need religion anymore. You could go on and on with a variety of worldviews, each claiming to have the answer that ancient man did not have. Continue reading

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If I do many good works, will I go to heaven?

Think about what the question implies. It assumes that because of doing many good works, we’ve put God on the spot; the Creator of the universe is in our debt! We’re saying that He owes us heaven because of all our hard work. The book of Romans addresses this way of thinking with these words: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt” (Romans 4:4).

When I work for a company for a week, then the company is in debt to me and owes me a week’s wage. But that is not the way it works between God and us. The Bible clearly teaches us that we are sinners who are fallen from God’s high standard of a holy, loving relationship with Him (Romans 3:23). Thus, as unbelieving sinners, we were already condemned and ready for everlasting punishment (John 3:18). Continue reading

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How can you believe the church has the truth when there are so many conflicting denominations?

How can Christians say they know the truth about God when their theology and beliefs are fractured in so many ways? How can any one group be sure of themselves, that they got it right? The same way anyone else becomes sure: engage the mind and examine the knowledge for oneself. Normal life is like a supermarket, with an abundance of things and ideas to choose from. Continue reading

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Why do people not change or grow in their faith?

Jesus made clear what is the greatest commandment: to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:34-40). Here is God’s highest aspiration for His creation. Yet so many of us, religious and non-religious, fail to go in this direction. Why don’t more people grow spiritually? May I propose one significant reason, which was stated in Proverbs? “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2a).

Sin tells me to put self first. So any thoughts that promote my self-comfort will sit well with me. Any ideas or acts that advance my self-interest will have my blessing. Every intent of the heart that boosts my self-righteousness (and puts down others) is right in my own eyes. Continue reading

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I believe God can answer my prayers, but how can I believe he will answer them?

Some of you are praying for a loved one’s healing of a dreaded disease. Others are praying for someone’s salvation or that she will return to the Lord. However, it’s hard to believe God for the outcome if you don’t know what will happen. Counsel like “God answers our prayers with ‘yes,’ ’no,’ and ‘not right now’ ” are intellectually and emotionally unsatisfactory. Continue reading

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Paralyzed When Making New Year’s Resolutions?

A centurion came to Jesus and told Him, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” Have you felt paralyzed at home lately? You have decisions to make, but feel too frozen to move? You have things to do, but can’t get going? You are tormented by things nagging in your mind, but can’t find the energy or will to do them? It’s like a sickness in you that you can’t heal. Continue reading

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How do we grow in Christ’s love?

The Bible expects us to grow in love. For instance, Philippians 1:9 tells us, “that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” When we were saved, God did not limit our salvation to merely escape from judgment and enter heaven, but to change us that we become more like his son, Jesus. How, then, does this process occur? Continue reading

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Is it fair for good people to end up in @#!*% just because they didn’t receive the salvation of Jesus?

Of course it is fair. Heaven is God’s home. If a person arrived at your doorstep saying they’re a good person, would you let him in to live with you as long as he wanted? Of course not! If you have a good excuse not to let that good person in, then give God the benefit of the doubt too. He has given us reasons in the Bible. Continue reading

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Are people completely destroyed in @#!*% , or do they remain conscious?

I see two striking examples of people in @#!*% that give us an answer. Let’s look at the longest one first, found in Luke 16. Jesus told this story to the Pharisees: Continue reading

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Modern Family: Talking to the Camera

The TV sit-com Modern Family integrates a technique used in reality shows such as Survivor and Master Chef in which the contestants talk candidly about themselves on camera away from the others. The Office also used this means to comedic effect, and it was a staple of the series. Continue reading

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Is everything really working out for our good?

We see so many things going wrong in the world today that we wonder if God is really in control as much as people seem to believe. We suffer relationship problems, money issues, physical and mental anguish, and wonder whether God is really with us. Is God really working things together for good? Is God really for us? All our struggles seem to indicate the opposite! One verse in the Bible seems to imply that God is in full control of all that happens: Continue reading

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How can you be a servant of God if you can’t see him?

We often perform our work in response to something, or to fulfill some purpose. We do our homework in response to a teacher’s assignment. We do our work according to the responsibilities our boss gave us. We take care of our family based on the needs we see. We amuse ourselves with different activities for rest and recreation. We fill Christmas boxes with the intention of donating them as gifts to the poor. Our activities are either self-directed (serving our own interests) or directed to others.

We work to fulfill the obligations to others, like our teachers, boss, and crusade to feed the poor, even doing the work in the absence of the leaders. In the same way, we read God’s word and follow its directions as though God himself is telling us what to do. So we can serve God even though we can’t see him, just like we can do our homework in the absence of our teacher. Continue reading

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Heard in a sermon this morning

Richard Dawkins, author and atheist lecturer, said that “Religion is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the dark.”

In response, a Christian said, “Atheism is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the light.”

From Pastor Brian Broderson, Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa.

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Why are you Christians so intolerant?

Are Christians more intolerant than other people or groups? Let’s start with the dictionary definition of the word ‘intolerant’ to make sure we are on the same page:

1. Unable or unwilling to endure something [such as endure criticism].
2. Unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression esp. in religious matters.
3. Unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights.
(From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)

Nowadays, ‘intolerant’ has been redefined as an unwillingness to get along; a refusal to conform to a protestor’s expectations. It’s popularly used in the sense of “Why are you intolerant — why won’t you go along with what we do and believe?” Continue reading

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Are people looking at us from heaven?

Is it true that people who have died and gone to heaven can observe what we are doing on earth? Some people believe the first line of the following passage supports this idea:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV).

Continue reading

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Why does the Bible tell us to reckon ourselves as dead?

Here is the full passage from Romans 6:10-13:

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

In Romans chapter six, Paul makes some key points that tell us why we have victory over sin and the bad habits of the old life. In some mysterious way, God has linked us with Christ’s death and resurrection. When Christ died on the cross and was buried, then our sinful selves were crucified and buried with Him (Romans 6:4-8). And when Christ rose from the dead, our new selves rose with Him (also in Romans 6:4-8). Continue reading

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What’s a good way to study the Bible?

Read from the beginning of the book

The best way to study the Bible is to start at the beginning. Either the beginning of the Bible (best) or beginning of any of its books. Do not jump in at random, for this will lead to many problems. For instance, if I were to read the first page of a thriller, where the hero drives a white car, then jump to page 200 and find the hero driving a red car, do I throw the book away in disgust, saying, “this book is full of contradictions”? No; for if I read straight through, I’ll discover that the car on the first page was his own car; he drives to the airport, flies to another country, and picks up a rental car, which happens to be red. No conflict. No contradiction. Read the book from the beginning to the end. Continue reading

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“Is it OK to pray to Mary?”

You may pray to whomever you wish. But let’s think carefully about the last recorded words of Mary in the Bible: “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). Are you willing to do what Mary (the mother of the human aspect of Jesus, the Son of God) tells you to do? What did Jesus “say” to His disciples when they asked Him to teach them to pray?

This was His answer: “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). If you will do what Mary tells you to do, then to whom will you pray, Mary or the Father? If I pray to the Father, then I know my prayer will go through, for I am praying according to the revealed will of Jesus, the Son of the Father. But if I pray to Mary, then I have no such assurance. Continue reading

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