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.

Continue reading

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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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Book Review: The Question That Never Goes Away, by Philip Yancey

“Why did God allow this to happen?” “Why didn’t God protect us?” “Why doesn’t a good God stop this evil?” These are all variations of the question that recurs — that never goes away –  in the aftermath of any great and not-so-great tragedy. “Where is God when it hurts?”

While exploring the question, Philip takes us on trips to some of the saddest places on earth, including Japan following the tsunami, Sarajevo and the ‘ethnic cleansing,’ the child killings at Newtown and Sandy Hook. The question has only slight variations in these places; in asking, the questioner instinctively assumes that God is a good God.

Philip’s hardest task comes when trying to find words to answer the question in a way that would comfort the hearers who have suffered loss. Going from place to place to give talks on this subject, he advances several perspectives. One I remember most is when he asked the parents who lost a child in Newtown (my paraphrase), “Now experiencing the worst pain a parent could feel, where everything seems so empty and lost, and your spirit crushed, how many of you would rather never have experienced the joy of having your child at all?” None of the people raised their hands; though their pain is most unbearable, the joy beforehand was still worth it. Continue reading

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Dying With Honor

The Bible is hard to understand in places. It’s also a thick book – who can remember it all? Therefore, many of us have ultra-simplified our theology, condensing it down to, “When I die, I go to heaven.” That’s simple and easy to remember. But its very simplicity is deceptive.

Consider Hebrews 12:2, for example: “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 the throne of God.”

Here, Jesus was not cowering under the shame of being on the cross, nor was He screaming for the pain and agony to end. Jesus on the cross is our example of how to accept the will of God and endure pain for Him (1 Peter 2:21). As a reward for His faithfulness to death, God set Him up on a throne to rule in the kingdom (Philippians 2:5-11). Continue reading

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What is the “narrow way” and why is it hard to get on it?

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Jesus spoke these words as part of a sermon on a mountain to the people. The context of the sermon answers the question of the narrow way’s identity. The sermon is about the character of the kingdom of God in a believer’s life. The narrow way is the kingdom of God, as distinct from the established religion the people were familiar with. Let’s look at several examples taken from the Sermon on the Mount, from each of its three chapters. Continue reading

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A Tale of Two Resurrections

When Paul made an argument for his faith in Acts 24:10-21, he affirmed his belief  that both the just and the unjust will be resurrected (24:15). What is the resurrection of the just and the unjust? When we encounter a doctrine in the Bible that isn’t well-developed in our minds, we may change the words a bit to make the verse fit our theology better. In the case of the resurrection of the just and the unjust, we may adapt it to our way of thinking by making it say, “the resurrection of the saved and the unsaved,” or “the resurrection of the believers and unbelievers.” (This makes us feel good about ourselves, too.)

We tell ourselves that Jesus saved us and imputed His righteousness to us, so we are among the “just,” which means righteous ones. Because we are saved, we Christians will surely be resurrected or raptured, and all the unbelievers left behind. I will touch more on this later.

If this thinking were true, then Paul’s next words would not make any sense: “I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (24:16). I used to take it for granted that because I am saved, I would make the first resurrection. But Paul saw two resurrections, not of the saved and unsaved, but of the just and unjust. They are not the same thing. “Just” does not mean “believer” or “saved.” Continue reading

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