Pastor Gary Answers 25 Common Questions about Christianity


Q: 
Why should I believe the Bible?
 What makes it any different
than other religious books such as the Koran, etc.? 

Pastor Gary: The Bible is a unique book written over a period
of about 1500 years, by approximately 40 different authors. The
locations in which these books of the Bible were written vary as
much as the authors themselves (The wilderness – Moses; Prison –
Paul; Island of Patmos – John). It was written in three different
languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek), on three different continents
(Africa, Asia, Europe). In spite of this wide variation of authors
and circumstances of writing, the Bible displays an amazing unity in
describing God’s plan of redemption for mankind. Its unity has been
summarized thus: The New (Testament) is in the Old (Testament)
concealed; The Old is in the New revealed. With one accord, it
repeatedly claims to be the Word of God. This unity of thought
points to the Mind of God behind it all.
Beyond the unity of Scripture, modern archaeology has strongly
confirmed the historicity of both the Old and New Testaments. Nelson
Glueck, a renowned Jewish archaeologist remarked, “…It may be stated
categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted
a biblical reference.” Various archaeologists have made similar
remarks supporting the accuracy of the Bible, and the contribution
of archaeology in understanding the Bible.
The predictive prophecy of Scripture puts the Bible in a class by
itself. J. Barton Payne in his Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecies,
lists 1817 predictions in the Bible (1239 in the Old Testament and
578 in the New Testament). He calculated that 27% of the entire
Bible contains predictive prophecy. No other religious book in the
world can claim this. The argument is that of accurately fulfilled
predictive prophecy. If many highly improbable predictions are made
in the name of God, which then come to pass without fail, is it not
reasonable to assume that those prophecies were divinely inspired?

Finally, the testimony of changed lives for those who believe and
follow the teachings of the Bible, is so universal and consistent,
it would seem foolish to refuse to consider that this might be God’s
message to mankind. People from every class, culture, and language
who have believed this book and followed it have seen similar
changes in their lives. Some of the most evil people alive, have
been converted by believing the message of this book. Both the
simple and the intellectual, the rich and the poor, the young and
the old, have had their lives turned around by believing the message
of this Book and following the Lord presented in it.
Much more could be said on this, but space prevents it here.
However, from the few things I’ve mentioned, wouldn’t it seem wise
to carefully check out what this Book has for you? Thanks for
reading and have a great day.
 


Q: 
Why does God allow so much pain and suffering in the world?  


Pastor Gary: This question wells up from the heart when we
observe the hurting around us, and when we feel the hurt within us.
To the person who is in the midst of suffering, no answer seems
fully satisfying, and I certainly don’t pretend to have a complete
answer here. But I will make a couple of comments.
In the first place, we need to understand that all pain is the
result of sin in this world. Sin is that which breaks our
relationship with God, and brings destruction and death into the
world. Note that I said, “All pain is the result of sin in this
world”. It’s not necessarily the result of personal sin in the life
of the sufferer. Disease, natural disasters, birth defects, and
countless other causes of pain, may result from either personal sin,
or the evil in this world generally. We often feel pain for things
over which we have had no control. Let me also say here that my
knowing the reason for pain, and God having a reason for pain are
two different things. God’s purpose for allowing pain in my life is
not dependent upon my knowing what it is.
Having said that, we can note that there are a number of ways in
which God uses pain and suffering for a greater good. 1) Sometimes
God uses pain or evil to warn us against a greater pain or evil. As
a child, I remember various dogs on the farm getting run over on the
road. Even though that saddened me, it also reminded me to be
careful when crossing a road. Pain may keep us from
self-destruction. In his insightful book The Gift Nobody Wants, Dr.
Paul Brand gives numerous examples of how pain protects us from
doing things to ourselves that would be self-destructive. His years
working with leprosy patients taught him the horrors of a life
without pain. The destruction of a limb occurs quickly when a person
loses the sensation of pain, which serves to protect it from harmful
activity. 2) Pain can produce within us good character virtues. We
may gain patience, sensitivity, compassion, and many other terrific
traits by undergoing pain. One who has experienced a certain type of
suffering, is often well-equipped to comfort others who experience
it. 3) Pain gets our attention, and often causes us to look to God
in our helpless state. English author C.S. Lewis put it well when he
noted, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our
conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a
deaf world.”
Are you suffering now in some way? Let me encourage you to turn to
Him who created you and sent His Son to die for you. He has not
forgotten you, and is with you in your pain. For all who trust and
follow the Savior, the pain of this life is only temporary, and He
will one day bring them into His presence where “there shall no
longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain…” (Rev. 21:4). Thanks for
reading and have a great day.
 


Q: 
Is there really a hell, and if so, how could a good and loving God
send people to it? 
Pastor Gary:
If you believe what the Bible says about a good and
loving God, who sent Jesus to pay for our sins, it seems logical
that we believe what Jesus said about hell; for He spoke more about
hell than anyone else in the New Testament. It is described in a
number of ways: as a place of outer darkness, a perpetual burning
dump “where the worm does not die and the fire never goes out”, a
bottomless pit, a prison, a place of torment and regret, a place of
eternal destruction. The worst description however, is that it is a
place separated from God. Jesus spoke of a great chasm fixed between
the two possible destinations after death, thus denying access
between them (Luke 16:26). Paul spoke of it as “…exclusion from the
presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.” (II Thess.
1:9). Can you imagine being separated from God, who is the source of
all good? While on this earth, “He causes his sun to rise on the
evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the
unrighteous” (Matt 5:45), but in hell, every vestige of good will be
gone. Separation from God will be complete and final. Instead of
light, there will be darkness. Instead of comfort, there will be
torment.
Contrary to what the question implies, God does not send people to
hell against their will; He simply gives them what they choose.
Everyone deserves hell, but God has provided a way of redemption
through His Son, Jesus Christ. We may receive His gift of
forgiveness and follow Him; but to reject that offer is to choose
separation from God (hell). Even an atheistic writer such as
Jean-Paul Sartre suggested that the door of hell is locked from the
inside (see his story No Exit). Hell is a place of torment, not
torture. It should be noted that torture is inflicted from without
against one’s will, while torment is self-inflicted; it is living
with the consequences of our bad choices. The choices that we make
in time, are sealed in eternity. Those who do not wish to have a
relationship with God will see that desire fulfilled, forever. Those
who do not wish to be with God, will then be separated from Him,
forever. C.S. Lewis noted in his Screwtape Letters, “There are only
two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be
done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’”. 
What does God desire for you? “God is not willing that any should
perish but that all should come to repentance.”(II Peter 3:9) He
“desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
truth.” (I Tim. 2:4) He will not force you to have a relationship
with Himself, but He does extend the invitation. Have you responded
to His offer? If not, why not do it right now, and begin to follow
Him? Thanks for reading and have a great day.
 


Q: 
I feel closer to God out in the woods or on the lake. I don’t need
to go to church to be a Christian, do I?
Pastor Gary:
You’re right in that you do not have to go to
church to be a Christian, and neither do you have to go home to be a
husband. Going to church is not what makes a person a Christian, any
more than going home at night makes you a husband. But husbands who
want to have a good relationship with their wives will spend time at
home. 
There is a basic and prevalent misunderstanding of Christianity.
It’s the idea that I become a Christian by doing certain good deeds.
The New Testament makes it clear that we can never earn a place in
heaven by our good lives. We are sinners, every one, and cannot
possibly be righteous before a Holy God, on our own merit. God the
Father sent His Son Jesus, to take the punishment we deserve. He did
this in giving His life as a ransom for us. A jailer in the city of
Philippi asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” Their
answer was simple and straightforward, “Believe in the Lord Jesus,
and you shall be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31). However, it’s also clear
from the New Testament, that whenever a person genuinely believed in
Jesus Christ, it was a life-changing experience. 
One change that occurred was that the person became part of the
church, the Body of Christ. From earliest days, Christians saw the
need to gather for worship, encouragement, and accountability. Some
people think that the church is man’s invention. On the contrary, it
was Jesus who said, “…I will build My church and the gates of Hades
shall not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18) Yet even in the early
church, there were some with the attitude, ‘I don’t need to be part
of a local church’. For that reason, the writer of the New Testament
book of Hebrews admonished, “Let us not give up meeting together, as
some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…”
(Hebrews 10:25). Since the resurrection of Jesus, genuine believers
have met regularly for corporate worship, teaching, encouragement,
prayer, and
fellowship.
If you find church irrelevant or unnecessary, the problem may lie in
one of two areas. It may be your own relationship with Christ that
is not right. If the church is important to Jesus (who is building
it), shouldn’t it also be valuable to us who follow Jesus? Secondly,
it may be that I am not in a church that is helping me grow in my
relationship with the Lord. Vance Havner used to say that too many
churches start at 11 o’clock sharp, and end at 12 o’clock dull! In
our land, we are fortunate to have access to a multitude of various
denominations and local churches. It’s important that we find a
group of believers with whom we can worship, learn, serve, and grow.
May God help you do that. And by the way, keep talking with the Lord
while you’re out in the woods or on the lake. Thanks for reading and
have a great day.
 


Q: 
Doesn’t science contradict the Bible or disprove God? 
Pastor Gary:
Space prohibits a thorough answer here, however I’d
like to mention a couple of items. To begin, it should be noted that
many of the scientists who first developed principles leading to the
scientific method, were creationists (ie. They believed that “In the
beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”, Gen. 1:1).
Scientists included in this category would be Kepler, Pascal,
Newton, Faraday, Mendel, Pasteur, Kelvin, and others. With that
belief in place, they understood the material world as something
worth studying. With God in control of the universe, they assumed
that the universe made sense. It was not “random chance”, but had a
purpose given by its maker. Without this basis, it is questionable
whether/when modern science would have started. Science is based on
the assumption of cause and effect. Every event must have a cause.
Scientists like Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and
others distinguished between primary and secondary causes. A primary
cause explained events that happened only one time, and have no
natural explanation. Secondary causes are natural laws that direct
the way things normally operate.
Primary causes and secondary causes must be dealt with in two
different ways. Secondary causes may be observed or tested
repeatedly in the present. The conclusions are verifiable or
falsifiable. Primary causes however, demand that we try to
understand events that occurred in the past, and are not repeatable.
Like forensic science, the cause must be understood from the present
effect, but not from observing it repeat itself (One cannot ask a
murder victim to ‘die again’, so that we may observe how it
occurred). How everything came into existence (including life
itself) is in this category. No one was there to take pictures, and
no one can repeat the event. We must make assumptions about the
primary cause based upon our observation of the effect. This is
where our second issue comes in: intelligent design.
As we observe the effect of this universe and life itself, we see
specified complexity. A chain of random polymers may be complex, but
has no specific purpose or message (eg. HFIDLS IEUDN HSCID). On the
other hand, specified complexity exhibits order with a clear purpose
(eg. THESE WORDS HAVE MEANING AND PURPOSE). As you can tell, one of
these sentences reflects random chance, and the other, intelligence.
Matter is one thing, but information is another, and information
implies intelligence. To quote author Phillip Johnson, “…complex,
specified information of the kind found in a book or a biological
cell cannot be produced either by chance or at the direction of
physical and chemical laws.” From our universal experience in the
world, specified complexity points to an intelligent primary cause.
To say it another way, everything we see in our world displays the
hand of an intelligent Creator. David said it like this, “The
heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his
hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they
display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)
Does science contradict the Bible or disprove God? On the contrary,
in field upon field science gives powerful evidence for the truth of
God and His Word. Thanks for reading and have a great day.
 


Q: 
I’ve always believed the Bible, but when I hear someone talk about
being “Born Again”, it confuses me. I’m not sure if I have been, or
if I need to be. What do you think?
Pastor Gary:
The term “born again” for all the new meanings our
society has given it, is a term that Jesus used in John 3. He said,
“I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God. (Jn. 3:3) and “…unless a man is born of water and
the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”(Jn. 3:5). Jesus’
statements make clear that being “born again” is essential to
entering God’s kingdom. But what does it mean?
While being “born of water” has been understood in different ways by
various Christians (ie. referring to physical birth, or water
baptism), being born of “the Spirit” is clearly understood as a
spiritual birth. The apostle Peter wrote that this occurs “…through
the living and enduring word of God.” (I Peter 1:23) When the Word
of God is used by the Spirit of God to touch a person’s heart,
making them God’s child, spiritual birth occurs. As physical birth
means the person is alive physically, so spiritual birth means the
person is alive spiritually. He is reconciled and brought into a
relationship with God that was previously broken due to sin (and we
are all sinners).
The question addresses both the cognitive and personal aspects of a
relationship with God. The person who is born again must first
believe what Jesus taught; that He came “to seek and to save what
was lost” and “to give His life as a ransom for many.” We must
believe these facts. However, knowing and believing the facts does
not guarantee a relationship. The second aspect of a relationship
with the Lord involves me personally putting my trust in Jesus
Christ as my Savior. It involves MY repentance and believing in Him
to forgive MY sins. This is the relational or pietistic aspect of
genuine faith. It is not enough to simply believe certain facts
about Jesus (James 2:19 says that even the demons believe there is
one God). Our cognitive faith ABOUT Jesus, must become a personal
faith IN Jesus.
John Wesley grew up in a Christian home, and for a number of years,
preached about Christ. Yet he grew to realize that though he knew
those facts, he himself was lacking in genuine faith. It wasn’t
until a certain evening meeting, as he listened to someone reading
Luther’s preface to Romans, he felt his heart “strangely warmed”. At
that moment he said, “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone,
for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away
my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Being “born again” is coming by faith, into a genuine relationship
with Jesus Christ as one’s savior. To be in Christ, is to be a “new
creation”. If you have been born again, there will be evidence of
spiritual life. Are you trusting Him for your salvation? Are you in
a relationship with Him? Only you and God can answer that one. But
it’s the most important issue we will face in this world. On it
depends our eternity. Thanks for reading and have a great day.
 


Q: 
Since Christianity has so many different denominations and churches,
how do you know which is the right one?
Pastor Gary:
There are certain teachings within the Christian
faith that make it distinct from other religions in this world.
Those basic teachings have been set forth in the early creeds of the
Church, such as the Apostle’s Creed, and the Nicene Creed. The
issues dealt with in these creeds are the essentials and bedrock
truth of the Christian faith. If a church does not hold to these
truths, it is not Christianity.
However, within the Christian Church worldwide, there is still great
variety. Churches (and people within churches) may differ on a
number of theological issues such as the sacraments (ordinances),
prophecy, predestination, church government, etc. I would encourage
you to make the Bible your authority, and start studying for
yourself. In doing that, decide what you believe the Word of God
teaches concerning these various topics. Most people would probably
agree that it’s not wise to do something, believe something, or go
somewhere, simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it”! Check
out the Word of God for yourself.
Beyond theological differences, there are differences of
methodology. Styles of worship and teaching vary among churches. As
you choose a church home, it is important to find one where you can
sincerely worship the Lord, and in which you feel comfortable. One
person may appreciate a certain style of music in expressing worship
to God, while someone else prefers a different flavor altogether.
Some like a liturgical order of worship while others prefer more
spontaneity. Most important is our relationship with the Lord. After
all, God looks at our hearts regardless of the style of worship. We
can’t fool Him!
One more issue you’ll want to consider is the congregation itself.
Are you able to have Christian fellowship with these people? Within
the Body of Christ we must relate to the other members. Can I work
with these people, serve these people, grow with these people,
fellowship with these people? Part of this issue has to do with my
own learning to work with whatever believers I am with. The other
side of the coin however, is that I will not fit in with certain
groups as well as with other groups. John Wesley, concerned over the
rise of denominations in the church, tells of a dream he had. In the
dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell. There he asked, "Are
there any Presbyterians here?" "Yes!", came the answer. Then he
asked, "Are there any Baptists? Any Episcopalians? Any Methodists?"
The answer was Yes! each time. Much distressed, Wesley was then
ushered to the gates of Heaven. There he asked the same question,
and the answer was No! "No?" To this, Wesley asked, "Who then is
inside?" The answer came back, "There are only Christians here."
This accords with what Scripture teaches, “He who has the Son has
life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I
John 5:12)
In the final analysis, make sure that you are a Christian; that you
genuinely know Jesus Christ as your savior, and attend where you
believe God would have you grow and serve Him. It is a great
privilege to be part of the Body of Christ, and it is to Him that we
will each give account. Thanks for reading and have a great day.
 


Q: 
It doesn’t really matter what I believe, does it? Just as long as my
belief helps me, that’s what matters, right? 
Pastor Gary: 
Wrong! That type of thinking presupposes
there is nothing absolutely true. It sees the act of believing as
all that is important, without regard to the content. This view
would be ludicrous in any other area of life. Could you get away
with saying, “It doesn’t matter what I believe about where I live,
just as long as I believe I live somewhere?” If you believe that you
live somewhere other than what is true, you will not get home very
often. In the physical world, if someone’s beliefs do not line up
with reality, we question whether they are psychotic, hallucinating,
or just have a bad memory. When we are speaking about the unseen
spiritual world, the value of truth is no less important.
Belief itself does not create truth as some sort of self-fulfilling
prophecy. I could believe that my 1986 Ford Escort is a 2001 Acura,
but it just ain’t so. Absolute truth is as it is. My perspective may
change, but absolute truth does not change, regardless of who is
perceiving it, or when. My 1986 Ford Escort is a 1986 Ford Escort
whether I believe it or not. It is up to us to find out what is true
so we may believe accurately.
The existence of absolute truth does not depend upon someone
believing it. Truth is absolute regardless of the level of my
evidence or belief. Do you need absolute evidence to believe in
absolute Truth? No; I can believe based on the best evidence I do
have. We do this every day as we learn new things. Learning involves
moving from a false belief to a true belief, based on evidence.
Christians have chosen to believe the Bible because it is solid
evidence, and best explains reality as we perceive it. The
Scriptures emphasize the object of our belief far more than the size
of our belief. When it comes to Jesus Christ, we must decide whether
He was accurately teaching reality when He said, “I am the Way, the
Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John
14:6) He prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them in thy truth; Thy word
is truth.” (John 17:17) In these two statements, Jesus claimed we
could trust Him, and we could trust the Word of God as truth. The
issue we must decide, is whether we will trust Him and believe His
Word. He either accurately reflects reality or He does not. It does
matter what we believe, and is not enough to “just believe”. Jesus
said, “…everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have
eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
What we believe about Jesus and whether we believe in Jesus, has
major consequences. Thanks for reading; have a great week!
 


Q: 
Why are Christians so prudish when it comes to sex? They give the
impression it is dirty.
Pastor Gary:
If Christians have given the impression that sex is
dirty and shameful, we have given a wrong impression. It is God who
created mankind “male and female”, and He created us with a sexual
identity. Contrary to being “dirty”, the sexual relationship that
God intended a man and woman to experience is pure, meaningful, and
very powerful. It provides the means to express love and trust in a
unique way affecting both the body and soul. Because God made sex
with such potential, He also set the boundary of marriage in which
it should be used.
My radial saw has some fine print instructions intended to protect
the user, like “Check the blade guard before each use”. These
cautions serve to warn against misuse and harm. So also, God limited
the boundaries for using the sexual relationship to that of
heterosexual marriage. Within that context, the Bible teaches the
marriage bed is undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). When used as directed by
God (ie. expressing love and trust within marriage), sex is pure. On
the other hand, when used outside of God’s limits, it may become a
raging torrent and cruel master. Ancient Solomon encouraged his son
to “drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own
well.” He then asks, “Should your springs be dispersed abroad,
streams of water in the streets?” (Proverbs 5:15-16) The instruction
here is to keep your sexual relations limited to your spouse alone,
not scatter them widely (“in the streets”). We are to guard this
carefully with the person to whom we have taken marriage vows. The
Mississippi is a beautiful river, and functions well carrying goods
and people on its waters. Yet when it overflows its banks and
submerges towns as it did recently, this beautiful waterway become a
destructive force out of control.
The sexual drive is a powerful instinct that God has built into the
human body. How that force is harnessed and related to the other
areas of our life helps determine the quality and stability of our
relationships, the productivity of our communities, and the
happiness of our families. Many years ago, Margaret Mead studied the
sexually expressive Samoan culture finding that their permissiveness
caused other problems, leaving the culture unproductive and
primitive. Beyond that, adults in that culture showed an inability
to make deep commitments to other people. Promiscuous sexual
behavior does not produce satisfaction (either in oneself or in
one’s relationships), but rather produces an itching for excitement.
Dr. Peter Blitchington (of Andrews University) wrote that “as is
true of poison ivy, the more fervently it is scratched, the more
excruciating becomes the itch.” Misusing God’s gift of sexuality has
throughout history caused much destruction and pain: broken trust,
broken relationships, broken families, broken lives, loss of respect
for self and others, not to mention scores of sexually transmitted
diseases. Although promiscuous behavior may provide a temporary
thrill, the long term costs are extremely high. May God help us see
the true value of this gift, so that we protect it rather than
cheapen or misuse it. Thanks for reading and have a great week.
 


Q: 
Why should I go to church? The church is full of hypocrites. 

Pastor Gary:
This is a common excuse for not attending church,
and my less than righteous, off-the-cuff reaction is, “C’mon and
join us, there’s always room for one more.” The truth of the matter
is that everyone has probably been guilty of some hypocrisy at one
point or another, but it is a dangerous thing.
The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek language and was used in
the theater to speak of an actor who puts on a false face to play a
part. It came to be used in a metaphorical sense of someone who is a
pretender, and not genuine. Hypocrisy is denounced in both the Old
and New Testaments, with Jesus speaking against it very strongly. He
warned people saying,  
“…you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You
hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These
people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by
men.” (Matthew 15:6-9) 
All people are sinners, but we do not have to practice hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy has to do with dishonesty; putting on a face that isn’t
genuine. Hopefully we are genuine when we come to God. He certainly
isn’t fooled by our words or outward actions since He knows our
hearts. Another issue here might be a misconception of what a
Christian is. A Christian is not a person who is perfect, nor one
who gives the impression that they are. In fact, in order to become
a Christian, one has to genuinely admit to God that he is an
unworthy sinner, and in need of God’s mercy through Jesus. No doubt
people can and do attend church for the wrong reasons at times, but
that is not everyone, all the time. And if some are hypocritical, it
certainly doesn’t have to affect your relationship with God. He
calls you to be honest before Him and totally committed to Him. A
church worship service is to be a group of forgiven sinners who
honestly seek to honor and thank God, and learn more of Him. They
gather together to encourage one another in that faith. Someone once
said it this way: “Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital
for sinners!”
In the final run, Christianity does not stand or fall with how well
people live. It is based upon Jesus Christ who is NOT a hypocrite,
but is “The Truth”. He did give His life to pay for our sins, and He
did rise from the dead as He said He would do. It would be a pity
for you to allow someone else’s failures to keep you from growing in
your relationship with the Lord and being obedient to Him. May God
help us each be genuine. We need to make sure that we are not like
those of whom Jesus spoke; those who honor Him with their lips while
in reality their hearts are far from Him. Thanks for reading and
have a great day.
 


Q: What
happens to the people who have never heard of Jesus?  
Pastor Gary:
That’s an interesting question. I always wonder
about someone’s motive when they ask it. If it is simply a matter of
curiosity, it is valid. If it is an excuse for someone not becoming
a follower of Jesus, there is a problem. Everyone who asks that
question has heard of Jesus, and they will be accountable for what
they know, not for what someone else doesn’t know. But let’s talk
about this a bit. Scripture teaches that we learn of God through
both general and special revelation.
General revelation is that means through which God has made His
truth open to all. Through creation, all can see the work of a wise
and powerful creator who made everything. Through conscience, we see
written on the heart of each person a sense of right and wrong,
however misplaced his/her values may be. The universal nature of a
moral law, (even murderers can feel that some things are unfair)
reminds us that there is a moral lawgiver. If there is no moral
absolute by which to gauge right and wrong, why do we so universally
understand the existence of right and wrong? Both creation and
conscience bear witness to One who is far greater and more righteous
than us. Special revelation is the means by which God has made His
truth known to specific peoples. He has done this through His Word:
both the Living Word of God (Jesus), and the Written Word of God
(The Bible). Before we go any further, let me say that I must not
render a verdict on anyone’s eternal destiny specifically, but I can
repeat what God has said. In light of that, I’ll make a few comments
about how God judges.
First, the only way that someone can come to God the Father, is
through God the Son. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except
through Me.” (John 14:6). He alone is the only basis for forgiveness
and everlasting life. Many feel this automatically means that those
who have never heard of Jesus are automatically damned, but the
Scripture does not say that. Neither does the Bible explicitly teach
that one who has never heard of Jesus can be saved. But it does
teach that salvation is only through Christ. Second, the Bible does
teach that no one has any excuse for not seeking God, because of
general revelation in creation (Romans 1:19-20) and in our
conscience (Romans 2:12-17). Those two areas are open to all, and
will hold all accountable. Thirdly, Scripture teaches that God is
going to judge the world fairly and righteously. Since He knows all
things, both actual and possible, He alone can judge each person
justly, and He will make no mistakes. Fourthly, he will hold each
one accountable for what has been entrusted to Him. “From everyone
who has been given much, much will be demanded…” (Luke 12:48) There
are examples in Scripture of those who sought after God, and in turn
God provided ways for them to learn of Him and know Him. There are
also those who had only the smallest amount of knowledge about Him,
but they acted faithfully with that, and were commended by Him
(Rahab in Joshua 2 and Hebrews 11:31). When Peter was sent by God to
take the message of Jesus to Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile, he
said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show
favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do
what is right.” Peter then went on to share the message of Jesus
with him, which Cornelius believed. (Acts 10:14ff)
In closing, don’t let this issue keep you from the Lord. He is
completely just and will judge fairly. You have heard of Jesus
Christ and have the opportunity to receive and follow Him. Are you
doing it? That is what He requires of you and it is for that you are
accountable. Thanks for reading and have a great day.
 


Q: 
What’s wrong with a couple living together? Isn’t marriage just a
piece of paper anyway?
Pastor Gary:
This question targets the value of marriage itself.
Is marriage important, or can couples just choose to live together
until they decide to break up? One’s view on this issue has crucial
bearing on the shape of the family, and on all of society.
When a man and woman come together as husband and wife, they form
the most basic institution of society, the family. It is the
training ground for every individual, and affects all other
institutions of society. As children come into this world, they come
into a family. As they grow, they are nurtured and taught by a
family. The shape and form that family takes, largely affects each
individual, who in turn affects society and the future. God created
the family and in the Bible, He used the marriage relationship as an
illustration of His relationship with His people. Our relationship
with God depends on His faithful covenant love, and it is a
“covenant love” that unites a man and woman in marriage. With God,
these two make a covenant before society to become husband and wife.
This relationship is to be firm and lasting, “till death do us
part”, not because God wants to cramp our style, but because this is
what is best for individuals and society. When both husband and wife
seek to please the Lord in their marriage relationship, it brings
joy to them and security to the children brought into that home.
When families are solid and loving, living in line with the moral
character of God, all of society benefits and enjoys stability.
Like it or not, statistics show clearly the consequences of a
society abdicating God’s teaching on marriage. When parental
relationships break apart, everyone suffers, as much as we try to
minimize the pain. Note some statistics:
-Children of divorce suffer intense grief, lasting many years. Even
as young adults they are almost twice as likely to need
psychological help. Kids from disrupted families have more academic
and behavioral problems and are nearly twice as likely to drop out
of school.
-In single parent homes, girls are at much greater risk for
precocious sexuality and are three times more likely to have a child
out of wedlock.
-Children in single parent families are six times more likely to be
poor, with half the single mothers in the U.S. living below the
poverty line.
-Crime and substance abuse is strongly linked to fatherless homes,
with some studies showing that 60 percent of rapists, 72 percent of
adolescent murderers and 70 percent of all long term inmates grew up
in fatherless homes.
As our families have suffered in American society, all of society
has suffered. The traditional Christian wedding ceremony often
contains lines similar to these: “…marriage is more than a legal
contract, but rather a bond of union sealed in heaven.” and “It is
not to be entered into unadvisedly, but reverently, discreetly, and
in the fear of God.”
God loves people and wants to protect us from hurting ourselves and
each other. For that reason He said, “I hate divorce.” (Malachi
2:16). Jesus stated, “…what God has joined together, let man not
separate.” (Matthew 19:6). The stability of future generations and
all of society rests on our view of marriage, and God’s word gives
much wisdom in making them strong. None of us can re-do the past,
but for those considering marriage, or already married, we can
choose to build for healthy marriages now. For your own sake, for
posterity’s sake, and for all of society, please make this choice.
Thanks for listening and have a good day.
 


Q: 
Can I really get to heaven just by believing that Jesus died for me?
Don’t I also have to live a good life? It doesn’t seem fair that
someone can live however they want, and then just say, “I believe in
Jesus” to get to heaven. 
Pastor Gary:
Just saying “I believe in Jesus” is never presented
in Scripture as a means of getting to heaven, unless that statement
springs from a heart of genuine faith. There is a difference between
saying, “I believe in Jesus”, and actually “believing in Jesus”. The
problem is, only God can discern accurately which faith is genuine
and which isn’t. Fortunately, He is the judge, and not you or I. He
won’t make any mistakes in His judging, and is always completely
just and fair.
Beyond that however, what this question really deals with is the
relationship between faith and good works, and the part they play in
receiving salvation. The Word of God addresses this issue. With the
emphasis on faith, Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For it is by grace you
have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves; it is
the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” With the
emphasis on works, James 2:14 & 17, states, “What good is it, my
brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such
faith save him? …In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not
accompanied by action, is dead.” The first seems to clearly say that
salvation is a gift from God, received by faith, apart from works.
The second clearly emphasizes the necessity of good works. However,
there is a slight yet huge difference in the part that both faith
and works play.
It is clear that salvation comes by God’s grace and is received
through faith. Works are a necessary ingredient, BUT NOT to make us
worthy of salvation. Instead, our actions display the sincerity or
insincerity of our faith. Someone said it well: “We are not saved by
faith and works, but by a faith that works.” Genuine repentance
demands a genuine change in lifestyle. If our faith has not affected
the way we live, it is doubtful that our faith is genuine. Yet if
our lives produce good works, it is not those works that make us
worthy of heaven. It is the grace of God that provided our savior,
Jesus Christ, who paid for our sins on the cross; He makes us
worthy. We receive that gift by faith. Genuine faith then leads to
good works. Theologian Charles Ryrie, said it is like a two coupon
train or bus ticket. One coupon says, "Not good if detached" and the
other says, "Not good for passage". Works are not good for passage;
but faith detached from works is not saving faith. 
When the thief next to Jesus on the cross, exercised genuine faith,
Jesus assured him “you will be with me in paradise”. This in spite
of the fact he had no opportunity to do many good works before he
died. Yet in those moments, because of his sincere faith, he did
defend Jesus to the other thief. Jesus knew this man’s faith was
real, and promised him salvation. It is by faith in Jesus Christ
alone that we receive salvation, but a genuine faith is never alone;
it produces good fruit. Now how about you? Have you put your trust
in Jesus Christ alone to save you? If so, how does your life show
it? Thanks for reading. Have a great day.
 


Q: 
I heard someone say that God must either be limited in His goodness
or limited in His power. For if He were all-good, He would destroy
evil, and if He were all powerful, He could destroy evil. Because
this world is so bad, God cannot be both, all good and all powerful. 

Pastor Gary:
The thinking here is that if God were all-good and
all-powerful, He would make this the best of all possible worlds.
The problem is that this world clearly isn’t the best. There is a
hidden assumption in this line of thought. It assumes that if God
were all-good and all powerful, He would destroy evil now. It
assumes that because evil is not destroyed immediately, it will
never be destroyed. It assumes that there is no good reason that God
would allow evil to exist for a time and then be destroyed. Yet that
is the very thing the Bible teaches: that God has allowed sin in
this world for a time, but one day He will destroy evil. Scripture
clearly teaches that this is not the best of all possible worlds,
but simply a prelude to the best of all possible worlds. 
God could have created a world in which sin was not an option; a
world in which man would have had no opportunity to sin. But in such
a world, love cannot exist either. For love to be genuine, it must
be a matter of choice, not force. So in creating this world, God
preserved for mankind the opportunity to choose obedience or
disobedience. Now you may be thinking, “Why would God create a world
in which He knew man would sin”? Christian apologist Norman Geisler
wrote, “The highest virtues and the greatest pleasures are
impossible to achieve if there is not opposition as a precondition.”
Grace, mercy, and forgiveness cannot be exercised without sin.
Patience cannot be learned without waiting. Geisler noted that “It
is better to have the opportunity to reach the highest good rather
than be confined to achieving lesser goods with no opposition.”
Someday, God will confirm the choices that each one has made. Those
who have chosen to have a relationship with God will be sealed in
that relationship. The choice they made freely to love God will be
sealed forever. On the other hand, those who have rejected a
relationship with God, will be sealed in that choice forever, and
separated from Him. The best of all possible worlds will exist at
that time; a place in which all who have freely chosen a
relationship with God will live in a perfect world, forever in His
presence. That is exactly what John describes in Revelation 21:1 &
3, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven
and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice from
the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will
live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with
them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the
old order of things has passed away.”  In that world, God will have
preserved both the freedom of our choices, and a perfect world.
Although this present world is not the best of all possible worlds,
we might say this is the “best way to the best of all possible
worlds”. The question now is, what will you choose in this time of
decision? Thanks for reading.
 


Q: 
Don’t Muslims and Christians worship the same God basically? Aren’t
Jehovah and Allah just different names for the same God? 
Pastor Gary:
Have you ever been confused for someone else;
perhaps a sibling? Most of us have experienced that at one time or
another. Some years ago I heard the story of a man who was asked to
speak at a business convention. When the emcee brought him up, he
introduced him with these words: “Our guest speaker, Robert ——,
comes from Texas, where he has made millions in oil.” After the
introduction finished and the applause died down, ‘Robert;’ began to
speak. “I’d like to make a couple of corrections to that
introduction. First of all, my name is John, not Robert. Secondly,
I’m from Idaho, not Texas. Third, I’m in potatoes, not oil, and
lastly, I didn’t make millions, I lost them!”
People tend to think that just because there is only one true God,
any definition or character trait you give him is okay. While the
Muslim perspective of God has some similarities to the God described
in the Bible, it is also very different. When God first revealed His
name (with the Hebrew consonants YHWH) to Moses, it was to reveal
Himself as the One eternal God, distinct from any other deity. The
revelation that He has given of Himself in the Bible does not square
with the picture of Allah given in the Koran. Though some attributes
are the same, there are important crucial differences, and both
perspectives cannot be true of One God. Chuck Colson recently made
the following observation:
“Christianity like Judaism teaches that God is a God of redemption.
Both Old and New Testaments affirm that God is love, a God who
initiates and champions a relationship with His people. By contrast,
Muslims believe that god, or Allah in Arabic, is aloof and distant.
He is primarily a god of justice rather than a god of love. And he
is not a god who redeems his people, but a god who must simply be
obeyed.”
According to Islam, God is unknowable in His nature, or in any
personal sense, while the Bible teaches that we can know God. In
fact, Jesus taught that knowing God is essential to eternal life
(John 17:3). Both the Old and New Testaments present God as desiring
a relationship with His people (a common illustration being that of
a Father and His children). The Koran (Islam holy book) presents
Jesus only as a prophet to Israel, while the Bible presents Jesus as
the Son of God, the Messiah, who came "to seek and to save that
which was lost." Islam does not accept this plan of redemption.
If someone tells me over the phone that we’ve met, and then goes on
to describe me as 6’7”, with a full head of jet-black hair, I’d be
inclined to think he’s got the wrong guy. It’s not up to us to
decide what God is like, but for us to learn from His revelation.
Does your view of God line up with what He has revealed about
Himself in the Bible? Thanks for reading; have a great week.
 


Q: 
Why is Christianity so negative always talking about sin? Wouldn’t
it be much better to be positive and emphasize the goodness in
mankind rather than the negative? 
Pastor Gary:
There is much that is good about mankind. After
all, man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God.
After God created man on that sixth day, Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw
all that he had made, and it was very good.” God created man good,
and desires good for man. Yet in spite of that, one would have to be
morally blind to miss the evil that exists in our world, and in
people. To refuse to address that sufficiently is neither wise nor
loving. 
Over thirty years ago, a doctor unintentionally misdiagnosed my
mother with colitis, while colon cancer continued to grow, without
anyone’s knowledge. That error of underestimating the negative was
fatal. The most loving thing God can do for us is to call our
problem for what it is, and then provide a remedy. That is exactly
what He has done in addressing the issue of sin. From Genesis to
Revelation, the Word of God deals with this “fatal disease” that has
afflicted all of mankind. It is something that is automatically
passed from one generation to another through our human natures.
Everyone on this earth must deal with this problem, and the
consequences of it: death (both physical and spiritual).
It is this failure to conform to the moral law of God that has
caused the problems we face on earth. Worse still, it will lead to
an eternal separation from the God who made us, unless we face it
and deal with it. God has provided the remedy to remove sin and its
effects, through His Son Jesus Christ. His substitutionary death on
the cross, paid the huge price for the sin of the world, so that all
who trust Him and follow Him, would receive forgiveness and a
restored relationship with God. Now that is a positive message! It
deals squarely with the evil that all of humanity faces, yet
provides a remedy for it.
To ignore the problem or underestimate it, is not only foolish, it
is downright unloving. One of the most well-know verses in all of
the Bible says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and
only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have
eternal life.” (John 3:16) Because of His love, God has provided the
solution to this problem of sin that mankind faces. But each
individual must first admit there is a problem before he will see
any need for the solution. A person must realize they are lost
before they will desire to be found. If we refuse to acknowledge sin
and its effects, we will see no need for God’s remedy, a Savior. We
must first face the negative honestly (i.e. that we have sinned and
deserve God’s wrath), before we can appreciate and accept the
positive (i.e. that He provides forgiveness to all who genuinely
repent and trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation). God’s offer
of forgiveness in Jesus really is “Good News”; that’s the meaning of
the word “Gospel”. Thanks for reading. Have a great day.
 


Q: 
Don’t you think religion in general (and Christianity specifically)
is just a crutch for weak-minded people who need to believe in God? 

Pastor Gary:
I’ve heard this statement/question more than once
on a college campus. It seems to pre-suppose that God is not real,
but just a created concept to enable people to cope with the
problems of life. The thought is similar to Karl Marx’s famous
quotation, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”
The idea of a crutch carries a couple of thoughts. First it
indicates a need or some debilitation. Second, it offers the hurting
person some type of remedy or means of coping with the disability.
The truth of the matter is that we are all weak, have hurts, fears,
and needs. In a world where sickness and death come to all
eventually, everyone must face at some level the great questions of
life such as, “Where did I come from?”, “Where am I going?”, and
“What am I here for?”. And if we are honest, everyone must find a
way to live with those questions to their satisfaction. There are
many ways people handle those issues: denial, delay, achievements,
alcohol, philosophy, etc. The bottom line however is not whether we
need a way to deal with them; we do. Even the atheist must find a
way to cope in life. In this sense, we all need a crutch to help us
handle our weaknesses and hurts. The issue instead is whether our
crutch is real or imagined. Is the “crutch” we lean upon based in
reality, or is it simply a figment of our imagination? That is the
issue.
Christianity is based squarely on historical fact. It always has
been. From the life of Jesus, to His death, to His resurrection,
Christianity is nothing if it is not true. It is not just a made-up
belief system floating on air, but a belief system based solidly on
Jesus Christ who lived and died, and rose again. Christians have
chosen to lean on this crutch, not only because it seems to work,
but because it is true. Unless the crutch is real, it will
eventually fail. To lean on something imagined simply because it
seems to work, will leave the person in worse shape when it fails.
That is why it is crucial to search for absolute truth, instead of
settling for a belief system that “seems to work for the moment”.
Let me take this a step further. Because Christianity is based
squarely in reality, it is more than just a crutch; it is a
foundation. It is the basis for life, answering the great questions
of life. If Jesus Christ is who He said He is, calling Him a crutch
would understate it. Author Josh McDowell says it well,
“…to call Him a crutch would be like a light bulb saying to an
electrical socket, “You are my crutch.” As a light bulb was created
to function properly when inserted into the socket, so we have been
created to function properly in a personal relationship with God
through Jesus Christ.” 
Now may I ask you, what is your “crutch” in life? Is it a solid
foundation or will it ultimately fail you? Thanks for reading; have
a great day.
 


Q: 
I know I should be reading my Bible, but I start in Genesis and find
I don’t understand much of it. What do you recommend for a beginner
who wants to study God’s Word? 
Pastor Gary:
Your desire to know God’s Word is commendable. Your
conscience is right on target in telling you to read your Bible.
I’ve often said that if we could put the benefits of knowing and
obeying the Bible in pill form, we could make a fortune. This book
contains the key to a fulfilling and purposeful life in this world,
giving wise advice on everything from raising kids to preparing for
death; from handling money to building relationships; from choosing
a spouse to running a business. It is a book of solid wisdom,
affecting one’s life not only in this world, but for all eternity.
We are fortunate in our day to have access to so many good
translations of the Bible. It is important to find an accurate
translation that you can readily understand. The New International
Version and New American Standard versions are fine translations
that are very readable. A paraphrase is another option. Though not a
word-for-word translation of the original scriptures, a paraphrase
is an easy-to-understand statement of the thought of each passage.
The Living Bible by Ken Taylor, or The Message by Eugene Peterson
are examples of this. Paraphrases work well for reading and
understanding, but a good translation (as mentioned above) is more
accurate for studying purposes.
As far as where to start reading in the Bible, I like to encourage
people to begin reading in the gospel of John, followed by the other
gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The gospels are records of
Jesus life and ministry, and will take you to the heart of His
teaching. John in particular emphasizes who Jesus is, and what He is
all about. That’s a great place to start. Beyond that, the various
New Testament letters (Epistles) will teach one what the Christian
faith is all about, and what it means to be a child of God. For
learning to pray, the book of Psalms is a collection of prayers and
songs from God’s people in the Old Testament. The Proverbs are short
statements of practical advice for wise living. Regardless of where
you start, just start and continue. It is important to read God’s
Word for ourselves and let Him speak to us through it. Ask Him to
help you understand it as you read. 
Studying together with others, and/or using various Bible Study aids
are very helpful also. There are many such good study guides
available at local Christian bookstores. A devotional guide such as
Our Daily Bread can give direction, including a plan for reading
through the Bible in a year. Be faithful and patient in your study
of this book, and you will grow in your understanding. Above all,
apply what you learn. The Bible is an action book, meant to be
obeyed. As you do that, you and others will see good changes in your
life. If you read it consistently and obediently, you will find what
the writer of Psalm 119:105 said to be true, “Your word is a lamp to
my feet, and a light for my path.” God bless you as you read and
apply His Word.
 


Q: 
I read from the Old and New Testament each day, but am amazed at how
people in the Old Testament can see so many miracles, and still be
disobedient to God. How can this be?
Pastor Gary:
Three words in both the Old and New Testament are
used to describe miracles: sign, wonder, and power. The “power” of
miracles, comes from God who is over all. A “wonder” inspires awe in
those who witness it. The word “sign” speaks about the purpose of
miracles, to confirm God’s message and messenger. Miracles involve
God breaking into the natural order of things to accomplish
something that could not be explained by ordinary means. The
Biblical accounts of miracles were attested by various eyewitnesses,
whether few or many. The response to miracles in Scripture were
varied. Some believed and obeyed while others missed God’s message
refusing to obey Him, while still others obeyed for a time before
falling back into a life of disobedience.
God performed many miracles in bringing the people of Israel out of
Egyptian bondage. He sent plagues upon Egypt and divided the Red Sea
before them. Leading them into the wilderness, He provided for them
in miraculous ways. Later He would lead them into the Promised Land
through displays of His might. Yet, in the midst of all those
miraculous events, God gave a solemn warning to His people. “When
the Lord your God brings into the land He swore to your fathers…be
careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of
Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 6:10,12) To help
them remember, God gave them written commandments, along with
directions as to how His people ought to worship, and teach their
children about Him. For He knows the sinfulness of the human heart,
and how quickly we forget. 
Have you ever heard of someone making a promise to God (such as
going to church or giving a certain amount of money to the Lord’s
work) if God will just get him out of the mess he is in, or perhaps
heal him? All too often those types of “bargains” are later
forgotten when everything is going along smoothly again. The promise
made in a stressful situation is easily neglected when the stress is
past.
Think of our society. How quickly we forget the blessings that God
has brought upon us and the various miracles that occurred in the
establishing of our country. How quickly we forget the way that God
preserved our land through a destructive civil war, and then through
two world wars within the last 100 years. As marriage breakups hover
somewhere around the 50% mark, think how quickly husbands and wives
forget their marriage vows. Once so convinced they could never be
separated, they promised in a solemn ceremony to be faithful to
death. Yet within a few short years, how quickly and easily those
vows are forgotten in our society. An unfaithful spouse may know
with their intellect that their actions are destructive and foolish,
yet sin is illogical and short-sighted. Every day people choose to
sin, knowing that the consequences may be severe, but somehow
feeling they are exempt.
Being convinced and committed to the Lord in one moment does not
guarantee long term faithfulness, even when miracles are involved.
That is the fickleness of the sinful human heart. It’s sad but true,
and everyone is subject to a sinful nature. We rationalize the
miraculous and ignore the obvious; that God exists and has revealed
Himself to us. For that reason God warned Israel ahead of time, when
they are blessed they must not forget what He has done for them.
Forgetfulness in this area is dangerous. May God help us remember
well, and be faithful. Thanks for reading; have a good day.
 


Q: 
Why doesn’t God make it easy for us to believe in Him by speaking
from the clouds or something? Why doesn’t He just prove Himself to
us?
Pastor Gary:
That’s a question that many people have thought at
one time or another, and I don’t pretend to have the final answer.
Clearly, God has shown himself in many ways throughout history. The
question however is aimed at why God doesn’t remove all mystery from
our knowledge of Him. First let me say, there will come a time when
everyone will see God; we will know Him by sight, and not only by
faith. The problem is that when it occurs, our relationship with Him
(either for or against) will already be sealed. It will happen when
we see Him at the final judgement. 
About the question, however, I do believe the Bible points to at
least a couple reasons why God has based our relationship with Him
on “faith rather than sight” in this world. When God first created
mankind, their relationship was close, leaving no question as to
God’s existence. It was the entrance of sin into this world that
broke man’s fellowship with his Creator. When sin entered, and man’s
relationship with God was broken, his understanding of God clouded.
It’s what the hymn writer spoke of when he wrote:
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,

Though the eye of sinful flesh thy glory may not see…” 
Along with that, Proverbs 25:2 says,

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter
is the glory of kings.” 
As a finite being, man finds joy in searching out new information.
God, as the eternal Creator, (and far wiser than us), displays His
greatness in concealing certain things from us. What we do know
about Him, has come only by what He has revealed to us through
general revelation (His creation and our conscience) and through His
Word (both the Living Word, Jesus, and the Written Word, the Bible).
He has given us all that we need, to have a close relationship with
Him, yet the tremendous amount that still lies hidden, leaves us
with a sense of wonder and desire to know Him more. Were it possible
for us to know Him completely, while in our sinful condition,
perhaps we would take for granted what we know (as we already take
for granted many amazing things now). In concealing certain matters
from us, God reminds us that He is on the throne; He is the One who
calls the shots; He is in control, not we. In short, we must walk
with Him by faith for at least two reasons: our finite nature calls
for it, and our sinful nature demands it.
What remains for each of us to do, is to submit our lives to Him,
responding faithfully to what He has revealed to us. Only then can
we hope that He will teach us more. Thanks for reading; have a great
week.
 


Q: 
Aren’t all religions basically the same? Aren’t they all really
saying the same thing from different angles?
Pastor Gary:
Without doubt, various religions can find some
similarities, but that does not make them all basically the same,
nor does it demonstrate that they are all true. In fact, as you look
closely, you realize they cannot all be true, because they have some
exclusive elements. They teach many things completely opposite from
one another.
Perhaps I can illustrate this with a story. Over seventeen years
ago, while visiting a large amusement park, my wife Carmen and I
became separated from one another. We spent nearly the entire day
looking for each other, instead of enjoying the rides and shows. On
various occasions, I saw someone who looked like Carmen from a
distance, only to find it wasn’t her. Although there were many
similarities, such as gender, height, build, hair color, and
glasses, these other persons were not the real thing. Reality is
singular, and there is only one woman who is my wife.
In reality, two religions with exclusive teachings cannot both be
true. Christianity and Islam cannot both be true at the same time.
Neither can Mormonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or other religions all be
true at the same time. They may have some similarities, but they
also have basic differences. The Bible teaches that there is but One
God who exists eternally; that He created all things, including
mankind; that man is separated from God by sin; that in love, God
the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for man’s sin on the
cross; that only through genuine faith in Christ, can man’s
relationship with God the Father be restored. That message excludes
all other conceptions of God or means of salvation. The Jesus taught
by Islam or Mormonism is not the same Jesus that is taught by
historic Christianity based on the Bible. The God revealed in the
Bible is different from the conception of God taught in other
religions. To synchronize the exclusive claims of the Bible with
another religion is to deny the truthfulness of those claims as they
stand, and we dare not equate that hybrid with Christianity. The
commandments given by God in Scripture clearly forbid the worship of
any other gods. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the
Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John
14:6) Either this is true or it is not. 
If the God of the Bible is true, and Jesus Christ is who He said He
is, we do not have the luxury of modifying His exclusive claims. We
must either reject Him outright, or trust Him as our Lord and
Savior, submitting our lives to Him. Thanks for reading and have a
great day.
 


Q: 
How come Christians teach the Trinity when the Bible never uses that
word? 
Pastor Gary:
The word “Trinity” means “Tri-unity” or “Three in
Oneness”, and although the particular word is not found in
Scripture, what it signifies is taught repeatedly. It represents the
teaching that the One eternal God exists as three persons, Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit; and each person is fully God. 
Dr. John Warwick Montgomery uses an illustration to help us
understand this doctrine. “A close analogy to the theologian’s
procedure here lies in the work of the theoretical physicist:
Subatomic entities are found, on examination, to possess wave
properties (W), particle properties (P), and quantum properties (h).
Though these characteristics are in many respects incompatible
(particles don’t diffract, while waves do, etc.), physicists
‘explain’ or ‘model’ an electron as PWh. They have to do this in
order to give proper weight to all the relevant data. Likewise the
theologian who speaks of God as ‘three in one.’ Neither the
scientist nor the theologian expects you to get a ‘picture’ by way
of his model; the purpose of the model is to help you take into
account all of the facts, instead of perverting reality through
super-imposing an apparent ‘consistency’ on it.”
Although we may not understand how God exists as a Tri-Unity, we
must be honest with what He has revealed in His Word. It clearly
teaches that there is but one God in passages such as Deuteronomy
6:4 which says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”.
And Isaiah 44:6 states, “This is what the Lord says…I am the first
and I am the last, apart from me there is no God.” Christianity is
monotheistic through and through. We believe in but one God.
At the same time, there is a plurality that is alluded to in Old
Testament passages such as Genesis 1:26, where God said, “Let us
make man in our image, in our likeness….” When we come to the New
Testament the evidence that Jesus is God is abundantly clear. He
came claiming authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7), saying He
existed before Abraham (John 8:58), that He was equal with the
Father (John 5:17-18), and indeed the only way to the Father (John
14:6). His followers worshiped Him as God (John 20:28), and His
enemies sought to kill Him for claiming to be God (John 10:32-33).
Near the beginning of the last book of the New Testament, Jesus made
the statement to a fearful John saying, “Do not be afraid, I am the
First and the Last. I am the Living One, I was dead, and behold I am
alive for ever and ever! I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
(Revelation 1:17-18) “The First and the Last” is what The Lord said
about Himself in the Isaiah passage mentioned earlier. These are not
the words of an ordinary man, or even a good teacher. Either what He
says is true or it isn’t. Even the Holy Spirit is referred to as God
in Acts 5:3-4.
I may not understand the specifics of how God can eternally exist as
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but like the physicist who accounts
for all the evidence, I must admit what the Scriptures teach. It is
no surprise that God is beyond my understanding. He is infinite; I
am finite. But in His wisdom, he has given many examples throughout
the physical world of plurality within a unity. We can trust what
God has revealed, even if we do not understand it completely. Have a
great day.
 


Q: 
Can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it? 
Pastor Gary:
I first encountered this question in grade school
when a friend threw this seeming dilemma at me, and I did not have
an answer. I sensed the question wasn’t fair, but I didn’t
understand why at the time.
This question sets up a contradictory premise, misapplying the
teaching that God can do the impossible. When the Bible says that
“all things are possible with God”, it is referring to those things
that are logically possible, not to those things that are logically
impossible. A logical impossibility would be asking someone to draw
a square circle, since a circle by definition is not square.
Scripture teaches that there are certain things God cannot do.
Hebrews 6:18 says, “…it is impossible for God to lie.” Titus 1:2
also refers to Him as “…God, who cannot lie.” II Timothy 2:13 tells
us that “…He cannot deny Himself.” God can do whatever is logically
possible to do, though it may be impossible for creatures to do it.
However, God cannot be contrary to who He is. He cannot be less than
God, therefore He cannot be less than holy, less than loving, less
than truth, etc. God is perfect and unchangeable in His nature.
The question that was posed above asks God to do something that
would change His omnipotence (His all-powerful nature), making
Himself less than who He is, God Almighty. To ask Him to create a
rock so big that He cannot lift it, asks One who is infinite in
power to make His power finite. He may choose not to use His power,
but He cannot make it finite. God cannot be less than God. He is as
He is. His eternal and unchangeable self-existence is hinted at in
His name, which He revealed to Moses: “I Am Who I Am.” (Exodus 3:14)
Understanding this truth helps us understand that we can trust God
fully. He is not fickle and changing, but always the perfect, holy,
loving, unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal God. He
cannot do anything contrary to His nature as God. Only the Creator
fits this description, because only the Creator exists
independently. He is dependent upon nothing else for His existence.
God cannot stop being God, and to apply His name from our
perspective, He is as He is. 
The above question commits a category mistake, asking God to do
something that by definition would cause Him to cease being God. He
can create a rock of any size, but being unlimited in power, He
would always be able to lift it. To demand otherwise is to ask Him
to cease being God. That He cannot do; for He is the eternal God. In
light of that, isn’t it amazing that He invites us to have a
relationship with Him? Thanks for reading; have a nice day.
 


Q: 
How do you know that God even exists?
Pastor Gary:
When someone asks for proof of God’s existence, I
wonder what it is they want exactly. If they are asking that God
reveal Himself and speak to them, my response is that He has done
this. The Bible gives much evidence that God exists, but without
doubt this question is looking for an answer apart from the Bible
itself. Yet the amazing accuracy of both history and prophecy in
Scripture attest to God’s revealing Himself through that means. If
they want to see God physically, again I would say, He has done
that, in sending Jesus Christ. But I would guess that still may not
be enough for some. So let’s talk logic…..
Various philosophical arguments have been used defend God’s
existence. All of them come back to the issue of causation (ie.
cause/effect). Logically, everything that exists must be either
self-caused, caused by another, or uncaused. First in order,
something cannot logically be self-caused, because it would have had
to exist in order to cause itself. It cannot exist before it exists.
Secondly, everything that has a beginning must be caused by another,
since something acted upon it, causing it to come into existence. I
exist as a direct effect of my parents, etc. Thus, all of finite
creation was caused by another, and is still dependent on outside
causes for its continuing existence. As a finite being, I am
dependent on air, water, food, sleep, etc. in order to continue to
exist. What then is uncaused? It is that which exists forever,
uncaused, but simply existing as it is. It is not dependent on
anything for its existence, therefore it cannot cease to exist. It
simply exists, independent of any causation. 
The fact that this material universe undeniably exists, must be
dealt with. It is either uncaused (and thus eternal), or it is
caused by another. If the universe is eternal matter, then it never
came to be, and will never cease to be. Yet the best scientific
thought says that the universe has a beginning. If there was a big
bang, the question is what caused the bang? Everything we observe in
the material universe is subject to something else for its existence
(Hence, caused by another). In light of that, there must be an
uncaused cause for all that we see in existence; One who has always
existed but is the cause of all else. An infinite regress of causes
only delays the need for a final uncaused cause. The existence of a
finite, material universe tells us there must be a creator who is
uncaused and has always existed. The amazing design in the universe
tells us there must be a designer of infinite wisdom. The universal
sense of moral law tells us there must be a moral lawgiver who is
completely righteous. All of creation testifies to the existence of
God. To believe that something came from nothing would take greater
faith than to believe in an eternal uncaused being who is the cause
of everything else. 
How do I logically know God exists? In the same way I know my house
had a builder and designer. Creation tells me there is a God.
Scripture tells me who He is, and how I can know Him. Nothing else
in the universe even compares with the importance of knowing our
Creator. For He who made us holds the key to the purpose of our
lives. Thanks for reading and have a nice day.
 


Q: 
If God is the Creator of all things, where did evil come from? Did
God create sin and evil? 
Pastor Gary:
Let me begin by saying that God is the Creator of
all things, He did create all things perfectly, and He did not
create evil. But how can this be? Evil is not a separate entity, it
is a parasite. Evil has no independent existence, but is a privation
of that which is good. In both the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek
New Testament, words meaning “complete” are used to describe
perfection. Anything less than perfect then brings in evil. The good
substance sees a loss of good, resulting in evil. From this you may
note that evil cannot exist on its own; it always exists as a lack
of the good that God created. It exists as a parasite describing a
deficit or perversion in that which was created good.
Someone born with a birth defect is missing the health that God
originally gave to mankind, and which His children will enjoy in
eternity. This is a physical evil resulting from the broken
relationship mankind suffered when sin entered the world. Someone
who is unfaithful in a marriage relationship commits a breach or
lack of faithfulness. The faithfulness is good, but the lack of it
when it should be there is a moral evil or sin. Sometimes evil
exists in things relating wrongly from what was intended by God, who
is good. There is nothing wrong with a bat when it is swung at a
baseball. There is something wrong however, when a bat is swung at
an innocent victim. In this case the bat is being used for a less
than good purpose. 
Perhaps the next issue would be how evil got into the universe if
God is all good. Without doubt, God gave mankind (and the angelic
realm, for a while) the power of contrary choice. Mankind had the
power to choose evil, though every influence from God was good. God
Himself, is unchangeably good according to His unchangeable nature.
His creatures however, are not unchangeable; only God fits that
category. As finite beings whose existence is contingent, man has
the possibility of change. Although created by God as good, man had
the power to choose that which is less than good. God gave His
creatures the power of choice (which is good), allowing the
possibility for Satan (Lucifer) and mankind to choose less than
good. This power to choose contrary is not a separate entity, but
simply the ability to decide between two alternatives of good and
less than good. So although what God created was good, there lay
within it the possibility of choosing something less. And with that
choice in the Garden of Eden, sin entered the world, accompanied by
a broken relationship with our perfect Creator. 
No, God did not create evil, but yes, evil does exist. It exists as
a deficiency or perversion of the good which God created. In our
daily lives, we imitate the goodness of God when we live according
to the purpose for which He created us (to honor Him), and use the
good things He created, according to His purposes. Anything less
than that brings in evil, and all the results that accompany a
broken relationship with God. Because we have fallen short morally,
God has provided a way of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and the
opportunity again, to choose the good, day by day. I wish you a
“good” week, a “good” life, and a “good” eternity.