By Barry Bandara, Mike Best, Kevin Scruggs, and Bob Valles
Can you believe in Greek gods and also Christianity?
No. To believe in any other god is to violate the 1st of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Religious pluralism and/or universalism (the thought that all roads lead to God) has been gaining popularity in modern times simply because tolerance has become one of our greatest values. Simply put, we don't like telling people they are wrong so we have created a truth standard (moral relativism) where everyone can be right. The problem with this is it tends to be splitting-the-baby (1 Kings 3:16-28). When you lump different truth claims together you end up with an absurd amount of contradictions. In the example given above, Greek gods and Christianity, the first question that would need to be asked is, “How many gods are there?” In Greek mythology there are a lot of gods (polytheism) and in Christianity there is one God (monotheism.) So you end up at the same question you started with before you merged two religions: “which one is right?” Ultimately in attempting to validate two different theologies you’ve actually devalued both of them and unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) created a new hybrid grab-bag religion. If you’re looking for some good readings on Christianity’s truth claims I would recommend Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” or C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.”
Why did God present himself in only one region of the world?
First of all we must reject the idea that God has only presented himself to one part of the world. To believe in Christianity is to believe in the omnipresence of God i.e. that God is present everywhere. God manifests himself in different ways to different people throughout the narrative of the Bible and throughout history.
However I don’t think that’s what is at the heart of this question. I think what is really being asked here is why did Jesus choose to be born in the Middle East 2000 years ago. In order to answer this question we can consider the idea of getting a shot at the doctor’s office. The purpose of getting a shot is to get some sort of medicine/treatment into our bloodstream. The most effective shots tap into main veins which help distribute medicine efficiently and effectively throughout the whole body. By historical accounts (and it still rings true today) the Middle East is a main trade route and an extraordinary melting pot of different peoples and cultures. To put it simply, if you were going to inject something that was to affect the whole world, then the Middle East 2000 years ago would have been a main vein.
But then why 2000 years ago? I think the answer has to do with an examination of the Roman Empire which began in the city of Rome in 753 BC and lasted for well over 1000 years. The Roman Empire was the biggest, baddest empire the world had ever seen. One of the reasons the Roman Empire was so successful was because it was incredibly good at assimilating cultures into itself. The Empire took the best that various cultures had to offer and made those things a strength for Rome. Two of the most notable belief systems they assimilated were Socratic (Greek) thought and later Christianity. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle developed philosophies and ways of reasoning that are still incredibly relevant to us today. Their writings literally shaped how we reason. With the introduction of these teachings 300-400 years before Christ, people from different tribes and tongues could be united in their thought processes. Much of the New Testament employs both the language (Greek) and reasoning style of these philosophers. So even today when we read our translations of the New Testament we can still understand the thought processes and logic used (especially in Paul’s writings). Jesus being born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago was not an accident, but was instead a divine strategy for reaching people from a plethora of communities who would then go and share the Good News all around the world.
What do you do when you have no motivation or desire to pray?
The simple answer starts with stealing a slogan from Nike “Just do it!” We have to get past emotional spiritualism i.e. I pray when I feel like it. Prayer is considered a ‘spiritual discipline’ and with any discipline the focus has to be on the long-term benefits as opposed to the short-term benefits. Consider some other disciplines: exercising, dieting, learning, saving, etc. All of these things are foundational to setting up a healthy life, and they’re not always easy. Prayer is no different, and we’ve got to get into the habit of praying. The more we talk to God, the more we can know God. The more we know God, the more we want to know God more. So even when you don't want to pray, pray anyway—Just do it!
If you are stuck in the same old prayers you can change it up a bit. In the Bible we see many different ways to pray. The book “Spiritual Disciplines” by Richard Foster goes into great depth in outlining some traditional, creative and/or unique ways of connecting with God. If you don’t know what to pray here’s a tool to give shape to your prayers. Consider the acronym A.C.T.S.
Adoration – “Praise be to God!” -Psalms 68:35
Tell God how much you appreciate Him. Express your love for Him. Praise His power and majesty. This is a great way to begin your prayer time. Sometimes I watch the sunrise and praise God for the beauty of His creation. You should never run out of praise. “How awesome are your deeds!” -Psalms 66:3
Confession – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9
Tell Him where you have fallen short. Be specific. I thank Him for the forgiveness I have in Christ and ask for help and strength to turn away from future temptations.
Thanksgiving – Always “glorify him with thanksgiving” -Psalms 69:30
You have plenty of reasons to be thankful. Thank God for His love, His faithfulness, His patience and a million other things. Express gratitude for what He’s doing in your life. Thank Jesus for dying on the cross for you. Thank the Holy Spirit for indwelling you and never leaving. Thank Him for being your conscience, your counselor and that “still small voice.”
Supplication – “Make your requests known to God.” -Philippians 4:6
Tell God what you want, no matter how small it seems to you. Do you really think any of your requests are too big for God the Creator? You should have lots of intercessory prayer here.
Question about the Trinity:
I’m not going to attempt to exhaustively explain the Trinity. If you are looking for that you are going to need quite a bit more than a blog post can offer. One of the things I can (and want) to answer is, “What is the importance of the Trinity?” Let’s start with a historical and classic definition of the Trinitarian view of God: the Trinity exists as three persons in eternal relationship and mission and yet exists as one in essence. To put it another way 1+1+1=1... confused? You should be! The infinite nature of God isn’t (and shouldn't be) easily understood by our finite three-pound brains. In other words, God is God, and He’s considerably more complicated then we are.
So why does God reveal Himself in three persons if we’re really never going to understand how that works? Perhaps the importance of the Divine Relationship lies not in the “how” but in the “why” of the Trinity. When I was in seminary a couple years ago my class was asked to consider and discuss a 15th-century painting of the Holy Trinity icon made by Andrei Rublev (Google it). The picture depicts the three persons of the Trinity sitting around a table, participating in communion with an empty spot at the table. The author painted the picture in such a way that a viewer could feel invited and perhaps compelled to join in and fill that empty seat. I believe this picture illustrates well why the Trinity is so important. Our God eternally exists in communing relationship, and He is inviting us to join in their Holy Communion. In other words, our God created us for (and desires us to be in) a relationship with him because relationship is the nature of His existence.
When someone asks if God is so good and just and loving and kind then why do good people die, how do you answer that?
God is good, just, loving and kind and yes, people will die. Life is a terminal disease in which none of us will escape death. It’s not about being “good” or being “bad”, it is just a reality of living on this planet. Some people will die sooner than others or in ways that seems unfair or uncaring, but that is when we rely most on God’s character. God sees things that we cannot see and has a plan that we cannot imagine. It doesn’t always make sense, (honestly when you are in it rarely will it make sense) which means it comes down to trust. Will I choose to trust God in a situation of which I have no control to Someone (God) who controls everything?
“No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.”
Ecclesiastes 8:8, ESV
“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans 3:10, ESV
“so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45, ESV
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8, ESV
Once saved always saved. Is this true?
I am going to make a few assumptions here. First, a person has accepted God’s free gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Second, there has been some evidence of that acceptance by changes in his or her life. For example, when I got married I didn’t set up an online dating profile the next day.
When we come to Christ, we acknowledge that we can do nothing to earn salvation, it is a gift. God does all the work, we just need to receive and believe. Since that is true, that there is nothing I can do to earn it, how then could I do something to “un-earn” it? Of course the discussion could move to how could someone do something like “insert favorite sin here” and call themselves a Christian? Jesus is perfect, Christians are not. Salvation isn’t a live your life how you want as long as I don’t go to hell type of decision. I begin a relationship with God because my life without God is bad. I want to draw into a deeper relationship with God. Will I sin, you bet, but the closer I become to God the less pull sin will have in my life.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John 10:27–29, ESV
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13, ESV
How to sit down to read the Bible when you’re not a reader? I have tried many times to read the Bible but it never happens. How do I start?
Great question. Let me throw one back at you, “Do you like food?” How did you start enjoying food? My guess is one day, one meal at a time. Some days the food you eat is probably better than others, you might even skip a meal or two, but it doesn’t stop you from eating food altogether, right? Eating food is a decision that you make every day. Reading the Bible is a lot like that. It’s a decision that you make every single day. Some days will be easier than others and there will be some days that you might miss, but each day is a new day, and you get to decide. If you want to start reading the Bible, great! What do you need to stop doing in order start reading? Here’s what I mean. If I want to get up 10 minutes early to read my Bible, I make that decision the night before by setting my alarm (maybe put it across the room so I have to get up), I probably get out of bed, maybe grab a cup of coffee? Think through how much time you need to get ready and then get up that early. The big idea is to plan ahead. You can read the Bible but currently you are choosing to do other things first. Rearrange your list. If you are looking for a place to start, I recommend the book of John or the book of Proverbs. Proverbs has 31 chapters so you could be done in a month. I would get a pen to underline and maybe a journal to write down the things God speaks to you through His Word. Don’t view it as a chore on your to do list, view it as an adventure where the God of the Universe wants to talk to you! How cool is that?
As the wife, how can I get my husband who believes but faith isn’t strong to be the leader of my household?
I would commit to memory 1 Peter 3:1-2. Pray for your husband and try to be encouraging. If you want to pray together ask him to pray with you. If you want to read the Bible together than you initiate it. The Bible says it’s about your conduct, not your words. If your husband says “no” to open of your requests, then say “ok” and try again on another occasion. Don’t argue or guilt him. Model the behavior and be an encouragement to him. Is it difficult, yes, and progress may be slower than you would like, but remember your job is not to be the Holy Spirit.
“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:1–2, ESV)
What can I do about a cycle of sin I commit repeatedly (like my language or behavior)?
The Apostle Paul struggled with this very same issue, so does everyone. There are a few different directions we could go with this so I will try and stay at the 40,000 foot level. Sin is fun and enjoyable for a small moment, and then it isn’t. God tells us not to sin because He knows the damage and long term impact it will have in our lives. God is not a cosmic kill joy that wants us to lead boring lives. It’s just the opposite! God is trying to protect us. If you want to stop doing something, talk to God about it. Acknowledge that this is an issue and you want to change. God will honor that. Every time you are tempted, God always provides a way out BEFORE you engage in sin. Maybe start by memorizing 1 Corinthians 10:13. Satan is a punk and he very much wants to bring harm to your life. If we want to stop doing something, we need to replace it with something we want to START doing. So if I am tempted to swear, what is a different word I can use? What is a better way to express my emotion? I would also talk with a trusted close friend who believes/thinks the way you do. They become an accountability partner. When I tell my friend, it’s no longer a secret. I know that I have someone in my life who will ask me the tough but necessary questions.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:15–25, ESV)
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)
How do you restore trust in a relationship (marriage) broken by betrayal, pornography, prison, all of which has not only damaged the marital relationship, but also torn the family apart?
Wow. Thank you for your honest question. I don’t want to write some “Christianese” to try and help you feel better. I am truly sorry for what has happened to all of you. What has happened in your family didn’t start yesterday and it won’t be solved tomorrow. It will take time. I can tell you that God is in the business of restoring things that people has long since given up on. He has not abandoned you. If you have not done so already, I strongly recommend a therapist who has a personal relationship with God and can give you a Biblical perspective. I believe you need to set some boundaries and some bench marks to measure progress. Mistakes will be made because we are all fallen people. The hope is that we fail forward.
How do you restore trust in your marriage? With God’s help, one day, one moment at a time.
“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,” Isaiah 57:18, ESV
What is the church’s position on organizations like Planned Parenthood, which offer abortions but also offer resources other than abortion like birth control, disease screening, etc?
We are a church who believes that God is the Author of life and that life begins at conception. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5). King David said this about God’s role in our conception: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb . . . your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13, 16).
Other Bible verses that would highlight the sanctity of human life would be: Genesis 1:27, Job 31:15, Psalm 22:10, and Psalm 127:3-5.
Therefore, GracePoint Church would not be supportive of any organization that offers abortions; regardless of any other positive procedure they may offer. Thankfully, we are fortunate to live in a society that offers many life-giving options to health care and health resources.
Have you heard of the website gotquestion.org? If so, do you consider it to be a good resource?
Yes. From personal experience, this website offers clear biblical answers to very difficult questions many people have. I highly recommend it.
How come prophecy isn’t taught on more?
We taught on prophecy all throughout our Heaven series in December 2016, at Easter the last several years, and at this Christmas Eve services. A number of years ago we had an End Times series. However, the Lord hasn’t led me to teach on this type of series since. If God directs me to do it again, I will.
At what point does GracePoint get involved with church discipline?
Matthew 18:15-2 and I Corinthians 5 give the procedure, guidance, and authority for church leaders to administer church discipline for believers. Church discipline is not something we take lightly or look forward to doing here at GracePoint. However, we have taken church discipline on fellow believers at various times over the years.
The Elder Board steps in to church discipline situations when there is a willful violation of scripture combined with a refusal to abide by what God’s Word says, along with an unrepentant spirit. Church discipline has taken place on various occasions behind the scenes and reconciliation was accomplished without having to go public to the church body.
Whenever a discipline situation has been brought to the church body, rest assured there has been considerable time spent in prayer, in meetings, and every effort made for reconciliation. There is never a rush to take church discipline or a set timeline to proceed with the steps given in Matthew 18. We must be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in such matters.
What is the church’s stand on divorce? Is there any biblically acceptable reason to divorce your spouse?
To start off, the stand GracePoint Church takes for believers contemplated divorce is simply the same stand we believe Scripture takes on this difficult issue. To know how God feels about divorce, Malachi 2:16 says, “I hate divorce, says the Lord God Almighty.” He hates what it does to the marriage relationship, the children affected by it, and the damage it does to the picture God instituted with the marriage covenant.
When Jesus was asked for his position on divorce in Matthew 19, his answer triggered a strong response from his disciples. They replied, “It is better not to marry.” In that day, people would get a divorce for just about anything. If a wife burned the dinner, it was grounds for divorce. Jesus went back to the original design of marriage found in Genesis 2 and then added, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.” Then Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
The reason for the strong reaction from his disciples was because Jesus made clear how high the bar is for divorce and remarriage.
Some believe 1 Corinthians 7:15 as another “exception,” allowing remarriage if an unbelieving spouse divorces a believer. However, the context does not mention remarriage but only says a believer is not bound to continue in a marriage if an unbelieving spouse wants out. Others claim that abuse is a valid reason for divorce. However, it is not listed as such in the Bible. We are very careful to not presume or add to the Word of God.
In cases of abuse, we have, however, recommended a search for safety for those involved with a goal of reconciliation within the household. This may take time and professional counseling for safety to occur.
Jesus predicted that he would die and spend 3 days and 3 nights in the earth (see Matt 12:39-40, John 2:18-22). Traditional Christianity believes Jesus died on Friday afternoon and was raised on Sunday morning. That is only 1.5 days. Is it possible that Jesus didn't die on Friday? There were special Sabbath days associated with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:4-8). Could John 19:31 be referring to a Preparation Day for one of these "special Sabbaths"?
Quoting Jonah 1:17 was the common way of expressing the prophetic significance of a period of time as is the expression “forty days and forty nights”. “Three days and three nights” was an emphatic way of saying “three days”. By Jewish reckoning this would be the expression of a period of time that includes parts of three days. If Jesus was crucified on a Friday and He resurrected on the first day of the week, then by Jewish expression this would reckon as three days and three nights.
Luke 13:32 states, “And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.” The original words of Jesus would not have required interpretation to accommodate extreme literal meaning of three 24 hour days thus suggesting that Jesus died on a Wednesday or Thursday.
Where do dinosaurs fit into Biblical history? Did they survive the flood?
The book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. Job 40:15-24 describes creatures “dragons” existing alongside mankind that Creation scientists believe are what we would call dinosaurs today. We would not expect to find the word dinosaur in Bibles like the Authorized Version because it was translated before the word dinosaur was ever used. In addition, there are many very old history books around the world that record large creature encounters with people with descriptions that are consistent with what a dinosaur or “dragon” would compose of.
At the time of the flood, all of the land creatures outside the Ark died. All the “Kinds” that survived on the Ark lived in the new world after the flood (including dinosaurs) and experienced a much different environment. Food was no longer in abundance, man was killing for food, other catastrophes and the destruction of habitats brought about the extinction of many species that we have since discovered through archeology. This would include dinosaurs of our past and other animals that continue to become extinct each year.
When it comes to the inner struggle of our sin, how do we balance both forgiveness and accountability?
Forgiveness can lead to complacency, yet accountability can lead to inevitable failure to meet the impossible expectations that God demands from us.
How should we deal with the inner struggle of sin?
Let me first say that an attempt to reconcile forgiveness and accountability will most likely paralyze efforts in dealing with sin. I would like to propose a more specific approach in dealing with sin if I may.
If you desire God’s blessings rather than God’s loving discipline for you or for another believer, then victory over sin must be a priority. Believers are not perfect, but should be progressing in their walk and spiritual maturity. This should be a constant desire.
I would propose these four things:
1—Self Examination. Hopefully you’ll see a person who, although not perfect, is at least trying to improve, someone who’s moving steadily toward God’s standards. Ask God what David asked: “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart” (Psalm 26:2).
2—Deal with sin. Sin is anything that is contrary to the will of God. To sin is to miss the mark with God. And with God, the standard is perfection. Therefore, everyone has sin to deal with. As the apostle John noted, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Instead, he said we are to “confess our sins,” knowing that “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
3—Develop personal convictions. To keep from being stained and sidetracked by the world, you must develop some bold spiritual convictions about what you believe. This strong shield of faith will protect you from the “fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16) and give you courage to stand up for your convictions and resist the temptation to sin. “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
4—Balance your convictions with compassion. We need to realize that people aren’t at the same place in their walk with Christ. Paul states, “If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
On a final note - A careful study of Galatians 6:1-10 provides understanding of how we can guide a believer when they are struggling with sin.
What is tithing and should all our tithe go to our home church?
The word “tithe” means “a tenth part” found throughout the Old Testament. The Bible tells us in many ways to give our offerings to God, to honor Him by bringing our best to help others – the church, the poor, the widows and the orphans. In the Bible, the tithe was never supposed to be all that was given to God, but rather a starting point. It was instituted to help God’s people begin to learn how to give and to become channels of His blessing.
The Bible also speaks of “free will offerings”. These offerings are in addition to our regular tithes, not in place of them. While a tithe is given out of obedience, the Bible also teaches about the importance of giving gifts for God’s work. The free will gift is to be given out of joy, as a response to God’s goodness. These offerings are sometimes used for disaster relief or a special need in the church.
See: Exodus 35:4-9, 36:3-7; Psalm 24:1-6; Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:8-12; Matthew 6:19-24; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Generally speaking our tithe should go to the church we are serving (where your heart is) and are identified with. This allows us to have a good understanding and stewardship knowledge of the ministry we are giving to. This may or may not be local. However, we may learn of a specific “free will offering” opportunity presented to us through another church or ministry. The key is that you are cheerfully giving to the Lord with a good understanding of the ministry you are giving to.
Do you believe we were all destined to go to heaven?
God’s desire is that all people would turn to Him and not perish and be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 speaks to His desire and the very speaking of it lets us know that many will perish and not see heaven. John 3:16 also tells us that God loves mankind so much that His Son Jesus died on the cross so that we can be spared the death (to perish) that will come to mankind. But because He paid for man’s sin on the cross and if we trust in His payment (death on the cross) for our sins we then obtain salvation, eternal life with God in heaven.
If all were destined to go to heaven then there would be no need for Jesus to have paid the debt of sin for all mankind. It’s important to understand that even though the sin debt has been paid, this does not automatically provide a pass for all mankind. The response of man is to then receive the gift of eternal life by faith. This response by faith is necessary. Writing to the church in Ephesus the Apostle Paul states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
If you or someone you know needs to receive God’s gift of eternal life I would encourage you to do so by faith today. We are available to assist in any way you desire. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.