Nine Month Conversation With A God-Seeker…

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I want to share this conversation with you for a few reasons:

1. To encourage you that God is working through Alpha! My friend went through the Alpha
course on a quest to find/know God and many of these questions came forth after Alpha sessions.
Furthermore, my friend is now a fully-committed follower of Jesus Christ!

2. To bless others who might have some/all of these same questions.

3. To highlight the importance of using social networking as evangelistic tools.

4. To show an example of always being ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us (1 Peter
3:15) so that Christians can start seeing Monday-Saturday as days that are just as holy as Sunday.

Question from a Dear Friend of Mine:

I was doing some thinking on the drive back home last night. I saw about 5 really bad accidents and immediately thought back to the conversation we were having about waiting to the last minute to think about God.

I don’t want to wait anymore. I have actually been trying to get to God but I just flat out stink at it. And I suck hardcore, too. I want to find Him and I want Him to find me. But I don’t know how to do it. I don’t
know how to have faith when I am so skeptical of everything that comes my way. I don’t know why I should like Jesus. I mean, I like God, but I don’t know if I believe that Jesus = God. And I don’t get the trinity, no
matter how many times it is explained to me or how many analogies come my way. I mean I understand what happened, but I don’t get it. I don’t think that made sense. Sorry.

When we were at the crazy church on Sunday I said that prayer that the Appel guy (Gene Appel, previously of WillowCreek Community Church) asked us to repeat. The prayer about being ready to receive and ready to
live life for God and all that jazz. I am ready. Well I have been ready. For quite some time actually. I just don’t know what to do past being ready. I don’t know what I am missing or doing wrong. And I don’t know
how to receive God. And I don’t know in what form I should receive God (meaning should I see him through Jesus or through Buddha, or through Tom Cruise…(okay not through Tom Cruise, I kid, I kid!). I can’t figure
out why Jesus is THE dude I should live my life by. Why not just God? (And yes of course this goes back to the whole concept of me not believing that Jesus is God. I just believe that God is there. And He is God and that
is as far as I have gotten.)I’m frustrated. Really frustrated. I was told that I can only really see God through the child-like innocence and clarity of a child…. But I am not a child. I am an over analyzing, critical thinking, complexly understanding, skeptically interpreting, logistic-izing, reasoning, philosophizing PSYCHOLOGIST. To put it bluntly, I’m so screwed. I don’t know how to understand things the way [kids do]…But I WANT to question my faith and I WANT to do what I think is right. Even if others disagree.

I’m gonna tear out my hair soon. Tricotilamania. Oye.

So basically I just want to know, What’s wrong with me?

SoulSpartan’s Response

Thanks so much for the email, my friend—great stuff…You are on the right track—be encouraged…And be encouraged by the good news below:

“This is God’s Word on the subject: ‘I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. God’s Decree. I’ll turn things around for you’…” (Jeremiah 29:11-14 The Message).

You Actually Are In A Great Place

First of all I am glad that you are ready to receive God—that is huge…Most people never get there…Implicit in your readiness is your desire to receive God Whoever He may be…You have detached yourself from your religious/cultural upbringing so that you can stand in the center of the town, look up to God, and say, “Show me who You are. I’ll take You for who You are.” That is huge—you have endured a lot of suffering and pain to get to that center of town, and God knows that. He is proud of you for that…

It’s funny—most humans want to be accepted for who they are…flaws, warts, and everything. It’s interesting that God desires the same thing from us. “Accept Me as I am,” He says. “Not as who you want Me to be. Even if it causes you pain.” (And accepting God for who He really is in this world will cause us some difficulty—there is no question about that).

So you are in a great place—wanting to know and love God on His terms. Exciting stuff (and terrifying too)!!!!

You’re Not “Screwed” Because You Ask Questions

Secondly, you are not screwed because you analyze everything and are skeptical. God made you that way. That is a gift from God, and like all gifts, it can be used for good or for ill. But you are not screwed because of that. In fact, by the end of your earthly life, that inquiring aspect of your personality might be the reason that you have a stronger faith in God than many other people.

Bottom line—God wants us to ask the hard questions. He is NOT afraid of the hard questions, because He knows that He is the Truth. And sometimes, because this world and our hearts/minds are caked in sin, we need to dig through some hard layers of hardened soil in order to get to God. So break out your spades and shovels and continue digging…

Reason & Logic

The road of Reason cannot take you all the way to God, but it can definitely take you very close to Him. There is nothing wrong with that. Rock on and ride that road—it seems like God made you to ride that road to Him. Eventually you will have to take a step of faith, because without faith it is impossible to please God. But you do not have to check your brain at the door when it comes to God—He made your brain; why do so many religious people treat the brain as if it is evil (just like why do so many religious people treat sex like it is a necessary evil—God made sex!!!! It’s not bad—but again, it can be used in a bad way, for sure)? Just remember that while your brain is a tool to help you know God—your brain is not God. That is the mistake that many scientists make. Without realizing it, they have made reason and logic the gods of their lives. That is not right, just as it is a blessing to have money, enjoy money, and use money to help others; it is not right to worship money, however. Money is a tool of God; but it is not God. The same is true with the scientific method.

Get to Know Jesus…

Thirdly, the decision each person makes about Jesus is the most important of their lives. He is truly one of the few people in the history of the world—and maybe the ONLY person—who is revered in one form or another by almost every major religion and world view (i.e. perspective on life and reality). But the only way for a person to really make an informed decision about Jesus is to get to know Him—and you do that through prayer (asking Him to help you know Him) and through reading His words in the Bible. Just as you date, eat dinner with, and hang out with a person in order to get to know them and to figure out whether to marry him, you do the same with Jesus.

I’m not telling you to read the whole Bible right away (though that would be cool). I’m just telling you to read the actual words of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then you’ll know if you want to pursue Him more, or if His words have turned you off from Him.

And the cool thing is, that is what my message this Sunday will be about—“Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.” You’ll hear some of His words there, so this Sunday will be appropriate for you…(please check the “Sermons” category for the text of this message).

Want to Pursue Him More?

If you then want to pursue Him more, I have a few thin books that were written by a former atheist and skeptic who used to be the legal editor for the Chicago Tribune. His name is Lee Strobel and his mind is just like yours. He researched, questioned, debated, and wrote books on how faith in Jesus is reasonable from a scientific and philosophic point of view. The funny thing is, he began writing the first book to prove scientifically that Jesus is a fraud! They’re pretty cool books: The Case for Jesus, The Case for Faith, and The Case for Easter. They’re very readable—not too long—and I have copies that you can have whenever you want…Sorry for the long email…But your situation cannot be responded to in a sound bite!

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

We all have to look at the “Jesus is the only way to heaven” issue from another angle. Believing this doesn’t mean the Christians have won the “religion war.” This is so terrifically important for all of us to understand.

If a person trusts in Jesus as their Savior and God, it doesn’t mean that Christianity wins.

That is the angle or perspective that keeps many people away from God.

Trusting in Jesus as Savior and God means that God wins, and also that that person wins. If I am dying of thirst and I come across an ice cold bottle of Evian water in the desert, the brand/company Evian doesn’t win if I drink it. And I shouldn’t pass up the water because I’m an “Aquafina or Perrier person.” I win if I accept the Evian, because I stay alive and become healthy again.

The problem is, humans treat their own religion or belief system like we treat the sports teams for our home city–they belong to us (“I’m a die hard Cubs fan, baby–I bleed Cubby blue!”), and nobody is going to tell us that another team is better (ala the Chicago White Sox). So we stick with a particular system of beliefs because, if we admit that we have been wrong or inaccurate and adhere to another belief system, we feel as if we have lost somehow and the other side has won.

But a person’s friendship with God is not about some group of humans winning or losing…Remember, we’re looking for truth here. God’s nature and character and design for the universe is not a preference or an opinion, just as gravity is not the opinion or preference of scientists. Gravity is true whether we like it or not. The same is true with God. He is who He is, and His plan and solutions are what they are, whether we agree with them or not. So it’s not that Christians are right and Buddhists are wrong; it’s that God is right and humans are wrong…but God wants to make all of us right like Him (He plays no favorites)!

Jesus Isn’t the President of Christianity (He Is King of the Universe)-He Is God’s Solution to Sin.

We also have to look at Jesus not as the President of Christianity but rather as God the Father’s solution to the problem of sin. Jesus does not belong to Christians; Christians belong to Jesus. In fact, I do not often use the term “Christian” or “Christianity” because of the baggage that the terms carry with them. It again goes back to the “my team is the best” mentality that serves to divide humanity. If I’m the devil, keeping humanity divided is exactly what I would want to do.

But the fact remains that human beings have a problem regarding sin. Every one of us is sinful; we have all been poisoned by sin, and just like eating cyanide or another poison, we will die unless we allow the doctors to give us the cure. Just as it would be silly for a person to complain that “only chemotherapy” can cure their cancer or “only penicillin” can prevent them from getting polio, so too is it a bit ridiculous to get mad that there is only one way to be forgiven. If I have cancer, I want the cure, regardless of what it’s called or if the doctor is African American, a woman, etc. And Jesus is the best solution because, frankly, the religions of this world are all basically the same in regards to their solution for sin (or the ability to be forgiven by God): most religions state that you have to follow/adhere to/obey a certain set of rules in order to be forgiven/graduate from this earthly existence. They differ on what rules are important, but they state that God’s forgiveness is conditional based on whether or not you deserve it through personal piety, obedience, etc. But many who have tried to do this quickly realize that they simply cannot be good/devout/holy enough on their own efforts–our sinfulness means that our instruments are broken; we cannot play God’s melody in tune and at the right tempo–and in line with His conducting–simply by trying harder or practicing more. Our instruments are damaged, and therefore our music will also be forever out of tune until we allow the “instrument Doctor” to fix us. God the Father realized this and sent Jesus, who as God the Son and the co-Creator of our instruments knows just what we need to be fixed. In other words, Jesus is qualified, and Jesus alone, to fix us because He made us; and by becoming a human, living a perfect life, and dying in our place, Jesus as God has the power and ability to fulfill our death penalty sentences for us (in our place).

God Gets the Spotlight–It’s All About Him…

God’s love and forgiveness are not something we can earn; otherwise His love and mercy would be a payment to us–something that He owes us, like an employer owes a check at the end of the week to the employees for their work. God does not owe anyone anything. That’s why we cannot get to heaven by doing enough good deeds; if that were the case, God would be in our debt and we wouldn’t really need God. We would show up to heaven and the spotlight would be on us for our goodness on earth. But if God’s forgiveness and love is a gift that He offers to anyone, especially since we don’t deserve it, then when those people who accept it get to heaven, guess who has the spotlight? You got it: God does (and rightfully so). Humans’ desire of the spotlight is in fact what got us into whole sin mess in the first place; Adam and Eve wanted to play by their rules, not God’s (He only gave them one rule, for cryin’ out loud! God is totally reasonable here! :)). Adam and Eve wanted the spotlight on them and didn’t want to share the stage with God…

So I hope that is helpful…Again, these thoughts are to continue the conversation and not to end it (e.g. for me to prove that I am right once and for all! Again, that’s not the point here. I am so thankful for this dialogue because God is teaching me a lot as well)…Please let me know your thoughts…

God Is Pursuing You–Pursue Him Back!

But do not worry, my friend—you are doing great. Really. God will continue to pursue you because He loves you. All He asks is that you continue to pursue Him back, and then accept Him, trust Him, love Him, apologize to Him, and follow Him as He is. God doesn’t want a one night stand—He wants a life-long (really, an eternity long) marriage with you. He paid a phenomenal dowry for you, and He will wait patiently for you to say “I do.” Just make sure you date Him, hang out with Him, talk to Him, and read His words so you really know the One to whom you are saying “I do”
or “I don’t.” Every person says one of those two things to Him…and we only have our lives on earth to decide what we will say.

And remember—we (and many others) are here for you. Our love is unconditional—you do not have to worry about losing our love…You will not lose our love at all if you do not love and follow Jesus…Just thought you might need to be reassured of that…Your friend…

A Few More Thoughts on the Subject

Hey There My Friend…

Here’s a little more for you to chew on…

Regarding being obedient to God’s rules and law in order to get into heaven:

No one can keep God’s law perfectly—His law is a reflection of His own character, the way He does things. Since human beings have been tainted with sin since Adam and Eve, we no longer are
pure, just as a glass of water with a drop of poison in it is no longer pure, no matter how much more water you pour into it…

But God has given humans His law not so we can strive real hard and so a few of us can earn heaven. Rather, God has given us His law so that we see that we cannot earn heaven, so that we realize that we are imperfect, sinful, and incapable of following the Law perfectly. As Tony Evans says, God’s Law is like a mirror that shows us our imperfections; but the Law does not help with those imperfections. Similarly, a person looks in the mirror before work in the morning to see how their face looks–the mirror shows them that they need to wash and comb their hair. Beautiful! Thank God for the mirror! But the person would be silly to then use the mirror to comb and wash
their hair. No, they go to another set of tools–shampoo and a brush–in order to take care of the imperfection.

God’s law—His rules—show us our imperfections. But that law cannot help us to be forgiven, cannot help us to get rid of our imperfections (sinfulness). We need another tool for that–God’s
grace, which He offers to all through Jesus. That is why a rules-based system for following God is incapable of delivering the forgiveness, peace, and heaven that it promises…You don’t wear the
thermometer to get warm; the thermometer reveals that it is cold. You use the thermometer to point you to the beautiful winter coat filled with down feathers. Similarly, God’s law points to
Jesus, who by becoming human and living a sinless life (though He was tempted in every single way that we are) was qualified to die in our place, the punishment that our sinfulness (and God’s
justice and holiness) demands…

That brings me to one last point—why do we have to die simply because we sin?

Why can’t God just wave a wand and forgive all humans?

That too is another really good question…

Sin is not a mistake, like bumping your toe into the corner of the dresser. Sin is violating God’s law, God’s character, God’s design for life and all creation. Sin is really tyranny–cosmic treason–against God, an assassination attempt against Him. When a human intentionally sins, that human is essentially saying to God, “I’m gonna do things my way, not Your way. I don’t need You and Your high and mighty rules and regulations!” When a person sins unintentionally, it shows again that we have been born broken, that our instruments are naturally now incapable of keeping up with God’s melody. Unintentional sins show that our nature has been tainted to the point where we “naturally” give God the middle finger–we don’t even have to try to do it, we do it without even realizing it.

Finally, God can’t wave a wand and simply “write off” the sins of humans for the same reason that the U.S. government cannot feel really kind one day and give all murders a second chance, releasing all murderers back into society. That would be cruel, unfair to the safety of the rest of the country, and would not ultimately deal with the fact that such murderers ended the life of another human. People around the world would say, “The American justice system is a joke. They don’t know right from wrong and they cannot protect their own people.” A judge who would allow all the murderers to go free would himself/herself be breaking the law and would have to go to jail.

The same is true with God. Because God is good, and because sin is so serious (it’s not cosmic jaywalking; it’s attempted murder against God), He cannot just “let us off the hook.” Someone has to pay the punishment for the sin. So either all humans die in hell forever, or a perfect person takes the place of humanity. Since there are no perfect humans, God had to become a human and die for us. Remember, Jesus is His earthly name, and it means literally “The LORD (God) saves.”

I hope this is helpful…

Thanks again for letting me share these thoughts with you…

See you tomorrow!!!

Follow Up Question By SoulSpartan’s Friend

So Alpha is weird.

It makes me have more questions which makes me not like God. I mean it’s good that I am questioning stuff but probably bad that i am not liking God more. But I am really hoping that my progress looks like this: The purple line depicts my level of satisfaction. I mean this is my depiction of how I WANT things to turn out. Anyway, my question is this: In order to have a relationship with Jesus I have to have the Holy Spirit. In order to have the Holy Spirit, I have to have faith. In order to have faith, I have to read the Bible, and understand God in the same manner and simplicity a child would understand God. But I am not a child. And I don’t have child like thoughts and reasoning abilities. And I don’t know how to. So as I read the Bible, i over analyze everything, and I doubt a lot of things I come across. It doesn’t feel right. And I pray. I pray ALL the time throughout the day, every day, and I ask Jesus to show himself to me. But I am not seeing anything that makes me think JESUS is speaking to me. I see GOD speaking to me, but not specifically Jesus.

And how am I supposed to ‘See’ god talking to me. I mean, when good or bad things happen, I talk to God. But I don’t know if he’s listening. I hope he is, but I don’t actually know. Technically no one can ever really KNOW, so where does God draw the line. I can convince myself easily that God is listening, but the truth is I don’t ever really know. So if I don’t know, then why would I convince myself? I mostly do it out of fear of the unknown of what is going to happen to me in the afterworld, but that seems so… lame. i am only going to pray and love god because I dont want to burn in hell. I don’t even know if I think hell exists, but just in case it
does, I know I don’t want to go there.

Sorry. I am frantically typing and writing any thought I have right now. everything is so frustrating. and i dont like that. i just dont like that i feel like I am back tracking and that the more I try, the less I like God.

So what I do from here besides ‘Keep on trucking?’

SoulSpartan’s Response

Good stuff here, my friend—thanks for being honest and sharing…That takes guts…This is a long response, so you might not be able to read it in one sitting. But it is not long for the sake of being long; it is long because I am trying to honor you with honest responses to really good questions. Remember, everytime you ask me questions, I learn too, so this is a blessing for me as well. I am a fellow traveler/pilgrim/God-seeker like yourself. I don’t have all the answers, but I am excited about discussing this with you and in so doing for us both to get closer to God and to Truth.

1. First off, you’re right—keep on trucking…

Nothing worth having comes easily—especially knowing the God of the universe. Please also keep in mind that if the Bible is true about a powerful fallen angel named Satan who hates God and everyone bearing His image (us humans), then you can expect some road blocks as you journey to know and love God. And that doesn’t even take into account that the sin that is ravaging our minds and bodies from the inside out constantly pulls us away from God…Similar to the ring in the Lord of the Rings, our sin does not want to be destroyed by God, and it certainly doesn’t want us to be healed by Him…

2. After asking questions for these past weeks in Alpha and hearing some responses, what specifically do you find yourself not liking about God?

It’s helpful to be real specific about stuff like this, because oftentimes we are overwhelmed in our minds and hearts by things that, when shown the light of day, are really small and not such a big deal. But stuff kept locked up can pretend it’s bigger than it is, like the shadow of a small person makes him/her seem large and menacing until the person is brought out into the light.

3. Often in the search for knowledge/understanding about anything, initial questions usually lead to more questions…

That’s just how it goes. If it’s true for starting a business, meeting a potential boyfriend/husband, or investigating a crime, then how much more true is it for trying to know and understand God. So try not to be discouraged by this; remember, God wants you to keep asking questions because He wants you to pursue Him. He’s not going to reveal all of Himself to you on the first date, so to speak. Most people don’t come back after a one-night stand, and God doesn’t want to be treated like that anymore than we do. I hope you forgive me for the graphic analogy, but I think it helps to get the point across. God wants us to pursue Him; He’s not running from us—He wants us to know Him. Remember from my sermon: that’s why He made humans in the first place. But He also wants to see how important knowing Him is to us. He wants to see if were in it for the long haul, or if He is just a passing fancy; He wants to see if He is just a flavor of the month to us or if knowing Him truly is the most important thing to us.

4. Regarding your over-analysis of stuff, I would ask God to help you with that…

Ask Him to help you have faith in Him like a little child; I have been asking Him this for myself for the last few weeks, actually. Don’t expect to have this supreme gift naturally; it can only be as a gift from God. Also, please do not see your analytical nature as a curse; it most certainly is not! God made you that way, and it is a blessing in many ways. On the average, people like you who over analyze have the potential of getting closer to God because you don’t settle for half-baked surface answers; you want the deep, real, and genuine truth, and you almost can’t help digging deep like that. So consider yourself blessed, in the long run at least. For now, it is frustrating
because you are not satisfied as others are…You are not willing to settle; but with God this is a very good thing, just as it is with finding a husband…

5. Regarding God and Jesus, I have some questions for you:

A. If you sense God slowly revealing Himself to you, what is He like?
B. What are you learning about Him?
C. What are His qualities and characteristics?
D. How is God showing you Himself? That is, what source (s) is He using to reveal Himself?
E. How is that God different from what you read about Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)?
F. In other words, how do you know that this God is not Jesus?

I ask you this because in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ friends ask Him the same thing—to show them who God the Father is. Jesus replies by saying that He and the Father are one; if you have seen Me, Jesus says, you have seen the Father (John 14).

It’s also important that we take God for who He is, not who we want Him to be and not necessarily who we have been taught Him to be (because our teachers could have been sincerely wrong/inaccurate). This is especially true for you because you have been taught from a very young age not to even touch a Bible, let alone to read it and possibly trust in Jesus. We all bring our biases and personal beliefs/desires to the table about who God is and who we want Him to be, but God is not interested in conforming Himself to our opinions. Rather, He declares that we are to allow Him to conform our opinions to who He really is. What we believe about God doesn’t really
matter. What is true about God matters, and us lining up our beliefs with God’s Truth matters. The point is this: is God revealing Himself to you through a book of revelation (e.g. the Bible), or is He “revealing” Himself to you through your own thoughts, desires, opinions, perspective, outlook, experiences, etc. God does use those things for sure, but they are always secondary to a holy book because, as the Bible teaches, sin has permanently skewed and damaged our own personal wisdom, vision, perspective, experience, etc. That’s why God went to all the trouble to write (inspire) the Bible—so we would have a guide. We need prescription lenses for our nearsightedness…The Bible is that set of glasses through which God speaks to us.

6. The primary way God talks to us is through Scripture—the Bible (the holy book).

If you are reading the Bible (e.g. the four Gospels—that’s where you gotta start; seriously), and stuff is confusing, email me or call me and lemme know what is confusing. God does speak through many different channels—other people, books, movies, music, billboards, bumper stickers, our own thoughts, prayer, etc.—but the main way is through the Bible. That’s why it’s called God’s Word. They’re His words. That’s how you see God talking to you. And since I have been reading the Bible for over twelve years and have an undergrad degree in Theology and a grad degree at Moody Theological Seminary, it makes sense to throw some of your questions about the Bible my
direction. Plus, I am totally dedicated to knowing Truth myself, so I work very hard not to force feed you my opinions and not to throw contrived and trite responses at you; I want to tell you the Bible’s opinions, what it teaches, and I will always strive to supplement that by showing how the Bible’s opinions make sense logically and rationally and practically, as well as making sense on/through faith.

7. Regarding how you know if He’s listening, how do you ever know if someone is really listening (especially guys :))?

You don’t. I mean, it’s possible that I’m just rattling off this email as fast as possible to get you off my back; it’s possible that I only skimmed your email and am not really paying attention to you. Of course, that is not true—I am answering this email thoughtfully, prayerfully, logically, and I hope Biblically after reading your email multiple times. But you don’t know that; you just have to trust me that that is true. Similarly, God tells us that He is always with us and that He knows, cares about, and hears everything we say and do. But you’re right; we don’t know that it is true in the same way that we know that a mile is 5,280 feet (with a really long ruler). But we can trust that God hears us for a few good reasons:

a. If God exists, it makes sense (at least to me) that He is all powerful (omnipotent), that He is present everywhere at the same time (omnipresent), and that He is all knowing (omniscient). That’s kind of what makes Him God, you know? He is not limited in any way, or else He wouldn’t be God. That’s one reason—though admittedly conjectural—that I believe that God hears me when I pray.

b. If God exists, it also makes sense to me that He cares about me. Now I know that this is highly subjective, but we can think about this logically. If God exists, then He owns everything—it’s all His. He made the world and as Creator He therefore owns everything (has the copyright on life, so to speak). If that is true, then that means that everything I have (health, possessions, friends, family, etc.) either has been given to me by God or has been stolen by me from God. (Having earned my stuff from God is not an option because, while I may have earned my car, I haven’t earned my health, I haven’t earned the good fortune of being born in the wealthiest nation in the
world, I haven’t earned a beautiful wife and gorgeous daughters, etc. For that matter, I never earned the intelligence to get through school or the gift of going to really good private schools all my life that helped me get this job that allowed me to earn my car. So I haven’t even really earned my car—Darn! I’m not as important as I think!). I don’t think I’m strong enough or clever enough to steal from God—I have a hard enough time opening my locked bathroom door with the key! So therefore God has given me all that I have. Since I have a lot (health, family, friends, great job, etc.), God is really kind and generous to me. If He is kind and generous, then He must care about me. And if He cares about me, then I believe that He hears me when I genuinely take the time to speak to Him. Listening is one big way that humans show kindness, love, and respect for each other; the same is true with God (since God is a Person).Those are two big reasons why I believe God hears us—and that doesn’t even take into account that God says so in the Bible (which is big evidence for me personally).

8. Finally, believing in God out of fear of the unknown/fear of hell is a good thing—that’s wise.

If hell exists, it’s safe to say that it royally sucks, and if it lasts for eternity, it’s safe to say that eternity is really long! 🙂 So it is wisdom to run to a kind and loving and generous God—whoever He turns out to be—in the face of an eternity of hell. That’s precisely why God tells us about hell in the Bible—He doesn’t want us to be surprised at the end. God is not in the business of giving pop quizzes—He tells us over and over again that a test—THE final exam—is approaching and He tells us exactly what will be on that test. He doesn’t want us to fail; He wants us to succeed. That’s why He tells us about sin, heaven, hell, judgment, how to get forgiveness, etc. Now of course, that cannot be our only reason for believing in God, but it is definitely one of them. Many people simply don’t give a rip about hell; they’re not scared of it, so some people actually believe in hell but don’t see it as any cause to seek God or conform their lives to Him. That is a scary place to be, my friend, and thank God that you are not in that place. I am genuinely scared for folks who don’t care if hell exists or not…

I hope this is helpful, my friend—I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and responses as we continue to process through deep questions like these…Remember, I am a flawed and imperfect person. My response here is not foolproof, but I hope it is helpful to you. It’s been helpful to me for sure! Hang in there…

Follow Up Question By SoulSpartan’s Friend

Okay, stupid question of the day: Is Jesus God?

Cuz if he is then he is his own Dad?

Does that make Joseph his step dad?

When they use the title King and Lord and Father in the Bible, are those all just ways of referencing God?

Cuz King Arthur was a King, Lord Wessex is someone in a Shakespeare play, and when I refer to my biological sperm donor as Father, am I being blasphemous?

So why is calling Jesus God not blasphemous? He was a human…

Jesus is quite a conundrum.

SoulSpartan’s Response

The question of all questions—good stuff here…

Is Jesus God? He Definitely Thought So…

Contrary to what many people believe, Jesus did in fact claim to be God. In John 8:58, Jesus is talking with the religious leaders and He said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!” I AM is translated “Yahweh” in Hebrew—it is the personal name for God that God gave Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:13-14. When Jesus said, “I AM,” He claimed to be God, and not just God in the generic sense, but the same God who spoke to Moses at the burning bush. It is the equivalent of me saying “I am [you]—with the nickname [blank]—born in Illinois to [your parents], with your social security number, etc.” This is why, in verse 59 of John 8, the religious
leaders tried to kill Jesus by stoning Him—they understood what Jesus was saying (claiming to be God). For brevity’s sake, that is just one example from the Bible.

So, every person has to decide for himself/herself if they believe that Jesus is God. As for Jesus, at the very least, it is clear that He believed that He was God. That is unquestionable from His very words.

What About Joseph?

Yes, Joseph was His stepdad, similar to an adoptive parent in that sense. Jesus did not have the seed of Adam—that is, the seed/sperm of humans. This is how, though fully human, He could be born human without sin. Every other human from conception is sinful because we have inherited this sin from Adam (similar to how genetically some people seem to inherit cancer, high cholesterol, or possibly even a propensity for alcoholism from their relatives).

Was Jesus His own Dad?

(This one requires more words—sorry, yo! But this is quite possibly one of the deepest questions of all time!) 

Great question, similar to the one someone wisely asked: When Jesus prayed, was He talking to Himself? I really like that one because it is an honest question.

No, Jesus is not His own Dad, and no, He was not talking to Himself. Jesus claimed to speak to His Father, God.

The Bible is clear of two things (not only two, mind you, but certainly of these two things :)):

A. God is One, there are no other Gods except Him, and no one shall worship anyone or anything except God (Deuteronomy 4:35,39; Exodus 34:14).

B. The Messiah, Jesus, will be worshipped, and God will be approve of it (Daniel 7:13-14, where the Ancient of Days is God the Father and the son of man is Jesus, the Messiah).

A Bit of a Conundrum…

So here we have a conundrum—either God is lying about only worshipping Him, the Bible is inaccurate, or there is something to the nature of God that allows for this son of man to be worshipped and still obey God’s command to only worship God.

We also have to take into account that Jesus Himself claimed to be God—either Jesus is lying, is mistaken/confused, or is telling the truth (or, as some people say, Jesus never made the claim to be God—His followers put those words in His mouth. That is a valid question that I would love to explain separately, but for now, in short, we can be certain that Jesus’ words were recorded accurately for some very good reasons).

By reading Jesus’ words in their entirety, it is difficult to make the case, psychologically, that He was lying or certifiably insane. He is almost certainly the most revered and honored individual person in the history of humanity. Many people—Hindus and Muslims included—would be offended at someone calling Jesus a liar or lunatic.

So He must be telling the truth, and if that is so, we have a serious conundrum on our hands, a real pickle as it were—there are either two Gods, or there is something about the nature of God that allows Him to be One “What” and at least two “Who”s at the same time.

Jesus Himself opened the door on this mystery a bit when one of His followers asked Jesus to show them God the Father—this follower at the time thought of Jesus as merely a messenger or prophet of God. Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)

In John 10:30, Jesus also said, “I and the Father are One.” This also caused the religious leaders to try and kill Him immediately, because they understood what Jesus was claiming.

So Jesus claims to be One with God the Father—the same nature, but a different Person entirely—and that those who look at the individual Jesus see the individual Father. Processing through this seeming conundrum is how, though not specifically in the Bible as such, the early Christians came to understand God through the idea of the “Trinity.” Now there are a lot of people who simply get pissed off at Christians at this point—they say that Christians made up the idea of the Trinity. But the early Christians met, prayed, read the Bible over and over again, and discussed among themselves, trying to genuinely understand how God could be One but also how at least two and really, three (I won’t get into the Holy Spirit right now, but there is strong evidence in the Bible
that the Bible also claims the Holy Spirit to be God, yet still distinct from the Father and Jesus—that’s why God is the Trinity and not the “Bi-nity” or “Doubl-inity” :)).

The Trinity

The Trinity is how they could understand this seeming conundrum, that God is One Person but also three Persons, each with their own roles, and each fully God (they are each not 1/3 of God). The Bible does not claim to worship multiple Gods—we are not polytheistic (like Hindus, for example). But we have to try and understand (i.e. reconcile, balance like a checkbook, etc.) Jesus’ statements that He and the Father are One, that He has the same personal name as God, and that when we look at Jesus we see the Father, even though the Father is His own Person. It isn’t easy, but Christ-ones take Scripture seriously, and this is why the early Believers didn’t just write this off and chalk it up to, “Well, who knows? It doesn’t really matter.” It of course does matter—God made us to know Him, and He wants us to know Him as He is, not as we want Him to be or think He should be.

Humanness Is Not Tidy, Either...

Of course, this does not end the discussion—the Trinity is not tidy in that sense. But, neither is the nature of a human tidy. Many people believe that humans have a body (physical, what you see), mind (intelligence, reason, etc.), and soul (spiritual heart, will, etc.). Many believers in God across different religions believe this, and if it is true, there seems to be in each human some kind of triple nature or trinity. While this, if true, is not exactly the same as the Christian idea of the Trinity, it gives us at least a parallel or similar situation to say, “Well, then God could be a Trinity.” There is precedence to the idea of Trinity, a lawyer would say.

Nothing Is Impossible With God…

Furthermore, most of the people I have spoken with personally who do not believe in the Trinity do not believe because they say it is impossible; God cannot be One and Three at the same time. Well, that’s simply not a good reason, you know? God can do anything, many believe, so why not this? And, there are a lot of things that happen to us that are both unlikely and that even seem to be impossible; but they happen (e.g. miracles, or a person surviving being shot in the head multiple times at close range, or a person’s parachute failing to open and they plunge 3,000 feet but survive and walk away virtually unharmed (both of these really happened!)). So I would need a better reason than it’s impossible; remember Jesus Himself said, “With man this is impossible, but with Godall things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Titles of God and God’s NAME

King and Lord and Father are titles of God, like President, General, or Executive Assistant. The titles of God show us what He is like by describing His roles. But we have earthly kings, earthly Dads, and in England, earthly lords (“Good morning, my lord.” “Greetings, my lady.” You know, all that good British stuff :)…). You are not being blasphemous by calling [your earthly Dad] your Father or Dad; but he is not your Father or Dad in the same way that God wants to be. There is simply a nuanced difference in the role. If I am the president of the “I Love to Eat Cereal All Day Fanclub,” I am indeed a president, but I am not the same as the President of the United States. Chalk this up to the limits of language. But, God is also clear in calling Himself Father that, although we are to honor and obey our earthly parents, we have allegiance to God first, even before them. We must always obey God, even if that means disobeying our parents. This is exactly why my wife made the choice to accept Jesus as her Savior even though she knew her parents would disown her: once she understood and chose to believe Jesus’ claims, she had to obey her Father in heaven.

So Is Jesus God?

Many people in the world—especially Jewish and Muslim folks—still believe that it is blasphemous to call Jesus God. But the Bible states it is not blasphemous because Jesus is actually God (in other words, the Bible says it is not blasphemous—i.e. wrong—because it is actually true). Though each person, again, must choose for themselves whether they believe this or not.Moreover, you are right—Jesus was human…fully. And He was also fully God. The Bible is clear on stating this, though many people, especially in the first hundred years after Jesus died and returned to life, believed that Jesus’ humanity was not full (it’s funny that most people who either met Jesus
or knew of those who met Jesus in the first century had no trouble believing that He was fully God; what many people struggled with then was belief that He was fully human!): they thought Jesus’ humanity was either like a blanket that He wrapped Himself in or a ghost-like mirage that He pretended to be.

But the Bible states the following in Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV:

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) is also helpful:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus had to become fully human—except for sin—so that He could truly take our place and suffer the punishment for our sin on our behalf.

[See, this is where understanding the bigger picture of Jesus—His role, His mission, etc.—helps to clarify some of the more minute details of Jesus—was He really God, is there a Trinity, why did He die on a cross, why was He born of a woman but without the sperm of a man, etc. And it is sad because very few people ever get this far in their questions, research, and investigation, my friend, because very few Christ-ones even know what they claim to believe and because very few seekers spend as much time as you. They give up easily, or make up their mind quickly (usually against trusting in Jesus). So I applaud you for getting this far! Don’t forget God’s promise that encourages you: “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV). So keep asking these questions, pondering them, praying about them, etc. This is how we seek God…]

Why Would God Become Human?

God became a human because that was the only way He could take our place in dying for our sins—if He remained fully God, He could have never died or been killed. Thus, the justice of God would not have been satisfied and we could never go to heaven. So He had to go through the disgrace of being fully human without giving up His nature as God (though He did give up some of the cool powers of God for His time on earth) in order to save humans. In other words, let’s say I get in trouble for stealing cereal from the store and get sentenced to 24 hours of community service washing toilets/cleaning bathrooms at a middle school, you know, where all the guys miss the toilet and spray their pee pee all over the ground. If the Principle of the school feels bad for me and wants to do my punishment for me, he/she has to actually wash the toilets and the bathrooms. The Principle cannot take my place and then pull rank as the Principle, the Boss of the school. To satisfy the legal punishment required by the law, he/she has to actually do the dirty work. And similarly, God had to do the dirty work if He really wanted to take our place and die for our sins so that those who trust Him can be forgiven, go to heaven, and be improved in this earthly life. God really loves us, so He did our dirty work for us (but it only counts if we accept His work for us; this forgiveness doesn’t apply to everyone (universalism). We have to actually ask for the forgiveness (and really mean it) to receive it. So in that sense it is offered to everyone).

Sorry yo—I know that’s a lot…So take your time and read through it, making sure to send me an email if there is anything confusing, erroneous, etc. Also, ask God to help you understand this stuff—we need His help every step of the way…Talk to ya later!

Follow Up Question By SoulSpartan’s Friend

What does this mean?

“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:42).

SoulSpartan’s Response

Good Morning! Great question, my friend…

Short Answer: Jesus is saying that we are to share with everyone who asks us for help and to loan stuff to everyone who asks to borrow from us, especially those people who are our enemies (that is, people who annoy us, hurt us, abuse us, anger us, etc.).

Slightly Longer Answer: Jesus’ statement here comes in the context of Him teaching crowds of people in the famous “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew Chapters 5, 6, & 7) at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry amongst the people. These are three of the most powerful chapters in the entire Bible. Here Jesus is showing the people (us) that He is not giving them “new” commandments, but rather that He is fulfilling the old commandments (that is, He is helping them to see where they have inaccurately interpreted some basic and important commands from the Old Testament). This particular command to give and share to others is in the context of loving one’s enemies—Jesus is teaching the people that God calls us to love all people, especially those who hurt us and hate us, for if we only love those who love us, what is virtuous about that? Anyone can do that, but God calls us to love those who hate us because He loves those who hate Him (as evidenced through Jesus’ death on the cross which happened before anyone asked for His forgiveness).

Long Answer: As Jesus begins His public ministry with this afternoon of teaching on various practical topics, it is important to realize that He begins by teaching us the importance of showing grace to others, that is, of loving others in all ways especially when they do not deserve such sacrificial love. And this is not a pretty ideological philosophy for Jesus—He teaches it, but then He models it for us as well by putting it into practice throughout the four Gospels by loving us even when we don’t trust in Him, even when we ignore Him, even when we mold Him into someone we are comfortable believing in, even when we choose to do life our own way, etc. This is the
power of God—grace, and this grace is the power of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels: that God would choose to show love for us at great cost to Himself (the cross) even before we did any “good
work” to “deserve it.” This is what separates Christianity from other religions—God offers us the grace we need as a gift that we could never earn with enough good deeds. Instead of us earning God’s forgiveness and thus having God owe us, He offers us grace as a gift, thus showing His love and mercy and generosity. In earning heaven/forgiveness through good deeds, humans are glorified (put on a pedestal—“look at how good I am!”). Indeed, it is through the grace of God through Jesus on the Cross alone that anyone can be forgiven, that anyone can be restored to a personal relationship with God, that anyone can be broken down and remade anew on earth to
purely shine for God. Only grace can do this—unearned love despite mistreatment. This is the “secret recipe” to eternal salvation/healing our broken relationship with God, and this is also the “secret recipe” to earthly restoration/healing our broken relationships with people (especially between individuals, but also between groups of people like blacks & whites, Palestinians & Israelis, etc.). This is God’s wisdom as revealed through the Bible. It is not surprising, then, that most cultures of the world consider grace to be a weakness, consider “swallowing one’s pride” and loving someone we are arguing with to be a sign that the other person has “won” the argument (sound familiar?).

This is why my wife’s parents cannot show their love to her: they do love her, for sure; I do not believe it is possible, seriously, to stop loving someone in your immediate family simply because they disagree with you.

But humans are very adept at stuffing such love way down deep and putting it into a compacter to make it a nice little package that can be neatly stored far far away. For your parents to show grace to her—that is, to love Sarah even though they disagree with her—is for them the same as losing, is the same as admitting that Sarah is right and they are wrong. This is nonsense, but this is human “wisdom.”

This is also why most Christians do not show love to homosexuals; we mistakenly believe that loving them is the same as condoning their homosexual lifestyle. But loving someone doesn’t mean you agree with them, no more than God loving a murderer or adulterer means that God wants us to murder and cheat on each other. But the only way to heal a person is to love them in their sickness, not to wait until they are healed to love them. A doctor gives medicine to a sick person while they are sick, not when they are better; the medicine isn’t needed then. So grace is medicine for our souls, and we are to give it especially when the sickness of pride, hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, and maliciousness separates us from God and from each other. This is what separates Jesus from the other “holy people” and “prophets” of the world—this teaching makes sense to us deep down, this teaching has been rejected by the vast majority of humans, and this teaching was put into practice by Jesus in His life, eventually even costing Him His life. Jesus walked the talk…No offense to Mohammad or to anyone who reveres him, but Mohammad did not sacrifice his life for his enemies; he fought and killed his enemies just as any of us would fight and kill people who hate us. That doesn’t make Mohammad bad, it just makes him human like us. But Jesus is different from us in this profound and important way—it shows that Jesus is worthy of being followed…

I hope this is helpful, and I really really hope that my last two sentences above do not anger you—that is not my purpose at all. I do not in any way want to disrespect Mohammad, but rather I want to show why Jesus is worthy of extra respect (and ultimately is the only One worthy of eternal allegiance)…

One more thing: the Bible will be much harder to understand if you are reading from a translation that uses Elizabethan English from the 16th century (thees and thous and hither tos and asketh and so forth)…That’s why I recommend to people to read the NIV, NLT, or the Message translations of the Bible…Talk to you soon!!!

Follow Up Question By SoulSpartan’s Friend

So the economy is bad. I can’t sell advertisement space to recruiters and HR depts of companies when no one is hiring. Therefore, I can’t sell anything, and I can’t hit quota.More than likely (it varies on a case by case basis) I will be fired come June 1st. I have nothing in the works, nothing lined up, and no one that I send my resume to will call me back. I am starting to realize that it really is who you know that gives you a leg up in the job market, instead of how hard you work, how much effort you give, what you know, how skilled you are, or how good you are at your current job. What a bitter realization so soon after entering the ‘real world.’

I don’t think my prayers for finding a job are enough (not even a job I like, a job I want, or a job that makes me good money. At this point, I just need a job. Anything at all. I can’t even get fast food places to call me back for positions working the register). If either of you could spare a moment today and just ask Jesus for a bit of help for me, that would be fantastic.

Thanks guys. It sucks to be broke.

SoulSpartan’s Response

You got it, my friend—will do fo sho…

Seriously, just keep praying and working hard sending out resumes and networking and just in general keeping your eyes open all the time…The people who notice God the most are those who pay the most attention…Please know that we will support you in every way possible…Do not worry about being “left out in the cold”—that WILL NOT happen, dig?

One of my favorite verses of the Bible all-time (in three, count them—three—different translations to give you the full flava). I picture God rolling up His sleeves here revealing huge forearms and
biceps…

Numbers 11:23 (NIV, NLT, and The Message, respectively):

“The LORD answered Moses, ‘Is the LORD’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you’” (NIV).

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Has my arm lost its power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!’” (NLT).

“God answered Moses, ‘So, do you think I can’t take care of you? You’ll see soon enough whether what I say happens for you or not’” (The Message).

And these are the words, among many others, that the LORD your God says to you, my friend:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV):

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD…”

Your Loving Friend~

Follow Up Question by SoulSpartan’s Friend

I need help. I don’t know if you heard or not, but i did something bad. Things got heated between me and a friend on Sunday, and i said something. Something that wasn’t true, but that i knew would hurt her. I was angry, frustrated, and let the last 10 months build up and explode. I’m not trying to make excuses because I know what I did was wrong. I lied and I hurt her badly. And then after I told her the lie I kept rubbing it in her face. Totally Maury Povich style.

Not one of my prouder moments.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t have done it. But once the word vomit started, i flipped out and just kept going. I crushed her by telling her that, so I’m going to call her, apologize, tell her what I said is a lie, and apologize for everything else I said to her. In the back of my head she doesn’t deserve an apology, but I’m going to attribute that thought to me hating how she ruined the last 10 months of my life and made me miserable. I should  apologize, even if I’m mad as hell, right? But my question to you is bigger. How do I apologize to God? I feel like what I’ve done is WAY worse than some other things I’ve done wrong in my life. I mean, I CRUSHED my friend and really put her through pain. 

And it felt good to tell her off at the time, but I definitely regret it now. I really hurt her, and I wish I hadn’t.

But even after I apologize to her, I know I need to apologize to God, too. But here’s the thing – I don’t know what I’m apologizing for. I mean, I should apologize to her and that’s just because I want to. But I don’t know what to apologize for to God…I don’t know if I am explaining what I am looking for. It’s hard to describe. I want to apologize to God, but i don’t feel like it will mean as much to Him if I don’t know what I am apologizing for. And when i say ‘well i dont know what I am apologizing for” I don’t mean it in a ‘I’m so b.a. that I dont need to feel sorry’ but more like a ‘im ignorant and really dont know whats going on’ kinda way. I want to make sure I get it straight in my head so I can give God a heartfelt apology. I don’t want to just say ‘hey im sorry’ but instead ‘hey i’m sorry I hurt my friend and lied to her.’ But unless I know what I did wrong, I don’t know if I can do that. What did I do wrong aside from the hurting her and lying to her. Did I do more than that? Cuz the guilt I am feelilng right now is making me feel like I gave her Chinese water torture. 😦 And if all sins are looked at as the same in God’s eyes, then why do I feel SO MUCH CRAPPIER right now than if I had done something not as bad?

SoulSpartan’s Response

Thanks for the email, my friend…I’ll try and keep my response as brief as possible!

1. I agree that an apology and confession to your friend is wise—confession that what you said is not actually true, and apology that you unloaded on her. Simple, sweet, and be done. If she lashes out and begins going crazy, you need to simply hang up right away. Do not let her egg you on…apologize, but remain in control of the conversation.

2. It is also important for us to apologize to God because even when we sin against another person, we are also sinning personally against God as well. King David in Psalm 51:4 (NIV) wrote,“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” God owns everything and everyone in the universe; everything belongs to Him. And so to harm something that belongs to Him is a crime against Him (just as a person goes to jail for vandalizing property; the criminal has harmed the actual property, but the wall is not mad, per se, because it has graffiti on it. The criminal goes to jail because the graffiti has harmed the actual owner of the wall/building).

3. Great question at the end. All sin is the same in God’s eyes in the legal/theological sense–to break one part of the law (even the smallest part) is to become a lawbreaker. So to steal a pack of gum is the same as murdering a little child in the sense that both people are now lawbreakers. In other words, sin is like poison, and if you get a drop of poison on your tongue for each sin, stealing a little pack of gum gets you a little drop and murdering a child gets you a 60 oz Big Gulp…But both still kill the people involved…BUT…All sin is not the same in the practical sense on earth. Different sins have different levels of explosion…All sin is explosive, but stealing a pack of gum might be like touching a sparkler on the 4th of July–you get burned, but it heals quickly. Murdering a child is like a nuclear bomb–more and more people are affected by the explosion (and are harmed more destructively).

So you are feeling real bad right now because in your heart your hatred and anger and bitterness at your friend all came out in nuclear fury…You didn’t murder her physically (and that is a good thing!), but you did emotionally and mentally. Now don’t beat yourself up–we have ALL done stuff like this before, so I’m a murderer too in this sense…But that is what happened here, and that is why you feel so bad. Your sin against your friend carried a bigger explosion, and so it will hurt both of you a bit more…

I hope that is helpful and not more confusing…Remember–God loves you and leans toward forgiveness…You don’t have to earn His forgiveness…just ask for it and accept it…He is already offering it to you…He loves you so much, and there is nothing you can do to change His mind…But your spirit will still probably be a bit sore even after you accept His forgiveness…that is a normal part of sin…Hang in there–sin sucks, but God’s love and forgiveness is like lotion on sunburned skin…

Follow Up Question From SoulSpartan’s Friend

Oh no, I just had a terrible thought.

So I remember in Alpha they said that the devil often disguises himself and something holy so you think you are doing something right or maybe something un-wrong.

Then how do I tell if im being guided my jesus or satan?!?!?!

SoulSpartan’s Response

Great question here, my friend…Here are some thoughts:

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (The Message):

“And I’m not changing my position on this. I’d die before taking your money. I’m giving nobody grounds for lumping me in with those money-grubbing ‘preachers,’ vaunting themselves as something special. They’re a sorry bunch—pseudo-apostles, lying preachers, crooked workers—posing as Christ’s agents but sham to the core. And no wonder! Satan does it all the time, dressing up as a beautiful angel of light. So it shouldn’t surprise us when his servants masquerade as servants of God. But they’re not getting by with anything. They’ll pay for it in the end.”

Short Answer:

Since Satan pretends to be good, we need to make sure that we have a standard of truth to compare what we are told so that we can see if something (or someone) is from God or not. This is exactly the reason why we need to know the Bible inside and out. If something doesn’t jive with what Scripture says, then it is not from God at all. That is one of the purposes of the Bible—to help us to know what is from God and what is not.Illustration: When you buy a piece of property, you don’t take the seller’s word for it that the property is one acre—land is expensive, and there is always someone out there trying to rip you off. You go out and measure the property with an accurate ruler/tape measure in order to make sure that it really is one acre.

Well, the Bible is like the tape measure/ruler—it is the standard for Truth, and anything that does not line up with its teaching is not from God. We cannot eyeball a field a tell whether or not it is exactly an acre—we need a tape measure.

The same is true with truth—we often are fooled by half-truths, so we need a spiritual tape measure to make sure what we hear is really the Truth and not a turd dipped in sugar.

Further Reading—Matthew 4:1-11: Satan tried real hard to scam Jesus into sinning—Satan even quoted the Bible to Jesus (boy oh boy Satan is a clever one). But read these eleven verses to hear how Jesus wisely responded. Even in His physically weakened state, it was the Truth of the Bible—and Jesus accurately knowing that Truth as a whole (not just pieces of it)—that kept Jesus from sinning. That is a great lesson for us all.

But What About?…

Now I realize this begs the question: How does one know which Holy Book (the Bible, the Koran, etc.) is the right one? That is another great question for another time. In an effort to keep this response relatively short, I will leave it at that for now! 🙂

Let me know if this is helpful or not…

There are so many half-truths and smoke and mirrors that are pulled with regard to the truth…Plus, we humans are all born with Ph.ds in justifying almost any behavior, action, or decision, so we need to have this standard of Truth to compare even our own thoughts to (sometimes we are our own worst enemies!)…

Kind of like how the jeweler puts diamonds up against the black felt cloth in order to bring out/determine the true shine of the gems—that is another way the Bible works…It can show the truth of something or expose it as a dull fraud…

But the most dangerous thing in the world is when people try and figure out truth on their own without the help of the Bible—e.g. “I just don’t think that God would ever send people to hell”, or
“I just don’t believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven” etc. It’s ok to have these thoughts and discuss these questions and ideas, but most people just decide in their own minds about stuff like this without accessing Scripture. It’s part of our addiction to freedom and liberty that we don’t want a third party telling us what is true—we want to believe what is most comfortable for us and anything that is different than that is intolerant or narrow minded or exclusive. But our eternity lies in the balance, so we humans had better be darn sure we know where we’re laying down our chips, if you know what I mean. The wheel is spinning, and we all have to put our souls on a number. The Bible just happens to tell us that the wheel is stopping on 316 (John 3:16, that is)—that’s the winning number! 🙂

Physical laziness has coronary consequences; spiritual laziness has eternal consequences.

Sorry, now I’m preaching…Have a great night of reading!

Follow Up Comment by SoulSpartan’s Friend

I don’t know how to hang in there. I am falling apart.

SoulSpartan’s Response

I hear ya…

You start by asking Jesus to keep you together…We all need His help…

Then, you make sure you don’t do anything rash in your state of falling apart (specifically regarding alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.)…It’s common for us humans to try and medicate our pain/frustration with whatever will give us the most immediate relief, but this is very dangerous to do…

Then, I would also say to continue looking for other work, but not to quit quite yet…Ask God to help you know if there is anything He wants you to learn from this discomfort you are experiencing right now…If you are in physical danger, then quit right away…But if you just hate your job, God might be trying to teach you something—tell Him you are ready to learn what that might be…He never lets us suffer for no reason…

Also, feel free also to come up and hang out with us anytime—you don’t ever need an invitation…I could watch the kids so you and Sarah could have some time to just relax together—but do something with family in a safe environment where you don’t have to have your guard up…

Finally, as much as possible, try and read one Psalm each day (or more)…The Psalms are great when we’re dealing with significant trials…I’m doing this right now myself…Then, try and write down stuff that you are thankful for in your current state—focusing on the positive can be a healthy balance when the negative tries continually to be all up in our grills…

I hope that is helpful…

Follow Up Response from SoulSpartan’s Friend

It is always helpful.

Okay, ask Jesus, don’t get irrational, look for other work, learn from what God is trying to teach me, read Psalms, be thankful, focus on the positive.

Thanks. I’ll give it a go.

SoulSpartan’s Response

That is a fantastic summary! And concisely done as well…I can learn from you!

Follow Up Response from SoulSpartan’s Friend

Haha thank you! Sometimes it helps to repeat what I need to do in a nut shell.

SoulSpartan’s Response

Yeah, well you can fit your summary in a pistachio nut shell; my email, on the other hand, would barely fit in a coconut shell…

Here’s to brevity—l’chaim (to life!)!!!
(I just smashed a wine glass under my foot :))

Follow Up Question From SoulSpartan’s Friend

I’ve just confused myself. When I pray, who should I be talking to: god or jesus?

I mean I know they’re kinda the same thing in a sense, but everyone always seems to be praying to Jesus, but then referring to him as ‘Lord’ and I don’t know what I’m doing. Yet again.

SoulSpartan’s Response

As for praying, here are some thoughts:

1. I struggled with this early on (back when Sarah and I attended Loyola Univ.), and I asked a friend of mine the same question.

2. You can talk to God the Father, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit, anytime, anyplace, individually, as a duet, or all three at the same time. There isn’t red tape with God in that sense (e.g. talk to the Father in the morning ‘cuz Jesus likes to sleep in, the Holy Spirit is unavailable in the evenings because He really enjoys the nightly billiards tournaments on the outskirts of Heaven, etc. ).

3. As hard as it is, try not to over-think it. I totally get that the concept of Trinity (God being three distinct people (Who’s) while still being one God (What)) is difficult. But sometimes you need hot water vapor when your sinus’ are clogged, cool crisp liquid water when you’re thirsty, and some frigid ice cubes when you stub your toe—different realizations of water for different situations, but you’re always working with water, you know?

4. Over the past 12+ years of surrendering to Jesus, I have begun to talk to Jesus specifically when I’m struggling with some particular aspect of humanity because He knows EXACTLY what I’m going through—He experienced every part of being human except for personally sinning (though He definitely experienced being on the other end of sin—people sinning against Him). So I talk to Jesus A LOT…

5. I address God the Father when I am particularly thankful for things—health, family, career, home, etc., or when I am particularly sorry for something I’ve done or failed to do.

6. I talk to the Holy Spirit when I need help understanding something, when I simply want to grow closer to God (e.g. “Please fill me Holy Spirit, help me to know You better”), or when I need help doing something difficult.

7. But these are just guidelines—there really aren’t any RULES per se in Who to talk to in what situation.

I hope this is helpful…To be honest, like all things your prayer life with God will grow the more you do it. The biggest thing you can do is ask God Himself to help you pray to Him—He will!!!

Follow Up Question from SoulSpartan’s Friend

But doesn’t God know everything and isn’t he all powerful so he can ‘know’ what we are going through in that sense too? Or is it only jesus. Why is the trinity so confusing?

So it doesn’t matter? I can say “dear jesus” everytime if I want to?

Thanks!

SoulSpartan’s Response

Thanks for your comments!

Regarding whether or not God the Father and the Holy Spirit understand what it’s like to behuman, yeah, they do I would say. You’re right, God knows everything. BUT…God the Father did not become a human and die on the cross; neither did the Holy Spirit. Jesus did—Jesus who up until that point had always existed as the Word of God (see John chapter1). It’s a “both/and” scenario here, not an “either/or”. Jesus represents us humans before the Father because He became one of us in every way (except personally sinning)—that’s why His innocent death can erase our moral debt before God the Father; Jesus represents God before us humans because He still remained fully God (that’s why He can say “When you see Me you see the Father” [John 14:8-14]).

So Jesus understands in a unique way what we go through on earth…but that doesn’t make Him better or more important than God the Father or the Holy Spirit—they each have their roles, yet they remain fully God and are never in competition with each other.

It isn’t easy, but humans are hard to understand too. Ever wonder why [your boyfriend] (or yourself, for that matter) does certain things? 🙂 Trust me—if you were to marry him someday, after 50 years you would still be baffled by him at times. So if humans are a little confusing, it’s understandable that the God of the universe would be also…That at least helps me out, but I do agree that God is hard to understand…

I hope that is helpful!

SoulSpartan’s Response to His Friend’s Questions Regarding The Trustworthiness of the Bible

Alright—here’s my best shot at being “brief” in response to your valid comments!:

Relevant

That the Bible has been the best-selling book of all time for 600 years definitely does not prove that it is the Word of God. But it does show that many many people have found it’s recipes to be delicious and nourishing, and this also shows that the Bible has crossed the lines of culture, history, and eras as a useful tool. It isn’t just effective/valid/relevant to one particular culture or time period, but to all cultures and time periods over the last 2,000 years. This is solid corroborative evidence, as we would expect a book written or inspired by God to do this (many sacred texts cannot make this claim).

Copies & Fragments

Regarding the copies and fragments, having so many is helpful for scholars to determine if what was originally written on the original copies has been faithfully transcribed over the years to the Bible we have today. This does not directly address whether or not the Bible is the Word of God, but it does address whether or not the Bible has been authentically “handed down” over the years. And it has. One of the biggest arguments people make against the Bible is that it has changed over the years. In fact, it hasn’t, and the remarkableness of this fact is one more screw making the chair of the Bible more sturdy and comfortable to sit in. It doesn’t “prove” it once and for all, but it allows us to take large steps toward that conclusion.

What’s the Motive?

The Gospel writers could have lied—that is a possibility. But if we can’t even imagine a plausible scenario/reason/motive for them lying, then we have to remove that from the possible scenarios. If I were accused of murdering a stranger, it would be in my favor in a court of law if the prosecuting attorneys could find no reasonable motive for me to do so.

Mistaken and Confused?

True, the Gospel writers could have been mistaken/confused about what they wrote, just like you dying for your pet rock—sincerely believing but ultimately wrong/inaccurate. Again, one of the main issues that such a notion raises is that if the Gospel writers really were mistaken, then so was Jesus. They reported what He said—much of the Gospels are either direct quotes of Jesus or reports of things Jesus Himself did. So the question isn’t do we trust the Gospel writers or even the Bible; the question is do we trust Jesus? I can’t find any reason not to trust Him (from reading about His life in the Gospels and even what people have said about Jesus outside of the Bible—almost everyone in the world reveres Jesus—that says a lot right there).

One Pipe Vs. Many Streams

Jumping ahead, one of the things that the Koran has going against it is that it was written down through one person (even though many believe this to be the Koran’s greatest strength). Everything goes through Mohammad in the Koran—one person, in a relatively short period of time. The Bible, on the other hand, was written by approximately 40 authors in three different languages over the course of almost 2,000 years. The fact that the Bible has agreement within itself on what it teaches and on where it’s going give it serious credibility. In other words, it would easier for one person to make up a religious book than 40 people over 2,000 years in different languages and cultures. No disrespect to Mohammad at all here—I’m just saying.

Republic and a Kingdom

For example, one difference between the Koran and the Bible is a little like the difference between governments—a Republic and a Kingdom. In a kingdom, one person is the King and he makes & enforces the laws with no checks and balances. He rules absolutely. Now this isn’t necessarily bad, you just better be sure you have a good and honest king.

A Republic, on the other hand, has checks and balances within it—if you have forty people ruling, some making the laws, some interpreting the law, and some enforcing the law, such a system helps to weed out bad laws and prevents one person from making everything to suit his/her fancy. You can still have corruption in a Republic, but it’s more difficult to get it through all the levels of the government.

No Disrespect
Again, I don’t mean any disrespect at all to Mohammad here, so please forgive me if the last point above is insulting. I would not even raise this point if I were talking to your parents or to a practicing Muslim because it would probably cause trouble. But it is a point that needs to be delicately made, I think. Again, would you trust one doctor talking about the benefits of a new medicine, or forty doctors from different cultures, languages, and time periods who all agree on the particular medicine?

But I will say that, for those seeking God, out of all the options out there, in my humble opinion, it’s either Judaism, Christianity, or Islam that is right. None of the other options even is organized enough on what it believes and on its sacred texts to warrant serious discussion. And it’s interesting that those are the three major monotheistic faiths…

Thanks for reading my “brief” responses!!! Lemme know your thoughts when you get the chance…

Follow Up Question by SoulSpartan’s Friend

I want to be a Christian, but I am having trouble adjusting my current lifestyle into a Jesus lifestyle. I know I should give my life to Jesus, let him use me, and do his work, but I have a problem. And my problem is that I like doing certain sinful things. And I have a very hard time not doing these certain sinful things. I try to, I really do, but in certain situations, I succumb to my ‘enjoying the moment’ and ‘only living once’ mentality. I get selfish and only think about myself. Now, I know I need to ask God to help me out with strength, turning away from temptation, and all that jazz, and I do.

But my question is:

How can I be a Christian when I’m so dirty, evil, and sinful? I don’t want to be, but I am. I feel like I’m not good enough to be a Christian. And even when I pray for Jesus to help me in my moments of peer pressure or when I’m thinking WWJD, I still give in. I’m so weak. And I do things I shouldn’t. Or even worse, I DON’T do things I know I SHOULD do. That’s the worst.How can I be a Christian when I’m so unworthy?

SoulSpartan’s Response

This is awesome, my friend…

How can you be a Christian when you’re so unworthy? That’s the point—you got it! No one is “worthy”—none of us!

The whole concept of “worthy/unworthy” is a works-based earning of God’s love and forgiveness—because if someone could be worthy of Jesus’ forgiveness, then it wouldn’t be a gift—it would be a
payment (debt) from God to the person. And God owes nothing to anyone…

But He offers everything to everyone as a gift based on His love, not on our merit—it’s a gift, not a reward or right; it’s a privilege…Healthy people don’t need medicine; the sick do. Jesus says we’re all sick, so stop waiting until you’re healthy to take the medicine; take it now while you’re sick but alive (we’ll never get healthy on our own)!!! We don’t need to be “worthy” of medicine; we just need to be sick…Same with Jesus…

Of course you still want to live for the moment and stuff—I do too often times! So did Paul, who wrote over a third of the entire New Testament (see below)…

But Jesus will help us through that—over time He will help us want sin less and want Him more—by default this will cause us to make right decisions more often…

Consider these Scripture passages:

1.“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’

(Matthew 9:10-13 NIV)

2. “Some men brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, and then tried to trap Him by asking whether or not they should obey the Old Testament and stone her. Jesus’ response is astounding—He managed to uphold the Law and not disobey it but also extend mercy and forgiveness to the woman and not condemn her. He answered: “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

(John 8:7-11 NIV).

3. “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10 The Message).

4.“The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”

(Romans 7:14-25 The Message) (Read all of Romans 8 in The Message for even more good stuff!!!)

I hope this is helpful, my friend…Praying for you (and myself as well!)…

Follow Up Question From SoulSpartan’s Friend

Where can I read about Lazarus in the bible? I don’t know what you are referencing about him and the little girl, so I wanna check that shizzle out.

SoulSpartan’s Response

Thank you so much, my friend!

Lazarus: John 11:1-44. Fantastic event, powerful story. Jesus cried hard when his friend Lazarus died. He cried so hard that people noticed Him crying. Wow.

Little Girl: Matthew 9:18-26. Notice that people laughed at Jesus when He spoke to them about the girl’s real condition. Amazing. Makes me wonder what I laugh at Jesus about even today when He gives me, through the Bible, insight into myself and my condition.

That’s some real great shizzle…:)

Have a great day…

Follow Up Question From SoulSpartan’s Friend:

If everything that happens is of the will of God, then how can man have free will? For example, I am writing you this email right now – is that me demonstrating my free will, or is that the will of god allowing me to write
you this email? Or maybe they aren’t mutually exclusive?

…I stumped you, didn’t I?

SoulSpartan’s Response

Great question on free will and God’s sovereignty (control/rule/authority) in/over the universe…

Here are some thoughts:

They definitely are not mutually exclusive—it’s not either/or, but rather a bit of both/and.

Jesus talks a lot about stuff that seems one way and ends up the other way, or things that seem to be two extremes at the same time—the first shall be last, if you humble (lower) yourself then God will exalt you (honor, lift you up), adults needing to be reborn again of God, dying for Jesus’ sake brings us eternal life, God can and will bring good out of evil, etc.

Admittedly, this is part of the mystery of God that is difficult for us to understand. But it’s a little like the example where we give up something now for a future benefit and someone says, “You took two steps backwards in order to go around an obstacle so you can take three steps forward.”

God is definitely in control of the universe—He is not a hands-off God or an absentee Landlord…

Unlike what Thomas Jefferson and many of America’s Founding Fathers believed, God did not create (wind up) the universe and then step back and let it go. He is intricately involved in the affairs of every human, every nation, etc. and is moving humanity towards a conclusion, a goal, an end to the current drama and the beginning of the new world (without sin, death, suffering, etc.). The phrase “everything happens for a reason” is true—God is working everything out and moving it towards His “reason,” just as cowboys herd cattle toward the ranch.

And humans definitely have free will. God easily could force everyone right now to believe in Him, obey Him, “do the right things”, etc.—but He does not. God desires our love—that is one of the main things that sets humans apart from animals, our ability to love—and love by its very nature is something that cannot be forced. God did not force you to write this email. You chose to, and you could have chosen not to.

God is outside of time and space as we humans know it—that is one way that He can know everything we’re going to do while we retain our free will. Though a flawed analogy, it’s like taping a live sporting event and then watching the event again after it has happened. The second time, you know everything single thing that will happen, but you did not force the players to do what they did. There is no past, present, and future with God as we understand past, present, and future. When you read a book, years can go by for the characters in the story while mere seconds or minutes go by for you. It’s a little like that with God. It’s almost as if everything is now for God.

But this confuses me too, so I’m just trying to offer hand-holds in the rock that help me climb a little.

Yet, everything that happens is not God’s will, God’s desire. It is not God’s desire that little kids get kidnapped and murdered sometimes (though God does allow those things to happen in the
sense that He could have stopped the criminal). It is not God’s desire that any sin happens—rape, murder, lying, theft, etc. Each and every sin goes against the will/desire of God—it goes against His royal decree that we live rightly and lovingly. But God is able to bring good out of the sinful choices of people—the only way that humans can get to heaven now was because a sin—a crime—was committed against Jesus, that is, when He was executed on the Cross. That was the ultimate injustice—God Himself dying as a criminal—and yet God used that to bring about the ultimate gift of grace: humans who accept Jesus’ gift can now be forgiven of their sins and be reconnected to God forever in deep/real friendship.

Maybe it’s like jumping in a river with a fast-flowing current—the current and the terrain/shape of the river is controlling where you end up, but you who are in the river control how you act in the
river until you get to where you’re going.

Bottom line: Scripture is clear that humans are responsible for the choices they make; and yet we can confidently rest during times of difficulty because we know that God is present and in control, that He will bring good out of our struggles and that He will be sure to deliver safely to heaven those who trust in Him now.

I hope that is at least helpful a little bit…

Follow Up Question from SoulSpartan’s Friend

Oh, and are we all born with original sin?

And why is this sin ‘original’? where is this shizzle in the bible?

SoulSpartan’s Response

Great question again, my friend:

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come”

(Romans 5:12-14, NLT).

Adam and Eve sinned, and they spiritually (think genetically) passed down their disease of sin onto us (all humans after them). It’s like a mother who has HIV—even though her baby didn’t do anything to contract the disease, HIV can be passed from Mom to baby during birth, through breast feeding, etc. The baby might have it now because it was passed on from the Mother. This is a picture of how humans are born sinners—we have inherited it from our parents all the way back to Adam and Eve who gave it to their children.

The Bible teaches that humans sin because they are sinners (we are not sinners because we sin);

Many other faiths teach that humans are sinners because they sin (including Islam, I believe—Muslims do not believe in original sin, that all humans are sinful from birth/conception).

Thus, the Bible implicitly states that there is no chance for a rare person to go through life without sinning; it’s not just that no one has done it—it is not possible for anyone to do it.

And by the way, this is why Jesus had to have a virgin birth in order to be fully human without sin and fully God at the same time.

He got his humanity from Mary’s egg and somehow mysteriously the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to be fertilized in Mary’s womb without Joseph’s sperm—Joseph’s sperm is sinful, just as his father’s was and all the way back to Adam.

This is why babies do not have to be taught how to be selfish—they have to be taught how to be generous. Even little children lash out at others from the earliest age, though oftentimes we think of it as “cute” because not much harm is done. But the Bible would say that a 12 month old pushes down his 12 month old friend because he is acting out of his “natural” sinful nature that has been present from conception, not because that baby happened to simply make a bad choice in that moment.

Is that helpful? Please let me know if you have any comments or further questions—again, this is helpful for me to think this stuff through…

Follow Up Comment By SoulSpartan’s Friend

So I’ve been thinking, and I don’t think I like analogies. I have a big problem with understanding religion/God/faith by use of analogies. For every analogy I receive to explain something to me, I can easily come up with another analogy to contradict the idea at hand. I feel almost as if someone is trying to trick me into understanding what’s going on, and I don’t like it.

SoulSpartan’s Response
Ok…Fair points. Jesus used analogies, though…Just sayin’…So for me, simply because of that fact, they are a viable way to communicate truth…

The key, as always, is discerning (understanding) which analogies are truthful, and which are not…

The Bible is clear that there is much falsehood in the world, and Jesus says there are many voices trying to get us (sheep) to follow…But Jesus says His sheep listen to His voice (His Truth) alone and disregard the other voices…

There is a battle for your soul, my friend—believe it…If you feel tugged in different directions, it’s because you are being pulled and tugged…No way to get away from that…There are many people, religions, ideologies, etc. trying to get you to buy into their idea, their version of truth…You’ll never get away from that…Every commercial, billboard, song, t.v. show, movie, newspaper article, blog, person, religion, author, etc. is trying to get you to believe something…

The question of what to believe pertains to the source of the idea/concept, just like (sorry for the analogy) you know you can
drink water from a river if its source is pure.

For me, Jesus is my source…He is pure…He is my source of Truth because of:

1. The life He lived (no one could find sin/error in Him—not 2,000 years ago-not even today)

2. The Truth He taught (it rings true with my experience of life)

3. His death and return to life. I don’t know anyone who has ever died for me—but Jesus did.

Can anyone love me more than that?

Lemme know your thoughts…Help me to understand how you are feeling tricked…

Praying for us all…

SoulSpartan’s Friend’s Response

Well it’s hard to say off the top of my head. Sometimes people just give me examples, and I feel like they are catering the example to my question. Like they are making up a hypothetical situation to mold their answer into the one they want me to hear. And then in return , I come up with a hypothetical situation in return to counter their hypothetical situation and then I’m back to square one. I will write one down the next time I hear one, cuz I think this is confusing.

And I believe that there is a battle for my soul. It’s quite the commodity, or so I hear.

But how do I tell the truth from the not if everything makes sense to me sometimes?

I am asking people from church questions about the bible, and what they say makes sense, but I fell that they use examples, metaphors, etc that are very weak arguments and filled with holes very often. I could just be being too skeptical, or I could be onto something, but I don’t know. Should I not ask people at church questions?

I ask you things all the time, and you give me hypothetical situations.

Does that mean I shouldn’t ask you things anymore because the source (you) isn’t pure (no offense) and only Jesus is truly pure?

Bah. Humbug.

SoulSpartan’s Response

No—you can ask me or anyone else questions…We don’t have to be pure to offer advice…But when I answer you, ultimately my answer goes back to something Jesus said…I’m not teaching you my Gospel, but Jesus’…I then try to find examples in life that help to clarify Jesus’ opinion…

That’s the difference…

If a friend gives you their opinion on the after-life, for example, their opinion really doesn’t hold water for me if they don’t have a source to back it up…If their source is their own experience, then phooey…We live in a desert full of mirages because of our spiritual dehydration…There has to be a source, for me, and an ancient one, to be honest…

And yes, it’s possible that you’re being too skeptical…Everything has “holes” in it, so to speak…I can make a very good case right now that the planet Jupiter doesn’t exist…But you have to decide whether or not it exists for you, weighing in your own mind and heart…I would ask this:

1. What about Jesus’ death on the cross and return to life has holes in it?

2. What about Jesus’ life and teaching from the Bible has holes in it?3. If you are not going to ride the Jesus-train to heaven, how do you plan to get there?

3. If you are not going to accept Jesus’ payment for your sins, how do you intend to get right with God, to pay off that debt?

These are the main questions, I think, that are important right now…These are the biggies—everything else is just details…

Lemme know your thoughts…

M.J.’s Response from Now-Lost Question

I would say that it is possible in the above scenario to still not be a Christian, but also possible to be a Christian…

All saving faith has a component to it of intellectual information/knowledge, but not all intellectual information/knowledge, even if it is accurate, means the person has saving faith…

The Bible tells us that even demons believe in God, and they shudder.

Moreover, eight years ago, nearly half of the country did not vote for George W. Bush–those people who did not vote for him would agree that yes, he was re-elected as President. But they weren’t
happy about it…

In other words, demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God and agree that there is no other way to get reconnected to God and get to heaven; but they don’t love/worship/obey/follow
Jesus…That is the difference between saving faith and mere intellectual knowledge…

A person on the ledge of a 20 story burning building knows they need to jump off into the fire department’s net–but knowing they need to jump off and actually jumping are two different but related things; the knowing is important, but in the end the jumping is the key to saving their life…

Make sense, or not so much?

Friend’s Response

You’re a peach. Okay so the difference is the how I live my life part? Because personally, I love Jesus, worship Jesus, obey Jesus, and follow Him as best as I can… so now what?

And why is all this taking so long????

Here’s a song I wrote:

Frustrated cuz sometimes
I feel like everything blows
Frustrated that the world
Is kinda sucky and filled with woes
I gotta find something that makes sense to me
And I gotta find some caffeine, maybe some coffee……..

It’s a ballad. A power ballad to be exact. Like big hair and tattoos and face paint. It’s a crazy big power ballad. Of love. And frustration.

SoulSpartan’s Response
Awesome ballad!…Keep it up :)…

You are not alone—we are all walking through the temporary hail-storms of this world together…Jesus is with us!

Final Question From SoulSpartan’s Friend

I need help!

Question: okay so god is this dude that is all like ‘hey everybody, I want you to want me’ and that’s awesome. I get that. So he finds a bunch of ways to tell people about Him aka prophets. Awesome. Got it. Check.

NOW.

There was a lot of realty important people in history preaching god. Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, etc. but I feel like although god us the main theme, a lot of them got the nitty gritty all jacked up. And when I say nitty gritty I am also including some stuff that is like super extra big huge and major.

Why couldn’t god just send down one dude, with one message, and be all ‘this is the word. There is no other way around it. Read it, do it, done. The end.’ None of this old testament vs new testament vs Koran stuff. I don’t get it.

There are so many people and so much time has passes. Things have been lost in translation. Wtf. Why couldn’t just be like BAM here’s my word.

And why did he wait so long to tell people about him? Why wouldn’t he send it down the day adam and eve fell and be like, “you guys sucked at living in paradise, but here’s a book to help you.”

Any thoughts?

SoulSpartan’s Response

Great Questions!

I. General Revelation And Special Revelation

God has two main ways that He reveals Himself to humans—theologians classify these two ways as General Revelation and Special Revelation.

General Revelation is essentially what all humans around the world can understand about God without having anyone teach them, without reading a holy book, without attending a
church/mosque/synagogue, etc. The Bible claims that there are at least two major things all humans inherently know about God (Romans 1:18-25 NIV):

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degradingof their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Special Revelation is what humans can’t figure out on our own—certain aspects of Truth can only be taught to us by God…that is, through written revelation (holy books, etc.).

For example, the first chapter of the Gospel of John illustrates this—there is no way that someone could figure out that Jesus is really the eternal Word of God—the light of the world Who gives life
to all people—without God telling us specifically.

So God has provided a Book for us, but how do we know which holy/religious book is the right one? (Check out post titled “How Can We Trust the Bible?”)

Which one speaks accurately about our lives, the human condition?

Which one is historically accurate?

Which one has withstood centuries of literary criticism?

Which one grabs our hearts?

Luke 1:1-4 (NIV):

1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

II. But There Is An Enemy…

That is, there exists a created being who does not want humans to know which book is right, who does not want humans to love God, who does not want humans to “get right” with God. This particular created being does everything he can do to keep humans confused, unsure, and busy with EVERYTHING other than finding out who God really is, from finding out how spiritually sick we really are, from finding out and accepting the healing medicine that God offers us.

2 Timothy 2:22-26 NIV:
22Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

23Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

1 John 2:18-27

18Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from
the truth.

22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.

26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

III. Many Different Ideas About God

So humans tried their best to figure out who God was, but they had many different opinions.

Acts 17:22-33 NIV

22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24″The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28’For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29″Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

32When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33At that, Paul left the Council. 34A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

IV. God Finally Said Enough…

Finally, God DID decide to come down and teach us Himself once and for all…

Hebrews 1:1-4 NIV:

1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

V. But Most People Who Met God Didn’t Believe Him-Didn’t Receive Him-Didn’t Trust Him…

John 1:9-13 NIV:

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John 6:60-66 NIV:

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Luke 20:9-19 NIV:

“9He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away emptyhanded. 12He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

13″Then the owner of the vineyard said,‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’

14″But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’

15So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

When the people heard this, they said, “May this never be!”

17Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’? 18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

19The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.”

VI. Then At Just the Right Time…

Romans 5:6-7 NIV

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

Acts 1:6-7 NIV

6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”

Matthew 24:1-3, 36-42

1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.

2″Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”…

36″No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the
days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and
took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one
will be taken and the other left.

42″Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

VII. We Have a Choice To Make…

Luke 9:18-20 NIV:

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them,Who do the crowds say I am?”

19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah;and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

John 20:30-31 NIV:

30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded inthis book.

31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Will you believe?

Will you trust in Jesus?

Will you ask Him

to forgive you for your sins,
pay your debt to God the Father,
live in your heart forever,
and take charge of your life?

Postscript

Well, my friend did in fact give their life over to Jesus a few months after this particular conversation trail ended. I in no way take credit for their salvation at all—only the Trinity gets
credit for that.

Nevertheless, I was one of the many tools God used to draw this friend to Himself, and that is why I share this.

May we all be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have, and may we do it in gentleness and respect…

BIG JESUS little us…