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Spiritual Questions & Answers

We have received these questions and find that many of you may be wondering about the same spiritual issues.

Questions on Belief

What does it mean to be a Chosen People?
Question: Our small group met last night and we had a question we thought maybe you would help us clarify. If the Jews are God’s chosen people and they follow the laws as handed down to Moses, yet they do not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah, how then can they be saved and ensure their place in heaven? Answer: When you think about how those who have a Jewish heritage come to salvation, the best answer is in looking at the first followers of Jesus. The first disciples were all Jewish men, but their salvation came through their relationship with Christ, not their Jewish background. The same is true of the Apostle Paul and every other Jew who came to Christ in the New Testament. The truth of the Bible is, we all come to salvation in the same way … through our faith in Christ. When God calls the Jews his chosen people it does not mean that they are all automatically chosen for salvation. It means that they were chosen to be the nation that would follow him and teach others what it meant to follow him. That is why Jesus went to the Jewish people first when he came to this earth. Through the Jewish people (Jesus himself was a Jew), he brought the blessing of salvation to the world. Of course, today there are not as great a number of Jewish believers in Jesus as we would expect. If they are God’s chosen people, why aren’t more choosing faith in him? The Bible tells us in Romans 11 that there will be a day when this will change – a day when there will be a great revival of faith in God through Jesus among the Jewish people. Obviously, this is a day that we, as believers in Christ, want to pray for! “To the Jews, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-21) “Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:20-24
What is the meaning of “the fear the Lord?”

Question: What does the Bible mean when it talks about “the fear of the Lord?” I thought that love was supposed to cast out fear. Is the word “fear” being translated in the wrong way in these Old Testament passages?

Answer: You are correct that love casts out fear, as 1 John 4:18 says. You can’t have a true love relationship with someone you’re terrified of. The same is true with God. He does not call us to obey him because we’re afraid of him, but to obey him and serve him out of our love for him. This is the kind of fear the Bible is referring to when it says that we are to “fear the Lord.” This fear is translated as a reverential awe or worshipful respect. We are to have reverence or awe toward the God of the universe who loves us unconditionally.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NIV)

“And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 NIV)

Do we really have free will?

Question: How could God know and plan everything that will happen and yet also give us a free choice? Aren’t these two ideas mutually exclusive?

Answer: One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is able to know and be in control of all that happens (the Bible calls this predestination), and yet still give us free will and individual choice within that plan. Of course, it looks to us as if that were impossible. But that’s why God is God and we’re not!

One picture that has always helped me to understand these twin truths of God’s sovereignty and our free will is that of two ropes hanging before you and extending through the ceiling above your head. One is marked predestination” and the other free will.” If you were able to look through the ceiling you could see that the two ropes are actually one, hanging on a pulley above the ceiling. God can see, in ways that we cannot see, the ways that these seemingly contradictory facts are actually one powerful truth. Our free choice cannot violate God’s sovereignty and God’s sovereignty cannot violate our free choice.

The other way that the rope picture helps me is as a reminder that I can’t lean more heavily on one of these two truths – God’s will and our choice – than the other. Be sure to keep these truths in balance. If you lean too far toward God’s being in control, you come down on the side of fatalism: it doesn’t matter what we do. If you lean too far towards man’s free will, you come down on the side of humanism: we are in control of our fate.

How do you reconcile those two? If God gives us choice, doesn’t that put us in control rather than him? Our God is an awesome God! He is able to give us, as a part his creation, a free will to decide, and yet still remain in complete control of his creation. How does he do that? He is God!

Struggling to understand truths such as this reminds me of how great God really is. If I were able to completely understand him, he wouldn’t be God!

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30

Jesus as God’s Son

Question: If you had two minutes to convince a person of Jewish belief about Jesus being our Lord and Savior what would you say? This person has difficulty understanding that Jesus is God’s Son. Approaching people with other beliefs is a weak spot for me.

Answer: I was talking with a woman who matches the description of the person you’re talking about just recently after a church service at Western Hills. She expressed some real hesitancy in believing that Jesus is God’s Son, feeling that somehow she would be believing in two different Gods if she were to trust both the Father and the Son. Your friend may be struggling with feeling that Jesus is somehow not really God, and that to follow him would be to miss out on serving the real God. Explaining the fact that Jesus did miracles that only God could do and that he was proclaimed to be God by the prophets and by his own followers and that he proved who he was by his resurrection, just might help your friend to see that believing in Jesus would not be a denial of his or her faith, but the fulfillment of their faith.

Here are a few Scriptures that I’d encourage you to study regarding the truth that Jesus is the God who can save and direct us.

God is Creator – Isaiah 44:24; Jesus is creator – Colossians 1:15-16

God is Savior – Isaiah 43:11; Jesus is savior – Titus 2:13

God is the “I am” – Exodus 3:14; Jesus is the I am – John 8:58

Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

“There is one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.” 1 Timothy 2:5

To learn more…

Do the Foundations study on Jesus. (See Pastor Karl.)

Why does God bless the evil but not the good?

Question: My big question is this: why does God bless the evil but not the good? I don’t want to focus on myself, but it’s so difficult for me to understand why we can’t have children when some woman who is on crack and doesn’t even want a baby gets pregnant and has a child. Please help me to understand.

Answer: Thanks for taking the time to write… you’ve asked one of the most significant questions that can be asked. I’ve asked it myself. Although the answer to this is certainly not so simplistic that it can be expressed in a short reply, let me share a few of the thoughts that I’ve had as I’ve struggled with this.

Jesus said at the end of Matthew 5 that God causes His blessing to be given to both the evil person and the good person… and that both the evil and the good go through difficulties also. Believer or unbeliever, evil or good; we all face sickness in our families and natural disasters. God does not always protect us’ as believers’ from having to face the same difficulties that unbelievers must face, and He allows unbelievers to experience some of the same benefits that we, as believers, enjoy because we are a part of His creation. One reason for this: it allows those who don’t know Christ to see what it really means to know Him. When they see a believer finding even a bit of light in their struggle when all they can see is darkness, it helps those who do not yet know Christ to see who He REALLY is.

I know that the theology of that is no comfort for you as you wait for a child. Believe me when I say that I know the struggle you’re facing right now and that it is one of the most hurtful things anyone can go through. But during this time God may not turn the light on for you all at once… He may just gave you enough light to make the next step. My prayer is that He will do that for you!

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45

What about people who live in a country without Christian witness?

Question: What about people who live in a country where they have never heard about Jesus? Will they be able to get into heaven by some other way? 

Answer: There is only one way to get into heaven, through what Jesus did on the cross for us. He paid the price for our sins on the cross, no one else could do that because he alone is God. Even the Old Testament saints were saved not by their good works or obedience, but by the sacrifice of Jesus. The had the faith to look forward to that sacrifice of Jesus through their offerings at the temple, and we today are given the opportunity to have faith as we look back to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

The Bible doesn’t directly answer the question of how God will judge those who lived in countries where the Gospel wasn’t preached. I do trust God’s fairness and love to deal with people who’ve never heard the name of Jesus, and that we’ll find out when we get to heaven what he has done. I am glad that he’s the judge, while we’re simply called to be witnesses. The Bible says with extreme clarity that our witness to those who have never heard is important to the heart and plan of God. Romans 10:14-15 says, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (NLT)

Your question points out the need for us to trust God to do his job well, and our need to keep our focus on doing well what he has called us to do. He is the judge; we are the witnesses. If you haven’t yet trusted Jesus Christ as the only savior, trust him personally. There are no second chances after we die and there is no other way to salvation on this earth. If you have already trusted Jesus for salvation, share that truth personally. Let other people know the good news. And if you have questions about how God will judge, trust him personally as one who is righteous and fair. And know that God, who is the judge, has told us clearly that it is only through Jesus that we will be saved.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (NIV)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NIV)

Why do good people die?

Question: Why do good people die of such things as cancer and AIDS? 

Answer: The reason is simple – sin is present in our world. It doesn’t always have to be my sin that causes me to suffer. The sins of others can bring suffering into my life. Also, just the fact that I live in a sinful world where things aren’t perfect and natural disasters happen and sickness like cancer occurs causes even good people to suffer. The teachers in Jesus’ day acted as if any suffering that someone faced was a direct result of their sin or their parents’ sin. Why does God allow the sinful world to continue? He could destroy it immediately but he would also have to destroy all those people who did not know him. His desire is to wait as long as possible to give people the opportunity to come to know him. While God is waiting, you and I, as Believers, patiently live in a world which is surrounded by sin and hurt. God, in his grace, allows even the sin to bring growth and character into our lives. I don’t know how he does that, how he can use even sin, but he does. God, in his power, one day will take us out of this sinful world. Those good people that know Christ who die of cancer are actually better off than we are right now. They are with the Lord in heaven. For me, the world doesn’t make sense unless I realize that there is a heaven where everything is going to be put right one day. The things that happen in this world don’t add up until I realize that this world doesn’t write the books; the real bottom line, when it come to morality and right and wrong, is written in eternity. It will be written in heaven with the Lord when we get there.

“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Easter

Question: Why does Easter not always follow the week of Passover? 

Answer: Because the Jewish calendar and our calendar differ, Passover is always on a different date each year. Add to that the fact that the early Christians began to celebrate the resurrection on what was a formerly pagan holiday (Easter). The reason they did this is that they wanted to take over the false worship and make it the day to worship Jesus. The problem for us is that is makes our calendar today totally confusing! If they were doing it again I would love to see them always have resurrection day at the end of the Jewish Passover week.

But, I’m honestly glad to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus anytime!

“The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.” Lev. 23:5

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” Matthew 28:1

Salvation – Can we feel it?

Question: My friend has asked Christ into his life, but he tells me that he doesn’t feel any different. How do we know that Christ has come into your life after you have asked him in? 

Answer: You ask a great question. I know many people who, once they ask Christ into their lives, don’t feel different immediately; for them the fact that God is real is still a matter of faith and trust. I know many who expect to feel a certain way when they ask Christ into their life and, when they do not, they wonder if he really is there. The problem is, the Bible doesn’t tell us how we should expect to feel. It does tell us that we are saved from our sins. It does tell us that we will be with him for eternity. It does tell us that the Holy Spirit comes to live in our lives to direct us. It does tell us that we have a new spiritual sensitivity about life that we’ve never had before. If your friend made a genuine commitment to Christ, these things are true about him whether he feels that they are true or not. So for him, God is trusting him at the beginning in saying, I want you to follow your faith and not just your feelings.

“God our Savior … wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4

“If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heat that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Who are unbelievers?

Question: Who are unbelievers? 

Answer: When we talk about whom unbelievers are, we are usually talking about the word “belief” as it refers to intellectual assent to something. There is another way that the Bible uses the word belief, meaning a relational trust in someone. When the Bible says “as many as believed him to them he gave the right to become the children of God,” it’s talking about that relational trust in him. There are, obviously, a lot of people in the United States who have an intellectual belief in Christ, but who have never really put their trust in him.

When we talk about people of other beliefs who have sincerity about them to the point that they are envied for their resolve and their belief, we wonder how they could be wrong. The truth is, it’s obvious to all of us that you can be sincerely wrong. We know that we can be sincerely wrong about something like the law of gravity. It’s a scientific fact that, if you try to deny it and step out of a second story window, you will find yourself falling to the ground. When it comes to the issue of religion and belief in God, it’s tempting to think that our sincerity might be enough. But just as there are physical laws in the universe, there are also spiritual laws. Just as there are physical facts, there are also spiritual facts. It is a spiritual fact that God sent his son Jesus Christ to this earth. If sincerity were enough to get us back into a relationship with God, he wouldn’t have needed to send his son. If other religions were the way to God, it would have been cruel and unnecessary for God to send his son to suffer and die for us. It would have been much better for him to use one of these other means to reach him. The truth is a spiritual law is at work here. We are separated from God, and we don’t have the strength and power on our own to get back to him. That is why he had to send a Savior.

“All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

What happens to people who don’t believe in Jesus?

Question: What happens to people who don’t believe in Jesus? 

Answer: The Bible tells us, in Hebrews 9 that “it is given to mankind once to die and after that comes the judgment.” It’s a verse that reminds us of the truth, that there are no second chances after we live on earth. However, God gives us many second chances during our life on this earth. By that I mean, if someone rejects Christ the first time they hear about him, God will come to them again and again to let them know the truth that he loves them. God does not give up on us. But the Bible teaches us that it is on this earth that we make the decisions that will last for an eternity. I see it this way, the decision that I make during this time on earth indicates the kind of heart I have and the decisions that I am going to make even if I am given an entire eternity to think about it. Those who chose to be with Christ here on this earth will be with him through eternity. Those who choose to be with Christ here on this earth will be with him throughout eternity. Those who choose to be apart from Christ on this earth will be apart from him throughout eternity. That is what hell is, a place where we are totally apart from God – his goodness, his grace, his power and his love. The truth is that God doesn’t send anyone to hell. He sent his only son to earth to die for us so that none of us would have to go there. The only way that we can go to hell now is by rejecting God’s saving solution in his son Jesus Christ.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrew

Salvation & Heaven

Question: How am I able to be with the Lord for eternity in heaven? 

Answer: There is really only one thing that you and I must do to be with the Lord for eternity – that is to trust in Jesus Christ as the one who forgives our sins and leads our daily lives. Trusting in his Son is the one thing that gives us life with him forever. You can read in 1 John 5, “He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life.” That make it pretty clear doesn’t it? Then all those other things that the Bible talks about, instead of calling them suggestions in order to get rewards, what they really are, are signs of our faithfulness and love. They are the things that we do because we love the one so much who has given his life for us. The obedience that I have in my life because I am a Believer is not motivated by a desire to make myself right for getting to heaven. It is motivated by a desire to please the God who has already saved me and who is going to take me to be with him for eternity in heaven. That is a refreshing way to live. I do believe very strongly that some Believers will have more rewards in heaven than others. But it is a funny thing; as long as I am doing it to get the reward I do not think that there is any reward in it. It is when I do it purely out of love for Christ that there is true reward in it.

“If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Trinity

Question: Are God and Jesus one and the same or are they two different people/beings? 

Answer: The Bible teaches very clearly that there is one God not two or three or seven. It also teaches clearly that the Father is God and that Jesus is God and also that the Holy Spirit is God. The fact that there is only one God and yet three separate persons are called God leads us to the truth of the “Trinity” of God. This means that God is one in being, and He exists in three persons. That’s why Jesus can talk to the Father and be sent by the Father and yet they are still one. This is a difficult truth to grasp. I tell people that it’s one of the truths about God that reminds us that He is bigger than we are.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3

Healing

Question: How do you feel about healing at Western Hills? 

Answer: We do believe in God’s power to heal. We practice what the Bible teaches in James 5. James talks about those who need healing in their lives and believe that it should be prayed for; that they should call upon the elders of the church and the elders will come and pray for that person laying hands on them and anointing them with oil. That is exactly what we do and have done every time someone has requested this ministry of the elders here at Western Hills. We do not make a public show of our praying for healing. It is a private time, usually of prayer and faith, with those who are facing the struggle and suffering in their lives. The laying on of hands and the anointing with oil is no sign of special power that we have as leaders in the church; we all have the same power and authority to talk to God about our needs. It is simply a way the Bible reaffirms the presence of the Spirit in each of our lives and the power of God to work in our lives. We believe that, when it comes to healing, there are times when God says “yes” and there are times when God says “no” to a physical healing on this earth. Obviously, even death is something Christ has already overcome and we will spend eternity with him in heaven. There will come a day for all of us when there will be something that he won’t heal us of and we will go to spend eternity with him (that is unless the Lord comes again first). We need to have the humility to realize that we do not always know what God’s answer is going to be on the question of healing. So he has told us to put faith in him and to trust him for our heart’s desires. We, as leaders in the church and as a church, strongly encourage prayers for God to be at work in healing those physical, emotional, and spiritual hurts that we have in our lives. In these prayers for healing, we will generally gather as five or six pastors with a person and maybe their family in a room and just circle around them as they are seated in a chair. One by one, we pray for them that God would be at work in their life. We believe in this simple time of talking together with the Lord, that God, many times, has brought about a healing. It is his way of blessing the faith of those who have asked for prayer. This prayer for healing also reaffirms in a person’s life that they are not alone; that we, together as a church, are standing with them and praying for them and their family.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

“Heal me, O Lord and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” Psalm 30:2

Questions on Church

What are Western Hills’s beliefs?

What we believe:

 

ABOUT GOD God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal and are one God. Genesis 1:1,26,27; 3:22; Psalm 90:2; Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Corinthians 13:14

ABOUT MAN Man is made in the spiritual image of God, to be like him in character. He is the supreme object of God’s creation. Although man has tremendous potential for good, he is marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called “sin.” This attitude separates man from God. Genesis 1:27; Psalm 8:3-6; Isaiah 53:6a; Romans 3:23; Isaiah 59:1,2

ABOUT ETERNITY Man was created to exist forever. He will either exist eternally separated from God by sin, or in union with God through forgiveness and salvation. To be eternally separated from God is hell. To be eternally in union with him is eternal life. Heaven and hell are places of eternal existence. John 3:16; John 2:25; John 5:11-13; Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15; 1 John 5:11-12; Matthew 25:31-46

ABOUT JESUS CHRIST Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is co-equal with the Father. Jesus lived a sinless human life and offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all men by dying on a cross. He arose from the dead after three days to demonstrate his power over sin and death. He ascended to heaven’s glory and will return again to earth to reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords. Matthew 1:22,23; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-5, 14:10-30; Hebrews 4:14,15; 1 Corinthians 15:3,4; Romans 1:3,4; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Timothy 6:14,15; Titus 2:13

ABOUT SALVATION Salvation is a gift from God to man. Man can never make up for his sin by self-improvement or good works. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can man be saved from sin’s penalty. Eternal life begins the moment one receives Jesus Christ into his life by faith. Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8,9; John 14:6, 1:12; Titus 3:5; Galatians 3:26; Romans 5:1 

ABOUT ETERNAL SECURITY Because God gives man eternal life through Jesus Christ, the believer is secure in salvation for eternity. Salvation is maintained by the grace and power of God, not by the self-effort of the Christian. It is the grace and keeping power of God that gives this security. John 10:29; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 7:25; 10:10,14; 1 Peter 1:3-5 

ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT The Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son as God. He is present in the world to make men aware of their need for Jesus Christ. He also lives in every Christian from the moment of salvation. He provides the Christian with power for living, understanding of spiritual truth, and guidance in doing what is right. The Christian seeks to live under his control daily. 2 Corinthians 3:17; John 16:7-13, 14:16,17; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:12, 3:16; Ephesians 1:13; Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 5:1

ABOUT THE BIBLE The Bible is God´s word to all men. It was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for Christian beliefs and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20,21; 2 Timothy 1:13; Psalm 119:105,160, 12:6; Proverbs 30:5

The Lord's Supper & Sacraments

What does Western Hills believe about the Lord’s Supper? What are considered sacraments at Western Hills?

If by “sacrament” you mean something that we do in order to gain God’s grace, the Bible teaches that we receive God’s grace not by anything we do but by accepting the gift of what Jesus has done for us. We accept his gift by trusting him as Lord and Savior. Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” There are many scriptures on this.

We do celebrate Lord’s Supper and practice it is one of the two ordinances Christ gave the church. Baptism by immersion would be the other. Since Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on a Thursday night and then it was practiced in homes in the New Testament, we don’t emphasize a certain day or time for it. 3 to 4 times a year we practice the Lord’s Supper in our Sunday services. Nearly every month we take it on the First Wednesday in conjunction with our First Wednesday meal. Here is what we believe about the Lord’s Supper:

(This is also covered in our CLASS 101.)

The Lord’s Supper: Communion with God’s family

Jesus never asked his disciples to remember his birth. But he did instruct them to remember his death and resurrection. He gave the church two visible symbols (called “ordinances”) as reminders of his death. These two ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is an object lesson that represents a great spiritual truth for believers.

What is the Lord’s Supper? (1 Cor. 11:23-26)

1. It is a simple act: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread. …” (vs. 23)

2. It is a reminder: “… and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; eat it in remembrance of me.’” (vs. 24)

3. It is a symbol: “In the same way, he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; drink it to remember me.’” (vs. 25)

4. It is a statement of faith: “For whenever you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes back.” (vs. 26)

Who should take the Lord’s Supper? 

Only those who are already believers (Mark 14:22-26). “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (2 Cor. 11:29)

How do I prepare myself for the Lord’s Supper? 

“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A person ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” (1 Cor. 11:27-28)

Self-Examination

Confessing my sins 1 Cor. 11:27; 1 John 1:9

Re-commitment Romans 12:1

Restoring relationships Matthew 5:23-24

When and how often should we observe the Lord’s Supper? 
Jesus never said when or how often believers should observe the Lord’s Supper. He instituted it on a Thursday night. In the Bible, Christians observed the communion in small groups in homes.

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Question: What are your beliefs regarding the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a second experience? What are your beliefs on the gifts of the Spirit? That is, speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, miracles, etc.? Do you believe they are for today?

Answer: Thanks for your questions about the Holy Spirit. We have a class at Western Hills called Foundations that focuses on the answers to questions just like you’ve asked. I’d encourage your small group to do this study together! You’ll be able to get more complete answers than I can give you here. The reason we have this class is because we know people have questions like yours!

The Bible teaches that, at the moment you believe in Jesus, you are baptized and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 John 3:24; Ephesians 1:13-14). This one-time experience that comes at the moment of salvation is God’s powerful way of declaring, “You’re in my family, and I’m not going to let you go.” The baptism of the Spirit happens the moment you are saved, so you do not need a second experience.

We learn in Ephesians 5:18 that we must be filled with the Spirit on a continual basis, allowing him to cleanse and control our lives in fresh and new ways. Many believers have a number of experiences throughout their lives of trusting the Spirit to fill them in deeper ways than ever before. For some, this can feel like a second experience of somehow getting “more” of God’s Spirit. The truth is, you receive all of God’s Spirit the moment you are saved, and throughout your life, you will learn to trust more and more of yourself to him.

Along with receiving the Holy Spirit at our conversion, we also receive spiritual gifts that are given by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). While we receive these gifts at our conversion, we learn to use them as we mature in our spiritual walk. Every believer receives gifts and is expected to use their gifts to glorify God.

From the first days of the Church, people have always been more impressed with the spiritual gifts that are more spectacular, such as healing, speaking in tongues, or prophesying. However, God tells us that he is more impressed with the less noticeable gifts and that he is most impressed with love. 1 Corinthians 12-14 are filled with warnings about using the more spectacular gifts in ways that draw attention to ourselves rather than to the Lord. Paul says that he would rather speak in a few words that people would understand than in thousands of words in tongues. That is why we at Western Hills have chosen not to speak in tongues in our worship services – because we want to speak in ways that people understand.

If you are interested in more information about the Holy Spirit and related questions, Western Hills offers an online version of the class Life Perspectives: Getting to Know God.

“Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:24 NIV)

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV)

Serving the Lord’s Supper: Am I worthy?

Question: I’m a leader getting ready to share the Lord’s Supper in our small group. I have to admit that I feel very uncomfortable with this. I grew up in a church where a priest was the only one who could help us with communion, and I feel very unworthy to do this.

Answer: There are two reasons why you shouldn’t be nervous about sharing the Lord’s Supper in your group.

First: The Bible teaches that every believer is a “priest” before the Lord. Isn’t that a wild thought!

“And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5 (NLT)

That means you don’t have to have special credentials to do any ministry for the Lord. We all stand as equals before him. We do want people to understand what the Bible teaches about the Lord’s Supper before leading others in this celebration – which is why we ask that people grow to the point of being small group leaders before doing this.

Second: The Bible does not teach that communion or baptism have sacramental power – they do not have the power to give grace or salvation. We don’t get more of God’s grace just by eating a piece of communion bread and the bread does not in any way actually become the Body of Christ – which are the beliefs behind the feeling that only a priest could give communion. The Bible teaches that baptism and communion are symbols, that they are spiritual pictures of what God has already done in our lives.

What a joy it is to help another believer picture the fact that they have a new life through baptism, or to picture the truth that Jesus died for us in the Lord’s supper.

If you want to study this further, look at our guide for sharing the Lord’s Supper in your small group.

Do I have to get baptized again at Western Hills?

Question: If I want to be a member of Western Hills, do I have to get baptized again? 

Answer: The reason we would ask someone to be baptized “again” is if they had been baptized at an age before they could actually came to know Christ. This was something that a parent did for a child and not a personal declaration of a commitment to Christ. We would also, in some cases, ask someone to be baptized “again” if they came from a church in which the teaching about salvation and baptism differed greatly from what the Bible has to say. For instance, there are some churches that teach you can be baptized for someone else in order to secure their salvation or there are other churches that teach that you must be baptized again and again in order to keep your own salvation. In those cases, even though someone may have been baptized as an adult, we would encourage them to be baptized at WHC to make a fresh declaration of their belief and trust in God’s Word at this point. We would not ask someone to be baptized if they were recommitting their lives after they had fallen away, even for sometime. There are some people who choose to do this but we do not believe that the Bible teaches that this is a necessity.

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened.” Luke 3:21

“All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.” Luke 7:21

Christianity vs. Catholicism

Question: What is the difference between Christianity and Catholicism? 

Answer: When I talk to people about Catholicism, I share with them that it is a religion; it is a denomination of churches like Baptist, or Presbyterian. Obviously it is not our religion or the denomination that we belong to that make us a Christian, it is our relationship with God. You can be a Christian, whether you are a Catholic or a Baptist, or a Methodist, or in a church where there is no denomination. There are many great Christians in the Catholic Church and there have been for hundreds and hundreds of years.

I know that your question, though, is related more to what is the difference between what we say the Bible teaches and what Catholicism may think the Bible teaches. At least, I think that is what you are focusing on. One basic difference is the fact that Catholics accept, as their ultimate authority, not only the Bible, but also the history of what certain people have said within the church. What that means is, while I might look at the Bible for an answer to a question about who are ministers in the church and what they can do and get all of my answers from the Bible, a Catholic theologian would not only look at the Bible but they would look at some of the popes have said in church history. Some people mistakenly think that everything that a pope says, is said to be flawless by the Catholic church, but there are times when a pope is able to speak in a way that is put down as coming form the mouth of God. Because we both believe in the Bible, what Catholics believe and what Protestant churches believe, when it comes to the basics, are pretty much the same. For instance, we both believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that the Holy Spirit comes in the life of a believer. However, when it comes to some of the other issues, such as saints and the position of Mary in the Church and what it means to be a priest, there are disagreements because of the fact that Catholics accept some of those things that have been said in church history to be just as authoritative as the Bible.

“But, let him who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” 2 Cor. 10:17,18

“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Isaiah 5:21

Do we have deacons at Western Hills?

Questions: Do we have deacons at Western Hills?

Answer: Our small group leaders and Care, Prayer and Response team ministers do the ministry functions of a deacon – caring for God’s people. The word “deacon” in the Bible is the same word as the word for “servant,” and that’s exactly what our small group leaders are. Rather than meeting and making administrative decisions, our deacons are with people meeting needs every week.

“In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” 1 Timothy 3:8

Questions on Family

What does the Bible say about marriage?

The Covenant of Marriage between and a man and woman is holy, sacred, and beautiful. Marriage when lived according to God’s divine design as a sacred covenant (a supernatural bonding) between a man and woman (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:1-12; Ephesians 5:25-33) reflects the deeper truth of God’s desire for a relationship with people.

In our fallen and broken world, relationships are often fragile, yet we believe with the grace and power of God, along with the guidance of Scripture, and a faithful community of believers, there is hope for healthy marriages and healing from past relationships. According to Scripture, marriage reflects Jesus’ relationship to the Church. Just as Jesus lovingly and sacrificially gave His life for His bride, the Church, the husband plays the role of Jesus by giving his life for his wife. And the wife responds to the husband’s sacrificial, loving initiatives by trusting his leadership in her family’s life, just as the Church responds to Jesus by trusting His leadership.

What does Jesus say about divorce?

Question: My question is about God. If after legal separation there was no change in my spouse, does God recognize this as an acceptable reason to terminate the marriage? I tend to think that if there is no change then it should be acceptable to leave the marriage.

Answer: The Bible does not say that it is right for us to leave our spouse for any reason. It does tell us to be at peace if they leave us through adultery or desertion. God says this not to trap us, but to help us to see the importance of marriage and the great pain that comes when a marriage is broken.

God want us to grow in our relationships, and he wants to grow us even through painful relationships. In cases such as you’re speaking of here, the most important thing to do is for the couple to get into counseling together. It is not enough for one spouse to go, both must go. This is a problem that can’t be dealt with alone, but where we need the help of others. There is nothing wrong with getting help, by the way … God has built us to need other people.

One of the pictures that I often give people to help in understanding this need for outside help is that of being in quicksand. Sometimes an individual or a couple find themselves in a problem, and the harder they fight to get out, the more they feel like they are sinking in quicksand. In those times you won’t find the answer by yourself. The harder you work the faster you seem to sink! You need someone outside of the situation (a good Christian counselor) to give you a hand to help to lift you out of the quicksand. But you will need to both trust this counselor to help you, knowing that they have your best interests at heart.

As I said earlier, the Bible does allow divorce when the other person leaves us through adultery or desertion. Actually, in those cases they have left us rather than us leaving them. There is a third condition which I feel a need to talk about, that of physical abuse. Although the Bible does not tell you to divorce if this is the case, my advice would strongly be to separate from your spouse for your protection. It is not God’s will for you to allow your spouse (or anyone else) to continue to physically abuse you. Hopefully, that separation will be the wake up call that causes them to get counseling to rid their lives of this terrible sin. If this is the situation, please get in touch with our lay counseling ministry and let us help you.

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?” So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.’” Matthew 19:3-9

Train up a child…

Question: There is a verse in the Bible that causes me a great deal of shame or pain or guilt – I really don’t know which! “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) One of my children has not gone to church since she left our home and is living a very rebellious life, and I can’t help but feel that this verse is telling me that if I had just trained her right this would not be happening.

Answer: This great proverb has been the source of more heartache than you can imagine. If you’ll forgive me for writing a little more than usual in this answer, I hope we can begin to heal some of that hurt. Here is the pattern that leads to the heartache.

Even when our kids are small, we begin to worry whether they will make the right choices in life. As Christian parents we’d like to have a guarantee that our kids will follow God even more fully than we have. With that desire, we come across this verse and think, “That’s it! God has promised that I’ll always have great children.”

But then it happens.

Your child has a rough time in junior high or college. They fall in with the wrong friends, and the heart for God that you had hoped for them is nowhere to be seen. Then comes the thought that brings all of the heartache. “If God promised that if I’d only raise my kids right, they wouldn’t turn away. What’s wrong? God’s promise can’t fail, so maybe there is something wrong with the way that I raised my children.” We may never voice that thought to anyone, but not far below the surface it is there.

Let me say three things if you are struggling with this. Even those who are not parents will, no doubt, have an opportunity to share these encouragements with someone someday.

1. In this world, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. This proverb is not about guaranteeing that your kids will turn out perfectly if you’re perfect, nor is it about blaming yourself for the fact that you are less than perfect. We live in an imperfect world.

2. In heaven, there is a perfect Parent. God’s actions toward us are always perfect, never selfish, and filled with constant love. Yet, look at how many of his children have turned away from that love. It started in the garden of Eden! If God’s perfect love toward us cannot guarantee that none of his children will ever fall away, how can we put that burden on our parenting? Your teaching cannot violate their free will to do the wrong thing, any more than God’s direction could keep Adam and Eve from eating the fruit on that tree.

3. What, then, does this proverb mean? As with most of the book of Proverbs, it expresses a universal principle, not an individual promise. Nine times out of ten (more like 99 times out of 100), if you teach the right thing, your kids will end up doing the right thing. That is God’s moral law.

But don’t miss the phrase, “when they are OLD, they will not depart from it.”

That doesn’t mean 16, or even 26: it means old. The truth is, those good lessons that you taught were heard; they did sink in. Stop telling yourself that the time you gave to teaching your child was, “Just wasted.” Those teachings sunk in so deeply that even when they are old, maybe even after you are gone, they will emerge again to give your now grown son or daughter the direction that they need.

“Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” Proverbs 20:11

“The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. May your father and mother be glad; may she who give you birth rejoice! My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways.” Proverbs 23:24-26

Helping my child understand God.

Question: Like most 6-year-olds, when things don’t go my son’s way he gets really upset. Lately, when things don’t go right he blames God and it breaks my heart. For example, he hurt his ankle the other day. When he woke up the next morning and it wasn’t better he cried, “I prayed all night about my ankle and God didn’t heal me. He only helps the people in the Bible and not me. I hate God!” He even gets mad at God about little things. If he messes up on a picture he’s making or doesn’t catch a ball he gets upset that God isn’t helping him. I don’t seem to have the right words to explain to him that God loves him and is in control, but doesn’t necessarily help him in every move he makes. Do you have any words of wisdom about getting through to him?

Answer: As difficult a time as this is with your son, it also sounds like a time when you will be able to teach him some things about who God really is, truths that many people never learn.

I know that you already see that your son needs to learn, during this time, that being a believer in God does not mean we don’t go through difficulties. My encouragement to you would be to not be upset that he is acting this way. It’s a very natural reaction. You may be worried that these questions he’s asking mean he won’t love God as he grows up, and nothing could be further from the truth. These reactions give you the opportunity to tell him the truth about the real God, that although bones don’t heal overnight, he made them so that they would heal, that although, even as believers, we feel pain and frustration, he will help us to grow in spite of it all. Hearing those truths from you now will put him way ahead spiritually. He’ll still be Jekyll and Hyde – like all 6 year olds are – but he’ll be learning truths that will last a lifetime!

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

The Bible very clearly says that homosexuality is a sin.

“Do not practice homosexuality. It is a detestable sin.” (Leviticus 18:22 NLT)

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV)

While all sin is destructive, Romans 6 warns us of the great dangers in sexual sin when it says, “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT) This includes not only homosexuality, but all sexual immorality: adultery, sex without marriage, pornography. We must not act as if homosexuality is the only serious sexual sin, and we must not act as if homosexuality is not a serious sexual sin.

I’ve heard it asked, “Isn’t being homosexual something that a person is physically born with?” First of all, there are absolutely no facts to support this claim. From time to time studies have been reported in the news that seemed to indicate this, but every one of these studies has proven to be wrong. Secondly, even if some physical difference were discovered, it would be no excuse for sin. We know that some people can develop a stronger physical addiction to alcohol than others, but that’s obviously no excuse for living an alcoholic lifestyle.

Finally, a word about being judgmental. It’s not judgmental to say that what the Bible calls a sin is a sin, that’s just telling the truth. Not being willing to talk to someone caught up in sin, or not believing that they can be forgiven, or thinking that you are not just as much in need of Jesus as they are … that’s being judgmental.

Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one’s life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted as a member at Western Hills Church. That does not mean they cannot attend church – we hope they do! God’s Word has the power to change our lives.

In equal desire to follow Jesus, we also would not accept a couple into membership at Western Hills who were not willing to repent of the sexual sin of living together before marriage. That does not mean this couple cannot attend church – we hope they do! God’s Word has the power to change our lives.

Where does Western Hills stand on abortion?

The Bible clearly teaches that life begins at conception. With that clear teaching from God we identify abortion as wrong.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!.” Psalm 139:13-16 TLB

If you are a woman who has had an abortion, and are feeling far from God due to fear or guilt, our Heavenly Father offers both grace and forgiveness. We encourage you to contact Western Hills’s church office for more information on help, and come to know the love and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.” 2 Corinthians 1:2-4 NCV

“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into His favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell other.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 TLB

What about stem cell research on embryonic tissue?

Question: What about stem cell research on embryonic tissue?

Answer: The question about stem cell research is a question about life. It is about improving the quality of life for all of us.

Who wouldn’t want to improve the quality of life by discovering a cure for cancer or a way to grow a new heart or a new kidney? If you believe that embryonic tissue is not a living person, or even if you are in doubt about that fact, you’ll most likely come down on the side of feeling that research is warranted.

However, if you believe that life begins at the moment of conception, your response is far different. Something in you recoils at the words in the White House fact sheet:

“Federal funds will only be used for research on existing stem cell lines that were derived: (1) with the informed consent of the donors; (2) from excess embryos created solely for reproductive purposes; and (3) without any financial inducements to the donors.”

The words “excess embryos” hit you deeply. How could any life be spoken of as “excess?” Even more horrifying to you are statements you read about creating an embryo in a test tube in order to destroy it. Much of the argument about stem cell research seems to focus on “what ifs.” “What if people clone themselves just for the extra body parts? What if we developed embryos only to harvest their cells for our benefit?” You’re not so worried about these possibilities – they sound like science fiction to you. Your concern is with the present, with the way that life is being treated now.

What does the Bible have to say about when life begins?

The question is: What does the Bible have to say about when life begins?

“You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. … You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.” (Psalm 139:13, 15-16 NCV)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV)

Psalm 139 tells us that God knows us personally while we are being formed in the womb, and Jeremiah 1:5 is one of many verses in the Bible that clearly show that even before we were conceived God knew us as persons. Life begins when God creates, and the Bible tells us that that happens in the womb.

President Bush’s decision to allow federal funding for research only on existing stem cell lines (cells that have already been taken from an embryo) has drawn mixed reaction even from conservative Christians. Some applaud the fact that he has cut off the possibility of funding for any newly created or destroyed embryos, others feel that any use of cells harvested from embryos cheapens the value of human life. These groups continue to agree, however, on the fact that an embryo is human life – a unique creation of God.

You see, the stem cell question really is about quality of life. But quality of life is not limited to our physical health. We are more than body parts, we have a soul. The choice to treat a living person as a medical commodity will do more damage to our soul – to our quality of life – than a thousand cloned hearts could heal.

I encourage you to think not so much about the president’s decision but rather your decision. As believers in Christ, we are called upon to think and to act differently than the world around us. This is one of those opportunities.

What can you do? 

1. Let others know, in a reasoned way, why you believe what you believe. The truth has the power to set people free.

2. Make the decision yourself to treat life as life. That may mean:

* Accepting responsibility for an abortion that you had or encouraged someone to have in the past, knowing that God will forgive you. (This is a tough decision for those who have rationalized an abortion.)

* Deciding against any infertility options that allow embryos to be frozen and later discarded. (This is a tough decision for couples who have yet to have a child.)

* Deciding to speak out against overzealous stem cell research, even though you know it slows down the process of finding a possible cure for someone you love. (These are the most difficult sentences in this article to write. Having heard the pain of abortion and of infertility, knowing the desperation that many families feel as they are looking for the hope of a cure, I know how easily these words could sting. Please accept them, instead, as the words of someone who cares about you and who knows that God will meet you as you make these tough decisions of faith.)

3. Pray for those who have the power to make decisions on this issue: scientists and governments alike. Ask God to help them to see that they are making decisions that are impacting not just people’s bodies, but also their souls.

4. Remember that God is still in control. He will bring to himself the innocent baby and the parent seeking faith. He will direct and guide those who have the humility to ask for his wisdom. And as he always has throughout history, he will show himself as the real God to any who would attempt to play God.

Heaven – for children

Question: My 5-year-old asked if we have birthday parties in heaven. Is this an important question? 

Answer: Any question a 5-year-old asks about God is important! There is no verse that says we celebrate birthdays, just many that say we celebrate Jesus for an eternity. But, there are many things that we’ll get to do in heaven that are not recorded in the Bible. Many 5-year-olds ask questions about heaven, including my own sons when they were very young. Here’s what I sometimes say: In heaven we will be able to do anything we want to do. If, when you get to heaven, you want a birthday party you will have one. If you want to have a birthday party every day for one whole year while you are in heaven, you get to do that, too! Who knows what we’ll want when we actually get there. I just hope that this gets him to thinking about how great heaven will be on his level of thinking.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2

Married to an unbeliever

Question: I’ve become a believer but my husband is still an unbeliever. We seem to constantly argue about my new faith, and I’m wondering if it just wouldn’t be better for us to get a divorce. Does God have anything to say about this?

Answer: This is one of the relationship issues about which God speaks most clearly in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 7, he talks very directly about the circumstance of a believer being married to an unbeliever. You can see the answer to your question yourself, straight out of the Bible. Look at what verses 12-15 of that chapter say:

“If a Christian has a wife who is not a Christian, but she wants to stay with him anyway, he must not leave her or divorce her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who isn’t a Christian, and he wants her to stay with him, she must not leave him.”

For perhaps the husband who isn’t a Christian may become a Christian with the help of his Christian wife. And the wife who isn’t a Christian may become a Christian with the help of her Christian husband. Otherwise, if the family separates, the children might never come to know the Lord; whereas a united family may, in God’s plan, result in the children’s salvation.

“But if the husband or wife who isn’t a Christian is eager to leave, it is permitted. In such cases the Christian husband or wife should not insist that the other stay, for God wants his children to live in peace and harmony.” 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 (TLB)

Handling disappointment

Question: Someone that I was very close to really let me down, and I don’t know what to do with the feelings of anger that I’m having. They didn’t come through when I needed them to, and I just don’t know if I can forgive them.

Answer: Your question seems to focus on “what do you do when someone disappoints you?” The truth is, we’re all disappointed by people much of the time. Sometimes it is because of their lack of follow through, sometimes it is because we have too great an expectation. Whatever the cause, I’ve found it important to face those disappointments with a sense of humility. Humility reminds me that I, myself, let others down, that often I don’t understand why people do the things they do, that there are times when someone may be doing the best they can under the circumstances, and that I can’t see the hidden hurts and pressures of another’s life. With that humility, I can then talk to the other person about it, not with a sense of judgment but with the gentleness of understanding that allows me a better opportunity to be heard. Before giving this other person your forgiveness, first try giving them your understanding. You may then discover that their actions toward you are not willful sin, but instead just a matter of their being human.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-5

“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.” Philippians 2:5-10

Rebuilding trust

Question: Does forgiving someone mean you have to just let them keep hurting you?

Answer: No, it does not. Remember that, when God forgives us, we still suffer the consequences for those sins. That same principle applies to our relationships with each other.

Let me explain. Forgiving someone’s wrong does not mean that you can’t challenge them to do what is right or that you automatically should begin to trust them to do what is right. Forgiving someone for lying does not mean you have to start believing everything they say. Even though you have forgiven them, it will take them some time to rebuild your trust. That’s the consequence of their sin. Forgiveness is immediate, trust must be rebuilt little by little.

Let me be very clear about this. Forgiving someone does not mean that you have to pretend that the sin they committed against you never happened. That would be foolish, and in cases such as physical abuse it could even be life threatening. Forgiveness means that you let go of your feelings of anger and retribution and hatred. It does not mean that you have to allow another person to continually hurt you in the same ways.

“Be kind and compassionate to another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4:32

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

“Forgive , and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

When to turn the other cheek: revenge vs. self defense

Question: I have a question that is relative to what the Bible says about not enacting revenge. My 6-year-old son has a neighbor boy, 7, who is mean to him at times. He grabs him by his wrists and twists them hard, or else grabs his fingers and bends them backwards. My wife and I struggle with the biblical response to defending one’s self on the playground. As much as I believe that we should instruct him to discuss this with his playmates, saying, “Please stop doing that, I don’t like it”, the reality is that I am of the belief that this 7-year-old will continue doing it everyday. Is there any latitude biblically, that allows us to instruct our children to say, “Please, stop doing that, I don’t like it, it hurts”, followed by, “If you don’t stop that, then I will hit you”? This would be retaliation, however, I don’t believe God intended us to be defenseless either. Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks

Answer: You’ve asked some important questions. They give me a chance to clear up some confusion with a few of the verses in the Bible. They have to do with the difference between defending yourself and taking revenge.

Nowhere in the Bible are we prohibited from defending ourselves. Even when Jesus told us to “turn the other cheek” he was talking about someone who had already insulted you, not a person who was threatening physical harm.

You can feel confident about telling your son it is OK to defend himself. Of course, he’ll have to do that in a way that fits with the rules of his school, the Bible has a lot to say about respecting authority. You wouldn’t want your son to hit the other boy and then end up being the one in trouble. But there are no playground rules (and nothing in the Bible) that would keep him from strongly saying, “Stop that now” or from pushing someone away who is trying to hurt him.

There is a difference between defending yourself from harm and taking revenge for an insult or a hurt. We are told again and again in the Bible to not take revenge for the hurts that have already happened to us. To help you to picture this, Jesus did not tell us it was wrong to block someone’s attempt to slap us. However, if we are slapped, he told us to turn the other cheek rather than slapping them back. He said this not because he wanted us to be punished with another slap, but because he knew that retaliation always resulted in an escalation of violence. As you know, the person who does not have to retaliate is the one showing the real courage – and is the one who often causes the violence to stop right then and there. To apply this principle to your son’s situation: he should defend himself when confronted but should not walk up to the other boy and hit him because of what happened on the playground yesterday.

Revenge isn’t swinging back when someone is swinging at you. Revenge is when we make a plan to get back at someone who took a swing at us yesterday, or last month.

“Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.” Proverbs 20:22

Forgiveness

Question: What does the Bible say about forgiveness? 

Answer: God must have know that forgiveness would be a struggle for us. Why else would he have put so many verses in the Bible about it? I have found in my own life the number one thing that strengthens me to forgive is recognizing how much Christ has forgiven me for! Here are a few verses that I think will help you to see God’s encouragement and strength to forgive:

“Forgive us for our sins, just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.” Matthew 6:12 (NCV)

“Happy are they whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned.” Romans 4:7 (NCV)

“But now you should forgive him and comfort him to keep him from having too much sadness and giving up completely.” 2 Corinthians 2:7 (NCV)

“Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32 (NCV)

“Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NCV)

“Most importantly, love each other deeply, because love will cause many sins to be forgiven.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NCV)

“But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right. He will cleanse us form all the wrongs we have done.” 1 John 1:9 (NCV)

Questions on Financials

Question: What is tithing?

Question: What is tithing?

Answer: The Bible is very clear about believers giving the first 10 percent to the Lord. In fact, the word “tithe” literally means 10 percent. It is a sign of our faith and trust that he uses to bless others. We are not limited to that amount. However, the Bible often talks about giving an offering above 10 percent to the Lord.

Western Hills gives support to missionaries in more than 100 countries of the world, and we give to support new churches in our own area. When you give to Western Hills, a portion of what you give is going to all of these ministries.

“At that time men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, firstfruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites.” Nehemiah 12:44

Tithe on gross or net?

Question: I know that tithing is supposed to be giving 10 percent to the Lord. Is that 10 percent of the gross or of the net after taxes? I don’t know that I could afford to give 10 percent of what I earn before taxes!

Answer: Thanks for your well thought out question about tithing. The practice that Christians have always carried out is the giving of 10 percent back to the Lord of all that the Lord has given to you – your gross. It’s not really a tithe to subtract out our largest payments and then give 10 percent out of the remainder.

I know that this is a tremendous challenge. That’s the idea! The Lord could have asked us to give 50 percent to him, but he chose 10 percent. I believe that this is because that is an amount large enough that it takes a real act of faith and trust to give it to him. God is not interested in our money so much as he is interested in what it represents: our heart and priorities. The beauty is that, when we give out of a good heart, God then uses it to bless not only us, but many others.

I’ve talked to many people who felt exactly like you’ve expressed in this note before they began giving, “There’s no way I could give like that, even though I might want to!” Yet when they’ve started to give they have seen God bless them in a way that was life changing. And it’s not always that he gives us more money, sometimes he stretches what we have in miraculous ways.

You wouldn’t have written this note if you weren’t serious about wanting to follow the Lord. I’d encourage you to start now and make the sacrifice to tithe beginning this next month. Read Malachi chapter 3 (its the last book in the Old Testament.) You’ll find a verse where God encourages us to “test me in this” by tithing. As you step out in faith, you will begin to see God work in a great way in your heart and in your finances. Remember the law of sowing and reaping. We will always reap what we sow, but there is always a time period between sowing and reaping. Although it probably will not come with the timing or in the way that you expect, you can trust God to be faithful to bless your giving.

“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” Malachi 3:10

Should I pay off my debts or tithe?

Question: Should I pay off my debts or tithe?

Answer: The Bible encourages us to do both, not one or the other. In fact, I’ve found again and again that one of the keys to paying off debts is beginning to tithe. It not only brings God’s blessing to a person’s finances, it also helps them to begin to think more sacrificially, to plan more carefully and to see God’s direction more clearly.

If you’d like more resources on money management, Western Hills offers financial counseling, budget workshops, and small group studies about finances. Learn more >>

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” (Proverbs 3:9 NIV)

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ ‘In tithes and offerings. … Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:8,10 NIV)

Can I tithe to another Christian organization?

Question: I know of another ministry that has a great need. I know that my giving would make a difference to this ministry more than it can make a difference at Western Hills. Since the effectiveness of my tithe to Western Hills is insignificant compared to all that are giving to this church, I’m not sure if I should begin to give a part or all of my tithe to this other ministry. I appreciate whatever advice you can give me.

Answer: First and foremost, your gifts to Western Hills are not insignificant. People often make the mistake of thinking that because there are many others in the church that somehow that lessens their significance (attendance, giving, serving, etc). But just as every individual ministry is important every amount of money given is important. Many times the fact that people give just a little bit more helps us to begin a new ministry that makes a tremendous impact on the church and community. Also, when you give out of a faithful heart, God takes your gift and stretches it beyond what you would add up with just numbers. Your giving is far more important than you will ever imagine!

If you would ask this other ministry, or any other para-church organization, they would give you the same advice that I would. First give your tithe to the church and then give any gifts beyond that to meet other needs. The reason for giving to the church first is because it is the Christ-ordained body for doing His work in the world today. Just to think practically, the more healthy the church gets and the more people the church reaches and teaches, the more people there will be to give to ministries such as this one you are talking about.

Also, you might be interested to know that Western Hills “tithes” as a church. We give 10% of what the Lord has given us to organizations and ministries outside our church. Every year, we support benevolence ministries like Western Hills Care, Prayer and Response ministry, International Missions, North American Missions, Hillcrest Ministry, Samaritan’s House and more. We also support missionaries in more than 100 countries around the world as well as give to new churches in our own area. When you give to Western Hills, a portion of what you give goes to these ministries.

“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” Malachi 3:10

Is tithing legalistic?

Question: Isn’t the idea of giving 10 percent to the Lord just a legalistic, Old Testament rule? Why would we, as new covenant believers, do this today?

Answer: To help you with your question about us being under the new covenant, new covenant Christians can and should live out God’s moral and spiritual direction in the Old Testament. Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount that we should do it with a new heart and a greater passion, not as rules to be kept, but as directions from God’s heart to ours. Of course you can make God’s direction to tithe something that you do legalistically, just as you could make attending church or reading the Bible rules that you keep rather than a lifestyle God directs.

I don’t know all of the reasons why God gave us the direction to give 10 percent so often in the Bible, but I do know that this is a number that is high enough to be a real faith challenge to me. I can’t imagine God asking us to give in a way that would not be a challenge and a sacrifice. I sometimes tell people (a little tongue in cheek, I must admit) that, if you’re really worried about 10 percent being a legalistic requirement, just give 20 percent or 30 percent and then you’ll erase that concern!

“Just as you excel in everything else… in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness … see that you also excel in the grace of giving.” 2 Corinthians 8:7

My husband is not a believer. Should tithing be a family decision?

Question: My husband is not a believer. Should tithing be a family decision? 

Answer: Finances in a family are always a family issue and involve the decision of the whole family. Tithing is a family issue that involves the decision of the entire family. I would encourage you to sit down and talk with your husband about how you are feeling. In fact, there is a two or three step process that we usually encourage people to use in this discussion.

First, sit down and talk with your husband and see if he would be willing to tithe. Even though he is not a Believer, who knows what God might do in his heart. God may use the fact that you are sharing your desire, to speak to his heart about what your commitment to Christ really means in your life. If, as someone who has not yet made that commitment to Christ, he has some feeling against tithing, I know that you and I both can understand that. The next step is to ask if he might be willing for you to tithe on a certain portion of your income. Perhaps the portion that you earn, because that is something that you are responsible before God for. I found that most people are willing, at least at this point, to say, “Yes, I would consider that because that is something on your heart.” You might even encourage him by saying, “Let’s try this and see what God does.” This is one of the ways that God can prove that he is real not only to you but maybe also to your entire family.

I’ve found when someone can explain to their husband or wife this is a commitment they have made out of a real genuine love for the Lord and not a feeling and it is not something the church is requiring of them, most people are responsive and understand in a better way why this commitment is important to someone.

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13

“Do not save riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and stead. Instead, save riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy and robbers cannot break in and stead. For where your heart is will always be where your riches are.” Matthew 6:19-21

Questions on Eternity

Will heaven pass away?

Question: Our small group was meeting last week and we came across a verse that raised some questions. It’s found in Matthew 24:35 Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” Several folks raised the question that they thought heaven was eternal and would not pass away. Can you shed some light on this verse and what it means? Thanks.

Answer: God is eternal, and we will be in his presence in a physical place called heaven for all of eternity as Believers. The group is right about that, and that’s what makes us think that heaven as it is now will last forever. However, in Revelation 21, God tells us that when this world ends he will not only create a new earth, but also a new heaven. The places of heaven and earth as they are now will pass away, to be replaced by a new heaven and earth where we will live together with the Lord forever. The people who are now with the Lord will obviously continue to live forever with him whether in the old heaven or the new heaven. Why does God need to create a new heaven? I don’t know! The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly why. One obvious reason might be that since the new earth will be a perfect place, there will be a greater connection between this new heaven and earth than there is between earth and heaven now. You’ll be able to go back and forth between them, for instance. “All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” Romans 8:21 (NLT)

What is the meaning of a “New Earth”?

Question: I was reading in the book of Revelation about a new heaven and a new earth. Are these two separate divisions of life after death? Do some people get to go only to the new earth, and others to the new heaven?

Answer: Don’t think of the new heaven and earth as two separate places, with only the “better” people getting into the heaven part. The Bible pictures them as one place, with all who are in heaven having the ability to be in both.

The fact that there will be a new earth along with a new heaven reminds us that the afterlife is a material and real place. We will have new bodies, and God will recreate this world to be even more beautiful and awe inspiring than it is. Just think of what eternity will be like in a perfect heaven and earth!

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:1,3,4

What does the Bible say about angels?

Question: Do angels have the same freedom of choice that we do? 

Answer: The Bible does teach that angels, at this point, do not have the same freedom of choice as we do. Throughout the Old and New Testament when angels are spoken of, they are spoken of as beings that always obey God. They always respond immediately to him and they always worship God. The mystery to us about this is, if angels don’t have a choice, how was Satan able to make them choose to leave heaven? What some teachers of the Bible believe about this is that, at some point in history, before the world was created, God allowed a window of opportunity” in which angels were able to choose. There are some that believe there was a great battle in heaven, possibly even over God’s plan to send Jesus for our salvation, that resulted in Satan and a third of the angels falling from heaven. Most teachers believe that, since that point, there has been no further opportunity for angels to choose against God. Once that choice was made it was an eternal choice. Some of this is trying to figure out what the Bible means when it doesn’t give us a lot of information. But this is a quick outline of what most teachers believe about this.

“For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;

you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” Psalms 91:11-13

“Praise the LORD , you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.” Psalm 103:20

Are there animals in heaven?

Question: My dog died this week, will he go to heaven?

Answer: I am very sorry to hear that your dog died. I know how very close you can feel to a pet that has been with you, maybe all of your life in this case. The Bible does not tell us exactly where animals go when they die. It does indicate that, in heaven, there will be a new creation. It will not be just a place of clouds, that there will also be trees and animals up there in heaven. Some people have asked me if, when they get to heaven, they will be disappointed because the pet that they loved was not there. I can promise you that this will not happen. Heaven will not be a place where there is any disappointment in our lives. I often tell people, when you get to heaven, if you are longing for your dog to be there then God will obviously meet your need and your dog will be there. Heaven will be a place where there is no more longing, crying or any kind of pain.

As I respond to your letter, I am praying that God will give you peace, strength, and a sense of his love while you are grieving for the loss of your dog. Never feel afraid to tell God that you hurt, and are grieving. God cares about every hurt we have and he can help and strengthen us.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Cor. 5:1

Questions on Creation

What about dinosaurs?

Question: How do they fit in with the idea that God created the world rather than the world evolving on it’s own? Why doesn’t the Bible talk about dinosaurs? 

Answer: The Bible tells in Genesis 1 that God made the world in seven days, and that he made all of the animals on the fifth day and the sixth day. All of the animals were created at the same time, so they all walked the earth at the same time. I know that the pictures we all grew up with in the movies were that dinosaurs roamed a lifeless, volcanic planet. Remember these are just pictures drawn by someone today! The Bible’s picture is that dinosaurs and man lived together on the earth, an earth that was filled with vegetation and beauty.

What happened to the dinosaurs? The scientific record lets us know that they obviously became extinct through some kind of cataclysmic event on the earth. Many scientists theorize that this may have been an asteroid striking the earth, while many Christians wonder if this event could have been the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. No one can know for certain what this event was.

Although it cannot be stated with certainty, it appears that dinosaurs may have actually been mentioned in the Bible. The Bible uses names like “behemoth” and “tannin.” Behemoth means kingly, gigantic beasts. Tannin is a term that includes dragon-like animals and the great sea creatures such as whales, giant squid, and marine reptiles like the plesiosaurs that may have become extinct. The Bible’s best description of a dinosaur-like animal is in Job chapter 40. We don’t know for certain if these are actually dinosaurs or are some other large creatures that became extinct.

This should not sound so strange. After all, God tells us that he created all the land animals on the sixth day of creation, the same day that he created mankind. Man and dinosaurs lived at the same time. There was never a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth. From the very beginning of creation, God gave man dominion over all that was made, even over the dinosaurs.

“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” Exodus 20:11

“All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:3

“Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feed on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron. He ranks first among the works of God.” Job 40:15-19 (NIV)

Is evolution part of God’s plan?

Question: Why is it not OK for evolution to be part of God’s plan? I don’t understand what the problem is: couldn’t God have used the process of evolution as the way that he created the earth? 

Answer: When I was a young boy I remember talking with my dad about the issue of evolution. Much as you have expressed, I believed that evolution and the account of the Bible about creation could exist along side of each other very well. I just didn’t see what the big argument was all about. I had some friends who had been studying the Bible much longer than I had who saw it differently. But they didn’t push me or argue with me, they simply challenged me to take some time to look into the facts and study the issues carefully. I’ll always appreciate them for that, because this was an issue that I had to really think through. Eventually, I came to the conclusion, through my study of the Bible and science, that the two positions of evolution and creation just could not fit together. There are some real problems with the idea that God created through evolution.

I would encourage you to take some time to study this issue. I found that, although I understood the science side of the equation, I needed to take some more time to read what the Bible really had to say about this subject. Not having taken the time to really read the Bible, I was very ignorant about what it had to say. Let me give you one example. I discovered that the problem of sin, as addressed in the Bible, was much more serious than I had previously thought. When I realized that the world was clearly a perfect place as God created it, and that this perfection was ruined by the sinful choice of Adam and Eve, it really started me thinking. Did the Bible teach evolution or did it teach the creation of a first man and woman named Adam and Eve? If we evolved, which human being would have made the choice that brought sin into this world? If Adam and Eve were just allegorical pictures, why did the New Testament place so much importance upon them as responsible and real individuals? Since God clearly says that it is our sin that brought death into our world, how could there have been death for billions of years before the arrival of the first man who sinned on the earth? As I asked questions about this issue and studied what the Bible had to say, I found it to be one of the greatest times of learning in my life as a new believer. My prayer is that you will have this same experience!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Gen. 1:1
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:3

If you want to study this further…

Here’s a web site that you might want to check out: www.probe.org (One article that is especially thought provoking discusses “Darwin’s Black Box“).

Questions on Social Issues

What about suicide?

Question: I heard that suicide is an unpardonable sin, and that people who commit suicide will go to hell no matter what they believed. Is this true?

Answer: Suicide is not an unforgivable sin. The idea that it is unforgivable comes from thinking that, since you don’t have time to confess that sin after you’ve committed it (because it is a sin that brings your death), you would be trying to get into heaven with an unconfessed and unforgiven sin on your record.

The Bible tells us that, when we become believers in Jesus, he forgives all of our sins. That includes not only sins in our past, but all of the sins we will commit in the future. If this were not true, we would have to confess our sins every second of every day, fearful that a car might hit us or a heart attack might come in those moments after we’d committed a sin and before we had time to confess it. God and his forgiveness are obviously greater than that.

While God will forgive the sin of a believer who commits suicide, there is horrible loss any time a person takes their own life; the loss of a life that could have made a real difference in the world and the loss of the rewards for our work on earth that could have been enjoyed in heaven. If you know someone considering suicide have them come in and talk to our lay counseling ministry. They’ll get the encouragement they need to make the right choice – the choice to live.

“… But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1,2

Is doing drugs really so wrong?

Question: I’m a new believer who really wants to live my life for God. One struggle I’m really facing is quitting the drug habit I started many years ago. I’ve been wondering, is this really so wrong? Even though I know it might be bad for me, it’s not really hurting anyone, is it?

Answer: Doing drugs is wrong. It is a sin for two reasons. First, it is mistreating the body that is God’s temple. God tells us to treat this body in the best way possible because it is where he lives, now that you are a believer. You can also mistreat your body by overeating, smoking, and many other things. Although none of us are perfect, we want to treat the body the Lord gave us in the best way possible. Doing drugs is also a sin because it is against the law, and the Bible very clearly tells us in Romans 13 that we, as believers, are to respect the laws of the land that we live in. Even though you may not agree with the law (many people don’t like the law that says they have to pay taxes!), you still keep the law out of respect for God.

In order to change this habit you need help. Don’t try to go it alone. At Western Hills we have a program called Celebrate Recovery that will lead you through a Christ-centered recovery process. In this process, you’ll find the power for change that can come only from Christ and the value of getting strength from others who are working to change in the same way as you.

“Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

Christian rumors on the web

Question: I’ve received an e-mail saying that Madeline Murray O’Hare is involved in a campaign to remove religious broadcasting from the air. Is this true? What should I do about this? 

Answer: If this story were true, we would want to immediately act upon it. However, the story is not true. It is a rehash of a story (recently adding a paragraph about Touched by an Angel” at the beginning) that has been circulated and re-circulated for years. Numerous statements have come out showing that this information is false. I’ve copied a web address below for you where you can learn more… and what it has to say about this particular rumor.

Watch out for “Christian urban legends.” There are a lot of them out there! A couple of other false rumors that you’ll often see are:

The Proctor and Gamble rumor – (Falsely stating that the company president said on a talk show that the corporate logo is Satanic.)

The Liz Claiborne rumor – (Falsely saying that she appeared on Oprah and stated her allegiance to occultism.)

You can read more about these and other false rumors at: www.snopes.com.

“A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.” Proverbs 12:17

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.” Exodus 32:1

What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol?

Question: What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol? 

Answer: Here are three things to remember:

• The Bible does not say that it is wrong to drink

• The Bible does say that it is wrong to get drunk

• The Bible commands us to remember the influence we have on an unbeliever

In Bible times everyone drank a watered down wine. Without refrigeration, there was no way to keep fruit juice without it fermenting. There is nothing biblically wrong with drinking wine with a meal, as long as it’s not as a means of escape or your don’t struggle with becoming drunk. In spite of this, all of our staff at Western Hills have agreed that we will not drink at all. This is because we are very mindful and concerned about our impact on others. We live in a society where alcohol is the chosen “drug of escape” for many people. We are in a church where many have seen Jesus free them from their alcohol addiction. We are gladly willing to give up our freedom to drink alcohol and wine, knowing that it might save someone who struggles with alcohol from seeing us drink and thinking, “If it’s OK for them, I should be able to handle it also.” Paul talks of his willingness to give up his freedom because of his love for the people for whom Jesus died.

“But be careful that your freedom does not cause those who are weak in the faith to fall.” Corinthians 8:9

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