Ask Your Preacher
Should you shoot somebody in self-defense?
Dear Trigger Unhappy,
When the Bible commands us to not kill, the word used for ‘kill’ is the word that we would use for ‘murder’. Some of the most faithful men in the Bible were soldiers and had to kill people in the defense of their country. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14), and yet David killed many people as a soldier. Jesus marveled at the faith of a centurion soldier (Matt 8:8-10). The first Gentile convert was Cornelius, a well-known Roman soldier (Acts 10:22). When a group of soldiers asked John the Baptist what they needed to do to live a faithful life, he told them to be honest and faithful… but he never told them to stop serving in the military (Lk 3:14). These are all examples of the difference between murder and self-defense (or war-time killing).
In the Old Testament, God made specific rules that allowed an individual to kill if they were defending their home or family (Ex 22:2). In Lk 22:35-39, Jesus tells His disciples that persecution will begin after He leaves and that they ought to “buy a sword” – this is certainly an endorsement of self-defense. All of these point to the fact that God distinguishes between defensive force and vigilante murder.
What does it mean to be born again?
Womb To Grow
Dear Womb To Grow,
A born-again person is just a christian; it is another way to say that you are saved. The terminology comes from Jhn 3:1-6 when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about salvation. In Jhn 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we must be born again in order to enter the kingdom (the kingdom is the church – read “A Kingdom For All Nations” for further details on that). Nicodemus asks how it is possible for someone to be born again (Jhn 3:4), and Jesus explains that we must be born of the Spirit and water (Jhn 3:5). We are born of the Spirit when we listen and obey the words of the Holy Spirit found in the Bible (Jhn 6:63, 1 Cor 2:13), and we are born of water when we are baptized (1 Pet 3:21, Rom 6:4). When we heed the Scriptures and are baptized, we are born again… and we become christians (Mk 16:16, Matt 28:19).
What is Jesus referring to in Matthew 11 when He says, "My yoke is easy; My burden is light"?
Dear Weight Lifter,
A yoke is a type of harness that is placed on oxen, so they can pull a cart or plow. In this circumstance, Jesus is using a yoke to explain that everyone has a burden to carry. Whatever you let guide your life, it becomes your master (i.e. money, family, pride, lusts, etc.), and you have to work to feed its will (Matt 6:24). Jesus says that if we will follow Him, learn from Him, and obey His commands, our burden will be much lighter than if we live worldly lives. He is a kind and gentle Master that will give us rest for our souls. (Matt 11:28-30).
I know that we pray to God, but I have a problem when people say we cannot talk to Christ. Did Stephen not talk to Christ as he was being stoned? Did Paul not beseech the Lord three times? Are Christ and God not one? Is Christ not our Advocate and Mediator? What’s your take on talking to Jesus?
Deep In Conversation
Dear Deep In Conversation,
The example of Stephen is clearly a case of someone talking to Jesus, but you must remember that Stephen was looking at Jesus at the time (Acts 7:55-56)... this isn't your average prayer – if Jesus was standing in front of you, you wouldn't call it prayer, and that is exactly what happened to Stephen. Also, the example of Paul in 2 Cor 12:8 isn't a good proof text because it could be referring to Jesus or the Father – both are referred to as ‘Lord’ in the Bible. This is an issue that brethren have mixed reviews on. Personally, we don't feel comfortable condemning someone for praying to Jesus, but at the same time, the example we see throughout the Scriptures is that of praying to the Father… especially since that is the way Jesus taught us to pray (Lk 11:1-4). Jesus specifically said there would come a time when we wouldn't ask Him anything, but we would pray to His Father and the Father would answer our prayers that are prayed in Jesus' name (Jhn 16:23). The problem with praying to Jesus is that we simply don't have any examples of it in the whole New Testament.
What is the significance of a name change in the Bible?
What’s In A Name?
Dear What’s In A Name,
The significance depends upon the circumstance. When Saul's name was changed to Paul, we aren't told any reason for the change – as far as we know, it was simply a change from a name with Jewish origins to a name with Greek roots. However, when Simon was called Peter, we are told Jesus specifically picked that name for him (Jhn 1:42) – Peter means 'rock, boulder'... so Jesus was saying something about the type of man that Peter was. That context gives the name change greater meaning.
Probably the most significant name change in the Bible is the one that God did with Abram. God changed Abram's name to Abraham. Abraham means "father of a multitude" (Gen 17:5). God changed his name to signify that Abraham would become the father of many nations.
In all name changes found in the Bible, it always comes down to the context to define the significance of the alteration.