Ask Your Preacher
I have done something in my past that I truly regret… something I can’t seem to get off my mind. I pray every day to be forgiven of my sin; it’s torn me continuously apart. I know it was wrong, and it hasn't happened again. And it won’t ever happen again. Even though God has forgiven me of my sin and I know it was wrong, how can I forgive myself?
The problem isn’t with whether or not you can be forgiven – the problem is that you don’t feel forgiven. The two issues are very different. There are times when our head and our heart aren’t on the same page. Guilt can drive someone crazy if they don’t learn to keep things in proper perspective. God says that your heart can be wrong. You feel that you can’t be forgiven, but the Bible says you can. It is very similar to the problem that the apostle Paul faced. Paul had murdered christians and felt that he was the worst of the worst, but he learned that Jesus would forgive him (1 Tim 1:15-16).
The apostle John said it best, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.” (1 Jhn 3:19-20). Your act of faith is going to be letting go of your fears and trusting that living by God’s Word is what matters (Rom 10:17). Sometimes, our feelings can be fickle and wrong, and we’ve got to ignore them until time and life change them.
I am currently a Deist, not tying myself to any one religion or belief; however, I do believe that there is a Supreme Being, One who orchestrated the birth of the universe. However, I also believe in the findings of our scientists, such as the Big Bang theory and the scientific theory of evolution. Because I believe in a god, but not a Christian god, where does that leave me on that Great Day (according to Christianity)? I just figure that if Christianity WAS the correct path after all, would that "kind and just" God send me to an eternity of damnation, or would He understand my doubts because He created me in His own image?
It is understandable with all of the opinions that are thrown around as science for you to feel torn between belief in God and the belief in evolution, but it isn’t enough to believe in a generic god – we must place our faith in the God. After all, even the demons admit belief in deity… but that won’t save them on the Day of Judgment (Jas 2:19). Jesus is a very exclusive Savior. He very boldly claims, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no comes to the Father, but by Me.” (Jhn 14:6). If you don’t have a life of faith built upon following Christ, you won’t be saved. That may sound harsh, but let’s talk about the evidence that God provides to make it possible for a deist to turn into a christian.
First of all, all faith is built upon some sort of evidence. That evidence may be historical data (like when you trust traffic lights to work properly because they have statistically done so in the past), it may be personal experience (i.e. when you trust a friend because they have shown good judgment and loyalty in the past), or circumstantial evidence (like when a jury convicts a murderer based upon the evidence presented to them – even when there weren’t eyewitnesses at the scene of the crime).
Your belief that there is some sort of Supreme Being is probably based upon some sort of basic evidence from the world that you see around you. Rom 1:20 says that God has provided evidence of His existence in the creation around us. From galaxies to atoms, this world shows the signs of design. A design requires a Designer. God’s handiwork is seen in the finely-tuned craftsmanship of the human eye, just like Nikon’s handiwork is shown in the craftsmanship of their cameras. You’ve done well to acknowledge His existence in a general way… but we would beg you to keep digging deeper.
Don’t be dissuaded by the scientists that say we evolved from goo. First of all, not all scientists are evolutionists – no matter what the media tells you. Thousands of biologists, geologists, doctors, paleontologists, etc. believe in the Creator of the Bible, and they are intellectually honest in doing so. The scientific evidence has led them to the Bible, not away from it. Second of all, things like evolution and the Big Bang are a way of interpreting the scientific data, not a concrete finding from the data. One scientist sees a bed of fossils, and because he doesn’t believe in God, he interprets that the fossils were created over millions of years. Another scientist sees the same fossil bed, and because he does believe in God, he interprets that a catastrophic event (like Noah’s Flood) is what caused such a sudden build up of fossils and silt. They see same evidence, but come to vastly different conclusions. Read “Atheism-Colored Glasses” for further details on the subject of scientific bias.
Next, after looking at the general evidence of God’s existence, it is time to look at the specific evidence of the Bible’s supernatural origins. The Bible is a unique book; it is a book that no human could ever write. We would encourage you to read “Who Wrote The Bible?” for a comprehensive list of reasons why the Bible is a book that only God could have written. Once we begin to see the evidence for the Bible’s divine origins, we have no choice but to ask ourselves, “Will I follow God’s Word?”.
God expects us to follow Jesus because He has given us plenty of evidence that Jesus is the one and only true Son of God. We would encourage you to follow the evidence – it will lead you straight to Jesus the Christ.
Does prayer really work??? I pray for situations to change in my life, and they don't. I do the best I can to try to get ahead, but it seems like more frustrating things end up in my path. Furthermore, it seems as a slap in the face to my faith. I watch those around me who barely believe in God live fulfilling lives. What does God want me to do?
Up In Arms
Dear Up In Arms,
Prayers do work, but God still has veto power. We are told to pray that “if the Lord wills, we will do this or that” (Jas 4:15). Jesus taught His disciples to pray for the Lord’s will to be done (Matt 6:10). Part of prayer is that we need to learn to trust that God knows what He is doing. We are entreating the Creator of the Universe with our problems, and just like any loving father, our Heavenly Father sometimes says, “No” to our requests. As every parent knows, children sometimes ask for things that aren’t in their best interest, or they ask things unaware of the bigger picture. God wants to give us good gifts (Matt 7:11)… sometimes that means that He answers our prayers by giving us something different than what we expected.
Now, let’s talk about those prosperous unbelievers that you are seeing. Your frustration is valid, and David had the same frustration. In Psalm 73, David talked about his animosity toward the success of the ungodly… he said it made him so mad that he almost fell away from God (Ps 73:2). However, David finally concluded that the ungodly were not blessed because their entire existence was slippery and dependent upon their physical prosperity (Ps 73:18). Only God’s people have an eternal hope that gives us comfort regardless of how life goes here (Ps 73:27-28).
Does God listen to everyone's prayers or just really faithful people's prayers? How faithful do you have to be for your prayer to be heard? Do you get heard more often the more faithful you are?
Wondering How It Works
Dear Wondering How It Works,
In short, who is praying and how they pray matters. God says that a righteous man's prayers do a great deal of good (Jas 5:16). That would by default mean that an unrighteous man's prayers wouldn't do much, if any, good at all. God told Israel that their ungodly lifestyles meant that He wouldn't hear their prayers at all! (Isa 1:15) There are other things that will stop your prayers from being heard:
- Treating your spouse badly (1 Pet 3:7)
- Praying for "show" (Lk 20:47)
- Praying selfishly (Jas 4:3)
- Praying without gratitude (Col 4:2)
There is no doubt that the Bible teaches that we should examine ourselves before approaching God in prayer. A wrong attitude or lifestyle can seriously jeopardize our prayers effectiveness. The flip is also true though! Proper attitudes and behavior are rewarded:
- Asking for wisdom (Jas 1:5)
- Consistency (1 Thess 5:17)
- Godly living (Jas 5:16)
- Asking without doubt (Jas 1:6)
When we are constantly praying, trusting in God's strength to answer, humbly seeking his wisdom, and living lives that befit God's servants, we can expect powerful results! Prayer is perhaps one of the greatest tools in a Christian's arsenal (perhaps also one of the least utilized). The Bible is how God speaks to us; prayer is how we speak to Him. Just like a child asking their parent for a privilege - how we approach God makes all the difference.
I attend two different churches on a regular basis. I'm not a member of either one and don't plan on joining anytime soon. It's not that I don't want to; I just don't see the point of joining since I am still an active-goer. Do I have to join a church? Or is it okay since I'm still getting the Word either way?
Being a member of a congregation is about more than just hearing God’s Word; it is about being a committed, active participant in supporting and encouraging God’s people. There are no examples of christians in the Bible who weren’t members of a local church. Even the apostle Paul, with all of his traveling, was a member of the church in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). God tells us that part of the purpose of the church assembly is to stimulate and encourage one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24-25). Is it enough to just stay at home and watch sermons on television or listen to ones you have downloaded from the internet? If the only purpose of church attendance is to hear the Word, then those would be acceptable alternatives to going to church. We are supposed to get together each Sunday and partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 11:20), and God intended for christians to be a part of a local congregation with elders and deacons to help shepherd them (1 Pet 5:2). God knows what is best for us, and it is in our best interest to assemble with other christians in a local church. We are all different, and our differences help to strengthen us, protect us, and better serve Christ (Eph 4:14-16). If all you do is “church hop”, then you don’t have the blessings of the local eldership, interwoven lives with other local saints, and participating fully in the growth of the church’s work. Church membership isn’t just about what you get; it is about what you are able to give.