Ask Your Preacher
How do I know if I am attending the "right" church?
Dear Purposefully Picky,
Look for a church that is trying to follow the New Testament pattern as closely as possible. A congregation doesn’t need to be full of perfect people, but they need to be trying to faithfully follow God’s Word and not their own ideologies. The following are a few markers of what you should find in every church that is faithful to Christ’s Word:
- Their name should be Biblical. Church of Christ (Rom 16:16), the church (Acts 14:27), church of God (1 Cor 1:2), the Way (Acts 24:14) – all of these are Biblical names given to a local congregation. Having the right name on the front of the building doesn’t mean they are the right church, but if they can’t even get their name from the Bible, they probably aren’t worth wasting your time on.
- Their doctrine should be a copy of the New Testament (Acts 2:42). Any creeds, ‘statements of faith’, articles of belief, manuals, or handbooks are from man and not from God. You want a congregation that uses the Bible to decide their practices.
- They are autonomous. Every congregation of the New Testament had independence. Only local elders were over them (1 Pet 5:1-2, Acts 14:23). They were bound to follow Christ as their only head (Eph 5:23). No boards or committees, no headquarters in some other state, no popes or potentates – what you are looking for is a local body of believers which is accountable to Christ and His Word.
- The church’s work should be simple. The church of the first century wasn’t involved in every community and political arena. Their work was focused on three things – caring for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preaching to the lost, and teaching the saved (Acts 15:35). Find a congregation who is committed to being about Christ’s work.
- They should be open to examination. Any congregation that is serving Christ should be willing to explain why they do what they do. They should be willing to be examined because they are constantly examining themselves (2 Cor 13:5). There is nothing wrong with asking a congregation where their practices can be found in the New Testament. Ask questions and expect Bible answers for them.
These five things are by no means all of the characteristics of Christ’s church, but this should help narrow down your options significantly. Most people accept mediocrity from their church; don’t do that. It is unfair to expect the people of a congregation to be perfect… you will never find perfect humans. However, you should demand intellectual honesty and Biblical faithfulness from any congregation you want to be a member of. If you would like additional help as you look for a faithful congregation in your area, please email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to help you look.
If the devil influenced Osama Bin Laden to kill so many people, what happened to the people who were killed that had not yet given their lives to Christ?
Osama bin Laden’s death marks a major victory for us Americans, and it brings our minds back to that fateful day on September 11, 2001 when so many perished because of the desire of that man to follow the Quran to its ultimate end – death of all the infidels (non-Muslims).
So, since so many people died so unexpectedly through Osama’s acts of terrorism, what does happen to them? All death is unexpected, meaning that none of us know when we will die. Our lives are merely vapors that quickly vanish (Jas 4:14). Because of the uncertainty of life, David prayed that God would teach him to contemplate his own death and to measure his days (Ps 39:4). Whether we die quietly in our sleep at a ripe old age or suddenly in a car crash in our early twenties… the effect is the same – we must be ready to meet our God. We all must ask that all-important question: “What must I do to be saved?”… because we never know when we will go to the judgment (Heb 9:27).
I have a question about Christmas: we all know that most people tell their kids about "Santa". I wanted to know what you thought about parents telling kids about this. Is it wrong? I guess it is a lie, and telling a lie is wrong... I always thought that on Christmas, you should be thinking about what Jesus did for us and not be thinking about how much money we spent on each other. I think it is not about gifts that we give each other but the gift that Jesus has already given to us. I think that if we do give gifts, it should be from the heart and not because "Santa says you were a good boy or girl." I guess I am confused on the subject. I don't have kids, but if I ever do, I’m not sure what the right thing would be to do, and I’m sure that others out there are confused also. That is another reason I am asking this question. Thanks for your time and God bless!
You Better Not Cry
Dear You Better Not Cry,
It is always wrong to lie; the question is whether telling your kids about Santa Claus is lying or not. Many christians have many different views on this. Some christians tell their children that Santa is imaginary because they feel that is honest. Other christians allow their children to believe in Santa and simply don’t dissuade them from the notion until they ask point-blank. No matter what, christians must in good conscience do what they believe is honest. Lying is always wrong (Rev 21:8). The debate isn’t over whether or not lying is a sin; the debate is over whether or not allowing your children to believe in something imaginary counts as being deceptive. Each must do what they believe is faithful and right… it would not be good to be too dogmatic on this point.
Now let’s deal with the issue of Christmas. Many people believe Christmas to be a spiritual holiday, but the Bible never commands us to celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th (the truth is that no one knows when Jesus was born, but it was most likely in the spring or summer because the shepherds were out – Lk 2:15). Christians are commanded to remember Jesus’ death every first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 11:24-25). Christmas is not a Biblical holiday. There is nothing wrong with celebrating it as a family holiday, but it is wrong to teach that there is a Biblical foundation to it.
What does the Bible say about the whole ‘2012 doomsday’ thing? Will it happen or not?
Counting The Days
Dear Counting The Days,
Feel free to do your shopping for the holidays in 2012; the world isn’t likely to be destroyed on Dec. 21, 2012. For those of our readers unfamiliar with the 2012 doomsday schtick… we will take a moment to explain this New Age teaching. The idea that the world is going to be destroyed or transformed on December 21st (some say 23rd), 2012 is based off of the Mayan Long Count calendar. The Mayan Long Count calendar is a non-repeating calendar that was used in Mesoamerica during the height of the Mayan civilization, and because it is a non-repeating calendar (unlike the Roman calendar which repeats every 365 days), it eventually runs out of days. The last day on the Mayan Long Count calendar is December 21st, 2012. Therefore, some folks are expecting a cataclysmic change to the world order on that day.
Now that we’ve explained what it is, let’s explain what it isn’t. It isn’t right. We here at AYP are pretty sure that if God was going to hide the date of the end of the world in a conspiracy-theory fashion, He probably wouldn’t hide it in the calendar of a blood-drinking, child-sacrificing, snake-worshipping heathen culture. But, hey, maybe that’s just us…
God promises that He will return like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:2). The whole world would be a lot better off if it stopped trying to guess the day it will end and start trying to be prepared for when it does.