Ask Your Preacher
My husband and I just started a church plant in September. Any advice for a new church planter’s wife?
Dear Mrs. Seed,
The only advice we can give is to hold very carefully to the Bible pattern, and the congregation will be blessed. The religious world is full of people that try and make churches grow by doing all sorts of things that have nothing to do with New Testament Christianity. If the congregation strives to use book, chapter, and verse for everything it does – it will be a success no matter how many members it has. You may find the article "Down With Denominationalism" useful, and we also have an article entitled "Finding A Church" that might interest you because it gives the perspective of what the Bible tells people to look for in a congregation.
Is Benny Hinn legitimate?
Dear Convention Cruising,
Benny Hinn is one of the more popular “faith healers”, and he is a wicked man. He collects somewhere around $100 million dollars from people every year that believe he heals them. People in their darkest hours of sickness seek hope from any source. Faith healers prey upon this.
The meetings that Benny Hinn holds where people fall over, start randomly speaking gibberish, and supposedly are healed are infamous for being rigged. Journalists have investigated these meetings and found that they are specifically designed to work people into a frenzy. During that frenzy, the evangelists will tell people they are healed, and the adrenaline of the moment gives some the momentary feeling of being healed. There are documented cases of patients going to these meetings and being told that they had been cured of their cancer only to have the doctors diagnose them as terminally ill days later. Other “healed” people are deceivers planted within the audience that pretend to be sick and throw their crutches away to add to the charade.
Those who go to these meetings are vulnerable to false teaching and are consequently deceived. They are seeking a cure, and the false teachers know what to say to raise their hopes (2 Tim 4:3). The faith healers are false teachers, and they will be judged by God for their wicked deceptions (2 Pet 2:1-2). A teacher is more strictly judged (Jas 3:1), and therefore, these preachers, including Benny Hinn, will be held accountable for their lies. It is our duty to try and undo their deception by bringing the truth to those who have been deceived.
When we die and go to heaven or hell, will there be different degrees of reward or punishment depending on our degree and length of service to our Lord? Or in the case of those who refused to serve but rebelled against God, for their degree or length of disobedience? I am part of a ladies’ Bible study group that picks topics or questions to research each week. We asked this question and could find nothing in our study of the Bible that showed such a thing but have heard it taught that we store up our treasure in heaven. The assumption being that one who stores for a long time and with great diligence will have more stored than, let’s say, the thief on the cross who had but a few minutes to serve Christ. Can you give us some Bible verses to consider that might help tell us what God thinks on this question?
Delving Into Degrees
Dear Delving Into Degrees,
Yes, some will have a greater reward in heaven than others – though we don’t want you to misconstrue this as meaning heaven won’t be entirely perfect for everyone there. The most important verse on this topic is Matt 6:20. The implication is that heaven uses more than just a pass/fail entry system, but that there is a way to ‘invest’ in heavenly rewards. Jesus reiterates this idea of storing treasures for yourself in heaven when He talks to the rich young ruler (Mk 10:21).
The idea of heaven having various rewards shouldn’t be too foreign to us because God is clear that its counterpart, hell, certainly does. Heb 10:28-29 makes it plain that there is an especially dark corner of hell for those who were christians and rejected Christ later. False teachers also are condemned under a heavier judgment than the average unbeliever (Jas 3:1). Probably the clearest verse on the subject of hell's degrees of punishment is Lk 12:46-48 which teaches that someone who knows the truth and rejects it will suffer a worse punishment than the servant that did not know.
The verses do say that heaven and hell have varying degrees of reward and punishment, but the problem is envisioning how that works. If everyone will be completely happy in heaven (Rev 21:4), how can some have more rewards than others? At this point, we must accept our weakness in envisioning spiritual concepts. Any analogy we make is purely an attempt in our feeble minds to explain a realm too glorious for us to grasp. So take the following analogy with a grain of salt.
The example we use to explain the varying degrees of heaven uses two men with buckets. Two men go down to a river with buckets; one man has a five-gallon bucket, and the other has a one-gallon bucket. They both dip their buckets in the river… whose bucket is fuller? Both buckets are equally full, are they not? We liken heaven to filling our buckets. Everyone’s bucket will be full. The only question is: how big will your bucket be?
There has been a murder in our small town this past week, which doesn't happen often at all. It was very gruesome the way it happened. I know it was a part of God's plan, but why? Did this lady deserve what happened to her? And if she did, does that mean the bad things that happen to children are deserved also? It's really hard for me to understand why such a horrible thing happened to this lady, and it was planned.
Dear Sickened Neighbor,
Murder is a sin (1 Jn 3:15), and it isn’t a part of God’s plan. God can cause a horrible situation to work out for good (Rom 8:28), but that doesn’t mean that He desired for that woman to be murdered. People suffer for various reasons:
- Sometimes we suffer for our own sins (Gal 6:7-8).
- Sometimes we suffer because of others’ choices (like David’s sufferings at the hands of Saul – 1 Sam 20:1).
- Sometimes we suffer in order to glorify God through our suffering and recovery (like the blind man – Jhn 9:2-3).
All bad things are a result of sin. When God made the world, He placed mankind in the Garden of Eden and gave us a joyously blissful existence in that paradise. Who caused the pain? We did. It is sin that has brought all of the death, disease, decay, pain, suffering, troubles, and heartaches into our world. We all, in varying degrees, are reaping the benefits of a world with sin in it.
Any advice for a christian who has stumbled along the way, repented, confessed this sin to the elders, got back up, and continued trying to fight the good fight, but left feeling the elders are disgusted, disappointed, and aloof? It breaks my heart because my entire life I have felt rejected by my family, only to feel such love and respect from my spiritual family. Now when the elders see me, they turn away, never shake my hand, and make me feel alienated, rejected, worthless, and so incredibly saddened by my sin; I don't feel worthy of assembling with the saints. I suppose this is simply the consequence of sin. I hate myself.
We are so very sorry for your pain. The sting of our own actions and the consequences that come along with them can sometimes be so much more devastating than we ever thought. Luke 18:13-14 tells the story of a man that prayed fervently and humbly over his sin to God, and God accepted him. The same is true for you, regardless of how others treat you; remember that if you truly repent and turn to the Lord, God will exalt you.
You don’t need to hate yourself because the Lord doesn’t hate you. Paul taught that part of being a christian is learning to accept the Lord’s view of us above our own. Paul said that no matter how humans judged him, what mattered was God’s judgment (1 Cor 4:3-4). It can be very hard when others are not as quick to forgive us of our sins as the Lord is, but that is life. Think of it as an opportunity to show grace to others when they struggle with forgiveness the way you have struggled with other sins – you can be patient with them because you know what it is like to struggle to become the person you are meant to be. Everyone has their weaknesses, and the church is full of imperfect people.
The other thing that you can do is approach the elders on this issue. God says that if we believe our brother has something against us, we should seek to reconcile with them (Matt 5:23-24). When you talk to them, it may or may not be that the elders are actually being aloof and purposefully rejecting you. Sometimes, our own disgust and disappointment with ourselves causes us to interpret others’ actions as disgust and disappoint… when they don’t mean anything of the sort. The only way to rectify things is to clear the air through communication. You had the strength to confess your sins to them; you have the strength to discuss this problem with them.