Ask Your Preacher
What about mixing incense with the prayers of God's people? I try not to get caught up into things which I don't understand until I get further understanding. One Sunday, our pastor brought into the sanctuary a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, and he walked around the sanctuary with incense like the Catholics do; we are not Catholic. Then he said we were to write down prayers and place them in this replica of the Ark of the Covenant. It still sits there today; now he says that he is going to burn those written prayers since its been eighty-one days, and they will ascend unto God. And then he said he’s going to do the same practice again. Can you tell me if this ritual is practiced today and what he is doing? And should I participate in this? I didn't before.
This is definitely not a New Testament practice… nor is it an Old Testament practice for that matter! The Bible teaches that our prayers are the incense God wants to receive (Ps 141:2, Rev 8:4). We never see the New Testament church burning incense as a form of worship, and the only people who were allowed to burn incense in the Old Testament were descendants of the high priest, Aaron (Num 4:16, 1 Sam. 2:28). This preacher is adding to God’s Word and is absolutely in the wrong (Rev 22:18-19).
Can you tell me all you know about blasphemy? How do I know if I have done it, how do I make sure I don't, and can it really not be forgiven? What if you did it without knowing or before you realized what it was… or before you got saved? Please help! I was told if you're worrying about it, you probably haven't. Just wondering! Thanks!
Watching My Mouth
Dear Watching My Mouth,
Blasphemy can be forgiven, like all other sins, but it definitely is wrong. The word ‘blasphemy’ means ‘to speak evil of’; any language that speaks poorly of God is blasphemy. When we use God’s name as a cuss word or exclamatory term, we demote Him in our minds from the lofty position He deserves. God tells us to revere Him (Heb 12:28). All our speech needs to be both clean and reverent, so God’s name is spoken well of amongst His people (1 Tim 6:1).
I am a newly-ordained minister. I want to have a church, but I’m not sure how to build my congregation. I live the Lord our God with all my heart, and I really have a desire to help people come to know Christ. How do I build up my church and encourage others to come?
The only advice we can give is to hold very carefully to the Bible pattern, and the congregation will be blessed. It shouldn’t be your church, and you shouldn’t try and build your congregation – the only church that matters is Christ’s church. The churches that are pleasing to God are the ones that belong to Him. 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.
Once you lose your salvation, can you get it back? I always heard of "back sliding" or something. Once it's gone, is it forever gone, or can you be forgiven and regain your salvation? If everyone sins, then doesn't that mean that sinning alone won't cause you to lose your salvation? If that's the truth, what will?
Dear Sliding Forward,
It takes more than just sin to lose your salvation – it takes a lifestyle of intentional sin… and yes, those that fall away can come back to God. Let us give you an example. In 1 Cor 5:1, the apostle Paul rebuked the church at Corinth because there was a member in that congregation that was committing fornication with his father’s wife – definitely a sin. The man knew it was wrong, accepted that it was wrong, and still continued to live that lifestyle. Paul said the church needed to rebuke him and withdraw from him (1 Cor 5:13). That is what losing your salvation looks like… choosing intentionally to live a life away from God’s will and not attempting to correct your faults. If we are trying to correct our lives and change, God will forgive us even if we fail over and over again (Lk 17:3-4)… but when we stop trying, we’ve broken the faith.
Now let’s deal with a Christian that falls away from God and then wants to come back. We’ll use that same man in 1 Cor 5:1 as our example. Paul later wrote a second letter to the Corinthian church, and in it, that wayward man had repented of his sin, and Paul told the Corinthians to forgive him and reaffirm their love for him (2 Cor 2:6-8). So, the moral of the story is that even those who fall away can return to God once more.