December 28, 2021

Ep.: If someone falls away from God, can they come back?

Jesus said. “What man of you, having one hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7

Many people believe God is a harsh judge. But in this parable we see the extent of His love and desire to save every lost sheep. When one is recovered not only does God rejoice, but all the angels rejoice with Him. That shows us that love is their motivation.

The unpardonable sin is more involved than most Christians realize.

The text where that thought is taken from is in Hebrews 6:4-6. It says, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,  If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

In order for someone to reach a point where they cannot be renewed to God’s favor certain requirements must first have been met by the individual. There are various types of relationships people can have with God. This is similar in some ways to our own relationships. We can have distant acquaintances, friends, and close family. In order to be considered sons of God (i.e. close family members) an individual must have devoted his or her life to Him.

This is described in Romans 12:1 as presenting our bodies “a living sacrifice” to God. Once this is done that person is generally baptized as a symbol of their devotion. If God accepts this decision, then the individual is “justified” by Christ’s blood. This is described in Romans 5:9. “Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”

This justification means the individual is considered righteous in God’s eyes and a personal relationship is established. After justification the individual then receives the holy spirit and is considered a son of God.

This may sound a little complicated, but is important because the unpardonable sin of Hebrews 6 is only applicable to those who have followed these important steps and are now under the blood. If they should go into unbelief and “trample the blood of Christ” there is no longer any blood available to justify them and they will be destined for what the scriptures term “second death.” Most are not even aware of the process and have not dedicated their lives to God and been justified, therefore very few are likely going to be condemned to a final death.

Heaven rejoices when you come back to God. Whatever course your life takes, remember that God is not anxious to condemn you. He is a loving Father who wants to bless the world.

We now live in an age of faith, when believing in God is challenged. For many, faith is not possible and God knows that. So He has also planned a coming time when all the dead will be resurrected to life on earth. In God’s Millennium every individual will be given the opportunity to believe without the misguided philosophies and influence of Satan. (See Revelation 20:1-7)

To learn more about sin listen to, “Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?” and “Are All Sins Forgiveable?”

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December 27, 2021

Ep.1210: Whose Voices Are You Listening To?

Identifying what we hear, its affects and how to rise above the fray

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CHAPTERS

[00:15:47]
How do minimizing consequences and blaming others help contribute to committing immoral acts?


[00:31:54]
What are some reasons we use to justify immoral behavior?


[00:46:52]
How closely do we listen to the voice of social media?


Theme Scripture: Galatians 5:17

Technology brings the world to the palm of your hand. This means we are bombarded with voices. Worldly voices of opinion, anger, politics, perspective, ego, trends and personal interpretations of morality. If you have technology in your life, it is virtually impossible to completely shut these voices out. On the other hand, we have the voice of God through His Word and through His people. This voice is powerful but quiet. It is relevant but subtle; nourishing but it seems outdated. It is transformative in a very positive way, but it is also laughed at as out of touch. So, how do we identify the voices around us and then intentionally choose whose will influence us to listen?

Continue Reading

The voice loop

Our morality as humans is directly related to the voices we choose to listen to. It is woefully easy to get stuck in a “voice loop” where we allow certain voices, certain perspectives, to circulate nonstop in our minds. This results in two tragic consequences:

  1.  We probably don’t even know it’s happening. We have become accustomed to and comfortable with the voices we have chosen. They are now part of the furniture of our minds. Our conscious thoughts accept them as unequivocally belonging.
  2. These voices affect our behavior, leading us to something called “moral disengagement.”

Moral disengagement

is a cognitive mechanism that detaches our internal moral standards from our actions, allowing us to engage in unethical behavior without feeling distress. Historically, one of the most dramatic examples of this was Nazi Germany. The Nazi propaganda of that time labeled Jews, Gypsies and others as less than human. The victims were seen as rats. This voice loop became so pervasive that it led to a systematic attempt to exterminate these "vermin." It’s called genocide and became acceptable.

What does this atrocity have to do with us? Unfortunately, more than we might be comfortable admitting. Our “voice loops” likely include a lot more dehumanizing language than we might be aware of. Now, we can say that we’d never resort to genocide, and I hope that is true. The more piercing question is, are we on the same highway as those who became so morally disengaged that they consciously and efficiently destroyed millions of lives?

Check out our December 27, 2021 podcast, “Whose Voices Are You Listening To?” for more. We look at seven mechanisms of moral disengagement, beginning with dehumanization. We apply these mechanisms to how our tech-driven world shapes us and find some disturbing trends. Next, we apply these mechanisms to several people in the Bible who had power and influence. We find striking similarities! With all of this unsettling material to pour through, we also present sound scriptural principles to help us manage these difficult challenges. If the idea of being involuntarily fed destructive voices on a regular daily basis is disturbing, then join us. We face the issues of influence with faith, courage and godly solutions!

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December 27, 2021

Ep.: Has God hardened my heart and has His spirit left me?

God does not harden our hearts. Neither does He violate our free will. What about the time that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart?” The account is found in Exodus 7. Although it says that God hardened his heart, you must understand that it was Pharaoh who chose to resist the will of God and not let Israel leave Egypt. Had Pharaoh obeyed it would have indicated a heart that could be influenced for good. When God sent the plagues to force him to let Israel leave, God created the circumstances that led to Pharaoh’s reaction. But, it was Pharaoh who refused God’s will and chose to respond with a hard heart.

That is also true for you and me. When we experience hard trials we may react with bitterness and anger. If we persist in that response, we too can develop a heart that stubbornly refuses to learn from our experiences and becomes bitter. A tender heart does not respond in anger but contemplates things more deeply and chooses to trust in God.

In order to have God’s spirit, we must seek after Him more diligently. Psalm 34:15 says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.”  

This beautiful promise tells us first to love righteousness and what is true and good. When we do that with our heart, God sees us and hears our cries. When we struggle with life’s experiences, we have two choices. We can be angry with God or trust Him. Trusting Him requires that we remain completely dedicated to Him and His will for us. We cannot be part-time believers.

Proverbs 23:26 says,

“My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.”

If we give God our heart and do the best we can to observe His ways, He will not refuse us. He is a father who loves His children. There may be times He has to discipline us, but fatherly discipline is a sign of love, not rejection.

Hebrews 12: 6, 7 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. If ye endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?

Whatever the issues you are dealing with, take them to God in prayer and seek His guidance.

Romans 12: 1, 2 is very helpful guidance from the Apostle Paul. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

If you are doing these things to the best of your ability you will see God’s hand in your life more clearly. But be patient and remember that God knows we are fallen and sinful. When we fall He has provided the atoning merit of Christ to cover our sins.

“…And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1

To learn more about free will listen to, “Do We Really Have Free Will?”

To learn more about the holy spirit listen to, “How Can I Get the Holy Spirit?”

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December 22, 2021

Ep.: How do we harmonize discrepancies surrounding Jesus’ birth?

The accounts in Matthew and Luke do have differences that need to be investigated. Mark and John do not describe Jesus’ birth. Matthew tells us that after the birth of Jesus an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod’s plan to murder the children of Bethlehem. After Herod’s death, an angel appeared again to Joseph, instructing him to return to Israel. Upon his return he went to Nazareth. Jesus then grew up in Nazareth. When Mark and John describe Jesus being from Nazareth, they are simply saying he was raised there. So there is no conflict with the record of his birth in Bethlehem.

Luke states that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. People were then required to travel to the place of their birth to pay their tax. Since Joseph was born in Bethlehem he took Mary and went to pay the required tax. The fact that Matthew does not record this event does not mean it did not happen. In fact, in many apparent contradictions, an omission of a detail in one account means little. God provided multiple accounts to insure that the necessary details would be recorded.

Here are some of the differences between the Matthew and Luke accounts:

  • Matthew describes the wise men who came to Herod. Luke does mention the wise men.
  • Luke describes the angels that appeared to the shepherds. Matthew does not mention the shepherds.
  • Luke says that Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple after the purification time of Mary. Matthew does not mention this.
  • Luke says Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Nazareth. Matthew says they left for Egypt.
  • Matthew describes the wise men following a star. Luke does not mention the wise men.
  • Remember that a missing detail from one account does not invalidate the detail. We simply need to piece the accounts together.

This is what we can conclude.

  • Jesus was born in Bethlehem since that is where Joseph took Mary to pay their tax.
  • After Jesus’ birth an angel appeared to the shepherds who then came to the stable to see Jesus.
  • When Jesus was eight days old he was circumcised according to the Law.
  • 40 days after the birth (the purification time for Mary) Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.
  • From Jerusalem they returned to Nazareth.

Some time later the wise men, following a star, came to Jerusalem to enquire after the new king of Israel. This was not at Jesus’ birth but may have been one or even two years later. The wise men were told that the prophecy in Micah indicated the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Note however, that the Matthew account does not say the wise men went to Bethlehem.

After leaving Herod it says, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” 

Why would they rejoice so much if they knew they had to go to Bethlehem? But on seeing the star (which may have stopped guiding  them once they were in Israel) they followed it again. This time it led them directly to Jesus. They found him in a house not a manger. The house was likely in Nazareth where Joseph and Mary had returned to after taking the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem.

Herod however, believing that Jesus was in Bethlehem, ordered the killing of all children two years old and under. Warned in a dream, Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt, until the death of Herod. After Herod’s death an angel instructed Joseph to return and he came back to Nazareth.

This simple sequence of events harmonizes the two accounts. We do not need to doubt the inspired word. When it seems to contradict, we need to study more diligently.  It is only interpretations that are wrong.

To learn more about the account of Jesus’ birth listen to, “How Do We Keep Christmas About Jesus?”

To learn more about how to deal with apparent Bible contradictions visit our resource page: Bible Contradictions Explained

 

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December 20, 2021

Ep.1209: How Do We Keep Christmas About Jesus?

Remembering the inspiring events surrounding the birth of Jesus

If you do not have a password, please subscribe to our FREE Premium Content for the Full Edition version of CQ Rewind. The welcome message will contain your password, and a reminder will be sent each week when the CQ Rewind is available online for you to read, print, or download.

CHAPTERS

[00:15:58]
How did God's providence play a role in preparing the human family Jesus would be born into?


[00:29:32]
How can the humble beginnings of Jesus inspire us?


[00:42:44]
How does the majesty of Jesus' birth increase our faith?


Theme Scripture: Luke 2:10

So, what is Christmas about? Well, that depends on who you are. For some, Christmas is traditionally a time for family and friends. It’s a time when we are more likely to put aside the stresses of our daily grind and give a little more, smile a little more and notice what is around us a little more. It is a time to slow down and have gratitude. For others, it is a time of gifts, parties, decorations and entertainment. Spending goes into overdrive and the excitement rules the day. It is a time to speed up and be everywhere. For Christians, Christmas should be a time for gratitude as we reflect on the birth of our Lord Jesus. While we can do the family and friends things and also be part of the excitement and entertainment, how can we maintain our focus on the most important thing?

Continue Reading

How can we define the most important thing?

For me, it’s simple. I believe the most important thing is that the Bible not only reveals the voice of God, it also reveals that He has a plan. This plan is built around the fact that He knew humanity would sin. This sin would lead to eternal death. God pre-arranged a solution for this problem, and that solution would give every human being who ever lived a true opportunity for life. The solution's name is Jesus. God’s plan of redemption and reconciliation through Jesus IS the most important thing.

400 years of silence

Leading up to this most important thing was a pretty unnoticeable process. The Old Testament quietly ended, which meant God was no longer talking to Israel through prophets. Malachi was the last of those Old Testament prophets, and his final written words described the conditions for Jesus to arrive on the scene. Four-hundred years later, the angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias, the soon to be father of John the Baptist. And the New Testament is born!

God’s most important plan was now ready to bring the most important feature into focus. As the New Testament unfolds, we see how God orchestrated the events that lead to Jesus’ birth by way of His holy spirit and of angels. We will see how He designed the announcement of Jesus’ birth through angelic proclamation, accompanied by a magnificent chorus of countless angels. We will also see how God protected the child Jesus. This protection was enacted through several angelic messages. All of this added up to God providing powerful care so the greatest life ever lived could begin.

Check out our December 20, 2021 podcast, “How Do We Keep Christmas About Jesus?” for more. We tell the story of Jesus’ birth with particular focus on the extraordinary providences of God along the way. The lesson here is dramatic. Our ability to keep Christmas about Jesus is deeply enhanced when we understand how profoundly God took care of the details surrounding his birth. Join us and hear the story that began the life that changed everything!

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December 20, 2021

Ep.: How do you heal a split church?

Sometimes issues that divide must be addressed as a group and resolved before any healing can take place. A meeting with all sides present may be helpful. The focus should be to discuss and understand why the split has occurred. It should be made clear that everyone should speak respectfully and honestly evaluate the other sides views. Asking the Lord for guidance on how to move forward is important, knowing that His will should be followed with the Scriptures providing the guiding principles.

Dr. Gary Chapman was once discussing how to heal a friendship. He said that when people disagree, they tend to build walls that keep them apart. As long as the walls exist, the friendship will never be restored. Each side will usually build a wall. They build it believing they are right and the other side is wrong. The wall is made more impenetrable by feelings of resentment, anger and hurt feelings.

Before there can be any healing, the wall that each person put up must be taken down. If you have built a wall on your side, then you can only remove the wall you built. That means that the initial feelings that put up the wall must be overcome. One scripture that has helped me when I feel angry or bitter is Hebrews 12:15 from the Phillips Modern English translation:

“Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace which God gives, for if he does there can very easily spring up in him a bitter spirit which is not only bad in itself but can also poison the lives of many others.”

Hebrews 12:15

What this says is that if I fail to appreciate the forgiveness I have received from God, then a root of bitterness can lodge in my heart and poison those around me.  To get rid of the anger then means to focus on my own forgiveness. This will make me more forgiving of the shortcoming of others.  That is one tool to “take down my wall.”

You cannot take down the other side’s wall. But you can do and say things that may help them. Acts of kindness and expressions of love can help the other side want to remove their wall. Proverbs 15:1 is good advice. If we control our words, it may be like applying a healing ointment. It says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

Ephesians 4:31, 32 is also great advice:  “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

For more on forgiveness listen to, “Did I Really Forgive Them?”

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December 20, 2021

Ep.: Why won’t God give me a baby even after I pray for one?

Having an unfulfilled desire of your heart, especially for such a long time can be a challenging and heart wrenching experience.  These kinds of experiences can affect us mentally and emotionally when the desire we have is one that is godly. Wanting to have a child is certainly a godly desire and it can be frustrating and confusing to try to understand why God would not allow such a blessing.

There are times, even when we have a desire that is something we could use to bless God with, that God’s answer is “wait” and other times it is “no”.  This can be very difficult for us to understand, but this is because we cannot see our lives as a big picture like God does.

As a dedicated Christian, part of our journey in following Jesus is about focusing on what God wants for us.  At times this may be in conflict with what we want for ourselves and this, of course, is where the real challenge of our walk comes in. God’s will is always the best way and part of our development is learning to trust Him, even if we aren’t sure where He is leading us and even if we might not choose the path He is leading us down. God wants the absolute best for us and when you can focus on and remember that it can help to manage your feelings about not receiving the thing you want most in the world.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

We may not always understand where God is leading us, but the scriptures assure us that He will take care of us.

The question of course is, how do you manage your feelings and disappointment? Even if God’s answer is “wait”, putting your life on hold is stressful and untenable in the long term. We know our God is a God of miracles, but we also know that sometimes He has a different path that we might plan out and even when we accept that, we might still feel sad. Not being given the thing you want most can be heartbreaking, especially if you see others around you receiving something you want. First, you must guard your heart so that you do not become bitter and jealous, as this is something that can slowly and sneakily creep into your thoughts.  These thoughts are from Satan and you must remove them from your mind immediately.

Secondly, it is ok to feel sad for a time. You may experience the full grieving process of the death of an unfulfilled desire. You may even feel angry with God. During all of these emotions and steps in the grieving process, it’s important to continue to pray and to tell God what you are feeling. It is also important to find a circle of support of people that you trust to help you, even if it’s just one other person. As time goes on, it is important to focus on the blessings of your life and the opportunities ahead of you instead of the things that might not be.

Your experience may be a help to others who are going through similar pains and losses and someday in the future you may be able to help others. While we cannot always understand the purposes of God in our own lives sometimes, this is an opportunity to trust God even if it is not what you would choose for yourself. The development of our faith and trust in God is one of the most important purposes of our life and although this is a hard way to learn this, you will be stronger for it in the end.

Romans 8:28 says,

“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

No matter what path God is leading you down, know that God is working out everything for your best welfare.

For more on how to deal with grief and infertility listen to, “How Do You Find Your Way Through Grief?”

To understand why God does/doesn’t answer our prayers listen to, “Why Aren’t My Prayers Being Answered?”

To guard yourself from jealousy listen to, “Am I a Jealous Christian?”

You can also access our full resource page on grief itself: https://christianquestions.com/grief/

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December 20, 2021

VIDEO: Will the Earth Always Be Here?

God designed our earth for humankind to enjoy it forever in His future kingdom! Watch this short animated video with your kids to learn more.

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December 13, 2021

Ep.1208: Do We Really Have Free Will?

Understanding the power of free will and why we have it

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CHAPTERS

[00:13:17]
Does humanity's free will compare to God having free will?


[00:28:35]
Does God take away anyone's free will in order to accomplish His purposes?


[00:46:32]
What good is having free will if we all die in the end anyway?


Theme Scripture: Joshua 24:15

Outside of some deeply philosophical debates, the idea of human beings having inherent freedom of choice seems to be a generally acceptable premise. Free will makes us special. The capacity of conscious choice establishes humankind in a unique category in relation to the rest of life on our planet. When human beings interfere with the freedom of choice of other humans, the consequences are usually dark. We end up with things like oppression, slavery and dictatorships. Does God ever interfere with our freedom of choice? Does He ever override an individual’s chosen pathway and force them onto another one? Some scriptures seem to indicate this, but is it? How do we understand the value and application of human choice in God’s ultimate plan?

Continue Reading

Because the debates over free will are so varied, we will focus on free will as defined by three conditions:

  1.  The ability to do otherwise. This is the basis of free will, as it describes the fact that a choice exists because there are at least two alternatives.
  2. Control over one’s choices. We cannot be considered to be making a choice if we do not have personal say over the choices.
  3. Responsiveness to reasons. If my choice is based on “the luck of the draw,” I cannot be said to be choosing anything. Instead, I am simply accepting a result without any personal response to drive that acceptance.

When we look at the Bible, we can observe that God definitely gave humanity the gift of free will. This one thought can raise many questions regarding our relationship to God. For instance, if God gave us free will, then why doesn’t He give us better options to choose from? For the vast majority of humanity, the choices they are faced with always seem to be a mixed bag of good and bad no matter which way they go. If God loves us as we say He does, why isn’t there more quality in our daily choices?

Does God ever influence our choices so they really aren't ours anymore?

There are several scriptures that seem to indicate this is the case. If true, then is God contradicting the gift of free choice by taking it away from some?

Check out our recent podcast, “Do We Really Have Free Choice?” for more. We wade through the complexities of having a free will and discover the profound reasons that God gave such a gift to humanity. We look at several biblical examples that appear to show God overriding someone’s choices to find out what really happened. Finally, we put the whole equation together and discover how the whole freedom of choice thing fits into God’s plan. Free will is an extraordinary privilege. Join us as we uncover its power and place in the human experience!

 

 

 

 

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