Saved During the Tribulation?

January 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Posted in Eschatology, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 3 Comments

Dear Pastor Glenn,

The past few weeks I have been attending a new church – a Baptist church – that is much closer to me.  Because I am new, I’ve been paying attention to doctrine … and something finally hit me last night in our Sunday night get together.  In his sermon, the pastor mentioned that he did not believe there would be any salvation after the Rapture.  That “Even if you want to believe, you will not be able to.”  That God would not permit it.

Something about that rubbed me the wrong way.  So I decided to look through Revelation.  Right away, I found in Revelation 7 the image John writes about the Multitude from every nation and every tongue, washed clean and clothed in white robes … washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb and by the Great Tribulation.  This seems to me to describe that people will find Christ in the end times … in fact, a multitude beyond count will!

Glenn, could you offer any opinion or insight you have on this?

Thank you!

 

Dear _______,  It’s good to hear from you.

This whole area of what will happen during the Tribulation is a complicated one.  I grew up being taught one perspective, and have, over the years, migrated to another.  You can read many reasons for that transition in my blog by clicking on the Eschatology category link.  Not all those posts are about that matter in particular, mostly just the older ones.  Basically, I have become convinced that what we call the Rapture will take place after the Great Tribulation, not before it.  Again, it’s complicated, and related to some other major theological matters, but in it’s simplest form, I find Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:29-31, and the parallel in Mark 13, to be the clearest teaching about the time of the Rapture.  It will take place after what Jesus calls “a great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.”  I am assuming from your question that your pastor teaches that the Rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation.  If that is untrue, then much of what follows doesn’t apply.

Within my framework of understanding, your interpretation of Revelation 7 makes perfectly good sense (though some of that multitude will have been saved before the Tribulation).  I’m sure your pastor would have some other explanation for it.  The trouble with Revelation is that one’s end-time theology (that what “Eschatology” means) impacts the way it is interpreted more than the other way around.  When it comes to interpreting Revelation, I would be leery of anyone who can’t admit that.  Everyone admits that the book is full of symbolism, but just where the literal ends and the symbolism begins is not real clear.  And this is just one point where so many interpretations of Revelation are possible!

My perspective is that these matters are minor in comparison to some other issues.  However, these matters impact how we understand other theological issues, and visa-versa.  I don’t know that I’m familiar with the perspective your pastor is teaching, but it would make me question some other areas carefully.  Someone could come to that conclusion because they have what I might call a “hyper-dispensational” theology or because their understanding of the Gospel is different that what I believe the Bible teaches.  I grew up under dispensational teaching, but am no longer a dispensationalist; however, most who are dispensational are committed to the true Gospel, that is salvation is always a matter of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that is true in every era of history.  Some who call themselves dispensational, believe that God saves people in different ways throughout different eras of history.  Various views of this nature could lead to an understanding that no one can be saved during the Tribulation.

If this is where your pastor is coming from, I would be careful about what he believes is salvation.  Please note, I’m not saying he must have an errant view of salvation, I’m just saying, if it were me, I would pay close attention.  Even some whom I might call “hyper-dispensational” teach the true message of salvation in this era, but might believe it to be something else in other eras.  Personally I find that inconsistent, but I’m sure there are those who believe that way.

Finally, your comment “Even if you want to believe, you will not be able to.  God would not permit it” opens another big theological “can of worms” and demonstrates how different areas of theology impact our understanding of this matter.  This quote seems to confess that God is sovereign over salvation, but indicates that some who want God to save them cannot be saved.  Those two matters are totally inconsistent in my understanding.  I believe God is sovereign over matters of salvation, and that God draws to Jesus those who will be saved.  Jesus’ words in John 6:37, 44 are sufficient to prove this.  In other words, if someone wants to be saved, God is drawing him.  This last matter could take up shelves of theology books, and, in the past it has!

In conclusion, this is probably a minor issue (unless, of course, the pastor there makes it a major one), and if everything else lines with scripture, then this would not be a deal breaker.  If he makes it a major one, then I would carefully check out these other matters as well.  By the way, what he is telling you is not a Baptist distinctive, so don’t connect those in your mind.

Blessings, Pastor Glenn

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Thoughts on the NIV2011 (Volume 1)

December 8, 2011 at 9:45 am | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 2 Comments

I made some comments about the NIV2011 translation in church on Sunday, and I want to relate those here and clear up some confusion about what was said.  Some of what I say here might sound negative, so let me begin by stating that I am absolutely thrilled that we can even have this discussion in America.  There are many people in the world without God’s Word in their language, and there are hundreds of languages that have only one translation of the Bible.  Men like William Tyndale paid a great price to give us that opportunity, and in the midst of this debate, we should not forget it.

First, I wanted to warn the congregation that if they purchase an NIV they will not be buying the same Bible they’ve used for years.  When the NIV2011 recently came out, Zondervan, or maybe the translators, opted to give no indication in the packaging that this is a completely redone translation.  This is not a minor update, like the one in 1984, as there are differences everywhere, yet the cover and the box give no indication that this is an updated version.  The only way I could tell I was purchasing a 2011 version was to open the box and read the small print on the copyright page.  This appears to me to be a shady marketing scheme.  The publishers seem to be riding on the popularity of the NIV1984 while being afraid of the failure of the TNIV, and they are hoping to sell lots of Bibles without the purchasers realizing what they are buying.  Some people in the congregation have already told me they’ve done that.  The shelf at the Christian bookstore was full of NIVs and everyone I opened to look at was the 2011 edition, yet not one gave any indication of that fact.  The NASB made a major update in 1995, but for years after the cover of the NASB said ‘NASB Updated Edition” so the buyers would know what they were getting.  I understand that languages change and that Bible translations need occasional revisions, but when the changes are this dramatic, the reader needs to know.  I praise Christian Book Distributers since they indicate in the catalog which NIV they are selling under each catalog number.  If you want to find an NIV1984, look there.

Second, and I don’t think I made this point clear on Sunday, the NIV1984 is now out of print.  So the readers, and the preachers are forced to switch translations.  I said I would be deciding in the next year what Bible to preach from, and some people asked me why I would switch at all.  It is because we are being forced to switch by those who have decided not to print the NIV1984 any longer.  If the changes made in 2011 were small changes it wouldn’t matter, but because they are so abundant, everyone in the pew using a 1984 edition and following a preacher with a 2011 edition (or visa-versa) will notice and wonder why the differences.

Third, I let the congregation know that I will be reading through the NIV2011 for my devotions and private reading in 2012, and, sometime during that year, deciding whether to switch to that version for preaching or to the ESV.  I have been reading the ESV for the past two years, and am getting quite fond of it.  As someone who grew up on the NASB, the ESV, at least in places, feels somewhat like coming home, without all the archaic language.  I know many exegetical preachers with Reformed leanings, like me, have switched to the ESV in recent years.  This is not a decision I will take lightly.  I have been preaching out of the NIV for about 24 years and have memorized thousands of verses out of it, so any switch I make will be difficult for me too.  However, I want to give the congregation plenty of warning, so the y don’t just show up one week and find I’m using an unfamiliar Bible.  I will keep them (and you) posted as I read, and will tell them weeks in advance before the switch, so they can choose to purchase a new Bible if they wish.

Fourth, I told the congregation that I am currently leaning toward the ESV for two reasons.  The worldly marketing scheme that Zondervan seems to be following is one I don’t want to support with my congregation’s dollars.  And the NIV2011 translators opted to use the plural pronouns “they” and “them” for singular nouns in some cases.  I understand the argument of common usage and see why they chose to go that direction, but that usage has always grated on my nerves, regardless of how common it might be, and personally, I would have a hard time with it.

The NIV has been a great translation.  It does a marvelous job of balancing literalness with the need to clarify some meanings, and it captured the language of my generation better than any other attempt at Bible translation.  It’s no wonder that it’s been so popular.  I have been a fan for years; I even got on the waiting list to get a first print, first edition 1978 NIV; it was the first Bible I ever read all the way through; the NIV had a profound influence on my Christian walk; but, alas, all good things must come to an end.  I hope to publish some of my thoughts over the next months on theses pages, so you can keep up with my travels in this regard.

For my conclusions on NIV vs ESV check out my post called Grieving the NIV

Scribal Variances and Bible Errors

July 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 1 Comment

Moore to ponder asked a question in the comments section of the previous post, and the lengthy answer, which is still too brief to be a great explanation, requires more than another comment.

Theresa,

Thanks again for reading and for your comments.  I see now I should have preferenced the previous post with some things that might have kept your kinds of questions from coming up.  The post is directed to a very small target group, and some who haven’t studied these matters could understand them to say there are errors in the Bible.  I am not addressing those who prefer the KJV because they like the poetic language or because they grew up with it, but at a group that believes only the KJV should be read in English and that all others are simply wrong.  One look at your posted devotions tells one you are not in that camp; if you were you wouldn’t quote so many different versions.

However, there is a small group that believes all versions other than the KJV are heretical, and they are very vocal about it.  They base their argument on the manuscripts that the KJV was translated from.  And that opens up a whole new world of issues that could be discussed.

Have you ever heard someone say, “You can’t trust the Bible because it has thousands of errors;” or “The Bible has been translated and retranslated so many times that we really don’t know what it says.”?  These types of criticisms are addressed in the Manuscript Game to help people see that we really can trust the Bible.  There are thousands of scribal errors in the manuscripts of the New Testament; we have over 5,000 manuscripts, and no two are exactly alike.  But scribal errors in the manuscripts are not the same thing as errors in the Bible.  Without a printing press, everything had to be copied by hand over and over for centuries, and scribes, as careful as they were, sometimes made mistakes.  Read the italicized sentence again; it is very important but often ignored by liberal critics.

However, the vast majority of the scribal errors are absolutely inconsequential when it comes to the meaning of the Bible.  They are spelling variations, which were common in the old world; slight word order changes, which are meaningless in Greek; and common name and title substitutions, like substituting Jesus, Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus our Lord, or Jesus Christ our Lord for one of the others.  Even with these differences, it is easy to determine the original wording in most of these cases.  The vast majority of scholars who do this kind of work are in agreement on what the original words of the New Testament were.

In answer to your question about errors in the passages you quote.  There are not any in the passages or in their meaning, but there may be some in the different manuscript copies of those passages.  A quick glance at my references tells me that there are none in Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:15 and Matthew 4:4.  However, there are some variances amongst the manuscripts of Romans 10:9.  Some say “confess with your mouth lord Jesus;” some “confess with your mouth lord Jesus Christ;” and a few “confess the word with your mouth that Jesus (is) lord.”  This is typical of the kind of variances there can be.  Not one of them has significance, and the meaning is perfectly clear.

By the way, variances of this type are in every piece of ancient literature.  This is not just a Bible issue.  The Bible has more of these scribal errors simply because we have so many more ancient manuscripts of the Bible.  But, even with those, is better attested than any other piece of ancient literature.  We can have more confidence in it than anything else we read from the old world.

In the few places where the meaning of a specific passage is at stake, the meaning and message of the Bible never is.  One can prove all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity from most any reputable translation of the New Testament, or from almost any ancient manuscript of the New Testament (if they can read it!), because the meaning of the Bible is clear.  I say “reputable” because there are a few translation with unchristian biases that influenced the translator’s work.  I’ve never seen you quote one of those; you may not even own one.

When I study the NT I read as much in the Greek as possible, and I refer to the ESV, NIV, NASB and NET most often.  However, since I have an interest in the history of the Bible in English, I have collected over 50 different English translations of the NT or parts of it, and sometimes I refer to all of them!  Most people have no idea there are that many.

We can have great confidence that God has clearly spoken in the Bible, and we that know what it says.  If these matters are interesting enough that someone wants to do more study, there are some books that could be read to help clarify the matter.  The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce is probably the most well known.  And a really good presentation that requires no language understanding is How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot.

P. S.  Thanks again for reading.  I have enjoyed your comments and posts since we first connected.  You’ve never heard of the Manuscript Game, because it has only been used here in our church, but some here are trying to find a way to market it on a broader scale.  It is a fun educational tool.

Questions for KJV Only Advocates

July 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 2 Comments

I lead “The Manuscript Game” with some people from my nephew’s small group.  This game is designed to give participants confidence that we know what the original documents of God’s Word say, in spite of how often it has been copied and recopied; in spite of what critics say about not being able to know because our copies are so many generations removed from the originals.  It is a great exercise, and if you are interested in the game, let me know.  I might be able to lead it for you too.

One of the guys playing the game had been influenced by the King James Version Only (KJVO) teaching.  I’ve lead this game with some who had been influenced by that teaching before, but never to this extent.  David wasn’t a sold out KJVO advocate, but he did know the arguments they use.  The Manuscript Game reveals some of the fallacies of their thinking.  I even try to convince the people playing that the majority manuscript is the correct one, and have only been successful convincing one person of the roughly 50 who’ve played it, and even that  was a temporary convincing for one round of the game.   Even David argued strongly that the oldest manuscript should be way more authoritative than the majority.

After leading the game I was thinking about the arguments for the KJVO philosophy and have some questions you can ask someone who thinks that way.  I don’t consider myself an expert on this matter, but I have read some of the KJVO material, and these questions address the arguments used in that material.

1. Why do you say that the KJV was translated from manuscripts “closer to” the original rather than manuscripts that “are identical” to the original?  This question is important because KJVO advocates are so adamant that God would never allow his Word to be corrupted, yet every manuscript is unique with its scribal errors; no two are alike.  If God wouldn’t allow his Word to be corrupted through scribal transmission, then we should have a manuscript that is “identical to” not “closer to” the original.  Can you actually make that claim?

2. If God will not allow his Word to be corrupted, then why did he allow so many different manuscripts to be out there?  Of the over 5,000 existing manuscripts of the New Testament, only one at most can be identical to the original.  The KJVO advocates I’ve heard proclaim they are certain they have God’s Word because they use the majority text.  They play the same game of looking at the textual evidence and deciding which variants are correct, they just eliminate a big chunk of evidence before they play, for even the “majority text” is an eclectic edition of many other variants.

3. What hard evidence do you have that Textus Receptus (or majority text) is closer to the original than any other manuscript or textual family?  This question points out that KJVO advocates eliminate a huge amount of evidence – the very evidence that destroys their dearly held theory.  Unless they can give a solid reason why this evidence should be eliminated, then this question proves they are using circular reasoning.  If they argue that the best manuscripts haven’t survived as well as the corrupt ones, then, once again, they deny their own dearly held belief about God’s Word never being corrupted, because God allowed only the corrupt versions to remain.

4. Does your argument that Textus Receptus is closer to the original, when there is so little evidence to support it, play directly into the hands of the critics who say we can’t know the original because the Bible has been copied and recopied so many times?  They, just like you, want to ignore the hard evidence that gives a level of certainty about the original in favor of an all-or-nothing theory.  They use the same methods as you, they just opt for the nothing side of the conclusion.

5. Have you ever read the preface to the 1611 KJV?  The translators of the KJV admit that there were good translations before theirs and that other good ones would follow.  They go so far as to say that “varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures,” and “We affirme and auow that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.”  Why do your claims about their translation work go way beyond their own?  And how can you say there is only one English translation, when they recognized so many others?  Even when they quote scripture in the preface to the KJV they quote other translations, usually the Geneva Bible!

Bible Downloads: NET, ESV, etc.

May 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 4 Comments

Pastor Glenn,

Hi!  What are your thoughts on the NET version of the Bible?  I’m a little trepid about randomly choosing new translations of the Bible to read, simply because some translations come from unhealthy origins, and sometimes these origins are purposefully obscured.

I remember reading a very positive markup of the New World Translation on Wikipedia, only to discover later that the page had been modified to remove a lot of the critical sections. They have since been restored, and I discovered that the NWT takes a lot of liberties with the deity of Christ.  Because things like this can so easily slip under the radar, I figured I’d better ask, rather than just take Wikipedia’s word for it.

I haven’t read a whole lot of it, but I did find the inclusion of such vast translation notes to be an interesting facet.  One interesting point they raise is that “Elohim” is plural because it can also mean “God of gods”, which means it is an honorary term for God, saying that he is above all of the “little ‘g’ gods.”  At least, according to their translation notes – I am none the wiser.

Dear ____________

The NET was translated by a team of evangelicals to be specifically a digital Bible, the first translated with that in mind.  Their translation philosophy was similar to that of the NIV (which is another huge discussion in itself).  They use gender neutral pronouns in places, which is a negative in the minds of some.  I don’t care for it in many contexts, but it gets the point across in many others, and is probably more true to the original thought.  Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of people.”  It gets the original thought across, but loses so much of its punch.  1 Timothy 2:1-8 is a passage I always check to see how it is translated in this regard.  It is a passage pretty-near impossible to translate into English clearly and consistently.

I have a print copy of the NET text on my shelf and refer to their www.bible.org website often – not to check the translation so much as to refer to their notes – probably the best collection of footnotes ever put together.  There are three kinds of notes:  tn translator’s notes for those who are missionary translators or who want to know more about the translators reasoning;  sn study notes for more depth or background;  tc for those interested in textual criticism, though it seems they kept these to a minimum compared to the other kinds of notes.  Those interested in textual criticism studies will usually have a Greek NT with those notes in it.

The list of endorsements for the NET is long and impressive, including pastoral names like Charles Swindoll and theologians like Wayne Grudem.  But a quick scan of their endorsements mentions the notes more than the translation itself.

I read the NET NT a few years ago and have a few notes on translation dislikes.  Here are a few examples, remembering that I usually don’t write anything down unless it is a negative in my mind; that doesn’t mean all my thoughts are negative:  First, there seems to be some inconsistency in translation.  Sometimes this is done for literary purposes to avoid the feel of redundancy in English, which is common in Greek, but when two identical phrases or passages are translated differently for no apparent reason, that seems to me to be inconsistent.  Matthew 4:23 says Jesus was “preaching the gospel of the kingdom,” and 9:35 says he was “preaching the good news of the kingdom.”  Why the change?  You can see a similar thing in Mathew 24:23-24 and Mark 13:21-22, where Messiah and Christ are unnecessarily interchanged within each passage (in my mind this is confusing at best).  Second, there are a few times when the NET says saved “by the faithfulness of Christ,” rather than “by faith in Christ,” which is true and can be a valid translation, but seems to miss the point of the passage (Galatians 2:15-21 for example.  However, I admit I would have to do more study to understand their reasoning on this.)

For a reading translation, I still like the NIV better.  For a more literal English study version, I prefer the NASB(1995) or the ESV.  However, like I said, the study notes of the NET are unmatched anywhere.  There should be no theological worries about the NET Bible, as there are with the New World Translation.

The New World Translation was translated by the founder of the Jehovah Witness, who had no formal Greek background and is definitely biased against the deity of Jesus.  I would say it was translated specifically with that idea in mind, though JWs certainly deny that.

I hope this helps, Pastor Glenn

 Dear Pastor Glenn,

Yeah, this helps a lot.  In other news, I’ve found some free Bible downloads for smartphones.  Unfortunately, I can’t get the NIV, since it’s not offered.  They do offer a number of other translations, so I went and grabbed the NET, and the Amplified, along with the NASB, and ESV, like you suggested.  Do you have a favorite Bible for “just reading” other than the NIV?

Dear ____________

Copyright rules make some newer Bible versions difficult to find for free download.  I’m surprised the ESV was available for you.  Though it is considered a mostly literal translation, you might find it is easily readable (more so than the NASB).  It has been growing in popularity with conservative churches, and I am reading the NT through for devotions this year.  BTW which NASB did you get 1971 or 1995?  The newer version thankfully dropped all the ancient pronouns in reference to God.  That change alone makes the newer much more readable.  The TNIV is being replaced, so it might be available.  It has it’s problems in a few places, but reads identical to the NIV almost everywhere.

If you can find some older, out of print versions, here are two you might like for reading purposes:  The New Testament in the Language of the People, by Charles B. Williams, Moody Press, 1937.  Williams is known for bringing out the nuances of the Greek verb tenses.  The Holy Bible in the Language of Today, William F. Beck, Holman, 1976, (though I believe it is at least a decade older than that date).  It is also known as The Holy Bible, an American Translation.  Beck was a Greek and Hebrew scholar whose passion was to make the Bible clear to everyone.  I guess these two depend on how “modern” you consider the American English of the 30s or the 60s.

Happy reading!

Spiritual Prayers?

April 27, 2011 at 8:37 am | Posted in Prayer, Questions for Pastor Glenn | Leave a comment

Dear Pastor Glenn,

I heard a radio preacher recently say that all Paul’s prayers were spiritual prayers and that ours should be also.  Is this true?  And if so, how can we make our prayers spiritual prayers?

Thanks for you help,

Dear ________

Are Paul’s prayers always for spiritual things?  I appreciate the question, because it relates to how we pray for others.  I make no claim to be a prayer expert in my understanding and certainly not in practice.  I wish I could more often pray the kind of prayers Paul prayed for his churches.  But I will attempt to give my biblical understanding of this issue.  I see two areas to address.  First, what is “spiritual” as compared to “unspiritual” or “secular?”  And second, what was the content of  Paul’s prayers in the New Testament?

What is “spiritual?”  I don’t know what the radio speaker meant by this, since I didn’t hear him.  However, there are some issues that we tend to think of as more spiritual than others, but this is a flaw in our thinking,  It was Paul who said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men.”  And “Whether you eat of drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” (Col 3:23; 1 Cor. 13:31)  It seems from comments like these that Paul sees no difference between the secular and the spiritual.  To him everything was “spiritual.”  Tentmaking was as “spiritual” to Paul as preaching.  Each could be done wholeheartedly with excellence to God’s glory, and each could be done selfishly and sloppily.  To make a separation  would also separate between professions and make people who are professionals at “spiritual” matters (like preachers and missionaries) somehow better than those who have any other kind of job.  But the truth is that each of us must do with excellence whatever God calls us to do, and that is “spiritual” activity.  I would add that even preaching or mission work is not “spiritual” activity when done haphazardly, or with false motives or hidden agendas.  I know from experience that all three of those are common problems – sometimes I don’t even know my own motives and agendas in ministry!

A famous Christian classic was written hundreds of years ago by one we know only as Brother Lawrence (with the help of a friend) called The Practice of the Presence of God.  It illustrates this point better than anything I could say or do.  Brother Lawrence was a monk assigned to the kitchen cleaning crew, but he saw it as a way to glorify God and wrote about it in his book.  His friend says of him, “The most effective way Brother Lawrence had for communicating with God was simply to do his ordinary work.  He did this obediently out of a pure love of God.  He believed it was a serious mistake to think of our prayer time as being different from any other.”  And “He was content doing even the smallest chore if he could do it for the love of God.”  In other words, Brother Lawrence would say whatever God would have you do, that is spiritual activity.  That seems to exemplify Paul’s attitude about life.

In light of your question, I would only add this comment:  Whatever God would  have you pray, that is a “spiritual” prayer.  Paul’s prayers would testify to this, which brings up the second issue.

Paul prayed for things like “that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” and “that you may know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (all from Ephesians 1:17-19)  These certainly sound like very spiritual things, and they appear to be the majority of his recorded prayers.  But he also prayed “that a way may be opened for me to come to you” (Rom 1:10), “that you may be able to discern what is best,” (Phil 1:10) “that you may have great endurance, “ (Col 1:11) and “that we may see you again.” (1 Thess 3:10)  This second list sounds more like practical than spiritual matters.

The seeming spiritual  nature of Paul’s prayers comes, I believe, from the fact that so many of them are recorded in his letters to churches rather than individuals.  The only prayers Paul can express for everybody in a church are those “spiritual” issues he desires for everybody because space and knowledge do not allow for personal, everyday kind of requests.

In addition to that, we have some commands from Paul that indicate the broad nature of his prayer requests, including these:  “Pray for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.” (1 Tim 2:2)  “The widow who is left all alone continues to pray and ask God for help.” (1 Tim 5:5)  “Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, so that I may come to you with joy.” (Rom 15:31 – this one sounds about as practical and “unspiritual” as it gets!)  And finally, “in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests by made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)  By everything, I take him to mean even those things some would consider “unspiritual.”

The things Paul prayed for his churches are things we can pray for anyone, but there are many more issues we can take to God as well.  When you are led to pray for someone on a more specific matter, even if it seems less spiritual, go ahead and pray those things.  I think God is delighted in our prayers, even when we ask him for the mundane.  Maybe he’s especially delighted when we ask for the mundane, because it is a recognition of his providence over everyday matters.

In Jesus, Pastor Glenn

Will Judgment Come on May 21?

April 20, 2011 at 10:26 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology, False teaching, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 1 Comment

Pastor Glenn,

What do you think about all these signs around town calling May 21 the Judgment day and October 21 the day the world will end?  I am curious because I went to one website that listed all these dates since creation of the world and apparently these dates fall into proper order.  I don’t really get what they mean and how they came up with them!

Dear ________

They make some stupid assumptions; then add some spurious calculations; then get all the media attention they can get.  They will then tell you that all churches but theirs are corrupt and you must follow them.  Its has happened many times over since Jesus left the earth, and they’ve all been wrong.  The same people promoting May 21 have missed some other dates already.  Jesus promised to come back and said only the Father knows.  Best to stick with his plain words.

Pastor Glenn

My short answer was do to the format: communicating on Facebook.  There is, of course, much more that could be said.  Interestingly enough, the same day I got this question, I had read Acts 1 in my devotions.  Acts 1:8 is a verse well known to Christians, and the verses immediately before it address this very issue.  After his resurrection, the disciples met Jesus on the mountain he told them about.  They then asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  So Jesus responded, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”  Note the plain truth of the statement.  But what struck me is the connection between this and verse 8.  Jesus’ entire answer is “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  BUT you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  There is a big BUT connecting these two thoughts.  In other words, rather than speculate about such things, Jesus wanted his followers to focus on something else, on what he called them to do.

If Jesus comes back on May 21, 2011 or October 21, 2011 or December 21, 2012, that would be wonderful!  But that shouldn’t be our focus.  Our focus should be knowing Jesus Christ and making him known to others around the world.  Let’s let the Father worry about such things and be about the business to which he called us.

Salvation by Grace through Faith? Look at the Overwhelming Evidence!

April 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Posted in False teaching, Grace and Faith, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance, Theology | 8 Comments

Do we really believe that God offers salvation freely by his grace, and that our part is simply to trust in his provision?  I am so often hit with questions about this matter that I thought I would post many or these references together.  There are those who teach that we must practice certain things or go through certain rituals to be saved.  But what does the Bible say?  Look at the overwhelming evidence in this matter.  Notice that there are not just a few verses pulled out of context but some long passages and references from four of the major authors of the New Testament.

From Luke:

Acts 2:21;  Acts 4:4;  Acts 10:43;  Acts 13:38-39;  Acts 14:1, 27;  Acts 15:6-11;  Acts 16:29-31;  Acts 18:27;  Acts 20:21;  Acts 26:12-18.

From Paul:

Romans 1:16-17;  Romans 3:21-26, 27-30;  Romans 4:1-25;  Romans 5:1-11;  Romans 10:9-13;  Galatians 2:15-21;  Galatians 3:1-15;  Galatians 5:2-6;  Ephesians 1:13-14;  Ephesians 2:8-10;  2 Timothy 3:14-15;  Titus 3:3-7.

From John:

John 1:10-13;  John 3:14-17, 18, 36;  John 5:24;  John 6:28-29, 35, 40, 47;  John 7:37-39;  John 8:24;  John 11:25-26;  John 12:44-46;  John 20:30-31;  1 John 5:11-13.

From Peter:

1 Peter 1:3-5, 18-21;  1 Peter 2:6-10.

Maybe you never realized the Bible was so overwhelmingly clear.  Maybe you’ve run across this post because you’re under the teaching of someone who wants you to sign on his program or get baptized by his church because, he tells you, it’s the only way you can be saved, and he’s quoted to you a few obscure verses twisted to his purposes.  Maybe you think you’re saved because you were baptized or you’ve done many good works or you walked down a church aisle one day.  Maybe you’re trusting in yourself and what you can do.  The Bible is unmistakably clear on this matter:  Salvation is a gift of God’s grace through our trust in Jesus.  All that must be paid for our salvation has been paid by Jesus.  When you trust in him you are eternally saved from your sin.  Put your trust in Jesus today.

“Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.  He has crossed over from death to life.”  –Jesus

Christian Suicide

April 5, 2011 at 10:02 am | Posted in It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance | 4 Comments

To my readers: I would encourage you to also read the comments section of this post.  Some friends with greater understanding than mine have written some wise words about this topic. –Pastor Glenn

I received the following e-mail from an unnamed source whose address began with Q, so I will simply call the person Q.  Pray for Q if you feel so led.  Maybe some others need this information as well.

Pastor Glenn,

I was wondering if you could tell me what the Bible says about a Christian taking his own life?  Would that person go to heaven or go to hell?  I was wondering if you could back it up with scripture?  I’ve contemplated this for long time and have come to no conclusion. I really need to know. Please help.

Thank you for your time!

Dear Q,

The Bible doesn’t say much about suicide directly, although much of what the Bible says impacts our understanding of that topic.  But your asking about it makes me wonder why.  I can understand that you might be in great physical or emotional pain, and I feel for you.  But God in his grace can help you deal with life and come out of your darkness.

With that said, I can only imagine four reasons why someone would ponder such a decision.  The first reason would be that you don’t know Jesus.  In other words you may not be a Christian in the Biblical sense of the word.  When someone trusts in Jesus, the Bible assures us that God’s Spirit comes into that person’s life and gives them a reason to live.  The manifestation of the Spirit in one’s life is joy and peace.  Maybe you aren’t trusting Jesus but are trusting in your religion, or your good works, or in your friends or family’s faith.  True salvation means turning our backs on everything we would seek life in and trusting totally in Jesus.

Second, you might ponder that decision because, though you have trusted Jesus, you haven’t learned what He means in your life.  He really does give abundance and meaning, but such meaning is for his glory and not our own.  Life really is all about God and not about us.  Suicide is the ultimate selfishness.  It looks at life from one’s own perspective regardless of God’s view and the feelings of others.  Take time to read the NT passages about who we are “in Christ,”  and spend a lot of time in the Psalms.  The authors of the Psalms are brutally honest about struggles and darkness in their lives, yet they always come back to God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.  Please read the first 50 Psalms numerous times in the next few months, even if you don’t think this is the reason for your question.

Third, you might ponder suicide because you have been oppressed by the demonic.  If this is the case, you need to get help from someone who knows God’s Word and has dealt with these situations before.

The only other reason I can think of giving rise to such ponderings is an imbalance in your own system that requires medical attention.  Though I tend to think the professional counseling community overemphasizes this, it is still a real possibility.  This too requires some professional help.

If you are a Christian, as you say you are, then God has a great plan for your life.  Your life is much more than the problems you face.  You have the amazing opportunity to be apart of something so much bigger, an opportunity to impact those around you for all eternity.  Focus on God and his plan rather than your self and your struggles.

Whatever may be happening, and whatever the reason, get some help.  Those who truly know Jesus will welcome you with grace rather than condemnation and will help you discover God’s purpose in your life.

In the grip of His grace,

Pastor Glenn

For another perspective on this matter, please check out my article called, Life Can Be Empty.

Is Christmas Pagan?

October 6, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Questions for Pastor Glenn | Leave a comment

I received a note from a woman who has been challenged on the history and pagan origins of celebrating Christmas.  Though I can’t reprint the letter here, I can show a part of my response to her.

          As to the celebration of Christmas, and to whether it is a pagan or Christian holiday.  Here’s my understanding.  Christmas is a Christian holiday, that ‘s why it’s called CHRISTmas, though it is not a biblical one.  However, December 25 has been a pagan holiday for centuries in many cultures around the northern hemisphere.  There is a simple explanation for that.  December 25 is, so I’ve been told, the first day the naked eye can determine that the sun is returning north; December 21 being its farthest southern migration.  That is the perfect scenario to celebrate the sun god or the summer god or, in the Roman case, Saturnalia.  Some believe the latter to be a week-long celebration ending on December 24/25.  Whether or not Christians should celebrate it is a matter with a couple of factors.

          First, should Christians celebrate at all?  Sounds like a stupid question, but there are some who believe celebration of any kind is prohibited.  I wonder what bible they read.  God encourages his people to celebrate, and the celebrations in the OT often relate to the events of their redemption.  Passover is the most obvious, remembering the release from slavery, but Tabernacles remembers the travels in the desert, and Yom Kippur (sometimes called the Day of Atonement) is the day of sacrifice for sins (though this is more solemn than one might think of “celebration”).  Later added holidays like Purim and Hanukah also recall redemption events in Israel’s history.  In addition to these there are Pentecost (sometimes called the Harvest Feast, the First Fruits and Feast of Weeks) which celebrated the early barley harvest, and the celebration tithe, some believe this to be a second (or even third) tithe offering.  This offering was eaten in celebration by the family who gave it!  Imagine preachers teaching that kind of tithe today!  All this adds up to say that God wants his people to celebrate.

          The further question then would be, what do we celebrate, the events of the OT or something new?  If the biggest celebrations were reminders of the great events of their redemption, then why shouldn’t we celebrate the great events of our redemption, especially Jesus’ coming, his death and his resurrection?  The answer seems most obvious to me: we should celebrate those things.

          So if we celebrate Jesus’ coming, how and when should we do it?  Not all the history is clear, but it seems the early Christians, who began celebrating on December 25 did so because that was a day people were going to celebrate anyway, and we really don’t know when Christ was born.  Does that make the celebration pagan?  Were those early believers taking a part of culture and baptizing it to look Christian when they should have separated from it?  Or were they taking a part of culture and redeeming it for better purposes.  I tend to believe the latter, however, that doesn’t downplay the danger of losing the Christian meaning in the party atmosphere of the surrounding culture.  How to live in culture and redeem part of it without adapting the pagan meanings of it is always a tricky balance, but one we strike on more fronts than holiday celebrations.

          As to the Christmas tree being in the Bible.  Jeremiah 10 is the passage often associated with this thought.  The chapter says , “the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest . . they adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.”  That certainly could be read to sound like what we do in December.  This chapter is talking about those who make statues out of the trees and then worship those dead statues as though they had life in them.  That is worthless in comparison to the living God.  Are our Christmas trees reminders that Christ is the light of life, or are they objects which, in our minds, take on a life of themselves that deserves worship?  In this matter, there is a third possibility: Are our trees so much a part of our celebration, we feel we can’t celebrate without them?  Most often, I fear it is this third option, which may not mean that the tree is an idol per se, but may indicate we have lost the meaning of Christmas and replaced it with emotional emptiness.

          Obviously, as you’ve said, many of these things depend on the meaning we attach to them.  If you can celebrate Jesus’ coming on December 25 without buying into the typical drunkenness, materialism and emptiness attached to it, then celebrate with all your heart.

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