Saturday, October 30, 2004

Can you Believe in God & be Faithful to Him, but not Believe in Jesus and Still go to Heaven?

The short answer to this question is; no. Jesus says in John 14:6, referring to Himself, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” But it is important to realize why it has to be this way. You see, the whole reason we are separated from God in the first place is because we are sinners, in other words, we are people who do things we know we shouldn’t do. Because God is perfect and holy, it is impossible for him to be around sinful humans. God saw that this was a problem so he sent his son Jesus who lived a perfect life to die on our behalf. When Jesus died something amazing happened. In God’s eyes, all the sins that you and I have ever committed were transferred to Jesus. It’s kind of like if you are standing before a Traffic Judge and he says you are guilty of several speeding violations, but then turns around and pays for the ticket out of his own pocket. The Judge recognized that in order to be just, these wrongs needed to be corrected, but he also knew you couldn’t pay for them yourself. If we didn’t believe in Jesus, than there would be no payment made for our sins and those sins would keep us away from God. Belief in Jesus is more than just believing that a long time ago this guy named Jesus existed and actually lived (although that is an important part of it). It is also recognizing that we can’t get to Heaven on our own. Only through Jesus’ paying for our sins could we be allowed in.

There is another way we can look at this question in addition to what we discussed before. Imagine you are looking at it from God’s perspective. For this exercise we will have to stretch our imaginations, but if you bear with me you’ll see the point. Let’s pretend that one of your close friends stole a million dollars from you. He was then arrested and sentenced to life in prison. After some bargaining with the lawyers the Judge decides he’ll let your friend out of jail, if you allow your son to be beaten and jailed in his place. Now, you love this friend of yours more than anything so you decide to allow your son to be imprisoned and beaten on his behalf. So your friend is released from prison and your son taken in exchange. When your friend is released you are there waiting to meet him. However instead of walking up to you and greeting you with hug, he walks right past you and gives you a nasty look. For some unknown reason, he never wants to speak to you again. Not a “thank you” or a “why did you do that for me?” Nothing. He refuses to acknowledge the sacrifice you made and simply chooses to believe that it must have just been his lucky day. After such an enormous sacrifice by you, your friend flat out rejects you. How would you feel? Wouldn’t you want some recognition for the sacrifice you made? God feels the same way.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

If God is Everywhere, Why do we Need to go to Church? Can't we Just Pray in our Homes and Ask for Forgiveness There?

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to have a true understanding of what “church” is. In asking if God is everywhere and if we can pray in our homes and ask for forgiveness there, the answer to both would be yes. This is shown by Christians whom are bedridden or otherwise unable to attend church. However, this is not the norm and not how God designed church to be. In fact, in the book of Hebrews God tells us directly to make sure we are involved in a church.

Although the church has many functions, I’d like to focus on just two of them. The first reason one should go to church is for the fellowship with other believers. Let’s face it; it’s tough to live on this planet. With all the problems that face us there are going to be times we will need to depend on other people. Likewise, in good times for us, there will be other people who will need to depend on us. This is the function of the church. To be a place where Christians can come together to help and encourage one another while learning more about God.

The other function of the church is that of holding each other accountable for our lives. You see, when we give our lives to Christ it is real easy to live a “moral life” for a short time. However, there will be times when it isn’t so easy. During these times that it isn’t so easy, we can lean on people in the church to help hold us accountable to making good choices. Think about your own life; let’s say you were tempted to cheat a little on your income tax report. If you knew for a fact that the IRS was going to be asking you the very next day if you cheated or not, would you still do it? Most likely not. It works the same way in the church when we develop friendships with other Christians who can help us to make sure we are making the right choices.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Are Some of the Stories in the Bible Simply Fables (i.e. Jonah and the Whale, the Tower of Babel, Noah’s and the Flood, Adam and Eve)?

The short answer to the question of whether or not any of the stories in the Bible are fables or not is no they are not fables and they actually happened. The next logical question I’m sure you’d ask is “how do we know?” So I will continue and answer that question. Dozens and dozens of books have been written on how we can trust the stories in the Bible as truth, but I will just look at a few of points made.

First, we know that the Bible tells us all of the events are true. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” This means we can trust that all the Bible is true, even the parts we don’t understand.

Secondly we know that the Bible (both the Old and New Testament) is without errors (minus a few very minor copyist errors dealing with large numbers). The Old Testament we have today is the same Old Testament that was used and quoted by Jesus. The New Testament we use today is the same one that was compiled shortly after Jesus' death. We have found more manuscripts for the Bible than any other ancient text. In fact, there are over 24,000 manuscripts (or parts of) of the Bible while the second closest number is 643 manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad. By having this many manuscripts we can compare them and see that the Bible has not been changed over time.

A third factor we can use to trust the Bible is from non-biblical sources. There are many records of ancient Jewish and Roman historians who were NOT Christians, yet wrote about Jesus and his followers. Sociologists (those that study people groups) have noted that almost every major ancient people group has some type of story that is similar to the Bible’s account of Noah’s flood. People who study languages seem to agree that we can trace back all languages to one root language. This would be consistent with the Bible’s account of the Tower of Babel.

A fourth factor we can use is archeological evidence. When archeology became recognized as a reputable method of science less than a hundred years ago, atheists were sure it would prove the Bible was wrong. Actually, just the opposite happened. Thousands of discoveries have proven that events the Bible claim In fact, the Bible has been viewed as being so accurate that I’ve heard reports that people from the National Geographic Society (which is NOT a Christian organization) will sometimes use the Bible to help them in their archeological digs. I would also like to mention that no archeological discovery has ever been able to directly contradict a Biblical account.

We should not be surprised by all of this evidence pointing to the accuracy of the Bible. Our God is wonderful God who would never lead us astray. When we read about stories in the Bible that seem hard to believe, we must remember that they seem hard to believe because they are miracles. The very definition of a miracle requires direct action by God. It shouldn’t be surprising that when God acts, it appears as something way different from our ordinary lives

Monday, October 25, 2004

What are the Differences between the Christian Religions? Shouldn’t there Just be One?

Normally when this question is asked there is some confusion over the term “Christian Religions” because Christianity is by itself a religion. More often than not, the question is asking what are the differences between the Christian denominations (i.e. Baptists, Pentecostals, Orthodox, etc.). Basically what it comes down to is that when Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic church he formed what is known as the Protestant Church. The word Protestant comes from the word Protest because Martin Luther was protesting against the Catholic Church for using other means besides the Bible as words from God. Since that point in the 1500’s there have been many disagreements over minor things such as how much water should one baptize with, how to sing worship, what songs to use, how the church should be governed and so on. These arguments have led to the various denominations found today. Unfortunately a lot of these groups insist that their way is the right way and everyone else is wrong. Even with all of these differences, these denominations still agree on certain fundamental truths such as the Godliness of Jesus, his death and his resurrection and the problem of sin. In trying to figure out which denomination is correct, I always refer back to my Bible to see what it says about the issue.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Why is the "Modern Western God" the Correct One?

Although I’ve had this question asked of me several times, one person seemed to really dig deep into the issue. She went on to ask:

“We seem to discount ‘Gods’ one by one as time goes by. We see the ancient Greek/Roman gods as complete mythology now. What makes people so sure that this is the real thing not just the evolution of old and now discounted or discarded religion?”

I believe this question has three main parts so I will try to address them all. The first part asks why the “modern Western God was the correct one?” This question can be confusing so for my answer I’ll assume that the “Western God” referred to is the same God that the Christian majority in the United States worships. We need to understand that this God does not have his roots in the western world. In fact, it is the very same God that was first worshiped on the exact opposite side of the world; what we now refer to as the Middle East. Knowledge of God spread from the Middle East, to Europe first, then to Asia and Africa, and then finally over 1500 years later, to the United States. You see the Western God is not a Western God at all, but the same God worshiped by people in every country and every continent all over the world.

The second part of the question deals with the “discounting of Ancient Greek/Roman gods.” It is important to note that the Jews had a knowledge of the one true God long before the Greek/Roman gods came into existence. It is also important to note that it was not the appearance of Jesus, (in other words the beginning of the Christian religion), which caused people to automatically discount Greek/Roman gods. During the 6th century BC the advent of materialistic Greek Philosophy first came onto the scene (guys like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates). It was this advent of philosophy that effectively destroyed the faith of the Greek people in their multitude of gods and not the appearance of Jesus as he wouldn’t come for another 600 years.

Thirdly, the reason we can be assured that this is the real thing and not just some “god evolution” is because the Bible shows us that God has been actively engaging with people since the very beginning of time. Evolution by its very definition requires a changing over a period of time. We can see through the Bible that the person of God is unchanging. He is the same as he’s always been and He will always be the same. We can also see that because people have been interacting with him since the beginning, this is not some new religion that people just invented a few decades ago. The principles in the Bible can also be tested and found to be relevant in all cultures through all times. Something else worth noting is that the passing of time, usually wipes away wrong beliefs. Remember when people thought the earth was flat or that the earth was the center of the universe? We can look back through the pages of history and see that not only has Christianity stood the test of time, but that God hasn't changed.

Friday, October 22, 2004

What Bad Things Must you do to go to Hell?

Often times when I talk with people they'll say something along the lines of "I know I'm not perfect but overall I'm a good person so I know God will let me into Heaven when I die."

The Bible has a lot to say on this issue and views things a bit differently. First, we must look at who God is. God by his definition is all that is holy, pure, perfect and righteous. This is important to note. Because he is these things, God cannot be around sin, if he was it would be directly contrary to what his nature is. Sin can be defined as “anything that is contrary to God’s will.” What that means is that anytime we do one thing that is against God’s will, we become tarnished because of it. Some examples of sin could be telling a lie, stealing something, being angry, cussing at someone, looking at inappropriate things, or love of money. While we humans may not think these things are that big of a deal (after all, it’s not like we are Adolph Hitler or anything), God views it differently. In fact, this subject is so important to God he says that if you are guilty of breaking one rule, you are guilty of breaking all of them. Think about that for a minute, guilty of breaking all of them? That is a heavy thought to carry.

Now let’s just assume for arguments sake that overall you are a good person. Maybe you give money to charity, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or never argue with someone over a parking space. The Bible says all have sinned. So let’s just assume that a person only sins 3 times a day (although if they are like me it is probably more like three times an hour). 3 sins a day times 365 days in the year means they sin 1095 times a year. Over the course of the next 40 years they have sinned 43,800 times. All of the sudden it doesn’t look so good. Could you imagine standing before a traffic judge with 43,800 traffic tickets? Would the judge just overlook it? No of course not, we must be held responsible for our actions. That’s what justice is.

So as you can see, all it takes is one sin for us to be removed from God’s presence which is Hell. You can also see that most of us, no matter how good we are, sin quite a bit more than we realize. However that is the bad news, the good news is that through a relationship with Christ, those sins can be forgiven and we can have eternal life with God in Heaven.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

My Story

It seems like a good idea to start by telling you how I came to have a relationship with the Lord.

For all intents and purposes I was born and raised in the Christian church. I wasn’t really exposed to other religions; I was just expected to be a Christian. Growing up I was spoon-fed all of those famous Bible stories that everybody learns, but to me they were only stories. Church on Sunday morning was required with no exceptions made. I had decided to devote my life God probably 40 different times. As a youth every time a motivational preacher spoke at church camp I would re-commit my life to Jesus, but I never truly gave Him a chance. I watched the people I went to church with and saw most of them as phonies: they professed that they loved God, but they gossiped about others and, in my eyes, never did anything that proved to me they had God leading their life. I eventually rebelled against God, the Church, and those closest to me. I moved far away to go to school and to live the life I wanted to live. I was involved in partying and drinking and a lot of other things I thought would bring me happiness. However, while all this was going on I would often sense a voice, which I later realized was God Himself, in the back of my head saying, “Ryan, I’m still here waiting for you.” But I would put him off because I didn’t want to follow; I was having too much fun, or what I thought was fun. Soon I began to realize that the void inside of me I kept trying to fill with alcohol and partying, was not being filled. At the same time those who I later realized were my true friends were starting to invite me to church events, but I turned them down most of the time.

Eventually, through the efforts of my persistent friends I began to go to some of these events. I began to see a different type of lifestyle; a lifestyle of someone who obviously had God in their life. A lifestyle of someone who didn’t have to worry about the same things I did because they had God in their life and they knew He would take care of them. I decided that was what I wanted too. I also wanted to make sure that Christianity was the true religion, I mean; eternity is a long time to be wrong. So I started investigating all the different religions; reading their books and listening to their teachings. What I found was all of them either contradicted themselves, or just didn’t view reality the same way that I did. Being a Christian made so much sense. It explained why I felt the way I felt and did the things that I did. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find a way to disprove it. I finally realized that a relationship with Jesus Christ was necessary for me to go to heaven. I then asked Jesus to come into my life for the 41st time, but for the first time I truly meant it. The Lord had brought me to a place in my life where I truly understood that I was separated from God because I am a sinner; that is, I have done things that I knew were wrong. And as a sinner it is impossible for me to be with a holy and pure God. But God sent Jesus, who lived a perfect life, to die on the cross so that my sins could be forgiven. See, the Bible says that no one comes to God except through Jesus. I then knew that I really wanted him as my personal Savior and best friend. I then confirmed my decision by deciding to become baptized. To me being baptized was a way to show people that I was serious about giving my life to and living only for Jesus Christ. It was a very powerful moment in my life that I’ll never forget.

Because of my decision to follow Christ, I made a commitment that has changed my life. I committed to God that I would obey and follow Him wherever he leads. He answered in a way that I never would have anticipated. God allowed several unexpected and very difficult events to happen in my life that left me wondering where God was. Relationships ended, jobs changed, loved ones died, and I moved. However, I now realize that God had allowed those events to happen, to help solidify my faith in Him. I can now look back and see that He has used every one of those events for his glory. Even though I may not know why things happen, I do know that God loves me more than anything and always has my best interest at the front of his mind.


I'd like to both welcome you and thank you for visiting my site. I am rather new to blogging so please bear with me as we work through the bugs together.

I decided to create this site because I've realized that many people are in the same situation I used to be, in regards to having a relationship with God. This site is dedicated to people that want to believe, but have something stopping them. It is for those that have questions and don't know where to find the answers. For individuals who want to talk with someone who will make efforts to seriously answer their questions as opposed to giving some superficial flippant remark about "you just gotta have faith." If this sounds familiar than this site is for you. I will do my best to answer these questions in a way that makes sense and isn't overly complicated. I realize some of these topics are huge and just can't be answered in a few paragraphs. I will do my best to provide as thorough of an answer as possible in a brief amount of space. If you feel you need further information, let me know and I will either expand upon, make a "part 2" entry, or recommend another source that does a better job explaining the answer.

As I stated before, this site is for those who are seriously seeking a relationship with God, but have questions. This site is NOT for those who simply want to debate, argue or insult for the fun of it. Therefore until I come up with a better method, I am going to limit comments on blogs posted, and ask that you email me your questions to be answered and your ideas for site improvement. My email address can be found by viewing my "Complete Profile."