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QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)   I recently heard a prophecy of martial law coming on the earth. It was very troubling to me. I don't want the world to end the way it is, unless He takes me first. Can you help me?

First of all, your faith is your strength. The purpose of all valid communication from God to the people of God is to edify, strengthen, and build them up. Those who point to the future with the finger of fright are either speaking to the unregenerate, or have not received a message from the Lord.

Scripture affirms our times are in the hand of the Lord (Psalm 31:15). This is particularly gratifying, because the Lord "cares" for us. He urges us to cast our care upon Him (like the concerns you have expressed), knowing this is the truth (1 Peter 5:7). Add to that a commitment He has made to His children, i.e., that He will not allow them to be tempted or tested above their ability (1 Corinthians 10:13). Satan, for that matter, does not have free access to the people of God. He can only move within the constraints of God's will--and that glorious will is to bring His people through this world to Himself. Nothing shall be able to separate the people of God from the love of God--absolutely nothing (Romans 8:35-39).

But that is not all. Every believer has reason to maintain confidence and full assurance in the Lord, and His concern for and protection of, them. Remember, Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). That involves supplying us with grace to help in the time of need, spiritual strength, the subduing of our enemies, peace of mind, joy in the Spirit . . . and so forth. In other words, as our constant Intercessor, Jesus is making sure we are never deficient, never found short of what we need, and never at the mercy of the devil. We can trust Him to do that work, and to do it well.

Contrary to the claims of many, the Lord has not provided us a list of details as to what will occur on the earth in our time. He has not promised to relieve us of all calamity, but He has promised to be with us and against our enemies. We have a choice in this matter, and the Lord will help us to make the right one. We can focus on events that might possibly occur in our lifetime. Or, we can focus on the Lord, and leave the government of the world in His hands (which it is anyway).

Candidly, it is not always easy to make that choice. But the Lord will help us as we rely upon Him. Remember one occasion when a man came to Jesus, asking Him to have mercy on his oppressed child. When Jesus told him "all things" were possible to the one believing, the man cried out, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). That is precisely the posture we must assume.

All of us must confess to our personal inadequacy in matters like this. There are reports being given by everyone from economists to purported prophets from God that are troubling. Whether or not they are true is not the question. Rather, the question is whether anything can arise to which our blessed Lord is not equal. Is it possible for circumstances to overtake us in which the Lord cannot protect and sustain us? He sustained a widow in famine (1 Kings 17), Israel in the wilderness (Psalm 78:23-25), and 7,000 prophets from the ravages of a wicked Jezebel (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4). He will do no less for you, dear sister.

I am persuaded that you already know these things. However, as your pure mind is stirred up (2 Peter 3:1), the recollection of them will strengthen your heart, and assure you that your times are in the Lord's hands, not those of a tyrant instituting martial law.

Being a father of ten children, and grandfather of ten--as well as having a beloved wife--I know what it is like to want protection and care for my family. After 63 years, I have also learned the futility of trying to work these things out in my mind. I also have learned that not all who speak in the name of the Lord profit my soul or strengthen my faith. When I come across purported prophets that agitate my soul, push faith from me, and bring the spirit of fear upon me, I simply reject them, and refuse to hear them. Such a response can only occur, of course, if I am living by faith, and relying consistently upon my Lord. God has told His prophets to "comfort" His people (Isaiah 40:1). Those who choose to agitate the people of God with troubling prophecies about hard times in this world have only betrayed their personal alienation from God. They are not God's spokesmen, and they are not to be received as such. It is difficult enough to live by faith, without having pretenders agitate the waters of our soul with declarations of doom.

To those unduly concerned about the future, Jesus said, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34). That is another way of saying, the only trouble you really know is coming is the trouble you are currently experiencing--and it is, candidly, all you are able to handle. Time spent speculating about hard times tomorrow is wasted time. Remember, your times are in Christ's hands -- and everything is under Him. What is more, He loves you, cares for you, and is determined to bring you all the way home, safely and in joy.

May the Lord, according to Romans 15:13, "fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13). You are going to be all right.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)   I think my job is a total waste of time. I want to dedicate my life to Jesus. Serve Him. I want to study Scripture and preach. I don't want to be a doctor Fluffyhead or an Rev. Ernest Eartickler or a Mr. Formaldehyde. Where do I start?

Like everyone who labors for the Lord, you must start where you are, and with what you have in your hand. That is how Moses, David, Gideon . . . started. Your desires to study and preach are noble, and will be honored by God. He is looking for someone whose heart is thoroughly devoted to Him--someone, so to speak, He can trust (2 Chron 16:9).

Start by devoting yourself to obtaining a working knowledge of the Word of God. At this point, the important thing is to know what the Word says more than what it means. It is the Seed of the kingdom, and will consistently produce fruit in ones life. Devour the Word first. Ingest it, or get it into your heart and mind. Along with this, devote yourself to moral and spiritual purity. Determine to rid yourself of anything and everything that is not pleasing to God, or experientially productive. In these two pursuits (ingesting the Word, and purity of heart and mind) you become useable to the Lord. This is what is referred to in Second Timothy 2:20-21.

I commend you on the desire to separate yourself from the mediocrity that has plagued the pulpits of the land. We do not need any more fluffyheads, earticklers, or embalmers. What is more, God will not receive the service of such individuals.

Although there is no regimented way to become a preacher, here are three things I have observed must come together for the individual. When these three things happen, in my judgment, they constitute a call to the ministry.

1. HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. No one can effectively serve the Lord who does not have something to say. Have a message--something that can be proclaimed, announced, and reported. You may remember Ahimaaz, a young man who wanted to bring a message to King David. He did not, however, have anything of importance to say. He simply said, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about" (2 Sam 18:29). Many a preacher is in a similar condition. They know something has happened, but do not know what it was. A message is not merely reporting what has happened, but announcing its effects. Such a message is understood, and is clear in the mind of the proclaimer. Have something to say -- something of eternal relevance. Make sure your message is the FOCUS of what God has and is doing in Christ Jesus. Have something to say that will call the work of the Holy Spirit into play -- that will solicit the aid of angels, and the intercession of Jesus. Have something to say that will cause rejoicing in heaven, and bring hope to men.

2. A FERVENT DESIRE TO DECLARE THE MESSAGE. It is possible to have something to say, but not want to say it. Some, because they love the praises of men more than the praises of God, will not say what they know is true. Examples of this are found in John 9:22; 12:42-43). Having something to say is of no value to the preacher who does not want to say it. That desire must be so strong it cannot be suppressed. If a person can be satisfied doing anything but preaching, they should not preach. The desire of Jeremiah is to be experienced by every would-be preacher. "But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not" (Jer 20:9). The Word of God, when believed and comprehended, will have this effect upon the preacher.

3. HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO DECLARE THE MESSAGE. There is such a thing as having something to say, wanting to say it, but having no opportunity to do so. There comes a time, however, when the Lord of glory opens a door of opportunity to the person who has a message and wants to deliver it. Paul referred to such occasions in these words. "For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries" (1 Cor 16:9). Again he said, "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord" (2 Cor 2:12). Not satisfied, Paul also asked believers to pray "that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ" (Col 4:3). Such prayers are not in vain. Jesus said of himself, "These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens" (Rev 3:7).

When these three things come together -- (1) You have something to say, (2) You want to say it, and (3) You have an opportunity to say it -- God is calling you into His work. In other words, He uses you when you are ready.

Some practical things for you to consider include,
1. Make close friends of those who are conversant with Scripture.
2. Identify yourself with a local congregation where the Word is emphasized, and opportunities are provided for you to express yourself.
3. Do not consider what you are doing to be a total waste of time. God called great men when they were busy doing something else (i.e., Moses when tending sheep, David when tending sheep, Elisha when plowing, Amos when a herdsman and gatherer of sycamore fruit . . . etc. Do your job for God, and God will bring you up higher. On this point, I can speak with some degree of authority. 41 years ago, I too started as a programmer/analyst for Lever Brother's Company. After 10 years, I became the Director of Technical Services and Engineering for company, remaining in that position for nearly 30 years. At the same time, I was a full time preacher, the editor of an international magazine, and a radio speaker. I retired from my position in industry, and am now serving the Lord without any distractions.
4. Look for opportunities to do what you desire for the Lord. An opportunity may be given to you by Jesus that will allow for you to leave your present job. He may also open one to you where you will have to stay. That is up to Him. You be alert enough to tell when He is calling you. It may be to witness to a single person, hold meetings in your home, fill in preaching/teaching, etc. The possibilities are endless.
5. Seek to always be filled with "all joy and peace in believing"--that is something God Himself can do for you (Rom 15:13). When you are in that condition, you are more spiritually alert and able to recognize the call of the Lord.
6. Should you desire to pursue a theological education, do so with discernment. Select a school that has no doubts about the validity of Scripture or the effectiveness and availability of Christ's atonement. Remember that scholarship is always second to faith.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)  What is the meaning of "Now we who have believed enter that rest" in Hebrews chapter 4? What is "entering his rest"? And if this has anything to do with salvation, then why the present tense of the verbs?

"The rest" in reference does have to do with salvation. It is described in verse 10: "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His." We enter into this condition by faith, and thus cease to rely upon our own works as a basis for salvation. We who "have believed," Hebrews 4:3 says, "do enter into rest."

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)  In relation to the first question, perhaps to explain how I come up with the first question: Why do people say they are saved - right now - when we are obviously still living on earth?

This "rest" of faith begins in this world, but will be culminated when we are with the Lord in glory. We are "saved right now," being "received" by Christ (Rom 15:7), our sins forgiven (Col 2:13), given the Holy Spirit (Gal 4:6), and having become 'the sons of God" (1 John 3:1-2). This, however, is the "firstfruits" of salvation, and not the whole of it. What we have is real, and it is from heaven. It makes of citizens of heaven now (Phil 4:20-21), sons of God now, and having eternal life now (1 John 5:13). We "are saved" (1 Cor 1:18), and yet we "shall be saved" (Rom 5:10). Both are true.

The difference is the same as a child versus an adult. When an heir is a child, Scripture tells us, there appears to be no difference between the child and a slave--both are under tutors and rulers. However, when the child becomes aman, he actually inherits what belongs to him (Galatians 4:1-7).

In the above scenario, the child was really an heir, even though he did not have the fulness of the inheritance yet. It is in that sense that we are presently "saved." We are legitimate sons, and have a very real inheritance reserved for us.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)  This does not mean that a legitimate son can't forfeit his reserved inheritance does it?

Not at all. We hold this inheritance by faith, and faith must be kept. Although there are numerous warnings about being cast off, rejected, and thrust away from the Lord because of unbelief, all teaching about salvation does not include such warnings. There are promises held out to those who are going backward -- promises to encourage them to come back to the Lord (like the church at Laodicea, Revelation 3:14-22). If those people did not heed the word of the Lord, they would be spewed out of His mouth--a phrase that means condemnation.

Other texts are written to believers who were under severe persecution, and were keeping the faith -- as well as other saints who were faithful. The promises, in these cases, were not always attended by warnings, lest saints under oppression imagine their faith might be in vain.

There are many professed preachers and teachers who mix up these approaches. Some speak to unfaithful people as though they were safe in Jesus. Others speak to faithful brethren as though they were living in unbelief. Both approaches are wrong.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)  A good friend of our family passed away last week. We will miss him and so will his family. When I think about death I often think of my aging parents. They were never baptized yet they believe in Jesus. They even say to me that "Jesus is our hope now". How do I talk to them about salvation and how do I approach the subject of baptism with them?

First, the final decision on whether people are saved or lost is not within our jurisdiction. We do not have all of the facts, nor can we perceive the heart of a person. In the end, every person will be judged according to the knowledge available to them. This is what Jesus referred to in His parable about different kinds of servants. The one who knew what should be done, yet did not do it, would be beaten with many stripes. On the other hand, the servant who did not know, and did not do, will be beaten with few stripes (Luke 12:48).

When a person dies, he passes beyond our domain. God does not ask us to speak on the state of the dead -- that is something He reserves for Himself. If anyone is ultimately saved that was NOT baptized, it will be an exception to the rule. What is more, we are never to hold out exceptions (like the thief on the cross) as the rule. Those who know of baptism, and have refused to be baptized, must not be made to feel safe. Rather, we must do our best to acquaint them with the truth.

We must be willing leave matters like that, without undue worry about the state of pious people who did not know about baptism -- or wicked people who did. Think of it this way, would you feel comfortable with saying a person who died was saved because they were baptized, yet who had apparently lived in sin? Certainly not. My point is that we do not have to answer either dilemma–and both are in the same category. For a person to hear the Gospel and NOT be baptized is in conflict with Scripture. Also, for a person to be baptized and NOT live for the Lord is in conflict with Scripture.

When it comes to the matter of baptism, the Lord has made it too clear for any to question it. The Savior of the world was , according to God's will, introduced by a Baptizer. In fact, the Lord Himself was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. If those were the only two things we knew about baptism, they would constrain the honest heart to want to be baptized. In dealing with those who are either ignorant about baptism, or have some misconception about it, I would begin with those two Gospel facts–a baptizer prepared the way for Jesus, and Jesus was baptized. That is how Mark approached the Gospel (Mark 1:1-8). It would be in order to ask, then, what the people thought of those circumstances. Were they ordained by God? And why are they part of the Gospel?

But, as you know, there is much more on baptism. Instead of arguing with people about the necessity of baptism (and it is a necessity), we can approach it is a more indirect manner. It is profitable, for instance, to note that no one ever questioned baptism, or the necessity of it, in the Bible (unless it be the Pharisees and lawyers who rejected John's baptism to their own condemnation (Luke 7:30). Too, it was always assumed believers were baptized.

I have found it profitable to simply take the Scriptures and show things with which the Holy Spirit has associated baptism. The objective in such an approach is NOT to convince the person they ought to be baptized, but to enable the Holy Spirit to work through the truth to bring the person to obedience. If they will simply believe what the Spirit says about baptism, it will take away all of their excuses. I am sure you already know these things, but here is a partial listing of things with which the Holy Spirit associates baptism.

1. Repentance (Acts 2:38).
2. The remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
3. The gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
4. Believing (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12; 18:8).
5. Salvation (mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
6. Being buried with Christ (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12).
7. Being raised with Christ (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12).
8. Being identified with Christ's death (Rom 6:3).
9. Becoming dead to sin (Rom 6:2-3).
10. Becoming alive to God (Rom 6:3-11).
11. The circumcision of Christ, in which the whole body of sin is cut away (Col 2:11-12).
12. Faith in the operation, or working, of God (Col 2:12).
13. Coming into Christ (Gal 3:27).
14. Putting on Christ (Gal 3:27).
15. A commandment (Acts 10:48).
16. The confession of Christ (Acts 8:36-37).
17. Gladly receiving the Word of God (Acts 2:41).
18. Washing away our sins (Acts 22:16).
19. Coming into one body through the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13).

    These are Divine associations -- and they all have to do with salvation. They are so weighty that a person must be unbelieving and hard-hearted to consistently reject them. If we faithfully present baptism in this manner, the Holy Spirit Himself will work upon the hearts of the people. One further thing, ask the Lord to give you wisdom and effectiveness as you reason with people on these things. He will help you.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)  What is the meaning of " . . . was vindicated by the Spirit . . ." from 1 Timothy 3:16? I immediately thought this had to do with Jesus' resurrection. What is the Spirit doing concerning His resurrection?

This text is contrasting Christ's relationship to the world with His identity with heaven. To the world, He (1) appeared in a body, (2) was preached among the nations, and (3) believed on in the world.

From heaven's point of view, He was (1) vindicated by the Spirit, (2) seen by angels, and (3) received up into glory.

The phrase "vindicated b y the Spirit" does refer to His resurrection. Speaking in this same type of language, Peter wrote, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Pet 3:18). Paul also referred to this in Romans 1:4. "and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."

Paul also reasons with us on this matter in Romans 8:11. "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."

There are three different views of Christ's resurrection -- all of them, of course, are true. The first is that Jesus raised Himself from the dead, taking His life back, so to speak. Jesus refers to this in John 10:17-18: "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

The second is that the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Galatians 1:1 refers to this. "Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead." Romans 6:4 also alludes to this. "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

The third is that the Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead, as previous Scriptures declared.

The point is that the entire Godhead was involved in Christ's resurrection. The Father planning and approving it, the Son submitting to and carrying it out, and the Spirit empowering and implementing it. If you want to go even further, the angels of God were also involved (Matt 28:2; John 20:12).

LOOK AT IT THIS WAY: THE WORLD JUDGED JESUS UNWORTHY OF LIFE, AND THEREFORE PUT HIM TO DEATH. BUT THEY WERE WRONG, HE WAS NOT WORTHY OF DEATH. THEREFORE HE WAS VINDICATED BY THE SPIRIT, OR SHOWN TO BE WORTHY OF LIFE. Another contrast to be seen here is this: just as the powers of darkness united together against Christ (Luke 22:53), so the powers of heaven united in His resurrection.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)  What is the meaning of the Aaronic Priesthood in Hebrews 5? "No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was" 5:4 . . . "So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him," What is God trying to tell me or us in this chapter? Are we not all priests under Christ?

The subject of this chapter is not our priesthood but Christ's High Priesthood. This is the capacity in which He intercedes for us and presently administers salvation. The Spirit contrasts Christ's High priesthood with that of Aaron, under the law. That was the priesthood carried out in the tabernacle worship while Israel was in the wilderness. It also continued through Aaron's progeny until the appearing of Christ.

Aaron did not volunteer to be a priest, or train to be one then take the office--that is what is meant by "No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was." God appointed him to be the High Priest (Exodus 28:1; Leviticus 8:2).

The text is affirming that Jesus has been appointed by God to be our High Priest--to intercede for us and bring us home to heaven. This is not something Jesus aspired to do when He was in the earth, but something appointed from all eternity. Just as God "sent" Jesus into the world (1 John 4:9), directed everything He did while here (John 8:28), delivered Him up to die (Rom 8:32), and raised him from the dead (Gal 1;1) -- so the Father has appointed that He sit at His right hand to "finish" the work He has begun in us (Heb 12:2; Phil 1:6).

From a practical point of view, God places the members of Christ where He wants them. The Bible says it this way, "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (1 Corinthians 12:18). None of us took the honor on ourselves. God saved us and placed us, making us what he wanted us to be. Our role is to live close enough to the Lord that we will know our assignment.

We are all "priests to God" under Christ (1 Peter 2:5,9) -- but that is not the subject of Hebrews. The Lord Jesus Himself is the subject, and the thoroughness of our salvation the teaching. Christ's High Priesthood proves we need Jesus just as much after we are saved as we did before we were saved. His High Priesthood has to do with His ministry to the saved--and that is a ministry assigned to Him by God. I might add, Jesus does it willingly and effectively, praise be to Him.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)   I said I believed songs, poetry etc. expressed from the mouths and pens of true believers are gifts that are given today--test them by scripture to see if it is man's wisdom or in line with God's, as He has given us. Is that correct?

Yes--God does do this. Insights and expressions are granted to to those in the Son. It all centers in Christ, of course, and is subject to testing, bringing it along side of the Scriptures. This involvement with God is spoken of by Jesus in John 14:21,23. John also speaks of it in 1 John 2:20,27, with an emphasis on being able to identify false prophets. We are even told by Peter that when we speak, we are to do so '"as the oracles of God," or as a mouthpiece for God. (2 Pet 4:11). Paul spoke of God beseeching people through his words (2 Cor 5:20).

In another place, Paul told why he had cast everything that was gain to him away, seeking to know Christ. He confessed that he was pressing toward the mark, acknowledging he had not yet laid hold of that for which Christ had laid hold of him (Phil 3:8-15). Then, knowing that everyone to whom he wrote was not at that same place, he said the following. "Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you" (Phil 3:15). Along the same line, the Ephesians, who had never heard Jesus when He was upon earth, were told, "But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Eph 4:20-21). There still is direct involvement between the Lord and His people.

While it certainly true that God shows things to His people, also giving them the ability to express it, their role is not to affirm God gave it to them--even though that is true. They are to submit their insight to the spiritually minded (not the bigoted Pharisee). Even Paul did this (1 Cor 14:37). Scripture speaks to legitimate prophets in this manner. "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor 14:29-32).

No one can say God did NOT reveal to and speak through an individual unless it conflicts with God's word, or the one judging is omniscient (which certainly is not likely, to say the least). For my own part, I believe it is in the part of wisdom not to shine the light on the fact that God made it known. It should rather be shined on the truth that was made known. Godly people will be able to distinguish the truth, and some controversy from fleshly people avoided. That part is just my opinion.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)   I have a Christian e-mail 'pen pal' that I met at a Christian chat site. Basically, he doesn't believe in gathering or fellowshipping in a church building--says that Jesus didn't say anything about a building and that it becomes an organization instead of an organism of the church of our Lord.

The Word of God knows nothing of followers of God who do NOT gather together. Under the Law, such
gatherings were mandated, even though sensitive souls did it willingly. During a decadent period of Jewish history (the days of Malachi the Prophet), it is written that those who feared the Lord spoke often with one another. What is more, God took note of their gatherings. His assessment of them is notable. "Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. 'They shall be Mine,' says the LORD of hosts, "On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him." (Mal 3:16-17, NKJV).

Whatever a person may think about buildings, Jesus DID call the temple (built by herod, not by saints) "My Father's house" (John 2:16). One centurion who required help from Jesus was recommended because he loved the Jewish nation, and built them a synagogue (Lk 7:4-6). For that matter, when Jesus was among us, it was His manner to be in the synagogue (which was a building) on the Sabbath day (Lk 4:16). Paul spoke of saints coming together, and having an order in their assemblies (1 Cor 11:17-43). He even spoke of the Corinthians coming together "in one place," and an unbeliever coming into the gathering (1 Cor 4:23-26). Nothing about the Corinthian assembly suggests they met in a home. In fact, Paul reminded the Corinthians they had homes to eat in, and were not to defile the Lord's table as though it were a common meal (1 Cor 11:22).

Early believers not only met in the temple (Acts 2:46) and houses (Acts 2:46; 20:20), but in synagogues (Acts 13:14-15; 17:1,10,17; 18:4,26). In Ephesus, Paul spoke boldly in the synagogue for three straight months (Acts 19:8).

When describing his earlier life as a persecutor of believers, Paul said he found them meeting in the synagogues, and persecuted them (Acts 22:19; 26:11). Early Christians, then, knew nothing about not meeting in buildings.

The Holy spirit solemnly admonishes us, "forsake not the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" (Heb 10:25). If your friend does not meet with believers, it is his manner that we are to avoid.

I would call the position that looks unfavorably upon meeting in a building as straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Even at that, it is an exceedingly small gnat, and an unusually large camel.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)   What does the bible say about divorce? What reasons, if any, are acceptable in His sight ? How do you know when the Lord is speaking to you instead of your conscience or is He your conscience ?

The Word of God has considerable to say about divorce. Most of the teaching is intended to discourage divorce. Scripture informs us, for example, that God "hates" divorce (Mal 2:16). He does, however, allow for it under certain conditions. The primary reason is fornication, or unfaithfulness. That is the single exception Jesus allowed for in His teaching in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9.

Although there is some question about the extent of the provisions mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7, there the Spirit deals with a condition where a Christian is married to a non-Christian. If the non-Christian does not want to stay with the person, the Word says, "A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances" (1 Cor 7:15).

Additional instruction is given to those in less-than-ideal circumstances. They are encouraged to work matters out as much as possible. If, in the case of a wife, the situation is intolerable, the Spirit instructs, "But if she does [depart], she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife" (1 Cor 7:11).

To confirm that divorce is sometimes justified, God Himself divorced Israel because she was unfaithful to him (Jeremiah 3:8).

The seriousness of divorce is underscored by the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19. there He says, "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery" (Matt 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18). No serious person, after reading that, can fail to see how serious a matter divorce is.

Those who have be caught in divorce in the past, are not to consider it unforgivable. I understand there is grace for those who desire to recover. An example of such mercy is found in Christ's dealings with a woman who had several husbands, and was living with a man who was not her husband. Jesus offered her salvation (John 4:8-31). Settling such matters before God is personal, and procedures cannot be dictated by another person. Recovery is a personal matter between the person and the Lord--and He will direct them do what is right.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)   Does the Lord continue to forgive you when you ask forgiveness for the same sin over and over again and are not sincere ?

God never forgives a person who is not sincere. It is possible, however, for us to assume people are not sincere. Jesus told Peter we should forgive the same person who sinned against him 490 times , or 70 X 7 (Matt 18:21-22). There is an additional stipulation--if the person "repents" (Luke 17:3).

At some point, the person who is genuinely sincere will receive grace to overcome sin. I understand Christ's words about 70 X 7 to be of small offenses -- certainly murder, adultery, theft, or the likes, for which men will be condemned (Colossians 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

It will help us in judging such matters to remember that just as Eve did not eat of the forbidden fruit until she wanted to, so no one sins unless they want to. At some point, it is imperative that they NOT want to sin. God will then strengthen them to refrain from transgressing.

QUESTION1.gif (2121 bytes)   If you constantly pray for a friend or relative who is an alcoholic & keeps destroying his mind & body,does it do any good if that person doesn't care & keeps on doing it ? Does that person also have to pray for help ?

Eventually, the person for whom you are praying has to get involved himself. It is possible, however, that such involvement will be provoked by your prayers and admonitions. 1 John 5:16 and James 5:20 deal with this matter. It is challenging to consider, but is a most promising contemplation in view of Ephesians 3:20.

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