Sunday, November 1, 2009

Prayer, Yet Again

I've read studies that say prayer doesn't work. Why are you so sure that it does?
Jake

Brad: Did you know 87% of statistics are wrong?
Obviously, that was a joke, but my point is that you can find a study to support whatever view you want. You can't take any particular study seriously. I've seen studies that say prayer does work. I actually do take those studies seriously, because they happen to be true.
I would like you to remember that all prayers are not equal. Sometimes a prayer isn't genuine. Do the researchers conducting your studies realize this? Can you put someone in a little room and stand there with a stopwatch forcing them to pray for things? Well you can, but I question how heartfelt such prayers would be.
It does no good to indiscriminately pray for whatever strikes your fancy. You see God will only respond to your prayers when your requests are in step with his will. If you're not praying for God's will, you're wasting your time. You might be wondering, if God wills it, then why do I have to pray for it? Well, God wants you to will it too. That's part of growing in our faith--figuring out what God wants, and then asking him for it. It's a difficult challenge, but nothing worthwhile is easy.

Eric: What was my answer the last time we had this question? Oh yeah, God doesn't exist. Something to that effect.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Devil Made Me Think It

Where do evil thoughts come from? Does Satan put them there? I think that he must, because they pop into my head against my will. Like whenever I try to pray to Jesus, I picture him looking like Spiderman. I can't seem to control it. Sometimes he morphs into Spongebob Squarepants or other characters. And sometimes he shoots rays from his eyes and blows things up.
-- Tyler

Brad: We know from the Bible that Satan can have an influence over us. We read of Judas, who betrayed Jesus, that "Satan entered into him," causing him to sin. And yet at the same time we are fully responsible for our actions, so we can't use that scripture to let ourselves off the hook. So what can be done?
The more we stray from God, the more susceptible we become to Satan's attacks. You can see how this becomes a vicious cycle -- as you move further from God, Satan becomes more powerful to pull you further yet, until it seems like you are hopelessly removed from God. It is your responsibility to stay "close" to God, and you do this through prayer. If you pray earnestly for Jesus to stop appearing as cartoon characters, he will answer that prayer, and will appear in his true form -- an Aryan in a white robe with a glowing halo.

Eric: Jesus was black.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

God Can Kick Your Habit

I'm addicted to a bad habit, and I can't seem to stop no matter how hard I try. If I continue with this habit it might cause cancer or something. Can God help?
Phyllis

Brad: It would help if we knew what your cancer-causing habit was, so don't get upset if this advice isn't very good. Normally our advice is stellar.
For starters, remember that God wants you to quit even more than you do. He may have created you with a physiological susceptibility to this addiction, and then also created a world in which this same temptation is readily available, possibly even occurring in plants, but truly He never wants to see His children suffering under the crushing weight of such a burden.
The first step to recovery is to be honest about your own helplessness. You are pathetic and weak compared to God, and you need to acknowledge this before Him. He won't have anything to do with you until then. I would even grovel if I were you. It wouldn't hurt. But it has to be sincere groveling, as God can easily tell the difference. Don't grovel just because I said to; grovel because you really mean it.
Only then will God reveal His practical wisdom to you that will help you quit, like using a nicotine patch if your habit happens to be smoking.

Eric: You might even go ahead and invest in the patch now, pre-grovel. Unless your vice is tanning beds. In that case the patch won't help.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is Contemporary Christian Music Bad?

I really like contemporary Christian music, but recently when I was visiting relatives my aunt said it was just "noise" and even that God wouldn't approve of it. What's your opinion?
I'm 16

Brad: We are all created as unique individuals, and so we'll all have our own ways of worshiping God through song. Then there will be other ways of worship that don't quite click with us. You might find, for instance, that worship music from your aunt's generation is boring and slow.
Luckily for you, the Bible says to "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." Is your music joyful? I bet it is.
This isn't always the case. So many times I've visited different churches and the congregation doesn't seem very joyful as they slog their way through the worship songs. If the people themselves aren't enjoying this music, I doubt God likes sitting through it either. And while we go to a few services a week tops, He goes to all of them! Like every single one ever. And some of those songs seem to keep repeating endlessly. If the tired, clich├ęd refrain wasn't inspiring the first time, it's not going be fifteen minutes from now either! I end up thinking God you can do anything--please make this stop!
But I digress. My point is that your music should express or facilitate a genuine closeness to God. How would you feel if your friend wrote a song about you and when he performed it it turned out to be dreary, intolerable dreck? You would wonder what it was about you that inspired that. And he wouldn't be doing you any favors if he insisted on singing it every week.

Eric: There are many great Christian bands. For example there's. . . uh. . . Actually maybe there aren't any.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Gospel Truth

My son-in-law is becoming interested in Jesus and wants to learn more. What would you recommend?
Donna

Brad: The true story of Christ can not only be found in the Bible, but it is recorded there four times, in the four gospels. There are many other accounts of Jesus' life, but they are filled with errors and fabrications. Only the Biblical (canonical) gospels truly contain God's words. They are perfect and without flaw. We know this because they are in the Bible.
I don't know exactly how the other (non-canonical) accounts of Christ's life got so many things wrong. Maybe they didn't pray hard enough, and God was like "you can write your little gospel there, but I don't want anything to do with it." As a result, like every ancient text that has ever been written other than the Bible, the non-canonical gospels contain factual inaccuracies.
For example, in the Gospel of Thomas Jesus kills some people as a child, and then later brings them back to life. That never happened! In another totally ridiculous story, Jesus casts a bunch of demons into a herd of pigs and the pigs proceed to drown themselves. Laughable, right?
Fooled ya! That story is actually from the "real" gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John chose to leave it out (John's account is a little different from the others in general. But equally true). So you can see that separating the Holy word of God from worthless fakes is not that easy, and certainly was a challenge to the early church leaders when they had to figure out which of the dozens of different gospels were genuine. But they did it--with divine inspiration. Thanks to them we don't have to even worry about it. If it's in the Bible, you can trust it.

Eric: I would recommend The Life of Brian by Monty Python.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Suicide is Forgivable

After battling depression for many years our son overdosed on antidepressants last year. He was a sincere Christian, but we still worry that if he took his life God might not have forgiven him.
Heartbroken and Worried

Brad: I'm deeply sorry for your loss, Heartbroken and Worried, but I have good news. It's only a myth that God will not forgive a suicide. God can forgive any sin, even the sins a person didn't have a chance to confess, just so long as that person had previously and genuinely committed to living for Christ. Theoretically a Christian could forgo confessing altogether and still be admitted into heaven.
However, I do have some concerns. If your son was truly a Christian, why was he so depressed? A life lived for Christ should be filled with love, joy, peace, and other fruits of the spirit. Your son did not have much, if any, joy apparently. So was he really a Christian? Only God knows for sure but if he wasn't saved to begin with (he might only have been telling you what you wanted to hear) then he is certainly not forgiven and is burning in hell. Something to think about.

Eric: Not to keep repeating myself, but your son is not in hell. He's rotting in a box. On the bright side, the worms eating him are extremely happy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dying Where Is Thy Sting?

I'm not afraid of death because I've committed my life to Jesus and I know I'll be in heaven with Him someday. But I am afraid of the process of dying. Especially after seeing my aunt's painful battle with cancer. Is this just a lack of faith on my part?
Scared Of Dying

Brad: They say you can only be sure of death and taxes. But there's something else you can always count on too--Christ loves you and is with you through all afflictions, including death. Whether you go peacefully in your sleep, or die after a long painful struggle with a terminal illness, or if your body slowly succumbs to the ravages of a degenerative disease like Parkinson's, or if you end up in a vegetative state for years hooked up to machines, or suffer from something even the doctors can't identify, or if you die in a fire or gruesome auto accident, or fall to your death from a balcony, or accidentally take the wrong combination of pills, or have a heart attack or a stroke when no one is around to help you, or have a heavy object fall and crush you and you lay immobile for hours as your life force slowly drains from your body in excruciating fashion, or if you go down in a plane crash, or if a flesh-eating bacteria infects your head, or if you drown, or get trapped in meat locker, or shot, or whatever the case may be, Christ is there with you every step of the way, watching over you. No one can ever know how they will die, only that it will certainly happen, and could happen at any time, any place. Trust me, it will happen. But with Jesus by your side, what's there to worry about? Do you feel better now?

Eric: I'm also afraid of dying. Who wouldn't be?