Monday, September 21, 2009

Prayer Revisited

How do I know God is really listening when I pray? To be honest, I've just about given up praying because it doesn't seem to do any good.

Brad: I guess you missed our previous post on this topic. But since it's something I hear a lot--Why doesn't God answer my prayers? Why doesn't prayer work? Why does it feel like I'm talking to a wall? and so forth--that I feel it would be worthwhile to revisit these concerns.
First, what you must understand is that you can't have a discourse with God when your heart's full of sin. Sin absolutely erects a barrier between ourselves and God, preventing our prayers from getting through at all! In an analogy that my daughter made up, sin makes us kind of like a damp stinky sock and God's all like "Eeeew!" Let me be clear: God will not answer a prayer from a sinful heart. So first you need to pray to God to absolve your sins. Once he has answered and purified you, only then can you begin to pray. Get it?
Secondly, even with a pure heart, God will only grant our requests when it is His will. If it's not something He wants to happen, you can pray for it all day long to no avail.
Now you may be asking If God only responds in ways that were His intent all along, how is prayer doing anything at all?
God sometimes refrains from doing things that He wants for us. We have to ask Him specifically for these things. We have to prove that we want what He wants sometimes before He'll do it. First pray and ask God what He wants, and then wait for Him to tell you, and then pray for that. That's how it works. I hope this post has cleared things up for you.

Eric: If you pray loudly enough, maybe at least the neighbors will hear.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

God's Grace Knows No Ideological Bounds

Do you think there will be different denominations in heaven? I have a friend that goes to a different kind of church. We'll both get to heaven, right?

Brad: They say "the devil is in the details." It's a shame that minor differences can come between people of faith isn't it? Whether you're Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anabaptist, Mennonite, Methodist, Quaker, Shaker, Church of God, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Messianic Jewish, Seven Day Adventist, Universalist, Unitarian, Non-denominational, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Scientologist, or any of the legions of other denominations and subdenominations, God's grace is meant for you as long as you're willing to accept it.
My wife often reminds me that we will be surprised who we see in heaven someday. While we bicker and nitpick here on Earth, in heaven all of God's truths will be clear. When you get there maybe you might get to razz your friend about believing in predestination, say, or transubstantiation, if it turns out those ideas are bogus. Or maybe he'll razz you about your bogus doctrines. But probably not if you're a Fundamentalist. They pretty much have it right. In fact, those belonging to the weirder denominations (you know who you are), might consider switching just in case.

Eric: You can believe whatever you want to. Just try not to believe something stupid.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Found In Translation

How do I know which Bible to buy? I'm a new Christian and want to start reading it, but when I went to the bookstore there seemed to be dozens and dozens of different versions.

Brad: The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek (don't worry--you can pray in English!) and later it was translated into other languages. The text of the Bible is very rich and stylized in parts, and contains many deep, sometimes nearly impenetrable, spiritual concepts. The translators would have had a tough time of it without God's assistance. Luckily, God inspired and guided them in their work, and as a result the Bible remains His holy and perfect word, regardless of the translation. God would not allow an imperfect Bible--He doesn't make mistakes, and He wouldn't allow the meaning of His message to be obfuscated or compromised in any way whatsoever. The Bible is the only book which has been translated perfectly every time.
Still, some versions may be better suited to you than others. You should keep reading different versions until you find the one that makes God's word crystal clear. If you discover that a lot of it is incomprehensible or vague then you're probably not reading the right one.
And don't forget to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. It's really only through the Holy Spirit that we truly know God's truths. In fact, He could even impart His truths without any Bible at all if He wanted to, but we can't expect Him to just do everything for us can we?

Eric: I might go for the Catholic Bible if I were you because it has extra books in it. Better safe than sorry, right?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Wish And A Prayer

Do you think we can change our lives by having positive thoughts about what we want and living according to those thoughts?

Brad: There has been a resurgence lately of the notion that "positive thinking" can change your life for the better. How is this supposed to work exactly? You focus on your wants and needs and then some sort of invisible cosmic energy responds in kind? Sounds like a lot of hooey to me!
No, you need to pray to God. The difference between God and your "cosmic force" is that God is real. God knows you and loves you. Does your "cosmic force" love you? I don't think so.
Only through God can we truly achieve the most in life. And only through God can we truly know what exactly that is. On our own we're likely to long for all the wrong things. The things we really need are probably a lot less enticing, and involve much more self-sacrifice and temperance. You wouldn't know that without God, if you're wandering aimlessly around with your magic hippie energy.

Eric: One man's positive thinking is another man's path to eternal damnation.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Christ, Hurry Up

I was just thinking--the longer Jesus waits to return to Earth, the greater the number of people that wind up in hell, correct? I was doing some math, and found that if 14,709 people are born every hour and roughly a third of them become Christian (about a third of the world's population identifies as Christian), then that means for every hour Jesus delays His return approximately 4,901 unsaved people are going to go to hell. What's up with that?

Brad: Well, I can't vouch for the validity of those numbers, but think about all the people that will be saved and will know everlasting happiness in paradise someday. If Christ had come long ago, those people would never have had that chance.
We can't rush God's timetable. He is giving the world a chance to come around to His light, and it is our fault because we are so stubborn that it's taking such a long long time. Christians need to help the world by being witnesses for the gospel of Christ. We can always do better on that count.
Imagine if there is a person who is almost ready to give his life to Christ. If Christ were to come now it would be too late for that person. And you can't expect a free pass if you were "just about" to accept Christ and He returns to Earth right before you do. That is not how God's mercy and sense of justice work. When Christ returns it will be obvious to everybody that He is Lord. "Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess" it, according to the Bible. But in order for your faith to count, you have to believe it when there is no tangible evidence. I pray that you come to the Lord today, Concerned, before it's too late. Then you'll be glad Christ waited for you.

Eric: Ha ha! I wrote that question.