What Is That You’re Saying? (ATP)

In Genesis, why does God confuse the language of the tower of babel?

Genesis 11:4-8 (NASB)

They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.

So often we run across scripture that befuddles us. Many times in my Christian walk I’ve looked at something in scripture and wondered, “What the heck is going on?” Sometimes, unbelievers will take these kind of scriptures and try to use them to refute our faith. This can happen to the detriment of newer believers. In fact, I have heard people who have platforms use scripture as a means of trying to destroy our faith, but to one who understands, the error is easily seen. We must always remember, if something doesn’t seem quite right it probably isn’t, and if it’s God it will always prove out. Sometimes we need to just give it time. 

The account of the Tower of Babel is one of those. Why would God want people not to communicate? Well, there are a few reasons for this, which we can find in the Bible. To begin with let’s back up to Genesis 9:1. It’s says, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’” What’s interesting here is that this is the same command given to Adam. 

The first reason we have is failure to follow instruction. God doesn’t not give commands arbitrarily. He has distinct purpose in them, just as He has distinct purpose in mankind. This is why it is so important to find out what God’s plan is in your life. God commanded man to fill the earth. In the beginning of Genesis we see why. God intended man to subdue the earth, to make it like Eden. Man however had his own plan and when you get to Genesis 11, man is fully intent on implementing it.

The second thing we see is the danger of a corrupt heart in a creation that was made for authority. Genesis 11:6 (NASB) tells us, “The LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.’” The fact that God created man with innate ability should not be lost on us. God gave man the ability to rule and reign, be creative and build, and also to think for themselves. We see all through the book of Acts the benefit of this. However, like so many things in life, good can be manipulated and used for evil. God will not allow this to go on forever. 

So many people use their freedom in Christ to do ungodly things. They take God’s long suffering and grace and build their own kingdom. We see this being played out in Genesis 11 and we see God deal with it. Our lesson in this is to constantly be reminded of God’s desires for us. God isn’t looking to destroy man, He is looking to employ him. When man becomes useless, there is need for reset, an intervention of will.

As a pastor, as a Christian, I have seen this scenario play out too often. People get distracted by the life they are building and then wonder where the Lord’s blessing is. His blessing is not found in man’s plan but in His. His plan isn’t hard, it starts right here in scripture. Whenever God passes judgement on a people it is accompanied with the idea of Him  being grieved. What grieves God is disobedience. The fight of faith is truly a fight of obedience.

God has intended mankind to be of one heart, speaking the same language. When it is used for good, God will empower it to work miracles. When it’s used in pride, the Lord will shut it down. Let’s be diligent to fulfill His plan in our lives. Let’s learn from this example and be blessed instead of confused. Clarity of mind is a godly thing and an indicator that you are on the right track.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

The Name Game (ATP)

I know God has many names, but in Matthew 1:21 it says His name is Jesus and in verse 23 it says His name is Emmanuel. Can you please explain what this means?!

Matthew 1:21-23 (NASB)

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

You actually somewhat answered this question in the question. “I know God has many names.” The best thing to do is to understand why.

One thing I learned early on about God and scripture, is that word usage seemed important to God, especially in the realm of names. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, and when it comes to God, well let’s just say there’s a whole bunch. The reason isn’t really that hard to understand.

Words are incredibly important to God. Jesus is called the Word and the Bible is called the Word. When God created He used words. The scriptures declare some interesting things. Matthew 12:37 (NASB) says, “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Proverbs 18:21 (NASB) says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Romans 10:17 (NASB) says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” These are just a few of many scriptures, but we can easily see that words are important to God.

When He describes Himself, God uses many different names. Jehovah-Shalom (God of peace), Jehovah-Rapha (God who heals), El Shaddai (God almighty), again just to show a few. What’s interesting, is whatever God is called, it’s always a description. It describes aspects of His character and this I assure you is quite purposeful. 

Hebrews 11:6 (NASB) tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” This is an incredibly important and often misunderstood verse. This is not just saying that we believe God exists. The Bible declares that this is a given and a fool doesn’t believe! This is saying, if you come to God (if you want what you are after) you must believe IN who He is not just that He is. Coming to God in faith means you understand first that you have place your come but also that He desires to answer when you do because you come trusting and knowing His will. His names are a reminder to us of His will because they are descriptive.

Jesus was His given name, Immanuel was descriptive. At different times He was referred to as different things. He was referred to as Rabbi (teacher), Master, Lord, Friend, among many other things. Jesus called Himself something God called Himself, I Am. This is really what we see reflected in Hebrews 11:6. The whole purpose in all of this is for humanity to understand. What’s interesting is even satan has different names in scripture and though this may surprise you, each is descriptive! 

People also sometimes get hung up on the idea of praying in Jesus name. God was not putting the emphasis on saying the exact words but coming with understanding and purpose. The understanding of praying in Jesus name is to understand the authority in the person of Him. To these cultures the name did this very thing. They gave purpose in their petition. 

I may go on a limb here and I’ll say this from my own opinion, but I believe when you consider that ancient people had many God’s depending on their desires or needs, God took the time to show that He was everything humans needed. The Greeks had one God for this and another for something else. Our God, the God of the Bible revealed in three persons but still One, is truly our All in All.

The purpose of all God’s names are a reminder to us of who we are dealing with. He isn’t a God just once in a while, but He is our everything. God wants us to understand Him and His desire for humanity because this is really what relationship is all about. God’s desire has always been that His creation would know Him. Past, present, and future our God truly is! What an awesome God we serve!

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

What Child Is This? (ATP)  

Jesus is called the son of God, but there were others in the book of Genesis called sons of God as well. Can you please explain this?

This phrasing can tend to cause some confusion for people for sure. A simple understanding of translations can be helpful.

Basically, we have to remember when reading the Bible, although it is truth, it is a translation. As a believer that should not cause concern. In fact, a well rounded believer embraces this fact. Unbelievers however sometimes use this as a way of trying to disprove scripture. Knowledge will make this clear.

First, let’s understand some things about translations. ANY GOOD translation is put together by a team of the top scholars in language and religion. These are people who devote their lives to these things. Many of them are archeologists who also find evidence for all the different claims in the Bible. They are also people who don’t always agree and therefore have long discussions on accuracy and understanding. Bible translators are at the very top of their fields of study. 

The Bible versions we have generally come in one of several forms. Direct, word for word translations (KJV, NKJV, NASB), thought for thought translations (NIV), and paraphrased (The Message Bible, The Living Bible) are some examples. Word for word means that when translated the best equivalent word is given from language to language. Thought for thought is when they translate what is being expressed. Paraphrased means that they are breaking down what is being said in modern language using examples of what modern people may identify with. Though some people claim some as better than others, I believe all are necessary and have a place. Some people think word for word translations are the best. Consider this, if I called someone nice you would think highly of them. However, if you were in Europe in the 1600s you would think something different as nice was equivalent to calling them an idiot. Therefore you can see, something written in ancient times may have a different understanding in modern usage. The King James Bible, written in 1611 uses the word unicorn several times. We would think that’s crazy, however if you look at an 1800’s dictionary you would see that unicorn is a word to describe a rhinoceros. This is why we can have discrepancies in understanding and I have seen even ministers misunderstand scripture because they refuse other translations. 

That said, there are different usages for the phrase, sons or son of God. Typically, in the Old Testament when this phrasing is used it tends to refer to spiritual beings often understood to be angels. The best explanation I heard was this, “A son of God denotes a being brought into existence by a creative act of God.” When we apply that knowledge to all of scripture it makes more sense.

Angels have no parents, they were created. Jesus had a human mother (so He would have human DNA) but she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit (not the way human fathers do). Thus these all were created directly by God. But what about us human Christians? Don’t we all have human parents yet we are also called sons of God? We who are Christians have been born again by God’s power, so we qualify as sons of God as well. This was not the case for those humans of the old covenant. Jesus said in John 3:6-7 (NASB), “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.” Jesus is also sometimes referred to as the Son of man, and this is also true being that His mother had human flesh. 

I want to take an opportunity to present a common but slight translational misunderstanding. In maybe one of the most popular scriptures, John 3:16 (NASB) it is said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The word for “only begotten” was not always fully understood. Until recently the Greek word for it ‘monogenes’ was translated as only begotten. However, upon more recent archeological discovers it is believed a better rendering would be the word unique. This makes more sense as we know Jesus was not the “only begotten” but was the unique one. The same word is used in Hebrews referring to Isaac, whom we also know was not the only son of Abraham, and not even the first, but he was the unique one.

This is why as believers we should never get hung up on something just because we don’t quite understand it. God is perfect but He has chosen to not just save us but have us partake in His nature. That being the case, our humanity will have some effect. Only on the day we are with Him will we see true perfection. Until then, God is working with us and in us. Not just as creation, but He does so as sons!

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

Faith & Forgiveness (ATP) 

My question is about forgiveness, I know that we’re to forgive those who have hurt us. My question is can we truly forgive and walk away? 

Great question and one that actually comes up often. Can we truly forgive and walk away? John 8:32 (NASB) says, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Freedom can only be found in knowing truth. Forgiveness becomes infinitely easier when you understand its truth. 

Why forgive, why would God tell us to do this unconditionally? The first and basic answer to this is because forgiveness is an act of love and love is the only way we are supposed to live. So there’s two sides of forgiveness I am going to focus on. If by the end of this a person doesn’t desire to be forgiving, then they have some serious things to think about. 

Let’s start with love. 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB) says, “(Love) does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.” Also, 1 Peter 4:8 (NASB) says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” This “love covers” literally means that it covers over or hides. This does not mean that someone who is being abused simply forgets about it but that when they are wronged, because they love they look for a way to make it of no effect. Usually, people hurt others because they are hurting themselves. Always, motivation inspired by the devil is at play.

When we understand that a person who inflicts harm on another is motivated by sin which is motivated by the devil, we can see the truth behind it. Look at what Ephesians 4:26-27 (NASB) says. “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” Anger in this context is caused by a wrong suffered. Anger that provokes revenge is the opposite of forgiveness which is a commandment of God and is therefore sin. Sin, especially this kind is an open door for the devil to act. This is why God says to forgive. It puts out a fire before it can spread.

People wonder why there is so much bad in the world and here is one of the greatest reasons why. It’s obvious when someone wrongs you, you feel terrible and want justice. However, God is the only righteous judge. He knows all motives and every heart, while we cannot. When we are provoked we lose the ability to judge accurately and demand to be avenged. The problem with this is we don’t take everything into account because we are being controlled by emotions not truth.

Have you ever wronged another? You have, we all have. If you haven’t yet, at some point you will. If you have made a mistake and received forgiveness, you understand the power of it because you know you didn’t deserve it. The opportunity that unforgiveness and anger gives the devil is an open door to cause more potential hurt, anger, and more unforgiveness. This in turn perpetuates more evil and then so on. We live in a world, motivated by the flesh and desires of humanity and the result is an existence plagued by the devil. Every wrong committed is another open door for another wrong to be committed. The devil is working through multiplication. The first couple of verses in James chapter 4 tell us all about this. Forgiveness is the power that stops the enemies ability to move forward!

Now onto the next main point. Forgiveness is an act of faith. Hebrews 13:5 (NASB) says,  …“I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” and verse 6 says, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.

WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” Everything the devil does, every evil act, every wicked inspiration has one purpose, your focus. The devil is truly powerless against us, he has no power at all over us. So what he does is inspire people to act against others to provoke others to respond in kind. This perpetuates evil. When was the last time someone hurt you that you didn’t just want justice but revenge? It wasn’t enough for them to be stopped, you wanted them to hurt the way you hurt. The devil knows we have a tendency toward these things because he knows how sin works. 

When you are hurting your focus is taken off God, your true help and supply, and goes to something else. That something becomes the the object of your focus which makes it an idol. You get so focused on the thing you forget about God, that He loves you and will always take care of you. You forget about serving Him and focus on that revenge. You forget about all the blessings He’s poured out on you and get covered in wrong thinking. Forgiveness is a closed door to this idol worship. It says, I may have experienced something negative, but my God is so much bigger. It is an ultimate act of faith!

The point I’ve tried to make is that God tells us to forgive because not doing so never gives us the chance to heal. If you get a cut or a burn, when it’s fresh it needs to be protected. However, eventually it needs air to heal. The refusal to forgive keeps that sin covered allowing it to fester. Most of the time, the only one your unforgiveness truly affects is you. You stay mad, you stay hurt, and you keep the door open for the devil to have a free ride!

If you keep your hand in the fire, it will burn until it’s destroyed. The refusal of a person to forgive is doing just that. You see, when we understand that not forgiving only destroys (especially us), we can understand that as hard as it may feel, it’s necessary if we are to heal. You will never be effective for God if you won’t forgive. You will never be effective in life either. Your forgiveness is required and needed to stop the advance of the devil. Jesus said in Matthew 12:30 (NASB), “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” If we insist on keeping the door open for the devil, we close the door to God. The next time you struggle to forgive ask yourself, “What do I want working in my life and that of my loved ones, God or demons?” When you know the truth, deciding to do right is not that hard at all!

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

Lay It All Out For Me! (ATP)  

Are the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ two distinct events? I’ve read the Rapture is when Jesus appears in the clouds for us, and in the coming of Christ, Jesus descends to the earth to bring judgement and reign. Is this a misunderstanding?

The rapture is one of those often hot debated things in Christianity. On the basic level in case anyone reading doesn’t even know what it is, the Rapture or Rapture of the Church is an event that is yet to happen and is essentially when God’s people will be taken all at one time so God can judge the earth. The word rapture is never found in scripture but its concept is. The debate has many levels including: is it or is it not a thing, will it happen before Jesus comes back, while He is coming back, or after He does, and also is it before, during, or after The Great Tribulation talked about in many places of scripture. I’m sure there’s more arguments but this gives us a foundation.

Ever since I became a sincere Christian, I have heard about the rapture and various ideas about it. In fact, it was probably one of the curiosities that drew me to press into the faith. Over the years I had pretty much settled in my heart what I believed would happen (Now this is an interesting thing that I will come back to). It wasn’t until I was at our Corry church one night and we were having a conversation that I started to think differently about it (I’ll come back to that too). 

One of the people serving that night who had been in the faith and churches for years asked me, “Do you think the rapture will happen before the tribulation?” I emphatically answered, “I absolutely do, I think the Bible clearly teaches that!” To which they replied, “That is a subject that has caused many debates.” When this was said it got me thinking of something (which I will also come back to)! This question came to me in my spirit, “Do you believe this because you want to believe it, or because it’s true?” Wow, did that open a can of worms!

I decided in that moment that I really didn’t have enough knowledge of this hot debated topic to have a real opinion, my opinion being founded mostly in what I was taught. Now in peripheral doctrines it’s ok to have opinions about them as long as you don’t teach them as truth. However, if you want to have a thoughtful discussion about anything Biblical, you better know your stuff. This sent me into some very interesting studies!

Before I proceed and get back to all the things I was going to get back to, I want to throw out a very important disclaimer. Whether the rapture happens or not, or when it happens, or how it does should be very low on our “I have to study this out” list. The reason I say this is because there simply just isn’t enough information that one can say definitively. Jesus, the Apostles, or anyone else saw fit to mention it but it wasn’t a subject to which a lot of time was given. As Christian’s, we can get distracted by deep study of curiosities and miss the things that help us live daily as Christians in God’s will. The Bible is full of curiosities, and I believe that it is purposefully done that way, but curiosities should not be our focus. When God wanted us to focus on something He made sure that it was repeated over and over again.

When it comes to peripheral doctrines, or doctrines that the Bible doesn’t say a lot about we have to be open minded. Sometimes it’s a matter of what we simply don’t know, sometimes it’s a cultural thing we don’t understand. Sometimes it’s just something God gives us as a teaser to provoke our faith but we will have to wait for the answer. What one believes about the rapture does not make them a better Christian and therefore it doesn’t move the needle much. What one believes about God and their relationship to Him DOES matter. The rapture and the the thoughts surrounding it have one main purpose (though there could be many underlying or less important purposes). This purpose is to encourage believers to be ready for Jesus and His inevitable return. 

Now, there are certainly some out there who will think I am dodging the question by spending so much time on it this way and not getting into details of the question itself but I assure you I am not. I am answering this as a pastor whose job it is to feed the sheep. I am to feed them with life sustaining food not dessert. The focus I want to stress is the utter importance of not getting distracted by curiosities leaving behind the nourishment for your soul. However, I am not saying we shouldn’t spend any time on these other things, dessert is always good in moderation! 

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 are some of our main rapture verses. The purpose I believe of both of these sections of scripture was not to tell exactly the how and what but to encourage us that. That God has a plan in place and we can rest in that. A lot of times things that God had said were not understandable until after they happen and I believe that the rapture is one of these events. With that my personal belief is that Jesus will come back in the clouds and call us to Him. I believe that is a different event than His coming to earth to reign for what is called the Millenium (another debated topic). Really to try and explain more in a Faith Fix would be too difficult as there are whole books written on the subject.

To sum all this up and to get back around finally to things I wanted to get back to let me say this: I reserve the right to change my mind on what I believe on this as I grow and learn more. There are certain subjects in the Word that I believe we just have to be open to. Now of course, I am not talking about foundation principles of scripture like Jesus as the only way to God and faithfulness to Him. When we have clear teaching we embrace it, when it’s not so clear we allow God to teach us. For the rest we wait until God comes back and reveals all the things we missed. 

When Jesus taught about the end times He did so doing something quite amazing. He gave information but always brought it back to faith in God. In everything He did His lesson was the same, “Have faith in God!” Don’t reject the curiosities but don’t get lost in them either. Focus on living for God and seeing Him in all you do and you will be blessed. He may even reveal truths to you that others don’t know!

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

Agreeing To Disagree (ATP) 

Is it true that the Lord will “prune” the people who won’t fully get on board with the pastor’s vision? … or is the Lord long suffering with people and will mercifully allow them to stay hooked up to a church for their protection? Can a few people truly ruin the plan of God if the majority wants to seek Him in unity? 

To answer this question I want to preface it with a few questions, and these questions every Christian should ask themselves. What is a body? Why do we go to church? Why do I go to the church I go to? Am I connected to what and where God has called me?

Many Christian’s seek to be used by God and never figure out how. This is not hard, but in order for you to know, you have to connect to where God has connected you. I once had someone “try” our church a few times. The last conversation I ever had with them was about God having a plan for their life. They said to me, “I sure wish He’d show me!” I tried expressing that it would be found as they connect where God wants them, to which they shrugged off and I never saw them again!

Now what’s interesting about this is this person came to us, wait for it, completely on their own because they felt “led”! They’re words, not mine! I have seen this so much, God has brought someone, even supernaturally, yet because they don’t like the conditions they throw it all out! This is the epitome of spiritual immaturity. Yet even still, God is merciful and will bare with them. I truly hope they all find their way.

The reason I started with the above questions is because if you are going to be effective where God calls you, you must understand some things. Number one is that He will not consult people for his plan. What He gives us individually is guidance. We get to figure out where God wants us but we must realize we need to grow. In order to grow, the thing being grown needs something it doesn’t already have.  Psalms 92:13 (NASB) says, “PLANTED in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.” 

Once we know where God would have us we now have another step we must take. 1 Peter 5:5 (NASB) says, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” What’s interesting here is that younger men is not just referring to young men but literally means young in the faith. To subject is to submit. This idea scares people and that’s because the idea of submission has been used as a means of abuse. But the Bible does not say let elders abuse you. Hebrews 13:17 (NASB) says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Again we see this concept of submitting and the question we might then have would be why?

Before I go further, let me say this again, submission is not direction to be abused or allow someone to control you. However, the vision for a local assembly will be given through a person and directed and taught to the people under their care. This is God’s design and it is prevalent throughout scripture. Simply speaking, if you try driving a car full of people and everyone is insisting on getting a turn, you’re going to end up in a wreck. God loves order and order comes down through the ranks.

Now, let me pose one more question. If you don’t agree with the vision given from a pulpit, and you cannot get on board with it for whatever reason, why would you want to stay? If anything, the law of love tells us that we should separate ourselves so we would not cause undue hardship or division. However I also want to say this, that we should not let some personal preferences or opinions separate us either. If we know God has brought us to a place, then we should submit the best we can, to what we can, and go from there. However, if we find over time that God has moved us on, then leave quietly and in faith. The Bible says at the end of Roman’s 14, whatever is not faith is sin.

As to the question, would God move us on? We need to be careful at how and what we judge and then how we act accordingly. Divisiveness is never God. If we are acting in such a way that our words and actions cause people to get divisive or to stumble, we need to be careful because this, God despises. We will be judged for such actions because they are dangerous to the local church.

Recently, when asked by a church member if a particular action was right or wrong I answered with this, “To my knowledge the Bible doesn’t specifically address this but in whatever I do I try and ask myself what is my motive for doing it. If I can have peace that God would approve then I have liberty to act.” But if I can’t back up my motive with knowledge of God’s will, then at least for the moment, I’m not in it! It’s a simple tool to live by and keeps us from a host of trouble. 

Our goal as the people of God should never be to focus on what divides and separates but that which brings us together. God is a God of unity and He never gave any one part all the answers. God has done this on purpose for purpose and we find purpose when we see how we fit into this. God has called everyone somewhere, not because of the individual’s perfection but for everyone’s perfecting. He is truly working all things together for our good, let’s let Him do it!

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff