Ask Anything: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Another great guest post by Bev Green

If God can do anything why did Jesus have to die?. Couldn’t God have decided a different way for humans to be saved or to conquer death?

The simple answer for this question is yes, he could have and that just seems wrong to us sometimes. We as humans look at our relationship with our kids and know that would be an unbelievable decision to have to make. We would sacrifice ourselves in a minute but not our children that we have spent every ounce of energy to protect.

At the core of this question we have to be careful that we aren’t questioning God’s perfect plan for salvation. He chose this path because of how we feel about our kids. He wants us to truly understand the magnitude of the sacrifice and there is nothing we love more than our kids.

From the beginning scripture has been clear that there was only one way to get to heaven and that is through the shed blood of Christ, the perfect lamb that takes away the sins of the world.  We look at that and it doesn’t make any sense to us but God is so good to put things into a frame of reference.

We know and understand that when man was cast out of the garden that payment for sin required a blood sacrifice.  Early on a spotless lamb of bird was enough but ultimately God had a bigger plan, his Son.  He came to this world perfect, sinless and blameless, the only man who was born and lived his whole life that way.

God knew that while we would understand the pain and magnitude of sacrifice through a lamb or bird on a certain level, we would so much more understand the role and importance of sacrifice to pay for our sins by Jesus having to pay the price.  Essentially the payment for sins was for our benefit but so was what that payment had to be.

Ask Anything: If Satan has already lost…

This guys blog was written by Bev Green, our Local Outreach Co Ordinator.  Bev has been with Discovery since the portable days, has served in most of our areas and currently serves under resourced populations in Broomfield on behalf of Discovery.  She has a great passion to see women grow in their faith and pours much of her time into Broomfield‘s multi church ministry to Single Mothers.  She’s a great thinker, speaker and writer.

Q: If Satan has already lost, why does he still torment us?

A: It is likely that Satan was the highest of all the angels in heaven.  He was the most beautiful of all creation but he wasn’t content in his position.  He desired to be God.  As a result Satan was cast out of heaven by God.

Satan has been called the ruler of this world. When he was cast out of heaven God gave him dominion over the world. Since we are living our lives here on the earth we are living in the midst of his kingdom. This does not mean that he has any control over the life of the Christian. He is the father of lies and as a result he uses his powers of deception to create issues and problems in the lives of each one of us. I believe that the biggest reason that Satan torments us is because he knows he has ultimately lost.

He was created to have fellowship with God but because pride got in his way that fellowship/relationship was severed. God then created man, not only for relationship but in His image.  One can only imagine how that made Satan feel. I believe that Satan sees tormenting man, created in God’s image, as his way of taking revenge for being cast out of heaven. I used to believe that Satan did it just because he could. I think it makes a great deal of sense that his real goal is to cause harm to the thing that God lives most, us.

Ask Anything: What About ISIS?

This thoughtful blog response is written by Scott and Heidi Henkel.  You’ll see in their article below that they are ideally suited to address this challenging question.  Also, who else is able to reach out to their Afghan translator and friends as part of their research?  Finally, you’ll note that they first list the questions submitted before tackling their answer.  I greatly appreciate Scott and Heidi’s thoughts here.  

Questions:  

1.Should Christians protect other Christians in Iraq from Islamic radicals like ISIS?

2. With the recent slayings of innocent people with ISIS as the example:  What would/does the Bible actually say or delegate as our role and appropriate response to these more evil than normal people committing these heinous acts?  For example people involved in sex trafficking  and abusing other helpless people.  What should we, as able bodied Christian men, what action should we take?  What action is our duty to do?

3. Why don’t our Christian churches throughout the US address the grievous injustices that are being perpetrated against Christians around the world?  Persecution, violence, beheadings are becoming more prevalent (for that matter, Jews are being attacked relentlessly too.)  I believe it is of vital importance for US church congregations to be informed about this and led by church leaders in helping & supporting the persecuted.  Why do churches bury their heads in the sand?  I am not suggesting churches need to get political.  I am saying churches need to be our cultural.

Answer:  

Scott’s Rant Starts Here:  I combined these questions into:  What should be the Christian response to terrorism?

I had coffee with a close friend of mine not too long ago and as we discussed a multitude of topics the question came up about my thoughts and more importantly my feelings about Islamic State (ISIS).  In the interest of full disclosure I spent 362 days in Zabul, Afghanistan as an Army officer.  In that time I led hundreds of ground operations to every corner of that province and by pure statistical probability I’ve experienced evil up front, first hand.  So the question of what does a Christian veteran of war think about evil acts committed “in the name of God” makes sense.

I’ll give you my “non-Churchy” answer first; I was pissed off.  My most natural tendency is to react as a fighter to violence so hearing of the horrors in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other parts of the globe make me angry.  My suspicion is that’s how most people feel when they are exposed to violence. Compounding those feelings are no doubt feelings of helplessness as the violence is happening half way around the world and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.  While those are perfectly human reactions that’s also the problem.  Turns out Jesus is teaching us to react in a wholly different manner.  After searching scripture and talking with my Afghan brothers I’ve arrived at a few points.

1.      Pray for Islamic State: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” – Matthew 5:43-48:  I know, I know, this is the “Churchy” answer you were probably waiting for when you first read this blog.  And while rest assured, I want to punch myself in the face for writing it scripture truly does back it up. A quick scan finds the word “salvation” comes up 114 times in the Bible.  If word count matters this is a pretty important thing to God.  So our call is to believe in the power of God’s salvation. Saul was a terrorist before becoming Paul.  Through our concerted prayer there is hope.  We have to trust in God’s power.

2.      Overcome the community with good: Jesus makes it pretty clear by calling us out, “To love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves.”  That’s the key idea.  The Church is not and should never be looked to for military or political validation.  Jesus didn’t suffer and die for an idea.  He gift on the cross was so each of us could form a relationship with The Father.  I believe if we truly commit to this commandment the world will become a better place and groups like Islamic State will cease to exist.

3.      Islam is not the problem“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”: Romans 12:21  After doing some research and talking with my interpreters from Afghanistan I have concluded that Islamic State are misled sociopaths using pieces of the Koran (largely out of context) to validate their activity.  Man giving wholly into sin is the problem.  The key takeaway from my research and conversations is the any violence endorsed through the Koran is for defensive purposes.  Similar to how we view defending our homes or families from people who would do them harm.  What is happening overseas is an abomination.

4.      Pray and do:  We see violence on the screen and then see the actors on the red carpet for awards shows without a blemish, all smiles.  Hollywood makes war look temporary.  The truth is war is a lifetime.  As Christians we can pray for current and past soldiers, sailors, and marines and the families they touch. We can volunteer and help fund programs designed to intercede in the mind boggling high suicide and homeless rates of veterans.  We can pray for our leaders to seek God’s counsel in their daily decisions.  We can support organizations like Samaritan’s Purse that is shipping aid directly to the people affected by the violence.

This isn’t a comprehensive essay on what our response should be to the Islamic State threat.  Just a few thoughts from someone who is struggling with the same mix of emotions most feel when they hear of the barbarism overseas.  So to me the bottom line response to the question. “What can we do as Christians?”  Be in prayer.  Be bold in acts of good.

To add, from his wife, Heidi Henkel-

  1. Some history- As a veteran’s wife, I still did not fully understand ISIS and how they came to be. They’re so violent that not even Al Queda would be associated with them and I wanted to dive in more to fully understand them. Here’s an easy look into the ISIS group so you can have some background and understanding about where they started and how they are moving. The link is often updated and well put together.

17 Things You Need to Know about ISIS and IRAQ

  1. Visit the question- Is it really US vs. THEM? The more violent ISIS (and other evil) becomes, the more Christianity’s truth is revealed. We have to be very cognizant of how we, as Christians, keep to our truth and, if we are only getting angry at the injustice caused to Christians, we have to revisit how Christ would like us to respond. Christians aren’t the only ones in jeopardy as it seems they are simply using the Koran to bully the minorities, no matter who they might be. They instigate crimes against all of humanity, including their own. So, we must align ourselves in the teachings of Jesus and take part in His truth that takes non-Christian lives in account because they are His children as well…and yes, that includes ISIS.
  1. Pray for them and for us: When we pray, we ought to pray for our own response, in particular, if it’s causing anxiety or depression by getting sucked into the news on a saturated level. Honestly, it’s taken me weeks to respond to this question because the research drained this empathetic soul and I had to keep myself in check. I was balling my eyes out when they spoke of their own children as young as 8 and teaching them daily violence, but if we are caught up in the Daily News vs. the Eternal News, we must realign with what is good and get consumed by it. That’s our best fight we can give and it’s more relevant than we think.
  1. Islam not the problem (we repeat)- In as much as we seem helpless, there is power in prayer and fighting the good fight as mentioned above in Scott’s statements with those who are providing help and aid on the ground. (That also made me cry, only tears of joy!)  I also want to reiterate that Islam is not the problem, evil is. If left alone on an island, it would consume itself. As humans however, we have traces of it left behind in our hearts, leading us the question the peace we strive to share with our families, neighbors, and strangers. In our world, largely led by fear, the sensational always trumps the important and what’s important is peace.

Ask Anything: What is Up with the Nephilim?

The Bible mentions the Nephilim twice:

Gen. 6:4 The Nephilima were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

Num. 13:33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anakb come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

The bottom line is we’re not sure who the Nephilim are.  Some conjecture that they are some sort of super human race, based on the phrase, “sons of God went to daughters of humans” but most likely, they were an unusually tall regional population.

Rather than rehash the discussion, I’d refer you to this excellent site that covers the 3 most popular understandings of this passage.  Click here.

Ask Anything: Why Did Paul Cut His Hair

Acts 18:18 tells us:

Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sistersa and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreaed because of a vow he had taken.

So he cut his hair because of a vow.  What kind of vow?  The Bible doesn’t say, but we can reasonably presume it was a vow to God.  Paul also refers to a vow that his travel companions made in Acts 21:23 and it is in context of their koshersness, so to speak.

So what is the vow and why did Paul make it?  We don’t know, the Bible doesn’t say and so any thought is conjecture.  Based on conjecture then:

– perhaps a Nazarite Vow which involves growing your hair out

– More likely a personal spiritual vow akin to fasting.

– And course, Acts 18 may simply be the first ever reference to “No Shave November!”

But jokes aside, it appears that the vow had a jewish root and partially showed jewish people of Paul’s orthodoxy, opening them up to his conversation about Jesus as Messiah.

Ask Anything: Do animals go to heaven?

I’m often asked this by someone who deeply loves their pet and it is a great question.  The shortest answer is “yes” in that the Bible describes the eternal state of heaven as “A new heaven and a new earth” or a “renewed earth” or a future time when “heaven and earth will collide” and so while the Bible is quite scant on the details of heaven, it does lead us to believe that heaven will be very earth like in its substance, so I think we can conclude that animals will definitely be there.  The underlying question of course, is “will my pet” go to heaven?”  It is another great question on which the Bible does not speak because having a pet is a relatively new concept in human history, so we can’t presume to answer, but based on the Bible’s teachings on heaven and new creation involving animals, we can count on animals being in heaven.

Ask Anything: Why does God rename some but not all people (e.g. Saul to Paul, Simon to Peter)?

Great question!  There is actually a great deal of renaming in the Bible and only some of it is from God.  Some people renamed themselves.  For example, in the book of Ruth, Naomi chose to be known as “Mara” because of the bitterness of her grief.  Other times, one human would rename another, as in the case of Daniel and his 3 friends in Babylon.

A person would rename themselves, or rename another to either symbolize an event or experience (Naomi, for example) or to make them more culturally appropriate (Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon for example.)

But, to the question, here is a quick list of people God renamed in Scripture:  

Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah

Jacob became Israel, (The deceiver becomes the one who contends with God.)

God changed Pashhur’s name after he physically attacked Jeremiah the prophet.  God renamed him “Terror on Every Side.”  Jeremiah showed some incredible courage, delivering that news to Pashhur after receiving his beating.  Meanwhile, I think we can all agree that the second ‘h’ in his name is redundant or silent.

Simon “the Reed” became Peter “The Rock.”

James and John became “The Sons of Thunder!” (But hey, that may have just been Jesus’ nickname for those hotheads.)

One of the more tender renaming projects is when God first named Hosea’s children, born to an unfaithful woman.  God had Hosea name them, “Not My People” and “Not My Loved One.”  (Its a bit snappier in the original Hebrew.)  Later on, God renamed them, “My People” and “My Loved One” as a powerful metaphor for God’s forgiveness and mercy.  I would encourage you to read this for yourself, its a stunning move right there in the Old Testament.

Some think that God changed Saul’s name to Paul, but actually, he always had those two names.  Paul/Saul was Jewish, but a Roman citizen.  “Saul” was his Hebrew name and “Paul” was his Latin equivalent that made sense in the Roman Empire.  In much the same way, I like to make people call me “Esteban” whenever I’m south of the border.  It makes me appear more exotic and I can use all the help I can get.

So, in brief, God changes a name (or in many other cases, assumes the naming right of a child) to make a point.  It usually coincides with an event, or a prophecy and we should consider each renaming or naming of a baby on its own merit to best understand why God did it.

So, for example, the renaming of Simon to Peter.  Simon means “reed” and Simon was often easily swayed by the winds of the day.  But after he made the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God, Jesus renamed him “Peter” meaning “Rock” which, of course, is not easily swayed, but is steadfast.  Jesus was both marking the moment of that confession and also speaking into Peter his future reality.  As we read the book of Acts, we see this previous reedy guy standing steadfast in the face of the strongest opposition, continuing to proclaim “Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.”

Ask Anything: Women and Head Coverings?

A great guest post from Jake Brown, our Student Ministries Director who is currently enrolled at Moody Bible Institute.  Jake rightly shows that portions of the Bible were specifically cultural to the immediate context and not timeless for us today.  

Q: So….what about head coverings?

A: But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her 

head – it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her 

head, she might as well have her hair cut off; bit if it is a disgrace for a woman to have 

her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. 

This is one of many rules that Paul lists that we don’t follow in a great deal of the 

world today. Why does the current church take some of Paul’s teachings (many that 

aren’t listed in Jesus’ teachings) very seriously and still obey today, while others like 

this are not?

When we take a look at some of the laws and rules in the bible we have to look at them in context and culture. There are some laws that are completely out of place unless you consider the context. If you were to take every law completely without context you would find some laws in the Bible that don’t seem to line up with the main stream teachings in the Bible.

An example of this is found in Exodus 21:23.  When you read this passage it teaches an “eye for an eye” type of justice and could easily be used to justify many different kinds of viewpoints.  When we look at it in context we realize that this is a nomadic people group in potentially hostile areas.   If there is a person among them who is violent or dangerous that person must be taken care of.  As the Jewish people began to establish themselves some of these laws stayed in place and others were pushed away because their context had changed.

The example of head coverings is taught to the Corinthian church and it is a teaching on wives being submissive to husbands. We have to ask ourselves if this is a moral law that God is teaching that does not change or is it important for the people there in Corinth. We know from reading through the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians that the people of Corinth had a lot of issues.  We can also take away that one of their issues was that of the family household and each member’s responsibility as it came to the spiritual well being of the family. Paul teaches here that as Christ is the head of man, so is man the head of woman and as a symbol of that the woman should wear a head covering.  This would have been an outward sign that the wife could submit to her husband’s authority in the same way that her husband submitted to Christ. Paul expands on what this means in Ephesians 5.  He commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  He commands men to love women as much as they love themselves.

Today we choose not to use head coverings, not because we disagree with the teaching by Paul, but because it was relevant for its culture and context and can be expressed differently today. If I love and sacrifice for my wife and my wife loves and sacrifices for me we can express what the head covering was supposed to express without the need for it.

Ask Anything: Women in Leadership?

Another excellent post by Laura Brasov.  A quick reminder that Laura is a valued and gifted Elder Alumni at Discovery and has a M.Th from Talbot Seminary.  The Body at Discovery continues to benefit tremendously from her leadership gifting as well as the leadership gifting of countless other women.  For those wishing to explore this matter more, Laura has provided further resources at the end of her blog entry.  I would simply add an invitation to explore this question, “Where, in your understanding of the Bible, is the line between a cultural command and an eternal command?”  In other words, “Why don’t women wear veils today in church and what other commands of Scripture have we decided are cultural and not timeless?” and “What exactly was Lydia’s and Pricilla’s role in the New Testament Churches?”  

Q: What is Discovery’s position on women in the ministry:

A:  The Bible has many passages relating to leadership, eldership and giftedness. Conversely, it has very few passages related to church structure.  Historically, there have been diverse opinions on how to understand the biblical passages that refer to church leadership.   Are they prescriptive or descriptive?  Is the word for “elder” a title or a description of an older man?  Are women excluded from church leadership?  How does a church in the 21st century honor such passages?

At one point, Discovery Church’s Leadership Team spent an entire year studying the topic of leadership with much prayer, reflection, lengthy discussions, and honest study of the Scriptures.  Along with other biblical passages, we examined 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4, I Corinthians 11:2-16, 14:34-36 at great length.

In regards to the specific issue of women in leadership, there have been – and continues to be – much honest disagreement between intelligent and reasonable Bible scholars on these passages.  We realized that the specific titles or offices mentioned in the New Testament writings of Luke, Paul and others exist as part of a narrative, or record, of how the early church handled the issue of sustainable, indigenous leadership.  Where the need for leadership existed, leaders were appointed based on need, giftedness, character and service.

In the same manner, we use this criteria at Discovery.  We realize that “servant leadership” was the model that Christ fully exhibited and this is therefore a primary trait and key qualification of someone who leads at Discovery, male or female.  Concerns about gender, age and marital status – while important as they relate to character and giftedness – are viewed as secondary in nature as they were influenced greatly by the cultural forces at work in the lives of the New Testament authors.  We believe that God has equally blessed both men and women with unique and specific abilities and experiences, and encourage men and women alike in the opportunity to serve the church and lead within their giftedness.

For those that are inclined to further study this topic, there are several well written books that continue to be great resources on the issue of women in ministry and specifically in leadership.   “Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism” is an excellent book written from a complementarian point of view, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy”, edited by Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, is another great book exploring this same issue from an egalitarian point of view.

Ask Anything: Can you lose your salvation?

Thanks to Randy Smith, the Ask Anything Workhorse for again providing an excellent response.  Much like the question, “Does God Get What God Wants” this question can tend to be more theoretical than actual in that the Bible offers a clear path to assurance of salvation.  

Q: Is it possible to lose your salvation?

Q: Can you lose your salvation by becoming lazy, busy, turning your focus elsewhere and going through motions?

A: We are saved through faith and belief in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV). This the only way to salvation. There is nothing else you can do to earn salvation, but to accept the grace or gift of God. This is known as justification by faith. The doctrine of justification by faith in Christ is the heart of the gospel.

To understand the principle of justification by faith alone, we must first understand the meaning of the central elements of this doctrine; justify and justification. First, is the matter of justification. Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25, NIV).

By the grace or gift from God, we are made righteous before God or receive justification through the faith of Jesus Christ based on our belief in Him. This is not the faith in Christ, rather the faithfulness of Christ that we are saved. On the other hand, God will justify or declare us in right standing before Him by our belief in Jesus Christ. Clearly, there is a distinct difference between the two terms.   Continue reading