Do I have to believe the whole Bible?

Your chest feels as if an elephant is dancing on it.  You’re gasping for air.  Sweat is glistening on your face.  You are in the emergency room of a hospital.  Nurses are hooking wires all over your chest.  Another nurse is searching for a vein to start an I.V.  Another nurse is putting a small pill under your tongue.  After looking at the monitor and the EKG tape, the doctor informs you that you are having a heart attack.  It’s a frightening scene.  Other tests prove that there is a blockage in your heart.  The doctor tells you what has happened to your heart and then proceeds to explain what needs to be done to repair your heart so that you can continue to live.

Are you going to believe everything he says? Or are you going to pick and choose what you want to believe and disregard the rest, which could cost you your life?  Your life depends on believing everything the doctor tells you. There are people who believe the whole of the Bible.

There are people who don’t believe anything in the Bible.  But how can a person believe just some of the Bible?  How does a person pick and choose what parts of the Bible are true and what parts are not true?  How can a person believe that Jesus died on the cross to take the sins of the world away and yet not believe that Jesus rose from the dead?  How can a person believe that Jesus did miracles, but that Jonah could not have spent three days in the belly of a great fish?

What is true and what is not true?  The Bible is God’s Word.  Not believing some of the Bible will lead to doubting all the Bible.  The Bible is not a collection of human ideas and thoughts.  The Bible is God’s Word, given word for word by the Holy Spirit to human writers.  If any part of the Bible is merely human thoughts, and not God’s Word, then all of God’s Word can’t be trusted.  If it is God’s Word, then all of it is true and is to be believed.

We believe the entire Bible is God’s Word and it is true.  Our belief is not founded on shaky ground.  First, there is more evidence for the documents of the Bible than for any other ancient book.  Second, all the writers of the New Testament wrote within the first century of Christ’s birth.  They all knew Jesus.  Third, even historical facts cited by the writers have been proven to be true.  Fourth, God promised that the writers would tell the truth.  The Holy Spirit guided them so that they did just that.

We believe all of the Bible because in it God tells us that he loves us sinful human beings so very much that he sent His Son Jesus to live, suffer, die and rise for us so that we could be with him in heaven.  That is why God tells us that his words “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

God’s Word is all true. You can trust every word of it from beginning to end.

Does God care what we call him?

What do your friends call you?  If they’ve given you a nickname that’s kinda cool, you’re probably pretty proud of it.  If they’ve given you a name that isn’t so nice, you’re not happy about that. N

ow let’s go to a party.  Your friends introduce you to someone of influence, but they call you by the wrong name.  Do you just smile, or do you correct the mistake?

God has a name.  As a matter of fact, he has tons of names. The Bible calls him Almighty God, Lord, Savior, Jesus, Holy Spirit and Jehovah, to name a few. But that’s in English. Don’t worry—God understands English.  But what about the names of God in other languages?

I was a missionary in Japan, and we ran into this problem when talking about God.  The word for god (kami) in Japanese is a very old word, and the typical Japanese understood “god” to mean any “god.”  Even 8 million different gods.  How could we get across the names of God from the Bible?  By defining the word “God.”  The God of the Bible is the “God who created heaven and earth.” Or he is the “God who saved us from our sins.”  In time, Japanese Christians could use their old name for “god” and understand it to mean the true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In languages all around the world there are various names for gods. Take Allah, for example.  For most people of the world the name “Allah” does not stand for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  For most it stands for the god of the Islam religion.  No doubt there are some Christians around the world who use “Allah” in their native tongue, but like the Japanese Christians, they have come to use this name to mean the True God.

This works both ways, you know.  If a Jehovah’s Witness uses the name Jesus, but doesn’t have any confession of Jesus as Savior from sin and death, just using Jesus’ name in prayer would not please God.  So, also, if I would use Allah or Kami and attach the common, accepted meaning, the true Lord God in heaven would not be pleased with me, either.

Are you beginning to get the picture?  No matter what language one uses to call upon God’s name, it is not the simple sounds of the word, but also the confession that comes with the name we use. God hears the words and sees the heart.  Let it be a heart that trusts in Jesus.

No wonder God said, “I am the LORD; that is my name!” (Isaiah 42:8). Let’s use the good name of the Lord God to pray, praise and give thanks.

Who wrote the Bible?

Picture this: the CEO of the company is dictating a letter to the secretary. As the CEO speaks, the secretary takes down every word. When the CEO is done, it’s clearly the CEO’s letter.

At the same time, the secretary’s abilities, skills, etc. are sure to show through. For example, if the secretary has poor eyesight, the letter will probably be typed in a larger font. Yet the letter remains the CEO’s.

Although simplistic, that basically illustrates how we got the Bible. God is the “CEO,” and various human writers are the “secretaries.” God gave the writers the exact words which He wanted them to use. The Bible describes it this way: “All Scripture is God-breathed…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Similarly, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Often in the Old Testament (written about 1400 – 400 B.C.) you’ll hear God say something like, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you … ” (Jeremiah 36:2) These words are God’s Words.

Does Jesus agree? Yes! One time Jesus quoted a passage from the book of Psalms. After He did, He made a parenthetical, yet important, remark: “–and the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He was saying, “These words are God’s words.”

The New Testament makes the same claim. One example is found in 1 Thessalonians: “… when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God . . .” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Again, these words are God’s words.

And yet God in mercy chose to work through human writers, more than 35 of them. God used people like Moses, Isaiah, Luke, John, and Paul to write down His words, to be His “secretaries,” and indeed their personality/talents shine through. For example, Luke was a physician. In his books, we see lots of details, as you might expect from a physician. Paul was a learned man, so the books he wrote are often quite deep, even a bit more difficult to understand.

To summarize, God gave the Bible through human writers; we can learn a few things about them by reading their books. Yet they remained merely the “secretaries.” The words, finally, are God’s.

What Do Angels Do?

Idleness is the devil’s workshop.

Someone said that. It seems to be a true statement too. And if indeed it is true, then angels are not going to be getting into trouble with evil because they are not busy. They are not idle. The Bible talks about angels as busy creatures.

The very name angel means messenger. The Old Testament book of Malachi literally means, “My angel.” We know God sent his angels to do his bidding and work. Christmas was a time when that was especially evident. Angels came to the characters of Christmas, piercing their darkness, speaking words of instruction and encouragement. Angels were there at Easter too. Remember the angels in the tomb? And at Jesus’ ascension back into heaven forty days after he rose on Easter Sunday, the angels were there too, saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Angels are witnesses of heaven and of God. The angel spoke to the future father of John the Baptist and said, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news” (Luke 1:19).

As the protectors of God’s people, angels are very busy. He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways… (Psalm 91:11). In this guarding of God’s people and his little ones, these angels keep their contact with heaven. Jesus tells us about them, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

Angels travel through space on their assignments. The angel Michael said to Daniel, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come…” (Daniel 10:20).

And perhaps the greatest and happiest thing angels do: they rejoice over one sinner who repents. In this way you and I can make the angels do something.

Let’s you and I make the angels happy!

Will I Be an Angel?

There are no marriage bells in heaven. No walking down the aisle. No pledges of faithfulness to a blushing and happy spouse.

Jesus says it will be this way: “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels” (Luke 20:34-36).

We are going to be different in heaven. Life is going to be different. We will be forever in love with Jesus. He will be the center of our attention and we will be the center of his. We will be forever with him. We will be like the angels in that regard because they “always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

But please notice that it doesn’t say we change and become angels. We will be like angels. But we won’t be angels. We will no longer die. We will be like the angels. We will be without sin. Angels are without sin. We will rejoice with the angels around God’s throne. The book of Revelation tells us this. We will be in the company and presence of angels. In fact, on that last and greatest of days, when the trumpet sounds and the dead rise, we will see the angels coming with Jesus in the heavens (Matthew 24:31). They will be the ones separating God’s people from the rest. But we won’t be angels.

Many in the world are talking about angels these days. New Age belief doesn’t have trouble encompassing the idea of angels. Songs on the radio talk about loved ones becoming angels to guard and bless the living loved ones. Various television shows promote the idea too. The Swedish singing group ABBA sang about angels. “I believe in angels, something good in everything I see,” they sang. It’s “cool” to talk about angels.

We like talking about angels too, but we won’t be angels.

The writer to the Hebrews asks a question. Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14) The answer is yes.

We rejoice to think of seeing them. We even look forward to thanking them for their work.

Am I good enough to go to heaven?

Mom went over to the slow cooker where the turkey had been all day. As the lid was taken off, a shriek filled the air. The slow cooker had been unplugged hours before to make room for Uncle Bob’s famous sweet potato soufflé.

Tears filled Mom’s eyes. “My dinner is ruined!” she cried. Dad chimed in, “Oh, honey. I am sure that it is good enough.” However, the half baked turkey was not good enough, nor was it safe to eat.

In our lives we probably hear or say those words often. “Oh, the lawn looks good enough. I can wait another couple of days to mow.” “Oh, the house isn’t that dirty. It is good enough for now.” “My job was done well enough for today. I am going home!”

What about when it is quitting time here in this life? Are we sure that we are going home to heaven? Are we good enough?

We may be individuals who settle for good enough more than we like to admit. However, we have a God who doesn’t settle for anything but perfection. Jesus says, “Be perfect . . . as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48.

So are we good enough to go to heaven?

God takes the “lid” off of our hearts and tells us what he sees. “Every inclination of the heart is evil from childhood” Genesis 8:21. Even if we try hard and work at being kind, good, and perfect we still fail. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

So now what do we do? Similar to an uncooked turkey, does the heat get turned up on us in hell? Is our hope to have life in heaven ruined?

Thanks to Jesus Christ our Savior the answer is, “No.” We do have hope because Jesus has forgiven our sins by dying on the cross and he has declared us to be innocent by rising from the dead. Because of what Jesus has done, every time that God looks at us he sees “you holy in his sight without blemish and free from accusation” Colossians 1:22.

Are you good enough to go heaven? Jesus did not just make you good enough but he made you perfect! Through faith you receive “the gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 3:23.

How could God allow suffering and evil?

This is a classic question. When it’s a challenge to the Christian faith, trying to prove that God doesn’t exist, it’s usually phrased like this: “If God is truly omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) and loving, how could he allow suffering and evil?”

Here is a classic answer.

God exists. Jesus said he does, and he rose from the dead to show that he could be trusted to tell the truth.

God is all-knowing. That trustworthy Jesus said so. And since God knows everything, he is smarter than we are. So he may do or say things that are perfectly right, but we don’t understand them, because we’re not as smart. We have that experience every day with people who are smarter than we are.

God is all-powerful. In philosophical terms, that doesn’t mean that he can do anything; that would lead to internal contradictions, as in, “Can God make a rock so big that he can’t lift it?” In philosophical terms, all-powerful means that he can do whatever he wants. He can always put his will into action. See the difference?

God is loving. God showed his love for all people by sending a Savior (John 3:16).

Does God allow evil to occur? That depends on how you define evil. Sometimes what seems bad or evil to one person seems good to another person.

But let’s grant that God does allow evil to occur. It’s only temporary. Death intervenes. Since God is smarter, perhaps that temporary evil actually turns out to be for some good in the end. For example, the Bible tells the story of a man whose brothers sold him into slavery. That was evil. But it turned out for good. The man himself said so (Genesis 50:20).

Since God is smarter than I am, I trust that when he allows evil or suffering in my life, it will work out for my good (Romans 8:28). Since he’s loving, I trust that everything really will work out for the best in my life. And since he’s all-powerful, I can ask him to get rid of the evil, and trust that if that’s he wants at that time, he can and he will (Matthew 7:7).

The church just wants my money

You hear it expressed all the time. “All they talk about in church is money!” Usually the person who says that has other issues with churches and this one just happens to be the one that most often surfaces. And for sure, there may well be churches where money is all they talk about.

It generally makes people angry when they suspect that all the church wants from them is their money. For people who love Jesus and their Heavenly Father, however, it is just the opposite. They would get angry if the church would not talk about money! Money given in church is one way believers tell their God, “I love you!” Offerings are considered an opportunity and not an offense.

It is like a young man who buys his sweetheart a Christmas present. He spends the money because he wants to. He spends as much as he can…maybe even more than he thinks he should. He insists on it. It’s for “her” and he loves her. Don’t you get between that young man and his billfold when it comes to the present he wants to purchase to show his fiancée his love.

A long time ago some very poor people in Macedonia understood completely that their church was not just trying to get their money. We hear about them, “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” We also hear that “out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4) The church was just the place they wanted to be. It gave them the chance to say to their God, “I love you…We love you!”

The cattle on a thousand hills are the Lords. All of the gold at Fort Knox is his. Every dollar bill in your billfold is already his. But he gives you the chance to use the dollar bill to say to him, “I love you.” And it delights his heart when you do it because you are not giving him money but love. That is the currency that God who owns everything does not have until you give it to him.

The church doesn’t just want your money.

God wants your love.

What if my past church experience was bad?

What do I do?

Let’s try the naively optimistic answer: “Bad things don’t happen at church!” We could say that, but it just wouldn’t be true. I counseled a young woman who felt she was being run out of the church choir on purpose. I didn’t believe it could happen. Not at church! Turns out, that is exactly what was happening on purpose and in the church. Ouch!

Let’s try a more “Christian” response: “You will just have to forgive and forget.” We could say that, too, but know too well that it is “easier said than done.” When a man or a woman finds out their spouse has been unfaithful, forgiving and forgetting might be a lifetime struggle.

So what do I do? Try another popular approach; maybe someone has it worse than we do. It seems that somehow we find comfort knowing others have experienced worse pain than we have.

Normally I wouldn’t recommend this approach, but I will make one exceptional exception. Let’s go to “church” with Jesus and see what he did when confronted with a bad experience.

In the Luke 4, we see Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth. On the Sabbath Day Jesus read from Isaiah and declared himself to be the “anointed” one. Initially the town folks liked what they heard, but when Jesus told how they would reject him, we are told that they were “furious” and they “took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built in order to throw him down the cliff.” This is a bad church experience.

Or go to the gospel of Matthew 26. Here Jesus is called before the elders of the church in Jerusalem. When he declares that he is the “Christ, the Son of God” they “spit in his face . . . struck him with their fists . . . and slapped him.” Subsequently they turned him over to Roman authorities, lied about him, and pleaded that he be executed—which is what happened. This is a bad church experience.

So what did Jesus do? He kept going to church! That is, he kept striving to fulfill the will of God his Father. A bad church experience did not deter his worship, which was most clearly shown in His sacrificial and unconditional love for the sinners he came to save and in his obedience to the will of his Father.

Jesus had a better answer to our question. His answer is reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5:19we read: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

What do I do if my past church experience was bad? I look past sinners to Jesus, the Savior of sinners. I look at and embrace the message of reconciliation. Jesus will not hurt me, he has healed me—completely and forever. He has forgiven my sins, and he has forgotten them too. That radically changes my attitude and outlook.

What Will the Verdict be on Judgment Day?

The Bible says that some day Jesus will return to this earth “in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31,32). We refer to this as Judgment Day, since a public verdict will be pronounced for all people, dead or alive. Some will pleasantly live forever in the paradise of heaven and the rest will painfully live forever in the prison of hell.

What worries people about Judgment Day is having their sins broadcast on a big screen, and then some heavenly figure fumbles through a book, doesn’t find their name, and they are dropped through a trap door into hell. Will that happen? The Bible says it won’t for anyone who trusts in Jesus. You have the assurance that gaining God’s heavenly and daily blessings depends not on what you do, but on what Jesus did.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father,” Jesus will say to you on Judgment Day when you show up depending on the blessings of God and not the boasting of all you’ve done. “Take your inheritance,” Jesus will say to you as a child of God, who will receive the right to live in God’s heavenly mansion like an heir receives the family fortune – not by earning it but by being born into it, in your case through faith in Jesus (Matthew 25:34). In the end, God provides a way for you to enjoy his love and peace now and forever. That “way” is Jesus and his work of living without sin for you, dying in your place under God’s wrath, and rising triumphantly over death and the devil. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned” (John 3:18). Trust in the work of Jesus and you have no reason to fear Judgment Day or Monday or a bad day or any day.

Unbelievers, however, reveal no such attitude of humility toward themselves and trust in Jesus. They have approached the God of heaven like gruff goats without respect, without honor, and without sorrow for their sins. Those who trust in themselves ask, “Why do you punish me?” They are confident that their own good life gives them the right to enter heaven. But a good life isn’t what God demands from us; sincere intentions of trying our best don’t meet God’s expectations, either. God requires complete holiness, in every way, all the time. So, stand in front of God as the star of the show, and you’re attracting not only his spotlight to your good performance in life, but you’re asking for his X-ray examination of your most secret sins as well. “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (John 3:18).

Trusting in Jesus means that your sins do not curse you and that Satan cannot control you. Trusting in Jesus means that your life right now, every day, has a purpose and you have a reason from heaven to live. It doesn’t matter whether your last three dates have dumped you or not. It doesn’t matter whether you met your sales quota or not. It doesn’t matter whether crippling disease or deadly cancer is taking over your body or not. Trusting in Jesus means that he makes you valuable and you don’t need to do great things in order to be somebody, but rather do humble things in order to help anybody.

Jesus, your Good Shepherd, cares enough about you that he doesn’t want you to worry about tomorrow or payday or Judgment Day or eternity; rather, he wants you to wait for it with joy, anticipate its coming with confidence and follow his footsteps of serving and loving others. Jesus, your King, will always protect you from harm, and in the end will meet you with open arms and praise you with words of approval, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

“Why me?” you will ask.

“Because of me,” Jesus will answer.