Additional Questions & Answers from February 5, 2017 Sermon
Q - Is there any genealogy of Mary; we have lots for Joseph even though he was not Jesus’ biological father?
A - Great question. When you look at the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, it is easy to see that they are quite different. The traditional understanding of this in the Church is that Matthew records the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke records the genealogy of Mary. This would make Heli (or Eli) the father of Mary, and Joseph his son in law; short answer, the genealogy in Luke is likely the genealogy of Jesus through Mary.
Q - We have lost a beloved family pet, are there any scriptures that might give us hope that we will see our pet again?
A – I don’t know – it is possible (because with God all things are possible) that we may get to heaven and find that our pets have preceded us, but the Bible is silent about that happening. The consensus in the church is that there will be animals in heaven, but not specific ones like our pets, because they do not have eternal souls like human persons do.
Q - What version of the Bible do you use and prefer and why?
A – I personally use the New Living Translation (NLT) for three reasons. First, it is very up to date in its language and, like the majority of other Bibles available for us today, accurate in its translation. Second, I find that it states the themes of evangelicalism very clearly – it is a good version to memorize key passages in or to share a key verse with a friend. And third, its language is at a level that makes it possible for a lot of people to follow along, including children and new Canadians, which makes it a good, clear translation for use in the church. I also really personally like the New English Bible, for the style and language, but it is out of print. PS – All of the Bibles that I have seen people use in our church are great too: NIV, KJV, NASB, NIrV, ESV, etc. The important thing is to have a translation that you can understand and that you take the time to read it.
Q - Why doesn’t God just fix everything?
A – That is a very good question, because it is clear that he doesn’t. It is a question that doesn’t have a clear answer – sometimes the best answer that we have is that we are called to trust in God and to rely on the promise that he has a good plan for our future. Why doesn’t God fix everything? The best that I can see is that for very many of our ‘fixes’, there is a person on the other side of the question whom God loves and is reaching out toward. And sometimes that person is me. For God to ‘fix’ some situations, he would have to destroy me, or at least cut into the freedom that he has already given me that is a part of me choosing to become who I am. On the contrary, 2 Peter says that, “the Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” I think that in many cases, maybe in most or all cases, God doesn’t fix things because he is making space for people to repent; sometimes he is making that space for me and you.
Q - Can you talk about the difference in Psalm 103:10-12 says as far as the east is from the west God removes our sin and yet in 2 Cor. 5:10 it says that we must stand at the judgment seat and receive what is due while in the body whether good or bad?
A – When it comes to how we are viewed by God in Christ, our sin is separated from us, and we are washed clean and forgiven; but at the same time the Bible teaches that we are accountable for our actions, even as Christians. The passage we discussed briefly on Sunday morning is helpful for me in finding the balance in this question: 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. Using the metaphor of a building, Paul writes that for every believer the foundation is Jesus Christ, and that is irreplaceable and secure – but we build a life on top of that foundation, and we are responsible before God for the life that we build.
Q - What are some ways we can “lean into” God’s holiness?
A – We ‘lean into’ God’s holiness by listening to him and following him in obedience. We listen to him through the Scriptures, through Christian friends, through good Christian literature, and through his voice speaking directly to our heart and conscience. We obey by listening to his direction and his prompting, by spending time in his presence, and by ‘placing ourselves in his pathway’ through the disciplines of the Christian Church, such as prayer, Bible reading, confession to a trusted Christian frined, Christian meditation (such as on memorized Scripture), fasting, service, silence, and simplicity. God is holy – as we enter into his presence, and make room for more of his presence in our lives, following him in the small steps that he asks of us, we find deeper and richer experiences of his holiness in our own lives.
Q - About the Romans 5:5 passage, how does God love fill my heart? Am I supposed to feel it, what if I don’t? How do I let his love fill my heart more?
A – The experience of many (maybe all?) Christians would say that some days, and in some seasons of life, we deeply feel God’s love in our heart, and sometimes, and in some seasons of life, we feel more distant from him, or feel his love less. Also, sometimes there is something almost like a ‘blockage’ in ourselves – it could be an issue from our past, a hurt or an experience or a person, or something in our present, including sin – that prevents us from experiencing God’s full presence. In that case, it can be helpful to talk and pray through until the blockage is revealed and overcome. Sometimes it is just a season of life. If you would like someone to pray with you, we have people at our church who would love to walk with you through a bit of your journey. Let us know as a pastoral team if we can help with you in this way. I would also recommend some of the spiritual practices listed in the question above as a way of opening yourself up to the love of God.
Q - 3 person & 1 substance. What about water comes in 3 forms - water, ice & steam?
A – For some people that is a really helpful analogy! :) Of course all our word pictures fall short of describing God perfectly, but yet he has filled this world with reflections of who he is because he is the creator, and water is one of them. Water is not personal like God, and it is not all three phases at the same time like God is, but it is helpful as a beginning point for thinking about how something could be three and one.
Q - Speaking of impossibility. We sang "by death he defeated death". How does this work?
A – Hebrews 2:14 is a key passage here, and the final verses of 1 Corinthians 15. All of our deaths are a justified end to our life because we have lived a life where we have sinned, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But Jesus’ death broke the power of death by dying without sin. Only by enduring a death that he did not deserve could death itself as a system be defeated. Now Satan no longer holds the power of death over us, because Jesus died in our place, the just for the unjust, to bring us safely home to God (1 Peter 3:18). If you’d like to talk more about this, please set up an appointment at the church office and I’d love to talk it through with you! :)
Q - Mighty with a large group in the OT and mighty with the individual today where faith is much more of a personal relationship. Could this be the answer?
A – I am not sure I totally understand the suggestion, but as far as I can see, yes, in each case God is mighty, and mighty in a way that corresponds to the situation – and to his will, to call and create a people, and to reach into the fortress of our own hearts. Thanks!
Q - So who DOES have the best pancakes in Red Deer?
A – Kari
Q - Does it matter what member of the trinity we pray to? Should we direct our prayers to Jesus in certain circumstances and the Holy Spirit in others?
A – The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that wherever one Person of the Trinity is, the other two are present as well, which means that we can pray to God in whatever way he is leading us in our inner person. There is not a right and a wrong way. Jesus, in the Lord’s prayer, taught his disciples to pray to the Father, and later to pray in his name (Matthew 6:9, John 14:13); I find it most comfortable to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus most of the time – when I am troubled in the night, I call on the name of Jesus. There is a book from the early centuries of the Church by Basil of Caesarea called ‘on the Holy Spirit’ that discusses a very similar issue (aka, people have been asking this question for centuries, and the broad answer is that both the Son and the Holy Spirit are fully God just like the Father and so we pray to, glorify, and worship them).
Q - How did Jesus’ love overflow when he cleared the temple?
A – That’s a good question, and a good reminder that God’s love is a love with standards. Jesus himself says to his disciples, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14:15) – The Bible is clear: God is love, and he loves the world. But he is also the God who judges the world, and judges sin in the world. When he cleared the temple, in John 2:17, his disciples connected it with the verse in Psalm 69 that “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” There is a purity and singularity to God’s love. Sometimes in our world it is put forward that God’s love means that really there are no standards; I think that the Bible teaches a different story. Even if it is hard to describe, God is love, but in a way that both demands obedience and desires our salvation.
Q - How do we keep OUR understanding of love from defining who we believe God to be, rather than letting the person of God define our understanding of love?
A – That is an excellent question. In some ways, I think that if we just keep asking questions like that of God and in our conversations with each other we will stay on the right path. What we can do is remember that Jesus is the one who has revealed God to us most clearly, and fix our eyes on him. Rather than letting words be the definition of love for us, we can let Jesus himself be the definition of what love is. Paul uses just this strategy in Ephesians 5 when he challenges husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the Church.
Q - Are there new discoveries being made in what we understand about the Greek and Hebrew languages? Is the way we translate the Bible changing?
A – There are not being made ‘big’ discoveries that are changing the way that we translate the Bible on the side of Hebrew and Greek. In fact, the biggest changes that are happening are within the English language! The way that we use English is changing, even from generation to generation, and going through transition because of its globalization. That is the biggest driver in the updating and modifying the language that is used in the Bibles that we have. If you notice small adjustments in Bible translations, it is usually because of a desire to reflect the meaning better in English.
Q - How can part of God go and live as Jesus while the rest of God is in heaven? How can Jesus be fully man and fully God at the same time? Who is he praying to if he and the Father are actually one?
A – a) It is difficult to describe, but God is not three parts, rather, he is three Persons, each one of whom is fully God. It is less like something cut into three pieces, and a little more like when I go to a conference (this is a very limited analogy) – my wife and children are separate from me, but we are still one family, even with my being gone. The divinity of Jesus is rooted in his being the Son of the Father, and so he possesses that wherever he goes; so too, the Father is the Father of the Son, and he never stops being that, even when the Son comes to earth and is born as a human. b) Wow, good questions! The church talks about this as a special kind of union that takes place in his person (the technical term is hypostatic union, which means personal union). His divine nature and his human nature are joined together in his Person. Even the greatest minds of the Church have had a hard time describing just how this is possible, so in the Church we simply confess that Jesus is the Lord God, not a mixed up ‘third thing’ between man and God, but really human so that he can understand us and really God so that he can save us. 2 Timothy 2:8 is a key verse for me: Jesus, born of a woman (really a human) raised from the dead (really divine) – that is the gospel. c) They are one in substance, but distinguishable from one another in Person. Three Persons, one divine substance.
Q - Why did God create? Was he lonely? Or was there a time when the Father existed without the Son? Or how can God be “one “and “three”?
A – God has never been lonely, and there has never been a time when the Father was without the Son. In fact, the Church has been so clear about this that it has taught clearly that there never was even a ‘something’ before time was created when the Father was without the Son! God has always existed in three Persons because he is mighty (nothing stands in the way of his accomplishing his will) and he has willed to live as three Persons in all eternity, and to reveal that life to us in Jesus Christ. His existence is possible because of his almightiness. Why did God create? Ephesians one says that before he created us, he loved us. God created to share the over flow of his eternal love with us as a gift.
Q - If we stop loving, do we stop being a child of God?
A – There are real warnings in Scripture about falling away from God, such as in Hebrews 5 and 6, but also very encouraging promises and stories that we are always secure in God’s hands, and safe as his children. Luke 15 is a good example of that – that the Father is always waiting and watching for us to come home to him. 1 John 3 reminds us that love and belief are the markers of the children of God. If we have a ‘bad day’, or explode at someone or treat a family member or friend grace-lessly, we are not removed from God’s family. No, not one bit. But we should also take stock of our pattern of life: if we are living a life with no love in it, how much have we let the love of God really enter in and transform us? We are safe as the children of our heavenly Father; but as his children, we ought to grow up, looking like Jesus, our elder brother.
Q - When we are to love our enemy’s does that mean we need to allow them to take advantage of us or abuse us or persecute us without attempting to stop it?
A – Jesus does teach us to love our enemy, and sometimes that does mean that we get taken advantage of, but in Matthew 10:16 he also says “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” God has given us wisdom, including wisdom to protect ourselves and those we love. That doesn’t mean that we fail to love or that we compromise, but that we can be wise in the way we respond to others, even as we show them love; we can extend God’s love without having to be bullied.
Q - What do you do when everything is not right with heart and soul?
A – Sometimes you just have to look for ways to make it to the next day. I am encouraged by Lamentations 3:22-24. It is beautiful passage of Scripture, but more than that, it was written at a time of horrible disaster and slaughter. Even then, sometimes, all we can do is trust for the mercies of God to be renewed for us in the morning, and find a reason to wait and watch for one more day – and tell a Christian friend what you are going through: we are commanded to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2); when everything is not right is the time when God has given us to one another most of all.
Q - If God is love how can he hold the threat of hell over us? How could a God of love demand that Jesus be killed?
A – These are both incredibly difficult questions, because they deal with the question of the wrath of God, a theme that is clearly presented as true in the Bible. God is love, and he is a God of love. But he is also a just God, who holds people accountable for sin – and judges Sin in the world and in the age to come. Just as I don’t fully understand God’s love, I also don’t fully understand his wrath. I know that it is based in his holiness, as far as it concerns him, and is based in our rejection of him and his plan for humanity, as far as it concerns us. Over top of that, I know and believe that God is trustworthy and fair, and that at the end of time I will look back and say, ‘yes, what you have done is just and right’, even if I don’t see the way to that now. Part of that will be the miracle of the end of the age, when God holds all things and all people to account. For me, I wish that there was a simple answer, but I don’t think there is. I know that the threat of hell is always accompanied by the free offer of salvation, and the sacrifice of Jesus is a willing one based on his love and the Father’s love for the world, and that helps clarify things for me too. But on this issue, I really do trust that God is holy and trustworthy and fair, and that when we get to the end of time, I will know him and see him well enough to understand how he is both loving and holy.