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The benefits of forgiveness

Most of us avoid forgiveness like the plague because we do not want to look at our wounds. Wounds are scary, they are nasty, they are icky, it is why most of us look away when we donate blood. It is way easier to take all of that emotion and channel it into rage at another person.

In a stunning example of forgiveness, the Muslim father of one of two eight-year-old boys killed when a car crashed into a school in Sydney in November 2017 publicly forgave the woman who killed his son. He said, “We have a special message here for the lady that was involved in the accident. We want to sit with her and talk with her and tell her ‘we forgive you’. No retaliation is coming from the family of the boy, they have forgiven”. The boy’s family also disapproved of any harassment of the driver involved in the accident that killed the boys.

This blogpost is a summary of a presentation on Forgiveness by Dr. Xavier Lakshmanan. It’s not an easy topic because we live in a broken guilt-driven community. But it shows the benefits of living a forgiven life – forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing.

Forgiveness is a readiness to pardon offenses, to overlook personal wrongs against oneself, and to harbor no desire for retaliation. It implies reconciliation, peace, tolerance and considering others.

According to the Bible, forgiveness brings many blessings. It speaks about God’s act of individual and corporate forgiveness. God gives us the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others. Groups and communities can also come to forgiveness. The New Testament also puts a very special emphasis on believer’s mutual forgiveness. God forgives us and asks us to forgive others.

The Bible says to believers, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32NIV). It says:
– God forgives, while believers receive God’s forgiveness. Their guilt is removed and they can live well in this world and in the world to come.
– Believers are commanded to forgive others as God forgave them in Christ Jesus. This is the standard of a forgiven life.

Christian forgiveness is like a coin; it has two sides. One side of the coin is accepting God’s gift of forgiveness. The other side is extending that gift of forgiveness coming from the Lord to others wherever we are. So forgiveness is both a divine gift and a task involving our relationship with others.

Forgiveness is a gift

Forgiveness is a gift from God. The Old Testament uses the following Hebrew words for forgiveness in relation to salvation.

Kapar means “God covering human sins by offering a sacrifice as a substitute for the life of a sinner”. It’s not accepting a sin and saying “that’s alright”, or “let’s forget about it”. It’s an act of God taking everything seriously. Saying sin offends. Sin brings chaos and calamity. Sin has consequences. In the Old Testament, the whole idea of atonement is based on sacrifice; the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. This means that sin is a serious offence. Forgiveness is a serious virtue which God is providing. The greatest example of this is when Jesus died for our sins and we can accept that offer and be free from the guilt and penalty of our sin.

Nasa means “guilt being taken away from the sinner. It’s removal of the burden of guilt when we accept God’s gift. While sala means the “function of forgiveness”.

Maha expresses God “wiping away” sins and kasa conveys the idea of “covering or concealing the person”. When God judges sin, He protects forgiven sinners.

The New Testament uses the following terms of forgiveness.

Apolyo expresses the analogy of sin as debt and it means “God removing the debt and releasing the sinner from it”. It involves sacrifice, payment and freedom. That’s what we see on the cross of Calvary.

Paresis means God “passing over” sin. God doesn’t consider the days of ignorance, but passes over them. When we come to Jesus, His death, covers everything that we have done. While aphesis conveys God “putting away sin completely and unreservedly”. Forgiveness brings us to an unconditional standing with God, including the privileges of God’s kingdom, the privileges of God’s promises, and the privileges of God’s children.

Charizomai expresses “the graciousness of God’s pardon” and God’s “act of blotting out sin” and granting the sinner freedom. God isn’t going to recall our sin; “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He [God] removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Do not live in guilt. If you trust in Jesus Christ, you have peace, reconciliation, and restoration with God. And you can celebrate your life in Christ Jesus. Relax in the presence of God.

So Christian forgiveness is the once-for-all pardon that we receive when we accept God’s promise in Christ Jesus. It’s as simple as that. And it’s also the way to maintain a close living fellowship with our Lord and His people. You forgive yourself and you forgive others and you accept the forgiveness of God. God’s act of forgiveness is a gift of grace that displays God’s love, freedom, deliverance, care, perfection, cleansing and restoration. Forgiveness involves everything that we need to live as children of God.

One of the greatest passages on forgiveness as a gift is, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Col. 2:13-15). This is a summary of the salvation experience. As God has taken away our sin and brokenness, we are called to live for His glory. We not only receive God’s forgiveness, but we must give that forgiveness to others. Then our relationships can be heaven-like. An unforgiving spirit is a weakness.

Karl Bath exclaimed, Christians “live by forgiveness” and every Christian should begin a day with a confession: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”. At death, one has nothing to confess but “God’s gracious act of forgiveness”. Hence a genuine Christian life is lived in full awareness of forgiveness, accepting that God sees me anew and adopts me anew in His light. Bath recognized that believers are also commanded and enabled by God to be merciful to forgive their debtors, to comfort others, and to outshine the light of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a task

Giving forgiveness is a command that brings to others what believers have received from God. Christian forgiveness is a gift that commands practice. So it is a task that should be a way of life. Forgiveness frees us from bitterness and replaces bitterness with joy. Forgiving someone brings joy. Christians are commanded, called and enabled to enjoy forgiveness and live daily with its benefits.

Jesus taught that forgiveness is a duty of the forgiven. No limit can be set on the extent of forgiveness and it must be granted without reserve.   Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Lk. 17:3-4). It’s hard isn’t it? But it’s more than this.

In another passage “Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Mt. 18:21-22). Jesus increases it to 77 times a day! That’s a pattern of life.

And Paul wrote, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13). The standard that we are to forgive others is the forgiveness of the Lord to us. How many times does the Lord forgive us in one hour? That’s how many times we are to forgive our spouse, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our neighbors, and those we fellowship with in church. Showing forgiveness is like bringing heaven down to earth.

The condition of forgiveness is repentance and confession on behalf of the offender. But Jesus says that if the offender fails to repent, the offended is not released from the task of forgiving. Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Mt. 18:35). Whether someone is repenting or not, we are obliged to forgive them. It’s very difficult.

Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). Forgiveness isn’t only when you have done something wrong. It’s also for when someone else has wronged you. That’s what we are commanded to do.

Michael Bird says, “this form of forgiveness does not mean that I do not continue to feel the hurt from someone’s sin. But I forfeit my right to show my hurt at someone’s painful actions”. It’s a choice that we make. At the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). That’s love and mercy rather than resentment, anger and a desire for the punishment of His persecuters. Jesus was a model for His followers by willingly forgiving those who persecuted Him.

That’s what Mrs Gladys Staines did after her husband Graham and two sons were burnt to death in India in 1999. She made a choice to forgive them. It’s the choice of the strongest, not the weakest.

Forgiveness is a destiny

Forgiveness is the destiny for human life. The forgiven life that we have been given is going to continue. Believers are going to become like Jesus Christ. The purpose of God’s gift of forgiveness to fallen humans is to create a new being; “to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is Christ-likeness. So forgiveness has implications for this life and the life to come. God’s work of salvation saves sinners from the guilt, penalty, power and the presence of sin to the presence of God. It starts here and takes us to eternity. It’s the same with forgiveness; the healing begins here and brings restoration and freedom and it takes us to eternity to be like Christ in perfection. Forgiveness is a gift given and a task practiced to bring an amazing outcome of wellbeing and wholeness to human existence. This is the ultimate destination of salvation and God’s gift of forgiveness.

The greatest problem in extending forgiveness today is an unforgiving spirit. This can show in many ways. And it can control us. It’s part of our fallen nature. Jesus said, “if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt. 6:14-15). Refusing to forgive doesn’t grant us power. Instead it enslaves us to further sin like bitterness, greed, and discouragement.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”. For example, God is all powerful and He is happy to forgive us.

And Frederic Luskin of Stanford University exclaims, the spirit of unforgiving is a spirit of timidity. He argues, why are we afraid to let go of our grievances when forgiving can bring healing and wellbeing? He says, unforgiveness is like being trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for what someone else committed. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves as well. We are freeing ourselves of burdens by taking power over situations and managing them well to “become a hero rather than a victim”. Otherwise we will feel unnecessarily victimized. Forgiveness makes us heroes, while unforgiveness makes us victims.

The benefits of forgiveness

Many psychological studies have been done on the benefit of forgiveness of others. Luskin calls forgiveness a “trainable skill of the strong”, not the weak. Moreover, he claims that forgiveness “reduced anger, hurt, depression, and stress while increasing feelings of optimism, hope, compassion, physical vitality, self-sufficiency (power), and confidence”. Forgiveness also improves physical and mental health, reducing hypertension.

The IDEA Fitness Journal stated that “people who are forgiving tend to have not only less stress but also better relationships, fewer general health problems and lower incidences of the most serious illness, including depression, heart disease, stroke and cancer”. So forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing.

Lisa Firestone concludes, “forgiveness is the final act of love” and “the greatest gift you can give yourself and someone else in psychology today”. Yes, forgiveness is the most beautiful form of divine-human love that reflects a person’s greatness, goodness, inner wellbeing, soundness, confidence, and wholeness.

So extending forgiveness has tremendous benefits to the self. There are benefits in the forgiven life. Forgiveness is worth it. This is where Christianity excels.

Conclusion

Forgiveness is a gift that God freely lavished on us when we were sinners. And forgiveness is a task that God commanded us to practice in our relationships with others. Forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing. Finally, forgiveness is the believer’s destiny. God wants them to live well here and in eternity in Christ-likeness. They are being transformed every day into Christ-likeness.

If you have forgiveness, give it! If you don’t have it, you can’t give it! But you can seek the gift of forgiveness which is available through Jesus Christ.

However, if this post doesn’t work for you, you can follow the advice of Oscar Wilde, “Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much”!

Acknowledgement: This blogpost was sourced from a presentation by Dr. Xavier Lakshmanan on this topic. Dr. Lakshmanan is Head of Theology in the Australian College of Christian Studies.

Posted, August 2019


Life in the Ice Age

Scientists believe that the Earth goes through cycles of climatic change. Periods of lower temperatures are assumed to result in long-term periods of glaciation, which are known as an ‘Ice Age’. As the causes proposed for these Ice Ages seem to be deficient, there is reason to believe that there was only one Ice Age.

This post is based on a children’s book by Hughes and Cosner (2018).

Was there really an Ice Age?

Evolutionists say that there have been many Ice Ages throughout history (Appendix A). Actually there was only one Ice Age, and it was caused by Noah’s Flood. Though the Flood lasted only one year, its effects on the climate lasted for centuries! Hot underground water was a major source of Flood waters, so even after they retreated back into the oceans, the water stayed warm. Also, massive volcanic eruptions would have poured ash into the air, which blocked out much sunlight over the land. So the land would have been much cooler. Then some of the warm water evaporated into clouds which then dropped much snow over the cold land. Over centuries, this packed into huge ice sheets covering a third of earth’s land. We can even see the effects the snow and ice had on the earth today; the ice at the North and South Poles is left over from this (about 10% of the earth is covered in ice); the alpine glaciers; and the glacial landforms and sediments. Because these effects are seen on the current land surface, it is clear that the Ice Age occurred after the Flood.

The global Flood provides a simple mechanism for an ice age. In contrast, the slow and gradual evolutionary scenarios used to explain an ice age do not work. If the oceans gradually cooled along with the land, by the time everything was cold enough so that the snow didn’t melt in summer, evaporation from the oceans would be insufficient to produce enough snow to generate massive ice sheets. So secular scientists can’t explain how an Ice Age happened because they can’t supply a cause for increased precipitation of ice and snow. This is because they fail to recognize the unique conditions after the Flood.

The Ice Age lasted for about 700 years. Based on the cooling of the oceans (due to evaporation and reduction in volcanism), the Ice Age could reach glacial maximum in about 500 years. And it would take about another 200 years for the ice sheets to melt to their current positions.

If we use the Bible as our timeline, Israel went down to Egypt close to the end of the Ice Age.

Is the Ice Age in the Bible?

‘Ice Age’ is a modern term, so that phrase is not in Scripture. However, there is an indication that Job lived during the Ice Age. Some of the things he mentions indicate that he was familiar with ice and snow – in a place that doesn’t have a lot of ice and snow today. He said, “My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook that overflows its banks in the spring when it is swollen with ice and melting snow” (Job 6:15-16). And God asked Job “Have you visited the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of hail?” (Job 38:22). And he mentions wide expanses of frozen water (Job 37:9-10; 38:29-30). Of the books of the Bible, the words “snow” and “ice” occur most often in the book of Job. This is consistent with this book describing events that probably occurred about 2,000BC, which would have been during the Ice Age.

The climatic changes during that Ice Age would have occurred slowly over decades and not been obvious to the people living at the time. As there was no ice cover in the Middle East, biblical characters like Abraham would have had no concept of an Ice Age. So the Ice Age isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Also, the term “Ice Age” is a modern concept invented to describe a unique period of climate on the earth.

What did the Ice Age do?

While the earth we see today was mostly shaped by Noah’s Flood, the Ice Age did its part too! Glaciers, huge accumulations of ice, shaped the landscape. Ice formed dams for huge rivers, extremely deep lakes, and fjords (glacial valleys that were later submerged by the ocean).

Lower sea levels during the ice age also allowed the migration of people and large animals from the Middle East to distant continents now separated by water. As there would have been no ice caps after the Flood, the sea level would have been about 70 m above today’s level. During the Ice Age the sea level dropped about 130 m (to 60 m below today’s level) forming a land bridge between Asia and North America and Asia and Australia. This allowed people and large animals to spread across the earth. After the oceans had cooled sufficiently and the volcanic activity began to wane, the ice sheets melted and the land bridges disappeared beneath the rising ocean water, effectively ending the migration. God provided the land bridges and removed the bridges via the Ice Age.

How did animals survive the Ice Age?

In North America and Europe, many animals survived that had thick fur, or were otherwise equipped for life in a cold climate. However, many animals did die as a result of the Ice Age. Some creationists think that that the Ice Age might be why dinosaurs were never very common after the Flood – they seem to have been more suited to a warmer climate. In Australia it seems that megafauna thrived at the beginning of the Ice Age, but became extinct at the end.

We know that the earth’s deserts and semi-arid areas were once well watered. This was probably due to the ponding of water in enclosed basins during the run-off stage of the Flood and greater Ice Age precipitation. The Ice Age climate was very wet with strong drying afterwards. So these areas underwent climate change from being well watered to being drought stricken.

What did people do during the Ice Age?

We know that people lived in areas affected by the Ice Age, and some even thrived there. That’s because God created humans to be very creative and able to adapt to many different situations. Even today, people can live in places that become very cold, like Alaska and Greenland, or other places that become very hot. There is evidence that the Neanderthal peoples lived near the edge of the ice sheet in Western Europe during the Ice Age.

We know that people hunted woolly mammoths and other animals for food during the Ice Age – in the cold frozen parts of the world, it would have been hard to find enough plants to live on. Perhaps this in one reason God gave people permission to eat meat after the Flood (Gen. 1:29; 9:3). Caves made convenient homes for these people, and sometimes they painted on the walls, showing the types of animals they encounted.

How did the Ice Age end?

The imbalance that caused the Ice Age – the cold continents and the warm oceans – eventually corrected itself, and the snow and ice retreated from the continents. Today, only the extreme north and south of the earth is permanently covered by ice, reminding us of one of the great events in the aftermath of the Flood. This shows that the earth is a highly stable system. Its climate returned to equilibrium after the incredibly large deviation that occurred at the end of the flood.

Some animals that became specialized for living in the cold conditions of the Ice Age, like the woolly mammoth, seem to have become extinct after the Ice Age. They may have been so specialized for the cold weather that they could not survive in a warmer climate.

Conclusion

The unique conditions after the Flood caused the Ice Age. Besides shaping the earth, the climate change associated with the Ice Age could have influenced the extinction of the dinosaurs. The Neandertal peoples probably lived during the Ice Age. So the Ice Age was more recent than evolutionists suppose.

Appendix A: What about claimed ancient Ice Ages?

Uniformitarian scientists believe that there were four main ice age periods followed by more repeating ice ages. They also believe that some of these ice ages were so severe that they covered most, it not all, of the earth.

Some layers within the rock record do resemble glacial debris composed of rocks of all sizes, scratched rocks, and larger rocks floating within banded layers of fine sediments. The problem is that these features can be duplicated by other processes like landslides or submarine slides. The movement of the rocks in the slides can scratch rocks and rock scrapes against rock. They can also cause large rocks to float in finer-grained layered sediments.

Most of the earth’s sedimentary rocks were laid down by the Flood, sometimes over vast areas. So, these so-called ‘ice age deposits’ are within deposits from Noah’s Flood. There could not have been any large accumulations of snow or ice at that time. The Flood water would have been too warm from the ‘fountains of the great deep’ and abundant volcanism (hot lava) for any snow and ice accumulation.

As the Flood was global it can account for the large size of most of these ancient ‘ice age deposits’ by huge submarine slides. Because of uplifts or earthquakes, the sediments could slide rapidly and spread over large areas. Most of these deposits appear to have been deposited in ocean water, which is what we expect from the Flood.

Uniformitarian scientists also claim that the thousands of layers observed in ice cores drilled in the Antarctic and Greenland represent annual deposition. But this is only true since the Ice Age. Lower down in the ice cores the layers are less distinct and they are probably caused by other mechanisms, such as individual storms.

References

Hughes E and Cosner L (2018), Creation answers for kids, Creation Book Publishers, p.22-25.

Oard M J and Reed J K (2017), How Noah’s Flood shaped our earth, Creation Book Publishers, p.195-197.

Written, August 2019


Why is there cancer?

Cancer has touched most of our lives, taking down friends in their prime and plaguing the older years of loved ones. When did cancer begin and will we find a cure?

This post is based on a children’s book by Hughes and Cosner (2018).

In the beginning, was there cancer?

Evolutionists believe that for the first few billion years of life on our planet, single-celled organisms had the globe to themselves. But at some point in deep time, cells began to team up and multicellular life arose (Appendix A). Being multicellular has many benefits. Cells cooperate and work toward a common goal. This cooperation of trillions of cells allows us to have the incredibly complex structures we enjoy, like our brain.

But multicellularity makes you vulnerable to cancer. Cancer occurs when cells start growing uncontrollably and lose their function. They become deadly when they spread and grow around the body, disrupting organ function. Cancer is multicellularity gone wrong — tumour cells that have lost their ability to sense their context and cooperate with the cells around them.

So evolutionists believe that cancer has been around since complex life began. It was there in the beginning of complex life. But what does the Bible say?

You may think, “Why did God create cancer to hurt people?” But God didn’t create cancer to hurt people. In the beginning of creation everything was very good and there was no illness, but Adam and Eve disobeyed God and everything changed. This is called the Curse. It’s also called ‘the Fall’ into sin.

Why did God curse creation when Adam and Eve sinned?

When God made Adam and Eve, He put them in charge of everything He created – they were responsible for the whole world (Gen. 1:26, 28; 2:15). That meant that when Adam and Eve sinned, it affected the whole creation. Things that God created ‘very good’ became corrupted. People were affected by illness, injury and death (Gen. 3:16-19). And plants developed prickles and thorns – some fruit even became poisonous.

In Eden, there were lots of trees with good fruit to eat, but after the Fall, Adam and Eve had to leave the garden and work very hard to grow food. Some animals began to pose a threat to people and other animals. There are still a lot of good things about creation, but Adam’s sin meant that it was no longer perfect as it was when God created.

What about creatures that sting and bite? Would they have done this before the fall?

We know that no insects would have harmed humans before the Fall. Some that are pests today have, other, good functions in the natural world –  for example, helping to break down plant matter, and pollinating plants. Some things like stingers may have had other functions that we don’t know about today, and what we experience as painful toxins in stings could have had other, beneficial purposes at the beginning of creation.

What about things that look designed to hurt other things, like sharks, jellyfish, and lions?

It is important to realize that things can have more than one use. For instance, even though the piranha in one of the most notorious carnivorous fish, its nearly–identical cousin, the pacu, is completely vegetarian. Its teeth are used for chomping on fruit that falls off trees and into the water! Also some bears, pandas, and koalas use sharp claws for stripping plants of their leaves and bark.

Some animals that people thought were meat-eaters, based on their teeth, actually have turned out to be completely vegetarian! That shouldn’t surprise us, because we know that all animals used to be vegetarians. And the Bible tells us that someday they, and humans too, will be again (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:17-25).

What about natural disasters like forest fires and tsunamis?

The pre-Fall world would not have had natural disasters that hurt people. Sin affects the whole world, even the weather causing natural disasters. Natural disasters are usually not caused by a specific sin (although the Bible shows us that sometime God used ‘natural disasters’ as judgment on people – like the global flood in Noah’s day! Gen. 6:5-7), but they are caused by sin and the Curse. Jesus teaches us that seemingly ‘random’ catastrophes show us how terrible sin is and cause us to repent and love God (Lk. 13:4-5).

So, is the Curse also the reason why people get sick and even die?

Before the Fall, there would have been no sickness – no getting a cold or flu, and no need for doctors or hospitals. This is because God created the human body ‘very good’, and designed it to live forever. But after the Fall, the body started to not work as well, and sometimes this causes us to get sick. And eventually, we die; this is the worst consequence of sin (1 Cor. 15:22). In fact, the Bible calls death an enemy. In a lot of ways, the Bible is the story of what God did in the past to defeat death, and what will happen in the future when death is finally gone for good. God displayed His power over death by raising His Son, Jesus, from the dead (Jn. 20:11-18)!

What’s happening to our genome?

Measurements of the rate of mutation show that mutations arise faster than selection can eliminate them. Because genomes degrade steadily over time, they cannot produce a better organism in the long run. This means that each generation is generally less genetically–fit than the previous generation (it has more deleterious mutations). So the incidence of genetically related diseases is increasing with time. This means that, in the long term, humans and every other complex organism is heading for extinction, which is the opposite of Darwinian evolution!

Can we find a cure for cancer? Whether or not there will ever be a cure for all cancer types is debatable. This has been a topic of research for many years. Because of improved treatments people with prostate and breast cancer can recover and live for another 20-30 years. But cancer that is thought to be cured can still come back even years later. This is why some doctors prefer to say that the cancer is in remission. But although modern medicine can counteract some effects of the Fall like disease, death comes to all.

Will thorns, stingers and sickness exist in heaven?

The good news is that because of Jesus, those who trust in Him can look forward to a future without prickles, insect bites, and stings, natural disasters, sickness, and death! This is because all these things are caused by sin. But when God remakes the world without sin, it also means that the things sin caused will also be gone for good! God promises to give everyone who believes in Jesus a new body that will never get sick, grow old, or die, so we can live forever with Him on the recreated earth (Rev. 21:4).

Conclusion

The Bible says that diseases like cancer are a result of humanity’s fall into sin, and not just the consequence of being a multicellar organism. Diseases like cancer were not present in the original creation. And it’s good to know that there won’t be any cancer in heaven! That’s the only long-term cure for cancer!

Appendix A: The origin of multicellular organisms

Evolutionists believe that the first life on our planet were single-celled organisms that somehow formed from raw materials. Some time later they believe that single cells began to team up and multicellular life arose. This is a faith statement and through molecular biology we know that a single living cell is actually a very complex structure. Scientists can’t manufacture a living cell in the laboratory from raw materials. And they don’t know how a single cell could change into a multicellular organism. Life is a highly complex system.

The origin of the single cell and the origin of multicellular organisms are some of the untestable presuppositions of the theory of Darwinian evolution.

Reference

Hughes E and Cosner L (2018), Creation answers for kids, Creation Book Publishers, p.18-21.

Posted, August 2019

Also see: An evolutionaty miracle


What is historical science?

In May 2019 I visited Uluru and Kata Tjuta in Central Australia. The explanations of these rock formations say that these sands and gravels were deposited about 500 million years ago. But where does this date come from? After all, it’s not written anywhere on these sedimentary rocks!

This post is based on a children’s book by Hughes and Cosner (2018).

Claims about the past?

If the Bible says that the earth is only thousands of years old, how do scientists know that fossils and rocks can be millions of years old? Fossils and rocks don’t have dates written on them like some historical events. This is explained by the fact that there are two stories about the past which are used to explain the facts we see today in different ways.  One assumes the historical record in the Bible and the other a historical record constructed by those who disregard the Bible. Both of these stories are based on historical science.

There are two types of science. They are called operational science and historical science, and they deal with two very different things.

Operational science is the type of science that one might do in a laboratory, about how the world works today. It’s all based on what you actually see. You can perform tests and observe what happens. For example, at sea level, water will always boil at the same temperature (100 0C or 212 0F). In operational science, anyone can repeat an experiment and see if they get the same results. Testable and repeatable science is why we have smartphones, spaceships, and lots of other inventions.

Historical science deals with what happened in the past, but you cannot do experiments on events in the past. An example of this would be paleontology (the study of fossils). Scientists might unearth a dinosaur find and then tell a story of how long ago the dinosaur lived and died. But the scientist’s ideas about how old it is cannot be directly tested because it happened in the past without direct witnesses.

Is historical science real science? Can creationists use historical science?

Yes; creationists also use it to come up with ideas about what they think happened in the past, just like evolutionists. The difference is that creationists have eye witnesses for the big events of the past, and use historical science to explore the detail. For instance, creation geologists use what is known from small-scale disasters like the Mt St Helens volcanic eruption in 1980 to explain what may have happened during the global flood of Noah’s day (Gen. 7:11-19). The Bible has a better history than evolution (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is the history book of the universe, so it should be our authority when it comes to looking at the past.

Can historical science prove creation or evolution?

No, but it can give people ideas about what possibly happened in the past. Actually, creationists and evolutionists have the same set of facts – the same fossils, rocks, living things, and so on. Those facts are interpreted by creationists and evolutionists as evidence for one view or the other, but the facts themselves aren’t automatically ‘for’ one side or the other. So, everyone has the same evidence, just different interpretations. Different worldviews. A good example is what we think happened to the dinosaurs. An evolutionist might say it was the impact from an asteroid. And a creationist might say they became extinct due to changes in the weather after the catastrophic global flood, or even possibly as a result of humans hunting them.

Why do people only hear the evolutionary view?

For many reasons, evolution has long been the popular view of most scientists, but it wasn’t always that way. Almost all fields of science were started by Bible-believing thinkers. But, since creation is linked with Christianity and not natural processes, people argue that teaching creation in schools and museums is teaching ‘religion’, not science. What they don’t realize is that evolution is also linked with a religion – atheism, that denies God as the Creator (Rom. 1:20-23).

How do I know when historical science is right or wrong?

We can’t know for sure what happened in the past unless there is an eyewitness – and the Bible has a trustworthy eyewitness – God Himself! So when historical science disagrees with the Bible, it is wrong (Acts 17:10-11). For example, the age assumed for the Uluru and Kata Tjuta is an apparent (conditional, hypothetical, inferred) age that has been decided by the assumptions made in its determination. It’s about 5 orders of magnitude (about 100,000 times) different to the date of Noah’s flood when most of the sedimentary rock layers on earth were formed and eroded. That’s a huge difference! Appendix B shows why dating methods based on secular historical science are so unreliable.

Creationists try to develop scientific ideas based upon the Bible’s history in areas such as astronomy, geology, paleontology, and archaeology. But even these ideas can change when they make some new discovery.

Conclusion

There are two types of science: operational science and historical science. The dating of past events like the formation of sedimentary rocks and fossils uses historical science. But the accuracy of these dates depends on the accuracy of the assumed history. The Bible gives an accurate history (which provides actual dates), whereas evolutionists use an apparent (assumed, conditional) history (which provides hypothetical dates).

Appendix B: Methods used by secular historical science to date ancient events

No scientific method can prove the age of the earth or the age of events deduced in the fossil record, such as the date of extinction of the dinosaurs. No one saw these events, so we depend upon inferences made from present data, which is most cases relate to rocks and fossils. All dating methods are based on three main assumptions, and each method has its own particular additional assumptions. A dating method is a one that marks time by regular/systematic changes in a physical or chemical parameter over time. The three main assumptions are:
– The initial condition of the physical or chemical parameter.
–  A knowledge between the initial time and now of the rate of a physical or chemical process that changes the parameter over time. This rate is usually assumed to be constant.
– A knowledge between the initial time and now of how much of the parameter has been lost or gained by other physical or chemical processes. This is usually assumed to be zero.

Secular historical scientists consistently choose the dating methods which they believe give sound ages (e.g. radiometric dating), and these are almost always the methods that yield the oldest dates. They choose to discard/ignore the dating methods that give much younger ages like: the salinity of the oceans, the decay of the earth’s magnetic field, and mutation rates, (Oard 2019). Likewise, they discard/ignore observations that give much younger ages like: fossils indicate rapid burial, parallel sedimentary rock layers with no erosion between them indicate that the layers were deposited rapidly in single a uninterrupted sequence, polystrate fossils, fragile organic molecules in dinosaur fossils, human observations of dinosaurs, C14 in coal and diamonds, and helium in zircon crystals.

So the dates that historical scientists determine for ancient events are extremely unreliable, particularly because dates are rejected unless they agree with the hypothetical geological time scale. Based on the little evidence that is available to the scientist, and the many assumptions that need to be made, and the lack of observations in the past, and the extreme extrapolation over eons of time, the supposed dates are speculative.

References

Hughes E and Cosner L (2018), Creation answers for kids, Creation Book Publishers, p.10-13.

Oard M J (2019) The deep time deception, Creation Book Publishers, p.79.


Are miracles scientific?

Can the Bible’s miracles be explained away by science? Many people who refuse to believe in God think they can explain away His existence and miracles using scientific explanations.

This post comes from a children’s book by Hughes and Cosner (2018).

What is a miracle?

A miracle is an unusual event from God that He uses to tell us about Himself. Examples from the Bible include healings, raising from the dead, and displays of power over nature. This is different from God’s providential care over creation, which can be described scientifically (Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:3). For instance, the laws of physics partially describe how God is upholding creation in an orderly way (1 Cor. 14:33).

Why does God do miracles?

Miracles can have several different reasons. They can deliver people, such as God parting the Red Sea (Ex. 4:1-9; Dt. 6:22). And they can judge people. Like when Elijah asked God not to send any rain to Israel for three years. One of the main purposes for miracles is to prove that a person was God’s chosen messenger. When God did miracles through Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Jesus, that meant that God was really with those men (Mt. 11:4-5; Acts 2:22-23; 17:31).

Do miracles make people believe in God?

Sometimes, but not always (Ex. 7:8-13). The Pharisees and Jewish leaders saw many of Jesus’ miracles, but they hated Him and refused to believe in Him (Jn. 12:37). Jesus taught that even someone being raised from the dead would not be enough to make people believe in God (Lk. 16:31; Lk.24:1-12). The Bible teaches, rather, that the Gospel – the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins and His resurrection on the third day is what people need to be saved, not miracles. But sometimes miracles in Scripture helped people believe in God (Acts 9:35, 42).

Some people say that because we can’t test miracles, they can’t be real. Are they right?

People who say that assume that God either isn’t real, or that He can’t do miracles. Everyone agrees that miracles don’t normally happen – that’s why they’re called miracles! But we have lots of trustworthy accounts of miracles in Scripture, and we should trust them because that are God’s Word (Lk. 1:1-4; Jn. 21:25; 1 Cor. 15:3-8). There are lots of historical accounts about other things, such as ancient kings and battles, that we trust on a lot less evidence. Also some of the same people that say we can’t trust miracles because we can’t test them believe in evolution, which is a claim about history that can’t be tested either.

But if I’ve never seen a miracle, should I believe that God did them according to the Bible?

We believe in all sorts of things we’ve never seen – if a source is reliable, we tend to trust it. In fact, we have to trust sources for what they say about most of history before we were born! The Bible is God’s Word, so we should believe it (Gen. 6:11-22; Jn. 20:24-31).

Can science explain the Bible’s miracles?

Science can’t test the Bible’s miracles, because miracles are by definition unusual events that scientific laws can’t describe (Ex. 16:4-7). We cannot re-create a miracle to test it. So the best way to determine whether a miracle is true or not is to see whether the source is a reliable one (Lk. 1:5; 3:1-2). The Bible was inspired by God, so it’s completely true, so we can thrust it when it tells us about miracles.

Did people in the Bible believe in miracles just because they didn’t have science?

That’s like saying that people weren’t as smart in ancient times because they didn’t know as much as we do. But ancient people were smart enough to build pyramids and other huge monuments using very precise mathematics. They also knew about astronomy and other facts about the natural world. They knew that miracles were unusual, that’s why they could be special signs from God (Jn. 11:28-44). If people thought that the Red Sea parted every time the wind blew a certain way, it wouldn’t be a special sign of deliverance for Israel like it was (Ex. 14:21-31).

Do scientists really disbelieve in all miracles?

A funny thing is that both Christians and atheists have to believe in miraculous things at the beginning of time. Both Christians and atheists believe there had to be something to cause everything at the beginning of time. Christians believe God was the cause (Gen. 1:1), but atheists must appeal to something outside the laws of science, because something had to cause the laws of science! So both Christians and non-Christians have to appeal to things that science can’t explain.

Conclusion

Science can’t explain miracles. But scientists depend on miracles to explain how we got here!

Science doesn’t invalidate miracles and miracles don’t invalidate science. So we can believe in both operational science and in the miracles reported in the Bible.

Reference

Hughes E and Cosner L (2018), Creation answers for kids, Creation Book Publishers, p.34-37.

Posted, August 2019


Why go to church?

If I chose to sleep in, or to watch church online, or listen to a podcast of the sermon, or to catch up on lectures in the Bible College course I’m doing, or to catch up on some other jobs, or was away for the weekend, or to look after visitors, or to go shopping, I wouldn’t have been at church yesterday. But as I didn’t do any of these things, I was able to share this message on the topic of “Why go to church?”.

We will see that going to church on Sunday is a good habit that has many benefits. After all, what’s more important than worshipping God or spending time with God’s people?

Aspects of life

We can picture parts of our lives as a series of widening circles. First there is our individual life, then our family life, followed by our life in the local church and then our life in the rest of our world. We can have relationships in each of these spheres of life, such as a personal relationship with God, relationships with people in our family, in our church, and in the rest of the world. This post addresses the local church and why it’s good for us to go to church.

What is a church?

The first instance of the word “church” in the Bible is when Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Mt. 16:18NIV). As this happened after Peter said that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah, it means that the church was built on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. The New Testament uses the Greek word for “church” (ekklesia) 114 times, primarily of the local church, but this passage refers to the whole church rather than the local church.

God is building a global church of believers, which is only visible as local churches. The local/universal and visible/invisible aspects of the church are shown in the schematic diagrams:
– The visible part of a local church is comprised of believers and unbelievers. It’s all who attend the local church. Although the majority should be believers, this includes some unbelievers as well.
– Christendom is a collection of visible local churches.
–  The invisible part of the universal church is comprised of all believers in the world, who will be visible when Jesus Christ returns to reign over the earth. The topic of the universal church is outside the scope of this post.

The Bible says that a “local church” is a gathering of people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and who worship Jesus Christ; who hear the Scriptures together; and who encourage one another in the Christian faith. It’s not the building they meet in. And it’s not a denomination. So the gathered people are the local church. Gathering together is part of what it means to be a Christian.

The Christian life was never meant to be solitary. Many of the biblical metaphors for a church indicate a plurality, such as: a body (comprised of parts and organs), a flock, (comprised of sheep) a house (comprised of living stones), a household (comprised of family members), and a holy nation (comprised of people). The church is a collective group, not an individual person. In the  context of church discipline, Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Mt. 18:20). One person can’t be a church! To gather together in the name of Jesus means gathering together to publicly worship Jesus, to serve Jesus, and to help others love Jesus.

The local church is like a spiritual family. The Bible says that God is our Father and other Christians are our brothers and sisters. So the congregation of a local church are spiritual siblings. An extended spiritual family.

Physical children are raised to maturity in a physical family. Likewise, spiritual children of God (believers) should grow to maturity in a spiritual family (the local church). After they are mature they can be mentors in the spiritual family, which is like being a parent.

The beginning and destiny of the church

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told the apostles, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Ten days later, on a Sunday, the Holy Spirit came on the believers who were “all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). We will see that it’s good for believers to be all together in one place on Sunday. Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they obeyed.

This was the beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection. After this, the apostles were evangelists that spread the good news about Jesus beginning in Jerusalem and spreading out across the Roman Empire. When there was a group of believers in a town or city, the apostles established a church that met in someone’s house. There were no church buildings in those days. A local church was a gathering of believers.

When they came together, the first church at Jerusalem was devoted to (Acts 2:42-47):
– the apostles teaching, which we now have as doctrine in the New Testament.
– Fellowship, a partnership which included eating together and sharing their possessions. It says, “all the believers were together” (Acts 2:44). Fellowship is being together.
– The Lord’s Supper, which is remembrance of Christ’s death.
– Collective prayer, when they brought their needs to God.
– Praising God, for their salvation.
– Evangelism, as people were being saved and added to the local church.

The church exists on earth from the day of Pentecost (in about AD 33) until the Rapture when all true believers are resurrected, transformed, and transported to heaven. Then the church will be united with Jesus Christ, like a wife and husband at a wedding and the church returns to rule over the earth with Him and share His glory forever (Rev. 19:6-9; 14). That’s why the church has been referred to as the bride of Christ (who is the bridegroom). So the church has a glorious future.

Let’s follow the good examples of the local church in the Bible and make it a priority to be together as a church at least once a week. Remember that church is a collective activity.

Old Testament gatherings

In Old Testament times the Israelites were God’s people. They celebrated three annual festivals when the people gathered (or assembled or met) together (Ex. 23:14-19; 34:23-24; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr. 8:12-13). These were the festival of Unleaven bread (after the Passover), the festival of Weeks (Harvest, Pentecost), and the festival of Tabernacles (Ingathering, Booths). All the men were to attend these occasions. And their families often accompanied them (1 Sam. 1). Distance may have prevented many from attending all three, but most Jews tried to attend at least one festival each year. For example, “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When He [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom” (Lk. 2:41-42).

Did Jesus go to church?

The Bible says that Jesus is an example for us to follow (Appendix A). And we have seen that He attended Jewish festivals which were national gatherings required by the law of Moses. And Jesus also usually attended the Jewish synagogue on Saturdays (Lk. 4:16). But He didn’t go to church on Sundays because the church didn’t begin until after He ascended back to heaven in about AD 33.

If Jesus didn’t go to church, then what about Paul?

Did Paul go to church?

After Paul became a Christian, he became an evangelist who established new churches. So Paul revealed the truth about the church and he attended and taught at many local churches.

On Paul’s third missionary journey it seems that he stayed at Troas (which is now in Turkey) for seven days in order to attend the local church on Sunday evening (Acts 20:6-7). Apparently, the public meeting of the local church was very important for Paul and the early Christians. Paul taught them until midnight, Eutychus died when he fell from a third story open window, and they celebrated the Lord’s Supper and shared a meal (Acts 20: 7-12). Why did Paul go to church in Troas? It was:
– To celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
– To build up believers by teaching them what a Christian should know and how they should behave.
– To fellowship with and encourage the believers.

Eutychus was a young man who was asleep while God was at work. He was physically present, but spiritually absent. Are we spiritually awake or spiritually asleep? Are we away when God is at work in the local church? Eutychus shows us that it can be dangerous to miss God’s work in the local church.

Reasons for going to church

God said so

The local church belongs to God. It’s “the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). Through the Bible, God tells believers not to give up meeting together – “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25). Christians should never stop meeting together. Particularly as we approach the rapture of believers to be with the Lord. In this case they were reverting to Judaism, which is apostacy. So there is a biblical basis for corporate assembling together as Christians.

It’s significant that the recipients of this letter were under the threat of persecution. Public church attendance could open them up to abuse. The command indicates that the benefits of attendance outweigh any possible threat.

Furthermore, every letter in the New Testament assumes Christians are members of local churches. And because believers are part of the universal church, if it is possible, they should be part of a local church. After all, in the Bible the same Greek word ekklesia is used for both the universal church and the local church, with the meaning being determined by the context. Believers go to church because they are part of God’s invisible church.

Why don’t we obey this command? Are we too busy, or too tired? Would we rather sleep in?
Do we have guests visiting?

So we go to church because God said so.

To praise and worship God

The Bible says that Spirit-filled believers speak “to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (Eph. 5:19). And with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit believers should sing to God with gratitude in their hearts (Col. 3:16). If Paul and Silas sang hymns to God in a prison, they would have sung them in the local church as well (Acts 16:25).

The gathering of the church to praise and worship God is a foretaste of our worship in heaven. In eternity, believers will worship with all of God’s people before the Lord.

So we go to church to praise and worship God.

To remember Jesus in the Lord’s Supper

With regard to the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). Obeying this commandment helps us remember our Savior’s supreme sacrifice for our sins on the cross. It makes us examine ourselves to make sure that we have confessed all of our sins against the Lord and against one another.

The Lord’s Supper also helps us look at the big picture of Gods’ plan of salvation. What God has done in the past and what He will do in the future.

So we go to church to remember Jesus in the Lord’s Supper.

To strengthen our Christian faith

Just as Jesus and Paul taught people what they needed to know and do, teaching from the Bible does the same for us. Church attendance builds us up. Paul said, “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14:26). At church, Christians help other Christians who struggle with their faith.

The Bible says that church attendance helps us to stir  one another up to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24–25). Love is a motive and deeds are actions.

Church attendance also helps prevent backsliding and apostasy. Without regular participation in corporate worship, one tends to drift spiritually. The fellowship and encouragement experienced at the local church help to vaccinate us against backsliding and apostasy.

Church attendance also reduces exposure to false teaching which is prevalent on the internet. We can trust our teachers in church because the elders keep watch over them. And the local church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” of the gospel (1 Tim. 3:15). But there’s no quality control on the internet!

And church attendance gives us a sense of purpose. It shapes our vision of the future and gives us hope.

So we go to church to strengthen our Christian faith.

To participate and serve

The Bible says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pt. 4:10). We are to “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Eph. 6:7). And to “serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13).

The Bible also teaches that each member of the local church has a different gift, just like a body is comprised of different parts (Rom. 12:4-8). Everyone has a purpose in the local church. In fact, the strengths and weaknesses of the members of the local church are intentional, even complementary. Everyone has something that the others don’t have, and we are stronger together than we are apart – that’s called synergy.

.Just like every part of a body has a function, so every believer has a function in the church (Rom. 12:4-8). If you are not there it’s like missing a part of a body. The body suffers and doesn’t operate as well as it should if you aren’t in attendance. It’s like missing a part of a team.

Church is also like a sports team. Missing church is like missing the weekly game. Sports teams struggle when they don’t know who will be there to play. For example, the English cricket team missed James Anderson (because he was injured) when they played and were beaten by Australia last week.

Christ gave you a gift that the church needs. Are you using it?

So we go to church to participate and serve.

To give and receive encouragement

We have been designed to need other Christians to help us keep going in the faith, and we can be an encouragement to others. Paul told the believers in Rome, “I long to see you so that … you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom. 1:11-12).

One of the purposes of gathering together is to “encourage one another” (Heb. 10:24-25). We all need encouragement and going to church can provide that.

So we go to church to give and receive encouragement.

To give and receive prayer

“On their release [from prison], Peter and John went back to their own people [the local church] and reported all that the [Jewish] chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God” (Acts 4:23-24). They prayed that Peter and John would continue to speak God’s word “with great boldness” (Acts 4:29). This is example of prayer in a local church.

The local church also enables us to pray for others and others to pray for us. It helps us to consider others and not just focus on ourselves. So it broadens the content of our prayers and our prayers are multiplied as more people are praying than just us.

So we go to church to give and receive prayer.

To share in Christian fellowship

In the book of Acts, we’re told that those who came to faith in the early days “devoted themselves … to  fellowship” (2:42). But we can’t fellowship by ourselves! Instead, we need a Christian community.

As we spend time with one another, we become aware of each other’s needs. This gives us opportunities to help each other. We are to share with believers who are in need (Rom. 12:13).
For example, those in the early church “shared everything they had” so that people’s needs were met (Acts 4:32-35). They donated money to believers in churches where there was poverty (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:1-15). Paul encouraged such generosity (2 Cor. 9:6-15). Church is the best place to learn about generosity and to practice generosity.

Everyone is looking for acceptance and a place to belong. Church is a community where we can socialize and support each other. You can make friends, feel a sense of belonging, and build a support network that you can rely on. The church community helps us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). And to “Carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). If you go to church there will be some “who will show genuine concern for your welfare” (Phil. 2:20). Also, we can practice hospitality by inviting people to a meal after church.

If you’re just watching church or preaching on a screen at home, you miss living in close fellowship with real people. You miss the unity and diversity of a church gathering.

So we go to church to share in Christian fellowship.

To become more Christlike

Church attendance helps our sanctification — our progressive growth in being conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). It is for our general “strengthening, encouragement and comfort” (1 Cor. 14:3), but also in beholding Jesus together: “we all . . . are being transformed into His [Christ’s] image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). God loves to change our minds and our hearts. Going to church encourages godly living in an ungodly society.

Church attendance also helps us express the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23). It’s easier to show love, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, or gentleness to someone if you see them often.

Church attendance also helps us imitate Christ’s humility (Phil.2:3-8). It’s easier to put the welfare of others above yours if you see them often.

So we go to church to become more Christlike.

To show our love for God and His people

Regular church attendance shows that we love God and love His people (the church). If we say we love the Lord, but neglect fellow Christians (who are called the body of Christ), we are a hypocrite – our actions don’t match our words.

It also shows that we have eternal life. John said, “We know that we [believers] have passed from death to life, because we love each other” (1 Jn. 3:13). It’s a declaration and witness to others that you’re a Christian. When they ask, “What did you do on the weekend?”, you can say “I went to church”. And it’s a great example to your spouse and children (Lk. 6:40).

So we go to church to show our love for God and for His people.

To be involved in spreading the gospel

As the gospel is the foundation and the message of the church, by going to church we can support and be involved in spreading the good news about Jesus.

This can range from a local church ministry to the support of overseas missionaries. And it can be with children, youth or adults. Personal witnessing is also important. If someone is a new or immature Christian it’s good to encourage them to attend a church for their spiritual growth and fellowship.

So we go to church to be involved in spreading the gospel.

Look at all the reasons for going to church: God said so, Praise and worship, Remember Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, Strengthen our faith, Participate and serve, Encouragement, Prayer, Fellowship, Become more Christlike, Show our love for God and His people, and the Gospel. These good reasons are better than the bad ones listed in Appendix B.

Scott Morrison 1 400pxWhen Scott Morrison was asked by the media after his incredible election win in May 2019, ‘what are you going to do tomorrow?’, he answered, ‘I will go to church as usual’. So the Prime Minister of Australia went to church on Sunday after a late Saturday night. And he is a busy man. Can we block out Sunday mornings (or whenever our local church meets) in our calendars to go to church? And don’t let Saturday night keep you away from church.

Excuses for not going to church

It’s clear that the Bible teaches that regular church attendance is a normal part of following Jesus. The Bible also gives examples of some who gave an excuse instead of following Jesus (Lk. 9:57-62).

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him [Jesus], “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man [Jesus] has no place to lay His head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

The excuses used by these three men were:
– Lack of security (one man didn’t want to adopt an itinerant lifestyle).
– Put it off (one man wanted to wait until after their father’s death and burial). This was a delaying tactic.
– Family commitments (one man wanted to go back and say goodbye to his family, which could also be a  delaying tactic, or could cause him to change his mind about following Jesus).

They were like a man plowing a crooked furrow with oxen. As they didn’t have GPS in those days, to dig a straight furrow they needed to keep aiming for a distant target. But if they looked in another direction, the plough would turn and deviate from the straight line.

And Jesus told a parable to some Jewish religious leaders about an invitation to a banquet (Lk. 14:16-20):

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

The excuses used by these three men were:
– Possessions (one man wanted to visit a new field).
– Work (one man wanted to try out five new yoke of oxen).
– Family (one man was married recently).

Similar excuses can be given for not going to church.

Christianity is not a choose-your-own path religion. The people we are to associate with have already been chosen for us. We have a ready-made extended spiritual family in the local church.

Discussion

Is church just something to do on Sunday morning when there is nothing else going on? If church is optional, we set up our family to backslide and fail in the Christian life.

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus yet, then you don’t have God’s help in your individual life, in your family life, or in your relationships with the rest of the world. What excuses are you using for not looking into following Jesus? Don’t put it off any longer, but talk to someone about it today.

When you become a follower of Jesus, you also can have the extended family of the local church to help you in all these aspects of life.

A survey on why Americans go to church found that the top three answers were: so that they will be closer to God; so their children will follow God; and so they will become more like God. In another survey, sermons; programs for children and teenagers; and community outreach and volunteer opportunities were the top reasons for attending church. And it’s been said that the three highlights of a Christian’s life should be:
– Sharing the Lord’s Supper.
– Listening to the message from God in the Bible.
– Exercising their spiritual gifts in service for Christ.
These are done best in the local church.

Disciples are those who are committed to following Jesus in the Christian faith. Marriage is another commitment. But marriages don’t always last.
In Australia about 36% of marriages end in divorce and in the US it’s about 45%. The average marriage in Australia lasts for about 12 years. Going to church can help us remain faithful to the Lord.

Don’t come occasionally to church. Don’t just come when you feel like it. Make weekly church attendance your first priority and let it be a good habit that becomes a part of who you are.

On Sunday mornings you can either make a bad habit of being lazy and doing things that have nothing to do with God. Or you can make a good habit of waking up and participating in a godly church even when you don’t feel like it.

Of course, church is not just a place to go, rather it is a living body where God wants you to become a part–for your good and for His glory. Christ is committed to the church like a husband is committed to his wife. The church is called the bride of Christ. What’s our commitment to the local church? Is it like being married, or are we just dating?

Conclusion

Attending church with God’s people was top priority for the apostle Paul. It should be likewise for us. If we are often absent from church, what’s getting our attention instead? Is it family, or education, or work, or hobbies, or recreation, or something else? These can be idols when they take us away from being at church.

On Sunday, let’s go to church. Going to church on Sunday is a good habit that has many benefits. After all, what’s more important than worshipping God or spending time with God’s people?

Appendix A: The examples of Jesus and Paul

Instead of being selfish, Paul put the welfare of others first because he didn’t want to hinder their spiritual growth. He said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul and Jesus are examples of people who put others first.

Appendix B: Some bad reasons for going to church

Here are some bad reasons for going to church:
Out of duty/obligation
To get my needs met
To feel good; get inspired
To perform
To find a boy/girl friend or spouse
For what I can get out of it
To find clients for my business
To be entertained
For my social life
To justify my sin
To get right with the Lord
Because the preacher is popular
So God will bless my finances
So God will bless my health
To maintain family relationships
They have lots of programs
They have a school
The number of people who attend
Because everyone else does
To make God happy
The building and facilities

Written, August 2019


What stops you being with God forever?

Here’s a challenge from Outreach Media.

I used to smoke a lot of marijuana. But the first time I got stoned after becoming a Christian I felt embarrassed in God’s presence. I discovered that dope made it hard for me to control silly thoughts and treat God with reverence. It was awkward and I felt ashamed. So I stopped smoking marijuana and haven’t touched it since. That was thirty-five years ago.

When I stopped smoking dope I gave up something from this world so I could be sure of having life in the age to come. You might think it was no loss. And besides, Christians should obey the law anyway. Well, to that I say, ‘Yes, we should obey the law’ (and I would have acted on that I’m sure), but as for ‘no loss’? Well, that’s simplistic. People smoke dope because they have interesting experiences. I certainly felt a sense of loss in giving it up.

I think I was living out what Jesus meant when He said, “what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

This world offers all kinds of experiences. Many of them are connected to wealth and power. So was Jesus speaking against money and power? Was He saying only the destitute and feeble can ever know God and win eternal life? No. It’s not wrong to own money or possessions nor have power over others. History records many emperors, kings, politicians and public servants who have been devoted to God.

Jesus’s point is that there’s nothing in this life worth having … if the having of it… means you can’t worship God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. I couldn’t do that smoking dope.

This experience of choosing God over something in the world has continued. In the early years of my working life there were situations where I could have cheated and deceived people for financial gain. Indeed, my stubborn refusal was a frustration to an early employer.

As the years have rolled on, the challenges have changed. These days they’re more likely to be internal. For example, with a particular decision I need to make sure I’m not putting personal pleasure ahead of the needs of others.

So how is Jesus challenging you? Are you being honest with yourself… and God? Have you prayed? Is there something you need to give up so that you can have God for all eternity? If there is, then take action.

Prayer: Dear God, give me a fierce honesty to make sure nothing in this world keeps me from being with you forever.

Bible verse: Mark 8:36 Jesus: “what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?“.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

Posted, August 2019