Jehovah's Witnesses

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During the “Ask The Pastor” meetings on Wednesday nights at the church I serve, many questions come up that I don’t have the time or equipment to be able to give a full answer to. I believe there are many who have similar concerns and questions, so for a little while I’m going to use this forum to share a few resources to dig deeper into these important topics.

Jehovah’s Witnesses come up in conversation more times than one might think. I guess that it’s because there are many people who know JW’s and there don’t seem to be many obvious differences between their faith and ours. Many JW’s are nice people, talk about Jesus, share their faith, and care about their families… just like Christians. So what are the differences? Are they just a different kind of Christian?

The short answer is simply this: No, they are not Christian. When you look deeper into their beliefs, theology, and religious practices, there are some very important and striking differences that cause the evangelical community to purposefully separate themselves from the JW’s and call them a cult. That may seem harsh, but if you check out the links below, you’ll understand why.

Important Note: I’m not giving this to you so you can bible-thump the JW’s that come to your door, but for the strengthening of your own faith, and to equip you to address the differences with clarity, grace and love.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

GotQuestions is a great place to start for a quick history and overview of their beliefs.

John Ankerberg has been helping Christians understand other religions for a long time and has some helpful links:

– A summery of JW’s history and beliefs

– Facts Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t tell you when calling at your door [Some of these seem pretty far fetched at first — like them believing that the cross is a pagan sex symbol or that Jesus is the Archangel Michael— but I checked some of them out (not all) on the Jehovah’s Witnesses own website, and they were confirmed! Their records only go back to 2000, so some of the older stuff wasn’t there.]

Here is a great article from the Catholic Church outlining some important differences and ways the JW’s alter scripture to fit their beliefs.

Lastly, GotQuestions has a great, short article about how to “witness (share the Christian faith) to a Jehovah’s Witness.

Christian View of Suicide

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During the “Ask The Pastor” meetings on Wednesday nights at the church I serve, many questions come up that I don’t have the time or equipment to be able to give a full answer to.  I believe there are many who have similar concerns and questions, so for a little while I’m going to use this forum to share a few resources to dig deeper into these important topics.

Many people have been affected by today’s topic — suicide. I’ve known friends and family who have attempted or even committed suicide. I’ve presided over a funeral service for a man who had killed himself. I know how deeply emotional and confusing this topic can be — even doing the research for these links broke my heart — so I hope these links will help your mind be at rest, and expand your faith in the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Important Note: If you are contemplating suicide, or are looking here for a way to be able to commit suicide but still go to heaven, then please seek help. Call your pastor, a Christian friend, or click here to find a place to go for help.

A Christian View of Suicide

John MacArthur’s Grace to You Q&A – “Can one who commits suicide be saved”?

GotQuestions.org – “What does the bible say about suicide?”

Christianity Today – Suicide and the Silence of Scripture

Christianity Today – Is Suicide Unforgiveable

AUDIO – Tom Holladay answers “What does the Bible say about suicide?” at Saddleback Church

VIDEO – The “Bible Answer Man” answers “What happens to Christians who commit suicide?”

The Doctrine of the Trinity

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I love Wednesday nights at the church because we have been doing an “Ask The Pastor” time where people come and ask questions about life, church, theology, and everything else. Sometimes it feels more like ‘Stump the Pastor”, but I do my best to give a biblical, helpful and practical answer. It has certainly spurred me on to make sure that I am truly dependent on the Spirit of God and immersing myself in the Bible and good teaching.

 

This week, many questions came up that I didn’t have the time or equipment to be able to give a full answer to, and I thought I would use this forum to share a few resources so everyone can share in the fun and dig deeper into these important topics. Praise God for technology! What a wonderful time we live in. We don’t have to live racked with questions and doubt because there is good teaching and helpful resources literally at our fingertips!

 

First, here are some resources on:

 

The Doctrine Of The Trinity

 

The Shield of the Trinity is a diagram of the ...

— Desiring God has a great article by Matt Perman that explains the difficult parts of this doctrine.

 

— Right now RC Sproul at Ligonier Ministries is offering a free e-book pamphlet from his “Crucial Questions” series called “What is The Trinity”. I don’t know how long it will be available, so go get it quick!

 

— Here is a great post from Monergism that has tonnes of free resources including books, posts, and audio so you can better understand this important doctrine.

 

 

 

 

 

Inner Strength

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I know that video has been around for a while, but it still amazes me how amazing God made people. And this video is only scratching the surface — consider the intellectual, artistic and psychological feats we can attain! When He was designing us, it wasn’t so that we wouldn’t be able to understand or participate in His works, but so that we would be able to partner with Him in creative, ingenious, imaginative, powerful and unique ways. People really are awesome — by God’s design!

I’m also amazed by how tough God made us. Think about it — humans have the ability to live through some pretty crazy stuff.  Arctic cold, desert heat, lack of food, water, and shelter.  We have lived through physical and emotional trauma, war, pestilence, grief and torture.  We can live under an oppressive regime, or in anarchistic freedom.  Yes, if there is one thing that we can do… it’s endure.  Movies are made about this stuff. Check out this series of articles by New Scientist called “Maxed Out: Testing Humans to Destruction”.

I believe that people can endure a lot of suffering from external sources if they have internal strength.  That’s the key.  It takes inner strength to perform extreme stunts, face intense trauma, and live to tell about it.  Once our inner strength is lost, we fall.  Once fear is given into, hope is abandoned or loneliness takes hold, a person can’t take very much at all — they crumble.

God has been working in my heart over the past while regarding the importance of my dependence on Him and His strength.  It’s a simple lesson, but profound.  If I don’t have the hand of God on my life, and don’t keep coming to Him for wisdom, energy, direction, guidance and spiritual sensitivity, then I will be powerless.  He has let me know, in a very personal way, what life with Him and without Him looks like — what a life with inner strength and without looks like.  And let me tell you that life without Him is horrible.

Brother Lawrence

That’s the lesson God is teaching me, and which I am passing on to you.  What is happening on my outsides, be it success or failure, pleasure or pain, gain or loss, isn’t nearly as important as what is happening on my insides.  I believe He gave me a taste of what life is like without His strength so that I would be desperate and needful of Him, and then be able to pass this along to you.  I pray you never have to go through that experience.

We MUST come to Him daily, hourly, minute by minute.  We must practice His presence, and our dependence on Him. (Here’s a link to a free classic Christian book called “Practicing the Presence of God” which I highly recommend.)

Remember the words of Ephesians 6:10-13:

“…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

RC Sproul on Predestination

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I’ll admit it — I have a man-crush on RC Sproul. What an awesome teacher! Last week RC took on a favourite hot-topic among Christians – predestination. Every time I have an Ask The Pastor night this question comes up over and over. It is clearly close to people’s hearts and people want a good answer. Maybe you avoid the issue because you think there isn’t a good answer. I believe everyone needs to understand the doctrine of predestination and I  want to point you at the best teacher I know who can explain it.

In RC’s words:

“The doctrine of Predestination is so profoundly important to the complete perspectives that we have, in terms of our relationship to God and to our salvation, that it would be a matter of wicked neglect to ignore or to denigrate in any way the importance of this doctrine.”

1. The Inevitable Question – “Would it be an exaggeration to say that the doctrine of predestination is at the core of the Christian faith?”

2. What is Predestination? – “With all of the disagreement and controversy surrounding predestination in the church, is there common ground on which we can all stand together?”

3. The Golden Chain – “How many weak links do you need before the chain breaks? Dr. Sproul exposes the weak link in the “Golden Chain” of the prescient view of predestination.”

4. The Divine Choice – “Why are you a Christian? Is it because you chose to be one? Where was God in that decision? Dr. Sproul discusses the basis upon which God chooses.”

Favourite Devotional Books

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Cover of "Valley of Vision: A Collection ...
“The Valley of Vision” Cover via Amazon

I’ve been sharing some of my favourite Christian content recently. I’ve shared Blogs & Podcasts, and now I’d like to share some of my favourite “Devotional Books” (by which I mean “books I use regularly during my quiet times”).

Finding books that touch my heart, stir my mind, convict my spirit and bring me closer to Jesus has been a long journey with a lot of experimentation. I know that some of you know what I mean. Over and over I hear Christians say that their  do have a regular devotional time, but they just can’t find the right guide. Yes, they say, they read the Bible, but they also want something to help them understand what they’ve read, or open their eyes beyond what they see on the page.

I don’t use them all every day (except the first one – and even then, I accidentally let my subscription run out ), but have a selection I rotate through to keep things fresh. BTW – I find that devos on my iPhone don’t work for me because my e-mail dings, reminders go off, and I’m often tempted to look-up something further online. So I leave my phone upstairs and do my devos elsewhere.

Hopefully, this list will help:

1. TableTalk Magazine – This is my meat and potatoes, my bread and butter, and the single best devotional guide I’ve ever found (for me). It’s like Our Daily Bread, which many people know, but on steroids. I encourage you to check this one out and read some of their back issues here.

2. The Valley of Vision – This is a collection of puritan prayers and devotions. The themes encompass much of what I go through, and each one is challenging, beautiful, poetic, and inspiring. You can find some of them free online, but it is copyrighted, so you should buy the book.

3. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers – What a Christ honouring and spiritually challenging devotional. There are times that the content hits me so hard that I have to put down the book. You can read this one free online, but (again) I do recommend buying the book.

4. Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon (revised and updated by Alistair Begg) – Similar to “My Utmost…” but there are two readings per day. I like the updated version because it’s a little easier to read and uses a newer version of the Bible (ESV).

5. Spiritual Maturity by J. Oswald Sanders – People named Oswald sure know how to write a good devo. I was powerfully challenged by this book. It isn’t a “devotional guide” per se, but the chapters are short and even then are divided into sections. If you are looking to grow in your spiritual walk and meet Christ in a new way, this is a great book to go through. Check out a preview here on Google Books.

6. Manga Bible Series – I bet with all the heavyweights in this list, you’re surprised to see this one. The reason it is here is because of how great it was to read through the stories of the Bible in a new way. The expressions on the character’s faces, how Jesus’ holds his hands, the look of the angels, and many other creative touches, gave me a fresh view of the stories and scriptures that I know so well.

Favourite Podcasts

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RC Sproul
RC Sproul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my heart of hearts I’m a student. I loved school and now I  love learning about Jesus and His Church. For me, being a teacher, preacher, leader, vision-caster, etc. isn’t a job but a natural expression of the things God built me to be interested in and impassioned by. I’m energized by reading books, articles, blogs, listening to sermons and other online teachers. I know God built us differently, and that some people can only take so much book-learnin’, but I do hope that learning about Jesus is a passion of yours as well.

In the last few posts I’ve shared my favourite Leadership, Thinker’s, and Christian Living Blogs

So, since I’m sharing (as Julie Andrews would say) “a few of my favourite things”, I thought I’d share my favourite podcasts. Again, I’ll share a link and the description from the website.

Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast – “Welcome to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, a conversation designed to help leaders go further, faster. Andy Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and the founder of North Point Ministries in Alpharetta, Georgia. For additional information, visit northpoint.org.”

Desiring God Sermons Audio – “John Piper is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.), and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 40 books and more than 30 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and twelve grandchildren.”

The Gospel Coalition – “The Gospel Coalition is a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.”

Grace to You – “This powerful broadcast will boost your spiritual growth by helping you understand and apply God’s Word to your life and the life of your family and church. John MacArthur, pastor-teacher, has been offering his practical, verse-by-verse Bible teaching through Grace to You for 40 years.”

Mars Hill Church: Mark Driscoll Audio – “It’s all about Jesus. Pastor Mark Driscoll is the Preaching Pastor for Mars Hill and regularly distributes audio content via this channel, including sermons, event teaching and the occasional one-off audio created for our internet audience. You can find more content like this by visiting our web site at http://www.marshillchurch.org”

Renewing Your Mind with R.C. Sproul – “Since 1994, Renewing Your Mind with Dr. R.C. Sproul has provided accessible, in-depth Bible teaching to millions around the world. As the principal outreach of Ligonier Ministries, this radio broadcast has instructed listeners in the life-changing truths of historic Christianity and has kept the church community informed about pertinent issues facing believers today.”

Resurgence – “TheResurgence.com is a Missional Theology Cooperative. Resurgence means to rise again, or to surge back into vibrancy. We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ must resurge in every generation to meet the needs of people and their continually changing cultures. Missional means that we believe Jesus Christ is on a mission to seek and save people, change their lives, and transform their cultures. Because of this we believe that Christians, Christian organizations, and Christian churches exist to join Jesus on His mission by immersing themselves in whatever culture Jesus has placed them. Theology means that we believe that personal and cultural transformation is only possible by meeting the living Jesus Christ of the Bible through His gospel. Because of this we believe that culturally accessible mission also requires biblically faithful theology. Cooperative means that we believe a team of missional theologians working together as friends and peers, sharing ideas, and correcting errors is the best way for learning to occur. Because of this we are a network of various Christian leaders, ministries, churches, and networks seeking to work together in providing the most culturally effective and biblically faithful missional theology.”