What Does It Mean to Be “Called”

Question:  What does it mean to be called?ordination

Answer:  It usually means to be selected by God to do some form of full-time ministry.  The bigger question is how that happens?  Undoubtedly God has put it on the hearts of some individuals that they are to pursue full time pastoring or missions, etc.  But this should always and will always be accompanied by gifts God gives to these individuals that are recognized by faithful members of the Body of Christ.  An example of this is Acts 13:1-3 where Paul and Barnabas are said to be called by God and through prophetic utterance the church is told to set them apart for missions ministry.  But they have already been demonstrating gifting and faithful service for years.  Can someone resist this calling or forfeit it by misconduct?  I think so.  Paul said he labored to maintain faithful ministry lest he be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).

In one sense every Christian is called.  We are all subject to obey the great commission Jesus gave us before he ascended to heaven (Matthew 28:19,20).  We may also say we have a career calling.  But the call to carry out the great commission is the highest priority.  Nevertheless, God often wants us to use our career calling to help establish our witness and enhance our ability to carry out the great commission.  Some are called to make doing the great commission their entire focus, usually with the idea of helping the rest of the Body become more equipped to do their part in making disciples of all nations (Ephesians 4:11,12).

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Is Jesus Angry If We Do Any Business or Trade at Church?

Question:  The one(?) time that Jesus got angry was when there were merchants selling stuff in the temple. How is that different than the craft fairs or church bazaars where people are selling stuff at the church?

Answer:

There were several times Jesus got angry (check out this article), but the thing that made him angry on this occasion was that as worshipers came to the temple for a proscribed or required festival and had to make sacrifices, it was much easier to buy an animal once you traveled to Jerusalem than to bring one from your town far away.  But the leaders in Jerusalem determined that you could only pay for them with a certain temple coin, so that required making a monetary exchange.  It was not a one-to-one exchange.  I suppose you could say there was a money-changing fee attached, but it ended up being a tax and a hardship on many.  Then, of course, the law of supply and demand caused the prices for animals, etc, there in the temple precinct to be inflated.  Instead of helping people worship God it was making it difficult.

In other words, that is completely different from having a church bazaar or craft fair or a bookstore, for example.  Now if a church were requiring you to buy a craft in order to participate in their worship service, that would make Jesus mad.

Will There Be Winter in the Earthly Kingdom?

Question:  I see many Watchtower articles depicting a lovely summer like landscape with kids playing with lions, tigers and bears and everyone has a gleeful look on their face.  We are experiencing a very cold, snowy winter so far and the outlook seems to be more of the same.  Will there be freezing cold winters in Paradise Earth?
I read: While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22 KJV)

Answer:  There are three phases to the kingdom:  (1) Jesus is currently ruling as king over his people and we live as subjects of the Crown in anticipation of the kingdom coming to earth, (2) Jesus will come and establish his kingdom on earth for 1,000 years, during which there will be births and deaths and a final rebellion led by Satan (Revelation 20), (3) then finally Jesus will hand over the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) and earth will be remade with no seas and heaven, God’s abode, will come to earth in the form of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21,22).

The question we must answer is whether the time frame God gives in Genesis includes the millennial kingdom (phase 2) and the eternal kingdom (phase 3).  I am guessing that the millennial kingdom will still have seasons, but that with the remaking of the earth described in Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3:10 there is a case that might be made for this promise having been fulfilled and there no longer being seasons.  Could there still be seasons?  I am sure there could be and there might even be a desire for such for in each season we see something unique and special about God’s handiwork.

phases of the kingdom

For further reading:

Is Jesus God or the Son of God?

Question:  Was Jesus God or the Son of God–did God beget him or was he always around–and did he (Jesus) create the world?

Answer:  Yes.

All of that is true.  Mark 1:1 says Jesus is the Son of God.  John 1:1 says Jesus is God.  John 1:3 it says nothing was made without Jesus.  Colossians 1:15,16 says Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and that in him all things were made.  John 1:18 says Jesus is either “the only [begotten] God” or  “the only [begotten] Son” depending on what the correct text is.  And I put the word “begotten” in brackets because there is a question as to the meaning of the Greek word used here, monogenes.

The word monogenes could mean “only begotten” or it could mean “one and only” or it could mean “unique.”  It is used of Jesus in John 3:16.  But it is also used of Isaac in Hebrews 11:17.  Was Isaac Abraham’s only begotten son?  No, he had sired Ishmael earlier.  But Isaac was his special son by Sarah, the one to whom he was giving his inheritance.  Is Jesus begotten by the Father, or does this term monogenes simply designate him as the unique Son of God as opposed to all created beings who might be designated sons of God?

I lean toward the view that monogenes, when applied to Jesus, means “unique” Son of God.  However, Scripture also says in 1 John 5:18 of Jesus that he is “born of God.”  There is a doctrine that has developed from this called the eternal generation of the Son, which it says is “an eternal personal act of the Father, wherein, by necessity of nature, not by choice of will, He generates the person (not the essence) of the Son, by communicating to Him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead, without division, alienation, or change, so that the Son is the express image of His Father’s person, and eternally continues, not from the Father, but in the Father, and the Father in the Son.” (See Theopedia)

What this means is that from all eternity God the Father has been in a relationship with the Son by which He has generated the personality of the Son (and He and the Son have “generated” the personality of the Spirit) so that they share the same essence (deity, divine nature).  This makes them entirely equal in every sense of the word so that each is rightly called God, and yet Jesus can also rightly be called the Son of God.  This doctrine makes a lot of sense of the data of Scripture concerning Jesus absolute deity (John 1:1) and yet his submission to the Father in all things.  This makes it reasonable for him to be the one who takes on human nature (the Father and the Spirit did not do this) and to rule God’s kingdom until it can be handed over to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).  Jesus is thus “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3), which seems to speak of some kind of derivation from the Father, and yet at the same time exact equality.

This is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around, but then God is the most amazing and unique being of all, infinite and beyond our ultimate ability to comprehend, yet able to correctly reveal Himself to us in true ways that enable us to know Him.

So the answer to all your questions is, “Yes.”

Do I Have to Hate My Family to Follow Jesus?

Heart of Jesus

Heart of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Question:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).  Can you help me with the “hate” part of this?

Answer:  We know that Jesus wants us to love our family.  Jesus loved his mother enough to entrust her to his disciple John (John 19:25-27).  His apostles have taught us to love our families (for example, Ephesians 5:25).  So Jesus must be speaking in a purposely exaggerated way to make a point.  He said it another way on another occasion:

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Jesus wants his disciples to understand that living for God and His kingdom is more important than anything, including any relationships.  Now living for God and His kingdom, as we saw above, includes loving your family.  But there are people who have chosen to reject God because their family members didn’t want them to become believers (think of conversion to Christianity among Muslims).  And there are times when we mistakenly think that focusing on our family instead of God will actually help our family when just the opposite is true (think of those who won’t take their kids to church just because they say, “I don’t want to go.”).

To be sure people can abuse this principal in the opposite way.  A pastor can think that he must spend all his time at the church helping parishioners and yet neglects his family.  But Jesus is not addressing that issue here.  He is addressing the issue of how much commitment is required to follow him.  In the very next sentence in the Luke 14 passage he says, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

We have to love him more than our own lives, as well.  Knowing God is the most important thing in our lives.  Nothing can eclipse it without endangering our souls.  No other reality can make us the persons we need to be in order to love our families and make a positive difference in the world.  This one commitment must trump all others or we will fail to be the people God created us to be.

Did Jesus Lie?

Question:  Jesus lied. But he never sinned. So sometimes lying isn’t a sin?  I’m referring to John 7:8-10, where Jesus said, “You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.  After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.  However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.”

Answer:  It does seem that lying is not always a sin.  When Rahab lied to protect the Israelite spies in Jericho she was rewarded with safe passage when the attack came.  The Israelite midwives lied to Pharaoh about Israelite women giving birth before the midwives got there so that they could not kill the babies as Pharaoh commanded, and they were honored for this by God.  When God told Samuel to anoint a son of Jesse as king and he complained that if Saul found out why he was going to Bethlehem Saul would kill him, God told Samuel to say that he was going to offer a sacrifice (not the whole truth, but true).  When David realized that the Philistine leader he was seeking sanctuary from as he fled from Saul was against him and would kill him, he feigned madness and was sent away and he wrote a Psalm about how God delivered him (Ps 34).

In each of these situations the lives of good human beings were at stake.  It seems that when we lie to protect innocent human life it is okay.  For example, if a gunman came to your door and your family was hidden away in the house, and he asked you if you were alone, would you be obligated by God to tell him the truth?  Some situations and some people do not deserve the truth.  We may suppose that though lying is prohibited generally in Scripture, yet when a higher absolute (the protection of a human life) comes into play, that absolute takes precedence over the absolute against lying (similar to the absolute of obeying human governments takes a backseat to the absolute of obeying God, Acts 5:27-29).

It doesn’t seem, however, that this is the same kind of situation in Jesus’ life where he would need to lie to save someone or save himself.  Though going up publicly to the festival was dangerous, he didn’t need to go.  So it makes more sense that at the moment his time had not come, as he said, but then later the Spirit directed him to go in the manner he went.  He did face a dangerous situation then, but God protected him.

I love the fact that Gospel of John presents Jesus this way because it is another confirmation that the Gospels are factual accounts of Jesus’ life.  If the Gospel writers were only trying to present Jesus in some trumped up positive light they would not have presented him this way and left him open to a charge of lying.  But this is how it really happened and so they told it like it was.

How Do You Bring an Atheist to Christ?

Question:  How in the world do you bring an atheist to Christ?  I know you should pray for the right words but just wanted your thoughts on this.

Answer:  Bringing an atheist to Christ is just like bringing anyone to Christ.  I love the book “I Once Was Lost” by Everts and Schaupp.  It is a brilliant work based on a lot of experience in evangelism on college campuses.  Let me summarize.

Everyone must cross 5 thresholds to become a Christian.

First, they must come to trust a Christian.  If the non-Christian is to you simply a notch to put on your belt, you will not be trustworthy.  But if you love that person no matter what decision they make about Christ then they can trust you.

Second, they must be curious about Jesus.  Many non-Christians have some knowledge of Jesus and would like some questions about Him answered.  This is a first step toward genuine seeking.

Third, they must be open to radical life change.  Embracing the message of Jesus will require a complete alteration of one’s life.  When a non-Christian begins to understand the meaning of the gospel they will see how it will require radical life change.

Fourth, they must become genuine seekers of God.  They must really want to know the truth and how it affects them.

Fifth, they must believe.

An atheist claims there is no God.  What is their evidence for this belief?  Being willing to engage them on this would be a first step for you in building a trust relationship.  It will take some time because these lines of evidence are not quickly evaluated and answered.  Perhaps as the atheist sees your genuine love for him or her there will be a curiosity developed about why you are who you are and what role Jesus plays in that.  If the atheist is able to see that his or her view does not answer life’s most basic questions he or she might be open to radical life change.  If they become genuine seekers you might be instrumental in helping them through this process of seeking.  And finally you might help challenge them to get off the fence and believe.

We’re talking about a long term commitment to a person with genuine love and a readiness to engage in difficult discussions.  And yes, it will require prayer for the right words and the right heart toward this person.