Faith Related Q & A
Faith Related Q and A
» What does respect for leaders mean when some of them act like King Herod and Pontius Pilate? I think it means more to be afraid of them. God put them there, but they became corrupt all on their own.
Respect for leaders means that we render obedience to the laws of the government, unless governmental laws command us to go against God’s word (Acts 5:29). It is interesting to note the historical context when the apostle Paul wrote Romans 13:1-2 (“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”) and the apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter 2:13-14, 17 (“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors… honor the emperor”). When those apostles wrote, Nero reigned as Roman emperor. He was definitely no friend of Christians; his atrocities against them are well documented. Yet, the directives of “be subject” and “honor” applied even to him—not because his life or actions generated respect, but because he filled a seat of authority God had established. Today, as always, there is a need to do what the apostle Paul wrote in another inspired letter: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
» I'm having a difficult time with a potential issue regarding those leading a worship service, including the pastoral office. Hypothetically, if a worship leader (layperson - singing or playing) is actively playing a role in a congregation, but a member/multiple members know that the leader is involved in a continual sin (examples: living with someone outside of marriage, addiction issues) unbeknownst to other church leadership, how does one act? If I'm helping to lead the service as well, do I use Matthew 18 and talk to them first, then with others? Do I move swiftly to church leadership to address the issue? I've had conflicting advice given on this (yes - leaders in worship are held to the same standard as pastors, and no - we are all sinners, so let it go). I don't like feeling like a tattle-tale, but I also don't like feeling smug like a Pharisee either. It has given me anxiety for a long time, and I'd like some clarification on this from a WELS leader. Thanks.
Matthew 18:15-20 provides direction for addressing sin in the lives of fellow Christians. That direction includes speaking to a fellow Christian individually and then widening the number of people involved if there is continued impenitence. With your hypothetical situation, you would want to speak to the worship leader first—individually and privately. You would bring in others to assist you if there were continued impenitence. We do not help fellow Christians if we fail to offer rebuke in Christian love when they sin. In fact, we help them greatly when we do speak to them—in humility and with gentleness—about their sins. The book of James ends on this note: “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). As you and I would want a fellow Christian to rebuke us about our sins, so we want to have a similar attitude toward a fellow Christian who is “involved in a continual sin,” as you described the situation. God grant you wisdom, love and strength.
» What does Mark 4:25 mean?
Jesus repeated his words in Mark 4:25 (“Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not heave, even what they have will be taken from them.”) in different contexts (Matthew 7:2; 13:12; 25:29; Luke 19:26). The common thread of meaning concerns faithful use of God’s gifts. God promises to bless faithful Christian management and use of his blessings. In the context of Mark 4:25, God’s blessings are connected to a faithful use of his word.  “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more” (Mark 4:24). When you and I use God’s word faithfully, we can expect the Holy Spirit to use it to nurture and strengthen our faith, and to increase the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in our lives. On the other hand, when people do not use God’s word by reading it or hearing it, the time will come when it will be taken from them. All this is reason why Jesus said, “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:23).
» Can carnally minded Christians be saved?
Christians are not carnally minded. In Romans 8 the apostle Paul paints a contrast between people who are carnally minded and spiritually minded. What follows is the pertinent section of Romans 8 in the King James Version (that uses the word “carnal”) and the same section in the New International Version: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
» How can I be confident that God will answer my prayers, considering James 1:6-7? Every day in my life I am struggling with sin and temptation (especially sins of doubt). I realize that I cannot win this spiritual battle on my own, and that I need God’s power to resist these temptations. But because I am struggling with the sin of doubt, James 1:6-7 makes it seem to me that God is not answering my prayers. I am sorry for my sins and I would really love a God of grace to forgive me, but for some reason there is something in me that doubts the whole Bible even to be true. Considering James 1:6-7, will God answer my prayers? Will he help me fight temptation? Am I misinterpreting this passage? Thanks.
To begin with, a God of grace has forgiven you (2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 5:18-19; 1 John 2:2). Your words tell me that you recognize the forgiveness of sins you possess through faith in Jesus Christ. Your words also lead me to think of the man who approached Jesus one day and said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). That man spoke for you and me and Christians in general. We praise God the Holy Spirit for connecting us to Jesus Christ in saving faith, but we also recognize that there is always room for growth in our faith. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel in word and sacrament to nurture and strengthen our faith. In James 1:6-7 the inspired writer is addressing the problem of praying but doubting: doubting that God will hear prayers and answer them. The doubts you have expressed are connected to biblical content: is the whole Bible true? The Bible answers that question. Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Lord did not qualify that statement by saying that some or most of God’s word is truth; he said all of God’s word is truth. The Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to underscore that statement: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). God desires to strengthen the faith he has created in you (Isaiah 42:3). He wants you to pray to him, and he has promised to hear and answer (Psalm 50:15). He has armed you to fight temptations (Ephesians 6:10-17). So, keep using the means by which the Holy Spirit can strengthen your faith—the Bible and the Lord’s Supper. Remember your baptism by which God made you his own child. Speak to God regularly in prayer, knowing and believing that he will hear and answer in the best way and at the best time. God bless you.
» Peggy Capps has several yoga DVDs for back pain and arthritis. Yoga is sometimes thought of being a gateway to Eastern religions. Is yoga considered not a Christian type of exercise? Thanks.
My predecessor in the “Forward in Christ” question and answer column offered a response to a question like yours a few years ago. I am not able to provide a link to it for you to read, so I have included it below. “An important question on a terrifically controversial subject! I searched ‘Can a Christian do yoga?’ on Google and immediately got 1.6 million online hits. A brief scan of Web sites listed revealed strong convictions from those who answer, ‘Yes, it’s okay,’ and from those who say, ‘No, it’s not okay.’ “Yoga: A truly religious discipline “The history and primary purposes of yoga are religious to the core. The goal of yoga (‘union’) is to serve as a path to spiritual enlightenment and growth. It is a discipline designed to join a human spirit to the divine—in this case, to a Hindu, pantheistic Brahman or Universal Spirit. Enlightenment is sought from within oneself, not from an external source like Scripture. “The physical posture, breathing exercises, and mental concentration or meditation linked with yoga were designed to serve this spiritual purpose and help achieve or express union with the divine. Serious advocates and practitioners of yoga consistently insist this is so. “Yoga: A mere physical regimen? “Many people, including professing Christians, maintain yoga may be viewed simply as a means of physically improving oneself. ‘Hatha’ yoga, the aspect that focuses mostly on the body and mind, is seen merely as a tool to strengthen and improve flexibility of muscles or counter mental stress. Yoga’s primary, higher goals of achieving a mystical union with the divine are viewed as expendable or irrelevant. “Viewing yoga only as a physical fitness routine is not legitimate according to authentic yoga advocates. Would we Christians be comfortable with people serving wine and bread to houseguests and saying they gave them the Lord’s Supper? Do we see running people through sprinklers or having them dive into a pool as suitable examples of Baptism? I think not. There are essential distinctions to be maintained. Yoga, adequately defined, is not a physical fitness program but a spiritual discipline or process. “Yoga: Ever acceptable? “Is it really possible for Christians to isolate the physical aspects of yoga from their religious basis and pursue this as a method of exercise? I can envision this, but incorporating some yoga stretches into a more comprehensive stretching program is not really yoga anymore. Nor is this what is advocated when someone signs up for yoga classes at a local gym. Rather, the breathing exercises and meditation techniques that accompany the body posture still train people to focus on themselves instead of Scripture to seek answers for conscience and lifestyle issues that go far beyond muscular or mental fatigue. To leave ourselves open to this kind of spiritual deception smacks of spiritual smugness. “What if I’m confronted by Christians who think it’s okay to attend yoga classes because they are strong enough to withstand whatever spiritual deception that may come their way and still want the perceived physical benefits? I will quickly urge them to consider weaker Christians who may be watching their lifestyle and be moved to participate. Less informed and more gullible believers may easily pay a price for this reckless example. “It is far better to seek alternative approaches to physical fitness and mental relaxation. Online sources suggest gymnastic- or even ballet-related approaches to accompany daily Bible reading and meditation deeply rooted in that Word. Our marching orders have not changed: ‘Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22).”
» I understand that I deserve hell because I have sinned. I understand that there is no hope in being saved and going to heaven through works or good things that I can do. We are saved because Jesus has lived a perfect life, died in our place, and rose from the dead. But how exactly does that pay for our sins? If we deserve to suffer in hell for eternity, wouldn't Jesus have to be suffering in hell for eternity to pay for our sins? Did Jesus go to hell? I know that different people believe different things about where he went after he died and what he did there. Why did Jesus rise from the dead? Is this necessary for our salvation? Thank you.
You asked some very important questions about our salvation. You identified the all-important works of Jesus: his perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. How did those works pay for our sins? God’s law demands that we be perfect in every way and at all times (Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48). Jesus lived life perfectly in our place (Hebrews 4:15). Because we also deserved punishment from God for not living perfectly as he demands, Jesus suffered that punishment in our place (Galatians 3:10-13). On the cross, Jesus suffered what amounts to hell: he was punished for sin and forsaken by God (Matthew 27:46). Rather than suffering eternally, the eternal punishment all people deserved was compressed into a few hours of suffering on the cross. Jesus’ resurrection was proof positive that his heavenly Father had accepted his perfect life and sacrificial death as the full payment for the sins of the world (Romans 4:25). After Jesus’ body and soul were reunited in the grave, he descended into hell to proclaim his victory over sin, Satan and death (1 Peter 3:18-20). He did not descend into hell to suffer or to give people a second chance to believe in him. Yes, we all deserved an eternity in hell because of our natural sinful condition and our actual sins. Praise be to God for promising and sending a Savior—his Son, Jesus Christ—to be our perfect substitute in life and our innocent substitute in death. Praise be to God for accepting his Son’s works as the full payment for our salvation, as evidenced by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
» My boyfriend, a Lutheran convert, is not a virgin and I am. I’ve been struggling with this on and off for the duration of our relationship. He was very open, honest, and straightforward about his past, acknowledging his sin, his guilt, and his repentance from the very beginning of our courtship, in efforts to maintain transparency. I was surprised, and did not expect it, but I was/am appreciative of his honesty and told him so. I also explained to him that am forgiving of him and his past as modeled in the 5th petition of the Lord’s Prayer. We both value and recognize the importance of maintaining a sexually pure relationship and honoring the 6th Commandment. We have had many conversations about maintaining an appropriate level of ethical premarital activity and agree we will abstain from premarital sex. My struggle comes when I think about his past intimacy with the other women he’s slept with. I realize sex is a gift God grants to a husband and a wife, it is a union of persons, and that it should be protected from being cheapened. It really upsets me to think that if/when we get married, that it no longer has the value that it did. I’m bothered by the memories of others, and I’m insecure because of the inevitable comparison to the past. I mostly feel hurt in a way that words cannot describe. I know he loves me, and he loves God. I know he is remorseful of his transgressions and would change the past if he could. But I don’t know how to find peace and put this out of my mind.
There is no question in your words for me to address, but I can attempt to offer a brief response. From what I read, your boyfriend has confessed his sin and received the forgiveness of sins through faith. You also have expressed a forgiving attitude toward him. I commend you for that. Your reference to the Lord’s Prayer is good and very applicable: as we have been forgiven, so we forgive others. When God forgives, he forgets (Jeremiah 31:34). We can forgive, but the memories of others’ sins can linger in our minds. Our goal is to be more like God in forgetting the sins of others. Without having any further information, your self-assessment of insecurity sounds plausible to me. Addressing this in a face-to-face conversation with your pastor or other trusted counselor would be the best approach. If you are not able to speak to your pastor about this, Christian Family Solutions, a WELS-affiliated ministry, offers in-person and video counseling. What will be helpful is remembering to view your boyfriend and yourself as redeemed children of God (Galatians 4:4-5; 1 John 3:1). God has determined your worth: you are precious in his sight (Isaiah 43:4). God bless you and your boyfriend.
» Does God remove people from our lives? I have a friend who has recently began using this as a means to comfort others or to rationalize when a relationship ends by saying that God was protecting them, or He is going to bring someone better into their lives, or they learned what He needed them to from that person and it time for them to move on. While God could certainly remove someone if he chose, the only place in the Bible I can think of God removing someone was with Phillip and the eunuch, but that is not the context in which she is using it. She is using it more in the context of divorce, rifts in families, the ending of friendships or romantic relationships. I'm at a loss of what to say to her since she fully believes that it is God's will and doing, yet it seems to contradict the Bible.
Do people come in and out of our lives in various ways and through different circumstances? Is God ultimately in control of all events in our lives? Does God promise to work all things in life for our good? The answer to all those questions is “yes.” There is a problem when people try to assign a specific motive of God to a particular event in life. If God has not revealed in his word why he has or has not done something, we cannot pretend to speak for him. When it comes to the “why?” questions of life, I find it best to maintain the attitude expressed in Romans 11:33-36: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’ For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
» Our young adult daughter was recently taken to her glory in heaven after extreme suffering. What is it like for her now? Is she with loved ones? We miss her so terribly. When will our tears stop? We pray for peace.
Please accept my sympathy at the death of your daughter. Death was never part of God’s design for his perfect creation. Death is “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). What you and I are grateful for is that Jesus Christ has conquered death and that he has made death the means by which Christians enter the presence of God in heaven. You are viewing your daughter’s present circumstances correctly when you speak of her enjoying the glory of heaven (Psalm 73:24). We long for what she is experiencing. Her soul is with the souls of all those who confessed Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, as Savior in this life. She will be among those who accompany the Lord when he returns visibly to this world on the Last Day (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Your tears, like mine at the death of a loved one, result when we think of our own lives and the temporary changes that have taken place. We can balance that emotion of sorrow with joy when we think of the glory and perfection that our loved ones are experiencing in the presence of God. Jesus promises to take care of your tears (Matthew 5:4; Revelation 7:17; 21:4). The Lord provides comfort and strength for you and your family through the gospel in word and sacrament. I encourage you to feed your soul richly with the word of God. Be a frequent guest at the Lord’s Supper. Through the gospel, God strengthens our faith and fortifies us for Christian living. To help deal with your grief, perhaps there is a support group at your church you could consider attending. Certainly, seek out the counsel of your pastor. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
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For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23