Historic Trinity
The Lutheran Seal as depicted on a banner used during Reformation Services at Historic Trinity.  (Photo by F. Hoeper)

The Pastors Answer

Visitors to our website send questions to Ask the Pastor daily. Here are answers to some of our visitors' questions from the pastors of Historic Trinity.

Q.  I have have had something very traumatic happen to me. A three year old child that I have been babysitting just died. He had cancer. I would like to know why this could happen? He did nothing wrong. He influenced so many peoples lives. I have been asked because I am a Christian why a loving God would do this and I have no reply. I personally am not sure. I hope you can help me.

    A. No I wish I had a simple answer, but I do not. The "whys" of life are very difficult. Why God permitted the child to die we do not know. We do know that God loves the child, and now the child is God's loving arms. You can be sure you did nothing wrong; you gave the child your love. A part of grief process is to ask why, to be mad, to feel guilty it might have been your fault, and then to accept God's will. May you find peace in these days. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  Is Jesus kin to King David through Mary or Joseph? And how could it be through Joseph?

    A. Matthew Chapter one, gives the record of genealogy from Abraham to Jesus through the ancestry of Joseph, probably because his readers were primarily Jewish, and it would be important to identity Jesus this way. In the comparison genealogy of Luke Chapter 3:23-38, Luke follows the blood line genealogy through Mary, therefore both the legal (Jewish) lineage is given, as well as, the blood line...This explains the variants in the two genealogies and underscores the importance of Mary in Jesus' genealogy. Remember that both Joseph and Mary had a measure of common ancestry. Peace. Rev. Jim

Q.  What is difference in being baptized in name of Jesus, or being baptized in the Name of the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit?

    A. While Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is mentioned in Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48 and Acts 19:5, it is assumed that only Jesus is mentioned since the people already believed in the true God. While it may not be wrong to baptize in the name of Jesus, we would be most comfortable baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost as Jesus commands in Matthew 28:19.

    There is no reason to conclude that all baptizing in the New Testament was by immersing. All that the Bible requires is the use of water. How it is applied is not stipulated (Acts 22:16). It is doubtful that the people in the jailer's family were immersed at home in the middle of the night; it is more probable that a bowl of water was provided and that the water was applied either by sprinkling or pouring. The fact that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River does not imply that he was immersed; he might have just stooped over and had the water poured on his head. We simply cannot insist which method is commanded in the Bible. The idea of sprinkling may come from Hebrews 10:22.

    Infants were undoubtedly baptized from the very beginning. Whole families were baptized in Acts 16:15 and Acts 16:33. We baptize them because Jesus said to make disciples of all nations by baptizing them (Matthew 28:19) and did not stipulate a certain age requirement.

    I hope this helps. Blessings. Rev. Ron G.

Q.  What is the relationship between Jesus Christ and a Christian today?

    A. What a beautiful question! The Bible is very clear that every person has sinned against God and needs to be forgiven in order to go to heaven. We sin when we disobey anyone of God's Ten Commandments. If we are not forgiven we are under the power of sin, the control of Satan, and will spend eternity in hell when we die. But God still loves us.

    That is why God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to overcome sin and the power of Satan, and is not preparing heaven for us. Jesus obeyed the Ten Commandments perfectly for us. He suffered and died on the cross instead of us. By believing that He did all this for you, His perfection becomes yours, your sins are forgiven, Satan can no longer control you and you and all believers will go to heaven.

    When Jesus rose on Easter Day, this proves that God has accepted the suffering and death of His Son as full payment for the sins committed by everyone; that what Jesus taught is true; that Jesus is the Son of God; that all believers will be with Him in heaven.

    What does this mean today? There is an ancient Christian prayer with the words, "To know Him (Jesus), is to love Him, to love Him is to serve Him." Learn of Him by reading of Him in the four Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. Love Him with your heart, soul and mind. Worship Him in church and at home. Pray to Him without ceasing. Share the Good News of salvation with your friends and neighbors. Imitate His life by helping the sick, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, lonely, and unclothed. And be thankful that by the grace of God, He has called you out of spiritual darkness into the bright light of His salvation. Blessings. Rev. John.

Q.  What do you think about the separation of church and state ?

    A. It not only applies to Christian but all other religions also. The church should not run the state as it did in pre-reformation dates nor should the state run the church as it does in some countries. Separation, however, does not mean that they cannot share and respect one another. The fathers did it so the state could not tell them how and when to worship not to tell them they could not. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  What do you tell someone who believes in evolution because he says it's "factual" and can be proven?

    A. So things evolved, but someone had to start it all. God created it all, the first cell, life, the universe. The fact - just look about you and higher power than mankind had to do. We are always evolving in life, science, technology, etc - but God gives all of this. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  Please talk about "God" in the Old Testament.

    A. The Hebrews/Israelites came on the scene in the world of ancient Semites that used the name "El" for God, and the Israelites, in part, appropriated forms of that name for their own use. The Israelites did use "Elohim" for the God who revealed Himself to them, but the name by which God revealed Himself to them was unique, namely "Jahweh.." We see this in Genesis 2:4, where English translations say "the Lord (Jahweh) God (Elohim)."

    In the giving of the commandments God reaveals Himself as "the Lord (Jahweh) your God (Elohim)," Similarly in Hosea 12:9 it is "the Lord (Jahweh) your God (Elohim)." Thus the Israelites accepted God's revelation that their God was Jahweh. You might read also Exodus chapters 3 and 34.

    The form of "El" that regularly occurs in the Old Testament is plural, "Elohim." However, this is most often used in a singular sense. Note that the verbs with "Elohim" are usually singular. This is known, of course, as the "plural of majesty" and is plural in form only, not in meaning. So it is Jahweh, your "God." The name might be related to the "El" of the Canaanites, but in the Old Testament "Elohim" is the God revealed as Jahweh. This is what ministers should tell their "followers."

    The New Testament reveals to us that this Jahweh is the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as we can see from Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13; and the Gospel of John.

    If you wish to read more about this, you might check in a church library or church college library and look up in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (or other Bible dictionary), under the category of "God, names of."

    What is most thrilling is to know that through Jesus Christ, God cares for each of us, has forgiven us all our sins, and will love us now and forever. May God bless you as you continue to search the Scriptures and find Jesus as Savior and Lord. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  How do you receive God's Biblical Word with humility and confidence despite the inclusion in Sacred Scripture of some commands that are very difficult to understand and apply

    A. You know that the key to believing and understand the Bible is our Spirit-created faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said that the Scriptures testify to the Christ. So it is our faith in Christ that must be cemtral in receiving the Scriptures. Luther said that every page in the Bible proclaims Christ. This is true for those who believe that Jesus Christ is THE Word of God and THE revelation of God to humanity. Jesus Christ is our key to understanding any and all of the Bible. When we come to difficult passages, we let Scripture interpret Scripture. The clear passages about God's revelation in Christ gives us a basis for understanding the rest of the Bible.

    The Law of God was unable to bring God's life to us, says St. Paul in Romans 8: 2-4. Only what Jesus Christ did brings God's life to us. The revelation of God which the Law is is fulfilled only through Christ. What the Law requires is even fulfilled in us by the power of the Spirit, in us who are in Christ (Note Romans 6:4 concerning our Baptism that unites us with Christ and enables us to live like Jesus.)

    In Romans 10:4 St. Paul even says that Christ is the end (or goal) of the Law for us in Christ, as far as righteousness is concerned. Christ supplies for us who are baptized into Him the goal of the Law, righteousness and life. It is faith in Christ, not our perception of or obedience to the Law that saves us and is the center of our focus. Still, all of Scripture was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4); the Law is good (Romans 7:12) and is upheld through God's gift of Christ (Romans 3:31).

    Now then, through faith in Jesus Christ we receive the "mind of Christ"(1 Corinthians 2:16). St. Paul tells us to use our (Christ-) minds to discern the will of God for us (Romans 12:2). This we can do by the power of the Spirit of Christ (please read carefully Romans 8: 5-11, 13-14). Through Christ we are enlightened and can understand what the perfect will of God for us is.

    Thank God, our analytical faculties have been so brightened that we can search the Scriptures to see what God has done for us and asks us to do. There is no "respite" for us from the "burden" of using analytical thought to find out exactly what the Bible is saying to us. Luther says that we should study hard to learn the language and the historical situation of every part of the Bible, of every time in which God revealed His will to His people. Luther says that when we do this, we come to understand that some passages of Scripture, though indeed they are the Word of God, were meant only for God's people in a certain time or situation, like some of the ceremonial commands which are obviously not necessary since Jesus Christ came into the world to be the one and only sacrifice for all of the sins of the entire world (Read Hebrews 10: 10-14).

    I have been priviileged to be able to spend much of my life in the analytical search of the Bible and to see, through faith in Christ, how God spoke through various language forms to His people in various situations.Taking up the burden of difficult reading and study of the Bible by the prompting of the Spirit has led me, not to doubt the Bible, but to receive it all with thanksgiving as the Divine truth for us and our salvation.

    I hope that this will be true for you also. May you have a blessed celebration of Christ's Advent! Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What does the Bible say about being a pastor?

    A. You asked about what the Bible says about being a pastor. The word "pastor" is not a technical word for ministry in the Greek New Testament. However, what we mean by "pastor" is included in the Bible. In Ephesians 4: 11 the Greek word for "shepherd" is translated in English Bibles as "pastor." That reflects an understanding in the Christian church that God's description of Himself and of Jesus as "Shepherd" is a model for Christian pastors ("under-shepherds).

    Read Ezekiel chapter 34 to find a description of God as the Shepherd of His people. Then read John chapter 10, and 1 Peter 2:25 to find Jesus described as the Good Shepherd. In the early church "shepherd" (or "pastor') was used to refer to leaders of congregations (see for instance, The Letter of Ignatius to the Romans, 9:1). This use of (under) "shepherd" (in English, "pastor") has become widespread to describe leaders of Christian congregations.

    The authority to serve as pastor is given with the Word of God. Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples, preaching the gospel and teaching His Word to all the world (Matthew 28: 19-20). In John 20: 21-23 Jesus gives His disciples the authority to forgive sins. In Romans 10:15 is the command to preach the gospel. St. Paul indicates that Christian leaders (including pastors) are given authority to minister with the gifts that the Spirit of God supplies (see Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12: 3-8; 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11). These gifts are given to be used for others, and confer no special status on the pastor other than that which fellow Christians (a congregation) ask God to give. The gift of being a pastor is the call from Christ to follow Him and serve God's people, the beautiful responsibility of putting God's gifts to work for the church of Jesus Christ.

    The proper attitude for the pastor is to lovingly serve others. St. Paul uses ordinary words to describe his ministry, including to labor, toil, work and to serve (See for instance 1 Corinthians 3: 5-11; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 3:5; 5:12; Philippians 2: 16; 2:25; 4:3; Colossians 1: 29; 1 Corinthians 16: 10 and Romans 16:3.)

    May God bless you as you search the Scriptures, knowing that for the sake of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has forgiven you all your sin and invites you to trust Him in sure faith forever. Blessings. Rev. Kieth.

Q.  What happens when we die?

    A. There are several truths about what happens when we die.

    First, as you know, the Bible says that our souls return to God, our Father (Luke 23:46).

    Second, all the dead will be raised on the last day for the final judgment (John 5:28).

    Third, after this body dies, we will have a new and glorified body, so that we will never be without a body (2 Corinthians 5:1,2).

    My best attempt to explain this is that when our bodies die, we leave time and enter eternity. In eternity, the resurrection and judgment are already occurring and we immediately participate. For those living in time, it is still in the future. Even if this doesn't help you, you can be assured that in Christ, the next thing that you will know after your body dies is that you will be with the Lord in heaven (Philippians 1:23).

    I hope this helps. Blessings. Rev. Ron G.

Q.  Could you please discuss sin, how Jesus died for our sins, and recommend books for me to study.

    A. Your questions are right on track. I identify with your questions because I have spent a life-time considering those same questions/problems for our understanding. Let me assure you that it is quite right for you to ask those questions in the hope of finding peace of mind.

    You said that sometimes you question the idea of sin. We all sin, in that we fall short of living according to the good plans that God our Father has in mind for us. St. Paul calls this falling short of the glory of God, God's glory is His powerful presence in our universe and in our lives. St. John says that we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that we don't sin (1 John 1:8). None of us do as well as we ought with the wonderful gifts that God has provided for us. I am responsible for not serving God or other people as well as God wants me to. I sin.

    Yes, Jesus died for our sins. That was God's plan to solve the problem of my failure. Through Jesus death and resurrection my sins are all forgiven; moreover, I am also thus given the power to do better. This means that I can find meaning and purpose in the universe and in my personal life. In this connection read 2 Corinthians 5: 18-19. Of course, God could have arranged for the forgiveness of sins in any way that God chose. The picture of Jesus' dying on the cross makes clear that there is a penalty for sinning. Amazingly, God pays the penalty Himself. God, in the person of the Son of God, Himself died to reconcile us to God and to each other.

    Jesus is not a son of God in the way that a human being can think of himself or herself to be a child of God. Please read Colossians 1: 15-20. Jesus is THE Son of God, in whom the fullness of God was present in the world.

    Christianity feeds on the Bible. To be sure, it was written long ago. But it is the greatest Book ever written. In the words of human beings God reveals Himself. Please read 2 Timothy 3: 15-16: The Bible is inspired by God and gives us faith in Jesus Christ, so that our lives are salvaged. The Bible's message corrects our thinking and helps us grow up into God's rightness for us. Please read also the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 30-31. The message of Jesus' mighty words and works leads us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, God's Son who gives us LIFE! And in Romans 15:4 we read that the Bible gives us encouragement and hope. The way to be convinced of these blessings of the Bible is to read and study the Bible more and more. I have had many questions about the Bible. The more I have read the Bible the more my questions have been resolved, and the more I love the Bible as the great treasury of God's good Word for us.

    You asked about other books to read. You may find in a church library one of these two old favorites of mine: C. S. Lewis, MERE CHRISTIANITY; or, J. B. Philips, PLAIN CHRISTIANITY. If you would like to have book titles on particular subjects, please get in touch with us again. God bless you in your searching, and reading of the Bible.. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Describe the significance of Covenant in the Old Testament and its relevance for today.

    A. The Old Testament Theocratic Covenant first made to Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:16,17) to Noah (Genesis 9:1-17), to Abraham (Genesis 15:18; 17; 22:18), to the children of Israel through Moses (Exodus 19:5ff), (Deut. 29:10-15; 30:11-20), and to David (II Samuel 7:4-7) contain the following points. By grace God chose His people. If They will believe in Him and obey His Words, they will be His people, possess the land He give them, prosper and bless the, become a mighty nation, the kingdom will continue forever, and through them a Savior will be born who will be a blessing to all nations. The Old Testament believer was saved by believing in a Messiah who was to come to save them. Circumcision was the outward sign of the Old Testament Covenant. The Old Testament Covenant was fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Galatians 3).

    The New Testament Covenant contain the following points. We are saved from sin, death, and damnation, by grace through faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Only the moral law applies to the New Testament believer who can obey it only imperfectly. The kingdom of believers is eternal beginning with faith and continuing in heaven throughout eternity. Baptism is the New Testament sign of the covenant. Peace. Rev. John

Q.   What if someone has trouble believing in the divine authorship of the Bible, or just "can't believe in the Bible?

    A. I have spent a great deal of my life working on just this question, and in finding strength after strength from the Bible confirming my confidence in the Bible as the Word of the living God for us.

    In the Bible I read about the amazing grace of God made clear for us in the life, words, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. For instance, "In Jesus Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us" (Ephesians 1: 7-8). Please read the rest of that chapter and Ephesians chapter 2 also tonight. I hear in the Gospels of the New Testament the words of Jesus calling me to accept his loving-kindness.

    Because I have come to trust myself to Jesus Christ, I love to read the Bible more and more, and become convinced through what I read that the Bible is to be trusted.

    In addition, there are many things that I have read in the Bible that are different from the writings of history books and the books of other religions. There is more evidence to trust the accuracy of the Biblical writings than the writings of any other philosophy or religion or mythological treatises. I can't detail all of this for you now, but will refer you to books about this subject, like that of F. F. Bruce: THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS; ARE THEY RELIABLE. Let me know if you wish further references.

    I too have wondered what to believe and trust. I have placed myself in the role of doubter or agnostic and asked the hard questions of myself. I do want to report to you that I have been amazed, surprised, and strengthened in my faith as I have asked the difficult questions and found such powerful answers.

    I encourage you to keep reading, studying and searching the Scriptures for answers to your questions. The Scriptures testify to Jesus Christ as the one and only solution to the human dilemma. God bless you as you grow in faith in our Lord Jesus, and you will love and trust the Bible also. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Can you give me some Bible references to provide me comfort upon the death of my friend.

    A. There are many passages of Scripture which provide comfort in regard to a Christian's death. John 3:16, John 6:35-40, John 11:17-27, John 14:1-4, Romans 8:31-39, Romans 14:7-9, Revelation 21:1-7. Perhaps the experience for your boyfriend will help him to grow in an understanding of God's promise to us of life instead of death because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the reason we may have hope in death. You might be able to find a copy of "Good Grief" by Granger Westberg. Rev. Paul

Q.  Is believing in Jesus Christ enough to be saved?

    A. Yes, believing in Jesus Christ is enough to be saved. But remember, "believing" is not a technical state of mind. It is throwing ourselves on the mercy of God with the confidence that He has already forgiven our sins through the cross of Christ. "Believing" is also thinking, speaking and acting like one in whom the Spirit of Jesus has effected a change of heart.

    May Christmas move you to bow down before the Child of Bethlehem and find in Him all that you need. Now may God bless you with His sure joy and peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  I'm a born again Christian and I keep having these doubts about being saved. I always ponder the question "Am I a good enough Christian to be saved?"

    A. We are human, and we all have doubts. God doesn't expect you to be perfect. You could not do enough to save yourself. That is why Christ died to save you. Just do the best you can, and enjoy God's love. Just accept His love and forgiveness. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  Is there anyone who understands everything in the Bible perfectly?

    A. No! But there is more than enough in the Bible for each and everyone of us to receive and believe and act upon in our lives. The Bible is not a book of trivia answers to esoteric questions. The Bible is a treasury of the grace and love of God; it is the powerful word of God that cuts in us like a two-edged sword, cutting us down in our perverse sinfulness and cutting our hearts so that we bow down in humble repentance of our sins and in faith in Jesus Christ. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Could you please discuss punishment from Revelations 21:8

    A. You asked about the punishment of Rev. 21:8. Of course, it is true. Throughout the Bible we hear about punishment for those who refuse to receive God's forgiveness and God's power for changed living, and persist in evil living. God is merciful, but expects His mercy to be received and utilized. We are talking about personal responsibility for actions, and consequences. Blessings. Rev. Kieth

Q.  I just wanted to ask you a personal question, Is being depressed a sin? I have been feeling this way for a while now, because of all the stress at school, and family problems. I asked Jesus into my heart like two years ago, and I am trying to grow into a deeper relationship with our Lord and savior. I have been wondering about my question for a while now.

    A. We all have our ups and down; this is not a sin we are human, and not perfect. God loves you ask Him to help you through the low times, and give Him thanks in the high times. Blessings. Rev. Dave

Q.  Does the Bible say how many people will repent, few or many.

    A. Both "few" and "many" are used in the Bible, depending on whether God is emphasizing one idea or another in opposition to the expectations that people have. One thing is sure: God says to each of us that we should repent, be baptized, and believing in Christ, receive the gifts of grace and salvation. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  I am currently doing a report on the separation of church and state. My question deals with your opinion on the issue. I feel that religion should be incorporated with our countries academic premises. I think that the lack of religion in schools is leading to the lack of family values in todays youth. I was just wondering how you may feel on this issue. And may I use your opinion in the research paper I am currently preparing. Thank you for you time and consideration. God Bless

    A. Religion is the basic guide in morals and values. Without a faith structure, without values we are ruderless. Society has become so politically correct, and dumb down everything, where it is to the point we have lost a sense of direction. The constitution did not eliminate religion from life, it just says you cannot force your faith upon others - but why do the non-believers have a right to impose their faith - faith in nothing on us? Good luck. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  Are you guys pastors or what?

    A. We are all Lutheran pastors. We have each had at least 8 years of post-High School education in Biblical studies and other preparation for service as pastors. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  While I know that the word "Amen" is defined in the dictionary as an affirmation, how did that practice come about in closing a prayer with "Amen." What does "Amen" mean in the Christian sense and does it have a more profound meaning than what is used in daily life. Obviously it has been around for a long time since even the Latin prayers close with "Amen."

    A. It equals "Yea, yea Lord" a positive conformation of what was said or sung. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  Please comment about the Encyclopedia Britannica referring to Paul as the second founder of Christianity.

    A. You wrote noting that "the Encyclopedia Britannica refers to Paul as the second founder of Christianity." A few years ago it was popular for secular commentators on the Bible to try to drive a wedge between Jesus and Paul. In recent years, Biblical scholars have shown definitively that Paul recognized Jesus only as Savior and Lord of the church and that Paul's teaching is a continuation of the New Testament gospels, not something new or different.

    For instance, Bible students have pointed out the theological agreement between Mark's Gospel and the messages of St. Paul. Mark's Gospel is the proclamation of the gospel (good news, Mark 1:1 and 14). This good news is that Jesus is the Son of God and acts with Divine authority and power to defeat the forces of the Devil and everything demonic. Jesus acts with power to rescue people from their sins (Mark 2:10), and through His suffering, death and resurrection rescues people from the power of evil and restores them to fellowship with God. St. Paul emphasizes this same theme, proclaiming that the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). This gospel power rescues people from a life of futility and restores them to fellowship with God.

    Mark's Gospel tells the account of Jesus heading for Jerusalem to suffer and die on the cross. Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples that He will die on the cross. St. Paul says that he was determined to proclaim only Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2: 1-5), and that in the cross of Christ is the power of God for Christian life. Paul does not claim anything for himself, but continuously points to Jesus Christ. Only faith in Christ receives the grace of God and counts one as just.

    I assure you that it is not true that Paul's epistles "contradict many teachings in the synoptic gospels," and Paul's teachings do not deviate from those of Jesus." If there are particular passages which bother you or seem to provide an example of contradiction, please let me know and I would be happy to comment on the same. I pray that God the Holy Spirit will guide you as you search the Scriptures, which testify to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May our Lord bless you daily. Blessings and Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What is the Gospel of Thomas?

    A. The Gospel of Thomas is one of the more important New Testament apocrypha Gospels. Apocrypha Gospels were written to advance private doctrines, using a famous believer of the past in order to borrow his authority and to make the content of the document acceptable. Hippolytus quotes from a Gospel according to Thomas which was used by the Naassenes. Origen and Eusebius both classify it with the heretical writings. The book is of Gnostic origin and may have been in existence in the middle of the 2nd century. Its present form is later than the 6th century. We do not consider the Gospel of Thomas as canonical and reject any teaching contrary to or adding to the content of the synoptic Gospels. The value of the apocrypha Gospels is that they provide to the church historian, tendencies at work in the church of the first four or five centuries. Blessings and Peace. Rev. John

Q.  Could you please discuss revelation and dogma?

    A. For Christians, revelation is what God has done in Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, St. John reminds us (in 1 John 4:12), but "God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him" (read 1 John 4: 9 - 16). In his Gospel St. John tells us that Jesus is God's Word "made flesh," that is, Jesus is God as a human being showing us who God is and what God is like.

    The book of Hebrews starts out by telling us: Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, . . . ." (Hebrews 1:1-2). Revelation is Jesus Christ, and also the Book with the messages of the prophets, historians, evangelists and apostles that either looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, or tells us about the fact and the significance of His coming. This Book is the Bible, written, the church was told and believes, by the inspiration of God's Spirit.

    Dogma is a word that refers to statements of belief proclaimed by the church of Jesus Christ. For most people "dogma" sounds too authoritarian, or even arbitrary. I prefer to use the word "doctrine" or "teaching." The church teaches what the Bible reveals, and this teaching is the doctrine of the church. Creeds (from the Latin word, "credo" - I believe) state in a logical form the teaching of the Bible.

    The "proofs" of the validity of God's revelation are to be seen in the life, words, works, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The proofs are also to be seen in the hearts and living of the followers of Christ. Some of the proofs are to be seen, by the eyes of faith, in the created world around us (Read Romans 1: 19-20; Acts 17: 22-31).

    I hope that this helps a little. If you have another question, please contact us again. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What sacraments is the oil that is blessed during holy week used in?

    A. The catholic and orthodox churches use oil in baptisms to bless the child, in visiting of the sick for healing, and in blessing of the dead. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  What are the advantages of being a Christian in this life?

    A. Your question, "What are the advantages of being a Christian in this life?" deserves a very long answer. The answer would draw on almost every page of the New Testament. I won't reprint the Bible here but will give you a few facts that are important to me.

    Right now we have and can enjoy the fact of the complete forgiveness of our sins. What a joy it is to know that God is not keeping a record of our failings, but has the intention of "forgetting" our every wrong. Please read 1 John 1:7 and 2:2; and also Hebrews 10:11-14. This passage reminds us that not only are my sins forgiven but that Christ died for the sins of other people. So not only am I set free from a cloud of guilt that might darken my days, I am able to look at the person who has done wrong to me and say that God has forgiven his sin also. So instead of wasting my time plotting to get revenge (read Romans 12:17-21), I can plan to forget about the wrong done me and plan to share God's love with that other person (as Jesus said "Father, forgive them" about the men who crucified him.

    Right now, not only when I get to heaven, I know that God has called me by the gospel (the good news of God's love in Jesus Christ) to be God's own (see 1 John 4: 12-16). Right now I know that my life is not futile (Romans 1: 16-21), but salvaged so that I can live with good purpose, able to discern God's good will for my life (Romans 12: 1-2), able to love others (Romans 12: 17-21), able to live in harmony with others (Romans 15:5).

    Now in this life we are able to exercise self-control, and do other good things with our lives and time (see Galatians 5: 22-23). Now we are able to rejoice (Romans 12:15; Philippians 4: 4-7). Now we receive comfort in times of difficulty. Right now we are able to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). That's the power that Christ's saving us brings us in this life-time.

    In the words of St. Paul, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us Philippians 4:13).

    Now in this life we are able to praise and thank God for his goodness to us. "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen!" Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Why is Acts 8:37 omitted in modern translations?

    A. You asked about Acts 8:37, and the fact that the verse is omitted in modern translations. That verse seems to make sense where it is, and we don't have the original copy of Luke's writing of Acts, so we don't know for sure.

    The problem is that the verse is found in only a relatively few copies of the older copies of Acts. It is in one from the sixth century A. D., but not in any older copies and not in most of the copies that were made in the early years of the Church.

    It is verse 37 in the King James Version. But the King James Version was translated from an accepted Greek New Testament which was based on Greek copies from the tenth century and later. Since the King James Version was translated in 1611, many more older copies of the Greek New Testament books have been found. It is assumed that the older copies are more trustworthy in establishing what was most likely Luke's original writing.

    Perhaps sometime after Luke wrote Acts, some pastor or Christian Bible student wrote a commentary, like a little sermon, trying to reconstruct the scene, and then his words of filling in the drama found their way into the copy of Acts that he was using for study or teaching or preaching.

    The Bible science of trying to determine what the original text actually was in quite technical and also is very reliable. So modern translations are probably correct in omitting verse 37.

    Please keep searching the Scriptures to find out more about God's great love for us through Jesus Christ. Blessings. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What is the name of Pharaoh's daughter, the one who saved Moses from the river?

    A. The Jewish historian, Josephus, refers to her as "Thermonthis." Another Jewish historian, Artabanus, calls her "Merris." The Bible does not give her name so we probably do not know for sure. Blessings. Rev. Ron G.

Q.  Is baptism necessary?

    A. You asked about the "necessity" of Baptism. The Bible presents Holy Baptism as a wonderful gift of God, by which people are united with Jesus Christ and given the new life engendered by the Holy Spirit.

    Yes, Baptism is commanded in the Bible. Jesus told his disciples in an imperative wording, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).

    St. Peter also spoke in the imperative voice, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). See also John 3: 5-6.

    And what a delight it is to focus on the blessings of Holy Baptism! In addition to Acts 2:38, mentioned above, which promises the blessing of forgiveness of sins, note St. Paul saying that "in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27). Christ is protective armor clothing for the baptized. See what St. Paul says also in Colossians 2:11-14.

    In Titus 3:5-7 we read that "He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, THROUGH THE WATER OF REBIRTH AND RENEWAL by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he POURED OUT on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

    St. Peter wrote of Holy Baptism that "now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21).

    If you have not yet received Christian baptism, I hope that you soon will, thanking God for this gift whereby He promises to make you His forever. May you have and keep sure faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior, Forgiver, Lord and Friend. Blessings. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What does B.C. and A.D. mean?

    A. There are no time divisions in the Bible itself. The various designations you refer to are made by historians. B.C. is the time - Before Christ with his being regarded as the decisive point of history. B.C.E. means Before the Common Era. This specifies the same period of time but without referring to Christ. It is an accommodation to persons who may not be Christian. A.D. means- Anno Domini- the year of our Lord (Jesus). I don't know the meaning of A.D.E. but it also refers to the time after Christ. Again, the designation is used to accommodate persons who are not Christian. Rev. Paul

Q.  You asked about the use of various numbers in the Bible:

    A. 14: See Exodus 12:6,18; Numbers 9: 3,5; Ezekiel 45:21; the Passover. See also Esther 9:19: the 14th of Adar, a day of feasting and gladness.

    17: Genesis 7: 11 & 8:4: The Flood began and ended on the 17th of a month.

    24: 1 Chronicles 23:4; 27:1-15; Revelation 4:4; 5:8; 11:16; 19:4. In Revelation, the 24 elders represent the church in its totality.

    50: See especially Leviticus 25:10, the Year of Jubilee.

    75: Genesis 12:4, the age of Abraham when God made the great promises to Abraham and called him.

    120: Genesis 6:3, a human's life span; and Deuteronomy 31:2, the life-span of Moses.

    144: Revelation 7:4; 14: 1,3: The number 12, for the people of God, times itself, and times 1,000 (the multiple of ten expanded). A very great number of God's people.

    153: John 21: 11: The number of fish that Peter caught.

    666: Revelation 13: 18: a reference to Nero or another Roman emperor.

    By the way, you forgot 40: the days of the Flood, Genesis 7 - 8, when God saved Noah and his family through the water; the number of years when God led and fed his people in the wilderness, saving them for the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33-34; Amos 2:10); and the number of days of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, at the beginning of his saving work for us (Mark 1:13).

    You see that many of the numbers listed point to God's saving work for us, whereby God has rescued us from futile ways and has redeemed us, forgiving us all our sins through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and giving us hope for the future.

    I'm sure that you understand that the Bible is not a collection of magical code numbers revealing secret and esoteric information. The Bible reveals to us God's great love in calling us to be his own, demonstrating his concern for us through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We should search the Scriptures to find out what they tell us about Christ, the One who gives us eternal life with God.

    May God bless you today in every way. May the Holy Spirit lead you to great faith in Christ as our Savior and Lord. Blessings. Rev. Kieth

Q.  I am enrolled in the Christian Ministries Program at a four year university. We are currently studying systematic theology. We are studying the doctrines. Anyway, one of the local pastors stated that after you become a Christian you do not sin anymore, because sin is when you do not know God and is not following his will for you. What do you think?

    A. This is not correct that we do not sin. We try not to sin; but we are human, and we all fail and come short of the glory of God. The good news is that Jesus loves us and forgives us. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  I feel I am lacking caring and love from other spiritual brothers and sisters.

    A. I was sorry to read that you lack a sense of caring and love toward you from spiritual brothers and sisters. Loving and caring for one another in a Christian community or congregation is to be practiced. You might want to read again beautiful descriptions of this in Ephesians 4: 1-6 and in Colossians 3:12-17. And in a chapter of St. John's Epistle that I'm going to quote again below, John says "those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also" (1 John 4:21).

    Love is God's great gift to the world in Jesus Christ. This love was not demanded for God to give, but unmotivated, free, grace, undeserved, and continuous. St. John wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10), and also, "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4: 19). Note that just as God loved without first being loved, so also we can be the first to love, just like God loves, even if we are not loved in return.

    Jesus loved before others loved Him, and even when that love was totally undeserved, and even when that love was not returned to Him. From the cross Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying Him, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34). You see that God's love gives us an example, for we can be loving towards others even when they don't deserve it or are not loving toward us.

    You remember, of course, that Jesus said that we should love even our enemies. Please read Matthew 5: 43-48. Now read also Romans 12: 9-21, where St. Paul tells us to "hold fast to what is good," "love one another with mutual affection," "Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord," "If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all," "if your enemies are hungry, feed them," and "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

    You can see that you and I have a lot of work to do. I think that when we feel that others are not doing enough loving toward us, we should rededicate ourselves to serving the Lord, holding fast to what is good, determine to love others with affection even when they are not treating us perfectly, and know that we can overcome evil with God's great goodness.

    Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God. Focus on God's great love for you, given certainly forever through Jesus Christ. Then pray to the Holy Spirit to help you focus on passing that love of God on to others.

    I pray now that a sense of God's mercy and care will flood into your spirit, wash away any tears, and renew you for your Christian journey. Blessings. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What are "Tarot Cards"

    A. Tarot cards are a form of fortune telling in order to learn what the future may be for a person. Instead of relying on cards we should rely on God as one who cares for us. See Deuteronomy 18:10,11;Jeremiah 27:9; Leviticus 20:6; Acts 19:17-19. New Age Movement is a composite of various religious ideas from many sources. Two basic tenets are: (1) All is one; therefore all is God, and (2) Persons are divine and have unlimited potential. In Christian faith, God is distinct from all in being its creator. Also, we have limits to our potential although God wants us to use His gifts as much as possible. Read Colossians 2:1-10. You may try to find the book "The New Age Is Lying to You". Rev. Paul

Q.  What happens when we die?

    A. St. Paul teaches us by his trust that when he would die he would be "with Christ" (Philippians 1:23). I might say that thus he tells us all we need to know. It is in the hands of God, and we can be sure that it will be fantastic because we will be with Christ. The Bible doesn't give us all the details of when and how this will be. Time is something that God created and we can't imagine the time details, as in when will be "the Resurrection" in which we will participate. Don't let anyone tell you that there is a timetable for the last things in the Bible that reveals just when and how the "last hour" will occur - Jesus said that is in the hands of the Father alone.

    You mentioned the "second judgement" or the second death, as in the Book of Revelation. That usually means the final and ultimate judgement as opposed to various trials and assessments of an individual person before the end.

    You may want to re-read 1 Corinthians 15, where important points concerning our eternal destiny are made:

    Verse 15: Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and now lives forever.

    Verse 20: Christ is the "first fruits" of Christians who have died, indicating that Christians will rise from death also.

    Verse 42: We Christians will rise with imperishable bodies, which will no longer decay or deteriorate. We Christians will be like Jesus, who is raised and lives forever, and we will be with Him.

    Verse 58: The thing for us to do now is to work for Jesus Christ, living as Jesus would have us live, and doing Christ's kind of work while we have time to do that.

    As you study the Book of Revelation you will want to recall that the Book is highly symbolic. The imagery of the Book of Revelation was not intended to provide a blueprint for the future. The purpose of the Book, stated in 1:9, was to bring comfort to Christians suffering under the pagan rule of the Roman empire. The Book asserts in picture language that the real king of the world is not the Roman emperor but Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords. Therefore, suffering Christians should trust in Christ, give their testimony to Jesus as Lord, and patiently endure their tribulations. Some Christians like to use the Book of Revelation to predict the future in terms of specific people, times and places. This is a mistake, a failure to see the Old (and New) Testament influence on this writing, and a failure to understand the kind of language that is used.

    God bless you as you continue to search the Scriptures. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  How can I escape temptations?

    A. The passage you are searching for is I Corinthians 10:13. "....God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

    In the Bible, God gives us seven examples or instructions on how to escape temptations.

    1. Prayer.
    2. Change your activity.
    3. Seek guidance from a Christian friend.
    4. Run away from the situation.
    5. Laugh at the devil (you and God are a majority).
    6. Use the Word of God.
    7. Just say "NO" (Joseph in Egypt).

    Sometimes, two or more of the above are used at the same time. Remember, "God is faithful." However, when we do sin, we always can turn by faith to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, who on the cross paid the ultimate penalty for all of our sins. John 3:16. Peace. Rev. John

Q.  I feel a lack of peace, pleasure and love in my Christian faith and life.

    A. You wrote that God made you accept the Gospel and that you believe the Bible as it is. That's great, and I pray that you keep accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. You know that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus is God's action to completely forgive your sins and to give you God's new life, now and forever.

    You mention though that you feel a lack of peace, pleasure and love in your Christian faith and life. You should remember that Christians have always experienced their Christian faith as a growing process. Our feelings are fickle, and they do change as we encounter difficulty. But God is not fickle, and God's feelings of love and unique kindness for us do not change. God is the same in his concern for us, yesterday, today and forever.

    I would like to suggest that you start reading Paul's letter to the Ephesians, today and every day for a while. Read that great message "to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:3-14), which spells out God's great plan of rescue for us which he effected through Jesus. Read about "the greatness of his power for us who believe" (Ephesians 1:19). Focus not on the weakness of your faith, but on Jesus Christ and God's power which is a gift to you. Read on about God's grace which is given to you, not a reward for having a strong faith life or for doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    Then know that instead of worrying about your feelings, you should do the good works that you now can as a child of God (Ephesians 2:10). Do that good work as you use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to build up the church (your fellow Christians and church members) in love (Ephesians 411-16). Study that section well. Trust God to take care of your feelings, and put yourself to work helping others, in the church and everywhere.

    There is so much more in this wonderful letter to the Ephesians. Read, study and believe this word of God. Believe this Bible as God's sure word for you. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What does the reference to Jesus as the "begotten" Son of God mean?

    A. You appear to have some understanding of the issue of Jesus being referred to as the "begotten" Son of God. However, in the New Testament, "begotten" refers only to the Son. He is never designated as being created. As such, he is absolutely distinct from all others. "Only begotten" (John 3:16) means his unique experience of partaking of God's being and doing so from all eternity. God did not use a lesser being to accomplish our redemption. Instead, only one intimately related to Him (In the bosom of the Father John 1:14 accomplished our redemption. Since the Son is so identified with the Father, He is therefore, honored and worshipped. Bruce Metzger of Princeton Seminary in New Jersey has written a fine pamphlet on this. Perhaps you can acquire it. Rev. Paul

Q.  Please assure me that I can trust the words promising the gift of the life is eternal.

    A. I understand your worry about whether or not you can trust the words promising the gift of the life that is eternal. God considers us to be worthy of God's confidence that we can come to sure faith, even without what we sometimes consider to be "scientific" proof for things.

    No doubt you will remember the words of the Gospel of John, chapter 6, verses 68-69: "Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life." Peter came to believe that when Jesus spoke it was for real. When Jesus promised God's presence and power in human existence, the promise was valid. The words of Jesus were no ordinary, empty, maybe true syllables, but God's sure words for our lives. That's the faith to which St. Peter came, and millions of others through the years, including myself.

    Listen to Jesus' words addressed to his Father: "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3). When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, who lived, suffered, died and rose again to rescue us from our sins and from a futile existence, then God gives us that life which is eternal. Note please that "eternal life" is not only something that we have after death. Eternal life with God begins now through faith in Christ and continues forever.

    Please now read in the Gospel of John, chapter 6, verses 53-58. Here Jesus tells us that when we receive him into our hearts and lives, we have eternal life and the promise of resurrection: "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life!" We receive the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord's Supper, and receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of life with God, the life which is eternal.

    Millions of Christians have staked their lives on the faith that the words of the Jesus in the Bible are not "just words," but sure eternal truths on which we can depend. At one time in my life I thought that maybe the messages of the Bible were just wishful thinking,or perhaps just ordinary human thoughts in expressions. The more that I have lived, the more I have carefully studied the writings of the Bible (and the more, I believe, that God has led me and surprised me with Divine goodness), the more I am convinced that when Jesus speaks in the Bible, it is God speaking the absolute truth to me. I depend for sure on God's Word; I am actually strengthened by this truth to live a life that is worthwhile, pleasing even to God by God's grace alone. I invite you to trust in Jesus Christ and his words. I believe that the more you read and study the Bible, the more that you too will be convinced in the truth of Jesus' Word for you, and for your live, now and eternally.

    May God bless you every day and always. Rev. Kieth

Q.  How do the ten comments apply to CHRIEST followers?

    A. They are the guidelines for our behavior and what God expects of us. Since we cannot keep them perfectly, Christ died for our sins and offers us salvation by faith in Him. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  I have begun to question my faith.

    A. I am writing in response to your message with 8 questions. You say that you have begun to question your faith.

    Your questions make a lot of sense to me. I can assure you that the pastors of Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Detroit (there are seven of us) have all asked these or similar questions. You are 26; I am over 62, and have been asking such questions all my life, and finding reasonable and reassuring answers for myself. It is right for you to use your mind to question things, and seek answers. Paul says, "do not be children in your thinking; rather be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults" (1 Corinthians 14:20). This word occurs in a chapter in which Paul encourages thoughtful expressions of what our faith is (1 Cor. 14:19). God gave you your faith, and your mind.

    We don't know all the answers we would like to our questions. Philosophers seeking to know what human knowledge is don't have all the answers they would like to have. Scientists studying nature and the universe surely haven't found complete answers to their scientific inquiries. You and I as Christians have not been assured by God that we will find complete answers to all our questions; we have been assured that we can know enough, that which is necessary. I have found answers to the questions that you ask. I certainly won't have space or time tonight to give the kind of responses to each question that I would like to. But I will give some quick answers off the top of my head, and invite you to "Ask the Pastor" at Historic Trinity for a more detailed response to any one question in the future.

    1. What happened to the souls of those that died before Jesus? I might like to know, but do not find that the Bible ever speaks directly to that question. But the Bible does clearly point to our God as most compassionate and merciful. I trust that God is not malicious or capricious. God wouldn't send anyone to eternal damnation on a technicality. I don't know how, but am sure that God made good plans for all. Of course, a human being can reject God's good plans, and suffer the consequences.

    2. Did God provide miraculous signs only in the past.? A burning bush or parting seas today would be okay, but I think that in my experience I have seen greater miracles than these. I have seen hate-filled people repent and do good. I have been surprised by God's amazing grace, love, hope and peace for myself when I thought there was no future for me. I have seen even more.

    3. Why did God protect believers in the past, and not today? God did not preserve all his people from physical harm in the past. Jesus suffered and died, Job, Jeremiah, prophets and disciples suffered physical harm and died. Remember also, that much of the Bible's discussion of people preserved from immediate harm is part of the message about a role in God's plan. Jonah was saved from the fish in order to preach in Nineveh. By the way, being swallowed by the fish isn't the biggest miracle in Jonah. The most amazing miracle is that Jonah preached and 120,000 people repented. I have been preaching all my adult life without that kind of success rate. Jonah was saved from the sea so that he and the people of Israel could get God's message: even terrible sinners (like those of Nineveh, worst city in the world) can repent and turn to the one true God.

    4. Evolution is a working theory, not proven. To the extent that it is working, it does not disprove the Bible. Many scientists are Christians, true believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time operate with various theories of origins and development in nature. Remember that the Bible tells us about God and us and our salvation. The Bible was not given to us to provide all answers to all questions; it is not a blueprint of heaven or earth, the past or the future. The Bible tells us all that we need to know about God's acts of rescue for humanity in the past, present and future.

    5. The Bible does not tell us that there is or is not life on other planets. If life is found on Mars or Jupiter or in another galaxy, I would just think . . . there's one more surprise that our great God has in store for us. Finding life elsewhere would not disprove anything about the Bible.

    6. There is only one name given to us whereby we can be saved, and that is the name of Jesus Christ. The Bible itself teaches that other religions know something about God, but there is no comparison anywhere to the unique (one of a kind) gospel of Christ. Christianity does not teach that everyone who does not have faith in Christ is going to hell. Sending people to hell is not our job. Doing that is up to God. What IS our job? Sharing the gospel with all people. By the way, if I find a great restaurant, the best ever, I don't go around saying that all the other restaurants in town will surely give one food poisoning. I just tell how great is the food at that one best restaurant I have found.

    7. The Bible should be interpreted according to the literary form of the writing involved. Some parts of the Bible are poetry, with much imagery that cannot be interpreted "literally." Some parts of the Bible are written in literary form like parable and apocalyptic, the interpretation of which must be according to certain literary form rules. The gospels of the New Testament are preaching, a special form, but are also actual history. I have worked much on this matter, and would be happy to share more with you.

    8. The Bible teaches that people are individually responsible for their choices and sins. See answer to # 1 above.

    By the way, I forgot to mention in connection with # 4 above that I have read various books on religion and science. Many scientists have written about their Christian faith. I would be glad to send you some titles, or find many in the newspaper "Research News in Science and Theology" (PO Box 5065, Brentwood, TN 37024-5065; E-mail: custserv@sunbeltfs.com). God bless you! Remain steadfast in Christian faith, in trust in our Lord Jesus for all things. Keep asking questions! Blessings. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What ways are the joys and hope of the world also the joys and hopes of the followers of Jesus? What does it mean to say Christians are to be "signs of contradiction" for the world?

    A. The world joys and hope may be different from the Christian joy and hope but joy and hope in Christ gives us peace that the world cannot give May you find this peace. Blessings. Rev. Dave

Q.  How did the Church choose the right 27 books for the New Testament?

    A. You have asked a question that long concerned me, namely, how did the church choose the right 27 books for the New Testament. Yes it was Athanasius in A.D. 367, who first picked the 27 books as we have them today, followed by the A.D. 382 Damasus Synod and Carthage Council in A.D. 397.

    It is fascinating to follow the process. In the first centuries, some writings gained the right to be read in public services of the church. Other writings were merely apocryphal, that is, they were not used in public worship, but only for "hidden" or private use. One major factor right from the beginning was whether or not a writing could be traced to an apostle of Christ. Along with the name of an apostle was the insistence that the writing was faithful to the preaching which came from the known apostles, the irreplaceable eyewitnesses to Jesus.

    The early church also insisted that the writings contain the common (accepted by the Christian communities) sense of the faith. That means that the writings must bear the sure witness to Jesus, reflecting the "portrait" of Christ which was known to believers. They might quote I Corinthians 3:11: "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ." There was the apostolic proclamation of Jesus as reflected in the New Testament writings collectively. Early Christians referred to the gospel of Jesus as "recognized everywhere" and as what was "handed down to us" from earlier Christians, originally from the lips of Jesus and the apostles.

    I believe that in this process early Christian congregations and the whole church was guided by the Holy Spirit, just as I am convinced that the Spirit of God inspired the Old Testament writers, and Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the rest of the New Testament writers. In any event the result is wonderful. What riches we find in the pages of the New Testament as we have it now, what beautiful variety in the Word of God revealing God's amazing grace and love for us

    If you have access to a church or church college library, you might look for one of the following books on this subject: C.F.D. Moule, THE BIRTH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; Philip A. Quanbeck, WHEN GOD SPEAKS; or Alexander Souter, THE TEXT AND CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

    May God bless you as you continue to practice your Christian faith and search the Scriptures which testify to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Where in Scripture does it talk about where the anti-Christ comes from? I am trying to tell people that there will be someone worse than bin laden to come. And all we can do is be ready for Christ, because we have no control of what's to come?

    A. There is a great deal of misunderstanding of the biblical term "anti-Christ". Perhaps I John 2:18-22, 4:2 and II John 7-11 will help you to understand this term as a collective concept rather than merely an individual. We, as Christians, can rejoice in the Lord always, both in the present and at the end of time, for we live under the redeeming grace of God which dispels our fears. (Philippians 4:4-7). St. John in his book of Revelations gives courage to the believers in Christ who face the satanic powers that war against believers in Christ and the Father by pointing to the glorious celebration of His victory seen at His coming. In the meanwhile there is much we can do by letting the Light of God's love in Christ shine brightly in our lives...and above all, remain faithful to Him. (Rev. 2:10) Blessings. Rev. Jim

Q.  I love the Lord and try to do the right thing, but I have trouble praying.

    A. I share joy with you in knowing that you love the Lord and want to do the right things. I am sure that you are on the right track and that God will help you be the kind of Christian that you want to be. I want you to believe that God accepts the faith that you have in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and will help you to grow in strength and peace. Just take one day with your Lord at a time.

    You mentioned some difficulty in praying. Many Christians have experienced that. The great thing is that God even helps us when we are not to good at praying. St. Paul wrote that "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words" (Romans 8:26). So when you are too stressed or distracted or tired to make up words for prayer, just say, "Holy Spirit, please pray for me" and God will hear the perfect prayer from you. Then add the Lord's Prayer and rest well.

    May I suggest that you write out these three Bible passages. Then, once a day, go to some place by yourself and speak these words from God to you:

    Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

    "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Psalms 50:15).

    "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

    Remember, nothing can ever separate you from the love of Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose again for the complete forgiveness of your sins and to give you the perfect peace from God, for now and forever. God bless you! Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Do you think we are the terminal generation?

    A. No I do not. The Bible says, "Of that day and that hour knows NO man." Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  I want to become a Christian. How can I serve God?

    A. I rejoice with you that you have become a Christian and want to be in church and to praise God. I will thank and praise God today in my prayers for you.

    You note that God is changing your life. That is the promise of the gospel of Jesus, which St. Paul says "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Romans 1:16). "Salvation" is God changing our lives from futility and darkness (Romans 1:21) to God's good purposes. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).

    Someone may question whether or not you have the will power to be a pastor. You may question it yourself. I long questioned whether or not I should be a pastor. I like what Paul confessed, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). Of course, it is not our own strength or power that enables us to believe and to serve God. God gives us growth in faith and the ability to minister (see 1 Corinthians 3: 5-8).

    You want to give yourself to God completely, and so you should, whether you become a pastor or not. Paul wrote to all the Christians of Corinth, "Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

    So, as a pastor or as any other Christian, you can serve God with prayer, praise and work for our Lord Jesus day by day. Yes, you can leave it up to God. Make a decision and pursue it until you feel that God is calling you to a different role. If you feel weak in thinking about this, remember that St. Paul himself said, "I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul also heard God telling him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

    You asked about the feelings that I had when I decided to become a pastor. I didn't have any strong feelings at first, no "fire" within me to receive a call to be a minister of a congregation. I had a lot of doubts about my ability or even desire to preach to, and lead God's people in the church. It took seven years until I really warmed up to the idea. The key for me was really studying the Bible thoroughly. Finally I began to realize and believe that through the Scriptures God speaks to people, and to me. Naturally, you won't be surprised to hear me recommend to you that you study the Bible slowly and carefully to learn how God has revealed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit to us.

    Remember, however you decide to spend your days living and working as a Christian, nothing can ever take God's love away from you. "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus" forever. (Ephesians 3:20-21). Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  I know that there may not be an answer to this question, but what happens to people who may be on the other side of the earth and believe in God, but never ever hear of Jesus. if Jesus is the only way, what will happen to those who never learned about him. I've read Romans 2 and understand all that stuff about "men being without excuse," but isn't that just if they don't believe in God?

    A.  For those who have never heard of Jesus, we trust them to God's loving care the wrong is when you hear and know about Jesus and refuse to accept him God is a god of love and wants all people to be saved, so our job is to reach as many people as we can and leave the rest in HIS all loving care. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  Why is it that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity does not appear explicitly in the Bible?

    A. The Trinity is presented and proclaimed quite explicitly in Matthew 28:19 and John 14: 15-17, and also in 2 Corinthians 13:13 (note that in 2 Cor, 1:2 "God" is "God the Father").

    The Bible is not for dissecting and explicating the nature of the Deity. It is not a collection of philosophical teachings to be considered or accepted. The Bible is the recital of what God has done, is doing, and will do, and the revelation of the meaning of those mighty acts of God (see, for instance, Psalms 103:7; Psalms 78; Acts 3: 13-26). St. Paul says that what we learn from God's Word is "Christ and his cross" and no earthly wisdom is worth acquiring beyond that (though Paul did use his God-given mind to proclaim the meaning of that cross for us).

    We can find the teaching of the Trinity on the Bible's terms. The New Testament writings are filled with the announcement of the work of God the Father, of His Son, Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus).

    God calls to us Christians to be more concerned with trusting the revelation of God's work, and then in the power of that revelation doing what God enables us to do, than to be concerned with speculating on God's substance, or even to systematize our understandings. In the centuries after Christ, Christians soon reflected on the teaching of the apostles as contained in the New Testament writings, and then confessed faith in the Holy Trinity by proclaiming the work of the Triune God in the words of the Apostles' Creed, and the Nicene Creed. That systematization of the Bible's message was appropriate for the purpose of sharing the gospel and delineating Biblical truth from perversions of the same. But what they made specific in the doctrine of the church was already proclaimed in the revelation of God's acts of salvation through the work of the Trinity in the Bible. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Who was the first bishop of Jerusalem?

    A. James, the Lord's brother (Galatians 1:19; Matthew 13:55) is considered to be the first bishop of Jerusalem. It is not until the 2nd Century, however, that the early church fathers regularly refer to him as the first bishop of Jerusalem. Because of his knowledge, wisdom, gentleness, mediation and desire to preserve unity, he is also known as James the Just.

    In the New Testament, the terms Elder and Bishop are used interchangeably - both refer to elected or appointed leaders in the church. James could best be described as apostolical presbyter- bishop of Jerusalem. It seems that he did not believe in Jesus until after the resurrection, when the risen Christ made a special appearance to James (I Corinthians 15:7). He quickly became a leader in the Jerusalem Church, along with Peter, until he became the spokesman for the church (Galatians 1:18 & 19; 2: 9 & 12; Acts 15:13ff; 21:18).

    He seems to have been a Nazarite who obeyed additional stricter laws and ceremonies in addition to the prescribed ceremonial Laws of the Old Testament. As such, he was highly respected by the ordinary Jew and the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. He became the bridge so that many Jewish leaders and laity believed in Jesus as the one and only fulfillment of the Old Testament Covenant.

    Because of his teaching that Jesus is the Messiah for both Jew and Gentile, sometime after 62 A. D., he was placed on the gable of the temple and forced to confess what he believed in Jesus. At his confession the Jewish leaders forced him off the gable to the pavement below, where he was stoned and then killed with a fullers club.

    James the Just was the final apostolic witness of the Gospel to the city of Jerusalem before her destruction by the Roman armies. How thankful we should be to God for the faithful witness of James our brother in Christ. Blessings. Rev. John

Q.  What happens to those who never heard the Gospel when they die?

    A. You referred to Romans 1:19ff: "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made; So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, . . ." There are scientists today who look through telescopes or microscopes, who theorize about the nature of the universe, who come to the conclusion that there must be a God who has planned and originated everything that is, and that we human beings have the obligation to honor this God, worship him, and try to live according to his will. St. Paul states that those who fail to seek God in their lives then become "futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened " (verse 21). "Therefore God gave them up" and let them pursue their self-determined evil ways. It is clear, says St. Paul, that such are without excuse.

    Similarly, in Acts 17:22ff Paul notes that people who have not received the specific gospel revelation, nevertheless are religious and are made to seek after their Creator, know that people are offspring of God, and grope for him and find him. In these passages it seems that the sin of people in the first place is not acknowledging their dependence upon God and not seeking to know him or do his will.

    In Romans chapters one - three Paul is showing that all people sin, Jews as well as Gentiles, and all need to repent and believe the good news that what we can not do because of our sinfulness, God has done by sending us His Son, our Savior. The Bible clearly teaches that those who do not repent and turn to Christ are rejecting God's gospel and suffer eternal condemnation.

    We don't have a sure answer in the Bible to the "what about" of your basic question. We do know that God is merciful and may have things in mind that have not been revealed to us. But we do know what God HAS revealed to us, that there is no salvation in any other name than the name of Jesus. So our task is to do what Paul says in Acts 17:23: "this I proclaim to you." Jesus Christ has suffered, died and risen again for the complete forgiveness of sins of all people of all time (Hebrews 10:10,12,14). Our job is to share this good news with all people everywhere.

    Just one note yet. Sometimes we like to be concerned with our questions too much, like, what is heaven or hell like, when is the end of time and how is it all going to take place. We have so much to be concerned about with doing what God talks about, namely spreading the good news, examining our own hearts, and praying for God's Spirit to guide us in all our daily challenges. There are things that God has in mind that we won't know until we are in heaven with our Lord forever.

    May God bless you as you continue to search the Scriptures and live as a disciple of Jesus in firm faith and hope-filled days and years. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Is masturbation sin? Is it evil? Is it normal for us to masturbate?

    A. It is not a sin. It is a normal human process. Peace. Rev. Dave

Q.  Please discuss the number "seven" in the Book of Revelation, and provide general information about Revelation.

    A. You inquired about the number "seven" in the Book of Revelation and other info about this book of the New Testament. I'm happy to know you are interested and studying.

    The number "seven" occurs 54 times in the Book, reflecting the importance of that number in the Old Testament: Genesis 1 reveals the 7 day creation; In Genesis 7 we read that Noah was instructed to take seven pairs of animals and birds on the ark; The number 7 is prominent in Joseph's dream (Genesis 41:2-54; seven is the common number in the worship and sacrifice prescriptions of Leviticus and other books; and seven is prominent in Ezekiel and Daniel.

    Seven is chosen in part because of the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4 - 3:22). In general, seven symbolizes completeness, throughout the Old Testament, and certainly seven denotes completeness in the Book of Revelation, the completeness of Divine perfection (or that which is claimed by the Antichrist). The seven heads of the dragon and the wild beast may have been suggested by the seven hills of Rome, or the seven Augusti (emperors) who preceded the Emperor Domitian.

    The Book of Revelation has a simple message. In Revelation 1:9 we read "I, John, share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance." Under the Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.) Christians were suffering persecution. But God tells them through St. John that Jesus is the real king, not Domitian; it is Jesus' kingdom that will last. So these Christians should practice patient endurance, knowing that they will ultimately share in Jesus' victory over every evil, and "every tear from their eyes" will be removed (Revelation 7:17).

    This simple,or rather straightforward, message is conveyed in terms and literary form that we must learn. The most important factor is learning the history and messages in the Old Testament. Many allusions reflect happenings in the history of God's first covenant people. Many detailed commentaries can be found in church college and seminary libraries which help with this. (Or, of course, read part of the Old Testament every day).

    The other significant ingredient is learning something about the apocalyptic language in which much of the Book of Revelation is written. This literary form, very popular in the years shortly before and after the birth of Jesus, contains a kaleidoscopic presentation of images. Reading apocalyptic is like watching colorful moving pictures. Many of the images of apocalyptic are stylized references to events and ideas of that era. So we have to go back in time to when these books were written to understand the thinking of that time. We should not look to events of our recent past, present or future times to understand the references of the Book of Revelation.

    We can make application to our life and times from the Book of Revelation. We can trust God to take us past present evils and through difficult times because Jesus, the Lamb of God, suffered and died for us and rose again. With Jesus as our Lord, we too will obtain the victory. We can live in hope and joy and peace because Jesus reigns as our King of love, now and forever.

    May God bless you as you keep your faith in Jesus. Happy studying! Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  How does New Testament giving relate to the tithe?

    A. You asked about New Testament giving and how it might relate to the tithe. First of all, the tithe or 10% was a part of the Old Testament Law. This Old Testament giving included the 10% tithe as well as offerings. So the people of Israel may have given more than 10%. In the New Testament revelation we are no longer under the Law, but under grace. There is no amount proscribed. But at the same time we are to give as God has prospered us. (I Corinthians 16:2). Having said this, however, the tithe is a good guideline and many Christians practice this. As we give to God, He gives back to us as we read in II Corinthians 9:6-8: "The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work." Peace. Rev. Ron S.

Q.  Where can I turn to for help in my life?

    A. When I am bothered by something, upset, distressed and wondering what God has in mind for me or might be telling me, I turn to where I can hear what God is surely telling me, to the Bible. There I read again and again some of my favorite passages, and I want to share them with you so you can know what God is definitely telling you.

    "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . . ." Psalms 46:1-2.

    "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . . . He leads me in right paths . . . . Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff -- they comfort me." Psalms 23: 1,3,4

    "I will never leave you or forsake you." "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid." Hebrews 13:5-6.

    "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." Psalms 50:15

    "Come to me,all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28.

    "I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me." John 10:14

    (Nothing . . .) "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:39

    "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words." Romans 8:26

    "But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Romans 8:25

    Please also read Psalms 107, P slams 121, and Matthew 6: 25-34.

    These sure words from God always help me, whatever problem or pain I have. We should remember that God tenderly invites us to bring all of our questions and problems to him. Of course, God may not give us answers as specific as we might sometimes wish, but God's answers our prayers with what we really need for full and beautiful living.

    Note that Romans 8:25 urges us to wait with patience for what God has to say to us and do for us. We may think that we can't patiently wait anymore: we want an answer and a solution right now. I have at times been greatly surprised by the ways in which God has answered my prayers, and brought me a better solution and answer than I had expected.

    May God bless you and surprise you again and again with his great and merciful love. And may you find in due time your heart's desires fulfilled, through the goodness of Jesus Christ our Lord. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Is Jesus kin to King David through Mary or Joseph? And how could it be through Joseph?

    A. Matthew Chapter one, gives the record of genealogy from Abraham to Jesus through the ancestry of Joseph, probably because his readers were primarily Jewish, and it would be important to identity Jesus this way. In the comparison genealogy of Luke Chapter 3:23-38, Luke follows the blood line genealogy through Mary, therefore both the legal (Jewish) lineage is given, as well as, the blood line...This explains the variants in the two genealogies and underscores the importance of Mary in Jesus' genealogy. Remember that both Joseph and Mary had a measure of common ancestry. Peace. Rev. Jim

Q.  Is Suicide wrong? Will you go to hell?

    A. The answer to your question is not easy since the Bible is not very specific on the issue of suicide. Historically, it was concluded that since a person would deliberately have to choose such an act, and since there would be no time for repentance afterward, the person would be eternally lost. However when a suicide of a Christian has occurred, we know that such decisions are often made by a troubled mind which may not be accountable, and since God promises to keep us in the faith until the end, we are more apt to conclude that God's grace in Christ will prove more powerful than a rash act of weakness. But, since there is some uncertainty in this matter, any person ought to do his best to dismiss pursuing this course, and even obtain the help of a counselor if the problem seems to be too overwhelming. I pray this helps. Peace. Rev. Ron G.

Q.  What is Christian attitude on suicide?

    A. You asked about the Christian attitude on suicide and the Biblical basis for it. First of all, one of the Commandments is "You shall not kill." (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17). For a person who believes in God and in Christ, another word from the Bible applies, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." (I Corinthians 6:19 & 20 and I Corinthians 3:16 & 17).

    Suicide is not the Will of God, because it cuts short a life that God has given. However, it is possible that even a person who believes in God and in Christ can become mentally ill or so depressed that they no longer want to continue living. They may still love God, but they have come to hate their life on earth. If they commit suicide, it may well be that God will have mercy on them, understanding their desperate situation. In such a case, suicide is not the unforgivable sin.

    The unforgivable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit, rejecting the Good News of God's love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ or attributing the Work of the Spirit of God to Satan. (Matthew 12:23-32, Mark 3:22-29, Luke 12:8-10) Peace. Rev. Ron S.

Q.  Could you please discuss the sins of the fathers "visiting" succeeding generations.

    A. When God gave to his people the covenant with the commandments as recorded in Exodus 20, it is written that God said: "for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Exodus 20: 5-6; see also Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14: 18-20; Deuteronomy 5: 9-10). Thus God shows the importance of not breaking the commandments, which would lead to a fracturing of the covenant. When God indicates that punishment passes on to the third and fourth generation, we might assume that God is describing what actually happens. Parents who reject God regularly pass on this same rejection of God and disobedience to their children.

    At the same time, notice the greater emphasis on God's merciful love, which passes on to the thousandth generation. In Numbers 14:18-20, it seems that God's forgiveness can interrupt the transmission of punishment. Moses asks God to forgive the people of a sinning generation, and God responds, "I do forgive."

    The importance of the God-fearing family in the Old Testament is depicted in a passage like Deuteronomy 29:29, "the revealed things belong to us and to our children."

    Now please read Ezekiel chapter 18. In response to the allegation that "the parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth" suffer, God says that "it is only the person who sins that shall die" (Ezekiel 18: 2-4). Affirming individual responsibility, God says that "A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent . . . the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own" (Ezekiel 18: 19-20). This part of God's revelation helps us to understand that God does not punish unjustly. Each person has the opportunity to respond positively to God's love and God's laws.

    That which is most comforting for us is the knowledge that our Lord Jesus suffered, died, and rose again for the complete forgiveness of our sins. His blood "cleanses us from all sin" (See Hebrews 10:10-17 and 1 John 1:7).

    Easter blessings to you, in the name of Jesus, our risen and living Lord! Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What is the significance of the number "7" in the Bible?

    A. You and your fiancé are right in realizing that the number 7 is a special symbolic number in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is composed of the number 3, the number for God (the Trinity) plus 4, the number for humanity or the created world (four corners of the earth, four seasons, four points of the compass, four Gospels). Seven is the signature of God's covenant relation to the world. In the Old Testament Hebrew, the word for seven and the word for oath had the same letters "schaba". An oath was confirmed by seven offerings or seven witnesses (Genesis 21:28). Thus the number 7 is used to describe God's gracious dealing with mankind.

    Other symbolic meanings of numbers that might interest you.... One=unity or oneness. Two=antithesis or polarity. Six=incompleteness, one short of seven (666 total antichristian world power). Ten=harmony and completeness. 10 x 10=100 is total completeness. 10 x 100=1,000 is ultimate completeness. 12 is 3x4 or God transforming the world as Old Testament believers, symbolized by the 12 tribes of Israel and the New Testament believers symbolized by the 12 apostles. 12 x12 x1000= all the believers who ever have or will live.

    Numbers are interesting to study, but it is most important to study Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Peace. Rev. John.

Q.  Why is the KJV Matthew 17:21 omitted from the NIV?

    A. I'm glad you are reading your Bible carefully. What a joy it is for us Christians to "search the Scriptures" which tell us about Jesus and bring him into our thoughts and hearts.

    There are thousands of copies of the books of the Bible that were made from the 2nd century of our Christian era through the 9th century. There are slight differences in wording in some of these old copies. In general, it is assumed that the older copies (closer in time to the writing of the originals) are more reliable. We don't have any of the original writings themselves. So today's Bible editors work very diligently to try to determine what were most likely the original words. Don't worry, the differences are so slight that we need not fear that we have the wrong words.

    You noticed that what is Matthew 17:21 in the KJV is missing from a more modern translation. When the King James Version was translated in 1611, the translators did not have nearly as many copies of the books of the Bible as have been found since then. None of the copies which had been made before 500 A. D. had been found by 1611. That is why at Matthew 17:21 the New Revised Standard Version which I have notes, "Other ancient authorities (copies) add verse 21. It may be that some copyist when reproducing Matthew 17:20 remembered that in Mark 9:29 we read that Jesus said (also), "This kind can come out only through prayer (and fasting)," so the copyist added that line to form Matthew 17:21.

    If you wish to pursue your question further, we would be happy to supply references to books or articles on this subject (called textual criticism or analysis).

    Of course, this matter of the multiplicity of copies is no problem for understanding the Bible, as the differences are slight and usually easily explainable. The Bible as we have it is the completely reliable and true Word of God.

    May you have a most meaningful celebration of Holy Week and Easter! Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  Who or what are the Elohim in the Old Testament?

    A. In the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, "elohim" is the plural form of a noun meaning "a god". God's revelation as recorded in the Old Testament uses elohim as accepted by people in that time.

    However, God reveals that God's true name is Jahweh (Yahweh or Jehovah). The plural form Elohim is used for this God. This usage is termed a "plural of majesty". In the Old Testament Bible Elohim is a term for our one true God. Note especially passages like Deuteronomy 4:39; "the Lord (Jahweh) he is God (Elohim); In the beginning of Genesis (2:4) we read that "the Lord (Jahweh) God (Elohim) made the earth and the heavens". This is the consistent meaning and usage of Elohim in the Old Testament, as in Exodus 20:2, "I am the Lord (Jahweh) thy God (Elohim)". See also Exodus 20:5,7,10, 11; Exodus 23:19 & 25; Exodus 34:24 & 26. Peace. Rev. Kieth

Q.  What book, and what specific chapter and verse, is the phrase "The letter of the law killeth, but the spirit giveth life" from?

    A. The phrase you reference comes from understanding what St. Paul is saying in Second Corinthians chapter three, particularly the sixth verse. Read the whole chapter to better understand the context. St. Paul is contrasting the "letter of the Law" written in stone on Mt. Sinai and given through Moses, to the "letter" written by the Christian's life motivated by the faith in Christ's redeeming sacrifice which brings forgiveness and is ours by the Spirit's work. All glory goes to God! Blessings. Rev. Jim

Q.  How do You know that the Bible is the Word of God, and what proof do you have that is from God?

    A. I am pleased to hear that you are interested in Christianity. In answer to your first two questions, the Bible is probably the best attested ancient book in the world. It is based on ancient manuscripts that go back centuries. The first five books of the Old Testament, the books of Moses, were composed 1200-1400 years before Christ, probably 3200-3400 years ago. The stories of Creation in Genesis were based on still more ancient documents and testimonies handed down to Moses and the people of Israel by the ancient Patriarchs, some of whom lived for 900 years and would have been able to tell their stories to their great, great, great, great grandchildren. Almost every ancient culture has a version of the story of the great flood of Noah's day and Noah lived 950 years (Genesis 9:29). The lives of the other patriarchs are described in Genesis 5. In addition the Old Testament was the sacred writings of the Hebrew nation- regarded by the entire nation with great respect and preserved by them down through the centuries. The prophets of Israel wrote many of the books of the Old Testament, writing as they were inspired by God. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God they protected things that were yet to come before they happened, including the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In about 1947, a Palestinian shepherd boy discovered even more ancient scrolls of the Old Testament than those already in existence, including an older copy of the book of Isaiah. The Bible by its long existence gives testimony to the fact that it is God's Word and also by the fact that it was preserved over the long centuries and finally by its own authority. As you read the Scriptures you can hear the voice of God if you read it with an open mind. I would urge you do, ask God to show you whether this is His word or not. In the New Testament we read that Jesus spoke with authority and not as the Jewish scribes (Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:22; John 7:45-46). Jesus' preaching and teaching with authority is one of the signs that He came from God and was, in fact, the only begotten Son of God (John 1:14, 18). You wanted proof that the Bible is from God but at the same time you claimed that miracles don't count because these are false prophets who do miracles. But miracles do count! The difference between the miracles of God and those of the false prophets is that the miracles of God are on a far grander scale than anything a false prophet can produce (read Exodus 7:8-12). Jesus went about "doing good". Which could hardly be said about the false prophets. Jesus healed the blind, the lame, the paralyzed and on 3 occasions raised the dead. He Himself rose from death on the 3rd day after He was killed by crucifixion and was seen alive on earth for a period of 40 days after His resurrection, and finally was seen by 11 eyewitnesses to ascend into heaven as the 40 day period ended.

    If you read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John prayerfully and with an open mind, I believe that the Spirit of God will reveal to you that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Finally, you asked where in the Bible it says we should worship Jesus. (Read John 10:24-38; John 3:16-18; ; John 1:1-18; John 5:17-29; John 20:24-31). Jesus is the only begotten Son of God the Father and thus is God. The Father and Son share the same spirit, the Holy Spirit and thus they are one. Jesus is God, begotten of the Father before the world was and thus should be worshiped as God (John 17:1-5).

    The story of Jesus Christ is good news because He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29-36). As an innocent Lamb, Jesus Christ, Son of God lay down His life for you, for me and for all who own Him as Lord, Savior and God. Blessings. Rev. Ron S.

Q.  What is fasting all about?

    A. The people of the Old Testament were specifically commanded to fast only on the Day of Atonement, once a year (Leviticus 16). Fasting gradually became associated with times of trouble or repentance. In Daniel 9:3, Daniel accompanied prayer with fasting. In Jeremiah 36:9, fasting accompanied the reading of God's Word. In Jonah 3:7, fasting indicated repentance. In Isaiah's time (Isaiah 58), the practice was already abused. By the time of the New Testament, people were fasting about something almost every day of the week. In Matthew 6:17, Jesus gives brief instructions on fasting, even though the original command is no longer in effect (Colossians 2:16). While there are many references to fasting in the Bible, actual instructions are few. Therefore, how or when you might wish to fast is strictly a personal decision, neither commanded nor forbidden. Like any other good work, it will not make you more acceptable to God but it can be helpful in your life of prayer and meditation. Just as physical exercise is helpful, any effort to focus more clearly on things spiritual can be helpful. I hope this answer helps. Rev. Ron G.

Q.  Who is Satan, and where did he come from?

    A. Satan was once an archangel who was in the presence of God; his name was Lucifer and he was very beautiful. There are two passages in the Old Testament which seem to refer to Lucifer and the reasons for his fall from heaven. In Isaiah 14:12-20 the fall of Lucifer is described in the midst of a taunt against the king of Babylon. The King of Babylon is addressed and suddenly God declares through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, "How are you fallen, Lucifer, Son of the morning..."

    Again in Ezekiel 28 the King of Tyre is addressed. Yet the words in verses 12-19 seem to describe Satan at the time of his fall.

    In Luke 10:18 Jesus says, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven." In Revelation 12:7-10 we read that there was war in heaven and Satan and his angels were thrown out and Satan, formerly Lucifer, came down to earth.

    God created Satan and Satan was given a free will. God didn't create robots. He wants his creatures to love Him freely but he took the chance that some of his creatures would use their free will to turn against Him, which Satan did. He wanted to be just like God. Satan would tempt us to use our free wills to rebel against God rather than to serve Him with our heart, soul and mind.

    At the end of time, Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire there to be tormented day and night forever. (Revelation 20:10)

    Hell is the place of the dead. It was created by God for those who choose to rebel against Him. Those who believe in the Lord Jesus and know that He died to purchase our pardon, to free us from our sins, and the power of the devil, will be in heaven with Christ. Blessings. Rev. Ron S.

Q.  I would like to learn more about Jesus.

    A. Thank you for your request. It is evident you desire to learn more of Jesus and His salvation for you, as well as, following Him in word and deed.

    A wonderful resource for you are the computer LINKS at Historic Trinity's Web Site. Click - Links, go to Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Click "Who is Jesus?" to learn more of Him. Then click "online Devotions". Under C.P.H. click "Today's Light" a free Bible Study to lead students to read and study the entire Bible in two years. You will need Adobe's Acrobat Reader to do this. It can be downloaded free by clicking the word "here" and following instructions. May God bless your studies. Blessings. Rev. John

Q.  What is Christianity?

    A. Your questions and comments indicate deep study and thought. First, three statements pertaining to Christianity. Christianity is supernatural, yet personal; Christianity is exclusive; Christianity is faith.

    Our finite minds cannot grasp the Infinite. We will never comprehend the Trinity--One God yet three distinct Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Or, how God became true man in the person of Jesus Christ, who remained true God at all times. Or, the love of God who sent His Son Jesus to earth to be our Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Yet, mankind is saved one person at a time. It is not "we believe" that saves, but "I believe". Romans 1:17: Habakkuk 2:4. Why some are saved and not others is not revealed to us in the Bible by the Infinite God.

    The Bible is very clear that Jesus Christ is the one and only way of salvation. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12. See also John 3:16; 3:18; 5:24; 10:9; 20:31. If there is another means of Salvation, it has not been revealed to us in the Bible. Good deeds or being good does not save. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God). Hebrews 11:6. Christianity is faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". Hebrews 11:1. Christianity is not a religion. It is not composed of rules and regulations. It is faith, centered in Jesus Christ who by His suffering on the cross, death and resurrection, is our substitute and personal Savior from sin, death and the power of the devil. This is the core message of the Bible.

    Christianity is not feeling the presence of God. Satan can duplicate or imitate any feeling of the deity in you. Naturally, we want to feel something of the divine. We want to sense, to feel, to experience. We want more than the simple Word of God. But this is very dangerous. Why? Our sense perceptions are extremely deceptive. We see something, and still we do not see it correctly. We hear something distinctly, and still misunderstand. We feel something, and before long we feel it not. If our certainty of salvation would depend upon our imperfect sense and changing feelings, how uncertain our salvation. We could never be sure that we weren't deceiving ourselves of being deceived. But faith in Christ, based on God's unchanging Word, does not deceive itself. Yes, there are Christian feelings that are valuable and important. Joy, peace, love and hope are all precious feelings, but they are fruits of faith, not proof of faith.

    We must, however, be careful not to judge someone else's Salvation or damnation. Jesus said, "Judge not.." Matthew 7:1; Romans 2:1. God has not revealed what is the minimum or the maximum that must be believed in order to be saved. We let that up to God alone. "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief". Mark 9:24. It is comfort to me, that in 1787, when Benjamin Franklin was aged, that he made the motion to the Constitutional Convention that every morning, Congress assembled, would by prayer implore God to guide and bless their deliberations. That motion was an act of faith. (Franklin's motion is still carried out today.)

    Christianity is unique in the concept of an infinite personal God who has given revelation to man in verbalized, propositional form. God is personal on the high level of Trinity, and He has not remained silent but spoken to us in the Bible. The Eastern gods may be considered infinite but they are not personal. The Western gods tend to be thought of as personal but not infinite. Islam has no unity or diversity in God because they have no Trinity, and Islam has no answers as to how God can be holy yet accept sinful man, because there is no Savior.

    Additional resources might include two books by Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape from Reason and The God Who Is There. (Downers Grove, Ill.:Inter-Varsity Press, 1968) Keep reading C.S. Lewis, especially More Christianity and Miracles, both by Macmillan. Blessings. Rev. John.

Q.  What is the purpose of the passover feast?

    A. The Passover spoken of in Leviticus 23:5 commemorated the deliverance of the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. This event is described in Exodus 12. The Jews were to prepare for their deliverance by killing a male lamb a year old and putting some of the blood on the two doorposts and the top of the door. Then they were to roast the lamb and eat the meat with unleavened bread and bitter herbs and be ready for a departure.

    At midnight the presence of the Lord went through Egypt and killed the first born in every Egyptian home including the first-born son of the Pharaoh. The Lord would pass over the homes of the people of Israel where the blood of the lamb was on the doorposts. This devastating action of the Lord God against the people of Egypt broke the will of the hard-hearted Pharaoh and he allowed the Israelis to go free. Thus they were freed from the physical slavery of Egypt by their faith in God and their obedience in the sign of the blood of the lamb on their doors. They were delivered from slavery and from a death in their homes that night.

    This was forecast of a great deliverance yet to come. We are, all of us, under the bondage and slavery of sin. Jesus Christ is the Lord of God who takes away the sing of the world. His blood, which covers our lives by faith. When we receive His Sacrifice and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior delivers us from our slavery to sin and eternal death. Christ paid the ransom for you and me.

    Just as Israel was delivered from physical slavery and death in Egypt by the blood of the Passover Lamb, so we are delivered from spiritual slavery and death by the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God. On the night of the Passover the mind of God was looking forward more than a thousand years to the day when Jesus Christ would lay down His life and pay the price for the sins of the human race. Blessings. Rev. Ron S.

Q.  Does the number 4 have any significance?

    A. The number "4" is a perfect number. The multiple "40" is often used as a round number to designate a fairly long period of time in human existence or endurance. It is also the approximate length of a generation. I hope this helps. Blessings. Rev. Ron G.

Q.  King David of Israel had seven brothers. What were their names?

    A. I Chronicles 2:13 gives the names of the children of Jesse, the father of David. According to I Samuel 24:11,16, one might say David and Saul considered Jonathan like a brother to David, since both David and Saul speak of David as a son of Saul, and the scriptures repeatedly refer to the closeness of David and Jonathan. The six mentioned in 2:13 plus Jonathan would equal seven. Peace. Rev. Jim

Q.  My brother committed suicide 10 years ago. I have to know for sure if he when to hell. Need to move on with my life and can't.

    A. The Fifth Commandment says "Thou shall not kill." That means ourselves also. Yet, God is a God of love and kindness. I feel that someone who kills themselves is "not all together" and God also loves them. I would not say your brother is in hell, we can't judge, only God knows. Think of him as being in God's loving care. Peace. Rev. Dave
    A. Response to several questions that were asked by Christ:

    My response may not satisfy you unless you understand that the purpose of Scripture is to testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind. John 5:39.

    Jesus was indeed a servant: Matthew 20:28. He served by suffering and dying on the cross for the sins of all mankind: Isaiah 53:12; Isaiah 53:4-5 .

    At the Baptism of Jesus, (Matthew 3:13ff) the Holy Ghost does not strengthen Jesus, but is a witness to the Baptism. The Trinity is present at the Baptism of Jesus:

    1. The Voice of the Father
    2. The Person of the Son
    3. The Holy Ghost as a dove

    Just as there are three Persons of the Trinity, there are two natures in Jesus. He is Divine: John 1:14; John 10:30; Matthew 22:41ff; John 8:58. He is human: Luke 2; Luke 24:39. According to His divine nature He is equal to the Father; according to His human nature He is subordinate to Him. Every vestige of a discrepancy disappears when we let the full light of the Bible fall on any seeming contradiction between Jesus as man and God.

    In many places Jesus warns us of false prophets: Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:24. They all come from Satan: Matthew 13:24-30 & Matthew 13:37-43. No Christian can think of Bahaism with denies Jesus Christ as God and the only Savior of fallen mankind.

    Today, true prophets and teachers lead you to Jesus Christ who loves you, who suffered and died for all the sins you have or will commit. By believing in Him as your Savior, your sins are forgiven and you are saved forever.

    May God bless your continued studies of Scripture. Peace. Rev. John

Q.  What is the Lutheran Church's position on Mormonism?

    A. For our position on Mormonism, please check the Web page of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (Click the President's page). Check the "Click here for more free pamphlets". The pamphlet is printed out and may be copied. Rev. John

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