Wednesday, 22 January 2014

OTW Hot Potato Questions

For what it's worth, here's my answers to the questions we had at OTW recently.  I'm going to try and keep it short and simple and include questions to consider too...

WHY DOES GOD?
1. How can natural disasters be explained?
Sin (Genesis 3:17-19).  Our world is broken.  Sometimes it kills people.  It's not the way it should be.  It's not the way it was (Genesis 1:31).  And because of Jesus, it's not the way it will be (Romans 8:20-21).  What signs can you see that the world is designed well but somehow broken?

2. Why do people feel so low that they commit suicide?
Many reasons and our first response should be to listen and understand as much as we can cope with.  We should also know our limits and get the support we need so it's not all on us.  And I know this will sound too easy but knowing Jesus makes all the difference (Philippians 4:12-13, Philippians 1:21, Romans 8:38-39). How do YOU cope and what hope do YOU have when everything else falls apart?


3. Why does God allow young children to die of diseases? 
It seems particularly harsh of God that he would let young children die.  Young children are completely innocent, right?  Wrong.  Only God is good (Revelation 15:4).  We are all bad (Isaiah 64:6).  Sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5).  We deserve death and anything good we get from God is grace (Romans 6:23) and he offers us everything (Ephesians 1:3-14)!  Why should we help young children trust and follow Jesus? 

4. Why do disasters happen to the poorest people, then the people who are more well off don’t try and help?
We're selfish (James 4:17).  We should do more (James 2:14-17).  What are you doing consistently to help the poor?      


5. Why do people get punished by others, e.g. children by parents? 
I can't answer for all parents (they vary a lot!) but for me as a dad, discipline is all about the gospel.  I want to help my children tell the truth about what they've done wrong (every time) and say sorry for it (every time).  And then I want them to know that I forgive them (every time) and will love and help them forever.  I'm learning how to be a father to my kids the same way God is Father to me so that they will come to know him as their Father too (Ephesians 6:4).  Who is a good example to you of what great parenting looks like and how do they do Ephesians 6:4? 

6. Why did God create chickens? 
To show us his love (Matthew 23:37) and because they're yummy! 
 

RELATIONSHIPS
7. What shouldn’t you do in a relationship?
Loads!  And if you want to learn more about how to build a strong relationship that lasts, have a look at 2 together


8. Is it OK to be in a relationship at this age? 
At 14-18? Sure, but you should ask the following questions...
- Are we putting Jesus first? (Mark 12:30, 2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 7:32)
- Are our parents ok with it? (Exodus 20:12)
- Are we starting something we can't (or don't intend to) finish? (Luke 14:28-30)

9. Why can't Christians have sex before marriage? Just because you're married doesn't mean you're committed. 
It's about commitment before intimacy (Genesis 2:24).  You're right about some marriages not being committed but they're BAD marriages!  Real marriage is about making promises and keeping them (Promises Promises, Mark 10:1-12)! What do you think the best sex is and how can you get it?

10. Why are gay people not accepted by Christians? 
Christians should love and accept ALL people but not agree with ALL that they do.  Paul specifically mentions gay lust and sex as being sinful (Romans 1:21-27).  This is frequently misquoted and misunderstood by Christians and non-Christians alike.  Some will say God hates gay people and it's wrong to be gay but that's not what it says here.  Others say love is love and God's fine with gay relationships provided they're loving but that's not what it says either.  Paul is explaining that one way in which people sin sexually is to actively desire and have sex with the same gender.  This doesn't mean it's wrong to be gay but it is wrong to choose to sin sexually and to spend time thinking about sinning sexually and this is just one of the ways people do that.  It's unnatural and falls short of the best God intends for us.  God hates it and gets angry because he loves the people he has made and he wants us all to know him.  What do YOU do when people you love do stuff you hate?
 

BELIEVING OR NOT BELIEVING
11. How do we know it’s true?
 
There's lots of reasons I'm sure about Jesus but here's just a few to start with...
1. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead really helps me be sure.  

2. Plus everything he's done and continues to do in my life that's incredibly difficult to explain unless Jesus is alive and at work in me and my family.  
3. Another thing that helps me be sure the good news of Jesus is true is that it's so weird.  All other religions and belief systems are about trying harder and doing better.  Jesus gives us forgiveness, righteousness and peace with God as a gift (Romans 6:23). No human mind has ever come up with anything like it... because it was God's idea!  Forgiveness is our only hope.  We can't fix ourselves.  Jesus offers us exactly what we need, exactly what no-one else has thought of and the evidence backs it up too.  "On Christ the Solid Rock I stand.  All other ground is shifting sand." John 6:67-68How sure are you about Jesus and why?
 
12. Does God forgive all sins? 
Yes for those who trust Jesus (1 John 1:9).  What hope do we have unless God can forgive?
 
13. What is the meaning of life?  
It's all about Jesus.  Only about Jesus.  Always about Jesus.  Colossians 1:16What actual purpose or meaning could life have without God?

14. What happens when you die if Jesus hasn’t come yet?
One of two things...
1. If you trust and follow Jesus, your sin is all on him and you go to be with God forever (Romans 8:1-2).
2. If you don't trust and follow Jesus, your sin is on you and you're separated from God forever.  John 3:18.
  How could you face Jesus unless you're forgiven?
 

LIVING AS A CHRISTIAN
15. How can I be sure I’m saved when I know I’ve accepted Jesus but don’t feel like he’s got me and will never let me go? Is it just a case of having more faith? 

Yes.  You can trust the promises of Jesus.  Feelings are important but they don't determine what's true.  Jesus really has got you and he really won't ever let you go (John 6:39).  Keep listening to Jesus by reading the Bible, keep talking to him in prayer and get stuck into church to be encouraged and encourage others! How does your faith in the facts affect how you feel?

16. Why is church the hardest place to be sometimes? 
I think the main reason is that it's full of people!  People are sinful.  Christians aren't Christians because they're better than everyone else.  They're forgiven and God's still working on them to make them more like him.  That means we'll wind each other up from time to time and that's part of the opportunity for us to grow together!  God is committed to his family.  He was prepared to die for them.  If we've been saved by Jesus, we're family and we should love the family, be committed to the family and serve the family, even when it's hard (1 Corinthians 12:12-21).  How can you love and commit to your church family more?

17. If heaven is somewhere else, can we give up on this place? (Too little ambition?) If heaven will be here on earth, can we make it so? (Too much ambition?)
This is my question.  It's become popular to suggest that heaven is not somewhere else but here.  I think this is because we want Christians to care for the environment and not just give up on this place because God's given us a ticket out of here to the new one.  Fair enough.  Christians should care for this place.  We were made to share God's loving rule over it (Genesis 1:26-27).  But I still believe heaven will be somewhere else.  Revelation talks about a new heaven (new sky) and a new earth (new land) and the old one passing away (Revelation 21:1-5).   I know it can be read two ways but the plainest way is to assume it's a new place.  And even if it's not, we don't need to insist that it's not just to have a reason for Christians to care for this place.  As I've said, it's partly why we were made.  By insisting that heaven will be located here on earth, I think we may end up giving people the wrong impression that they can care for this place enough that one day it will actually become heaven.  This is wrong.  We don't make heaven.  God does.  (John 14:1-4).  What will heaven be like if there's no sin?