Citygate Community Group Jan 2018 Questions and Answers

We had a go at asking and answering some of our questions using Bible Gateway and Topical Bible and we did well but we also said that websites like this are no substitute for personal time in God's word over the years.  This was proved by people in the room calling to mind helpful verses the websites didn't think of.

For what it's worth, here are my answers...

Why does God heal some people and not others?
I don't know but I know we should trust him (Isaiah 55:9) and that he welcomes us to ask for whatever we want (Matthew 7:7-12), for as long as we want to (Luke 18:1-8), knowing that he can do anything (Luke 18:27).  We should also remember that all Christians will experience a sickness-free eternity (Revelation 21:1-14) so it's not a question of "if" but "when" they'll be healed. 

How can we hear God's voice without knowing he's there?
Samuel in the Bible experienced this.  He heard a voice but didn't recognise it was God at first.  The story is in 1 Samuel 3.  When God speaks, his voice is not always recognised, heard, understood or obeyed.  There are lots of example of this in the Bible.  And the same is true today.  He's spoken very clearly through Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2) and the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) but people aren't necessarily convinced it's really him.

Why do some people choose to be homeless when God is there and could help them?
God can help and heal and turn lives around.  God has people all over the place who can help homeless people too.  But not everyone is ready to ask for help or to accept it.  And sometimes because of drug addiction, broken relationships or other crisis, people are forced on to the streets for a while.  I think it's more complicated than we realise but I also think you're right to think there's always hope in God.

Should the church in the West be doing more through giving money to help people in poverty, especially abroad in really poor countries?
YES.  There are many factors that influence the need but we in the West are relatively rich when we think globally.  We could definitely give and sacrifice more, knowing that it doesn't take a lot of money to save lives somewhere else.  Simplistic maybe but I know I spend more money on myself on things I don't need than on saving lives.  We should, pray, explore opportunities and set goals for what we can do.  Church leaderships should do the same on behalf of their churches too I think.

Helpful websites:
Global Rich List
Oxfam Unwrapped

The most important commandments concern 'love'.  "Love the Lord your God..."  "Love your neighbour as yourself..."  How do I make this happen?  I have prayed for help but nothing seems to change.
2 things I think.  First, we need to recognise that it's God's love working in and through us that we really need.  So keep asking God for this!  But second, we need to take action.  Love is action (1 John 3:16-18).  Obedient loving actions will bring your feelings along with them (Matthew 6:21).

What is being said in Revelation?
Big question!  Best to read it, study it but also ask for help.  One book I'd recommend (having had a series of lectures from the author) is 'Revelation: Mystery Explained' by David Campbell.  Also The Bible Project has great videos that give overviews of every book of the Bible, including Revelation.

What is an elder and what did they DO in the New Testament?
Instructions are given about elders in Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7.  As well as lots of requirements for what kind of person is qualified to be an elder, we also learn about the main tasks of elders:
  • Lead, manage ('oversee') and look after the local church ('manage God's household', 'take care of God's church', 'put things in order', there's also the idea of completing what was started).
  • Teach the Bible ('encourage others with sound doctrine').

Who created God?
No-one.  God has always existed (Psalm 90:2).

Does God love everyone?
Yes and no.  Plenty of times the Bible tells us God loves everyone (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Psalm 103:8-12) but there are also moments where we're told that God hates sinners (Psalm 11:5, Leviticus 20:23, Hosea 9:15, Psalm 5:5).  Sometimes Christians say "God hates the sin but loves the sinner" but it isn't that simple.  Many people's sins are not yet separated from them like it is for Christians (Psalm 103:12).  God has mixed feelings for sinners (Hosea 11:8).  Only when Jesus takes a person's sin away does God have nothing but love for them (Romans 8:1-4).

Do all children go to heaven?
I don't know.

The Bible says we're sinners by nature as well as by choice - even from birth (Psalm 51:5, Romans 7:21-25) so this could imply that children (like any adult) are lost until they trust in Jesus to forgive and save them.   Also, the example of John the Baptist in the Bible shows that it's possible for God to save someone and fill them with his Holy Spirit even from before they're born (Luke 1:14-15).

On the other hand it has been argued that children don't have the capacity to understand the good news of Jesus straight away and so God doesn't expect them to believe until they reach an "age of understanding" and this varies from person-to-person.

I can see both sides of it and I don't think we're meant to know definitely one way or the other.  Instead we teach children about Jesus and encourage them to trust and follow him (Deuteronomy 6:7, Acts 16:31) and we should also trust that God will always do what is right (Deuteronomy 32:4) and is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Do animals go to heaven?
I don't think so.  Nothing in the Bible to suggest they are eternal, have souls or anything like that.  Could there be animals in heaven?  Possibly, but they'll be brand new ones rather than resurrected ones I think.

Which poor people should we give to?
We do have limited resources (not so limited as we tend to think) and so it's a matter of wisdom/freedom to choose how we think we should give (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Do we need to be baptised to be saved?
No but we should be baptised to show that Jesus has saved us.  This video explains more.

Is it wrong to have tattoos or piercings?
I don't think so.  The only verse in the Bible that seems to preclude it is talking about wrong religious rituals rather than fashion (Leviticus 19:28).  God is more concerned with our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).

Does God sometimes speak to us through our conscience?
Yes (Romans 2:14-15).

How does a Christian deal with marriage separation and carry on his/her Christian duty?
Marriages are supposed to last a lifetime (Matthew 19:6) and so it's always sad and painful when a marriage ends whatever the reason may be.  But with Jesus there is always hope following even the worst this life has to throw at us.  He can even do resurrection, so he can help us to overcome anything we may face (Romans 8:11, Philippians 4:12-13).  Good biblical counselling may be helpful and good Christian friends who can speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) or just be an encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11). 

Why does God choose for certain people to be born into privilege, others not?
We don't know the full answer here.  Does he have deliberate purpose, plans and strategy for how he allows wealth to be unfairly distributed?  Or is he simply allowing things to unravel and take their course in a broken world?  I'm not sure of the answer here but we do know: