A question I’ve always had about the Christian faith is…
1. If a divorced person remarries are they really committing adultery?
I don’t think that Jesus is making that a hard and fast rule in the passage you quote (Matthew 5:31-32). The context of Jesus’ statement and the culture of the day need to be taken into account. I go into detail on that very question in the 4th chapter of my book, The Jesus Quiz. A copy is available for loan from the church library or you can purchase it at amazon.com.
2. What is the church’s view on reincarnation?
Christians do not believe in reincarnation, because God shows us in Christ that he loves us just the way we are, uniquely, as individuals. Just as we love our children, who are far from perfect, God,heavenly Father, loves us in the same way. In our faith, one life is not enough either. That’s why God promises that after we die we will come home to live with him in heaven for all eternity.
3. You recently had a sermon about God’s love flowing down thru each of us and how we are to love everyone. We know we are told to turn the other cheek. My question is, how do we love those who are evil? Don’t we have a responsibility to oppose evil and pursue justice even though Jesus said, “I come to fulfill the law.” How do we do both?
God’s love does indeed flow down to all people, but not all receive that love and live in it. We love them as individuals because we believe that all people were created in the image of God and have the potential to love and serve God. That’s why there are chaplains on death row. It is never too late for anyone. However, you are right in stating that Christians must oppose those who do evil (note: who do evil, not who are evil). That’s why God established good governments. Governments, working for the good of their people, are charged by God with stopping evil (see Romans 13:1-9) up to and including the death penalty and armed conflict. That’s how Christians can serve with pride in the Armed Forces: in their role as instruments of the government, they are also instruments of God, controlling the ungodly by force(see the passage above). However, these same troops, as individuals, continue to love, pray, and work for the conversion of their enemies, even as they are fighting them.
4. Why can’t they show where Moses opened the Red Sea?
This is not something I know about directly, but archaeology has been able to verify many Old Testament stories. I’m not sure it’s all that important where Moses opened the sea, what is important is that God heard the cries of his people and led them to freedom, just as he hears and answers our prayers today.
5. What are God’s thoughts on cremation and on suicide?
We believe in the resurrection of the body. That means that the believer will be who they were in this life: a unique individual. However, St Paul explains in I Corinthians 15:50, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” What Paul is saying is that the body we have now is like a seed planted in the ground. The seed is not what the plant grows to be but it is the source of the new plant. It must be transformed. In the same way, we will be the unique individuals we are in the life to come, but with a glorified body. So what happens to our physical body on earth is not as important as being laid to rest in hope. Nothing can stand in the way of God’s promise to raise us up to eternal life. As to suicide, someone once said that “Sometimes a person’s worst mistake ends up being their last.” A passage that is often used to support the idea that those who commit suicide cannot be saved is 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. It reads, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.” That seems to imply that if someone destroys their own body (by suicide) God will condemn that person. What most people don’t realize is that the “you” there in the original Greek is plural! “You all” are God’s temple: the gathered church. So what is being condemned is not suicide but someone destroying the church. As we face the heartache of suicide, we must keep in mind that God is much more understanding and forgiving than we could ever be.
6. Why have Muslims and Christians lived together peacefully for centuries and now they fight terribly?
There are places where Muslims and Christians live side-by-side peacefully. I saw it when I visited Benin, Africa with the Marines in 2009. However, conflict between Muslims and Christians is nothing new.
7. At the Resurrection, when the women went out to the tomb, she was told not to touch Christ as he had not yet risen to heaven. Later in the day when he appeared to the disciples he told them to put their hand in his. Did he go to the Father during this time and then back after?
Well, the account you are referring to is in John 20:1-31. Each account of the Resurrection is a little different given the witnesses involved. In John’s, Mary comes alone to the tomb. Jesus does tell her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” If you read the passage carefully, the disciples do not touch him on that day, but one week later when Thomas is with them. However, there’s still the mystery: What did Jesus mean by “do not hold on to me”? According to Merrill C. Tenney in his commentary on John, “He [Jesus] was not refusing to be touched but was making clear that she did not need to detain him, for he had not yet ascended to the Father. He planned to remain with the disciples for a little while; she need not fear that he would vanish immediately.”
8. How can I better balance my ministry (music during service) and my actual worship? Sometimes it’s like a job. There are times I snap out of it and realize I missed something (read or said). How do you do it?
Well, first of all, thanks for sharing your musical gifts with the congregation! We are so blessed with fine singers and musicians at each of our worship services – thanks for your hard work and dedication. I found this question particularly interesting because I struggle with this myself. I am so concerned with the “next thing” in the service or with everything going smoothly, that I have a difficult time focusing on the Heavenly Father we are there to praise. One thing that helps me is to remember that God is the audience. All we do at any of our services is directed to Him. Another thing that helps is to be intentional. Sometimes I will ponder what each line of the Lord’s Prayer means as we are praying it or really think about the words of a song we’re singing. That helps me, I hope it helps you to truly “worship.”
9. Why does the Lord allow ISIS to slaughter people like they do?
That’s a topic I’ve preached on many times, but it never gets old. Why does God allow evil? I like to think of it as God giving us freedom. God didn’t create us because he wanted puppets who would do whatever He wanted by force. None of us are forced to do good, but God is delighted and there is rejoicing in heaven when we, of our own free will, do the right thing. The actions of ISIS are evil, plain and simple. God gives us the freedom to NOT be like them. Life would not be worth living if we didn’t have the freedom to choose, to make mistakes, to grow. That’s what God wants: not puppets, but sons and daughters with the free will to do good or evil. One more thing – the best way to deal with evil manifested in human beings is to turn them back to God. “There is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” - Luke 15:7.
10. It is said that Christ is the “first fruits” of the dead. What about Lazarus? Christ raised him from death before he (Christ) died and arose.
Yes, Jesus brought Lazarus back to life even after four days in the tomb. Lazarus, however, would have to die again. The difference is that Jesus, risen, would never die again. Jesus’ resurrected body also provides us with some fascinating clues about what life will be like in heaven. The resurrected Jesus could pass through locked doors; he could vanish from sight, and ascend into heaven without any type of vehicle to carry him. But, best of all, he could eat! Don’t forget the promised feast in the life to come! Also, he was recognized for who he was in life and he could be touched – intriguing!
11. Why are some healed and others not?
Well, when God walked among us through His Son, Jesus, he healed 100% of the ill who were brought to him. That shows us that God’s will is healing. We have had a number of people healed through our healing prayers on the third Sunday of each month, but why He heals some and not others today is a mystery. Someday we will all be healed and made whole – that’s God’s ultimate, loving plan!