Solutions for a disgruntled church member…

Dear Pastor Charles: I hope you will address an issue for me that has been on my mind for some time. Isn’t it true that a minister’s primary responsibility is to visit the members of his church? Our minister seems to think that the only reason he is paid is to preach on Sunday. What do you think? Disgruntled.

Dear Disgruntled:

    I think that if you really are that dissatisfied with your minister you should ask if you can share some of the load by doing a part of the visitation yourself. He will probably have a heart attack or die from shock. Problem solved!

    The answer to your question is no. A minister’s primary responsibility is to preach and teach the Word of God and to pray. Secondly, he is to provide the leadership, motivation and training for the body of Christ, the church, to assume the majority of the visitation and other tasks.

    The Book of Acts gives us the biblical perspective of the role of the minister in the local church: Acts 6:1-7, “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

     A crude paraphrase of this passage today might read something like this: “Today, as the demands in ministry are ever increasing, Sister Bertha is complaining because the minister did not come to see her when she had her toenail removed. He went to see Brother Jimmy in the hospital when he had his heart attack but he just doesn’t seem to care about the way she suffers.” Please forgive this crude illustration but that is sometimes the way it appears to a minister.

    If your Pastor is a true minister of God, he loves you more than you realize and probably spends a great deal of time in prayer for you and others. It is an awesome responsibility to be called by God to faithfully deliver His Word week after week. A minister often wonders whether or not he is reaching those whom he serves.. He studies and prays and seeks Gods guidance for that one time a week that God will be able to speak to them through him. He visits those who are in hospital or are having surgery. He tries to contact the shut-ins as well as the visitors from the previous Sunday. He probably prepares and teaches weekly Bible studies, a Sunday night service, and maybe a week night service as well. He oversees the staff and administration functions of the church. He counsels those with emotional difficulties, hurting marriages and spiritual dilemmas. He is expected to attend every meeting for each committee or board in the church. All to often, he neglects the needs of his own family because of the demands of the church family upon his time. The telephone rarely stops ringing, even when he is supposedly having time off. Yet he still receives criticism because he is not doing enough.

   What I would like to ask you is this: What are you doing for the cause of Christ? How many people have you visited lately? If you have time to criticize the efforts of someone else, then you have time to pitch in and help with the tasks at hand. You see, God has gifted each member of the body of Christ and expects each of us to share in the load of the ministry. There is an old song that says, “My children want to be fed at my table, but they don’t want to work in my fields.”

    My advice to you is to stop judging your minister and ask him how you can help. Pray for him and lift him up. You might be surprised at how effective he can become when he spends his time doing what God has called him to do and you are busy doing the same.

    I pray that you will release this burden of condemnation that you carry towards your minister and remember that he is only a human being, just like you. If you still feel disgruntled after praying for him, I would suggest that you make an appointment with him and share your concerns. Give him a chance to show you his side of the story. You may just be surprised at all the things he does that you are not aware of.

                                       May God bless you as you grow in His grace.
                                                                            Pastor Charles…

Ask The Pastor- “Is God’s forgiveness conditional?”

Dear Pastor Charles:

There are a couple of apparently conflicting Scriptures regarding God’s forgiveness. I know the Bible never contradicts itself, so help me resolve my confusion. In Mathew 6:15 and again in Mathew 18:35, Jesus says that our forgiveness from God is based on how well we forgive others. Then in 1 John 1:9, John says that all we have to do is confess our sins, and God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. If the first method is true, I am in serious trouble. Please help me to reconcile this. Disturbed…

Dear Disturbed:

If the first method is true, we are all in serious trouble. In interpreting Scripture, we must always be careful to put them into their proper historical perspective and be aware of to whom the Scripture is being addressed. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” While Jesus walked upon the Earth He completely fulfilled the Law by living a sinless life. Look at Hebrews 4:14-15, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.” Continue reading Ask The Pastor- “Is God’s forgiveness conditional?”

A Biblical view of ecology in a world of decay…

Dear Pastor Charles: I am writing regarding the protection of endangered plant and animal species. There are some who say we’ve gone too far to protect these species from extinction, and some who say we haven’t gone far enough. I believe the Bible says God instructed man to rule over all the earth. My question is: How shall man rule regarding endangered species? If man allows a species to become extinct has he done wrong in God’s eyes? Thank you. Curious.

Dear Curious:

    Thank you for the great question. In order to answer it we will need to examine the Scripture you are referring to in which God granted to Adam the dominion over His creation. Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” It is good to keep in mind that God had just completed His creation and saw that everything He had made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
    God granted to Adam great power and authority over the earth to accomplish what was required of him. It is important to remember that God granted this authority before the fall of man. Prior to the fall, Adam was in close relationship with God as they walked together in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s vision was not yet clouded by sin so he possessed a superior intellect as a result. Adam was far more than a glorified gardener. God intended for him to be the ruler and caretaker over all of creation as he was created in the very image of God. This “dominion” denotes authority in the strongest sense. Therefore, Adam was to be the ruler over the entire earth with only God as his superior.
    What a responsibility that would have been for Adam. Never forget that when God calls someone to perform a task, He always grants the power to complete it. Only a little side note, way back when I was considering full time ministry, I had a family to support, a business to run and employees who were counting on me for their lively hood. I somehow knew that God was calling me but I couldn’t quite understand how those obligations would be met. I sure couldn’t do it on my own without letting a bunch of good people down. I was consulting with one of my spiritual mentors at the time about it and he put it to me this way; “If God places the order, He will write the check to pay for it.” That made a lot of sense to me back then and those words still prove to be true even today.

    If only Adam and Eve would not have succumbed to the temptation of Satan they would still be ruling the earth today. So, as a result of the fall, Adam and Eve lost their clothing of glory, along with their innocence, which led them to realized that they were naked. You know the story, God had to kill an animal and use it’s skin in order to provide for them. Sin was, and still is, a bloody business. At that time, Adam lost the power to completely control his environment resulting from his loss of fellowship with God. He was now subject to physical death as a result of his spiritual death.

    What a sad loss that was for all future generations, including you and I. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were completely provided for. There was no death and no need for the killing of animals for food. In fact, all of God’s created order were vegetarians. Genesis 1:29-30, “Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.” 
    My how much we lost when sin and death came into the world. So, now we struggle to manage God’s created order without the God given wisdom and power that is required to do it. The sin that so easily besets us clouds our vision just as it did Adam after the fall. Yet, we are still responsible to God for the protection of the environment. It is the age old story of having responsibility without having authority. We lost that authority because of sin and it cannot be regained on this side of glory.
    Fortunately, God foresaw this problem and provided for our reinstatement under the dominion of a second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:19, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man {Adam} the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man {Jesus Christ} the many will be made righteous.”  Today, we can be made righteous in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus, but the restoration of nature to it’s original condition will not happen until He physically returns to assume dominion over the entire earth. The first Adam once had it and he lost it. The Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, will restore it. Then and only then will the lion be able to lay down with the lamb. Then and only then will there finally be peace on earth. Then and only then will there be a restored and perfect environment in which there will never again be an endangered species of plant or animal.
    So, my curious friend, it is important for mankind to protect the resources that God has provided. It is also equally important for the highest order of creation to protect the lower orders. However, we must keep things in a proper perspective. The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 3:10-13, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”  We should take care of the resources that God has provided for this old earth because she is our only means of physical existence, but set your heart upon the new heaven and new earth that God will one day provide.

    You asked that if man allows extinction of a species, has he done wrong in the eyes of God? May I kindly say to you that sin is wrong in the eyes of God and the extinction of a species is the result. The species I am referring to is mankind, you and me brother. That leaves only one viable option and that is to choose life through faith in Jesus Christ. Set your desires upon Him for Jesus truly is the only hope for the world today.

    Thank you once again for the great question. My prayer for you is that God bless and keep you as you look forward to His coming. I pray that He will come soon.

                                                               God Bless,
                                                                 Pastor Charles…

Is God’s forgiveness conditional?

Dear Pastor Charles: There are a couple of apparently conflicting Scriptures regarding God’s forgiveness. I know the Bible never contradicts itself, so help me resolve my confusion. In Mathew 6:15 and again in Mathew 18:35, Jesus says that our forgiveness from God is based on how well we forgive others. Then in 1 John 1:9, John says that all we have to do is confess our sins, and God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. If the first method is true, I am in serious trouble. Please help me to reconcile this. Disturbed…

Dear Disturbed: 
    If the first method is true, we are all in serious trouble. In interpreting Scripture, we must always be careful to put them into their proper historical perspective and be aware of to whom the Scripture is being addressed. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” While Jesus walked upon the Earth He completely fulfilled the Law by living a sinless life. Look at Hebrews 4:14-15, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”

    That was the first part of His mission given to Him by God the Father. In the second part, He fulfilled the Prophets by paying the penalty for sin demanded by the Law, which was the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb. Jesus was that perfect Lamb who satisfied the demand of the Law. 
Hebrews 9:22-28, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

    So you see, it was by the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross whereby we are able to receive the forgiveness of God. When Jesus spoke these words quoted in Matthew He had not yet gone to the cross, so the only way to receive forgiveness was by perfectly keeping the Law or, to offer the proper animal sacrifice in the proper manner through the high priest. We must not forget that Jesus was addressing the Jews when He made these statements concerning the forgiveness of God being conditional upon the forgiveness of others. This was literally the Law which Jesus summarized in Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 
    I wish I could say that I keep these two commandments but I don’t. Please don’t tell anyone this, but I get angry with people sometimes. I know that I don’t really love my neighbor as myself because that guy really gets under my skin and I surely wouldn’t die for him (present neighbors excluded of course). I know that I should love my neighbor more and I know I should love God more, but I just can’t seem to get the job done right. It is so frustrating at times. So where can I go to get forgiveness for my sins?

    Thank God that Jesus went to the cross and paid the penalty for us. Thank God that Jesus rose from the dead as a promise to us that because of our faith in Him, we will one day be raised from the dead as well. Yes, Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law and then gave us a new command found in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 
    So as you can see my friend, the basis for Christian forgiveness is found in those words of Jesus and also in the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:32, ”Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” This means that the motivation for forgiveness of others should always be love and not the fear of punishment. 
    I sincerely hope that I have answered your question to your satisfaction. My prayer for you is that God will open your eyes to His wonderful grace as you continue to search the Scriptures which are “able to make you wise.” 
                     May God bless you always, 
                                          Pastor Charles…     

Can we really keep the 10 Commandments?

Dear Pastor Charles: I heard my own Pastor say from the pulpit that we Christians are not able keep the Ten Commandments. That does not make sense to me. Why would God give them to us if He didn’t expect us to keep them? Unlike many people I know, I always keep them and that is why God blesses me. What do you say? Righteous Man.

Dear Righteous Man:  

      I say that you need to have a good long look in the mirror. What your Pastor was trying to tell you is that it is totally impossible for you to keep the Ten Commandments. If you could keep all ten without ever making one mistake; that is, never telling one lie, never stealing anything in your entire life, never coveting someone else’s possessions, never having an impure thought about someone of the opposite or same sex, or never placing anything in your life before God, then you should change your name to Jesus because He is the only one who ever led a totally sinless life on this planet. 
    The reason that God gave the Ten Commandments is to reveal His divine nature to the world that we might see that we are sinful creatures who are desperately in need of a Savior. When you say to me that you have always kept the Law of God, then, according to God’s Word, you are calling Him a liar. Look at 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”  

    The Book of Galatians sheds some light on this for us in Galatians 3:22-26, “But the scripture hath concluded that all are under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law (the Ten Commandments) was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”  
    So you see, this is why you need to reevaluate your standing before God. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law of God. He did not abolish it, He fulfilled it, by being the only one to ever live a perfect and sinless life. We still need the Ten Commandments today to point us to Christ, but it is only by God’s grace through faith that we are saved. Ephesians 2:8-9“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So, as you can see, it is impossible for you to please God by any means other than by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. 
    You can be the best person outside of Jesus ever to be born and you would still fall short of God’s glory. Romans 3:23 tells us that, “… all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”.  Therefore, since Christ has come and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, it is for us to accept His finished work and not try to add anything to it. For sure you are sinning when you break any of the Ten Commandments and for sure you should try to live by them, but don’t trust them to save you because they were not given to save us but to condemn us. Do you really want to stand before God on the judgment day and tell Him that He should allow you to enter heaven on the basis that you have kept the Ten Commandments and never sinned?
    My friend, I realize that I have been rather hard on you but it is only because I care about your soul. I want to shock you out of your self-righteousness that can send you to hell, and into Christ’s righteousness that will save you for all eternity.
    When people write me it is usually because they are seeking Biblically based answers or advice. I sincerely seek God in prayer before I answer any question I receive because I want the answer to be unfiltered and straight from God to you. I sometimes struggle with the answers I give because I am trying to grasp the tone of your question and to discern your true Spiritual need. Please don’t tell anyone this but I am only human, and believe it or not, I am sometimes wrong in my assessment. That is why I try to stick to the Bible, which is never wrong, with my answers. So, I pray that you will find value in my advice. 
    What I want you to do is to go to God in prayer with an open heart and an open mind. Thank Him for giving us the Ten Commandments and for revealing His righteousness through them. That is the easy part. Then, I want you to ask God to remove any spiritual blindness you have and to let you see yourself as He sees you in your own righteousness. That is the harder part. Lastly, swallow your pride. That is the hardest part. 
    Ask Him to forgive your sins even as He reveals them to you, one by one. Ask Him to come into your life in a brand new way on the basis of what Jesus did for you on the cross and not on the basis of what you have done by trying to keep the Ten Commandments. If you do this you will live because the Bible says in Romans 10:13, For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”. If you do not do this you may die apart from Christ and spend eternity in a place you do not want to go.
    My prayer for you is that you will come to a more perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and the blessed Word of God. I leave you with these familiar Scriptures of how very much God loves you, and all of us. John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

                                                                                  May God Bless and keep you,
                                                                                                             Pastor Charles


Is our conscience and the Holy Spirit one in the same?

Ask the Pastor

Dear Pastor Charles:

I have a question that keeps bothering me that none of my Christian friends seem to be able to answer to my satisfaction. They tell me that when someone becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells that person and convicts them of wrongdoing. It sounds to me like they are talking about their conscience. Could that be the same thing as the Holy Spirit? I know this is probably a dumb question but I really would like to know. Thanks. Confused.


Dear Confused: 

Continue reading Is our conscience and the Holy Spirit one in the same?

How can you be a good person and still be a sinner?

Dear Pastor Charles: I attend church regularly and enjoy being a part of a church family. However, I have a problem that I do not feel comfortable in expressing to my Pastor. I hope you can help me. My problem is that when my Pastor is preaching, he often mentions that we are all sinners. I consider myself to be a good and moral person. I believe in God and try to do my best to help people and to do what God wants me to do. So why does my Pastor think that I am a sinner? Is he just generalizing or do you think he specifically means everyone, including me? Please help. Moral Mary.

Dear Moral Mary:

    The next time you see your Pastor, give him a hug and thank him for having the courage to preach the whole truth of God’s Word from the pulpit. We are living in a time when it is getting harder to find preachers who give the whole counsel of God to their congregations. The reason for that is the essence of your question. Our human nature desires to hear good and pleasant things said about it. It wants to be gently stroked and told that it is good and pure and wonderful in the sight of God and man. It makes us feel comfortable and cozy inside. We naturally respond to the person who flatters our ego by saying good things about us. That kind of preacher will never make waves in his congregation. He will never stand against evil, especially if it can readily be found in the pews of his own church. The reason is that it might cost him his livelihood because people will not like him for saying unpleasant things. 

    That kind of preacher will one day stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and give a full account of his actions. The Lord might say something like this:“My people were perishing in their sins. I sent you to them to warn them and to lead them in the paths righteousness but you didn’t tell them the whole truth. Oh, you told them, all right, that I love them and that I desire to have fellowship with them and that I want to bless them, but you failed to delivered My message that they needed to repent of their sins and turn to Me for forgiveness. You failed to point out to them that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.(Romans 3:23)” and that “… the wages of sin is death.(Romans 6:23)”Therefore, they are perishing for their sins, but their blood is upon your hands.” My friend, a preacher who does not preach the entire Word of God is worse than a heretic. In fact, he becomes an instrument in hands of Satan, sending the church of God off to sleep with sweet nothings whispered into their itching ears. Thank your Pastor if he loves you more than his job by being willing to tell you the truth, even if it hurts a little bit.

    Now Mary, I do not doubt for a minute that you are a good person. In fact, you sound like the kind of person that any Pastor would love to have in his congregation. You may even be so good when compared to others that the difference is as night and day. That is the basic problem that we all have. We tend to compare ourselves to others. If we compare ourselves to someone we consider better than us, then we are tempted by envy, which is sin, and can actually lead to hatred and murder. I’m thinking of Cain who was envious of his brother Abel’s sacrifice. If we compare ourselves to someone who has a very obvious flaw in their character, then we are tempted by self-righteousness, which is pride, which is sin. Now I am thinking of the Pharisee who stood praying in the temple and said, “Oh God, I’m glad I’m not like other men, and certainly not like that wicked tax collector back there.”

    The only thing that Christians should compare themselves to is the Word of God. When we take an honest look into the mirror of the Word, we will find out that none of us measure up to God’s standards. The Prophet Isaiah said that our righteousness is like filthy rags compared to God’s righteousness. That means that the very best of humanity will always fall short of the Divine. There is a very good reason for this. It means that in order to be right with God and to have fellowship with Him, we are going to need the help of a Savior.

    Mary, even if you could lead a perfect life and somehow manage to avoid all sin (which you can’t), you would still bear the guilt of original sin that all human beings share because of the fall of Adam and Eve. So you see, apart from God there is no perfection. God made very sure in His plan for the ages that we would always need Him, no matter how independent and how moral we might become.

    My advice to you is this. Ask God to show you where you fall short of His glory in your life. Ask Him to remove the blinders of pride for a few minutes and to let you see yourself the way that He would see you, without the righteousness of Christ for your covering. Then you will understand what your Pastor is trying to tell you. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” My prayer for you is that God will open your eyes to the truth of His Word and to the glory that is Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

                                                                                                                                              May God bless and keep you always. 
                                                                                                                                                                           Pastor Charles. 

Can we start over after falling away?

Dear Pastor Charles: I used to be an active church member. I felt that I had a good relationship with God and everything seemed to be going well for me spiritually. Then, some things happened in my life that caused me to fall away. For several years I gave God and the church no thought whatsoever and was quite content with my relief from church committee meetings, time consuming visits, special offerings and getting up early on Sunday mornings. Then one day I happened to read one of your columns about being able to know for sure if one is going to heaven. Something hit me very hard in that article that took away my peace of mind. I now know that I need to get back to my relationship with God but I don’t know where to begin. Since falling away, I have picked up some bad habits and lifestyle situations that are making it very difficult for me. What can I do to start over? Down And Out.

Dear Down And Out:  

      You sound like the commercial that says, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Seriously, your problem is not unusual. In fact, I have personally been in your situation and I understand how hard it can be. For this reason, I feel uniquely qualified to answer your question. First, let me say to you that I do not believe it was an accident or that you just ‘happened’ to read that particular article. God speaks to us through His Word and somehow He manages to get it before our eyes when we need correction. He uses it effectively to bring His children under the conviction of the Holy Spirit when our habits and lifestyles are not pleasing to Him. In fact, the Bible tells us that this is exactly how God cleanses us as Christians; Ephesians 5:25-27, “. . . Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”  That ‘conviction’ is what is making you miserable. It is very, very important for you to pay attention and to respond to Him while you are under this conviction.

      So let’s get practical. You were in a serving relationship with God. Things got tough for you when you faced some kind of difficulty in your life. Then, instead of turning to God for comfort, you turned away from Him. Now you are ashamed and embarrassed to come back to Him for fear that He might reject you for your lack of faith. Also, you do not want to surrender your acquired habits and lifestyle situation because it will be difficult for you and the others with whom you are involved. I hope this is an accurate summary of your situation, and I sincerely hope you do not think I am trivializing your circumstances because that is not my intention.

      However, now comes the hard part. If you truly want to be restored in your relationship with God you will need to look honestly upon your condition. Remember the prodigal son? He willfully chose to leave his father’s house. He turned his back upon the security and love that he had in order to indulge in riotous living. You know the story, he lost everything and eventually ended up in the pig pen eating with the pigs. Only then was he able to realize how far he had fallen. It was his desperation that caused himself to say, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Well, guess what my friend. None of us are worthy to be called His son. Only Jesus is worthy. Do you not think that He still loves you? Remember Romans 5:8, “But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It was Jesus who prayed for His tormentors while hanging on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” God loves you my friend. Just imagine this, the Creator of the entire universe is personally taking the time to call you back to Himself. Why? Because He loves you and misses your fellowship. You simply must respond to a call like that. You cannot afford to say to Him, “Sorry God. There are things in my life right now that I don’t want you to be involved in. I am placing my habits and lifestyle ahead of any relationship with you. Please leave me alone and quit bothering me.”

      I believe that if you are truly a child of God, you will get up out of that pig pen and head for home where your Heavenly Father is waiting for you with wide open arms. He is waiting to hug you, clean you up and sit you down at His table of fellowship once again. You can go back. You can go home again. He will make a way where there seems no way. That is what He does best. You just need to decide that His fellowship is more important to you than the sin in your life. Go to Him right now in prayer and confess your situation to Him. Ask Him to help you come home. Tell Him that you are willing to do whatever it takes, with His help, to be restored. Then, knock the dust off of your Bible and get back into a Bible preaching church to be thoroughly bathed in the Word of God. Also, I advise you to seek Godly counsel from a trusted, mature Christian or Pastor. God bless you my friend. I know that you can do it because I am living proof.

      My prayer for you is that God will not give you any rest from the conviction of His Holy Spirit until you turn back to Jesus. I leave you with these Scriptures to ponder; Romans 8:31-39,”What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

                                                                      God Bless,                                                                                                  Pastor Charles… 

Can we really have assurance of our salvation?

Dear Pastor Charles: I have been a member of a Christian church for most of my life. I fully believe that the Bible is the Word of God and I believe that Jesus is my Savior. My problem is that when my pastor asks us if we know for sure that we are going to heaven, I cannot honestly say for certain that I am. Other people around me seem sure of their destination and I want to feel that way too. Am I asking too much from God? Is it really possible to know for sure or are these people just deluding themselves? Please give me a straight answer that I can understand. Uncertain…

Dear Uncertain: 

      You have asked a question that is very near the core of what it means to be a Christian. Here is a straight answer for you that you can understand. Yes. God wants you to know for sure. How else can you truly serve and love Him with “all your heart and all your soul and all your mind” if you cannot trust Him to deliver what He has promised over and over again in the Bible. Dear friend, please do not think that your problem is unusual. In fact, I can honestly say that there are times when I do not feel that closeness to God that gives me complete assurance of my salvation. I’ll bet you never heard a preacher admit that before. 
      Consider for a moment what the Apostle John is saying to you in       1 John 5:13, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  Let me ask you a question. Do you believe in the name of the Son of God? In other words, do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the One who paid in His own blood for your salvation? My guess is that your answer is “yes, I believe with all my mind.” You see, we human beings are very practical by nature. We believe in what we can see, feel, touch, smell and hear. We can see a chair in the corner and we believe that it will not collapse when we sit down in it because it is sturdy looking. We trust that the person who made the chair did a good job. We trust that the materials are strong enough to hold our weight. With all this evidence we are convinced that it is safe to walk over to the chair and sit down, resting our full weight upon the chair and trusting all these things we have observed. Plus, if the chair is in our own house we have probably sat on it before without it collapsing. The chair has proven itself trustworthy so we are not afraid to rest in it.

      In learning to trust God we go through the same process. First, we hear the Word of God which gives us faith. Romans 10:17 says,  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  With this faith we have been given, we believe the message and we make public our new found confidence in God as in Romans 10:9-11, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Then we begin a lifelong journey of spiritual growth in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to remember to nourish this growth with a proper spiritual diet which includes liberal amounts of the Word of God, worship, prayer, fellowship with other believers and service. As we faithfully participate in the Kingdom of God we gradually become aware of His real presence in our lives and we are given assurance of salvation in our hearts. When I don’t feel God’s closeness in my life, I always go back to the basics. I run through my checklist to see what went wrong. Usually I find that I have been neglecting one part of my relationship with Jesus, either in prayer or in my study of the Word. Then I remember how He has always been there for me, even when I wasn’t there for Him. I know I can trust that ‘chair’ because I have sat there before so I just rest my full weight upon Him in the confidence that He is more than able to deliver all that He has promised, even if I am not.

      There is an old hymn that I love called “Standing on the Promises”. Jesus left us with many promises but one of my favorites is found in John 14:1-3, Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” My uncertain friend, rest your full weight upon Jesus today. Trust Him with all of your cares minute by minute and you will soon learn to trust Him with your eternal destiny. 

      My prayer for you is that you will grow to a full and complete richness in all that it means to be a child of God. If you have given your life to Christ, remember your checklist: study the Word, worship regularly with all your heart, pray without ceasing, associate with other believers regularly and serve faithfully. 
                                                                        God Bless, 
                                                                         Pastor Charles… 

Why don’t I feel close to God?

Dear Pastor Charles: Why don’t I feel close to God? I see other people who are always talking about how God has blessed them and how good He is to them. They talk about Him like He lives in the same house with them. I have tried everything. I go to church every week, I give 10% of my income to the church, I pray regular and even go to Bible study once in a while. It doesn’t seem fair that God will get close to others who are not doing as much as I am and neglect me. Can you offer some advice about what I am doing wrong? Discouraged.

Dear Discouraged:  

      I will try. First of all, you must realize that God is not neglecting you. He is not a puppy dog who comes at your beck and call because you feed Him and pet Him. God is your Creator who is all powerful and totally sovereign. You cannot call Him to you like a genie in a bottle and expect Him to perform for you. He does not owe you anything. In fact, it is the other way around. He sent His only begotten Son to pay the death penalty for your sins so that you can have eternal life. 
      The promise is found in Romans 10:9-10, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”  Anyone can say with their mouth, “Jesus is Lord”. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The more difficult thing is to believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead.

      So what exactly does it mean to believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead? It means that God did all the work in providing for your eternal salvation. You cannot raise Him from the dead, nor can you raise yourself from the dead. It is God’s power and will that does this for you.

      It sounds to me as if you may be putting the proverbial cart before the horse. So many people try to rush off and serve God in their own power and might. They keep their own little book of rules and actually try to keep score of how many good things they have done, minus the bad. Then they hold up this little book to God and say, “See what I have done for you God? I am a good person. I have witnessed for you. I have given a tenth of my money and my time. I go to church every Sunday. I force myself to read the Bible and I even pray regularly. I am your prize servant compared to all those other lazy people. You owe me big time so go ahead and bless me.” Listen now to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” 

      Dear friend, stop trying so hard to make God come to you. Why don’t you do like Mary did and sit at Jesus’ feet for a while and let Martha do the cooking. You may be surprised to find out that Jesus is not interested in what you can do for Him. He is interested in you. He wants to develop an intimate relationship with you and it sounds to me like you are too busy to allow Him into your life. The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Try asking yourself a really difficult question. Am I seeking to do God’s will or am I seeking God? Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” 

      Jesus is the very doorway to eternal life and the knowledge of His presence and closeness. You seem to be very busy working out in the yard when Jesus is simply telling you to knock on the door and come in to Him. He will send you back out to work when you are ready but right now, He just wants you to get to know Him. Tell Him of your desire to get close to Him. Humble yourself by admitting to Him that you are trying to earn your salvation instead of accepting as sufficient His completed work on the cross for you. I will leave you with this Scripture to ponder from James 4:8-10, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” 

      May God bless you in your search for closeness to God. My prayer for you is that you will come into the full measure of His richness in grace. 

                                                                       God Bless,                                                                                                    Pastor Charles…  

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Gal 5:1