Ask Me Anything!

Ask Me Anything! - LIVE Q&A for December 29, 2022

Here is the link to our “Enduring Word 2022 End of Year Summary” video:

Are there prophets today who predict the future?

I have a friend who thinks he is a prophet. I think he is more predictive about future events. And that isn’t biblical to me. What do you think?

I think you’re correct in understanding that the biblical idea of a prophet isn’t necessarily someone who foretells the future. Biblically speaking, a prophet doesn’t always foretell, in terms of predicting the future, but he always does forthtell the heart and mind of God.

I believe that God uses people today with the gift of prophecy. But I am very suspicious and hesitant about anyone who would take the title of “prophet” for themselves or receive it from other people. I want to emphasize that I am not a cessationist. I believe that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today. I believe that God speaks through people, and the exercising of the gift of prophecy is valid for today.

Simply speaking from my own experience, nearly everyone I’ve ever known who has taken or accepted the title of “prophet” has been really weird. We just don’t need that weirdness.

Even though God speaks to people today, and even though God can speak through the gift of prophecy – and He has in my life at times – that is not the normative way in which we are to seek God’s word and God’s will. We seek God’s word and God’s will through the Bible and just through living our daily life. Romans 12:1-2 urges us to not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. By doing so, we will prove what is that good and perfectly acceptable will of God.

Ultimately, if somebody wants to take on the title of “prophet,” then they need to be judged very strictly by that title. I would much prefer someone to say, “Sometimes God uses me for the gift of prophecy,” instead of saying, “I’m a prophet.” I think there’s a whole different mentality between those two statements.

As I’ve said, I believe that God gives the gifts of the Spirit for today. I would make one exception to that. Although this is not a gift that’s detailed in the New Testament, it is nevertheless a gift that’s clearly implied in the New Testament. And that is the gift of hearing God perfectly. Friends, the gift of being able to hear God perfectly, understand God perfectly, and transmit God’s word perfectly ended with the first century Apostles and prophets.

Certainly, God still speaks, and God can’t do anything that’s not perfect. The only way God can speak is perfectly. But for there to be an effective and perfect communication from God through a human vessel, not only does God’s word have to be perfect, which it always is, but that individual has to be perfect also. They can’t add to the Word, they can’t take away from it, they can’t misapply it, and they can’t mistime it.

Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ and the Apostles and prophets. Nobody since then has had the gift of being able to understand and transmit God’s word perfectly, in the same inspired sense that the Old and New Testaments are given to us. There is nobody who is speaking authoritatively and perfectly to the church as a whole. That ended with the Apostles and prophets. But in the sense of telling forth the Word of God, I do believe that there’s a place and a purpose for the gift of prophecy today.

If I don’t have unleavened bread or wine/grape juice, can I still take communion at home or with others?

If I don’t have unleavened bread or grape juice, can I take communion with say, even a piece of bread and milk? Or a regular cracker and perhaps even coffee if that’s all that I have?

That’s a good question. We’re talking about the ideal and the less than ideal. Ideally, the Lord’s table of communion is celebrated in the community of God’s people, such as on a congregational level. And it’s celebrated with bread and wine or sometimes grape juice. Wine the ancient world was considerably watered down. You could get drunk drinking wine, but you had to work at it a lot harder than you would with the alcohol content in wine today. So, I think grape juice is a fine substitute for wine. That is the ideal situation for communion.

However, we can’t always do the ideal. Maybe a person can’t go to church for some reason, and they can’t receive the Lord’s Supper or communion in the community of God’s people. They can certainly do it at home. Ideally at home, you’re also doing it with bread. Now, there is a debate. Some people insist that if we take communion, the bread has to be unleavened. I don’t think that’s a requirement, but it’s certainly not wrong to do it with unleavened bread. The point is to have the bread and the cup. Well, if you don’t have bread, maybe you could use a cracker. If you don’t have wine or grape juice, maybe you could use a substitute. Now, that’s not ideal. That’s not the way it should be done, if you can do differently. But if that’s all you have, then that’s all you have.

There are some people who believe that it is sinful for people to receive communion at home, without the supervision of an ordained minister. I don’t share that opinion. I believe it’s perfectly fine for people to receive communion at home, as long as they also receive it in the community of God’s people, and if they are able to fellowship with other people. I don’t think that communion at home or as an individual replaces congregational communion, unless by necessity, but it can be a fine supplement to it.

What best describes our relationship with God? Is it a partnership? A slave/master relationship? Father/child relationship? Spousal relationship?

Yes, all of those are included. There is a multi-faceted aspect to our relationship with God. God illustrates our relationship with Him in many different ways. He is the Potter, and we are the clay. He is the Shepherd, and we are the sheep. He is the Master, and we are the slaves. He is the Father, and we are His children. Jesus Christ is our elder Brother, and we are the younger siblings. He is the Husband, and God’s people collectively, and individually in some sense, are the bride. All these images are used scripturally of God’s people. So, we can’t limit it to any one particular illustration. We need to take them as a whole and learn what we can from each.

There’s a unique dynamic present in each one of these relationships. We learn something from the way God describes His relationship with us as Him being the Potter and us being the clay, even though the clay doesn’t have much of a relationship with the Potter. We learn something from the relationship of God being the Shepherd and us being the sheep, and likewise in all these different relationships. It’s not that one excludes any of the others. They are each different facets of a beautiful gem we can look at, together working to fill out the whole picture of who God is and how God loves us.

And which one is best? Well, which one do we need to hear at the moment? There could be somebody right now who really needs to hear that God is the Potter and you are the clay. There could be someone else who really needs to hear is that God is your Father, and you are His child. We have different places where these truths impact us. It is one of the great works of the Holy Spirit to take the ever-present Word of God and apply it to our specific place. But if somebody really needs to hear that God is the Shepherd and they’re the sheep, we don’t want to contradict them and say, “No, no, that’s not right. God is your Husband, and you are His bride.” Those two relationships don’t contradict each other.

In Zephaniah 3:6-7, it seems as though God is “surprised” that His people did not learn from His judgment of the surrounding nations and repent. How can God be surprised?

Zephaniah 3:6-7 – “I have cut off nations, their fortresses are devastated; I have made their streets desolate, with none passing by. Their cities are destroyed; there is no one, no inhabitant. I said, ‘Surely you will fear Me, you will receive instruction’— so that her dwelling would not be cut off, despite everything for which I punished her. But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds.”

I see what you’re talking about. There is a tone present where God does seem sort of astonished or shocked. He seems to be marveling at the fact that His people haven’t learned the lessons of judgment from other nations around them.

I think we’re dealing with an anthropomorphism. This is a way of expressing something in human terms when the thing being described isn’t exactly human. For example, we attribute human emotions and feelings to our pets. We say our cat is sad, our dog is gloomy, or whatever it may be. If we know our pet at all, it certainly approximates human emotion. But do we really know exactly what’s going on inside that pet? The similarity to what we feel as humans is mainly unknown to us. Such descriptions of our pets are not meaningless. But certainly, it’s not fully descriptive either. It’s simply expressing things in a way we can all understand.

The same principle applies to the way we talk about God. Sometimes we talk about God in human terms, and oftentimes we do the same. Certainly, there could be other terms in which to talk about God. God could speak about Himself in terms that only the angels could understand and communicate to us, in a way we couldn’t even understand. Or He could speak in terms of only the divine; but we’re not divine. But because God has stooped down to reveal Himself to men and women through His Word, there is naturally going to be an element of speaking in human terms, via anthropomorphism. I think that’s what we see in this passage.

Have you ever felt like life is too hard?  How did you deal with these feelings?

Yes, I have felt that at times. One of the difficulties in dealing with those feelings in us or in others is that they can come from so many different sources. Some people are born with a personality or a disposition that makes them more likely to feel and think that way. People just have different personalities. Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it amazing? Sometimes it’s not so wonderful, because sometimes people have unpleasant personalities or personalities that seem to be something of a burden. But we all have different personalities. So, some of this can just be a matter of personality. Some of it can be a response to ways that people may have sinned against us, or ways that we have sinned and gotten ourselves into trouble. Sometimes the feelings that life is hard stems from physical issues in our body, maybe a sickness or illness or imbalance of some kind. Sometimes these feelings are very temporary. Sometimes they last a long time.

I’ve definitely had such feelings. All I can say is, I find comfort in the Lord. I’m a little cautious when I say that. That’s not because I don’t believe it, and not because it’s not true. It is absolutely true that I have found great comfort in the Lord. But sometimes people hear that, and they think we mean that some kind of “magical Jesus dust” is sprinkled over your problems and suddenly everything is better. There’s really nothing like that.

But there is hope. There is comfort. There is refuge in the Lord. Oftentimes, God’s answer isn’t to take away all our problems. Sometimes He does that, and we praise the Lord for it. But there are other times when God’s answer is to give us His greatest strength to bear up and maybe even to thrive under the problems. I know what you mean. All I can say is that I try to follow this command:

Philippians 4:6 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

I’m not trying to say that this is a magic formula that takes away all your problems instantly. No, not at all. But it has given me some peace in the middle of a storm. It has given me the ability to just hang on by my fingernails just a little bit longer, or to just receive God’s kindness and goodness in the midst of a difficulty.

Don’t feel despair. We’ve all been there – even the people that you look at and assume they have very little reason to feel discouraged. Oh, they deal with discouragement. It’s not always a rational thing at all. Look to the Lord. Draw near to God. Seek Him in the basics of prayer, His Word, speaking with others about the great things of God, and fellowship with other Christians, if you’re able to. These are foundational things. They won’t take away every problem, but they will give a foundation from which we can deal with our problems. And do you know what we need sometimes? We need more rest. We need more refreshment. That’s what God did for Elijah when he was very down and very discouraged. Elijah didn’t think he could go on. God had him sleep and eat some good food. Sometimes that’s the most practical advice we can get.

I know the Bible says to lay hands on the sick to be healed or for any deliverance… is that always necessary?

No, it’s not necessary. The laying on of hands to pray for somebody should also not be viewed superstitiously as if there were like some power in the hands. No, it’s a biblical picture of sympathy and connection. In the Old Testament, if you were going to sacrifice an animal, you would lay your hands on the head of the animal and confess your sins. You were sort of transferring your sins to that animal.

Now, God forbid that would we lay hands on somebody as if we are transferring our sins to them.

But it’s a sympathetic connection. You’re coming before the Lord praying for that person, and not just saying, “Lord, this is their need.” But you’re saying, “Lord, this is our need,” because you’re identifying right along with them. So, it’s wonderful. It’s good. It’s a biblical pattern. But it should never be viewed in a superstitious way.

There is a lot of racial tension in the world today, animated political disputes and complex issues. Can you give Biblical insight about the issue of race?

People talk about race on a scholarly level in different ways than they have in previous generations. I’m not saying they’re necessarily wrong, but the modern idea is that race isn’t even real, that it’s just a social construct. I understand some of that, and some of it I don’t.

The Bible emphasizes the unity that we have in the body of Christ. Paul, in writing to the Ephesians and beyond, said that we should endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I love the phrasing there. Because we don’t achieve the unity of the Spirit. Let’s say there is a brother or sister with whom I am divided, for any various reason. Maybe we’re divided because I am in error. Maybe we’re divided because they are in error. Maybe we’re divided because we don’t speak the same language. Maybe we’re divided because we’re from different economic classes. Maybe we’re divided because we have different political opinions. Maybe we’re divided because we have different racial backgrounds or ethnicities.

The important thing is that God has made me one with that brother or sister, no matter what their race, economic class, education, what nation they grew up in, or what theological error they may have, if they are a brother or sister in Christ and believe in the foundational things of Jesus Christ. Likewise, no matter what theological error I may have, as long as I’m within those bounds as a believer in Jesus Christ, they are my brother and sister.

Consider the presence of any given person online and on social media. That’s not a necessarily a good way to get to know someone. It’s good to remind ourselves that what we see about somebody on social media isn’t necessarily who they really are. Some people are better than they appear to be on social media, and some people are actually worse than they appear to be on social media. Regardless, what you’re seeing on social media isn’t necessarily them.

Sometimes I look at how people represent themselves on social media, and I think, “Man, they’re weird.” But they’re my weird brother. They’re my weird sister. And they may be my erring brother or sister. They may have some things wrong theologically that are not good for the church, and which need to be challenged and spoken against. But still, they’re within the bounds of being my brother or sister in Jesus Christ. That’s where I would put the emphasis.

I have been so blessed in my life to spend time with believers from all 6 continents except Antarctica. I did get an email once from a guy who thanked me and said he was able to use my commentary while stationed in Antarctica, but I didn’t really connect with him other than just by an email. I’ve been able to connect with people in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, Australia, and North America, and I have had the most wonderful fellowship with them. We have different life circumstances, sometimes different languages, and sometimes different opinions on things, but we believe in Jesus. And listen, it really helps if they take the Bible seriously. Of course, it’s hard to be a genuine Christian and not take the Bible seriously. But there are some people who are true believers, yet they are in error about some things.

The degree of our theological correctness does not make us more of a Christian or less of a Christian. Now, I’m not saying theology doesn’t matter. No, these things need to be discussed, and there are limits. Anybody who denies that Jesus Christ is Lord is not a believer at all. Anybody who denies that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead is not a believer at all. Anybody who denies basic biblical truths is not a believer at all. But within the group of believers, we are not more or less Christians, or more or less sons and daughters of God, because of our theological correctness.

For all the folks out there who think that I’m too fundamentalist, too dogmatic, too charismatic, too uneducated, too this, too that, listen, you’re stuck with me for all of eternity. That’s all there is to it. I’m a child of God, I’m born again by God’s Spirit, and I’m going to heaven. And if you’re going to heaven, you’re stuck with me. So, we may as well try to learn how to get along. You may try to correct me, and I may try to correct you while on this earth. But at the end of it all, you’re stuck with me, and I’m stuck with you – providing you’re a genuine Christian, born again by God’s Spirit.

In Ezra 10, in hoping to restore Israel back to God’s command of “do not marry foreigners,” Ezra had all the men who intermarried separate from their wives. But wouldn’t that be wrong to divorce?

Yes. I’ve done some research on this, but I can’t remember the conclusions. What Ezra did was a one off. These were people who had married pagans in direct disobedience, so I think a different standard was applied to them. I don’t think that this gives us a pattern to follow. The bottom line is that it was ineffective. That’s the crazy thing about it. In the book of Ezra, he gets after the Israelites who have come back into the land and married pagans. He is very strict with them. But in the book of Nehemiah, which takes place after the time of Ezra, they’re still following the same practices. So, it didn’t solve the problem.

Here’s my commentary on the book of Ezra.

Here’s my video on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.

Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “emptied Himself” (ESV). What do you suppose He emptied Himself of?

That’s a good question. It’s important for us to understand what Jesus did and did not empty Himself of. He did empty Himself of some of the privileges of Deity. When Jesus added humanity to His deity, and came and walked among us, He came as a real human being who experienced the same limitations that human beings feel. Now it wasn’t because Jesus had to feel like that. In His divine nature, He would never have felt those things. But setting aside those privileges, He experienced them.

The Bible says, “He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” But Jesus became tired and slept. He accepted that as a limitation as part of His human nature. Same thing with the hunger and thirst of Jesus, the need for sleep, and His fatigue. These are just a few examples of ways in which Jesus laid aside some of the privileges of Deity.

It’s important to understand that Jesus did not empty Himself of Deity. Here’s kind of a general principle. If someone is God, they can’t stop being God. That’s just one of the aspects of the nature of Deity. If you’re God, you’re God. God has no beginning and no end. He’s truly eternal in the fullest sense. So, Jesus never stopped being God.

Some people get this wrong. There are some pastors or preachers who speak in a very sloppy way about the Incarnation and the nature of Jesus’ humanity. They give people the impression that Jesus sort of “pushed the pause button” on His Deity. No, He never stopped being God. But He did lay aside some of the privileges and prerogatives of Deity, in order to fulfill the divine plan of His father, and to truly experience the weaknesses and limitations of humanity. But he did not empty Himself of deity. He couldn’t because He’s God. And that aspect of the divine nature can’t end.

Is belief in hell a major or minor issue?

I would say that there are gradations to this issue. I would put a belief in hell on the middle of the scale. It’s not minor. What we understand about hell really relates to what we understand about divine justice, about God’s right and prerogative to judge. Many things are tied up in this idea of what divine justice is. It also affects our evangelism. People argue that it affects it in different ways, but it’s not a minor issue.

But neither is it an ultimate issue. There have been people who were wrong about hell, although they were definitely believers, including people from whom I’ve learned a lot. To my understanding, John Stott was an annihilationist; he didn’t believe in hell as it is traditionally conceived in Christian theology. I think John Stott was wrong about that, although he was a great commentator. There are all sorts of gradations of how wrong a person can be about hell.

I think a person can be wrong about hell and still go to heaven. I very much believe we’re going to see John Stott in heaven; there’s no doubt about it. But it’s wrong to regard it as a minor issue. So, I would put it somewhere in the middle. If you’re talking about a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the most inconsequential thing, and 10 meaning that heaven or hell rests on it, I would put the biblical understanding of hell to be somewhere like a 6 or 7 – a little more important than right in the middle of the scale. That’s my opinion on it.

What do you make of Jesus never specifically calling Himself a king, yet that was what He was charged with at the cross?

I don’t know. Maybe there’s not a specific verse where Jesus says, “I’m a king,” but it’s hard to get more specific than what Jesus said to Pontius Pilate. When Pilate directly asked him, “Are You a king?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” In other words, “I have a kingdom. I am a king. It’s just that My kingdom is not of this world. I am a king, just not the kind of king you are expecting.” When Jesus received praise at the Triumphal Entry, those Hosannas were charged with sort of a political atmosphere. They were receiving Jesus as Messiah and King.

As you point out, I think Jesus was very careful about how He presented His kingship, mostly because many of the Jewish people of His time had a very worldly idea about what Messiah the King would be and do for them. For many Jews at that time, their number one hope that Messiah the King would do was to boot out the Roman oppressors. In fact, they expected that’s how they would know He was the Messiah – the One who kicks out the Roman oppressors, He’s Messiah and King. But Jesus didn’t come to do that in His first coming.

So, Jesus was admittedly cautious about how He presented His kingship. But when He was directly asked by Pilate if He was a king, He was careful in His answer, but He did not deny it. He said, “I have a kingdom, and it’s not of this world.” It’s kind of staggering to think that above the head of Jesus on the cross was written the statement, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” written in Hebrew or Aramaic, Greek and Latin, so the whole world would know.

If there was any reservation on Jesus’ part about making an open declaration of kingship, it was because of the misconception in many Jewish people’s minds at that time about what that kingship meant.

Are selfish or self-righteous thoughts that pop up in our head a sin, or do they become a sin when we linger on those thoughts?

There is a distinction between temptation and sin. We really do have a choice in what we think about. There are thoughts that pass through our heads that are sort of presented to us as a temptation, and it’s really up to us whether or not we will take those thoughts and hang on to them. It becomes sin when we choose to do linger over them.

I would put selfish and self-righteous thoughts in that same general category. To linger on those thoughts is really the manifestation of sin, when we choose to hold on to them and turn them over in our minds.

If a church we attend does not follow Biblical commands for the public speaking of tongues, what should we do?

I would say bring it up humbly with your Bible open, and say, “Hey, elder, Pastor, congregational leader, I’m not quite sure on this. Can you explain to me why we have public proclamation in tongues, without even the attempt or the hope of an interpretation? This doesn’t seem to be according to biblical order from what I read in 1 Corinthians 14.” By the way, I would recommend my commentary on 1 Corinthians 14. I think that I do a fairly thorough job of walking through this practice specifically, and how it might work in a church meeting.

Now, in some classic Pentecostal theology, a distinction is made between speaking in tongues and one’s prayer language. They would say, “Speaking in tongues is regulated according to 1 Corinthians 14 and any other passage, but your prayer language is not regulated. You can just let that rip anytime.”

However, I believe that is an artificial and wrong distinction. I don’t think that distinction exists in the Scriptures. There are not two separate things: a prayer language in an unknown tongue, and speaking in an unknown tongue. No, it’s one and the same.

When it comes to congregational meetings, I don’t think the attitude of “Just let it rip” is beneficial. It’s fair enough to speak humbly to a congregational leader about that. Now, what if their answer isn’t satisfying? Well, sometimes we have to accept things in a church, which we know aren’t biblical or aren’t good, because this just happens to be the best church in the area that we can belong to. We’re not out trying to look for a perfect church, just one that is biblical enough, so to speak. Sometimes we have to sort of tolerate things that we don’t really like in a church, simply because it’s the best kind of church available.

What is the difference between pride and progress, arrogance and truth?

Well, pride and progress seem to be different concepts. But arrogance is sort of a form of pride. Truth can be in a different category altogether. Somebody can be proud or arrogant about their progress in belief. Pride can affect anything. That’s one of the great insidious aspects of pride, is it has a way of infecting everything. There’s nothing good that can’t be upset by pride in some way.

Why don’t most Protestant churches nowadays keep the fourth commandment, the Sabbath?

Why don’t most Protestant churches nowadays keep the fourth commandment? I’m not saying keeping commandments will save us. But when our hearts are right with God, shouldn’t we be obedient to all Ten Commandments?

The most direct answer is because we’re not required by God to keep the Sabbath in the way that it was kept under the Old Covenant. In Colossians and Hebrews, the Bible specifically says that the Sabbath rest is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. There’s a very real sense in which every day is a day of Sabbath rest for the believer. Every day is a day of rest for us, on which we cease from the works of attempting to justify ourselves, and we rest in Jesus Christ, because His person and work has justified us by faith. Colossians specifically says that the Sabbath was a shadow, and the substance is found in Jesus Christ.

Now, that doesn’t change the truth that God has designed us to need a Sabbath. That’s something I’m not very good at. But I would challenge you a bit on this. There is no substantial difference between the Ten Commandments and all the Mosaic Law. We can’t be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments. And I know you’re not trying to say that we could be. Likewise, the Ten Commandments do provide important moral guidance to us. But every one of the Ten Commandments is reinforced in the New Testament except for the Sabbath day. Instead of the New Testament says, “Let no one judge you in regard to your observance of festivals or feasts or new moons or Sabbaths,” because these things were a shadow of what was fulfilled in Jesus.

We are certainly free in Jesus to keep the Sabbath. The Seventh Day Adventists are very committed to keeping the Sabbath on Saturdays, as their seventh day. They are very firm on that point. All I can say is, God bless them. We are free in Jesus. So, because this is not a point of moral obedience that is reinforced directly in the New Testament, the Sabbath law is not binding upon believers in the same way that it was upon people under the Old Testament law.

I think it would be good if there was wider observance of the Sabbath. Our family lived in Germany for seven years. One thing we had to adjust to in Germany is that, for the most part, all businesses and shops and stores are closed on Sunday. There are a few exceptions for a couple of days a year. But for the most part, on Sundays, the only places that are open are restaurants and gas stations, and pretty much everything else is closed. You can find a pharmacy here and there, but not many of them.

That was a difficult adjustment for us, coming from an American culture where plenty of stores are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. How can we go to the grocery store on Sunday if it’s not open? It was an adjustment for us to begin with. But after a while, it was awesome. There was something wonderful about a culture that slowed down and stopped.

Now, they don’t do this in Germany out of any great zeal to keep the fourth commandment or the law of God. No. It’s just something rooted in their past traditions. As a largely secular culture today, this is really more a matter of trade unions and labor laws. But nevertheless, it’s still a good thing.

So, I’m not anti-Sabbath. But we need to be honest about the level to which it is required for believers under the law.

Is God still rejecting people?

It depends on what you mean by that. God is still judging people. Romans says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness. God does not approve of sinful, rebellious, defiant behavior, and judgment can come as a result of it. Now, if you call that God rejecting people, fine, but God’s arms are open to everybody who is repentant. To all who will repent and believe, God’s arms are wide open. God will reject no one who repents and believes in who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done for them, especially what Jesus has done in His work on the cross and in His resurrection.

What are your thoughts about house churches?

It seems like a lot of the Body is being led recently to do more house churches and study groups, instead of going to established churches. What’s your opinion on this?

The Bible says that an important part of the Christian life is fellowship and communion and “Koinonia” with other believers. That should be happening in a Christian life. But there may be all sorts of reasons why it may be very difficult to do that, for certain people at certain times. But we just would say that’s not ideal. The ideal is for every believer to have a true place where they get together with other believers to worship God, to pray, to hear God’s word faithfully preached, to receive Communion together, to baptize people, and to encourage one another unto love and good works. That’s something for every believer. That’s the New Testament example. Paul never did evangelism without also planting churches.

The size and location of that fellowship gathering may differ from time and place, throughout culture and throughout history. There’s nothing wrong with house churches, but I will say this. I’ve run across more than a few house-church people who were unnecessarily critical and dismissive of what they would call institutional church. They thought, “We’re more holy, we’re more pleasing to God, we got it going on more than the institutional church.” I am the first to admit that there are plenty of problems with institutional church. But there are also lots of problems with house churches out there. One is not inherently any better than the other. They both have their advantages. They both have their problems.

I don’t see anything wrong with larger numbers of believers gathering together for prayer, worship, fellowship, encouragement, the Word, the Lord’s table, and all the rest. Neither do I see any problem with smaller groups getting together and doing that. There are benefits and potential problems in either scenario. I think house churches are great. Just don’t go around thinking that you’re automatically more pleasing to God, because you meet in a house church rather than in a church that has its own building.

One more thing. It is true that in the New Testament, virtually all the churches were house churches. Yes, there were some places where they met, such as Solomon’s portico in the book of Acts, or in Ephesus where they rented the Hall of Tyrannus to meet. Yes, there are those examples, but the overwhelming majority of churches in the New Testament met in houses. But this was not out of a spiritual impulse. This was purely practical. That’s all they could do. As soon as Christian communities were allowed to build and have their own buildings in the Roman Empire, they did. If I recall correctly, that began around the middle of the second century. It’s not like they said, “Oh, we’re gathering at homes because it’s more spiritual.” No, they met in homes because that’s all they could do. And praise the Lord, it didn’t hinder the work God wanted to do in the slightest. That has been true throughout many situations in church history.

My mom prevents me from getting certain hero action figures (such as Carnage and Venom). She thinks it opens doorways to demonic influence and minimizes suffering and human life. What are your thoughts on this, please?

I think the important thing for you is to honor your mom’s wishes in this. God has put you under the authority of your mother. Now, I’m trusting that you’re not a 32-year-old who just happens to live at home, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It seems to me that you’re a minor who lives at home under the authority of your parents, or at least of your mother. I think you need to respect that.

There are liberties that we have and can exercise when living on our own, that we don’t have while we’re under the authority of our parents. That’s just how it is. For example, I told my kids when they were in our home, “You’re not getting a tattoo when you live in my home. If you want to do it after you’re out on your own, that’s up to you. That’s between you and God. But when you live in my home, you’re not getting a tattoo.” And they didn’t. When they moved out, all three of them did get tattoos. They weren’t generally crazy ones, but they got tattoos. Again, that was between them and God. But while they were in my home, as minors under my authority, I had the right to dictate that.

I can’t give you an objective reason whether or not that action figure has some kind of spiritual connotation to it. But I would just say that it is enough for you that your mom is concerned about it. You should just recognize that. I am genuinely sorry for you if it feels kind of oppressive to you, but I would encourage you to remember that in the big scheme of things, it’s very minor. When you’re out on your own and establish your own household, if you feel that God gives you the liberty to do so, you can have as many of those action figures as you want.