LIVE from Uganda

LIVE from Uganda - Q&A for May 4, 2023

In Luke 3:5, is this phrase literal? “Every mountain and hill will be brought low.”

When John the Baptist says in Luke 3:5, “and every mountain and hill will be brought low”, is that a literal meaning?

Luke 3:5-6 – Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

I’m so glad you asked this question. In this passage, Luke is describing the ministry of John the Baptist in reference topassages in the book of Isaiah. Sometimes Bible teachers will call Isaiah “the fifth gospel,” because it speaks so much about Jesus. These chapters from Isaiah speak of the coming work of the Messiah, and particularly this preparatory work before the coming of the Messiah. This preparation would be to make the roads straight for the people who want to come to the Messiah, to see His great work, to come and get right with the Messiah, and to receive everything that He desires to give.

The idea is to make a pathway straight; it’s the building of a highway. It’s easy to take good roads for granted in the modern world. But a good road is a marvelous thing. It increases trade, travel, commerce, and all sorts of things. Having spent the last few weeks in Kenya and Uganda, I’ve been very impressed with the roads for the most part. The paved roads are a lot better than I thought they would be. There were times when we had to travel on dirt roads, and that was a lot more problematic.

The picture here is of making a ready path for the Messiah and to the Messiah. Luke, quoting Isaiah, is not talking about literal road building. He’s talking about the fulfillment of these passages having to do with the coming of the Messiah, as quoted from Isaiah 40:4. The book of Isaiah is fresh on my mind, because I’ve been reviewing those passages lately for a special writing project I’m working on.

​In Luke 10:4, why were the seventy disciples told not to greet anyone on the way?

Luke 10:4 – Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.

I can see why you would ask this question. Was Jesus commanding His disciples to be rude in their evangelistic work? No, that’s really not the point. Through this and similar instructions, such as not bringing a money bag, knapsack, or sandals, Jesus is speaking in a way that would give a sense of urgency to their message.

In the ancient world, and in that part of the world, it was very common for two travelers or two groups of travelers meeting on the road to exchange very long, extended greetings with each other. Part of this was just local custom of the day. There was also the practice of breaking up the monotony of the day by walking long distances between cities, oftentimes alone, and having long conversations with those whom you met.

Jesus is emphasizing that the mission He’s giving them involves urgency. He doesn’t want them hanging around, taking a half-hour break every time they meet somebody along the road, or giving long, elaborate greetings and finding out about the other people on the road. He’s saying, “You’ve got a mission to do. I’m calling you to go out and preach the way that you should preach.” That’s why Jesus gave that specific instruction.

Why do people charge fees for worship and Bible conferences/concerts when the gospel is free?

That’s a good question. Part of me is very sympathetic to your concern, and part of me understands why people charge. Look, the gospel is free, and it should be presented for free. But when there’s a charge for things, such as a worship venue, a Bible conference, or a concert, it’s a charge for the production. I hope there are plenty of churches having worship services near you, where you can go and worship without paying a fee. But if you’re going to see some famous band with their awesome stage production and a huge sound system, and all the accompaniments to that, then yeah, that’s going to cost money.

Let’s face it, the musicians, managers, and agents are probably taking a pretty big chunk out of that as well. I sympathize with that. I don’t like that. I think it’s very important for myself and my own calling to not be concerned about charging. So, when I go somewhere to speak, I never charge an honorarium. People are often kind, but I never require an honorarium for speaking somewhere.

At our website, we offer all our commentary, audio/visual resources, the Enduring Word app, our YouTube content, and our YouVersion content for free. The only things we require people to pay for are the books that we publish. If you want one of my commentaries in print or in Kindle format, I’ll be honest, that’s going to cost you. It’s not because there’s a charge for the commentary itself. You can read our entire Bible commentary for free online and on the app. But if you want pages and ink, there’s an expense for that.

I get the sense that you’re wondering, “Is it right that people are making money from these things?” Sometimes it’s big money, too. I’m uncomfortable with a lot of that myself. But really the best solution I think we have is to not support it. The people who do those things will answer before the Lord, not before us.

​Is it possible for someone to be saved while on a ventilator, conscious and hearing the name of Jesus being prayed over them?

There’s a lot about such a question that can’t be answered. But in exactly the way you present the question, I would say yes, primarily because you say that the person is conscious. If a person is conscious, I believe that God can communicate to them.

Now, I think it’s possible that God can communicate to people who are unconscious, though I don’t really know. I have no medical training. A neurologist or someone who knows about these things at a deeper level may think I’m crazy, and maybe I am. But I have wondered about whether it’s possible for God to communicate to somebody in a coma. They can’t communicate to anybody in the external world, but perhaps on a spiritual, yet real level, God communicates with that person. Is it possible? Yes, I suppose it’s possible.

But certainly, if a person is conscious, even if they’re on a ventilator, they can make a response of faith. A response of faith doesn’t have to be a spoken word. If they’re unable to speak, it doesn’t have to be the raising of a hand or walking down the aisle. Their demonstration of faith and repentance can be real, even though it’s unable to be made vocally or with a lifestyle that lives it out. Because let’s face it, they’re in a hospital bed.

I’m sure we’re going to meet some surprising people in heaven who trusted Christ in unusual circumstances. It will make us full of wonder and surprise when we get to heaven. I don’t want to underestimate God’s ability to communicate with the human heart and spirit, even when a person is unconscious or unresponsive. Again, I don’t know much about how all this works.

​In Genesis, there are two lights. One was on the first day (Genesis 1:3-5). The second light was on the fourth day (Genesis 1:14-19). Was the first light Jesus, and was the darkness Satan & his evil angels?

I don’t think so. I’m won’t say it’s impossible, but that’s certainly not clearly detailed in the Scripture. After Satan fell, in some way he was trying to resist Gods work of creation. In my estimation, there are hints of this in the Scripture without really making it clear in any significant way. So, I wouldn’t view it in that way. Where there’s light, it’s God shining forth His light. And darkness, especially there in the creation story, doesn’t necessarily have a demonic association. That’s my quick take on it.

​Were the apostles speaking in an unknown heavenly language in Acts 2:8? Did people hear the apostles in their own languages from the gift of interpretation?

Acts 2:8 – And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?

I’m going to be very straight with you. We wish that we were told more about some of the specifics in the biblical record than we have. We don’t have a ton of specifics on this question. I’ll give you my best understanding of it.

In this passage, the people in the crowd heard the disciples speaking, and they wondered, “How is it that we hear each in our own language in which we were born?” They go on to list many different languages that they heard, about 15 different languages. They say that they heard them speaking the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11).

I do my best to consider the whole counsel of God, taking what different passages of Scripture say about the gift of tongues and its use, and put it all together. A very important verse in this consideration is 1 Corinthians 14:2a, where Paul says, “He who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to man, but to God.” From there, I take a look at what happened on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. According to that principle in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, it makes me believe that those who were speaking in unknown tongues, were not speaking to men, but to God.

It’s commonly thought that the purpose of the gift of tongues is to enable people to preach to others in a language that they’ve never heard. I don’t doubt that God has the power to grant that kind of miracle. There’s really no doubt about that. But that’s not what the gift of tongues is about. Again, 1 Corinthians 14, “for he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but to God.”

On the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, the Jews overheard the people speaking praises to God, declaring the wonderful works of God. I also find it notable that the Bible says there were 120 people present, and they were all speaking in these unknown tongues, but only about 15 languages were listed. No doubt there were a lot of people speaking languages of praise to God that nobody knew what was being spoken. It was just not present.

So were they speaking an unknown heavenly language? It doesn’t have to be. They could have simply been speaking human languages that nobody present could understand. But of course, many of the languages that were being spoken were languages that could be understand. So that’s why they could understand them without the gift of interpretation. Somebody speaking in their unknown tongue, was speaking in the language of the Parthians. There were Parthians present who didn’t need any supernatural gift to understand their own language. They could understand, and they could hear them speaking the marvelous works of God, speaking praises to God.

​What are your thoughts on the Eastern Orthodox Church? Are they apostate?

No, they’re not apostate. There are many wonderful believers in the Eastern Orthodox Church. And when you say the Eastern Orthodox Church, we’re encompassing all its different branches: the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox, and other different national divisions of the Orthodox communion.

I will say that some of the things that seem very important and meaningful to Orthodox believers are not as important and meaningful to me. Their emphasis on icons is not something that’s meaningful to me at all. Their emphasis on certain ceremonies and liturgies, the incense, the vestments that are worn, and the decorations doesn’t do a thing for me. Those practices are not meaningful for drawing me into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, but they’re certainly not apostate.

To my understanding, the Orthodox communion does not emphasize doctrine in the same way Protestants or evangelicals might. But the doctrine that they have is generally biblical. Now, of course, they would insist that it’s entirely biblical, and I understand that. I’m not there to debate that, but I wouldn’t agree or regard them as apostate.

I understand that there are some people in Orthodox churches who are not born again at all. For them, their Christian faith is really just a matter of tradition. It’s an empty, vain faith. That’s true. There are people like that in Orthodox churches. There are priests in the Orthodox Church who are not born again, and who are actually doing a disservice to their church and their people. That’s absolutely true.

But it’s the same in Protestantism. There are people in Protestant churches whose religion or “faith” is basically a dead traditionalism. There are pastors in the Protestant world who are unfaithful to their calling. So, it’s not a matter of which group you belong to. It’s a matter of whether or not an individual has a real abiding, transforming faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

It has been said that, in the twentieth century, more people died for the sake of Jesus Christ, than in any previous century. If it’s true that the twentieth century has had more martyrs in it than all previous centuries combined, then we need to recognize that it is our Orthodox brothers and sisters who have borne the burden of that. Most of those who have been murdered in the twentieth century for being Christians came from parts of the world where the Orthodox Church defines most of Christianity. For that alone, I believe the Orthodox Church deserves credit. They have borne a lot of the brunt of martyrdom in the twentieth century and before.

​How do I help someone move from an intellectual relationship with God to being willing to accept the personal/intimate relationship that God desires? Especially when deep paternal/father wounds are present in them?

This is a difficult thing. No one can do this for another person. Nobody can fix this. It just doesn’t work like that. But I would suggest two things. First of all, I know you’re doing this, but to state the obvious, pray! Pray for that person. It has been said that the biggest distance in the world is the distance from a person’s head to their heart. Those 18 inches sometimes seem to be the biggest distance in the world.

We can’t have a relationship with God that’s only in our mind. It genuinely has to be something of the heart as well. So, pray for them.

Secondly, I would simply speak with them in daily conversation, and not in a phony or flamboyant way. You’re not trying to preach a sermon to them, but you can speak to them about the reality of your relationship with God in daily conversation. By doing so, God could use you to make them jealous. God could use you to make them say, “Hey, that’s the kind of relationship I want. I want God to answer my prayers. I want to feel that I’m actually drawing closer to God in real communion with Him.” I think that God has the potential to do this through you to really provoke this person to some godly jealousy in their own relationship with God. You can be very free and open, not in a phony, put-upon, “preaching a sermon” kind of way, but just talking in a very natural way about your relationship and experience with God on a day-to-day basis. That would be my suggestion for you.

​When the Angel of the Lord appeared in the OT, it was Jesus. Who would you think spoke to Adam? Did they just hear, or do you think God showed Himself visibly?

We can’t say for sure. I always want to be very careful to not be certain where the Bible isn’t clear. I’m all for some speculation about what might be in the Bible, a hint at this or a suggestion of that. I’m all for us discussing that, as long as we differentiate between talking about something right from the Bible and talking about speaking of something that we’re not entirely clear on.

If God appears in some sort of physical presence in the Old Testament, then it is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. I think it’s a very important thing to notice that this pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ is the only way God would be seen. How do we know this? Because God the Holy Spirit is spirit and not visible. And concerning God the Father, the Bible says that no man has seen God at any time. The closest we come to a statement saying that God appeared to Adam in some bodily form is in the book of Genesis, where it says that the Lord walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. That certainly implies a physical presence. I don’t think it categorically states so beyond any doubt, and we can’t say for sure, but I would say that is implied. There is certainly a suggestion that God appeared to Adam and Eve in some sort of bodily presence by walking with them in the garden.

​What are your thoughts on why natural disasters happen, and all the resulting deaths?

What are your thoughts on why natural disasters happen, and all the people dying from them? I was questioned by non-Christians on it recently, and realized I didn’t have a great answer.

There are a few answers to that question. One is that God has created a cause-and-effect world. Certain things happen, and those affect other things.

When there’s a super low-pressure zone in some part of an ocean, it will create great winds, which will move in a certain way, and storms happen. Tornadoes happen according to cause and effect. There are certain things happening in the atmosphere and weather patterns that make for a tornado. Sometimes we wish that God would not have created a cause-and-effect world. But He did. And I think the alternative would be even worse because that would be a completely unpredictable and chaotic world. But we don’t live in that. God has given us a world that is somewhat reliable, and that’s because of its cause-and-effect principle. That’s one reason.

Here’s the second reason. Such things happen in the world because of the fall, because of sin. The Bible says that, because of Adam’s sin and the sin of humanity in general, creation was subjected to futility. It says that the redemption of man in God’s great plan of the ages will have an effect not only on those people, but on creation itself. Creation will be rescued from its bondage. I think this is very important to realize. In some sense, every deadly tornado and killer hurricane has some line that’s traced back to the fall of humanity. That’s why we have this universe where storms and tragedies happen, and people die. It’s not because of any one person’s particular sin. But rather, it’s because of a general sense of sin and its effects on the world. That’s the second reason.

A third reason is that God is in control of all things. If a hurricane comes, and people die, God has allowed it. God could have done it differently. We don’t say that to blame God; God forbid that we would do such a thing. But we recognize that God has a plan for redemption and good, even in that kind of tragedy.

So, all those things are at play: the cause-and-effect world, the general effects of sin, God’s ultimate control, and His promise to use all things for good for those who love God, for those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

​If we are called to prophesy, what does this look like in church today?

Of course, this is an area that is filled with controversy among Christians. There’s a fair segment of the Christian world which believes that God would never speak to a believer today, in or through some kind of prophetic word. Then of course, there are other segments of believers in God’s family today who kind of go crazy on the idea; I would say that in some measure they abuse it. But if you remove those who deny such a thing at all, and also remove the crazy extreme fringe out there, I think it’s possible to find a biblical position. It isn’t necessarily in the middle of those positions; we’re not trying to look for some middle ground to strike it.

We just stick to what the Bible says. Yes, there are times when God does speak supernaturally to people in and through and maybe to a congregation. I’ll never forget something I read from an early Christian writer named Tertullian. He was a great theologian who lived in North Africa in the early church period. He described the workings of a prophet at his church services. He said something like this, “We’ve got a woman in our midst who is a prophet. Whether it’s God speaking to her, or angels, we don’t really know. But she hears supernatural things.” Tertullian said that God would speak to her during the church service. When the service was over, if she thought she had something meaningful to say, she shared it with the church’s pastors and elders. They discerned it to see if there was anything that God might be saying to them from it. I think that’s a very godly exercise of the gift of prophecy.

Sometimes, people regard the prophetic as an opportunity to exalt themselves or draw attention to themselves. That’s unnecessary and undesirable. But if a person feels that God has spoken a word to them through a congregation, I encourage them to go to the pastor and the elders and say, “Pastor, elders, I know you might think this is weird. I’m not trying to put any pressure on you, but I’m here to tell you that I believe God has given me something to say. So, I’m going to say it and then leave it with you. It’s going to be God’s work after that.” I think that’s an entirely valid way to handle it.

I think we underestimate the way that gifts like prophecy can be used in personal ministry, one to another. If I’m speaking with somebody, hearing what they’re going through, maybe trying to give them some wisdom from God, and going pray for them, I’m constantly seeking God for His wisdom. Most of the time that wisdom is going to flow from God’s Word directly to them. Our foundation is always the Word of God. But at the same time, if God were to give something more of a spontaneous word from me to them, then I wouldn’t hold back into sharing it.

Do you believe that the fire in hell will be literal or metaphorical? Can the soul feel physical pain there?

First, I can’t say for sure if the fire in hell will be literal, or non-literal. I can tell you this, it will be real. Whether it’s simply describing some agony that could not be described in any other way, or if it is actually some sort of fire, I don’t know. Something can be real without necessarily being literal. Maybe “fire” is the only vocabulary by which God could adequately communicate this to us.

So, it’s real. And that’s important. Whenever a metaphor is used, the reality is greater than the metaphor. Somebody might say that the fire in hell is only metaphorical but understand this. The reality of what a person in hell experiences will be even worse than the metaphor of fire.

Finally, you mentioned that the soul will not be able to feel physical pain. In the Gospel of John, Jesus spoke about the resurrection of condemnation. We often don’t appreciate it, but there will be two resurrections. There will be a resurrection unto eternal life, and there will be a resurrection unto condemnation. Those who are eternally separated from God will have resurrection bodies that are fit for that state. Jesus spoke of that.

Is the celebration of birthdays godly? Where did it originate, and should it be avoided?

The celebration of birthdays can be entirely godly. The Bible neither commands it nor forbids it. It is up to the conscience of each individual believer whether or not they want to do it. If a believer wants to celebrate birthdays, God bless them, let them do it in the Lord. If a believer does not want to celebrate birthdays, God bless them, and let them not do it in the Lord. We don’t put commands or bind the conscience of fellow believers on things that the Bible neither forbid nor commands.

I have no idea what the origins of the origins of birthday celebrations are, but they are what they are.

Does God receive money? Should I give 3000 Kenyan shillings ($20) to a pastor, or use it to help my immediate poor neighbor?

Thank you for your question. I was in Kenya last week, and I enjoyed it so much.

There is a sense in which God receives money. But from the way you describe your situation, it sounds like God is putting it on your heart that you should give it to your immediate poor neighbor. Do that.

There will be a time and a place for you to give to the church. By the way, I think that’s how we should think of it. We don’t give to the pastor; we give to the church. Pastors are sometimes unethical or improper in the way that they receive people’s tithes and offerings.

It sounds to me like the Holy Spirit is already speaking to you about this act of generosity that you want to do. Just from the way you present this to me, I would recommend to you that you give those 3000 Kenyan shillings to your neighbor who is in need.

​If the Flood destroyed all life, how can there be still Nephilim in Canaan when the 12 went to investigate the Promised Land? Were they the wives of Noah’s sons?

I don’t think so. I understand the issue that you’re dealing with. Many people have made suggestions about this. Here’s my explanation of it. What I’ll share with you is a bit speculative, but to me, it fits the evidence well enough. I believe that the people who were called Nephilim after the Flood, were not truly Nephilim, but were simply named so in remembrance of the Nephilim that existed before the Flood. They were large, fearsome people, and people said, “Oh, they’re like the Nephilim.” And they called them Nephilim. I believe that the actual Nephilim were ended at the Flood. Any of those who were called that afterwards were named so as a tribute the true Nephilim that lived before the Flood.

Why was the church in disbelief when Peter knocked on the door while they were praying on his behalf? I thought they were praying for God to release him from prison; now God answered but they were shocked! (Acts 12)

You put your finger right on the issue. It is a remarkable occurrence, isn’t it? The church was earnestly praying for Peter be released from prison. And then God released Peter from prison and the church didn’t believe it. Well, the reason why the church responded like that is because they’re just like us. We are oftentimes weak in faith, needing a lot of help from the Lord. Sometimes we’re almost uncomfortable with how similar the early church was to us. But they were weak in faith just like us. Doesn’t that give us comfort to know that, though? If the early church shared our weaknesses then, the Lord allowing, we can share their strengths.

​Pastor with all this canceling of Christian online teaching, how will I be able to acquire your teachings?

I hope that our content will continue to be available on YouTube. If for some reason we were cancelled on YouTube, people could always get our content directly from our website, We have our own saved copies of every video we post up on YouTube. So, if for some reason it was taken down from YouTube, we could post it again on our own website.

Jesus said that His disciples will do miracles like healing and casting out demons, but why am I not able to do it? Is it because I am not His disciple yet, and just a follower?

Your question could have several different answers. I cannot give you one answer. Maybe it’s because God just hasn’t seen fit to work through you to do the miraculous. Maybe there is something yet that God wants to develop in you in discipleship; that’s entirely possible. Maybe there are other things that God wants to emphasize in your life.

So, I don’t think there’s any one answer to that question. But I would encourage you, don’t be distressed by this. If you see a person in need, someone who needs healing, or who is possessed by a demonic spirit, then by all means, pray for that person. But the miracle is not your responsibility. The miracle is God’s responsibility.

I hope you can take that to heart and not put pressure on yourself to make it feel like you’re the one who has to perform some kind of miracle. You do not. The miracles are God’s responsibility. We just seek to make ourselves willing and available vessels if He wants to do such a work.