Difficult Questions Answered


I am an atheist. I will give you 10 minutes to convince me to at least reconsider Christianity before I completely write it off. What would you tell me?

Answered by Dr. Bruce Barton,
Pastor, Central Baptist Church

There can be no such thing as an atheist. This is why: Let’s imagine that you are a professing atheist. Here are two questions for you to answer: First, do you know the combined weight of all the sand on all the beaches of Hawaii? We can safely assume that you don’t. This brings us to the second question: Do you know how many hairs are on the back of a fully-grown male Tibetan yak? Probably not. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that there are some things that you don’t know. It is important to ask these questions because there are some people who think they know everything.

Let’s say that you know an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. To know 100 percent, you would have to know everything. There wouldn’t be a rock in the universe that you would not be intimately familiar with, or a grain of sand that you would not be aware of. You would know everything that has happened in history, from that which is common knowledge to the minor details of the secret love life of Napoleon’s great-grandmother’s black cat’s fleas. You would know every hair of every head, and every thought of every heart. All history would be laid out before you, because you would be omniscient (all-knowing).

Bear in mind that one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, Thomas Edison, said, “We do not know a millionth of one percent about anything.” Let me repeat: Let’s say that you have an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. Would it be possible, in the ninety-nine percent of the knowledge that you haven’t yet come across, that there might be ample evidence to prove the existence of God? If you are reasonable, you will be forced to admit that it is possible. Somewhere, in the knowledge you haven’t yet discovered, there could be enough evidence to prove that God does exist.

Let’s look at the same thought from another angle. If I were to make an absolute statement such as, “There is no gold in China,” what is needed for that statement to be proven true? I need absolute or total knowledge. I need to have information that there is no gold in any rock, in any river, in the ground, in any store, in any ring, or in any mouth (gold filling) in China. If there is one speck of gold in China, then my statement is false and I have no basis for it. I need absolute knowledge before I can make an absolute statement of that nature. Conversely, for me to say, “There is gold in China,” I don’t need to have all knowledge. I just need to have seen a speck of gold in the country, and the statement is then true.

To say categorically, “There is no God,” is to make an absolute statement. For the statement to be true, I must know for certain that there is no God in the entire universe. No human being has all knowledge. Therefore, none of us is able to truthfully make this assertion.

If you insist upon disbelief in God, what you must say is, “Having the limited knowledge I have at present, I believe that there is no God.” Owning up to a lack of knowledge on your part, you don’t know if God exists. So, in the strict sense of the word, you cannot be an atheist. The only true qualifier for the title is the One who has absolute knowledge, and why on earth would God want to deny His own existence?

The professing atheist is what is commonly known as an “agnostic” - one who claims he “doesn’t know” if God exists. It is interesting to note that the Latin equivalent for the Greek word is “ignoramus.” The Bible tells us that this ignorance is “willful” (Psalm 10:4). It’s not that a person can’t find God, but that he won’t. It has been rightly said that the “atheist” can’t find God for the same reason a thief can’t find a policeman. He knows that if he admits that there is a God, he is admitting that he is ultimately responsible to Him. This is not a pleasant thought for some.

It is said that Mussolini (the Italian dictator), once stood on a pinnacle and cried, “God, if you are there, strike me dead!” When God didn’t immediately bow to his dictates, Mussolini then concluded that there was no God. However, his prayer was answered some time later.

*  Excerpted from God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists by Ray Comfort.

If I don’t forgive others, does that mean God won’t forgive me?

Answered by Craig Carter,
Pastor, Lynn Haven United Methodist Church

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made a frightening assertion: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NLT)

Does this mean God’s forgiveness is conditional? Certainly not, because the New Testament makes it clear God in Christ has already forgiven us. But what it does mean is that if we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, we will never fully experience God’s forgiveness. I like to compare it to a drain pipe that is clogged with impediments. Only when they are removed can water flow freely. In the same way, our lives are stopped up with all kinds of “stuff” that is a result of other persons’ poor choices. We can never fully receive God’s blessings, including His forgiveness, until we make room. The way in which this happens is by forgiving others.

Further motivation for forgiving others is found in Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant recorded in Matthew 18. Even though the king forgave this man’s enormous debt, he steadfastly refused to forgive the paltry debt owed him by a fellow servant. When the king found out what happened, he had the unforgiving servant thrown in prison and tortured. The message is clear: any sins committed against us pale in comparison to the sins we’ve committed against God. Since He has freely forgiven us, we are compelled to go and do likewise.

So the question is not, “If I don’t forgive others, will God forgive me?” Instead, we must consider, “If I’ve received God’s forgiveness, why in the world wouldn’t I want to forgive others?” The answer is obvious and forces us to take the Apostle Paul’s words to heart: “Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13b NLT)

I’ve heard some of my friends say that the God of the Old Testament is a God of hate and that the God of the New Testament is a God of love. What do you say?

Answered by Dr. Michael Claunch,
Pastor, St. Andrew Baptist Church

The question your friends are asking is a common one, but one that results from not reading the Bible completely. First, God is not a God of hatred. God does hate sin, and ultimately God does send His wrath upon sin and those who choose to continue in sin. The wrath of God is a consequence of His holiness.

Holiness is the only part of the character of God that is thrice repeated in worship in heaven. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

Out of God`s holiness, His wrath falls upon those that reject the one and only way God has provided for people to have sin forgiven and be holy also.

This provision was made by Christ´s substitutionary death on the cross and His resurrection.

It is accepted by putting one´s faith in Christ and trusting Him as Lord and Savior.

Both Old and New Testaments declare both the wrath and love of God.


Ezekiel 18:4
… The soul who sins shall die.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.


Deuteronomy 23:5 … the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Only those who reject the provision of God´s love in Christ need fear His wrath.

Will people be condemned for not believing in Jesus if they have never heard his name?

Answered by Cory Colravy,
Pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church

Sinners are not condemned for what they don’t know about Jesus but for what they do know about God from creation, and willfully suppress and reject (Rom. 1:18-32). If ignorance of Jesus is an excuse at the Judgment (which it isn’t), then an argument could be made that we shouldn’t chance people’s eternal destiny by evangelizing them. But salvation comes, not by ignorance, but by hearing the truth of the gospel (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, God sends His people into all the world with the message of free forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ that we might be right with God and fulfill our life purpose: to glorify Jesus Christ in all things and enjoy God forever.

It is not “God’s job” to forgive anyone or even to give them a chance to be saved. (It’s not God’s job, but it is His promise.) Salvation is not an entitlement. The sovereign Lord owes us sinners nothing but judgment and condemnation in hell under His just wrath forever. Our problem is that God’s holiness sits on us like a feather and, therefore, like mud on a pig, we are too comfortable in our sin. We need to learn that we are all “sinful beyond measure” because God is infinitely holy (Rom. 7:13). The more appropriate question is, “How is it possible that God could save any of us filthy, rebellious sinners at all?” We make God small, forgetting that He sovereignly saves whom He pleases and His hand is not shortened (Is. 59:1). God is the Potter, we are the clay. Has the Potter no right over the clay to make out of the same lump of humanity some for honored use and another for dishonored use (Rom. 9:21)?

In your opinion, what is the basic Christian argument against evolution?

Answered by Dr. Craig Conner,
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church

When it comes to how everything above us, below us, and around us came into being, we really have only two choices. We believe in the Genesis account of creation; or we believe in man’s theory of evolution. We either believe Genesis 1:1 that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, or we believe that everything evolved over billions of years. Make no mistake, we cannot believe both and it is futile to try and harmonize the two. It has to be one or the other.

Evolution is a theory that was invented to eliminate the God of Genesis who gave us His Law which we have broken. Society embraces evolution because it eliminates the God to whom we are accountable. If there is no creator there is no judge, if there is no judge we can live as we please. Evolution fits perfectly into the predominant ideology of the day, humanism. To me it is much more reasonable to believe the eyewitness account of the Creator than to believe a theory of someone who was not there when it happened.

The Christian’s argument against evolution is Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created….” It all boils down to the issue of “authority.” What is our authority? It is either the Bible or scientific theory. Everyone must choose whether they will appraise Scripture by science or science by Scripture. It is just that simple when it comes to evolution- what is our authority? The origin of everything that science can observe is explained in one succinct verse, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

What is the most incredible miracle that you have personally witnessed??

Answered by Rev. Phil Edwards,
First Assembly of God

“A Bonafide Miracle!”

In 1996, four doctors said my 60 year-old mother had 3 months to live -- with cirrhosis of the liver in its final stages. She rededicated her life to Christ, and moved into my house.

The fourth doctor, Eugene Evans, in Panama City, told me, “The liver doesn’t regenerate. I suggest: make her as comfortable as possible; pray she dies in her sleep.”

At home, I desperately cried, “Lord, I don’t know how to pray, as you said (Rom. 8:26). I accept your will, but tell me what it IS. Will you heal her HERE, or in HEAVEN? I’m asking for a clear answer EITHER WAY.”

Soon after, when no one was home but Mom and me, I was paying her bills. Suddenly, audibly, very clearly, I heard a voice behind me. It said, “I will heal your mother.” I turned to see if someone was there, but there wasn’t.

A few nights later, Mom and I were praying together, and the words of Proverbs 18:21 and John 6:63 rose in my heart. As I prayed in His name, life-giving words from Jesus poured into her body. She said she felt God healing her.

After that, at each visit to Dr. Evans, he called for a second blood test to confirm his findings – she’s improving! Three months later, he said, “In all my years of medicine, I have NEVER seen anyone recover from cirrhosis of the liver in the final stage like this. Her liver is functioning normally. You have a bonafide miracle here!”

Mom volunteers at the hospital, and shares about Jesus’ healing power with anyone needing a miracle.

Is it fair that someone can accept Jesus right before they die and they get the same gift of eternal life that I do when I accepted Jesus Christ years ago and have spent most of my life serving God?

Answered by Dr. John C. Friedman,
Pastor, Forest Park United Methodist Church


Matthew 20:1-16

Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, is writing a letter to Santa Claus and in the process generates an enormous list of toys she wants. At the conclusion of her letter she writes, “Santa, if that is too much for you to carry, just send cash.” When Charlie Brown sees this and despairs over his sister’s greed, Sally angrily responds, “All I want is my fair share. All I want is what I have coming to me.” We all want life to be fair to us, but when it comes to salvation, “We Don’t Want What Is Fair. We Want Grace!” Jesus’ parable about the workers in the vineyard helps us to understand this great Biblical truth.

Peter had asked Jesus a serious question. Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who pays equal wages for workers who do not work equal hours. Everybody is treated the same! Jesus is telling Peter that he will receive the same reward for his discipleship as everyone else. This parable is not about receiving what is fair. It’s about grace.

The person who accepts Jesus late in life is just as saved and just as important as the person who accepts Jesus early in life. Romans 6:23 reminds us of what we deserve and of what God gives us instead: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life….” Instead of giving us what we deserve, punishment for our sins, God gives us what we don’t deserve, grace. When it comes to salvation, “We Don’t Want What Is Fair. We Want Grace!”

Occasionally I have doubts. For instance, how can this whole Christianity thing be true? Have you ever had doubts and regardless of whether you have had them or not, how would you suggest I deal with them?

Answered by Jason Hall,
Pastor, The Dove

Doubt has a bad reputation in most Christian circles because it is often portrayed as the enemy of faith. There is a problem with this portrayal of doubt though because faith is not certainty. The apostle Paul gives us some insight into the nature of faith in 1 Corinthians 13:12 when he says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” The insight Paul gives us here is that faith recognizes that there are things about God that we will never know in the short years of these mortal lives we are leading. God shows us enough of Himself to enable faith but to not force certainty upon us. Without certainty, doubt has room to roam and it does so throughout our lives.

The question then is not will we face doubt, but rather, what will we choose to believe when there is not sufficient information given for us to be certain. We will either choose to follow faith or fear. What is faith? The writer of Hebrews gives us a great definition in Hebrew 11:1, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Faith is the choice to believe that God is true and trustworthy in spite of my fears and doubt.

For a Methodist Pastor

Many Methodists I know don’t believe ‘once saved, always saved.’ What would you tell me to defend that position?

Answered by Jack Hankins,
Pastor, Emmaus United Methodist Church

What most United Methodists believe is based on our belief in the “free will” of the individual. The Bible supports the fact that God gives you and me the opportunity to choose Him or reject Him. In the Garden of Eden, God put the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and gave Adam and Eve a choice to eat or not to eat. John 3:16 gives “Whoever believe in Him” a choice to accept or reject Christ. Revelation 3:20 gives us a choice—Behold I stand at the door and knock—we may choose to open that door! So far, most Christians agree. Where the difference arises is after one accepts Christ. Methodists believe that we retain “free will” after salvation. That is to say, it is possible for a believer to change their mind and willfully reject Christ as their Saviour. I did not say “lose you salvation.” That is a common abuse of the doctrine of “Free Will.” You may lose your car keys; that is not intentional. One must purposely reject Christ, not simply have a bad day or rough patch.

Scripture supports this in Hebrews 6:4-8, I Timothy 4:1-5, II Timothy 3:1-5. “In later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful doctrines (I Timothy).” The Bible uses the word “apostasy,” to refer to those who choose to reject their salvation. The great news is the Bible also teaches that we can have an assurance of our salvation. It is not based on our works but His work (I John 5:11-13). For we live, worship and repent on a daily basis without fear or being overcome by doubt about our salvation (Romans 8:14-16).

One of the most common themes in the Bible is that we are not supposed to judge others. However, there is a Scripture that seems to contradict that. It is 1 Corinthians 2:15 that says, “the spiritual man makes judgments about all things but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment. How do you interpret that Scripture?

Answered by Henry Hazard,
Heritage Bible Church

In this passage the Greek word for “judgment” is anakrino and the primary meaning is to question, examine, conduct an examination, discern. It is used 16 times in the New Testament and in most cases it refers to searching for the facts. For example, it was used by Pilate when he examined Jesus and found no fault in Him (Lk.23:14). It was used by Paul to describe how the Berean Christians examined the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11).

Perhaps a different translation would clarify the meaning of 1 Cor. 2:15: “He who is spiritual (the mature Christian) examines all things, yet he himself is examined (questioned, called to account) by no one.” (The bold indicates anakrino is used. The words in the parentheses are added for clarification.) The spiritual man is examined by God (1 Cor.4:4).

God does not expect Christians to be gullible. We should examine the facts about God, about the Word, and about the world; then we can make wise decisions based on those facts.br />br /> Jesus did say, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Mt. 7:1). The Greek word used here is krino which does mean, among other things, “to criticize, find fault with.” Our Lord does not want us to be critical of others. But, again, we don’t need to be gullible, either. Later in that same context, Jesus stated, “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt.7:20). If someone steals, he is a thief. If someone lies, he is a liar. You know him by his fruit. That is not judging him (krino). That is examining the facts and making a decision based upon those facts (anakrino).

May we not be gullible or critical. May the Lord help us to be discerning by examining all things (1 Corinthians 2:15).

Can Satan Read Our Minds?

Answered by Linda Hoffman,
The Hoffman Company

Scripture doesn’t say that Satan can read our minds, but that he is indeed very powerful. Satan is not omnipresent. He cannot be in more than one place at a time. He pretty much has to rely on his demons to do his work for him. Although he and his demons can’t read our minds, they can hear our speech and see our actions. They are also capable of influencing our thoughts. He and his demons have been observing and tempting humans for thousands of years. They’ve learned a few things about us from watching us constantly, and know how to trip our trigger in our (obvious to them) areas of weakness. As we can sometimes know what someone is thinking that we are around a lot, so can they. Even if they’re not spot-on with their assessment, they know how to use it to their advantage. They are experts in human behavior.

As believers, it is important to know our enemy. Be wise to his schemes. Know that he is a master of deception. Most importantly, know that with God’s help and the Holy Spirit’s power, we can fend off his lies. When a thought comes into our mind that is not in line with the Word of God, we are to “cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Remember, just because he presented the thought/temptation, doesn’t mean you have to act upon it. It also doesn’t mean you have sinned, unless you choose to dwell on it. He realizes no success until he hears our words or sees our actions confirming his influence on our minds.

A recent study by a university reported that the average American tells approximately 3 lies per hour. With that in mind and being a Christian, how would you suggest we handle it when our wife, for instance, asks us how we like her new hairdo, and we have seen more attractive mops? Do we tell her the truth and risk the doghouse for six weeks, or do we fib and tell her she outshines Julia Roberts?

Answered by Steve Irwin,
Executive Pastor, Woodlawn United Methodist Church

et’s be honest, sometimes telling the truth is not an easy thing to do. What makes it even more difficult is we live in a society that believes, in many situations, lies are justifiable. “Little white lies” are often viewed as a necessary way to preserve the peace in our relationships. However, the Bible is quite clear. Lying is a sin (Leviticus 19:11). And in Proverbs 6:16-19, God’s condemnation of lying doesn’t contain any exemptions for the sake of “relational peace,” “being nice” or avoiding the proverbial “doghouse.” So…are we expected to practice brutal honesty?

I believe Paul offers us the best advice. He encourages us to “speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Often times it isn’t what we say but how we say it that causes friction. Proverbs 15:1-2 tells us a “gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.” Notice the “answer” is neutral. The outcome is influenced by the presentation (gentle versus harsh). The key is to make sure our speech (our content, tone, pitch, volume, word choice) is gracious (Colossians 4:6). Perhaps we would do well to re-read First Corinthians 13.

“Speaking the truth in love” means that sometimes we are going to say things the listener would rather not hear. But it also means we’ll do it in a way that isn’t demeaning, demoralizing or destructive. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Trust is essential for a healthy relationship. The best relationships are built on truth…not “little white lies.” So...my speaking the “truth in love” response to the question about her hair, I would say, “I think I liked your former hair style better.”

Out of all the sins we Christians commit, in your opinion what sin do we commit the most, and why

Answered by Rev. Fr. Wesley Tetsuji Kan,
Pastor, Redemption Lutheran Church

In the final analysis, there really is only one eternally soul damning sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, a shorthand way of saying refusal to repent and confess sin.  The only sin that the Lord cannot cover is the one that the sinner refuses to surrender unto Him through repentance and confession.

However, as to the enumerated individual sins, certainly the one everyone, Christians and unsaved alike, most often commit is violating the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”  Anything and anyone that takes precedence over obedience to Christ is a god before Him.  That includes the obvious items:  wealth, power and sex, but also the less obvious:  self-esteem, family, fame, avoiding loss and suffering and spurning self-sacrifice that are not sins of themselves but become sin when placed before God.  In reality, every other sin is merely a variant manifestation of this sin.

The reason this sin persists is because it is the core sin of Satan, Adam and Eve, each of whom wanted to be like God.  Each of us is constantly saying to God, “my will not Thine be done,” the opposite of Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane.  Whether we admit it or not, the unholy trinity, Me, Myself and I, constantly seeks to regain sovereignty over the Christian’s soul.  Sanctification is truly nothing more than the “New Adam” that the Holy Spirit created in each Christian daily waging war against the “Old Adam” sin nature.

Are there different degrees of punishment in hell?

Answered by Randy Kuhn,
Pastor, Carlisle Baptist Church

The Bible is clear; there is a Hell. Yet, many Christians struggle with this reality because it seems unfair to them that every lost sinner must go to Hell for eternity regardless of the degree of their sin. Many Christians are helped to greater confidence in this Biblical doctrine when they learn that there are, in fact, degrees of punishment in Hell.

How do we know that this is true? We know because the God of the Bible is “a just God” (Is. 45:21). He rewards and punishes every man justly and fairly- “Every transgression and disobedience receive[s] a just recompense of reward (Heb. 2:2).” The reaping will be according to the sowing- “Whatever a man sows that he will also reap (Gal. 6:7).” Jesus was clear; some people will receive “greater condemnation” (Mark 12:40). The level of punishment in Hell is partly determined by the seriousness of an individual’s sins- “Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin (John 19:11).” The severity of our judgment will also be partly determined by the amount of Gospel light we had while here on earth. In Matt. 11:20-24, Jesus made it clear that it would be “more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment” than for Bethsaida and Chorazin because the latter cities had more Gospel revelation and yet still rejected Christ. Again, this is clearly seen in Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:47 where some are “beaten with many stripes” and others are “beaten with few stripes.”

Be strengthened in your faith, Christian! Every person who goes to Hell will receive exactly the punishment they deserve.

For a Baptist Pastor

Many Baptists I know believe that once saved, always saved. What would you tell me to defend that position?

Answered by Steven Kyle,
Pastor, Hiland Park Baptist Church

If I could be saved and then by some act lose my salvation:

It would mean that I have no assurance. I could never be certain of salvation.

It would mean that I have no forgiveness. The Bible clearly teaches that Christ died for my sins. If I can lose my salvation, it must mean that there are some sins in my life for which He has not died. Clearly, no one is forgiven!

It would mean that I am not saved by faith alone. The Bible proves over and over that salvation is by faith alone, apart from any human works. Ephesians 2:8-9 say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works so no one could boast.” To imply that salvation is maintained by good works is to add works to salvation and then it cannot be by faith alone. Good works are not the root of salvation, they are the fruit of salvation.

It would mean that God’s power is limited. John 10:28 says, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” If we could lose our salvation, then God is not strong enough to keep us saved! Believers do not hold on to God. In Jesus, He holds on to them.

It would mean that our focus is not on Christ. As long as I worry about whether I can lose my salvation or not, my focus is on me and my behavior and not on Christ and His redemptive finished work on the cross.

Somewhere in the Bible I read that if we have just the faith the size of a mustard seed, we could ask that a mountain be cast into the ocean and it would be done. To your knowledge, has any human ever obtained that level of faith? 

Answered by Randy McInvale,
Randolph Thomas McInvale P.A.
(Certified Public Accountant)

First we must interpret what Jesus is saying in relation to the context of the passage.  Keep in mind that the LORD had given the disciples the authority to specifically cast out demons earlier (Matthew 10:6-8).  In the passage the disciples failed where at one time they succeeded.  Therefore it was not lack of authority but as we see by Christ comments it is because of their absence of faith.  Without faith we can-not please God (Heb.11:6) and, in fact, whatever doesn’t proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).  The mustard seed was considered the smallest of all seeds.  Jesus was sharing that it was not the amount of faith that is important but the object for which we have faith in.  The problem is that the disciples did not have faith in God but in themselves. 

The teachers of Judaism commonly used the “mountain moving” imagery as a way to describe “mountain size”  obstacles in life that could either be removed or pulverized.  Jesus was not speaking of the actual physical removal of a mountain.  This is the kind of sign that the Pharisees and Sadducees demanded of him when they tested him earlier in Matthew 16:1,2 and were rebuked for it.  

The second part of the question was to share if I had ever seen “mustard seed faith in God that can move mountains”.  Yes and so has everyone else that has had prayer answered, Matthew 17:21.  The person that has been saved by the grace of God through faith has overcome the mountain of everlasting death.  The mountain that was removed by Jesus when he “bore the penalty for our sin” is the largest mountain that anyone will ever face and compared to that all other obstacles in our life can comparatively be considered hills!  (See Matthew 17:20 “Mustard Seed” scripture.)

If a child were to ask you the following question: “How do you know God is real?” what would your answer be?

Answered by Rev. Michael Murphy

Is God real? How do we know He really exists?    People have always asked this question, not just children or teenagers, but even adults.  In the Bible even Moses asked the question to God, “Who are you? What do I tell people when they ask, “who are you God?”  The answer he got was, “Tell them  “I AM THAT I AM !”   [EXODUS 3:14].  So even today this question is still asked.  Besides what the Bible tells us and the historical evidence shows, there is one thought I would like to share with you, to give you something to think about.  First, know we must come to God by faith, [Hebrews 11:6, “For he that comes to God must believe that He is.”]   So let’s look at some very simple things created by God that we can see and KNOW that He is real. Each day we see the sun, the stars in the sky, the moon, this earth and all the beauty He created. But let’s look at something we cannot see.  How many people have ever seen the wind?  We see the results of the wind, but have never actually seen the wind !   We  believe in the wind because we see the trees blowing, the flag waving, the bird being pushed through the air,  all by the wind that is there, but cannot be seen.   We can also know that we have not seen God, but just as the wind is real, He is real also. We want to see before we believe, but Jesus tells us “Blessed are those that have not seen but yet believe.” (John 20:29). The next time you look and see the trees moving from the wind, remember you cannot see the wind, but yet you believe. God is just as real as the wind.  By faith you can believe in God and know He is REAL !!!

You hear a lot of people saying what is “wrong” with the church, but what in your opinion is “right” about the church?

Answered by Kenny Payne,
Minister, Palo Alto Church of Christ

Because the church is people, not brick and mortar, there will always be obvious things “wrong” with the church, since people are not perfect! The church is a group of sinners saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, therefore, it is a good idea to look long enough to notice the wonderful things about the church.

The church is a loving spiritual family. With God as our Father and Jesus as our older brother, we unite in a love that is deep and sincere.

The church is a place where we tell one another the truth about ourselves and the world around us. Jesus told us that the truth would set us free, and despite the pain of hearing and acknowledging the truth, it does liberate us from our sins and pretensions.

The church is actively serving the “least of these” in the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Throughout our history the church has been involved in some of the most helpful projects to serve people – like creating hospitals, orphanages, rescue missions, etc. We follow the example of Jesus who came, not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

The church is a community of encouragement. We are taught to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). People find real help and support from their church families, not just words.

Love, truth, service, encouragement – these are just a few of the things that are right with the church. To discover more you should really just go see for yourself!

I am a sophomore in college and am very confused because we are being told that science has disproved much of the Bible and that I should “re-think” my faith.  What would you suggest to me?

Answered by William & Donna Pfeffer,
Pastors, The Tabernacle

I would suggest that you use this time to allow your faith to grow by looking at some facts concerning our Bible.   Understand that the Bible was written over a 1500 year period by 40 authors, prominent men of their times and completed approximately 2000 years ago.  The Bible is not a scientific book but consider the following that before anyone understood the truth of these statements the bible records:

1. The earth is a sphere. (People used to think is was flat)    Isaiah 40:22

2. The number of stars are more than a billion.  (It was once held that there was only 1100.)  Gen 22:17, 32:12, Jeremiah 33:22

3. Every star is different.  (It was once thought that they were all the same.) 1 Corinthians 15:41

4. Light is in motion.  (It was believed that light is fixed in place)  Job 38:35, 38:19

5. Air has weight.  (The thought used to be that air is weightless.) Job 28:25

6. Winds blow in cyclones.  (It was believed that winds blow straight.)  Ecclesiastes 1:6

7. Blood is the source of life and healing.  (Practice used to be to bleed sick people.)  Leviticus 17:11

And I could continue with more facts but what is most important is that you should have an idea of what you believe and why you believe it.  Life will come at you with many issues and challenging problems but instead of allowing them to push you away from your faith, see it as an opportunity to grow spiritually and in knowledge of your faith by opening your Bible.

Also find comfort to know that many famous scientists were also believers (Newton, Kepler, Pascal, Bacon, Pasteur, Kelvin, Marconi, Maxwell, Carver, Fleming, Hertz, and Von Braun, to name a few).

A lot of people I know say: “I am a Christian but I don’t go to church.” What, as a pastor, would you tell a person who says that?

Answered by Steve Rascoe,
Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Panama City

I have had some amazing experiences in my life outside of the Church that I knew God was there. When I read the Bible, no where do I read that Christians have a solo act in living in the world. Actually the scripture talks about community and refers to the community as an “assembly” or “body of Christ.” The New Testament is full of “one another” commands. We are to comfort one another (I Thessalonians 4:18), build up one another (I Thessalonians 5:11), confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and pray for one another (James 5:16) A Christian who answers only to himself can easily rationalize sinful attitudes or actions; regular contact and fellowship with other Christians can keep us close to the heart and will of Christ.

There are some irreplaceable pieces of the Christian life and experiences that cannot happen when you live in isolation from the church. Every Christian is designed to become a part of the body of Christ. A single verse can answer this question: Hebrews 10:25  “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I pray we all can consider the need to be a part of a Church. We all are broken people, but through God’s grace we can find a place to share in our brokenness and find healing. It is a place where you can be given the opportunity to give back to others from the struggles you have experienced. Together we can be the Church!

Why doesn’t God always heal the sick when we pray for healing?

Answered by Dr. Wade Rinehart,
First Choice Physical Therapy

One of the names of God is Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord who heals.” So “Why doesn’t God always heal the sick when we pray for healing?” God is never surprised by the trials in our lives. God is sovereign and he is never caught off guard by our diagnoses of cancer. He knows our needs before we do and will supply us what we need when we need it. Mathew 6:26 states” Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Although we don’t need cancer, or even a cold, God sometimes uses these trials to refine us and bring us closer to him and closer to the person we were meant to be. So, in light of God’s sovereignty, and the fact that he knows what we need, our diagnosis of a disease might sometimes be a positive thing. I believe that things just happen because we are human and live in a fallen world. However, the big ticket items, like cancer, may in certain instances, be a blessing in disguise. Mark 8:26 states “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

What a tragedy to lose someone to cancer or some other terrible disease, but an even greater tragedy to lose a soul to grips of hell. C.S. Lewis stated it best when he said “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

One of the most used excuses to reject Christianity is that so many hypocrites are in the church. When witnessing to a person, how should I respond to someone that uses that excuse?

Answered by Jeff Scalf,
Lead Pastor, St. Andrew Assembly of God

In reality are there any “bad cops?”   Yes, of course. And the reality is “yes” pretty much in any career field there are “bad apples.”  So in reality does that make the majority of cops bad? No, it doesn’t and in fact, most of them are good.  So in reality there are hypocrites in every church yet in reality that doesn’t make the majority of Christians hypocrites. 

If you mistrust all cops because you ran into a bad cop you are incorrect in your inner assessment that all cops are bad.  Likewise if you run into a bonafide Christian hypocrite you are also incorrect in your inner assessment that all Christians are hypocrites.

What, in your opinion, is the number one reason non-believers use to reject Christianity…and how could we, as Christians, answer that rejection?

Answered by Luther Stanford,
Pastor, Northside Baptist Church

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” And with those words, uttered more than six decades ago, Gandhi shared the sentiment of most non-believers toward Christianity. In short, the problem is the gap between what we profess and how we live. The gap between the beautiful grace of Christ and the ugly actions of people who bear His name. The larger the gap, the larger the problem. And most non-believers think the gap is just too big. Jesus would use the word “hypocrite.”

And who can blame them? Gospel presentation without gospel demonstration is just a clanging cymbal. It takes Christ-like love in words and deeds to authenticate our message.

I have a friend who sells “Crocs” shoes. One day a customer was in his store and asked about the “Crocs.” My friend said, “If you buy them, you’ll never want another pair of shoes on your feet.” The customer then looked down, said, “so why aren’t you wearing them?” and then walked out of the store.

How can Christians answer that rejection? Here’s my two cents…We cannot answer that rejection by trying to win an argument. The unbelieving world will never be drawn to Christ by Christians who simply shout louder. When we proclaim the message of Christ, they will look us over, much like my friend’s customer, and ask, “But do you live the message?” And when we do, they will too.

Let’s say that one of your church members buys a scratch-off lottery ticket and wins $250,000. Then this person offers your church 10% which is $25,000. Since the money was won gambling (which Christians aren’t supposed to do) would you accept it?

Answered by Tim Stephens,
Pastor, Callaway Assembly of God

YES. I would also accept a donation from a drug dealer, prostitute, stripper, or anyone else who has engaged in an illegal or questionable activity. WHY? Let’s be clear, I don’t support or encourage illegal or questionable activities, or things like the lottery which are legal but morally suspect when applying the principles of God’s Word. The question is not, “Do you support the lottery,” but very specifically, “Would you accept money from a person who obtained it from a questionable activity.” Read that last sentence again. There is a difference. Suppose someone received money through what may be considered questionable means, and decides to give some of the money to a church. If they experience the grace, mercy and love of Jesus Christ in their life, and want to express their gratitude in a monetary way… what kind of message would it send for the church to reject their heartfelt act of generosity toward God through the church? You’re not good enough, you’re too tainted to associate with us, or any number of impressions that would give off the “holier than thou” vibe. Listen, I’m not saying that we should compromise the principles of God’s word to make people comfortable. Quite the opposite. I’m saying that we should clearly live the principles of God’s Word, which includes loving people toward a loving Savior. Money itself is amoral (not good or evil in and of itself), so this isn’t a question about money as much as it’s a question about people.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Answered by George Stewart,
Bay Engineering Solutions

First, we must establish what is good and what is bad. The measure of good is the righteousness of God. With this as the base line for good, then we must assume that not one of us is really good. While some are ”better than others,” not one of us reaches the good and righteousness level of God. Romans 3:23 says: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” Now that this is established, like it or not, we are the product of a fallen world. The one constant factor is the human “free will.” That being said, we typically find God in one of two traditional ways, Truth or Pain.

In “Truth,” God’s complete Love and Mercy are often demonstrated in the tragedy of life events. When we lose a Christian friend or family member in their prime of life, whether they are young or older, as Christians we are given an assurance that helps us deal with bad things happening to good people. John 14: 2-3 says: “In my Father’s house, there are many mansions: if it weren’t not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

While “Pain,” is unpleasant, it motivates us to look outside of ourselves for the understanding of how and why things are the way they are. We learn and grow spiritually more in the valley of pain than we do in mountain top experiences…where our external circumstances appear to be going well.

James encourages us with the following Scripture James1:2-3: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

What is the role of Bay County Christians regarding Spring Break on Panama City Beach?

Answered by Dr. Steve Taylor,
Pastor, Emerald Coast Fellowship

Be informed. Talk with law enforcement or emergency medical personnel. They will tell you what the score is. If you think the ruckus only happens at night behind two clubs, you are uninformed. The sexual immorality, drunkenness, and lawlessness are incompatible with the teachings of Christ. Maybe this is the reason per capita we lead the nation in divorce and the state in the number of children removed from homes -- Google it!

Pray that the 16 proposed changes to “Spring Break” make a difference. Sounds like a lot of change, but law enforcement and medical personnel remain unconvinced. Why? Alcohol volume on the beaches was not addressed.

Pray for the PCB Council and the Bay County Commissioners. And let them know that you are praying for them. I have found them to be very kind and approachable. Most officials I have talked with hear very little from the Christian community in general.

Pray for the business leaders on PCB. Pray they become sensitive to the effect this culture is having on local families. Our guests may experience “Spring Break” one week a year, but our teenagers and young adults experience Spring Break six weeks a year.

Speak truth in love! Leave the mean-spirited, legalistic attitude at home when you speak with area leaders. They will tune you out. The majority of the 176,000 residents of Bay County claim to be followers of Jesus, so where is the moral outcry? When I apply the heart of Jesus to Spring Break on PCB, silence for me is no longer an option. 

Why do you think it is that a lot of us Christians are afraid to share our faith?

Answered by Tom Tillery,
Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church

1. Many of us don’t know the basic principles of our faith:

a. Salvation by grace alone (Eph.2:8 For it is by grace you are saved and not by works so no one can boast).

b. The fallen nature of man (Romans 3:23 All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God).

c. The Sovereignty of God----is a theme throughout the Bible; the truth that God has authority to do what He pleases (I Chron. 29:11-12, Lam. 3:37-38, Ps. 115:3).

d. The inerrancy of scripture (II Tim. 3:16 All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training so that the man of God can be fully equipped).

e. The process of salvation (Romans 10:9-10 if you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with your mouth, you will be saved)

2. Unfortunately, some of us don’t care enough about the lost to reach out to them. God insists we share our faith. When genuine faith is lived out, it flows through one’s speech.

Many people that don’t share their faith may be too self-centered or in biblical terms, have too much pride:

What will they think of me? Am I a fanatic, Am I trying to convict them instead of letting God’s Word do that? Am I ashamed of what I believe? Do I really care that this person might go to Hell? Is it too much accountability for me….will they be watching me for errors in my ways?

What if they ask me a question I can’t answer? Am I unable to lovingly express God’s grace and forgiveness which extends to all of mankind?

Is it possible for a Christian to completely quit sinning?

Answered by Steve Whisenhunt,
American Lift Company

If we are talking about one hour in a pew, a week or month, then maybe. Do we include ALL sins, whether by omission or commission? Or just the Ten Commandments? Are we talking about a normal life expectancy? If so I would have to answer by saying this. If someone told me “since I’ve accepted Jesus Christ, and repented of my sins, I have not, nor will I ever sin again.” I would have to take the escape clause, and leave any judgment of any individual’s heart to our Father, the cardio knower. Some folks have tremendous testimonies to be admired but none walk perfectly. I believe we have already seen the only perfect man and that was in our Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian may stop sinning for a time, but a life time?

I know all things are possible through God’s grace, but having said that, we all have natural tendencies that act as a head wind buffeting us as we run our own individual race.

I believe we maintain our salvation by being alert and conscious of our sinful nature and when needed repentant of our transgressions. The scriptures are full of examples of Gods willingness to forgive the sins of both the righteous and unrighteous. As Christians we have the perfect example in Jesus Christ, and while we strive to be like Him we fall short.

As for the question at hand “Is it possible for a Christian to completely quit sinning? I would say no, as I understand both scriptures and life. Just look around church...no one is there because they’re perfect, but we’re trying to get there.

Note: I have to confess this question was more challenging than I had expected it to be, it made for a great study given all the variables of any one given life. So with that said. I recommend 1st John Chapter 1 to start yours.

Is there any concrete way that I can be sure I’m saved?  Also, someone once told me that if I was convicted (a sincere feeling of guilt) by the Holy Spirit when I sinned, that was a sure sign of being saved.  Do you agree with that? 

Answered by Delwynn Williams,
Pastor, St. John Missionary Baptist Church

Firstly, let’s define salvation; being saved or rescued.  Salvation is the initial step in the sanctification process.  Sanctification is the lifelong cleansing experience and process that each Christian goes through upon being saved.  Romans 10:9 tells us to confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead and that makes us saved.   If I follow these steps, I’m saved.  To me, that’s the essence of truly knowing one is saved.  God makes no mistakes.   Our salvation is totally in the Will of God and by His own decision.  And when He receives us, salvation is a done deal!  How do I know He’s received me?  Because He said He would if I would confess and believe.  Therefore, I trust Him at His word and that gives me blessed assurance of my own safety and well-being.   Ephesians 2:8 says it is by grace that we are saved; not by works that we may be able to brag about it.  God saved us, we made the decision to give up to Him.  Now He will keep us unto the day of redemption.  Good people aren’t necessarily Godly people.  Just because you have a feeling of guilt doesn’t mean that you have confessed and are committed to Christ; but it can be a clear sign that your conscience is on the way.