When you have questions about your faith, turn to Explore Your Faith—it provides concise, biblical answers to 75 common questions about the Christian faith. This easy-to-understand guide to faith addresses topics from “How can I know God exists?” and “How can I figure out what God’s will is?” to “Why do we have to keep praying for the same thing?” Each entry also includes discussion questions that are great for further study. Explore Your Faith will encourage you to dig deeper into your faith—and enhance your spiritual growth!
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Explore Your Faith
By Ed Strauss
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
How Can I Be Sure That God Exists?
Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20 NLT
Many agnostics feel that there's no way to be sure that God exists. They argue that one can think God exists and even be convinced that God exists, but at best skeptics argue that belief in God is a blind, illogical leap into the dark. But Christianity, as Paul explained to the Roman governor Festus, is a very reasonable faith. When Festus exclaimed, "You are out of your mind!" Paul replied, "I am not insane.... What I am saying is true and reasonable" (Acts 26:25 NIV).
It is reasonable because there is evidence. God created humankind and "never left them without evidence of himself" (Acts 14:17 NLT). What is the evidence? The amazing, complex world all around us and the universe above us. As Paul explained, the seasonal water cycles, the fertility of the earth, and the mystery of life itself are not only proof of God's existence, but also of His loving care. Modern biological sciences—particularly when one descends to the level of microbiology—confirm how breathtaking life is. The fingerprints of God are all over the plethora of earth's life forms. Their unique, complex, and interdependent designs are evidence that an intelligent designer made them.
David also tells us, "The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship" (Psalm 19:1 NLT). We now know the heavens to be far more awesome and astonishing than the ancients could possibly have imagined. Not only are the stars awe-inspiring and beautiful, but the universe—filled with galaxies, nebulae, red dwarfs, planets, moons, and black holes, not to mention the constant array of new discoveries—astounds us. More amazing still are the unseen laws of physics that govern everything, hold the visible universe together, and make it all work. It is an unparalleled masterpiece, and behind it is the Master Craftsman.
1. Do you agree that Christianity is a "reasonable" faith?
2. Have you read books on intelligent design? Were they helpful?
3. What recent scientific discovery has amazed you?
4. What, to you, is the greatest natural evidence of God's existence?CHAPTER 2
Where Did God Come From?
Before ... You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Psalm 90:2 NKJV
God has always existed. There has never been a time when God didn't exist. Since He has always been around, He didn't need to "come from" anywhere. Neither did He emerge from some other dimension into our present space-time reality. After all, God was the one who created space and time and all the dimensions in the first place.
One of God's titles is "the Eternal God" (Genesis 21:33 NIV). David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, stated, "You are from all eternity" (Psalm 93:2 NIV). The concept of infinity is difficult for our finite minds to grasp. In our experience, all life has both a beginning and an ending. Even the universe itself, as ancient as it is, once had a spectacular inception. But God has neither beginning nor end. He is utterly beyond any frame of reference that we have or can even logically theorize about.
We cannot begin to grasp the concept of an all-powerful Being who lives for endless ages. We can only say like Job, "How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out" (Job 36:26 NIV). In fact, for God to be God, He has to be beyond our understanding. If we could understand Him, we'd be omnipotent (all-knowing) like Him. And of course we're not. He is, as Job said, a mystery past finding out.
Some people ask, "Who made God?" The logical answer is that no one made God. If some other being had made God, then that being would be God. And we'd still be left wondering where that being came from. But the Lord tells us, "I am the First and the Last. I am the one and only God" (Isaiah 44:6 NIrV).
1. Do you think humans can grasp an infinite God? Why or why not?
2. Why must God not be finite or understandable?
3. What do you think God did before creating the universe?
4. Why couldn't some other being have created God?CHAPTER 3
How Can I Believe In Something I Can't See?
Christ is the exact likeness of God, who can't be seen. Colossians 1:15 NIRV
You can believe in an invisible God because the evidence of His existence is all around you in the things He created. This not only gives us an idea of His majestic power, but a glimpse of His divine attributes as well. Still, He knew that human beings could easily misinterpret the evidence and end up, as many did, worshipping idols instead. That is why God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth—to show us exactly what He is like.
God Himself can't be seen, but Christ is His "exact likeness." Jesus told His disciples, "'If you really knew me, you would know my Father also. From now on, you do know him. And you have seen him.' Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father. That will be enough for us.' Jesus answered, 'Don't you know me, Philip? I have been among you such a long time! Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father'" (John 14:7–9 NIRV). The Bible further tells us that Christ "is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) and "radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God" (Hebrews 1:3 NLT).
God is love, and Jesus is like His Father in every way. By living a love-filled life here on earth, in plain view day after day, Christ showed what God is like in real time. Through His actions, Jesus demonstrated that God is a caring God—that He is concerned with people's struggles and trials and temptations. By constantly healing their sicknesses, He showed that God is concerned for our sufferings. By dying for our sins, Jesus proved how far God was willing to go to bring us back into His presence.
His entire life, Jesus Christ showed us what God is like.
1. How has someone who has seen Jesus seen God?
2. Which of Jesus' actions show you God's most tender love?
3. Which of Jesus' words or actions show you God's love for justice?CHAPTER 4
How Did God Create the Universe and Our World?
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:3 NIV
The Bible opens with these sweeping words: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1 NKJV). The rest of Genesis chapter 1 explains how life on Earth was formed, but to get back to the beginning: How exactly was the cosmos itself created? Did it resemble the scenario called the big bang? We don't know. God simply commanded and the universe with all its hundreds of billions of galaxies came into being. "The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born" (Psalm 33:6 NLT).
As for how planet Earth was created, the Bible says that God spoke it into existence as well. "He spoke, and the world came into being. He commanded, and it stood firm" (Psalm 33:9 NIrV). The fact that Earth is spoken of as "formless" in the beginning (Genesis 1:2) may indicate that it was still coalescing into a globe at that early stage.
According to Genesis 1:14–19, the light from the sun, the moon, and the stars appeared in Earth's sky on the fourth day of Creation. Many Christians therefore believe that this was the day that the entire rest of the universe was created. This is not the only interpretation, however. Others believe that Genesis 1 is arranged according to alternating themes (days one and four—light; days two and five—seas; and days three and six—land) and wasn't intended to describe a precise chronological order.
Also, there are differing views about whether the days of Creation were six twenty- four-hour days or six great ages in the world's history. Both young and old earth creationists, while describing possible scenarios, seek to remain true to the scriptures, and there is much to commend both views. The important thing they agree on is that it was God who created everything.
1. Can you imagine how God could speak matter into existence?
2. How does this change your perception of God's power?
3. What order do you think God created things in?CHAPTER 5
Can the Bible and Science Be Reconciled?
"I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself ... who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense." Isaiah 44:24–25 NIV
Christians have several explanations for how the biblical accounts of Creation can be reconciled with science. The first position, young earth creationism, considers the seven days of Creation to be understood literally. They believe that the earth is less than ten thousand years old and reject all dating methods that indicate ages of billions of years. When the Bible and science disagree, they consider science to be pseudoscience—no matter how many learned men espouse it. They believe that this maxim applies: "They have rejected the word of the Lord. Are they so wise after all?" (Jeremiah 8:9 NLT).
In contrast, old earth creationists accept the great ages that the various scientific dating methods render. They believe that the testimony of the earth in an ancient geological record must affect our understanding of Genesis. They agree with Job who said, "Speak to the earth, and it will teach you" (Job 12:8 NKJV). Like the young earth creationists, they reject the theory of evolution but believe that God continually created new species at key points down through the ages. They point out that new species invariably appear in the fossil record suddenly and fully formed, not from pre-existing life forms.
Still other Christians are theistic evolutionists who believe that evolution explains how life began. They maintain, however, that God initiated the process and was intimately involved in guiding it every step of the way. Some believers in intelligent evolution reject the traditional Darwinian model of change by chance mutations, and explain that the way evolution really works is far more ingenious. They insist that an intelligent designer had to have created living organisms to make them capable of adapting the way they do.
No matter which model you believe best reconciles science and faith in God, remember: "Nothing that has been made was made without him" (John 1:3 NIRV).
1. Which explanation, in your opinion, best reconciles the Bible and science?
2. How much have you studied each of the different options?
3. How important to your faith is understanding this issue?CHAPTER 6
Are the Bible's Historical Records Accurate?
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16 KJV
The Bible's historical accounts have been repeatedly confirmed by archaeology, down to the tiniest details, constantly confounding its critics and proving that the writers of the scriptures were accurate chroniclers of historical events. Those intrigued by this subject should begin by reading Halley's Bible Handbook. If you're interested in learning even more, you'll be fascinated by Kenneth Kitchen's volume, On the Reliability of the Old Testament.
Almost all Bible scholars acknowledge that the books of the Bible have been proven to be literal, chronological history as early as the mention of the city of Ur in Genesis 11:28—which has been discovered and excavated. Writing and record keeping began very early in human civilization, and those who wrote the historical books of the Bible were eyewitnesses to the events. Or they compiled their accounts from official records, which they cited as sources. We often read statements like "The rest of the events in Rehoboam's reign ... are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah" (1 Kings 14:29 NLT).
For their part, the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses of Jesus' life, death, burial, and resurrection. The apostle John witnessed Jesus' death on the cross and wrote, "The man who saw it has given testimony.... He knows that he tells the truth" (John 19:35 NIV). Peter, who had seen and spoken with Jesus after His resurrection, stated, "God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this" (Acts 3:15 NIRV). Luke is widely recognized as a first-rate historian. He traveled to Israel to interview eyewitnesses and "carefully investigated everything from the beginning" (Luke 1:3 NLT). Time and again when one of Luke's statements in his Gospel or Acts was called into question, it was later validated by a new archaeological discovery.
1. Do you know of cases where archaeology proved the Bible to be true?
2. What does all this archaeological evidence mean?
3. What weight do eyewitness testimonies have in a court case?
4. What are your thoughts on the first four verses in Luke's Gospel?CHAPTER 7
Why Did God Create Us?
Thou art worthy, O Lord ... for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11 KJV
The entire universe, this world and everything in it—including human beings, was created to give God pleasure. All these things please Him greatly and are the expressions of a loving Master Artist. But humans are His masterpiece, since we are the only beings of which it is said, "God created man in his own image" (Genesis 1:27 KJV).
We not only please God, but we are so important to Him that the very planet we live on was created for our benefit. When God formed the earth "He didn't create it to be empty. Instead, he formed it for people to live on" (Isaiah 45:18 NIRV). Solomon wrote in Proverbs, "The LORD by wisdom founded the earth" (3:19 NKJV), and a few chapters later he personified Wisdom who was with God at the beginning of time. Wisdom declares, "His whole world filled me with joy. I took delight in all human beings" (8:31 NIRV). Imagine! The Wisdom of God delighted in us and found joy that we inhabited the world.
The fact that humankind has chosen to turn away from the Lord is therefore a deep source of grief to Him. The beautiful plan that He had for us was marred by the disobedience of the first humans, Adam and Eve, and we've all inherited their inclination to sin. We choose our own selfish paths. God longed to gather us into His arms like the Father welcoming back the prodigal son, so He set in motion His plan: He sent His Son Jesus Christ into our world to make things right between us. Once again, the God who created you "will take great delight in you ... he ... will rejoice over you" (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV).
1. How do you feel about God's reason for creating you?
2. How deeply do you believe that God delights in you?
3. How did Jesus complete God's original plan for humanity?CHAPTER 8
Does God Ever Make Mistakes?
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great.... And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Genesis 6:5–6 NKJV
When they read that "the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth," many people think that God realized that he'd made a mistake in creating us. That's not so. The God who created us with emotions is Himself an emotional being. He is all-wise and true, but He is not "pure logic." He is capable of experiencing deep love, joy, happiness, anger, sorrow, and even regret. In the above example, God was filled with sorrow over humankind's wickedness. He was grieved at the very core of His being.
Sin still causes God deep emotional pain. Paul warned us not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God" who lives in our hearts (Ephesians 4:30 NIV). Sin not only causes God grief; but if we continue our willful actions, as much as it hurts Him, He will chastise us and allow us to suffer in order to persuade us to change.
God has always made it plain what His will is and promises that if we obey Him, He'll bless us, but if we sin, he'll remove His blessing. This happened several times in the Bible. For example, God would have established Saul's house as a lasting dynasty had he obeyed (1 Samuel 13:14). But when Saul continuously disobeyed, "the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel" (1 Samuel 15:35 NKJV) and removed him from the throne.
Excerpted from Explore Your Faith by Ed Strauss. Copyright © 2012 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Contents1. How Can I Be Sure That God Exists?,
2. Where Did God Come From?,
3. How Can I Believe in Something I Can't See?,
4. How Did God Create the Universe and Our World?,
5. Can the Bible and Science Be Reconciled?,
6. Are the Bible's Historical Records Accurate?,
7. Why Did God Create Us?,
8. Does God Ever Make Mistakes?,
9. Does God Actually Get Angry? Why?,
10. How Was the Bible Written?,
11. How Do We Know That the Bible Is God's Word?,
12. Did the Miracles in the Bible Really Happen?,
13. Weren't Most "Miracles" Just Natural Events?,
14. Are There Mistakes in the Bible?,
15. Don't the Gospels Contradict Each Other?,
16. Who Exactly Is Jesus?,
17. Why Did Jesus Go Around Healing People?,
18. How Could Jesus Be Human Yet Never Sin?,
19. How Could Jesus Be Both God and Man?,
20. What Is the Trinity?,
21. Who or What Is the Holy Spirit?,
22. Is Jesus the Only Way to God?,
23. Aren't All Religions Basically the Same?,
24. Aren't All People Basically Good?,
25. What Is Sin, and Why Is It a Big Deal?,
26. Why Did Jesus Have to Die on the Cross?,
27. Did Jesus Actually Rise from the Dead?,
28. Do Heaven and Hell Really Exist?,
29. What Is Heaven Like?,
30. Would a Loving God Send People to Hell?,
31. What about People Who Have Never Heard of Jesus?,
32. Is Satan Real?,
33. Do Only Good People Go to Heaven?,
34. What Does It Mean to Be "Born Again"?,
35. How Exactly Does Someone Become a Christian?,
36. What Is Faith?,
37. Are We Saved by Faith, or by Faith and Good Deeds?,
38. How Can Jesus Live inside My Heart?,
39. Will God Forgive Me for Sinning after I'm Saved?,
40. Can True Christians "Lose" Their Salvation?,
41. Does God Judge or Punish Us for Sinning?,
42. Why Should I Obey God?,
43. Are Christians Supposed to Be Happy All the Time?,
44. What If Something Just Feels Right?,
45. Why Is Being "Worldly" a Bad Thing?,
46. Is God in Control of Everything That Happens?,
47. Why Does God Allow So Much Suffering in the World?,
48. Why Does God Allow Good People to Suffer?,
49. Does God Truly Care about Me?,
50. Will God Solve All My Problems?,
51. Why Should I Pray If God Knows Everything Already?,
52. Why Do We Have to Keep Praying for the Same Thing?,
53. Does God Always Answer Prayer?,
54. Why Are So Many Christians Hypocrites?,
55. Are Christians Intolerant?,
56. What Does God Think If I Experience Doubt?,
57. Does the Bible Tell Us How to Overcome Fear?,
58. Why Should I Attend Church?,
59. What Is Communion?,
60. What Is Baptism, and Why Is It Important?,
61. What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit?,
62. What Is the Fruit of the Spirit?,
63. Why Is It Important to Study the Bible?,
64. Why Do People Memorize Bible Verses?,
65. What Does the Bible Mean When It Says to Meditate?,
66. Are Christians Supposed to Tithe?,
67. How Can We Give Generously without Going Broke?,
68. What Are Spiritual Gifts?,
69. What Is Spiritual Warfare?,
70. How Should We Worship God?,
71. How Can I Figure Out What God's Will Is?,
72. Can I Actually Hear God Speak?,
73. What Does It Mean to "Witness" to Others?,
74. Are Christians Expected to Resist All Temptation?,
75. Why Is It Important to Forgive Others?,