Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"I will NEVER accept this..."

“I was actually in this earthquake...I live in Tokyo and it was the scariest thing that I have ever been in. I was in Kitasenju teaching English when it struck and after the initial shock we all ventured outside. I saw a mother of about 27/28 clutching her newborn to her chest in fear as the temperature got colder and colder and colder. Fallen creation? What are you talking about? I will NEVER accept this. NEVER. Do you hear me Ray? You can SCREAM this in my face for the rest of time. I WILL NEVER ACCEPT WHAT YOU SAY.”
Creation is absolute evidence of a Creator. It didn’t make itself. So to suddenly say that God doesn’t exist because we have killer earthquakes and horrific tsunamis (such as the March 2011 tragedy) is to be in denial of something we all intuitively know. The question is rather, “Is God impotent?” Did He have the ability to create this immense universe, with suns that dwarf ours massive sun, and yet He can’t stop a tremor on this little earth? The question itself is rhetorical, but it’s covered in Scripture when we are told, “With God, nothing is impossible.” So it then becomes, “Why did Almighty God allow it, and its terrible train of unspeakable suffering and death?”
Atheism has no consolation for us, other than to say that such pain is the result of an indifferent “Nature” that created itself, and is still in the process of creating. Richard Dawkins said, “Nature is not cruel, pitiless, indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous -- indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”  [A Devil's Chaplain & Other Selected Essaysby Richard Dawkins]
            However, the Bible has the consoling answer. It says that we live in a “Fallen Creation” (see Genesis 1-3). We are like an alcoholic who is in denial, adamantly saying that all is well, and yet the symptoms of alcoholism are clearly evident as hestaggers toward you.
Here is just some of the evidence that humanity has a serious problem–earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, disease, suffering, and death. The Bible says the whole of creation “groans in travail” under the Fall (see Romans 8:22)—the “curse” of Genesis. Those who understand this don’t lose faith in God when terrible tragedies shake a world in denial.  Each one of them instead reminds us that all isn’t well. For the world they should be a wake-up call—a slap in our drunken face--a reminder that we are not apes with no moral responsibility, as so many are trying to have us believe. All is far from well between sinful man and a holy God. We have a problem. A big one, that is more serious than a heart attack.
            For someone to accept that we live in a fallen creation means that they have to accept that we are sinners—that we aren’t the good folks we say we are. It means that we have moral responsibility—that when a man rapes a woman and slits her throat, God will hold him accountable. It means that Hitler will face God on Judgment Day for the mass murder of so many innocents. It means that God is just, and that Hell therefore is a real place of punishment for the wicked. These are not pleasant thoughts when we realize that God is morally perfect, that he sees the thought-life and considers lust to be adultery and hatred to be murder. That puts all of us, with our unquenchable thirst for (and addiction to) sin, in deep trouble.
            Earthquakes tend to make us tremble. They show us that we don’t have total control.  In the Book of Acts, there was a big quake that caused a hardened Philippian jailer to cry out to his prisoners “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”(see Acts 16:30). He wasn’t talking about the quake (that had already happened). He was talking about his relationship to the One he had angered by his sin.
Fortunately, God has more than a 12-step program for the hopeless alcoholic. When Jesus suffered in our place and rose from the dead, He balanced the scales of eternal justice. He paid the fine so that we could leave the courtroom. The cross is an expression of the love and mercy of God. He is “rich in mercy,” and can make us clean and sober with a new thirst for righteousness, and the ability to walk the straight and narrow. 
I contacted a friend early in March of 2011, whom I hadn't seen for twenty years. He lived in my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand, had always mocked me for my faith, and so I was surprised that he emailed back. He said that "god" greatly scared him in 2010 (he used profanity) with a 7.1 earthquake. When I then shared the gospel with him, he wrote back and mockingly said that he was guilty of breaking the Commandments, and that he going to Hell to “party.” The next day a killer quake hit, taking over 165 lives. When I contacted him again to see if he was okay, he soberly replied, "Tell your God I am sorry and please don't do that again." This time he used a capital for "God."
Tragedies have a way of putting the fear of God into those of us who are still living.  Most of us, that is. Sadly, some may stay in denial and say, “Fallen creation? What are you talking about? I will NEVER accept this. NEVER. Do you hear me Ray? You can SCREAM this in my face for the rest of time. I WILL NEVER ACCEPT WHAT YOU SAY.” I hope you are not one of them.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

Unbeliever: “Will everyone who doesn’t know Jesus go to hell?

Street Apologist: “So that I could better answer your question are we talking about unborn persons or those who live in remote places?”

Unbeliever: “How about both!”

Street Apologist: “Ok, which would you like me to address first?”

Unbeliever “How about the unborn.”

Street Apologist: “Ok, well in short, I don’t know. Scripture does not deal directly with such a question. Therefore, I fall back on the principles I do know for certain. God is in control, He is the all-wise One, and I trust He will do what is good and right.” (Gen. 18:25)

Unbeliever: “Ok, well what about those who live in remote places?”

Street Apologist: “In short, if they do not believe on Jesus Christ then they will be judged and justly condemned for the sins they have committed as-well as the suppression of God’s clear revelation.” (Rom. 1:18-24; 3:23)

Unbeliever: “What?!”

Street Apologist: “Would you like me to expand more on this?”

Unbeliever: “Yes, please do!”

Street Apologist: “Ok, I want to give you a sufficient response so may I please have a few minutes of your time to explain things in more detail?”

Unbeliever: “Swing away.”

Street Apologist: “God has given revelation to all men everywhere and therefore they are obligated to respond to it (Rom. 1; Acts 17). It comes in the form of creation and conscience, which is referred to as general revelation. God’s Word declares ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse’ (Rom. 1:18-20).

Those that do not respond favorably to this general revelation will experience the consequences of God’s judgment on sin. (Jn. 3:19,20)

Those that do respond favorably to general revelation will be given more! God is perfectly capable of getting the Gospel (special revelation) to those in remote places via vision, missionary, dream etc. In fact, this is precisely what we see in Scripture.   

For example, there was a man named Cornelius, who was described as being a God-fearing man (a favorable response to general revelation).  God ultimately confirmed the Gospel message to this God-fearing man by sending him a missionary, the apostle Peter. Upon Peter’s arrival he made a rather revealing remark as he says: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right’ (Acts 10:34,35). Cornelius and his household listened to a full account of the Gospel and they ultimately received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10). Such means of special revelation harmonizes with Christ’s prayer for believers as he said: ‘I pray for those who will believe in me through their message’ (Jn. 17:20).

Another example is the Ethiopian eunuch who was traveling to worship God in Jerusalem (responding to general revelation) when God sent Phillip to ‘preach Jesus to him’ (special revelation) and then came the Ethiopian’s words: ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God’ (Acts 8).

The Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul, who once breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” had a radical transformation after a personal encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. Nevertheless, God further used visions as a means to have Ananias come to Saul and give him a fuller account of what God had in store for him (Acts 9).

More examples of God’s use of missionaries and visions can be given, but I would like to keep your attention so those should suffice for now.

Scripture is very clear that one must believe in Christ to be saved (Acts 4:12; Jn. 3:16, 18, 36; 5:24; Rom. 10:9).

The apostle Paul rhetorically poses the question: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Rom. 10:14)

They must believe on Christ to be saved and it is the responsibility of all men to respond to what has been given to them, as there will be no excuse for not doing so (Rom. 1:20)! There is no tongue, tribe or nation that is too ignorant or to far out of God’s reach to get the Gospel to those who would believe. The Apostle Paul declares: ‘From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us’ (Acts 17:26,27). Notably the Apostle John points out that standing before the throne of God will be ‘a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language’ who will be crying out: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’ (Rev 7:9,10).

Apart from Jesus Christ ‘salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’ God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel (Acts 17:30; Mk. 1:15).

My friend the greatest concern at hand is where will you be spending eternity because especially in light of God’s revelation to you He will not let you claim ignorance! (Acts 17:30)

Have you ever told a lie?”

Unbeliever: “Yes.”

-----Share the Law and Gospel---

Posted By: Chad Williams "Street Apologetics" 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

True vs False Conversion

Often times we will have atheists or agnostics approach us during an open-air, insisting that they once were on fire Christians for God but now they have a message to share...God is just imaginary. More times than not this anger they have is rooted in some hypocrites they encountered along the way in church. Two things are worth mentioning here.

One, a hypocrite should never be a test to the validity of Christianity! Jesus said "Follow Me" (Matt. 4:19) not his followers. In fact Jesus even forewarned that there would be tares amongst the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30). Just because there is a label on the outside of the bible doesn't necessarily make it so.

Secondly, if you dig deep you will find that they never really knew the Lord which means they never really were Christians to begin with! If they didn't know the Lord, then their false conversion experience was just that, an experience. They were never really born-again and thus it is advantageous to press and plead with someone like this to truly repent and put their faith and trust in the Savior rather than a works righteousness (Matt. 12:1-23).

Posted By: Chad Williams "Street Apologetics"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

From Illusion to Conviction

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Arrogant Passenger

You are flying across a beautiful and very green New Zealand in a small chartered plane. You are a big “Lord of the Rings” fan, and you are excited that you are going to see the actual filming locations first hand. As you gaze at a massive snow-caped and rugged mountain in the distance, the pilot quickly brings you back to reality. His voice is noticeably strained as he says that he is having serious problems controlling the plane. He soberly says that you must listen carefully, if you want to live.

He calms your fears by telling you that the maker of the plane has made sure that there are enough parachutes under the seats for every passenger. He tells you to quickly reach under your seat and to put on the parachute, because the jump will happen at any moment.

Without warning, the plane suddenly drops a horrifying thousand feet, sending cups and boiling coffee flying, burning passengers, and seriously injuring a flight attendant, a frail elderly man and two children who weren’t wearing seat belts. You don’t need any more convincing that he is telling you the truth.

You quickly reach under your seat and feel the parachute attached exactly where the pilot said it would be. You pull it out and see an instruction booklet attached to it. You pull it off and listen closely as the pilot helps the passengers read the directions.

The man next to you is wearing earphones and watching a movie on his laptop. You tap him on the arm and say, “Excuse me. You had better take the earphones off.” Then you explain what the pilot has just said. To your amazement, the man scoffs at what you have just told him, and says, “I don’t believe him. Faith is for weak people. I believe that this plane had no maker.”

You are dumbfounded and ask why he would believe such a crazy thing. He answers, “Because I have never seen whoever made this plane. Tell whoever it is to appear. Right now!” He snaps his fingers and says, “See, there’s no maker. Besides, I grabbed one of those instruction cards earlier on in the flight and it has some serious spelling mistakes. The person who put that together is an idiot. The whole thing is bogus.”

You ask him to show you the mistakes. He smugly points to the word “Neighbour,” and the word “colour.” You tell him that in New Zealand and the rest of the English-speaking world, both those words are spelled that way. Only America drops the “u.” He laughs at you and calls you an idiot for believing that, saying that, in his opinion, the graphics on the instructions are extremely child-like.

You try and be patient with the man. You are fearful for his fate, and so you tell him that he had better put the parachute on anyway, because he will die without it. He now gets impatient with you, and snaps back, “You are using fear tactics! Do you have some sort of a death-wish? You are a weak-minded and manipulative person who is fearful of dying. I believe that you and the stupid pilot are lying. How old do you think this plane is?” You tell him that you don’t know, and that the issue is unimportant to you. You just want him to put the parachute on, and then he can talk about the age of the plane.

He insists that it’s extremely old, and that proves that no one made it. You pray for patience. This man is deranged, and yet he speaks with condescension. You try and reason with him by telling him that the chaos on the flight backs up what the pilot has told the passengers. Then he laughs sarcastically, and says, “Chaos? What are you talking about! The burned and injured passengers are how this flight is supposed to be. I don’t want or need a parachute. Besides, I’m watching a very cool movie. I’m enjoying it, so why don’t you and the dumb pilot just keep your silly little parachute, your so-called “instruction card,” and mind your own childish business.”

You can’t believe what you have just heard. Here is a proud and arrogant man, who insists that the plane had no maker, thinks that the chaos on board is how things should be, refuses to believe instructions from someone who wants to save his life, all because he doesn’t know that a world exists outside of his little world. What more can you do? Time will prove you to be true.
You look across the aisle and see another passenger who is enjoying a movie, and he’s not wearing a parachute. You reach out and tap him on the arm…

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Evolution is a hypothesis. Look up the word hypothesis. It means guess. It is a scientific synonym for 'guess.' If Darwin had called it a guess, it would not have lived a year; but guess is too small a word for a 'scientist,' so he blew into it and inflated it until it had four syllables in it, 'hypothesis,' and then because it was empty it would float on the surface of public opinion." William Jennings Bryan

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pulling Them Out of the Fire

The above artwork was designed by Dale Jackson, our graphic artist at Living Waters. The poster is captioned with Jude 22-23. "And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh."

We've started showing this picture at the end of each edition of "On the Box," along with several moments of silence. The reason is simple. We want every Christian who watches the program to realize that we live in a critical time, in human history. Every Christian should live with a sense of urgency--not fearful for their own life, but fearful for the lives of those who are lost, apart from genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and bound for Hell.

We try to have a lot of fun on the show. But we never lose sight of the fact that God has commanded all followers of Christ to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) and make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). Ray, Chad, and I (along with the rest of the "On the Box" team) are committed to helping you, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to obey the Great Commandment, while fulfilling the Great Commission.

The most loving thing a Christian will ever do for another human being is share the gospel with if you were "pulling them out of the fire."

Be encouraged, strengthened, and unafraid. Proclaim the gospel!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Curved Illusion

We often receive questions regarding how to transition into conversations using certain tracts. One of our very popular tracts, and one of my personal favorites, is the Curved Illusion.

Recently, we went to nearby Cerritos College and captured some footage of how to use the tract to initiate spiritual conversations with people. Hope it's helpful.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Get Upgraded to First Class

As I sat in the van with the Living Waters team, I prayed that God would get the 12 of us to the Louisiana Transformed Conference safely, and that He would give us “divine encounters.” I wanted the cross paths with people He had well-prepared--similar to the well-prepared woman at the well, in John chapter four.

            Two hours later I was sitting in the plane behind a gentleman to whom I had handed a Trillion Dollar Bill tract. He was still clutching it when an gentleman, this one with a cultured English accent, began to speak with him. I love English accents and had the thought that I would like to witness to him. Just then the flight attendant asked Mr. Clutcher if he wanted to move into First Class. He didn’t want to leave his business associates, so he turned to me and asked if I wanted the seat. Did I ever!

             As I sat down in the comfortable First Class seat, I noticed that I was sitting next to Mr. English-accent. After a little probing, I found out that he was an actor of some renown, a “pagan” tarot card writer, and the voice of the lead character in Steven Spielberg’s hugely popular Transformer movies [ ]. When Mark mentioned that he had been on many near-miss flights and that if God wanted to take him “He had ample opportunity,” I asked if he liked talking about spiritual matters. He did, and he was more than willing to go on camera.

            After 20 minutes of interview small-talk, we went through the moral Law, and that sure stirred up something spiritual. It was a hot interview. Afterwards, he said to the female flight attendant, “That was the most intense and interesting interview I have ever done. This guy hijacked me! He asked me if I had ever lusted after a woman!” I quietly explained the context of the question to her. Mark then suggested that I give him my camera because he wanted to put me on the hot seat. That’s exactly what happened. He grilled me with every question he could think of for the next 40 minutes, and even conceded that some of the answers sounded reasonable.

            I took the camera back and asked him about Hitler, Churchill and John Lennon, and was amazed that he was very well-versed on each of these men that we were profiling in Season Five of our TV program. I couldn’t have wished for a more eloquent words. 

            I then had a chat with one of the Jonas Brothers (who was also in First Class), got his address and told him that I would send him a “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” CD.

            The next day we were on our way home after the Transformed conference. As we walked through the New Orleans airport, and elderly man who was walking towards us began leaning to his right, I leaned right towards him and asked, “Are you alright?” He kept right on leaning and said, “No!” I grabbed his arm and we both began an awkward stagger that ended up with us falling onto the floor as I tried to break his fall. I thought he was having a serious heart attack and was going to die in my arms.

            As we both lay on the floor, he smiled and said, “I had too much to drink.” I laughed, helped him to his feet, and put a Trillion Dollar Bill tract in his hand. As he mumbled something about now being able to pay for a lot more drinks, I was able to hand tracts to the small crowd that had gathered.

            So if you pray for divine encounters, don’t be surprised if you are on you way to be a voice at a “Transformed” conference that you meet a man who is a voice for a “Transformer” movie. And if an elderly man flings himself into your arms and pulls you to the ground, take it as a sign that you have just had an answer to your prayer. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Three Minutes to Live (In Three Steps)

Several years ago I listened to a CD by Ray Comfort titled Three Minutes To Live. It revolutionized the way I present the gospel to professing Christians. I've modified the approach somewhat, in keeping with my own personality and manner of approaching strangers to present the gospel.

What you are about to see is a real encounter with a college student, during which I employ the "Three Minutes to Live" technique. To remember this technique, you need only remember three simple words: "Listen," "Proclaim," and "Explain."

Chris is a music student at Cerritos College. He plans to transfer to BIOLA University (a Christian college) to finish his degree. He professed to be a Christian. He attends church and listens to an audio version of the Bible, regularly. He seemed to be a very nice and personable young man. I use the word "profess" because I try never to make assumptions about the spiritual condition of the people I meet who claim to be Christians. Many of the people I meet on the streets claim to be Christians, but they do not actually know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

In this first clip, you will see Step 1 (Listen) in action. When I meet someone who professes to be a Christian, I will give them a hypothetical situation in which they are a Christian and I am not.

It is important to present a scenario to the person with whom you are speaking that places them in a hypothetical, life-or-death situation. One that Ray likes to use (and I will use from time-to-time as well) is this: "While you and I are talking, someone comes up behind me and stabs me in the back with a knife. I'm dying. I have only three minutes to live. You're a Christian. You know I'm not. What would you say to me." You can make up your own scenarios. The important thing is use scenarios that bring a sense of seriousness and urgency to the conversation.

Why is it important to do this? Jesus said, when speaking to the Pharisees, "You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). He also said, "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person" (Matthew 15:18).

By applying a little gentle pressure, putting the person on the spot, what comes out of their mouth as they try to present the gospel will be that which proceeds from their heart. Just like military and law enforcement personnel who train regularly will revert back to what they've learned in times of critical incident stress, the professing Christian will revert back to what they know and believe about the gospel when asked to share it, on the spot.

Listen closely to Chris's presentation of the gospel.

Sadly, more often than not, what the person presents is anything but the gospel. Such was the case with Chris. Was he sincere? Yes. Did he appear to care for me, even in this role-playing situation? It seemed that way to me. But, Chris did not share the gospel with me. He described Jesus (although he did say Jesus is God) as "cool guy" who was his "friend." He told me that cancer wasn't part of God's plan. There was not mention of sin, judgment, Hell, the cross, the death of Christ, His resurrection, repentance, or faith.

What Chris presented to me was a modern, false gospel that can be heard in too many churches around the world, today.

In this next clip, you will see Step 2 (Proclaim) in action. During this step, the evangelist simply switches roles with the professing Christian. This is your opportunity to present the Law and the Gospel to the professing Christian, in a loving and biblical manner.

I always close this portion by asking the person if what I shared with them makes sense. And as I'm sharing, I'm watching the looks on their faith and their body language to see if they are listening and considering what I'm sharing with them in light of what they shared with me.

During this portion of the encounter, I cannot recall a time in which the person with whom I am speaking interrupts me to argue. They are listening intently. They are listening for differences in our presentations of the gospel.

And this brings us to the last step, Step 3 (Explain). In this clip, you will see what I (and Chad) like to refer to as the "Nathan Moment" (see 2 Samuel 12:1-15). At this point, it's time to gently confront the person about their understanding of the gospel. I do this by asking the person something about them. I try to find out something about which the person knows a lot. In Chris's case, it was playing the violin.

I presented myself as someone who professed to know a lot about playing the violin. I then shared a minimal amount of information about the violin, in order to make it obvious to Chris that, in actuality, I knew very little about the violin.

Watch this last clip to see Step 3 in action.

The crescendo moment in this technique is when you ask the person the tough question. In Chris' case, the moment came when I ask Chris the following: "Chris if, based on what I said, you wouldn't believe I know how to play the violin; then why should I believe you know Christ when you can't tell me how to come to know Him?"

It is often at that moment the person comes to the painful realization that they are not truly a Christian--that they are not a born again follower of Jesus Christ.

But this is not always the case. And you want to be careful not to make a person who is a true Christian feel as though they are not (see Matthew 13:24-30). You will run into genuine believers who, either because of their spiritual immaturity or because they are sitting under weak teaching, are just not yet equipped to biblically and succinctly share the gospel. When you run into brothers and sisters in Christ like this, take the opportunity to explain the importance of biblical evangelism in the life of every Christian.

So there you have it: Three Minutes to Live, in three steps. Give it a try the next time you meet someone who professes to be a Christian. And let us know how it goes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A 'Christian' Who Wants His Parents to Go to Hell

We received the following email from Anthony, about a week ago.

"I truly enjoy watching the show everyday, if not live at least when I get home. I sit and watch with Natalie and the kids . . . I have had a situation come up in the past couple of days that I would love, almost covet, to hear what you think of this.

"I have a friend who I have heard in person, and have read [posts] on Facebook that he rests knowing that his mother and soon his father will be in hell. Here is a little about my friend. He is a 50-yr-old professing Christian. He has told me that he is saved but his fruit does not show it. The best I can say about his childhood is that it was very rough and, of course, he blames his parents. I think he has said this about his mom and dad three or four times to me, and I think it's high-time I say something. What is your opinion about this and where do I start."

Anthony, thank you for emailing us; and thank you for caring so much about your friend.

While it only takes biology (procreation) for a person to become a mother or a father, it takes a great deal more to be a parent. Having worked as a deputy sheriff for many years, I can attest to the fact that there are many people in the world who have no business raising children. The most difficult calls for service I ever handled involved children. Some children live horrendous lives. Children around the world experience neglect, verbal and physical abuse, even homicide. Of course this should not be; and it is evidence that we live in a fallen world, marred by sin.

Other children, while they may not face the horrors described above, experience the pains of broken homes or parents who are too busy chasing the American dream to have time for their children. For many, it's not easy being a kid.

Sadly, many children who grow up facing one or more of the before-mentioned circumstances enter adulthood and repeat the sins of their parents.

Yet the Bible says this. "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 6:12; see also Ephesians 6:1-3).

One of my parents died twelve years ago. I have been estranged from my surviving parent for some time. Our relationship has never really recovered since my parents divorced when I was in my early teens.

Be that as it may, I am commanded by God in His Word to honor my parents. Recently, Ray Comfort helped me to understand what the means. He said, "We do not honor our parents because they are honorable. We honor our parents because God has commanded us to." While Ray was providing that sage counsel to the viewers of our show, he was unaware that he was speaking to my heart, too.

It was at that moment I realized honoring my parent did not necessarily mean we would ever be fully reconciled. I may never hear certain words from my parent that I have waited to hear all my life. But because of the grace of God in my life, and the very real presence of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life, I can honor my parent in thought, word, and deed. The question of whether or not my parent deserves honor is subjective at best, and is, in the end, utterly irrelevant. It has taken me years--too many years--to realize this truth. I am thankful to God for His patience and the gift of repentance.

I took the time to share this to give context for my answers to your questions, Anthony--and to let anyone else who may be struggling to forgive and honor their parents know that I give my answer not while sitting in an ivory tower, but while remembering my own challenges and my own mistakes with my parents, throughout my life.

Anthony, your friend professes to be a Christian while hating his parents. As you said, such an attitude is not in keeping with the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Rather, such an attitude is in keeping with sinful flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). And the Word of God makes it clear that "if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27).

Regarding how to best confront/approach your friend with this: I believe a direct, respectful, yet gentle approach is in order. Show him, from the Word of God, that hatred is tantamount to murder in God's eyes (1 John 3:15). But do so with compassion and understanding.

Since you likely have no direct knowledge of what life was like for him with his parents, give him the benefit of the doubt that his early life was difficult. Tell him that while you feel for him, it does not justify his sin against God. When his parents stand before God, they will give an account for their own sin, as will he. On that day, he will not be able to use his parents' sinful behavior (what ever it was) to justify his own.

Remind your friend, also, of what Jesus said about forgiveness. "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

Granted, it is difficult at times to forgive. And there are circumstances that require a great deal of time, before forgiveness is given and received. We fallible human beings have a tendency to hurt one another--at times leaving emotional wounds and scars that can be slow to heal. Nevertheless, there is a difference with struggling to forgive and refusing to forgive. Those who refuse to forgive, while professing to be Christians, should honestly ask themselves if they have been forgiven by the Lord--if they are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

I hope this answer is helpful, Anthony.

Where Lightning Falls

I call people when I hear that they have had some sort of tragedy. I’ve been making a lot of calls recently. I phoned one Christian woman after I saw her being interviewed on TV and she mentioned that her husband loved our ministry.

            When the couple advertised that they wanted to sell a ring that was worth about a thousand dollars, three people showed up at their door. Once they were inside, they tied up the couple and their two kids, and began to beat them up. When the husband broke free and tried to protect his family, they shot him and left. He died in Charlene’s arms. Sue lost her beloved husband Larry, after a battle with cancer. Tim lost his wife in December. Cancer left her ravaged after doctors removed her tongue, because the disease spread into her mouth. Tamara was almost dead due to mercury poisoning. Her husband lost his job because he spent so much time taking care of her, and they had no money left and nowhere to live.

            Each of these Christians had two things in common. They knew what is what is was to suffer, and each of them said the same thing--that God was wonderful. It didn’t make sense, but it came as no surprise. What each of them went through is to be expected in this life. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we are immune to the storms that everyone experiences. Lightning falls on the just and the unjust. If a Christian falls over, he bruises, just like everyone else.

            The confusion from many modern pulpits. Preachers offer Christianity as a bed of roses. It is given as a solution to the problems of this life. But in reality the bed of roses has many pain-causing thorns. Still, the “Jesus will fix your problems” gospel is popular. It attracts “converts,” because everyone has problems.

            Think of what happened to the first Christians. Eleven of the original twelve disciples were murdered for their faith, and the foundation of Christianity was set in the blood of millions who, down through history, died for their faith. The rest died just like everyone else, either through disease, accident, murder or just after experiencing the ravages of old age. Where was God in their experience?

            There are two answers to that question. The first is that God “preserves” us in Christ. We will see every person who has died at the resurrection of the just and the unjust. God will preserve all who put their trust in Him. Charlene will see he beloved husband again. So will Sue see Larry. Tim told me that he can’t wait to see his wife. He said that she was sharing her faith right up until the end.

            The answer to second question comes back to the issue of trust. Each of the people I mentioned know experientially that God is faithful. They believed the promise that whatever He allows to come their way (no matter how horrible), will work out for their good, in the light of eternity (see Romans 8:28). That’s why they were able to rejoice, and speak about His wonderful presence in their lives.

            Fiery trials come to the Christian, not to burn him, but to purify him. So if you are a Christian, take real consolation that when your turn comes, you have this wonderful promise for the God who cannot lie: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).