Faith

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Perspectives on Christian Community and Communal Living

What do you think about the current emphasis on communal living in some Christian circles? We're seriously worried about a couple of close friends of ours. Over the past year they've become increasingly obsessed with the idea of creating "community." Now they want us to sell our home, move with them to a rural area, and help them start a Christian "commune." We're really struggling with this. For one thing, the idea sounds "cultic." For another, we have a feeling that they're motivated to do this primarily because they have problems with authority, especially in the local church. They also seem to want to escape the responsibilities of modern life. Are our concerns off base?

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"Original" Christianity vs. the "Organized" Church

Why should I be part of the institutional church? I'm convinced that the modern church has completely lost its way. As a result I've embarked on a personal quest to rediscover the pure, original Christianity of the New Testament era. I recently left the church and started a small discipleship group in my home. It seems to me that the early church consisted almost entirely of small, simple house-based congregations. Nowhere do I find Jesus or the apostles telling their followers to build buildings, form committees, plan budgets, or set up organizations. Most of my Christian friends think I'm crazy. They say it's dangerous to break with the organized church. What do you think?

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Genocide and "Holy War" in the Old Testament

How do we explain God's command to slaughter the Canaanites in the Old Testament? There's a lot that I find attractive about Christianity, but I have serious problems with certain parts of the Bible, especially those sections of the Old Testament that record incidents of divinely authorized genocide and "Holy War." When the Israelites captured Jericho, the Bible says that "they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword" (Joshua 6:20-21). How could a gracious, loving God sanction this kind of slaughter? And how does all this fit in with the New Testament's message of love, compassion, and forgiveness for enemies? Until I have answers to these questions, I don't see how I can possibly make a commitment to the Christian faith.

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What the Bible Says about God's "Hatred"

Is it possible that God hates me? In Malachi 1:2-3 the Bible says that God "loved Jacob but hated Esau." This really upsets me. For one thing, if God hated Esau, how do I know He doesn't hate me? For another thing, if God is Love, as the New Testament says in I John 4:8, how can He "hate" anybody or anything? Can you help me understand?

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Christian Activism in the "End Times"

If these are the end times, why should Christians pray and get involved in social issues? Many ministries like yours say that believers should be spreading the gospel, praying for solutions to problems like hunger and poverty, and working to shape our country's laws. I have serious problems with this. My study of the Bible and my understanding of "the signs of the times" convince me that this is the last generation and that Christ will be returning soon. If that's true, what good does it do to pray that things will get better? Couldn't we actually be opposing God's will by praying such prayers?

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What the Bible Says about Hell

How does the love of Jesus line up with the idea of a God who condemns people to an eternity of suffering? I'd become a believer in a heartbeat if it weren't for the "mean streak" I find running through so many aspects of the Christian faith. Do you really expect me to give my heart to such a cruel and sadistic deity? Isn't all that stuff about hellfire and brimstone just a medieval myth?

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Child Wonders If Animals Go to Heaven

Will my pet be with me in heaven? I'm really sad right now because my dog just died. We've had the same dog ever since I was a little kid, and I can't even imagine life without him. I asked my mom if I'd see him in heaven and she told me to go ask my Sunday school teacher. I asked my Sunday school teacher and he said no, heaven is for people, not animals. That really upset me. Do you think my Sunday school teacher is right?

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"Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" and the "Unforgivable Sin"

What does it mean to "blaspheme the Holy Spirit"? I overheard some people at church talking about "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" and calling it the "unforgivable sin." I didn't think there was any such thing as a sin that God couldn't forgive! Do you think I might have committed this terrible sin without knowing it?

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Wrestling with Doubt and Disbelief

Is it wrong to have doubts about my faith? The Bible says that you can't please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6) and that a person who doubts shouldn't expect to receive anything from Him (James 1:7). This bothers me, since I often struggle with doubt. I'm a skeptic by temperament. It's hard for me to believe anything just because other people tell me I'm supposed to. I want to be a Christian, but I can't turn off my brain. Does this mean there's no place for me in God's kingdom?

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Self-Defense and "Turning the Other Cheek"

Is it wrong to defend myself if someone attacks me? What does Jesus mean when He says, "I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matthew 5:39). I'm really confused about this. Am I supposed to take this verse literally?

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A Christian's Relationship with a "Godless" Government

Why should I "submit" to a government that I believe is moving in the wrong direction? I love my country and want to cooperate with the political system, but I'm struggling to understand what the Bible says on this subject. How in the world can the apostle Paul tell Christians to submit to the authorities (Romans 13:1-7) when we know for a fact that many human governments are corrupt and unjust? What should a believer do when he feels that his own government is "ungodly"?

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Looking for Answers to Prayer

How does God respond to intercessory prayer? I haven't seen much fruit from my faithful prayers on behalf of a wayward child, and I'm just about ready to give up. Am I missing something? Should I be looking elsewhere for the answers I need?

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Reconciling God's Love with Suffering in the World

If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn't He do something about the mess on earth? I used to consider myself a person of faith, but the hopeless and sad state of our suffering world has left me questioning whether God cares or even exists. Can you say anything to change my mind?

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Tithing While "Between Churches"

As we search for a church to attend regularly, should we give our tithe to the churches we've been visiting?

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Miracles: Present Day Signs and Wonders

Do you believe that God still performs miracles today? Christians who believe in "signs and wonders" say that we're supposed to be doing the same works that Jesus did, "and even greater works than these" (John 14:12). Others claim that the era of supernatural intervention came to an end at the close of the New Testament period. What's your perspective?

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What the Bible Says about the Devil

Isn't Satan just a legendary figure - sort of a symbol of the evil in the world and in the human heart? I'm a fairly new Christian, and I can't help feeling a little skeptical about some of the things I hear from other believers in this regard. What does the Bible really have to say about the devil?

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Inconsistency in Miracles, Healings, and Answers to Prayer

Why is God so "hit-or-miss" in the way He responds to our petitions for His miraculous intervention? When my son was born with a heart defect and needed open-heart surgery, our prayers were answered miraculously. But when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, his condition deteriorated steadily in spite of the constant intercession of family, friends and our church community. He died after battling the disease for less than a year. I don't understand this. What does it all mean?

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Faith: Doubt vs. Unbelief

What's the difference between an "unbeliever" and a person who simply has honest questions about God? I believe in the Bible, and I have often told friends and family that God can do miracles and even raise the dead. Nevertheless, when things get tough, I find it hard to trust in the Lord. Though I tell others that they can depend upon His grace, I'm often overwhelmed with fear and anxiety when difficult situations arise. Does this mean that I lack faith?

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Unanswered Prayer

What would you say to a person who has been praying faithfully for the same thing for over five years and still hasn't seen any change in the situation? I'm referring to myself, of course. How do I deal with this kind of disappointment? Does it reflect a lack of faith on my part? Some people tell me that God is sovereign and that I simply have to learn to accept His will. But if that's the case, why pray at all?

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What the Bible Says About "Human Rights" and "Social Justice"

What's your perspective on issues like feeding the hungry, fighting abortion, helping the homeless, and working to end slave trafficking? As Christians, shouldn't we just concentrate on evangelism? I'm a believer, and I sincerely want to "serve my own generation by the will of God" (Acts 13:36). But I also can't help wondering about some of the "social justice" and "human rights" issues that are getting so much press in the Christian community these days. The Declaration of Independence talks about the "unalienable rights" of mankind, but does the Bible? It seems to me that the only thing "unalienable" about man is his weakness for sin. Does Scripture really have anything to say about "human rights" and "social justice?

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"Backsliders" and Hebrews 6:4-6

Is it possible for a "backslider" to return to faith? Hebrews 6:4-6 seems to say no. I'm a returned "backslider" myself, so this passage of Scripture has always been painful and confusing for me. How can I be sure I am restored? Doesn't the message of these verses cancel out everything the New Testament has to say about grace and forgiveness? Can you help me sort this out?

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What the Bible Says about the Origin of Evil

Did God create evil? Some people say no. They argue that man's free will is the source of evil. But didn't God create free will? And doesn't that make Him the ultimate source of evil? Doesn't that make Him responsible for our sins? Is that why the Lord says in Isaiah 45:7 (KJV), "I make peace and create evil"? If God isn't the source of evil, what can the Bible possibly mean when it tells us that "an evil spirit from God" came upon King Saul (I Samuel 18:10)?

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Pride, Humility, and Self-Esteem

Why do Christians say human pride is sinful? I don't understand what's wrong with a little self-satisfaction and self-confidence. If I feel good about myself for serving at the local soup kitchen or helping a neighbor in need, does that mean I'm going to hell? Aren't we always telling our kids that it's important to have self-esteem?

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Trinitarian Theology and the Bible

Does Scripture really teach the doctrine of the Trinity? If so, where? I need to know, because I'm having a crisis of faith on this point. Some missionaries from another religious group came to my door and told me that the word "Trinity" never once appears in Scripture. They said that "corrupt" theologians of the second and third centuries "invented" this idea under the influence of "Greek thinking." I've been studying my Bible carefully and haven't been able to find anything that contradicts their claims. Now I'm thoroughly confused. Please help!

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