Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive.
Q. Abortion is ‘legal’, but is it morally wrong? What about abortion in cases of rape or incest?
A. That no one should have the right to take the life of the unborn has been a principle of medicine from ancient times. The Hippocratic Oath, first formulated as a sworn rule of conduct for doctors and physicians in ancient Greece some 2,400 years ago, says, "I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest such counsel; and in a like manner I will not give a woman a pessary to induce an abortion."
Even then, four hundred years before the birth of Christ, people were clamouring for euthanasia and wanting to kill their unborn babies. If Hippocrates, a pagan physician who believed in all sorts of mythological gods and goddesses, knew that it was wrong to take a life, what defence do we have today after 2000 years of research & learning?
When it comes to abortion, I believe God is pro-choice. Let me demonstrate that in Scripture. Speaking through Moses, God told his people: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). God created us as free moral agents, with the capacity to choose our course of action. But He certainly gave us explicit direction for making wise choices: "Choose life."
The Bible places great value on children. They are the "heritage" of the Lord, His "reward" (Psalm 127:3). The Bible also makes it clear that a child's life is to be protected, even while the child is in the mother's womb. Among the ancient Hebrews, penalties were prescribed against a person who injured a pregnant woman and thereby caused her to miscarry (Exodus 21:22-23).
God's Word says that if you hurt a pregnant woman and she loses the baby, you have to pay a penalty - not because it was a "blob of tissue," as abortion proponents would have us believe, but because it was a living human being.
Furthermore, God knows us, and even speaks to us, while we are in the womb. God called both Isaiah and Jeremiah to be prophets while they were still in the womb (Isaiah 49:1, 5; Jeremiah 1:4-5). Would God name and ordain a meaningless blob? That unborn child in the womb is not a blob of flesh but a life sophisticated enough to have a relationship with God Almighty!
It is tempting to rationalise abortion in dire circumstances, such as pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. Statistically, such pregnancies are very rare. If pregnancy does occur, the taking of innocent human life should not compound the woman’s trauma and guilt. Abortion does not solve the problem of violence or abuse - it increases the problem. We should punish the criminal, not the victim.
Bible Prophecy and the Rapture
Q. Why is Bible prophecy so important? And what do you mean when you talk about the "rapture" of the church?
A. Prophecy is important because such a large amount of Scripture is devoted to it: about one-quarter of the Bible was prophetic when it was written. Bible prophecy proves beyond any reasonable doubt that God knows and controls the future, and the fact that He included so much prophecy in His Word shows that He wants us to understand the things to come. Many of the events prophesied in Scripture have already come to pass, but some remain to be fulfilled at a later date, including the Rapture of the Church.
While the word ‘rapture’ is not used in the New Testament, the concept of a "catching away" is vividly described. It refers to a future event when the church - all the members of the body of Christ, past and present - will be reunited with Jesus. The Bible (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) says, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ [Christians who have died] will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord"; see also 1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
When will this take place? Although no one knows the day or the hour, the Bible describes the time period immediately preceding it. I have written extensively about why I believe that the generation that is alive today will see the mass ingathering of believers commonly called the Rapture. The Bible says that, as they did when Noah was building the ark, people on earth will be conducting their daily routines, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, buying and selling, right up to the moment of His return. And just as God set apart His chosen ones by placing Noah and his family into the ark for safe-keeping, He will remove his Church from the seven years of tribulation that will follow the Rapture.
The Rapture will also protect the Church from Satan's ultimate delusion. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.) Jesus prophesied that before His return there would be many false messiahs and false christs (Matthew 24:23). Think about this: Anyone can stand up and say, "I am Jesus." Anyone can wear a white robe and claim to be the descendant of King David. Anyone can place surgical scars in his hands and feet. How can you tell the real Jesus from the false one? Not by dramatic displays of supernatural power. Remember this: a man with supernatural power is not necessarily from God; the devil has supernatural power too, as do his demons.
So how will we know when the real Jesus comes to earth? I'll know Jesus has reappeared when my glorified body sails through the heavens past the Milky Way into the presence of God. I'll know I'm with the real Jesus when I stand in His glorious presence with my brand new disease-proof, never-dying, fatigue-free body!
Burial versus Cremation
Q. Is it wrong for a Christian to choose to be cremated?
A. Burial and cremation are personal choices; the Bible does not prescribe a particular method for disposing of bodies after death. However, Christians have historically followed the Jewish custom of burial, for several reasons. First, it shows respect for our physical bodies, which are the creation of God. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made," the Bible says (Psalm 139:14). Jesus Himself chose to come to earth in a physical body just like ours, and He was resurrected in that same body. Our bodies are also destined for resurrection; our "natural" bodies will be gloriously transformed into "spiritual" bodies when the dead in Christ are raised (1 Corinthians 15).
At that time, when we receive our glorified bodies, it will not matter whether we were buried or cremated at death. Many Christians who have died in fires have been involuntarily cremated. Think of those believers who lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Centre in New York, for example. Most of the bodies were not recovered; the victims' remains were obliterated and their ashes scattered in the massive pile of rubble. It was humanly impossible to identify the dead, yet the God who created them can identify their bodies down to the last atom. And He will resurrect them "in the twinkling of an eye," in exactly the same way as He will resurrect those Christians whose bodies were buried and decomposed naturally.
Burial or cremation is a very personal choice. You should discuss it with your closest family members before making a decision, so they will be comfortable in carrying out your wishes and living with the memories.
Q. If killing is prohibited by the Sixth Commandment, shouldn't Christians oppose the death penalty?
A. The Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13) does not prohibit all killing, for that would contradict other biblical passages that clearly prescribe the death penalty for certain crimes. "Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death" (Leviticus 24:17), the Bible says. And "He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 21:12). A better translation of the Sixth Commandment is found in modern editions of the Bible such as the New King James Version and the New International Version, which render the Sixth Commandment in this way: "You shall not murder." The Hebrew word used in this verse is ‘rasah’, and it has the specialised meaning of murder by an intentional, malicious act. Murder is the deliberate taking of innocent life. When society executes a criminal, an innocent life is not being taken.
The primary principle of punishment in the Bible is proportionality. That means that the punishment must be proportionate to the crime committed. In America, their Supreme Court has recognised this principle. That's why the range of crimes that merit the death penalty is actually quite narrow. Capital punishment is usually limited to the murder of a police officer, the murder of a child, or a murder committed during such an offence as armed robbery.
Depression and Anxiety
Q. I'm facing a struggle right now and sometimes I am overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. Is it a sin for a Christian to be depressed?
A. Almost everyone gets depressed at some point in his or her lives, and Christians are certainly not immune to sadness or stress. Even great biblical heroes succumbed to depression at various times - Moses, Elijah, and King David, for example. Elijah even despaired of his life. When the wicked Queen Jezebel sought to kill him, the prophet ran into the wilderness, collapsed under a juniper tree and prayed, "Lord, take my life." That was depression speaking.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers of all time, nearly died from depression. One Sunday, while he was preaching to a full congregation, a mentally handicapped man stood up and screamed, "Fire! Fire!" The huge crowd stampeded for the doors and four members of Spurgeon's congregation were trampled to death. The great pastor's mind literally snapped from the tragedy. The deacons took him home, sought the best medical help available, and prayed around the clock for the survival of their pastor. For a few days it appeared that one of the greatest ministries of all time would be prematurely ended. But while walking in the garden, Spurgeon later said, “It was as if a light suddenly pierced through the darkness,” and he could feel the presence of Jesus. Spurgeon's mind and his ministry were completely restored.
So it's quite normal for Christians - even the "super saints" - to experience depression in the middle of life's struggles. If the depression lasts for more than two or three weeks, though, you should see a doctor; since clinical depression requires medical attention. Get a thorough physical examination to rule out an underlying disease as the cause of depression. Many people have a hormonal or chemical imbalance that will cause depression and medication can restore the proper balance.
Here are some basic ways to help you combat depression:
Spend time every day meditating on the Word of God. "Blessed [happy] is the man [or woman]" whose "delight is in the law of the Lord" and who "meditates day and night" on God's Word (Psalm 1:2). Think about things that are good, true, honest, and of good report (Philippians 4:8) and your brain will be affected positively.
Get rid of grudges every day. If you're angry, don't sin by nursing a grudge. Anger gives the devil a foothold in your life, so don't hang on to it.
Spend time every day getting to be more intimate with your husband or wife, your children, your parents, your brothers or sisters. Family harmony is essential to mental and spiritual health; unresolved conflicts will destroy you.
Spend time every week with committed Christians who are full of the Spirit. You become like the people you spend time with, so fellowship each week with people of like faith. Let their positive attitude rub off on you.
Work on something that brings personal satisfaction to you. The three faces of happiness are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
Do something nice for a special person. "Give and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38). What do you want other people to give to you? Then give that to others. It can be your time, your love, a flower arrangement, a greetings card, or a cup of tea - but give something special on a regular basis. In giving, you will receive what you need.
Q. Does God really heal diseases today? How can I be healed?
A. Certainly! God's healing power has never diminished, and He desires divine health for us. One of God’s names in the Bible is Jehovah Rapha, which means, "The God Who Heals."
Scripture is full of examples of the healing power of Jesus. While He walked this earth, He healed the lame, the blind, the sick, and the deaf. He healed individually and He healed groups of people. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is still the Great Physician.
Furthermore, His power dwells in us as believers. The gospels clearly state that Jesus delegated His healing power to the twelve disciples (Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1). Luke states that an additional seventy disciples were commissioned to preach the gospel and heal diseases (Luke 10:1-9). And Jesus did not intend for them to stop healing the sick after His resurrection and ascension. In fact, He told the disciples that after He returned to heaven, they would do even "greater works" than their Master (John 14:12). As part of the Great Commission - Jesus' final instructions to the original Twelve as well as disciples throughout the ages - He said that certain "signs will follow those who believe: In My name . . . they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:17-18). This "laying on of hands" in prayer for the sick was practised by the early church (James 5:14-15), and it has been the custom of believers ever since.
If you need healing, ask the elders of your church to anoint you with oil and pray for you according to the biblical pattern. Or ask other believers in your Sunday school class or home Bible study to pray with you. If you have no Christian support, click hereto send a Prayer Request online and ask for prayer. We will be glad to pray for you and help you have faith for healing. You can be healed too!
Prayer should be a Christian's first response to sickness, but too many believers use prayer as a last resort. Instead of running to the Great Physician, they run to the medicine cabinet in search of pills or vitamins or other remedies. I'm a firm believer in medicine and doctors, and I'm thankful for their healing ministry. But when I am sick, my ultimate reliance is on the God who made me. Faith is the key to divine health and healing. Remember, your faith should not be placed in the person who prays for you. That person is just a vessel used by God, and a frail little grey-headed prayer warrior in your church can be just as effective as some big-name healing evangelist. That's because the proper object of your faith is Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals. Release your faith and receive your healing today.
Israel and the Jewish People
Q. Why are you so outspoken in your support of Israel and the Jewish people? What relevance does the Bible have to the Middle East today?
A. The support of Israel is a biblically based mandate for every Christian. All other nations were created by an act of men, but God Himself established the boundaries of the nation of Israel. God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a covenant of land that was eternally binding, and it is recorded in the book of Genesis. God also told Abraham that He would make Abraham's descendants into a great nation and through them He would bless all the families of the earth. In the same passage, God said He would "bless those who bless you" (Abraham), and "curse him who curses you" (Genesis 12:3). That gets my attention. I want to be blessed, not cursed, by God.
The Bible shows God as the protector and defender of Israel. Psalm 121:4 says that He never slumbers or sleeps in His watching over the nation of Israel. The prophet Zechariah said that the Jewish people are "the apple of God's eye" (2:8). Any nation that comes against Israel is, in effect, poking God in the eye - not a very wise thing to do! If God created Israel, if God defends Israel, if God considers Israel the apple of His eye, then it is logical to say that those who stand with Israel are standing with God.
Every Christian should remember the debt of gratitude the Christian community owes to the Jewish community. The Jewish people do not need Christianity to explain their existence or their origin. But Christians cannot explain their existence without Judaism. It was the Jewish people who gave us the written Scripture. They gave us the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They gave us the disciples and the apostle Paul. The Jewish people gave to Christianity the first Christian family, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus - our Saviour! If you take away the Jewish contribution to Christianity, there is nothing left.
Geopolitically speaking, we should support Israel because it is the only true democracy in the Middle East. The tiny democracy of Israel is surrounded by feudal states and brutal dictatorships that control vast regions of land and oil resources. The presence of the Israeli Defence Forces brings stability to that part of the world.
The current conflict in the Middle East is not just about land; it's about Israel's right to exist as a nation. The land has never belonged to the people who now call themselves Palestinians. The Romans named the area Palestine, but there has never been a nation called Palestine, and there is no Palestinian language. Before 1948 these people were Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, Iraqis, and citizens of other Arab nations who had moved to the region. They were displaced by the war of 1948, but Israel is not occupying their territory.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas clearly do not want peace. During the Clinton Administration they were offered a Palestinian State with part of Jerusalem as its capital, along with control of 97 percent of the West Bank-everything their own negotiators had said was necessary for peace. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to the deal, but Yasser Arafat turned it down flat. He walked away from peace, sending a tacit message to the terrorists, who continue their slaughter of innocent lives in their pursuit of destruction of the Jewish State.
Q. How important is prayer? Doesn't God already know what we need?
A. As powerful as God is, He cannot answer prayers until they are prayed. Prayer is the key that unlocks the storehouses of God's grace and power. Prayer is not a matter of overcoming God's reluctance, and it is not a means of sending God to run on your errands. Many people consider prayer a form of divine insurance or an opportunity to make a deal with God. It's not that at all. Prayer is submitting to the purposes of God. The purpose of prayer is to change us so that we want to do His will. Find out what God wants and pray for that.
When you meet God's conditions in prayer, you get an answer every time. Through prayer, you can tap into the supernatural world, and you can pray with intelligence that goes beyond the knowledge of man. Romans 8:26 says that when we don't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit helps us and makes intercession for us.
I like to pray with a notebook nearby. When I finish telling God what's on my mind, I listen to see what's on His mind and I write it down. What He tells me when I shut up and listen is what gives birth to every sermon I preach and every book I write. If you want to hear from God, and He does want to talk to you, then don't just bombard heaven with a shopping list of requests. Pour your heart out to God, and then take time to listen. It will change your life!
Suffering and Sickness
Q. Are suffering and sickness signs that a Christian lacks faith or has sin in their life? Why are some people healed and not others?
A. It is certainly possible that a Christian may go through problems or become ill because of sin or disobedience. Sickness can also result from not taking care of our bodies, or it can be a response to stress or worry. But sometimes illnesses, or various trials and difficulties, strike precisely because we are in the centre of God's will and Satan wants to derail us.
Overcoming struggles is at the heart of the Christian life. The Bible teaches that suffering should not surprise us. "Dear friends," wrote Peter to the church, "do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:12 NIV).
In spite of that clear teaching, some preachers give the impression that if you're truly living by faith, you won't experience suffering or sickness, or that if you do, God is obligated to deliver you and heal you. That's not a reasonable position to take.
Some preach that God never heals, which is totally wrong. Others preach that God heals every time, which does not always happen. God said through John, in 3 John 2, Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers. It is God’s will for people to be healed. It is a part of the atonement. He has already paid for it, and just because people are not healed does not mean that it is God’s fault. We have a part to play, i.e. to receive.
Someone may say, “but I know some great Christians who have really loved God with all of their heart that have died sick. Are you saying that they are wrong?” God’s people perish for a lack of knowledge. A person can love God; they can be developed in the area of being born again and loving God with all of their heart, and that does not detract from it - it does not mean that you do not love God if you are not healed, and you will still go to heaven - but if people have not heard the truth about healing, they can die sick, and it is not because God intended it to be that way; it is because of our ignorance. We have a part to play in healing, just as we do in being born again. We have to understand how to receive our healing. The Lord has already made the atonement; healing is a part of the atonement, just as forgiveness of sins is. He has provided salvation for everybody, through the Lord Jesus. We were healed in our spirits when we accepted Jesus as our Saviour. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:5 By His stripes we are healed (not will be, or may be - it’s an already done thing!) The physical manifestation of this healing in our bodies can often, however, be subject to hindrances, such as the examples above.
Some preachers have quoted Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ as an example of God not wanting to heal him, but this is wrong, as in the Bible this term ‘thorn in the flesh’ is used to describe persecution, which is something that neither Paul, nor you, nor I, are redeemed from.
In the New Life Fellowship we always pray in faith for the sick, believing it is God's will that we live in divine health. What we do know is that God works everything together for good in the life of a believer (Romans 8:28), that He has ordained a divine purpose for us, and that he works everything out according to His eternal plan (Ephesians 1:11).
Tithing and Financial Prosperity
Q. I thought tithing was an Old Testament principle. Is it something Christians are supposed to practise? Will it guarantee me financial prosperity?
A. Giving to the Lord is an important principle in both the Old and New Testaments, and obedience in tithing - which is giving one-tenth of your income - is a good place to start. It is God who gives us the power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18), and He expects us to be good stewards of the resources He has placed in our hands.
Jesus did not do away with tithing. On one occasion He lambasted the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their legalistic methods of giving. They scrupulously tithed 10 percent of even tiny spices like mint and dill while neglecting "the more important matters of the law” - justice, mercy, and faithfulness. “You should have practised the latter," Jesus told them, "without neglecting the former" (Matthew 23:23 NIV).
Money was an important part of Jesus' teaching. Of the 38 parables recorded in Scripture, 16 of them deal with money or possessions and how to manage them. The Lord advised us to invest our ‘treasures’ in God's work, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).
Investing in God's kingdom pays great dividends! If we give sparingly, we will reap sparingly, the Bible says; but if we sow generously, we will reap God's abundance (2 Corinthians 9:6). God's Word promises that if we're faithful to "bring all the tithes into the storehouse" [the church], He will pour out a blessing we can scarcely contain. On the other hand, if we don't tithe, we are robbing God. (Malachi 3:8-10)
While God wants to prosper us, true prosperity is not measured solely in pounds and pence. God has promised to meet all our needs (Philippians 4:19); However, He has not promised to fund all our greed. Your giving is a reflection of your priorities. When the things of God become your priority, your chequebook will prove it. "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).