Pastor Steve’s Beliefs
As you read my essays on the other pages you might find yourself wondering, “Where is this guy coming from?” Well, this page answers that question by presenting my basic beliefs (and the beliefs of those in The Christian Church who hold on to Reformed theology). Want to find out what this “Jesus stuff” is all about? Read on!
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Page last updated on 10-29-2008.
Questions and Answers about the Normal Christian Life
Questions are listed first in case you are interested in
The fact that I belong to my Savior, Jesus Christ. He paid the fine I owed God because of my sins with His own blood and gives me the power I need to escape the devil's stranglehold on my life.
Christ watches over me and orders my life, so that anything and everything that happens to me will be used to draw me closer to Him and help me grow to be a mature Christian, becoming more and more like Jesus Himself.
Because I belong to Him, Christ (by His Holy Spirit) assures
my heart and mind that not even death will be the end of me, but that I'll
live with God forever.
By learning about and understanding both God and myself, and by practicing the spiritual exercises. If I do this, Christ will become more real to me and I will be able to hear the Spirit's voice more clearly.
God is a being who has always been alive (even before the world began) and will always be alive.
The passing of time doesn't change Him or make Him weaker.
He has no need to learn from experiences because He is completely wise already.
He is also completely good; completely fair, honest, and above-board; supremely powerful; the ultimate Authority and Ruler in the Universe.
God is not like us because He never chooses to do anything that is morally wrong.
He is also different from us in that He is not bound to the material world, or space, or time (i.e. He is not "stuck" with gravity, time passing, the need to breathe, eat, sleep, etc.).
He is also very alien to us because He is in control of everything that happens - nothing catches Him by surprise and He is never a helpless victim of circumstance.
God is very different than we are because He has a passion for justice that can never be diminished by weariness or set aside for the sake of expediency.
God is not like us because
although there is only one single God, there are three distinct persons -
Father, Son and Holy Spirit - who are that one God.
It is natural that some things about God would be hard for us to understand because God is so different than we are.
He is a spiritual being. We are physical beings. With our limited minds, we will not be able to fully comprehend an unlimited God.
It is arrogant to assume that we can figure out the one who
shaped the universe.
Yes. God loves, hates, plans, creates, thinks, builds, achieves, expresses Himself, takes pleasure in beauty and diversity, is disgusted by cruelty and evil.
God enters into relationships.
He exhibits to us His existence, power, and His genius, in the material world he made.
He sometimes speaks through dreams, circumstances, feelings, and voices deep within our hearts and minds.
The Holy Spirit speaks through other believers to us.
God showed us exactly what He is like when the Son came to earth as a human being and lived among us.
Through Jesus Christ's words, actions, and sacrifice we can see the invisible God.
God has given us a book filled with His thoughts and the story of what He is doing in human history. This book is the Bible.
God prompted men and women in the past to write words that are true and that accurately reveal God and His plans and desires to us.
These collected writings, the Bible, are our final authority on God.
If we ever wonder whether messages we are receiving are from
God or not, we must check the Bible.
Actions speak louder than words.
When we contribute our time, talents, and treasures to advance God's plan for the world, we are telling God that we believe in Him and cherish Him.
When we act in love towards those in need, we are showing God that we love Him.
When we determine to live our lives the way God tells us to in the Bible, we are telling Him that we know that He is smarter than we are and that He has the right to rule over us.
But we can also communicate with God in the same way that we communicate with other humans that we love (God is a being with identity, intelligence, and personality, remember).
We can talk to God - sharing with Him our feelings, fears, frustrations, needs, promises, appreciation, and devotion.
Talking to God is called "prayer."
We can also use the words of others when we communicate with God.
Just as you might share the words of a song which describe your feelings to a friend, so you can sing hymns and Christian songs to God.
Just as you choose a greeting card that "really says it all" to send to a loved one, so you can choose Bible passages or portions of other Christian literature to read to God.
Of course, you can also use your own creativity to communicate with God -
write your own song or poem, paint Him a picture, compose a letter, etc.
If two countries are trying to establish diplomatic relations, they first have to clear the air about past hostilities.
If someone told you he or she wanted to be your friend, yet had never paid you for the time he or she ran over your mailbox or never took back the nasty things once said about your spouse, would you embrace him or her as a friend?
No. If relationships are going to be lasting and sincere, any problems between the parties have to be worked out.
Because God wants to have a lasting and sincere relationship
with us, He first needs to take care of the problems He has with us.
Although God gave us life and keeps us alive, we often don't even acknowledge His existence.
And He, as the Ruler of the Universe, and the one who set up
the way the universe works, gave us His laws:
- laws that if obeyed would end wars, crime, substance abuse, broken friendships, family feuds, divorce, hurt feelings, violence, gossip, and many of the physical ills that plague humankind,
- laws that if obeyed would make our lives fuller, happier, and healthier.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."
"You shall love your neighbor in the same way that you love yourself."
He determined that not all humans would have to pay the penalty for their own law-breaking (called "sin").
Instead, the Father sent Jesus Christ to be punished in the place of those He wants to be His people.
God's justice is then satisfied because the "fine,"
as it were, has been paid and His people are now forgiven and free to enter a
relationship with Him.
You must believe in Christ and repent of your sins.
But God even helps you do these things.
God will work to draw you to Himself using the Bible, circumstances in your life, other people, etc.
He will bring you to the point where you truly believe that Jesus Christ did pay your penalty when He died on the cross.
He will cause you to want to stop sinning and to start living God's way.
The Holy Spirit will come to live within you, giving you
wisdom, strength, love, power, and courage to obey God's laws and to
participate in God's plan for His people.
As God's people grow in numbers and are enabled, by the Holy Spirit, to obey God more and more and to become more and more like Jesus Christ Himself, our world will change and some of the effects of mankind's disobedience (wars, crime, broken relationships, etc.) will diminish.
Ultimately, all effects will vanish when Jesus Christ returns to earth and brings to completion the work that God has started through His people.
God wants us to rule the world as His agents, unlocking the secrets of the universe and using them to create and build.
We are to be God's caretakers in this world, cherishing and preserving His creation.
Humans have unlimited potential when they work together using
the gifts and abilities God has given.
Ever since that time, we have an inborn tendency to selfishly and egocentrically view ourselves as the center of the universe and to resent God telling us how we are to live.
This is why you need Jesus to save you from your sins. This is why you need the Holy Spirit, so that you will have the power to overcome the weakness in your nature.
On your own, you can't do it.
In fact, all the "good" that you try to do is tainted with a little bit of evil.
For example, when you give to a charity, maybe 95 per cent of you gives because you care about the suffering children in far-off lands, but isn't there a part of you that does it so that you can feel good about yourself, or so that you can tell someone else what you've done?
This is why God had to send Jesus to die for us and why we on
our own can't just make amends with God. None of our "good works"
are pure enough.
As you mature in the faith by doing the spiritual exercises, you will sin less and less.
When Jesus comes again, His power will wipe out every vestige
of weakness in our natures and we will remain perfect forever.
When Jesus returns, those who believed in Him who have died will be raised from the dead with immortal bodies.
Those who believe in Him and have never died will find their bodies transformed into immortal ones.
We shall then live in the full presence of God in perfect peace and love forever.
We know that this is not a fairy tale or wishful thinking
because after Jesus died for our sins, He came to life again, leaving the
tomb and proving that death doesn't have the last laugh.
As one of His people, you are once again a conduit of God's power and His agent in the world.
He gives you special spiritual gifts, abilities, interests,
inclinations, and a unique personality which you are expected to use to
impact your home, family, neighborhood, friends, school, workplace, and world
God will make these things clear to you as you do the spiritual exercises.
Just as your physical body gets weak if you don't exercise it, so your life with God gets weak if you don't exercise it.
You want to grow strong enough to overcome the inherent weakness in your nature.
Also, you've got to get strong enough to resist the peer pressure from those who aren't living God's way.
And you've got to be strong to conquer your enemy, Satan.
Satan is the leader of spiritual beings that were created by God but rebelled against him.
They now exist to deface, defame, degrade, and destroy God's creation - including you!!!
You can frustrate his plans for you by relying on the Holy Spirit's
power and by doing your spiritual exercises.
Baptism, The Lord's Supper, Worship, Prayer, Bible Study, Meditation, Fellowship, Service and Rest.
When you buy a new book do you put your name on it, or glue in a sticker that says "From the Library Of...?"
If you lend the book out, you want to make sure that the borrower knows who it belongs to, so you put your mark of ownership on it.
Baptism is God's mark of ownership on you.
The fact that you've been baptized reminds you that, while you spend much of your life out among unbelievers, being buffeted about by Satan's temptations, you, in reality, belong to God.
God wants his seal of ownership to be placed on all who believe in Jesus and on their children to clearly show that they are all His.
You receive His seal when the church applies water (symbolizing the Holy Spirit's power to clean up your act with God) to you (by sprinkling it on your head, pouring it on your head, or submerging you in it) and proclaiming that you are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As you witness and participate in the baptism of others, you'll be reminded of the fact that you are God's treasured possession.
You'll gain love and respect for others that belong to Him, too.
You'll be challenged to raise your baptized children by God's
rules because you will be aware that they, too, are God's.
Sometimes complicated spiritual truths can be illustrated by using common household objects.
This is what the pastor often does when he or she gives the Children's Sermon.
God gives us an object lesson to teach us how much we have to depend on Jesus Christ for forgiveness, power, and eternal life.
Just as we can't go for long without food and still stay alive, so we can't go without Jesus. God makes this point by using bread and drink to represent Christ.
Just as Jesus' body was broken when He died to pay your fine on the cross, so bread is broken and the pieces are handed out.
Just as Jesus' blood poured out on the ground when He died for us, so a drink (usually something that comes from grapes) is poured out and distributed.
When we eat the bread and drink the drink with other believers we are reminded that we all have equal status in God's eyes and that we all need Jesus.
No believer is so perfect or so above it all that they are not served the Lord's Supper.
And the food and drink isn't only served to those who have been believers for a long time or only to those who have just been converted or only to those who work hardest in the church.
No, every believer gets some because every believer needs Christ.
The Lord's supper isn't only an object lesson.
God uses it in a special way that we can't fully explain to
draw us near to Jesus and strengthen us for living the life God wants us to
When you tell someone how wonderful he or she is, you are worshiping that person.
We worship God when we tell Him how wonderful we think He is.
We can do this alone as individuals and together with other believers. Both types of worship are important.
We worship by singing and praying to God and by quieting down and paying attention as God speaks to us through the preaching, teaching, and studying of the Bible.
We worship when we give God money by contributing to the church and other Christian groups. By doing this, we tell God that He and His causes are worth something to us.
We also worship by continually choosing to live our day-to-day
lives according to God's rules, showing Him that we believe He knows best.
Prayer is talking to God.
If you have difficulty knowing what to say to Him or how to
begin a conversation with Him, keep in mind the word, "ACTS."
The letters stand for:
Tell God the things you appreciate about Him, the things that make Him special to you.
Admit to God the ways in which you've blown it, asking for His forgiveness and help to do better.
What's going on in your life or the lives of others that you want to thank God for?
The word means, "to ask for something."
What's going on in your life or the lives of others that you need to ask God's help for?
Bible Study is reading the Bible, staying alert for what God has to say to you.
One way to do this is by asking yourself these questions as
you read parts of the Bible:
"What is this teaching me about God Himself?"
"What is this teaching me about what all humans are like?"
"What is this teaching me about what those who belong to God are like?"
When you hear the word, "Meditation," you might picture a bunch of gurus sitting in a circle, chanting phrases over and over again, trying to empty their minds.
Actually, when those who belong to God meditate, they are not trying to empty their minds, but rather to fill them.
Meditating is focusing your minds on one story, verse, phrase, or word in the Bible and using your imagination to wring every last drop of meaning out of it.
For example, if you're reading a story about Jesus healing a
blind man, try to imagine how the man felt as he suddenly could see for the first
How did Jesus feel toward the man?
How do you think those observing this healing reacted?
What does it mean to have God as your shield?
How do you feel standing behind such a shield?
If you attend a high school reunion, you get together with people you might not ordinarily see because you have something in common - you all graduated from the same school the same year.
Fellowship is getting together with other believers, even some you might not ordinarily associate with, simply because you have in common the fact that you all belong to God.
You can get together to share a meal, have a party, see a movie, discuss problems, study the Bible, pray, worship, etc.
The important thing is that you are choosing to be with these
people because of the relationship you all have with God.
"Community service" organizations are those which dedicate their time and talents to doing good deeds that better the lives of those living in their communities.
The Spiritual Exercise of Service is using your time and talents to do good deeds that improve the lives of other believers and/or advance God's plan in the world.
As you are willing to try out various activities (teaching a Sunday School class, painting a sign, visiting people in hospitals, serving on a church committee, setting up for a dinner, etc.), it will become obvious to you and to others what you are good at and what you enjoy doing.
Then you can work at becoming stronger and more experienced in
God wants us to set aside periods of time when we don't think or worry about our problems, and when we don't work at our jobs or get engrossed in our daily routines.
God's ideal is that we would take one day a week off, away from our normal cares, concerns, and activities, trusting that the world won't fall apart without us because He is in charge.
It's also helpful to take time during the week to push your
worries out of your mind awhile, as this will help you rely on God to be your
strength, instead of relying solely on your own ability to work things out.
I read an excellent article which I believe summarizes what the normal Christian life is all about in the July 12, 1999 issue of "Christianity Today" by Mark Buchanan entitled "Stuck On The Road To Emmaus." Here's what I took away from it:
We're always looking for fulfillment in our spiritual lives and to find the novel, thrilling insight into The Spiritual Exercises, a new filling of The Holy Spirit, the new daily devotional program, etc. that will take us to a higher plane.
The truth may be that the disciples' experience on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) is closer to what real, biblical Christianity is than all our lofty, "sanctified" wishes are.
The disciples are caught up in their worries and grief so that it's hard for them to recognize Jesus as He walks with them.
When He does try to talk with them, their initial response is essentially, "What's wrong with you? Don't you understand what I'm going through?"
How often does this happen in our lives as well? The disciples only realized Jesus was with them after the fact.
Often as we go through trials, we can't "see" God.
It's only later that we can discern that He really was there, walking with us and walking us through them.
Yet, as Jesus talks to them, their hearts burn within them.
Even in the midst of life's sorrows and struggles, we can still admit deep down inside that there's something about the Bible and it's message that rings true, that tells us that it's from God.
Later, the disciples remember their reaction to Jesus' words. "Didn't our hearts burn?"
Often what enables us to keep on keeping on are memories of times when God seemed so real and when something supernatural was definitely going on - be it a miraculous answer to prayer, a small voice inside, His presence at a worship service, a period in our lives when God seemed close, or whatever.
Because, as he did with the disciples, Jesus seems always to quickly vanish from our sight.
About the time we joyfully realize, "God is really here," He's gone again.
He gives us just enough of those "God moments" in our lives to keep us going, usually when we're not looking for them and least expect them.
But full communion and revelation of Him awaits heaven, and even with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we still walk by faith and not by sight.
For now, we live in a world where the "high" that we got in prayer vanishes when we have to yell at the kids later that afternoon, or when the burrito we had for lunch comes back to visit again and again, or when we file our income taxes.
Yet, still we have a hope that won't ever leave us.
I am a person who, in the words of the article, has a heart both "slow and burning."
I often can't recognize Jesus when He's standing in front of me, yet still there is something deep within me that lets me know I'm a child of God.
Rather than seeking a "fulfillment" that will never come this side of eternity, let's just live this day to serve Jesus, whether we can see Him parting our seas today or not.
(Forwarded to me over the Internet. I liked it very much.)
WRESTLING IN PRAYER
As Paul is closing out the letter to the
Colossians, he sends greetings to the Colossians from people they would
know. In the same way, if you were writing a letter to someone who used
to live here in Northwest Iowa and moved to California or moved to Arizona or
Texas, you might let others in the church know that you were corresponding
with that person and might say, "Well, say 'Hi' for me!" So
when you are writing the letter, you might say, "Arlan says to say 'Hi,'
or "Glenda says to say, 'Hi,' or "Ida said to say, 'Hi.'
That's what Paul is doing here. He's telling the people of Colossae,
"Hi," from people who know them and who are associated with his
Epaphras was probably wrestling with himself, and with Satan, and also,
he was probably wrestling with God in prayer. This sounds kind of
strange, doesn’t it, that we wrestle with God in prayer? And by
wrestling with God, I mean grappling with some things God tells us that we
find hard to take in. But I also mean, grabbing a hold of God and not
letting go of him! Even when he doesn’t seem to be paying
attention! Even when he doesn’t seem to be doing anything!
We keep coming back to him in prayer and grabbing a hold of him like Jacob
did in the book of Genesis and saying, “God, I’m not going to let
you go until you bless me!” That’s what I mean by
‘wrestling with God in prayer.’ Now, why is it that we
should have to do that? But we do have to do that. The prayer
request this morning said, “sometimes God doesn’t seem to be
there in the midst of crisis.” Why should we have to keep
coming back and taking hold of him and saying, “Don’t go away
without blessing me!” Why should we have to do that? After
all, he is a loving heavenly Father, so shouldn’t he answer the
requests of his children right away? Why do we need to keep coming back
again and again to him? Doesn’t he see that we are in need?
And many times, Lord, we wrestle with you as Jacob did! And, Lord, we just ask that you would sustain us during the hard work of prayer and that you would direct our prayers to go even deeper than they do. It is good to be concerned about physical things and about material blessings and about helping people emotionally but it is even better, Lord, to be concerned about their souls.
Help us to pray for one another, that we might be mature in you, fully doing your will, and might be assured, in confidence of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
And, Lord, as we think about Jonathan Mark, who was baptized today, we pray for his soul. We pray not just, Lord, that he would have a good life here in Hull, and be surrounded by loving friends and that you would help him grow up to be strong, but, Lord, we pray that you would be with his soul, that you would save his soul, that you would be revealing Jesus Christ to him throughout his entire life.
And we ask all these things so Jesus will be glorified in his life and in all of our lives. And in his name we pray, and in his name we dedicate our gifts.
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