Pastor Eric is pastor of Tree of Life Bible Fellowship Church in Southfield, Michigan, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and a Professor/Registrar at Moody Theological Seminary.
Dear Pastor Eric,
I have heard it said that a person does not need to come to a formal church service to worship God. Is this true? Can a person go to the beach and worship God rather than coming to church?
– DG.com Visitor
Dear DG.com Visitor, That is a good question. That type of comment comes up quite often during these warm months in Michigan. The statement sounds like this; “Who wants to be inside when I can go to the beach, golf course or camp ground and worship God in the great outdoors?”
It is true that a believer in Jesus Christ can worship God anywhere. Every believer should have personal worship experiences with God on a regular or daily basis. Going to a private place of beauty and tranquility helps us to focus on the majesty of God.
However, personal worship does not substitute for corporate worship. To enter into a full worship experience of God, we need both personal and corporate worship. In Hebrews 10:24-25, God tells us not to forsake meeting together because this is the way in which God has chosen to encourage us in our walk with Him.
To substitute personal worship for corporate worship is to eliminate the method by which God has chosen to encourage us. That is why so many people who stop attending church find themselves in a backslidden state.
However, to substitute corporate worship for personal worship makes us simply “church goers” who have no power in our lives. We get happy on Sunday, but have no power Monday through Saturday.
The key to spiritual maturity is to have both forms of worship. So this summer, when you are told, “I can worship on the golf course”, respond by saying; “Please do! However, why don’t you worship with us as well?”
Dear Pastor Eric,
I would like to know, why are these churches worshipping on Sunday when the Sabbath is the 7th day of the week and that’s one of the commandnents? God did not change that and how can people be saved if they are not keeping the commandments?
Hello Detroitdane, That is an excellent question.
To begin, we need to start with the question of, “How is one saved?” A person is saved by placing his or her faith in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ. We are not saved by our own works; Ephesians 2:8-9. So “keeping” the 10 commandments doesn’t save us.
The Ten Commandments were given to the nation of Israel to keep. They were to live “under the Law”. As New Testament believers, we are not under the Law, but under Grace. For us, the Ten Commandments are a guideline of how we should live. They are not (or ever have been) the determining factor of our eternal destiny.
With that said, the principle or guideline of keeping the Sabbath is to have one day of rest per week. One day per week where we worship God and cease from our labor. Prior to the birth of the church, the Jews rested from Friday evening to Saturday evening based upon Creation.
With the birth of the church (Pentecost), a portion of the early church began to worship on Sunday in order to align itself with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Other Christians (of Jewish decent) continued to worship on the Sabbath. Both existed in the early church. Over the years as the gentile population of the church grew, the predominant day of worship became Sunday.
As Christians, we are free to worship on Saturday or Sunday. We can worship Saturday based upon Creation or we can worship Sunday, based upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Neither day saves or sanctifies us. God honors the one who sets a day per week aside for Him. The Apostle Paul gives us the view that we as Christians should hold with regard to this issue.
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day– things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ;” Colossians 2:16-17.
I hope this helps you.
Dear Pastor Eric,
I was wondering if it is possible for a Christian to hate some one if they have a really really good reason to? And also I was wondering how do you know when you have forgiven some one for sure?
– Visitor from Detroit, Michigan
Dear Visitor from Detroit, That is a great question. Yes, it is possible for a Christian to hate someone. However, it is not the right or proper thing for a Christian to do.
Let me explain. Often our normal and proper reaction to a wrong committed against us is anger. However, if we allow anger to reside in us, it will eventually turn into hate. Anger is a legitimate response to a wrong committed. Hate is an improper response to anger not being resolved. This is why God says in Ephesians 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” If anger is allowed to remain, hatred will begin to take root and the devil will have a foothold into our lives. So not hating is to our benefit. Hatred is a poison that ruins our soul.
So how do you get rid of it? Not by trying harder. We get rid of it by telling God that we do not have the power in our own strength to remove it. Actually, we may not want to remove it, but we know that this is what God wants. We tell God that our desire is to have Him remove it and we trust that He will. If we genuinely trust Him to do this, we will begin to see day-by-day, the hatred begin to subside. Actually, we may begin to feel pity or even the love of God towards the person we once hated. Asking God to replace our hate with His love is a wonderful place to start.
How do you know if you have truly forgiven that person? True forgiveness does not mean that the relationship is restored to where it once was. There is no guarantee that the relationship will ever be restored. True forgiveness is when you no longer hold a grudge against the person for what he or she has done. Forgiveness means forgiving the specific action or actions that a person or persons have committed in the past. This is an act of your will, not your emotions.
You may truly forgive someone, but it will take a while for your emotions to catch up with your will. Be patient. Your will is the engine that runs the train. Your emotions are the caboose that will follow.
Pay attention now! This does not mean that you put yourself or a loved one back into harm’s way. For example, if someone has raped you, you don’t go back out on a date with him (or her). That is not forgiveness. That is stupidity.
With forgiveness comes wisdom. Wisdom may mean not allowing yourself to be put into a potentially dangerous situation until the other party has had the proper counseling or help.
I hope this helps.
Q: Dear Pastor Eric,
First I wanna say GOD bless you brotha for taking time out to answer questions for people like me…Now to my question, I would like to know when you are married is it ok if the man and wife could sexually do whatever they want or if there are some things that are not acceptable? And if possible, could you please offer scriptural references for your answer. Thank you! May GOD continuously bless you as you keep HIM on your mind. Stay encouraged and be BLESSED~!!!
– Visitor from Detroit, Michigan
Dear Visitor from Detroit, First, I want to thank you for the question.
Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
As long as the marriage bed is shared “only” between the married couple, then that couple is free to do just about anything that they want (within reason). So the question is, “What is within reason?”
Marriage is an act of commitment between a man and a woman. Marriage is a covenant before God and witnesses that these two individuals will love another and commit to one another for life. Part of the goal of marriage is to help one another mature into the image of Jesus Christ, to become all that God wants them to become and to enjoy one another.
Sex is the physical representation of that love, commitment and healthy desire to please the other person. If the sex act is degrading, humiliating or shameful, then it is not in line with the purpose of marriage. If a 3rd party is brought into the marriage bed, by means of adultery, video, magazines or internet, then it is no longer representing God’s purpose for marriage and is wrong.
With that said, there is plenty of room for fun, romance, surprise, and excitement in marriage. However, it should always be exclusively with your marriage partner. It should always be with your spouse’s willing and mutual consent. And it should never cause degradation, humiliation, or shame to your spouse.
Q: Dear Pastor Eric,
I am looking for some direction. Is there such a thing as good luck? Or is everything that happens to us in God’s will? I have heard people say things like “I am waiting on my big break, or a little luck to come my way”. Gospel artists are working hard everyday to make it BIG but it seems like only a few become successful. Is this God’s will or do we just continue the struggle in hopes of making it BIG one day?
Visitor from Detroit, Michigan
Dear Visitor from Detroit, That is a great question. I believe there is great truth in the statement, “It seems like the harder I work, the luckier I get.” Even in the secular world it is well documented that those who work diligently towards a goal, are much more successful than those who are “just waiting” or hoping for their Big break.
When it comes to working for the Lord, the same is true. However, success is not measured in the same way that the world measures success. As a Christian artist, business person, minister, etc., success is measured as faithfulness to God’s call on your life.
A great example of this truth is found in Hebrews 11. Throughout the chapter, the writer continues to point out “success” stories of the Old Testament. He talks about Noah, Abraham, Moses and others. They all accomplished great things on this earth for God.
However, in verses 35b through 39a, he states something different.
“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”
These individuals were faithful to God, yet they did not achieve great fame from the world. God even commends these warriors for their faith. The writer states that “The world was not worthy of them.”
God has a divine plan for each of our lives. His desire is for us to fulfill it in our lifetime. Whether the outcome of that plan is success by the world’s standard, is a mystery only known by Him.
So follow God’s plan, work hard to achieve it and accept the outcome. Remember whether you’re recognized by the world (or not) isn’t really that important. What’s important is that you are commended by God.
Q: Dear Pastor Eric,
Is it ok to say that if you have tried something more than once, and didn’t succeed the way you felt, that the spirit may be telling you to move on. I want to attend law school and I have taken the LSAT 2 times and I was really confident the last time, but my score was 1 point lower. There is no specific score I have to have, but I wanted to have a high score to improve my chances of getting into the law school of my choice. Sometimes I feel like the Holy Spirit is telling me to focus there, then things like this happen. Visitor from Oak Park, Michigan
Dear Visitor from Oak Park,
The Lord has a great plan regarding His purpose for your life. In Jeremiah 29:11-14, God tells the nation of Judah that He has a great plan for them. However, they will need to call, come, pray & seek Him with all their heart. The key to determining God’s plan for your life is to seek Him with “all” of your heart.
Seeking God with all your heart does not mean figuring out what you would like to do with your life. Nor does it mean figuring out what you want to do for God. It means persistently asking and seeking God with regards to what He wants to do through you.
At times this can be scary because we imagine that God will radically alter the plans that we had for our life. Sometimes this is true. Other times, the plans that we had were God’s plans all along.
God wants us to truthfully answer this question, “Are we willing to submit to His plan for our life no matter what that plan entails?” If the answer is yes, then He will begin to unfold His plan to us. If the answer is no, then He will not.
Does this mean that His plan will be easy? No. It actually may be more difficult than the plan we originally had for ourselves. So, the answer to your question is this. If you have submitted yourself to do His will and you are convinced that Law School is it, then view the poor LSAT scores as an obstacle that is trying to keep you from accomplishing the goal He has for you. If you have not submitted yourself & life to His purpose, then it may be Him saying to stop and seek Him regarding His plan.
Q: Dear Pastor Eric,
I would like to know how to help a friend come back to Christ. She still believes in God but she has strayed away. I have prayed for her and talked to her. Can you please help with a little more information on how to help her?
B.H. from Melvindale, MI
Dear B.H. from Melvindale,
A major aspect of helping your friend come back to Christ is determining the real reason that she left Him. If you can determine this, you can begin the process of helping her work through the issue. It may take months for your friend to open up and tell you the real reason for her departure.
One thing you may want to determine is, “Has she turned her back on Christ or a particular church?” Often people become disillusioned with a certain church’s views, church policy or church doctrine. If it turns out to be the church, suggest that she visit other churches. You may want to visit with her until she finds a church that she likes.
If you determine that she has actually turned her back on the Lord, it is usually because of disappointment or sin. In either case, a patient, concerned and prayerful friend can help her through her present state. Your prayers and friendship without participating in her self pity or sin is the best prescription for what ails your friend.
Q: Dear Pastor Eric,
Does the bible have anything to say about what is going on in Iraq?
Reader from Redford, MI
Dear Reader from Redford,
The bible doesn’t say anything specific regarding the invasion of the United States into modern day Iraq. However, it does have something to say concerning the significance of Iraq.
Ancient Babylon is located within the boundaries of modern day Iraq. The bible states that ancient Babylon will one day arise and have a significant place in world history. It is destined to be a major political and economic world power.
Saddam Hussein understood the significance of ancient Babylon and was obsessed with restoring Babylon to its ancient day prominence. He wanted to restore Babylon through military might. However, he lacked the political savvy to make it happen.
It is possible that Saddam may accomplish his goal through defeat rather than through victory.
The invasion by the United States into Iraq may be the beginning of the rebuilding of ancient Babylon. Iraq is now on the world’s center stage. The United States, the United Nations and the world want a hand in rebuilding Iraq. It is possible that through this process Iraq will rise to become the civilized world power that the Apostle John speaks about in Revelation 18. Stay tuned.