FAQ: Doubts and Other Questions

Due to Technical issues the sermon audio was not recorded today

Welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human.  Today is our fourth and next to last week in our series we are calling FAQ- Frequently asked Questions.  And I am so very thankful for the responses and questions and feedback you are providing.  It’s been an interesting series.

Today we will start with three quick hitters and then talk about a very important question.

Here’s our quick hitters.  First:  Which church is the “Original Church?”  Catholic?  Greek Orthodox? 

Okay – this is interesting.  Most people understand that the Protestant Church began with Martin Luther – breaking away from the Catholic Church in 1517 – unleashing upon the world all of these upstart denominations and non denominational churches like Journey, for instance.

But before that famous church split between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church – there was another one – about 800 or so AD –  where the Roman Catholic Church split off from the Eastern Orthodox churches.  Up to that point – for 800 years really, the churches from various countries worked ecumenically – together – deciding doctrine and church practice.  But around 800 the divide in cultures between the East and West, between language and culture, and differences over the role and importance of the Pope – eventually caused a schism and a falling out between the two.

The result was the creation of two new sections – the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church.  The separation was made official about 1054ad – and each side claimed the other side left.

So which one was the “original Church” – both of them want to say they are, of course.  And churches like Journey – we want to chime in and say – no We are more like the churches we read about in Philippians and Galatians than any of those churches.  So everyone wants to be the originals.

Sometimes people say things like, “Look at all these different kinds of churches.  I mean – in Gretna alone – we have the Catholic Church, two Lutheran Churches, a Methodist, Baptist, a Presbyterian church, and five non-denominational churches – Journey, Steadfast, standing Stone, Acts 2 and Providence.  Why?  Isn’t this a sign that churches are unhealthy?

And of course, we’d say no.  That every church has always been slightly different than the one before.  And it doesn’t take much to read the bible and see that even churches Paul ministered amongst – the Philippian Church was a joyful generous church.  The Church in Corinth was the wild child church – and you read Corinthians and it makes you wonder how Paul could start by saying – to the saints who livein Corinth.

Revelation begins with a list of seven different churches – and all of them are different than one another.  So many churches with different styles – that IS the Biblical norm.

What unites all of us?  That Jesus really is God.  That he actually became a human being.  That he really died on the cross – and that he was actually raised to life again on the third day.  That he really went to heaven and that one day he will actually come back again – these are the things that unite every true church.   And in the meantime, let’s pray for more churches in Gretna.  There’s

Question 2:  Why don’t we see more miracles?  Great – love it. Some quick observations – first – it amazes me how little the miracles that Jesus performed when he lived actually convinced people to follow Him.  I mean – one day he feeds five thousand people and the next day people are like – do it again.

There is something in all of us – and I would say especially in our culture in America – that just refuses to receive miracles as evidence of the goodness of God.  We are skeptical.  And so – in our culture miracles often even work against the good news of Jesus.

Think about what would happen if right now someone walked up here and said, Phil I have the flu – and I said Be healed!  And smacked you on the forehead – smacked that flu right out cho’ body – and you stood up and said, I’m healed!  Are you coming back?  Be honest – most of you would say – what kind of freak show – what kind of charlatan preacher is up there blowing miracles into his hankie.

So miracles don’t do what we hope they will do.  Especially in America.

Now – that said – there are places in the world in the world that are far more in touch with the supernatural than we are – and if you were here last week you heard Jan Thompson talking about voodoo and people putting curses on one another – and so – in those situations we do read about God performing miracles – in an effort to show people who are naturally looking for supernatural power – where true power can truly be found.

But for the most part – that’s not here in the US.  Now that doesn’t mean God’s not still doing them – he does – it just often doesn’t get reported as a miracle.  We think of them as medical marvels, or perhaps someone misread the original diagnosis – or we say – the body is amazing.

So miracles- do they happen?  Yes – all over the world.  And I dare say if you keep your ears open for a sign of a miracle this week God may even point one out to you.  It’s okay to pray for a miracle.

And this might be the real question – why doesn’t God do the miracle I need him to do right now?  And that throws us back into the world of faith.  Of thinking highly enough of him to be able to allow him to lead us through even the dark valleys we’d prefer to avoid.

Question 3.  If God knows everything, then why should I pray?  Okay – this question I think is about as deep as it gets.

I remember thinking one time as I walked my dog at maybe 13 years old – I was learning about God and I thought – its amazing that God can hear my thoughts and he knows what I am about to say he knows I am about to say this!  And that!  And and then I hesitated to see if I could throw God off the trail – but then I thought – he knew I was going to do that!  Amazing!

But it didn’t take long before that line of thinking leads to this idea that – does it mean that I have no free will?  Did he cause me to try to trick him?

So this question- if God knows what he is going to d – and he knows what will happen in the future- then why even bother praying?  God is going to do what he wants.

So – let’s begin with the question:  What is prayer?  And at Journey we say that prayer is talking to God about matters of mutual concern.   When Jesus speaks about prayer – he likens it to a child talking with their father about what?  Well, at it’s most basic level prayer is a request.  We are asking our father for something.

But why?  Does God allow us to influence his decisions?

And the bible gives us a clear answer- yes He does.  God invites us to influence his decisions.

Can we just stop for a moment and think about the profoundness of this statement.  God welcomes our input into how he runs the universe.

For instance – the book of Jonah – Jonah was sent to Ninevah to inform the Assyrians that judgment was coming their way- the people of Assyria repent – and God relents – and Jonah pitches a fit I knew you’d change your mind.

Listen – God’s character remains unchangeable.  But incredibly, God treats humanity with enough respect and dignity that he sincerely allows us to have input into how things go.  Why?  Because we are God’s friends, not his pets.

Greek Mythology – most religions in fact, make mankind playthings of the Gods.  But Christianity declares that God want to walk with us through life as a friend – even better as a Father.  And so he welcomes our input.

Prayer influences God’s decisions.  Incredibly, God is flexible.

To be clear – prayer is not magic.  It’s not an incantation that forces God to do something.  It’s not a poll – or a vote – and sorry God you got outvoted this time!  Prayer is not begging.  Prayer is not pressure put on God to do what we want.  There is no formula – or level of faith required where God says – well I wanted to do this, but I guess I better do that.

The incredible truth is, that God simply welcomes our input.  God is great enough that change his intentions when he thinks it is appropriate, and still achieve his greater purposes.

Now he is also all wise – and so sometimes he says no.  And it’s up to us to think highly enough of him to trust him when we ask for something but he doesn’t give us what we want.  He is like a good father – he knows more than his young children, and leads them accordingly.

But he is always ready to talk, ready to listen.  He gives us the dignity of listening to our opinion about how we think the universe should be run.  So pray.  Because it does matter.

Last question of the day:  I’m 99% sure God exists. But that 1% has me asking… what if I’m wrong? Does that make me a bad Christian?

Yay!  I love this question.  And all I can say is this – if you are 99% sure that God is real, that Jesus lived and died and rose again and will come back again – the you are an absolute all star!  Are you kidding me?   That is like beast mode – all star stats.  Your average is way better than mine.

Some of you guys are like – truthfully – I’m 50/50.  I’m here and not quite sure yet.  And we’re glad you are here.  And it’s important to know you will most likely never be 100% all the time.

Everyone in here will have a number – a percentage – a time when we doubt.  My percentage might be different than yours, but all of us have times when we doubt.

Because we are human.  But we look around at headlines and we think to ourselves – if I were God I would not have allowed that to happen – and so – perhaps there is no God after all.  Or maybe he’s not all powerful or maybe he just doesn’t care.

That doesn’t make you less of a believer.  It makes you authentic and real and 100% human.

Well – here’s what I find in the bible.  First – check this out – there is this saying that Jesus says – it’s one of his favorite sayings – more than 6 dozen times in the four Gospel books do we read Jesus telling the crowd – “I tell you the truth.”

Six dozen times, “Gang – I’m serious about this – I’m not lying to you – this is the truth.”  Why would he use that phrase so many times?  Because he knows of our natural proclivity is to doubt.  To be skeptical.

You know we say that Journey Church is a church for skeptics.  And you know what – this bible is FILLED with skeptical, normal, human beings.

Job – the oldest book in the Bible – the main character- Job himself in chapter 19:6 declares of God – “God has wronged me.”  Job is doubting whether God is really good.  Whether God really knows what He is doing.  He is doubting the trustworthiness of God.

And what is really interesting about the story of Job is that he has four friends who seem to indicate zero doubt – They all have God figured out – these four stellar theologians – and yet at the end of the book – who does God defend?  Job.  God seems to be very fine with Job’s doubts.

Or there’s David – who wrote half the Psalms – and you know if you’ve been around here how much I tout Psalm 23 as the greatest psalm – and everyone should read it – and memorize it and pray through it every day and you should.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.

But I don’t usually point out Psalm 22 – the one just before – also written by David –

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

Which is it, David?  Has God abandoned you or is he your Shepherd that guides you?  Both!  Which is the real David?  Both!

99 days in a hundred it’s psalm 23 days – but every once in a while – it’s psalm 22.  And we bring our doubt to the Lord and we authentically and honestly cry out to him for help.

Just as these two psalms are mashed together, David takes both his faith and his doubts and mashes them together into one authentic man after God’s own heart.

Here’s one more example I want to show you – not doubting Thomas – we know his story.  Except I want to show you that Thomas wasn’t  the only doubter amongst the disciples.

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So if you are familiar with this passage you know it’s called the great commission and we love to read this passage as a rally cry to let’s get moving.  Rightly fully so – this is our commission from God to go and change the world!

Go and change the world!  Now if you are still waiting for the brain cells explosion – here it comes….  Oh, wait – just realized I forgot to read the verses just before this!

16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!

(Bombing sound)  Whaaaa?  Some of WHO doubted?  WHAAAAT!  Are you telling me that – Matthew is very specific -the eleven disciples.  The people who spent three years with Jesus.  Who say him walk on water and do miracle after miracle and they saw him raise people from the death and they saw Jesus die and then they hung out with Jesus for forty days AFTER he was raised from the dead…

Some of those- we like to point out poor Thomas – but at this point Thomas seems to have had some special attention from Jesus that put his doubts to rest, right?  So some of the others…?  Doubted what?

I’m telling you if I were a scribe copying this letter down, and I got to that point right there, I’m telling you I would have edited this tiny section right out.  Just ‘forget’ to put it in there.  Because it does NOT paint the apostles in a very good light.

Even after all they saw – some of them doubted. What were they doubting?  Doesn’t say.  We don’t know.  All we know is Jesus says, take your doubts along with you and go and change the world!

Taking their doubts with them, the disciples left and set the world on fire with the good news of Jesus.  Taking their doubts with them they turned the world upside down.

What does this verse teach us?  It teaches us that doubt does not need to be fatal.  It means that doubt does not need to deter us from moving forward in our faith.

In the book of Mark – chapter 9 – there’s a story of a man who brings his son to be healed by Jesus and he says to Jesus – “If you are able – will you please help my son.”  And Jesus says – what do you mean, “If I can – don’t you believe?”

And the man replies – “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”  I do believe!  (More or less)  I do believe, kind of – and help me work through my doubts.  And Jesus doesn’t say – come back when you are sure!  No!  Jesus says – that’s good enough – and heals his son.

Maybe this is the prayer we bring with us to the communion table today…

It’s not faith or doubt.  It’s always faith with doubt.  It has always been this way.  And that doesn’t bother God one bit.   He knows the day will come when we see everything clearly – when we will know everything fully.

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