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Mental illness A possible error in the Bible?
Do you HAVE to go to church? A follow-up question concerning Christ's genealogy
Why are there 2 genealogies of Jesus Christ?  

Selected Questions from the Mailbag

 
How can mental illness be called a "spiritually shaping experience?" (JD writes:) I have been a Christian for about a year and a half. I have read other material that follows your argument (at http://www.biblebell.org/whyevil.html), which seems fairly sound. I have a question though about the discussion regarding mental suffering and how this could be a "chisel of god". Diseases such as schizophrenia, mentally disabling chronic depression, and autism leave patients in a continuous state of mental anguish that never ceases. These patients are aware of their suffering, and they have no chance of experiencing peace short of a miracle. There are many, many people just like this in hospitals all over the world and on the streets. How do you apply the idea of spiritually shaping trials to cases like these? Are people like these robbed of the chance of being saved if they had any time in their life when they were cognizant enough to recognize faith? I have been struggling with this for awhile. Any new insights are welcome.
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  Short of receiving a revelation from God Himself, there are no perfect answers to the questions you raised.

God has not chosen to eliminate suffering -- YET. But He did choose to participate in that suffering Himself, by willingly giving Himself to the agony, both mental and physical, of dying on the cross. In fact, I firmly believe that the Lord's mental anguish on the cross far exceeded the physical pain.

In the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22.39-46), the Lord knew He was going to be crucified the next day. In result, He was in such mental agony that His capillaries ruptured, causing Him to sweat drops of blood from His pores.

It was not fear of the cross, per se, that caused the Lord to suffer so greatly. The real reasons for His extreme mental anguish can be determined from two verses.

The first of these verses is 2 Cor 5.17 which says, in effect, that God placed all the accumulated sins of humanity (past, present, and future) upon Jesus, who knew NO sin. A pale comparison would be to take an innocent child by his heels and immerse him, head first, in a cesspool bubbling with human waste and crawling maggots. Jesus anguished over His forthcoming immersion in human sin.

The second of these verses is Mt 27.46 where, on the cross, Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" At that instant, Jesus was literally covered with all the sins of mankind. In that same instant, Christ's Father turned His holy eyes away from His own Son. For the first and only time in all eternity, Jesus addressed His Father as "God," and not as Father. For the first and only time in all eternity, Jesus was truly separated from His Father. The unimaginable love and infinitely intimate fellowship of Father and Son was, for that instant in time, broken by sin. It is not possible for mere humans to even conceive of the agony which that separation caused our Lord, and it was NOT physical.

I have found that those who suffer take great comfort in knowing that even God Himself has partaken of, and fully understands, human suffering of the deepest kind. When they talk to Him about their suffering, they know He truly understands what they are enduring.

I know of only two remedies to mental suffering: God Himself, and medication (such as Prozac) which has its source in the plants and elements created by God for that purpose.

If a mentally ill person is sufficiently aware of his or her circumstances to suffer, then that person is equally able to hear, understand, and receive the salvation of God.

In my experience EVERY saved person has had relief from suffering, whether mental or physical, at least to the extent that such suffering became bearable. "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to bear." (1 Cor 10.13b)

You asked, "How do you apply the idea of spiritually shaping trials to cases like these? Are people like these robbed of the chance of being saved if they had any time in their life when they were cognizant enough to recognize faith?"

Suffering is
used (NOT caused) by the Holy Spirit to sanctify a Christian.

For a non-Christian, suffering is used by the Holy Spirit to draw the person to receive salvation. God preaches a sermon of salvation at every funeral, in every ICU waiting room, in every prison, in EVERY place where there is suffering and despair. Believe me, I know whereof I speak. I have ministered often in these environments.

Are these people robbed of the chance to be saved? I don't know. I do know that
anyone who hears and understands the Gospel, and rejects it, is running the very real risk that this was their FINAL opportunity. Each and every sinner is only a heartbeat away from meeting his or her eternal destiny. Moreover, there is a point where God will no longer strive with a person who rejects Him. Read Gen 6.3 and Rom 1.24-25. In short, the Gospel is not merely a message. It is an URGENT message!

Again I say, there are no perfect answers to your questions. I can only suggest that you read and re-read the book of Job. Also, talk to God about this question. I mean REALLY talk it out. If the situation makes you angry or causes you to doubt, tell Him so in no uncertain terms. I have done this many times, and I always come away feeling I understand things a bit better than I did before I prayed. Not perfect understanding. Just better. "For now we see through a glass darkly, but one day face to face. Now I understand in part, but then I shall know even as I also am known." (1 Cor 13.12).

I further recommend you to read my site's page on "The Will of God." It has some related info.
Is Jesus the Son of David? Why are His two genealogies different? (Anonymous) Can you please answer me a question of why the two genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke are different, but both for Joseph? How can Jesus be considered the son of David if nowhere does it prove that Mary was of David, and he was born through her only?
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  In 2 Samuel 7.12-13, God promised King David that a blood descendent of King David's would one day rule from David's throne. God further promised David that this descendent would rule over His kingdom forever.

Of course we now know that it was Jesus Christ who God sent to rule forever from David's throne. (Luke 1.32)

To rule as King from David's throne, Jesus Christ HAD to meet TWO REQUIREMENTS as follows:

a) Jesus had to be a blood descendent of David, AND

b) Jesus had to be LEGALLY entitled to sit on David's throne.

God had a problem in having Jesus meet the second requirement named above. Here are the reasons:

a) David had many children, but only one of those children became king after David died. The son who became king was Solomon.

b) To be LEGALLY entitled to sit on David's throne, a person had to be a descendent of David through the kingly line of David's descendants. The kingly line of David's descendents began with King Solomon.

c) One of the kings who came along many years after David died was King Jeconiah (also called Coniah, and Jehoiahchin). King Jeconiah was, of course, a descendent of King Solomon and thus was in the kingly line of David. King Jeconiah did a great sin against God. Accordingly, God ordained that NO blood descendent of King Jeconiah would ever again sit on David's throne. (Jeremiah 22.30)

d) Because of what God said in Jeremiah 22.30, Jesus could NOT be a blood descendent of King Jeconiah. This meant that Jesus could not be a blood descendent in the KINGLY line of King David.

e) In summary, God's problem was this. To keep God's promise to David (2 Samuel 7.12-13) Jesus had to meet the following REQUIREMENTS:

1) Jesus had to be a blood descendent of King David, AND
2) Jesus had to be LEGALLY entitled to the throne, BUT
3) Jesus must not be a blood descendent through David's kingly line, because Jesus must NOT be a blood descendent of King Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22.30).

God's solution to the problem was as follows:

a) Among all of King David's children were two sons: Solomon and Nathan (2 Samuel 5.13-14).
b) Solomon was in the kingly line. Nathan was not.
c) Accordingly, anyone descended from Nathan would be a blood descendent of King David but would NOT be legally entitled to David's throne.
d) As explained in Matthew chapter 1, Joseph was legally the father of Jesus but he was NOT physically the father of Jesus, because Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary. Mary, of course, became Joseph's wife.
e) Matthew 1.1-17 gives the LEGAL geneology of Jesus Christ through His legal father, Joseph. Note that this geneology is fully within the kingly line of David (Mt 1.1), including King Solomon (Mt 1.6) and King Jeconiah (Mt 1.11).
f) Therefore, since Jesus was legally Joseph's son, and since Joseph was in the kingly line, Jesus was legally entitled to sit on the throne of David. However, Jesus was NOT a blood descendent of King Jeconiah.
g) Jesus was, of course, a blood descendent of His mother Mary.
h) The geneology in Luke 3.23-38 is the geneology of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
i) Luke 3.31 shows that Mary was a blood descendent of King David through David's son Nathan.

In summary:

a) Since Jesus was legally Joseph's son in the kingly line, Jesus was and is legally entitled to the throne of David.
b) Since Jesus was a blood descendent of David's son Nathan, through Jesus's mother Mary, He is a blood descendent of King David, as God promised He would be.
c) Since Jesus was Joseph's legal son but not his blood descendent, Jesus was not a blood descendent of King Jeconiah.
d) Accordingly, God kept all of His promises to King David except one -- that King Jesus would rule over an eternal kingdom. That promise WILL be fulfilled in the future (Dan 9.7, Rev 19.6).

See related question below.
If Luke 3.23-38 is the genealogy of Jesus through His mother, Mary, why isn't her name mentioned? (Seth asks:) I have a question concerning the geneology of Jesus. I understand that one belongs to Mary, and the other to Joseph, but my question is: how do we know that Luke's geneology belongs to Mary? Skeptics are repeatedly saying that Luke does not even mention Mary's name. In fact, it mention's Joseph's.
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The Bible does not directly answer Seth's question. Accordingly, the following comments are Bible Bell's OPINION concerning this matter. We have carefully researched the historical-cultural facts that underlie our opinion. But it is, nevertheless, OPINION. The Bible simply doesn't give a specific answer.

To start with, here's the verse that introduces the Lord's genealogy as recorded in Luke chapter 3...

Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli Luke 3.23

In Bible times, genealogies were recorded under the MALE line only...

  • That is, a man's line of descent was exclusively determined by his male descendents.
  • If a man's children consisted solely of daughters (NO sons), it was a real crisis. In a sense it was viewed as the END of that man's family line, so far as it pertained to him.
  • Accordingly, whenever a family happened to end with a daughter, instead of naming her in the geneology, they would insert the name of her husband.
  • Thus, the daughter's husband would be recorded as the son of him who was, in reality, the husband's father-in-law.
  • Heli's line ended with his daughter, Mary (the mother of Jesus). Accordingly, Mary's husband, Joseph, was recorded as Heli's son in the genealogical records for the family of Heli. This was done so that Heli's line of descent would not end.

The two sons-in-law who are to be noticed in the genealogy in Luke chapter 3 are...

  • Joseph the son-in-law of Heli, whose own father was Jacob (Mt 1:16)
  • Salathiel, the son-in-law of Neri, whose own father was Jechonias (1 Chr 3:17; Mt 1:12).

The above information is sufficient to deal with Seth's question...

  • Joseph, son of Jacob, according to Matthew, was son-in-law of Heli, according to Luke.
  • Salathiel, son of Jechonias, according to 1 Chronicles, was son-in-law of Neri, according to Matthew.
  • Mary therefore was the daughter of Heli (so called by abbreviation for Heliachim, which is the same in Hebrew with Joachim).
  • Joseph, son of Jacob, and Mary, daughter of Heli were of the same family: both came from Zerubbabel; Joseph from Abiud, Zerubbabel's eldest son (Mt. 1:13), and Mary by Rhesa, Zerubbabel's youngest son (Luke 3:27).
Do you have to go to church to be "spiritual" or "Christian?" (Joyce asks:) Is being a "Christian" more important than being "Spiritual"? I don't have a church that I feel comfortable attending because of this. My church that I feel most comfortable with is "The Church of the Holy Outdoors." I feel the most comfortable and the closest to God when I see and feel all the wonderful miracles in nature.
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  As I understand your message, you are asking about the differences between (1) going to church, (2) being a Christian, and (3) being spiritual. Paragraph "A" below compares going to church with being a Christian. Paragraph "B" compares being a Christian with being spiritual. Paragraph "C" talks a bit more about church.

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Paragraph A (going to church compared with being a Christian)

Standing in a garage doesn't make you an automobile. Neither does going to church make you a Christian.

"Going to church" and "being a Christian" do NOT mean the same thing. Being a Christian has NOTHING to do with whether or not you attend an institutional church.

Going to church is something you DO (or do not do).

Being a Christian is something you ARE.

Being a Christian means to have a one-on-one relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I mean a Joyce-with-Jesus relationship. Him and you plus NOBODY else. If and ONLY if you have received Jesus as your PERSONAL Savior and Lord (Rom 10.9-10), then you are Christian.

After you receive Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord, you are a Christian whether you are attending an institutional church with other people, or all alone in a wilderness area of Yellowstone Park.

(1 John 5.11-13) "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may KNOW that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."

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Paragraph B (being a Christian compared with being spiritual)

It is good that you enjoy the beautiful "great outdoors" that God created. After all, God created it for your enjoyment. Just be careful that you don't fall into the error of worshipping nature rather than worshipping the God who created nature. The Bible says that people who fall into this error have "exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. (Romans 1.25, NIV)

Jesus said: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." (Matthew 22.37-38, NKJV)

If you are loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, then and only then are you "spiritual."

You can love God just as much in the beautiful outdoors as you can in a church building. So WHERE you are has nothing to do with how SPIRITUAL you are.

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Paragraph C (a few words about going to church)

Jesus said: "If anyone loves me, he will OBEY my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14.23, NIV)

John 14.23 means that if you truly love God you will want to obey His teaching, as given in His Bible. In other words, you obey God because you love Him, and for no other reason.

God's Bible says, "Let us (Christians) not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day (of God's judgment) approaching." (Hebrews 10.25, NIV)

If you truly love God, then you are truly spiritual. If you are truly spiritual, then you will obey God by fellowshipping with other Christians, as God has commanded you to do.

Maybe you see "going to church" as nothing more than sitting down in an auditorium and listening to a preacher make a speech about the Bible and God. Some churches are like that. I don't blame you for not wanting to attend them.

But many churches are NOT like that. Yes, they have preaching, but they also offer a place for Christians (including you) to sing songs to God together. To praise God together. To comfort each other when the world kicks them in the head. To learn more about God and holiness from each other. To reach out to people who are lost in sin and hopelessness, and show them the way to peace and joy in Jesus Christ.

Joyce, if you are uncomfortable in church at first, then remember -- Jesus was far from comfortable when He died for you on the cross. So go to church anyway -- do it for Him, NOT for you.

I guarantee that if you find a Bible-believing assembly of real Christians, you will soon become comfortable.

Church is where Joyce should report for DUTY. Not to be served by people, but to serve God by serving the people God loves.

Your love of the outdoors is a gift from God. God does NOT want you to give up your love of nature, He wants you to USE it. Not use it just for yourself, but for other people as well. How? Many ways. Here's just one. Through your church, get to know some old folks who are shut-ins. Get to know some kids whose only playgrounds are the city streets. Get to know some folks who spend their free time alone with little else to do but watch TV. Then take them WITH you to your great outdoors! Show them the beauty, then join them in worshipping the God who made that beauty. You need not be a teacher or preacher to do this. All you need is the gift God gave you.

Do you want to see beauty from God's perspective? I have a picture in my mind. I see Joyce and a several folks from Joyce's church out in a beautiful woods. I see a runny-nosed kid in that group who HATED going to church but LOVES being out there with you. Because of you, that kid suddenly realizes that God is more than a church building. Because of you, that kid has a new insight into what it means to know and hope in God. And Joyce, that little kid's awakening love of God is infinitely more beautiful than all the streams and woods and mountains that God ever made!

Joyce, the very fact that you wanted to send me your message means that God is TALKING to your heart on this matter. You have a gift. God wants you to share that gift with others, and He wants you to do that sharing from the homebase of His church.

By the way, you might get started simply by attending a home Bible study, rather than "church" as such.
Question concerning a specific example of a possible error in the Bible (Anon) 2 Sam 24.9 reports the following data for a census of King David's troops:

Israel -- 800,000

Judah -- 500,000

1 Chron 21.5 reports the SAME census but gives different troop data as follows:

Israel -- 1,100,000

Judah -- 470,000

Can you explain the difference?
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  A) Let's start with literal translations of the two Bible passages...
1) 2 Sam 24.9 literal translation with Strong's numbers -- |5414| And gave |3097| Joab |4557| the count of |4662| the mustering of |5971| the people |0413| to |4428| the king |1961| and was |3478| Israel |8083| eight |3963| hundred |0505| thousand |0376| men |2428| of strength |8025| drawing |2719| sword, |0376| and the men of |3063| Judah |2568| five |3963| hundred |0505| thousand |0376| men.

2) 1 Chr 21.5 literal translation with Strong's numbers --|5414| And gave |3097| Joab |4557| the number of |4662| the census of |5971| the people |1732| to David. |1961| And was |3605| all |3478| Israel |0505| a thousand |0505| thousands |3967| and a hundred |0505| thousand |0376| men |8025| drawing |2719| sword. |3063| And Judah |0702| {was} four |3963| hundred |7657| and seventy |0505| thousand |0376| men |8025| drawing |2719| sword.

B) The troops of Israel. Notice that 2 Sam 24.9 numbers Israel as 800,000 "|0376| men |2428| of strength |8025| drawing |2719| sword|" whereas 1 Chr 21.5 numbers Israel as 1,100,000 "|0376| men |8025| drawing |2719| sword." Thus there is a DIFFERENCE between the type of troops counted in 2 Sam 24.9 versus the type counted in 1 Chr 21.5. Namely, the troop count in 2 Sam 24.9 was limited to men "|2428| of strength." Per "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), Strong's 2428 = TWOT 624a =
hayil (romanized Hebrew) = might, able, valor. Thus the troop count in 2 Sam 24.9 was limited to combat troops, whereas the count in 2 Chr 24.9 covers ALL troops (combat, combat support, intelligence, logistics, etc.)

C) The troops of Judah -- The 30,000 difference between Judah's troop count in 2 Sam 24.9 and 1 Chr 21.5 results from the fact that the count in 1 Chr 21.5 excludes the tribes of Levi and Benjamin, as explained in 1 Chr 21.6. In the case of 2 Sam 24.9, the figure for Judah may have included troops which already had been mustered by Benjamin in the area directly adjacent to Jerusalem, where David's Headquarters was located.

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