What is this website all about? Is it associated or sponsored by any denomination or specific church?
The site is not associated with any denomination, since being a Christian has nothing to do with denominations anyway. It's just a basic Christian website, often reaching young adults--both seekers and Christians. Being a Christian isn't something you do (like most religions believe), but having a personal relationship with Jesus.
When you commit to putting yourself under his care, he indwells you by his Spirit. This is something which is hard to explain, but the living Jesus starts to change you and communicate with you through your spirit (it's sort of like your conscience comes alive). Sounds weird, but it's very comfortable after a while.
Communicating with God then becomes a continuing process, not like the formal prayers you hear in church. The Spirit makes you aware of others' needs around you, gives you direction on choices you make, gives you power to resist the old habits you fall into, and comforts you when you're feeling down. When you are in-sync with the Spirit, there is a peace and joy in your life which is hard to explain.
I sometimes think that before I knew Jesus personally, there was a hole in my heart that made me feel empty and sometimes angry. Jesus plugged that hole with his own presence. Now I feel completed, confident and purposeful.
My daily adventure is to communicate with him (and pay attention) before I do things and open my big mouth. When I do thing his way, the results are far better and my relationship with others is so much more positive. Trying to do thing for Jesus doesn't work. But letting him do things with me and through me works wonderfully.
That's the message of the website. That we are called to be free in Christ. Free from religious "duty", free from all those religious rules and regulations and tasks, free to be the people God created us to be. I don't follow rules anymore. I follow Jesus. He guides me into loving God and loving others as we go throughout our day together.
Sure I fail to follow his direction sometimes, but he doesn't condemn me. His patience and love for me are constant. That's why I say being a Christian is being in relationship with him. The Gospel is so simple, most people miss it.
Ask (in earnest prayer) the living God what you should do. He will hear you. He is there for you, and wants to establish a relationship on his terms (which is Jesus).
You say, "Being a Christian isn't something you do (like most religions believe), but having a personal relationship with Jesus." Since when is "having a relationship" not something that you do? I would consider having a relationship with Christ something great that Christians do. It requires having faith and striving to do his will. This relationship does not come to us without an effort on our part.
Let me clarify a bit. Consider what Paul wrote to Titus (Titus 3:5-9 KJV):
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain."
Your question contains two parts -- salvation, that is, getting into God's family. The second is sanctification, living a life that is pleasing to God. I chose Paul's comments to Titus because it also involves these two parts.
Salvation is based upon God's mercy through Jesus Christ. Our justification (standing before God without charge against us) is based solely upon the work of Jesus Christ our Savior. When you ask Jesus to stand in your place and receive your punishment, he does it at the cross, 2000 years ago. How many of your sins had you committed 2000 years ago? None of them. But how many did Jesus die for? All of them--even the sins you have not yet committed! You and I live in time, past to future. But Jesus is God and is timeless -- everything is now to him. He knows all your sins and paid for them all. You stand before God cleansed, forgiven!
I have a friend who just had a baby. What did that baby do to get into that relationship? Nothing--It was born into it. So are you if you are born again. God's Spirit brought you to life through birth.
But how about sanctification--living to please God? First, it pleases God to enjoy his company. And to enjoy fellowship with others in his family. And most certainly God wants us to "maintain good works" as Paul says, both to fellow believers and to everyone. But how do we do this? We (all of us) failed miserably to keep the Law, so much so that we caused our beloved Jesus to go to the cross for us. We lack the wisdom to understand the Law, and the power to obey it. But Bless God, that he gave us his Spirit to bring us to life. The Spirit kindly speaks to our spirit and tells us what to do in every situation, and then provides the power needed to do what he wants us to do! Our walk is to move forward by faith--following the leading of the Spirit.
Many religious leaders and denominations hate this truth! They want to play the role of the Holy Spirit, telling you what to do and how to do it. They tell you what to wear (or not wear), what to eat (or not eat), what to drink (or not drink), how much money to give (and to whom), what meetings to attend (or not attend), how many children to have (or not have), when to pray, what to pray, when to kneel, when to stand, what to repeat, what to confess ... ad infinitum.
Should we put ourselves back under the Law --and these people and institutions who promote it-- or stand free to hear and obey the Spirit?
Paul writes," It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1) "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:4-6)
Galatians 5:13-14: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
The Good News is freedom from the law, and from those who would put us back under it. The Good News is that Jesus saves us. And that the power that raised Christ from the dead --in the person of the Holy Spirit-- is now living in you to give you victory in life! It's time to declare your own liberty, seek Christ as Lord and the Holy Spirit as your powerful friend and counselor. If you are in the family (are you?), you can find rest there. Relax and enjoy the relationship.
What is God's stand about Christians wearing jewelry, cosmetics, slacks and trousers, especially for ladies? Please try to be definite and sincere.
This is a good question. I'll try to be definite.
A Christian is a person who has received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by putting their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and making him lord or "boss" of their life.
Jesus gives us two great marching orders--To love God with all our being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Let's look at each of these:
When we love God with all our heart, we place his desires before our own. We can learn of God's desires both from the Bible and from the Holy Spirit living within us. A friend of mine once told me to "Love God and do what you please." I thought he was crazy! Why, that would give me license to do anything I wanted! BUT, after I thought about it, it made sense. If I truly love God, I would never want to do anything which would make him sad, or make him look bad to others. So, I'm careful what I do. I don't need a list of "do's and don'ts" I just need to love him first and make his desires my priority.
But there is a second consideration. I don't want to do anything which would cause my Christian brother or sister to "stumble." For example, if I had a Christian friend who thought drinking alcohol was wrong, I shouldn't serve wine with dinner when I have him over. Because when I do, I needlessly put him in a difficult spot. Even though I think drinking wine with dinner is OK, I can forgo my "right" to wine with dinner, because of my love for my brother. If he wants to discuss it, I would certainly explain my position on wine drinking to him. But I don't want to force my position upon him and break up our fellowship.
Now in the area of dress, some women's clothing might be very revealing, and cause their Christian brothers to have lustful desires and bad thoughts. In this case, the Christian woman also should not cause her brother to "stumble." She should forgo her right to dress as she pleases, in deference to the good of her brother.
Loving God means pleasing him first. Loving others means putting their well-being first. This is the heart of Christian maturity. Learning to do it is a struggle, but that is what it means to be "mature in Christ."
And our desire as leaders and teachers is to help every Christian to obtain maturity. If you just produce a list of things they can do and things they should not do, you will produce no maturity, and in fact you will only encourage rebellion.
Explain Jesus' two great principles to those who are learning, and then let them decide what to do. Pray that the Spirit would show and teach them maturity.
If God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one divine being, then how can Christ be baptized, then come out of the heavens as a dove and sit on his own head, while speaking from heaven to the people present that he himself is his only begotten Son? This truly puzzles me and I have no explanation for this.
Imagine you were at a college graduation, sitting near a well-dressed woman crying for joy during the ceremony. Don't you wish you could hear her thoughts, to know her feelings, to experience for a moment her immense love and pride in her child's accomplishments? How glorious, that God could hold back no longer and revealed his all to us during that unique moment when his Son was baptized into ministry.
Here are some basic truths behind it:
1 - God is one (and remember, the word "God" is a title, not a name). In their daily prayer, Jews repeated the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, "The Lord our God, the Lord is one." They confessed the God of Israel to be the creator without peer or rival. This is the hallmark of both Judaism and Islam. God is one.
2 - Even in the Old Testament, we see evidences of God referring to himself in the plural, or appearing or acting in what might be interpreted as different persons.
Consider Genesis 1:26: "Let us make man in our image, ..." and 3:22; "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil." Genesis 11:7: "Let us go down..." Also in Genesis we see God walking and talking with Adam. And in Genesis 1:2: "...and the Spirit of god was hovering over the waters." There are other occurrences throughout the O.T. where God seems to appear and act as a Spirit, and occasions where he makes a definite physical appearance.
3 - From the Genesis account, God says "Let us make man in our image..." So let's consider man (male and female) as a reflection of their creator. According to the New Testament, man is made up of three components. I Thessalonians 5:23 says "May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."
Here we see three parts of man:
1- my body (including my computer-like brain),
2- my soul (my personality, usually thought of as consisting of my mind (brain's software), my will and my emotions) and
3- my spirit (usually thought of as my conscience).
So, in essence I consist of three parts. My current physical body doesn't leave this planet, and is the means I use to communicate with you. My soul is the sum of my personality and that which makes me distinctly me. And my spirit, which was dead to God but made alive again through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, brings me back into communication with God.
Let me tell you, I am one person. But I have three distinct components or elements. Is it so hard to think that a far more glorious, complex and wonderful God could not have three such distinctive "persona" in his oneness?
4 - Jesus' incarnation and deity were predicted long before the actual event.
Note the words of the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament book Isaiah 9:6:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
It's interesting that titles for Jesus include "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father." Not what you would expect, except that Jesus is God and one with the Father.
5 - Jesus set his equality with God aside at incarnation and walked on this planet like a man (like you and me). He did so under the authority of the Father and was led fully by the Spirit. The miracles he performed were in the name of the Father and power of the Spirit, the same Spirit that empowers believers today.
Here is one of the key doctrinal passages in the Bible about this:
"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
6- Jesus claims to be one with God.
"Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
In John 10:25-33
Jesus said, "The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
7- Jesus' authority has now been fully restored as God.
All the authority he set aside to come to earth has been fully restored since his resurrection. And Jesus now commands us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- the equality yet difference in the so-called "trinity" seems apparent:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
8- At the baptism of Jesus, we see all the distinctive "persona" that make up God at work.
From Matthew 3:16:
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
What a glorious scene, what a blessing to have been present at Jesus' baptism into ministry! His time had come. His preparation was over. The plan of salvation was now to be revealed, and Father was well pleased!
Ultimately, the knowledge of God is a mystery, revealed by the Father as he pleases through his Word (Jesus is the word made flesh) and his Spirit.
May God reveal more to you as you pray. Please make certain of your relationship with him ( check out Backstage with Babs on the calledtobefree.org website -- it is a relationship builder). Seek his Spirit to direct you in truth. Let him teach you, and not visa-versa (if you know what I mean).
I believe that Jesus Christ forgave my sins, but I've disappointed Him in the past. He forgave me way back when, but the devil was clouding my judgement telling me that He'll never forgive me. I'm just scared to disappoint Him again. What can I do?
Jesus promises to take up residence in us by his Spirit. Think of that--God himself will indwell you! So don't worry, he will bring about wonderful changes in your life if you'll trust him to do it! It won't happen all at once, but listen for his voice in your conscience, and begin to talk with him about your day, what trials you're facing, what your expectations are, what your needs are, your temptations, etc. Jesus is interested in getting you to know him and lean on him for everything.
All your sins--past, present and future-- were forgiven at the Cross. Jesus took them upon himself, and the just punishment was dealt out to him! Praise God's grace, that we don't have to bear the "wages" of our sins ourselves. Think of it, ALL YOUR SINS FOR YOUR WHOLE LIFE WERE DEALT WITH ON THE CROSS. That means, all your sins have been forgiven. But when you sin, your fellowship with God is strained. Let God know you're sorry. But, believe me, he already knew about that sin and dealt with it 2000 years ago on the Cross. God operates outside of time, and so everything is visible to him-- past, present and future. He knows your future, and is excited about it for you. Let him lead you on to a great relationship with Jesus. He created us with this relationship in mind!
Talk to Jesus as if you're talking to a friend. Listen in your spirit (your conscience) to hear back from him. You can learn to know his voice, as you get to know him and as you spend time in his Word (the Bible). In your Bible, read through 1 John (John's letter) and Galatians (Paul's letter) and the Gospel of John. If you don't have a Bible, you can look up these books at biblegateway.com. Here is a good link to start with.
Develop your relationship with Jesus -- through conversational prayer, and listening to his response. As the Spirit has more and more of you, the old sinful patterns will begin to fade away, and you'll start to see the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
Did our spirits live before we were born, or did life begin when we were born? If there is life after death, shouldn't there be life before birth? Did God make us, or did our parents?
That's a pretty involved question.
Let me give you a straightforward answer, and something else to think about:
When you were born, you came into this world created by God, who made you using the DNA from your parents. You are uniquely you. You were born with a body, a soul (your mind, will and emotions) and a spirit. Unfortunately your spirit was dead (like a dead battery, needing a charge). You did not exist before you were created. Now whether or not that creation was instantaneous at conception (when egg met sperm) or a non-instantaneous process in your mother's womb, is the subject of considerable debate. But know that God has a unique purpose in creating you. And what God begins, only he can end. You (body, soul, spirit) live until he decides otherwise. When your body dies, your soul and spirit continue in a manner he determines. Consider what Jesus said:
"In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up-- and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life." (The Message, John 3:14-16)
Something more to consider:
You and I live our lives in "time." Our lives are lived like points along a timeline, with beginning, middle and end in a sequence.
God does not operate constrained by "time." He sees beginning, middle and end all at once. He knew of you before you were born. He planned that all your tresspasses could be dealt with by Jesus on the cross. He knows whether or not you will choose to make Jesus your savior and "boss" or not. He doesn't take away your free will to choose--but he sees all your choices before you make them.
This is confusing to our "linear" minds. But true. Think about it.