Cannon Beach Q & A, Part 1

post date: July 25, 2011


Last week I spoke at Cannon Beach Conference Center in Cannon Beach, Oregon. On Friday morning we had a question and answer session based on questions we had received from the audience. During the Q&A time, Evan Irwin served as moderator. This turned out to be one of the best sessions of the week.

For the next several days I’m going to post some of the questions along with brief summaries of my answers.

1. When reading the Bible, what would you recommend as a good starting point (I know the whole Bible is a good starting point) and continuation from there?

The questioner is right. Since the whole Bible is the Word of God, you can hardly go wrong no matter where you start. But typically I recommend the gospel of John as a good introduction to the life of Christ. When I became a Christian, I started reading 1 John and found that short epistle very helpful. I think it would be helpful to also do some reading in Psalms and Proverbs as a good way to make your soul strong. As for where to continue reading, I highly recommend the list of plans found on the YouVersion website. For that matter, if you have a smartphone or an iPad, I think you would greatly benefit from downloading the YouVersion app, which contains an amazing assortment of free translations.

I also like the brand-new online Quiet Time Diary from Word of Life that allows you to read the Bible, record your thoughts, and then compare what you’ve discovered with others who are reading the same passage on the same day. 

2. Who are the “Nephilim” of Genesis 6:4?

Everyone agrees that this verse is notoriously difficult to interpret. The word “nephilim” is simply a transliteration of a Hebrew word that means something like “the fallen ones.” It is sometimes translated “giants” and may in fact refer to a race of ancient men and women who were ten to twelve feet tall. I have mentally jotted beside this verse “Tower of Babel” because these “nephilim” were a race of ancient leaders who in their arrogance ignored God, built vast empires, acted as despots and tyrants, and embodied the worst traits of humanism—living as if God did not exist. They would agree with the man who said, “I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.” No doubt they were highly gifted individuals who could be charming when they needed to be but underneath were ravenous wolves, filled with corruption, violence, hatred and all manner of evil. Such men filled the earth in the days before the flood. Verse 4 seems to intimate that they were the offspring of the ungodly union of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.”  See The Days of Noah: Why God Sent the Flood.

3. What would you say to someone who was in the Westboro Baptist Church?

Get out! Why be part of a church that makes it name picketing military funerals and bringing shame and disgrace to the name of Christ by its deliberate attempts to stir up animosity? I wouldn’t try to argue with them. But I would say, get out of a church like that.

4. If we cannot trust our feelings and Satan can work through circumstances just like God can, how can we know what is God’s will?

The only things we know for certain about God’s will are those things revealed in the Word of God. That’s our only authoritative guide. We shouldn’t be surprised that Satan can arrange favorable circumstances (as he did for Jonah) when we decide to run from the Lord. But the devil will not have the last word. Satan may have his ships, but God has the storm–and the great fish too. 

Most of the time we won’t know with 100% certainty about things like which house to buy, what job to take, whether or not to move to Charlotte, North Carolina, or which college to attend. Assuming that we truly desire to serve the Lord, we should commit our way to him, make the best decision we can, and trust God with the results. See How Can I Discover God’s Will for My Life?

5. What is your opinion about books such as Heaven is For Real and 90 Minutes in Heaven

The enduring (and sometimes amazing) popularity of books like these reveals the hunger of the human heart to know what happens after we die. Perhaps it also reflects the “eternity in the heart” mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3:11. Death is so powerful, so final, and so overwhelming that we want to know, “Is death the end?” and “Is there anything on the other side?” I understand the deep need we all feel in this area. But if the Bible itself is not enough for us, I can’t see how these books can help us at all. What do we gain by reading books that purport to tell us details about heaven? At those points where they embellish or go beyond the biblical text, they have no real value and may actually mislead people. And where they simply restate what the Bible says, I think we would do better to read and mediate upon Revelation 21-22. I prefer to stick with what the Bible says rather than the memories or dreams or visions of people who say they went to heaven and then came back. Is the Bible not enough for us? See Is There Life After Death? Can We Be Sure?

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