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The Problem of Pain
Oftentimes, the most common intellectual objection that nonbelievers have is with the problem of pain and suffering that exists in our world. This really is a deeply emotional objection for most people because it's tied to a personal experience or event that they can't understand the "why" behind. It commonly happens when someone experiences deep trauma or tragedy, and in those moments, people start to wonder and question: If God is truly both all-powerful and all loving, why did that happen? When we, inevitably, face deep suffering in our lives, we all ask this question.  The problem of pain is one that we might never fully understand on this side of Heaven, unfortunately. The fact that we don't understand it doesn't make our experiences any less painful or impactful in our lives though. God draws close to us in those moments, and we are able to feel his comfort and presence in a way that we rarely can otherwise. Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." We also read in Isaiah 43:2 that, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."  How we handle and endure trials and suffering is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. When those outside the church see and experience the way that Christians are able to go through pain without losing hope, it makes a profound and lasting impact on them. While we don’t fully understand why God allows the pain we go through, we can be certain that God has a everything under control and all pain and suffering will be forever eliminated once we arrive in Heaven.  Reflection/Discussion Questions: How have you responded to pain or suffering in the past? How can your responses in the future better reflect your trust in God's plan?
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Forgiveness has a Cost
One intellectual objection that many nonbelievers express, in regard to coming to Christ and the Gospel, is the exclusivity of Christ. They know that Christians believe everybody spends eternity in either Heaven or Hell. They know that Christ-followers believe it's only by the blood of Jesus that we can be forgiven and experience eternal life. They wonder how a loving God can condemn someone to Hell just based on where they're born. How can someone who murders someone in cold blood but repent in old age go to Heaven when someone who doesn't do anything horrible their entire life not go to Heaven? How would you be so arrogant as to say Christianity is right and somebody else is wrong? Beneath all these objections is just the sentiment that someone can't believe in a God who's less compassionate than they are. Even as Christians, these questions can be difficult to grapple with answers that make sense to us, and we feel would make a difference in the way that an unbeliever thinks.  So why the exclusivity of Christ? This is connected to a theological question that we all ask at some point: Why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Why couldn't God the Father just forgive everyone instantly and it's all good? It’s because forgiveness always has a cost. When a wrongdoing or sin occurs, someone must pay the price for that. By God graciously sending his son to die on the cross, Jesus paid the cost for all the sin that you and I will ever commit. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was the most compassionate act that anyone has ever, or will ever, do. Isaiah 30:18 says, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”  Reflection/Discussion Questions: Have you encountered someone who had an objection to exclusivity of Jesus? How did you respond to them?
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How the Holy Spirit Works
After Philip spots the eunuch in the chariot, Acts 8:29-30 tells us, “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked.” We know that Philip is prompted by the Holy Spirit in this moment to go to the chariot, but we don’t get much detail about the specifics. Was it an audible voice? Was it a gut instinct? Was it a stirring in Philip’s spirit? We don’t know these specifics, but we know that Philip didn’t hesitate when he heard or felt the Holy Spirit’s direction in his life. In verse 30, we read that Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. It's at this point that Philip realizes why God has him on this specific desert road. The eunuch is reading the Bible, but he doesn't understand it. Sometimes the Bible can be hard to understand for many of us. Even the apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:16, stated about Paul’s writings: “He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand.” We all struggle at times with understanding the meaning of what is written in Scripture, and it's important to acknowledge that it's okay to ask others for their help to interpret what you read. This is one of the primary reasons we gather together as a church or in small groups; to hear the word of God explained and applied to our lives so we can better understand it. So, if you ever read the Bible and don't understand something – it doesn't make you uneducated, it simply makes you normal. Reflection/Discussion Question: Where do you go when you encounter a passage or verse in Scripture that you are having trouble understanding?
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Desert Road
Acts 8:26-28 says, “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.” Sometimes God sends you to the desert road because that's precisely where he needs you, even if it doesn’t make sense to you in the moment. Notice that when God sends Philip to the desert road, what does he do? He starts out, and he immediately does what God wants him to do. It's that simple. If you want to be used by God, if you want to wreck the roof, it starts by obeying the simple commands of God. Do you obey the simple commands of God in your everyday life? You want to be used by God in some great way, but are you generous and giving with your possessions? Have you forgiven your mom? Do you keep your word when you tell your spouse when you'll be home? Phillip was a deacon whose job was to run the food pantry. God looked at his work and said, “That's somebody I can use.” It’s one of the reasons it's so critical for you to serve in church and in your community because it builds that muscle. Based on this Scripture, it's likely that God uses things like that as a filter to see who he can use for more. So, Philip started out and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Queen of Ethiopia. He was a high-ranking government official, and you also know he was wealthy because he had a copy of part of the Old Testament, which would have been very rare and very expensive. Philip sees his man and knows this is the opportunity that God sent him here for, and Philip boldly steps in to point this man to Jesus. Discussion/Reflection Question: Who in your life have you met on the "desert road" that you wouldn't have met otherwise?