Ask Alycia Wood (February 4-8, 2019)


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

@Alycia_Wood, an RZIM itinerant based in our Atlanta office, is available to answer your questions this week!

Alycia is the same friendly, caring person in every situation - whether you are hearing her speak at an event, on a livestream, or face to face over a meal - you will experience the genuine love and care she has for each person.

I know that you’ll benefit from the opportunity to ask your heartfelt questions of her!

Enjoy!
Carson

Alycia Wood’s RZIM biography:

Alycia Wood graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College with a degree in Criminal Justice and from Marygrove College with a Master’s in Social Justice. She also graduated from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and spent two years as a Fellow with RZIM in New England. Alycia’s speaking background is quite diverse. From universities (such as MIT, UCONN, Harvard, University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Dartmouth College, and Brown University), to retreats, from conferences to men’s and women’s prisons, Alycia has addressed major issues surrounding faith to diverse audiences.

Additionally, she has traveled to countries such as Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, volunteering at soup kitchens and orphanages as her passions for “showing Christ” extends beyond her local environment.

In her spare time, Alycia enjoys music and is a lover of all things football and hockey.


(Vanessa Muntz) #2

I see that you have spent time in orphanages, so perhaps you might have some good insight on this question.

How can a person truly believe God is a good, kind and loving Father when they have never experienced that in their earthly father.

Some have never ever known their father at all.

What do you tell the kids at those orphanages?

Kids who have missed out on so much from not having their physical father to love them as they grow up?

How do you heal that wound?

Nessa


(Emmanuel Ofori) #3

Hi Alycia

Kindly answer this question for me.
What’s the difference between first fruits and tithe? Also are we expected to give our first salary in the year as first fruits in church?


(Jeremiah) #4

Hi Alycia,

Thank you for taking your time to answer questions on RZIM Community.

My question is about the Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP) what the Bible says about it and if it’s compatible with the Christian faith?

I first heard about the practice at my church in Sweden by a guest speaker from England in November last year. Ever since then I have been concerned about this issue, why the church of Christ should look elsewhere for remedies beside the promises of God in His Word and His Spirit to edify His church.

Thank you/ Jeremiah


(Jason Walker) #5

She visited my home country Jamaica :jamaica:? Cool! I was already a fan, that just made it all the more! @Alycia_Wood. I will be having questions.


(E. Delia Mitchell) #8

Hi Alycia,

I am new to the RZIM forum and this is my first time asking a question. Thank you for taking the time to answer questions!

I hope you can answer my question and also refer me to further references.

If a person accepts Jesus and is saved, but still commits sin, is that person still saved?

My understanding is that once we accept Jesus we should want to live a life without sin, but how can we actually never sin again, since we are human? If we could live a sinless life, why would we need Jesus?

To clarify my question, I’m not referring to a person who decides to take advantage of being saved and just repeatedly sins because he/she thinks now they can do anything and still go to heaven. I believe, in that case, the person was probably really not saved in the first place.

I am referring to a saved person who struggles with certain types of sin, such as sex outside of marriage, or drinking too much, or has anger issues, or has an addition to drugs – just a few examples. The person knows the sin is wrong and tries to stop, but has trouble completely stopping the behavior.

Thank you!
Delia


(Alycia Wood) #9

Delia,

First of all, thank you for joining connect! I hope that you find your time here enriching :slight_smile: .

I thank you for your deeply sincere question. The Christian lifestyle is full of challenges that often times make us wonder where we stand with God. So here are a couple things I would love for us to think through.

What saves us?
One of the things that I love most about Christianity is that salvation is never based off of our own works or efforts. This is important, because if it is based off of our works, how do we ever know if we have been good enough? Further, how many good deeds do we need to do to have done enough to earn God’s acceptance? How many bad deeds are too much? There are no numbers given out in Christianity that say if you do 5,000 good deeds, you will go to heaven. And I’m grateful for that because I certainly haven’t kept a tally on how many good things I’ve done or how many bad things I’ve done! But more importantly, I wouldn’t really want to serve a God that only likes me because of the things I did well. That is a God who only offers conditional love and not unconditional. And ideally, even your parents love you unconditionally as infants when you can’t earn it. How could God be good and love you less than your own parents? You will encounter this struggle for acceptance the most when speaking to Muslims. They are always living in fear as to whether or not they have done enough to earn God’s acceptance. It’s one of the things that leads many of them to find Christianity beautiful. In Christianity, they can know for sure whether God is pleased with them.

The Bible is very clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 8:9-10, that it is by grace that we have been saved through faith, or putting our trust in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and identity, and not due to any works that we were able to do ourselves.

What does it mean to be unsaved?
So then, what does being unsaved mean? Well, those verses help us understand that it’s the non-acceptance of Jesus Himself! Since salvation is based off of your acceptance of Jesus, His life, death, resurrection and identity, then rejection of Him severs that relationship. It is not the actions that you do. Someone who is not a Christian is someone who rejects Jesus’ divinity, life and purpose.

Why do we deal with struggles?
But here’s the thing, Jesus saves us from the eternal consequences of our sin which have left us in a broken relationship with God. He doesn’t save us from our current physical bodies, life experiences and temptations. We still struggle in these bodies to live the way that Christ lived when he was on earth. This is why it’s truly remarkable that Jesus lived a sinless life. Granted, he was God and could not sin, but He was still faced with all the temptations that we face as well. Yet every time he was able to make the right decision and say no. However, for the Christian, the idea is that we grow over time to be more more like Christ. That does not happen overnight in every area of our life, although it may happen overnight for some in a specific area(s). But we struggle with ourselves and our own desires. We know the right thing to do, but don’t always do it because it’s not necessarily what we want to do. So many attractions of the world draws on us daily. So no, once you become a Christian we do not live a life without sin, but we live a life where we are aware of our sin because we are aware of who God is and His standard for us. And so when we sin we actually ask for forgiveness and turn away from our sin- something that before we were Christian’s we did not necessarily do. So know, that when we become a Christian, we will sin again. We won’t live perfect in this life, which is why we always do need Jesus and his gift of salvation.

What does God think of us?

I would encourage you to read a few books by a man named Brennan Manning. Brennan was a Christian speaker, author, teacher and he struggled with alcoholism. Eventually the alcoholism killed him, but he was a man who had to learn to receive God’s forgiveness over and over again because of his constant struggle. He was a man who received the grace of God even though he didn’t deserve it, for none of us do. Brennan disappointed himself each time he sinned, but he always reached out to a grace that offered him salvation, even as a failure.

“My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace… A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request– ‘Please, remember me’-- and assures him, ‘You bet!’ A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mine… Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.” -Brennan Manning “All is Grace” p. 192-194

What I love about Brennan is how he helps us to see what God thinks of us even when we fail. So often we count ourselves out of heaven. We feel that we have gone beyond forgiveness. But Brennan shows us that there’s a pursuer of us even when we’re running away in our shame and regret. And when I mess up, it’s that picture that I like to think of.

We should daily be fervently striving to live as Christ wants us to live. We should be resisting temptation, fleeing from dangerous situations where we are vulnerable, and seeking after things that are pleasing to God. Having an accountability friend who can ask how you are doing is helpful for some. Avoiding vulnerable situations is also helpful. Additionally, changing what music we listen to, what TV shows we watch, what articles we read etc. all change what we are feeding into our minds. When you fill your mind with other things, then those previous attractions look less and less attractive. But either way, when failing happens, we ask for forgiveness and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading inside of us that warns us of dangerous situations and actions so that we can avoid doing those same sins in the future. Sin should always grieve us. Knowing that we are hurting God should never make us feel happy with ourselves. And knowing that is great motivation to live as He calls us.

I hope that helps. Blessings to you, Delia!

Alycia


(E. Delia Mitchell) #10

Alycia,
Thank you so much for your very thoughtful response! I get difficult questions like this from family members that I have a hard time answering. This will help me with my own understanding and in discussions with my family.

Thank you again!
Ejuana


(Alycia Wood) #11

Vanessa,

This is a very relevant question to 2019. As so many people over the last several generations have grown up without a father in the home, it may be hard for them to visualize what the love of a father could be, let alone that it could even be beautiful or good.

I think though, that even children who grow up without a father, still long for one. While they haven’t experienced it, they still have an idea of what that love might look like, whether it be loving acceptance, a comforting embrace or a source of safety, just to name a few. In other words, people don’t necessarily need to have experienced something to know what it might feel like or even that they want it. Similar to when a child gets adopted, they know whether or not they are being loved by good parents even though they may not have ever experienced the love of a good parent before. They just know whether or not that parent fulfills that love. Another example might be marriage. When people get married for the first time, they don’t know what marriage is like through their own previous marriage experience! So how do they know that marriage is something that they want? Maybe as a result of observing a parent in a good marriage, reading a book on marriage or by observing friends in good marriages. They might even learn through their own negative experiences with relationships! Point being, is that we learn in a variety of ways and not just because we have personally experienced the good we seek.

I kind of think the same thing applies here. People can be told about who God is and who He desires to be in their lives. Great verses such as Psalm 86:15 help us understand what is meant by God as our Father, “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”. No one fully experiences God from an earthly father, even a good one. No earthly father gets it right all the time or can be as abounding in love as God. But even still, I know that there are hurts that people have when the word, “Father”, is mentioned and that can’t be denied. But I always encourage people to encounter Jesus. Encounter the real human who, if true, loves you in a way no person on earth could ever love you. A being who is aware of everything you’ve gone through-- the way others have failed you and the way you have failed yourself, yet chooses to love you regardless. It is that idea that I point people to for healing. God is not just another father figure, nor is He a just a being that was involved in your making, but He is the reflection of something that is the perfect existence of love, beauty, fulfillment and goodness. Something that every human, orphan or not, wants.

I hope that helps!
Alycia


(Vanessa Muntz) #12

Eloquently and beautifully written

Thank you


(Lisa) #13

Hi Alycia

Thank you for taking time to read and respond to our questions. I came to believe in the Gospel a few years ago though I had grown up in the church. With believing in the gospel came the burden of wanting to share with friends and family but because most of them are church goers with a knowledge of Jesus but no real relationship I have found this to be very difficult. I often do find myself being a better friend than a disciple.

Can you please give me some tips on how to effectively share the gospel with people that are close to me who believe in Jesus but i doubt are really pursuing a relationship with him. How do I know when there’s a need to share the gospel especially when the people are ticking all the right boxes of what christians should say and do? Is it okay to be content with knowing that though not showing any fruits as long as the people say they believe in Jesus then they are saved.

Love
Lisa


(Alycia Wood) #14

Lisa,

This is a very challenging question. I think speaking to Christians who are not fully grasping the entirety of the Christian message is very frustrating for friends looking on. The fruits of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 should be evident in an individuals life. In other words, one should act like Christ. James makes it very clear that our words and actions should match. Saying that one is a follower of Jesus should also mean that they look like they are following Jesus.

So, in regards to your question, the way I deal with this situation is to continue to grow in my relationship with the Lord and let them watch. I don’t think it is always beneficial to be calling and encouraging people to be more like Christ that don’t want to be themselves. Once I get the vibe that they want to live how they want, I make a mental note and the nature of our relationship changes a bit in my mind. While I grieve for their decision, I think preservation of the relationship becomes very important because if/when they get to a point where they want to take things more seriously with God, I want to be someone they can come to with questions. And so, I sit back and let people form their own relationship and walk with God. Now, I’m assuming here that these are people who know that Jesus wants more from them then what they are offering. As opposed to someone who is completely clueless as to what God wants from them.

In fact, this just happened to me recently, where someone I have known for 20 years is at a place where they are really ready to wrestle through how they know Christianity is true, or how Christians know our God is the true and right God etc. Now, they would have called themselves a Christian all these past years, but they may also have acknowledged that they were doing average in their relationship and there’s things they should be doing better than what they were doing previously. However, they have been watching some documentaries on TV and that is making them question everything. They are now at a place where all they want is truth and to not just follow something because this is always something they did, or because they grew up going to church. In other words, they are ready to take this whole faith things seriously. But the reality of this situation is that they had to come to that place on their own. Had I said things over the years more strongly than the bits I offered them, they would have just rejected me all together. While I don’t mind being rejected for Christ, this would have been different because the impact on where she is now would have changed. See, because I was able to preserve the relationship, she now wants me to be a part of her journey of asking questions and finding truth.

All that said, our relationship over the last several years consisted of me sharing with her about my life and what I was doing in ministry (and life in general) and her sharing with me what was going on with her. Our relationship continued to grow and now that she is at the place she is at, we are moving on to this particular place in our relationship-- finding truth.

So, perhaps what you could do is continue to pray for them, and allow them to silently observe your life as a Christian fully devoted to God. Be there for when they want to talk. Always keep in mind that everyone’s path to spiritual maturity is different, but we always want people to get it right with God now before something tragic happens! But one thing I’ve learned in my 6+ years of doing Apologetics with RZIM, is that you can’t make anyone believe or serve God. As difficult this stage is, I would rather them go through the maturity stages with you than without! Thank you for loving your friends!

Blessings,
Alycia


(Lisa) #15

Thank you for your response Alycia it was really helpful.


(Alycia Wood) #16

Emmanuel,

Thank you for your question and I hope I can be of some help. A Tithe refers to the 10% people offer from their finances to a church, whereas the first fruits refers to the amount people are encouraged to give the church on top of their current tithe. It comes out of Exodus 23:19, Proverbs 3:9-10, Deuteronomy 26 and Leviticus 23:10. In the Deuteronomy passage, the first fruits were originally given to God, as He instructed, as a thank you for God bringing them out of Egyptian slavery and into the land promised to them. Today, the first fruit can be given for multiple reasons including receiving a blessing from God, as a sacrifice that you believe that God will take care of you financially throughout the year, or as a way of saying thanks for how God has provided.

Some churches will have first fruits offerings as part of their yearly calendar encouraging people to give and start the year off with their first fruit. Other churches see it as something that was for the Jewish people for that time and not something that is a requirement for Christians to be doing today. Those churches do not ask their members for a first fruit.

I will say that I am resistant to any teaching that says that if you don’t give money to God He won’t bless you, or that if you do give money to God, He will bless you. I’m not sure if that is what is implied in your question, but I just wanted to put it out there that that teaching resembles closely the prosperity gospel which I think is very dangerous and heretical. People who follow this prosperity teaching give a lot of money to the church thinking that if they do God will provide them with big houses, cars and other material things. But this prosperity teaching makes our relationship with God conditional upon money and I don’t think that real relationship with God is quite so up and down, and definitely shouldn’t be money focused. Another massive problem I see with this occurs when after people give tons of money, they don’t find themselves receiving blessings from God, and as a result, they begin to question their relationship with Him, “Does God love me?”, “Why isn’t He blessing me?” They begin questioning why God hates them or whether or not they are even Christians anymore because God didn’t give them a new big house when the one they have is fine. We cannot buy our salvation. It is freely given to us as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet the prosperity gospel closely associates salvation, relationship with God and money.

So the challenge for you to consider is how do you interpret the scriptures given to the Jewish people in the OT, in regards to what God wants from the church, and specifically you, today? Since this is not my area of expertise, and it is something that will require a bit of study on your part, here is a link I found that might be helpful. It will help you understand different perspectives: https://www.compellingtruth.org/first-fruits.html.

But let me assure you, that you should never follow any teaching that makes your relationship with God or acceptance by God conditional on money. God does not need our money. He wants our hearts. That should always be the priority. And out of our devotion to Him, come good deeds and using our finances for the Kingdom, both in the church and outside.

I hope that helps,
Alycia


(Emmanuel Ofori) #17

Thanks very much Alycia. Your response has been extremely helpful


(Alycia Wood) #21

Jeremiah,

Thank you for introducing me to NLP! I have never heard of it before! I can understand your confusion as I am surprised that this kind of teaching was brought into your church. I am not sure what the speaker said, especially in regards to specific remedies they mentioned, but in looking at NLP itself, it seems to me, from what I’ve read, that there are reasons to stay clear of its teaching.

This is what their website says
http://www.nlpu.com/NLPU_WhatIsNLP.html:

NLP is a pragmatic school of thought - an ‘epistemology’ - that addresses the many levels involved in being human. NLP is a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior. NLP provides tools and skills for the development of states of individual excellence, but it also establishes a system of empowering beliefs and presuppositions about what human beings are, what communication is and what the process of change is all about. At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity and mission. It also provides a framework for understanding and relating to the ‘spiritual’ part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence, it is about wisdom and vision

Based off of this description, NLP to me seems like a way of helping people be further in touch with their consciousness, behavior and human essence. This understanding will help someone to better understand themselves as a human but also as a spiritual being. Their way of helping people get to that point of knowledge seems questionable to me because you would have to show me that that I am unable to be in tune with these things like I believe I am now.

But as I kept reading the site, I also noticed that they said, “As human beings, we can never know reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality” and later on it said, “In the belief system of NLP it is not possible for human beings to know objective reality”. It is these two statements which I think give further clarity to how NLP is problematic to Christianity. If we are going to say that we cannot know reality or objective reality, but merely our perceptions of what we think it is, then that goes for everything. Not just how you perceive someone else’s emotions, or how you know yourself, but how you understand God. See, if we can’t know reality, then we would have to concede that we truly can’t know God either because He is reality! That is extremely problematic! Who you are perceiving God to be, in their view, is actually not the reality. Who you think you are serving, is actually only your perceptions. Since they do not believe in an objective reality, then that makes the Christian start to question everything including whether or not there is a God or if truth even exists! Furthermore, how do the followers of NLP know that there is a reality that exists that we can’t perceive? You would have to prove that there is a reality out there that you saw or experienced and because of that know that you can’t perceive it correctly!

But that’s not what Christianity teaches. Christianity does acknowledge that we don’t fully understand God now, but that is different than saying that we can’t experience His reality of existence. 1 Corinthians 13 talks about the fact that now we see things in part, but then we shall see things fully! But that is a very different statement than what the founders of NLP claim. Paul is saying that we are only able to grasp part of who God fully is now, but when we are with God, we will see the full picture! But Paul saying we can only experience some of the reality of God is very different than saying that we can’t know it at all!

In fact, it is the truth and reality we know that helps us know God, the world around us and ourselves. The famous C. S. Lewis statement says this well, 'I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

I would also encourage you to read Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary argument against Naturalism. It basically says that we would have no reason to think that we have the ability to know truth if it wasn’t for the existence of God. The reason being is that there’s no reason to think that our brains would have evolved to know truth, rather they would evolve to know how to survive. It’s a helpful argument against NLP because it implies that without God, there’s no reason for us to think we could perceive truth, and in regards to NLP, reality.

But, if there really is a God, then we can know truth. We can know reality because we were created to discover those things. And since Jesus is the truth, every Christian can say that they have found truth. We perceive reality in Christianity, but we also encounter reality. We engage with Jesus, and Jesus shows us what reality is. The light has comes into the world to show us the truth, so that reality doesn’t remain in darkness.

I hope that helps you apply the errors of NLP to your own particular situation in regards to what the speaker said.
Alycia


(Carson Weitnauer) closed #22