Michelle Tepper, an RZIM itinerant based in Florida, is available to help you think through your faith questions this week.
You can see a list of her most frequently requested talk titles below. I encourage you to reach out and share what’s on your heart and mind. In doing so, not only will you get an answer you can trust, but help many other people with the same question.
Michelle Tepper bio:
Michelle Tepper is an itinerant speaker for RZIM in the US, teaching worldwide on a number of subjects, including the problem of pain, God’s character, sex, relationships, and love.
Since 2011, Michelle has been speaking overseas as a part of the RZIM European team and as a guest lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. Prior to joining the RZIM staff, Michelle worked for six years as the University Chaplain for St. Aldate’s—a thriving, historic, student friendly church located in the heart of Oxford.
Michelle has strong ties to Oxford since she met and married her husband there while studying abroad at Oxford University, during which she finished her bachelor’s degree in political science from Stetson University. Michelle then went on to pursue further studies in theology at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) and was part of the OCCA’s first graduating class.
Following God’s call to move back to the States and support the local church while serving with RZIM, Michelle and her husband, Peter, have relocated to Florida with their daughter, Sophia.
The Dignity of Women
Is God Sexist?
Isn’t the Bible Sexist?
Is Christianity Good News for Women?
Why One Way? / How Could There Be Only One Way to God?
Is Christianity Arrogant and Exclusive?
Is True Love Possible?
Will We Ever be Satisfied: Sex, Love and Relationships
Why is Christianity so Exclusive and Restrictive?/Sex: What Christians Really Think/Why should God Care What I Do in the Bedroom/When God’s Rules Seem Too Tough
What is Love?
God of Love or God of Justice?/ Love or Justice: Do We Have to Choose?
Isn’t Fearless Faith Irrational and Dangerous?
Is the Christian Faith Unreasonable?
Evidence for the Resurrection
Can We Trust the Bible?
Evidence for the Existence of God
How Does the Cross Prove Love?
Why Would God Send Die?
Everyday Apologetics (or The Art of Conversation)
Mind the Gaps: Breaking the Silence on Faith and other Hard Topics in Everyday Life
Launch into the Deep
Conversations with Sophia (Apologetics for the Next Generation)
I thoroughly enjoyed my week hosting ASK RZIM last year. It is so encouraging to read through previous threads of discussion and many of your testimonies of how this community is strengthening your faith in Jesus Christ and empowering your evangelism.
I am still based in Florida, it is ‘back to school’ this week for our county and I can’t help but think and pray for the students who recently went through our Refresh week this summer at the Zacharias Institute. If any of you recently joined the community since that week, please reach out! My daughter Sophia is starting Wednesday and one of my passions is encouraging apologetic discussion in homes so that our students are equipped from an early age for confidence in their faith.
I’m really looking forward to connecting with this community at a deeper level this week.
Thanks for spending time with us this week. This is probably not the type of question you were looking for, but I’m going to ask it anyway. I got involved with a ladies’ Bible study that is made up of a group of very practical, country, old-style conservative Christian women with limited exposure to academia, intellectual debate, or association with people who would adamantly challenge their views. I find myself frustrated at the shallowness of the “study” - it is often more like reading a verse or two and then sharing personal stories that are somehow (sometimes) related - often very simplistic and cliche as well. Part of me realizes that these people will likely never have to face these questions, and are perhaps better off because their faith is so simple and every day. They simply don’t question much at all. But part of me feels like every Christian should be made aware of the hard questions that come any time we are actively interacting with the academic world, and increasingly, the everyday world, must face and answer. I know that looking at some of the hard questions has caused me to go through periods of questioning and doubt in my faith. Is it fair to create this potential for other people who are happy with their simple, unquestioning faith? Does facing the hard questions make your faith stronger in the end? Is there a gracious way to challenge this mindset, and initiate more in-depth study of the doctrines of Christianity? Or is it best to simply bow out and try to find a place/situation that is a better fit for my interests and experiences?
Hi I’m new here so I’m not sure if this is the right place to be posting this or not but I was hoping to get some help with thoughts on a relationship struggle I’ve had. What are your thoughts/biblical understating of Christians dating atheist/agnostics? On one hand I have a very close minded view that that any man I date must be Christian. I have no problems being friends with people of other faiths but when it comes to sharing my life a personally as I hope to one day do with my future husband and maybe raising children I feel that it is important that those kind of views a line. Plus I may be wording it wrong but there is at least one place in the Bible where it talks about the hisband being the speritual head of the house. On the other hand I reastently learned that the mother of one of my friends was not raised christan and really never knew anything about it until meeting and starting to date her dad and they are one of the strongest families I know when it comes to their faith. (I know I posted this already but didn’t get anything back that I can see before the thread closed.)
Thanks for your honesty and for your great question. For me, one of the greatest joys of my home life is being an active part of our local church. My husband Peter is an ordained Pastor, and during our entire marriage, he has been in full-time pastoral ministry. In each of the churches, I have actively supported him in pastoral ministry, both at the start of our marriage when we were both employed at the same church, and even now as a full-time itinerant speaker at RZIM. Obviously, the levels of my involvement are much lower given my travels schedule, but I am still very much in touch with the type of church community you described.
The part of Florida that I live in is definitely classified as “the Bible belt”, and often I am surprised when members of my church community seem either uninterested or completely unaware of the big questions that I am asked in almost every other place I travel. It can be easy to get frustrated or withdraw from a church community when we feel like we are not on the same page as the rest of the members. However, I’ve learned that all people have to face the big questions in life, but most people do not know how to talk about these deep things with others.
@CarsonWeitnauer asked me to share about my talk “Please Mind the Gaps”, and I believe it links to the struggle you are facing. I have never been in a church situation where people didn’t have questions about pain or suffering, where someone wasn’t struggling with doubt, anxiety, sexual temptation…and the list goes on. But unfortunately, we as a church have often failed to created safe spaces for people to be real, open, and honest with how they truly feel or with what ideas they are struggling. Just because we all use similar language or quote similar verses, doesn’t mean we know how to practically apply the truth of the gospel to the reality of our lives. Equally, we can study deep apologetic topics, but it takes practice to learn how to build bridges in our everyday conversations so that these truths will link up with what might seem like someone else’s cliche story. The call to always be prepared to give an answer for our faith in 1 Peter 3:15-16, is also an encouragement to actively look for ways to build bridges in our conversations and relationship that make it easier for people think about, and eventually, ask the bigger questions of life.
Here are a few encouragements I’d like to give you:
-Practice finding ways to build bridges over gaps in conversation, knowledge or even silence to open up those deeper topics.
-One of the best ways of building trust in small group settings is to be open and vulnerable yourself. Have you ever shared your journey with the big questions of life and faith? Where are you at currently, do you have any ongoing question you continue to surrender to the sovereignty of God? When we invite people into our stories, it makes it much easier for them to invite us into theirs.
-Pray and ask God to show you how He sees these fellow sisters, and to teach you how to connect with them in ways that honor and value them for who he created them to be. Ask him to open up opportunities for personal conversations and for ways that you can humbly share God’s love and grace with them.
Give this a try for a while and watch what God can do. Once again, great question. I am praying right now for your next interaction with them. I pray that it would be full of love, seasoned with grace, and overflowing with the joy of His presence among all of you.
That’s fine and thank you. The only reason I made the point about having asked twice is because I feel like I remember seeing somewhere that you shouldn’t post the same thing multiple places however from what I understand after these ask sections are closed no one can comment any more so without reposting there is no way my question could be answered (again i am new here so I’m sorry if any of this information is wrong)
Thank you, Michelle. Your answer really goes to the heart of the issue, and I have been increasingly frustrated and withdrawing from the group. Your reflections are 100% accurate. I appreciate the list of practical suggestions as well as the encouragement to stay engaged and keep trying to build bridges. Thank you also for lifting us up in prayer.
Hi Michelle, I have a question. I am new to the community, so if this has been answered elsewhere please point me in the right direction.
My question is this: in most of the churches I have been to it has been common theology that the only way to God is through Jesus AND that you have to choose Jesus before you die. If you don’t choose Jesus before you die, then you have lost your chance and will go to Hell. I agree with the first part, that the only way to God and eternal life is through Jesus, but I am not sure there is a Biblical foundation for the AND you have to choose him before you die. Could someone explain to me what this belief is based on or where this tradition comes from? I do NOT mean this in a “love wins” sense where everyone will eventually go to Heaven, I think the bible is very clear that some people will choose against God and thus seal their own fate. However, if we are eternal beings, I am not sure that the only time to choose God is while here on Earth? That doesn’t quite seem logical to me?
In my own study I did a word study on “death” in the bible. It was interesting. If you toss out all the verses on “so and so died” which is the majority, there are a couple key verses that repeat over and really stand out to me
deut 24:16 each shall be put to death for thier OWN sin (this is quoted several more times throughout the Bible)
deut 32:39 (God saying) I put to death and I bring to life (this is interesting because throughout the rest of the Torah there are many verses on if so and so does this then stone them to death- so clearly this is a different type of death God is talking about if in the same book he is telling others to stone people to death (now that I think about it this might be a reasonable answer to the “God killing other nations in the OT” question but I’ll save that conversation for later)
ezk 18:23, 18:32 I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, repent and you will not die
gospels- over and over and over Jesus states that there are people here now (in his life) that will never taste death- like Deut 32:39 this clearly does not mean physical death as we know it because ALL of the people from Jesus time have physically died. so clearly this is a different death.
rev 2:11, 20:6 “second death”
rev 20:13 the dead were given up and each was judged according to what he has done (like deut 24:16)
rev 20:14 the lake of fire is the second death
It is not until revelation that I found the term “second death”. So,from this word study I might conclude that a person could still choose God before the “second death” when the entire world is judged, not the first physical death here on earth?
I would love thoughts.
These are great questions! Firstly, I do not think that you are close-minded in your personal conviction and preference to date someone with a living Christian faith.
As Christians, marriage is a sacred union that reflects the beauty, unity, and diversity of love that we see in the members of the Trinity. It’s a life-long commitment to laying down one’s life to love and become one with someone different than ourselves. God designed marriage to reflect his eternal nature, so all marriage has an eternal element to it. This is precisely why it is guarded by such high standards in the Bible and why the breakdown of marriage both personally and in society is always so painful.
In choosing a spouse, as Christians, we vow before God to choose them for all of our earthly lives, but we also know that all of us are eternal beings. Although scripture is clear that marriage will not look the same in eternity (Matt. 22:29-33), the bible also tells us that we will be known and recognizable even as we are already known ( see 1 Cor. 13:12 and Luke 16 story of the rich man and Lazarus). This element of eternal life and relationship is one of the strongest aspects to consider when considering entering into dating or a life-long union with someone. If you truly love someone, then it would make sense that as a Christian you desire nothing more than for that person to be with you, in the presence of God for all of eternity. We all have loved ones and friend who do not yet know Christ, we can and should love them deeply, regardless of their spiritual states, but we should yearn for them to come into relationship with our eternal God of love, so that “they will never die” and we will have the joy of sharing this perfect love with them forever in heaven.
In the case of your good friend, who came to faith in Jesus by dating a Christian, we should all celebrate! How wonderful when God uses our significant relationship as a place for people to come to know his salvation. This can and does happen, I have close friends where this was the case. The Bible even gives specific words of encouragement to cases in the early church where one spouse was a new believer in Jesus and the other one was not. (1 Cor. 7:12-16).
However, throughout scripture, we are encouraged not to be unequally yoked, unnecessarily intertwined, or to team up with unbelievers. Although the most commonly quoted passage (2 Cor. 6:14) specifically warns against the partnership with the world or darkness, I can’t help but think that marriage is one of the most important partnerships of life. If your desire is to see someone who you are attracted to come to know and love Jesus, from experience, it’s much easier to point someone clearly to Jesus when we have no other motives but to see them saved.
Pursuing a “Christian” relationship is not simply a label to be ticked on a list of dating preferences. When I meet anyone, I’m searching for evidence of whether they know and love Jesus personally, so that either we can share in that love together, or so that I can introduce them to the God of love. Before I met my Husband, I was in a serious relationship with someone who did not have a living faith in Jesus Christ. He was a wonderful person, he cared and loved deeply, as anyone made in the image of God can do. However, regardless of how happy we felt together, the truth remained that I was never fully content for him to stay as he was. How could I be? If the gospel is true, how could it not matter if he ever became a Christian? It wasn’t just a box to check, relationship with Jesus give us life to the full, we are made new, set free, redeemed and given an incredible inheritance as children of God not only in eternity but also here and now! It’s incredibly painful to be in a relationship knowing that deep down your partners greatest wish is for you to change. He found it frustrating that Jesus would always come first and because of this I would always want him to come to faith. I know I didn’t always convey this desire in a selfless, even if it was a healthy god-glorifying desire to have. Ultimately, we ended the relationship. It was a very painful season for us both, but I thank God that he uses everything for his glory, and taught me so much through it.
Thanks for your question! You are completely correct, Jesus’ death covers all of our sins.
One of my favorite passages in Romans reminds us:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
(Romans 5:5–8 ESV)
All of us have sinned and we were all powerless to fix our broken condition. Jesus came and died to pay the price for those sins and to make a way for our hearts and lives to be made right with God again. The gospel is “good news” because it’s an incredible free gift. All we have to do is say yes, and we receive forgiveness and a new, eternal relationship with the living God.
That being said you may have heard that the Bible mentions an “unforgivable sin”. This is the passage which is usually being referenced when someone mentions that.
“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
(Matthew 12:31–32 ESV)
I’m going to link a helpful post from another community member @Pedro_Jimenez, he is answering a different question, but he does a great job explaining this verse, quoting the ESV study bible.
To summarize, the Bible is pretty clear that the only unforgivable sin is the willful and persistent rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord. All we have to do is say yes, but saying yes to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, means declaring that we are not God and that only He is. Those who refuse to admit their sin and the offer of love Christ offers through their entire human life only become unforgivable by their own persistent refusal of repentance.
Though a sobering thought, we can find hope in the reality that God is always pursuing the hearts of his children. The Bible reminds us that all of creation declares his glory and The Father’s desire is that none would perish before coming to know and love him in this life. As evangelists, our goal is to take every opportunity to make safe spaces for people to repent and turn to Christ.
I ended up wrtiting a longer response than I expected yesterday, because you had such great elements to you quesiton. I hope this answer finds you refreshed and read to face whatever God has for you today.
Welcome to the community! We are always happy to engage with all topics, regardless of whether or not they discussed before on RZIM. As you might have read below in my response to @Duke, we will try to add any helpful links for further reading when we can!
So here are a few RZIM Connect threads you might want to visit:
Does the Bible teach eternal separation from God?
Discussion facilitator @SeanO mentions the second death, in a different context but then links in lots of great further resources for reading up on hell and the final judgment.
Is the immortal soul a Biblical concept and if so, where is it found?
This is a very hot topic in the community right now. These discussions and questions are getting a lot of community attention, even within the last 2 days. It’s clear that you have done a lot of thinking and study on this subject, I encourage you to join the discussion as well. I know that the community will benefit from your input!
That being said, I want to pick up on the more specific questions you asked about whether people might get the opportunity to choose faith in Jesus Christ after their earthly death, and for clarity about the term “second death” in Revelation.
There are 2 scripture references which, interestingly, I have referenced in 2 different threads during this week on Ask RZIM. The funny thing is that they are often considered more obscure, or difficult passages in scripture, and they are certainly not among my favorite verses that quickly spring to mind. However, I find they both apply to the what the Bible explains as the human timeline for accepting Christ.
In my response to @Amf I mentioned the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Although, there are differences in option on how much doctrine we should gain from parables, a few things are clear. Jesus seems to imply that once someone dies and passes into eternity, they cannot cross over from death into life (v. 26). Jesus goes further to imply in verse 31 that if Moses and the prophets were not enough to stir faith in someone, then they wouldn’t even be convinced to repent if they saw someone rise from the dead. How do we apply this to our lives now? For all of us today, Moses and the prophets represent the Bible and Jesus is the new and better Lazarus who did actually rise from the dead, fulfilling the rich man’s request. This along with other passages in scripture, lead us to believe that the opportunity to accept Christ comes only during our human lifetime.
In my response to @Duke I mentioned Matthew 12:31-32, the cross-reference can also be found in Mark 3:28-29.
“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Matthew 12:31-32
You can read in that response what I wrote regarding what is sometimes referred to as the “unforgivable sin”, so I won’t go into it again on this thread. However, the close of the passage in both Matthew and Mark clearly states that those who have committed this “eternal sin" (persistent, willful, rejection of Christ) "will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Both the classification of the rejection of Jesus Christ being an "eternal sin” in Mark and the phrase 'in this age or in the age to come” seem to imply that the human opportunity to accept Christ is open for as long as we live here on earth-our first death. Hebrews 9: 27 reminds us that every human being with face death first then judgment. What revelation refers to as the “second death” is the eternal judgment that unbelievers will face after they die.
This second death is contrasted with those who overcome in Revelation 2, who are given a crown of life and will never taste a “second death”. In other words, those who chose Jesus during their human lifetime receive eternal life and will never taste or have to face the second death mentioned in Revelation. Jesus explains this clearly in John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
These are important and sensitive topics. I urge you to follow the links above to pursue further resources and to join the brilliant current community discussion.