Ask Michelle Tepper (May 11-15, 2020)

Hello, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM friends!
After taking a week break, we’re excited to be back with @Michelle_Tepper taking her place in the Q&A hot seat. :fire:

Michelle is an itinerant speaker based in the USA and Chaplain at the Zacharias Institute. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stetson University and studied theology at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) where she was part of its first graduating class. Prior to joining RZIM, Michelle was the University Chaplain for St. Aldate’s Church in Oxford, England, for six years.

She teaches worldwide on a number of subjects including suffering, God’s character, sharing the gospel with students, questions churches face, and sex and relationships. Michelle has been a part of RZIM since 2011, working first as a speaker with RZIM Europe and as a guest lecturer at the OCCA. Now a member of the US speaking and writing team, she also is actively involved in RZIM’s growing presence in Latin America where she helps run university mission weeks and train evangelists.

Michelle lives in central Florida with her husband, Peter, and daughter, Sophia. She is a sunshine lover and espresso aficionado. When she is not traveling, she ministers in her local church where her husband is a pastor.

Some topics she speaks on include:

  • Where Is God in Suffering?
  • Christianity and Women
  • Love, Sex, and Relationships
  • How Could You Believe in Miracles in the 21st Century?
  • How Could There Be Only One Way To God?
  • Is Christianity Arrogant and Exclusive?
  • God of Love or God of Justice: Do We Have To Choose?
  • Is Fearless Faith Irrational and Dangerous?
  • Is the Christian Faith Unreasonable?
  • The Reality of the Resurrection
  • Can We Trust the Bible?
  • Evidence for the Existence of God
  • Why Would God Send His Son to Die?
  • How Does the Cross Prove Love?
  • Everyday Apologetic Conversations
  • Breaking the Silence on Faith and Other Hard Topics in Everyday Life
  • Sharing the Gospel with Your Kids/Youth
  • What Is the Question Behind the Question?
  • Help My Unbelief
  • The Trinity

As always, reply below with your question! :arrow_down:

8 Likes

Hello, Michelle, would like to hear you speak on most all this list but for others sake could you share on this topic please. Most do not comprehend freedom when the have no choice.

Thank you for taking the time.
Mike

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Hi Michelle,

Love to hear on the evidence for existence of God in succinct manner that you could talk to a non-beliver.

Thank you

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Hey Michelle, :cherry_blossom:

I have a few questions from the students from Victory Academy. :eagle:

They recently watched Abdu’s riveting lecture on the Resurrection and had some questions regarding Jesus.

Blake & Samuel asked, Jesus’ brother James, why did he doubt Jesus and why did he not believe until after the resurrection?

Yousef inquired on why did Paul persecute the church?

Samuel wanted to know if there was any information on Joseph, Jesus’ earthly dad?

Greycen wanted to probe the reason why Jesus would heal the ear of the Roman solider Peter cut off, if later, that solider would be party to His crucifixion?

Thanks so much for your wisdom :tulip:

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Hi everyone! Thank you so much for your questions. I look forward to connecting with you here through the week.

Warmly,
Michelle

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Hi Dan,

What a great question! In fact, I was just recently asked that question by a young person in the U.K. I mention this because I have started making short video responses to the difficult questions kids ask about faith and God. One of the things that I am learning is that is very important to give brief answers to help keep kids engaged! At the moment I am trying to keep every answer around 2 minutes, and wow is that difficult! However, I think that in our digital age many of us have lost the ability to concentrate and stay connected during long explanations as well.

Given this, here are the points I hit for evidence for the existence of God. Depending on how deep you dive into each point, this can be quite a quick and inviting start to further research or conversation. I usually start by saying that the strength of the evidence for the existence of God actually comes through the combination of all of the following vastly different types of compelling evidence one must consider on the topic.

There is an excellent short piece by @Andy_Bannister on RZIM.org. He hits most of these points as well. [https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/evidence]
So I will just do a quick and very simplistic summary of different lines of argument or discussion you can use to show how much great “evidence” we have for our belief in God.

1.Origins of the Universe (Philosophical evidence):
-Here you can look into the origin and existence of the universe. How did it come to be? Something that had a beginning must need something greater and more complex to give it a beginning.

2.Design and fine-tuning of the universe (Scientific evidence):
-Look at the complexity of the natural world around us. How is it that we have just the right natural setting for human life to exist on our planet? I like the way @Vince_Vitale talks about it in this article https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-global/4-reasons-why-i-believe-in-god-2. He says “[T]here are dozens of features of the universe that needed to be precisely as they are for life to be possible…not just life on the planet Earth or life as we know it, but any form of life anywhere in the universe.”

3.Moral Evidence:
If we believe that things like Good and Evil really exist or that human beings deserve to be treated with equality and dignity, where do these absolute truths, morals, or ethics come from if not an eternal moral law giver?
Here is a great article by Ravi Zacharias on this topic.

4.Historical Evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus
As Christians, the cornerstone of our belief in the existence of God is the person of Jesus Christ. Even if someone is still undecided about the existence of God it is well worth walking them through the rich evidence inside and outside of scripture about the man Jesus Christ who claimed to be God then rose from the dead as proof of his claim. One can point to the prophecies Jesus fulfilled in his birth, life and death, and the eye witness accounts of his resurrection. There is a wealth of evidence for the historical reliability of the gospel accounts that record the life and ministry of Jesus.

  1. Personal Evidence
    The Christian’s life can and should be strong evidence to the existence of God. What is your personal testimony of the reality of God? Do not forget to share your story and the story of other who have encountered Jesus Christ in real, life changing ways. Experiential evidence alongside all of the other lines of reasoning is very powerful, no one can disprove your personal experience.

Hopefully this has been a helpful outline to encourage your future conversations on the wealth of evidence we have for the existence of God.

Michelle

6 Likes

Hello Michelle,

How would you respond to someone who asks whether masturbation is a sin and if so what is the reason for it. The question raises because the bible says nothing about this topic.

Greetings
Martin

1 Like

Hi Michelle,

I have taken the Core Module and loved your lecture on the trinity. After taking Faith Seeking Understanding, I wish to know more about the connection between the Trinity, love, and creation, particularly the creation of humans. Would it be possible to elaborate on that? Perhaps you could also suggest some reading material (online and print) and also Scripture references. Thank you for sharing your time with us this week.

1 Like

Hello, Michelle
It’s my honour and privilege to asked you my doubts. I have wrestling about Miracle and prophecy since I have grew up in North Easter part of India where there a lot of prophecy by so called and done some miracle of healing. But as personally for me it’s hard to trust and sound more like an irrational but at the same time hard to deny since I raise up in such societies. My question could God still operate the miracle of healing apart from Medical doctor and could God still ordain prophet to prophesy. Would the gift of such power not only in Ist century?
To shorten my question Did Gone operate Miracle of prophet, healing in modern age?

With love
Atai

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Hi Michelle and thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
I have been saved for almost a year now and in the areas where I most definitely know that I have been saved is, that I have been sober now for the same time and also quit smoking and I am alot more disciplined in small areas then before, like reading waking up earlier and exercising. But the are im really still strugling with it the area of still finding and discovering God’s will and purpose for my life,and distinguish between my voice or maybe God voice. Been a long time strugle for me finding my place and now that I’m not concerned about my place in a world view perspective but in a Christian perspective I haven’t quite find it yet. So how can i and even people who maybe struggle to find there place in God can do that better.
Thanks for your time

Hello!

Do the following verses have the same meaning?

Romans 1:9 (KJV) For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son…

Romans 1:9 (NIV)
God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son…

Thank you

Hi Martin,

Thank you for this real and honest question. It is so important for us as Christians to address these issues, even if they may seem like taboo topics in some Christian settings. I want to point you directly to this article by Focus on the Family https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/questions-and-concerns-about-masturbation/ . It addresses almost all of the questions that you ask specifically and gives some good practical advice.

First, we need to make sure that we answer with love and care. For many people, this is a topic linked to personal shame or addiction. When we talk about the boundaries that the Bible puts on sexuality, we must also talk about hope, freedom and wholeness that the gospel offers to every single one of us.

Second, the Bible does not mention masturbation specifically, but the Bible has a lot to say about sex. The central message that the bible gives us is that sex was designed to be practiced only in marriage between a man a woman. This isn’t because God is prudish or old fashioned. It is because during sexual intimacy there is such a powerful physical, spiritual, and emotional union that takes place. The sexual union between a man and a woman in marriage is a picture and promise of the eternal love of God that is always selfless, sacrificial, and permanent. Any type of personal sexual activity makes sex all about individual gratification instead of relational dedication. Every time we step outside of those divine boundaries for sexuality, brokenness always ensues.

Third, Jesus said that all of the law could be fulfilled by following the command to Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. In this sense, all sin is a violation of love. When we sin we are either not loving God rightly or not loving others rightly-often it is a combination of the two. The good news of the gospel is that all of our sin has been covered and paid for by the cross of Jesus Christ. Accepting Christ as savior means surrendering every part four lives to him and his commands. When we do so, he promises to walk alongside us, to help us and to bring freedom from the brokenness that sin has had on our own lives and the lives of others. We do not have to hide our past or present struggles from Jesus, he already knows them, his death has covered them, and he invites us to walk with him daily for freedom, wholeness, and fulfillment.

Fourth, you don’t have to deal with this alone. The body of Christ is meant to be the visible hands and feet of Jesus. If someone is struggling with masturbation or any other type of sexual sin, you don’t have to deal with it alone. There are many people in the body of Christ that have walked this road before and would love to walk with you. It is important to reach out to your church or a close Christian friend for support.

Once again, thank you for this honest question.

Michelle

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Thank your for the thoughtfull answer :wink:

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Hi Rosann and all of you awesome Victory academy students!

You guys know I have a soft spot in my heart for you. Sophia and I still think warmly on our visit to the school and Zippy loves all of her gifts! I am so glad that you are still asking watching apologetic talks and asking great questions. I’m sure that this season has been hard for you with schools being shut down. Thanks so much for still taking the time to engage with your teachers online and participate with this assignment. Keep going guys!

Here is the first question from Blake and Samuel.

Jesus’ brother James, why did he doubt Jesus and why did he not believe until after the resurrection.

While I can’t answer personally for James here :), I find a lot of comfort in the fact that the Bible includes so many different examples of how people responded to Jesus. I think it helps a range of different people know that they are welcome in the family of God regardless past, present or future doubts or feelings they might encounter. If even Jesus’ own family had to struggle with disbelief or questions before coming to faith, then it’s ok for me or anyone else to wrestle with my faith. I wonder if you have ever had something really incredible or special that happened to you that seemed easier to share with a friend than a family member? Sometimes family members find it the hardest to accept big life changes or public recognition of another family member because they are so accustomed to the everyday version that person that they grew up with. As a pastor’s child I found it hard at times to view and accept my dad as a pastor, I’m sure family members of government leaders or celebrity’s might feel the same sometimes. The difference with Jesus was that he was more than just a respected teacher or famous person, he actually was God. It took his bodily resurrection from the dead to finally prove that for many people, not just his brother James. In some ways the makes a lot of sense, it would be hard believing your brother or sister or even best friend was divine-no matter how great they were until they did something indisputably supernatural. James needed the resurrection-but so do we.

Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:14 &20-21 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.”

We all can believe that Jesus Christ is who he says he is because he rose from the dead. Whenever doubts might creep in, we can go back to this truth and be confident the Jesus is Alive.

I will answer each question in a separate post!
Sending lots of love to the entire class,
Michelle

2 Likes

Hi @Michelle_Tepper,
Thank you for your time and responses.

My question is around the scripture Matt 7: 21 to 23.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Many believers get stuck on this passage and ask how could we truly know we are known by God, bearing good fruit and not just making it all up.

How would you give assurance to believers struggling with this passage.

Bless you guys in this time.

Roald

Thank You Michelle for addressing what I have always considered a very interesting question concerning Jesus own siblings that we know so little about .
We do know that as an adult Jesus was mocked by the religious leaders as being , " born of fornication".
We can only conclude that this shameful rumor must have been hurled at Jesus from a very early age .
And while really not topic I would think a child would feel comfortable asking parents about in that period, could Jesus own siblings have questioned Joseph & Mary about the circumstance surrounding their brothers conception ? ,
Perhaps after his brothers or sisters had themselves had the shameful accusation brought up to them concerning their brother while at play with other children.
We all know how cruel children can be armed with the right information , perhaps overheard from adults.
It could have been a very thorny unresolved issue for Jesus’s siblings to deal with growing up, depending greatly on how much was explained to them from Joseph & Mary , and how much they were really able to digest of what was being told to them?
Given how they were possibly negatively impacted on a continual basis by it as children some of the people most resistant to who Jesus was and His purpose could have been those closest to Him , his own brothers & sisters .
We just don’t know .
But in a way to me this whole family issue does seem to be related to what Jesus addressed about a " Prophet not being honored in his hometown ".
The fact that we do know this rumor followed Jesus into adulthood definitely has implications for His family.
It had to have impacted them in some way .
Trusting where they could not trace may have been more difficult for Jesus own siblings than for anyone else . Love In Christ + , Mike .

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Hello Ravi! I have a question for Michelle Tepper please. How do you know if you’ve had an encounter with The Almighty God?

Yousef: Why did Paul persecute the church?

Greycen: Why Jesus would heal the ear of the Roman solider Peter cut off, if later, that solider would be party to His crucifixion?

Dear Yousef,

Great question. The book of Acts and Paul’s own letters is how we are able to do our best to know some of the story of Paul’s life before he became a Christian. What we do know was that he was persecuting christians. It tells us that in Acts, which was written by Luke who travelled around with Paul after his conversion.

Acts 8:3

But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

And Here is just one text where Paul says that of himself:

Galatians 1:13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.

The truth is the Bible does not give us a specific reason why Paul decided to persecute the christians. Some commentators believe that he was particularly upset by christians in Damascus who had decided not to follow the Torah (what we now know as the Old Testament) once they became Christians.

Even today there are people who are fearful of how differing worldview might corrupt or weaken the faith they grew up with or currently believe. There are different ways to deal with this type of fear. Unfortunately, in history and even today we see that some people think that violence and force is the only way to protect their worldview or to keep an opposing worldview from growing in popularity. However, this is not the way of Jesus Christ. We see that Jesus sacrificed his life to bring peace, rather than sacrificing the lives of others to build his kingdom. Greycen, I think this speaks to your question as well! Jesus constantly was reaching out in love and grace to “people who didn’t deserve it”. He had told his disciples that if someone hit them they should turn the other cheek, or to walk an extra mile even if they were being mistreated by an authority. Specifically in Matthew 5: 44-45 he goes on to say But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. In healing the soldier who was about to take his life, he was living out perfect love for God the Father and perfect love for others. He did not command his followers to do anything that he would not do himself. When we love others even when we disagree with them or even if they hurt us, we are walking in the perfect love of God.

This is one of the amazing things about the story of Paul. After he finds Jesus, he goes to people that are completely different than him-gentiles! People who believed in many gods or no gods at all, and he got to know them and love them and shared the truth of Jesus with them.

It’s important today to remember that one way powerful way to fight fear is by learning about other religions and becoming friends with people who believe differently than you. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, and that everyone is your neighbor. When we view all others as our neighbor and make it our goal to love them, we learn to respect and value every person even when we disagree with their views.

Keep asking good questions and spread the love of Jesus even with people who seem completely different than you!

Michelle

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Michelle, :sunflower:

The students so look forward to your responses, as do I, :smiley: we are all learning so much through asking questions.

Thank you for the personal greeting you gave the kids in your letter, you are their physical connection to RZIM and Ravi. At their tender age, they may not fully see, or comprehend what this fusion in relationship may mean, however, I do and I am most grateful to you and excited for what God will bring through this union. :tulip:

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