How should a Christian honor unbelieving parents? How can one honor and respect parents who are not following God's ways? Can we look to them for leadership and example when they are doing things that are not really right in God's eyes?
God clearly commands us to honor our parents. He does not say "Honor your parents only if they deserve honoring" or "Honor your parents if they please you." God says, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" (Ex. 20:12). God condemns those who do not honor and respect their parents. "For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death" (Matt. 15:4). However, in Ephesians 6:1, God says, through Paul, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right." Notice Paul says "in the Lord"; that is, as long as obeying your parents does not cause you to disobey God's laws. God does not tell us to follow the things our parents do if those things are not right in God's sight (Acts 5:29). But understand this point: Obedience to God is not an excuse for dishonoring parents. Nor does God hold us responsible for their actions. "Now, lo, if he [a father] beget a son, that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like... he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.... When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live" (Ezek. 18:14-19). God does not say to look down your nose at and disrespect your parents and the office He has given them. Just because they are not perfect does not allow you — who also are not perfect — to disobey them. Remember that even a truly converted Christian is not perfect. Respect, love and honor your parents and the office of authority God has given them. Have genuine humility. Obey them as much as possible. Do not overlook the good in your folks. Don't forget how much your parents have fed, clothed, housed and educated you. If you are at home, go out of your way to be on good terms with your father and mother. Help with the chores. Be with your family on outings together, so your parents can enjoy their children as long as they can. Never offend them or try to cram your beliefs or religion down their throats. Be a success for your parents in school or on the job. Write to them if you are away from home. God feels strongly about this. He is our spiritual father and we owe Him awe and respect. He wants us to obey Him and His perfect way of living. God will not tolerate a rebellious individual who will not respect Him or earthly parents. Remember what God says about your physical parents: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" (Eph. 6:1-3). If we properly honor our parents, God will bless us not only with long life and physical blessings, but also with spiritual blessings and everlasting life.
Is it wrong to plant crops according to the phases of the moon or the signs of the zodiac?
Some firmly believe that the success of their crops depends upon planting by the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. But this is not what God says. God nowhere in the Bible tells us to build our lives around moon phases and the signs of the zodiac as astrologers teach. God prophesies that He will burn up unrepentant astrologers (Isa. 47:13-14). Astrology is a form of idolatry, because it puts man's devices before God's ways. Astrologers teach people to try to obtain success by means of astrology. God expressly forbids this worship of the constellations and the host of heaven (II Kings 23:5). In Matthew 13:3-8 Christ mentioned several natural factors that govern crop production, including soil types, weather and weeds. He said nothing of astrological influence. There is also a spiritual aspect to successful crop production. Those who obey God are promised success in every aspect of life — in crops, livestock, business and family health (Deut. 28:1-13). God also promises that if we are diligent in our work and pay His tithes to Him, He will rebuke the devourer for our sake and pour abundant blessings upon us (Mal. 3:8- 11). Notice that in these verses there is not even a hint of a need for astrology. The moon does have some effect on the tides and on some human and animal emotions, and possibly on the germination and growth of plants, but not enough to be a deciding factor in the success of crops. The stars have no proven effect on the course of nature. Farmers should use the best possible agricultural methods and trust in God's promises to prosper His servants. Astrologers are headed for destruction, as God prophesied. Success in spiritual and material aspects of life comes only to those who are yielding themselves to almighty God.
Who are the 24 elders mentioned in the book of Revelation?
Some teach the false idea that the 24 elders are taken from among saved mortals. This assumption is primarily based on a mistranslation of Revelation 5:8-10. The last half of this section, according to the original inspired Greek in which John wrote, should read: "... for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed them [the saints — not us, meaning the 24 elders] to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made them [not us] unto our God kings and priests: and they [not we] shall reign on the earth." How clear! These elders are powerful spirit beings — not men — who exercise authority at God's throne in heaven. They reign with God in heaven. On the other hand, the resurrected saints will reign on earth. It is impossible for the 24 elders to be saved humans, because no man has ascended to the heaven of God's throne except Jesus Christ (John 3:13). All saved human beings — those who are Christ's true servants — will be given immortality at Christ's coming, when He returns to the earth to rule and reign (I Cor. 15:23). The 24 elders, then, are spirits, part of the created heavenly host of beings. They have been given positions of responsibility as advisers in the government of God, through which God rules the universe.
In Luke 14:26 Jesus is quoted as saying: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and Sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." What did Jesus mean?
Let's understand this verse in its context. Jesus charged His disciples, "But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies" (Luke 6:27). He also said: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them " (verses 31-32). In other words, Jesus clearly commands us not only to love those who love us — which should include our relatives — but also to love our enemies who hate us. The Bible does not contradict itself. "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Then what did Jesus mean when He said "hate" in Luke 14:26? The Greek word for "hate" in this verse is miseo. Its root can mean "to detest" or, especially, "to persecute." But by extension this root can mean "to love less, to postpone in love or esteem, to slight." What Jesus was saying, then, is that anyone who follows Him must love Him more than family, relatives or even his own life. In comparison to the great love we ought to have for Jesus Christ — the One who died for us, our Savior and Redeemer — the love we have for human relatives must be less by comparison. Jesus said that the second great commandment is "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' (Matt. 22:39). But what is the first great commandment? "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (verses 37-38). One who has such love for God and God's way of life will not compromise. He will not put any human relationship first. We should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves - yes, we must even love our enemies. But what Jesus meant in Luke 14:26 is that we must not put the demands and desires of our relatives and friends first — above our obedience to God Almighty.
I have been told that God's ministers should not be called "Reverend." Why is this?
When we look into the Bible we find that the word reverend refers only to God — not once is it applied to man. In Psalm 111:9 we read, "He [God] hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name." The New English Bible renders this last phrase "Holy is his name, inspiring awe [that is, worthy of worship]." God alone has a name worthy of reverence. No man — no minister-has a name worthy of such respect or worship. Nowhere in the New Testament was Paul, Peter, James, John or any other minister ever addressed as Reverend. If we follow the Bible example, which we are commanded to do, then we should not use the. title Reverend for any minister. See also Matthew 23:8-10. The use of titles such as Reverend began when the great apostasy set in at the close of the first century. Ministers put themselves "in the place of Christ." Hence they took upon themselves the attributes and titles of divinity. God's true ministers have not done so.
Will God hear and answer my prayers even though I am not yet baptized? Should I pray at all?
Jesus showed in His parable in Luke 18:1-8 that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (verse 1). True, God does not hear the prayers of sinners (John 9:3 1). And we know that everyone has sinned and cut himself off from God: "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:2). But does this mean that one must wait until he is perfect before beginning to pray? Of course not! Jesus Christ is the only human who lived a perfect life. Everyone else has sinned (Rom. 3:23). How, then, can sinners seek God? The prophet Isaiah tells us, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." How do we call upon God? How do we seek Him? "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:6-7). God will hear and answer the prayers of those who approach Him in a repentant, humble attitude: "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor [humble] and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2). A sinner must repent of transgressing God's law — forsake the way he has been living and start to obey God. Once he repents of going the wrong way and is baptized, accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for his sins, he is no longer a sinner in God's sight. God will hear and give His Holy Spirit to such a person, if the person obeys Him (Acts 5:32). The person must be willing to forsake his ways and thoughts and go the way of God. God will hear and answer the prayers of those He is calling to a knowledge of His truth. Before conversion and baptism, God sends His Holy Spirit to work with us and lead us. After repentance and baptism, He actually puts His Spirit within us, enabling us to grow and develop spiritually as His own sons. Then He will hear us, because we "keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (I John 3:22). For further information about prayer and becoming a begotten son of God, write for our free reprint articles entitled "The Answer to Unanswered Prayer" and "How You Can Be Imbued With the POWER of God!."