Dear Pastor Paul,
I'm thirteen and Methodist. My question is, Is there such a thing as coincidence? I believe it's all God's doing, but my friend doesn't. I've tried to convince her so many times that sometimes I get a little mad at her. In every example from our lives my friend has given me, I've seen more clearly that God is working all the time, and I've come to believe that it's not coincidence.

I argued with her night after night online. Then I don't know what happened. We talked about all religious stuff and she doesn't even seem to want to be my friend that much anymore because ever since I got confirmed I have been a lot more into God.

 Dear Mary,
Badgering your friend will not make your friend believe in God. Even if it did, hers would be the shallowest of faith, which she would abandon at the first sign of trouble.

Very rarely do people come to faith in God through argument or proof, which are what you are offering your (former) friend. People come to faith through their family's tradition, or through the personal testimony and nurture of an individual or faith community.

Only when she sees her life as part of a much larger truth will your friend be open to knowing God. For someone who counts her life as part of a cosmic whole, there is no differentiating between God and coincidence, as all things flow from the same source.

If it's not too late, I suggest you invite your friend to a non-confrontational prayer or meditation group. Or simply offer your own testimony of God, and being a loving presence in her life. In the end your example will be much more convincing than anger or argument.

Dear Pastor Paul,
I am Muslim and I would like to know why Baptists pastors are always asking for money. In my religion that is a very bad thing to do.
-- Sister Jamilah

Dear Sister Jamilah,
I have been told by a Muslim friend that collecting money at mosques and Islamic fundraising events is not prohibited, but is perhaps more of a private matter between the person and God.

However, a Christian is expected by tradition (although most of us fail) to give 10 percent of their money to the church. Most Baptists churches are functioning on their own with no financial support from a larger church hierarchy as exists in the Catholic church. The only way to pay for the building, the staff, and any mission work (feeding the hungry, housing the homeless) comes from donations by the members of the congregation.

If a Baptist pastor asks you for money, you can politely decline.

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