Thursday, January 10, 2019

Does the Bible Still Say to Tithe?

When people ask this question they are often asking whether or not God requires them to give 10% of their income to the church.  Both the Old and New Testaments say a lot about giving and the use of personal possessions for God’s glory.  I strive never to manipulate or pressure people to give, as it is a matter of the heart between God and the Christian.  My duty is to preach the Word of God faithfully and help God’s people to understand that our giving is an act of worship and a matter of the heart. 

The Old Testament tithe was an Old Testament practice, which was eradicated when Jesus Christ gave Himself on the cross of Calvary for our sins (Matt. 5:17-18; Rom 10:4; Gal. 3:23-25; and Eph. 2:15).  Jesus Christ was the righteous fulfillment of every aspect of the Old Testament Law.  Christians are no longer under the Law of God but under the Covenant of Grace.  However, God still calls Christians to His high standards of holiness and yet it is only possible because of Jesus Christ’s imputation of holiness upon those who believe in Him.   

Over the years the Christian church appears to have adopted 10% as the measurement to give to their local church.  Many who embrace that amount do so because of the teaching in the Old Testament.  Actually, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes, which if combined, would be in excess of 25% of their income.  I would agree that this is a good and reasonable practice.  The New Testament also provides instruction on giving, which is giving with “great generosity” and with a “joyful heart” (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7).  According to the New Testament, there is no set amount or recommended amount of giving.  However, Christians are called to give generously, sacrificially, and joyfully.  They are called to respond to needs without restraints and to trust God in great faith for His provision.

I do not desire to be legalistic about giving; however, many Christians struggle with how much they should give.  It can be said that the Old Testament provides a framework under a system of Law in terms of how much to give, which was at least 10%.  We are blessed to live under the Covenant of Grace because of the work of Jesus Christ.  Praise God we are not bound to laws that we could never fulfill.  It could be said, “How much more should we desire to bless God with as we live under this amazing Covenant of Grace?”  Christ taught regularly about the struggle between one’s possessions and eternal matters.  In fact, He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I believe that the joy of giving stems from being touched by the grace of God and personally being the recipient of the Gospel of Christ.  Our duty is to bring our offerings as an act of worship and praise to God.  It should be given with a heart that is fixed on advancing God’s church and the Gospel Message.  Those who struggle with giving miss out on the blessing of honoring God with their material resources that God has entrusted to each believer.  We as Christians are stewards of what God has blessed us with.  Ultimately, we are accountable to Him in terms of how we give, share, and manage those resources.

Please know, as your pastor, my wife and I count it an honor to give and want to be an example to the flock of God in this area.  God has called us to worship Him with all that we are and all that we have.  May He never be disappointed.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Did Jesus Carry Any of Mary's DNA?

I was recently asked a very good and thought provoking question from one of our church members. To be honest it was one of the best questions that I’ve been asked in a while.  She asked, “If Jesus was sinless then does He have any DNA from his mother?”  Wow, good question.  Obviously God does not tell us all the things that we feel are important.  However, God does tell us all the things that we need to know in order to have a saving relationship with Him and to worship Him properly.
So, in efforts to answer her question as Biblically and thoroughly as possible I would like to share a few bullet points of thought.
  • We clearly know from Scripture (Matthew 1, and Luke 1) that the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ was brought about by God’s Holy Spirit without any human contribution.  This is why Christ was sinless.  Sin is passed along through the seed of man —since the time of Adam (Romans 5:12, 5:17, 5:19).  
  • The result of sin is that it brings forth death (both physically and spiritually—James 1:15) to all mankind. 
  • Jesus Christ, as the perfect and Holy Child, had no sin and therefore could not die apart from the decreed will of God to die on the cross for our sin (Ephesians 1:4). 
  • Although God has not disclosed the biological nature of how Mary carried the child into the world, it would be my opinion that God has disclosed the most important information that He was without sin.  I do not believe that any of Mary’s DNA that would have been affected by sin, would have been imputed (or placed) into Jesus Christ—this would violate the fact that Christ was the Holy Lamb of God that came to die for the sins of mankind.  His sinlessness made Him the only candidate who could die for man’s sin.  I believe that Mary physically nurture the Christ child while He was in the womb.
  • I believe that the DNA necessary for a sinless birth was provided by God alone and could not be produced any other way. 
  • God just does not give us the full details but this is a good question.  I would say it was still a supernatural act of God in how Jesus Christ (as God) entered into the universe through a virgin.
Please know that this is my opinion based on the Scriptural information that I have read.  We need to be careful of eisegesis (reading into the Biblical text), which is the opposite of exegesis (drawing out of the Biblical text).  Too often we want to know more than what God has provided so one can be guilty of connecting dots that God never intended for us to connect.  Some things will remain a mystery until the day we see Christ face to face.  Even at that point in time it probably won’t even matter, as we will be caught up in worshipping Him.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Feeling Empty

Emptiness is a difficult emotion to try to describe.  It is that feeling you have not just when you are tired, but when you have given it everything you’ve got and nothing seems to remain.  When you feel empty, it’s like a piece of your soul is missing.  Perhaps your heart aches because of a void by the one you love who didn’t return your love.  It may be due to plans that did not come to fruition.  It may even be due to the loss of a loved one that is no longer around. 
May I encourage you with a few verses from God’s Word:
2 Corinthians 12:10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Isaiah 41:10,Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”
John 4:13-14,   Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”
Psalm 36:9,For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”

Thursday, December 6, 2018

God Versus Human Authority

Most people don’t enjoy being bossed around or being told what to do; however, God has instituted authority in our lives to bring order, to manage human relationships, and to bring glory to Himself.  Since the beginning of time mankind has struggled with authority not understanding that it was actually intended for good.  Some view authority negatively although God established it to be positive.  The frustration is that those in authority do not always manage or govern others well.  In fact, many times authority is abused, which causes some to rebel against authority. 
The truth is that God calls all people to submit to authority to some degree or chaos and disruption occurs.  In fact, God provides many examples in Scripture of submitting to various authorities in our lives.  We are all called to submit to God’s authority over us (James 4:7). Parents are called to instruct and discipline their children and children are told to submit and honor their parents (Eph. 6:1-3).  Husbands are called to love and lead their wives (Eph. 5:23) and wives are told to submit to their husband’s leadership (Eph. 5:22).  Servants are called to submit to their masters or those that they report (Titus 2:9-11).  All Christians are to respect and submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).  The church is to submit to Christ (Eph. 5:24).  And, we are called to submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-2).
Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (1 Pet. 2:13-14).  Sometimes authorities stray from their purposes and violate the authority that was entrusted to them.  In Scripture, both Jesus and Paul used taxes as a way to illustrate this point.  The Roman government taxed the Jews unjustly and many of the tax collectors were thieves.  When asked about this dilemma, Jesus took a coin and said, “‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar's,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's’” (Matt. 22:20-21).  Apparently, the believers in Rome were still asking the same question because Paul instructed them on the matter in the same way. “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing” (Rom. 13:6).
Submission is not a popular concept today; however, it is part of God’s divine design for our benefit and His glory.  God calls believers, in word and deed, to support all of the authorities that He has established.  Even human government serves as God’s appointed servants for our good.  God expects full obedience to authority with the right godly spirit, (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17).  God calls Christians to obey and pray for those in authority over them.  Leading is hard work and yet a gift from God.  The hope is that those who lead and do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior would be drawn to a knowledge of God by the way that we live our lives.  Proper attitudes and obedience towards those who are over us can create Gospel opportunities.  If there are times that a choice must be made between honoring God and honoring our authorities, we must always choose God (Dan. 3:16-18).  God created authority and obedience to authority is a priority to God.  

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Does Scripture Say to Celebrate Christmas?

Allow me to begin by saying that I love the Christmas season and that I strive to celebrate it for the right reason~~the birth of our Savior.  However, there are those who have argued that we are told nowhere in Scripture to celebrate Christmas.  They are correct in that there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Historically, on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to various mysterious religions; the pagans celebrated this festival on December 25. The Christians at that time refused to take part in this holiday.  In fact, they decided that while everybody else is celebrating this pagan holiday that they were going to have their own celebration.  They chose to celebrate the thing that was most important in their lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ.  They decided that this was going to be a time of celebration and worship of God their King.

Those who would argue that there is no evidence of Christ's birth happening on December 25th would be correct.  In fact, there is much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during this time of year; it was probably more in our spring season.  There is no doubt that some traditions of candle burning, ringing of bells, and even stringing of trees can be tied to some type of pagan custom over the centuries.  However, it is not the origin of the Christmas holiday for Christians.  The ringing of bells today is to speak of the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ and not a driving away of evil spirits.  The lighting of candles is not to shun away the cold and darkness of the world around us; rather, it is to celebrate Jesus Christ as the light of the world (John 1:4-9).

Many traditions are obscure and there is disagreement over their origins. Some of our most popular and beloved Christmas symbols are entirely Christian, and were never part of any pagan religion anywhere.  What is important is not the origins of traditions, but their significance to us today as believers in the Son of God. I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating His birthday every year.  I understand that the world celebrates a Christ-less Christmas but yet Christians have a wonderful opportunity to express the reason for the season very clearly.  

I would recommend to those who struggle celebrating Christmas to give grace towards others and allow their actions to be held accountable to God (Romans 14:12).  For those who lack the confidence on whether or not it is right to celebrate Christmas then I would say to abstain from celebrating.  Paul encourages all Christians to live with the confidence that their actions fully glorify God and if they lack that confidence then they should refrain from those actions (Romans 14:5).  For Christians, Christmas traditions can be an important part of the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and they remind us of that momentous event that changed the world forever. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Are We a Mission-Minded Church?

As a church we commit over $200,000 each year from our budget to be sent to various missionaries, both national and international.  This is the single largest budget line item for our church.  We believe that God has called us to reach all people, which includes people who live in places where the Gospel has not been fully proclaimed.  God’s idea of missions is to draw all men into a saving relationship with Him.  It includes helping God’s people grow in their faith and train them to reach others with the Gospel of Christ. 
As a church it is easy to send funds to others in hopes that they will share Christ.  Although God may not call everyone to be a missionary in the sense of moving over seas to share Christ, He has called EVERY Christian to live on a Christ-directed mission each day of sharing the Gospel.  We as a church are called to live on a Gospel mission EVERY day.
A mission-minded church is always talking about the Gospel and how others must be reached with the Gospel.  Most churches today have lost sight of what God has called them to do and as a result they are either declining or proclaiming a false Gospel that does not lead the lost to salvation.  Mission-minded churches move their people into action, they develop programs to reach the lost, they pray for the lost, and their calendar and budget reflects this commitment.
The question for us all is, “Are we involved and committed in fulfilling the mission of God?”
Romans 10:13-15, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lessons From a Leper About Thanksgiving

The leper's story of a miraculous healing in Luke 17 is remarkable—to see such a disease immediately eradicated in someone's life is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Yet when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are healed even more completely!  Once we were eternally separated from God by our sins, but Jesus has made forgiveness possible through His obedient sacrifice on the cross.  Through His blood we have been healed.  When we consider this year and what we have to be thankful about we ought to consider the depth of our greatest blessing—cleansing of a spiritual leprosy (our sin). 

A second lesson that we can learn from a leper is that we need to make thanksgiving a priority of life. The leper didn't wait to return to Jesus when it was convenient or after he had visited the priests.  He went immediately to Jesus.  The priests did not heal the leper, and the leper knew it.  He returned to the only One worthy of his worship and thanksgiving.  Have we been visiting the throne room of grace to thank the One from whom our blessings come?

A third lesson that can be learned is that thanksgiving should be offered from the outpouring of grateful hearts. There was an intensity in the leper's worship because he was aware of his helplessness to secure for himself the healing that he needed. How much more wonderful is the eternal healing for those who have been forgiven and now are able to follow Jesus Christ? May our thanksgiving be an enthusiastic celebration of Christ for healing that only He can bring about!

Lastly, we must learn to be consistent in our thanksgiving beyond the Thanksgiving season. The more intentional we are about offering thanks to God, the easier it becomes to see His goodness in our lives. That is why we are repeatedly commanded in the Bible to be thankful in all things (1 Thess. 5:18).  No one could ever begin to bless us like our heavenly Father.

I hope that our families see in us the natural response of always going back to our heavenly Father for His ceaseless blessings. Let us be diligent in thanking Him for His grace and goodness.  Let’s let others know the things that we are most thankful for in our lives!