Thursday, November 16, 2017

Helpful Resources for Good Bible Study

How are we to study God’s Word without going to Bible College or possessing a large library of Biblical books?  Christ promised when He left this earth that He would send us the Spirit of Truth, which would lead us into all truth (John 16:3).  In other words, God’s own Spirit helps us to understand the depths of Scripture and God’s Spirit also brings believers into the knowledge of salvation.  We also know from Scripture that there are godly men and women who have the gift of teaching in order that they can help us understand the depths of God’s Word. 
I have been blessed to add to my personal library over the years, while attending seminary, so I currently have about 3500 volumes to use as I study each week.  The challenge is that not everyone has the same resources at their disposal when they want to study the Word of God.  Allow me to suggest that the Internet is still a free resource but it is not always a safe resource for searching out Biblical Truth.  I would personally not read some things that various men write due to disagreement in their theology or their sloppy interpretation skills.  Some Internet sites appear sound in their teaching and some are outright blasphemous and heretical as they deviate from God’s Word.
In one sense, every Christian should be a theologian~~one who studies the depth of God’s character and His Word.  I would like to share with you some various tools that can help you study the Word of God.
Ø  Maywood’s Leadership Library has many great books and commentaries.
Ø  Here are some external resources that you can begin to utilize:
Ø  Start with the Bible / Read the Text over & over again / Compare Scripture with Scripture & Pray through the Text as you read.
Ø  Study with others who are digging into the depths of God’s Word.
Ø  Ask questions about the Text and seek the answers in the Text.
Ø  Your pastors can also help you find the right answers or resources.
Studying can become so much more enjoyable as you begin to make use of the various tools that God has provided for us to know His Word!  Come and join a Life-Group to study God’s Word with us if you have not joined one yet.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Addicted to Pain Killers?

Most of us at one time have chosen to make use of pain medications in order to numb the pain of something that we were experiencing.  We all have different pain tolerances and some of us may even refuse to take pain meds to help deal with the misery and discomfort we’re experiencing.  Medications are not inherently evil.  In fact, the Bible speaks of the need for Timothy to “use a little wine” for his illness (1 Tim. 5:23).  At the time the Bible was written, people would often use alcohol to alleviate pain and unpleasant symptoms (Proverbs 31:6).  It is the abuse that is wrong and what the Bible would condemn.

Today, as in times past, people strive to mask their problems instead of dealing with them.  This may be true with physical problems as well as spiritual problems.  Dealing with problems is often more difficult but it eliminates the problem at its roots.  Masking problems only prolongs or exasperates the issue that must be dealt with later.  Ignoring our problems only compounds the real issue and ultimately complicates the resolve if neglected.

There are many today who are addicted to pain killers and they do not believe that they can exist without them.  Many acquire and possess them illegally as their addiction has become so severe.  We may feel that this does not represent us but could it be us “spiritually”?  Do we subsidize our Christian lives with things that are not of Christ and things that are not godly in order to offset the pain that we live with each day?  Do we create an environment around ourselves to help us live with the pain and discomfort instead of repenting and turning to God?  Many of us have silent pains and hurts that we deal with each day and nobody knows about.  I would like to ask, “what are we self-prescribing for these problems”?

What I am asking is, “Is God our remedy and present help in time of trouble?” (Psalm 46:1) or have we found a temporary replacement for Him?  Are we dependent upon a foreign substance or a cheap substitute for joy to help us make it through this life instead of seeking the strength and joy of the Lord (Neh. 8:10; Phil. 4:13)?  God is truly concerned about our pain and heartache and He longs to be our Remedy.  Are we willing to seek the comfort from the One who gives healing both spiritually and physically in order to find rest and healing?  Christ welcomes us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Do Pets Go to Heaven?

Some of my fondest and most heart-warming memories while growing up as a kid were when our family had various pets.  It was amazing how our family dog brought such joy and laughter to us all.  I can also pinpoint times in which that same dog brought about great frustration such as when she chose to hurt me by chewing the head off of my only G.I. Joe action figure!  I never saw any sorrow in her eyes after having done this evil deed!  I even recall the day that my tough-skinned father shed tears when we had to put that dog to “sleep” due to health issues.  I’m sure many of us have “Old Yeller” stories that tug at our hearts and cause us to cherish the specialness of our pets.
One might assume that all pets go to heaven and that we will be reunited with them on that glorious day when we see Christ.  Might we finally own a perfect, obedient, and potty-trained pet?  Scripture does not say a great deal about animals going to Heaven.  We may even stand guilty of offering great confidence to our children that our pet will be in Heaven waiting for us on a golden leash.
We do know a few things in Scripture about this matter but we are not told at all in Scripture that animals have eternal souls—only humans do.  We do know that both mankind and animals were given their breath of life from God (Gen. 1:30; 2:7; 7:15).  But, God’s Word tells us that only humanity was made in the image of God and that man would live forever whether with God or eternally separated from Him (Gen. 1:26-27; Rev. 20:15).  Being made in the image and likeness of God means that human beings are like God, capable of spirituality, with mind, emotion, and will, and they have a part of their being that continues after death.  In Scripture, only man is identified with the ability to truly know God and to depart from this world and live with Him eternally.  This does not mean that animals do not have a personality or that they are not distinct from one another.  We are just not told that they have souls or that they have an eternal spirit that will live forever.
Remember, animals were a part of God’s creative order and I suspect that we will have them for certain in the Millennium (Isaiah 11:6) and there is a good probability in the New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21:1).  We do know that God is just, kind, and right in all that He does.  We can know that Heaven will serve as the perfect place for all eternity with God present.  I do believe that we would be adding to Scripture to say that we will see our current pets on Heaven’s shore waiting for us.  We can know with confidence that we will stand in agreement with God when we reach Heaven whether we see our current pets there or not.  Until then, lets enjoy the pets that God has created and blessed us with as gifts from Him to enjoy while here on earth.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Is Tithing Required Today?

Over the years I have had many conversations with people who have asked me about tithing.  There are many who struggle with money and have every dollar spoken for before they ever receive their paycheck so tithing or giving an offering to the Lord becomes painful for them.  For some Christians, they want to get it right and honor God with all that they have in order that His name would be glorified with what they own.  I believe that all Christians have a duty to honor Christ with their finances and that giving to the Lord and His church ought to be something that they regularly budget and plan whether they want to call it a tithe or an offering.

Here are some quick observations that I have made concerning Scripture and giving to the Lord.  For most Christians today giving a tithe means giving 10% of their paycheck to the Lord.  Some would even argue that this should be based off of our gross and not net.   Many good Christians disagree on tithing and we need to be careful not to break fellowship over this subject.  I would agree that this subject is not the clearest in Scripture.  My answer to the question, “Is the tithe required today?” would be—No.  Please allow me to explain before I’m identified as a heretic.  The tithe was part of the Mosaic Law given to Moses and the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. 

The New Testament is very clear that we are not under the Law any longer (Gal. 3; Rom. 7; Heb. 9 & 10).  The tithe was taken to the tabernacle and the temple to be given to the Levitical priest.  It would be used to carry out the responsibilities of ministry and for the care of the priests.  We don’t have the tabernacle, temple, or Levitical priests today.  Jesus Christ is our High Priest and Christians are the living temple of God.  Some would say that Christ commanded tithing in the New Testament such as in Matthew.  Remember, Jesus Christ Himself lived under the Mosaic Law while He ministered here on earth, which is why he instructed the Pharisees in how to bring their tithe to the altar.  The law ended with the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Praise God!). 

Some would suggest that Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek (a priest of God in Gen. 14:20) and Jacob gave a tithe (at Bethel in Gen. 28) to the Lord prior to the Mosaic Law—which is true.  However, these were one-time gifts and this is not an instituting of a tithe for all of God’s people—not until Mt. Sinai. 

I’m all for folks who want to give 10% to God’s church in order for the Gospel to go forward.  However, the practice taught in the New Testament (2 Cor. 8 & 9) is sacrificial, generous giving to the Lord.  The average 2.8% tithe today would truly not be considered sacrificial or generous.  God often receives our leftovers or what we think we can afford to give Him.  Our giving tells a great deal about our “faith walk” in Christ and our great gratitude towards the great salvation that He has given us.  It tells a story about the ownership of our lives and whom we trust.  The Old Testament tithe as I have studied appears to be more than 10% when all of the various tithes were considered—it was actually over 20% (ouch).

I believe that God calls all Christians to sacrificial and generous giving that will increase our joy and trust in Him.  Unfortunately, many Christians will never experience this full joy.  According to Christ and Scripture, there is a direct correlation between our love for Christ and the way we release the things of this earth (our belongings and money) in order to glorify Him.  It becomes a matter or ownership.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Can Scripture Be Trusted in All it Says?

For many Christians this is a rhetorical question that should not be answered.  However, there are many today who do not accept the claims of Scripture as being from God or that the things stated in Scripture hold true in this life.  I would propose that all the words in Scripture are completely true and without error in any part (2 Tim 3:14-17).  They can be trusted in all that they say and they should serve as the basis for all of our faith and practice.  Because God is a God who cannot speak a “lie”, His words can always be trusted in all that they say (Titus 1:2). 

The psalmist says concerning God’s Words, “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).  It is not just that some of the words of Scripture are true but Solomon says that, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Pr. 30:5).  It would be good to remember that God’s Word is fixed in heaven for all eternity.  We are told in Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”  His words are never changing so that we can safely trust them for all times.

Jesus Christ Himself affirmed the truthfulness of His own words and His fathers.  He says in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”  In John 17:17 Jesus teaches that, “Your word is truth.”  The word “truth” in the Greek is actually a noun, which implies that God’s word is not just true but it is truth itself.  The Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word is the ultimate definition of what is true or what is not true.  This is why our churches need to stand firm on the authority of Scripture alone as the ultimate standard for truth by which all other claims are measured. 

A key word to know when speaking about the truthfulness of Scripture is the word inerrancy.  It means that Scripture, in the original manuscripts, does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.   This does not mean that the Bible tells us every thing there is to know about every subject.  This definition does affirm that what it does say about any subject is indeed true in all it says.  2 Timothy 4:16-17 assures believers that God has provided, through His word, everything that believers would ever need to know in order to live a righteous life before Him.

Walk in confidence today knowing that God’s Word stands completely trustworthy and that it is sufficient for everything that we would need to live this life and to prepare us for the next.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Invest in Yourself Today

The other day I was reading through Proverbs and God’s Spirit continued to massage the following verses into my heart and mind in order for me to reflect on the greatness of our God and His plans for my life.  Take a moment to reflect on some Scripture that God used to encourage my own heart this week. 

Proverbs 16:1-4, The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.   Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.  The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

One of the first things that God’s Spirit challenged me with was the fact that I often plan apart from God even though God always knows my future and what is best for me.  You see, at times I pray for God to bless the plans that I have already established for my life as if I know what is best (yikes) ~~I know this does not sound very spiritual.  In fact, the things that I plan and do can be justified within my own heart~~even if they are not truly honorable.  God knows my selfish motives and my words / actions before I ever speak or do them.  I forfeit the best things in this life and the things that can bring me the greatest joy for cheap substitutes that could never measure up to God’s best for me.

God’s desire for His people is that each day we would commit our plans and work to Him for His glory.  It is by the practice of including God in everything that God’s will for our lives can be understood and known.  I’m afraid that many times we are too busy laboring for God that we don’t labor with God in order to do lasting work.  We even focus on the wrong work at times that will be burned up some day.  God has a purpose for everyone, which is to glorify His name, and this even includes the use of the wicked for His glory (look at verse 4 and consider Pharaoh). 

As we learn to embrace the truth, that we live best when we live with the sovereignty of God in mind, it will give peace and confidence for each day.  This is truly investing in ourselves, as we trust more in the ability of God our Father.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Where Did the Old Testament Saints Go When They Died?

A good question that I’ve been asked in the past is where did the Old Testament Saints go when they died since Jesus Christ had not come yet.  Hebrews 11 talks about those who walked by faith and trusted God’s promises for a better day when Christ would come.  By their faith, “people of old received their commendation” (Heb. 11:2).  Many names are identified such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah (to name a few).  Scripture says that they “all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).    We are told, “they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16).  They looked forward to the day that they would dwell with God and they trusted God’s provision for that day.  It was only by their faith in the promises of God that they would see Him again one day.
One example of walking by faith and looking for a better day would be Abraham.  We are told that when God tested Abraham, he acted in obedience by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice unto the Lord.  Although Isaac was spared, Abraham followed through by trusting in the character and promises of God.  All of those identified in Hebrews 11 are examples of those who placed their faith in God and God commended them for their faith in Him.  Throughout Scripture there is a progressive revelation of the person of Jesus Christ and what He would accomplish.  The closer to His arrival the more God’s people understood about the plan of salvation. 
So what happened to those who walked by faith in God who passed away before Christ came?  It would appear that the Old Testament believers, when they died, went to a place called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:19-30).  It was a place of comfort and rest prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  At that point in time they were united with Jesus Christ in Heaven (Eph. 4:8-10).  The Bible teaches that believers who die today go immediately to heaven and live in the presence of the Lord (Phil. 1:21-24; 2 Cor. 5:1).  Believers today are saved in the same manner as believers of old~~they place their faith and belief in God alone for their salvation, they repent of their sins, and they follow Him.
We can plan on seeing and enjoying common fellowship with the Saints of old some day!