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.