Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Should I “tithe”? How much should I give?

What does it mean to “tithe”?
While under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were commanded to give a tenth of what they earned back to God. The term “tithe” means “tenth”. The text of Leviticus reads:
 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30-32 ESV).
Should a Christian “tithe” today?
The commandment to give a tenth was for Israel for a specific purpose. This command falls under a law/covenant that we are not under today. The Old Testament Law was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to separate them from the rest of the nations of the world and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. All of the laws, the requirements, the feasts, the sacrifices, the priesthood, how to worship, the Sabbath and more, were designed to lead one to the Messiah (Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, that system has been done away. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote the Galatians: 
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:23-26 NAS).
The Old Testament Law was like a math tutor hired to get a student ready for a test. Once the student masters the material and takes the test, the tutor is no longer needed. The student may look back at what he learned, but ultimately, the tutor's purpose has been fulfilled.

Are Christians supposed to give?
Yes! Several passages show that giving should be part of the Christian’s life and part of the activity of the assembled Church. In 1 Corinthians 16 the Apostle Paul encourages the church in Corinth to give every Sunday.
 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper... (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
Although the command in this passage is specifically for one church to gather funds to help Christians in another region, it seems that a pattern is being established for the church to give when they meet. Notice, he says that he also “directed the churches of Galatia” to do this.

How much should I give?
No where in the New Testament is an amount or percentage specified. God wants us to be generous givers and God knows our hearts. If we are pushing ourselves to greater generosity all the time, God will be pleased. The second letter to the church in Corinth reads:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,  (2 Corinthians 8:1-3 NAS). 
Paul complemented the giving of the Macedonian Christians, because they gave “beyond their means”, this is a great example for us as well.

How should I give?
Oftentimes it is hard for us to give. We selfishly want everything for ourselves and have a hard time sharing. God never wants us to give with a bitter heart.  We must give cheerfully and plan ahead on how much we are going to give. God does not wants our “leftovers”.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV).
Conclusion:
God has given us so much! Let’s always be generous people who cheerfully give to others and back to Him.


By Cliff Sabroe

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should a Christian "Fast"?

What is Fasting?
The word “fast” or “to fast” or be “fasting” in its Scriptural usage means to go without food for a spiritual purpose. Although people sometimes fast for medical reasons, this is not what the Biblical practice is in reference to.  The Jewish people would often voluntarily fast for many different reasons.

When one examines the New Testament, they will notice there are no passages which command the Christian to fast, but it seems to be understood that one will fast occasionally. Note: The following verses:
(Luke 5:33-35)And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them,“You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? “But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”  
(Matthew 6:16) - Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” 
Right Reasons for Fasting
Although strictly a voluntary matter, there are some occasions in Scripture where fasting is assumed to be beneficial. 
  • David and his men mourned and fasted when Saul died (2 Samuel 1:12). 
  • Nehemiah fasted when sorrowful over the condition of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4)
  • When David’s child was sick he “fasted” (2 Sam. 12:16).
  • (1 Samuel 7:6) - “and they fasted that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah”
  • (Jonah 3:5) - “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them”. 
  • Moses fasted when God was giving him the law (Exodus 34:28).
  • Jesus fasted before being tempted by The Devil (Matthew 4:2).
  • The church fasted before sending Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-3). (Jackson)
Wrong Reasons for Fasting
It is wrong for a person to fast for the purpose of being noticed or to show off how "spiritual" they are.
(Matthew 6:16-18) - “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Conclusion
It appears from Scripture that there are benefits to one fasting. Whether to fast or not, is a personal choice. When one chooses to fast, they should not use it as an opportunity to brag or boast in their own spirituality. If you have never taken the time to devote yourself to prayer and fasting, it may be good to set aside time to engage in this biblical activity.

Bibliography For further reading, see article by Wayne Jackson in the Christian Courier - http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/231-is-fasting-for-christians-today - This article is referenced in the above post.Image from - bonappetit.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Will I still go to heaven if I am cremated? Is it a sin? What does the Bible say?


End of life decisions are often difficult to make. This is especially true when it comes to one's final resting place and funeral. This question is a common one and although the Bible does not specifically mention cremation, I believe that one can conclude that there would be nothing wrong with the practice.

God is a powerful God! The Bible teaches that “the dead in Christ will rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). At the time of the resurrection, our mortal bodies will change. (1 Corinthians 15:50-55) describes this amazing transformation.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
When Jesus comes again, the dead Christians (in whatever form they are in) will be raised to life eternal with God. God does not require a body to be whole for Him to resurrect it. During the early years of the church, Christians were often fed to lions as a punishment for their faith. Although it is a morbid thought, one would imagine that their bodies were no longer intact. What about one who was burned at the stake? God has the power to transform these mangled corpses in the same way that He could one who has be cremated. 

It is illogical to believe that one would not go to heaven if they are cremated. What about one who donates their organs to another? What about one who donates their body to science when they die? This physical body will be changed during the final resurrection into an immortal body. If God could form man from the dust of the Earth He can also raise up an individual from their cremated remains.

By Cliff Sabroe (References from the English Standard Version Bible)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Is Satan Omnipresent?


Omnipresence is defined as “being present everywhere at the same time”.

Satan is powerful and influential, but he is not omnipresent. Omnipresence is a characteristic of the Divine only. At times, one may think the Devil is omnipresent because of passages like (1 Peter 5:8) “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. 

It is true that the Devil influences many people to sin, this might not always be him directly, but instead, an indirect result of his already established work in the world.

The Devil is limited by time and space, God is not, for He is omnipresent. 
How, biblically, should we think of God's omnipresence? The word means that God knows exhaustively, and upholds and touches continually, every single item in the universe he has made, from the tiniest genes and electrons to the most massive stars in the expanding universe to the most complex mind-body interactions in the psyche of over 6 billion people. God is here, there, and everywhere, and his mind and hand are on everything. We are never out of his sight (Psalm 139), and we cannot get away from him (John 1). Wherever we are, he is there too. This is not simply a matter of transcending spatial confines. Strictly speaking, God has no spatial location at all, for space belongs to the created order and exists in him rather than he in it. Such is the omnipresence of God. (Packer, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/september4/36.115.html)
The Devil cannot be everywhere at the same time like God can. Notice the following passages.
  • (Job 1:6-7) “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 
  • (Matthew 4:3) “And the tempter came and said to Him...”
In these two passages, it is clear that the Devil is not everywhere at once. The Devil “roams” and “walks”. If he was omnipresent, he would not have to “move”, because he would already be there. If the Devil is a fallen angel (as the Scriptures describe him), then the same limitations of an angel are the same limitations of the Devil. An angel cannot be everywhere at the same time, nor is an angel “all knowing”. 
“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). 
Only God can be omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. The Devil is not God, he cannot (as a created being) have power equal to the creator. He is a created being with limited power who decided to not follow God. It is this willful rebellion that will result in eternal punishment for him and his followers. 
"And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 6-7).
Although Satan is not omnipresent, we still should fear him. The Devil wants Christians to be lost and this writer believes he focuses much of his attention on attacking believers. The Devil’s work is well established in the world and the results of it are far reaching. The Devil is powerful, but He is not as powerful as God and faith in Jesus. We can overcome the Devil, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

By Cliff Sabroe (Scripture references from NASB95).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What if I sin after being saved?...am I lost?


Church leaders are often afraid to speak on topics such as grace and continual forgiveness do to a fear that those hearing the lesson may misunderstand grace as a license to sin. Such an idea is clearly against scripture, in fact Paul once wrote to the church in Rome “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound, God forbid!” (Romans 6:1). We know we should not sin, but the reality is, that even after becoming a Christian we will sin.

What about when we do sin after we becoming a child of God, is there still hope? 
So often it is easy for a faithful child of God to become so saddled with guilt over sin in their life that they quite trying. This too, is not the attitude that one should have. Christians should abhor and avoid sin, but not give up trying when they do continue to sin.

In his letter to some troubled Christians, the apostle John writes:
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2)
This passage presents two very important teachings. 

#1 Grace and forgiveness should never be viewed as a license to sin. 
Yes, it is true we are forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice and not our own perfection. However, the forgiveness that we have received motivates us to try to live perfect. We will fall short time and time again, but the ultimate goal of every Christian according to John is to “not sin”.

#2 There is hope for us when we do sin
I have talked to several Christians who have lost the hope of salvation because of their continual struggle with sin. To that John would say, don’t worry, hang in there, help is available and His name is Jesus. It is true that we are unrighteous at times, but Jesus is always righteous and He is our advocate and our propitiation. Jesus makes it possible for us in our sinfulness to still be declared sinless and pure. John would later write to these same brethren that he wants them to “know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Conclusion: 
Christians should never approve of sin in their lives. God wants us to stay in the light by constantly turning away from sin. When we do sin, we can still feel confident in our salvation by placing our trust in Jesus as our Advocate and our propitiation.

CS- Scripture quotes from the NASB

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Is John 6 talking about the Lord’s Supper or Communion when Jesus says "eat my flesh and drink my blood"?

In John 6:56 Jesus makes the statement “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in Him”.

Many people look at this passage and see the terms “bread” and “drink” and assume that Jesus is making reference to the future institution of the Lord’s Supper. In fact, those of a Catholic belief use this passage to support the idea that the Eucharist actually becomes the literal body and blood of Christ. 

What does the Bible teach?

Answer:
John 6 is NOT about communion. When Jesus talks about “eating His flesh”, He is tying it back to the idea of Him being “the bread of life” (John 6:35).  Many in John 6 were asking Jesus to perform a physical sign such as raining down bread from heaven like the manna in the Old Testament or at least replicate the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:26,31). Jesus informs them that they should not be seeking physical bread which perishes, but a food that “endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).

When one believes in Jesus and abides in His Word, it is as if they are consuming Jesus. If you consume Jesus you will receive spiritual nourishment that results in everlasting life.  Jesus’ spiritual nourishment is everlasting, He states: 
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst”  (John 6:35). If one abides in Jesus they will never lack spiritual nourishment. One abides in Jesus by hearing and learning His teachings. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45).
Jesus makes it very clear that He is not talking about physical food at all (like the communion), but spiritual food that results in spiritual nourishment.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. “I am the bread of life. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:47-51).

The disciples were still confused by what Jesus was saying (possibly they were still thinking He was speaking of physical bread or even His physical body). Jesus explains to them, 
“...The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (John 6:63-64).
Many of Jesus’ followers did not believe, and thus, they did not accept this teaching and left Him (John 6:66). Peter on the other hand understood that He was to be nourished on the words of Jesus. He knew that learning from Jesus was the same as eating “the bread of life” (ie. Jesus). That is why He makes the statement “Lord to who shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Conclusion
In John 6, the phrases about eating the flesh of Jesus or "bread of life" and drinking His blood is not in reference to any physical food such as the elements of the communion. Instead, the teaching of this passage is one must be spiritually nourished on the words of Jesus in order to have eternal life.

by Cliff Sabroe (References from ESV Bible and NASU95 Bible)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is it ok to want a terrorist killed? How should a Christian view ISIS? Is war the answer? What about killing in “self-defense”?

Sadly, because of so many acts of terror taking place, many are asking questions they never had to ask before. Questions about war, justice and vengeance, are always difficult. The fact is, there is not an easy answer to all of these thoughts. This post, however, seeks to present some Biblical principles to help the believer navigate through these difficult times.

God hates murder!
The first principle we need to consider is that the Bible clearly condemns murder. In the 10 commandments it reads “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). God says that He hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). In the book of Revelation we are told that “murderers” will be cast into the “lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8). When a person is murdered, whether by he hands of an Islamic Terrorist in the name of religion or a gang member doing a drive-by, sin has taken place, and God HATES it. 

What about killing in self-defense?
There are several facets to the original question that must be contemplated. What about killing in “self-defense”? There is not a verse that clearly condemns violence in self-defense or even in the protection of another. We need to remember there is a difference between defense, and vengeance! It is not our place to enact vengeance on another. Remember the teaching of (Romans 12:19) “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. 

When to use force?” (especially lethal force) against another, is a difficult question without an easy answer. Love needs to motivate all that we do (Matthew 22:39). One might be able to make a case that love for one’s neighbor may entail using lethal force against our neighbor’s murderous attacker. This same case may be made for collective military force against a group who seeks to do harm on the innocent. Choices like these are increasingly difficult. The early Christians were never told to use force against the Romans who were violently persecuting them, and although the literalness of Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” statement is up for debate, its principles need to be considered.

What about war?
In his letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul discusses the authority that governments possess. 
 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for she is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV).
The idea that governments are allowed to “bear the sword”  is most likely in reference to capital punishment, however, war may be included in this teaching too. God allows governments to exist, enact laws and even lead soldiers into battle.

Christians should not want war to happen. We should desire “peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). I would encourage all to exercise caution and not be quick to make a statement like “we should bomb them!”. Instead we should desire that they “repent”.  
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 
Although, it may not be inherently wrong for one country to go to war with another, we should always “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). 

Can I be happy when a terrorist is shot or a murderer is put to death? What emotions should I have had when Osama Bin Laden was killed?
Controlling our emotions is difficult. It is even more difficult to determine what emotions are godly and which ones are not. One thought we need to keep in mind is that although God desires all to be saved, He is also a God of Justice. 

God created us with a desire for justice (even justice in this life). It would be permissible for us to find satisfaction when an evil person is punished. When you read through the Psalms you find several instances where God’s people yearned for, and prayed for justice to be served (Psalm 109). In (Revelation 6:9-11) the souls under the alter are crying out to God for justice. 
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)
It is not our duty to enact vengeance or to force the hand of justice, however, when the wicked are punished for their deeds, it is ok to find satisfaction in that justice has been served. This would even include feeling a sense of satisfaction in the death of another (such as Osama Bin Laden).

We should desire salvation more than punishment.
Although we might thirst for and find satisfaction in the punishment of the wicked, we should have a greater desire that all repent, and follow Christ. God created all people in his image. This would include the most vile terrorist. When a person dies before they repent, we should be saddened by the fact that a person born in the image of God, chose a life of sin, that cost them their eternal soul. We can be glad that justice is served when one is punished in this life, and yet, at the same time be saddened a person is lost. 


By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from ESV and NASB. Image curtesy of NBCnews.com