The month of January is named for the ancient mythical character named Janus, a figure drawn with two faces – one face looking back into the past, and the other looking forward into the future. I don’t know about you, but that is often how I feel during January: one eye looking backwards at the year of 2015 as it has come to an end, and one eye looking ahead, wondering and praying about what 2016 will bring. As you ponder and pray about God’s work in your life in the year ahead, and evidences of His grace from the close of 2015, do you tremble?
I know I do. The close of a year brings with it memories that leave me nearly speechless. There were uncounted blessings in 2015, each of which were undeserved gifts of grace. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of Lights, in Whom there is no shadow of change or turning” (James 1:17). Have you awakened to the sheer number of blessings of 2015? But I also tremble at the undeserved mercies that built up over a year of needing His forgiving love. Each year that passes marks 365 days of falling deeper into the debt of grace, having been desperate for the cleansing blood of Jesus. Without His majestic mercy, none of us could get through one day, let alone an entire year! “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3).
It helps us to look backwards into a year spent and look forward into the year ahead if we think about the Christian blessings of faith and hope. These twin virtues from God help us deal with the past (faith) as well as the future (hope). And God’s Word often puts them together, like in I Thessalonians 1:3, “your work of faith… and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” or even closer in I Peter 1:21, “your faith and hope are in God.”
We talk a lot about biblical faith, but what is the difference between faith and hope? And how does faith inform our past, and hope inform our future? Continue reading →
Dear Pastor, I have given in the past, but now I have questions about tithing. I would like to know more about tithing and was hoping that at some point you could visit with me about it….or address it from the pulpit.
Recently, I read an article that gave an astonishing statistic that I find difficult to believe is accurate. It declared that of all of the people in America who identify themselves as evangelical Christians, only four percent of them return a tithe to God. If that statistic is accurate, it means that ninety-six percent of professing evangelical Christians regularly, systematically, habitually, and impenitently rob God of what belongs to Him. It also means that ninety-six percent of us are for this reason exposing ourselves to a divine curse upon our lives. Whether this percentage is accurate, one thing is certain — it is clear that the overwhelming majority of professing evangelical Christians do not tithe.
What is the tithe, and does it still apply today?
The Bible has many instructions regarding the tithe. The tithe is a concept of 1 out of 10. Sproul again: “We are required to give ten percent of our gross annual income or gain. If a shepherd’s flock produced ten new lambs, the requirement was that one of those lambs be offered to God. This offering is from the top. It is not an offering that is given after other expenses are met or after other taxes have been paid.”
Generally, the tithe was to be given to the Lord’s servants, the Levites (Numbers 18:21ff). In the Old Testament, many alms for the poor were above and beyond the tithe (e.g. Exod. 23:10-11; Lev. 19:9-10; 25:35-37; Deut. 15:7-11; 24:12-15). The tithe had many purposes, including: to support the priesthood (Num. 18:21-32; Deut. 14:28-29); to honor God in sacrifice and feasts (Lev. 27:31; Num. 18:26-28; Deut. 14:22-26); and to feed the aliens, widows and orphans (Deut. 14:28-29; 26:12).
Some people argue that the tithe is no longer applicable in the New Testament era, as this was only for the Old Covenant era. Continue reading →
This article was sent to me from a friend who does not believe in hell. He believes a loving father would never send His child to hell is what . I know he sent this to me because he knows I do believe in hell. How do I respond in a clear fashion?
You asked about the article that was sent to you, written by an author named Oliver Thomas. In the article, he makes some claims in the article that I want to point out, and then I’ll give you a few thoughts on how you should speak to your friend about this, as well as some resources that are available to help you. But first, let’s examine some of the author’s claims:
Hell in the Old Testament
1. Does the Old Testament teach everlasting punishment after death? The author of the article says, “Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) is the abode of the dead described as a place of eternal punishment.” The article is quite correct, in that the most common description of what awaited people after death was known as sheol, a shadowy, uncertain place. Both godly, righteous people and the wicked ended up in sheol. But sheol has a few different meanings in the Old Testament, and the author is ignoring parts of what the Bible says. Continue reading →
Why do we see starving people in countries like Ethiopia? More or less; why does God allow things like this if he is love?
Those are great questions. And difficult ones. I think the place to start is to remember God’s sovereignty over all things as Creator and Sustainer. He is sovereign over the sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the rise and fall of governments and kingdoms (Daniel 4:34-37) and traveling and business plans (James 4:15). Continue reading →