Should I tithe 10% of my income?

Should I tithe 10% of my income?

The better question may be: “can I ever out-give God?”

Imagine what your community, our nation, the world, for that matter, might look like if every Christian were to give 10% or more of their income to the work of God…not the average of 3% it gives now.

Tithing was instituted in God’s law as a tax to support a theocratic nation known as Israel. The Israelites were chosen by God to separate themselves from the idol worshipers who lived around them. They were given a very high moral standard by which to live. They were promised that not only would they enjoy a loving, prosperous relationship with God, all the world would be blessed through their descendants.

When these people turned their back on God and refused to pay their taxes, they were called out by prophets, including one named Malachi. He reminded them that the law said:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Malachi 3:10

This was a clear admonition to a people who ignored God and abandoned their responsibility to support the priests and temple worship prescribed by God. On top of that there were calls for additional tithes to further God’s work, including caring for widows and orphans, helping the sick and impoverished, and celebrating God’s blessings.

Tithing is not mentioned by Jesus or by Paul or by any other of the New Testament writers. We find no mention of tithing in the writings of the early church fathers. Why is that? The New Testament standard for giving is clearly the tithe and more. It is the intentional, responsible act of a Christian recognizing that because Jesus gave everything for us, including his life, we should gladly give all for him. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9

Paul wanted Christians to recognize that the standard for giving should be inner motivation guided by the Holy Spirit, not outward compulsion.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

2 Corinthians 8:3-5

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7

So, when the issue of tithing come up, you should ask yourself, how has God prospered you, not how will God prosper you if you give. Despite what some preachers may tell you, there is no magic formula that says if you give X amount, God will give you back twice, or five or ten times as much. God is not in the bargaining business. He loves a “cheerful giver.” He also is a cheerful giver. Think about it, he has given you everything. So how much should you give? Let’s look at the examples of the Christians in the early church:

The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea.

Acts 11:29

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,

2 Corinthians 8:3

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

2 Corinthians 8:11

While tithing is not specifically taught in the New Testament, we see that Christians were commended for giving according to their ability, and in some cases beyond their ability. If you are reading this, you are likely to be among the richest people in the world. (If you earn more than $15,000 per year, you are in the top 5%; if more than $50,000, you are a one percenter!) That suggests that today you should be thinking about how much, not how little, you can give back to the God who gave you everything. And since money is just a reflection of your earning power, you may also want to consider ways to give of your time and talents over and above your monetary contributions.

If you are a Christian, it’s probably a good idea to budget at least 10% of your income to support God’s work in your community and around the world. For most, that is a starting point. Sometimes you may need to stretch, to actually sacrifice, to give to God’s work. But, more often, you will find that giving as God has prospered you results in giving cheerfully well in excess of the tithe.

Bible verses are quoted from the New International Version

What is Apologetics?

What is Apologetics?

This question and topic generally today refers to Christianity. The word apologetics is somewhat misleading and has nothing to do with apologizing in the modern sense of the word. Apologetics is building the case for explaining and defending the Christian faith. So, the straightforward answer is that apologetics defines, “What Christians Believe and Why Christians Believe It.”

First, an examination of the ‘What is Believed’ includes knowledge about God, creation, nature, origins of man, sin, morality, stewardship, life’s purpose, Jesus Christ, redemption, salvation, Heaven, Hell, the Christian church, the Bible, the Old Testament history of nations, End Times and eternity, for starters.

Then there is the second part of apologetics, ‘Why Christians Believe It’. Christians start with a concept that the Bible is the inspired word of God and therefore totally reliable as truth about what it contains. They trust the evidence that proves the Bible is historically correct, that it is the best documented of all ancient books and that it contains prophecy that is 100% accurate as only God could see the future of human history as if it is already completed. The Bible is a miracle in its own right as it was written over a period of 1600 years by 40 authors in complete harmony and without any contradictions.

Christians trust and believe the evidence of both Biblical and secular records, Josephus AD 75 & Tacitus AD 116, of the life, teaching, miracles, death by crucifixion, resurrection (witnessed by over 500 people) and ascension to heaven of Jesus Christ. They further believe the evidence of the dramatically transformed lives of Jesus 12 disciples who boldly proclaimed the truth of the gospel and were martyred for their testimonies. The fact is that no one willingly dies or is martyred for a lie. Then there is the miraculous contribution of Christianity to Western Civilization; literature, art, science, music, mathematics, medicine, education, philosophy, law and much more.

Finally, there is the witness and testimonies of the hundreds of millions of followers of Jesus Christ through the centuries. Why so many believers? The answer is because Jesus is the only way to eternal life and a transformed life full of meaning and purpose. He is ‘The Way’ to receive God’s gifts of joy, love, peace, forgiveness, contentment, faith and eternal hope.

What is the Biblical Concept of Sanctification?

What is the Biblical Concept of Sanctification?

Sanctification is a very important concept or process to understand in the life of a Christian. It’s much more than just a fancy word of the Christian faith. Sanctification simply means “to be set apart” for God’s exclusive possession as a reminder to us of God’s redeeming Grace made for our salvation. That gift of grace of course was the gift of his Son Jesus Christ who paid the price for our sins on the Cross so that we could be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with God our Creator.

Sanctification is the on-going process by which a person becomes holy in God’s sight by yielding his or her life daily to Jesus. It is a life long experience for the believer. We are reminded over and over again in the Bible that God never leaves us as we were before we experienced salvation in Jesus Christ. It is in fact a lifelong pursuit guided by God’s Holy Spirit and God’s inspired Word. Like an athlete training for a marathon, sanctification is an endeavor that takes discipline, time, sacrifice, commitment, faithfulness, and a desire to please and follow Jesus and bring honor and glory to God.

Finally, sanctification requires getting into God’s Word on a consistent basis, participating in Bible studies, having a regular quiet time with Jesus, attending and participating in worship services and treasuring God’s Word in one’s heart by memorizing Scripture. The goal of sanctification is to, over time, make a believer more and more like Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:1-18). As that happens, others will see Christ in the believer and he or she will be able to tell them about Him and God’s love for them.

What is the Biblical Concept of Justification?

What is the Biblical Concept of Justification?

Justification is an important event that takes place when a person becomes a believer in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, justification is often misunderstood by well-meaning Christians who think that it is defined by the phrase, “Just as if I had never sinned.” In other words, they assume when a person trusts or puts their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, then God sees them as being sinless. That idea or concept is not actually Biblically accurate. God always sees a person as they really are, a sinner in need of a Savior. This is where true justification enters into the picture. It is a one-time act of God!

The essence of justification is a declaration of a positional relationship by and with God, himself. Justification occurs only once! When an individual places his or her belief and trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, then God declares that person righteous. God doesn’t make a person righteous; that’s what Sanctification is all about. The Sanctification process will be discussed in next week’s Great New Question posting.

Finally, Justification is how a person achieves legal/adopted standing before God as sons/daughters and how God brings individuals into a loving family relationship with Him in the present and for all eternity. In fact, the really good news is that being justified by God makes us ‘Kids of God’s Kingdom’ and joint heirs with Christ. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Is it important and/or necessary to pray in Jesus name?

Is it important and/or necessary to pray in Jesus name?

Christians have been ending their prayers, “In Jesus name,” since Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven. Why have they been doing this is a good question. The simple answer is found several times in the Scriptures. In the Gospel of John 14:13&14 Jesus said, “I will do anything you ask in my name…. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” It is repeated by Jesus again in John 16:23 and in several other places. So it seems important that as Christians we take Jesus at His word.

It is important also to remember that Jesus is the only mediator between man and God the Father. (2 Timothy 2:5) Jesus is also our personal advocate with God as he speaks to the Father on our behalf (1 John 2:1).  In addition, many times when we are troubled in spirit or overwhelmed by circumstances, the Holy Spirit actually hears our inner groaning’s and intercedes on our behalf. So we can conclude that it is both important and necessary that our prayers be offered to God in the name of Jesus if we want them to be answered.

But you might be thinking, what about those persons who aren’t Christians that are honestly seeking to have a relationship with God. This might include agnostics, atheists, those of all religions and all other non-believers. They wouldn’t know to pray in Jesus name, right? This is true. The good news is that God has promised to reveal Himself to those who diligently seek Him. God certainly hears the prayers of sinners that are truly wanting to be redeemed/saved, repent from their sinful ways and gain eternal life. God answers those prayers both in their hearts and minds. How? He points them to Jesus and the Scriptures.

That’s God’s’s amazing grace and gift of forgiveness and eternal life for all who accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. Is He your Savior? If not, what are you waiting for? Today is the day of salvation as no one knows if they have tomorrow.

What is True Love?

What is True Love?

“I love you” is much more than a Valentine’s Day sentiment. It’s much more than words on a card. So what is true love?

The Bible says the greatest commandment is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)

When Jesus came, he set the bar much higher.  Some of last words to his disciples were these:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:34

Jesus was saying that it is not enough to show love to someone by treating them as you would want them to treat you. True love is doing what I am doing—laying down my life for you.

Love is setting aside your desires, to serve the one you love. It’s placing that person’s needs and wants ahead of your own. It’s loving him even when he stumbles, or disappoints. It’s loving her even when she disrespects you or violates your trust. It’s a commitment to do anything and everything to bring about a restoration of that relationship.

That may be hard to spell out in a Valentine, but it is the very best guide for showing true love—love that will last throughout a lifetime and beyond. This kind of sacrificial love doesn’t come naturally, because we are self-centered.  But it will come once we understand that

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

However, it takes more than more than just understanding, we must take that message to heart and accept the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross as payment for all the things we have done and will ever do to disappoint God, to disrespect him, even to violate the trust he has placed in us.

Embrace God’s love and you will discover how to truly love others.

Bible verses are quoted from the New American Standard Bible.

Don’t all Religions lead to God?

Don’t all Religions lead to God?

The short answer is no, they don’t. There is no path to God as other religions propose. The world’s religions suggest that through self-sacrifice, good works and performing a variety of religious rites or rituals that a person can gain eternal life and know God. Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, Emmanuel, God with us, said,” I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father (God) except by me.” (John 14:6) Jesus is also the source of all truth, so what He said can be trusted.

The only way to a present and eternal relationship with God is to commit one’s life to Jesus as Savior and Lord, follow Him and obey His Commandments. He said,” The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself.” He also said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Salvation is a gift of God, not something to be earned by human acts. The apostle Paul said in Romans 10:9-10,”If you confess with your mouth Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” This is the only way to God and to eternal life.

Finally, keep this in mind regarding all other religions. Religion can make a person think that they are better than others because they are ‘religious’ and self-righteous. Jesus called out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy because they had the outward appearance of being religious but their hearts were far from God. They trusted in the religion of the Law. However it only pointed out their sinfulness and hard-heartedness and was never intended to lead anyone to salvation. Christianity is the only way that leads to God.

What does it mean to have a Transformational Encounter with Jesus Christ?

What does it mean to have a Transformational Encounter with Jesus Christ?

Let’s start with a definition. Transform means to make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, outward appearance and character of a person.

So, looking at it from God’s perspective, the first step in the transformational process is to personally commit your life to Jesus Christ. You will then know that He and His presence are real, both in the world and within you. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide the transformation. The principle is that God never leaves you as you were before you accepted Christ and decided to follow Him. God has a much better plan for your future than you could have ever dreamed or imagined. Your life’s purpose, activities, priorities, goals, worldview and much more will now be different. Here are some of the changes you can expect.

You will find yourself with an intense desire to get into God’s Word, the Bible, and learn and understand more about Him and the Christian life. You will really ‘hunger after His Word’, your ‘Daily Bread’. You will be praying more. Your prayer time will be both intimate and personal with the Lord. You will come to cherish your time together. Your friends will change. First, you will tell them about your new relationship and if they are not interested you will develop new friendships with other believers. Conversations will change from the usual mundane topics of weather, politics, events, etc., to those of a personal spiritual nature. You will look for new frontiers in your discussions.

Interest in materialism and the secular culture will diminish. Yes, you will continue to work and earn a living but it will no longer become the center of your life’s goal. Your interests and concerns will gradually be directed towards people, not things. Emotions like hatred, jealousy, envy, etc. will become a thing of the past and be replaced with genuine feelings of caring, compassion, forgiveness and love. You will develop a strong desire to share your faith with others because of the joy in newly transformed life and hope within you.

In this life each person thinks that he or she has the power and control over what life will be like. That discretion is called our free will. When the choice is made to trust in Jesus, one becomes a ‘New Creation in Christ’ and the transformation begins. No longer does the world’s value system determine life’s choices, rather the Holy Spirit directs your total existence if you are willing and listen.

Picture the lowly caterpillar transformed into a beautiful Butterfly. That’s what God’s intent is for every person because God is love and sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to give each person the opportunity to know Him, to live with meaning and purpose and gain eternal life. That is the Transformational Encounter!

Is sin really serious?

Is sin really serious?

Yes. But first we need to understand what the word ‘sin’ means. Many people toss the word around as if they get to define sin by their standards, not God’s. In other words, some people think that sin is anything they don’t like. For example, they may look disapprovingly at the way a person dresses, or not approve of the food or drink that someone chooses. In other words, they start judging people. But the Bible has is very clear is that sin is anything that separates man from God. That ranges from committing vile acts against others to becoming so self absorbed that you no longer recognize that you were created by the God who created the universe–the God who made man and woman so he could commune with them and let them experience his infinite love.

Sin causes this gulf between man and God and that, in turn, often causes a gulf between individuals too. Most recognize that infidelity causes great pain and breaks trust. Stealing from an employer is sin and in many cases has dire consequences. Even envy can cause a gulf to open up between another person.  Those behaviors and many more that break God’s laws are sin, and yes, that is both serious and dangerous.

You’ve probably heard of the 10 Commandments that God gave to his people, the Israelites, almost 4,000 years ago. They set a standard of God’s holiness that human beings are incapable of attaining. The Commandments point out how sinful human nature really is and why a Savior is required.

What is really serious is that unconfessed sin and failure to repent (turning from sinful ways) results in separation from any relationship with God. The Bible says,

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NIV)

So the really Good News is that God has provided a way to overcome one’s sinful human nature. The solution is found by repenting and in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and following Him.

Why would anyone want to follow  Jesus?

Why would anyone want to follow Jesus?

Life is about choices. Decisions we make have outcomes that impact our lives, influence our behaviors, our beliefs and our relationships with others. We can choose to continue with business as usual, enjoying success based on the standards defined by our secular culture. Or, we can take an honest look at Jesus of the Bible and dare to ask what the consequences might be if we really believed, trusted and obeyed Him. Would following Jesus really bring life meaning and purpose, joy and peace and eternal life?

The fact is that each and everyday, for over 2000 years, people around the world from every nation choose to follow Jesus who gave His life and was raised from the dead so that all who follow Him can enjoy God’s kingdom, peace with God and everlasting life.

Jesus proved that He was God by signs, miracles, profound wisdom, and overcoming death and the grave. Jesus confirmed (John 14:6) that He is the only way to heaven and eternal life. So the question really is, “Why wouldn’t everyone want to follow Jesus?” Life is a gift from God. It can only be lived to the fullest in a relationship with Jesus. Remember happiness depends on happenings, which are temporary, but real joy and fulfillment, which are eternal, are only found in Jesus. That is why untold millions have chosen to follow Him.