In Everything Give Thanks (art by Steve Husting)
Thanksgiving message I gave in 2015
One phrase repeated in Psalm after Psalm after Psalm is, “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good” (Psalms 136:1). Maybe it’s repeated so often because we forget. When we give thanks, it’s because we remember. We are called to remember. We see this when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and led them up to the Promised Land. At that point, Moses told the children of Israel to remember that God brought them out of Egypt’s slavery (Deuteronomy 15:15). Instead of being afraid of the inhabitants of Canaan, remember what God did to Pharaoh and his mighty army, drowning them in the depths of the sea (Deuteronomy 7:18). We remember what great things God has done for us, and the right response is thanksgiving. The children of Israel then entered the land, fought and won it. Continue reading
First we start with faith’s source, which is God:
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God
Faith comes as a the result of knowing that God has spoken to you. In the context of Romans 9-10, God speaks the good news of the gospel through a preacher, and the hearer is convicted of sin because he recognizes the truth of what is said and connects it with God. He is so convinced of its source that the person repents and changes as though the inner speaker was actually God. The person has a confidence that God has spoken. Continue reading
Some Bible scholars have tried to harmonize the birth stories of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. When they have been unable to do so, they have concluded that the stories are fictional, myths, merely figurative. Most of the public Christian seminaries and Bible colleges, even many of the more famous names, teach that much of the historical Bible accounts are not literal.
How dangerous is this kind of thinking? In one case, they say that the signs Jesus gave in Matthew 24 to help us determine the true Christ at His coming from the false christs are merely figurative, rendering them absolutely useless for detecting who the real Christ is. Just the kind of deception the Father of Lies loves to pass around, isn’t it? So one false christ years ago justified himself by saying that just as the Christ will come in the clouds, so he came from the clouds in an airplane. When we don’t take the historical aspects seriously, we open the door to much deception and confusion. Continue reading
“Why would God judged us if we are saved?” Throughout all the statements of judgment in the Scripture, especially in the gospels and epistles, God is stating that we are responsible for our actions after we are saved. All of life teaches us that there are consequences for the choices we make. That is a spiritual law as well. You cannot expect to break a civil law and receive no consequences, even if you have been awarded a prize as the most noteworthy citizen of the state. Likewise we cannot expect to break a spiritual law and not suffer the consequences. God is now our Father, and He will deal with us as His children (Hebrews 12:7-11) and discipline us to train us to be godly men and women. We will receive chastisements in this life; God will administer negative consequences for us making poor choices if God is really our Father. Continue reading
Is there a difference between children of God and sons of God in the New Testament? Yes. Galatians lays a good foundation for the meaning of these two terms, and from those verses we can see echoes throughout the NT. These passages imply that God is not satisfied that we are “saved,” going to church, and being nice people. He is looking for mature believers who have specific qualities, and those qualities cannot be developed in our own strength, doing good deeds that we’ve thought up, or participating in religious routines, such as Jewish laws. It must begin with the training of the Spirit, and continue with Him.
God sees the end of the life and what character our choices and responsibilities are making of us. He wants His children to grow up into persons of responsibility so they could handle the heavier duties of ruling in the kingdom. No father will place his sons at the top of his business empire without carefully targeted training over the years, and it is so with God and His children as well. Continue reading
Reviewing God’s truths for me.
I am a new creation in Christ. God is my heavenly Father and has abundantly proven His love for me by the willing sacrifice of Jesus Christ for my sins. (So there is no need for me to start a question with, “If God is love, then why….?”) He has placed me into His family and I have the right and privilege of coming to His throne at any time.
Through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, my sinful self was laid in the grave and the new creation has risen with Him to the heavenly places. I can now die to the sinful temptations that come my way and resist their feeling of power – for they are only feelings with no real power. Continue reading
Someone asked this question on suffering at Christianity Stack Exchange, a site where I answer questions now and then. One of the answers to this question (given by a resident of Cape Town, South Africa) was so comprehensive regarding suffering that I thought it worth sharing his or her nine points here. This is my edited version of the answer given; you could read the original on this page.
Why is there suffering in the world?
1. The first and best answer to suffering is the free will defense, in which people are able to make choices for good or evil. God made us as free people, not robots — people who cannot do certain things are not truly free. So we endure affliction at the hands of people who use their liberty to hurt us deliberately or indirectly.
2. The ability to suffer physical pain fulfills a valuable function: it signals that our body is about to be damaged. Without it we may be incurably harmed. Many medical diseases are accompanied by pains of all kinds, and they rouse us to seek a cure before it is too late. Emotional and psychological pain can also drive us to seek help. Continue reading
God has designed our brains to work with his program of changing lives. God not only tells us what to do, but has given us everything we need to follow along with his program. An obvious example would be giving us a mouth so we can pray, worship, and encourage others. He not only tells us to care for others, but has given us hands and feet to carry out acts of compassion.
In Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book, Switch On Your Brain, she reveals several fascinating features God has built into our brains that, when scripture is followed, results in mental and emotional healing and peace. (Yes, she’s a Christian and a scientist.) The brain has healing aspects built into its nerve/cellular structure. It repairs itself, removing the edge from bad memories, negative behaviors, and emotions. The brain physically uses God’s truths to heal itself. Continue reading
The general idea among Christians is that since Jesus was punished for our sins, then the people of God will not face any punishment. The Bible clearly says, “Christ died for our sins.” And on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” But does it clearly say believers will never receive chastening from God? Can believers received negative consequences for their actions in this life and the life to come?
Does God deal with his children’s wrongdoing during this life? Yes. Here are two examples. Continue reading
Many young people who leave home for college life end up abandoning their religion and moral constraints. (This is what the college professors and staff want them to do.) They are convinced by their professors that their religion was something their superstitious parents clung to, and the children don’t need those beliefs anymore. They are now free to choose the direction of their own lives. So, many young people are persuaded to leave their faith.
This reasoning the staff uses is based on a logical fallacy. A logical fallacy is a process of reasoning that is flawed. In this case, the fallacy is saying that if it is true for a part, then it is true for the whole. It goes like this. Continue reading
In Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus tells His hearers to love their enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
I see several reasons why God would want us to love our enemies.
1. He knows our tendency as angry human beings to do worse to our enemies than they deserve. Our hatred is seldom bothered by ideas like fairness. Example out of a newspaper clip: There was an argument at a party in L.A. where a person heatedly goes home, returns with a gun, and shoots the other person. Really? Continue reading
What is the purpose of the promises and warnings in the Bible? They serve the same purpose as promises and warnings in regular life. If we examine the promise to see if it had merit and follow through, we’ll get the benefits. If we examine the warnings to see if they have merit and heed them, we’ll be spared the negative consequences. There is nothing supernatural about this. Continue reading
I consider myself a good person, not from any genuinely good works that I am doing, but because I’m not doing bad things, or I’m not as bad as “those people.” That’s deceitful thinking, because Jesus said that no one is good except God. We fool ourselves in this area because we do not compare ourselves to the perfect man, Jesus Christ, who always did the will of God. Continue reading
I recently answered a question sent to me from gotquestions.org. This person, who is quoted below, thought her sins were silly little sins and she wondered why she was unable to get over them and stop repeating them. My reply comes from over 30 years of walking with the Lord. I doubt I could have given this reply after just ten years. Continue reading
A “personal relationship with Christ” is a phrase used among born-again believers to contrast an impersonal relationship with God. (Another popular phrase among born-again Christians is, “Relationship, not religion,” which says the same thing.) But is this idea actually taught in the Bible? Do we need a personal relationship with Jesus to be saved? Continue reading
How much of life is religious, and how much is not? How much has to do with God, and how much does not? Is “church time” the religious part, and outside church, life is not? A response of Jesus addressed this issue when He answered the question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus’ answered, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:36-39). These two commandments encompass all of life, so all of life is spiritual, sacred, religious. Continue reading
The frequent run-ins between Jesus and the Pharisees were a clash between the Pharisee’s preoccupation with external things and Jesus’ emphasis on the spiritual kingdom. The Pharisees were interested in keeping their status quo, the rigid forms of religious law, looking good to their peers, and maintaining self-righteousness and a respectable position before the public.
Jesus, on the other hand, cared more about their relationship with God and their inner state. They cared about saying the right thing to look good while Jesus cared about them being real. They wanted rules and laws while Jesus wanted them set free to follow the Spirit wherever He would lead them. Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus was willing to be unpopular if standing for the truth would help some to advance in their spiritual walk with God. Continue reading
Many religious people trust in their spiritual authority for their religious beliefs. They don’t study the religious text for themselves. They don’t understand how their authorities came by their tenets, so theirs is a personal faith without proof. “All I know is that when I die, I go to heaven, right?”
Many people trust in science authorities for their findings. They don’t study science textbooks for themselves. They don’t understand the complex findings by which their authorities arrived at their conclusions, so theirs is also a personal faith without proof. “All I know is that we came from a warm pond and are descended from monkeys, right?” Continue reading
In Philippians 3:4-6, we have a list of beliefs Paul had to disbelieve in order to believe, to unlearn that he may learn. For instance, according to this list, he believed in God and country until God corrected it to just “God.” He prided himself in being a Hebrew of pure Hebrew parents, and not a half breed from a mixed interracial marriage; God persuaded him that his parentage wasn’t enough, but being in God’s family was. Paul pointed to his prestigious Pharisaic denomination as though it put him in a high position, until God pointed out that Jesus didn’t check church attendance as a qualification. So much to unlearn! Little by little, all that he trusted in was refined so that it resulted in trusting just Jesus for righteousness (Philippians 3:7-11).
The popular meaning for faith is to believe something without proof. This is the “popular” meaning, and as with the meanings of several other words, it doesn’t match up with its meaning used in the Bible. For instance, the popular definition of church is the building that worshippers meet in. The popular meaning of saint is someone who did good religious works and died. The Bible doesn’t use these meanings. Continue reading
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14).
With the truth, we are seeing things as they really are. The truth is not just facts, but facts acted on.
A person may research what the Bible says about idolatry, which is putting something ahead of God or Jesus, and miss seeing his own idolatry. He has all the facts about the idolatry that drove Israel from God in the OT; he can list the idols the NT epistles condemn. But when it comes to his own idolatry – his life emphasis on hobbies and leisure, for example – he doesn’t yet have the truth of idolatry, that he needs to set Jesus first and foremost.
Through the Word, the Spirit impresses the truth of the spiritual state upon the child of God’s heart. Accepting the truth, he repents and puts his idols in their proper place. The truth makes a difference; facts are just the tools the Spirit uses to communicate life-changing light to us. Continue reading
Posted in Encouragement
Does God care about us displaying Christmas trees? Does He require that we put on happy faces for the holidays? Do we need to put up Christmas lights? Are we to be ashamed if we don’t have a scene of the nativity in our homes? Do our churches have to play Christmas music? Does He require that we give gifts? How much importance should we give to this post-Thanksgiving season? Since we are made in the image of God, we should see what God thinks about it, then conform ourselves to His outlook on the world and its customs. Continue reading
In Hebrews 11, we are introduced to a series of individuals who were known for their faith. Noah prepared an ark, expecting a flood. Abraham moved out of his country at the word of God, not knowing where he was going. Sarah believed God, and birthed a child in her old age. Moses left the pleasures of Egypt to journey with the people of God. They were not just known for faith – but an enduring faith; they were tested in hard circumstances and kept on trusting in God no matter what.
In Hebrews chapter 12, the spotlight swings to the readers of the epistle. “Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (12:1), the witnesses of God’s faithfulness noted in chapter 11, what are we to do? Continue reading
At the coming of Jesus, God introduced something new. With the death, burial, and resurrection of the Christ, God creates a new covenant with believers that results in a clean conscience. The tenth chapter of Hebrews explains this feature of our salvation that many of us are unaware of, and so have let the shame of our past taint the present. We don’t have to let guilty thoughts from past wrongs paralyze us from moving forward. Let’s cover these verses in detail, because the words of Christ are still true: “the truth shall make you free.” Continue reading
Jesus told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves in Mark 12:31. Some people have said that they cannot love their neighbor as they ought because they do not love themselves. On the contrary, the Bible is clear that we love ourselves too much! In this article, I hope to reveal how we love ourselves, and armed with these thoughts, how we can love our neighbor as ourselves.
If we replace the word love with other words, the commandment becomes easier to comprehend. Replace “love yourself” with “pamper yourself,” “show mercy to yourself,” “take care of yourself,” “do good to yourself,” and then the ideas on how to love others begin to form. Let’s look at some examples of how we love ourselves. Continue reading
The Bible tells us that Christians have the victory, or that they overcome. What does that mean? What does that victory look like? How can we know that we are overcoming?
First John 5:2-5 tell us that we have the victory and have overcome the world. Here is the passage, which we will cover in more detail later:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? Continue reading
Is the Old Testament (OT) of any value nowadays? Many people say that we no longer have to follow all those laws and rules anymore, so why bother reading it at all? I’ve read through the OT many times along with the NT. (I regularly read the Bible from front to back.) Here are some of the ways I’ve benefited from reading the whole Bible, and how you can be blessed by it too. Continue reading
The Bible tells us how to address the one “who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9) in several revealing passages in the New Testament. In none of them are we told to attack him directly. Rather, we remove the means for him to attack us. For instance, we would not want to go after a stronger opponent with a knife in our hand if he is a better fighter than ourselves, because he could take the knife away from us and use it to hurt us. The principle is the same here: by refusing to look to the flesh to save us, we deprive the devil of a weapon to use against us. Let’s see how the NT communicates this idea. Continue reading
What is the salvation of the soul, and what does it look like? The first few verses of 1 Peter chapter one give us a strong sense of this salvation and then concludes with, “receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). What is this salvation, and how can we know whether our spiritual growth is heading in the right direction? Continue reading
We tend to seek the Lord’s deliverance when we get into personal trouble. But there is a deliverance that keeps us out of the trouble in the first place. Which would you like – to fall into trouble and try to get out of it, or to avoid it in the first place?
For instance, the word tells us about deliverance from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence (Psalms 91:3). Our first impression of this deliverance is that we’ve fallen into a trap or are experiencing a spiritual plague and the Lord promises to rescue us from it. But that’s not the best way the Lord delivers us. For instance, Proverbs identifies the promiscuous woman and tells us to avoid her (Proverbs 5). Avoiding her, we avoid a terrible fate. Thus, by heeding the warnings of Scripture we identify and avoid the traps beforehand while the more simple-minded don’t pay attention – and fall right in (Proverbs 22:3). Continue reading