Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Catechism #42

Q. What is heaven?
A. Heaven is where God lives, where the dead in Christ are, and where all believers will go after death. 

Heaven is (technically) the place where God lives. In Jesus’ model prayer He began, “Our Father in heaven…(Matthew 6:9).” God’s presence is everywhere (Psalm 139:7), and Paul reminds us that our bodies are the dwelling place of God (1 Corinthians 3:16); but God’s throne is in heaven.

In addition to God, Jesus, and the angels, heaven is also the home of all believers who have died in Christ. Before Jesus left earth He promised that He would prepare a place so that He could be with His followers forever (John 14), and Paul spoke of an event known as the rapture where Jesus would come gather all believers to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

We need to be careful when we try to describe heaven because most of the often-cited descriptions aren’t actually about heaven. The streets of gold, the glassy sea, even the references to no tears being shed are not about the current place known as heaven. While those things may be true of heaven, the Bible doesn’t say so. In fact, the Bible says very little about heaven. Almost all of the descriptions we attribute to heaven are actually references to New Jerusalem.

Heaven as we think of it today is not eternal, for John saw “a new heaven and a new earth” in Revelation 21. Part of that new earth will include a holy city, New Jerusalem, where we will live for eternity.

That will be heaven on earth.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Catechism #41

Q. What are tithes and offerings?
A. Tithes and offerings are how the body of Christ gives back to the Lord; the tithe refers to ten percent of all income, and offerings are anything over ten percent.

Does God really need my money?

That’s a perfectly logical question. After all, He is the creator of everything, and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). Why would God want our measly money when He is the King of the Universe?

Deuteronomy 15 and 16, as well as Malachi 3, give us the command to tithe, but that is not limited to just the Old Testament. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it shall be given to you.” Romans 12:13 says, “Distribute to the needs of the saints.” Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not forget to do good, and to share.”

Those verses are just a sampling of the command to give. The tithe was used to support the Levites (the original priests), build the Temple, take care of the widows, and eventually to pay the pastors. The tithe today does those things and more, like distributing Bibles, funding missionaries, running busses, and countless other ministries and programs. 

Aside from the command, there is also a condition. We need to give the right way—with a right heart. We give sincerely: 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us, “God loves a cheerful giver.”  We give secretly: Jesus instructed to not let your left hand know what your right hand gives (Matthew 6:3-4). We give safely: Jesus said we are storing our treasure in heaven, where moths and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-21).

So what’s the catch? There isn’t one. The Bible is clear that if we give the right way, we will be rewarded. Listen to what God said through the prophet Malachi:

And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Malachi 3:10

Luke 6:38 says when we give it will be given back to us, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” This may not be a dollar for dollar reimbursement, but in God’s economy, it will be worth it.

The Law commanded the giving of the tithe, or ten percent. That is literally the least we can do. Offerings go above and beyond ten percent. Are you being obedient to give God a tithe of your income? Perhaps you should pray and ask God if He is pleased with your giving, or if He wants you to do more.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You Don't Get a Second Chance to Raise the Same Child

A member of the popular website Reddit has posted an open letter to the baby she is scheduled to abort this Friday. The member, whose subscriber name is scaredthrowingaway, feels she is too young to have this baby, but looks forward to the day she can raise children.

Here is her post:

Little Thing:
I can feel you in there. I’ve got twice the appetite and half the energy. It breaks my heart that I don’t feel the enchantment that I’m supposed to feel. I am both sorry and not sorry.
I am sorry that this is goodbye. I’m sad that I’ll never get to meet you. You could have your father’s eyes and my nose and we could make our own traditions, be a family. But, Little Thing, we will meet again. I promise that the next time I see that little blue plus, the next time you are in the same reality as me, I will be ready for you.
Little Thing, I want you to be happy. More than I want good things for myself, I want the best things for the future. That’s why I can’t be your mother right now. I am still growing myself. It wouldn’t be fair to bring a new life into a world where I am still haunted by ghosts of the life I’ve lived. I want you to have all the things I didn’t have when I was a child. I want you to be better than I ever was and more magnificent than I ever could be.
I can’t do to you what was done to me: Plant a seed made of love and spontaneity into a garden, and hope that it will grow on only dreams. Love and spontaneity are beautiful, but they have little merit. And while I have plenty of dreams to go around, dreams are not an effective enough tool for you to build a better tomorrow. I can’t bring you here. Not like this.
I love you, Little Thing, and I wish the circumstances were different. I promise I will see you again, and next time, you can call me Mom.
It breaks my heart that twice in this letter she indicates that she can raise this child later. She says she will meet this child again one day when she is ready to have a baby. Aside from the fact that Friday’s abortion can actually leave her unable to conceive in the future, she also needs to realize that once this baby is aborted, “Little Thing” will not ever be hers to raise.

Each conception is unique. Every zygote is genetically complete, and whether she understands or not, her Little Thing already has gender, hair and eye color, height, and every other genetic factor mapped out. This baby, which is momentarily safely growing inside her, has a DNA blueprint that no one else will ever have. To abort this baby now, for convenience or any other reason, will eliminate a unique individual.

In other words, you don’t get a second chance to raise the same child.

Sacredthrowingaway, if you read this post, please reconsider. If you want a child to call you Mom, look no further than the child you are currently sustaining inside your womb. If you do not feel you can be a Mom right now, please know you have other options. I personally know people who would love to love your child.

The last thing she needs is insensitive judgment, so if you are on Reddit, please don’t attack her in the comments section. I’m also calling on believers to earnestly pray between now and Friday. Pray that she changes her mind and gives her child a fighting chance.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Columbus Day

I’ll be honest: I’m not really sure what to make of Columbus Day. I know I’m not alone. Most Americans know little about holidays if they are not accompanied by a paid day off.

Are we supposed to hail Columbus as a hero? He got lost, “discovered” a new land that was already occupied, claimed it for his country, then began to sell the natives as slaves in Spain. He thought he was in India, so he incorrectly labeled the Native Americans as Indians. That mishap still confuses people today.

My grandfather is part Indian. No, no, not the kind from India. The real kind.

 Still, I’m glad that Columbus’ discovery was made, for it opened the door for the Puritans and Separatists to come here peacefully in search of religious freedom. This is separate from the merchants who came here for prosperity and killed the Indians. No, no, not the kind from India. Columbus forced the natives to convert to Catholicism, which was the very reason the Puritans and Separatists wanted to leave Europe—State run religion and conformity to the Catholic (not Christian) Church.

No matter what you might think of Columbus or the day named in his honor, it reminds me of one important fact. In the days of exploration in which Columbus lived, Earth was believed to have been flat. To Columbus’ credit, he was willing to risk his life in favor of a round planet.

Leaving Spain and heading east, Columbus thought he would eventually circumnavigate the globe and end up in India. And he would have, had the Western Hemisphere not stood in his way. When his vessel anchored down in North America, Columbus initially thought he had sailed all the way around the world and reached India.

This erroneous thinking still led to an accurate realization: the world wasn’t flat. The reason it took fourteen hundred and ninety-two years to come to this conclusion was explorers were afraid they would sail off the edge of Earth and fall to their doom.

This seems foolish to us today. For one thing, hindsight is 20/20. But more importantly, the Bible had already announced that Earth is round. In the Bible’s oldest book, Job records how God, “drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness (26:10),” and “He stretches out the north over empty space. He hangs the earth on nothing (v.7).” Furthermore, Isaiah 40:22 says God, “formed the circle of the earth.”

Just imagine if today’s Darwinian evolutionists lived back then:

Christians hate science!

People who go to school more go to church less.

You believe your fairy tales; we’ll stick with the truth.

We have the facts. We win.

Hey Christians, if the earth is flat, why does your Bible call the earth a circle, huh? LOL!

Teach flat earth science in the schools! Enough of these round earth kooks!

Want me to do a few more? OK, I’ll stop. The point is, when science and the Bible are at odds, don’t cower or cave for fear of looking stupid. I can’t stand when Christians sell out and embrace an old earth just because loud evolutionists say the debate is over.

On Columbus Day let’s remember that the Bible, not popular opinion or science, was right. Let it reinforce our belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, which certainly includes the Bible’s opening sentence.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Catechism #40

Q. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is the offering up of our desires unto God, with confession of sin and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.

The New Testament speaks frequently about prayer; therefore, it is dangerous to take one verse about prayer, to the exclusion of all others, and form a dogmatic view. Instead, a believer would be wise to take all the verses about prayer into account when forming a conclusion.

For example, the Bible says to pray in faith (James 1:6-7), to ask in Jesus’ name (John 14:14), to make our requests to God (Philippians 4:6), and to pray for God’s will to be done (Matthew 6:10). To highlight just one aspect of prayer is to miss out on other equally important areas.

While it is true that we need faith, sometimes God will still not answer our prayers the way we want Him to. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He had perfect faith, and yet the Father did not grant Jesus His dying request. We have to balance our wants with God’s will, understanding that He might have something different in mind.

Prayer is more than just our giving God a wish list. It serves as our primary way of communicating with God and building our relationship with Him. In the model prayer Jesus demonstrated for the disciples the need to honor God (“Hallowed by thy name”), and Paul reminded the church of the importance of praying for others (Ephesians 6:18).

Prayer is also the means by which our sins are forgiven. The model prayer also includes the line, “forgive us our trespasses,” and we are promised that as often as we confess those sins, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

The old hymn reminds us of the “privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” We must not think of prayer as a religious ritual to please God, but as a benefit of being a child of God. We can cast our cares upon Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to “pray without ceasing,” or to always keep a line of communication with God open. He is waiting to hear from you.