Author: Alice A. Anacioco

Is Doctrine Keeping Us Apart?

Is Doctrine Keeping Us Apart?

Are you aware that more and more people are concluding that doctrine is keeping us apart? Doctrine is destroying unity and separating family members. Thus, making it difficult for the follower of Christ to set aside differences and stand together for a common purpose.

Doctrine is also what distinguishes and divides Christians into thousands of denominations and subgroups.

Bible Verse: Galatians 1:6

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”

This verse characterizes the Galatians’ response to the false teachers’ heretical doctrines. The Galatian believers were voluntarily deserting grace to pursue the legalism that the false teachers were propagating.

In effect, it caused division in the church.

Doctrinal Differences in the Church

Doctrine Divides, Love Unites

Although many are pointing out that doctrine divides, the fact also remains that love unites. This is because our Lord Jesus called us to love one another (John 13:34; 15:12).

The commandment to love was not new. Deuteronomy 6:5 commanded love for God, and Leviticus 19:18 commanded loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. The Greatest Commandment summarizes the Law into two:  Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and secondly, love our neighbor as ourselves.

Also, Christ Himself said that love would be the distinguishing mark of His people (1 John 2:7-11; 3:10-12; 4:7-10, 20, 21). Love is from God because God is love. Christians love because God is the essence of love.

We cannot love God without first loving our fellow believers. Anyone who claims to love God but cannot love other Christians for any reason, even doctrinal differences, is delusional.

Doctrine Unites, Love Divides

However, we cannot afford to forget that doctrine also unites. All over the world, what allows true believers in Christ to find a family is acceptance of the doctrine of Christ.

In searching for a spiritual family to join, belief in the person and works of Christ is of utmost importance. This is exactly why the first thing we want to know about a particular church is its statement of faith.

What do they believe about Christ, God’s grace, the Bible, salvation, etc? Do they believe in the Triune God? What about Christ’s promise to come again for His church?

When Christians accept the doctrine of the grace of God, it enables them to recognize one another as brothers and sisters. It won’t matter anymore if they are of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. They just see each other as lowly sinners saved by grace through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It is for the same reason that love divides. Once we know the truth about Christ and His sacrifice, we need to stop pretending we are in unity with those of different doctrines. We cannot sacrifice the truth for a false sense of unity, just so we could stand together in social consensus.

The Doctrine of Human Merit

When the apostle Paul wrote Galatians 1:6-8, love was working together with truth.

Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and adoption into the family of God comes only by grace, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Any doctrine that says human merit would add to what Christ has already accomplished is unacceptable.

The Gospel of Christ makes it clear that one cannot mix faith and works when trusting God for forgiveness and salvation.

Does this mean we can do whatever we want and live the way we want to live after getting saved? That we can keep on sinning after receiving God’s forgiveness?

Paul answers this question in Romans 6:1-14 where he discusses the doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification is the act of God that produces actual righteousness in the believer.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Under the Doctrine of Christ

We can’t have Christ without embracing and submitting to the doctrine of Christ. We need doctrine to answer questions like: Who is God? What is He like? Does He care about what we believe about Him? And once we know Him, how are we to live?

Paul wrote this in 2 Timothy 4:2-4:

“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers. And they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

Is our generation facing the danger Paul wrote about? Indeed! Many so-called preachers are encouraging people to accept Christ. Yet, they fail to bring them under the lordship of the doctrine of Christ. Thus, resulting in a growing lack of discernment making them vulnerable to the doctrines of demons.

Conclusion

On the one hand, we cannot afford to let doctrine come between us. As Paul said, “If we don’t have love, we are like a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Yet, on the other hand, we need to be grounded on the foundations of doctrine based not on tradition but Scripture.


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Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem and Jeff Purswell

Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem and Jeff PurswellHow do we know the Bible is God’s Word? What is sin and where did it come from? How is Jesus fully God and fully man? What are spiritual gifts? When and how will Christ return?

If you’ve asked questions like these, then “systematic theology” is no abstract term. It’s an approach to finding answers every Christian needs to know.

Bible Doctrine takes a highly commended upper-level textbook on systematic theology and makes it accessible to the average reader.

Abridged from Wayne Grudem’s award-winning Systematic Theology, Bible Doctrine covers the same essentials of the faith, giving you a firm grasp on seven key topics:

The Doctrine of the Word of God, the Doctrine of God, the Doctrine of Man, the Doctrine of Christ, the Doctrine of the Application of Redemption, the Doctrine of the Church, and the Doctrine of the Future.

Like Systematic Theology, this book is marked by its clarity, its strong scriptural emphasis, its thoroughness in scope and detail, and its treatment of such timely topics as spiritual warfare and the gifts of the Spirit.

But you don’t need to have had several years of Bible school to reap the full benefits of Bible Doctrine. It’s easy to understand–and it’s packed with solid, biblical answers to your most important questions.

Do not worry; trust God.

Lessons from the Rebuilding of Jerusalem

Lessons from the Rebuilding of Jerusalem

We know the kinds of hardships and opposition that Nehemiah faced in rebuilding Jerusalem. It wasn’t easy but in the end, they succeeded. What lessons can we learn from Nehemiah’s experience that we can apply in our spiritual journey with God?

Who Was Nehemiah?

Nehemiah was a layman, a cup-bearer to the great Artaxerxes Longimanus, who ruled Persia from 464 to 423 BC. He is identified as the son of Hacaliah to distinguish him from other Jews of the same name (Nehemiah 1:1, 3:16; Ezra 2:2). The name Nehemiah means “The Lord has comforted.”

As a true leader, Nehemiah cared and he cared about the right things. He cared about the traditions of the past, the needs of the present, and the hopes for the future. Nehemiah cared about his heritage, his ancestral city, and the glory of his God.

Furthermore, Nehemiah cared enough to notice an opportunity where others would have likely only seen impossibility. And he cared enough to make himself available to task for a mighty task.

Nehemiah Weeps

Lessons from Nehemiah

There are several things we can learn from Nehemiah. These lessons, if we take to heart and apply them, will help us overcome any obstacle and opposition that come our way.

1. Responding to Bad News

Three words can summarize the bad news from Judah: remnant, ruin, and reproach. Instead of a land inhabited by a great nation, only a remnant of people lived there, and they were in great affliction. The Jewish remnants were struggling to survive (Nehemiah 1:3).

When Nehemiah heard of the plight of the Jewish remnants and the destruction of Jerusalem, he wept and mourned. Sometimes weeping is a sign of weakness; but with Nehemiah, it was a sign of strength.

What’s the first thing you do when you hear any bad news about your country, family, or loved ones? What makes people laugh or weep is often an indication of character. People who laugh at others’ mistakes or misfortunes are lacking either in culture or character.

Nehemiah also fasted (Nehemiah 1:4). Fasting was required for the Jews only once a year, on the annual Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). But Nehemiah spent several days fasting, weeping, and praying. He knew that somebody had to do something to rescue Jerusalem, and he was willing to do whatever it took.

Are you willing to make yourself available for the task God is preparing for you?

2. Wait on the Lord in Prayer

Four months passed since Nehemiah received the bad news about Jerusalem. As every believer should, Nehemiah patiently waited on God for directions.

Nehemiah had direct access to the king as his cupbearer. Thus, he could have asked for the king’s favor upon hearing the bad news. But instead of telling the king what he planned to do, he aroused his sympathy and interest (Nehemiah 2:4-6). This was a good strategy, and God used Nehemiah’s reply to get the king’s sympathetic attention.

Nehemiah had not only prayed for this opportunity; he had also planned it and had his answer ready. During those 4 months of waiting, he thought the matter through. And so he knew exactly how he would approach the project.

When we wait on the Lord in prayer, we are not wasting our time; we are investing it. God is preparing both us and our circumstances so that His purposes will be accomplished.

Let us learn to wait on God in prayer.

The Challenge of Waiting on God

3. You Can’t Do it All Alone

Nehemiah faced a great challenge and had great faith in God. But he would have accomplished very little if not for the great dedication on the part of those who helped him. Many people were willing to help Nehemiah rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And in humility, he gave all the credit to them (Nehemiah 4:6).

When God gives each of us a task, we don’t try to do all the work. We need other people to help us accomplish things. And just because we reach out to others does not mean we are incapable of doing things. Besides, God does not expect us to do the works He asked us to do all on our own.

Nehemiah named 38 individual workers and identified 42 different groups and others he left unnamed who were given specific tasks. Just as Paul compares the individual Christians to members of the human body (1 Corinthians chapters 12 & 14).

God uses all kinds of people, even people from the outside. Everyone has a place to work and a job to do. Each member is important, and each has a special function to perform.

4. Aim Towards One Goal

The people finished the difficult task of rebuilding the Jerusalem walls because they obeyed the same leader.

Not only that, they kept their eye on the same goal and worked together for God’s glory. Neither the enemy in the city nor the difficulties inside the city distracted them. They were all equally focused on their God-given task.

Like Paul, they said, “I focus on this one thing” (Philippians 3:13, NLT).

Yet they did not stop there. Nehemiah and the people made sure that it was difficult for anyone outside the walls to access the city.

You see, it’s not enough that we simply aim towards achieving the same goal and fulfilling the work of God. We must also make sure to protect whatever we do from the enemy.

Are you willing to work along with your leader and others to accomplish what God asked of you to do?

Conclusion

God put Nehemiah in Suza just as He had put Esther there a generation before. And just as He put Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon. When God wants to accomplish a work, He always prepares His workers and puts them in the right place at the right time.

God is still looking for people like Nehemiah. Are you available and willing? Do you care enough to ask for the facts, weep over the needs, pray for God’s help, and then volunteer to get the job done?

Can you say to God, “Here I am, send me” (Isaiah 6:8)? When was the last time you prayed that prayer? What would it take for you to pray it today?


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The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os GuinnessThe Call continues to stand as a classic, reflective work on life’s purpose.

Best-selling author Os Guinness goes beyond our surface understanding of God’s call and addresses the fact that God has a specific calling for our individual lives.

Why am I here? What is God’s call in my life? How do I fit God’s call with my own individuality? How should God’s calling affect my career, my plans for the future, and my concepts of success?

Guinness now helps the reader discover answers to these questions, and more, through a corresponding workbook – perfect for individual or group study.

According to Guinness, “No idea short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose and fulfillment.”

With tens of thousands of readers to date, The Call is for all who desire a purposeful, intentional life of faith.

Finishing Our Journey Well

Finishing Our Journey Well

The Christian journey is not just about having a great start. Rather, it’s more about finishing it well.

Unfortunately, many followers of Jesus who started on a high note failed to sustain their momentum. Either they gave up along the way or turned 360 degrees and went back to where they used to be.

When Paul came to the end of his life, he “ended well,” to the glory of God.

Bible Verse: 1 Timothy 4:7, NKJV

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

The form of the 3 Greek verbs “have fought, have finished, and have kept,” indicates completed action with continuing results. Paul saw his life as complete – he accomplished through the Lord’s power all that God called him to do.

Ending Well

A good beginning ought to lead to a good ending, but that is not always the case. Lot, Samson, King Saul, Ahithophel, and Demas all made good beginnings, but their lives ended in tragedy.

The psalmist wanted to end well (Psalm 119:33), but ending well is the consequence of living well.

So, what are the essentials for a consistent life that ends well?

1. Seek God’s Wisdom

We must pray for godly wisdom and spiritual enlightenment so we may learn God’s Word and the way of His Word.

It is not enough to read the Bible, outline the book, get answers to questions, and be able to discuss theology. We must come to understand the character of God and the workings of His providence.

The writer needed the wisdom to know how to handle difficult situations and he found counsel in God’s Word (Psalm 119:24). Instead of listening to the enemy’s slander, he meditated on God’s truth.

Ending Your Christian Journey Well

Don’t ask, “How can I get out of this trouble?” Instead, we should ask, “What can I get out of this experience?” In times of difficulty and suffering, we must seek God’s wisdom.

When we find ourselves pressured by the enemy, we should not pray for God to change our situation. Instead, our best response would be that God would change us and enable us to overcome.

2. Obedience to God

What we learn with our mind and apprehend with our heart must motivate the will to do what God commands. But our obedience cannot be that of a slave obeying a master to avoid discipline. It must be the obedience of a grateful child who delights to please his or her parents.

We all want God’s blessings. However, we must understand that blessings come, not in hearing the Word but in doing it (James 1:22-25). We must also have a wholehearted relationship with Him.

God’s Law is not a weapon in the hands of an angry judge but a toll in the hands of a loving Father. The Holy Spirit uses this “tool” to make us more like our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Trust in God’s Promises

It can be hard to trust God when we are in a very impossible situation. But Proverbs 3:5-6 is a promise that God’s people relied on and it never failed them.

Despite everything that Paul had to go through, he trusted the Lord. He never questioned God for the persecution he suffered. It’s because he was confident that God will finish the work He started in him (Philippians 1:6).

So, rest on God’s promises and rely on His love. When our heavenly Father allows us to go into the furnace of affliction, know that He is always in control. God keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. He knows how long and how much.

Trust in God's Promises

4. Walk the Talk

When we are confronted by the enemy, the Lord will not give us words we have never pondered from the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will remind us of what we have read and learned (John 14:25-26).

But our “walk” must also agree with our “talk.” The best defense of the faith is a transformed life that is compassionate toward others. Our obedience to the Lord and our loving ministry to others will demonstrate the reality of our faith.

Concluding Words

We serve a different Master, obey a different set of laws, and have our citizenship in a different country (Philippians 3:20. Thus, we are different from the lost people whom Jesus called the “children of this world” (Luke 16:8).

Let us then continue to run the race that God marked out for us and seek God’s Word. Be a blessing to others and a delight to our Lord.

It’s not enough to begin the journey right; we must strive to finish it in victory.


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The Race Before Us: A Journey of Running and Faith by Bruce H. MatsonThe Race Before Us: A Journey of Running and Faith by Bruce H. Matson

Turning 50 years old and facing some of life’s biggest questions are daunting challenges. A crisis of faith and crisis of health leads to significant changes in one’s life.

For Bruce Matson, a family man with a successful law practice, the struggles of health and doubt led to action.

Combining podcasts from notable Christian leaders Ravi Zacharias, Allistair Begg, and Tim Keller, careful research and preparation, and encouragement from family and friends, Bruce ran his race for physical and spiritual health.

The Race Before Us by Bruce Matson is a wonderful memoir detailing the path of doubt to faith and spiritual malaise to running with God.

Come alongside Bruce as he navigates the windy roads of faith and health in his pursuit of physical and spiritual well-being.

Empathy Towards Other Christians

Empathy Towards Other Christians

Most, if not all Christians are generally loving, kind, and compassionate. But when it comes to showing empathy toward others, many self-acclaimed believers fail. Oftentimes, we fail to comfort other Christians, especially those who are hurting.

Empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, does not come easy for many.

In Job’s experience with his 3 friends, there are several things we should consider when helping the hurting.

Jobs’ Three Friends

All of Job’s three friends were old, older than Job (Job 15:9-10), but we assume that Eliphaz was the oldest. He is named first (Job 2:11) and spoke first. Also, it seemed that God accepted him as the elder member of the trio (Job 42:7).

Eliphaz was associated with Teman, a place known for its wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7). He put great faith in tradition (Job 15:18-19) and the God he worshiped was an inflexible Lawgiver (Job 4:7).

Bildad must have been the second oldest since he is named second and spoke after Eliphaz. In a word, Bildad was a legalist. We can read his life text in Job 8:20. He could quote ancient proverbs and like Eliphaz, he had great respect for tradition.

Job and His Three Friends
Photo Credit: Bible.Org Blogs

For some reason, Bildad was certain that Job’s children had died because they also were sinners (Job 8:4). The man seemed to have no feeling for his hurting friend, Job.

Zophar was the youngest of the three and surely the most dogmatic. He spoke like a schoolmaster addressing a group of ignorant freshmen (Job 11:6). The key text to understanding Zophar is Job 20:4-5.

Interestingly enough, Zophar spoke to Job only twice. Either he decided he was unable to answer Job’s arguments, or he felt that trying to help Job was a waste of time.

Helping the Hurting

In our walk with God, there will be times when we will undergo trials and difficulties. As Max Lucado said, “God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.”

Today, it’s our friends, neighbors, workmates, etc. who might need our empathy. Tomorrow, it could be us on the receiving end. Thus, when we see others who are hurting, we must always be ready and willing to help them out.

Here are some things we can do to ease their pain and heaviness.

1. Your Presence Means Everything

When Job’s three friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they immediately came to comfort and console him (Job 2:11). They wept, tore their robes, and sat down with him on the ground. For seven days and seven nights, no one said a word to Job because his suffering was too great.

The best way to help people who are hurting is just to be with them. You do not have to say a word for your presence is more than enough. Don’t even try to lecture them about God’s purpose and explain why this is happening.

Explanations never heal a broken heart!

2. Listen with Your Heart

At the end of their 7 days of silence, Job’s three friends started to deliver their speeches. And Job later confessed he wished they stayed silent (Job 13:5).

Eliphaz who spoke first did not address the pain in Job’s heart. Instead, he replied to the words from Job’s lips and this was a big mistake (Job 4:1-2). A wise counselor and comforter must listen with the heart and responds to feelings as well as to words.

A broken heart is not healed with logic, but with love. Yes, you must speak the truth but you should do it in love (Ephesians 4:15).

James 1:19, NLT

3. Choose Your Words

Instead of encouraging Job, Eliphaz accused him of not practicing what he preached (Job 4:3-6). He went further to tell Job that he must humble himself and confess his sins. According to Eliphaz, Job’s trials are God’s means of disciplining him (Job 5:8-17).

The last thing Job wanted to hear from his friends was accusation and condemnation. What the hurting person needs are assurance, encouragement, and illumination from the Word of God.

Never underestimate the power of words to encourage people in the battles of life. Speaking the right words at the right time, and with the right motive can make a tremendous difference.

Your words can nourish those who are weak and encourage those who are defeated. But your words can also hurt those who are broken and only add to their burdens. So, be careful what you say and how you say it.

4. Never Argue with the Hurting

When comforting the hurting, try as hard as you can to hold back from arguing with them. You will not accomplish anything with countless arguments and discussions.

Eliphaz argued that Job had nothing to fear because God always blesses the righteous and judges the wicked. This is the basic premise of Job’s three friends. Do what is right and life will go well for you; do what is wrong and God will send pain and punishment.

Eliphaz’s argument is, in reality, Satan’s philosophy in different words (Job 1:9. 2:4). In effect, Eliphaz was saying, “Confess your sins and God will restore all that you have lost.”

Most people will agree that ultimately God blesses the righteous and judges the wicked. But this is not what’s in question here. The immediate, not the ultimate judgment, was Job and his friends’ concern.

Had Job’s friends listened to him, accepted his feelings, and not argued with him, they would have helped him greatly. But they chose to be prosecuting attorneys instead of witnesses. In the end, the Lord rebuked them; and they had to ask Job’s forgiveness (Job 42:7-10).

5. Put Yourself in Their Situation

 Job responded to his friends and voiced some eloquent observations. These are the things that we ought to keep in mind when spending time with people who are hurting.

a. Job’s friends did not feel the heaviness of his suffering (Job 6:1-3).

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were not helpful to Job at all because their views were too narrow. It’s no wonder that Job had spoken impetuously. His friends would have done the same if they carried the load he carried.

What did Job do? He appealed to God that He would consider his plight and lighten his suffering before he died.

Without empathy and compassion, we will never know how badly a person is hurting. We cannot truly comfort others without feeling the pain and difficulty that they are going through. 

b. Job’s friends did not understand the bitterness of his suffering (Job 6:4-7).

In his response to Eliphaz, Job passionately appealed to his friends that they might have more understanding and sympathy. Yet, his three friends insisted that he must have done something bad.

The feeling of being a target at which God was shooting poisoned arrows made Job’s spirit bitter. God in His army in array, shooting at one weak man; and Job’s friends were adding to the poison.

This is what’s often missing in us – an understanding and sympathetic heart. We are very quick to tell those who are hurting that their suffering is God’s punishment for their sins. 

c. Job’s friends did not feel his hopeless situation (Job 6:8-13).

Prolonged and intense suffering can make a person feel powerless to handle life, and this can lead to hopelessness. If you can’t control some of the elements that make up life, how can you plan for the future?

Job exclaimed, “What strength do I have, that I should hope? And what is my end, that I should prolong my life” (Job 6:11)?

Yet, Job never gave up his faith in God and his integrity. Even if God had permitted evil to come into his life, Job did not rebel against God. He did not take matters into his own hands which is what most hopeless people today would resort to.

Thank God for the hope that we have in Christ. It’s because of the finished work of Christ that we can look forward to a promising future.

Billy Graham Quote on the Resurrection

d. The ministry of Job’s friends was ineffective (Job 6:14-30).

Job’s three friends didn’t show compassion for him or try to meet his needs. They were like a dirty brook in the desert that disappoints thirsty travelers.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were Job’s friends as long as he was prosperous. But when trouble came, they turned against him. Physically, the three men were sitting with Job on the ash heap. But emotionally, they were like the priest and Levite passing by “on the other side” (Luke 10:30-37).

Are you always willing to empathize with those in need? Do you effectively support anyone who is in the midst of trial and suffering? How effective are you in the ministry that God entrusted to you?

Conclusion

Job’s friends had not been an encouragement to him. They had taken a superior attitude as judges, assuming that they knew God better than Job did. These three men did not identify with Job in his grief and pain.

Job said, “But you forgers of lies, you are all worthless physicians” (Job 13:4). They smeared the whitewash of their lies (Psalm 119:69) over the discussion. This was to avoid dealing with difficult problems while maintaining their traditional ideas. They stayed on the surface of things and never went deep into God’s truth or Job’s feelings.

Counseling that stays on the surface accomplishes very little. If we are going to help people, we must go much deeper. But this demands love, courage, patience, and compassion.

To show empathy towards others, we need much more than platitudes (Job 13:12). We need the wisdom to know how to apply the truth to the needs of hurting people.

Are you up to the challenge and be an empathizer?


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Suffering Is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot

Suffering Is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot ing by Elisabeth Elliot Hard times come for all in life, with no real explanation. When we walk through suffering, it has the potential to devastate and destroy, or to be the gateway to gratitude and joy.

Elisabeth Elliot was no stranger to suffering. Her first husband, Jim, was murdered by the Waoroni people in Ecuador moments after he arrived in hopes of sharing the gospel. Her second husband was lost to cancer.

Yet, it was in her deepest suffering that she learned the deepest lessons about God.

Why doesn’t God do something about suffering? He has, He did, He is, and He will.

Suffering and love are inexplicably linked, as God’s love for His people is evidenced in His sending Jesus to carry our sins, griefs, and sufferings on the cross, sacrificially taking what was not His on Himself so that we would not be required to carry it. He has walked the ultimate path of suffering, and He has won the victory on our behalf.

This truth led Elisabeth to say, “Whatever is in the cup that God is offering to me, whether it be pain and sorrow and suffering and grief along with the many more joys, I’m willing to take it because I trust Him.”

Because suffering is never for nothing.

7 Reasons to Believe in the Afterlife

7 Reasons to Believe in the Afterlife

Is there life after death? Among all the different world religions, only Islam, Judaism, and Christianity believe that death is not the end.

In this post, we will look at 7 reasons why we believe in the afterlife.

1. An Eternal God

The Bible describes God as eternal (Psalm 90:2; 102:12); the source of immortality. We also read in the Scriptures that God created us in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27).

Sin and death entered humanity as a result of Adam’s rebellion (Romans 5:12, 17). But God did not just allow the human race to wallow in sin and live forever in rebellion. Rather, He began to unfold a plan to redeem them from the curse of death and hell.

By grace, we can have eternal life as a gift from God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:21; 6:23). And eternal life for those who received Christ as Lord and Savior is not limited here on earth. God intended for His children to live forever with Him in heaven.

If there is no afterlife, God would not have promised His children eternity.

Psalm 90:2, NKJV

2. Old Testament Predictions

Many scholars argue that immortality is a New Testament concept. But the prophet Daniel spoke of a day when “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. Some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).

In the 73rd Psalm, Asaph described how he almost lost faith in God seeing how evil people prospered while the godly suffered. Only after going into the sanctuary of God that he understood their final destiny. He then said, “Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors” (Psalm 73:18-19, NLT).

Asaph concluded that there is a glorious, eternal future awaiting those who belong to God. “Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny” (Psalm 73:23-24, NLT).

3. Near-Death Experiences

A near-death experience (NDE) is an occurrence in which patients who have come close to death have memories of spiritual experience. Many of them claim to have encounters with bright lights, long tunnels, or angelic guides. Some claim they went to heaven while others to hell.

Near-death or out-of-the-body experiences are rare and it’s often hard to assess their significance. However, a new study claims they can offer an unbiased evaluation of people’s descriptions of their experiences.

We now know that there are enough of these kinds of experiences to create a sizable library on the subject. As people approach death, they sense that they are approaching the beginning of another journey.

Near-Death Experience: Evidence for Life After Death

4. Jesus’ Statements

Although some would accuse Jesus of being a false teacher, atheists and non-Christians usually refer to Jesus with respect. Yet, the Lord never spoke ambiguously about the reality of a continuing personal existence after death.

Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Also, in Luke 23:42-43, Jesus promised Paradise to the repentant thief. If there’s no life after death, the thief’s request and Jesus’ promise wouldn’t make sense.

According to Jesus, the most significant issue of life is facing the reality of life after death. He said in Mark 9:47 (NIV), “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.”

5. The Injustices of Life

If happiness on earth is all there is to life, what hope do the poor and oppressed have to continue living? If we knew there was nothing beyond the grave, it would be difficult to believe that life is good.

While some people are destined for success and happiness, some are born into terrible relationships and circumstances. If there is nothing to offset the unequal distribution of suffering, cursing the day of your birth becomes valid (Job 3:1-3).

Revelation 21:4, NKJV

But knowing that there is life after death gives hope to everyone, especially the less fortunate. We may suffer the injustices of life here on earth but we have a promising future ahead of us.

The Bible promises faithful believers rewards in the afterlife (Matthew 5:12; James 1:12; Revelation 22:12; 1 Timothy 6:17-19, etc.). That is more than enough to keep us going in this life that we know is just temporary.

6. Longings of the Heart

Some people might think that happiness is found in what this world has to offer. But the human heart hungers for more. King Solomon said that God has not only made everything beautiful in its time. But He has also set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).

It might be difficult to know exactly what Solomon meant. But apparently, he was referring to an inescapable longing for something that this world can’t satisfy. This is an emptiness of the soul that no one, including King Solomon, could escape. For a while, he tried to fill this inner void with alcohol, work, and pleasure. He tried to satisfy his longings with music, philosophy, and sexual relationships. But it didn’t work.

It was only when Solomon returned to his confidence in a final judgment in the afterlife that he found satisfaction (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

7. Christ’s Resurrection

The greatest evidence for the existence of life after death is the resurrection of Jesus. Isaiah 53:1-12 and Daniel 9:26 predicted that a Messiah would come to defeat sin and death for His people. Jesus’s followers testified exactly that.

The predicted Messiah voluntarily gave His life and was buried in a borrowed tomb (John 19:41-42). Three days later, He rose from the grave and appeared to hundreds of people for 40 days before ascending to heaven. See Acts 1:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

Jesus Rose from the Dead

Christ’s resurrection gives believers hope that they too will rise when Christ comes at the sounding of the last trumpet.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, NIV).

Conclusion

Nothing offers more courage than the confidence that there is a better life waiting ahead. Knowing that there is life after death is a source of optimism and spiritual betterment. Belief in the unlimited opportunities of eternity has enabled many followers of Christ to endure the trials they are going through.

It’s this reality that enabled Jesus to say in Matthew 16:26-27, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Heaven, an Unexpected Journey: One Man’s Experience with Heaven, Angels, and the Afterlife (An NDE Collection) by Jim Woodford and Dr. Thom Gardner

Heaven, an Unexpected Journey: One Man’s Experience with Heaven, Angels, and the Afterlife by Jim Woodford and Dr. Thom GardnerWhen Jim Woodford died, he spent 11 hours in Heaven. When he came back, he was changed forever.

A successful airline pilot and businessman, Jim had it all—a loving family, substantial wealth, and all of the good things that come with it. But none of this was enough to satisfy the emptiness he felt in his heart. He always hungered for something more. And then he died.

Jim was never a religious man. When it came to matters of God and faith, he was ambivalent. But as he lay in the hospital bed, clinically dead for more than 11 hours, his consciousness was transported to the wonders of Heaven and the horrors of hell. When he returned to this world, he brought back the missing peace his soul had been longing for.

Join Jim Woodford on this unforgettable journey into the afterlife!

  • Awaken to the vivid sights, sounds, and sensations that you can enjoy in Heaven forever.
  • Be inspired by detailed descriptions of the “contrails of prayer” in Heaven’s skies, the “sticky love” of God, what it feels like to hug an angel, and more!
  • Encounter the chilling realities of hell and the sharp claws of destruction that threatened to pull Jim into eternal darkness.
  • Take comfort in the “six simple words” that led Jim into the presence of Christ.

Whether you need hope for tomorrow or strength for today, this story is your invitation to a radical transformation!

Why We Believe Jesus is the Only Way

Why We Believe Jesus is the Only Way

Jesus’ statement in John 14:6 that He is the only way to God has raised so many questions. Why should we believe Jesus’ claim about Himself? What reasons do Christians have to continue to believe that personal faith in Jesus is so important?

In this post, let us look at the biblical evidence why Christ is the only way to heaven.

The Uniqueness of Christ

It is undeniable that there are some parallels between the teachings of Christ and other world religions. For instance, Christ’s emphasis on treating others the way we want to be treated is not unique to Christianity.

However, the comparative similarities are only part of the picture. Other major world religions emphasize the importance of human efforts to get us right with God. The gospel of Christ, in contrast, says that no one can come to the Father except through the Lord Jesus.

It’s only by grace through faith in Christ and His finished works on the cross that we can attain salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

JESUS is the Only Way to GOD

Salvation through Christ Alone

Does the Bible say that Christ is the only way to God? The apostle Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).

But Peter did not come up with this conclusion on his own. He was with others when Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Why did the apostles and Jesus’ followers conclude that He had a right to make such amazing claims about Himself? It’s because they were witnesses to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

Can One Be Saved without Hearing the Gospel?

If salvation is through the gospel, what about those who have never heard? We must understand that until the church was born, repentant sinners got saved without hearing the whole gospel message.

One of the thieves who was executed along with Jesus repented and got saved even without the whole gospel. The message of Christ’s death for sin and His subsequent resurrection had not yet been declared. But one of the thieves found mercy when he repented of his sins and asked Jesus to remember him (Luke 23:42-43).

The thief understood he had no hope but divine grace, and that the dispensing of that grace lay in Jesus’ power. This demonstrates true faith on the part of the dying thief, and Christ graciously affirmed the man’s salvation.

To what extent can we apply this example to others who recognize their sin and appeal to the one true God for mercy? We don’t know for sure. But the Bible shows that God sacrificed His own Son to assure salvation for those who will believe (John 3:16).

God is Just and Fair

Perhaps we find ourselves struggling with issues of fairness. Will God give everyone an equal opportunity to hear the message of Christ? It’s troubling to think that many people will suffer in hell because they were not given a chance to hear the gospel.

What about the people who suffer from mental retardation or other diseases? It would be impossible for them to hear and consider the good news of Christ. Some die at a very early age without hearing the gospel message.

In cases like this, we need to trust the Judge of all the earth to do what is right (Genesis 18:25). God is fair and just, no doubt about that; He knows what He’s doing.

Here’s a beautiful prayer song you can sing for the Lord, your Savior.

Jesus is the Son of God

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul also noted the uniqueness of Christ. In Romans 1:1-5, Paul identified some distinctives that he believed set Christ apart from all other religious leaders.

According to Paul, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God, who possessed both a human and a divine nature. This was something that he had once found impossible to admit. Well educated in the doctrine and theology of Moses, Paul initially persecuted Jews who followed Jesus.

After a life-changing encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, Paul became convinced that Jesus was both God and Savior (Titus 2:13).

Paul became one of the witnesses of Christ’s resurrection – a resurrection that distinguishes the gospel of Jesus Christ from all other faiths. Unlike all the other religious teachers and leaders, Jesus did not remain dead. And Jesus’ resurrection is God’s vindication of His claim that He is indeed the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4).

Thus, Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”

The apostle believed that Christ had provided salvation that needed to be offered first to his countrymen and then to all nations.

Final Words

The Bible could not be more explicit in its proclamation of the exclusivity and sufficiency of Christ. Jesus came to live and die as a substitutionary sacrifice for those who will receive Him as their personal Lord and Savior (John 1:12; John 14:6; John 3:16).

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The consequence of that sin is death or separation from God (Romans 6:23). The good news is that because of God’s love and deep compassion for us, He sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sin on the cross (1 Peter 3:18).

Have you received Christ and surrendered your life to Him? If not, have you thought about your response to the gospel? It’s not enough to know what the Lord has done for you. You must respond by personal choice.

It’s easy to put off making a decision but God wants you to decide about His Son today. Behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

If you want to receive the Lord’s forgiveness and His gift of eternal life, you can express it in this simple prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I acknowledge I am a sinner and can’t save myself. Thank you for your sacrifice on the cross for me. I sincerely repent of my sins and receive you as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life and mold me into the kind of person You want me to be. Amen!”

If you sincerely prayed this, you are now a child of God and have the assurance of eternal life.


Recommended Resource:

Is Jesus the Only Way? by Philip Graham Ryken

Is Jesus the Only Way

We’ve all heard people say it: “The problem with Christians is that they think Jesus is the only way to heaven.” Even reason says: We go to the college of our choice, watch the cable channel of our choice, and eat the food of our choice.

So why can’t we pray to the god of our choice and get to heaven by any means we choose?

These are fair questions. Questions that demand an answer if Christians are going to insist that their claims are true—and that all other religions’ claims about salvation are thereby false.

They are questions Philip Ryken confronts head-on in this accessible book.

Within these pages, the four essential Christian beliefs that pluralists find most troublesome are explained in clear, everyday terms. Ryken argues not only that Jesus is the only way, but also why this must be true.

Living Out Your Heavenly Citizenship

Living Out Your Heavenly Citizenship

Many people all around the world want to get to America and eventually become citizens. Why not? I’ve heard many Americans say that the United States is the greatest country on planet earth. And that the poorest people in the United States are the richest people in third-world countries!

So, I get it. People, especially from third-world countries see America as a ticket to a better life. So much so that there are thousands of illegal crossings at the Texas-Mexico border daily. I can’t blame them. Who does not want to live the American dream?

But if there’s one citizenship that every person on planet earth should want to have, it’s heavenly citizenship.

Bible Verse: Philippians 3:20, NLT

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.”

We must note that in his letter, the apostle Paul was addressing the Philippian believers. When he said, “We are citizens of heaven …” he was referring to himself and the church.

How did they acquire their heavenly citizenship? By acknowledging their sins, repenting, and trusting in Christ as their Lord and Savior.

If you did the very same thing that the church at Philippi did, then you are also a citizen of heaven. You may be holding a Philippine passport, British passport, American passport, etc. But you also have an invisible passport to heaven.

A Heavenly Citizenship

In the sight of God, there are only two kinds of citizenship: earthly and heavenly. Your earthly citizenship is temporary while your heavenly citizenship is for eternity.

God has already predetermined our race and nationality before conception. But that does not mean we can’t choose to become citizens of another country. God does not forbid you to move to another country and become a citizen there.

But God desires for everyone to become citizens of heaven just as He originally designed them to be.

Adan & Eve in the Garden of Eden

Before the fall, Adam and Eve held heavenly citizenship. Didn’t they enjoy intimate daily fellowship with God? However, things changed after they deliberately disobeyed God.

As a result, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was broken and they forfeited their heavenly citizenship. The good news is that God wanted to restore that broken fellowship. He also wanted to open the pathway for all earthly citizens to become citizens of heaven.

John 3:16 tells us what God did to accomplish that.

How to Live as Citizens of Heaven

The moment a sinner repents and accepts the gift of eternal life from God, he acquires heavenly citizenship. But what does it mean to become a citizen of heaven? How should Christians live out their heavenly citizenship?

1. Do Not Live Like the World

Paul said this to the church in Rome:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …” (Romans 12:2, ESV).

In the NIV translation, this verse reads, “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world…” This simply means Christians should STOP copying the lifestyle of the world.

Before coming into the knowledge of God’s truth, we were just like the people in the world. We conducted ourselves in the same manner and behavior, held the same beliefs and customs. And whatever the world dictates as acceptable, we also deemed acceptable.

Paul said the same thing to the believers in Ephesus but reworded and expounded on it. “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (Ephesians 4:17, NIV).

If we continue reading Ephesians 4:18-32, Paul enumerates all the things that the Gentiles do and tells them how they should live instead. To summarize, Paul said, “Throw off your old sinful nature and put on your new nature.”

Now that we’re no longer earthly citizens, we need to stop behaving just like the people of the world. Instead, we are to start living our new life in Christ as new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).

New Life in Christ

2. Do Not Love the World

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” – 1 John 2:15, NASB

This does not mean we should loathe anything and everything that is in the world. Remember, God originally created everything “good” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 21, 25).

For instance, marriage and family which are earthly institutions are good. Scientific and advanced medicines are good because they help cure diseases and prolong human life. Technology is good because it connects people who are miles away from each other.

Wealth and riches are good because they allow us to have a comfortable life. The Bible does not say money is the root of all evil. It’s the love of money that is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

The “good things” from God become “bad” only as a result of Satan’s perversion. So, there’s nothing wrong and everything right about enjoying God and the blessings He freely bestows on us in this life.

But let us be careful to not get too attached to this life and the things of this world. This is what it means to not love the world. It’s about setting our priorities straight.

The Word of God reminds us to not start obsessing about the wealth and pleasures of this world. This is because earthly pleasures are not from the Father (1 John 2:16-17, NASB).

Friendship with the World

As citizens of heaven, we should not also be too friendly with the world. Friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God (James 4:4). Intimate friendship requires a commitment. When you choose to side with the world, you just chose to be in opposition to God. It’s because the world is currently ruled by Satan who is the archenemy of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

You can’t be loyal to two opposing parties. As Matthew 6:24 (NIV) says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Joshua said the same thing (Joshua 24:15), “Choose this day whom you will serve…”

The bottom line is, there is no middle ground, there is no gray area. When you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. If you are friends with the world, you become an enemy of God.

It’s a matter of choice!

James 4:4

3. Live as Pilgrims in a Foreign Country

“Dear friends, I warn you as temporary residents and foreigners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” – 1 Peter 2:11, NLT

Peter kind of echoed what King David said.

We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.” – 1 Chronicles 29:15, NLT

A stranger or foreigner is a temporary resident or traveler in a foreign country, passing through on his way to his home country. This is what we are in this world. Thus, we have a different mentality about life as compared to the permanent residents of this world.

As travelers, we don’t live according to the customs and standards of the foreign country we are in. But for the sake of not offending the locals, we may temporarily adopt some of their customs if they are morally neutral.

For instance, women here in Saudi Arabia are required to wear abayas and keep their heads covered. So, foreign women must do the same when they come here. Also, during Ramadan which is the month of fasting for Muslims, we should not eat or drink in front of them.

4. Set Your Hearts & Minds on Heavenly Things

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” – Colossians 3:1-2, NIV

To set our minds on things above means we should think of heavenly things; we should meditate on the things of God and His Kingdom.

But what about setting our hearts on the things above? What does this mean? In the Bible, the “heart” always stands for our affection, aspiration, desire, and passion.

Paul’s encouragement to the believers is that their desires align with God’s desires and be passionate about them. And also for them to develop a heavenly mindset – a way of thinking that goes far beyond what humans perceive.

We must note that everything on earth is temporary. Everything visible will come to an end while what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Billy Graham Quote

Know Your Priorities

However, to desire heavenly things and think about the things of God does not mean we should not live in fullness. It does not mean you should not get married and have a family just because our Lord never married.

Or if you have a family, you neglect your responsibilities to them and claim that you are focused on God’s work. And if you’re a mother, you need to take care of your husband and children.

As a man or woman of God, your first ministry is your family. Take care of your family first before attempting to take care of God’s business in the church. You cannot be effective in the church if you can’t even take care of your own family.

It’s the same thing at work. Whatever your job maybe you should, by all means, give your best. Always give it your 100%. As Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV) says, “We must do everything as working for the Lord…”

But as citizens of heaven, we need to always prioritize the Kingdom of God. We have to carry out God’s mandate known as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) – witnessing/evangelism and discipleship.

We are to keep building the church by using our God-given talents and resources to serve God and others.

Conclusion

Are you living as citizens of heaven?

We are aliens and strangers on this earth, heading as pilgrims toward heaven. We’ve got to adopt that mindset, which includes constantly remembering that we aren’t staying here for long. Our home is in heaven. We should live like it!

Although we are still in this world, we are not of this world. Many things could go wrong in this world but we shouldn’t get distracted.

As heavenly citizens, we are to remain faithful to God, live in righteousness, and anticipate the promised return of Christ. Philippians 3:21 tells us what happens when Christ returns.

“He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” – Philippians 3:21, NLT

This is the third and final phase of our salvation – the glorification of our bodies. This will take place in the event known as the rapture, our blessed hope.


Recommended Resource: A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths about Your Eternal Home by Dr. Robert Jeffress

A Place Called Heaven by Robert Jeffress

If any of us learned we were going to move to a foreign country, we’d do everything we could to learn about that place so that we’d be prepared when moving day arrived.

As Christians, we know someday we will leave our familiar country and be united with God in heaven. And yet many of us know very little about this place called heaven.

In this enlightening book, bestselling author Dr. Robert Jeffress opens the Scriptures to unpack ten surprising truths about heaven and explain who we will see there and how we can prepare to go there someday.

Perfect for believers or skeptics who are curious about heaven.

God’s Example of Gift-Giving

God’s Example of Gift-Giving

Christmas is just around the corner. And get this … Christmas celebration is not complete without gift-giving! I believe this is the part that makes most people, especially kids, excited about Christmas. This is the highlight of most celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

Don’t you love gifts! Everybody loves gifts! I do not know of anyone who doesn’t.

Giving presents and exchanging gifts have become parts of our practices and traditions. And that is not a bad thing! The problem is this, we tend to be choosy.

We want something fancy and expensive. We want to get the best of all gifts. Little do most people realize that God has already given us the best gift. I’m talking about the greatest gift we’ve ever received mentioned in Ephesians 2:8-9.

We are saved by grace

God’s Greatest Gift to Us

This gift of God has nothing to do with our efforts. We didn’t earn it, deserve it, or purchase it. God gave it through His sacrificial gift so our salvation would not be our boast, but His kindness.

What is this gift? Our salvation!

We may not realize it but this gift from God is unlike any other gift that we can buy from the gift shop. Some people may think it’s cheap because it is available to anyone who wants to receive it. But it’s priceless; you can’t put a price tag on it.

It’s because God paid for it with His life. Jesus redeemed us with His blood (Ephesians 1:7). To redeem means “to pay off,” “to buy back,” or “to regain possession of.”

Originally, we belonged to God. But because of sin, we were separated from God. We’re on our way to hell and are destined to spend eternity there. But God did not want us to perish so He sent His Son to redeem us.

God’s Greatest Gift to Us

First of all, Christ did not come down to earth to start a Christmas tradition that includes the giving of gifts to one another. Christ came to offer His life as a ransom for many. He came to give us eternal life.

By doing what He did, God also exemplified the true meaning of gift-giving.

So, what are the things that God wants us to take into consideration whenever we give to others?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Giving Should be Motivated by Love

God had one reason and one reason only for giving us the greatest gift of all and that is love. We have no reason to doubt this. You see, God did not have to give His Son but He did it anyway.

Why? It’s all because of His great love. God is not only full of love; God is love (1 John 4:16). Everything God does stems from His great love for us. If God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, how can He not also give us all things (Romans 8:32)?

What about us? What is our motivation in giving? In goal-setting, they call this “finding your why.” In other words, what’s your reason for doing the things that you do.

Giving Should be Motivated by Love

Why do you give to charitable institutions and orphanages? Is it because your friends are doing it? If your reason is that you feel sorry for them, that means your heart is in the right place.

Why do you give in support of God’s work? Why do you give birthday presents to your friends or other people on any occasion?

By the way, giving is not only in terms of material things, like money or anything tangible. It could also mean spending time with your friends and loved ones. Or taking a break from your busy schedule to comfort a colleague or friend who’s going through tough times.

Giving Should Be Unconditional

Unconditional means “no strings attached.” It’s just like how God gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins. God was not expecting anything in return. All He wanted was to spare us from eternal condemnation.

But these days, when you offer something too good to be true, people are quick to ask, “What’s the catch?” And we can’t blame them. As they always say, “You don’t get anything for free. There are no free hand-outs and if there are, they’re most likely trash.”

When God gave us the greatest gift of all, He did so without condition. How do we know this? It’s because God did it out of love and God’s love is unconditional.

God did not say, “Hey, you need to be a good person first.” Neither did He say, “Turn away from your sin and then I will give My Son to die for you” (Romans 5:8).

God had expectations as some scholars argue, it’s that everyone would receive His gift by faith. And also, for them to share that gift with others. This is why Jesus gave the Great Commission.

But we need to emphasize that what God expects from the recipients of His gift is not for His benefit. Rather, it’s for the people who are still in darkness. Simply put, it’s about giving back or passing it on.

Do we give, expecting something in return? Isn’t it more blessed to give than to receive? This is why it’s always best to give to the people who are unable to give back to us.

This is not to say that the principle of “give and take” is wrong or bad. What is wrong is when a person who has the means to give prefers to be always on the receiving end.

Giving Should Be Unconditional

Giving Should be Sacrificial

When we hear the word sacrifice, it always involves doing something difficult and painful. It’s not going to be easy and it would take courage to be able to do it. It’s about setting aside your own comfort and happiness for the sake of others.

God modeled sacrificial giving 2,000 years ago. The Father endured the pain of having to watch His only Son suffer and die at the hands of His creation. But for man to be spared from hell, God had to experience pain.

We all know the story of Abraham who is about to offer his son Isaac on Mount Moriah? That was a foreshadowing of what God would do to His Son about 1,500 years later on Mount Calvary.

I can’t imagine the pain that a parent has to go through when his only child gets brutally killed in front of him. You are blessed to not have to go through this kind of pain.

Have you ever felt pain as a result of “giving” to your family or loved ones? You were saving for a new cellphone but your daughter needed money to pay her lease. Or you wanted to treat yourself to an expensive restaurant but your friend suddenly in need.

These are part of the sacrifice we have to make just so we can give to our loved ones or extend help to those in need.

Giving Should be Purposeful

Why did God give His Son to die on the cross? What was His purpose for sacrificing His only Son? For us to have eternal life! To provide salvation to all who will believe. Again, it’s for the benefit of the recipients.

If we read Isaiah 53:10, it says, “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him (the Son), putting Him to grief.” Doesn’t that sound brutal?

But God did not just do this for nothing. God’s giving of His Son was for the sole purpose of saving us from the horrors of hell. It should be the same thing with us when we give anything to someone. It should always be for the benefit of the one who gets the gift.

Is what you’re giving beneficial to the receiver? Is it something they need? Oftentimes, what people want is not necessarily what they need. This is why when we ask God for something that does not benefit us, He won’t give it (1 John 5:14). God will not grant our requests that are harmful to us.

Giving Should Be Purposeful

On our part, when we give a gift or present, we don’t give something just for the sake of giving. We should give it some thought. Again, this comes down to our reason or motivation in giving. When we give out of love, we will surely give what we think is best for the recipient.

No matter how expensive your gift might be if it won’t be useful to the one who gets it, it’s useless. On the other hand, even if the gift is somewhat cheap as long as it’s exactly what the person needs, it will be valued and appreciated.

Bottom line is, it’s not the worth that counts but its usefulness.

Final Thoughts

God modeled the true meaning of gift-giving. God has not only given us so much; He’s also given us the greatest gift of all.

God gave us His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the person of Jesus Christ, we find salvation, redemption, reconciliation with God, and eternal life (1 John 5:12).

The least we could do to pay back God for all He’s done is to strive to follow our Lord’s example. We are to share that gift with others as well.

So, to recap what God has taught us about gift-giving, remember the acronym P-L-U-S.

Christ's Example of Gift-Giving

 

Recommended Resource: Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ by Timothy Keller

From pastor and New York Times, bestselling author Timothy Keller comes the perfect gift for the Christmas holiday—a profoundly moving and intellectually provocative examination of the nativity story.

Even people who are not practicing Christians think they are familiar with the story of the nativity. Every Christmas displays of Baby Jesus resting in a manger decorate lawns and churchyards, and songs about shepherds and angels fill the air.

Yet despite the abundance of these Christian references in popular culture, how many of us have examined the hard edges of this biblical story?

In his new book, Timothy Keller takes readers on an illuminating journey into the surprising background of nativity.

By understanding the message of hope and salvation within the Bible’s account of Jesus’ birth, readers will experience the redeeming power of God’s grace in a deeper and more meaningful way.

The Very First Christian Song

The Very First Christian Song

Let me ask you, Christian, “What do you think is the very first Christian song?” If you are in your 50’s or 60’s you probably know more songs than those in their 20’s. Well, that is if you have been keeping track of every song written about God and for God. With all the Christian singers and bands since time immemorial, not many of us could keep up.

Going back to the question on the first-ever Christian song … it might not be what you’re thinking.

The Role of Music in the Church

Music makes a worship service; that is hard for a preacher to admit. But we also know that music (praise and worship) prepares the soul to hear and receive the Word.

Can we have a church service without music? Why can’t we just pray, listen to the sermon, give our tithes and love offering, and then go home? Can you imagine a church service without music and singing? I bet you couldn’t.

Ascribe to the Lord the Glory due His Name

I’m reminded of the story behind the song, “Heart of Worship.” In his conversation with Crosswalk, Matt Redman admitted that his church was struggling spiritually. This is despite their worship band’s huge contribution to the worship revival in churches worldwide.

He went on to say that there was a dynamic missing. So, the pastor decided to get rid of the sound system and they just sang with their voices. His point was that they’d lost their way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

By the time they re-introduced the musicians and the sound system, the congregation had gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus.

Joy to the World

It’s December once again, which means Christians around the world are getting ready to celebrate the first coming of Christ. Yeah, I know; Christmas this year may not be the kind of celebration most people used to have. We can blame Covid-19 all we want but doing so won’t make things better. Rather, it would make us feel even more miserable.

Regardless of our current situation, we must never forget what Christmas is all about. The main reason we celebrate the yuletide season is that Christ came to bring salvation to all men (Titus 2:11). The world celebrates Christmas for several other reasons but we celebrate Jesus, God’s greatest gift to us.

Is “Joy to the World” the first Christian song? It may be one of the oldest and most popular Christmas songs ever! What a joy, indeed, when Christ left His throne above. He came down to the earth He created, became a man, and dwelt among us (John 1:14). As wonderful as this song is, it’s not the first Christian song.


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What Makes a Song Christian

A song isn’t Christian just because the artist or the songwriter are Christians. It’s not also a Christian song because of the rhyme or melody. What makes a Christian song is the lyrics; the words that make up the song. Christian songs include songs that talk about the love of God, His mercy, grace, and compassion.

But what about some so-called Christian songs by Christian singers and rock bands that are theologically off? Meaning, unscriptural songs? One particular song that comes to mind is “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong. The song starts pretty okay but as we come to the second verse it becomes clear that something is wrong. It says, “You didn’t want heaven without us. So, Jesus, You brought heaven down.”

It’s true; the name of Jesus is beautiful, wonderful, and powerful. He is the Creator, can never be defeated, and has no rival. But to say that God did not want heaven without us? That sure would make people think that they are more important than God.

This is why when worship leaders select songs for their lineup, they must consider the message that the songs communicate. Do these songs line up with Scripture? Do they bring honor and glory to God?

The First Christian Song

We know that followers of Jesus were first referred to as Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:19-25. But how did Christianity begin?

Christianity began with a song. When Christ was born in the manger, an angel went to a nearby field and announced the news to shepherds who were watching their flocks.

Luke 2:13-14

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God. They were saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Upon hearing the good news, the shepherds started glorifying and praising God. With hearts full of joy, they sang the very first Christian song. These shepherds are a great example for us to imitate today. They received by faith the message God sent them and went on to give praise to the Most High.

Luke 2:14
Photo Credit: The Skit Guys

Victory Songs

In the Bible, singing was used to celebrate victories. Moses sang a song of victory just after God covered Pharaoh’s chariots with the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1). Surrounded by three enemy armies, Jehoshaphat sent the choir singing unto the Lord before the attacking armies (2 Chronicles 20:21).

Imagine how the enemy laughed. But the songs of praise released the angels of God who attacked and annihilated the enemies. Anointed singing destroys the power of darkness (Psalm 149:5-6). It is spiritual warfare that will cause every demon to run in total terror.

After the Lord’s Supper, the disciples joined Jesus in singing a hymn before they walked to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30). Singing prepared Jesus for the Passion to follow.

After being beaten and surrounded by disease and filth in prison, Paul and Silas could still sing praises to God. God heard them and sent an earthquake to rock the doors open. Paul and Silas walked out of that prison with a convert – the jailer. Singing with anointing moves the hand of God (Acts 16:25).

Final Thoughts

In as much as we enjoy singing and listening to the best Christian songs, one day, we will get to hear God’s newest release.

Revelation 14:3

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.”

What a song that will be. Imagine hearing the debut of a new song to usher in the eternal reign of Christ the King.

Are you looking forward to hearing God’s brand new song?

While waiting for that day to come, let us keep singing Christian songs. Let us use music to praise and glorify God and express our love for and gratitude to God.

God’s Principles of Giving

God’s Principles of Giving

Giving, particularly tithing, is just one of the few subjects that often cause division and conflict within the body of Christ. Although God has laid out clear principles of giving in His Word, many Christians still struggle a lot in this area. Some even go to the extreme of accusing the church leadership of just being interested in money.

Why is it that many Christians seem to have the wrong attitude when it comes to the issue of money? It’s pretty easy for many to get involved in the church ministry and sacrifice their time, gifts, and talents. But when asked to give financially for the works of the Lord, suddenly they become indifferent.

In the same way that money is the engine on which our society runs, the church also needs money to run the Father’s business. Outside of the giving of its members, the church has no source of income.

The Role of Money in Society

5 Biblical Principles of Giving

In both the Old and the New Testaments, we see several principles of giving that help us to see money from God’s perspective. May these five principles enable us to handle God’s blessings in a way that is aligned with His will.

Sometimes, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with God’s abundant favor that we forget to seek God’s guidance on how to use them. We must never forget that God has a purpose for everything and He is in control of all things. At the end of the day, our purpose is to live for God and His glory.

So, here we go …

#1 Principle: God Owns Everything

There is no argument that God is sovereign over everything in heaven and on earth; this is the principle of sovereignty. All things that exist belong to God and God alone (1 Chronicles 29:11).

It was not enough for King David, a noble and successful king, to acknowledge that the entire earth belonged to God. He added that all its fullness also belonged to Him, including the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).

Psalm 24:1, NIV

David emphasized the truth that God’s ownership of the earth extends to the people who live upon it. Through the rights of creation and continuing provision, God has a claim upon every person who has ever lived. This includes everything that they own, possess, and will acquire. Can you think of a more sweeping statement of God’s ownership?

So, if God owns everything, what do you have that rightfully belongs to you? Nothing! Nada! God’s sovereignty gives Him the exclusive right to exercise supreme authority over everything. And that extends even to our personal belongings. All that we are and all that we have are His.

You may ask, “How do I honor God’s sovereignty in my giving?”

#2 Principle: We are but Stewards

Although all things belong to our God, He has entrusted us to care for and use His possessions. This is the principle of stewardship. What is required of a steward? Faithfulness!

As stewards, we must be faithful in the way we use God’s talents and treasures inside and outside the church.

In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul used the image of the steward. A steward is a servant who manages everything for his master, but who himself owns nothing. As caretakers of God’s money and property, we must do well to use them only for His purpose and glory. Thus, we give in support of the needs of the church and the ministry.

Jesus also gave a parable indicating that one day we will give an account to God on how we handled God’s money. Will God find us faithful and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Are you spending the money entrusted to you by God to honor Him and further His Kingdom?

#3 Principle: Sowing and Reaping

When a farmer sows his seed, he may think that he lost it as it fell from his hand into the ground. In the same way, we may feel we are losing money every time we give. But just as the farmer gives the seed in anticipation of a future harvest, we should give with the same expectation. And the better quality of seeds we sow, the greater will the harvest be.

This is the principle of increase that Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 9:6. We reap in measure as we sow. This principle needs little explanation because we see it operating in everyday life.

The farmer who sows much seed will have a better chance for a bigger harvest. The investor who puts a large sum of money into a company will certainly collect more dividends. As we invest more in the work of the Lord, the more “fruit” will abound to our account.

2 Corinthians 9:6, NLT

Keep in mind that when we give to God, we are never losers. God always rewards the giving heart both now and in eternity. But what do we reap when we sow into God’s Kingdom? We will reap a harvest of blessings, both material and spiritual.

Don’t stop the flow of God’s blessing by disobeying Him in the area of giving.

#4 Principle: God Supplies All Our Needs

In Philippians 4:19, Paul tells the church that God would supply all their needs. Why did Paul believe this? It’s because they met his needs. They call this the supply principle.

The apostle did not see the gifts of the Philippian believers as simply coming from them. He saw it as the supply of his need from heaven. Paul trusted the Lord to provide for his needs and God did through the believers at Philippi.

To paraphrase what Paul said, we might state it this way, “You met my need, God is going to meet yours. You met one need that I have, but my God will meet all your needs. You gave out of your poverty, but God will supply your needs out of His riches in glory.”

There is a direct correlation between God supplying our needs and the liberality with which we supply the needs of others.

2 Corinthians 9:10 also speaks of how God supplies the giver with his own needs and also the means to give to others. As long as God can count on us to supply the needs of others, He will continue to provide for us. God supplies not just our daily needs; He gives excess for us to share with others.

#5 Principle: Our Attitude Towards Giving

This is the principle of sincerity. How do you react every time the offering basket is passed around? Do you often make an excuse to skip this part of the worship service by going to the washroom? Or do you pretend to not know what’s going on? 

I know that many Christians do not believe tithing is commanded in the New Testament. The sad part is that they mock those who do and call them fools for (allegedly) believing their pastor’s lies. I get it; we don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to biblical tithing.

For this reason, I want us to stick to giving in general, whether it be in tithes or in freewill offerings. What attitudes should not characterize our giving? 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Here’s a song by Ron Kenoly to encourage us to be faithful in our giving unto the Lord.

No Grudges nor Reluctance

“Grudgingly” literally means “not in grief.” When we give, we should not be sad nor feel like it’s something painful to do. And after giving, we should not regret having done so and complain or murmur.

Not Out of Necessity or Under Compulsion

Do you give out of pressure or because you feel compelled or manipulated? Or is it because you have been made to feel guilty?

The Jews were required to give under the law. For fear of legal and moral punishment, some of them would grudgingly give what necessity obliged them. What about you?

We Give from the Heart

The Christian attitude and motive in giving or in any other activity for the Lord are vitally important. Our giving must come from the heart, and the motive in the heart must please God. Our giving is to be sincere, heartfelt, and in recognition of God’s abundant provisions in our life.

We must not be “sad givers” who give reluctantly or “mad givers” who give in response to pressure. Rather, we should be “glad givers” who cheerfully share what we have because we have experienced the grace of God.

The believers who are motivated by grace reap the blessings of personal enrichment in their lives and characters.

Proverbs 22:9, NASB

Concluding Words

As we pointed out, God is sovereign over everything and has entrusted us with His properties. God also promised an increase when we sow our seeds and will supply all our needs exceedingly so we can share with others. Finally, God is concerned about our character in giving.

You might ask, “If the two negative attitudes mentioned in 2 Corinthians 9:7 characterize me, is it better for me not to give?” For sure many would say, “Yes, you should not give if it’s not from your heart.” However, I’d say we should not stop supporting the work of God. 

Instead, we should keep obeying God in this area of giving and ask Him to change our attitude. It may hurt at first to give sacrificially into the ministry. But this should not deter us from continually doing what is morally right.

Whenever we purpose in our hearts the amount of seed that we sow into God’s fertile soil, may we consider these five biblical principles of giving.

God bless us all!


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: The Grace of Giving: A Biblical Study of Christian Stewardship by Stephen F. Olford

The Grace of Giving: A Biblical Study of Christian Stewardship by Stephen F. Olford

Financial giving is a topic that many people don’t openly discuss. It is also a topic that many Christians misunderstand and undervalue.

With a solid perspective, Dr. Olford has penned a comprehensive, honest, and deeply perceptive study of financial stewardship that will help many in understanding this important topic.