Get free email updates as I write new articles:

Astounded By His Authority

“And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and seas obey Him?'” -Mark 4:41 (NKJV)

Early in the ministry of Jesus to his disciples, He offered them a powerful demonstration of His power and authority. They were astounded that the forces of nature were totally obedient to His voice. This respect for His authority would create in them a tremendous respect for Him throughout His earthly ministry. Indeed, Peter would be willing to say (brashly) that he would follow Jesus even to death. James and John would expect to call down fire from heaven in His name.

There is a detail, however, that we will miss if we read too quickly this wonderful story. Theirs was essentially a transfer of fear from nature to Jesus. Their spiritual depth grew during this turmoil in the sea. Have you ever looked at a stormy sky and been awestruck at the magnitude of nature’s power? The bigger question is, have you ever looked at a stormy sky and been awestruck at the magnitude of God’s power? There’s a huge difference.

When storms and crises come our way in life, we’ll either fear the storm and brace ourselves for what nature and life bring our way, or we’ll fear God and be prepared to watch Him work in our situation. The disciples were at a disadvantage. They did not have the record of this event recorded in a Bible for them since it was, of course, a developing story. We, on the other hand, have the privilege of knowing by past revelation that Jesus is there with us when crises come. So, when you see a storm coming, do you look for the One who calms the storm? Or do you simply look at the ominous clouds? Turn to Him and trust Him. Only the Prince of Peace can bring the ultimate calm.

A Competition of Two Commands

Court Says Tithing Not an Option for the Bankrupt – Christianity Today Magazine

Normally, I take the harder line on the question, “Should I tithe?” Most so-called theological arguments against the practice of tithing seem more like convenient rationalizations than well-researched answers to an age-old question. But this story may contain more than meets the eye. In short, Congress has passed new laws concerning bankruptcy and a court has now ruled that tithing may not be considered necessary living expense and therefore be exempt from collection.

Christians have chosen sides in the debate. There are those who see tithing as a mere matter of soul liberty and individual conscience and who therefore do not have strong feelings about the issue. Then there are those who believe that tithing is a universal and eternal command to all believers, regardless of financial stability. As the story circulated through my thinking, I arrived at a slightly different conclusion.

I’m a big believer in tithing. I believe tithing is at least a start, though we New Testament believers, living in the age of grace, are free to go far beyond a mere tenth of our increase. However, this ruling may point out a competition (though not a contradiction) between two commands. On the one hand is the command to tithe (Leviticus 27:30, etc.), but on the other is the issue of repaying debts owed.

Please understand that I do believe there are times when bankruptcy is necessary, as in the case of those who incur such large medical bills that they are rendered unable to attain any financial security afterward. But debt is debt, and to keep our testimony clear, we must repay what we borrow. If you’ve declared bankruptcy in the past, the law has released you from some of your debt, but before God you are still responsible to do everything in your power to repay the debt (voluntarily), clear your name, and keep a good testimony for Jesus’ sake.

Having said that, what of the issue of tithing after bankruptcy? Personally, I believe that the obligation to repay the debt comes first. Should you live beyond your means and have to declare bankruptcy as a result, God can forgive and restore you to financial heatlh, but there will always be consequences. One of the consequences will be an inability to enjoy the blessing of tithing, at least for a short time.

There is yet a larger issue at stake, and that is the testimony of the church in America. It is not right that Christians handle money so poorly and for a Christian to find an easy way out of paying a debt only brings harm and reproach to the cause of Christ. One who is forgiven of a debt through bankruptcy should work that much harder to repay the debt voluntarily, even before tithing, so as to restore a clear testimony before the world.

Whether it is right for the government to exempt tithing from protection as necessary living expense or not, I ‘m not sure. But on the issue of tithing while owing money to creditors, I believe that at least a minimum payment must be made to creditors first. Many well-meaning Bible-believers will disagree with my conclusion, and I respect them in the faith. I only hope they will understand that tithing is a high priority, a clear command, and an eternal principle for every believer, but so is being “above reproach.”

Let’s not give the world another reason to lose respect for God because of the poor witness of His people. Instead, let’s break free from the bondage of debt, repay those to whom we owe money, and give the firstfruits to God, trusting Him to provide “our daily bread.”

Two Sides of God’s Sovereignty

One of the most familiar verses in the New Testament is actually a quotation from Joel. In chapter two, verse thirty-two of his prophecy, Joel declares, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” (in Acts 2:21 the word “delivered” is rendered “saved”) But the verse, quoted in its entirety, includes an intriguing note: “…as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”

Here are two sides of the same issue – God’s sovereign salvation. He has sovereignly declared that anyone who will may be saved. Yet He is calling to Himself a remnant. Of course, in the Old Testament prophetic books, the “remnant” is referring to faithful Israel, or at least the portion of Israel which survives conquest and captivity. But the idea that God is saving a remnant seems to carry throughout Scripture.

We will never be able to understand all of the details, but the reality is that nobody gets saved without being chosen, yet anyone may be saved. No one comes to know Christ unless they are called of God as part of His remnant, yet anyone may know the Christ who offers Himself to all without price.

Like train tracks which never cross, these two doctrines are impossible to understand together. We fall to our extremes, but God’s will is that all be saved, yet He has made provision that all whom He calls will be saved. Like the old song says, “whosoever meaneth me!”

Repent And/Or Believe?

I often struggle to find the balance between certain aspects of my theology. One such area of difficulty is in the balance between teaching repentance and faith for salvation. There are many today who presume that repentance is not necessary for salvation. For me, this is not an option for repentance is too engrained into the message of the Bible. Others would say that mentioning faith without preaching repentance produces false converts.

[Read more…]

Worshipping In Spirit and Truth

“God is spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”—John 4:24

Our day is the day of “worship wars” when churches are fighting over whether worship should be “contemporary,” “traditional,” or a blend of both. I think both sides are wrong! We’ve totally missed the point of what worship is all about. The woman at the well wished to argue with the Master about the location of real worship. Our arguments are almost as shallow. Jesus points not to the where of worship, but to the who and to the how of worship. John Piper explains Jesus’ balanced teaching on worship quite well…

“Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers (like people who write generic anniversary cards for a living). On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.”

Worship happens as God becomes our all-consuming passion in life. When we desire Him above all else, and express that desire in praise, adoration, allegiance, and obedience, He gets the glory!