Friday, December 2, 2016

Does God Cause Suffering?

Even though God’s ultimate and perfect will is for His children to be blessed, since we live in a fallen world, God’s children still suffer. As long as we live in this fallen world, there will be suffering. Jesus suffered on the cross. Paul suffered as he traveled and preached the Gospel. “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless” (1 Corinthians 4:11 NIV). Yet, despite his suffering for the sake of the Gospel, Paul learned to be content in every circumstance. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12 NIV).
In this world, the believer is promised persecution. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV). Few preachers enjoy preaching on persecution but Paul promises, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV). We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22) Believers are also promised that the world will hate them (John 15:18), that troubles will come in this world, “In the world you will have tribulation,” (John 16:33), that their own family might hate them (Matthew 10:35), that suffering would come (1 Peter 3:14), that the believer would “suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29), and that God would discipline them (Hebrews 12:10). Christians are encouraged to rejoice even in the midst of suffering, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
The Apostles suffered greatly as they preached the Gospel. Peter was crucified upside down on a cross, Andrew was crucified on a cross in Patrae, James the son of Zebedee was put to death by the sword in Jerusalem by King Herod (Acts 12:1-2), John miraculously emerged unhurt from a cauldron of boiling oil, and later he was exiled to the island of Patmos. Philip was crucified during the reign of Dominian, Bartholomew was skinned alive, Thomas was stabbed to death with a spear by Hindu priests, Jude was run through with a spear, and Simon the Zealot was sawn into pieces. Paul’s head was chopped off.
Did the Apostles suffer as they spread the Gospel? Yes, but their suffering and martyrdom was a result of Satan’s plan, not God’s best for their lives. Have I suffered as I have traveled around the world preaching? Yes, I have been shot at, had a gun pointed at me, my plane has caught on fire, I’ve had rocks thrown at me as I preached, been sick, and I’ve slept on dirt floors with bugs crawling over me all night. But, God caused none of this suffering. God is a good God and He has good plans for His children.

Some Christians are persecuted and even executed for their faith, but that is not part of God's plan for their lives. It is the result of terrorists. Don't blame God for the evil that exists in this world. Sometimes, God's perfect plan does not always come to pass. God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), yet not all are saved. Sometimes, because of the sinful world that we live in, God's plans do not fully come to pass, but this does not mean that God is actively planning evil for our lives or that He wills anything but the best for our lives.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Is Wealth Dangerous?

The Bible warns us about the potential dangers of wealth. Prosperity may make us forget the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:7-18). Wicked men can prosper (Psalm 37:35, Psalm 73:3,12). Solomon saw that sometimes the wicked prosper while the righteous go hungry (Ecclesiastes 7:15). Jeremiah asked God why wicked men sometimes prosper (Jeremiah 12:1). “The sun rises and the rain falls on both the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
The Bible warns us of the dangers of accumulating too much wealth. Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV). Jesus points out, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). Jesus cautions “woe to you who are rich” (Luke 6:24 NIV). Jesus warns that it is hard for a rich person to enter heaven, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24 NIV). Jesus told his disciples, ““How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23 NIV).
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus says that riches and pleasures can choke the seed of God’s word (Luke 8:14). Jesus calls us to give up everything we have to follow him, “those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:23 NIV) and he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NIV).
Paul teaches that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:8-10 NIV).

Whoever aspires to be a minister in the church should not love money (1 Timothy 3:3). The writer of Hebrews recommends, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Power of Sowing and Reaping

          When we give to God, God promises to bless us in return. The Israelites were told to give to the poor and to expect God’s blessing in return, “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to” (Deuteronomy 15:10 NIV). The sage writes, “Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return” (Ecclesiastes 11:1 NIV)
Wisdom literature declares, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10 NIV) and “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25 NIV).
The last book in the Old Testament reads, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10 NIV).
Paul writes, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6 NIV) and again, “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV).
            There is no dispute in the body of Christ concerning giving because virtually every church asks their members to give to the work of the Lord. The area of disagreement is in the area of receiving. Can the believer expect something from God in return for his giving? I believe the answer is yes. God is a rewarder.  “He rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).  

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blessed to Be a Blessing

 The purpose of wealth is to bless others. God blessed Abraham so that he could be a blessing to others. The purpose of God’s blessing is revealed in God’s promise to Abraham,I will bless you…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). Abraham was blessed to be a blessing and the believer today is blessed for the same reason. The blessing of God is not given for personal enrichment, rather it is given so that the believer can help others and spread the Gospel. This wealth with a purpose is echoed when Paul says, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV).

A Biblical definition of prosperity is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (NIV). Some have argued that the blessings of the New Testament are intangible, spiritual blessings, but it is tough to square this perspective with the phrase “all things.” When the verse says God is able to bless abundantly in all things, how can one argue that “all things” means “only spiritual things?” This verse also gives a proper balance to the believer’s wealth. God wants to supply all of the believer’s needs, but not his greeds. The purpose for wealth is that the believer will “abound in every good work.”  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Does God Want His Children to Be Blessed?


The Bible demonstrates that God blesses His followers with material blessings. God gave Adam the very best (Genesis 2:8-14), blessed Abraham and because of this blessing, Abraham became very wealthy (Genesis 13:2), God blessed Isaac (Genesis 26:12-14), Jacob (Genesis 30:43), Joseph (Genesis 39:2-6; 41:41-43), enriched Solomon (1 Kings 3:13; 10:14-29), and blessed Job (Job 42:10-17).
God gives believers the power to get wealth. “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant…” (Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV). God promised physical blessing to Israel for obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and promised a multitude of curses if they disobeyed (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).
God promised Joshua, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8 NIV).
To the righteous, the Psalmist promises, “whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3 NIV). The Lord “has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant” (Psalm 35:27 NKJV).
Those who fear the Lord will be blessed with wealth and riches. “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:1-3 NIV).
The righteous man will receive blessings and prosperity and his family will be blessed. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord” (Psalm 128:1-4 NIV). “The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without painful toil for it” (Proverbs 10:22 NIV).
Jehoshaphat promised the Israelites, “…Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chronicles 20:20 NIV). When the Jews were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, Nehemiah promised them, “the God of heaven will give us success” (Nehemiah 2:20 NIV). Many of these promises of material wealth are from the Old Testament, but there is no reason to suppose they do not equally apply to those under the New Covenant which is supposed to be an even better covenant (Hebrews 8:6).