Why pray if God knows everything?

Jesus told a parable about a widow who sought justice for her wrongs. She made her plea to a judge who cared nothing for justice. At first he would not give her a just ruling. She kept pestering him, troubling him over and over again until he finally heeded her pleas. Jesus taught this parable to show that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” In Matthew 6:8 Jesus says, “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before you ask Him.” In the very next verse He taught the disciples how to pray. Why? Since God knows all things, including the needs of every person, the desires of the individual’s heart and the requests that will be made in prayer, why pray?

Christians pray because God commands it. The Bible assumes prayer will be a regular part of the believer’s life. The New Testament is filled with commands to pray. Throughout the apostle Paul’s letters God commands the church and the Christian to pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 simply says, “Pray without ceasing.”

Prayer is commanded of God for His pleasure and for the benefit of the believer. Proverbs 15:8 says, “The prayer of the upright is his delight.” God has great pleasure in those who trust Him and rely on Him for their needs. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.” (Psalm 147:11) Christians pray because it expresses their trust and hope in God which pleases Him.

Christian’s pray because it is a vital part of their spiritual preparation and readiness. The New Testament describes the praying Christian as a soldier on guard. Jesus warned Peter to “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” (Mark 14:38) 1 Peter 4:7 says, “Watch unto prayer.” Christians pray because prayer prepares them for the daily spiritual battles.

Christian’s pray because God has chosen to work through the prayers of His people. God does not need people to inform Him of needs, but He ordained that He would work in this world through prayer. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:17) This is not because the righteous have secret power or that the right words will force God to do what the person wants. God always does His will. He has chosen to work His will through the prayer of His people. Christians pray because God accomplishes His plan through prayer.

John Calvin said, “Believers do not pray, with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray, in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from Him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things.”

Should I have a funeral?

Funerals seem to be decreasing in popularity. Instead of a funeral families are frequently opting to not have a service of any kind, to limit the service to a brief time at the graveside, to hold a family gathering to scatter the ashes or to have a “celebration of life”. Are funerals important? Does the Bible teach that people should have funerals?

The Bible does not depict any funeral service as we would know it today. Scripture does describe various aspects of the rituals and ceremonies observed during times of death. A summary of the Biblical data reveals that the deceased were generally treated with respect. The body was buried relatively quickly. The New Testament describes the first century practice of wrapping the body and covering it in spices. Acts 9 tells of Dorcas’ body being laid out in an upper chamber prior to her burial. These rituals followed the practices of the culture, not the instructions of the Bible. The Bible does not command the observance of any specific ritual or the holding of special services when someone dies.

Death is a recurring theme in the Bible. Though the Bible does not give any specific instructions regarding what kind of service should be held after someone’s decease it does give many principles that should guide the Christian’s thinking about funerals.

Most important is the Biblical truth that every person is an immortal being comprised of a body and soul. Though the body has died, the spirit remains. The person is an eternal being who has entered into an eternal existence. Only the Word of God can teach man what happens in eternity. The funeral provides an opportunity to share the truths of Scripture. The funeral interrupts the daily barrage of the fleshly and the worldly to remind people of the spiritual and heavenly.

The Bible also says that the wise man considers the short span of life. I suspect the tendency to do away with funerals is a part of the culture’s tendency to avoid anything that is painful or negative. Most people do not like to consider the end of life so they do away with those things which remind them of it. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4) Psalm 90 says “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10, 12)

Funerals remind us that mourning and weeping are fine. Grief is painful and sorrow is unpleasant but they are not wrong. Tears bring healing to the wounded heart. The wise man recognizes there is profit to be found in grief. The wise man learns wisdom by considering how short life is. A funeral is not required by the Bible yet most times a funeral is to be preferred. The funeral offers a chance to somberly consider the realities of life and death. By grieving together, remembering together and being comforted together with the truths of God’s Word a good funeral can give lasting benefit to those left behind.

What is mindfulness? Is it Christian?

America is drowning in a flood of intellectual noise. Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, news reports, emails and text messages are just a few of the many popular means of barraging people with an excess of information. Many Americans are recognizing the need to shut down the noise and create moments of quiet in their lives. Mindfulness promises to help quiet the over stimulated minds of stressed out people. What is mindfulness? Is it something that Christians should be involved in?

Mindfulness promotes the focus upon the sensations of the moment to help to center the person in the present. Mindfulness does not teach focus on the task at hand. Mindfulness stops all other activity to become aware of the present. Mindfulness pauses and looks inward to pay complete attention to one’s senses, thoughts and emotions. It is the practice of being aware of the moment without critique, judgment or thought. A recent advertisement for local mindfulness classes said, “”Mindfulness is about paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness is taught through the application of principles from classic eastern meditation. By setting aside a specific time of meditation the person learns the ability to fully experience the sensations of the moment. Throughout the day the mindful person stops for a brief time to refresh mind, emotion and energy.

Americans have intentionally divorced mindfulness from its religious connections, but the principles behind this practice are nothing less than pagan. Mindfulness comes out of Buddhism and Hinduism. As a result, it is based upon a a view of the mind and body that is contrary to the Bible. Mindfulness, and all eastern meditation, starts with the premise that every person is a manifestation of the Divine. Mindfulness involves the participant in a technique springing directly from a false salvation that believes the ultimate goal is to be absorbed into the great universal divine.

As with most relaxation techniques mindfulness does bring some physical benefit to the practitioner. It may rest the mind, relax the body and refresh the person, but it carries with it the baggage of the false religions of the far east.

The quieting of the mind and attending to the moment are praiseworthy goals. Certainly a person should pay attention to the task and people at hand. This is not mindfulness. This is diligence and courtesy.

Instead of turning to mystical practices Christians should turn to the Bible for guidance in virtuous behavior. Give your life to the control of the Holy Spirit who will produce in you the fruit of love, joy and peace. Practice Biblical meditation on verses like Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ephesians 5:16-17; Colossians 4:5-6; Colossians 3:23 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17. These verses will help instill Christian virtues in your life. Practice some simple steps like turning off most of the notifications on your phone. Refuse to look at the phone every time it beeps. Turn off the TV. Ignore text messages when you are in a face to face conversation with someone. Pray. Remember that your life is given to you by God for His glory. Use your life intentionally and wisely for His service.

Are Christians Required to Keep the Sabbath?

The Sabbath Day was a weekly memorial given to Israel as part of God’s covenant with the nation. (Exodus 31:15-16) The command to keep the Sabbath is the fourth and longest of the ten commandments. Breaking the Sabbath was in effect breaking the covenant with God and suffered the harshest of punishments. Surely this command must be taken seriously by all who study the Bible.

Traditionally Christianity has viewed Sunday as the New Testament Sabbath. Christians were taught to observe Sunday as a day of rest, doing nothing but the most necesary work and attending church services. This shaped American business practices for many decades. Though observing a Sunday sabbath has long been the teaching of churches few Christians today see a need to keep a Sabbath of any kind.

Uncertainty about the requirement of a Sabbath can be traced to the way the New Testament views the law of Moses. After the death and resurrection of Jesus certain of the Mosaic laws were recognized as no longer necessary. This included the dietary restrictions (Acts 10:11-16), circumcision (Galatians 2:3) and the sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:2, 14, 18). Most of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament, but it contains no assertion of an obligation to observe the fourth commandment.

The pattern of the church during the apostolic era was to meet together on Sunday. The day of Pentecost, the day on which the New Testament church began, was a Sunday. Initially the church met daily, but within a few years the church began to set aside the first day of the week for the regular gathering of believers. (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2)

The Jewish believers probably continued to observe the Sabbath day. They continued to keep the law of Moses but did not require Gentile Christians to become observant Jews. Acts 15 records the discussion about Gentile obligation to keep the law of Moses. The only requirements the church in Jerusalem placed on Gentile believers was to avoid fornication and idolatry and to abstain from eating blood or animals strangled. The first pair of commands were universal commands and the second pair were things that would have hindered the preaching of the gospel because of their offensive to the Jews. They apostles and believers in Jerusalem say nothing about keeping a sabbath. The New Testament does not give any command to Christians to observe a sabbath day.

The New Testament leaves sabbath observance up to the individual Christian. The clearest statement of this is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. He says “let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17) The special days, special diets and religious feasts of the law were but shadows of Jesus. Now that Jesus has come the foreshadowings are no longer necessary. Those who keep the sabbath were never rebuked, but the New Testament clearly teaches there must be no insistence on the keeping of the sabbath. There must be no condemnation because someone does or does not observe the sabbath. Sabbath observance is a matter of personal preference and conscience to be kept or not unto the Lord.

What is a Christian?

A 2014 survey disclosed that 70% of Americans consider themselves to be Christian. Today the total number of self-professed Christians in the world is estimated at 2.2 billion. Christianity is by far the largest religious affiliation in the world. What is a Christian? Is a person a Christian because he claims to be one? Is a person a Christian because he has an affiliation with a Christian church or is something else required?

The word Christian has a wide range of meaning depending on the speaker . In its broadest use Christian is applied to anyone who attends a Christian church or claims to be a follower of Christ. This widest range of meaning allows nearly anyone to call himself a Christian based upon his personal association with the term.

People were first called Christians when Christianity was still a very small minority religion within the Roman Empire. At that time the message of Jesus was primarily restricted to the region of Palestine and a few outlying areas. Those who followed Jesus were almost entirely Jews. As the church began to spread into regions outside Judea it began to interact with Greek culture which was not familiar with the promises of a Jewish Messiah.

The followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch of Syria. “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) The term was probably one of scorn to mock the disciples for their devotion to Christ. Despite its derisive intent “Christian” eventually became the most common title for those who follow Jesus.

The origin of the term begins to narrow the common definition to form a Biblical definition. A Christian is one who is a disciple of Jesus. A disciple, a Christian, is one who follows Jesus. A disciple looks to Jesus as most important and as Master. A disciple trusts Jesus, and only Jesus, to give eternal life. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life;” (John 10:27-28)

The New Testament expands this definition of following Jesus to provide specifics truths which must be believed to be a genuine follower of Jesus. A follower of Jesus believes Jesus is God, (1 John 2:23) Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sin, Jesus rose to life again and Jesus is eternally alive. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

A Christian is one who responds in faith to these truths. Mere acknowledgement of facts does not make a person a Christian. Instead, to be a Christian the individual must turn to Jesus trusting Him alone for full forgiveness. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

Though a person identifies as a Christian, he is only a Christian in the Biblical sense if he believes the truth of God’s Word about the person, character and saving work of Jesus and if he trusts Jesus alone for salvation.

Does God want people to be vegetarians?

America is consumed with food. No one is particularly surprised when surveys show that many Americans are overweight. Oddly enough it seems at times that the “healthy” people are most concerned with what they eat. Whole new markets have opened up to meet the demand for local grown, organic, fair trade, specialty suppliers.

The increase of health conscious eaters has produced a rising number of people who refuse to eat meat. Some Christian groups teach that God intends all men to be vegetarians. Others, Christian and non-christian, believe it is immoral to kill and eat an animal. Did God intend for people to be vegetarians?

The original creation was perfect. Before Adam and Eve sinned there was no death in the world. (Romans 5:12) Neither men nor animals died. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden He told them He had provided every herb of the field and every fruit of the tree as food for men and animals. (Genesis 1:29-30) Because there was no death we know that no creature ate meat before the fall.

After the fall God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden. He cursed Adam’s work with thorns and thistles. Much labor would be required for the earth to be fruitful. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;” Though Genesis 3:17 does not say so directly it seems that God intended men to continuing eating of the produce of the earth and not meat.

The next mention of men’s food is found after the flood of Noah. When Noah and his family had exited the ark and made sacrifices to God, God blessed Noah. God told him, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Genesis 9:3) God clearly says that animals as well as produce will be food for men.

In the days of the Israelites, God again acknowledged that men would eat meat. He gave a list of animals that the Israelites were permitted to eat. He gave a list that the Israelites were forbidden to eat. God commanded the Israelites to eat meat on certain occasions. The passover feast was an annual feast given to Israel in celebration of God delivering them from Egypt. During that feast every family was to kill a lamb in the evening and eat all of it before the next morning.

The Bible never forbids men from eating meat. Before man sinned he did not eat meat. Now God has given to man flesh to eat. Vegetarianism is not sinful, but it cannot be viewed as a more Godly lifestyle choice. In 1 Timothy 4 those who would forbid other Christians from eating meat are said to be promoting “doctrines of devils.” Instead of forbidding carnivorey remember, “For every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” Therefore “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5) If you eat meat do so with thanksgiving and to the glory of God. If you do not eat meat do so with thanksgiving and to the glory of God.

Should Christian’s use Marijuana?

The acceptance of marijuana use has increased significantly in America. We have come a long way from the 1980’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Today marijuana is praised as a marvelous medicine for those suffering from ailments like glaucoma, persistent pain and the lack of the munchies.

Over half of the states in America have legalized some form of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Seven states now allow recreational use of marijuana. If the progression continues many Christians will find themselves living in a state which permits relatively unrestricted use of marijuana. Will Christians then have the freedom to use marijuana?

The legalization of marijuana is a complex subject involving many aspects that do not fall under the scope of this ministry (this is not a political, scientific or medical blog). The question being discussed today is limited to using marijuana recreationally. Using marijuana, THC or CBD based substances that have been prescribe by a competent physician is an entirely different issue.

Though marijuana use is legal in some states, it is still illegal across America because of federal statutes. Marijuana is classified as a schedule one drug and is thus a controlled substance whose use and distribution is subject to federal prosecution. In other words, using marijuana is forbidden by the feds and you can be arrested for it even if you have a prescription.

Christians in American are citizens of a state and the nation. Romans 13 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” “Ye must needs be subject . . . for conscience sake.” Christians are obligated by God to obey the governing officials. In those cases where the laws of the state and the laws of the nation disagree, the Christian is still bound to obey them all. Though the state where a Christian lives may allow the use of marijuana the nation does not. Consequently, obedience to the higher powers requires the Christian to obey the federal government and abstain from using marijuana.

Though the federal government may not enforce the law, or at least not enforce the law consistently, yet that law is in place. Until such time as the nation repeals the ban on marijuana use Christians are bound by their Scriptural duty to the government and not smoke marijuana. If the federal government eventually permits the use of marijuana those living in a state which forbids it must obey the state’s prohibition.

Even if the nation were to permit the use of marijuana, Christians should still abstain from using the drug. Marijuana is an addictive and mind altering substance. If being drunk is forbidden to the child of God (Ephesians 5:18) then certainly being high on other substances must be equally inappropriate. Christians have no business using marijuana or any other drug for the purposes of getting high, relaxed, buzzed or stoned. The believers mind, heart and life is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not intoxicating substances.

Are some sins worse than others?

Jesus said that if a man lusts after a woman he has committed adultery with her in his heart. If a man is sinfully angry with another he faces condemnation similar to that of a murderer. The entire human race was plunged into sin and condemnation because Adam and Eve ate one piece of forbidden fruit. Does this mean that all sin the same? Is committing murder as bad in the eyes of God as telling a white lie?

Sin is always wrong. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount point to the severity of all sin. God in His holiness does not overlook a single sin, no matter how small or how justified it may seem to a person. No circumstance will ever exist where it is better to sin than not to sin. God hates all sin. Whether or not all sins are equal all are evil. The relationship of sin to other sin and the varying degrees of response to sin never justify committing sin.

The Bible speaks directly about the degrees of severity in sin. Sins can rightly be classified as greater or lesser. Jesus told Pontius Pilate that the priests who rejected Him and turned Him over to Pilate for execution had the greater sin. “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” (John 19:11) Though Pilate gave the official command to crucify Jesus and the Roman soldiers carried out the command it was the Jewish priests whose sin was greatest.

Evidence for different severities of sin is seen in the differing levels of judgment upon sin. Jesus warned cities of Galilee of the greater judgment waiting for them because they rejected Him. (Luke 10:13-14) Hebrews says, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28-29) Those who have greater knowledge of right and wrong are accounted as having committed a greater evil when they sin.

One word of caution must be given. Men often fail to measure the severity of sin according to God’s standard. God is not unjust because He regards sin differently than we do. We consider sin differently than God does because we have been infected by sin. Our ability to make a proper judgment about sin is compromised by our own sinfulness. God’s measurement of sin must be the one that controls all understanding about sin.

All sin is terrible. Some sins are more terrible than others. God alone determines what is sin, how serious is the sin and the consequences of sin.

How can I give thanks for everything?

How does a Christian give thanks for terrible events? Fatal disease, personal tragedy, national catastrophe, evil men and inhuman atrocities are just some of the grim things that are always occurring in this world. Should a Christian give thanks for things like murder or child abuse?

The Bible commands Christians to give thanks in every thing, give thanks for every thing and give thanks all the time.
“In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)
“In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (PHilippians 4:6)
“Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
“By Him therefore let us therefore offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

How can a compassionate Christian obey these commands?

This is done with that realization that giving thanks for bad things is not treating evil as if it is good. Giving thanks for calamity does not deny the painful reality of suffering. Consider the most inhuman evil ever perpetrated in the world. The rejection of the Son of God followed by His unjust execution is the most horrible thing to ever happen. Yet Christian’s always thank God for Jesus’ death on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper Christian’s gather to remember and give thanks to God for the death of Jesus. Jesus Himself gave thanks at the first Lord’s Supper. Though He knew the suffering waiting for Him Jesus gave thanks to God in that time of great personal agony. Jesus did not deny the horrors of what was coming. He knew them, looked them full in the face and thanked God. Christian’s can thank God for terrible things without acting as if evil is good or pain is pleasant.

Giving thanks is not just about the thanking God for the pleasant things we receive from Him. It is easy to give thanks for the answered prayers, a nice home or a pay raise. Giving thanks is about more than these blessings. Giving thanks is about recognizing God’s good hand in everything that happens. Giving thanks looks above the circumstances to acknowledge the good purposes and perfect wisdom of God.

We give thanks because we recognize that temporary benefit is not the most important thing. We can be grateful for painful circumstances because they are working in us eternal good. God’s primary interest is not in increasing our comfort or in helping us achieve our dreams. God’s concern is with our eternal gain. Giving thanks looks beyond the present to the promised. Continual thankfulness looks past the temporary to the eternal good that God is working.

We give thanks because God is good, God is sovereign, God is accomplishing the eternal plan promised in Scripture, God is redeeming men and God is using every situation to change the Christian into the likeness of Jesus. We give thanks because no matter how much the situation changes, God is the same and He is always accomplishing what is best for those who love Him.

What is the difference between praise and worship?

Browse through church websites and you will find a pair of often repeated word: praise and worship. The words praise and worship can be found together in a single phrase, separated into different concepts or substituted for each other as synonyms in a paragraph. What are praise and worship?

Culturally, the words are descriptive of a wide range of events. Praise and worship are used most often as if they mean the same thing. The Bible uses the words frequently, a few times close together but most often separately. They overlap some in their usage but are distinct in meaning.

Praise is most often used for the vocal exaltation of the greatness of God. Praise is the verb that fills the Psalms. Boasting in God’s deeds, giving thanks to God for His work and blessing the name of God are all acts of praise. Praise may be accompanied by other activities, like dancing or feasting, but praise is done with the voice. Praise is telling. Praise is telling God and others how wonderful God is.

While praise can legitimately offered to one other than God, worship is to be reserved for God alone. Worship is the act of a humble person adoring his God. Worship often involves a ritual, a form or a liturgy. Worship offered sacrifice, attended the feasts, knelt in prayer, gave offerings or approached God in another way commanded by Him. Worship took place in public and in private. A person worshiped at the temple surrounded by others or at home by himself.

Worship in the Old Testament always has the idea of bowing down before another. The New Testament frequently uses worship in the same way and includes the analogy of kneeling before another to kiss his hand. Worship bows before God in reverence of the One you serve.

Worship today is often understood only in its relationship to music. The time of singing at the beginning of a church service is known as worship. Listening to a playlist of Christian songs is considered to be worship. Singing with a congregation or listening to Godly music alone can be acts of worship, but worship in the Bible is never restricted just to musical expression. In fact, the majority of Biblical discussions of worship do not involve music in any way.

Praise and worship are also understood to be a very emotional experience. Both involve the emotions but neither can be defined from the Bible as primarily emotional. The Psalms are heavy on emotion but even heavier on doctrine. The character and power of God are the central truths to which the Psalmist responds in praise.

Jesus says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Worshiping God in truth involves the mind. Worship requires an understanding of God. Worship is an intellectual activity. The worshiper thoughtfully considers the glory of God, the truths of God, the grace of God and the commands of God. The thoughtful worshiper then responds to God’s greatness. Worship that does not encompass the emotions is hollow. Worship that does not exceed the emotions is shallow.

To generalize the differences between praise and worship think of worship as bowing down before the altar and praise as standing with arms raised to heaven. Though ideas have similarities with each other, praise and worship are two different approaches to God. Both should be part of the Christian’s relationship with his God.