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?

Giving thanks for bad things is not treating evil as if it is good. Nor is it trying to excuse evil. Evil will always be a horrible tragedy. Giving thanks for calamity does not deny the painful reality of suffering. Instead, giving thanks for evil recognizes the good purposes of God that are being accomplished in even the most terrible evnts. 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 Christians always thank God for Jesus’ death on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper Christians 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. Christians 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 answered prayers, a nice home or a pay raise. Giving thanks is about more than the blessings of God. Giving thanks is about recognizing God’s good hand in everything that happens. Giving thanks looks above the circumstances to acknowledge the holy God who is accomplishing His good purposes in all things.

Christians can give thanks because we recognize that temporary benefit is not the most important thing. We can be grateful for painful circumstances because we know they are working in us eternal good. (2 Corinthians 4:17) God’s primary interest is not in increasing our comfort or in helping us achieve our dreams. God’s concern is for 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.

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Why did God prefer Abel’s offering over Cain’s?

Genesis 4 begins with the story of Cain and Abel. The account is well known as the first murder in human history. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to God. Cain was a farmer and his offering was the fruit of his crops. Abel was a shepherd and his offering was a firstborn from his flock. God looked favorably on Abel’s offering but not on Cain’s. Cain was very angry over his rejection and in the end murdered his brother. What made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable to God?

Genesis says little about why God accepted Abel’s offering. In Genesis 4:7 God tells Cain, “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” God’s assessment of Cain’s sacrifice was that Cain did not do good, but Genesis does not tell us in what way Cain erred.

Hebrews 11 adds a little insight to Abel’s sacrifice. “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice.” The reason God accepted Abel’s sacrifice was because Abel made his offering “by faith”. The difference between Cain and Abel was faith.

Cain brought an offering to God. He obviously believed in God and believed God should be worshiped. Cain’s lack of faith was something other than doubt about the existence of God. The rest of Hebrews 11 describes faith as believing God’s Word to be true and obeying His commands. In some way Cain did not believe and obey God’s Word.

Hebrews 11:4 says that God spoke well of Abel’s gifts. This may suggest that the kind offering Abel brought was part of what made it acceptable to God. The description of Cain’s offering and Abel’s offering in Genesis 4 seems significant. Cain brought produce, Abel brought a sheep. The pattern of sacrifices found later in the Bible reveals that God required His people to offer animal sacrifices. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” While Genesis does not say that God commanded Cain and Abel offer animal sacrifices, maybe Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because he did not obey God’s requirements for sacrifice.

In Genesis 3:15 God promised Adam and Eve He would send a deliverer who would rescue them from the horrors of sin. Maybe Abel was accepted because he believed God’s would send a deliverer and his offering was a reflection of his faith in God’s promise.

Possibly one of these suggestions is the correct answer. Possibly a combination of both. The Bible does not give a definite answer. Some questions cannot be fully answered with all the details we would like. The Bible clearly states that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because he offered it by faith. Even today faith is required to come to God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a reward of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Are natural disasters the judgment of God on a nation?

Every year various natural disasters hit around the world. These tragedies, especially the ones in America, draw responses indicating that certain major disasters are the the judgment of God on the nation or the particular city. Are things liek hurricanes, droughts, floods, earthquakes and terrorist attacks the judgment of God on a nation?

The Bible contains numerous specific accounts of destruction coming upon cities as part of the judgment of God, cities like Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, Gomorrha and Jerusalem. The reason we know these disasters were the judgment of God is because the Bible tells us so. God did not tell us about other cities. He does not tell us about the tragedies that happen in cities today. A person cannot assume that a terrible event is the judgment of God on those people. Jesus speaks about this in Luke 13. A tower in the town of Siloam fell and killed eighteen men. Jesus asked the crowd, “Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” They were not judged for their wickedness. Jesus used their death to warn that judgment is coming upon all men.

The philosophy that disasters are God’s judgment is based upon an idea that believes God brings physical cursing upon those who do wrong and physical blessings to those who do good. In the Old Testament God promised Israel to bless the nation for her obedience and punish her for disobedience. Those promises were part of the Mosaic covenant made between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai. They never applied to any other nation. Through the death of Christ God ushered in a New Covenant. The New Covenant included people from all nations of the world, not just Israel. In this New Covenant there is no promise of physical prosperity or tragedy. God has given no warning to bring natural disasters upon those who disobey Him.

The New Testament gives a list in Romans 1 of the judgments of God upon a nation. The judgments of God are an increase of sexual perversion, proliferation of homosexual behavior and the rise of all manner of violent, deceitful and hateful activities. The judgment of God on a nation is seen in the wickedness of its people. (Romans 1:24-32) God is not judging America for things like abortion and homosexuality. Those things, and many others, are the judgment of God upon America. Ultimately, God’s judgment on a nation is to leave it to itself, to let its people wallow in their own wickedness and destroy themselves in their depravity. God judges the nations that reject Him by giving them what they want. He leaves them to their own devices.

This does not mean that natural disasters are to be thought of as nothing more than geological or meteorological events. God is actively at work in the world. All natural disaasters are a part of His perfect plan. The heavens always declare the glory of God. The landscape always shows His handiwork. The sky declares God’s glory when it is blue and when it is black with tornadoes. God’s hand is seen when the earth is still and when it quakes violently. The hand of God that blesses and judges should be seen in all the events of the world.

God is the just judge who will one day perfectly and completely bring justice upon all sinners. The tragedies of this life warn of the need look ahead to the coming judgment and seek His mercy today.

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.”

Is God Perfect?

Some have asserted that the presence of sin and suffering in this world are evidences that God is not perfect. His character and power must be flawed or else He would have created a perfect world free from all bad things. Some have suggested that the perfection of God is an idea brought in from western philosophy and is foreign to the Bible. What does the Bible teach about the perfection of God?

The angels in heaven praise God because He is “Holy, holy, holy”. The saints before the throne of God declare that God alone is holy. (Revelation 15:4) Believers in both Testaments are commanded, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” The claim that God is holy can be found throughout the Bible. A holy thing is different from all other things, separate from all else and free from any corruption or contamination. God is unique, separate and sinless.

The Bible teaches that God is not the author of sin. He never tempts any one to sin, neither is He tempted to sin. (James 1:13). He does not approve of sin and He does not overlook sin. (Habukkuk 1:13) Sin is antithetical to everything that God is.

God’s perfection is such that all He does is free from sin and is exactly what He intends it to be. The creation account of Genesis 1 says repeatedly that God considered His work and saw “it was good.” God’s works are always what He desires them to be. This does not mean that God’s works are always what man would desire them to be. God’s work is always right, just and perfectly suited to His eternal purposes.

In Matthew 5 Jesus teaches what it means to be truly righteous. External, shallow righteousness is not real righteousness. Jesus concludes His teachings on righteousness by saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” God is perfect, He never sins in word, thought, action, attitude or by accident. His perfection is a positive perfection. Not only does God not commit sin, He always does what is good, wise and best.

Perfection does not mean God does everything according to the way a majority of humans think it should be done. God’s perfection does not mean that this world is not broken and flawed. Creation suffers because of sin. God is not responsible for the suffering, sorrow and trouble of this life. The world man experiences right now is marred and distorted by the sin of man. Living man has not seen the perfect handiwork of the holy God.

God is perfect. Man’s ability to understand God has been shattered by sin. Though man may not be able to understand genuine perfection, God is eternally and entirely perfect.

Is the God of the Old Testament different from the God of the New Testament?

A common assertion is that the Bible presents two very different depictions of God. The God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath who flooded the earth, wiped out cities and commanded the destruction of nations. On the other hand, the God of the New Testament is shown through Jesus to be a God of love. He is patient, ready to forgive and tender towards sinners. Does the Biblical presentation of God change from the Old to the New Testament?

Describing the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath and the God of the New Testament as a God of love is a caricature. The Bible gives a uniform description of God. The God found in Genesis is the same God found in Revelation. God does not change. His character and purpose has remained the same throughout the history of mankind.

The God the Old Testament is a God of great love. When God showed a portion of His glory to Moses He declared Himself to be, “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7) The Psalms are full of descriptions of God’s love. “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all:and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Psalm 145:8-9)

Even in times of terrible judgment the compassion of God is evident. In the book of Lamentations the prophet Jeremiah weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet he says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) God’s love was not restricted to the Israelites. The prophet Jonah did not want to preach in Nineveh because he knew God is “a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and fo great kindness.” (Jonah 4: 2) Jonah hated the Assyrians, God did not. God rebuked Jonah for his callousness towards the Ninevites. God asked Noah if He should not spare Nineveh that had 120,000 children? Just like with Sodom and Gomorrah God was ready to forgive and hold back His judgment. From the very beginning of the Old Testament God shows Himself to be a God of great love.

The God of the New Testament is a God of wrath. Consider Jesus’ stern warnings about hell. He said in Matthew 25 that all those who are not His followers will be condemned to everlasting torment in hell. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Jesus promises the most terrible judgment on unbelievers. He is clearly a God of wrath.

The wrath of God is not only found in the gospels. Romans 1 warns “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Colossians 3 teaches the Christian to put aside sinful attitudes. “For which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.” The book of Revelation is filled with the wrath of God and the judgment of Jesus. The severity of the judgments in Revelation rival anything found in the Old Testament. In Revelation 19 Jesus is described as descending from heaven. “Out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of the Almighty God.” The Jesus of the New Testament is the God of judgment who executes His wrath upon all the lost.

The God of the Bible is the same throughout. Jesus and Jehovah are not two different Gods, or two different personalities of God. They are the same God who pardons and punishes sin. His love and His wrath are equally functions of His holiness. He is the Holy God, Sovereign over His creation, exercising justice and mercy, showing love and wrath, giving grace and punishment, to all. He is God who does not change.

Did God die on the cross?

Jesus is God. Jesus died on the cross. Did God die on the cross? At times pastors, theologians and the average Christian all say that God died on the cross. This statement is both entirely accurate and entirely inaccurate. In one sense it can be said that God died on the cross. In another, equally important sense, God did not die on the cross.

Understanding what happened on the cross requires an understanding of the Trinity and the hypostatic union. The Bible teaches that God is one God who is Three. God the Father is God. God the Son is God. God the Spirit is God. These three are distinct but not separate. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, became fully human without giving up any part of His deity. Jesus is fully God and fully man. When Jesus died on the cross the God-man died.

Saying God died on the cross becomes a kind of short hand for saying, Jesus, God the Son, died on the cross. When understood this way the statement “God died on the cross” is a helpful way to describe the magnitude of God’s sacrifice for our salvation.

In several important ways God did not die on the cross. Because God is a Trinity and because of the unique nature of the incarnation God the Son endured things that the Father and Spirit did not. God the Father did not hang on the cross. God the Spirit was not buried in a tomb. Only God the Son suffered these things. If the phrase means anything more than God the Son died on the cross it is inaccurate. God did not die on the cross.

If death is a cessation of existence, a loss of ability, or a conclusion of consciousness, then God did not die on the cross. Not only did God the Father and God the Spirit not cease to exist on the cross, neither did God the Son. The Divine portion of the second person of the Trinity did not stop functioning on the cross. No member of the Godhead can cease existing. God the Son is as eternal as the Father and the Spirit. His eternal essence did not dissolve on the cross. He remained fully God and His deity did not cease with the end of His physical life.

This does not mean that Jesus’ death on the cross was purely physical or a solely human act. Jesus died as the God-man. Thus His eternal nature was involved in the suffering and death on the cross. Jesus Christ the Son of God died on the cross. He truly suffered all that death entails, physically and spiritually. God the Son did not cease to exist, even for a brief time, but God the Son endured death for the salvation of men.

Are Mormons Christian?

In an effort to rid themselves of the longstanding label of cult the Mormon church has spent a lot of money on advertisements to present themselves as mainstream and Christian. Their founder, Joseph Smith, described Mormonism as a restoration of the true church that was lost after the death of the apostles. The church website says, “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians.” Mormons believe themselves to be Christians, but does their self-evaluation line up with the Bible’s evaluation?

Mormonism is not Christian because its teachings are in direct opposition to central tenets of Biblical Christianity. Most importantly, Mormons deny that Jesus is God. They call Him the Son of God, but do not mean it as the New Testament. Mormon’s believe Jesus was a spirit being organized, or formed, by God the Father and is a separate being from the Father. Jesus is a god and the Father is a god, but they are not one. Lucifer was also organized by the Father and is the spirit brother of Jesus. Many other gods exist and Jesus was appointed by these gods to be the redeemer of earthly humanity.

Jesus’ death on the cross does not wash away all sin of those who believe Him, nor does faith in Jesus bring eternal righteousness to the believer. The death of Jesus on the cross makes it possible for men to achieve salvation. Salvation is not received by faith alone, but is accomplished by faith, baptism, good works, obeying God’s command and obeying the teachings of the Mormon church.

Mormon’s believe that salvation is by God’s grace. The grace of God in Mormonism does not give salvation freely to those who turn to Him. God’s grace makes it possible for the faithful to earn their salvation.

Mormonism denies that God is the only God and denies that He is the Creator God who made everything. The Mormon god was once man like us on a different world. God had a flesh and bone body. By his obedience to eternal laws God became an exalted being and is now the god of this planet. He is one of many gods, all who are exalted beings that have risen to their divine state by their obedience to eternal laws. By their faith and obedience earthly men can also be exalted to become gods themselves.

The Bible teaches that none who deny Jesus is God are saved (1 John 2:22-23)), that salvation is only by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), that any attempt to earn salvation rejects God’s grace (Galatians 2:21) and that any one who preaches a false gospel of moral behavior and personal effort is condemned (Galatians 1:8-9).

Mormonism is a dangerous fraud that presents itself as Christian. The Mormon church willfully obscures its true message to deceive the unlearned or unwary. Mormonism rejects many key tenets of Biblical Christianity. It teaches doctrines both ridiculous and abhorrent. It does not share a common faith with Christians. Mormonism is not Christian and, sadly, those who believe the teachings of Mormonism are not saved.

What’s wrong with the Shack?

Ten years ago The Shack was published. The story wrestles with one of the most pressing questions of Christianity. The book grabbed people’s attention and soon became one of the bestselling books of all time. One reviewer declared The Shack was the greatest book written since John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Last week the major motion picture The Shack was released. Based on the book the movie had a decent opening weekend. It more than the doubled the opening weekend revenues of the 2014 movie Left Behind. The Shack also had a better opening weekend than other recent, popular Christian movies like Courageous and God’s Not Dead. The book seems set to continue exerting its influence over Christians.

The Shack is a work of fiction. Though the book is a work of make believe it claims to be an instrument for teaching Biblical truth. Like a Biblical parable the story seeks to communicate great truths through the medium of a believable and gripping story. I have not seen the movie, but have read the book. My understanding is that the movie follows pretty close with the book in the essentials.

The Shack is filled with problems. Because it is intended to teach, Christian’s cannot disregard the substance of the message. In wrestling with the problem of evil the book and the movie teach about the nature and character of God, the relationship of evil to God and the nature of salvation. The Shack’s view of God is horribly deficient and its understanding of salvation is tragically errant.

In attempting to address the problem of terrible suffering in this world The Shack presents a god who is limited. The God of The Shack is not in control of world events. He responds to tragedies and through His love brings good out of them. Instead of tragedy being a part of the perfect plan of God tragedy is something that God is unable to avert. God has relinquished some control of the world to give men genuine freewill. In a sense both God and man are powerless to prevent evil. God’s love will eventually win but only when men have chosen to follow God.

The Old Testament book of Job is the story The Shack tries to tell. In Job the readers learns of a father who suffers great loss and life shattering tragedy. He insists he did nothing to deserve such pain. He blames God and demands a chance to prove God’s injustice. When God speaks to Job at the end of the book He does not pass on cutesy witticisms and cryptic truths. God confronts Job with His power and control. God doesn’t shrug His shoulders and say there was nothing He could do about it because He gave man freewill. God declares His sovereignty and justice. The God of the Bible is a God in control of all things.

Genuine comfort in life’s sorrow comes from knowing God. The Shack offers a false comfort built on a modern construct of a god who looks like God but is not. The book, and the movie, have rejected the Word of God. In doing so all that is offered is sentimentalism masquerading as wisdom.

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.