Wednesday, December 21, 2005

His Plans Are Fool Proof

There have been times in my life when God has opened up huge doors for me but I’d become worried about whether or not I was able to do what God was giving me the opportunity to do. Everything would be perfect; all that I would ever need in order to do what God was allowing me to do was provided and all I had to do was use the gifts He’s given me in order to do so; but still I would doubt by abilities.

Our boy Moses was in the same situation, well almost. In Exodus 3 and 4 we read of when Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock and he went deep into the wilderness to the mountain of Sinai. Out of nowhere, a burning bush caught Moses’ attention. He was amazed at the fact that the bush wasn’t burning up, and like any guy, he was curious enough to go figure out what was going on.

When he got to the bush, God spoke to him from it and told him that He was going to send him to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh’s grasp in Egypt. Once this information soaked in, Moses began to question the plan. In verse 11 we see that Moses had already started doubting his ability to do what God was asking by voicing his concern that he didn’t feel able enough. God then reassures Moses in verse 12 that He would be with him.

Even though talking to God through a fireproof burning bush is enough proof for most people that everything is going to work according to plan, Moses continued to doubt. In verse 13 he told God that the people wouldn’t believe him when he’d tell them that He had sent him, with which God once again reassured Moses that things would be ok. As if Moses didn’t hear the answer, he once again protested and told God that there was no way that anyone would believe him. God again told Moses that the plan would work out as He said it would and that he didn’t need to worry.

In Exodus 4:1-8, Moses continues to question whether or not He is able and God continues to show him that He will prepare him for anything that he will encounter. God even gives Moses the power to perform miracles like turning his staff into a snake, causing leprosy on his hands, and turning water to blood, yet Moses still complains—this time that he is not a good speaker.

I can only imagine what was going through God’s mind. He was sitting here providing everything that Moses would need in order to carry out the objective He had given him and Moses still doubted! This must have been so frustrating to God! In Exodus 4:11 God finally tries to talk some sense into Moses by showing him that He makes and controls everything, “Who makes mouths? Who makes people so they can speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the Lord?”

Even after this, Moses still asks God to send someone else because he didn’t feel he was a good speaker. God, who we can clearly see is upset in verse 14, decides to send Aaron along with Moses as the speaker and Moses finally does what God asked.

Have you ever been in a situation where you know that God provided the opportunity for you to be there and yet you doubt whether or not you’re able to fulfill what God has sent you to do? It could be as simple as moving into a new job that God has provided and feeling that you aren’t able enough to match the quality expected. Or maybe God’s called you to move somewhere and He’s provided all that you’ll need, yet you feel you aren’t good enough to do what God has called you to do there. When we are in situations when we feel like God has provided for us and then left us, we must remind ourselves that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) and that through Him we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). Be encouraged by the fact that God will cause everything to work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Affiliation Examination

For many students, the worst time of the year is exam week. Everyone is giddy because they know that vacation is about to start, but instead of being able to just enjoy the last couple of days of class, students everywhere are busy getting ready to take tests that determine whether or not they've used their time wisely in class. Their future counts on these exams; if they do well enough then they could get into a better college or their GPA may rise and their resumes will shine brighter, but if they fail, they will have to take the class all over again and the money they spent on their education will be of waste.

Sadly, there are many who claim to be Christians but they fail the “Affiliation Examination”. These “Christians” fail because others assume they are in no way affiliated with Christ—they are confused by others as heathens. They say they love God, or that they are Christians, yet their lives don't show it. They ask the world what is right or wrong instead of finding the truth in the Bible. If they do decide to go to the Bible for answers, they ignore passages that convict them and distort the Word of God by reading verses out of context. They want to hear “God loves you” and “Heaven is a wonderful place” but they don't want to read/believe the passages that tell them that they need to reform their ways. They go to church on Sunday but they don't strive to apply what they've learned Monday-Saturday. Their faith in Christ is not genuine and Christ is not among them. In Romans 8:9, Paul tells us that if we are Christians then we will allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and not our sinful nature:
But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.)
Just like the Jews who relied on God's law but didn't obey it caused non-believers to blaspheme the name of God (Romans 2:24), so do those who claim to be “Christians” yet do that which is of this world. Those who have truly accepted Christ into their lives have the Holy Spirit in them who guides them and helps them determine what is right and wrong (John 14:26; John 16:8).

Have you been spending your time wisely by applying God's Word to your life so that your lifestyle will mimic that of Christ's? Or have you ignored God completely and turned to this world for satisfaction and guidance? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine. Test yourselves. If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you, it means you have failed the test.” Because we all stumble, we must constantly examine our lives and faith. Strive for excellence and dive deep into God's Word. Strengthen your relationship with Christ by learning His ways and work hard at mirroring the lifestyle He led. Let there be no mistake as to who you are affiliated with.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Devine Mirror

Because we are human, maintaining our walks with Christ and keeping them in tip-top shape will always be a challenge. So, how do we as Christians work on our walk? What do we need to do in order to strengthen our relationship with Christ? There is a tool that I use in order to make sure I model my life after Jesus. This tool is extremely valuable, yet many Christians don't seem to give it enough thought. The tool I am talking about is God's Word itself: The Holy Bible.

Sadly, there are some Christians who wonder through life without any true guidance. They seek out counselors, family members, and friends yet they don't rely enough on the word written by the greatest counselor of all, our loving father and our merciful friend, the Lord Himself. They read parts of the Bible but are picky on which parts they obey, but how can we love the Lord and not accept His Word in its entirety?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do."

We must be careful to take to heart what His Word tells us. The Bible is like a divine mirror that shows us how to improve our relationship with Christ, but if we don't do what it says, we are no more than fools (James 1:23-26).

It is easy to go a long time without reading God's Word because of the busy lives many of us live but it is important that we stick to it and make an effort to set aside a time during the day when we allow His Word to engulf, inspire, convict and uplift us. We must crave the Word of God as it will nourish us spiritually (1 Peter 2:2)!

Do you make time during your day to read, pray and live out God's Word? Do you purposely ignore certain scripture because of the conviction it brings? The Bible is a divine mirror that guides us to be more like Christ; we must look into this mirror constantly so that we can stay on His path. Strive to grow in knowledge of God's Word and you will find joy in doing His will (Psalm 40:8). "The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Do I Know You?

The other night I went out to eat with some friends after a Bible study we had. Once we were seated we began to chat and look through the menus. In no time our waitress appeared, laid down our silverware, and proceeded to give me the “Do I know you?” look. She then asked me if I went to Fellowship Church with which I quickly replied “I do”. She then told me that she was friends with a girl that used to work in the preschool with me. She mentioned how much she loved Fellowship and after a while of chatting she left to give us some time to ponder about what we wanted to eat.

As we were waiting for this waitress to come back, I was reminded of how important it is that we constantly act Christ-like. If this waitress would have seen me doing something bad, and then asked me if I went to Fellowship Church, she would have assumed that there was no change in me and my witness would no longer be credible to her!

The Devil wants no more than for us to fail; he knows that as humans we are weak but because we have accepted Christ we are not normal humans! We are peculiar people, people who should be eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14)! The Bible tells us that as Christians we need to be the salt and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16)! Therefore, we must constantly strive to be more Christ-like no matter the situation or the people we are around.

Are you conscious of the watchful eyes of this world? Are you constantly doing things that could cause others to question whether or not there has really been a change in you? As Christians our hearts are no longer full of darkness, they are full of light from the Lord. Because of this, our behavior should show it (Ephesians 5:8-9)! Strive to be like Christ, make His Kingdom your primary concern and you will find that He will provide all that you'll ever need (Matthew 6:33).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Urge To Show His Love

You’re in public, surrounded by people who you don’t know and all of a sudden you get the urge to sit by someone and talk with them. Why do you have this urge? Why are you interested in talking with this person you don’t even know? The truth is, you may not know, yet you do it anyway. You sit down and converse with this person even though talking with them wouldn’t be the normal thing to do since you have never talked with them before. There have been a lot of times in my life where I have been in situations just like this and the outcomes have been nothing short of gifts from God.

My mother also has a collection of stories where she satisfied an urge that the Lord gave to her. For example, about seven years ago, at the church that we used to go to, there was a ladies retreat that my mother attended. During this retreat, a woman who was just merely an acquaintance of my mother’s, walked down the isle in the middle of a speaker’s speech and asked my mom to follow her. When my mom and this lady were at a place where they could talk, this woman told her that she felt like committing suicide. My mom then prayed with her and asked God to alert her, day or night, when this lady needed to be prayed for. The next morning at three o’clock, my mother woke up and her thoughts were flooded with this woman. She immediately remembered asking the Lord to alert her when this lady needed prayer so she began to pray for her. The next day, my mom called to check on this woman and she said that the night before she was indeed in need of prayer! Not only did she need prayer, but the time when she was having trouble was at three in the morning!

Another great story of a time when my mom did something that she felt the Lord was telling her to do, even though it didn’t make sense, was during Easter one year. The Lord has blessed my mother with great creativity and she uses this gift in her soap business called “Heavenly Scent Soapsuds”. This soap business isn’t just a business to her though, it’s a ministry--my mom includes a business card in the soap packages that tells people about Christ. During Easter, my mom felt God tugging at her heart to take a bar of soap to the grocery store and give it to someone who needed to be pampered. It turns out that when my mom got to the store there was a woman who had to work the night shift and was exhausted. My mom didn’t know this at the time, but she randomly talked with this woman and the lady was amazed at the blessing provided to her by my mom! The soap was even the lady’s favorite color and scent!

Many times we tend to stay in our own bubble and not communicate with others. We get in the habit of only talking to those who we know and are comfortable talking with. It’s not natural for many of us to be so outgoing but Hebrews 13:1-2 says, "Continue to love each other with true Christian love. Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!"

Are there times when the Lord puts you in a situation to help someone but you ignore them and continue on? Do you sometimes have an urge to take a leap of faith and do what you feel God is telling you to do but instead you don’t follow through? We are called to love one another and treat each other as we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Dig deep into God’s word and mirror God’s example of supporting and loving others, even if the method you feel God is leading you to use feels weird.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Driven Because I'm Forgiven

This world is drenched with sin and as a Christian I am not immune to it. There have been times when I've looked back on what had happened during the day and I'd kick myself because of how stupid my mess-ups were. It's at these times that Satan tries his best to make me feel unworthy of God's love. There are times when the lies that Satan feeds me make me feel like not even going to God because of how ashamed I am for what I've done. But, as I study God's word and I go to Him, the forgiveness that I know He gives always strengthens me and drives me to do better.

There are going to be times where we feel that our mess-ups are so huge that there is no way that we can be forgiven. For example, imagine you have just seen the most gorgeous person in the world. You know this person is married but you lust after them, sleep with them, and then you have their significant other killed. David, a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), did this exact thing! Did you catch that? Acts 13:22 tells us that God considered David a man after His own heart yet David committed adultery and murdered Bathsheba's husband! Would God forgive David for such a thing? In Psalm 51:1-7 we see David's cry out to the Lord for forgiveness and in 2 Samuel 12:13 we see that God did indeed forgive him. There is no sin too great for God to forgive!

Because of God's open forgiveness, there are certain people who feel that there will be no consequences for their sins, but that is not true! God is a just God and the consequences for David's actions were still there (2 Samuel 12:11-12). The same applies for our lives, the consequences here on earth are still real. The good news though is that we will not be held accountable for our sins in Heaven because God has promised to never again remember our sins (Hebrews 10:17).

Although it is important that we remember our mistakes so that we don't make them again, if we spend all of our time being ashamed of our past, instead of working towards repenting from our sins, then we will always be too discouraged to repent! Because these earthly consequences are still very real, we need to make a conscious effort to be more like Christ.

Do you feel that your past is keeping you from becoming closer to God? Do you feel that you have done so much wrong that God could never forgive you? If you have accepted Christ, you have already been forgiven! There is no need for you to worry about whether or not God forgives you-He already has! Strengthen your relationship with Christ and allow Him to mold you into the person He wants you to be. Be driven to be more like Christ because of the awesome forgiveness He provides.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thankfulness 365, 24/7

It’s funny to think that we only have one day where we wholly celebrate being thankful. You’d think that with all of the things we have to be thankful for, every day would be a day where we’d celebrate thanksgiving. But, in a world where selfishness is an attribute of any and all who are born, thankfulness is many times overlooked.

One of the many ploys that Satan uses in order to keep us from being thankful is to make us forget what we have in the first place. For example, God gave Adam and Eve everything in the Garden of Eden, everything that they would ever need would be provided for them, but Satan made them forget that and he made them think of what they couldn’t have: the fruit from the tree of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-6). When Satan makes us forget what we have, complaining begins to take over (Numbers 11:4-9). In order for us to defeat Satan’s plan, we must strive to remember that thankfulness should be a constant part of our lives (Psalm 92:1-2).

To help you get a jump start on what you are thankful for, here are five things that as Christians we can be thankful for: 1) We are loved by a God who listens to us, we should be thankful that He answers prayers (John 11:41), 2) our Heavenly Father loves and provides for us, we should be thankful for all He gives (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, 1 Timothy 4:4-5), 3) our Lord has a genuine interest in us and blesses those who love Him; we should be thankful for all of His blessings (Philippians 4:6, 1 Chronicles 16:34), 4) We should be thankful for God's character and wondrous works (Psalm 7:17, Revelation 11:17, 2 Corinthians 9:15) and 5) we should be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3-5).

Do you consider yourself a thankful person? Do you take a lot of things for granted? As you go throughout your day, I encourage you to keep in mind the One who gives us everything. Guard your mind from Satan’s lies and incorporate thankfulness into your everyday life--365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Let the message about Christ fill your life and be thankful for all that you have (Colossians 3:16).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Small Sacrifice, Big Influence

After a long day of work, one of my favorite things to do is to plop in front of the T.V. and play a video game. The types of games I enjoy playing are action games that require you to think about what is going to happen next and then plan for it. A lot of the games that I play include guns and fighting. As a guy, these things don’t bother me and I don’t feel I become desensitized to violence because of them. I know that in real life a gun could end somebody’s life. When it comes down to it, I know the difference between what is real and what is not. My youngest brother Pierce on the other hand, sometimes has a hard time distinguishing what is real and what is not and therefore he is not allowed to play games that have these things in them.

The other day, my mother came into my room and told me that Pierce had come to her asking why I would play these games if I was a Christian. My first reaction was to puff my pride and ignore the fact that Pierce saw those games as bad. I began to ask myself why my freedom should be limited by what someone else thinks, but then I read a part of a letter written by Paul in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33 is a snippet of a letter that Paul wrote to the church of Corinth that talks about a similar issue. In these verses, Paul is coming to an end of his discussion on whether or not it is ok to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols (the discussion starts in Chapter 8). After telling them that it is ok to eat the food, he goes on to tell them that because certain people might find it wrong to do so, we must be mindful of their conscious. These verses state:

You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is helpful. You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is beneficial. Don't think only of your own good. Think of other Christians and what is best for them.


Now, why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. Don't give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. That is the plan I follow, too. I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved.

We see Paul’s sarcasm in verses 29 and 30 when he asks exactly what I did when my mother was talking to me about Pierce’s view on me playing these video games, “Why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks?” The truth is I may not think these video games desensitize me to violence, but Pierce does not understand that I have knowledge of what is real and fake.

Because I value my brother’s relationship with Christ, and the growth of that relationship, I finally decided to limit the games I play around him. I chose to give up my right of playing these video games so that my brother would not feel that I am doing wrong.

Do you consider the perspective of other brothers or sisters in Christ? When you are around weaker Christians or non-believers, are you considerate to their needs? These sacrifices are not to be made into a general hypersensitivity that worries about what others might think. Rather, they are to be made by genuine consciousness of others and a willingness to limit what we do when there are real possibilities of misunderstanding and offense. We may not feel that our actions are wrong, but they may not be in the best interest of others. We have freedom in Christ, but we shouldn't exercise our freedom at the cost of hurting a Christian brother or sister. We are not to consider only ourselves; we must also consider the needs and perspective of others.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Shadow of His Wings

It's like your mind has just been overhauled and you shiver as the adrenaline rushes through your body. Memories of what used to be come flooding into your mind and you can't steer clear of them. No matter what you do to avoid it, your heart starts to beat faster and you feel sick to your stomach. You grow weak as if you hadn't eaten in days and your lungs seem to be taking in more air than you thought possible. Most people wouldn't even wish this awful feeling on their enemies, and all people wish it didn't exist. This is the feeling of rejection by someone you used to be extremely close to.

I've had my share of breakups in the past; sadly all of them were initiated by the other party. These times left me feeling hopeless as I tried my best to nurse the scar that was created on my heart. I had gone from feeling so accepted to feeling as if I were invisible and nobody could see the need that I had. I was vulnerable, very vulnerable.

Like me, I'm sure you've been through situations like this-or maybe you are experiencing this pain now. It's at these times when we are most vulnerable to Satan's attacks and lies. He tells us that we don't amount to anything and that we will be hopeless forever. He does his best to overcome us with the negative thoughts and sleepless nights so that we will become weaker than we already are. He knows that if he can get us down then we might turn our backs on God. But our God is too strong and too caring for those who love Him to be overcome by Satan.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus expresses the hope and solitude He provides to those who seek Him, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." You see, while Satan tries his best to get us to stumble, he has no power over those who seek the Lord. Our God is exponentially greater than Satan; they can't even be compared!

These hard times that God allows us to go through are the building blocks of our future. We must not wish to speed through these trials as they shape and mold who God wants us to be (James 1:2-4). The attitude that we must have during these hard times, although tough, must be that of Isaiah who wrote, "O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand" (Isaiah 64:8).

Are you going through a time where you feel rejected and alone? Do you feel as if nobody cares? The Lord has promised us that He will not allow us to go through trials that we cannot face. Realize that God has the power to make that which we believe is bad and useless, into that which is good and perfect. Pray to God asking Him for His help and He will guide and strengthen you (Isaiah 58:11); His love and protection will keep you impervious. Take refuge in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 57:1) and He will help you soar (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Acceptance Trance

We truly live in a world where acceptance is put on a pedestal. It’s a natural tendency of ours to want to fit in and to want to belong. While it’s not wrong to want this, it is wrong to change who we are, what we believe in, or lower our standards in order to feel accepted. It is easy to fall into this acceptance trance of changing who we are so that we will feel accepted, but with the Holy Spirit’s help, we are able to discern whether or not something is right or wrong and then act upon the right choice (Job 32:8).

I remember a time when I went over to a friend's house and we all sat down to play a game. The game we ended up playing goes against all of the moral values that I have received from God. This game asked us to answer questions whose answers were clean, but made you think dirty. I knew at that moment that I had two choices: 1) I could set aside my moral values and stick it out in hope that nobody else would leave so I wouldn't look bad for playing, or 2) I could leave and go home, which would mean I’d be spending my afternoon by myself.

After thinking about it, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to convict me, I decided to get up and leave. By sacrificing my afternoon, I was opened up to gaining so much more because of the love and acceptance the Lord provides for those who obey Him (Job 36:11).

Because I remained who God wanted me to be, God was able to use that situation to influence those who were around me. A couple of days after that night, one of my friends that was there came to me and told me that he felt bad that he didn't leave; he realized that he shouldn't have stayed.

Sadly, a lot of times we choose to put our moral beliefs aside and indulge the evil desires of our hearts (Matthew 15:19). We get caught up in our want to be accepted and we forget that the acceptance of this world does not come close to comparing to the acceptance that the Lord provides. Because of our urge to feel accepted, we change who we are and we do things that we normally wouldn't do.

Do you find yourself acting different when you are around different people? Do your moral values go down during the week and then back up on the weekends when you go to church? We must constantly remind ourselves that as Christians we are new creations; our old self no longer has a hold on us. When we change who we have become through Christ, in order to be accepted by those of this world, we sacrifice the joy that comes from the acceptance of Christ that we would have enjoyed had we not rebelled.

Take refuge in the fact that God has always accepted you (Ephesians 1:4-6) and remember that the acceptance of God is far greater than any acceptance here on earth. Strive to get closer to the Lord and He will stay with you and provide for you all that you need (2 Chronicles 15:2). Allow the Holy Spirit to snap you out of the acceptance trance--otherwise you will get caught up in being accepted by this world and you will be left with false friends and messed-up morals.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Ultimate Prescription

I don't know about you, but I am extremely grateful for the medical care that is provided here in America. If we are sick, all we have to do is hop in our car and go to the doctor. When the doctor figures out what is wrong, he gives you medicine and over time you become better. But even though America's hospitals have some of the most brilliant doctors and medication available, I still know someone who is much better at taking care of people's needs.

This person works for free and checks up on you whenever you come to Him. You don't need a phone to talk with Him; you don't even have to leave home! But despite all that this person offers, there are many who still won't come to Him. They are afraid that being cured will limit their life, they feel that they must heal themselves before going to see Him, and they are waiting to feel chosen by Him.

The man I am talking about is Jesus. You see, as humans we are born sinners, but God sent His only son (Jesus) to die on the cross so that we may be saved from the disease of sin. Many don't understand this, but Jesus is the ultimate physician!

Sadly, a lot of people believe that, by becoming a Christian and following Jesus, their lives become limited or they aren't free to do what they feel makes up a real life. While it is true that, as a Christ-follower, we have been commanded to stay away from certain things and to do what is right, God promises us that He has a plan for our lives. This plan is so perfect that our minds can't even grasp it, and because of that, sometimes it seems as if God wants to limit our lives. But this is not true! The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11, "'for I know the plans I have for you,' says the LORD. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" This shows that while we may think that becoming a Christian limits our future, God's plan for our lives is to give us a future!

There are also people who believe that they must become better people in order to come to Christ. This does not make sense! In fact, in Mark 2:17b, Jesus tells the Pharisees, "'Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.'" Doesn't it make much more sense that a doctor's services are much more valuable to those who are sick? The same is true with Christ! Here on earth we will never be able to reach perfection, but because of our Master Physician, we are healthy in God's site!

What about those who wait for God to choose them before they accept Him? Some believe that they must feel as if God has chosen them to become Christ-followers. The truth is that we have already been chosen! John 15:16 tells us that Jesus chose us, "You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name." There is no need to feel like we must wait on Christ to choose us! He has already chosen us!

If you haven't accepted Christ, you may fit in one of these three categories. Do you feel as if you must change in order to come to Christ? Or do you feel that accepting Christ will limit your life or are you waiting to feel chosen by Christ? Please understand that that is not the case!

For those of you who have already accepted Christ, do you go to the Master Physician constantly? Do you openly choose Him and obey Him in front of others? Do you put faith in God's plan for your life?

We must all remember that God came up with the ultimate prescription for our sin disease-His one and only Son (John 3:16). A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to be cured of our evil desires and the only way to Heaven (John 14:6). Constantly remind yourself to tear down the walls that get in the way of being close to Christ. Lay down your burdens and God will give you rest (Matthew 11.28-30).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Childlike Faith

I don't know about you, but I love kids. I love the fact that their minds soak up information like a sponge and that they'll tell you what they have on their mind and you know that what they say is exactly what they feel. I love how we often don't think they could ever teach us something about life, yet they amaze us more every day and we learn things from them we'd never thought of before.

I'm the second oldest out of five children in my family so I've had plenty of time in my life to watch and learn. For example, there was this one Saturday afternoon when my parents weren't going to be able to make it to church and therefore my younger brothers didn't have anyone to take them. When I was getting ready for church, I saw my younger brother Carson, thirteen, playing a video game. I figured since he didn't have a ride to church I'd take him with me so he wouldn't have to miss and then he could tag along with me afterwards. When I asked him if he wanted to go, he hopped up quickly and began to get ready.

Without knowing it, my youngest brother Pierce, who's seven, overheard me talk about going to church and he came running towards me proclaiming how much he wanted to go. I was amazed at how excited he was about going to church, but because I usually go out with my friends after church, I didn't think I could take him to church and then bring him along with me to hang out with my friends. So I told him that I couldn't take him, but maybe next time.

Let's just say that his response to this was not a pretty one. He began to cry because he was going to have to miss church. By the time Carson and I got into my car, Pierce's face was far past red and he was standing by the glass door looking at us with that sad puppy dog face that all kids know too well. Immediately, God laid Mark 10:14b-15 on my heart, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn't have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God."

I looked at Carson, then at my keys, back at Carson, and once again at my keys. After contemplating what I was going to do, I finally looked at Carson, grabbed my keys, and then told him that I would be right back. I ran through the front door of my house and hollered to Pierce to come see me.

Within seconds, Pierce was at the front door waiting for me to tell him what I had hollered to him for. I looked at him, smiled, and then told him that I wanted to take him to church with me. He jumped for joy when he found out he was going to be able to go to church and gave me a hug.

Pierce's attitude towards going to church and his faith in God are examples of what Jesus was trying to make clear to the disciples in Mark 10:13-16. Pierce felt so strongly about going to church that it made him cry knowing he wasn't going to be able to go; he held nothing back.

Do you have a childlike faith? Or is your faith easily swayed? Are you sincerely excited about your relationship with Christ? Jesus makes it clear that it is very important to Him that our faith is as full as that of children's. When your faith begins to stagger, remind yourself of the children that came running to Jesus. Strengthen your walk with Christ by giving Him all of your faith. Run to Him in a full sprint and He will bless you (Mark 10:16).

Saturday, October 29, 2005

He Holds The Future

There’s a saying that goes, “Life is a blur”. Well, I believe it. My eyesight isn’t that great so I wear contacts during the day and at night I wear my glasses. When I go to bed, I put my glasses by my bed and then fall asleep. In the morning, when I finally wake up to my alarm, my eyes open and the world around me is a blur. I can’t see a thing! In fact, there have been times when I’ve bumped my toe on the side of the bed and screamed out loud because of how much it hurt. But once I put on my glasses, the room becomes clear and I am able to see. It’s much easier for me to get navigate around my room when I depend on my glasses to help me.

The same is true with us as humans when it comes to our view of the future. We can’t see what the future holds; we can only estimate what will happen. Our view of the future is imperfect and blurry, but our Father’s perspective on the future is perfect! Why? Because He’s the one who is holding the future!

Many times we become so anxious about what will happen in the future that we forget to depend on God to see us through, but the Bible tells us that God has already planned out our future:

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
During the times where we find ourselves squinting at the future trying to figure out what is to come, we only need to stop and remind ourselves that even though the future is blurry to us, God’s view is more perfect than we could ever know. By depending on God and the assurance He gives us of the future, you will find that you will have less “stubbed toes” and navigating through life will be much better than it would be if you were to lean on your own blurry view.

Are you in a situation where you feel like your future is doomed? Are you stumbling through life because you are depending on your own view of the future? Or maybe you feel you will be like you are now for the rest of your life. Find strength in the fact that God has a purpose for our lives and He stands by it (Isaiah 46:8-11). Remember, it’s not about seeing what the future holds; it’s about knowing the one who holds it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Multi-tasking Faith

A long time ago, a friend of mine asked me to become his "friend" on a website that allows people to get to know each other through other people's friends. In order to make him happy, and so he would quit bugging me about it, I signed up on the website and added him as my friend. When I got on the website, I saw that you could search through the members of the website based upon their interests. I decided to search for all the people who listed God as an interest of theirs but what I saw at that time was very heartbreaking.

About 90% of the people who were listed on this website as having "God" as their interest were wearing skimpy clothes and had language and activities in their profile that did not hold to the standards that God has set for us. Could it be that their "god" isn't really God himself but rather popularity and acceptance from those who look at their profile? Do they strive to be popular with the world instead of striving to be popular with God?

My sixth grade year was when I decided I didn't want to have anything to do with being "popular". Popularity to me was useless anyway because I knew that what was "popular" to those who were seeking to be held at high esteem by their peers was in no way what Jesus wants for those who follow Him. Popularity in the world's terms is all about sacrificing someone else's feelings in order to make yourself feel better, but as Christians we are called to humble ourselves before the Lord and give up our life so that He may become more while we become less.

What these "Christians", and those who aren't saved at all, don't understand is that when we try to gain the whole world, we forfeit what truly makes us complete--a personal relationship with Jesus Christ--and we end up losing what we were trying to gain in the first place:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:34-36)
We live in a world where popularity is what seems to get you places, but those who constantly strive to have the acceptance of others will find that acceptance of the world, is rejection of the Lord. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus tells us about having two masters, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." We cannot be truly devoted to God when our foot is still caught in the door of this world!

Whose attention do you strive for? The world's or God's? Are you trying to multi-task your faith? It can't be done! We must put our faith and strength into one thing alone: our relationship with Christ! Remember that no matter what happens in your life, no matter how lonely or unpopular you feel, God is always there for you and loves you more than all the love this world has combined! As you go throughout your day, remember that Jesus accepts you as you are; He wants you to strive to be with Him no matter your current condition. Seek first the Kingdom of God and you will find that the Lord provides all that you will ever need (Matthew 6:33).

Monday, October 24, 2005

Not Ashamed

Have you ever been so passionate about something that without hesitation you stood up for it? Or maybe you've been so fired up about an issue that no matter the situation, no matter how much bigger the other's argument was, you stood your ground and made your voice heard? A lot of the time, many of use do just that. We stand up for things that we believe in, like whether or not abortion is right, why we must have equality, and even whether or not drugs should be illegal, but many times we are ashamed of, or forget to support and stand up for, the One who is most important: our Father in Heaven.

There was this one day during my freshman year of college that the student life organization at my school sponsored an "open microphone" session in the school's atrium. I remember walking by and hearing my fellow classmates discussing whether or not reality TV shows and sitcoms like "Sex in the City" affected the lives of those who watched them.

Interested, I sat down and began to listen to the arguments of those who were speaking. One girl rose out of her chair and began speaking about how she believed the shows had no affect on the lives of the viewers. In fact, she even went as far as to say that they should become more sensual and revealing! At this point I became enraged at what was being said and I jumped out of my seat to leave. As I gathered my stuff to leave the auditorium, the host of the open microphone session asked if anyone else wanted to speak on the matter. Without warning "I do" came flowing out of my mouth as if someone had pulled a drawstring out of my back and this response was preprogrammed by my "manufacturer".

I remember thinking to myself, "What just happened? I just said yes to talking about an issue that I have not prepared to speak about!" In what seemed like a nanosecond, I was on stage in a chair with a microphone in hand contemplating what exactly I was doing. I remember holding the microphone so hard that sweat began to build around my grip. I don't have a problem with speaking in front of people, in fact, I enjoy it. But at this moment I was confused at how I even made it on stage.

As a looked at the crowd I remember thinking in my head, "I believe in God". It was at this moment that I realized that God had put me there for a reason. I then spoke to the crowd about how God does not approve of the shows and how we need to make a conscious effort to stay away from them. I didn't pound them in the ground with the "you're going to Hell" speech, rather I allowed God to speak through me so that I could affect the source, their heart.

At a time where I could have easily left God out of the dispute by arguing about how we are becoming numb to what the things of this world do to us, I instead stood up for God and expressed the standard that He expects.

When it comes down to it, if we do not stand up for Christ, it is either because we are ashamed of Him, or we do not have faith in who He is. In 2 Corinthians 4:13, Paul talks to us about why he preached, "But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, "I believed in God, and so I speak." Because of Paul's faith in Christ, he held nothing back; he stood up for and spoke to all about Jesus and he not ashamed (Romans 1:16).

When you get a chance to openly talk about Christ, do you sink into the background and pass up the opportunity that Christ has given you to share Him with others? Are you ashamed of Christ or is your faith fake? If we are truly passionate about our relationship with Christ, we should not hide Him from others. Mark 8:38 tells us that if we are ashamed of Jesus, He too will be ashamed of us and Mark 8:35 tells us that by giving up our life for Christ's sake and for the sake of the Good News, we will find true life. Therefore, we must never hesitate to share and stand up for Christ and we must never be ashamed of Him. For if we want to change the world, we've got to speak up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

You may have noticed...

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in a while. This is because up at church we are having our annual Children's Conference. I haven't had time to concentrate on many other things besides school and work. Because of this, I have not been able to post for a while. Until I can get back on my regular work schedule, I won't be able to post due to the lack of the number of hours in a day (hey, I need my beauty rest ok!).

These past couple of days have been really stressful. If you could, please say a little prayer for me. Pray that I have the strength to work the countless hours it takes to help put on this Children's Conference that will be attended by over 250 churches nation-wide. Pray that I can have patience with my work and that God will give me the strength to finish what needs to be done.

In fact, if you could type out your prayer in my comment section, it would be very uplifting! Thanks again for all of your prayers, I know that God will provide the strength that I need. God Bless!

Your brother in Christ,

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Live To Forgive

Around the time when I was about 15, I began to go to a youth Bible study. I remember sitting down on the front row by myself and wondering whether or not I was going to enjoy the session. I had only been to this Bible study a couple of times, so I only knew one or two people. I've always been outgoing, so I knew that I would have no trouble meeting new friends and building relationships. So, with my confidence in hand I looked at some people around me and began to introduce myself. Everything seemed to be going great until I talked with one guy who began to make fun of me. I quickly snapped back at him asking, "Are you here to worship God? Or are you here to make fun of others?" For the rest of the night my eyebrows were pinched, my teeth were clinched and my attention began to hover more over my anger at this kid rather than my happiness of worshipping God.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? You've been made fun of and because of it you feel enraged? This experience not only changed my view of this other kid, but it also distracted me from my purpose-to worship God. In fact, I became so upset at this kid that I decided I would never talk with him ever again. Little did I know that what God wants us to do is far from what I had decided was best.

In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus tells us, "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." When I first read this verse, I was stunned. I began to wonder why God would put a clause on His forgiveness. What is so important about forgiving others and why should it determine our forgiveness from God?

First of all, we all must understand that before someone accepts Christ, they must first realize that we all desperately need to be forgiven. Not one of us can meet God's standards here on Earth (Romans 3:23). Second, God has forgiven our sins and therefore we are commanded to forgive others who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving would show that we don't truly understand that we are in need of forgiveness! This would suggest we feel that we are perfect and therefore don't need God's forgiveness. Such a position shows rebellion against a personal relationship with Christ!

I realized later that night that because of God's forgiveness, I too needed to forgive others so I decided to forgive the kid that was rude to me. I began to feel much better and I realized that God's commands are there for that reason, to make our lives more pleasing to Him (which in return will make our lives much more pleasing to us).

Forgiving others is hard; we think that if we forgive someone it shows our weakness. We feel that because we were wronged then if we forgive them then it will allow them to feel like they can do so without having to suffer the consequences; therefore we feel compelled to take revenge. But in Romans 12:19-21, Paul reminds us that we should never take revenge on others! Rather, he tells us that we should leave that to the righteous anger of God! He also tells us that we should in a way "kill others with kindness"-making them feel guilty for what they have done.

It was years before I saw the kid that was rude to me; he ended up working at the same place as I did. The amazing thing was that he remembered the time when he made fun of me and he felt horrible about it. I told him that I forgave him long before then and that he shouldn't feel bad about it. Because of my forgiveness, our relationship grew into one that was very important to each of us. Ever since then, I understood the importance of our forgiveness of others. For without God's forgiveness, our relationship with Him would be non-existent and without our forgiveness of others, the path to God's forgiveness becomes blocked by our selfish pride.

Do you take God's forgiveness for granted by not forgiving others? The key to forgiving others is to remember how much God forgives us. If it is difficult for you to forgive someone who has wronged you a little, remember that God has forgiven you for a lot. God's infinite love and forgiveness can and should give you motivation to forgive others. Constantly strive to forgive others and let God deal with those who have done wrong to you. Live to forgive, for our forgiveness of others opens the doorway to God's forgiveness in our lives.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Focus On God

Have you ever been in a room that is filled with constant chatter and background noise that persistently disrupts your concentration? There have been times when I've been working at a coffee house on some homework, and then all of a sudden people show up from nowhere and the place gets loud. I begin to strain to keep my focus, but because of all the noise, the quality of my work begins to go out the window. The same is true with my prayer life; when I talk to God, it seems as if my mind begins to focus its attention on what work needs to be done, the day's happenings, or how much I want some chocolate cake.

When these thoughts come in my mind, I begin to try to forget about them and instead focus on God, but in the process I only think about them more. In situations like this, should we blame our brains for going crazy and then hopelessly continue on as if we can't fix it? No! We need to make a conscious effort to clear our minds and focus on God!

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus Himself tells us exactly what to do when we pray, "But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you." The best way to clear our minds is to find a place of solitude where there is no background noise and where we are able to think straight!

But what if, even though you are all by yourself, things still jumble about in your mind? The great thing about praying when you are alone is that you can verbally voice your prayer to God! We don't need to whisper or keep our prayer in our minds! We can talk it out! This not only will help you focus more on your conversation with God, but it will also help you gather your thoughts in order to be more specific in your prayer!

Anger and controversy can also have an effect on our prayers! Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:8 that we need to fix the issues we have with those whom we are mad at and be free from anger and controversy. If we have anger or controversy on our minds, how can we focus on God? It's almost impossible!

Does this happen to you? Do you find yourself day dreaming or even sleeping when you're praying? If so, find a quiet place where you can be alone, drown out the thoughts in your mind by praying aloud, and free yourself from anger and controversy. If Jesus found time to pray by Himself, so can we (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12)! Continually and completely devote yourself to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Focus on God and you will find that your communication with Him will become more personal and your relationship with Him will grow (Colossians 4:2)!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Status of Kings, Duties of Slaves

When you think of a king, you don't normally think of all the dirty work that it takes to keep a kingdom running. In fact, I'm bold enough to say that most kings have never touched mud or worked 12 to 14 hours straight in a day with harsh conditions and back-straining work. On the flip-side, it'd be safe to say that most slaves will never get the chance to be considered "king" for even a second. Slaves do all the work and for no pay; they work in order to stay alive.

Because of our love and faith in Christ, we have been made complete through Him and now appear perfect in God's sight who then gives us underserved privileges (Romans 5:2). On the other hand, we are far from being perfect here on earth; therefore, we must allow the Holy Spirit to continuously work on us so that we can become more and more like Christ.

All at once we have the status of kings, and the duties of slaves. We feel the presence of Christ and the pull of sin. We have comfort in being able to be in God's presence, but we still feel the strain of this world's urge to have us as its own. We have been guaranteed eternity with Christ because of our belief and faith in Him, but we still have a lot of work to do here on Earth.

In Romans 1:1, Paul humbly calls himself a "slave of Christ Jesus" who was "chosen by God to be an apostle ('one who is sent') and sent out to preach His Good News." Like Paul, as Christians we should consider ourselves "slaves of Christ Jesus" who are completely dependent and obedient to our beloved Master.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus gives us the authority to carry out the Great Commission, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." It is our duty as Christians to tell others about Christ; we must not allow things of this world to stand in the way of the job our Master has given us.

Are you doing the work that Christ has called you to do? Is your faith in Christ accompanied by action? If not, then your faith is dead (James 2:17). For those who have been given status like that of a king, yet don't submit themselves to Christ as slaves and do what He commands us to do, are not showing others that they are right with God (James 2:24). Choose today to submit yourself to Christ. Strive to please Him in all that you do, and rely on the strength He gives us in order to do all that He commands us to do.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Obey What You Know!

I'm sure most of you will agree that one of the most difficult subjects that we have to learn in school is math. Sure, things start out easy--after all, 1+1 always equals 2--but what about advanced mathematics like statistics and calculus? These classes prove to be much more challenging! It's a good thing we are provided formulas and equations developed by early mathematicians to make solving problems easier. But, what if even though we know all the formulas and equations, we don't put them into practice and decide to not use them? Surely we would fail the class! Right!?

The same holds true for our daily walk with Christ! We have been given the Bible, which was written by God through early Christ-followers to help us deal with and solve the problems of this world. Yet, even if we have an absolute understanding of it, if we don't put what we know into practice, our walk with Christ will not benefit! In Romans 2:13, Paul tells the Christians in Rome that knowledge without action upon that knowledge will not bring God's approval: "For it is not merely knowing the law that brings God's approval. Those who obey the law will be declared right in God's sight."

While knowledge of Biblical text is definitely important in your walk with Christ (Paul reminds us to be prepared at all times in 2 Timothy 4:2), like not using the formulas and equations in our math class would not bring approval from our teacher, knowing everything about the Bible and not obeying what it says will not bring approval from God--the ultimate teacher!

There are times in my life where I struggle to put God's commands into practice. Sometimes it seems life would be easier if I could do things my own way. However, going through life without obeying and applying the knowledge I gain from reading the Bible will not bring me closer to the Lord. That would be as silly as trying to solve an advanced mathematical problem without using the formulas I've learned! The reality is God's word is always right; therefore, without applying it to our lives, we cannot truly be whole and spiritually mature.

Do you sometimes find yourself ignoring the instructions given to you from the Bible? Do you take pride in all your knowledge of God's word yet you don't act upon it? If so, pray to God asking Him to help you with this struggle. Don't just skim over the words you read in the Bible, pay close attention to them and then obey them. Continue to dig deep into God's word to gain knowledge of His will for our lives as Christians and then obey what it says; for that is truly what makes us right in God's sight.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Alive? Then Strive!

Has anyone ever told you that if you strive to be perfect you will be setting yourself up to fail? I have and I used to believe it. But one day I began to think about it and I now believe if you don't strive to be perfect then you will be setting yourself up to fail. For if you don't strive to become perfect then you will never get better than you already are. Just the same, we cannot grow closer to God if we don't strive to become more like Him. In fact, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect!

You may be asking yourself, "Did Jesus really mean perfect?" Well, yes and no. In this life we cannot be flawless, but for those of us who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have been made perfect in God's sight. We are now perfect because of our eternal union with the infinitely perfect Christ. When we accept Him, we become His children and we are declared "not guilty" and thus righteous because of what Christ, God's beloved Son, has done for us. This perfection is absolute and unchangeable, and it is this perfect relationship that guarantees that we will one day be "completely perfect" (See Colossians 2:8-10; Hebrews 10:8-14.)

Even though it is not possible to be "perfect" on this earth, we should still strive to be. Paul, in Philippians 3:12-14, says:

I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
In this passage, Paul used perfection to mean mature or complete, not flawless in every detail. He knew that it was impossible for any of us to be perfect here on earth, but he did understand that, even though at this moment we aren't truly perfect, we will become perfect when we reach our destination as Christ-followers: Heaven. Paul knew the importance of working toward the day when we will all become completely perfect.

As we strive to become perfect, Christ is progressively helping us to become holy in order to be set apart for His special use. Don't be surprised, ashamed, or shocked that we still need to grow; we can never stop growing in our relationship with Christ. If we reach a "spiritual plateau" then we aren't growing and therefore our relationship with Christ will not grow.

Do you feel like you're relationship with Christ has become stagnant? Have you found yourself at a "spiritual plateau"? Our tendency to sin must never deter us from striving to be more like Christ. He calls all of His disciples to excel, to rise above mediocrity, and to mature in every area, becoming like Him. The best way to do so is to purposely apply Scripture to all areas of your life, accept the discipline and guidance Christ provides, and by giving Him control over your desires and goals. When we let go, the Lord will provide the strength for us to overcome any obstacle, therefore rendering the "I'm not perfect" excuse useless. For those of us who are Christians, we have the power of God's Spirit working in us. We can learn and grow daily, motivated by love and not by fear or pride, knowing that God gives the energy to become complete and mature.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Title Or Lifestyle?

Imagine for a second that you've just seen me walk into a concert hall, jump up on stage and, in front of a massive audience, you hear me say, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have been trained to be a concert pianist by the world famous Mitsuko Uchida! Please enjoy the show!" The people in the audience, who've paid good money to see a professional pianist play, begin to clap and actually believe what I say. Well, anyone who knows me knows that I don't know jack squat about playing a piano; in fact, I don't even know Mitsuko Uchida!

Well, it seems I've gotten myself into a tight situation. I've just told a huge lie and now, because of my pride, I'm going to have to fake it in front of this massive audience.

I sit down and begin to play "Marry Had A Little Lamb" (the only song I really know). Out of nowhere the crowd erupts into laughter as if I'm sarcastically toying with them. However, after ten minutes of playing this childish tune, the crowd begins to wonder if I'm really who I say I am, and I begin to turn red. Instead of coming clean and telling the audience the truth, it seems I have not only made myself look bad, but Mitsuko Uchida is most likely not impressed that I associated my ability with her fame in order to increase my own!

The sad thing is there are a lot of people out there who "claim" to be Christians, yet people who look at these "Christian's" lifestyles aren't able to see the change of heart that should be evident when someone accepts, and begins to grow in, Jesus Christ. When the time comes for them to "perform", a discerning eye reveals that they can't stand up to the expectations that their false facade creates! This is because they don't truly have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!

Just like me claiming to be a concert pianist would make myself and Mitsuko Uchida look bad, I believe that those who claim themselves to be Christians, even though they consider "Christian" only as a title and not a lifestyle, mock God! If our purpose as a Christian is to spread God's love and His message of redemption, how can "Christians" like these truly promote Christianity when everything that they say or do does not reflect the life change that He provides to those who accept Him? I believe the truth is they can't! It's like the blind leading the blind! Our walk with Jesus Christ should reflect Christ-like action! We should not only claim to be Christians, we should be Christ-FOLLOWERS! We need to make a conscious effort to display the change that Jesus has produced through our personal relationship with Him!

I'm not claiming to be perfect, I'm far from it, but there is a big difference in claiming to be a Christian and modeling your life after Jesus Christ! There are times when I see people who project themselves as Christians but their actions and lifestyle indicate otherwise!

For instance, there have been times when I've come across a blog or personal website of someone who claims to be a Christian, but their site is filled to the brim with cuss words! And there are plenty of times when I've seen girls that claim to be Christians, but the clothes they wear show way too much skin! Or, maybe you've run across people who feel like it is okay to tell jokes that are hurtful to others, even though they know that we need to build each other up instead of tearing each other down (Ephesians 4:29-31)! And what about making fun of others, or gossiping? The Bible says that is like helping a wicked man by being a bad witness (Exodus 23:1)! Even a true Christ follower can get caught up in some of the actions above; we are all sinners! So how are we able to recognize other Christian's?

The Bible says that instead of merely saying we are Christians, we need to die to our old self and offer ourselves as "living sacrifices" to God (Romans 12:1-2)! The Bible also tells us that when we belong to Christ, and we become a slave to Him rather than a slave to sin, the Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit, indwells in us to assist us in our decisions, in our modeling, and in discerning the will of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we grow in our faith, by reading the Bible, attending a Biblical church, and associating with other true Christ followers, we will produce fruit and we will also become "Fruit Inspectors".

The Bible says a Christ follower will bear much "fruit". So how can you tell a Christian from one only claiming to be a Christian? You've guessed it! The Fruits of the Spirit will be evident in their lives (Galatians 5:22-25)! As you become better at bearing fruit for Christ, you'll also become better at inspecting for fruit in others!

The Bible warns us that those who only claim to be Christians, yet produce no fruit, are like trees who also produce no fruit; they will be chopped down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 3:10)!

It seems like each day there are more and more people who claim to be Christians, but they put more emphasis on belonging to this world rather than belonging to God (Philippians 3:18-19)! Do you claim to be a Christian but your lifestyle doesn't show it? Do you consider "Christian" a title and not a lifestyle change? Do you claim to strive to model your life after Jesus Christ's, yet you show no effort? If so, you aren't living the life that God calls His children to live!

Say goodbye to your old ways. For those who constantly fall back into their old lifestyle are not fit for the service of the Lord (Luke 9: 62). Add action to your walk with Christ; become a Christ-FOLLOWER instead of being what this world's definition of a "Christian" is. Give up your life as a living sacrifice to God, hold onto what is good, and keep away from evil (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, James 4:7-10). Devote your life to Jesus and you will find that He will bless you more than you can imagine.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Our Fate With Hate

You walk into school with your Christian shirt on and what do you get? A group of people who are trying their best to humiliate you in front of everyone because of who you serve: God. This tragic event, I'm sure, has happened to you. We all have had times where we've become the center of humiliation and even hate because of our love for Christ. Why is this the case though?

First of all, it is important that we understand that the world hates us because we don't belong to it; we are no longer part of this world! In John 15:18-27, Jesus tells us to expect hate from this world because of our love for Him:

When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don't. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? `A servant is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you! The people of the world will hate you because you belong to me, for they don't know God who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me hates my Father, too. If I hadn't done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be counted guilty. But as it is, they saw all that I did and yet hated both of us--me and my Father. This has fulfilled what the Scriptures said: `They hated me without cause.' But I will send you the Counselor--the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will tell you all about me. And you must also tell others about me because you have been with me from the beginning.
As you can see, the reason why we are hated in this world is because the world hates God! We must remember that Christ chose us to tell others about Him, no matter the cost! Those who hear the good news (the Gospel) have no excuse for their sins, for they have the facts yet don't believe them!

Sometimes we think that the hatred towards us is because of something we have done, but the opposite is true! They hate Christ and us without cause because of the evilness in their hearts! Take comfort in Christ's reason for this warning in John 16:1, it is meant to bring us strength! Find strength as well in the command given to Ezekiel by God in Ezekiel 2:6-7:
Son of man, do not fear them. Don't be afraid even though their threats are sharp as thorns and barbed like briers, and they sting like scorpions. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls. For remember, they are rebels! You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won't listen, for they are completely rebellious!
How should we react to these situations though? Should we lash out at those who hate us? No! That would do more damage! People of this world constantly want us to fail so that the image of Christ will become non-existent; in order to maintain the image of Christ and the morals we are to uphold, we must express unconditional love and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-41)! In fact, in Acts 5:41 we see that Peter and John actually rejoiced because "God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus!"

Do you struggle to find strength in tough times? If so, pray to God asking Him to help you as you represent Him. When you find yourself in these situations, where your love for Christ is causing you pain, be glad! For if you are being ridiculed because of your loyalty to Christ, then you know that others can see your love for God! Christ wasn't the only one who suffered pain for our gain; there will also be times where we will suffer pain in order to advance the Gospel! Have faith, for even when you don't see the blessings, trials of all kinds strengthen our perseverance and eventually we will recieve our reward.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Procrastination Nation

One of my worst habits is procrastination. I'm not as bad about it anymore, but I definitely still fall into its grasps. Sometimes, I'll even wait until the night before a project is due to even get started! This habit of mine is not only an annoyance to me, but it is also very dangerous! Likewise, there is a lot of danger in someone putting their eternal life on the back-burner. There are many who have heard about Jesus and all He offers, yet many keep saying, "maybe tomorrow."

This world won't last forever and neither will we! Last time I checked there was a 100% chance that we all will die! Because of this truth, the only way that we are able to live forever is through accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior (John 14:6)! It amazes me though, to hear of people who have heard of Christ, yet are not willing to accept Him! This world is filled with people who stumble through the "darkness", but the Bible says that Jesus is the light that leads to life (John 8:12)! In fact, Matthew 24:48-51 describes exactly how a lot of people in this world put off accepting Christ:
But if the servant is evil and thinks, `My master won't be back for a while,' and begins oppressing the other servants, partying, and getting drunk-- well, the master will return unannounced and unexpected. He will tear the servant apart and banish him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This passage tells us that being like the evil servant is not the way to go! It says that the servant will be sent to Hell, "a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth", and will be torn apart! Why then, if it is known that such a future exists for those who don't come to Christ, do many put off accepting Christ?

Could it be because we as Christ-followers aren't doing the job that we were sent to do (Matthew 4:19)? As a Christ-follower, are you doing your job? Are you spreading the gospel (the "good news")? If not, don't keep God a secret! Shout it out to all of those in this procrastination nation and tell them of His amazing love (Isaiah 40:9)!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Art Appreciation

When I was younger, I didn't have too much interest in art. I was never good at drawing and even when I colored I could never stay in the lines (I still can't). I also never truly understood how simple markings, which were no greater than the scribbles I was capable of, were considered art by adults with so-called "better understanding". I figured that maybe it was true; maybe I needed to grow in order to appreciate art more. As it turned out, the more I grew, the more appreciative of art I became. I began to realize that the art pieces weren't always about what was being displayed, but the emotion and meaning behind them.

If you think about it, all good things on this earth have been created by God! You, me, the trees, animals, the skies... everything! But sometimes I believe we don't show the amount of respect for the art that God has created as we should! We may believe that God created everything, but do we truly appreciate it? Do we look at it and yell out in disgust? Or can we honestly say that we appreciate the amazing work that only God could have done?

Imagine yourself in a museum. Every person around you is looking at all of the beautiful art around you, but you are completely disgusted with it. You look at everyone you come in contact with and tell them that the art looks horrible and is completely useless. Imagine now that you had the chance to meet the creator of the art on display. You walk up to this person and tell them that their art is horrible and is completely useless. How rude is that!? How would you feel if you were the person who created the art and some random person tells you that your work is not good enough and worthless!

Many times though, we do the exact same thing to God! He is always around us, listening and watching what we do, yet many times we'll throw a sarcastic comment towards someone else and then laugh as they turn red from embarrassment. What's worse is we usually do this around other people so that we can feel better about ourselves at their expense!

The Bible says in Genesis 1:26-27 that we are made in the image of God! Why then do we throw sarcastic remarks at others and make fun of one another if God is the One who created us? Would you say such a thing to His face? Of course not! But sometimes we do just that! Ephesians 4:2-7 tells us that we should always be humble, gentle, and patient with each other. It even tells us to "make allowance for each other's faults". We must come together with love rather than segregate ourselves by harsh words and sarcasm!

In Ephesians 4:29-31, Paul writes:

Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He is the One who has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior.
When we are rude to someone else, or we don't include someone because of how they look, act or talk, we are ultimately telling God that we are not appreciative of His art and that we think it is horrible and worthless! The truth is, we are all equally important to God; He loves us more than we can image! If God loves each and every one of us, then why do we put each other down?

Just how I was unable to comprehend why simple scribbles were considered art, many times the feelings that we experience, or the people we know, may not necessarily make sense to us. We may have a hard time figuring out why God put someone or something in our lives, or why we feel the way we do at different times in our lives, but just as I grew to understand that art is not always about what is on the outside, rather more about the emotion and meaning behind them, so can you grow in your relationship with Christ and begin to understand the meaning of all of God's creations.

Do you find yourself constantly making fun of other people? Do you seem to always have a negative attitude that causes you to lash out at others? Pray to God and ask Him to help you with accepting others and appreciating all that you see. Remind yourself of the beauty of the "small" things (e.g., the sun, stars, flowers, skies) and thank Him for them. You will find that the more you thank God for the "small" things, the more value you will put on the greater things, like fellow humans and our Creator! We should all strive to be appreciative of God's art; after all, we are God's art too!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Spiritual Heart Transplant

When we accept Christ, and acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior, we undergo a spiritual heart transplant. Our old heart, which has been plagued by the evilness of this world, has been replaced with a heart that is transformed by the Holy Spirit. This operation, while at the beginning seems to be an easy process, turns out to require much more effort than originally thought.

The Christian lifestyle is not an easy one. It requires constant conviction from the Holy Spirit in order to stay on the narrow path. The problem arises when our worldly body begins to reject our new heart; then it becomes an issue of spiritual maturity and discipline.

Ephesians 5:8-9 shows us exactly what this spiritual heart transplant is all about, and what the "post-operation" outcome should be like: "For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true."

When a patient comes out of surgery, the doctor comes to them to see how they are progressing and make sure the patient has discipline enough to take care of themselves after the surgery. In the same way, the Holy Spirit helps to keep us accountable so that we may constantly progress in our walk with Christ through spiritual maturity and discipline. Don't worry, if you've accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior and Believe that He died on the Cross in order to save you from your sins so that you can enter into the family of God, then your spiritual heart transplant was successful! God is not only over-qualified, He's also the only one who can complete such an operation! But, if your behavior and lifestyle don't reflect the change that God has produced in His followers, then you need to get a spiritual check-up!

So what can we do in order to strengthen our spiritual maturity and discipline? Well, we aren't left hanging in this passage from Ephesians. In Ephesians 5:10-11, we see exactly what we must do in order to work out the heart that has been graciously given to us: "Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, rebuke and expose them."

By faithfully searching for what pleases God, whether it be through reading the Bible, communicating with fellow Christians, or prayer, you will find that you will have a better understanding of the moral standards that we as Christians are to hold. The more you know about God's moral expectations, the more you can stay away from the "worthless deeds of evil and darkness".

The world we live in definitely has its many false doctors who will try to persuade you into thinking they have a better operation. But, I tell you the truth, God is the only one who can truly save you from this evil world; He is the only one who can perform such a spiritual heart transplant. Keep your eyes on the Lord, and work on your spiritual maturity and discipline; by doing so, you will find that you will spark the change of heart that brings forth the spiritual heart transplants of others.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Seek Him First

In the past, I've had the opportunity to meet a small handful of famous people. I'd become so excited about meeting them that I'd think about them all the time. While I'd like to say that most of these opportunities were great experiences, it simply isn't the case. Most of the time these famous people acted as if they were too busy to talk, or they came across as being too important to even share the same air.

In this world, it's all about who you know and who you've met. We strive to say, "I've met so and so" and "He was so close he spit on me", yet many times we don't give enough attention to the most important being we'll ever be in contact with: God!

It amazes me how much God loves us. We are not perfect like He is, yet He still wants to be with us! We've disobeyed Him many times, and will continue to do so, yet He's got faith in us! With such a loving God, the only God in any religion that strives to be with His people, you'd think we'd put more effort into being with Him! Yet, many times we put so much energy into meeting so called VIP's who are nothing more than just temporary beings!

The Bible says in Acts 17:26-28 that the reason why we were created to begin with was to seek God:
From one man He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand which should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries. His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him--though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist. As one of your own poets says, "We are His offspring."

If the reason for our existence is to "seek after God", don't you think our lives would be at their best when we are in line with this purpose? We must come to the point in our walk with Christ where we put Him before everything, and we seek Him more than anything else! In fact, Jesus tells us in Proverbs 8:17 that when we seek Him, we will find Him! With such guarantee of finding our savior, there is no room for excuses!

Do you find yourself putting a lot of energy into making sure you know those who are "important"? Do you constantly boast about your "connections"? If so, turn from doing so and seek first the kingdom of God! Put all of your energy into being with God and you will find that you will be filled with even more energy. Never stop seeking Him, for you will find Him (Matthew 7:7) and constantly remind yourself that you aren't the only one doing the seeking, God longs to be with you as well.