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.