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).