With my new career, the “youth guy” title doesn’t really for anymore. Because of that, I’ve started a new blog and am going to attempt to post to it more often. My new blog is hebrews610christian.wordpress.com. I hope to be an encouragement to you there. Thanks and God bless!

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God or Man

 

Paul presents an interesting point in Galatians 1.  He says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (v. 10).  Think about what Paul is saying here.  He is saying that it is not always possible to please man and God at the same time.  We will either make man happy and let God down, or we will make God happy and let man down.  So, let’s think about this in our own lives in 2013.  Who are we trying to please?  What are we doing with our lives?  There are a few other verses I want us to look at and consider in the light of this concept.

Firstly, let’s look at Romans 12:2.  Again we have Paul addressing a group of Christians and he says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Paul starts his big challenge here with the idea of not “conforming” to this world.  We’ve heard lessons or discussions or devotionals on this before, but it’s something that is so important that we need to think about it again.  We live in a time where we are told to be “politically correct.”  Do you know what this phrase means?  It’s more than just not offending someone.  The very definition of this phrase goes against the teaching of Romans 12:2.  The phrase is defined as, “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”  The world we live in is calling us to conform to it’s way of thinking.  God, however, calls us to transform our lives to His way of thinking.  He says we need to test what is taught and see if it matches the will of God.  As a Christian living a transformed way of life, we cannot conform to this world.

Now let’s look at John 12:42-43.  To set the stage, we need to remember what has been happening.  John tells us that Jesus has been performing miracles and teaching the people.  The whole time, however, the Pharisees have been getting angrier and angrier.  John tells us that the unbelief of the Pharisees had been prophesied about by Isaiah.  Then, in verses 42 and 43, John gives us an insight into what some of the people were thinking.  He says, “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”  How sad is that description!  Many of the authorities believed in Jesus but wouldn’t confess Him because they wanted the glory of man instead of God.  These people knew what they were missing out on, but chose the “good things” of this life over the truly great things of the life to come.  The saddest part, however, isn’t that these people passed on confessing and serving Christ, but that people are still making that choice today.  Our friends, maybe even some of our families, are choosing to accept the praise and glory of this world over the praise and glory of God.

There’s one other verse we need to look at though.  It’s something that Christ Himself said.  It’s something we are familiar with, but I want us to take a step back and look at it with the mindset that Paul brought out in Galatians.  When we are trying to please God instead of man it will be easier to follow the instruction of Christ when He tells us in Matthew 5:41 to go the extra mile.  By law, a Roman soldier could make a person carry their things for them for one mile.  The people were so upset about this law that they would mark off one mile and would not take another step further.  But Christ tells them to go two miles.  Go above and beyond what is required.  Don’t search for the minimum requirement, look for ways to excel.  This concept goes beyond the situation Christ was talking specifically about and should affect our entire life.  Do we want to show God in our lives?  Then we need to do more than the bare minimum.  Do we want to bring others to Christ?  Then we need to show Him in our lives.

How does this “extra mile” way of life work?  Well, take the not conforming to the world concept.  At face value, we would disregard the teachings of this world as a whole and only do the things that we know are right.  However, if we are truly going that “extra mile,” we would look at the concepts being taught and see if there is anything beneficial we can do.  When it comes to being “politically correct,” there are a lot of things that are spiritually incorrect.  However, we need to realize that Christ reached out to sinners while the Pharisees condemned them all.  As Christians, we must look past the sin in a person’s life and see the value that God gave them.  Don’t excuse the sin, but help the sinner.  This is not going to be something easy for us.  The world, and at times other Christians, may stand against us.  But, as Paul pointed out in Galatians, who are we trying to please?  Man or God?

Philippians 2.12

The “Old Law” was hard to live under.  Every aspect of life was spelled out for the people.  God didn’t leave any room for them to misinterpret things.  There were few, if any, gray areas.  Paul tells us in Romans that the specifics of the law introduced sin to their lives.  It didn’t make people sin, but it did teach them that there was something “wrong” about certain things.  The Old Law was something seemingly impossible to keep because of all the specific commands.

Luckily, we don’t have every detail of our lives detailed out for us.  We can “work out [our] own salvation” now (Philippians 2:12).  If something doesn’t seem easy or if we just don’t want to do something a certain way, as long as it is not a direct command, we can determine our own reasoning for our actions.  Life is so much simpler now!  If we are running late to work, it’s okay to speed a little.  If we are too tired to go back and return the extra change we were given, that’s okay…they should have been paying more attention anyway.

What?  That’s not how it works?  There’s more to Philippians 2:12 than “work out your own salvation”?  Oh, Paul added “with fear and trembling.”  So, when we make decisions in those “gray areas” we need to make sure we are being consistent with everything God has taught and commanded and we need to make sure that we are doing (or trying to justify) is something that God would be okay with in ALL situations.  That makes it a little more difficult for us.  At least in the Old Testament times God just came out and told them what He expected.  Now He expects us to know not only what He says, but what He means as well!

In case you couldn’t tell, there was a LOT of sarcasm before.  But in all seriousness, the Christian has a task that is incredibly difficult.  We have to decide for ourselves what it is that God wants from us in some cases.  He has not spelled out exactly what we are to do every day, other than telling us to live our life as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1), and to be “like living stones…being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).  We must make decisions in life that show our priorities.  Will we treat getting to Bible class and worship the same as getting to work?  Will we show the same pleasure in our giving to God as we do in giving to others?  Will we follow the example of God in taking care of us, His children, when we are taking care of our children?  What will we do with the “unspoken commands”?

 

Father God, help us to always put our own desires aside and listen to what you want from us and for us.  Thank you for giving us free will to choose what we will do with our lives.  Please give us the strength to overcome the temptations of this world, physical or mental or emotional, and to lean on you and your word.  Thank you, Father, for giving us hope.  Amen.

The Perfect Gift

The holiday season is in full swing, which means different things for different people.  Some minds will wander to memories of past years with their family.  Others will be focused on getting the “perfect gift” for each of their loved ones.  Still others will be planning their travel plans to go see family…and this list could go on all day.  It’s fun to stop and think about these things and the role they play in our lives at this time of the year each year.  But let’s think, for just a moment about a couple of these things specifically.

For starters, we all know that traveling this time of year can be hazardous.  I’m not just referring to the weather…especially in Oklahoma right now where someone forgot to tell Jack Frost that we are supposed to need jackets instead of shorts.  With everyone traveling in such a hurry, there can be some accidents on the roads.  People are in a hurry to get to the store (or maybe, finally, home from the store) or they are in a hurry to get together with their loved ones to celebrate.  Either way, they are in a hurry.  And when we are in a hurry, we sometimes forget to look out for others.  Yes, traveling can be hazardous with everyone going their own way this time of year.

We all want to give someone that “perfect gift” that will make them happier than any other.  For some, that can mean shopping for your Christmas presents in February.  For others that means shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  Either way, there is planning (and waiting) involved.  You will either wait most of the year to give these people their present…or you’ll wait in line forever to get in the store, then fight your way through the crowd and wait (again forever) in line to purchase it.  But at the end of the day, the waiting doesn’t really matter that much because we are doing all of that out of love for the other person and hoping to make their holiday very enjoyable.

Instead of worrying about the hazards of traveling, however, what if we spent that time thinking about the travel plans we are making for eternity?  People are still in a hurry to start their eternity, it seems.  And most people are still going their own way in life and hoping that they get where they want to be without any concern for how they are traveling.  We’re told in God’s Word:

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)
{13} “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. {14} For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

John 14:6 (ESV)
{6} Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Christ makes it pretty clear for us that if we want to arrive at our eternal destination safely, we have to choose the right path (the narrow, difficult at times way) because He is the only way to get to God.

And what about that “perfect gift?”  All the time we spend deciding what gift to buy someone and making sure that it is just right ends up getting a smile and then they move on to another gift that someone else has deemed the “perfect gift” for them.  Do you want to know the secret to finding the true “perfect gift” for someone?  It needs to be something one-of-a-kind, that is irreplaceable and satisfies every need imaginable.  For the record, you can’t find it at Wal-Mart or some specialty store somewhere.  There won’t be a “new and better” version announced the next year and you’ll never have to update it.  The price tag on this gift is pretty high, though.  In fact, it costs more than everyone on the planet has combined.  There is some good news with this gift though.  This amazing, unique and “perfect gift” has already been given to us!

Hebrews 5:7-10 (ESV)
{7} In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. {8} Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. {9} And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, {10} being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Romans 5:15-17 (ESV)
{15} But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. {16} And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. {17} If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

What better gift could there be than the gift of life?  And the ultimate gift of life is eternal life!  This has been made available for all people because all people need it.  We have all sinned and fallen short of what we are supposed to do in this life, but God loves us enough to send the perfect gift for us.  The cost to us is free, because it’s already been paid with the sacrifice of Christ!

Father God, thank You for loving us enough to give us the Perfect Gift, Your Son!  Help us to remember that, because of Your love and His sacrifice, we know how to spend eternity with You.  We love You, Father, and long to serve You!  Amen.

As my little girl gets to the point in life where she starts to understand (or at least seem to understand) the basic logic behind consequences, I find myself understanding the need to have an example for myself. Before I go any further, I do need to point out that my earthly father set an incredible example. Growing up, he and my mother would always bring things “back to the Bible” (something that, I’ll admit, at the time I found semi annoying). They impressed on me and my brother the authority, reverence and respect for the Bible and God that I hold dear to this day…and I had no clue they were doing it!

Once in a while my wonderful two-year-old daughter needs to be reminded that when Mommy or Daddy tells her to do something she needs to do it.  Now, I try not to spank her unless there is no listening at all, so when I do it really breaks my heart (and is usually followed very quickly by a hug and an explanation).  Now, when she isn’t doing what we tell her, it usually goes something like this:

Me:  What happens when you don’t do what daddy says?

Emilia:  Pankins…

Me:  Do you want a spankin?

Emilia:  No…

Me:  Then you need to do what daddy says (and repeat what I was asking her to do)

This change in behavior has been great!  Not only does she not get spankings as much, but she is starting to understand that her actions have consequences.  One night recently she was “refusing” to go to bed.  We went through the routine and as she obeyed following our conversation, I began to think about the example God has set for me as a father.  How many times do I try to do my own thing instead of what He tells me?  How many times does He send some kind of discipline my way and then explain it to me through His word and the people around me?  How many times does He give me the chance to rethink my decision before His discipline comes?

I love my daughter.  She is one of the biggest blessings the Lord has ever entrusted to me.  But, once in a while, I do have to discipline her.  And, once in a while, I do get frustrated that she doesn’t listen.  But, like my heavenly Father, I refuse to give up on the situation.  I know that being consistent in what I ask and expect of her is important to her growth and development.  Where did I learn that?  From my heavenly Father, who is the most consistent, loving, caring and disciplining parent ever.  He has set an example that I strive to set for my daughter.

Revelation 3:19 (ESV)
{19} Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Proverbs 3:11-12 (ESV)
{11} My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, {12} for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
{9} The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Father God, thank You for always wanting the best for us.  Thank You for disciplining us when we need it.  I know that it isn’t easy for You to do, but You do it anyway.  Thank You for never giving up on us…no matter what we do.  We love You, Father.  Amen.

“Don’t make me angry.  You won’t like me when I’m angry.”

The quote made famous by Bruce Banner, usually right before he changes into the giant, bulky, green monster that we all know as the Incredible Hulk.  Anytime Bruce Banner loses control over his anger, he loses control of himself as well.  We love the idea of a “superhero” that is nearly unstoppable, and the fact that it’s the man’s anger that makes him that way is even better.  We see movies and television shows that glorify losing your temper.  It’s shown as a necessary response to overcoming whatever obstacle we are facing.  Whether it’s a situation at work, an occurrence on the road or even a bullying situation, losing our temper is what we are told we are suppose to do.  It always works out for the people in the shows, so why shouldn’t it work out for us too?

Here’s the side of the story that Hollywood never shows though.  When the Incredible Hulk goes on his rampage, he destroys everything in his path.  Then someone has to fix it.  If anyone is in his way, they have to heal.  When someone runs another person off the road in what we deem “justified road rage,” injuries and damages happen.  Jail time occasionally follows as well, or at least court time.  If you try to fight back when bullied, someone is going to get hurt.  Usually it’s both people.  And then there are the consequences with the authorities.  No, losing our temper “Hollywood style” is never the right option.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in defending yourself and your loved ones in danger, but I don’t think the way Hollywood shows us to do it is right.  In fact, I’m completely against letting anger get the best of us and sinking us down to the level of those causing our anger.  Think about it, why would you want to act like the people or fit in with the situation that is making you angry?  Why not be the bigger person?  Why not see what is happening and then THINK before responding.  You can make just as big as statement, if not a bigger one, by standing up ethically for what you believe and what you know is right.

I know, it’s easy for me to sit behind a computer and say “don’t fight back” or “turn the other cheek,” but consider for a moment that I’m not the one saying it.  Christ says that when you are attacked (or persecuted or bullied or whatever word you feel fits your situation best), you should not return the violence.  In Matthew 5:39, Christ tells the crowd of listeners to “not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  Retaliation is never the answer.

So, what do we do with anger?  Paul tells us in Ephesians 4, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”  There is a balance that we have to find in life.  It’s not only understandable to get angry, but it’s approved to do so.  What we do with that anger is where the issue lies.  We cannot allow the anger inside us to take over.  We have to remain in control at all times.  It’s important that we not only keep control of ourselves, but that we also keep control of our anger.  We have to be able to let things go.  Holding a grudge does nothing but make the person holding it bitter and, according to Paul, gives the devil an opportunity.

What will you do with your anger?  Will you hold onto it and become bitter toward people, or will you let go and forgive?  The choice is ultimately up to each of us, but the safe and right way to handle it is to let go of the past and move on to our future.

 

Some people say “time is money.”  These are the people who focus on their jobs and earthly gain so much that they find value in every minute.  They must be working.  They must be making money.  Whether it’s to buy that “new toy” or to pay off the last one, they have to have money.

Others say “time is fleeting.”  They realize that time is something we will never have enough of and it will be gone far too soon.  Every moment must be lived to its fullest potential.  Every second must be lived and enjoyed because you’ll never get that exact experience again.

There is a popular country song right titled “Time is Love.”  In this song, the singer explains that time can only be spent once and, instead of focusing on work, it should be spent with the one(s) you love.  The people you care the most about and mean the most to you.  “Time is love” is a concept that is not widely accepted, or at least valued, in today’s society.

Everyone will acknowledge that children grow up “way too fast.”  The time we have with them goes by so quickly, it almost seems like a blur.  My daughter will be two soon.  In the past 21 months she has changed from a baby that slept most of the time to a “baby, which she will always be to me, who carries on conversations with her mother, me, her dogs, her family, her friends…even her toys!  She can run and walk and feed herself now.  She is getting “big” and I’m not sure when, or how, that snuck up on me.  Time has flown!

Time is something that we only get once.  We are told that our life is “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14b).  We must make the most of our time while we still can.  That means leaving an impact on those close to us.  Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” because there would be a time when “people will not endure sound teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2, 3).  We need to prepare for hard times while it is easier.  Christians today have it MUCH easier than Christians did in the first century, but it is becoming more and more obvious that our way of life is going to be challenged.  We need to make sure that we are making the most of today.

This is not a new concept.  We are to make the most of our time on earth.  We are to do everything we can to pass on a legacy of faith to those who come after us.  This “passing of the torch” starts in the home.  Even in the Old Testament times, the times we are told to learn from (Romans 15:4), the responsibility was placed on the family to teach God’s importance, prominence and power.  Deuteronomy 6 records the people being told:  “Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on you gates” (vs.4-9).

What is time to you?  Is it money?  Is it fleeting?  Is it love?  Hopefully, for you and your family, you will define time as God’s.  He gives it to us to use.  He gives it once, and expects us to make the most of it.  Make God a part of your life and your day.

Mark 13:33 (ESV)
{33} Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)
{15} Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
{16} making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.