Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dorcas: A Woman of Great Works

     "Religion that is pure and undefiled is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." -James 1:27

     Today I will be talking about a woman of the Bible who is far too often over-looked: Dorcas. Acts 9:36-43 talks about her short yet compelling story. In verse 36 it introduces her by saying, "Now there was in Joppa a woman named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas (or graceful or elegant). She was full of good works and acts of charity." Before I get into her story, I will give a brief summation of her story so those of you who have not heard her story can understand what exactly is going on here. As we have already seen, she was a woman of great works. Dorcas took care of widows and those in need, and one day she got sick and died. They then sent for Peter, who came and raised her from the dead.

     In this article I will be addressing Acts 9:39 which says, "So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them." What is the significance of this verse? Seems rather random, doesn't it? Let's examine it for a bit.

     First I'm going to point out the fact that the widows were weeping. Have you ever been to a funeral of someone who you had never met? Did you feel much sorrow for their death? Did you miss their presence so much that you melted down into a puddle of tears? Most likely not. There's nothing wrong with that, but do you think that these widows would have been crying had they not had a good relationship with Dorcas? I was at a camp this past week and every day we had a mission project. One day we volunteered at a center that gave clothes to families who couldn't afford them, another day we volunteered at a  womens' shelter to help organize their food pantry, clean some of the play rooms, etc. Well, one day we went and visited a nursing home and let me tell you, those ladies really enjoyed it. There was one I remember, who was so excited to have us there, she called the church building where we had the camp every day starting three days before the camp had even started to make sure that she had the right date and wouldn't be gone. Just because you get old, that doesn't mean that you don't look forward to seeing people any more. Dorcas knew that, and built a strong relationship with these widows.

     The next thing I will be looking at is the part that talks about them showing the tunics that Dorcas had made while she was with them. As you can see in 1 Timothy 5, widows are to be taken care of by their families, but unfortunately not all of them have families. I remember that one day around Christmas, after worship services I was walking down the hallway of my church building and I over-heard someone asking one of the widows if she was visiting any of her family for Christmas and she sadly replied, "Oh, I don't have a family." and it made me think for a second how much I take my friends and family for granted at times. Not everyone has a family who can help and take care of them in their time of need. Dorcas built a strong relationship with these widows and helped them in a time of need when they couldn't provide for themselves.

     Well, what does that have to do with us? Why should we care? Well, when you get married, you are the center of someone's world. You are the first person they see in the morning, and the last person they see when they go to bed at night. When you are married to someone, you are their entire world. You are the person that they love most in the world. Unfortunately, however, with life, one day you are important and loved and a priority to someone, and the next day you're nothing. Once that person is gone, your world crumbles down around you and suddenly, the calls stop coming, the visits stop, and every night you're sitting down at your empty table eating a dinner for one. Every day you get up, and you no longer are next to the love of your life, but the empty other half of your bed. We need to make sure and get to know these widows, and take care of them. And please, don't use the excuse that you don't know any widows. Chances are if you go to worship, you are around plenty of widows. Get to know them, form relationships with them, I can guarantee you they'll love it. Today I would like to encourage all of you to do that.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Abhoring Evil

     A few articles ago when I was talking about brotherly love and mentioned Romans 12:9 and how it says we should abhor evil, but I couldn't get too much into it because it was off topic. Today I am going to finish that thought here. In case you missed the article or forgot what it says, the verse states, "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." I will be talking about the second part of this verse which says to abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good.

     What does the word "abhor" mean? Some synonyms for it are to despise, detest, hate, loathe, and scorn. And what is evil? Evil is sin. This is saying that we need to detest, hate, loathe, and despise sin. But what we have to ask ourselves is: do we? So often we get caught up in finding ways around sin and justifying it but honestly if it has anything to do with anything sinful then we should keep away from it. We should find no use for it, and hate it. We should despise anything that is not from God. But do we? Do we think, "Oh, it's just cussing." or "Yes there will be alcohol served at that party but I don't have to drink any." or "Yes, they do nothing but gossip but they're my friends." "It doesn't really bother me that much." I'm not saying that we have to hate those people but to detest, loathe, despise, and hate all things sinful. Temptation itself is not sinning, don't get me wrong. It's giving in on that temptation that's sinful. We have to remember that if we have to justify something, then chances are we shouldn't be doing it.

     The next thing I will be talking about is holding on to what is good. To guard it, and to keep it safe and pure. Say you have a really good, Christian friend who is always helping you grow up through Christ and is nothing but a good influence. It is crucial that we keep those friends and to grow up in our faith with them. Yes sometimes friendships just end because life gets in the way but keep those things as close to you as you can while you have them. We also should study the Bible and hold on to our faith. If God is your anchor and you never let go, then you will never have to worry about drifting away.

     It's always important to study God's Word constantly so that we can know what to avoid and what to keep. We should be diligent in our faith and never take anyones word for it because it's possible that they are wrong. I would like to encourage you all to stay strong in your faith by always reading and studying and praying. You'd be surprised what a simple hour out of your day can do.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Truth About Love: An Encouragement To Love

     In my past articles I have talked about the different kind of love. I have jotted down my study-based thoughts and formed them into articles, hoping to persuade all of you to love more openly, more deeply, and just more in general. Today I would like to encourage you all to take what I have said, study it for yourselves, then proceed to teach and love others with the kind of brotherly love that we read about in Romans 12:10 and to insist on God's way like we studied in 1 Corinthians 13:5, and to have a natural love as we can study in Romans 1. This article is mostly not for your edification, but to encourage you all to live your lives in a way that will help you get to heaven, and to persevere and learn and study so we can receive an imperishable crown as we can see in 1 Corinthians 9:24.

     Love is very important in a way that if everyone had a pure, undefiled love for one another then we wouldn't have to worry about any other sin. If we all loved as we should then we would never slander, gossip, hurt, or hinder anyone from continuing on their journey towards their heavenly home. If we all loved unconditionally as God does, the world would be a much better place. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Regrettably the rest of the world doesn't fully understand the love that Jesus had for us when He died on the cross so that we can be baptized to be saved from the fires of hell (even though most people reject this offer). Grievously most will never experience the joys of understanding the love that God has for us, but instead misunderstand and assume that there is no God, never seeing the beauty of His boundless love. This is why we need to always teach others, and spread the Word around with everyone we can so that we can leave this earth having accomplished something greater than discovering a country, being a world leader, or even saving thousands of lives. The only lives that matter in the end are spiritual ones.

     Today I would like to encourage you all to remember to love and not hate, and to always be teaching or studying or praying, and to do things for others. Whether it's taking food to those who need it, or just giving someone a well needed hug, we always need to remember that everyone in the world sins, and as Christians we do not accept their sins, but to accept the person even if they're not your best friend.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Truth About Love: Assuming the Best

     Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes, you make mistakes, that random guy in the car next to you as you're driving down the road makes mistakes. It's part of what makes us human. No I'm not saying that that gives us an excuse to sin, but that we need to be understanding of other peoples' mistakes. Now I'm sure you're wondering, "Why are you telling me this? I already know that no one is perfect, what does that have to do with anything?" Well, that's what I'm going to be talking about in this article.

     1 Corinthians 13:7 says, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things." This verse isn't saying that we should be gullible. In fact, in Mark 13:23 it tells us to be on guard for false teachers. We shouldn't just believe all that everyone tells us, but make sure that it's true. But I'm not talking about words, I'm talking about actions. Say you're talking to a friend and they say something that you know isn't true. Now you could either pass them off as a liar, or you could ask them about it. Chances are, they were just wrong. It can be very easy to assume the worst about people, but when we do, then the trust in that relationship goes down slowly until there isn't any left. It's always important to talk to people about our problems with them and come to an understanding. Sometimes they are aware of what they said, and they don't care no matter what you say. However, sometimes they had no idea that what they said wasn't true. This is why we need to always assume the best and confront others in a loving manner so that we don't get the wrong idea of them. That's how friendships end.

     We should always make sure and if we have to make an assumption, give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Everyone makes mistakes and we have to remember this. Not only should we assume the best, but have patience with people even when they do mess up. That's what love is about. Love is about always assuming the best even when it's hard.      

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Truth About Love: When Things Get Tough

     A question that gets asked frequently is "If God loves us so much, why does He let bad things happen?" or, "Why do bad things always happen to good people?" And since my last article was about God's love for us, that's what I'll be talking about today.

     Things happen to us on a daily basis. Wonderful things, negative things, incredible things, and terrible things. The truth is, life is unexpected and short. Now I know I'm kind of being a downer here, but it's true. No matter how good or bad of a person you are, life goes on. Yes, there are consequences, but the ultimate punishment with be given on Judgement Day. The last section of Matthew 5:45 reads "For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Life goes on. Things happen, yes, but do we actually deserve anything in life? Jesus is God's son and is known as the "man of sorrows". If you think you've got it bad, imagine having to leave heaven and come to earth only to teach those who persecute you for trying to help them get to heaven, and then brutally tortured and murder you so that those people who ruthlessly slaughtered you can be saved. If that was Jesus' life, then why do we feel like we deserve better?

     "But how can God let these things happen? Why would that be God's will?" Not everything that happens is God's will. Yes He lets it happen, but He isn't responsible for them. It is possible for us to go against God's will, that's what sin is. God lets these things happen because He's not going to just shove us into heaven, but lead us. If we follow or don't follow, that's all on us.

     I guess what I'm trying to say is that yes sometimes life is hard. Yes, some people have harder lives than others, but eventually, if we do our best to serve God, 70 years is going to be literally nothing compared to eternity. It's our job to live the right life until death, even though sometimes it can be difficult. But as we read in Hebrews 4:15, we have a high priest who has been on this very earth and has suffered through every temptation, yet remained perfect the whole time, and it's through Him that we can go to God in prayer.