Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Despise Your Youth

"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." -1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)

     Often times it can become discouraging when you are under a certain age, because often times people don't take you seriously. I have heard with my very own ears the words, "People under the age of 35 don't know anything, and don't know what they are doing." in terms of Christianity. I have also heard, "People under the age of 35 are incapable of making their own decisions." and many, many more that I don't have enough room to mention here. In fact, it's not only me who has heard these things said. I have several friends who have experienced similar things. Maybe you have, too. Now, I'm not saying that everyone thinks this way, but sometimes it does seem that a lot of people look down on younger Christians, simply because we are younger. How do we rise above this? How do we show people who look down on us simply because we were younger than them that we aren't any less of a person than them? 1 Timothy 4:12, as we have seen above, tells us how. 

     1. With our speech. Our speech is very important to our Christian walk. We cannot be Christians without speaking like one. James 3:1-12 speak about how powerful the tongue really is. Like a rudder on a ship, (verse 4) it can be used to steer you into a war, or direct you out of it. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." according to Proverb 25:11. Words are where a lot of our influence comes from. The words that we speak of others speak more about us than of them. If we set a proper example in our speech, that will give others a lot of respect for us. Not only speaking well of others, but also what we speak of. How often do you talk about God to your friends? How often do you tell other about Jesus? How often do you discuss the Bible? Could it be more? It's important that we always speak of things that are good and perfect.

     2. In our conduct. Anyone can say that they are a Christian, but how you act is crucial to give others a good impression. Not just in public, but in private, as well. Matthew 6:7 says, "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words." When we serve God, it's important that we don't do it just to make ourselves known, but because we genuinely want to serve God. Have you ever had a role model that turned out to be a big fake? Did you have much respect for that person after that? I'm assuming not. If our motives are not pure, then we will show this in our actions. It is crucial that we have actions that match our words, and that serve God, not man.

     3. With love. There are countless passages and verses about love. 1 Corinthians 13 is where we get the definition of love, but there are so many other passages that describe it, as well, such as Luke 6:35, Mark 12:31, Romans 13:10, and several, several others. It is our job as Christians to treat everyone with love and respect. Not only do the things we say about others speak more of us than of them, but also the way we treat others. If we do not treat others with love and respect, then they will see that as well, and see you as an example.
     4. With our faith. How strong is your faith? Do you know? Faith is one of those things that we often think about, but tend to forget to consider. We see a lot of things about taking leaps of faith, having faith, and being faithful, but we forget what faith really is and what it really means. Faith is not taking a jump into the dark, but knowing that God is there, and that the promises He has made for us will come true, because we have proof. But how good is your faith? If someone were to tell you right now that you would die in four days, how freaked out would you be? Obviously somewhat because naturally, we are scared of death. Even Jesus wanted to avoid death (Matthew 26:39). It's human instinct. But do you know where you would go? Would you be unsure? Why? If we lack faith, it will show in our lives, and in our walk with Christ. So how is your faith?

     5. With our purity. Not only is this speaking of David and Bathsheba type situations, but also, pure in your religion, pure in your faith, pure in your speech, actions, thoughts, and everything else. When we allow imperfect things into our lives, it is clear. Black contrasts greatly over white, as does sin over perfection. How can we set others an example if we are not completely pure in our thoughts? If we are not completely pure in our speech? Our worship? It's crucial that we stay as pure and as perfect as we can. Not because we should expect perfection out of ourselves, but strive for it, as everyone should. 

     Today, I would like to encourage you all to look at these things in your life, and ask yourself if you are being a good example in them. Not because you are doing them to draw attention to yourself, but to God. Our lives should be spent trying to show others to God, not to ourselves. Today I would like to encourage you to remember these things, and to always set yourself as an example. You never know who is watching.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Seemingly Unanswered

"And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." -Matthew 26:39 (ESV)

     Before He went onto the cross, Jesus prayed three different times, "My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." as we see in Matthew 26:36-44. Jesus, about to be crucified, of course asked God for an alternate route if it were possible. However, there was none, so the answer was no. Sometimes we can get caught up in the power of prayer. Yes the prayer of a righteous man avails much according to James 5:16 (NKJV) and if we knock, then the door will be opened to us (Matthew 7:7-11, & Luke 11:8-13) but sometimes we take this out of context. Sometimes we think that if we pray once for something, we will automatically receive it. 

     1 Thessalonians 5:17 says "Pray without ceasing". This doesn't mean that we should spend 100% of our time in prayer to God, but that we pray all the time. If someone were to say, "I go to the movies all the time." Would you think that they were at the movies 100% of their time, or that they go to the movies often? The same can be said about this verse. It's not saying that we have to devote all of our time to praying, but that we need to pray continually. Why? Well, have you ever had a friend that never really talked to you except to ask you for a favor? When you asked them to help you with something, they always found a way out of it, but as soon as they needed help, they were automatically your friend? Would you be very willing to help out that person? God is not going to say yes to you if you only ever speak to Him if and when you want something. 

     Your prayers may seem unanswered when the answer is "no" but God knows much better than we do. Imagine if God had said "yes" to Jesus when He asked to not be crucified? Not because Jesus didn't want to save us but because he was human on this earth, and He of course didn't want to be tortured for several hours until He died. When God doesn't give us the things we ask of Him, it's not because He doesn't love us, but because He does. Also, Matthew 7:7-11 and Luke 11:8-13 are in the context of things that we need. If we genuinely need something, God will supply it. It's just that we don't always need the things that we think we do.

     Sometimes, it seems like God isn't hearing our prayers. It seems like He doesn't care. However, this is not the case. It is our job as Christians to serve God earnestly and to pray every day. I would like to encourage you all to pray constantly, and to never let the "no"'s make you feel as if your prayers are unanswered. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Back To the Bible

"You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you." -Deuteronomy 4:2


     More and more, people are falling away from Christ, and it is a saddening, overwhelming number. At times it can be discouraging to see the numbers of non-christians climb higher and higher, while, naturally, the numbers of even people who merely claim to be Christians, are shrinking. However, we should not let this discourage us. We shouldn't let this discourage us, but instead let this encourage us. The fields may not be ripe for the plucking, but they are empty for planting. But how do we plant the seeds? How do we do that? I mean it's one thing to talk to someone who has been a Christian for years, and who already knows a lot about the Bible, but it's a whole other thing to start fresh and clean with someone who knows little to nothing about the Bible.

     Not that there is anything wrong with searching through the details of the Bible, as they are, in fact, part of the Bible, but we don't need to get caught up in the things that are purely opinions. For example, we have topics such as what we should wear to worship, whether or not women should wear makeup, whether or not we should use the internet, etc. Yes, it is important that these things are thought about and discussed appropriately, but we are not going to convert people if we spend hours on end discussing these things and neglecting the things that are more important. Not that one sin is any greater or any less important than another, (James 2:10) but I think that God would rather someone be added into His Kingdom than to know whether or not they should wear a dress on Sunday night. Our problem is that we keep getting away from the basic text of the Bible.

     Have you ever tried teaching calculus to a toddler? Have you ever seen a tree stand tall without any roots? Of course not! That would be impossible, right? Before we can talk about the things that are opinions, we need to show people the basis of God's Word. We need to be telling others about Jesus and His sacrifice. We need to be sharing the facts of salvation before we talk about whether or not women should wear pants in the worship service. We need to tell others the story of Jesus before we tell them that they need to never be on the internet. The Church is often described in the Bible as a house or building, with Jesus as the foundation, or cornerstone (Matthew 7:24-27; Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20, etc.). The reason so many are falling away from the church is that instead of giving them a foundation, we give them nails to hold together the wooden beams that were never put there to begin with.  

     Today I would like to encourage you to reach out to others, but before you talk to them about God, think of things from their perspective. What are we trying to get across to them? We need to instill a love for God in others. If more people loved God, more people would keep His commandments (John 14:15, 23).  It's time to stop spending our time trying to find new, revolutionary ways to follow God. It's time to stop finding ways to condemn people for things like using the internet, leaving the house not dressed up, leaving the house dressed up, using a smartphone, or texting instead of making phone calls. It's time to get back to the basics. It's time to get back to the Bible. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Thankful For The Little Things

  " thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." -Ephesians 5:20

       We often take things in our every-day lives for granted. We think that they will be there forever, but have you ever thought about their importance? Have you ever considered, and thanked God for your daily things? Today I will be talking about these things, and why we should be thankful for them.

     When was the last time you sat down and genuinely thanked God for your blessings? Was it today? Yesterday? A week ago? We often don't even think about all of our blessings, as they are so average in our lives that we don't even notice them. Things such as freedom, free education, oxygen, a home, internet, etc. When was the last time you sat down, and genuinely counted your blessings? I'm not saying that you need to get out a piece of paper and write down every single thing that you have been blessed with, but it is important that we take some time out of our daily lives to concentrate, and meditate on the things God has blessed us with, and be truly, genuinely thankful for those things.

     Why do we need to be thankful for these things? God loves us enough to send His son to die for us (John 3:16) even though we are the ones who put Him on that cross. Even so, if we ask things that are in accordance with God's will, He will give them to us (1 John 5:14, James 1:5-6, Matthew 7:7-8 etc.) as long as we simply ask! But are we thankful for those things? Do we always ask, and never give? Do we always receive and never thank? Often times we forget about these things until we are reminded about how little other people have in comparison. So many people every day are starving, going without food or water. Thousands are going daily without a proper place to live, proper clothing, housing, etc. and I'm not saying this to guilt anyone, but we sit back in our nice brick houses and we complain that the air conditioning isn't working. Or we complain that someone cuts us off on the highway, when we fail to be thankful for the houses we live in, or the cars that we drive.

     Every day, people are in need. Every day people are hurting, and it is our job as Christians to go and help them. Not only in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense as well (Matthew 28:18-20). Are we thankful for our spiritual things? Say you have a friend whom you give countless hours to. You comfort them when they're in need, you help them make important decisions, and you support them in their every work. You make sure they always have everything that they need, but they never say "thank you". They always ask, and never even think to give anything back to you. Is that a true friendship? Is that a friend who you want in your life, who takes all without thankfulness? So let me ask you, are you God's friend?

     Today I would like to encourage you all to think about those things that you are thankful for, and sit down and genuinely thank God for all of them. Maybe not necessarily list off every single thing, but at least show Him your gratitude for those things that He has given. Today I would like to encourage you to look at the things you have in a new light, and not think of the things you don't have, but the things that you have been blessed with.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lucking Your Way Into Heaven

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of God that you may know that you have eternal life." -1 John 5:13 (ESV)

     Sometimes we lack confidence in our Christianity. We feel more like we're just hoping to get to heaven more than knowing we will. But what does the Bible have to say about this? Is it humility to say that you aren't sure? Is it bragging to say that you know you'll get to heaven? Today I would like to challenge you to think about these things as we study them, and to take the time to study these things out for yourselves.

     Is it bragging to say that I know I will get into heaven? Jeremiah 9:24 says, "but let him boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord." This verse is saying that it's okay to know and to tell others that you know the Lord and that He is perfect. It's okay that you proclaim your faith in Him. In fact, if you don't know that you will go to heaven, then you won't, and how can we be proper lights if we do not show others that we believe and have faith? How can they believe that salvation works if the one teaching them doesn't?

    Mark 16:16 says "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Now we are clearly not saved by faith alone (James 2:24) but we do need faith to be saved. I mean would you really think that God would let us into heaven if we spent our whole lives unsure of whether or not He is real? Because if you believe in God, and you believe the Jesus is His Son, and you believe that baptism saves us from hell, then you believe that as long as you are baptized and follow the whole Bible, you will be saved. In James 1:6-8, speaking about asking for wisdom says "but let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." If we won't receive wisdom without believing, how will we receive eternal life without it?

     You cannot "luck out" and get into heaven. You have to put forth effort, and you cannot simply hope to receive eternal life. You cannot just cross your fingers and hope that God will have mercy on us. Today I would like to encourage you to, every day, ask yourself whether or not you know that you will get into heaven. If the answer is no, why not? Is there something in your life that you need to fix? Fix it! Is your faith wavering? Do you have a sin you need to ask forgiveness for? Today I would like to encourage you to ask yourself these things and to answer them honestly, and to not let your faith waver.