Monday, March 30, 2015

Love According to 1 Corinthians 13 (Part 5)

"Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away." -1 Corinthians 13:8 (ESV)

     Love is a wonderful thing. Whether it's love for a significant other, love for a friend, a family member, or a pizza topping, the more we love, the better the world seems to us. But what is love? When we say that we love a person, what are we really saying? If you haven't been reading along, I have been writing about what love is according to 1 Corinthians 13 for the past couple weeks. I have been going through each adjective used in the passage, and explaining what each of them means. If you have not, I would like to encourage you to go back and read the previous articles.

     Love believes all, as we are told in 1 Corinthians 13:7. This does not mean that we believe every little thing that others tell us. Acts 17:11 speaks highly of those who searched the scriptures daily to make sure that everything they were being taught was true. But this is speaking of giving the benefit of the doubt. Yes we should be able to tell when someone is lying, and we shouldn't follow what everyone says blindly in any aspect, but when someone you love says something, you are more entitled to believe them than someone you don't love, right? You are more willing to trust others, and that's important. How can we as Christians show others that we are of noble character if we trust no one, even those we love? How can we love someone without trusting them?

     1 Corinthians 13 also claims that love hopes all things. When we love someone, do we want them to succeed? Do we hope that they get that good grade, or get a call for that job they've been trying to get? When we love someone, we hope that all is well with them. We don't hope that they get sick, we don't rejoice when something bad happens to them. Why is it that so many Christians hope and pray that bad things happen to other Christians just because that person rubs them the wrong way? Why is it that hating others is so easy, and that when we don't particularly enjoy the presence of some people, we hope that horrible things happen to them, and are happy when they do?

     Love also endures all things. Do you have that one friend who just annoys you with every word that comes out of their mouth? Or what about that one who always seems to need help, but then when you need them they're suddenly super busy? How easy is it to get irritated and impatient with these kinds of people? Instead, we should lovingly talk to them about the issue we have, and move on. Nothing is worth the horrible feeling of hating someone. Not that we should tolerate sin, but we should abhor it according to Romans 12:9. But we should tolerate people (not actions), and we should appreciate them, and not look for ways and reasons to be angry with them. We must remain patient.

    Love never ends. If you look at John 6:64, the Bible says, "'But there are some of you who do not believe.' (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who would not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.)" Something I noticed about this verse is that Jesus knew that He would be betrayed by Judas, and yet He still loved him. Jesus knew all along what would happen, and yet he did not have hate, or anger towards anyone. Jesus's love didn't end, even when He knew that Judas would betray Him. His love did not die for Peter when Peter denied Him three times. His love doesn't end for us even though we are the very reason that He was on that cross. Our love is to be like that of Jesus, as it should never end no matter what. Even if we don't hang around some people anymore, even if some people despise us, that doesn't mean that we have to stop loving them.

     Today, I would like to encourage you to ask yourself if this is you. I would like to ask you to consider what 1 Corinthians says for yourself, and to study them with an open heart, and an open mind. I would also like to challenge you to think of one person who you don't particularly like, and spend some time with them. Buy them a small gift, take them out to a movie, do something that shows them that you love them. It's a challenge, yes, but it's good for us all to practice loving those who we may not particularly enjoy spending time with. Besides, Christianity isn't supposed to be easy, otherwise it wouldn't be so wonderful.

Are You A Teapot?

"And He said to them,  'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'" -Mark 16:15(ESV)

     As children, I'm sure your parents, as well as mine, taught you to share your possessions. In Bible class we teach children to share their toys, to take turns, and to "play nice". As we grow older and older, this is ingrained in us more and more. We have the mentality of "These things are mine, but I can share them." But how often do we share the Bible? How often do we treat the Bible like a child treats his precious, favorite dinosaur toy, only to be played with by him? How often do we treat the Bible as a little girl cherishes her precious dolly, with pretty golden hair and soft rosy cheeks? Yes, the Bible is precious, but the precious things are ones we ought to share the most. Do you?

     We are told all the time, "Study your Bible every day." "Work on your memory verses." "Go to Bible class." "Pay attention during services." and "Don't forget your daily Bible reading today." But we forget that there is more to Christianity than just studying God's Word. Yes, these things are crucial for our walk with God, but they aren't the only things that are. I once heard the illustration of a teapot and a tea cup. See, a teapot is good because it stores the tea, but it also pours it out into other vessels. It fills until it's empty, then goes back to the kettle to get full again. The tea cup, however, simply holds the tea. It is filled up to the brim, but then never shares into other cups, thus ending the cycle, and the tea sits and sits and never does anything. Oh but you have tea! But it never does any good, does it?

     Often times, we fill ourselves up with knowledge, but we never empty it out. This is why it's important that we make sure and spread the Word to others. We are told all throughout the Bible to be a light (Matthew 5:13-16), to spread the Word to everyone (Matthew 28:18-20) and to set ourselves as examples no matter what age we are (1 Timothy 4:16). But we spend so much time studying these words, looking at the original Greek, studying context, and tearing each and every single one of these verses apart and putting them back together, that we forget what the point of all that is. What's the point in a teacup full of the sweetest concoction, yet sits there and simmers, never accomplishing anything? How useless is that? It's not only important that we do spend time studying God's Word, but we need to remember how crucial it is that we share the Word with others.

     Of course, this goes back to love. If we love someone, how can we happily watch them journey on towards hell without them being aware of it, all because we're afraid that they may not like us anymore for talking about the Bible? That's not love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I am nothing." Let me ask you, do you love those around you? Are you a teapot? Are you a tea cup? Do you collect information without sharing it? Today I would like to encourage you to consider these things of yourself, and if you come to the conclusion that you aren't sharing the Word of God with those around you regularly, then change that. Talk to a friend, visit a neighbor. Do something now, because you never know when it's going to be too late.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Love According to 1 Corinthians 13 (Part 4)

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast what is good." -Romans 12:69 (ESV)

     Love is a simple yet intricate concept, and I deeply wish that I could go as in-depth as I'd like, but unfortunately I don't believe that if I had all the time in the world, I could possibly cover everything about love. We have the chapter about love, the 4 different kinds of love, the fact that it is the second greatest commandment, and how every commandment goes into loving your neighbor, according to Galatians 5:14. If you haven't been following along with this series, I have been writing about every aspect of love described in 1 Corinthians 13, and have previously covered that love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not arrogant, is not rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable, and is not resentful. If you have not already, I would like to encourage you to go back and read those. 

     Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, according to 1 Corinthians 13:6. What exactly does this mean? How many of you watch television? It can be easy to be sucked into dramas, soap operas, basically shows that have a lot of worldliness in them, but are these things that we should really dwell on? Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." This is a really long list. Let me ask you, if you are busy thinking about things that are honorable, pure, lovely, commendable,excellent, and worthy of praise, is there room for things that are crooked? Impure? Hateful? Deplorable? The list goes on, but you get my point. What about the shows we watch? The music we listen to? Do these things make us think about things that are good and pure, or the opposite?

     If love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, what does it rejoice in? The answer to that is that love rejoices in truth, or, the Bible. This again connects with Philippians 4:8. Why should we rejoice in the truth, though? Well, how can we not?! I mean you can't read one verse of the Bible without seeing God's love. From the very first words in Genesis 1:1 that say "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." to when Abraham was promised a son in Genesis 17:16, to when God saved the Israelites numerous times, to when Jesus was born in Matthew 1, to even the shortest verse in the Bible, when we see that Jesus wept, in John 11:35, to when He died for our sins in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19, to the very last verse in Revelation 22:21 where John wishes that the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all, and it most definitely is. How can we not rejoice in that? How can we not rejoice in our Savior? How can we not rejoice every day, no matter what hardships we go through, that God had enough love for us that He would send His Son to save us all from the fiery eternity that is hell? Of course love rejoices in the truth, because the truth is love. The truth is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not arrogant. The truth is from God, and it is pure and holy, and it is those things that we should dwell on.

     Love bears all. What does this mean? This, in no way, means that love ignores all sin. It does not mean that it tolerates sin, or accepts sin. We are to hate sin, as we see in Romans 12:9, which says "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast what is good." But this goes right back to patience. When we have a sibling who's being particularly annoying, or a friend that just keeps going on and on about something that seems petty to us, or someone is being particularly irritable, as Christians, we need to show them that we still love them, and treat them with respect, If they have a problem, tell them lovingly so that they see it, but be loving. John 13:34-35 says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (35) By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

     Do these things describe you? Do you rejoice in truth? Are you patient with those around you? If not, then I would like to encourage you to change that. Write down what you are struggling with, put it somewhere safe, and think about those things and how you can solve them. I would also like you to read and study this for yourself, as unfortunately I can't put every aspect of love into five paragraphs of text, but if I could then I definitely would. If you need some uplifting, if you need encouragement to love others more, then talk to someone you trust. Talk to a parent, a close friend, a Bible class teacher, someone who can help you through your struggles. Ask for prayers from your friends, and most of all, study and reflect upon God's word daily. It goes a long way.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Love According to 1 Corinthians 13 (Part 3)

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" -Galatians 5:14 (ESV)

     "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away." These are the verses we so often read, but so rarely apply to our lives. These are the words we type up on Facebook then seconds later speak badly of someone to our friends. These are the words we often hear during weddings, but never truly think about what they mean. It can be easy to look at these verses and think about how charming the words sound, and how beautiful a concept love is, that we forget to actually look at the words and ask ourselves, "Is this me? Am I these things?"

     Previously in this series, I went through verse 4 of 1 Corinthians 13, and part of verse 5. I would like to continue that with the next item on the list, which is, "love does not insist on its own way." As part of human nature, we want to think that what we believe is always right. It can be so easy to become closed minded and believe that our way is the only way. The popular mentality in the world is, "This is my life, I can do whatever I want!" But let me encourage you to truly look at these words. If we are not insistent on our own way, then whose way do we insist on? Well, if you are a Christian, it should be God's way. When you are baptized and become a Christian, you are no longer yours. You are a vessel of God's word. Romans 6:16-17 says, "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness. But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard teaching to which you were committed." We are slaves of Christ, meaning that that should be what we profess. Do you? Do you insist that everyone does God's will, or yours? Do you push God onto others? Not in an obnoxious way, but do we stand for God? Or do we stand for ourselves?

     Love is not irritable, according to 1 Corinthians 13:5. What does this mean? Well, do you have a sibling? I think I speak for everyone when I say that being around someone 24/7 can be irritating. You can get easily annoyed with each other, and impatient. We can get this way with our friends, those who we go to school with, and that random guy who cut you off in traffic. It's important that we keep our patience with others. Yes, sometimes people can bother us, it happens. But it is crucial that we don't lose patience with them. Who knows, they could really need the patience! "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun fall down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." Yes, we can get angry. But it is our role as Christians to keep our patience. No one ever had disrespect for someone who showed patience in a difficult time. It's important that we, as Christians, treat others with the respect that they deserve, even if it doesn't feel like they do deserve it at the time. Don't snap at them or speak disrespectfully about them behind their backs, but count to ten, take a deep breath, and calmly tell them what your problem with them is. Often times, they don't even realize that they're doing it. But if we just yell at them and point out their flaws, we are not showing them that we are Christians, and we are not letting our lights shine (Matthew 5:16)

     "Love is not resentful." These four words are so simple, yet so puzzling to many. If you are reading this, someone has probably wronged you in some way. And if not, then you likely never leave the house. Unfortunately, we are often the ones who do wrong. I have never had a conversation with someone who wasn't the victim. I believe that if we looked through the eyes of everyone and saw their point of view on everything, almost no one would do anything wrong. Would you appreciate it if someone held a grudge against you for several years? Would you like to hear that someone still doesn't like you because of that one thing you said six months ago? This is why we are to right our wrongs with others. Matthew 5:21-26 talks about this, and I would like to encourage you to read it, but verses 23 and 24 say, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Now, some people just won't forgive you and that's not your fault. But until we have genuinely tried making things up with them, we need to continue to try. But is this us? Instead of being resented, do we resent? Is something eating you up that happened a year ago? Six months? How about a couple weeks? It's important that we don't let these things eat us up. Not only is it completely unhealthy for us, but how can we focus on God if we are giving all of our attention to others who have wronged us? Romans 12:17-21 also speaks about this a lot, and I would like to ask you to read it, as I don't have enough room to put it here.

     Today I would like to encourage you to look at these words, and to study the manner for yourself. It's important that we have only love in our hearts so that there is no room for hatred. Unfortunately, I couldn't go as indepth as I wished with this one, because if so, then each word would take up about five articles. In fact, I have never written an article, or given a lesson in which love has not come up in some way. "For the whole law is fulfilled in word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." according to Galatians 5:14. Do we have love for each other? Today I would like to encourage you to not only study 1 Corinthians 13, but ask yourself, "Is this me?" And if not, change something! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Love In Accordance With 1 Corinthians 13 (Part 2)

     "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." -1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV)

     As I continue on with this article series, I have been challenged by my friend Jennifer Odom, the author of Stepping in Light, -which is a wonderful site for those who love a wonderful, deep Biblical study-, to write an entire article without the use of the letter "G". I have also asked her to do the same, but with the letter "L". I would like to ask you to visit her website, and read some of her articles. 

     As I left off last week's article with "love does not envy", the next on the list, of course, is that love does not boast. We can become absorbed, sometimes, in what we do. It can be easy to come to be lost in all that we do, and want to tell everyone just how wonderful and fantastic we are, but the fact that others are hard workers as well, can slip our memories. It is crucial that we, as Christians, do not fall into this habit. Of course it is okay if we are excited about what we do, but we don't need to exalt our own selves, rather our Father in heaven. Matthew 20:16 says, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Do you have this attitude? Do you offer others your support, or do you walk around, as the Pharisee did in Luke 18:9-14, and boast in all that you do? Love does not boast, or make it so that we seem above everyone else. 

     Next on the list is pompousness, which has a lot to do with the previous point, so I won't really delve into full detail. Have you ever met someone who was so cocky and presumptuous that they couldn't seem to exist for more than two minutes without the mention of how wonderful they are? Did you seem to enjoy the company of that certain individual? The point of love is not to serve ourselves, but others. How are we supposed to serve others if we only speak of ourselves, and what we have done?

     Third, and last of all for this article, is that love is not rude. As Christians, we are to show others that we respect them, and that we, of course, love them. The reason that we dress well, not to reveal our bodies, or to show everyone how much we have (1 Timothy 2:9) is because it is important that we show others that we care about them, and not only about ourselves. It is because we want to show them that they are appreciated, and that we care about them. How can we show others that we appreciate them if we constantly strive to put them down? It can be easy, if we don't like someone all that well, to always try to make a comment here and there and make them feel uncomfortable. It's easy, and can become a habit if we don't take care of it soon enough. But as Christians, we need to build each other up. We need to help others towards heaven, because that's our mission here on Earth anyway, isn't it (Matthew 28:18-20)?

     Today I would like to inspire you to take these into consideration, and ask yourself if you do them. If so, put them away from you. Fill up your life with love, and show others that you love and care about them. Even if it's as simple as a smile on your face and a "How are you, today?", it can make someone's day. Today I would like to ask you all to have more love, and less hate. Wouldn't the world be a better place without it?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"At Least I'm Not Like Them"

"I have found in David, the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do my will." -Acts 13:22 (ESV)

     Often times as Christians, we tend to make some sins to seem more sinful than others. We tend to compare our sins to those of others in order to make ourselves feel better. We tend to think, "Yes, I hit her, but at least I didn't kill her." "No, I didn't take that opportunity to invite him to worship, but it's not like I stabbed him." And I know that some of you are thinking, "Are you really comparing not inviting someone to worship, to stabbing them?" And the answer is yes. Not only because stabbing isn't as bad as eternity in hell, but because they are both sins. James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law but failed in one point has become accountable for it all."

     David was a murderer. He caused a woman to cheat on her husband. He raised his children poorly, he deliberately disobeyed direct orders from God and took an unlawful census, and committed many other sins. However, as we have seen above in Acts 13:22, David was a man after God's own heart. How can this be? Well, David always repented. And not just, "God, please forgive me of my sins." but he honestly, truly repented. He had sorrow for what he had done, as we see all throughout Psalms, in his hymns and poems that he had written about his sorrow and guilt. He always realized his sins, and he always repented. 

     Whenever we think of different sins, we tend to think of them as better or worse based on how common they are, and how they affect others around us. This is a very worldly view of sin. Sin is sin. Whenever we compare ourselves to others, whenever we point out the flaws of others in order to make ourselves seem better, we are sinning equally as bad as them. I mean, think about it, the sins that aren't forgiven of us will cause us to go into hell, right? So why is it that some sins are worse than others? I mean can you go to hell harder if you commit adultery than if you told a lie? If all sin is evil, then why is it so easy to say, "Yes I gossiped about her, but at least I didn't...."? There is no such thing as a lesser of two evils. I'm sure we have all heard the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee. Luke 18: 11 says, "The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.'" Is this the attitude of a man after God's own heart? 

     Today I would like to encourage you to ask yourself if you have this habit of comparing yourself to others. Do you? If so, I would like to encourage you to stop it, and to only look at your sins. We are to help others towards heaven, not make ourselves look better than them. Today I would like to encourage you to not only ask yourselves these things, but to study them for yourself, and to encourage others to do the same.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Love According to 1 Corinthians 13 (Part 1)

"If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." -1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV)

     We often look at 1 Corinthians as a list of things that are good to think about, and then continue on our way, not really taking them into consideration for our day-to-day lives. It can be easy to forget that these things don't only apply to some people, but to everyone, and we need to keep this list in mind when we interact with every person, not just the ones we love, (Luke 6:32) but everyone around us. Whether it be our siblings, parents, peers, teachers, bosses, or people who treat us poorly.

     The first thing on this list is patience. How often is it that you lose patience with those around you? Whether or not it's someone who is always forgetting something, someone who keeps doing you wrong, or those who don't seem to be acting in a way that you seem fitting. Have you ever struggled with something in school, and your teacher got impatient with you? Did it help the situation at all? The same applies to basically everything else in life. If we are constantly getting impatient with those around us, how can we expect them to grow as Christians? It's important that we respect others enough to give them the patience that we wish others would give us (Luke 6:31)

     The second thing on the list is kindness. How do you treat those around you? Do you treat only some with kindness? Little things like opening doors, offering help, and just showing your concern for others are some things that are sometimes taken for granted. I firmly believe that Earth would be almost like heaven if everyone treated everyone else with kindness. Why not be that kindness in the world? Why not show others, no matter how they treat you that you are a Christian and you will treat them with respect? John 13:35 says, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." 

     "Love does not envy" according to 1 Corinthians 13:4. Have you ever seen someone else's clothing, the person they're dating, the grades they make, or the accomplishments they have achieved, and gotten jealous? Have you ever disliked someone purely because of what they have? A lot of this comes from not being satisfied with what you have been given. In Philippians 4:11 we see that we, like Paul, are to be content in every situation. But are we? When you don't have the newest phone, or the best food, or the nicest house, are you content? There's nothing wrong with trying your best in life, but are you content with what you do have? If not, then this will more than likely lead to jealousy, when you see that someone else has what you don't. It's important that we don't despise others because of what they have, but love them, and be happy for them that they have those things.

     While this is not the entire list, I intend on my next few articles to be a continuation of this list, so that I can go as in-depth as I would like. There are so many things that love is, and it connects to almost everything from how we dress, to how we speak, to even how we think. Do you have these attributes? Are you patient? Are you kind? Do you refrain from envying others? It's important that we all study this and ask if our lives reflect it. Today I would like to encourage you to consider these things, and consider whether or not you fill your life with them.