Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why Me?

"Count it all joy my brethren when you meet trials of various kinds." -James 1:2

Life hands us lemons, and we ask "Why do I have to have lemons?" "Why me?" Instead of learning our lessons, and making the best of things, we often find ourselves asking, "Why me? I've been faithful. I'm a good person. Why me?" "Did I do something wrong?"

James 1:2 says to count it all joy when you meet trials, but what about the next verse? "for you know that the testing of the faith produces steadfastness." We can go through trials for various causes. Some of them are self-inflicted. If you spread rumors about someone, and they catch you on it, then you will have some hard times, and they will definitely be self-inflicted. But not always. In John 9, Jesus came across a blind man, and in verse 2 we see that his disciples asked him who had sinned in order to cause him to be blind, him, or his parents? In verse three He gives His response, saying, "Is was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in Him." Sometimes we don't suffer because we did anything wrong, but so that we can take it to show others the glory of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for my name's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10)

Not only this, but we can also look to Jesus as an example in this. Jesus was perfect. Hebrews 4:15 says "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." And yet, we see in Isaiah 53:3, where He was called the man of sorrows, and it says that He was acquainted with grief. If we believe that every trial comes as a cause of sin, then does that mean that Christ was imperfect? What if Jesus had asked, "Why me?" when on the cross? What if he had asked, "What have I done to deserve this?" In fact, the funny thing is that Jesus did not once ask, "What have I done to deserve this?" and He didn't, but we have sinned and are deserving of hell, and yet whenever we have a bad day, we still ask that very question. We were lost in our sins until He saved us (Ephesians 2:1), and yet we still believe that we shouldn't have a single bad thing happen to us while He had to suffer the death on the cross? Not to sound like a downer, but why do we feel so entitled to an easy life?

I don't say all of this to guilt you. I don't say this to make you want to go out of your way to make your suffering worse. That's not at all what we should do. Yes, I will admit: life stinks sometimes. I'm not stranger to this fact. But I say these things to remind you that we still have hope. Because if we are faithful even through these trials, and if we still believe and are obeying by the time we die, then we will have to comfort and rest that we have been striving for. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4) Does that not sound so wonderful? Every bad thing, every horrible thing, will have passed. 

Today I would like to encourage you to remember that your trials don't mean that you're doing something wrong, but that they are simply just a part of life. And like we see in James 1:2-3, we should take those iniquities and turn them into steadfastness. And remember that this is only a short while, and that it'll all be over soon.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Right Investment

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven," -Matthew 6:19-20 (ESV)

          Say you're living in an incredibly small apartment. The walls are somewhere in-between pink and beige, the floors, bright orange shag carpet, and stained with who knows what. The shower is about a 2x2 foot space, and the fridge can hold a quart of milk and maybe a couple cans of soda, and your stove, well, you don't have a stove. How excited are you about living here? I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to live there at all. So you have a choice. You just graduated college (look at you go!) and you have a job, but not a whole lot of money. So you have two choices: You can invest time and money into fixing the place (assuming the owner of the complex doesn't mind), or you can save that money and use it to buy a house later, that has nice carpet and a stove, and can fit more than one or two people in it at a time. Which would be the wiser choice? Well, fixing up the apartment would be easier, but ultimately, you would end up benefiting more from saving up the money to buy a new house. Right?

          Our lives here on earth are much like that itty bitty, horrifyingly small apartment. Sometimes, we get side-tracked. We forget that we are ultimately striving towards a higher goal than just making our "apartments" better. Whenever we sin, we are investing in our lives here on earth. We are attempting to make it cozier for us now, rather than later when we realize that we could be in heaven, but we spent so much time and money building up our earthly lives, that we have forgotten what is really important. No, there is nothing wrong with having a job, and trying your best in school, and making friends, etc. In fact, those are all really good things. But it's when you make those the things that you strive for in life, and put them equal to, or above God, that it becomes a sin. It's when you lie to get that promotion, or stop going to worship so that you can have more time to study. It's when you stop evangelizing because you're afraid your friends will leave you if you talk about the Bible. That's when you stop making the best of this life, and start investing in it.

          So how do you stop investing time in this life, and start investing it into the next? The best way to start investing in God, is to stop investing in yourself. Stop making excuses for why you can't study your Bible, or why you can't share God's Word. Take time out of every day, and dedicate it to God. Take an hour or two out of your daily schedule, and use it to serve God, and only Him. Lay up your treasures in Heaven, not here on earth. You might be surprised how much easier it gets living here, when you remember that one day you'll be in heaven, and none of this will matter anymore.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tunnel Vision

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers" -Psalm 1:1


     Have you ever been reading a book, but you refuse to talk to anyone about it or look up anything about it for fear of the ending being ruined for you? Any time you watch tv, go on the internet, or even go in public, you put up blinders. You refuse to hear or see any spoilers so you don't ruin the sweet ending of the book, and you don't remove these blinders until you have completed the book. You have tunnel vision, and can't afford to look to the left or the right, just straight. How come we can do this easily with the books we read or the shows we watch, but we can't do it with our Christianity? Why is it so easy to avoid things that ruin books or movies, but it's hard to ruin things that can cause us to stumble and spoil our minds against God?

     Everywhere you look, it seems, there's sin. Movies, television shows, music, books, and even billboards are shoving the things of the world into your mind, finding any way they can to worm their way into your head. You can't seem to see any movie without cursing, a book without a sex scene, or a magazine rack without at least one person who is just as close to naked as you can get without actually being naked. And it's not these things that really bother me. The world will be the world, and doctors aren't for the sick (Matthew 9:12). It's not that I have to see these things as I walk through the store, or skip over entire scenes in television shows, but the fact that it's so easy to not ignore these things, and how many Christians don't.

     Psalm 1 tells us that those who don't do what sinners do, or think about what the wicked think are blessed. In verse two it says that those who don't do these things delight in the law of the Lord, which means that those who do not delight in the law of the Lord do walk in the counsel of the wicked, and do sit in the seat of scoffers. Do we as Christians delight in the law of the Lord, or in the things of this world? Do we look aside from those songs and shows and books that lead our minds elsewhere? 

     Do you have tunnel vision? Do you only look towards God? If not, then change that. It's as simple as reading more, praying more, and removing the sins and temptations from your life. We cannot go to heaven unless we are spotless, and that is definitely a possibility as we can see in Isaiah 1:18. Today I'd like to encourage you to look at your life, and take these things under consideration, and to focus on God's will, not the will of man.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Truth About Homosexuality

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" -1 Corinthians 6:9 (ESV)

          I'm sure that all of you know what I'm talking about when I refer to the new law that has been made within this past two weeks. And I have been holding off on writing lately, because I wanted to be sure that I said all the right things, as this is a very sensitive subject. But I want to start out by saying that I do not hate homosexuals. I do not agree with their life choices, but I most certainly do not hate anyone. Homosexuality is a sin just like any other (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Having said that, I don't think that that means that we should accept homosexuality, but hate those other sins just as much. If we viewed all these other sins the way that we view homosexuality, and we couldn't even fathom the thought of committing them, then how much easier would our Christian walk be?

          Homosexuality is a sin like any other. However, the Bible doesn't only list it as a sin, but also as unnatural, as we see in Romans 1:26, Jude 1:7. And in Leviticus 18:22, and Leviticus 20:13, it is called an abomination to the Lord. And in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, we see that they will not reach heaven. In fact, as we see in Jude 1:7, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of this sin. And yet people still use this same Bible, written by the same, unchanging God (Malachi 6:3), and say, "God says you should accept people and their sins, because we shouldn't judge others." Do you really believe that God would send His son to die on the cross, if forgiving sin was as simple as not judging others? And even if we all become okay with homosexuality, does that even matter? If 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is correct, and those who practice this sin cannot enter heaven, then does it matter what we think? You can tell me not to judge all you want, but it's not my judgment that matters, and do you really think that you are going to face the Lord on Judgment Day, and tell Him "Judge not lest you be judged"?

          Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Judge not, that you not be judged. For with the judgeent you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." Well how about we continue reading until verse 5? "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye.' When there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Does this not say that once you have removed your own sin, that you should remove the sin of your brother? Does this not speak of making sure you can see clearly, so that you can properly aid your brothers in getting rid of their sins? And this also says, in the second verse, that with the judgment that we pronounce with, we will be judged. Well, does that mean that we can't judge anything? How about judging right from wrong? We have to make judgments to make sure that we aren't in sin, otherwise the entire Bible would be useless! This is not saying that we shouldn't judge at all, or that we should ignore the sins of others, but that we should make sure that we can see properly before we make our judgments.

          Yes, we should love everyone, but this goes back to Matthew 7:1-5, as well. If we love someone, we are going to make sure that they reach heaven, correct? And if that means aiding them in removing their sins, then that's what we need to do. But how can we help someone in the removal of their sin, if they don't even know that it is a sin? We need to lovingly point them to why it's wrong, and how to remove it. And if they are a true child of Christ, then they will strive to remove it, so that they can be closer to God. We also need to do the same when someone shows us our sin. But we need to make sure, above all things, that we always do it in a loving way, so that we don't push them even further into their sins.

          I know that the only people reading this are those that already know that homosexuality is a sin. Or at least for the most part, anyway. But I don't write this to preach to the choir. I write this so that you can have these arguments in the back of your mind, so that next time someone challenges you, you can point them to these passages. And I write this so that I can encourage you, to please, please study this on your own. Don't let me tell you these things. Let the Gospel. And then share what you've learned. Share it with the world, in the most loving way you know how. Kill others with kindness. Because no one is going to forbid you from loving others (Galatians 5:22-23).