Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Content Where I Am

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." 

-Philippians 4:11 (ESV)

Our lives are constantly filled with things to keep us busy, and happy with where we are for a short while, until the next big thing comes out. Not that I'm condemning technology, or the use of it, but this is the mindset that we are brought up with. We are constantly given what we want, when we want it. Want to talk to a friend that lives 500 miles away? You can do it now! Want a cup of coffee? Walk 5 feet to your closest coffee shop (because let's face it, they're everywhere, and that is honestly great) and pick one up.

There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the blessings around us. However, it can be easy to let that give us a mindset of having to be constantly stimulated. And I'll admit, I get this way, too. But how does this affect our spiritual lives?

When we grow accustomed to this constant stimulation, it causes us to grow discontent very easily. In Jude, we read a letter from Jude, to Christians. In verses 14-16, Jude is talking about the people that will be judged harshly, and in this is listed "grumblers and malcontents", who "follow their own sinful desires" (v. 16). Whenever we become discontent with what we are doing, or where we are in life, we stop focusing on what God wants from us, and we start focusing on what we want from God. We start asking Him for things that we want, but do not need, and then get angry whenever we do not receive them. 

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your own passions." (James 4:3) Not only do we not receive because of our poor intentions, but this establishes a friendship with the world, as we see in the next verse: "You adulterous people! Do you now know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

Whenever we become discontent with what God has given us, we become friends with the world. Whenever we get angry because we didn't get into that college, or we didn't get that job, or we didn't graduate top of our class, or we didn't get that scholarship, we become discontent. We become obsessed with things of this world, and we forget what our actual goal.

"And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.'" (Matthew 22:37-38)

We, as Christians, cannot afford to become friends with the world. No one can, in fact. Have you ever been truly, permanently happy because of something from this world? Or did the newness wear off after a while? Maybe you still use and enjoy it, but is it still the best thing in the world? But the thing is, is that no matter how much you serve God, and keep His commandments, your happiness will not deplete. Your joy in serving Him will never end, not even in death.

Are you becoming a friend of the world? Are you allowing the charms of this world to sweep you off your feet, and allow you to forget about what your ultimate goal is? If so, I would like to encourage you to have a Bible study with a friend. Or by yourself. Go and teach a Bible class, or visit that elderly lady that you see every Sunday. Because I can guarantee that that will never get old.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Point of It All

"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." -Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV)

As we get older and older, our lives become busier and busier. We get into high school, get a job, go to college, get a way better job, get married, start a family, then our children will get into high school, get jobs, and so on and so on until we die. But have you ever thought about the point of it all? What is the point? Life is just a continual cycle of ongoing stress, and things to keep us busy. 

I know that this sounds depressing, but there is none. There is no point in any of this. "Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever," (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2).

However, if we have Christ, and if we follow Him, then our life is full of meaning. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) Paul stated this in reference to him living his life in a way that would reflect Christ. As should ours. Christ should be our all, and we should focus our lives around Him, rather than Him around our lives. Yes, we can get so busy that it gets harder and harder to keep up with studying daily, but that doesn't make it any less important (for a further look at this subject, I encourage you to read Ecclesiastes, as it has a lot to say on this matter).

We need to not only find time in the day for Christ, but we need to envelope our lives in Him. Our school work, our jobs, our extracurriculars, our friends, our everything.

Here I would like to encourage you to stop, and read Deuteronomy 6:4-15, as I cannot put it here for space. 

If you'll notice in verse five of Deuteronomy 6, we are commanded to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and with all of our might. Not with some. Not with most. But with all. We should be willing to turn all things to Him, and give up everything for Him. "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." We need to not be so worried about the things of this life that we forget Whom we are serving.

Continuing on to verses 6-9, we read that these words "shall be on your heart." (verse 6) and that we should fill our lives with His Words, and His commandments, and His promises. We are to fill our lives with His love, and reflect it in our actions. We should put reminders of His love everywhere. This is the unpopular part of Christianity. Why should we have to put so much effort into this? Why should we have to do all of these things? What is the purpose?

We find the answer in verse twelve, where it says, "take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." God, of course, was talking to the Israelites here, but that doesn't mean that this does not also apply to us. We as Christians, like the Israelites, are God's chosen people (1 Peter 2:9-10) and we have likewise been brought out of slavery, the slavery of sin, (Romans 6:18) and are now freed from it, just as the Israelites were freed from the Egyptians. 

We cannot forget our Lord. We cannot forget what He has done for us. We cannot forget all that it takes to reach heaven. Why should we study daily? Why should we fill our lives with His words? Why should we count all things as loss? Because if we don't, then we will forget Him. And even if we continue to go to worship, and we continue to do the actions of service, without faith, and without love, none of these things matter (James 2:14-26; 1 Corinthians 13). 

Today I would like to encourage you to study these matters for yourself, and to study daily, that you may grow closer to God, and become stronger in Him, that you may serve Him better. Not only that, but also so that you can teach others His words (Matthew 28:18-20) and that you may help others towards heaven, as well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Love As Well As Truth

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." -1 Corinthians 13:1

We are always focusing on teaching the truth. And we focus so much on being accurate, and showing others what is right. But sometimes it seems like we forget the other half. It can be easy to forget that we are not just robots, reciting scripture at people and hoping they get it. We are to teach others with love and respect (Ephesians 4:15).

Think back to Paul on Mars Hill, in Acts 17. Imagine if Paul got up there and announced to everyone, "You are incredibly wrong, and are all going to hell. Now let me tell you why I'm right." Would the people there be very accepting of what he was saying, had he done that? But instead, he made a connection so that he could teach in a way that they would understand, and not get upset about it. When teaching others the truth, we need to lead them into it. Not force it down their throats.

But what does that mean, to teach with love? Well, when talking about love, we often go to 1 Corinthians 13 and go down the list. Love is patient, kind, doesn't envy or boast, it's not arrogant or rude. It doesn't insist on its own way. It's not irritable or resentful, or rejoice in wrongdoing. It rejoices in truth. It bears all, believes all, hopes all, and endures all. Now, I will say that when it says "Love does not insist on its own way" in verse 5, this does not mean that we shouldn't insist that the Bible is true. We don't need to insist on our way, but we most certainly need to insist on God's way.

Whenever speaking to someone about God's Word, it's important to ask, "Am I coming across as patient? Kind? Am I coming across as one who is arrogant?" If the answer is yes to any of these things, then maybe it's time to rethink what's about to be said.

Why do you teach the Word? What is your motivation? Because if it is purely to please God, then it may be time to change your way of thinking. Yes, we do it to please God. But that's not why we're supposed to do it. God doesn't just make commandments so that we'll have something to do. He doesn't tell us to go to worship Him every first day of the week so that we can have an excuse to get out of stuff. He doesn't tell us not to murder just because he wants to make your life that much more difficult.

The reason that we are told to preach the Word to everyone, everywhere (Matthew 28:18-20) is because of John 3:2-5. Jesus was approached by Nicodemus, who asked Christ how someone could be born again. And in verse 3, we see Jesus's response: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." That is why we should spread the gospel. If we truly love others, then we will not want them to miss out on heaven. If we truly love others, then we will do the best we can to bring them to Christ, and not in a hateful manner. Not in a way that will lead others astray.

If we don't teach the truth in love, then we may as well not be teaching the truth at all. According to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, no mater what we do, if we do not do it out of pure love, then what is the point? It can be easy to become apathetic towards these things, and to just do them out of habit. But if you have fallen into this habit, I would like to encourage you to get out of it. Start showing love towards others. Study more. Serve others. And love more. You would be surprised at what a difference it makes.