Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A New Beginning

It is both my pleasure and displeasure to announce that I am officially ending this blog. It has been so wonderful to write for it, but I have been taken in another direction. This direction will allow me to, hopefully, reach even more souls, and to be even more active! This is the creation of my new website,! Here I will have articles just like on this blog, and, hopefully, I will be able to expand to greater things in the future. Thank you all for reading, and for one last time, thank you!

Monday, March 21, 2016

When Silence is Just

"And Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly." -Matthew 1:19

Joseph: the earthly father of Jesus Christ and husband of Mary, is one of the tragically least talked about men in the Bible. He was a just man and did everything he could to serve God. He was not perfect, but out of all the men on earth, it is no coincidence that God chose him to raise Jesus.

If you recall, which I am sure you do, Joseph was not aware of what was happening at first when Mary was pregnant with Jesus. He did not understand that his wife was pregnant with the coming Messiah, he did not know that she was still a virgin, he genuinely thought that she had been with someone else. And it is not what Joseph did in this situation that speaks volumes about his character, but what he didn't do. 

As we see in Matthew 1:19, Joseph was unwilling to put Mary to shame. This is something that we often overlook, but is important to notice. Joseph was still unwilling to put Mary to shame, even though she was thought to have been pregnant with another man's child! Can you even imagine how much pain that must have put him in? And yet he was willing to stay quiet. He was not willing to shame her, despite the fact that she had shamed him.

We are told all the time to stand up for ourselves. We are told that we cannot bring justice unless we use our voices and are strong, and if we stay silent we are weak. And yes, of course, there is a time to stand out and speak the truth. We are told to be bold and to not be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) and to speak the truth (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Eph. 4:15; etc). However, there is also a time to stay silent, and that time often gets overlooked.

I am, admittedly, someone who does not often stay silent. It is by no means my strong suit. If someone wrongs me, I am more than likely to tell someone else about it. It is what we have all been taught. If someone hurts you, you tell someone. And, of course, there is a time and place for telling others. But above all, we must never forget that it is out of love that we serve God. We must remember that love is patient and kind. We must remember that love does not insist on its own way. Love bears all things and endures all things, and if we do not love our brothers, we cannot love God (1 John 4:20-21).

Joseph was showing true love. Yes, he was deeply hurt by the women he was going to marry, thinking that she had been with someone else. But he had absolutely no intention of hurting her reputation. We see this also in Matthew 18:15, which says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone." This is exactly what Joseph had done. He was settling this with his betrothed, and with her alone.

But imagine what would have happened if Joseph had not remained silent. Not a single person he had told would have believed that Jesus was the Christ. He would have been that child that Mary had with some mystery man. He would have been just an earthly child born because of his mother's sin, in the eyes of those around him. And while some people may have thought that anyway, imagine if Joseph had told everyone that? 

Could you imagine his embarrassment when he later found out that Jesus was the Messiah? Could you imagine how horrible he would have felt? How much damage he would have done? Could you imagine the shame of knowing that he may have made those people lose their souls because now they would never believe Jesus is the Messiah?

When was the last time someone did something hurtful to you and you stayed silent? How many people know about your last breakup? How many people did you tell about how awful your last boss was? How many people have you brought to shame because you didn't remain quiet?

I believe that this is an issue we often justify and don't really like to touch. How many times do we
mistake going to our brothers and sisters for help, with gossiping? How often have you done this just within the past day? Week? Month? Year? While it is hard to hear, this is a very big issue, and it must come to a stop.

What if you bring someone else to shame that's not a Christian? What would that person then think of Christians? What if you gossiped about someone and then later found out that you were wrong? Well now you have put that person to shame, you have made yourself look like a fool, and you have made two people enemies because now the person who you gossiped to has a low opinion of the person you gossiped about. No good can ever come from speaking poorly of others.

Today I would like to encourage you to think before you speak. I would like to encourage you to take a second to think about any problems you have with someone, and think about what you did to make amends. Did you try? Did you pray? Did you go to them? Today I would like to encourage you to be more like Joseph, and be silent when it's hard. You never know how your words can affect others.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Should I be Thankful?

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." -1 Thessalonians 5:17

Life is full of surprises. Some good, some less good. You never know what will come next, and you never know how you will handle those things that do come. Sometimes you will go through incredibly difficult times, and sometimes you will go through incredibly wonderful times. But no matter what lies before you, you must always remember to give thanks to Him who created you.

"Why should I be thankful when everything in my life is falling apart?" some will ask. And while to some this seems like a very unthoughtful and rude question to ask, to others it is a genuine question that cannot be taken lightly. Why should you be thankful?

I am not going to say that you should be thankful because others have it worse. The tragedies of others do not lessen the sincerity of your own. However, you should be thankful because even in your hardships, you are blessed. You are so blessed.

No matter what your hardship is, you have the opportunity to serve a God who is perfect and loves us all (1 John 4:19). You have fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who love you and want the best for you (Galatians 6:10). And you have a Savior who loved you enough to die for you that you may spend an eternity in Paradise (Romans 4:24-25).

As a Christian, you cannot allow your hardships to cloud your blessings. You cannot lose sight of your blessings. How can you be a light to all the World, how can you show others that you love God if every time something goes wrong, no matter how painful, you forget everything He has done for you?

When you stop being thankful, you forget everything that has been done for you. While you may be upset, you must remember that you cannot allow sadness become a loss of faith in God. Being thankful will keep that from happening.

Another question that is often asked is "How can I stay thankful? How can I remember to be thankful when everything around me is falling apart?" This can be difficult, I admit. But Paul is a very good example of this. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 we can read of the hardships of Paul. We read of all the physical torment he went through. From being shipwrecked to being imprisoned, to be being beaten. Paul certainly went through a lot while he was here on earth.

But if you read in Philippians 4:11, a little while later Paul wrote, "I have learned in whatever
situation I am to be content." Paul, the apostle that was always getting hurt, that was always in trouble, that was always in prison, had learned to be content? How? Because in verse 13, a couple sentences later, he simply says "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."

What encouraging words these are! We hear them all the time, and yet when we hear them from a man who has been beaten, who has been on the run for his life, who has been shiprecked, hungry, thirsty, just about everything a human can go through, it makes the message that much more powerful. He was able to be content because he knew that God was and is always in control.

          How much more does that mean knowing that it came from such a man as Paul? In order to remain thankful, you must remember that you can always persevere through Christ, and without Him, you could do nothing.

          This world that we live in tells us that we should alway be getting more. If our lives are not ideal then it must mean that God is dead. But just because your life is not ideal, just because you may be having a difficult time, God is still there. If you hold fast you faith, if you continue to serve God, your trials may not end until death, but life on earth is a mere breath compared to eternity.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) If we have faith, no matter how hard our lives are, we can know that we will have eternal life.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Am An Extremist.

"Whoever says to me 'I know Him' but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." -1 John 2:4 (ESV)

The other day I was reading this article (that will remain anonymous because I wouldn't recommend anyone to read it) about why this whole "finding yourself" thing that you see everywhere on the internet makes no sense. And for the majority of the article, I agreed (except for her occasional foul language, of course).

She talked about how traveling the world, quitting your job, and taking up a new hobby is not how you find yourself. You are not those things. You are not the track you run on or the job that you have. Going on a hike to the tops of Mount Everest is not going to help you solve your internal struggle of figuring out who you are as a person. And I agreed. Until I got to one part that sort of puzzled me.

In this article, the girl said that she used to be a believer in God. She was raised by religious parents, and as part of her "soul search" she decided to become an atheist, and at first, in her mind, anyone who believed in God was wrong and it was her goal to tell everyone about this. But then she said that as she grew as a person, she realized that not all Christians are "extremists" and that some "Christians" just wanted to go to church occasionally, and then go home and live life like everyone else.

That word, "extremists" struck me. We tend to use that word as a derogatory term for someone whose beliefs we think are crazy. But is religion crazy? Are true followers of God extremists? Am I an extremist? What does that even mean? And as I was asking myself these questions, I realized, once again, a very sad and unfortunate truth.

We are told by the world to be proud of what we believe in, but if we follow the Bible to the letter, we are insane. We are told to love one another, but if we put a Bible verse at the end of it, we're annoying religious people, forcing others to live their lives a certain way. We can act however we want, but if we choose not to drink for religious reasons, we're a stick in the mud. And I know that this is something that has been said many times, but I want to add to it.

It's okay. It's okay to be an extremist. It's okay to be an annoying religious person. It's okay to be a stick in the mud because being a Christian is extreme. Sometimes we have to give up our possessions (Matthew 19:21) Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and love those who hate us (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:14; Luke 6:27-31). In order to even love properly, we have to be patient and kind, we cannot envy, we cannot boast, we cannot be arrogant or rude, we cannot insist on our own way, we cannot be irritable or resentful, we cannot rejoice when others do wrong, and the list goes on. 

There is no such thing as two types of Christians. There are no liberal Christians. There are no
unfaithful Christians. There are no conservative Christians. There are no extremist Christians. There are only those who follow God's Word to the letter, and those who do not. There are only those who keep His commandments, and those who do not (John 14:21; 1 John 2:4). There are only Christians and non-Christians.

We must all remember that we cannot take a step back from our faith. We cannot decide that we aren't going to follow some things just because they are inconvenient. There is no such thing as a Christian who only follows God on Sundays and then lives like the atheists during the week.

The reason that so many unbelievers have a hard time understanding Christians is because there are so many people who claim to be Christians but don't follow God's commands. As Gandhi put it: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." The reason for this mentality is because there are so many who claim to love Christ, but don't study enough to know how they are to live their lives, thus soiling the reputation of the true Christian.

They imitate men rather than God (1 Corinthians 11:1) They hate those who are different than them, rather than loving their enemies (Luke 6:27-31) and they may speak the truth, but they do so with hate rather than love (Ephesians 4:15). They only hear the Word without doing it (James 1:22-25) and they call upon Christ's name in a vain attempt to be righteous but fail because they do not follow His Word (Matthew 7:21). They allow the world to define what Christianity is rather than God, and that is where we stop trying to please God, but rather to please men (Galatians 1:10)

We must rise above this. We must show the world what a Christian truly is. We must follow Him, and Him alone. We must proclaim His Word, and we must do it, among all else, in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). We must show the world that being a Christian does not mean that we hate everyone else and that believing in God is not foolish. We cannot hate those who do not agree with us, or the Bible. We must remember to always remain patient, kind no matter how difficult.

I want to encourage you to not be afraid of being an extremist. Don't be afraid to do the unpopular thing of being a Christian. If you do these things, you will be the light of the World that we are told to be in Matthew 5:14. I want to encourage you to hold fast to your faith (Hebrews 10:19-23) and to never fail to let your light shine no matter how dark the world around you becomes.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Are You the Tax Collector?

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." -Matthew 23:12 (ESV)

I am sure, for the most part, that the people reading this article are Christians. Most of the people reading this article are probably people who believe in the Bible, and believe that Christ is the son of God, who came to this earth to die for our sins. But there is a problem that I am seeing over and over again that is becoming worse and worse throughout time. An issue that seems to go ignored, and never seems to be brought to light. This is an issue that you may have, and even I struggle with from time to time.

We are told all throughout the Bible to go out into all the world and preach to everyone (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; James 5:19-20; Acts 14:47, etc.). We must always be striving to save the souls of those that are lost, and guide them to the narrow road. We must also encourage our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to keep the faith, and to grow in it (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 10:24-25, etc.).

I want to address a very big issue that I have seen in many people. I am not speaking about any one individual, but rather this is just an issue that I have seen a lot of recently. And that is taking studies and posting them to social media as a way of saying, "Look how spiritual I am!" Or marking in your Bible more just so that when you flip through it during the sermon, people see how much you study. Getting tattoos with Bible verses or symbols to show people how devoted you are to God. Shouting out in the streets and shouting "I AM A GOOD CHRISTIAN!"

Before I continue, I am in no way saying that there is anything wrong with studying God's Word with whatever method you choose. There is nothing wrong with writing in the margins, there is nothing wrong with highlighting, color coding, Bible journaling, or any of that. I myself just bought a journaling Bible because I have learned that there is no such thing as too much margin space. In fact, I encourage you to find whatever study method works best for you, and do it! The more motivation you have to study, the more you will be eager to do it.

Having said that, Christianity, in no way, should be used to glorify ourselves. In Luke 18 we are given the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. We often look to the tax collector here as an example, and we rarely even consider that we could ever be that Pharisee. However, I have seen many people in my time that are just like the Pharisee here. People who devote themselves to God. This Pharisee was very devoted! In verse 12 he says that he fasts twice a week and gives tithes of all that he gets. This man was devoted. This man was putting his life in God's hands, and he was striving to be acceptable to Him. And yet even those that are incredibly faithful can get caught up in sin without realizing. Even those that have given up their lives for Christ can forget that they are serving Him, and not men (Galatians 1:10).

Sometimes we can get so caught up in our own Christianity that we forget that we are imperfect. But we must never allow our glorification of God to blind us to our flaws. We must never allow ourselves to focus so much on the good, that we neglect to fix the bad. What I am talking about is not the method in which one studies. What I am saying is not about encouraging others to study God's word. What I am speaking about is intention. Where your heart is at. And whenever we only study God's Word to glorify ourselves, whenever we post onto whatever social media we can, pictures of verses over pretty backdrops, pretty sermon notes, and the most marked pages of your Bible, what is the intention? Where is the heart at? Who is truly being glorified?

I am not saying that these things are wrong. But whenever we do them simply to lift up ourselves, who are we really glorifying? Is it God? Or is it ourselves? Whenever we stand up and say "I AM GOD'S!" rather than allowing our actions prove that, who are we glorifying?

Again, I want to stress that I am not speaking about any specific individual. I am not saying that these by themselves are wrong. I think it's good when we encourage others to study and when we are not afraid to show others that we are faithful. Once again, what I am speaking about is intent. Is it your intention to glorify God? Is it your intention to inspire others? Or is it your intention to look good? Is it your intention to get more likes? Is it your intention to have others look at you and think "Wow! They're so spiritual!" Is this your intention?

God never wanted His Word to be used for us to look better. John 8:54 Jesus says, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say 'He is our God.'" Even Jesus Himself is saying that even He cannot obtain His own glory. Jesus, who aided in the creation of all things (1 John 1:3). Jesus, who came to save men from their sins (John 11:25). Jesus, who was perfect though he went through all kinds of temptations (Hebrews 4:15). Even He could not glorify Himself. How can we, then, glorify ourselves? (Matthew 23:12)

I do not want to discourage anyone from spreading the Word of God. I do not want to hinder anyone from being confident in their faith. However, sometimes it's important to take a step back and ask yourself what your intentions are. Ask yourself if you are the tax collector or the Pharisee. Ask yourself what it is that you are trying to do. Are you glorifying God in all things? Are you focusing on Him more than yourself? Are you the tax collector? Or are you the Pharisee?

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Next Step in Your Christian Walk

"But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." -Hebrews 5:14 (ESV)

Our entire lives, we are always moving towards the next big thing. After we are born, we next say our first word, then take our first step, then go to school for the first time, then our first day of high school comes, after that our first day of college, then our first day at our first real job, then our wedding day, then the day that we have our first child, then the day they say their first word, and so on, and so on. As humans, we are created to always want to move forward. But what is the next thing in Christianity? Are we done as soon as we're baptized? Is that our peak?

We always are pushing for the net big thing. Always improving ourselves, and structuring our lives to make everything better. Better for ourselves, better for our families, better for our communities, and just better for everyone around us. But when it comes to Christianity, some people get discouraged. It seems as if once we are baptized, we're good. We're saved, and then we just kind of go into autopilot. Especially if we grow up in the church, this can be very true. We forget that we still have steps to go after that. Being baptized is the equivalent of taking our first steps when we are a child. Of course it is crucial to taking more steps, so to speak, but it's certainly not when we stop trying to improve.

Hebrews 5:12-14 sheds some light on this when it says, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principals of the oracles of God. You
need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil."

How does this verse shed light on what I was just saying? Well, it clearly says that there are some Christians that are more mature in their Christianity than others. Does this mean that newer Christians are less of Christians? Certainly not! However, If you are diligently studying God's Word every day, are you not going to be much wiser after ten years, than after five? Or after two?

1 Timothy 3:6 is discussing qualifications for elders, and pretty far down the list it states, "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil." Does this mean that just because a man is not, in this manner, qualified to be an elder, he is not a true Christian? Not at all. This just means that clearly, there are different struggles for new converts. This also implies, then, that as you grow in your Christianity, you will achieve more steps, and you will be going on further and further in your walk with Christ.

So what is the next step? This is different for every person. I wish I could say that it's to work on being so good, that the things that used to tempt you don't even bother you at all anymore. However, that is not going to happen. I know of one man that has not smoked a cigarette in decades, and yet he still has the urge to smoke sometimes. Many people will try to tell you that you are sinning just by having temptations, because that is "attachment to things of the world", and use verses such as James 1:14-15 to give evidence for this. However, Christ Himself was tempted as we see mainly in Matthew 4. Temptation itself is not equal to sin, it is simply a gateway to sin.

Our next step as Christians is not to get to a point in which we are no longer tempted, but it is to get to a point in which we no longer give into each temptation. Of course, we will never reach perfection, but that does not mean that we will not be closer to it than when we had started. The things we strive for in life will ultimately be what we obtain in eternity. If you are constantly perfecting yourself, and constantly striving to be like Christ, then you will spend an eternity being perfect, and being with Christ.

Whether it's no longer gossiping, no longer giving into the temptation of being rude, or making sure that you only put things into your mind that are pure and good, there are always things that we struggle with. But I have good news for you: the more we struggle with, the more in our lives we get to fix. And don't think that just because you grew up in the Church, that just because your parents are Christians, and just because being a Christian isn't hard for you, that you get a free pass. Because that is very likely the most common mindset of many Christians. It's easy to want to go into autopilot, and it's easy to say "I'm a Christian. I'm good." and give into temptation, and be completely absent on Sunday morning, and to not try to improve.

No matter where you are, there is always room to improve. There are always steps to take, and there is always something to refine. The point at which we decide that we do not need to improve is the time in which we need to take a step back and realize that we have so much to improve on.

Today I would like to encourage you to take a step back, and observe your life. What is the next step you can take? What is the next thing you can improve on? Take a day, a week, a month, or however long it takes, and focus on that. Set up goals and achievements for yourself. Baptism isn't a point to where we stop, but our first step in our walk towards heaven. So what's your next step?