Friday, February 27, 2009

I Love You More Than Life

How many people can truly say that they love something more than life? Let alone, our God and Father Jesus! This is something that just hit me at the beginning of the week very strong. I was walking to my car to go to work at 5:30am. It came to me, "To die is gain!" Honestly, not many people want to even consider death. But Paul eagerly sought death. He wanted nothing more than to be with his King and Father in heaven! Are stated here in Philippians:

Philippians 1:20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!
23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,
26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

So why is it that Paul is so excited to get to heaven? What will it take for us as fellow believers to yearn for this same place?

Paul wants to leave to get to heaven. When I think about this I remember Comp II last week, my professor talked about how as people grow older, they are more looking forward to heaven and seeing loved ones than anything else. They are ready for the suffering they've done on this world to be over. (at least I believe it was Mike talking about this).

But isn't there more reasons to get to heaven? I mean we get to see Jesus! We get to praise Him for the rest of our lives.

But maybe this is the same reason we aren't ready to go to heaven, we aren't even prepared. We don't want to fully worship God yet. We would prefer to do what makes us happy. What makes us happy. What is found though, as people grow old, is that this doesn't bring true fulfillment. Only Christ and our faith in Him, brings us true fulfillment. Then we are truly free to live.

I love this though, people spend there whole lives running from the one thing that brings them true happiness. Though I must put a disclaimer, not everyone is running from it, some people are yet to realize that Christ is where they need to be. Why do we run from the rewards and freedom in life that Christ offers? It just baffles me.

Paul realizes that though he is longing for a better place, to see his Redeemer in heaven, that this is not God's plan, Christ is not finished with him yet here on earth. Since this isn't the plan, Paul is able to continue to advance the church and ultimately the Kingdom.

We will not fully realize that we are aliens to this land (Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth)
Til we have committed our lives to Jesus. When we are freely living in His will, then we will realize our full potential. Once we have realized our full potential, then and only then will we be able to fully grasp the excitement of going to heaven.

I have to admit I'm not quite there yet, I had the realization that "To Die is Gain" and I still feel that there is work for me to be done here. I feel it will not be until I realize that my work here on earth has been sufficient that I will be able to truly grasp. "To die is gain."

What we find throughout the church, and practically the world, is death is a little talked about subject. What Paul shows us through the Philippians is that we should be excited! If we are truly following and seeking Christ with all that we are, we will be wanting to be in heaven just like Paul was. But until then, we will be just as scared of death as we have always been.

(Title from "More Than Life" by Hillsong United)

* I'm gonna start doing like Alan does, I used to do this in my daily blogs. I started out with More Than Life by Hillsong United, One Way by Hillsong United, Consuming Fire by Hillsong United, Revolution by Jars of Clay, The Battle is Already Won by Keith Green, You Put This Love in My Heart by Keith Green, Tie me Up! Untie me! by mewithoutYou, My Glorious by Pierce, For The Moments I Feel Faint by Relient K.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Love Has Come, and its Given me Hope to Carry On

Matthew 28:16
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The "Great Commission" as Christians we've all heard this at one point or another. The point in time in which Christ directs us to go out and share his teachings with the world. He tells us here, that if we are teaching the world; making them disciples, he will be with us always. How do we get to this point though? To be ready and willing to go and make disciples for Christ? This is where Ephesians chapter 2 comes into the picture.

Ephesians 2
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)—
12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,
16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Verses 1-4 speak about how we were before Christ, dead, and gratifying our sinful nature. Having nothing to do with Christ. Then even while we were dead in our sins against God, Christ came in and saved us through grace.

Verses 5-7 gives us a picture of what it is like to follow Christ, to truly live for Him we gain incomparable riches. These are given to us not simply because we do good, but because he loves us. Out of kindness Christ gives us heavenly rewards when we grow closer to Him, and promote His word.

Think of it like this, in many retail sales jobs and person has "Commission" and "Base Salary." Salvation is the base salary. When a person works on commission the base salary alone cannot sustain them. Base salary is near the equivalent of like $9 an hour or something like that. So you have to go out and work to sale things in order to build up your commission revenue. Spreading the Word, and living for Christ are the equivalents of commission, when you do these things, the way Christ wants, we will get our commission or rewards in heaven.

This works the same way with waiters and waitresses, they get paid below minimum wage, and have to work for tips, if they don't work, or do a lousy job at it, they aren't going to get their tips or "rewards."

Verses 8-10 tell us how and why we are saved. We can't do good things to get to heaven. I don't know how many times this is said, but here's the verses to back it up, Ephesians 2:8-10. We are saved by grace, it was God's gift to us. We should be thankful! Why is it so often we take for granted our salvation? God gave it to us for free! All we need to do is believe. For us the Gentiles it is an even more big deal. We are supposed to be doing God's works, that he has prepared us to do. Now some people use that as an excuse not to minister. "God prepared me to teach elementary students" If God prepared you to teach, then why are you not also at church teaching? Going out on missions teaching people? You are gifted with an ability, Use it! But also do not forget when using this ability, it is not for your glory, but all for God's. For you are His workmanship, not our own.

Verses 11-13 is speaking specifically to us, the Gentiles. Before Christ we had no acceptance into His presence. For we were not born into the Jewish culture, this kept us from being citizens of Israel, and also meant we did not follow the Jewish traditions and laws, making us unfit to be God followers. But the blood shed by Christ on the cross was for everyone so now we are able to seek God's Kingdom.

Verses 14-18 talk about Christ came to promote peace between the nations. He came to abolish the laws of Old Testament times. With these laws abolished we are able to live in peace. For everyone is able to come to Christ. Through Christ we have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit living in us. Once again another great visual of the Trinity.

Verses 19-22 bring the focus back on the Gentiles. With the shedding of Christ's blood we are now "citizens of God's people." It says we are no longer foreigners and aliens to the household. I find this interesting, because we go from:
Living in the world, and being foreigners to Christ
To Christ living in us, and being foreigners to the world.
These verses also talk about Christ being the head of the church, built on Him and the Apostles. Which continues to say that us as growing Christians are a temple for the Lord, that is constantly at work.

Now we move on to 2 Timothy where it talks about sharing our faith.

2 Timothy 1:8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,
9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Alittle bit of history on 2 Timothy, This book is believed to be written by Paul during his last imprisonment in Rome(taken from Holman illustrated pocket Bible handbook). This is why he alludes to suffering for Christ.

Verse 8 encourages us to go out and share the gospel, to never be ashamed. Paul is saying not to be ashamed because Christ followers are being arrested for sharing His Word. To go out and share freely and to join in the suffering for God's Word, for we are all slaves to Christ.

Verse 9-10 We were made for God's purpose, it's always been about Him. His grace has always been there for us. It was not until Christ died on the cross that the grace of salvation became apparent to us. This verse tells us completely that when Christ died on the cross, death was conquered and he brought eternal and everlasting life, this was all shown through the Word.

Verse 11-12; Paul has been commissioned to share the gospel! Have we not all? As a duty to our faith are we not supposed to share it with others? This is why he is suffering. Are we not called to serve Christ, to share Christ, with our entire being? No matter what? We should not fear death, we should not fear anything, because Christ has entrusted His message to us and he will never falter.

Verse 13-14 We can use the verses as a way to pattern our lives. We can use these not just for our lives, but to test other things. Guard the gospel, and stay true to it.

After looking at this passage, is this not how we are supposed to live for Christ?
Now that we know how to be saved, and we know what it means to be a Christian, here is a passage from Titus about how we are to live in the world and show that we are Christians.

Titus 3: 1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,
2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Verses 1-2 Be humble and submit to authority. This is something that our generation has a problem with at times. It's really annoying to me too. This is basic manners people. This is something that is taught outside the realm of Christianity. Why can't we grasp this ourselves? I'm not just saying youth either, we're talking about the Mosaics this ranges from twenty five down to 8 years old. But think on that, college students who don't know how to be humble and submit to authority. I see people in my classes who are worse than first graders in the classroom, and then I see them at FUEL. When I see how they act, I feel embarrassed. Is the instructing going on in our churches that bad? Now granted the people in mention, I do not know their faith stance, I just see them in FUEL. But even if you aren't a Christian striving to follow Christ, there is seldom a religion that instructs you to be disrespectful to your authority.

Verses 3-4 talk about how at one time, when we were without Christ we lived like what I mentioned above. But now we have Christ, we are instructed to be something much higher than that! This is a place that really gets to me in management today. Managers and business owners have reduced their standards for hiring and employment. They have employee's who are constantly late, employee's who cannot get the job done. Why is it this way though? It is simply because people are not following Christ, and they have lost their respect for practically everything. People are reverting to how they were before Christ stepped in, and it isn't pretty.

Verses 5-7 Once again reaffirms our salvation. We are saved not because of our good works and righteousness, as I've been saying, we definitely aren't worthy of Christ. We have gained salvation because of His mercy on us. Because Christ wants to share eternal life with us.

Verse 8 Salvation is a gift to us, just like the base salary I mentioned earlier. If it were not for labor laws and unions, we would not have base salary, back before all this, base salary was a gift that boss's gave their employee's. But we must also devote ourselves for living for Christ, this is the only way we get the gift of salvation. If we are not focused on working for commission or heaven, if we just go into
salvation as "fire insurance" we aren't going to be headed to heaven.

Verses 9-11 avoid stupid fights. We were just talking about this, differences in the date of when a certain book of the Bible was written isn't something to fight over. It's something to know the differences, to know why it's thought to be written during that time. But if you both accept it as fact then why fight about it? Don't allow divisive people to divide things. Warn them, then warn them again, and be through with them. There are so many issues with people being divisive within the church. It's not a good thing. It brings a bad light onto Christianity. Don't allow it.

Now Paul is speaking to the Gentiles, and how to live as Christians.

Romans 11:11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.
12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry
14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.
15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,
18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.
19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in."
20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Verses 11-12 we are Gentiles were offered salvation, because of our sins! This says that no matter how bad a person is, they can be saved. Salvation was brought to us to make the Jews envious. But also to bring us riches. Once again I bring it back to the commission analogy. This is what it's all about! Living for Christ and storing up our heavenly rewards!

Verses 13-15 though Paul is talking to Gentiles, he hopes that what he is sharing will affect the Jews also, Paul says what can be lost in gaining Christ? nothing! You gain eternal life! I like this verse, verse 14, arouse some of my people to envy and save of them. How great is that? I want to do that, I wish I didn't have to do that. But I want people to look at me and say, "I want to be like you" and I want to be able to say "It's all for the Lord" There's this song by Keith Green, my most favorite of his, called "Because of You." I want that to be the story of my life, here is the first verse.

"People smile at me and ask me what it is,
that makes them want to be just like I am,
and I just point to You, and tell them yes it's true,
I'm no special one, I'm just one man.

It's because of You,
people smile at me, and they say,
what a lucky guy."

Verse 16, I love this, if you tithe what you have, then what you have is holy. Simple as that. Tithe and everything that is yours will be Holy.

Verses 17-21 if you are fruitful in your walk with God, you will be placed with other fruitful people. This is an amazing concept. God will place you with other fruitful people, but you aren't supposed to get a big head, because then you cease to be fruitful. In order to keep bearing fruit you must be humble. Because if you cease to be fruitful you will be cut off.

Verses 22-24 Though someone who stops being fruitful can be cutoff, they can be brought back. If they become fruitful, because God has the power to graft anyone into His family. Once again showing how there are no limits to God's grace for us.

This stanza from the song "Ephesians" by ApologetiX is what brought all this to mind to me, and most of the verse references are listed in the song also, aside from the great commission.

"I've found salvation's a tree
And faith's what you use for seed
But grace is the start of the roots
And good deeds are just fruit"

So we are supposed to be out sharing our faith with the nations. Through this is covered how to be saved, how to share our faith, how to live in the world. These are essential things to our Christian faith. If we don't know how to go about these things, then we don't know how to live for Christ, and that means that we are "lukewarm" which God warns strongly against.

(Lyrics from "Hope to Carry On" by Rich Mullins)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Am Not What You See

So there are three things I want to talk about today, not necessarily alot of verses, though there will be a few. To start off with, I want to add a disclaimer to all of my notes, written previously and yet to be written. I am not writing to come off as "holier than thou" or to talk down to you. When I tag someone in a note it's because I want them to read it, and leave some input if they get something out of it. I would also love it, if I don't tag you, for you to still read and leave input.
(WARNING: If you haven't been tagged, and you leave input, you will more than likely be tagged in notes thereafter)
Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us; but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
These notes are not my ideas, but what the Lord has planted in my heart, and so to Him be all the glory not me. These things that I write about are things that I struggle with also. "I am not what you see" fits this so perfectly. Just because I talk about what we should do in certain situations doesn't mean that I am not currently struggling with it myself.

Matthew 7:4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Luke 6:41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Matthew and Luke both talk about this, how can I push this off to you as readers, if I am not following it myself? The reason why I write these is because I am struggling with it, and I write in hopes of gaining understanding from you readers as peers, and that through it also if anyone reads and needs help with the same issue they will be able to gain it.

These things that are revealed to me through the Lord actually have a name, that is epiphany.
Epiphany :
1. (initial capital letter) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
2. an appearance or manifestation, esp. of a deity.
3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

I have only know epiphany as the third definition, imagine my surprise last night when I was considering putting the word in this note, and looked it up, and saw definitions 1 and 2.

Anyway, So these two epiphanies that I am writing about today happened over the course of the past two weeks, during the worship sessions at FUEL.

The first one, prayer is a conversation with God. Honestly, we hear this all the time, but do we really think of it that way?

Matthew 6:5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

I know most people have heard these verses before, and then the Lord's Prayer follows this. I also know that most of us don't go out on street corners and pray, but what we do have a tendency of doing, is babble, like none other, and repeat things (I know Darrel has already covered this once this year, but for some reason it just now hit me) such as God, Lord, and other "holy" words. It really hit me that when I pray, that I should just be talking to Him, I already do it some, but not near enough, I need to work to where I'm in constant conversation. I never really understood the whole "praying while driving" thing until this past month or so, in which I find myself in prayer anytime I think of something...It's pretty great! I also think (which this is more personal preference than anything) that when we pray we should be talking to Abba (the Aramaic word for Father) or Father if that "sounds" better to you. But that is just my personal thoughts.

Moving on to my second epiphany. This lines up with both things I have talked about in previous. It also ties into a certain day that is at the end of the week.....
Here is how the epiphany came to me, we were singing a certain song and in this song there is a line that says "Jesus you're all this heart is living for." Now back in the day (ha makes me sound old) as in like over the past two years, I'll be honest, when we'd sing this song in church, I would not sing this line. Because I felt horrible and like a hypocrite for doing so, which in all truth I was. I was always reminded of a verse that I mentioned in the last note, and one that Darrel mentioned last night.

Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

I did not want to be lukewarm, so to me, by not singing that line, that was my attempt at being "cold" but what I found, was that in just avoiding that song, I couldn't escape, I would have to leave the church completely to be "cold" and I did not want to do this, so I remained lukewarm until about October/November of last year.

The reason why this hit me so hard, was because I had practically spent all day Monday talking to God about whether or not I would have someone for Valentines Day. (pathetic right?) Now I had seriously spent all day Monday talking to Him about it. Most of the day Tuesday was consumed in it also, but then when I got to FUEL and we sang that song, it hit me, hit me hard. Yes my life may be different from the way it was when I moved here, but Monday and Tuesday, I was not living for God, I was talking to God about what I wanted. This doesn't fly with God. We need to be seeking Him, praying to Him for what he wants in our lives. I know I wrote a note about what I wanted in a girl, and last night I came to the stark realization that what I want in future spouse, and what God wants for me in a future spouse may be two utterly different things. For all I know God could call me to be like Hosea, which would be in stark contrast to anything I would ever want. But it could happen.

(Title from Not What You See by Kutless)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Echos Coming Back, What's This

So I've been contemplating this week, everything it means to be a high school student (junior/senior) and a college student. Who we are at this stage in our lives. Here in America when we are juniors and seniors in high school, we are considering where we want to go to college for the next four years. We sometimes tour multiple colleges, in hopes of finding the "right" one. Most of the time we don't even ask God what he wants. Sometimes we do. Once we get to college, we have so many decisions to make, Are we going to stay in church? Are we going to turn away? Are we going to party? Are we going to succeed in college?

There are two types of students. The one who sticks by the faith and grows spiritually, and the one who doesn't.

The person who chooses to turn away from the faith isn't a bad person, they have just lost their way. What happens is the youth gets caught up in wanting to be accepted, wanting to have friends, and so they do what they think they have to do to obtain this. If the person was a strong person of the faith, they will notice a very empty feeling. This is because they are not going the way that Christ had planned, and the person realizes it. When the person comes to this realization, they can either choose to return to the Lord, and seek forgiveness, or they can harden their heart and turn even further away.

2 Kings 2:23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

I thought that was an interesting bit about youth who weren't on the right path with the Lord. Then there is King David praying to the Lord.

Psalms 26:6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,for they are from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

David is praying for God's mercy and forgiveness for all the times he rebelled against him, for the times he wasn't walking the path that God had ordained for him to follow. This is something that all of us have had to do at one time or another, the question is whether or not we actually meant it when we prayed. Then there is the wisdom of King Solomon from Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 11:9
Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.

Enjoy life! But remember to do all things in Christ. I really had an "enjoy life" moment last night, after Winter Jam we went to Krispy Kreme and ordered donuts, eight people in the car, drive thru only, separate tickets, it was amazing, we spent over twenty minutes at the window getting our orders. While I was at Winter Jam, I was thinking of all the other times I had been, the first year, with Newsboys, meeting Andrew, then the year with Relient K and Audio A, making the radio show before we left, with all of us on there, Justin, Trevor, Zach, Andrew and I, then driving all the way to Little Rock singing Relient K songs. Including "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything." These were truly "the days" I have never felt so alive than in moments like that. These are the times to cherish, but there is another side to the story; you have to see the second half of the verse. For all these things, God will bring you judgment. This is something that we forget all too often. Now I can say that last night, and at the previous mentioned Winter Jams, there was nothing negative the God would judge us on. But during the time between, the times when we aren't at church functions, we have to think of the things that we have done, and how God will judge us. Then we remember, he saves! and forgives all sins! Then we have what its like to follow Christ all your life:

Psalms 71:5 For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you.

We grow up in church, we "rely" on Christ all our lives, we praise Him in church. But have we ever given Him everything? When we are growing up in church do we ever think that things will be different? Do we ever realize our need to be following Christ whole heartedly? I mean, some of us have, but very few can say that their entire life, they have given it all to Christ. So Solomon writes again in Ecclesiastes to remind us what to do:

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them."

Remember God! There is a vast majority of youth who forget about Christ once they are in high school and college. Remember Him, so that you will not say "I find no pleasure in my youth." If we forget about Christ as we are growing into the adults, we will loose valuable time for His Kingdom. We won't live to the full potential that he needs us at. So many people say "if I had thought of it, I wouldn't have done ____________ in college and or high school." I'm the same way, but what if we had been living for Christ? The impact for the Kingdom we would have had!

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.

Timothy here is just reiterating the wisdom that Solomon and David imparted to us. I love the verse that comes next though. Avoid stupid arguments. I could just go on about that one, maybe some other time.

Why is it though, that they say avoid the evil desires of youth? Why is it that youth are constantly battling between drawing close to God and disowning the faith. There are several keys to this; we are growing in so many ways during this time, that we really don't know what to do. If we aren't shown the greatness that can be had in following Christ and staying with Him, we won't want to do that. We'll want to do what is fun, and because of our inherent sin nature, sin is "fun" and so we have a tendency to lean towards sin, instead of being "sold out" to Christ. The person who is "sold out" for Christ throughout their entire life is truly blessed, they have such a great story to tell, of how they never strayed from the path of the Lord; sure they've sinned, everyone does, but they have been forgiven. Then there is the story of the one who has turned away from Christ, one of sorrow and pain, but also one of redemption, one of Christ's saving grace.

What you will find is that I refer to myself as straying, I do have to say that I have never stopped going to church, but that I found myself distant, and questioning why I was even going. I was the definition of "lukewarm" and hated it. I was one who hadn't fully lived for Christ his entire life, until a few months ago, when I surrendered all to Him. Now I am truly free.

What will it take to get youth and college students today to see it's sooooo much better to stick with Christ?

(Title from White Lights by Deas Vail)
Look forward, for the Son to rise on a new day

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

You'll Need Something More To Guide Your Heart, as you Grow into a Man, Let Mercy Lead, Let Love be the Strength in Your Legs

So in the past few days I've been reading in "unChristian" and then today in my Intro to Business class it was brought to my attention again, not by what was said, but because what we were talking about was something that my parents had helped me with nearly two years ago.
As is fashion in recent notes, I have brought the entire chapter; tonight is no exception Proverbs 4 been brought into the note, because this is written by a father (King Solomon) to one of his sons.
Yes, I admit it now, here I am, writing a note on Parenting a freshman in college. (and dad's like.....took ya long've been parenting since you were three....)

But this isn't about me. This is about all the Christian parents out there, raising their kids the way they need to be raised.

Here is Proverbs for chewing on, while you read the next part of the note.

Proverbs 1:8 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

Proverbs 4:1 Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction;pay attention and gain understanding.
2 I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a boy in my father's house, still tender, and an only child of my mother,
4 he taught me and said,"Lay hold of my words with all your heart;keep my commands and you will live.
5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
8 Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.
9 She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor."
10 Listen, my son, accept what I say,and the years of your life will be many.
11 I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.
15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;turn from it and go on your way.
16 For they cannot sleep till they do evil;they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.
17 They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,for it is the wellspring of life.
24 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
27 Do not swerve to the right or the left;keep your foot from evil.

There is so much about not just parenting, but how to live life in this Chapter that it's alot to swallow. Instead of bringing back in the verses, I'm going to refer to the verse number when I talk about it.
As in 1:8 and verse 1, "Listen", I know that sometimes, especially with kids and their "social issues" that it's hard to keep kids focused, but in all reality it's not just about children hearing your instruction, it is about you acting upon the words you say. It is about the parent actually doing what they are telling their kids to do, if you tell them to brush their teeth every morning and every night, they better be seeing you brushing your teeth every morning and every night. If you are telling them to read the Bible everyday, and you aren't reading the Bible everyday, then what is going to make them want to read the Bible? This is the same way with our Christian walk,(sorry this is off, but it was in the chapter before the one I'm in now in "unChristian") if we are talking all this talk, about how you shouldn't curse, and you should be so involved in church, and such, you had better be doing it, otherwise you are hurting your witness, and people are at a point in today's time, that they don't want your Jesus, if you are just like them. You have to be transparent with someone, whether it be your child, or someone you are trying to bring to Christ. You have to point out to them, that we are saved by God's grace, and we are striving everyday to be more like him, and that yes we may mess up, but God forgives, and still loves us. We aren't perfect, nobodies perfect the only way that things are perfect is together, through Christ.

Hebrews 11:40 "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

In verses two through four it talks about holding to your fathers instruction, about how King David instructed his son King Solomon, to listen, and he essentially wouldn't die. Now we all hope that our kids won't die, but we find that there is some instructions that you give to a kid that can potentially save him from killing himself out of ignorance. I mean if as a child, we weren't instructed that those fast moving things out on the pavement won't stop for you, how many of us would have run out in front of a vehicle and nearly died? Also how many of us as young adults, when instructed by our parents, or worse by an officer of the law, that we needed to slow down, or we could get hurt. I mean these are simple things, that have been known to happen, because of all the years that there have been vehicles on the roads.

Verses 5-9 Wisdom, now this is coming from the wisest man to ever walk the earth. I would think we need to be listening to everything he says, but I mean honestly. If he says be wise and act on it, we should, I mean isn't that the same thing that our parents say to us? "I don't think it'd be best if you touched that stove." or "If you don't stop you'll be grounded." A child may not stop the first time, but I'm sure that if you are adamant and fulfill your word, someday they are going to change. If a child doesn't heed wisdom then what is going to happen? Their years are going to be few, or at least that's what I'd think, cause it says if a child heeds wisdom, his years will be many, and the opposite of many is few. This is what verse ten says.

Verses 11-19 talk about our journey through life growing up, and then even once we are grown. If we heed the wisdom of our parents, and stay on the right path. Nothing bad can happen. Our parents have our back and so does Christ ( I say this assuming that our parents have shared Christ's love with us also). It even tells us what will befall us if we don't listen to our parents, we will essentially be wicked and violent. Isn't that reminiscent of "problem children" today? I mean the ones who don't have any mental problems, the ones who are just straight up defiant. Why are they this way? Because they don't listen to their parents. Why don't they listen to their parents? Because their parents don't stay true to their word, they don't act on their words.

Verses 20-22 reiterate the need to keep the instruction of your parents close to you. For this will bring you ultimate life and health. Many will tell you, after they have strayed from what their parents have instructed, and done immoral things, that it would have been better if they had just listened to their parents. Why do you think this is? Because your parents instruction will bring you true life and health, through Jesus.

Verse 23 oh what I would give to have listened to my parents on this one. If I had guarded my heart, I would have a better testimony for myself to give to my future wife. But this alas is where I have slipped, and I do say that my parents were right. For some reason, when they instructed me not to go out with one person, I listened. But with another I didn't, and what I would give to have gotten out of that sooner. (Laura, you better do a better job!)

Verse 24 don't curse and think bad things. I mean honestly, we have been taught this our entire lives. Why is this bad though? For several reasons, one in the future professional world, you are going to be hired on how you carry yourself, this includes the words that come out of your mouth. Then the bigger one. If you are cursing or talking about inappropriate things, it hurts your Christian testimony. I was actually walking to the caf tonight with two friends who are solid Christians, and a fourth guy who isn't, both of them have been working on befriending him and showing him Christ, but one thing that I noticed as we walked, was what was talked about in conversation. They were talking about another person from our dorm and how he is. In what was talked about, was not something that should have been mentioned in front of a guy who is questioning why he should have Jesus, because we are no different from him (well other than that we don't smoke and dip.....). Let alone talked about in front of other Christians.

Verses 25-27 Just re-iterate how important it is to keep ourselves focused on Christ, and his glory. To not stray from the path. I can honestly say, I strayed from the path for almost a year, and it was not good, I feel like I lost such valuable time, that I could have been using for God's glory. Not to mention all the relationships I hurt during that time.

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

I bring in Colossians because it cautions against parents overdoing it. I have seen this several times, where parents have been very strong towards their children about how they should act, and how they shouldn't be involved in things, and they didn't care. The children wanted everything to do with it, because they were constantly pressured not to.

Psalm 37:25 I was young and now I am old,yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;their children will be blessed.
27 Turn from evil and do good;then you will dwell in the land forever.

I love this verse, because it tells parents how important it is to live like Christ. IF you live for Christ your children will be blessed! Your Children! I mean isn't this the best gift that a parent can give their child?

So parents. You know how to instruct your children. You don't need to hear it from me, but maybe there was some insight you missed that I have pointed out. What I do want to offer to you, is that it works. I may have strayed some, and who knows, it may happen again (though I don't plan on it). But really your hard work pays off! Have faith. Here is the reason why I wrote this note. In reading the chapter "Get Saved" in unChristian, there was a staggering statistic. A person's view on faith is shaped by the time they are ten. So if you haven't showed your child Christ, if you didn't start out in the beginning raising your child towards being a Christian. Then you are going to have a tough time getting them to grasp Christ once they are grown. Only one out of six people become a Christian after the age of twenty, and somewhere around ninety percent of those, have spent at least a three month consecutive period in church before the age of ten. So the hope of anyone becoming saved after college is slim, and it's even worse if they have had no church experience.

The only thing that I have to say that I find is a let down from my upbringing is that my parents did not start daily devotions soon enough. I believe if you start daily devotions as infants with your children, and continue til they leave the house. There will be an expectancy there that is un-paralleled.

I have to say from my experience growing up that there is nothing in my upbringing that I would change, and I have several college friends who would say the same about how they were raised...some even who may have had to write Proverbs 4 when they were in trouble.......I know I have had to.....

Rachel, maybe sometime soon I'll write about grand parenting.

Proverbs 17:6 Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

Are your parents the pride of your life?

(Title From "Let Mercy Lead" by Rich Mullins)