A Challenge

Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

– Romans 1:19

I suggest looking at this verse in context to understand the full meaning. Basically, Paul is saying that God has made himself known to the world through his divine nature and eternal power, but still some refuse to listen.

If you know any non-believers I would suggest giving them a simple challenge the next time it would be appropriate to do so. The challenge is to open the bible; at the beginning, a random book, wherever. Tell them to simply began reading with an open mind.

I’m not saying this is necessarily going to change them or cause them to have some divine revelation, although I can guarantee that spending some time in the Word is always time well spent. If they take you up on it and actually do open the bible, they’re that much closer to knowing God. I do believe that in order to be changed by God they must be willing to accept Him. So don’t try to force it on them or even plead with them to read the bible. Just offer it as an option. Maybe, with the help of a Higher Power, something may come of it.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

– John 1:1

Love

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

- Romans 5:8

What is love?

So many people think they have the answer. In our culture today people say “I love you” everyday, all the time. I honestly don’t think people realize that love is not just an affectionate feeling toward another person. I’m not attacking people who frequently tell people they love them, I just want people to think. The love that Jesus exhibited on earth was a sacrificial love. Not just affection or infatuation; sacrifice. He literally died as a perfect being for those who were imperfect. That’s like someone deliberately hurting you and the next day you chose to die in their place because of your love for them.

We all know love is kind, love is patient…but love is also sacrifice. Giving up everything for the good of another person.

Love like Jesus did.

Who to Rely On?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

         – Proverbs 3:5

If, like me, you have grown up in the church and been raised in a Christian home since birth you have probably heard this verse many times. I’ve heard pastors use it, seen it on signs while driving, I’ve even found it on plaques in peoples homes. It is definitely a very common verse, cliché even, but that does not mean it is any less true or meaningful. Just think for a second what our world would be like if everyone leaned on their own understanding. Look at where our culture is: the political correctness, the push for tolerance and acceptance of sin. If we lived by our foolishness alone it would not be a pleasant sight. I hope no one takes offense to my use of the word foolishness. It is not an insult, for I believe there are many wise and intelligent people in this world, some not followers of Christ. I’m merely making the point that even our wisest decisions and actions are foolishness compared to the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:25). So even if you make wise choices based on human standards it doesn’t compare to the wisdom of God.

While reading in 1 Kings recently, I noticed something for the first time. In Chapter 5 verse 12 it says: “The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him.” In context, this was not the first time Solomon asked for wisdom and God granted it. Solomon had to make a decision for building the temple with the king of Tyre. From the verse above I realized, for the first time, that God’s gift of wisdom to Solomon wasn’t a one time thing. God didn’t just push a bunch of wisdom into Solomon’s mind (which is what I had thought before, though not in such juvenile terms). I had believed that when Solomon asked for wisdom God granted his wish and that was the end of it. Solomon was the wisest man on earth from then on. In part this is true but it wasn’t because Solomon was just filled with wisdom; it was because God continued to guide him and help him use discernment in making important decisions. Solomon didn’t lean on his understanding alone but was guided and continually given wisdom by God to help him make wise choices.

Be careful to not become prideful. Your plan, or idea for your life, or anything for that matter may not align with what God wants. And believe me, the infinitely wise God of the Bible knows what he’s doing. Don’t be so quick to trust your own wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

          – James 1:5

An Endless Cycle

When I fed them, they were satisfied;

when they were satisfied, they became proud;

then they forgot me.

- Hosea 13:6

I scoff at the stupidity and rebellion of the Israelites, thinking how can they turn away from God when he continually saves them and cares for them. How can they be so rebellious in the face of such mercy and love. Then, I reflect on my own life and realize how true the above verse is of me. This will be a very short post. I’m posting it as a simple reminder. When things are going well and we are satisfied with our lives, our circumstances and our standing with God we begin to feel that we no longer need him. When things are going well we believe that we can stand on our own two feet and lean on our own understanding. This is simply not true. Without God we would be lost; and relishing in our sin. Time and time again we seem to forget who our savior is, just as the Israelites did.

Be careful of how comfortable you are in your relationship with God. There is always and will always be room to grow. Don’t become satisfied with where your at and allow your satisfaction to fester into pride, which ultimately pulls us away from God; every time. Don’t allow this cycle to be on repeat in your life. Constantly, seek out ways to grow in your faith and don’t allow yourself to become satisfied and comfortable with where you’re at.

Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas.

Comfort

The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

          – Proverbs 13:4

I’m pretty certain we can all remember times when we were comfortable. Or at least something we do that brings us comfort. Even if it’s sitting down to watch TV or surf the internet. At that time, we don’t have to think or worry about much; just relax and be entertained. Trust me, it is very, very easy to fall into this “trap” of comfort and not be set free for quite some time. People spend hours each day on social media or watching Netflix. Almost every single day I find myself taking a period of time to watch an episode of my favorite show. And I don’t want this to be another guilt-trip about wasting time and being lazy. I am just making an attempt to open your eyes to how much can be accomplished if we don’t look for comfort.

In this book I’ve been reading the author mentions something about how if you look for comfort, you will not find comfort. Now, at first glance that me seem rather contradictory but if you really think about it, there’s a lot of truth to it. When you search for comfort you aren’t usually satisfied in the end. For a moment, you’re comfortable, and for the most part worry free. But after that time of “comfort”, your problems, your work is still there and nothing has changed except for time. And that is what I find I lose day in and day out. Time. Especially since I’ve been on break, I’ve wasted so much time doing things I don’t really want to do, only because I don’t want to do the things I have to do. You may need to read that twice :)

In all seriousness, time is a precious thing. And you don’t want to find that after a week of “comfort” you have nothing to show for it. Be productive; get done what needs to get done. And then take some time to relax. In no way am I saying being comfortable is bad, but don’t allow relaxation to hold you back from your work and especially your work for God.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

          1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Living like Israelites

Israel’s arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin.

         – Hosea 5:5

More and more as I read the Old Testament I find myself drawing parallels between the Israelites and myself. Lately, I have pushed myself further away from God. My idea of church isn’t what it should be, I’ll read my Bible if time allows; my heart is not in the right place. I have been more concerned with what makes me comfortable and happy in the moment rather than what makes God happy. Eventually, I’ll realize my mistake, fix it, and then go back to focusing of me three of four days later. Literally, it’s a never ending cycle that, I believe, pushes me further away from God. And as I’ve been reading Hosea I began realizing that I was acting just like the Israelites. Time and time again, God warned them and punished them for their unfaithfulness yet time and time again Israel would turn it’s back on their creator and live solely for themselves. When I look at Israel’s behavior I think “How stupid are they?” and then realize that I do the exact same thing in my own life.

In Hosea 6, verse 4 God says to these rebellious people “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.” In no way, shape or form do I want the same to be said of me. But at the moment, that’s precisely how I’m living. And it pains me even more to know that God still forgives me and loves me no matter how much I push him away. Later on in chapter 7 the Lord say he wants to redeem them but they speak lies again him. God is still pursuing me, I just need to turn from my sin and run back to Him.

I pray that no one else is in the same situation as me yet I fear many are. I urge you to stay alert and to not follow in the footsteps of the Israelites. And by no means, do not allow things of this world to lead you astray.

When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them.

          – Hosea 5:6

Culture

But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

          – 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Have nothing to do with such people.

As human beings, we crave acceptance. We have a desire to be liked and to be wanted by people. In itself, this is not a bad thing; it’s a common trait we all share but it can become something that pulls you away from your walk with Christ. I urge you not to get caught up in trivial things of this world. As strange as that may sound I pray you take it seriously. We aren’t here, on this earth, to be accepted, to make friends, or to be liked. We are here for one purpose and that is to love and serve God, and love and serve people. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue friendships or relationships. God created us for relationships and wants us to fellowship with one another. But your desire to fellowship with people or to be accepted by people should never take precedence over your relationship with God. We are running this race to serve Him, and Him alone.

This Sunday, my pastor made the statement “Stop depending on people to do for you what only God can do for you.” Our sense of worth should come from God. People and things in this life should not be where we find our worth. I promise you, God is more than enough. Look to him for your sense of security and identity. Don’t seek to momentarily satisfy yourself with the ever changing things of this world.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

          – Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world…

Who to Please

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
– Romans 15:1

This is SUCH a hard thing to do. I just want to make that clear. Who wants to live their life to serve other people as opposed to themselves?

Well regardless of what we want because of our sinful nature, as followers of Christ this is what we are called to do. Paul tells us in Romans that each of us should please our neighbor, for his good, to build him up. This really is something we need to commit to as Christians. Jesus said that the law hangs on two commandments, one of which is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

We need to stop focusing on pleasing ourselves, but on loving and looking out for one another. Our hearts need to be in the right place. Our hearts need to look like God’s. Granted this is much easier said than done. You can’t just flip a switch and have a heart like Christ. It’s a gradual process of transformation over time. Be in the Word and be close with God. Ask him to work on the condition of your heart and live how he taught in the Bible. Eventually, your heart will change and that will influence your behavior in a way that pleases God.

And that is what we need to be striving for. Our focus should not be on how to please “me”, but how to please God.

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
– Romans 8:8

Joy

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

– 1 Peter 1:8-9

We are called to life our lives full of joy. In Romans, Paul again brings up the fact that God fills us with peace and joy as we trust in him. This is something that I’ve been learning recently: our joy shouldn’t reflect our circumstances, our joy should reflect our relationship with God. The fact that we are alive and children of God should be enough to fill us with joy. I’m not meaning you have to always be joyful and if you’re not there’s something wrong between you and God; but rest in the fact that you are saved from sin and show this to the world by your joy-filled life. This may be something you hear constantly, but make other people wonder what you have that gives you this “unexplainable” joy.

Again, your attitude shouldn’t reflect what you’re going through or what’s happening to you at the moment. Use your attitude to affect your situation.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

– Romans 14:17

Live full of joy, resting in the fact that you are a child of the one, true, living God.

Pharisee Mentality

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.”

– Mathew 23: 1-7

I have grown up in the church my whole life. My family is a Christian family. I was saved when I was seven. I was baptized the same year. I have gone to church consistently to this day and will continue to do so. I read my Bible, I pray.

Yet, in so many ways, I continue to solely live for myself, and live so that I may be glorified.

Recently, I have become aware that I live much like the Pharisees did, and this fact make me so angry. I consistently strive to follow all the rules and I go out of my way to make sure others do as well. A lot of the time, I am a hypocrite. I criticize the people around me for what they’re doing wrong yet participate in the same sin.

What really bothers me is that it took so long for me to realize this.

Recently at church, during his message, the pastor brought up the fact that we are called to help the weak, and to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Immediately I thought of a girl I knew who I could stand up for, not because I wanted to help her, but because I wanted to be seen as a “good” Christian to the other people around me. Once the thought entered my head, it sickened me, and it still does. How could I be so selfish and uncaring? Me, the kid who group up surrounded by Christians, who got saved before the age of ten.

I came to realize that, in my heart, I wasn’t truly living for Christ. I was living to glorify myself so that I could be known as the “good” Christian, so that people could see and admire the fact that I followed all the rules.

In my heart I truly was a Pharisee. And every time I write that phrase it pains me. I’ve been acting like one of the people Jesus came to ridicule and defy.

The problem is my heart. My heart is not in the right place. And now, every time I pray, I include this verse.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
- Psalm 139:23-24

Don’t live for other to see you. Don’t live to be noticed as a Christian. And certainly don’t live as a hypocrite. Make sure your heart is in the right place. Don’t live to please others with your Christianity.

Live to please God.