Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Last time we were reminded of how great, powerful, and fantastic our God is, this time, we will be taking a look at a slightly difficult verse to understand. But don't let that scare you away!
Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
"Of His own will..." implies that this was His plan. His will was that He would have adopted sons and daughters - believers.
"...begat He us with the word of truth..." Begat. When you produce children, you have begotten them. They are your children. God begets believers "with the word of truth". This word of truth is the gospel. We hear the gospel, we receive it, and we become God's children. Adopted children, but nonetheless His own children. Just as a (good) parent loves the adopted child as their own, so God loves us as His own.
So, why would God want to adopt us? Why save us from our sinfulness and pay for our salvation with His own flesh and blood (so to speak), His own Child? Its as if a King, who had but one Son and loved him dearly, when seeing the plight of His people and knowing that only if His Son gave His life, would the people be saved - and He gives His only Son for His people who have sinned against Him. This is the great love of our King and our King's Son. This is the price that was paid for our adoption.
But, do we have to be adopted? You may ask. No. The King, in His great love, allows us to remain in our sin and in our plight if we so desire. Sadly, many people do reject this offer. This offer of life, this offer of a home, this offer of salvation.
"...that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures..." This is a strange phrase, and I don't really understand it. My best guess is this: "we," as we have seen by the first part of this sentence, is referring back to believers. "His creatures" are either all living things He has created, or just human beings. I'm not sure which is the correct interpretation. In the case of it being all human beings, which I am leaning towards, this would mean that we (believers) are the firstfruits (or the first fruits produced in each batch) of His creatures. The firstfruits are those that are taken to the lord and owner of the land for him to see how things are growing. Believers are those who are taken to be with the Lord. Although this continually confuses me, this is my best guess.
I hope this served to get your mind working around one of those seemingly impossible to understand verses of the Bible. Some verses are just so hard to understand! But man, not being able to understand them serves to keep me humble - seeing as I cannot explain everything! Praise God for this blessing! And, oh so much more, thank God for adoption!
In Christ alone,
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Last time we talked about lust and how it turns into sin, which then turns into death. This time is better news...
Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Every. All. No other.
James states here that all good and all perfect gifts are from above. That means that no perfect, or even good, gift can come from anywhere else. Everything of value, everything of worth, comes from above, comes from God. That implies that all the "good" gifts that people give here on earth don't even compare to the gifts given by God. He loves us more than anyone else ever could. He loves us more than we can even fathom.
But James doesn't end there. Not only do they come from God and they're the greatest gifts in the universe, but James describes God as the Father of lights. In Revelation, when John tells of the New Jerusalem, he says that there are no sun, stars, or moon, but God Himself lights the city. God doesn't need physical light like we do. He CREATED light! He is the Father of lights. But, is this what James means? Is James speaking of physical light, or something else?
I think James might be thinking of something else...
Perhaps James is not speaking here of His physical light, but rather of His constancy. Natural light is constant if you think about it. Yes, clouds, trees, buildings, and even the earth, get in the way of the sun - our source of light. But does the sun ever really "set"? Does it ever fail? Does it ever just cease to shine? Does it ever just leave? No. It's the same with God. He never fails to love us. He never fails to care about us. He never leaves. He IS perfect. He IS love. He IS faithful. Just like with the sun, sometimes we can't see the love of God because things get in the way. Perhaps this is what James is speaking of.
"With whom is no variableness." God doesn't change. Yes, He repents of things, and He does listen and respond to our prayers. It is recorded in the Bible that He has changed His mind. I don't want to go into this much right now, mostly because I am honestly trying to figure this out myself. But you can hold onto this: God's character doesn't change, and neither does His Divine plan for us and the entire world, but - He does change His mind on occasion in accordance with our requests and our sinfulness. Think, for example, of the Flood, the Bible says that God repented that He had made man on the earth. Think also of the multiple passages that tell of Him rejecting Saul as king of Israel and putting David up there instead. God put Saul on the throne, but later He repented that He had done so. Do not think, however, that God repented because He was wrong, He is perfect and therefore cannot be wrong. God simply made His already perfect plan for the world better.
"Neither shadow of turning." I think that James is saying here, that just as God doesn't change, He doesn't even think about changing. He doesn't even contemplate making a decision that goes against His character. Why? Because He is eternal and all-knowing. He is God. He doesn't change, and He doesn't even think about it.
Now that's a God you can rely on! One who's plan for YOU was laid out thousands of years before you were born. One who knows EXACTLY what's best for YOU.
That's the God I trust.
In Christ alone,
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Before I even start, besides the Bible, this is the best book I have ever read.
Tortured for Christ was written by Richard Wurmbrand. Pastor Wurmbrand lived in Communist Romania in the 1940's-60's. He was in prison for a total of fourteen years. He was not only stuck in prison, but tortured beyond belief. Through all his torture, imprisonment, separation from his wife and son...he was a faithful witness of his Savior.
Even in prison when he knew that he would be beat severely, nearly to death, if he preached to fellow inmates - he did it. Even when he was released from prison, but warned not to preach lest he get himself back in - he did it. Even when he was threatened with death if he preached - he did it. He never gave in. He never denied his Lord. He never regretted proclaiming His Name.
That's faith. That's dedication. That's love.
In his book, Pastor Wurmbrand tells of his time in prison and outside of prison. He tells of some of the tortures he and other believers endured in the name of Christ. He communicates to us the love that he and the other believers had for Christ, their brothers and sisters, and for their enemies - their torturers and murderers, the Communists. These believers had a love for Christ that soared far beyond their love for family and friends, a love that soared above their love for comfort, their desire for peace - they loved Christ more than life.
Many times in his book, Wurmbrand tells of one person or another answering the question of "why do you do what you do?" with a simple and sweet phrase like: Christ died for me, it's the least I can do to be tortured for Him. That's love.
I read this book in three days - you simply can't put it down! It drags you in and chains you to itself. In fact, the night I started to read it, my dad noticed my eyes were bloodshot - guess I forgot to blink.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.
"But those Nazi times had one great advantage. They taught us that physical beatings could be endured, and that the human spirit with God's help can survive horrible tortures."
"We should never stop at having won a soul for Christ. By this, we have done only half the work. Every soul won for Christ must be made to be a soul -winner...They [Russian believers] were reckless and daring for Christ, always saying that it was the least they could do for Christ who died for them."
"For them [Communists] nothing besides matter exists and to them a man is like wood, like an eggshell. With this belief they sink to unthinkable depths of cruelty."
"If the heart is cleansed by the love of Jesus Christ, and if the heart loves Him, one can resist all tortures."
"It was a deal: we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us - so everyone was happy."
"Love conquered even the natural thirst for life."
"It was in being tortured by them [Communists] that we learned to love them."
"A man really believes not what he recites in his creed, but only the things he is ready to die for."
"The Underground Church denounces it [Communism], risking liberty and life. The less have we to be silent in the West."
"I have found truly joyful Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground Church, and in prison."
"What compelled them [underground believers] was the love of God. They knew that they risked their liberty, and that in prison starvation and torture awaited them."
Yeah, that might have been a lot...but believe me, if I really wanted to I would quote the entire book.
Over all, this book receives six stars. Aw, we only go to five? Fine. Five.
I definitely recommend this book to everyone, especially believers who have never heard of the persecution of our brethren in other lands.
In Christ alone,
NOTE: Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was the founder of Voice of the Martyrs. Please visit their website - it's wonderful what they are doing!
Monday, August 22, 2011
The last James post was really short, I know, but I felt like I could do that without feeling bad because it was so important. Many times, I think, we blame God when bad things come, but it's not His fault. He allows hard times to come so that when we go through them our faith might be strengthened.
Let us go on to verses fourteen through sixteen, which are still speaking of temptations.
But every man is tempted, when he is driven away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.
Temptation originates in your heart. James is clear with this in verse fourteen. He says that "every man is tempted when he is driven away of HIS OWN lust, and enticed. It's not God, it's YOU. God does not tempt you, you are tempted when you are driven away by YOUR OWN lust. You have no one else to blame.
Stop now and think of one time you desired to have something. Shouldn't be too hard. It happens many times to each of us every day. Have you thought of something yet? Did you ever want a new cell phone? Corvette? Chocolate bar? Don't read on until you've got one thing in your mind.
Got it yet? Okay.
What did you think of in relation to this thing? You probably wanted whatever it was pretty bad, right? For some of us, a beat up Jeep is the last thing we'd want; but for some of us, that's our dream. The reason for this is simply personality. We all like different things, we all dislike different things. We were created different and unique. Nothing wrong with that.
What is wrong, though, is lusting after something. Obviously, if you hate chocolate, you're not going to lust after a bar of it. But you may lust after a beat up Jeep or brand new Corvette.
But how, you ask, am I supposed to keep these lusts out?! How in the world am I to NOT think about things like that. I don't have power over things that just pop into my head!
Well, no you don't. But, yes you do.
Thinking, "oh, it would sure be cool to have that", and thinking, "oh, I would really LOVE to have that!" are two different things. They are different mind sets. Different levels, you might say, of lust.
Just thinking that something is cool isn't bad; and it's not sin. Lust is sin. Lust is thinking about it often, wanting it, looking towards it as something very important. Dictionary.com uses the words "passionate" and "intense" and "overmastering desire" when defining lust. Lust is a thing that eats up your energy, time, love, and attention.
I like how James started verse fifteen - he writes that when lust has "conceived". A good word for this is "formed". When lust has formed...This implies the prior building up of it. The nurturing of it. The "forming" of it. Clearly, this lust wasn't taken care of when it was small, but has now grown.
James goes on to say that once lust has conceived, it brings forth sin. Here, he uses the analogy of human life. Lust, once conceived, brings forth sin. When lust is allowed to grow and form, it will eventually cause you to sin. So, is lust in and of itself sin? Or does it just make sin happen? Say, if you want a candy bar long enough and you allow that lust to conceive, will you go steal one? I don't think this is correct. Granted, in many cases, if you lust for something long enough you will more than likely act upon it. But I don't think that is what James is implying.
In the original Greek and Hebrew, the languages in which the Old and New Testaments were written, the words for lust and covet are very similar. They mean basically the same thing. One of the ten commandments was "Do not covet". It made the top ten! Clearly, this is something that does not bring God glory.
But, there's one more step. Sin, James says, then brings forth death. The wages of sin is death. The payment for sin is death. Not physical death, mind you, but spiritual death. Eternal separation from God. Eternity in the worst place of all - hell. Eternal torture. Eternal death.
But, you may ask, you didn't answer your own question! HOW am I to NOT lust? Answer this question yourself. Think about it. If your mind is filled with these lusts, how do you get them out? In the same way, if you have a pool full of water that you cannot tip or drain, how do you get the water out?
By replacing the water with something else.
Go to God's word. Go to Him in prayer. When you fill your mind with other things, things more important, you replace what was in your mind previously. You can replace your lust.
Ask God for guidance. Ask Him for help. Fill your mind with things of Him. Fill your time with things that glorify Him. Live every moment for His glory alone and you won't have any time left over for things of this world.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says that in everything we do - whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we need to do ALL for the glory of God!
Finally James writes, "do not err my beloved brethren". James loves his brothers and sisters in Christ as we also ought to love them. He is human also, he knows what they are going through for he goes through the same things. He feels their pain. He warns - do not err. Don't do what's wrong, do what's right. Those believers then, as well as the believers now, are our "beloved brethren". Our brothers and sisters whom we love in Christ.
I think we can pull one last thing from this section. James' love for his brethren. He loved them enough to take the time to write this letter to them. He loved them so much that he took the time to instruct them in the word of God. Do we love our brothers and sisters that much? Do we love them enough to set aside what we want to do to take time to help, edify, and encourage them?
Do you love your brethren?
In Christ alone,
Saturday, August 20, 2011
And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
Ever heard the phrase: "it's what's on the inside that counts"? That's what Jesus was talking about in Luke 11:39 when he told the Pharisees that even though they look good on the outside with all their good works, their hearts were full of wickedness. How about the phrase: "don't judge a book by it's cover"? That can go both ways. The cover may look bad, but the book could be amazing. Or the cover may look amazing and the book be horrible. It's the same with people.
Take this example.
One day a handsome young man came walking into the grocery store looking for all his fruits and vegetables. In the store he was pleasant to all, and he left the store, got into a brand new Mustang and drove away.
Soon after that man left, a scruffy old man came walking into the grocery store, he bought a few items also. While in the store, he was sad and didn't speak or look at anyone, he left the store, and started walking down the highway.
Later that day, the handsome young man was seen at a bar, utterly drunk, cussing and fighting with other men there.
Also later that day, the scruffy old man was seen walking into a cheap housing area, and into one of the houses. Inside, the man was taking care of his wife who was sick. He had walked the two miles to the grocery store for her. He knelt by her bed, and prayed.
You see, it's not what WE see that matters. It doesn't matter what the person may look like on the outside. What matters is where their heart is, what matters is what God sees.
Examine yourself, are you a Christian on the outside, inside, or both? If you are only a Christian on the outside, what are your motives? On the contrary, if you are only a Christian on the inside, what are your motives? We need to be both. If you are a true believer, then you will be both. Your Christian life when no one is watching should mirror your Christian life when everyone is watching.
Ultimately, is Christ as important to you in public as He is when you are alone with Him?
In Christ alone,
Thursday, August 18, 2011
In the last James study post I asked you a strange question...who's chicken are you? I hope you have honestly answered that question for yourself. It may sound like a pretty stupid question, but the answer is vital - who (or what) would you lay your life down for?
This time, we will continue on in the subject of temptation.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.
In this verse, James is very to-the-point. He begins by telling us what not to do, then gives us the reason. Short and simple.
What NOT to do: don't blame God when you are tempted. Don't throw a pity party and lose your head and start blaming the God of the universe.
Why? Two reasons. Number one: God absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, be tempted with evil. He is holy. He is perfect. He is the greatest, most powerful, highest being in all the universe. Evil can't even come NEAR Him, much less tempt Him. For example: why would a twelve year old boy (in his right mind) be tempted to buy nail polish for himself? They are utter opposites. They completely contradict one another. It's the same - but to a much, much higher extent - with God and temptations. It doesn't even phase Him. Number two: God doesn't tempt anyone. Temptations are only given out by the devil and our own evil desires (as we will see later). But under no circumstances does God tempt us.
Hard to blame a perfect God? You betcha. Don't blame God when you are tempted - it's not His fault.
In Christ alone,
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
When taken literally, this sounds...strange. But this is one not to be taken literally.
Instead of literal milk and meat, the author of Hebrews (probably Paul) uses these two elements to represent levels of understanding when it comes to Biblical and spiritual things.
Milk represents easier to swallow things, simpler things, more general things. Things such as: you are a light in a dark world.
Meat represents harder to chew things, more difficult, complex things. Things such as doctrinal things: did Christ die for the whole world or just for the elect?
This whole meat vs. milk thing if very important. The reason it is important is because if a new believer, or young believer, is immediately bombarded by difficult questions, their faith can be damaged or even destroyed by questions that they are simply not able to answer. But as you grow as a believer it is important that you are challenged by harder stuff - not too hard as to tear at your faith, but hard enough to force you to keep learning.
It's just like with many things in the world. You learn by being forced out of your comfort zone. You won't get anywhere if you just stay with what you know. In fact, you won't know anything that an infant doesn't know. You must be forced out of your comfort zone to learn anything.
Something too hard can discourage and oppress you, something too easy won't teach you anything. The balance in the middle is what we're looking for, and shooting for as we study God's word.
In Christ alone,
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Last time, we found that James encouraged those who were poor to rejoice in that they were exalted and he encouraged the rich to rejoice in that they were humbled. Did you find which you were? What is your attitude?
This time we will be looking at temptations and the reward for enduring until the end.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.
James starts out this by saying that the man that endures temptations is blessed. What does it mean to endure temptations? To me it means not giving in when your friend is asking you to go help him steal something. It means standing strong and immovable through the ridicule you will face for "being a chicken". Well, who's chicken are you? The world's? or Christ's? Being called a chicken is a derogatory statement used to taunt the person to do something outside of their comfort zone, or in some cases, their "belief zone". If you are the world's chicken, then you won't do anything for Christ that takes you outside of luxury and comfort. Obviously, if you are not a believer then you won't be called a chicken by believers if you refuse to do something for Christ - for example, taking the word of God to a cannibalistic jungle village. Why would you risk you life - waste you life - for this God you don't even believe in or worship? If you are Christ's chicken, then you will strive to do His will, which implies doing things that the world thinks is cool, but is against your Lord. An example of this might be like my earlier example - you may not be afraid to steal something (worldly speaking), but you know it's wrong, so you refuse to do it. You may look like a coward in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of Christ you're doing what's right.
Getting back on track...He that endures, stands strong, doesn't fall into all the evil schemes of the devil and desires of his own flesh - that man is blessed. Sounds easy, right? Not if you've ever resisted a temptation! Or, better yet, fallen into one! The trick to not falling into temptations that I have found, is loving God more than anything else. When your number one priority is doing HIS will, then doing YOUR will will be further down on the list. That probably wasn't a great way to put it - the trick to it - because it's really no trick, just the truth. When you love God more, everything else becomes less important - even your own desires.
But, being blessed isn't the only reward. That man will also "receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love Him". See! Told you! Loving God more = wanting to do His will instead of your own. It's all a loop, isn't it? Loving God more = wanting to do His will = not wanting to do your own = resisting temptation = loving God more.
Giving into temptations results in sin. Giving in and going to steal something with your friend results in sin. Deciding to get drunk "just this once" results in sin. Lying to cover your tracks is sin.
Don't give into temptations. Strive to know God more. As you get to know Him more, you will love Him more - guaranteed.
Who's chicken are you?
In Christ alone,
Friday, August 12, 2011
Recently, my sister Poppy and my mom were debating about whether a certain piece of fabric was green or blue.
Poppy held it up to the lime green dress she was wearing and stated emphatically that the fabric was blue.
Mom held it up to her sky blue shirt that she was wearing and proclaimed the fabric to be green.
I laid it down on my white shorts and announced that it was pink. But I was totally joking. I promise.
But that little discussion made a point. Depending on where the fabric was, you could claim that it was either green or blue. It's perspective that matters.
It's the same with everything in this world. Two people can look at the exact same thing and draw completely different ideas from what they see. Perspective.
Take the Bible for example - many different religions all look at the same Bible, but they get completely different ideas from it. Even within the realm of Christianity you have Calvinism and Arminianism. For example: Calvinists believe Christ died only for the elect; Arminians believe that Christ died for all people. They both read the same Bible, but they read it with differently biased glasses on.
How about you take worldview for an example? Evolutionists and Creationists look at the exact same world, but they think of it in utterly different ways. Evolutionists do not believe that God created the world but that it came about by random chance. Creationists believe that God did, in fact, create the world. They're both looking at the same world - the exact same thing - but draw completely different conclusions about it.
Since it all depends on the way you look at it, how do you know if you are looking at it the correct way?
The only answer is that you have to base all your knowledge off of something or someone that always has, is, and will be the same. Someone who is Truth, Love, Justice, and quite simply - Perfect.
When you base all you guesses, all your beliefs, all your trust on God, who always has, is, will be, you will know that what you believe is the truth. When you look at the world through His word, when you look at the Bible unbiased, you will find the truth. In simpler terms, when you look at everything with a heart that is completely impartial to worldly things and simply sold-out to God, you will find what is true.
In the end, does it matter if the fabric was green or blue? No. Actually, it was probably exactly in the middle. But, what if it did matter? Does it matter if you are an evolutionist or a creationist. Yes. Depending on which you are, you will look at everything differently - including God and His word.
I end with this one exhortation - don't just END with God and His word, BEGIN with it! When you are not sure which to believe, before you even look at any of the evidence, START in prayer and in God's word. You won't regret it.
For His glory,
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Last time we looked at the man with wavering faith and how you cannot expect to receive anything of the Lord if your faith wavers. This time we'll be looking at the rich and the poor and how that impacts your decisions.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted but the rich in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
The main thing I see in this passage at a glance is how contradictory it is to this world. The world is so lost that most of the time, the doctrine of the world and the doctrine of the Bible contradict, usually quite obviously. Here, James exhorts the poor to rejoice in that they are exalted and the rich rejoice in that they are made low - or humbled. In the eyes of the world, this is exactly the opposite!
REMEMBER: James is writing to the Jewish believers.
For the poor, this exaltation is because he knows that even though he is poor on earth he is rich in heaven. James is exhorting them rejoice in this as a testimony of what God has done, is doing, and will do for them. Do you often see a happy beggar? Or are they sad and melancholy? I have seen both. Granted, I never spoke with them, so I don't know if the happy ones were Christians or not, but they did stand out in the crowd. As believers, no matter rich or poor, we should be different than everyone else - we should stand out in the crowd, we should not blend in. Christ has not called us to be like the world, but to be completely different! To let His light shine in this dark world!
For the rich, this rejoicing in their humility is to keep them from exalting in their riches. For the"love of money is the root of all evil". You can be rich and not love your money, this is how the rich believer should be. Putting God first, and money last. James compares the rich man to the grass and the flowers. As soon as the sun rises (as it does quite often) the grass withers and the flowers die, for they cannot stand against the heat of the sun. Like the grass and the flowers, the rich person will fade away. "Where you treasure is, there your heart is also." If the man is his riches, if that is his love, his life, his purpose, then when the sun rises, he will wither and die. This is not to say that rich people are evil, it truly depends on where their heart is, and ultimately, their treasure. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt and where thieves don't break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also. Therefore, it is not the riches that will fade away, but the rich person himself if he is not 100% following after God.
This is not to say, however, that all poor people are believers! On the contrary, many are not. But by being poor you are eliminating one of the biggest obstacles that stand between you and Christ - money and possessions. Rich people can be believers and poor people can be believers. Both are equal in God's eyes. But as the scripture says, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God...who then can be saved?...With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Riches and pride, I believe, are the biggest obstacles that people have to get around before they can be true believers. We may not all have riches, but I guarantee you that we've all got pride.
Put God first.
In Christ alone,
Monday, August 8, 2011
I've always liked this song. It's got great music, lyrics, voices are amazing...but...now I love it.
It's so true.
I thought I had it all under control....I need to let go of my destiny, I need to trust in things unseen.
My world is changing.
The highlight of my week is Sunday night Youth Group - I get to fellowship with my bestest friends. Those guys mean SO much to me. Now, with the approaching school year, things are changing - because the graduates are leaving.
D is moving away. A, C, and K are moving away. J is moving away. Another J isn't moving but won't be coming to Youth Group anymore. Another C will be leaving in the spring....That's half the youth group. And half of my best friends.
That hurts...ya know?
That section of my world is changing.
A year ago, it didn't occur to me that at some point, people would leave the youth group. I didn't even think of it. Honestly, I didn't think about it until our youth camp out that happened this May.
At camp, on the last day, Mr. W told us all to put our hands on the seniors - we were going to have a prayer time for them. It was sweet. Actually, it was really, really sad. We were all bawling. I couldn't STOP crying. I mean, here are those friends that mean the most to me, and...we're saying...goodbye.
At the moment, everyone staying, everything just remaining the same, seems best to me. But...that's not how life works.
We grow up. We change. Those around us change. Plans change. Life changes.
Starting soon, I will be the oldest teen in youth group. Dude, I remember when I was one of the YOUNGEST only two years ago. Now, I will be the one that the younger ones look up to. Not the one looking up to the older ones. My role in the group is changing.
I forgot how quickly things can change...
Yeah. Everyone leaving will be insanely hard, but you know what?
Romans 8:28 stands.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, for them who are the called according to His purpose."
God knows what's best. And He will work all things together for the good of those that love Him, and for His glory.
Easier said than done? Oh yeah. I'll be crying. I know I will. But tears are not forever. And neither is separation. Praise God, not only are these guys my best friends but also my brothers and sisters in Christ. I'll be with them forever worshiping our great, fantastic God.
God has a plan for each one of us. I believe that with all my heart. I don't know what those plans are, but I know that God will do what's best.
I can deal with the pain that comes before the sweet. But not on my own. Philippians 4:13 says that "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me". Through Christ, I can do anything.
Now, "I will praise YOU in this storm!" (-Casting Crowns) Praising God through the hard times is both the hardest and most beautiful.
Yeah. It'll hurt. Bad. But God is always with me, my friends, and you if you trust in Him.
Giving HIM the glory through the storm,
Saturday, August 6, 2011
In the last section on James, we looked at asking God for wisdom. This time, we'll be going on with that subject.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Going on from what James wrote in the previous verse, he writes that the person who asks for wisdom should ask in faith, an unwavering faith, a perfect faith, a faith with no doubts. Here, there are two extremes - faith and no faith. The reason I say this is because when it comes to faith, you can either have complete faith and jump out that window, or you can have no faith and stay in the burning building. Halfway faith is impossible, as is kinda-sorta-maybe leaving the window sill. You can either trust God, and have an unwavering faith, a solid faith; or you can have no faith.
This may sound harsh. I mean, how about when you really, really want to have faith and trust God, but you rely more on yourself because you don't know in your heart if God is trustworthy. I hear you, I know it. I've been there myself. Trying to trust God, but somehow always falling back on trusting yourself. This happens when one has too tight a grip on their own life. When one has such a tight grip, it's hard to let go, it's hard to let go of what you think is solid to grab onto something you know is solid but it's also something you can't see.
It's as if you were trying to do the monkey bars in a thick fog. The bar you've got both hands tightly attached to is about to snap, but you hear from your friend down below, who can see the bars clearly, that the next bar is completely solid. Do you let go of the breaking bar that you have a tight hold on to reach blindly to the solid one? It's the same thing with faith. It's an all or nothing leap.
Of course, it's not quite as black and white as I make it out to be. There are times when you have doubts, there are times when you wonder if God can take care of something as big as your problem. But friend, God is bigger than the biggest problem, the biggest trouble, the biggest trial you will ever face. And He can take care of you a whole lot better than you can! And He will when you just let go and trust Him.
The person who's faith wavers, James writes, is like a wave of the sea. Waves are driven to and fro by the winds. The waves themselves have nothing to do with where they are or where they're going, they just let the winds take them where they like. The person who has wavering faith is like this. They let the troubles and cares of this world batter them and toss them to and fro. This doesn't sound good to me, and it shouldn't to you either. The person who's faith and life get tossed around like this are liable to get into big trouble. They might think that they have faith, but when they see the storms coming, and when the storms are upon them, they lose what little faith they might have had because they think that God has abandoned them.
People with wavering faith, James writes, should not think that they will receive anything from the Lord - wisdom included. A good example of this is the workplace, a good business would not hire someone who came into work only half of time - you can't rely on a person like that. Instead, a good business would hire someone with a good reputation, someone who they can rely on to be there every time they are supposed to be there. Going back to faith and wisdom - why should God grant wisdom to someone who asked for it but didn't really believe that God would give it? Do you think that they would believe that God actually did grant that wisdom and glorify Him, or would they simply glory in their new found wisdom that God had nothing to do with? He that asks for wisdom, or anything else, must believe that God can actually do it. Why ask your Dad for something you know he can't give you? In the same way, why ask God for something you don't believe He can give you?
The person with wavering faith is also called a "doubleminded" person. This literally means that they have a wavering mind, that they are "undecided", they don't know for sure. A person who is "undecided" in their faith is a person who doesn't know whether to trust God or themselves. There is only one kind of person who is like this - the person who has too tight a grip on their own life and who doesn't know God well enough. Once you know who God is, you become willing and eager to let go. And as you grow to know God more and more, you rely more and more on Him. You learn in His word and in your everyday life about His attributes - His love, His justice, His mercy, His grace. Your faith gets strengthened by learning more about what it is based upon.
The last point James makes is in verse 8, he states that not only is a double-minded person unstable in his faith, but he or she is unstable in all things. Faith is the base of your life. What you believe changes how you act, what you do, what you say, and it severely impacts your decisions. What you believe is who you are. A double-minded person is unstable and wavering in everything they do because their foundation is wavering, not solid.
In Christ alone,
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Dollar for a Drink is a non-profit organization headed by a teen named Joshua Guthrie, who's sole purpose is to raise money to dig wells and provide filters world wide for those that do not have clean water. Their promo video for their third year is really good! Please take a look.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
I hope you all thought real hard about that last one. That is such a hard, yet important, thing we've got to grasp. Counting your trials as joy...phew...that's something you don't learn overnight. It's something you must learn as the trials come - I personally guarantee it.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.
James now exhorts that those who do not have wisdom, should ask God for it. Okay, that sounded kind of weird. But it's really not. What this means is that when we are in need of guidance/wisdom, that we need to ask God for it. When we are lost and don't know what to do, ask God. When we don't know how to communicate the gospel to someone, ask God. When we want to do His will and not our own, ask God. When we lack wisdom, ask God. When we lack guidance, ask God. I know I'm constantly praying for guidance, especially right now with Mission Minded Teens - praying that God would lead my co-leader and I to make the right decisions, and praying that God would show us what HE wants to do with the team.
After encouraging us to ask God for wisdom, James comforts those who are afraid to ask by stating that God gives to all, without finding fault. Ask God for wisdom. Ask God for guidance. He's not going to push you aside. Asking for guidance and wisdom for your own life shows that you want to know what He wants you to do.
He's the one who has the blueprint and plans for your life, ask Him what He wants you to do next.
In Christ alone,