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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Don't Call Yourself a Christian Anymore

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As you get older you'll get a glimpse about what the Bible says about the separation of the wheat and the tares at the end of the age. It seems like once children who grew up in Christian homes become adults, they decide Christianity isn't for them and throw it off, but there are quite a few who accept Christianity and the world, together. They want their ticket to Heaven but also the things of earth, and it's to these people that I say, "Just don't call yourself a Christian anymore."I can excuse unbelievers for the things they do that don't line up with the Bible. They don't know any better about God's standards, and they choose to follow their own standards. But what bothers me is when a person who has grown up in a Christian home their entire life knows God's standards and decides to accept the world's standards and God's standards, but you can't have both. I've seen young people who call themselves believers dress provocatively, make sexual remarks, and curse often and then tell everyone how glad they are that God is in their life. Still others hold to the idea that wealth and status are everything, and then end up being enslaved to working for money, knowing full well that the Bible says you can't serve both (Matt. 6:24- "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the others, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."), knowing full well that the root of evil is the love of money. They continue on though and throw God into the mix. And yet others who get a taste of the world like to parade around their drinking habits as if it were a badge of honor. Yes, I know the Bible doesn't say drinking is a sin, and that getting drunk is, but frankly, I find it offensive, and the Bible says that if something you do offends your brother, you should stop. And yet, I've mentioned this before and they still parade about their drinking habits to me. I would rather not hear about them, and honestly, who cares? Not only do they parade about their drinking habits but other things like the tattoo they want and things that are bordering on inappropriate. Because all of those things scream "I want to be like the world," I assume these things are done for attention. I assume these things are done to be rebellious. I assume these things are done because the Bible doesn't explicitly say not to, so we will take that literally and push the limit as far as possible before we say no. This leaves many "Christians" looking exactly like the world when drinking is okay, smoking is okay, tattoos are okay, piercings are okay. The Bible says that we should not be conformed to the world, rather transformed (Rom. 12:2). When we okay all of these formerly inappropriate values, what's left that isn't wrong?My question is, why even be a Christian if you want to follow the world? Why? Can you answer that for me? If you want to live exactly like the world and look exactly like the world, why not just throw in the Christianity towel and become part of the world? God does not like the lukewarm; in fact, He says that because they are not hot or cold that He will spit them out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16). He would rather that you were hot or cold, not in the middle. Make up your mind. If you don't want to give up those things that make you appear to be part of the world, quit calling yourself a Christian. I'm tired of hypocrisy and deceit. If you really want God, quit seeking out attention from others, quit trying to be "cool," or fit in, and accept that God is the only one whose opinion matters, and He is no respecter of persons. He doesn't care that you don't fit in. In fact, that's what He wants from us as Christians. And isn't the approval of a Heavenly Father much better than any person's approval on this earth which is dependent on our actions? So I bring a proposition from Joshua 24:15, "And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served int he region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." 

So will you serve God or serve self?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Trust & The Psalms

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I've been reading the Psalms for quite some time, because I just don't want to get out of that book! Rereading it has been extremely encouraging, and studying it has helped me to see some things I had never noticed before. In particular, the Psalms have a common theme, and that is, trust in God.

But it's so much more than trusting in God. It's easy to say, "I trust in God," and it's a different thing to actually follow through with those words, especially when the outcome looks bad. The Psalmist takes trusting God to the next level, in which he decides that even though there's no glimmer of hope or light at the end of the tunnel, he plans on trusting anyway. And that's what makes this type of trust in God so much more admirable and convicting. So today I want to take a look at the Psalms and the Psalmist's unwavering faith in God.

In Psalm 116:10, the speaker says, "I believed, even when I spoke, 'I am greatly afflicted.' " This is a powerful statement. The Psalmist decides to trust in God through the midst of suffering, not afterwards when he can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but right through the darkness, when it seems like there isn't any hope. We tend to have the ability to trust God when we can see a glimmer of hope, knowing that God can work things out. It's much harder to trust in God when it seems like whatever we are going through will never end. Through the Psalmist's words, we are encouraged to stand even the midst of difficulties and say, "Lord, I trust You."

Psalm 116:10 isn't the only instance in which the Psalmist repeats his desire to trust, even though he can't see what the outcome will be. Psalm 27:7-9 says,

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, 'Seek my face.'
My heart says to you,
'Your face, LORD, do I seek.'
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger.
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!

 So we see from this passage that David, the Psalmist in this Psalm, is in great distress, calling out to God for help, from whatever he is battling, whether it be inward turmoil or outward turmoil. And the end of the Psalm doesn't provide deliverance, rather an interesting mindset:

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

Even though David's prayer wasn't answered right away, he chose to believe God would work in his impossible situation even though he couldn't see how. He decided to place his faith and God and believe that God would work everything out, he just needed to wait on God's timing. Not only did he need to wait, he realized he needed to hopefully wait. He was optimistic. We know that the outcome to David's pleas were heard by God, because other Psalms tell of how David was delivered from his trials. The fulfillment of his cries is seen, and David and the other unknown Psalmist remain as testimonies for us believers today to hopefully wait on God in the midst of circumstances that feel like they might not ever disappear. Pessimism is not the answer. Optimism is. When we are optimistic, we are trusting in God and exhibiting the faith that is required, that tiny mustard seed which is necessary to the response to our prayers.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Selfishness

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I've come to realize that selfishness is an innate character trait within every person. And it's a character trait I don't think most of us young adults realize we have, at least, not until we are faced with a selfish person. I realized this one day after a conversation with a friend, in which I asked, "How was your week?" and that turned into an ostensibly twenty minute monologue about how they were doing, not once asking about me, and as this continued to happen with other young people I talked to, I started getting very irritated. Not only that, it caused me to wonder, Do I do this too? After pondering that question, I realized certain conversations I have with certain people are always one-sided, about me. I also realized that I only ask, "How are you?" to be polite and because I hope the question will be returned back to me. The Bible says in Philippians 2:4, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." So when I was only interested in hearing myself talk, I was being selfish. And yet, I wouldn't have ever noticed this character trait had I not first seen it in others.

Lou Priolo has a book on selfishness that I've read, and it explains how to get rid of the bad habit. It goes through a test to see how selfish you are by asking specific questions. After you've finished the test and determined you have an issue, steps are given to combat that issue. What I realized was that selfish people take and never give. So if I'm not giving of myself, and I'm constantly taking in a relationship, then I'm selfish. That really helped to put things into perspective. Priolo's healthy solution is to replace selfishness with selflessness, so instead of just saying, "I'm getting rid of being selfish," there's more to it. It would be something like, "I'm going to do selfless things and become a selfless person in order to rid myself of selfishness." You replace the bad habit with a good habit.

After I reflected on Priolo's book, I was able to examine what I was doing wrong and what I needed to fix. I would encourage you to examine yourself too, especially if you're young.When was the last time you asked how someone was doing? Was it genuine? Or when they started to tell you about how terrible their life was did you automatically think Why did I even ask? When was the last time you did something nice for someone just because? When was the last time you volunteered, for anything? Are your motivations in conversation for ulterior motives, self, or because you genuinely care about that person? Are your conversations always about you? If you're like me and realize you have a problem, I would encourage you to take a look at what the Scriptures have to say about replacing selfishness with selflessness and make the effort to do so and join me on my journey to eradicating selfishness!