Sunday, August 21, 2016

When We Don't Feel God

"1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" - Psalm 13:1-2

It has been a while since my last blog and with good reason. As life comes tumbling your way, especially with trials and suffering, it is easy to get off track with your routine. For the Christian, this would certainly include taking your eyes off of Jesus Christ and allowing yourself to be filled with worries, anxiety, and grieve as one who does not have hope. Can you think of any particular occasion where either the cares of the world or anxiety filled you up to a point where you thought that God had abandoned you and your eyes were on anything but Him?

By reading through the Bible, it is easy to come across examples of those who felt like God was nowhere to be found in the midst of tribulation. Consider the above passage of Psalm 13 where David is expressing much despair concerning his situation. The psalmist displays a three-way relationship of which you and I can very much relate to: self, God, and enemies. In verse 1, David feels as if God removed His hand from him and left him in a state of desolation. In verse 2, he feels that without God's presence he is left to his own resources, which are inadequate to deal with the reality of those who seek his destruction.

During times of distress, it is tempting to look toward yourself to draw your strength and wisdom. Do not be deceived, since "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25). It is during these times where passages such as Matthew 6:25-34 and 11:28-29 come to practical significance and ought to be considered as a way for God to mold you into His likeness. Instead of looking to yourself to be your source of strength, look unto Christ who is faithful to hold you during your toughest of times. Take heart, for the righteous person is not one who never falls, but one who falls and trusts God to lift him back up (Prov. 24:16). How else would God be glorified if we are just supposed to lift ourselves up and not rely upon Him? For every trial that comes your way, know that there is also an opportunity for Christ to shine through you.

Through prayer and reading the Bible, do not let your feelings about God dictate your knowledge of God; let your knowledge of God dictate your feelings about God.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th

Everyone, at least those who are very familiar with Western culture, are aware of the various beliefs and ideas that flow around "Friday the 13th." For most, it is seen to be the unluckiest day of the year. For those who are born-again in Christ, however, what is there to be unlucky about? Perhaps a better question is, "What does 'luck' have to do with anything at all?"

It is perhaps merely out of ignorance that many Christians still hold on to a notion of "luck," but what it really comes down to is an issue of idolatry. Along with other forms of idolatry such as astrology (Deut. 4:19), sorcery and divination (2 Kings 21:6; Is. 2:6), those who practice that which is detestable in the sight of the Lord will not enter the kingdom of God (Rev. 21:27). When you attribute a positive or negative occurrence to "luck," God is immediately robbed of the glory due to Him. Stop.

Nowhere in the Bible can it be found that something happened because of luck (or lack thereof), but rather that nothing is done outside the realm of God's control (Acts 4:28; Heb. 2:8). But like many others, we too often give credit to "luck" and still double-mindedly believe in God as well. This ought not be so.

When God rescued you from the kingdom of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13), He terminated your service to the world and established your service unto Himself. You, a child of the Most High, have been called to set your mind and endeavors on heavenly things and not on those things which resonate with the world (Col. 3:2). The world and its "luck" are fading away, but the Word of the Lord remains forever (Is. 40:8). Instead of going back and forth regarding superstitions, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:23).

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority" (Col. 2:8-10).

The right time to repent is right now.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Speaking in Truth and Love

"A word fitly spoken
    is like apples of gold in a setting of silver."

-Proverbs 25:11

You've heard it before; the right thing spoken just at the right time. As gold and silver are both precious metals, Solomon makes a comparison by painting a comely picture that points to the might and magnificence of fitly spoken words. Scripture repeatedly admonishes us to pay attention to how we speak to others. It is a true statement to say that everyone has lied during the course of their life, although Christians are referred to as "new creations" with the indicative that the "old has passed away" and "the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). Speaking lies and deception represents what you did in the past and you are now called to put that away in order for you speak truth to others (Eph. 4:25) and become more like Christ (Eph. 4:15).

Ever since the Lord saved me from my sins, I've frequently come across others who claim to love Jesus Christ but yet their manner of speech is reminiscent of those who hate or do now know Christ. How can this be? In a very palpable approach, James writes, "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless" (1:26). This is certainly not meant to categorize everyone who wears religious jewelry nor is it wrong to wear such things, but I've noticed that many who fit this paradox also sport a cross necklace or some other Christian-related jewelry. What is the proclivity of your manner of speech? This is not a time to self-righteously start point the finger at others who are failing to bridle their tongue, but it is rather a time to examine your own heart in the presence of a holy God, since "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34) and you are held accountable (2 Cor. 5:10).

Instead of using your tongue to boast of self while setting ablaze your surroundings with unrighteousness (James 3:5-6), use it only to build others up in the faith which gives grace to those who would hear it, thereby glorifying God (Eph. 4:29). Your double-mindedness which leads to both blessing and cursing from the same mouth is a serious matter that needs to be continually confessed to God (James 4:8; 1 John 1:9). Match your speech with the new identity given to you from above; don't be a butterfly that still walks around like a caterpillar, lest you prove to yourself that you have not been changed by God.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Christian's Heart is a Thankful Heart

Psalm 100

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
As we come upon the annual celebration of Fall's main holiday of Thanksgiving, for many of us we begin to reflect on those things for which we are most thankful for. Usually, there are common things which people will note, such as family, friends, and life in general. While it is to be recognized that such are blessings from God, Christians are also called to be thankful for other things which ought to precede those wonderful blessings of family and friends, with one of those as thankfulness for God being who He is as revealed to us through His Word. In this popular psalm, the universal nature of God's kingship is strongly emphasized; verses 1-3 is a call to praise the Lord and verses 4-5 is a call to thank the Lord.
Why should a Christian make a joyful noise to the Lord? A simple answer to this is that salvation belongs to God alone and is not something that the Christian can nullify or mess up (Ps. 3:8; 37:39; Is. 33:6; Lam. 3:26; Jon. 2:9; Rev. 7:10). Why should a Christian serve the Lord with gladness? Because He has sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be his Redeemer who sits enthroned in heaven and is the propitiation for his sins (Heb. 12:2; 1 John 4:10). Why should a Christian acknowledge his relationship with God? Because His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). Why should a Christian enter His gates with thanksgiving? Because the blood of Christ is powerful enough to cover all of his sins and therefore enable him to serve the Lord (Heb. 9:14). Why should a Christian acknowledge God's goodness, steadfast love, and faithfulness? Because He loved him first and chose him to be part of a holy and royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9; 1 John 4:19).
A Christian's heart is a thankful heart. The fruit of thanksgiving springs forth when a Christian recognizes and understands the depth of his sinfulness in the presence of a holy and just God; the more that he will recognize his need to confess his sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as his advocate to the Father, the more reason he has to be thankful for His mercy and grace. It is a splendid feeling to know that God has His children in His hands; it is, however, a terrifying thought for those with an unbelieving heart (Heb. 3:12; 10:31).
I encourage you to take the time to hallow God's name (Matt. 6:9) because He is righteous (2 Chron. 12:6; Ps. 129:4) and His steadfast loves endures forever (Ps. 100:5).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Man is basically good?

 The writer of Ecclesiastes makes it very well known that this is simply not true when he states, "...the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead" (Ecc. 9:3). This is certainly not the same thing as saying that humans are not able to do "good" things; they most certainly are capable since every person is made in the image of God and are able to judge between right and wrong. Nonetheless, people naturally put themselves on the throne and view God as only an accessory to be used when things aren't going well in their lives (that is, if they acknowledge God at all). If every person was only "wounded" by sin instead of being totally depraved with sin, then that would suggest that there is an "island of righteousness" inside the heart of every human being which is the part that every person can use to reach out to God and be saved. Where does this idea come from other than the person who decides that his need for God is not as drastic as what the Bible describes it to be?

Nobody wants to hear that they are spiritually depraved. Nobody wants to hear that they cannot help themselves. Nobody wants to hear that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). O, how man is blatantly at odds with God without His love! The more we elevate ourselves, the less we see how great our sins to be in the sight of God. Likewise, the less we see how great our sins to be in the sight of God, the more we reduce our perceived need of Jesus Christ to have lived a perfect life and to have died an atoning death for our sins!

God desires for His children to follow in the pattern of His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of our sin, however, continual confession and repentance of our sins is necessary in order for us to live our lives that strive toward purity and holiness, with Christ being our righteousness for us! Christ experienced a kind of death that we deserved in order that His Father could treat us like His Son who never sinned. That is how much God loves us!

To say that man is basically good is to say that God is basically good; the truth is that man is totally depraved and God is totally perfect.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Let Him Be Accursed

Every person will always do what they are bound to do according to their own nature. The Bible tells us that, by nature, we are children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) who do not seek God on our own accord (Rom. 3:11) and attempt to live out our lives independent of an all-powerful and all-knowing God in the comfort of our own material pleasures (Is. 47:8).

Towards the end of his first letter to the Corinthian church,  the apostle Paul writes,  "If anyone has no love for the Lord,  let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!" Many of us, particularly of the religious variety, would like to think that such a statement from Scripture gives the green light to treat those who have no love for God in a way that is less than loving. Some might think, "If the Bible calls them accursed then why treat them any different than that?"

While it is true that those who are destined to damnation through their own rejection of Christ will receive their due punishment,  Christians ought to remember a few things:

1. You too, were an individual who rejected God due to your own fallen nature and spiritual depravity. It is by God's grace alone that you are saved and that He chose to have mercy on you (Eph. 2:8-9). In essence, you were at one time like those who still presently reject Christ.

2. Although God has decreed that only some will be saved, He desires that all would be saved (Rom. 9; Matt. 23:37; 1 Tim. 2:4). Many often find this aspect of God to be seemingly inconsistent and illogical, but we must remember that God's ways are not our ways and if we could understand everything about Him, then He wouldn't be as majestic and powerful as the Bible describes Him to be. In essence, we do not know who God will save and bless with the Spirit; we are called to love our neighbors and enemies (Matt. 5:43-44) and be at peace with all if possible (Rom. 12:18).

3. God blesses even those who will never love Him. Some refer to this as "common grace." Although such people will never experience "special grace," that is,  becoming born-again by the direct intervention of God through the Spirit, God still chooses to bless them in this life with family, material blessings, and everything else that pertains to being made in His image. In Matthew 5:45, the Lord Jesus tells His disciples that God makes the sun shine on the evil and on the good,  and brings rain upon the just and the unjust. If God still chooses to bless those who will never love Him, has not our heavenly Father been an example to us in how we ought to relate to others who do not love Him?

Although God is justified in His wrath and divine judgement because His own holiness and perfection demands it, we are not likewise justified to condemn others (Please don't take Matt. 7:1 out of context to mean what you want it to mean). Nonetheless, those who remain accursed gives Christians no right to develop a "Pharisee complex."

Friday, August 14, 2015

Delight in God

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners,     nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night." - Psalm 1:1-2

We live in a world where right is declared to be wrong and wrong is declared to be right. We live in a world that despises holiness and promotes haughtiness. We live in a world that shuns God as if ignoring Him would actually keep Him out of worldly affairs. As for the latest current events, we live in a world where instead of an investigation being done on an organization that sells the bodyparts of aborted infants, an investigation is rather being done on those who filmed the evidence to expose the criminal acts.

This saying is true: we live in a world that is filled with the spirit of error (cf. 1 John 4:6). Just as Christians ought to not take part with those that dwell in lawlessness, they are also to not go so far to the other extreme that they end up ruining their own Christian witness through sinful anger, frustration, and yes, sometimes violence. If Christ has paid for your sins, you belong to Him and are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). How long can a Christian stay satisfied in his/her relationship with God by remaining an infant in Christ and not become a mature believer?

Many Christians often find themselves surrounded by friends and family members who do not know Christ. Many of these Christians often fall into the false teachings of well-intentioned unbelievers that they don't know how to have fun because they're stuck with all of those "God rules." Surely, Christians can have fun; the word fun, however, needs to be redefined by the Bible's standard and not by that of the world. Christians ought not tell unbelievers to behave, as if morality would have any real benefit; they are to rather tell unbelievers to behold the majesty, holiness, and glory of Jesus Christ. Telling an unbeliever to act like a Christian is like telling a caterpillar to fly like a butterfly; these things only happen in accordance with God's timing and sovereign will in the transformation of the creature. Sadly, many Christians think they are the "sin police" and to try to force their beliefs on those who are less than willing to hear them.

If you are not surrounded by others that share your faith in God, then it is time that you find yourself some! It is not God's design for His children to not be supported by others who can lift them up with encouragement, godly advice, and prayer. This is not to say that you should never hang out with those who do not share your faith; just keep a sharp eye on yourself and not delight the desires of your flesh with the worldy pleasures of those who do not know Christ. Instead, delight in God and His commandments, while expressing to the lost the gospel of Christ in a verbal and practical manner.

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" - 1 Corinthians 10:15