Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Friend David Compared to the Holy Spirit

At night, when I sit still on my bed and try to talk to God, I have a bad habit of wanting to clip my fingernails or trim them or something. It's just a silly distraction, but I rarely notice that I'm no longer talking to God. So one night a couple weeks ago, I sat down and began to pray, but then I got distracted with my fingernails again. I became upset. I mentally scolded myself for being so disrespectful of God. In my anger, a thought popped into my head: "When my friend David spends the night and sleeps on the floor of my room, I never clip my fingers and ignore him. We talk till 3 am most nights! And when I had a girlfriend and would be with her, I wouldn't stare at my fingers and ignore her either. I'd talk to her! I wouldn't stop thinking about her! She would be on my mind 24/7 and I'd "love" her more each day! So why am I not like that with God?" That really stumped me. It hit me deep. I realized I probably didn't enjoy talking to God because it sometimes felt like I was talking to myself; in other words, it felt discouraging when no audible voice replied. But this is what made me see it: God talks through His Spirit. The Spirit isn't a person like Jesus, but instead is a spirit that lives inside me and counsels me and guides me and draws me closer to Jesus. I have to exert a special amount of attention and focus to talk to the Spirit, simply because He doesn't talk back like a human would. The Holy Spirit is Elyon literally living inside of me. I don't understand it, and I know in fact I can't. I don't know why God would care so much, but I'm not going to complain about His everlasting and undying love for me! I just desperately hope that I don't loose sight of the importance of talking to God and connecting with His Spirit.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Songs- Dear X (You Don't Own Me)

(I'm starting a ten post series. In each post, I'll select one Christian song that I love, and give my spiritual feedback and opinions about it. Here's song number 1!)

Dear X (You Don't Own Me) by Disciple

Go ahead, You're never gonna take me, You can bend, But you're never gonna break me, I was yours, But I'm not yours anymore, Oh, you don't own me

Go ahead, Put a target on my forehead, You can fire, But you've got no bullet, I was yours, But I'm not yours anymore, Oh, you don't own me

Can the chorus be any more blatantly honest? Truth resounds in my ears when I listen to this song. It's saying, "Sin may be in our lives, but it doesn't own us. Our citizenship is not in this world, so nothing here can damage us." How comforting is this? Struggles and addictions may still be in my life; they can bend me, but because of Jesus, I will not be broken.

"You tempted me to look back, but everything we had together was a lie." How amazing! How great is this! For me, this is a wonderful statement. This song came to me today through a horrible time. A fierce and ugly sin has tormented me for years now, and I dismissed and ignored it for a long long time. However, it has reared its ugly head and thrashed back into my life recently. This line is truth. My past, my struggle, my sins will tempt me back. I know now that as long as I'm alive, my sinful nature won't give up. But I don't have to go back to it. Everything that sin and temptation promised was a lie. The glories, treasures, and pleasures promised by sin are an empty and hollow lie. Why should I listen to them?

I earnestly pray that anyone who struggles with something will take this song and apply to their lives. Every word of this song speaks truth. Jesus said He has overcome this world. Take heart, then! Be glad and know that with Him, there is no struggle, addiction, or burden that is unbreakable or too small or the Creator of the universe.

The Past

So often, I find myself growing too comfortably here on earth. There are certain places, such as past houses, past churches, my current church, camps, and even Life Action family camp in Michigan that have such joyful memories. I wish I could spend my life reliving them. I remember last summer, I spent four straight weeks at camps. Those four weeks were when I first saw spiritual fruit began to grow in myself. Because of those camps, challenges I received, and a few books, I jump-started into a passionate relationship with Jesus. Or like this summer, when I spent three weeks at Life Action. I grew so rapidly and firmly there. Or like back in January, when my youth group had four or five straight weeks of phenomenal Wednesday night worship services.

Oh how I wish I could relive those moments! I think to myself, "Man, I wish I was back there, in that moment. Nothing compares to how much fun that was, how wonderfully connected to God I felt, and the companionship I shared with friends." But when I think this way, I fall into the trap of glorifying the past. And while memories like these are great, and can be reminders as to how great God is, we as Christians can't let them become a stumbling block in our faith. Using the worship event as an example, I shouldn't look down upon a service I attended last week just because it wasn't as amazing as last month's. That is border-lining on telling God that He can't create a worship as good as last time. We shouldn't glorify our pasts and render them unbeatable.

I love the passage in Philippians 3 where Paul writes about letting go of pride in the flesh and submitting to Jesus. The Message translates verses 13 and 14 as, "I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." As I Christian, to live in my past is to turn back. It's limiting God's use of me. Paul is saying that we must let go of the past, because the past is gone, over, done. Rather we must look to the future, to what God already has prepared for us. This may sound crazy, but with God, every second is better than the last. In all honestly, it's foolish for me to say, "I wish I could live on July 15, 2009 forever" because I'm a different person now. I'm different than I was a month ago, even a week ago. My relationship with Jesus must be forever moving forward and never stopping for any reason.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Light and Dark

At one of my old church homes, there was a particular group of students who believed they were "too cool" for church. Actually, now that I think about it, almost everyone there thought they were "too cool" for church. It was as if they only attended for the social aspect of it. During worship, they looked like rocks. In sunday school, they tried to text during class, and it was obvious that they weren't reading their Bibles outside of class. I'm sure we all know some people who are like this in church, youth or not. It saddens me that someone could be so close to the Gospel and even so involved, but so widely miss it. With some people, I just want to smack some sense into them! But as I like to say, "Yeah, that's showing them the love of Jesus." But to be perfectly honest, it can be downright irritating to see someone who has been in church for a long time, but still doesn't "get it." I ask, "Man, this person has been in church for fourteen years, or grown up in church, or plays guitar for the youth praise band, and they live like someone who has never heard about God... or never cared." How can they be so blind?

I struggled with how to deal this blatant deceit in others for a long time. I was flustered and frustrated at their insolent stubbornness. However, I found a convicting truth in a few books written by Christian author Ted Dekker. In these books, Dekker showed me that sin is like a disease. It lives in the heart and pollutes the mind and rots the soul. If you've ever been in total darkness, you would know you can't see anything, even if you wave your hand one inch away from your eyeballs. Sin is the same way; it's total darkness, so dark that you can't see the Light even if it's dancing one inch away from your eyeballs. For those who have not yet let Jesus cleanse them of sin, sin is still permeating their bodies. Sin blinds their mind to the truth. The darkness is so thick they can't even see the Light. They are literally incapable of "getting it."

In addition, these people have also usually hardened their hearts to God. In the book of Romans, Paul writes, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen" (Romans 1:21-24). A few chapters later, he states, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden (Romans 9:17-18). I love this passage, because Paul describes so deliberately what happens when we don't do what we know we ought to. He says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him." Unfortunately, there are still people just like this today. I know too many people who know about God in their head, but don't know Him in their hearts or have a deep relationship with Him. Now you may be wondering why I added the verses about Pharaoh. I did this to show that God doesn't just pick and choose which hearts to harden and which to work with. He lets the individual choose what path, and then works from there. Did you see the emboldened words in the first passage?: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie" and "they... exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images." Pharaoh had an two options: he could submit to the God of the Israelites or he could stubbornly disobey. He chose to disobey, allowing God to harden his heart. It was Pharaoh's decision to make. It was God's job to glorify Himself through Pharaoh, which he did.

For those of us who are true followers, we must not use this information as ammunition to judge our friends or blame our immature friends' actions on lack of salvation. We must instead love them intensely, because love is the only think that penetrates the darkness of sin. Blaming, judging, gossiping about, condemning, and separating ourselves from them will not save them. They have to see for themselves that we are meant to be in the Light. We were created to live in the Light. They need to know what real, tangible, unconditional love looks and feels like. Through our actions, thoughts, words, and attitudes, we must shine the flame through the darkness that sets the example and shows those entrapped in darkness how wonderful and glorious the Light is.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Holy Spirit

I've recently finished reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Forgotten God is a book written to remind us of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I was convicted that I had been naive of God's Spirit. I focused mostly on God the Father and Jesus the Son, but forgot about the Spirit of God. As I've been reading many passages in the New Testament, I've come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift that has ever been given to us. Some people may feel like they need to correct that statement by saying, "No, the love Jesus showed us on the cross was the greatest gift." Allow me to prove myself through two questions. Why is the cross the greatest gift ever? Because Jesus died not just to forgive our sins, but to enable us to have an deep, intimate, and personal relationship with our Creator, the God of the whole universe. Why is the Holy Spirit the greatest gift? Because the Spirit is the "deposit guaranteeing our inheritance" (Ephesians 2:14). In other words, the Spirit is the connection between us and God. The Holy Spirit is the vehicle in which we can draw closer to God, grow in wisdom and understanding, forgive those who have wronged us, forgive ourselves, end bad relationships, repair broken relationships, love the annoying, end addictions, start revolutions, and build His church.

Genesis 1:1-2, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."

Acts 2:1-4,, "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them...Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy."

Ephesians 2:22, "And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."

Galatians 5:16, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

Galatians 5:5, "But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us."

Galatians 4:6, "And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father.'"

John 16:7, "(Jesus said) But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."

These are just a few of dozens of verses in Scripture referencing the Spirit. What caught my attention is that until now, I subconsciously substituted "God's" or "Jesus' love" where the Spirit was instead indicated. For example, in Galatians 5:5, I read it as "God has sent his power to his servants." But thankfully, God enabled me to see the vast mistake I was making by ignoring the power of the Holy Spirit. I now see that what the church needs is not entertaining speakers, great praise bands, or millions of dollars. The ONLY thing the church truly needs is the Holy Spirit. Think about it. What if the people of God's church became so empowered by His Spirit that we'll learn to shun sin, or speak with tongues of fire, or prophesy, or see visions, and dream dreams? What if the Spirit of God hovered over the church just like He did over the waters in Genesis 1:2?

Scroll up and read John 16:7 again. What does it say? Jesus literally said, "It is for your good that I am going away." Can you even begin to imagine what the disciples thought of this? It is to our benefit that Jesus Christ- a.k.a. the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Shepherd, the Maker of the stars, Creator of the heavens, Salvation of Zion, etc- would leave! But then he says why: "Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you." Do you see it? It's better to have the Spirit of Jesus than Jesus in the flesh! I don't know about you, but I enjoy seeing my friends in the flesh. I like to walk with them, talk with them, interact with them. But think about it! It's much better to have the Spirit inside of us than Jesus in the flesh outside of us! With the Spirit living inside us, we have more power than has ever been possible. The God of the Universe resides in us! How cool is that! With the Spirit, we also have more help. "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26). I'm not sure how it's possible that God's Spirit resides in us. It's a mind boggling idea that I can't understand. But that's why God is so cool. I have to decide whether or not I'm okay following a God that I can't connect all the dots with. When I look throughout Scripture and see the joy and happiness promised in heaven and even on earth, I see no other option to choose than to fully love God.