Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Self-Sacrificing Love

Two thousand years ago, idolatry was common. There were temples dedicated to false gods. A common practice was to offer food as a sacrifice to these gods. After the sacrifice was offered, the sacrificer was actually allowed to eat the sacrificed food, if it was a certain type of food for a certain sacrifice.

Fast forward to 1 Corinthians 8. Here, Paul addresses the controversy of food offered to idols. The problem is some disciples thought it was okay to eat food sacrificed to false gods; other disciples didn't. Paul, to quench the debate, wrote to the church of Corinth, "Now, concerning food offered to false gods: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds them up. Those who think they know something still have a lot to learn. But if they love God, they are known by God." Paul doesn't actually address the topic at hand here. Instead, he confronts their thinking process. By saying, "Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds them up," he's saying that whatever they chose to do, it should be out of love; it should be for the purpose of building others up. Paul futher expounds,"Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled." The Bible tells us to "live above reproach," which means we're supposed to make decisions that can't be doubted or misinterpreted. Our motivations should be based off love, not knowledge. Our decisions should strive to benefit others by building them others, not by demanding our rights.

To put it in modern language, compare the situation to drinking. Some Christians think it's okay to drink; others think it's sinful. The Bible actually says it's okay to drink. There's nothing sinful about drinking. The  the sin happens when you get drunk. That's the line the sand: we have the right to drink, as long as we don't get drunk. But 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, "“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything." So while it may be my right to drink, it may not be beneficial. In fact, I know it isn't good; I'm under age! But for those who can legally drink, it seems okay to drink- as long as you're strong enough to not get drunk. Why? Everything is permissible for me- but I will not be mastered by anything. Getting drunk leads to becoming an alcoholic, which is becoming slave to the drink. We can be slaves to anything: porn, sex, money, power, popularity, drugs, cigarretes, alcohol. But the only way to God is by becoming His slave. Jesus said, "“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." We cannot serve both God and His enemy.

Did you know the apostle Paul constantly denied his own rights? When he traveled on mission trips, he refused to be a free-loader. He toiled day and night making tents and doing other work to pay for his own room-and-board and his own food. Why? Why not take advantage of the local church, eat their food, use their beds? The greed must've told Paul, "Sure, the church is poor and there are more needy people than me, but I'm the key note speaker of the week! I'm more important than them. I deserve this!" But Paul denied his flesh and worked. He wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3, "We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow."

1 Corinthians 8:9-13 says, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." That self-sacrificial love, the denial of personal right, is the pathway to love.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Who is waiting on who?

Who is waiting on who? Ever since the movie Fireproof spread like wildfire amongst Christian America, John Waller's song While I'm Waiting has enjoyed monstrous popularity. It's a great song about using the single years to serve God, to worship God, to run the race. And I agree with that. The single years prepare us for success or failure in marriage. Until we marry- and still after we marry- we should be focusing on growing closer to Him, maturing into a stronger child of His, representing Christ to the world. But I think the song missed the gist of waiting. The song sends the message that we are waiting on Him: "I'm waiting on You, Lord, And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You, Lord, Though it is painful, But patiently, I will wait... I'm waiting on You, Lord, And I am peaceful, I'm waiting on You, Lord, Though it's not easy, But faithfully, I will wait". But who is waiting on who?

Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it seem like this song views God in a negative light? The song proclaims that we are the ones waiting; that it's hard to wait on Him, but we'll be patient with Him. Is that really what God is like? A few steps behind us? Not understanding that we're ready for marriage? I don't think so. This song reminds me of ordering something supercool online. While I was waiting 2-5 business weeks, I would sing, "I'm waiting on you, eBay, though it is painful, but patiently, I will wait, I'm waiting on you, eBay, though it's not easy, but faithfully, I will wait". Somehow I just don't think God is behind on anything. He isn't like waiting on that package in the mail.

One of the key lessons I learned from Josh Harris is that God is the one waiting on us. God has to wait on us to grow up, to mature, to ready ourselves for marriage. I believe we must come to the place where we can manage the priorities of our hearts before He blesses us with "the one". As a man, I must be physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually ready for a family before I can have one. Wouldn't it be unwise for God to give me a wife and for me to not be ready? If He blessed my marriage before I was ready, wouldn't that be like handing a smoking grenade to a little kid? If God's timing is perfect, if His wisdom is ultimate, if His love is all-powerful, then I believe He will not let me marry the woman He has set aside for me until I am ready for her.

So are we waiting on God? Are we ready right now, today, to be married? Or is He the One waiting on us to be ready? He knows when I'll be ready to handle the drama, stress, of responsibility of marriage. He wisely and lovingly and patiently awaits the day when my wife and I are both ready for each other and for our children. He's there with us each day, patiently helping us grow. He's the only Way we can ever be ready for marriage. As our Helper, He'll be in the ring with us day in and day out, helping us and preparing us for marriage. God is a loving God; He can't wait to bless us to kingdom come, but He knows the best time to bless us. That's why He's the one waiting on us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Mighty Warriors

Have you ever seen Mighty Ducks? Me neither. What about King David's Mighty Warriors? After I finished 2 Kings, I kept going through 1 Chronicles. I skipped the first ten chapters (hey, it's ten chapters solely of genealogies), but the following chapters are awesome. You can check these guys out in 1 Chronicles 11:10-12:38.

The three leaders of the Mighty Warriors, the Three, were unbelievable dudes. One killed three hundred guys with one spear, in one encounter. Another was a key warrior in a battle won against all odds. Another Mighty Warrior, Benaiah, killed two of Moab's best fighters. Benaiah also killed a lion in the snow. And he also killed a seven and a half foot tall Egyptian, with the Egyptian's own spear. Wow. Check him out!

One notible on the list of Mighty Warriors as Uriah the Hittite, whom we all know as the husband King David had killed so he could bed his wife, Bathsheba.

 So while there may not be anything "deep" or "moving" or "inspiring" about this post, the boy in me just had to share the exploits of these ridiculous warriors. Seriously, go check them out in 1 Chronicles! You need to!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Burn With a Passion For the Lost

Preaching in Galilee, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

What does it mean to be the "light of the world"? My mom was eight years old when she went to Israel. When she visited the Sea of Galilee, she learned what Jesus meant. Before I tell you, though, you ought to know that the Galilean Sea is two hundred feet below sea level and surrounded by mountains. The Sea is three miles wide and seven miles long, and in the day time, you can see shore to shore. But at nighttime, you can't see across. Now here is what Jesus meant in his parable: Before electricity was invented, they used candles to see at night. At dusk, a member of each house took a candle that had been kept concealed in a basket all day and went down to the shore. Lighting the candle, they placed their candles on the shore. The flickering flame of the candle told the fishermen where exactly on the shoreline to dock. Using landmarks, memory, and the candle, fishermen knew exactly where home was.

Are you starting to see what Jesus meant with this parable? Candles kept in the basket were utterly useless. They provided no light and led no one to shore. It was only when they were lit and posted on the shore could the fishermen see the light and know precisely where to go. We are supposed to be like these candles. Without that candle, the fishermen could spend hours wandering the Sea, trying to find home. And unless we display our light, we won't be leading anyone to Christ.

Light always defeats darkness. One small flame in a dark room illuminates the entire room. But one shadow in a lighted room does not devour the light. Light is stronger; light always prevails. We are to be lights in this dark world. In darkness, people are always drawn to the light, no matter how small it is. Why is that? Something in us yearns for light. Did you know that there's a small town in Alaska with a substantial number of suicides. Why? The sun only shines a few months of the year. People need the sun. We need vitamins and warmth from the sun, and, if you ask me, there's something about the sun that makes people happy and kind-hearted and lively. Did you know that people trapped in caves go stark raving mad and blind? Why? Trapped in a cave, they obviously never see the sun. Without the sun, the body does not get the vitamins it needs; parts of the body, like the eyes, simply stop working. If you spend too much time in the darkness, you will become blind. It's our job to be the flame. If we don't shine, no one will. Then what will our world look like? Everyone will be spiritually blind, sin will reign, darkness will be in control. We must be the light that beckons and calls others to Christ.

We need to be constant, stationary, consistent. Our job is to be the light that tells others where Christ is. We are supposed to point lost, wandering people to Heaven, to that shining City on a Hill. Burn with a passion for the lost. Fire up your flame for the lost. Our flame could be what brings someone to Christ.

The message the candle sent was, "Home is here! Here, you'll find comfort, rest, love! There is where you want to be! There's a loving family waiting upon your arrival; don't miss out!" Our message should be the same, word for word. Jesus also told us to be fishers of men. That's what those candles were: they fished the fishermen home. Are we to do anything different?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To Share or Not To Share?

As Christians, our faith should be obvious to our friends. Whether it be in conversation or by what we stand for, our peers should know exactly who we are. Our friends should know what we stand for and what we oppose. Even if they aren't Christians, our friends should see Christ through us. Though they may not recognize Christ Himself, they should still see the righteousness, purity, integrity, and holiness that He gives us.

One of the things I'm known for is my stance on dating. I don't date. People see that. Some friends see my stance as silly or lame, but most friends see the resilient dedication to Christ in my stance. Another example is my best friend. On his baseball team last season, my best friend was known for having a clean mouth. He was one of few players who didn't cuss. He was respected for that. Teammates would actually apologize if they cussed around him. His teammates saw his determination to be pure in speech and to not take his Lord's name in vain.

What we do is important, but why we do what we do is equally important. Believe it or not, the reason why we stand behind something or why we reject something can be a difference maker in our reputations. If my reason to not date was because "mom won't let me" instead of "I want to remain pure and focused on God", my reputation would be drastically different. I would be a smothered momma's boy who did what she said instead of a fiery Jesus Freak who stood firmly against teenage dating.

So how do we communicate our beliefs the right way? I usually don't approach the subject unless someone else brings it up. For instance, a few weeks ago at school, I sat down at a lunch table where some friends were discussing sex, birth control, and teen pregnancy. After a few minutes, I began to share my views. The conversation turned to one of dating, purity, waiting till marriage. Another example is a good friend of mine. He goes to a charismatic church; I'm born and bred Southern Baptist. Sometimes, out of curiosity, I'll ask him about his church. I like to randomly ask people what they believe about something (unforgivable sins, loss of salvation, baptism, dating, tattoos etc) to see what they believe and how ready they are to tell me their beliefs.

It's all about setting up a conversation. I learned how to do that, and let me tell you, it's so much more fun and thought-provoking to talk about deep spiritual matters than Justin and Selena or the week's homework. Remember, in those conversations, to listen more than you talk, but to take advantage of the time you get to talk. Share your beliefs. Stand firm in your convictions. Don't sway when you get mocked. You know what you believe and don't let anyone tell you different.

Does that answer your question, Ashley?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Drama, Disorientation, Distractions, and Distress of Dating

It seems that every spring, love abounds. And this spring isn't a disappointment. Why? Valentine's Day didn't fail to remind me of romance. Because of writing class (long story), Bambi, Thumper, and twitterpation have been on my mind a lot. My youth pastor's wife and another young wife at church are both pregant. Love is in the air.

It's times like these where it's hard to be single. I am more resolute now than ever to stay away from romantic relationships, but the longing is still there. I want so badly to be pure for my wife, but the lustful desires are ever-present. I love seeing movies and concerts with friends, but the wish for special dates with a special girl bombards me. I have more respect for my friends who don't date, but I can't keep me from wanting a girlfriend. Most of my friends' relationships are petty and never last, so why do I want to be like them?

My flesh wants earthly love but my spirit wants God. That's as simple as I can put it. I, the real Logan, wants nothing more than a thriving, growing, passionate relationship with God. But the old me still bugs me with a desire for a dating relationship. I'm also faced with the greatest Catch 22 of all time: I will only date a smart, wise, lovely, mature Christian girl, but all smart, wise, lovely, mature Christian girls don't date! It's such an irony. But what a lovely irony it is!

My closer friends-that-are-girls are all strong Christians who do not date. It's really cool how God has surrounded me with girl friends like these. I've got no romantic draw to these girls, yet it's so much fun to be around them! I'm sure one day, way down the road, I'll begin a relationship with a wonderful young woman. But I don't want to associate myself with the drama, disorientation, distractions, and distress of dating until I know myself to be a strong, wise, and prepared enough young man to handle it (and her).

Friday, March 11, 2011

How Did He Go Wrong?

So many Christians are searching for God's will. High school students want to know God's will for a job, college, or romance. College students want to know God's will for career choice and romance. Young parents want to know God's will for parenting. And the pattern continues. How many times do we ask God for a neon sign that clearly states what path He wants us on? 

In 1 Kings, I read about a king who made a very interesting decision. This king's name was Jeroboam. Before his ascension to the throne, a prophet came to Jeroboam and said in the Lord's behalf, "'You will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you." God told Jeroboam that if he chooses to follow the Lord in obedience and if he does what is right in the eyes of the Lord, Jeroboam will have a dynasty as enduring as King David's. Wow. Can you imagine if that were you?

So Jeroboam becomes king. But in order to make sure an already-crushed rebellion (a rebellion ended by God Himself) stays crushed, he builds two false gods and has his subjects worship them. And that was just the start. King Jeroboam quickly went down the path of idolatry. He set up many sinful idols and false gods to be worshipped. Wait a minute! Doesn't this guy remember the promise God gave him? Obviously not. His kingdom was eventually given to someone else. Additionally, Jeroboam's entire family was eventually slaughtered as punishment. How did he go wrong?

I don't know about you, but if God came to me and said, "I will make you a great man of God. If you obey my commands and keep my statues and decrees and devote your whole heart to me, I'll build for you a ministry as great as World Vision (or BGEA or Samartin's Purse or", I would listen. Jeroboam got that neon sign we all beg for but ruined it. He scorned God and went the other way! Learn from this foolish king's example and take the higher road.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Dismembered Baby

One of my favorite stories about King Solomon is the one about the two mothers. What happens is these two prostitutes come to the King and both claim mothership to the same child. Both women had babies about the same time and they live alone together. But one of the babies died during the night and both woman claim right to the living baby. One mother claims the other accidentally killed her own baby and stole her baby; the accused mother claims the other woman's baby died and wants her baby now.

How can King Solomon resolve the situation? This is a huge mess! I have no clue what I would do in this situation. Luckily, King Solomon was the wisest king in history, so he came up with a pretty clever way to discern who the real mother was. He calls for a sword and says he'll just chop the baby in half. If both women are mothers, both will be satisfied with half the baby. One woman, the one who was accused of killing her own baby and kidnapping the other, agrees to the plan, saying, "Neither of us will have him. Cut him in half!" But "the woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, 'Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!'" King Solomon, in his great discernment, say the compassion in the true mother's plea. He gave the baby to her and 1 Kings says the whole country was in awe at the King's wisdom.

I've got to admit: I really want to be wise like that! It'd be so cool to know and understand so much to deal with a situation like that. I've been reading Proverbs a ton lately, and it's obvious that the wise will fare well. The entire theme of Proverbs is that the wise will stand strong and the fools will die. I don't know about you, but I value righteousness, wisdom, discernment, understanding, generous, loving, and all the other godly characteristics praised by Proverbs. While King Solomon certainly had his failings with women and foreign gods, his wisdom is something to strive for. He wrote most of Proverbs, for crying out loud. I definately want to attain the same wisdom the writer of Proverbs had!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Paul's Pattern

Is it judgemental to judge who the Christians are? I've often wondered this. I ask this question when I think about a friend who proclaims Christ but doesn't live for Him. As a Christian, I'd like to know who my brothers and sisters in Christ are. I'd like to know who my fellow soldiers are, those who are children of God, those whom I can trust. Do you ever feel the same way?

So is there a way to look at the heart and know? Yes! Scripture tells exactly what to look for. Check out what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, "Take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Isn't that awesome! I just have to compare a person with the pattern Paul gave us and I'll know! And Paul actually encouraged us to notice these people. Are you excited? Oh wait... Maybe I should tell you Paul's pattern. That might help. These are the preceding verses:

"I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him... I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death... Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus..."
Now that is a long passage. Maybe you even skipped reading it. That's okay, because Paul's pattern is a summary of this passage. So, are you ready to see this pattern? A Christian should be able to confidently agree with the pattern. It says:
  • I consider everything a loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord
  • I want to know Christ
  • I haven't already obtained all this or been made perfect
  • I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus has given me
  • I forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead

I believe a strong Christian's lifestyle should mirror this pattern. Don't you agree? This is how we are to know! This is what my strong Christian friends should look like. Noticing those who live this way isn't judgemental. Of course, we must allow room for mistakes. Duh, the third point is that we aren't perfect! But Paul wrote that this is what Christians look like.

We need to notice those who match the pattern. We need their companionship, mentorship, and accountability. I encourage you to compare those in your life to this pattern. If their lifestyle is opposite or contradictory to many or all of this pattern, you ought to seriously consider their salvation or lack thereof. Paul has given us this pattern to see where a person find his identity, his value, his worth. Use this pattern; don't hesitate! See who your fellow Christians are.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This Week The Trend

Trends rule the Myspace Generation with an iron fist. The Americans my age live for the latest "big thing." Ugg boots used to be the biggest winter shoe. Crocs are still the most common summer shoe. Two years ago, the Jonas Brothers were the most important thing to girls agese 7-17. Now, a different JB has taken over the crazed girls: Justin Bieber. Likewise, Brittney Spears was the deemed dirty girl of the media. Now it's Lady Gaga. Four years ago, Myspace was the place to be. Now it's Facebook. Tiger Woods used to be the coolest, most dominating athlete in the world. Shaun White now wears that crown. Nanos are outdated thanks to the iTouch and iPhone. Hollister, A&F, and American Eagle are still the leading clothes stores.

There isn't a lot to hold on to these days. Trends change every week, every few months, or every year. So why even bother trying to keep up with the latest phone, fashion, car, or spouse? I know a guy who spends about a hundred bucks every other month on a new pair of shoes. What a waste of money on something he won't even use in a few months! It is such a shameful waste of money. He does it to look "cool", to stay "in." But to me, that seems shallow. I don't wear the clothes I wear to fit in. Yeah, I want to look cool, but I don't dress well for other people. I do it for me. All of my clothes are casual, but they look cool and nice. I wear them because I don't want to look like a slob. I enjoy looking nice and clean, but I don't wear my clothes to be popular. If wearing cool clothes is all that makes me popular, I would have more important things to look into than what I'm wearing; my choice of friends and self-confidence would likely need improving.

I don't see a reason for Christians to follow the trends. Jesus didn't tell His apostles to stay updated with the latest gossip on their iPhones or to dress their best to look cool or to wear the latest camel sandels. He told them to worry about greater things. Jesus warned that this world and all that was in it would pass away. When He told us to build our houses on the rock, He was saying to find your identity in Him, the Rock, and not on anything this world has to offer because it is just shifting sand.

Proverbs 10:25 says, "When the storm has swept away, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever." We are called to find our identity, our value, our worth not in the perishable things of this world but rather in the precious blood of Jesus Christ! 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life... but with the precious blood of Christ." If perishable things didn't save us, why live for them? The latest Hollister cologne didn't save you. The newest iPhone-even the Verizon one-didn't die for your sins. The latest Ugg boots, Hollywood star, mini-skirt line, girl heartthrob, or pair of shoes did not save you. Why live for them? Why give yourself to them? You'll get nothing in return. Live for Him! He died for you. He bled for You. He is the only thing worth giving your whole life to. 1 Peter 1:4 says we have an inheritance in heaven with Him that'll never perish, spoil, or fade. It won't perish. It won't spoil. It won't fade. Catch that? It won't fade! We'll love Him as much after 350 earth years in heaven as we did on Day One! How insanely awesome is that?! So again, why live for anything except for Him? Remember your inheritance in Him. Live for Him. It's the only thing that's worth it.