A Good Shepherd

Life’s hard. Sounds comforting, I know, but its true. Life is full of trouble, temptation, persecution, and the bible is very clear about this:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 — But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—  having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

This doesn’t sound encouraging to most of us, but it’s all about perspective. Our lives should be all about God. We know that God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). We need to trust God to do the right thing, lead us to the right place, and mold us into the right person. In the book of Job a whole bunch of horrible things happen to Job, and Job , while not turning away from God, asks Him why these horrible things are happening to him. When God replies it is with questions.

Job 38:4-5 — Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?

God goes on for a whole chapter pretty much asking Job if he has any idea what God is thinking. Here’s the next place that Job speaks:

Job 40:1-4 — The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the almighty correct Him? Let him who accuses God correct Him!”

Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy–how can I reply to You? I put my hand over my mouth.”

The rest of the chapter is God explaining that His plans are higher than Job’s.

This is the perspective that we need. We need to see that God’s plans are higher, and that they are for us not against us.

My last point is this: we shouldn’t be walking around life as if everything is turned against us, even if it is. We should be rejoicing because our God is for us, and His plans are good.

James 1:2-4 — Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

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A Message In a Bottle

You are not alone

Even when you’re so far from home

Even in the dead of night

When all around you are weapons

If you stand in the silence

Afraid to even whisper

Know that you are not alone

In the darkness let it be known

That there are those who stand

Whether beside you or behind you

Standing with you, standing for you

And let it be known here and there

That there is one who stands

And has conquered the evil of our lands

Sons and Daughters of the King

Romans 8:16 — The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.

Jesus died to let us once again enter a loving relationship with our God. Part of this relationship is being a child of God. We are called Children of God so many times that it is undeniable. One of the most famous parables (the prodigal son) talks about this father child relationship. This relationship is so close. Let me explain.

Luke 11:11-13 — “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Jesus compared our relationship with that of natural fathers and sons. All of the loving things (even common sense things) that fallible, human fathers do are less than what God does to show his love. I recently read a story about a man who had disowned his father (like the prodigal son) and was living a horrible life in order to avoid him. The man said that almost every day his father would come looking for him. Every time the son would ignore his father and leave the door unanswered. It wasn’t until the son overdosed on LSD that they were brought together. The son was in a semi-comatose state for days while his father sat by him repeatedly saying how he loved him. This is the picture of a human father that showed unrelenting love. If this father, though he was evil, knew how to love his son relentlessly, how much more will God love relentlessly. imagine how much greater God’s love is!

God loves us in a way that only He can. His love for His children is unrelenting, unashamed, amazing love!

Galatians 4:6 — Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Fear

I know that the title of this is fear, but first I need to explain love. God loves you. Cliche, I know, but its true. God has this deep, amazing love for you. John goes so far as to say that God is love. This idea is huge. If there is one thing I can tell you it is probably that. God loves you with a fierce love that is always chasing you, and always surrounding you, and always washing over you. His love is nothing like human love because it is perfect. It doesn’t rely on acts or even attitude.

Okay, now that that’s over with I can talk about fear. Fear is what holds many people back. It keeps us from sharing the good news with our friends, or stepping out in faith or changing our lives. Fear is something horrible, but there is good news. Fear can’t hold onto you. John says that perfect love casts out fear. Jesus’ love is perfect and it is surrounding you. That love can drive out all fear. God is the only thing that matters, so don’t worry about whether or not others love you. Only believe that God loves you.

A Question of Reality

Titus 1:16 — They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

That is a strong thing to say, but it speaks very clearly. People who claim to know God, but don’t really are bad people. This is called practical atheism. Practical atheists are people who are Christian in name, but act as if they don’t know God. They may act kind, and be nice in public, but deep down they only do it for themselves and other humans.

So, what does a Christian life look like? A Christian life is one that is changed because God is there. Not just changed superficially, but really changed. Think of it this way: If God were suddenly to stop existing a practical atheist life wouldn’t change, but a Christian life would be drastically changed.

A Christian life should be changed by God, but what does that look like? It looks like a true love for others (not just a give and take love), and a true love for God. It can also look like miracles, and revelations from God. True sacrifice and fully giving oneself to God are also signs of a Christian life. If none of these are present then how is God present. If church is just a social club how is it different than basketball?

Let me finish by asking a question:

If God didn’t exist would your life change?

Diamonds in the Fields of God

Matthew 13:44 — The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

This is a beautiful illustration of God’s love for us. Let me rephrase it. We are like a diamond that a man found in the middle of an empty lot. He hid it again so that he could rightfully get it. Then, because he was so exited, he went and sold everything he owned so that he could get the lot and the diamond in it.

God didn’t just pick up the diamond and put it in his pocket, but he thought it was so precious that he should buy the entire lot. We are the diamonds that God goes above and beyond to find. He sold everything! The parable doesn’t just say that the man took half a second to admire the treasure and then moved on, no! The man stopped and then re-hid the treasure so that he could sell everything and get the treasure for himself.

The man bought the entire field. That is how much he wanted the treasure. He made sure that the treasure was rightfully his. If the man simply picked up the treasure it would be his, but the owner of the field could come find him and lay claim to the treasure. By buying the whole field the man guarantees that the treasure is his only. God buys the whole field. By doing this he makes it so that the devil, and the world can’t come and say “see that right there? It’s mine.” God “bought” all of us, not just the good part. He also took the bad part. Most of the field was dirt, but the man bought it anyway.

Matthew 13:47-48 — Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.

This New Generation.

Matthew 11:16a — To what shall I compare this generation?

I took a personality test today. It was kind of a cool experience because the results really were what I wanted to be (INFJ). It asked a bunch of questions about what I am like, and what I do, but there was one question that made me think. The test asked “Do you think that everyone’s views should be respected whether they are supported by facts or not?” The test was asking about respecting another person’s views, which we should do. It would be rude to go out onto the street, and find some helpless atheist and then start yelling to everyone “His views are wrong! He’s an idiot!” We are supposed to respect one another, even if we disagree. Disrespect, and disagreement are very different.

To disrespect someone is to not show them any love at all, and in fact show the opposite. To disagree is to think that someone is wrong. When we disrespect someone we hurt them, but when we disagree with someone we either respect them and leave it at that, or we try and have a rational argument with someone in order to build them up.

Okay, I’ve got that part done. At this point you may be thinking: I get the difference now, so what? The “so what” is the fact that the new generation (the teens) in America doesn’t seem to get that. For over 150 years the US has been striving toward a goal of complete human equality, meaning that all humans get the same amount of respect. We are closer than ever to completing this goal, but I think that we have taken this idea too far. We have gone beyond respecting and tolerating our differences, and started to ignore them.

This has been worse in certain areas of equality than others. There is immense value in our differences, they are what make us strong. We should be able to use some of our differences to build each other up. The biggest part way in which I have seen tolerance turn to ignorance is in religion. Many teens that I know don’t seem to respond when I talk about the gospel. They say something along the lines of “that’s cool.” This is the problem: we have stopped discussing our beliefs in order to find out who is right and, in the name of tolerance, started to completely disregard each other’s views.

What should we do about this? How do you argue with somebody who isn’t listening? You can’t. This is where some major verses can come into play. 1 John 3:18 says “let us not love with words  or tongue” (eg reasoning, and traditional evangelism) “but with actions and in truth.” John is saying that sometimes words, and speech aren’t enough to get through to a person, we have to love them. When we love people we show them God because “God is love.”

What else can we do? If people aren’t listening to our words then the only other thing that can show them the truth is God moving. This is where healings, and powerful encounters with God come into play. We can show others who God is in even more direct ways than love. We can pray over them.

Who’s More Powerful God or the Devil?

You probably read the title there and immediately thought “well, duh! God!” That is what you should think, but it often isn’t how we act. We often act like we are constantly at odds with the devil, which we are, but the thing we don’t realize is that our savior already won.

We don’t want to give the devil more credit than he deserves. You shouldn’t be too worried when bad things are happening somewhere. Don’t say “oh, the devil is really active there, those poor people.” Instead ask God to make that place a safe haven, where the devil is blocked by a fifty foot wall. Blaming everything bad on the devil doesn’t help at all, letting God in does.

Here’s another way to look at it. Say I have a problem with being mean to other people. If all I ever do is blame it on the devil will I feel any responsibility to stop. No! I should be praying for God to help me stop, and then actively trying to stop. Even if the devil is causing my issues I should act like God is more powerful. We have been given authority over the Earth in God’s name, we should act like it.

1 Peter 3:22 — Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

Combating the World

John 16:33 — “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Sometimes we hang out with our friends who are particularly worldly, and we feel like we’ve been influenced by them. I certainly feel this a lot. When I get done hanging with some of my friends I feel gross, like I just went swimming in the sewer. After I long time with those friends I need time to regenerate, and readjust myself. This time is really important.

Some things to remember when you get feeling like this are how God has defeated the world, and how we are not part of this world. As John 16:33 said Jesus overcame the world. The world is a place of death, but Jesus defeated death. The world is a place of sin, but Jesus lived a fully human life without sin. Because of our identity as royalty in God’s kingdom we aren’t part of this mess. We need to remember that we are not worldly like the people that we may hang with. We are no longer consigned to this world of sin. We are not of it.

So how do we combat this feeling. During the time with these worldly friends try to talk about God. Where God is fear, hate, and impurity are banished, they cannot stay in God’s presence. Bring God into the conversation, and if you must remove yourself from it. Don’t give into the ways of the world. When your done socializing, and you go home, or somewhere else private dive deep into God. Read His word, pray, worship, and just rest with Him. Like I already said God banishes fear, hate, and impurity. God will regenerate you, and get you back to where you were before, if not higher.

The world is a crazy place, and sometimes you need to find ways to fight it. God is the way to do so, everything about Him can become a source of strength.

1 John 1:9 —  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Our Identity

“stupid,” “weak,” “gay,” “worthless,” “liar,” “cheapskate,” the list goes on and on. These are all names that people get called, identities that people try and force onto other people. Some people are strong enough to have their own identity, and blaze their own trail, but for many of us its hard. Thats why this idea is so important: our identity does not revolve around who we are, but around who God is.

I posted before about how we died, and rose again with Christ. This is part of the reason His identity is ours. His blood covered our sins making them irrelevant. things like “liar,” and “gay” become powerless. We also rose with Christ to become a “new creation” we aren’t what we used to be, and what’s more we are now royalty with Jesus, sons and daughters of the King. No prince or princess is worthless, no prince or princess is a cheapskate.

We also have God on our side. Not just some wimpy God that can occasionally heal a broken toe, but a God who is so powerful that through Him we can move mountains. This is the God who created the universe, and knows all of its secrets. IF this is the God in which we hold our identity then how can we be stupid or weak?

God has an identity for you that is smart, strong, pure, worthy of honor, honest, and so full of spiritual riches that they can’t be contained. All you have to do is claim your new identity as a child of God and a Christian (literally “little Christ”).