Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I will be gone for a while...

...but I will be back. I am taking a break from the computer for the rest of the month of March. No blogging, no e-mailing, and no surfing the net. I am not using this computer for anything until April 1. Thanks for all you visit this blog. I know I only have a handful of readers, but I appreciate each one of you. I promise I will be back. Until then may God continue to bless you as your follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Holding out for a Hero

"That would be no good, not without a mighty Warrior, even a Hero. I tried to find one; but warriors are busy fighting one another in distant lands, and in this neigbourhood heroes are scarce, or simply not to be found." ~ Gandalf the Grey; The Hobbit (page 27)

The Angel of Yahweh came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah which belonged to Joash of Abiezer. Gideon his son was threshing wheat inside the wine-press, to keep it hidden from Midian, and the Angel of Yahweh appeared to him and said, "Yahweh is with you, valiant warrior!" ~ Judges 6:11-12; NJB

I wonder who God is calling to be a Hero in these troubled times?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Importance of Standards

It is difficult to follow Jesus in a world that opposes Him and His message. One of the reasons is because as Followers of Jesus Christ we have committed ourselves to be guided according to the teachings of Jesus. Teachings that urge us to be generous with our giving rather than hoarding the blessings God has given. Teachings that command us to love our enemies and not just our friends and families. Teachings that compel us to sacrifice and serve rather than demanding that our needs be met. Teachings that order us to honor marriage and not even look on another person with lust. To follow Jesus demands that we live radically different lives than the people around us.

We are constantly bombarded with the message to compromise on the standards for living Jesus established and to do things according to the rest of the world. While, it has to be admitted, living according to Jesus' teachings doesn't make life easier for us (in some cases it will make life more difficult) it will make life a whole lot less complicated.

For an example I have a friend who has been concerned about the possibility that he fathered a child by another woman before he got married. I have no such concern because it is impossible for me to have fathered a child because in this area of life I have remained faithful to the standard God has given to us. Living according to the standards of God will not remove life's difficulties and tragedies but it will keep us free from the heavy baggage so many other people are forced to carry because of their decision to violate God's standards.

As we commit ourselves to keeping God's standards in every area of our lives we begin to realize that His way is the best way to live. We will also realize that compromise, even in the smallest area, will make it easier for us to rationalize compromise in other areas as well. The more we are faithful to the teachings of Jesus the more it becomes a habit for us. The more we compromise the easier it is to compromise the next time temptation comes our way.

I like what Rebecca St. James wrote in her little book Wait for Me; "But you know what? It's compromise in those little areas that lead to majorly bad decisions later. It is strength and courage shown in the "small" tests of life that make the "big" decisions easy" (2002/pg. 28).

These standards for living Jesus has given us provide us with the clear direction we need for living when temptation comes into our lives. If we never commit to living a certain standard then we will always be pushed along by the current of our changing desires. This always leads to terrible consequences, not only for you but also for those around you, and a more complicated life. Being committed to the standard Jesus has handed down to us gives us a clear direction on how we are to live.

Let me give you an example. During my 33 years of life I have had but one girlfriend (though I have asked out every girl I have ever wanted to date. Perhaps I have my standards too high?). Her name was Eve and we dated for 6 months during my fourth year at Nebraska Christian College. Most of that time she had an apartment off campus (I lived in the dorm for my entire five years at NCC).

I remember one night I was over at her apartment (in retrospect this was such a bad decision) and she began crying. I asked her what the matter was, but she wouldn't tell me. Since it was getting close to curfew for the dorms (11:00 PM) I gave her a kiss good night and left.

A few weeks later she told me about her past. Before coming to Nebraska Christian College she had gone to another college. While there she kept a dorm room, so her parents would believe that is where she lived, but in actuality she lived in an apartment with her boyfriend. She said that the reason that she was crying that night is because she wanted to do those things with me that she had done with her former boyfriend, but she knew we couldn't.

If I had never committed myself to God's standard of sexual intimacy to be reserved for marriage what would have happened? There is a good possibility that we would have given into our desires. From the experience related to me by friends who did compromise in this area it has led to problems in their marriage (even in the instances when it was their future wife they compromised with). When we compromise God's standard we always end up making our lives more complicated and adding even more negative emotional baggage to our lives.

It was the fact that I committed myself to following God in this area and communicated that standard to Eve that kept us from making a grave mistake. Without that standard both our lives would be more complicated than they needed to be.

The reason I think Christians often find themselves in sinful situations, situations that destroy their ministries and families, is because they do not take the proper precautions of establishing standards for their lives. Rather than setting our standards high we keep them as low as possible so we can have the thrill of dancing around the flames of temptation. The problem is that sooner or later if we play with fire we will be burned.

To live according to the standards that Jesus gave us to govern our speech, what we watch, what we wear, our relationships, professional conduct, or whatever may seem unrealistic, but in the long run those types of standards make life easier for us. If we do not commit to living according to Jesus' standards I will guarantee that we will be swept away by the values of our culture. We will not live radically different lives than those living around us.

Christians are called to live differently than the rest of the world. If we are unwillingly to be different in our entertainment, in our fashion, in the words we use, and in the way we treat others then how will people know we are different? The Apostle Peter wrote:
Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when He comes to judge the world (1 Peter 2:12; NLT).

Being careful in the way we live requires us to live according to the principles that flow out of the standards Jesus has given us for life. If we will not commit ourselves living according to those standards then we will not compel those around us to worship God. The best way to affect the lives of others is to live to a higher standard than they live. To be a Follower of Christ demands that we live differently from the world.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Make The Effort

As I grow older the more aware I am of the passing moments of life. The younger you are the easier it is to put things off by saying, "I will do it tomorrow". With each passing day time slips through our fingers. We have to remember that we only have a limited supply of tomorrows, and we don't know when they will run out. The good intentions that we have will remain undone if we don't begin begin to make an effort to accomplish them..

We all have dreams, goals, and passions that we would like to accomplish. Maybe you want to start improving the relationship you have with a distant brother/sister or maybe start to pursue a romantic relationship. Perhaps you want to write a book or go back to college. Maybe you want to change careers or start your own business. Perhaps you want to serve God in a new capacity or go on some type of missions trip. We will not accomplish any of it unless we put forth the effort to accomplish them.

Tomorrow will not be any less busy than today is. We can be certain that tomorrow will bring with it a new set of troubles and expectations. The only way to achieve the good we wish to accomplish today is to start taking the steps we need to do in order to accomplish our dreams and goals. Sooner or later we will realize that tomorrow will not come and the chances we had in the past are now forever lost.

The big problem I face in this process is the lure of entertainment. It is so easy to get sucked into watch that next TV show we were told we couldn't miss or to watch the latest movies releases so we can have something to talk about with our friends and family.

The hours spent watching TV shows, movies, playing video games, and surfing the net are hours that we could have spent doing something productive. Entertainment keeps us from using the blessings God has given us when we allow it to consume our lives. I am not saying the entertainment is evil, what I am saying is that when we allow the entertainment industry to consume us we waste the time, money, and talents God has blessed us with. We have to realize that one of the victims of our over indulgence of entertainment and other distractions are the good intentions of our lives. Lost are the relationships we wanted to cultivate, the projects we wanted to complete, and the people we wanted to help.

Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:23-25; NLT

There are two points I would like to draw from this passage in Hebrews. First we are to encourage each other "to outbursts of love and good deeds". It so much easier to accomplish the good we intend to do if we have people in our lives encouraging us to do the right thing rather than enabling us to waster the time God has granted. if we do not have people in our corner urging us on is so easy just to be swept along by the current of everyday demands. Encouragement is needed if we are going to make good on the intentions that we have.

There is is a flip side to this as well. If we expect encouragement then it is very important that we offer encouragement. We cannot expect from others what we are not willing to give. I believe that was we get involved in the lives of other people we will find ourselves being more intentional with the way we use our time.

Second point is "that the day of his coming back is drawing near". Jesus never gave us a blue print by which we are to map His return. The "signs" that so many point to are so general that they can apply to almost any age, and as we look at history we will notice that they have been. That doesn't mean the Jesus isn't coming back, but it does mean that we can't predict when He will return. Even if Jesus doesn't come back in our lifetime (though I have a belief in my heart that He will) we still have the fact that with each passing day our death becomes more of a reality. We can only put things off for so long before time and death catches up to us. Then it will not matter what our good intentions were because they have simply remained intentions..

We can intend to do good all we want, but if we never start to work toward accomplishing them they won't mean a thing. Unlike in gift giving it is not the thought that counts. It comes down to whether or not we will use what God has given us to accomplish the good works that He has called us to do. What are you doing to accomplish the good you want to do?

Accept the Differences

Most of us understand that people are different and those differences are a good thing. The world would be a boring place if everyone beli...