Saturday, December 29, 2012

Do Something Great

     It's the dawn of a new year!  Just a matter of days from now we'll each be trying to break the habit of writing "2012" on everything and getting back into our normal schedules.  Some of us will have "resolutions" that may or may not necessarily work out.  They might not work out if we try to completely reshape our lives cold-turkey or shoot for an impossible goal and try to do it by our own power.  

    Last year, around this time, a "challenge," so to speak, was put on my Youth Group's blog.  The challenge was to read the entire Bible that year.  Being that I had already begun to read some of the books of the Bible earlier, I accepted, hoping to finish the 52 books that I hadn't previously read.  About one month ago I managed to finish the books, having now read the entire Bible.  However, I found throughout that year that simply reading scripture wasn't enough.  I found that devotion and study on top of reading helped me to apply the scripture that I was reading and let it sink deeper.  Reading God's Word simply for the sake of accomplishing a goal is not as effective as reading it to grow closer to Him.  

     So that is what I would like to "challenge" to you.  You don't have to read the entire Bible, you don't have to try to make yourself perfect; just accomplish something worth doing.  Do something that really matters this year.  That way, years from now, you can look back at 2013 and know that it was the year you did something great.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Apples to Oranges

     With our changing culture, it seems that the roles of women and men are getting blended together like a fruit smoothie.  Years ago men would show women respect in any way possible; it was normal.  Nowadays we've seemed to have stopped giving that respect.  Have we simply grown out of those things?  Is honor to women still necessary in this fruit-smoothie culture?  That's what this week's topic is about:
"A real man is a gentleman. He is polite and shows women honor in everyday things such as opening doors, etc."
"A real woman is not offended by respect shown her through gentlemanly courtesies (opening doors, etc.) but cultivates the differences between the sexes that make her worthy of this deference."
     Well that sure answers the previous question.  What a clincher.  It shows us right in the Bible that men have a role to honor women.  1 Peter 3:7 portrays exactly what we as men should be doing: "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."  
     Men and women have separate roles given to us in scripture.  Women, according to the Bible, are to be submissive to their husbands.  Men, in return, show their wives the honor and respect that they deserve.  This respect, even outside of marriage, can be shown in simple things such as opening doors, helping to carry something, and others; the kind of stuff we as men were made to do!  Despite whether or not our culture says it's appropriate, we should give women the respect that they are given through the Bible.  This honor, however, is not simply action alone.  This is an attitude of service.  It's where Luke 6:31 comes in, except centered around the weaker vessel (as 1 Peter 3:7 puts it).  
     You too, women, have a role to play in this topic.  Nothing tramps the respect shown to a woman like her taking it the wrong way.  The honor meant for the woman in the Bible was put in place for your good.  You shouldn't be offended by the honor shown to you (unless, of course, it's done in a flirtatious manner).  The second part of this point is also important: "[A real woman] cultivates the differences between the sexes that make her worthy of this deference."  Cultivating a gentle and quiet spirit is what makes a woman deserving of gentlemanly courtesies (see 1 Peter 3:3-4).  Proverbs 11:16 says, "A gracious woman gets honor".  It's as simple as that.  
     As you can see, the Bible sets up the general relationship that men and women should have.  Following these roles, however, is what our culture seems to struggle with.  The order God placed over mankind is superior to any that we can imagine, which is why we should step up to the responsibilities of which we were given.  Otherwise we'll just end up with a really nasty fruit smoothie.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"They Called You All That?!" "Well, It was Shorter in Hebrew..."

     Christmas is just about here!  Among the gifts and decorations everywhere, it's important to remember just who this holiday is about.  We tend to get quite distracted with all that the holiday has to offer, so we have to make sure that He gets the honor and glory that He deserves.
     Being that I play two instruments myself, one of my favorite parts of Christmas is the music.  So instead of writing a long post today, I put several songs below for you to enjoy.  These are some of my favorite Christmas songs and have a great message within each of them.  Enjoy the Christmas Season!
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6, ESV

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Treadmill Doesn't Seem to be Working, Dear

     "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:10, ESV
     Some might think that fulfilling God's will for your life really starts to happen once you become an adult and have a family, but we can many times forget that even while we're young we still have a responsibility to do God's will; to spread His message to the world.  Sometimes God uses our young years and our singleness to allow us to be better fit to serve Him.  Sometimes God calls people to not marry and simply serve Him all their years without a family.  The apostle Paul is an example of this.  However, most of us will eventually become "un-single" and will begin a new path of life.  Utilizing our years of singleness, then, is a very important tool to help us grow closer to God and to prepare us for our future.  Thus today's points deal mostly (but not entirely) on our younger years:
"A Real Woman uses her years of singleness to seek and serve God without distraction, and is content to leave the details of her future up to Him."
"A Real Man doesn't try to prove himself but is simply confident as he walks in the fear of the Lord." 
     As with the apostle Paul, God can use our years of singleness to share His gospel in ways that others could not.  1 Corinthians 2:9 says, "But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.'"  Worrying about the future is not what God has planned for a young woman's life.  Being content in knowing that He has control over what will happen and has a magnificent plan for you is all that matters.  Until then, however, seeking and serving God and fulfilling His will today is enough.  

     The book of Psalms displays beautifully the love David had for God: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you." (Psalm 73:25)  This same love is what seeking and serving God is all about.  

     For us guys, this point carries on throughout our entire lives.  Trying to "prove" ourselves to others is something many of us do, and yet it doesn't get anywhere.  It's like running on a treadmill, trying to get somewhere but not moving an inch (and this kind of treadmill has no health benefits).  Matthew 10:28 confronts this: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  There's really no point in trying to prove ourselves to others.  Sure, improving our lifestyle is good, but not if our main intent is to look good compared to other people.  

     In 1 Samuel, God tells us "man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."  In addition to this, Jeremiah 17:10 shows just how God looks at the heart: "I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."  Because man's opinions have no value, our main purpose is to glorify and honor our Lord and Savior.

     As you can see from scripture, Christ wants us to solely live for Him and dedicate ourselves especially in our years of singleness.  If we let Him, he can do amazing things in our lives.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Beginning: A Very Good Place to Start

     As I mentioned in the last post, this week will begin to take a look at what a “real man” and a “real woman” look like.  I’ve spent the past few weeks matching different points on each together into groups of the same topic, and more recently have started to look at the first few deeply and finding extra verses of scripture to go along with them.  Here are the first two:
"A real man understands and lives according to the basic purposed for which he was created: to worship, honor, and serve God."
     And, for the ladies:
"A real woman seeks to make God her number one desire and the Lover of her soul, knowing that only He can fully satisfy."
     Because the pages didn’t originally give the points any particular order, I decided that these two should be first in line.  It makes sense to do this given that before we can become real men and real women for Christ, we must first make sure our relationship with Him is in the right place.
     The guys’ point says that we should live according to the basic purposes for which we were created.  This statement goes along with the age-old question, “What is the meaning of life?”  Fortunately for us, we know that the true meaning of life isn’t to be a success in man’s eyes, but to instead worship, honor, and serve our Lord and Maker.  Two verses of scripture that go well with this are Romans 12:1-2 and Deuteronomy 6:5: 
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." – Romans 12:1-2, ESV
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." – Deuteronomy 6:5, ESV
     The first step to becoming a man or a woman of God is to know that our true purpose in life is to praise and follow Him faithfully.  Worship, honor, and service could all be grouped together to be "living for God", but there are certain differences that separate them from one another.  Worship is something many of us don't fully understand.  Some believe it to be simply that few minutes in church that we sing a songs, but it is much more than that.  Worship doesn't just end once the last chord is played, nor does it start with the first note on the piano.  Worship is yielding ourselves to Christ and coming into His presence.  It's standing in awe at who He is and praising Him for all that He's done in our lives.  Honor is knowing that we aren't just Christians on Sundays.  We're Christians all throughout the week and live our lives displaying that.  We honor God in how we live our lives in accordance with His commandments each day.  Service comes as a display of thanks towards our God for all that He's done for us.  It should come from our hearts and not to show off to others.  All of these things put together allow us to follow God in all areas: with Him, with others, and finally with ourselves.
     Two verses that compliment the woman's point are found in the book of Psalms:
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." - Psalm 37:4, ESV
"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you." - Psalm 73:25, ESV
     The most important thing for anyone is that Christ is number one in their lives.  Anything that is placed above God is an idol.  It doesn't matter what you chase after; nothing else could possibly satisfy other than Christ.  Keeping God number one in our lives is important because in His word he tells us "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  He alone will always be there to supply our needs.

     In our culture it can be easy for women to try to meet the world's standards of success or beauty.  This is why it's especially important for women to place God in the number one spot of their lives.  With so many desires pulling at the mind, keeping Christ as the greatest desire puts everything else in a better perspective.  He doesn't want women (or men, for that matter) to desire to meet the world's standards more than they want to meet His.  Christ died for our sins.  All the world does is seek to pull us away from Him.

     This week, try to keep these points in mind.  Understand the place God has in your life, and live your life accordingly.  Starting with this allows us to know where our strength comes from so we can better live out our lives according to His will.