Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What Hurts God?

Read Ezekiel 6:9a: "Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols."

In Ezekiel 6, the Lord addresses the Israelites' idolatry. They have forsaken their love (God) for foreign gods and therefore have committed adultery. As a result, the Lord will bring down fierce judgment on the nation of Israel, and destruction and death will occur as punishment for their sins.

This passage shows us one of the many facets of God's character...His wrath. God despises sin and wickedness, and as a just and holy God, He simply can't leave it unpunished. Sin must be judged and punished. However, in the midst of this wrath, we also see a glimpse of God's grace and mercy, as He spares a remnant (a small portion) of people from this judgment. God's mercy, grace, and compassion are other facets of His character.

When reading this passage recently, one verse in particular jumped out at me--Ezekiel 6:9. In this verse we gain some insight into how God feels about sin. Sin unleashes His wrath, but it also hurts Him. The Hebrew word used in this verse is "shabar," and means "broken, shattered, crushed." The NAS version translates this word as "hurt" and the NIV translates it "grieved." I don't know about you, but I don't normally think of God as being hurt over my sins! Do you realize that when you sin against God, you are actually grieving Him?

The sin that grieves and hurts God in this passage is idolatry, which is a form of adultery. The Israelites were bound in a covenant relationship with the Lord. He would be their God, and they would be His people. By disobeying God's law, following pagan practices, and worshiping idols, they committed adultery.

What about you? You probably don't worship literal idols, though people do bow down to statues in other parts of the world. However, idolatry is found among American teenagers in many other ways. Many of you girls may worship a boyfriend or a crush, whether it's someone you know or a celebrity (cough...Taylor Lautner...cough). You may worship your own image or your popularity. Perhaps you worship material things. Remember that leaving your heavenly bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and giving your heart to something in this world is adultery, and it hurts the Lord. I know that none of you want to grieve God by your sins. Some of you may not even realize that you are idolizing something in your life. I challenge you to ask God to examine your heart and reveal to you anything in your life that is taking His place.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Do You Shine Like Stars?

Read Ezekiel 11:12, "'Thus you will know that I am the LORD; for you have not walked in My statutes nor have you executed My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you.'"

As you read the Old Testament, it is easy to see the folly of Israel. They continually stray away from the Lord, rebelling against the One who has done so much for them. When you read about their persistent disobedience, it's easy to roll your eyes and think, "not again!" How could anyone be so foolish? Don't they learn from their mistakes? While it's easy to look at the Israelites and criticize their stupidity and wickedness, I hope that you see that we are all just like them! Like the Israelites, we have seen God do amazing things. We'll be close to Him for a while, then eventually we'll become lazy and forgetful. Rather than dwelling on His goodness, we seek other worldly types of fulfillment and wander away from Him again and again. Ezekiel 11:12 was written as a prophecy for Israel, but I think that it is startlingly relevant to high school students today.

Ezekiel was a prophet to Israel. Israel had once again wandered away from the true God and engaged in rebellious acts such as idol worship. Ezekiel's message was one of judgment and rebuke to the Israelites for their sins, as well as one of future forgiveness and redemption for the repentant. The Israelites had disregarded God's law and broken His commandments again and again. They had deserted God to worship idols and had adopted the wickedness of the foreign nations.

I love the prophetic word of Ezekiel 11:12, because God pinpoints Israel's problem in a way that is very applicable to believers today. God says that Israel has no longer followed His ways and commandments but has instead acted like the pagan nations around them. God had called Israel to be set apart and different than all other nations, because Israel was God's chosen nation. God gave them many laws and requirements that they were to follow in order to be holy. In addition to the 10 commandments, there were food restrictions, lengthy rituals to be found clean, a sacrificial system, circumcision, etc. The purpose of all of this was to make Israel a nation set apart for God, completely unlike the foreign nations around them.

However, Israel chose to blend in with the nations around them instead of being set apart. At this point in their history, they were in exile and scattered among foreign nations. It was easier for them to follow God's law when they were in Israel, but now that they were surrounded by foreigners, the temptation to blend in was very strong.

I can't help but think of you high school students in your schools, sports teams, etc. You are mixed in with unbelievers all around you. As Christians, you have been called to be different, righteous, pure, and set apart. God has commanded you not to conform to the patterns of this world (Rom. 12:2) and to be holy like the Lord (1 Peter 1:16). I know that it is hard to stand out and be different than your peers, because all teenagers long to fit in. However, I would challenge you to refuse to fit in, no matter how difficult it is. Philippians 2:15 states, "so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." Do you shine like a star in a dark place among other teenagers? I hope so!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Can These Bones Live?"

Read Ezekiel 37: 1-14

Ezekiel is a very curious book. God asks Ezekiel to do some really strange things! If you've never read this book, I'd challenge you to do so with the help of a reliable commentary. There are a lot of neat passages, including one of the more famous ones that I chose to write on, Ezekiel 37:1-14. Just to clarify, Ezekiel is a prophet who was sent to preach to the Israelites. At this point in Jewish history, the Israelites have been rebellious and are being punished by being put into exile. In the book of Ezekiel, God uses this prophet to rebuke the Israelites of their sins as well as to remind them of the future blessing they will receive.

This passage always makes me think of that scene in Lion King when Simba and Nala go into the Elephant Graveyard. All the sudden everything around them is dark and looks like death. They are surrounded by old bones, the bodies of the animals having decomposed long ago. In Ezekiel 37, God takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones. The fact that only these dry bones are left shows us that these people had died many years ago. God asks Ezekiel a strange question in verse 3, "Son of man, can these bones live?" Clearly these bones were lifeless and the situation looked pretty hopeless. However, Ezekiel knew better than to limit God, so he gave the only answer he could give, "O Lord God, You alone know" (v. 3).

Then God asks Ezekiel to do another strange thing. He asks him to start prophesying to the bones. Talk about a rough crowd for a preacher! Though I'm sure Ezekiel was confused and alarmed, he wisely obeyed the Lord and began to preach to the pile of bones. An alarming thing happens next. The Lord brings these bones to life! All of the sudden, the bones joined together in their proper places and sinews, flesh, and skin grew over them. Then the Lord breathes into them, just as He did for Adam at creation (Gen. 2:7).

Pretty miraculous, right? Can you imagine the fear and wonder which must have gripped Ezekiel at that point? We see in verses 11-14 that this instance was more than just a miracle displaying the awesome power of God. The miracle had another purpose. The pile of dry bones symbolized the people of Israel. They were dispersed from their land and were living on foreign soil. Politically, their situation was hopeless. In addition to this, they had sinned against God and were an obstinate people. Spiritually, they were dead. Could this heap of dried up, dead people be brought back to life?

We see the answer in verse 12, when God promises to open their graves (symbolically) and bring the dead to life. The Israelites would be restored as a nation in their homeland, as well as restored spiritually. He promises the Holy Spirit to come on them in verse 14. God brings hope to the hopeless and life to the lifeless. He is the Master Restorer and can do the impossible.

Perhaps you feel like that pile of dry bones. You feel so far from God that you see no hope in having your fellowship restored. You feel lifeless and cut off from the Lord. You don't see how He could ever restore you or change your situation. I hope that you are encouraged today to know that the Lord restores and renews. In the most desperate of situations you can call out to Him, for He is more than able to bring you life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bella's Mistake in New Moon

In honor of New Moon coming out in theaters recently, I'd like to take the opportunity to point out something girls can learn from a huge mistake Bella makes (well, one of several mistakes) in her relationship with Edward. I haven't seen the movie, but I have read the book, so my comments will be based on the novel rather than the film.

A lot is said in church about physical boundaries in dating relationships, and many people are impressed that Bella and Edward don't actually have premarital sex. Side note: This isn't my main point, but I would definitely not look to Bella and Edward as an example of purity. Though they don't have intercourse, they do cross many lines that I believe shouldn't be crossed before marriage. Additionally, Bella tries to have sex with him multiple times, but Edward stops her, which is very unrealistic and reveals Bella's lack of commitment to purity. Anyway, back to my point. Though Bella and Edward don't have physical premarital sex, I would argue that they certainly have emotional premarital sex. Let me explain...

Just as there are certain physical boundaries that should remain intact in a dating relationship, couples should set emotional boundaries as well. The purpose of this is to guard your heart (Prov. 4:23). Until you have the security of an engagement with a ring on your finger, you must restrain yourself from getting too emotionally intertwined with your boyfriend. For example, saying "I love you" and planning out your wedding together should not be done before engagement. This binds you together in an emotional bond that is very intimate...much like a physical one during sex. Once you cross these emotional boundaries, your heart is crushed when you break up. You haven't guarded your heart, and as a result, it's shattered.

We see an excellent example of this in New Moon. Bella and Edward are continually telling each other how much they love each other and how their whole world revolves around one another. Here are a couple of examples from Edward: "I dream about being with you forever;" "Look after my heart. I've left it with you;" "Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?" And one from Bella: "I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."

In New Moon we quickly see what happens when emotional boundaries have been crossed and the couple breaks up. Bella feels like her life is over and suffers through a deep depression over many months. Her life becomes robotic and devoid of all emotion, leaving her numb and lifeless. She breaks off every other relationship that she has had with her friends and becomes a complete loner. She has nightmares. She is completely miserable, and her heart is broken in half. She can think of nothing else but Edward, and her unfulfilled longing for him brings her deep pain. Reading the chapters after her break-up with Edward are depressing to read, but though this story is fiction, there are many other girls who suffer similar turmoil after giving their hearts away to their boyfriends.

Now, I'm not going to lie. It feels great to say those things to the one you love, and even greater to hear them said to you. However, it's simply dangerous to do so before engagement. When Lee and I were dating, we both longed to tell each other how much we loved each other, how we'd never want to grow old with anyone else, etc. However, though it was really hard, we both set firm emotional boundaries and exercised self-control and restraint. Lee was committed to guarding my heart, because he knew how fragile it was. I challenge you to find a guy who is that wise and who loves you enough to guard your heart. Saying "I love you" at the proposal will be all the more sweeter if you've waited~

2 Peter 1:5-9: Are you Fruitful or Useless?

2 Peter 1:5-9

This second letter by the apostle Simon Peter contains many nuggets of wisdom. One of my favorite passages in this epistle (epistle is another word for letter) is 1:5-9. In these few verses, Peter challenges believers to grow and mature in their faith, becoming more and more like Christ. Though faith alone without works saves you (Eph. 2:8-9), God doesn't desire Christians to just become converted and then stay the same as they were before. His will is for Christians to become fruitful, mature, transformed individuals who bring God glory in all that they do and say. Let's look at the qualities Peter lists in this passage that Christians should strive to obtain.

Moral Excellence: This includes integrity, virtue, purity, goodness etc. This is someone who is above reproach in behavior and speech and chooses to do good over evil. **Do you cheat on homework, lie to your parents, etc?

Knowledge: This is someone who is wise and knows the truth. He/she has studied the Scriptures diligently and has a great understanding of what they say. **How much time have you spent examining God's Word and hiding it in your heart?

Self-Control: This is someone who is balanced and disciplined, showing restraint when needed. He/she isn't led astray by fleshly passions or lusts and isn't addicted to any substance. **Are you disciplined enough to know when to stop?

Perseverance: This is constancy, endurance, patience, and steadfastness. When circumstances change and trials occur, this person does not waver in his/her faith. **Do you remain firmly committed to Christ, no matter what happens?

godliness: A godly person lives with a fear of God, obeying His commands, displaying holiness, and imitating Christ. **Does your life reflect godly living?

Brotherly kindness: This is someone with love and compassion for the brethren. ** Is your attitude toward your brothers and sisters one of kindness and love, or do you criticize, judge, and get annoyed with them?

Love: This is the most important trait of all and includes a love for God and for everyone else. Without love, the rest of a Christian's works are useless (1 Cor. 13). **Are you fulfilling the two greatest commandments, which are to love God and others?

Verse 8 tells us that if we exhibit these qualities, we will be useful and fruitful. Maturity and fruitfulness are God's will for every Christian and should be our goal as well. On the other hand, verse 9 tells us that believers who fail to put on these qualities are blind. They were saved in order to bring God glory, show Christ to the rest of the world, and share the gospel. When believers fail to do this, they've missed the point.

I challenge you to focus on one of these qualities each week over the next 7 weeks. Think about specific ways you can display these qualities in your life and ask God to help you, because you can't produce these qualities on your own..you must rely on the work of the Holy Spirit!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Do You Need to Wash your Mouth out with Soap?

Read Ephesians 5:4, "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."

Read Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

The high school cafeteria is one of the most coarse and obscene places I've ever been. When teenagers get together, there are sure to be dirty jokes, sexual innuendos, and other profane language. I'm wondering if there is not much difference among Christian teens...

In Ephesians 5:4, we are told that obscenities and crude jokes are out of place for believers. Ephesians 4:29 instructs believers to let no unwholesome word come out of their mouths. Do many Christian teens heed these passages? I would venture to say that they do not. What hope is there for all of our unsaved teenagers, if our Christian teens are acting just like them?

Believers are to be set apart from the rest of the world, displaying purity and holiness. In high school, pure people are labeled "prudes," and holy people are labeled "goodie-goodies." This name-calling and mocking may embarrass you and hurt you, but is that really all that bad? Christians all over the world are suffering in prison, beaten, and abused for the name of Christ, yet they persevere. 1 Peter 4:16 states, "but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name."

I'm going to get real personal here, and this may cause you to feel uncomfortable. However, I feel that it's necessary for you to hear. When you hear crude jokes at school, how do you react? Do you laugh along with them? When someone comes up to you and says, "I've got a great new joke, but it's dirty." Do you tell them you'd like to hear it, or do you tell them you'd rather not? Do you watch inappropriate TV shows such as "South Park," "Family Guy," "Two and a Half Men," etc? Do you watch obscene and sexually explicit movies, such as "American Pie," "The Hangover," or "Scary Movie?" I would challenge you to never see a comedy that is rated "R." You know as well as I do that all of those movies will be filled with obscenities and sex.

If you have answered yes to any of these above questions, I would challenge you to reevaluate the way you're living your life. Do you think you can honestly obey the instructions in these 2 Ephesians passages while you are filling your mind with filth? There is no way you can cultivate a pure and godly heart while you listen to such obscenities. If God has convicted you, I encourage you to get on your knees in repentance. On the other hand, if you are avoiding crude jokes and obscene movies, I commend you for your faithfulness. Keep up the good work, no matter how uncool it makes you.

James 3:8 says, "But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." If you have problems with unwholesome talk, remember that our tongues can't be tamed without the Lord's intervention. As you grow closer to the Lord and love Him more and more, your heart will be transformed by the Holy Spirit. When your heart is transformed, your words and actions will follow. Break away from the filth that you are filling your mind with right now and give your heart to Him!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

God Answers Prayer: Jonah 3

Read Jonah 3

I'm sure you heard the story of Jonah as a child in Sunday School. It's a story that is typically told to children and isn't preached much to adults. When you think about it, it isn't really a warm and fuzzy children's tale; it's actually quite frightening. A man tries to flee from God by jumping on a boat, then a violent storm overtakes them to the point that everyone is scared for their lives. The men on the boat actually throw Jonah overboard into the crashing waves where he is then eaten by a big fish. It's a pretty troubling story when you think about it! There is also a lot of insight that can be gained from the book of Jonah that we miss if we just attribute it to a children's story. I'd like to zero in on Jonah 3, which takes place when Jonah actually arrives in Nineveh and finally carries out the message God has given him to deliver.

In Jonah 3:4, we read the prophecy that Jonah speaks to the people of Nineveh: "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." You can probably figure out one of the reasons Jonah wasn't thrilled to bring this message to Nineveh. He's basically telling them to watch out, because they're all about to die. Most people wouldn't respond very well to this message. They'd get angry and most likely "shoot the messenger," which is probably one of the things Jonah was afraid of.

However, the reaction that the Ninevites have is very different from this. Instead of responding in anger or by mocking Jonah, they respond in repentance. Verse 5 tells us that the people of Nineveh "believed in God." They covered themselves in sackcloth (a coarse garment) and sat in ashes, which are signs of humility, sorrow, and brokenness. They also engaged in a corporate fast, even going as far as including their animals in the fasting and draping them in sackcloth! I love the king's edict, which says, "let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands." An entire city falling on their faces in repentance is an amazing thing!

Verse 10 is really the highlight of this passage and gives us great insight into God's character. In response to their repentance, God relents and decides to spare them. This is a beautiful picture of God's compassion. When you come to the Lord in repentance, He will forgive you every time. His compassions never fail (Lam. 3:22). What a gracious and merciful God we have, who pardons our iniquities and remembers them no more (Isa. 43:25).

This passage also shows us that God answers prayer. You may wonder why we pray for things to happen at all, since God is sovereign and already has an established plan. Though this is the truth, Jonah 3 shows us that God also moves and unfolds His plan through our prayers. It is impossible for us to fathom how our prayers can make a difference when God has already ordained His plan, but it is somehow the truth. This passage should show you how important our prayers are. God not only hears every single thing we utter to Him, but He answers all of it. What a comfort it is to know this!

I hope that this passage opens your eyes to the incredible compassion of God and leads you to your knees in repentance. I also hope that it shows you that prayer works! Sometimes you may feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and that the Lord isn't listening, but this is not the case. Cry out to Him earnestly as the people of Nineveh did, and watch Him answer your prayers in amazing ways~

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My problem with Justin Bieber...

I've got a bone to pick with Justin Bieber. After hearing his new hit, "One Less Lonely Girl," I had to cringe at hearing one of the lines. In the song, Justin sings that he is coming after his true love and is doing his part to take a lonely girl off the market. How noble of him (I hope you sense my sarcasm). Anyway, the line that bothers me so much is, "I'll show you what you're worth." I suppose this means that the teenage girl who Justin chooses to be with has great worth. Meanwhile, all of the rest of the teenage girl population who is not loved by Justin (or someone as cool as him) remains worthless and lonely. Thanks Justin, for making all of those insecure teenage girls out there feel even worse about themselves.

I hope that you know that you should NEVER look to a guy to determine your worth. I see this all the time among teenagers, and I'm sure you do as well. Girls jump from relationship to relationship, because they only feel good about themselves when they have a boyfriend. Taking it further, some give themselves away physically as well in order to feel special and worthy in the eyes of a guy. When the guy leaves them and their hearts are broken, they feel worthless until they find some other boy to notice them and make them feel good about themselves. What an emotional roller coaster!

What is the alternative to this type of behavior? The solution to determining your worth is found only in looking to the Lord. He loves you more than you can fathom, and that love will never change. Romans 8:38-39 assures us that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God. We also know that God created us in His own image (Gen. 1:26), that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14), and that He has a great plan for us (Jer. 29:11). If we are believers, we know that He chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4-5), and that He is preparing a special place in heaven for us (John 14:2). You have tremendous worth in the eyes of the Lord, and don't you forget it! Do not dare look to some guy to establish your worth, no matter what Justin Bieber says! The Lord's love for you transcends all human love, so stop searching for it in other places. No other love will satisfy you...I guarantee it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Should Tiger's Wife Do Next?

Read Malachi 2:13-16, Matthew 19:3-12, Matthew 5:31-32

It seems like every time I've turned on the TV or radio in the last few days, there's something about Tiger Woods' multiple affairs. America is infatuated with this sports celebrity's domestic situation, and everyone wants to know what his wife is going to do next. Many people think she should leave him, while others claim she should forgive him and move on. While it is really none of our business what she does, I see this as a great opportunity to talk about God's view on divorce. Why does this apply to you as a high schooler? I will explain that as well...

In Malachi 2:16, God says explicitly, "I hate divorce." This couldn't be more clear and doesn't really need an explanation. God hates divorce (but not divorced people...more on that later). He created marriage to be a covenant between a man and woman only separated by death. Matthew 19:6 tells us that those two people have been joined together by God to become one flesh, and they should not be separated.

In Matthew 19:7, the Pharisees challenge Jesus on His teaching concerning divorce by pointing out that Moses permitted divorce. Jesus replies in verse 8 that this was because of their hardness of heart. Their hard hearts made them unwilling to forgive each other and reconcile. Forgiving your spouse for their sins may seem impossible to the wronged party, but we must remember that nothing is impossible with God. When I have no desire to forgive someone, I must pray that the Lord would change my heart and help me to love that person and forgive them. However, many people never ask the Lord to change their hearts and enable them to forgive, because their hearts are hard. They don't think that person deserves forgiveness and they don't intend to give it to them. That person probably doesn't deserve forgiveness, but we must remember that none of us do! Christ died for us to forgive us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). When we have been forgiven of so much ourselves, who are we to withhold our forgiveness to others?

You may also notice that Matt. 19:9 and Matt. 5:32 both include the phrase "except for immorality." Adultery seems to be the exception on divorce, though reconciliation is still the goal. However, if your spouse is unrepentant and unwilling to reconcile and is continuing to commit adultery, there is not much else that the wronged spouse can do. Matt. 19:9 also states that marrying another person after divorcing the first partner is adultery. This is because God sees that covenant of marriage as only broken by death.

This is a very hard teaching, because all of us probably have loved ones who have been divorced. I would reiterate what I said earlier, that although God hates divorce, He certainly doesn't hate divorced people. To think that divorced people are no longer loved by God and used by Him for great purposes would be a lie. Our God heals the broken-hearted, restores them in amazing ways, and still has an incredible plan for their lives.

Why is this important for you to know as a high school student? For one thing, it is vital for you to know what the Bible says on issues such as this. Just because you are young does not give you an excuse to be ignorant of biblical truth! Also, you need to know how serious it is to link yourself up with a guy. You may think that dating in high school doesn't mean anything, because you probably won't marry that person anyway. However, you never know what may happen. Dating people you never intend to marry makes absolutely no sense. You are giving your heart away to someone you will never commit to, which only leads to pain, heartache, and emotional baggage. Choose the people you date carefully. When you choose your future husband, make sure it is someone of integrity, spiritual depth, strong character, and a firm commitment to the Lord. Though the world treats marriage and divorce flippantly, the Lord certainly does not! In His eyes, you are to be committed to that person for life, so choose wisely~

Monday, December 7, 2009

Philippians 2:1-18: Are You Full of Yourself?

Read Philippians 2:1-18

Pride is all around us, especially in high school. I remember feeling so fed up in high school with all of those cocky teenage boys who bragged about themselves all the time. They were aiming to impress me, but they got the opposite reaction! Teenage girls obviously struggle with pride as well, but many more of them are plagued with insecurities. I was one of those insecure teenagers myself. I thought because I didn't think much of myself that I must be humble! However, I later learned that having low self esteem is not the same as having humility. Let's see what the Bible tells us about humility in Philippians 2:1-18.

Paul uses the first 4 verses of this passage to instruct believers to be humble. In verse 2 he talks about "being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." What does unity have to do with humility? When you think about it, pride is all about competing and comparing. Pride happens when you compete with others and compare yourself to others in order to find an area in which you excel over them. This makes you feel good about yourself, and you begin to think that you are better than them. If believers are unified and all working for the same goal (building the kingdom, glorifying God, etc), then there is no room for pride. Unity gets rid of the competing and comparing.

In verses 3 and 4 he addresses selfishness and looking out for others rather than yourself. We are all selfish to some extent and more in tune to our own needs than to the needs of others. We must pray that the Lord will change our hearts and open our eyes to all of the needs around us. We live in a very "me first" culture, where it's all about doing things for yourself first. This is the opposite of what the Lord wants!

I love the phrase in verse 3, "but with humility of mind regard others as more important than yourselves." I know very few people that actually do this. Unfortunately, most of us can think of some group of people whom we think we are better than. In high school there is such an emphasis on social standing and cliques. The jocks are better than the musicians, who are better than the nerds, etc. This is a very sinful attitude. Scripture tells us that we shouldn't consider anyone as "beneath" us. Do you have the courage to break those ridiculous social barriers in high school and show kindness to everyone, regardless of what their label is?

In verses 5-11 we see the supreme and perfect example of humility on earth...Jesus. We are to follow in His footsteps and look to Him as our model. Think about Jesus' humility for a moment. Jesus is God in the flesh. He could have come to earth riding through the sky on a white stallion, surrounded by angels, and placed Himself on a royal throne in Jerusalem. Instead, He chose to enter the earth through a human birth canal. He was born in a stable with a bunch of smelly animals to a young peasant girl. He grew up in an insignificant town and worked as a carpenter for many years. After His earthly ministry He faced a humiliating death...stripped down, mocked, spit upon, beaten, and nailed to a cross between two common criminals.

I love verses 9-11, because they show us the exaltation of Jesus. He humbled Himself on earth, but He is now seated at the right hand of God. In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Remember Luke 14:11, which says, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

I challenge you to resist the temptation to fall into pride. Stop bragging about how smart you are in history class, how good you are at sports, or how talented you are in music. Do not dare forget that God is the one that gave you those talents and that intellect! You did nothing on your own to deserve it. The glory should go to God alone, so don't take it for yourself. On the other hand, don't buy into the lie that you aren't worth anything. If you are a believer, you should know that God chose you before the earth began to be His child (Eph 1), that He loves you desperately, and that He made you in His image. Knowing this, we should have the best self esteem of anyone, but in complete humility, because we know that we did nothing to deserve such honor. Praise Him today and give Him the glory for everything that you are!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A passage you've never studied before: Judges 10:6-16

Read Judges 10:6-16

Teenagers are continually saying, "why can't we study a passage we've never read before?" My answer to that is that the Bible is living and active, which makes it different than an ordinary book (Heb 4:12). The Bible is not like a textbook you can read once and then know everything there is to know about it. The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to speak to our hearts. He illuminates the words and makes them pierce our hearts, bringing us the instruction, conviction, or encouragement that we need. Because of this, you can read the same passage countless times and still hear the Lord speak to you and touch you in different ways. I just wanted to make that clear! However, despite this truth, today I have picked a passage that is unfamiliar to you and that I'm pretty sure you've never studied before. So get excited!

In Judges 10:6-18, we see an incredible story of Israel's disobedience, repentance, and forgiveness. This is a recurring theme in the Old Testament. The Israelites just can't seem to stay out of trouble, and continually repeat the same sins over and over again. Their sin is punished, they repent, and God patiently forgives them again and again. The same general thing is happening in this passage.

In verse 6 we see that the Israelites turned away from the Lord to worship idols and other false gods. Because of their wickedness, God punishes them by giving them over to their enemies (7-9). They suffer for 18 years under their oppressors before they finally repent. It seems unfathomable that they would be so obstinate and unwilling to give up their sin! How often do we hang on to sin, despite the consequences, because we are too stubborn to give it up?

In verses 11-14 God reminds them of His work of deliverance in their lives. Time after time He has intervened and saved them from their enemies. Despite these clear acts of God's work in their lives, they still forsook Him. He tells them in 14 to go and cry out to their idols and false gods for help instead of Himself! After this rebuke, they finally feel conviction of their sins and come to God in repentance. They didn't just passively confess their sins, but they actively turned away from them and got rid of their idols. This is true repentance!

This next statement blows me away. Verse 16b states, "and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer." I love this picture of God. He is not a mean overseer like your school principal, trying to catch you doing something wrong so He can punish you. He deeply loves you and takes no delight in seeing you suffer! He longs for you to repent and come back to Him. He passes judgment on the wicked because He is a righteous and just God, not because He enjoys it. Sin simply must be punished.

Oftentimes I hear people describe distorted pictures of God that are nothing like Him in reality. This passage reveals that our God is just, hates sin, and will certainly punish it. However, we also see that He is a forgiving God who shows mercy on repentant sinners, and that He is grieved over the misery of His people. What an amazing depiction of God that is! Thank Him today for His mercy and forgiveness~

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Comforting Words for Believers: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

No one likes to think about death. I'm not worried about my own death, but the death of my loved ones is another story. I especially can't bear to watch movies where a wife or husband loses his/her spouse. This is so heartbreaking for me, since I can't imagine life without Lee! However, though death is certainly something to grieve over, those of us who are believers can find comfort in knowing that it isn't the end.

Though most of the world is unbelieving and lost, I've noticed that unsaved people tend to get more spiritual when death occurs. They've never mentioned God or heaven before, but suddenly they start saying things like, "he's in a better place." This is certainly true for those who have placed their trust in Jesus but is unfortunately not the case for unbelievers. Let's look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and see what God has to say about the Lord's return.

In this passage in 1 Thessalonians, we see what happens to believers in the end when Jesus returns. This passage is meant to be a comfort to believers, and it certainly is to me. In verse 13, we're reminded that we do not have to grieve in the same way as unbelievers, because we have hope. What is our source of hope? The Lord!

In verse 16 we see that Jesus Christ will descend with "a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God." We will finally be able to look on the One we have spent our lives loving and following. What a glorious day! It says here that the dead in Christ will rise first, and then the believers who are still living will join them with Jesus in the air. We call this event "the rapture." That term is not in the Bible, but it is simply the Latin word for "caught up" and is used to describe the time when believers are caught up in the air. After that, comes my favorite part: "and so we shall always be with the Lord" (17). when Christ returns, we will see an end to death. We will no longer experience the grief and heartache that we do on this earth, and we will be in the Lord's presence for eternity.

We are told in verse 18 to, "comfort one another with these words." We must remind each other that there is an end in sight. There will be a day with no more tears, suffering, sickness, death, evil, or pain. There will be a day when we will be reunited with all of our loved ones who are believers. How comforting to know that though I will lose loved ones on this earth, I will get to spend eternity with them in heaven. Because Lee and I are both believers, we will literally be together for ever. That is such a hopeful and comforting truth. But most of all, our faith will become sight. We will actually get to look on the face of our precious Lord and experience His glory and be in His presence forever. We can't fathom what this will be like!

Take heart, sisters in Christ, because there will be a glorious day when Christ will return for all of His followers. Whatever pain or suffering you are experiencing now is temporary, though it may not feel like it at the time. Set your eyes on Jesus today, and spend your life eagerly awaiting His glorious return!