Thursday, January 28, 2010

Abstinence=Gracious Protection

Read 1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."

How do you think people would react if you told them to "flee from sexual immorality?" Unbelievers would laugh in your face if you told them that! When you turn on the television, sexual immorality is rampant. It is not only heartily condoned, but it is depicted as the normal, healthy way to have a "mature" relationship. It is joked about shamelessly and treated very lightly. We obviously see from 1 Corinthians 6:18 that God's view on immorality is very different than the world's.

In this verse, we see that God is very adamant about staying away from immorality at all costs. We're told to flee, which implies that immorality is dangerous. You will find that if you decide to put yourself in situations in which you know you will be tempted, you will stumble. I think that many Christian girls who make the mistake of getting physical with their boyfriends don't intend to go all the way. However, they do not flee from immorality. They don't set firm boundaries and try to get as close to the "purity line" as they can without technically crossing it. The minute you open the door to immorality, you will swiftly fall into temptation. Your commitment to purity must begin much sooner. You must run as fast as you can away from any hint of immorality. This means never putting yourself in a situation where you are in danger of sinning sexually. Don't go out with boys who are not committed to the Lord. Never close the door when you are alone with a guy in a room. Don't be home by yourself with a guy at all. Never lay down next to your boyfriend even if you just say you're "innocently" taking a nap together, etc. It is foolish to do these things I've listed. Putting yourself in these situations isn't fleeing from immorality, it's openly welcoming it.

We also see from this verse that sexual immorality is set apart from all other sins. There is something different about it. The verse says, "Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body." Sexual immorality is distinct from other sins, because it is more than just a physical sin. Sex binds you together with someone, making the two of you one flesh. You give part of yourself to that person. The act is emotionally binding and is the height of intimacy. Committing this sin is something that will bring you heartbreaking consequences.

I think one of the most important things to remember is that by forbidding sex outside of marriage, God is mercifully protecting you. This law is not to spoil your fun as a teenager; it's an act of God's grace. God created sex for a man and woman in marriage. Anything outside of this is a perversion and will have grave consequences. Think about all of the negative things associated with sex: STD's, unwanted pregnancies, abortion, shame, Aids, heartbreak. All of these things come from distorting God's plan for sex and committing immorality. By saving yourself for your husband, you are avoiding all of the harmful results that come from sexual sin. When God tells you to flee sexual immorality, He's telling you this because He loves you and wants His best for you. By obeying Him, you will be spared from so much pain and heartache. You will be able to enjoy His gift within marriage when the time comes without the baggage and painful memories immorality will surely leave you with.

One more thing...if you have engaged in some type of sexual immorality in the past, your life isn't over. Remember that we serve a God who loves to forgive the repentant and remove their sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He redeems sinners and makes all things new. If you have committed immorality and repented of it, you need to know that you've been forgiven and don't need to walk in shame any longer. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1). I encourage you to make a strong commitment to purity from this day on.

I hope this has challenged you to realize that we can't afford to be lax when it comes to sexual immorality. We have to flee. Be on your guard against immorality and run away when you see it! Remember that God loves you and has established this law as a gracious protection for you. By following Him through a firm commitment to purity, you will be richly blessed~

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

For Those Suffering with Anxiety...

Read Psalm 94:17-19: "If the Lord had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, 'My foot has slipped,' Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul."

What are you worried about? I don't know about you, but I've got a long list. What to you do when you're plagued with anxiety? Who do you turn to? There will always be things to worry about, no matter what stage of life you're in. Oftentimes I have thought that if only (fill in the blank) were different, I wouldn't worry. I thought that once I was out of school, once I was married, once I had a full-time job, once I got through that particular year or trial, etc, things would be peaceful for me. What I've realized is that there are always going to be stress factors in your life that will bring you anxiety and worry, no matter what your current circumstances are. The real question is, what do you do with that anxiety? I'm sure you'll agree with me that being a worrier is no way to live. Let's look at what the psalmist has to say in Psalm 94:17-18 for a little insight into a solution to anxiety.

I noticed while reading these 3 verses this morning, that each of them are in a different tense. I think this is significant to point out and sheds some light on the issue we're discussing. The first verse (17) is in the past tense. The psalmist is talking about an event that has already happened. Apparently he had been in distress. He says that if it hadn't been for the Lord's help, he would have basically died. The Lord brought him out of the pit and saved him from destruction.

The following verse (18) is in the future tense. The psalmist has confidence that the Lord will help Him in the future when He struggles. He says that if he is to ever stumble, that the Lord WILL hold Him up. He has a strong faith and confidence in the Lord's ability to save Him, as well as in His lovingkindness.

Verse 19 is in the present tense. The psalmist says that when he is overwhelmed with anxiety, the Lord consoles Him, and he delights in this comfort.

What do these 3 verses tell us about surviving times of worry and anxiety? I think it is important to follow the psalmist's example in first looking back at the past, at the things you have seen the Lord do in your life and in Scripture. Has the Lord ever failed you or deserted you before? Has His character ever changed, or has He always remained faithful? When you look back at all the times the Lord has provided for you and worked all things together for your good, it's hard to remain worried. When you focus on the Lord's power, mercy, sovereignty, and faithfulness, your problems will soon seem very small in comparison. Thinking about God's proven character and the amazing things He has done in the past should give you confidence in the future, just like the psalmist. Pray that the Lord will increase your faith and keep you mindful of what you know to be true about Him from Scripture and your own experiences.

As I said before, anxiety will come to you in whatever stage you find yourself in. It won't stop after finals, after high school, after you get a boyfriend, or after you get into college. What do you do with this anxiety? Verse 19 shows us that we can only go the Lord for consolation, and the comfort that you can only receive from Him will bring you joy. Think of the truth of Philippians 4:6-7, which says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." When life is difficult and your situation seems hopeless, you can only turn to God. By giving your anxieties to Him, you will be overcome with His supernatural peace that you can find no where else.

I write this post today because I'm going through a difficult period of life myself that is giving me great anxiety. In the midst of hardship which causes us an extreme amount of stress and worry, Lee and I have found that we can only go to the Lord. Only He can take care of us and take the burdens off of our shoulders. Only He can bring peace to the restless. Today, I challenge you to give your anxieties to Him and experience the consolation only He can offer. I'll leave you with one of my favorite verses, "Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What does God say about equality?

Read Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Tolerance and equality are words we frequently hear nowadays in the news, particularly in the political realm. Minorities (including various races, women, and the gay community) claim discrimination and persistently fight for more rights. This fight for equality has definitely entered into the church, where women want to take on pastorate roles and homosexuals want to be church members and clergy. What is the Christian response to all this talk on equality and tolerance? Galatians 3:28 is the verse often selected to defend the "equal rights" agenda in the church. I want to address what this verse means, as well as what it does not mean.

In order to fully understand what this verse is talking about, we need to first look at the context. In Galatians 2, Paul talks about his argument with Peter. Peter had at one time eaten freely with Gentiles (non-Jews), but when Jewish people came around, he would stay away from the Gentiles. What is all this Jew and Gentile stuff about? Well, after Jesus came to earth, died for man's sin, and rose again, everything changed. Before this, the Jews were the only ones who were God's people, set apart for Him (though a few non-Jews were grafted into the covenant). Because they were God's people, God had given the Jews laws and regulations to live by in order to set them apart from the pagan nations. One of the main ways they differed from foreigners was that they had a certain diet that they had to pertain to. There were certain things they weren't allowed to eat. Like I said, this changed when Jesus came. From that point on, salvation would be available to all who believed, regardless of whether they were Jewish or not. The Jews no longer had to follow those dietary restrictions, because God declared everything clean (Acts 10). Another major distinction for the Jews was circumcision.

With the gospel spreading and many Gentiles becoming Christians, many Jewish people still struggled with prejudice against them. They couldn't wrap their minds around the fact that these uncircumcised, pork-eating foreigners could be God's people as well as themselves, who had carefully followed God's law all their lives. In Galatians 2, Paul rebukes Peter and the other Jews for their hypocrisy, and in Galatians 3, he explains the truth about salvation. People are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by following the Law (Gal. 3:26). From now on, anyone who believed in Jesus would be counted as one of Abraham's children of God and heirs to the promise originally reserved only for the Jews (Gal. 3:29).

When you read Galatians 3:28 with this context and background, it is easy to understand the meaning of the verse. The verse is saying that all ground is equal at the foot of the cross. No matter who you are, what you've done, or where you're from, you can be saved by faith in Jesus. Jesus doesn't care what your status is. You could be a homeless person or the president of America. He doesn't care how much money you have, what race you are, what you look like, etc. If you put your faith in Him, you will be saved.

So we see that this verse is not talking about equal rights in society but is talking about salvation. We are equal in the eyes of Christ, but that doesn't mean that we all serve the same function. We see in passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12 and Ephesians 5:22, that God has given men and women different roles in the church and in the home. He has chosen men to be the head of their wives and to serve in the authority positions in the church. Does this mean that God loves men more or that women are inferior in His eyes? Galatians 3:28 tells us that this is not the case at all.

Because of Galatians 3:28, we can see that God does not condone racial or gender prejudice. God created all races and both genders in His image and He loves them equally. Eternal life is offered to all. As a result, there should be no room for racism or discrimination in the church. However, this verse is not saying that we should condone sinfulness (such as homosexuality) in the church and pretend that God doesn't mind that people are disobeying His law. This verse doesn't change the fact that God regards homosexuality as a sin against Him (1 Cor. 6:9-10). It also doesn't mean that men and women don't have distinct, God-ordained roles in the church and home. They are equal in essence but different in function. I hope this careful look at Galatians 3:28 sheds light onto the Christian response to prejudice and discrimination. I am so thankful that we serve a God who saves by faith alone, no matter who you are~

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Review of "The Shack"

When William Young's book, The Shack, was published in 2007, it quickly unleashed a flood of positive and negative responses. I am a little late in reading this novel, but having recently completed it (at the request of one of my lovely youth), I am going to attempt to put my many thoughts on the book into a concise blog post. It won't be easy, but here goes...

First of all, I'm going to start by saying that I didn't like the book. The purpose of this critique is not to offend or disrespect any of my Christian brothers or sisters who are fans of The Shack. I am fully aware that many mature believers like this book and have been ministered to by reading it. I certainly don't think any less of them for it; I simply hold a different opinion. Overall, I feel that there are too many theological problems in this book, and although it is a fiction novel, I feel that it gives people an inadequate and unbiblical picture of God.

Before I jump into the various aspects of the book that I disagree with, I'd like to point out some positive things that can be taken away from it. I have never experienced a horrific tragedy like the main character (or the author for that matter). Therefore, I can't begin to imagine the pain those people must go through. I know that many people who have experienced tragedy like that which has occurred in this book often wrestle with many questions and experience a crisis of faith. Young himself has experienced tragedy and times of crisis, and he attempts to minister to people in situations like this through The Shack. I certainly admire his compassion for these hurting people and his effort to provide answers to that unspeakable pain. I feel that many hurting people could relate to the character of Mack in the story and be encouraged by his journey back to God.

My main problem with The Shack is the way in which God is portrayed. Young paints the picture of a little log cabin inhabiting the 3 members of the Trinity. God is a large African-American woman who loves to cook, the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman who has a knack for gardening, and Jesus is a Jewish man (thankfully, Young didn't take any liberties there!). These 3 members of the Godhead bustle about the cabin doing chores and having long cryptic conversations with Mack that don't make a lot of sense. They sit around the table talking to each other lovingly and kissing each other on the lips. I don't know about you, but this depiction of God makes me cringe. Why? What bothers me is the complete lack of reverence for God. Where is the element of majesty, glory, and awe that we see in Scripture? There is one point in the book during the "Festival of Friends" in which Jesus is worshipped and His glory is displayed. But apart from this, there is a complete lack of God's majesty.

Now I want you to compare this picture Young has painted with the Bible's portrayal of man's encounter with God. When Moses asked God to show him His glory, God replied, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live" (Exodus 33:20). When Moses did experience the glory of God on the mountain, he would come down to the Israelites and his face would be literally glowing from being in God's presence. This scared them so much that they made him put a veil over his face (Exodus 34:29-35). When Isaiah experiences the glory of God, he only gets a glimpse of the hem of his robe, but he is completely undone, crying out, "Woe is me, for I am ruined!" (Isaiah 6:5a). This is the picture of man's encounter with God from Scripture. You can see that it is very different than Young's picture of God as a housewife eating in the kitchen with Mack and the rest of the Trinity.

God has chosen how He wants to be revealed in Scripture. He has given us many names for Himself and gives us many glimpses of His character. As believers we can't just formulate our own pictures of God. We must rely on the Bible to paint the picture for us. God never reveals Himself as a black woman in the Bible. Therefore, to write a story in which God is described in this way is heretical, in my opinion. It gives people a picture in their mind of a God who is not found in Scripture but is thought up by a man. This is a danger.

In addition to this, there were also many faulty theological ideas embedded in the book, and I'm going to attempt to explain a few of them. Young downplays God's wrath in this book, which is just as much a part of His character as His love. "Papa" states, "I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring people from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it" (119). To ignore the aspect of God's wrath and punishment on sin is to ignore much of the Bible. The punishment for sin is separation from God in hell. God has to punish sin--it's part of His just and holy nature.

In the book we also see "Papa" (God) dismiss hierarchy, authority, roles, and submission as sinful human creations. However, we see in the Bible that God establishes hierarchy in relationships and gives men, women, and children different roles. Ephesians 5:22-6:4 shows us that husbands are the head of their wives, and that parents are in charge of their children. There is a clear authority in both of those relationships, and it is established by God. Young says, "Submission is not about authority and it is not about obedience," which is not true from Scripture which tells children to obey their parents and wives to submit to their husbands (146).

I also believe that Young misinterprets the Fall of man and the curse of Genesis 3. Adam taking the role of the head in his marriage was not a result of the Fall. Adam was established as the head by God before sin entered the world. It is God's will for the man to be the head of the home and the church, though in both of these roles He is under the authority of Christ. In The Shack, Jesus seems to be disappointed in the fact that men rule instead of women, saying "The world, in many ways, would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled" (148). Scripture teaches that God gave headship to the man (1 Timothy 2:9-15, Ephesians 5:22ff, 1 Timothy 3, etc).

Young also seems to have a big problem with organized religion. In the story, when Mack says something about being a Christian, Jesus replies, "Who said anything about being a Christian? I'm not a Christian" (184). "Christian" is not a dirty word, it's a biblical one! Acts 11:26 tells us that, "the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch." Young definitely shows a bias against seminary, Christianity, and religion in general. There is definitely some bitterness and it seems that he has some issues He needs to work though about his dissatisfaction with the Church. He clearly had some bad experiences with seminary, as he says, "God's voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. [...] Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?" (63). Yikes! I'm definitely sensing some hostility! Looking to the Scriptures to hear God's voice isn't reducing His voice to paper, it's studying the Words that He inspired Himself! The Bible isn't simply a book...every word of it has been God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). It isn't about bringing guilt, but it does bring conviction. There is nothing wrong with relying on sound hermeneutical principles and the commentary of great believers before us to interpret and decipher the Scriptures. In fact, it would be foolish not to do so!

I could go on, but I'm going to stop right here. Again, I don't mean any disrespect toward you if you liked the book. Rather, I would welcome your feedback! I'm also not saying that God can't use this book to reach people and minister to those in tragedy. I hope that He does. However, I do think that there are some dangerous presumptions made by Young in this book. Writing a book about God and putting words in His mouth is a weighty task and is not one that I would ever venture to tackle! When we do write about God however, we need to make sure that what we are saying is completely supported by Scripture to the best of our understanding. I didn't feel that The Shack was very careful in this area, resulting in some major errors that I personally disagree with. For what it's worth...

Is God in Haiti?

When crises such as the earthquake in Haiti strike, many people (Christians included) ask the question, "Where is God now?" I don't want to minimize the pain or hurt the Haitians are experiencing, and I can't begin to understand the suffering they must be dealing with. I don't know why this earthquake struck, but I do know that Scripture shows us that God is omnipresent (everywhere at all times). The Lord promises in Matthew 28: 20 that He is with us always, and we're reminded in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us or forsake us. Because the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we know that these verses are true. The message of these Scriptures isn't any less true during the times when we don't feel like God is with us. Our faith isn't based on feeling but on the Word of God.

When we watch the newscasters speak about the situation in Haiti, it certainly looks bleak. Could God really be in this desolate land where 200,000 have now been found dead? Of course. I firmly believe that God is there and that He is glorifying Himself in huge ways, even though we can't see it.

I had the privilege of seeing one of the ways God is glorifying Himself in the midst of this tragedy this morning on the Today show. The reporters interviewed a man named Dan Woolley, who had been in Haiti during the earthquake and was now recovering in a Miami hospital. Woolley works for Compassion International, a Christian mission organization that serves orphans and others in poverty. He was in Haiti filming for a project that would shed light on the poverty of that country. When the earthquake hit, he was headed back to his hotel and quickly found himself buried under 6 feet of rubble. Woolley was trapped for 65 hours straight before help arrived.

During his interview, Woolley specifically gave God the glory for bringing Him out of the situation alive and for supplying him with the things he needed for survival. Woolley said that he didn't have his glasses with him and that he couldn't see anything around him. Woolley attributes God's sovereignty to the fact that he had his camera with him. Because of that camera, he was able to film and light up his surrounding areas in order to find a more stable location to wait for help. Woolley also had his iPhone with him, enabling him to download a first aid app that showed him how to stabilize his broken leg and other injuries. He was able to also use the phone as an alarm, which he set to go off every 20 minutes. This would keep him from the danger of falling asleep. On national TV, Woolley boldly proclaimed that God Himself had given him these 2 items to keep him alive.

Further testimony came from his wife who suffered through days of not knowing whether her husband was dead or alive. Although in despair, she put her hope in the Lord. She said during the interview, "wherever Dan was, God was holding Dan in the palm of his hand. I just didn’t know if that was in Haiti or in heaven." What an incredible witness!

Not knowing whether he would survive or not, Woolley wrote a blood-stained letter to his 2 sons. The letter said, "I was in a big accident. Don’t be upset at God. He always provides for his children, even in hard times. I’m still praying that God will get me out, but He may not. But He will always take care of you." I love this! In the midst of affliction and uncertainty, Woolley kept His eyes on Jesus. He knew that regardless of what happened, that the Lord was with him. He wanted his kids to know that his suffering was not a reason to turn their backs on God. Whether he lived or died, Woolley knew that God's character and Word would remain the same. Because Woolley survived, that letter didn't serve the purpose it was intended to. However, the powerful words that were meant to be his final words to his boys are now national news, and they will surely be used by God to encourage, comfort, and challenge countless people. What a way to glorify God and show the world that His presence was and still is in that dark place.

Times of crisis often result in faith crises as well. It's easy to turn your back on God when you are suffering or don't see Him working. However, Dan Woolley never did that. His story is a powerful testimony to a steady faith based on the Word of God rather than on circumstances or feelings. I am sure that there are many other stories out there of ways God is being glorified in Haiti, though we may not hear them until we get to heaven. Until then, let me encourage you to take heart through this encouraging testimony of Dan Woolley and to follow his example of an unswerving trust in matter what.

*You can read the full article at:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Do You Want to Change the Way You Look?

Read Psalm 139:14: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

This week we find Heidi Montag on the cover of People magazine. Why does this girl keep popping up in the media? What has she accomplished? Well, this week she has accomplished getting not 1 but a whopping 10 plastic surgery procedures done in one day. Let's just say she doesn't look quite herself anymore...

But why get plastic surgery done at all? Let's think about this for a moment. Heidi is gorgeous...she's rich...she's famous...she has a man...she's young (23)...why the need to change herself, especially when she seems to have everything that most girls desire? She says in the article that over the past 3 years she has been agonizing over which procedures she wants done and is, "beyond obsessed" (her own words).

Heidi's drastic plastic surgery is proof that the things of this world cannot satisfy. Heidi wasn't content with her already incredible looks, wealth, and celebrity status. She was left wanting more and tried to find it through plastic surgery. Once the excitement of this wears off, she'll then go to something else to attempt to fill the void in her life. As believers, we know that she will continue to come up empty and unfulfilled unless she turns to Christ.

So here's the plastic surgery wrong? Is it a sin for Christians? Plastic surgery is obviously the result of a much deeper issue. Way before the massive expense and physical discomfort of going under the knife occurs, there is an obsession with image. Most women suffer from worshiping looks. There is so much pressure for women to be beautiful and so much temptation to compare themselves with the looks of others. They become obsessed with their flaws and "problem features" and spend hordes of time, money and energy on making themselves look better.

Do you think this obsession with looks glorifies God? When you think about it, it is incredibly selfish. Isn't our focus supposed to be on glorifying and worshiping God rather than our looks? How much time do you spend in front of the mirror in comparison to the amount of time you spend in the Word?

When I was in high school, someone asked me, "if you could change any physical feature on yourself, would you do it?" My answer back then was a resounding YES! I had a whole list of things I wanted to change! I was so focused on how I looked and was so disgusted with so many of my features. If only I could change certain things about myself, then I would be beautiful and everything would be better. I was then reminded that God carefully designed each of my physical features when He created me. None of it was a mistake. By constantly complaining about my looks and agonizing over how I could make myself look different, I was slapping my Creator in the face!

Psalm 139:14 is a beautiful verse. We're reminded that God doesn't make ugly stuff. All of His creation is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that includes you! You are a work of art designed by a loving Creator. Your features were not an accident or a mistake, but they were given to you by God. When you think about it like that, you're forced to think twice before altering yourself.

Today if someone asked me that same question they did in high school, my response would be much different. I can honestly say that I don't want to change anything about myself anymore. This obviously isn't because I look perfect, but it's because I've learned to be content with the way God has specifically designed me. Sure, I have my days where I struggle with image and don't like what I see in the mirror, but image doesn't have a hold on me like it used to. It is no longer an obsession or a constant area of concern or worry.

If you had the opportunity to alter your appearance like Heidi, would you do it? What do you think this says about your walk with God? If image is a major struggle for you, I'd encourage you to memorize Psalm 139:14 and quote it frequently. Pray that the Lord will change your heart and help you to take the focus off of yourself and on to Him, and that He will help you to be content with the way He has designed you~

God Loves to Use Ordinary People!

Read Acts 4:1-22

Have you ever felt inadequate to be used by God? Have you ever assumed God would rather use someone more "spiritual" than you to minister to others? I know I did! When I was starting college at Baylor, I began to explore what I wanted to do as a career. You may be surprised at this, but I didn't even give the idea of vocational ministry a second thought. One of the reasons I crossed this off my list was because I didn't think I was worthy of such a high calling. I thought God would only put super-spiritual perfect Christians in ministry, not ordinary people like me. However, when I started to lead small Bible studies for other college girls in my sorority and in my church, I had a revelation. I saw God use me in awesome ways and work through me to reach others. This is when I realized that I didn't have to be someone special to be used by God, because He would be the One doing the work... not me! When I teach and minister to others, I am fully aware that the Holy Spirit is working through me, and I know I am not doing it on my own. Because of the Holy Spirit, ordinary people like you and me can be used in amazing ways.

I love this story in Acts 4, because it shows us that Peter and John, 2 of the pillars of the Christian church, were just ordinary guys. In this story, Peter and John must go before the city officials and give an account for the miracle they had just performed and the message they were preaching. After Jesus' resurrection and return to heaven, Peter and John began proclaiming the good news of Jesus. They preached that Jesus was indeed the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for, that He had risen, and that He was the way to eternal life in heaven. They also had just healed a crippled man in the previous chapter in the name of Jesus Christ.

This gospel message was offensive to many people and caused an outrage. Peter and John were basically accusing these city officials of killing God's only Son. Naturally, they were a little upset and wanted to put a stop to it all. When they called Peter and John to the Sanhedrin to give an account for what they had done, these 2 men boldly reiterated that Jesus was the Christ.

Now listen carefully, because verse 13 is really amazing. It says, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that they had been with Jesus."
I love this! They're sitting there listening to Peter and John defend their faith, and they are amazed at how ordinary these guys are. They're not educated scholars with vast amounts of knowledge; they're just simple fisherman. Yet despite these humble beginnings, they're healing people and converting thousands to their faith! Though they were ordinary men, there was one thing that made them stand out. They had been with Jesus. Because of their relationship with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, they were transformed from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Peter and John's message was very simple. In verse 20 they state, "For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Peter and John were simply teaching others what they had experienced and learned by being with Jesus. By obediently sharing their testimony about Jesus, these ordinary men would lead thousands to Christ.

Perhaps you think you are inadequate to be used by God and therefore fail to seize opportunities to minister and evangelize. The truth is, we're all inadequate. However, when the Holy Spirit fills us, we are then given the power to do great things in His name. We just need to be available and obedient and then watch Him accomplish His work in and through us. God loves to use ordinary people like you and me! Pray today that the Lord will use you in amazing ways in ministry, service, and evangelism, and that He would give you the courage to trust Him and be obedient to that calling.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"He must become greater; I must become less."

Read John 3:30: "He must become greater; I must become less."

I absolutely love these 8 words from John the Baptist found in the book of John. What humility this man had! When you think about it, John the Baptist was a pretty important person and had a lot to brag about. First of all, John's birth was miraculous. He was born to an elderly barren woman, and an angel announced his future birth to his father (much like the announcement given to Mary concerning Jesus' birth). The angel said that John "would be great in the sight of the Lord," that he would be "filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb, "and that he would "turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God" (Luke 1:15-16). I'd say that he was a pretty significant person, wouldn't you?

In addition to this, John the Baptist was the one who would fulfill the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3, which says, "A voice is calling, Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God." John was the one chosen by God to prepare the way for the Messiah's coming. He also was the one selected by the Father to baptize Jesus Christ. What an honor!

However, despite all of these honors bestowed on John, he didn't become arrogant. He lived in the desert, wore clothes made of camel's hair, and ate locusts and wild honey. He certainly wasn't stuck up! John continually pointed to God and took the focus off of himself. You can see this clearly in his words in Matthew 3:11, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals." When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John was stunned and insisted that he needed to be baptized by Jesus, not the other way around!

That simple phrase, "He must become greater, and I must become less," characterized the life and ministry of John the Baptist. Though he certainly could have become puffed up with a sense of superiority, he remained humble and gave all the glory to God. I think this is why God chose John for this amazing task.

In high school, you don't see much humility. People are focused on themselves. I want to encourage you to break free from the narcissism that plagues your generation and instead put the focus on Christ. Make it your aim to give Him the glory in everything you do. Pray that God will reveal to you any areas of pride that you may have in your life and that He would give you a humble heart to serve Him with.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Great Commission as your New Year's Resolution

Read (and memorize) Matthew 28:19-2o: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Have you made a New Year's Resolution? If not, I've got a great one for you! How about using Jesus' last words on earth as your personal mission this year? After Jesus had resurrected from the grave, He made several appearances and finally gathered His followers together for one last lesson before He would ascend back into heaven. Christians call His final words to His followers "the Great Commission," and realize that they apply not only to those original disciples, but to all believers. This was and still is God's plan to bring people to salvation. Christians are to spread the good news to unbelievers everywhere.

Sound like an impossible task for a teenager in Spring, TX? Remember that nothing is impossible with God! We know from Scripture that God uses young people (the prophet Jeremiah was a youth, as was Timothy). But how do you go about fulfilling this command? There are many ways to fulfill this command, but I'll let you in on my favorite and most effective way of preaching the gospel...pray to the Lord to open doors to share the gospel and for the boldness and obedience to follow through.

I've found that if I try to evangelize to strangers without praying beforehand or relying on the Spirit, I don't have much success. However, when I specifically ask God to open up doors for me to share my faith, He does it every time. The problem is that I often forget to ask God to give me opportunities to share my faith. When I'm out running errands, I'm usually too focused on my own to-do list and getting everything done in a hurry to bother asking God to use me. But when I do, the results are amazing. Let me give you 2 recent examples to encourage you and to show you how incredible God is at answering this prayer!

Recently I went to get my hair cut. I've been going to the same guy for the last few haircuts, and I know from the things that he says that he is lost. I felt convicted about this while he was washing my hair, but I'm embarrassed to say that I simply didn't feel like getting into a deep spiritual conversation. I would rather just get my haircut and get out of selfish of me when I know someone is going to hell! Anyway, I decided to pray right there that if God wanted me to share the gospel with my hairdresser, that He would open up a door to do so. This guy and I start talking as he's trimming my hair, and sure enough, he says in the midst of our conversation, "I'm not religious." I almost wanted to start laughing, because God had made it so easy for me! It was obviously a perfect segway to start talking about my faith, and I was able to share the gospel with him. I walked away from the salon in awe of the Lord. It was so convicting to realize how many opportunities I miss in sharing the gospel, and also humbling to see that God is the one who does all of the work...I just have to be available and obedient.

Over the Christmas break, Lee and I went to Taos, New Mexico to go skiing with his family. As Lee and I were making the all-day trip, I started to realize that so far, this had all been about us. I started to feel convicted that we were so focused on ourselves and all the things we were going to do on our vacation, that we had failed to look for opportunities to minister to others. Lee and I prayed right there, as we were driving up to the cabin, that God would give us an opportunity to share the gospel with one person. During the trip, we met a few strangers, but we never seemed to have a conversation that lasted long enough to head toward spiritual matters. On the flight home, we sat by a guy who immediately went to sleep. I was a bit discouraged that we hadn't gotten to share with anyone, and we were now on our way home.

About 30-40 minutes before landing, the guy next to Lee wakes up, and Lee strikes up a conversation with him. I started praying immediately that God would turn the matters to spiritual things and that this man would be open to the gospel. For about 15-20 minutes they chatted about miscellaneous things, and I sat there on the other side of Lee just praying. Sure enough, this man got out a self-help book he had been reading and showed it to Lee. It was very unbiblical stuff...all about turning your life around by positive thinking and living to make yourself happy, etc. I smiled to myself, because I knew this was the perfect opportunity for Lee to share his testimony and faith with the man, and he did. They had a great conversation that really made the man think. We both left the airport praising God for answering prayer and opening doors!

When I was in high school, I frequently prayed for God to give me opportunities to witness and that He would give me boldness. As a result, I had many, many opportunities to share my faith with unbelievers. I would encourage you to seriously pray that God would open up doors for evangelism and that He would give you the courage to seize them. I'll close with a great verse found in Luke 12:11-12, "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."