Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Genesis 19: Escape for your Life!

Read Genesis 19:1-26

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is certainly not one of those "feel-good" Bible stories parents like to read to their children before bed. The infamous encounter between Lot, the 2 angels, and the wicked men of Sodom in Genesis 19 is hard to stomach. Nevertheless, I believe there is much to learn from this passage concerning the correct attitude toward sin.

After we see a glimpse of the dark and perverse deeds that are rampant in Sodom in verses 1-11, we see God's response to this great evil in verse 12 when the angels say, "For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord and Lord has sent us to destroy it." Remember that God always judges sin. Though it sometimes seems like the wicked are getting away with their sins without consequence, God sees all that goes on and He will not leave sin unpunished. In this passage, God has had enough of Sodom and Gomorrah and has decided to wipe them out completely.

In the midst of God's wrath and judgment, we see a glimpse of God's mercy in saving a remnant from destruction. Verse 16 says, "and while he (Lot) lingered, the men took hold of his hand, the wife's hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought them out and set him outside the city." This is a beautiful picture of the gospel...sin brings destruction, but through God's mercy we're delivered from death through faith. Without God's intervention in sending Jesus to die for us, we would all be in the same boat as the people of Sodom. Don't you love the way the gospel is weaved into the entire Bible? The whole Bible always goes back to this same message!!

Listen to the angels' words in verse 17: "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed." In the midst of the wickedness surrounding him, Lot is urged to run as fast as he can in the opposite direction, or he will literally be destroyed. Is this not the case for us as well? We often are content to dwell among sin and linger as Lot did (16). We may even have the lackadaisical attitude that Lot's sons-in-law had, who refused to believe that anything serious would really happen to them if they continued to dwell in that wicked place (14). Or we could even resemble Lot's wife and foolishly look back with longing at our former sinful life rather than embracing the new life God has offered us (26). Do not be fooled into thinking there will not be consequences for disobedience and will reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7).

Girls, let me remind you that complacently remaining in the midst of sin will undoubtedly destroy you. If you do not have a sense of urgency to escape from all sin, you will get swept up into it. We are sinners by nature and "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt 26:41). We must not be naive in thinking that we can dwell among sin without consequence, but we must have an urgency to flee from sin as fast as we can. When faced in a tempting situation, don't linger and don't look back...escape for your spiritual life!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2 Chronicles 20: Who Do You Turn To??

Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Don't you love it when God speaks to you through His Word? I try to make it a point to read through all books of Scripture in my quiet times rather than just focusing on the books that are more well-known or easier to read. I always love it when I'm reading a more obscure book of the Bible and an amazing little piece of truth jumps off the page and ministers to me.

When reading in 2 Chronicles this morning, this prayer by King Jehoshaphat in chapter 20 really touched me. When the King hears that a multitude of people are coming to Judah to wage war against him, Jehoshaphat immediately responds with prayer. He could have spent that initial time gathering all of his best officers and drafting a battle plan, but instead, he turned to God. Verses 3 and 4 say, "Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the Lord." In response to this terrifying news of an impending attack, everyone in Judah joined together to cry out to their only Hope...the only One who could save them.

In Jehoshaphat's prayer, he proclaims to the Lord that He is ruler over all, and power and might belong to Him. He confesses that when God's people cry out to Him in their distress, God hears and brings deliverance. My favorite part comes at the very end of his prayer when he says in verse 12, "O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” Jehoshaphat confesses his complete powerlessness to know what to do on his own...but rather than falling into despair or trying to fix things by his own might, he fixes his eyes on God.

This is so applicable to our lives as believers. So often we face problems that seem to overwhelm us. Our fleshly response is usually either to worry or to try to come up with a solution on our own. Why is it so hard for us to fall onto our face before our Father in heaven and confess, "I do not know what to do, but my eyes are on you!" Is God not big enough to deliver you from any situation if He chooses to do so? Is God not loving enough to have mercy on you in your desperation? Is God not powerful enough to help you? Is He not kind enough to comfort and encourage you as no one else can? I am certainly convicted by Jehoshaphat's humility and complete dependence on God for help in His time of desperation. May we all learn from this beautiful prayer he uttered so many years ago~

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jeremiah 17:9: Should you Follow your Heart??

I can't recall how many times I have heard people say, "follow your heart" or ask, "What is your heart telling you?" Our culture sends us many messages...some positive and some negative...and as Christians we have the responsibility to test this worldly wisdom against the standard of Scripture. Many pieces of advice given to us by society may sound great, but if they don't align with the one Truth revealed in God's Word, we must reject them. "Follow your heart" sounds sweet and inspiring, etc...but is it biblical?

Unfortunately, it's not. Jeremiah 17:9 reveals to us the true state of our heart. It says:
"The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?"
Ouch...not very optimistic news about the state of our hearts. The truth is, our hearts are wicked, and they deceive us. We can't trust in our own fleshly feelings and impulses, because we all have a sin nature.

The advice to "follow your heart" is perhaps the most dangerous when it comes to romantic relationships. "If it feels right, do it," seems to be the common worldly philosophy when it comes to love. The world seems to think that when you fall in love with someone, it's all must obey your heart. That may sound good, but what if you're already married? What if the person you fall for is married? What if he's a drug-dealer, an alcoholic, a convicted felon? Do you follow your heart then? Can you see how this is quite dangerous advice to follow? I imagine you won't "fall in love" at age 16 with a drug addict or a married man. But, many of you will fall for boys who you know aren't living for the Lord. You want a boyfriend so bad, and you like a certain guy so much, that you would rather feed that desire than do what is honoring to the Lord. Our hearts continually deceive us into justifying decisions that don't glorify God. We can't trust ourselves! We must put our trust in God alone!

I'm currently reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and I am loving it. One reason that I am enjoying it is that it sends such a different message than our culture sends us. In the book (spoiler alert!), Jane falls desperately in love with Mr. Rochester. They seem to be so perfectly suited for each other and their love for one another is passionate and strong. After Mr. Rochester confesses his feelings for Jane and proposes to her, she experiences sheer and total bliss. She is beside herself with happiness and head over heals for her fiance. The only problem occurs on their wedding day, when she finds out that Mr. Rochester has secretly been keeping his insane and uncontrollable wife locked in his attic. After hearing this, Jane is undone. Her feelings for Mr. Rochester remain as strong and fervent as ever before, in fact, she forgives him immediately for deceiving her. However, she quickly decides that she can't compromise her integrity and stay involved with someone who is already married, despite the fact that his wife is demented. Listen to her inner struggle:
"I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fury iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved; and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and I must renounce love and idol. One dead word comprised my intolerable duty--'Depart!' (321).
The easy thing for Jane to do would be to stay with Mr. Rochester, the one man she truly loved and adored. At least, that's what her heart was telling her to do. However, she decided to deny her own emotions and do what she knew to be right. She couldn't stay with someone who was married, not matter how much her heart clung to him.

A story like Jane Eyre is practically unheard of today. The advice nowadays would be to let your heart lead you. Following your heart is the easier thing to do, and it will make you temporarily happy as you indulge your feelings. Following God, on the other hand, will be harder. It will mean denying yourself and surrendering your life and desires to Him. But by choosing His way, you will experience the joy, peace, hope, and purpose that you can find no where else. Girls, don't follow your heart...follow God's heart~

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Encouragement from J.I. Packer

I just read a really encouraging passage of truth from one of my favorite authors, J.I. Packer, from his book "God's Plans for You." I thought I would share it with you~

"It is a mistake, as we saw earlier, to imagine that the good of which God works is our unbroken ease and comfort. God's goal is, rather, our sanctification and Christlikeness, the true holiness that is the highway to happiness. Constant ease and comfort, therefore, are contentment from their knowledge that God is making everything that happens to them a means of furthering and realizing their glorious destiny. 'Whatever is good for God's children, they shall have it,' wrote Richard Sibbes the Puritan, 'for all is theirs to further them to heaven. If crosses be good, they shall have them; if disgrace be good, they shall have it, for all is ours, to serve our main good.' To understand this statement is to have the secret of abiding contentment in one's grasp" (119).

God never promised Christians an easy or comortable life. In fact, He promised us trials, suffering, and persecution! How do we maintain our joy in Christ through these seasons of pain? By remembering that God is still in control, that He still has a plan, and that He will work everything together for good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

1 Peter 5:8: Our Enemy

1 Peter 5:8: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

I'm not sure where the image of the devil as a cute little red creature with a tail, horns and pitchfork came from, but I know that it certainly didn't come from the Bible. It makes me sick around Halloween to see children dressed as little devils. It made me so uncomfortable in high school that our school mascot was a demon (which is why I had no school spirit and never purchased a class ring, demon t-shirts or other paraphernalia!). Why do I take things like this so seriously? What troubles me is that the world is making light of something that is gravely serious. The Scriptures don't paint Satan as a cute little mischievous creature. The Scriptures paint Satan as a savage beast out to kill.

Peter warns Christians in this verse to be "sober" and "alert." We are to be on our guard against spiritual attack at all times, protected by our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:13-20). Though it is a grave mistake to give Satan too much credit and focus on Him too much, it is also a tragic error to ignore him altogether. There is a spiritual battle going on that we can't see with our own eyes. We must remember who our enemy is and be on our guard against his devious schemes, temptations, and outright lies. How do we do this? Stay in the Word, which is the only truth, and pray that God will "keep us from temptation, and deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13)

The reason Peter instructs us to be "sober" and "alert," is because we have an "adversary, the devil." If you are someone who thinks she has no enemies, think again! As Christians, the devil despises us. What does he spend his time doing? This verse tells us that he "prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour." He is a troublemaker. He isn't just a bit mischievous, he is a thoroughly vicious and evil beast. What is he trying to devour? Well, the good news is that he can't take away your salvation. However, he can attempt to weaken your faith, rob you of your joy, and make you an ineffective and unproductive Christian. Right now, I feel that I am under attack from the enemy. I know that as someone in vocational ministry, he especially hates me and wants to destroy my work. He is relentlessly trying to discourage me and bring me down. Perhaps this is the reason that the average tenure for a youth minister is 1 year! Its hard to persevere while under attack.

That's the end of the verse, but I don't want to leave you on such a depressing note! As I said before, while we must soberly understand the reality of demonic assault, we also shouldn't give the devil more credit than he deserves. Remember that the devil's power is nothing compared to the all-surpassing authority, dominion, power, and majesty of our God. God is still in control. Satan knows all too well that his demise is coming, and he will be cast into eternal torment one day soon. Until then, we don't have to be afraid of him, because we have God on our side. Satan and his minions are nothing before Him. They tremble at the sound of Jesus' name. He has the victory over evil, and as believers, we share in that victory. We don't need to be afraid...just alert. Be aware that you have an enemy who is trying to bring you down, but you also have an infinitely more powerful God who loves, protects, and cares for you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caring for the Orphans~

James 1:27 says this: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

There's no getting around it...God has called Christians to care for the orphans. This means, that as believers, we're called to be ministering to the orphans of this world in some way or another. This could be by adopting an orphan either domestically or internationally. It may mean committing to daily prayer for the orphans to be protected from harm and placed in loving Christian homes. It may mean giving financially to orphanages or families who do feel called to adopt. Or it could mean flying overseas and ministering to orphans all over the world firsthand.

My sister Julie and her husband Flynn have felt called to adopt a baby from Uganda. They are just starting out in the process, and need all the prayer and encouragement they can get! Please commit to praying for them and consider making a donation if you are led~

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What Will Be Said At Your Funeral??

Recently, I attended a funeral in the Dallas area for Clint Dobson, a pastor who was tragically murdered at his church. I've never personally known someone who was murdered, and it's unthinkable to imagine something so horrendous happening to anyone you know. Because of the nature of Clint's death, I was unsure of what to expect at his funeral. Could God be glorified after such a tragic end to the life of one of His servants? After attending that funeral, I can answer a resounding yes to that question.

At the funeral, there was testimony after testimony given of the quality of Clint's life on earth. Many things were said, but the same message pervaded the entire service...Clint lived His life wholeheartedly for the Lord. Above all else, He loved the Lord with all of his heart, mind, and strength. He loved to preach, to study God's Word, to debate theology, and to minister to other people. He also dearly loved his sweet wife Laura and was fully committed to her and their marriage. What an amazing legacy to leave.

If I were to die today, the things said about Clint are exactly the things I would want to be said about me. I would love to be able to leave this earth fully confident that I had lived my life for the Lord alone....that I had loved Him above all else, that I had loved His Word, that I had passionately ministered to others, and that I had loved my husband unconditionally. Clint's funeral really inspired me to reevaluate how I am living my life and seriously consider what would be said about me if I were to die today. I want to encourage you to consider the same question. If something were to happen to you, and you were taken from this earth today, what would people say about you at your funeral? What would your obituary or your tombstone read? Could people honestly come forward and state that you lived a life of fierce devotion to the Lord above all else?

Check out this news clip about Clint's funeral service:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Disturbing Video...

I don't want to beat a dead horse...but I do feel compelled to comment on the Rob Bell controversy in my blog, specifically for those who haven't heard of this situation yet. The reason I want to put in my two cents, is because Bell's video flat-out scares me. It's haunting. The frightening thing is that he is one of the most well known Christian figures today (over 50,000 followers on Twitter), yet he is very clearly in this video rejecting the gospel message of the Bible and preaching a very different gospel. I recently wrote a post on the passage in Matthew 7 that talks about false teachers, who Jesus calls wolves in sheep's clothing. Rob Bell is definitely a wolf, but he has taken off the sheep's clothing...he is clearly balking at the biblical and orthodox Christian view of the gospel and exposing himself for the false teacher that he is. Check out this video:

I obviously can't comment on the book, because it hasn't been released yet, but I can comment on this video. In this promotional video, Rob Bell criticizes a comment someone made saying that Gandhi is in hell, and scoffs at the claim that only a few will go to heaven and the rest will burn in hell for eternity. It's an appalling thing to say for someone who claims to be a Christian and is leading a church of thousands. What he is promoting is the idea of universalism and possibly an annihilist view as well.

Universalism teaches that all paths lead to heaven, and the annihilist view teaches that hell isn't eternal punishment (people who go to hell will die there). Both of these views go against clear biblical teaching. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." Acts 4:12 says, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” It is clear from these passages and many others, that we are only saved through Jesus. He is the only way to heaven. Gandhi was a hindu, not a believer in Jesus, so unless he made a deathbed confession of faith that no one knows about, he is in hell. He did many good things on earth, but the Bible clearly teaches that being good won't get you into heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The fact that hell is eternal punishment is an extremely troubling truth, but it is truth from Scripture nonetheless. If we want to call ourselves Christians, we need to accept the whole Bible...not just pick and choose which passages we would like. Revelation 20:10 describes the horrible reality of hell, saying, "And the devil who desceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever," and 20:15 says, "Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire."

We have to realize that hell is what we all deserve. No one on this earth can deny that they are wicked sinners, born into this world bent on rebellion against their Creator. It is our own wretchedness that puts us under God's wrath, and we have no one to blame for this but our own wicked selves. God shows His great mercy to us by sending His only Son to die for all of us who didn't deserve salvation (Romans 5:8). Those who believe in Christ and accept His gift of salvation will live eternally in the Kingdom of heaven, while those who refuse to ackowledge him will burn eternally in hell. Revelation teaches that even during the Tribulation period, when people are seeing with their own eyes the power and judgment of God, many will still refuse to repent of their wickedness and will continue to worship idols rather than acknowledge the true God (Rev. 9:20-21). The judgment of hell is not a reflection of how awful God is, because without judging sin, He wouldn't be just or holy. He would be a weak, passive, and tolerant figure...not one to be revered and feared.

I beg you not to be deceived by blatant false teaching such as that demonstrated in this disturbing video. As believers, we must speak out against heresy and ardently defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. God help us!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is Revenge Really Sweet?

Lee has been studying 24/7 for the bar exam lately (which he takes this week!), which means I've had some extra alone time. Usually when he's busy, I use some of that time to catch up on my chick flicks (not Lee's favorite movie genre). I had been really wanting to see You Again, and I'm ashamed to say, I also had Revenge of the Bridesmaids in my Netflix queue as well (you probably haven't heard of the latter--it is a recent made-for-TV movie, which I hope doesn't make you lose all respect for me). I enjoyed both of them, though I thought You Again was far better. Not only did it have much better acting, a better plot, and better filming, but it also had a much better message.

In case you haven't seen either of these movies, they both involve the issue of revenge. In Revenge of the Bridesmaids, 3 girls plot to overthrow their evil high school nemesis's upcoming wedding. The bride-to-be is arrogant, selfish, and conniving, and her rivals must rescue the unsuspecting groom before it's too late. You Again has a similar plot. The main character goes back home for her brother's wedding, only to find out that he is marrying the evil girl who used to bully her in high school. She makes it her mission to expose the bride for who she really is and stop the wedding from happening, also in order to save the oblivious groom (question--why are these guys so clueless??). The movies are very similar in that both are seeking revenge on someone who has seriously wronged them in the past. The difference is that in You Again, the main character, Marni, realizes that revenge isn't quite as sweet as she thought it would be.

In Revenge of the Bridesmaids, the girls succeed in sabotaging the wedding, exposing the bride for who she really is in front of all her wedding guests, and ultimately getting what they want in the end. The message this sends is that we have a right to put mean people in their place and expose them to the world. If we seek revenge on those who have wronged us, we will triumph. In You Again, Marni successfully exposes the bride, Joanna, at her rehearsal dinner, showing a video of Joanna in her evil high school days. As a result, her groom walks out on her, and she is completely humiliated...this also results in a physical fight between the two girls. Marni has her revenge, but it hasn't been sweet or satisfying. Her brother is enraged that she would ruin the best weekend of his life, and her parents are shocked at how vindictive she has been. The message in this movie is that seeking revenge does not pay off. Marni got what she wanted by exposing Joanna, but it only made her feel guilty and miserable in the end.

As girls, we're great at holding grudges and getting back at the ones who have wronged us. The revenge we seek on someone probably won't be as drastic as that attempted by the girls in these movies, but it happens on a smaller scale all the same. We seek revenge by gossiping about the person and putting him/her down in front of others. We seek revenge by giving people the cold shoulder. We give dirty looks, we snub people, we flirt with the guy we know our friend likes, we intentionally hurt them in order to make ourselves feel better. But does this work? Do you ever actually feel better after doing any of this? Putting down someone may make you feel better for a little while, but don't you always end up feeling guilty for being so catty?

What does God have to say on the topic of revenge? Here are a few verses on the topic that can speak for themselves. Leviticus 19:18 says, "‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." Romans 12:17-21 says, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. 'But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.'"

God clearly doesn't want us taking revenge out on each other. Instead, we're called to forgive and show love to those who have wronged us. This doesn't mean that justice shouldn't be served and lies shouldn't be exposed, but it does mean that there is no room for a vengeful, vindictive attitude toward those who have wronged you. Remember that you are not in the role of punisher/judge. God clearly says that vengeance is His alone. Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." People will eventually reap the consequences of their actions. Nobody gets away with wickedness completely scot-free. Hebrews 4:13 says, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." God sees everything that is going on, and it will one day be exposed and judged...but it's not your job to do the exposing and punishing. When you really think about it, what gives you the right? Surely you have wronged others yourself, haven't you? I know I have!

Revenge may make for an interesting and exciting movie plot, but it doesn't pay off in real life. Repent of any grudges you may be holding against people who have wronged you, and release those feelings of retribution over to God~

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are you All In??

Check out this awesome quote by C.S. Lewis:

"The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked--the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'"
from Mere Christianity (196-197)

When it comes to your relationship with Christ, are you all in?? So often we are willing to give part of our lives over to Christ, but there are certain things we want to hold onto. But God doesn't want just part of our hearts. He is a jealous God, which means He wants all of us! Do you have one foot in the world and one foot in the church? Are you willing to let Christ reign in certain parts of your life but unwilling to give Him control in other areas? This is not how the Christian life was meant to be lived out.

Spend some time in silent reflection, asking God to examine your heart and reveal areas of your life you are unwilling to give over to Him. Have you surrendered your love life to Him? What about your future plans and career aspirations? How about your social status at school? There is such incredible joy and comfort in laying everything at His feet--all your dreams, all your desires, all your possessions, all your gifts and resources--and saying in full sincerity, "Take it ALL Lord--everything I am, all that I own is yours alone. I don't care about anything else, because all I want is You. Take my's yours." This is a prayer that will change your life, and you'll never look back!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Bema: Part 2

We already established in the last blog post what the Bema is and what will happen there. Now we're going to cover the different types of rewards offered in heaven. What kinds of things will Christians be rewarded for? One thing I know for sure...the things that we'll be rewarded for in heaven are going to be radically different than the types of things we receive rewards for on earth. God isn't going to care who was the best looking or best dressed on earth, He isn't going to reward the people with the highest number of baskets or touchdowns on earth, and He isn't going to reward those with the best grades or largest number of college scholarships. No, the things God values are much different than the things that the world values, and I think everyone is going to be very surprised at which believers receive the highest honors in heaven. It won't necessarily be the preacher of the biggest mega-church in the world, but it may be the humble widow who prayed fervently and gave all she had to missions. Let's examine a few passages that discuss the types of things that will earn us eternal rewards in the kingdom.

In Matthew 6:1-6 and 6:16-18, Jesus talks about three things which believers will be for rewarded in heaven, namely giving, praying, and fasting. This passage teaches that believers who practice these three spiritual disciplines will be rewarded for their righteousness in heaven. However, there is a catch! If a believer does these things with the wrong heart, they will receive nothing from the Lord. Those who tithe, pray, and fast in an ostentatious way in order to have people notice them will not be rewarded in heaven; other peoples' approval of them on earth will be the only reward they receive. If we want to be rewarded for the righteous deeds we do in heaven, we need to do those things only for Him.

In Matthew 5:11-12, we see another instance in which we will be rewarded by the Father. Jesus says in this passage, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” He is saying that there will be rewards in heaven for those who are persecuted for His name on earth. That gives us a reason to rejoice in our persecution!

In the following passages, we see that there are 4 crowns that are named in the Scriptures that certain believers will receive in heaven for certain things. The first one is the crown of righteousness. 2 Timothy 4:8 says, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” This crown will be awarded to those who have longed for the second coming of Christ, just like Paul did!

The crown of life will be awarded to those who withstood trials while remaining faithful to Christ. James 1:12 says, "
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." Revelation 2:10 also talks about the crown of life: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.This crown is given to the ones who continued to hold onto their faith through tribulations, though for some that ended in death and martyrdom.

Peter talks about the crown of glory in 1 Peter 5:1-4, which reads, " To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.Peter is talking to the leaders of the church. If they led their flocks with care, service, integrity, and humility, and led by example, they would receive this crown.

The last crown we see mentioned is the crown of exultation in 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20. In this verse, Paul mentions that he will receive this crown for leading them to Christ! In verse 19 he says, "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?" Likewise, we will receive rewards for bringing the lost to salvation.

Oh how I long for Jesus to say to me when I arrive in the kingdom: "Well done, my good and faithful servant!" I have such a long way to go. This teaching on the Bema should serve as a strong challenge to us believers. Take some time to ask God to examine your heart, and think about what you spend your life pursuing. Are you aiming to be the most popular girl at school, the best-dressed, the most athletic, the most talented, the smartest, etc? Or are you striving to be the most gentle, the most loving, the boldest evangelist, the holiest, or the greatest prayer warrior? Spend some time thinking about this now, because when we arrive at the Bema, it will be too late to go back...

The Bema

Do you remember any of the rewards you won in elementary school? Even though I'm 26, I still remember the 1st place ribbon I received in 5th grade for the hula hoop contest. I also remember winning "camper of the week" at camp that summer. Kind of sad that I still remember awards like that, isn't it? I think earning a reward can really make an impact on people. To be recognized for hard work is a great feeling. Did you know that God will also hand out rewards when we get to heaven one day?

Have you ever heard of the Bema? Well, if you haven't, I'm sure you're not alone. It's not something generally talked about at great length in our churches. The Bema is the Judgment Seat of Christ. After Christ returns, there are going to be 2 Judgments that will take place, namely the Great White Throne Judgment and the Bema, or the Judgment seat of Christ. The Great White Throne Judgment is for all people who have ever lived on earth. In this judgment, God will separate the sheep from the goats--believers from nonbelievers. All those who have trusted in Christ as their Savior will go to heaven, while all those who did not will go to hell. The Bema, however, is for believers only. At the Bema, God will hand out awards to believers for their service on earth.

Tony Evans compares the Bema to a school "honors night" program in his book The Best is Yet to Come. On that awards night, the students who worked hard and excelled will be recognized for their year of hard work. Those who did not apply themselves in school and wasted their school year will receive nothing. These "slacker" students won't be punished, they will just experience the loss of reward. At the Bema, those Christians who faithfully followed the Lord on earth will be rewarded for their life of service to them. Those who failed to live for Him will experience loss of reward.

Let's look at some scriptures that talk about the Bema. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says,“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done.” No believer will escape this judgment! 1 Corinthians 4-5 says this, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” Tired of fake Christians? They'll be exposed in time. At the Bema, the true motives and state of each believer's heart will be revealed. It's not enough just to do good works, because Scripture makes it clear that God cares much more about the heart behind the action. If a good work is done out of an impure motive, then it counts for nothing.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 says, “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” The works of believers will be burned through fire to test their quality and reveal which ones were done with a pure motive. Those works which were pure and genuine (gold, silver, and precious stones) will survive the fire, and the Christians who performed those works will be rewarded for them. The works that were done with wicked motives or impure intentions (wood, hay, and straw) will be burned up at the Bema. Those believers will experience a loss of reward.

Now I know some of you are thinking, "Aren't we forgiven for our wickedness? Why are we under judgment again in heaven?" That's a great question. I want to emphasize that the Bema is in no way a place where sins are punished. If you are a believer, all of your sins were nailed to the cross of Jesus and were paid in full. God does not hold you responsible for your sins anymore, because they were wiped clean and erased forever. Remember that Romans 8:1 says, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!" The Judgment Seat of Christ is not a time of punishment in any way, but is rather a time of reward.

In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” As believers, we shouldn't be pursuing rewards or treasures on this earth, but we should rather be storing up treasures in heaven! But how do we get these treasures? What kinds of things are we rewarded for? I'll cover this in my next post!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Part 2: Gay Marriage

While some of you may be feeling confused about the correct Christian response to homosexuality, (due to convincing arguments from the other side which appeal to our female compassion for the oppressed) the Bible is crystal clear on this issue. Despite the fact that many people in the homosexual community claim to be Christians and follow the Bible, this is not a gray issue. If these individuals honestly think that homosexuality is acceptable according to the Bible, they're simply not reading it. Let's look at the text.

When discussing the issue of marriage, it is necessary to go back to the very beginning...the very first marriage in history between Adam and Eve. It is significant to note that marriage was God's idea. He instituted it in the first place, and Adam and Eve's union is now our model for marriage. I could go into this in more detail, but I will just say that from this creation account, we can clearly see that marriage is between one man and one woman. Genesis 2:24 states, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." Once Eve ate the fruit and sin entered the world, God's perfect design for marriage and sex (as demonstrated by Adam and Eve before the fall) became distorted. Anything outside of a heterosexual, monogamous union is a perversion of God's idea of marriage.

After the fall in Genesis 3, wickedness becomes rampant and sexual perversions soon surface. When God later presents His law to the Jewish people, He gives specific guidelines for sexual relationships. In Leviticus 18, God forbids sexual perversions such as incest, polygamy, adultery, and yes...homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 says, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." This is strong wording. God is not sugar-coating homosexuality or giving any loophole for it to be acceptable...He calls it a flat-out disgusting abomination.

In Romans 1:26-27, we again see homosexuality condemned as "unnatural" and "indecent." This is against God's natural order for marriage and sex, and is therefore a rebellious sin against Him. Homosexuality is again condemned in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, in a list of "unrighteous" sins in which one cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We find it again in 1 Timothy 1:8-11, in which Paul lists homosexuality as an "unholy and profane" act, among other atrocious sins. Some proponents of homosexuality will try to convince you that this practice was only condemned under the Old Testament, but this is untrue. Look up these verses!

We've established that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman, and for sex only to occur within marriage. Knowing this, no one who calls herself a Christian should support homosexual marriage or vote for a candidate who supports it, in my opinion. However, our response to homosexuals themselves should be one of love and compassion. Christians should never take any part in acts of cruelty or violence toward a homosexual. They are to be loved and shown mercy and kindness to, just like any other nonbeliever. Perhaps your love and grace toward them will bring them to Christ. They are just sinners in need of a Savior.

For those of you who know gay people in your schools, I would encourage you to pray fervently for them. Homosexuality is a lonely lifestyle that leads to an early death (their life expectancy is decades shorter than a heterosexual's). While we should never compromise on the truth of Scripture and condone a practice that is wicked in God's eyes, we are called to show compassion to the lost. It is doing homosexuals no favor to give them more freedom to practice their sinful lifestyle. What they really need is the turn away from their sins and experience the freedom and salvation only Christ can bring. Let us all join in praying for a spiritual awakening in the homosexual community and its supporters~

The Biblical Response to the Gay-Marriage Debate

I recently read an article that reported that George Bush's daughter, Barbara, has appeared in an advertisement for "The Human Rights Campaign" promoting gay marriage. She is following John McCain's daughter, Meghan, and Dick Cheney's daughter, Mary, who have also spoken out for gay rights. All 3 of these girls are daughters of Republican politicians who have adamantly opposed gay marriage.

The trend that is appearing, is that the younger generation is more tolerant of homosexuality than the older generation. The view that homosexual marriage should be banned is now seen as archaic and old-fashioned. Though homosexuals only make up a very minute percentage of the population, their voices and their supporters' voices, are very loud. Perhaps the loudest voices promoting homosexual rights are in Hollywood. The 2 most popular and critically acclaimed shows on television, "Modern Family" and "Glee" have major characters who are homosexuals. 2 of the most celebrated movies of the year, which have both been nominated for multiple Oscars, feature blatant homosexuality (Black Swan, and The Kids are All Right).

I think that the issue of homosexuality is especially impacting teenagers. I am told by girls in public school that the number of homosexuals that have "come out" in their schools is rapidly growing. This is partly, in my opinion, due to homosexual propaganda in the media, and also partly due to a teen's identity struggles. Teens are trying to find out "who they are" and establishing an identity for themselves. Being homosexual provides them with an identity and a group to belong to. However, homosexuality is most of all a sin issue, plain and simple.

When Christians attempt to speak out on this issue, we are misunderstood and just seen as mean, prejudiced, and judgmental. I know that many of you who attend public school are confused on this issue. You know Christians are supposed to love everyone, but you've also been taught that homosexuality is wrong. You have met some really nice gay people, and you feel sorry for them when they're ridiculed or rejected. It's so easy to be swayed by the world on this issue, because the world preaches a message that sounds good, saying things like, "they're just in love like any other couple" or "everyone deserves equal rights," etc. The problem with this mindset, is that it is completely opposite of the message the Bible is sending. In my next post, we'll examine what the Bible says about homosexuality and what the Christian response should be to homosexuals.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Problem with Oprah

It's finally happening...Oprah is taking over the world. Well, maybe not the world, but she is launching her very own TV network, The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), on cable. This is just what America needs (sarcasm alert!). What is my problem with Oprah Winfrey, you ask? Don't get me wrong, I recognize her generosity and the amount of charity work she does globally. However, I also realize that her self-help brand of Christianity is leading countless people astray. Simply speaking, she's a false teacher, a wolf in sheep's clothing who looks like a great Christian on the outside but is far from knowing the truth revealed in Scripture.

Last weekend, Oprah donned the cover of the "Parade" insert in the Houston Chronicle. When asked about the launch of her new network, Oprah responded:
"I’m concerned about the bigger overall picture: my belief that people are basically good and want to see the good in them reflected through their experiences and the shows that they watch. This is a gamble I’m taking. I believe that the banal state of television, the kind of insipid space that we’re in—that you can have as many channels as we have and not find anything that really interests you—means that to a great extent we’ve lost our way."

It is clear from this quote that Oprah doesn't believe in original sin. Total depravity, the belief that humans are fallen and are born into this world bent on rebellion to their Creator, is a fundamental Christian doctrine. If you don't believe that you have a wretched sin nature, then you have no need for a Savior. If people are basically good, as Oprah teaches, then why did Jesus have to die for our sins? You only have to spend 5 minutes with a toddler to understand the reality of original sin. No one has to teach a child to disobey his parents, to hit his sister, or to grab a toy from a friend and scream "Mine!" Sin is innate within us, and without Jesus, we have no hope.

Oprah is right in noticing that "we've lost our way." However, the solution is not more self-help shows, but Jesus Christ and His Word. It's alarming to me to read Oprah complain that most TV shows are too mindless, and then to want to fix this problem with more TV shows. She makes the comment, "I think that there are people who want to be fed just a little more;" but she's talking about feeding them more mindless self-help shows, when what they really need to be fed with is God's Word! Oprah's line-up of programs include shows that show people how to get organized, how to improve their relationships, how to cook better, etc. Learning how to be more organized or how to cook a better omelet is not going to save you! You can't save yourself, which is the problem with the self-help philosophy. Only Jesus has the power to transform lives and bring hope and purpose.

I point this out in order to show you how pervasive false teaching is today. The things people like Oprah say sound great, but they don't mean anything. It's not about "living your best life" as she often says, but about dying to yourself and surrendering your life to Christ, as the Bible says! Do you see the difference? Pray every day for discernment, and be careful not to accept the things you hear just because they sound good~

You can check out the full article at:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's Leviticus got to do with me??

I'm not going to lie, Leviticus is not my favorite book of the Bible. When I was a teenager, I had a hard time understanding how books like this had much value. Now as an adult, I can appreciate the fact that all 66 books of the Bible are packed with truth, because they are all inspired by God. Leviticus didn't make it into the canon by mistake...God meant for it to be there! But why? What profit can there be for 21st century Christians in reading this book? Well, I'm glad you asked! Let's explore that question...

If you haven't brushed up on Leviticus lately, let me give you a brief overview. The book contains many meticulous lists covering laws given to the Jews by God. These include specific instructions for how to prepare burnt offerings (which type of animal to use, when these offerings should take place, what the priest's role is, etc), descriptions of the types of food they were allowed or forbidden to eat, specifications for what made the people clean or unclean (because of disease, childbirth, sin, etc), how to celebrate the various festivals, etc. These instructions are highly detailed and meticulous, and can be difficult to read through.

Why would God go to such tremendous length to enforce such specific instructions? Why would he care what type of sores they had on their body, whether or not they ate animals with hooves that chewed the cud, or how long new mothers waited before returning to their religious duties (all of these things appear in Leviticus!)? When you first begin to read these extensive laws, it seems a bit unnecessary. However, God had a great purpose for enforcing so many restrictions on the Jews. He had chosen them as His people out of all of the nations on the earth, and He wanted them to be set apart from the rest of the world. He wanted them to live in such a way that was so radically different than the other nations, that everyone would know that the Jews were a special nation.

In Leviticus 11:44-47, God says this, "'For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy. This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.'" God wanted to make a distinction between His people, the Jews, and the rest of the nations. His people would be separate and holy, set apart from the pagan nations that surrounded them. In Leviticus 10:10, God talks about making "a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean." The Jews were different, and God used these laws and regulations to make that fact clear to everyone.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, we begin to see many things change in the New Testament. For example, all animals were now considered clean, and burnt sacrifices were no longer needed, because Jesus' sacrifice covered sins once for all. However, one thing did remain the same. Believers in Christ were still called to be set apart and holy for God, just as the Jews were called to be in Leviticus. Ephesians 1:4 says, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him," and Romans 1:7 calls Christians "loved by God and called to be His holy people." 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, "Therefore, 'Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'”

Just as God called the Jews to live a life totally set apart from the pagan nations, Christians are also called to live a life set apart from the unbelievers among us. Do you live a life of holiness, set apart for the Lord? Or do you compromise and blend in with those around you, with your life looking no different than an unbeliever's? Take some time to pray over this issue, asking God to examine your heart~