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 life...it'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 gospel...to 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.