2012-03-30

Racism, Prejudice, and Discrimina​tion

Flickr, © Freestyle
 Before I begin this post the first thing to understand in this, is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. Right?

As Christians we should diligently seek God's guidance and convictions upon our flesh. So, what does the Bible say about this disease that has infected our generations?

God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died.

Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this SHOULD NOT BE. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” - That passage sounds easy, but ask yourself- Am I able to do this?

Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. And there are those that do practice racism- “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This post may be one of many to come on this subject... so stay tuned and connected.

2012-03-28

The Cross of Christ

Romans 3:20-26

As Christians, we know that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. But why did He have to endure such an awful death? Couldn't He have redeemed humanity in some easier way?

Flickr; © Jerusalem, Yerushalayim; Uploaded by Alfred Benway
To answer this question, we must first consider the righteousness of God. Because He is holy, no one has ever seen Him and lived. Even when Moses, the one that God called His friend, asked to see God's face- God answered by saying "No man shall see my face and live" .

Our sinful nature cannot exist in the presence of pure holiness. The Bible tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and we know that "the wages of sin is death" . This reality leaves us in a lost condition, eternally separated from God.

When sin entered the world, Adam and Eve fell into a state of mortality. Their transgressions created a barrier between them and the Lord, with the result that mankind became depraved, rebellious, and a natural enemy of God. Our sinful nature couldn't redeem itself; rather, it had to be redeemed by something greater and purer. A sacrifice was required--one that was spotless and without blemish.

Because our heavenly Father created us for Himself--to bring Him glory and to spend eternity with Him (1 Tim. 2:4)--He provided the only offering powerful enough to reverse the effects of sin and restore us to our original purpose.

When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for all sin, beginning with Adam and spanning the ages. His awesome love and mercy applies to you as well (Eph. 1:5-6).

Will you accept it? Will you take to others?

2012-03-27

True Spiritual Growth

James 1:17-27


If you want to genuinely grow in spiritual maturity, it is not enough to simply be instructed by the Word of God. You may love going to church or listening to Christian radio programs. You might talk about everything you hear and assume you're growing because your knowledge is increasing. However, if you don't actually grow closer to God by allowing His Word to change you from the inside out, your head will merely continue to fill with information. You might even sound like a godly person who is admired for the ability to quote chapter and verse. But if you don't take the next step and allow God to touch others' lives through you, YOU'RE MISSING THE POINT.

Spiritual growth is the result of practicing the truth you receive from God. He wants you to give away what He gives you--that is, by loving and serving others and sharing the truth of the gospel. Our example is Jesus, who said that He did not come to be served, but to serve even the lowest outcasts in His society (Matt. 20:28). He could have exalted Himself and spent all His time preaching and teaching. Instead, Jesus did only the Father's will, which was to reveal His heart of love to a broken world. The Lord sacrificially involved Himself in people's lives, and He calls us to follow in His footsteps.

The picture in this devotion is a picture of two trees. "Nursing trees" are trees that grow from another tree. As an older tree is laid down, a seed from that tree or one surrounding the tree falls onto the laying tree. The lying tree provides all the nutrients for that seedling to sprout and grow. If you are an established Christian- find someone that needs growth and nourish them with the Word daily.

God's plan is to reach the world through you. If that weren't the case, He would have taken you to heaven as soon as you were saved. But you are here for a purpose--to live out Christ's life alongside hurting people who desperately need to experience His love.

2012-03-26

Knowing the Heart of God

1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Most people long to be understood. We may have many acquaintances, but we all have a deep need to feel truly known by those we love most. This is because we were created in God's image--He also desires to be intimately understood and loved by us.

Flickr; Some rights reserved 2007, Justin Lowry
Just as you don't want to be known for only the superficial details of who you appear to be, it's not enough to know about the Lord. He wants us to learn how He thinks and feels, what's important to Him, and what His purposes for our lives are. Of course, it's impossible for man to completely know the mind of the Creator of the universe. In Isaiah 55:9, He tells us, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." The depth and breadth of His mind is so great we will never be able to fully grasp it in this lifetime.

However, we can better understand God's heart and character by seeking Him and learning day by day from His Word. If we genuinely desire to walk in His ways, we must first genuinely know Him. We come to know our friends better by sharing more experiences together. Similarly, we will also understand God better the longer we walk with Him and meditate on what He has revealed about Himself in the Bible.

God wants you to seek Him with all your heart, and He promises that when you do, you will find Him (Jer. 29:13). So, the next time you're feeling a need to be better understood, turn to the One who understands you perfectly. Even more importantly, ask Him to help you know Him better.

2012-03-22

Transitional Storms

© All rights reserved; Photo by Sniemann; Flickr
What is it about transition that shakes people up?  Is it uncertainty, new territory, or maybe just a level of comfort? In times of transition, we are all very uncertain about the new direction. Transition may come in the forms of moving into a new school, house, or church and this brings a sense of adaptation. How do you handle this new place?

As flesh carrying humans, we are constantly in a battle. Our flesh does not receive change as well as our spirit, especially when God moves us. We see in Genesis 12:1-5 that Abram (Abraham) was commanded to make a very tough decision. Abraham had to make a choice- stay or go. Of course, Abraham had the choice of whether he would be obedient or stay complacent. But, how differently would things look had he said no? How many of you could leave your entire family to obey God. From this viewpoint, looking at Abraham's decision we see it as an easy, no brainer decision because:

#1 We’re not the ones being commanded to leave everything behind and go. And.
#2 We know the outcome of the nation God raised up.

How would you react if God commissioned you to move from everything and everyone you have ever known, loved, and been comfortable around to head out to an unknown territory, unknown faces and very unfamiliar situations? Anytime you transition from one place to another, there are going to be storms. Often times it’s not until Jesus provides the miracle that we then realize His intervention. 

Jesus wants our faith to be strong before the storm and grow through the storm. We must always allow God to grow our faith however He chooses. What we always see as the right or best way is often not even close to what the Lord see’s. Though we may have trials during the waiting periods, God will move the mountain and there will be peace in the valley.

It takes faith that you have never had, to move where you have never been. What did the disciples not understand about this particular storm in Luke 8:22-25? Having faith in their current storm meant depending upon someone who seemed to be asleep even though their fear wanted to wake Him up. Jesus was setting up for His departure. The faith to obey and trust God, though He may seem to be silent during our trials, will elevate our faith beyond anything we could ever comprehend.

2012-03-21

God Is at Work... It's Your Choice


© All rights reserved Gege Gatt; Flickr
John 5:16-19

Throughout the Bible, we observe God at work in people's lives. Sometimes He acts in dramatic fashion, as in parting the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape the Egyptian army. At other times it may appear as if He's not taking any action. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother needed His help, but Christ delayed before traveling to their home (John 11:3-6).

Our Father has given us the Holy Spirit to help us recognize His presence and handiwork. The Holy Spirit cultivates spiritual discernment in us so we can understand when and where He's at work. The Holy Spirit also enables and empowers us to activate and awaken our spiritual giftings for God's glory.

In addition to spiritual discernment, we must develop patience because the Lord operates according to His timetable, not ours. After being promised numerous descendants, Abrahan had to wait until he and Sarah were beyond childbearing years before she conceived. Impatience can cause us to take matters into our own hands and make mistakes.

The Lord's efforts can bring delight, as was the case when Hannah bore a child (1 Sam. 1:27-2:1). His plan can also lead through painful times, which was Joseph's experience. Before the Lord elevated him to
a position of authority to help his family, Joseph was sold into slavery and unjustly imprisoned.

Jesus told the disciples that His Father was always at work and so was He. We will be encouraged and strengthened in our faith when we recognize the ways in which God is operating. These glimpses of His handiwork will motivate us to stay the course and help us maintain a godly perspective on life.

2012-03-16

In Search of Wholeness

Photo by Nicole; copyright © 2012 Teen Diaries
John 4:7-30

Take an honest look at your life. Do you feel whole and complete, or is there the sense that something's missing? If you're aware of an emptiness, what are you using to try and fill that void? Is it relationships with family, friends, or a significant other? Or have you opted for fame, popularity or other achievements, hoping they will bring a sense of significance? Maybe you're using drugs, alcohol abuse, or some other  lustful activity to numb the void or to bring temporary comfort.

Jesus met a woman with just such an empty place in her soul. She was longing for love but had been repeatedly rejected. In those days, a man could divorce his wife simply because she displeased him in some shape form or fashion. The Samaritan woman had gone through this rejection five times and was now seeking to fill up her soul with a man who wasn't her husband- perhaps you may be able to relate.

She probably tried to cover up her emptiness so those around her wouldn't see her hurt, but when Jesus met her at the well and told her all that she had done, her days of hiding were over. She had finally found the only One who could bring wholeness to her life. Before YOU can fill the emptiness in YOUR soul, YOU, too, must let Christ's piercing gaze penetrate into the depths of your heart and reveal the root cause of your incompleteness.

We were created for God. ALL other pursuits are inadequate substitutes and will never bring the lasting satisfaction we are seeking. The devil has a way of pressuring us with Life and beating us down with the choices and pressures of that life. The constant strains and beatings, leave many of us empty and disillusioned. However, when we allow Christ unrestricted access to our hearts, He fills us up with His unfailing love and reaffirms our wholeness in Him!

2012-03-15

The Love of Money Is...

Genesis 25:29-34
You probably read the story of Jacob and Esau today and thought, I can't believe Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. How foolish! But let's think beyond birthrights and soup. Is there anything of true value that you are trading for something of lesser worth? In other words, what is your "bowl of soup"?

Photo by: alfanhuĂ­ on April 14, 2009
© All rights reserved; Flickr
Have you pursued wealth at the expense of friends or possibly family? Maybe your busy schedule has kept you from spending time with God in His Word each day. Some people become involved in extracurricular affairs, trading the well-being of their relationships with family and friends for the satisfaction of lustful desires. Others sacrifice their health by consuming harmful or addictive substances, or even by overindulging in food. The list of ways we make foolish, shortsighted choices is endless.

Some of the decisions we make today could rob us of the blessings God wants to give us. When you yield to temptation in a moment of weakness, you're actually sacrificing your future for momentary pleasure. We can't afford to live thoughtlessly, basing our decisions on immediate desires or feelings.

Since the principle of sowing and reaping cannot be reversed, we need to carefully consider what we are planting. The harvest will come, and we'll reap what we have sown--and more than we've sown.

Are you contemplating anything that could have serious long-term ramifications if you yield to the yearning? A wise person evaluates choices by looking ahead to see what negative consequences could follow a course of action. Don't let "a bowl of soup" hinder God's wonderful plans for you.

2012-03-14

Controlling Our Appetites

Photo by Shane Tarpley; Wintefest 2012
 
 

What words would you use to describe our society? Materialistic, sensual, impatient, indulgent, undisciplined--these are just a few. We're also a "have it now" culture. Satan specializes in presenting us with opportunities for instant gratification while promising us that indulging our appetites will bring us the satisfaction we seek.

Human appetites, in themselves, are not sinful. In fact, they're God-given. However, because of our fleshly weaknesses, they need to be controlled. When our appetites rule us, we're in trouble. Paul likened the Christian life to that of athletes who are so focused on winning the race that they exercise self-control in every area of their lives.

That's exactly how we're called to live, yet we lack the motivation, determination, and power to do so in our own strength. For this reason, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit within us. If we yield our lives to Him and step out in obedience to His promptings, we'll have the strength to say no when fleshly desires feel overpowering (Gal. 5:16).

Another key to success is keeping our focus on the eternal instead of the temporal. Many decisions that seem mundane are in fact spiritually significant. Are you indulging an appetite that could result in the sacrifice of an imperishable reward in heaven?

When the Enemy tempts us, he always tries to keep our attention on our desire and the pleasure of indulgence rather than on the eternal rewards and blessings we're forfeiting. Just remind yourself how quickly immediate gratification wanes and how long eternity lasts.

2012-03-12

The Fullness of God in You

Photo by Savannah Cook; Winterfest 2012
Ephesians 3:14-21


Have you ever wondered if you are a "whole person"? We all have struggles in life that could make us feel incomplete, but the apostle Paul says we can be filled up to all the fullness of God" (v.19). What does that look like?


A "whole person" is generally satisfied with life. They feel loved and are able to love others in return. Difficulties and hardships don't devastate them, because they are able to go through them with confidence in God. They aren't complainers or someone who is quick to blame others. A positive attitude guards their minds' since they know that the Lord will work everything out for good.


Being a Christian doesn't automatically make us feel complete. Fullness comes only when we experience God's love for us. For many years, I knew theologically that the Lord loved me. Only after I took a deep look at my life and started dealing with events that had fractured my soul did I begin to experience His love in an intimate way. Once I felt the security of His love for me, I discovered great joy in walking in obedience to His will. The reason was that I knew I could trust Him to meet all of my need in His time and way.


Do you feel God's love, or is it just a biblical fact to you? If you long for wholeness, the key is to experience an intimate relationship with Jesus. No one else can bring completeness into your life like God's intimacy. No boyfriend or girlfriend could ever provide the right touch, words, or love that God freely gives. This is possible only when you're willing to open up and let the  Lord search your heart. He'll reveal what's holding you back from accepting His love. 

2012-03-05

This is their Time!


Photo by Winterfest; Attributions by Kim Clement
 
Throughout biblical history you will see that God used young people, even children, especially when adults became spiritually redundant and the only progress was to recreate history, or "bring back those good old days." Looking back has its rewards but unfortunately creates feelings of nostalgia and morbidity. You have to be dissatisfied with your present conditions, surroundings and supply of joy, peace, happiness, etc. before you will really look forward. So inevitably, God will allow things to run their course and people will become dissatisfied. Suddenly what was once exciting, fresh and tantalizing is now boring and repetitious. You are dull and the self-environment is uninteresting, dim and blunt. You can either sit and complain for as long as you can, or you can change it. I recently had a conversation with a youth pastor that said "things can get stale in two weeks for teens in a youth group". Do we really know how true this statement is?

Make war with repetition, be at odds with dullness, spit out lukewarmness and start a fight with blah, blah, blah. You weren't born to be satisfied with "just enough" to keep you going. Once you've tasted of the better that is to come you never want to go back. Imagine driving a car forward, while looking in the mirror, hoping that what is behind you will assist your progress.

Positive Velocity: If the velocity of the past is negative, then what you will experience is deceleration—something a young person does not want to experience. Retirement is not in the minds of young people. They are constantly looking for the fruit of hope, in order to be nourished by it, not the seeds of fruit that have been consumed. They want to experience for themselves that they may also observe the invisible, and in so doing begin to create the image (armor, suit of clothing) that fits their makeup and personality.

King Saul of the Bible, the strong, tall adult king of Israel, stood in amazement as David, a young shepherd boy, used a simple stone and sling to destroy Israel's greatest enemy—a Philistine giant named Goliath. Prior to that happening, King Saul had commanded that his suit of armor be placed onto David, but David could not fit it onto his body. It wasn't suitable for this rugged young boy. Saul had lost the prophetic edge being rejected by Samuel the prophet, and therefore a young person had to use his childlike faith to bring excitement and morale back into the nation of Israel.

The story of Samuel is just as fascinating. He was born during a time of acute spiritual famine and corruption. Eli, the high priest of the day, had lost all connection with God and his entire household was corrupt, causing the people of Israel to sin in the temple and at the altar. The Word of God even says that "there was no open vision" in Israel due to this.

Samuel, as a young boy, ministered to the Lord in the presence of Eli, and during that time, the heaven opened up and God's voice was once again heard clearly. While Samuel lay sleeping in the temple in the presence of Eli, God spoke to him and called his name, "Samuel!" Samuel thought that it was Eli calling him so he ran to Eli and inquired what he wanted. Eli said, "Go back to sleep."

It's amazing how dull and dim-sighted a religious spirit makes men. Eventually, when Samuel did hear God's voice, what he heard was shocking. God basically informed Samuel, the young boy, that He was going to destroy Eli and his family in order to bring an end to the stagnancy and the spiritual lack in Israel.

You have to destroy every present hindrance  before you can move to your next level. I want to give you a task to do: Take a pen and write down every hindrance that you can see is stopping you from moving to your next level of freedom, liberty and happiness.

Spirit of Daniel: As prophesied at the beginning of the year, this is the "Year of the Youth," and the year for us to conquer our mountain. Many mountains were conquered because of youth. The mountain of religious corruption and stagnation was conquered by Samuel, in the presence of the corruption—the high priest Eli. The mountain of manipulation, intimidation and fear was conquered by young David in the presence of Goliath and King Saul. The mountain of slavery and bondage was conquered by young Daniel in the presence of the King of Babylon, as Daniel stood surrounded by hungry lions and courageously survived.

The list goes on and on. But what is important for us to understand is that if God revealed to us that He is about to cast a mantle upon the youth, then we must suppose without a doubt that there is deliverance from a certain corruption, stagnation, religious witchcraft and the grip that humanity has found itself in at this present time. We are about to conquer many mountains. What is the mountain that you wish to conquer? This is your year to do it and this is your time.

Sanctified and Special

Photo by Shane Tarpley; Fire 12:29 Student Ministries

Do you feel special, or does a sense of insignificance hang over you like a cloud? Maybe it seems as if God has wonderful plans for some Christians and is effectively using them in amazing ways, but you're just an ordinary person living a mundane life. And you wonder, Why would He be interested in me?

The good news is that everyone is special in the Lord's eyes, and He has an awesome plan for each one of us. When we accept Christ as our Savior, He sets us apart for a very sacred purpose. We now belong to Him, and that means we're not here on this earth to live as we please. As God's children, we exist to bring glory and honor  to Him by becoming more and more like His Son in our character, conduct, and conversation. It's not a matter of following a list of rules, but of letting Christ live His life through us.

The Bible calls this sanctification. It is a process whereby the Lord continually changes His followers through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. I'm not saying that we'll become sinless, but the more we yield to the Spirit's leadership, the more we will find ourselves victorious over sin. As our old attitudes and habits are replaced with godly ones, we'll become useful servants in the household of God. 

Being special to the Lord has nothing to do with what kind of work you do or how intelligent or successful you are, It's based on whose you are. But are you living as if you belong to God? The wonderful plan He has for your life can be fully realized only when you walk in obedience to Him. 

2012-03-02

It's Friday... but Sunday's Coming

Good Morning guys,

I hope this blesses you and inspires you to trust God even more today than yesterday.


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