November 9, 2009

A Walk Through Philippians - Philippians 1:21

Paul writes, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Paul is in prison as he writes a letter of encouragement to the church of Philippi. He begins the letter talking about the opportunities he has to share the gospel wherever he is. Moreover, he has a joyous attitude expressed in Philippians 1:21 "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

The Romans did not like what Paul was doing in sharing his faith and so they began to imprison him, beat him, and whatever they could within legal means to stop him. Paul simply replied, "Let me live and I WILL tell others about Jesus.... kill me? Ok that is even better, then I get to spend eternity with Jesus." If you do not follow Jesus, this may and should strike you as weird. However, if you follow Jesus and have ever experienced God, you may understand what Paul is saying. For on this earth we should share about Christ to everyone. No, it doesn't have to be in this bullhorn and in your face way. Yet, the gospel needs to be shared. To not share your faith is like getting receiving the best gift and not offering it to anyone. Are we that greedy and selfish to hoard it all to ourselves? Or are we that afraid of someone saying no thanks. If they reject the gift that is fine, but those around you should know what they are rejecting.

In fact, Paul encourages followers of Jesus in this... to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. If that is you, have you ever thought about what that means? What conduct would be worthy of the gospel of Christ? Perhaps let me offer up a suggestion. If at the end of your life, you know you made your life reflect Jesus as best you could and made his name known, then you lived a life worthy of the gospel. That does not mean you never screw up or make mistakes, but that you continue to strive to be better and seek God out. Many Christians live this quiet, self-contained life, that is "acceptable" for our society. If that is you, then you are selling yourself short. What is your attitude here? -- A simple explanation of why to follow Jesus according to the Bible. This doesn't describe the life to live thereafter, but does share about this gift.

November 6, 2009

Hosea and Gomer - Book of Hosea

The book of Hosea is a story of a prophet whom God instructs to marry a prostitute Gomer. Their relationship is symbolic of God's relationship with the Israelites. Since the beginning God has had a message for us, "I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people" (Leviticus 26:12).

And so a huge theme throughout the Old Testament is God desiring a relationship with his people. However, the Israelites got distracted, found their worth in other things, and forgot who God was and is. They didn't forget him intellectually, but forgot who he was experientially. As a result, they continued to turn away from God.

In the book of Hosea, God relates this message to a man, Hosea, steadfastly loving and marrying a prostitute, Gomer. Despite Gomer being unfaithful, Hosea continues to pursue and love her. Gomer turned from Hosea to seek out what she knew and believed. She convinced herself that living without Hosea was better than living with him. She believed lies of the world and fell back into her old habits. Hosea rescued her from this and brought forth a redeeming love.

God pursues us the same way. Though we have been adulterous and cheated on God with the world, He still loves us. He still desires to be our God, and for us to be his people. He is just and fair so there may be consequences, but the end result will be worth it.

Where do you stand? Do you have a relationship with this God? Perhaps, at one point you did, but now you only know God intellectually and not experientially. He still desires a relationship with you.

A great fictional read on this is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

November 5, 2009

Salt of the Earth - Matthew 5:13

Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."

My friends made up a game called "Salty Man Out." In "Salty Man Out" we would open up a sugar packet for as many people that were playing the game. Then, we would empty one sugar packet out and fill it with salt. Next, we would each take a packet and begin swapping it with everyone playing so that no one knew who had the sugar packets and who got stuck with the salt packet. Finally, we would all eat our packets and see who was the salty man out.

During this game it was always very clear who got served with the salt. They knew it and we knew it. There was no doubt in any of our minds. I think this was similar to Jesus' message to those who chose to follow Him. He is saying that we are the salt of this earth and should stop trying to fit in, and instead tell people about Him. Followers of Jesus need to stop following Him when it is convenient or fits into our own agenda. I don't want this point to get confused with trying to stand out for the purpose of standing out. Rather, we should take the initiative and intentionality to tell our friends, family, coworkers, and classmates about who Jesus is and what He said regarding this life.

Being salt isn't easy, especially when the world wants to make you like sugar. Notice how Jesus doesn't provide an option for "kind of salty" people or "partly salty" people. You are either salt of the world, or you aren't. If you follow Jesus, do you think that way? Do you feel like salt to your friends, or have we become tasteless? -- these guys have some interesting articles

November 2, 2009

The Noise - Psalm 41:10

The book of Psalms says, "Be still, and know that I am God."

At the movies we see one of the previews saying, "Silence is Golden." Silence, is too underrated today in our world. We live and operate every day of our lives with noise. Wanted or unwanted sound everywhere we go. In fact, when it is quiet, we often look to create noise in our lives. From television to Ipods to conversations... everywhere we go there it is. We have created a society where we never can or do slow down. Seriously, when is the last time you have been awake and in silence for longer than 2 minutes?

My guess is that it has been a while. Either we have something we are reading or doing or listening or watching. We have surrounded ourselves with this noise that we have forgotten the beauty of peace. Being a Californian, we love to be busy and loud.

To be in silence, ironically, takes a lot of work. When I do get silence, I understand why it is worth it. God wants us to be silent, to pray, and to know He is God. He wants us to hit the MUTE button in our lives. Try it... maybe do it in the mountains looking at the stars, or in your room, or at a park... believe me it will take a while for your thoughts to quiet down. We aren't used to it as Americans... as a follower of Jesus, I am not used to doing it.

A lot of people say, "I can't hear God." If He was speaking to you would you know it? Would it fit in... could you hear Him? -- look up these passages for yourself

October 30, 2009

Lose Your Life - Luke 9:23

Jesus says to his disciples in the passage of Luke, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?"

An interesting passage. Jesus explains what is required to follow him and in essence call yourself a "Christ-ian." Today, our culture is so wrapped up with labeling that we forget what we represent when we call ourselves something. This passage is challenging, especially if you call yourself a Christian. To save your life means to hold onto everything in this world. To seek what this world tells us is most important and essential to living a "happy" life. Jesus claims the opposite. He tells us that if you want the best life (not the easiest life) then lose your life. Deny yourself and follow me. Then you will stop getting wrapped up in worldly things that hold little value further down the road.

Many people, by their lifestyles, would claim that it is very good for a man (woman) to gain the whole world. We forget what is at stake. We forget that we are meant for more here. Losing your life means laying down worldly things to promote Christ. We must lose our stuff, our rights, and our pride.

This is the journey I am on. I try not to think of myself as a Christian, but instead a Jesus follower. Jesus asks us to follow him. This is a question we all must answer. What is your response? -- Check it