Monday, October 19, 2009

Should We Hate People Who Defy God?

As Christians, it’s natural to oppose lies or any other kind of ungodly acts, but does this mean it’s okay to hate? The Holy Spirit, itself, *opposes lies and ungodly acts so when we’re walking in the spirit, it’s natural to feel turmoil when we’re around anyone or anything that defies God. This is really hard when that person just happens to be someone we’re close to, like a family member. It can cause unbearable strife, which is exactly what Satan wants.

Satan would love for us to hate the person who is bringing us such strife. He would be accomplishing a lot if he could get us to hate, so he uses one of his best tricks by quoting scripture. He reminds us of the verse, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated,” hinting to us that if it was okay for God to hate, it’s okay for us to hate. When we read that verse we should remind ourselves that God knows things we’re not capable of knowing. He not only knew Esau before he was ever born, but knew him during and after his life. The amazing thing is, He knew all this at the same time. He knew all along exactly how Esau was going to turn out.

We, on the other hand, may have known a person in the past and thought he was an okay person, and now in the present he has become unbearable, but we have no idea how he is going to be in the future. We have no idea if God is working in him right at this very moment, or if he might even end up being one of God’s most faithful followers. This is why it’s not okay to hate anyone. We are full of faults and sin ourselves, and when we hate someone it’s like requiring them to be perfect, and that’s not very fair. Only God is perfect and only He can truly judge a person.

It is, however, okay to hate or be *opposed to the things a person is doing, and sometimes we actually need to distance ourselves from that person because they are interfering with our own walk with God. Being around people who defy God definitely clashes with the peace we should have in our souls. When we feel ourselves losing this peace it’s a sign our faith is in danger, so we should have nothing to do with anyone who threatens it. This does not mean you hate the person.

Don’t let Satan fool you into believing that it’s okay to hate people because they’re “evil” or convince you that by distancing yourself it’s because you hate them. You can continue to love them and pray for them without having to be around them. Don’t buy into Satan’s lies!

It is written, “If a man says I love God and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 1 John 4:20

*Hate - “to oppose yourself against.” (Strongs # 7852)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Unwavering Faith

When God says to come to Him as little children, He’s talking about faith. Children are totally trusting when it comes to being taken care of and they never stop for one minute to worry about what tomorrow will bring. Even though most of us claim to have a lot of faith, how many of us actually have the faith of a child?

One of the areas in which we need to be more child-like is our study of scripture. If we were to read the Bible simply, as a child would, instead of tearing apart words and sentences the way we do, maybe scripture wouldn’t seem so difficult to understand!

I know it’s not easy to be all grown up and try to think like a child again, so I’m going to give an example of how a child perceives a simple sentence. If you say to a child, “Grandma is coming to see you on Thursday and will be bringing you a basket of treats,” he immediately grasps the idea that Grandma’s coming on Thursday, bringing treats!

Now I’m going to repeat the same sentence, but this time, we grown-ups are going to do a little in-depth study of it. I know it sounds silly, but that’s pretty much what we do in our bible studying, so let’s see how it works with a regular old sentence.

Let’s start with the word “grandma.” Since the definition of “grandma” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “grandmother,” maybe we should pull it apart and look up the words “grand” and “mother,” so we can have an even deeper understanding.

The word “grand” means “having more importance than others,” and the word “mother” means “a female parent.” Now instead of “grandma” we have “a female parent having more importance than others.” I can see how a lot of debates could grow from that!

Other words in the sentence mean as follows:

Coming – “the act of arriving.”

Bringing – “leading, carrying, or causing to come along.”

Basket – “receptacle.”

Treats – “an especially unexpected source of joy.”

Now we can truly understand the in-depth meaning of the whole sentence:

“Someone, having more importance than a female parent, in the act of arriving, will be carrying a receptacle of an especially unexpected source of joy.

Try telling that to a child!

I know all this sounds silly, but the point I’m trying to make is, it’s perfectly fine to look up a word here and there to clarify the meaning of a noun or a verb, but too many people go to extremes, digging and delving into just about every word they can find, until they finally end up destroying the whole meaning of the sentence or scripture verse. If we would just look at the sentence simply, in the way it was intended we could save ourselves a lot of confusion.

What is it that makes us have this need to find hidden messages behind everything written in scripture? It’s because the flesh is constantly seeking to have its own way! We think we have all the answers, or can find them all on our own, and that’s what we do. Believe me, if there are any hidden messages God wants us to know about, the Holy Spirit will reveal it to us when He feels we’re ready.

A child trusts, unwaveringly, because he instinctively knows there is someone bigger and stronger who is watching out for him and is there to take care of him. We instinctively know this too, but our grown-up sophistication gets in the way. A child knows he's small and helpless, but we need to remind ourselves that we are too, without God!

As we learn to rely on God for all things, instead of leaning to our own understanding, we will regain the confidence of knowing there’s always someone there watching over us and taking care of us. We will trust in Him with all our hearts, and our faith will be as a child’s, unwavering!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wisdom and Understanding

In Ecclesiastes, we read about a King who sought to learn, first-hand, the wisdom of man. God allowed him his desire and he set out on an adventure to experience everything life has to offer. He eventually acquired all the things most men desire in life: riches, fame, property, and even women! His wealth and accomplishments soon became known all over the land, and people came from far and near just to see it for themselves.

But, alas, his spirit soon grew vexed because nothing he owned brought him any peace. Somehow, along with all his wealth, he had acquired worry, travail, envy from his neighbors, and many a sleepless night! He began to ponder about how a man is born and dies, just as every other creature on earth, so what good is it to have anything at all? Nothing on this earth is lasting, not even love. He began to hate life after that because there seemed to be no purpose for anything.

"Life is here and then it's gone," he sighed. "Like a breath or a whisper, it just vanishes. It's all just vanity!"

King Solomon finally realized that the only true wisdom is God's wisdom, and the wisdom of man is foolishness. He had learned that the only thing that's everlasting is that which is from above, and from that day forward that's what he sought.

We, as Christians know to seek God's wisdom, but sometimes we find gaining wisdom is not such an easy task. Even with all our reference and study guides, we still seem to get confused. We exhaust ourselves delving through all sorts of books trying to find answers, but somehow we always seem to fall short.

"Canst thou, by searching, find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know?" (Job 11:7-8)

First of all, our understanding is not God's understanding, so even with all our study aids, we have to realize there is no way we can gain wisdom through our own efforts. Wisdom is not something we can obtain through books and learning! It's obtained through how we live our lives. As we learn to fear God, follow His commandments, and depart from evil, He imparts His wisdom unto us!

"Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is WISDOM; and to depart from evil is UNDERSTANDING." (Job 28: 28)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sharing In Jesus’ Suffering

Jesus suffered all the same things we suffer.

I've been reading in my daily devotionals about how God expects us, not only to follow Him and to keep His commandments, but be willing to share in Jesus' suffering. It got me thinking about how He really did suffer the same kinds of things we do, so He really does know and understand. It's hard to think of Him as actually going through some of the "little" things we go through in life, but He did. Think of the times you've been misunderstood by your family or maybe criticized for no reason, then try to think about how it might have been for Jesus when He was a young boy. Even though His mom and dad knew who He was and why He was here, it was probably hard for them (in their human understanding) not to question some of the things He did. They must have been pretty teed off when He stayed behind at the temple, hanging out with the priests and elders, and they had to turn around and go all the way back to find Him!

When people talk bad about us when we didn't do anything wrong, it really hurts. Heck, it even hurts when we're talked about when we did do something wrong. Well, Jesus certainly had His share of that, and He never did a thing to deserve it. Most of the town-folk all thought He was crazy, and they used to call Him names and throw stones at Him every chance they got. Later on they got tired of that and tried to have Him arrested. No matter what He did, they tormented Him and made His life miserable.

We whine and complain all the time, about how tough our lives are, but we can't even begin to imagine what it was like for Him. He met with opposition no matter where He went or what He did, and was even physically abused. The very people He wanted to help, hated Him with a vengeance. The amazing thing about it all was, no matter what they did to Him, He never wavered in His love for them and sacrificed Himself daily for their sakes.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is our example and we are to follow in Him, but most people don't even think about the part that says to share in His suffering, too. I guess most of us think about the suffering part of Jesus' life, as the task He was sent here to do, so it doesn't really apply to us. It does apply to us. Part of His suffering was to teach us how to deal with all the hard things we all have to go through in this world. Every single thing He ever went through in this life, is an example for us to follow. Sharing in His suffering is just as much a part of following Him as is keeping His commandments.

So why do we have to suffer?

The trouble is, we get too darn comfortable when things are going our way, and far too often, we begin to feel as if we're pretty powerful in our own strength. What need do we have for God when things are going great and we're handling things just fine? Unfortunately, this is the nature of man, and I guess we need a reminder now and then that we're really not all that. When trials and tribulations hit, it causes us to stop and realize just how small and helpless we really are, and most of us do turn to God in these situations. Disasters, especially, cause us to stop and reflect, and most always prompt us to look towards the heavens and seek our Creator. Even people who deny His existence seem to look to the heavens for help during a disaster! Most of us remember how thousands of people flocked to churches and prayed after the twin towers were attacked, but, sadly, all the praying and looking up to heaven didn't last long. It never fails that when things start to return to normal, we soon forget our need for God and return to our old ways!

When a person goes through any kind of suffering, it usually changes him and this is what God is looking for. There's a lesson to be learned in every single trial we may go through, and as we go through each one, we are also being refined to become more and more like Jesus. This is something we could never do on our own, so suffering with Him is probably the most important part of our journey here on this earth!

It's amazing to think of how Jesus, who was perfect, was so willing to suffer for our sakes. We should all stop and think of Him the next time we're feeling sorry for ourselves and wondering why we're so persecuted. He not only suffered throughout His life to be an example for us, but took on all the sins and sufferings of the entire world. That's a lot of suffering and a lot of love.

("Suffering") Revised 9/28/09

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sometimes It's Not Good To Be So “Blessed”

I once knew an elderly man who had grown very depressed over the thought of leaving this life. He had been blessed with a wonderful family, many good friends, and had been financially secure throughout his life. He truly enjoyed life to the fullest, and told me he hated the thought of leaving it all behind. Here was a good Christian man, who felt he had lived a life that was pleasing to the Lord because he had gone to church faithfully. He even boasted about how he had never missed a mass and knew every part of the service by heart, but he admitted he had never read the Bible. Maybe if he had, he wouldn’t be finding it so difficult now to leave this world behind.

I can’t help but wonder how many “good” Christians go through life focusing more on the here and now, and never even give a thought to where they’ll spend eternity. There are some who even believe if they have acquired much wealth in their lives, it’s because they have earned it by being exceptional Christians. What they’re doing is focusing on the here and now, and sadly, by doing that, they are depriving themselves of having something wonderful to look forward to, a home in heaven, free from all the cares and sorrows of this world.

When I look at the beauty of God’s creation, I'm always in awe. I can’t think of a single thing man could ever create that can even come close to what God has created. There’s no color man could ever come up with that could come even close to the colors of a rainbow or the colors of the flowers in a field. There’s no skyscraper or structure that could ever be built that would be near as magnificent as a full grown cedar tree or a majestic mountain. No airplane, rocket, or any other kind of flying machine could ever fly as smooth and gracefully as an eagle or a hawk!

Yet, people will pay thousands of dollars for a painting or a statue that will deteriorate in time, when all they have to do is look around them at the artistry of God for free. I guess when you don’t have much, you learn to appreciate the little things in the world, and you realize it’s so much more valuable than any “thing” you can buy or possess. I really do feel bad for people who have been so busy all their lives, or who have had so much wealth, they never even noticed the beauty and glory of God all around them. I feel even sorrier for the ones who have never known Jesus personally and felt His love, or realized what He did to give them a chance at eternal life. More than anything else, I pity people who have been so “blessed,” they have never even known they needed Him.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
(Matthew 6:19-21)

The life we have here will soon be past, let your heart be where life is forever!