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Posts Tagged ‘Love’

You can consider this article as part II of my previous post, “Secure in the Everlasting Arms

God has already promised eternal security to those who have faith in Him and love Him. However, we must be willing to accept that security and let God have His way. Too often I find myself not going to God for security, and going to other things instead. I’m not regularly laying my life in God’s hands and telling Him “God, You know and do what’s best. Please have Your way in me. My security lies in Your hands and Yours alone.”

Some questions I ask myself include, “where does my security lie?” “Am I willing to lay everything I know on the altar?” “Will I forsake everything I have for the sake of Christ and take up my cross in following Him?” “If I lose everything, will I still say, Lord, I am secure in your arms?”

To have faith of this degree, I would have to have no other security than that in Christ. This is unconditional faith. It’s not something that can be found in every believer, but it should be. After all, we serve an omniscient, omnipotent God. We are told to not lean on our own understanding or strength, but to find our strength and ability in God’s power. We are to have God be our primary focus in life. If we find strength in God’s power, what are we afraid of? If God is our primary focus, and the only foundation on which we stand, why would we want to pursue anything else?

God is my security. That I have concluded. However, now I’m wondering what is keeping me from serving God whole-heartedly. What are the strongholds in my life that are obstacles on the path to Him? Why is it that I have not yet overcome these obstacles and run into God’s hands to give my heart and all to Him?

I believe that it is because of the fact that I still find security in these obstacles. They are a part of me, so to speak, and am allured by the familiar. I still idolize my obstacles and am determined to stay where I am comfortable. I want to have a pure, loving relationship with God, but I’m not willing to release my security in those obstacles. The obstacles are my “competing affections,” things that take hold of my love and keep me from giving it all to God. It is my pride that induces me to audaciously believe that I can do things on my own, that I can do everything I want on my own strength, and that I don’t need to fully surrender my heart to God.

What in insane idea! What could be better than being with God, to know that I am a helpless infant who can find security in the person who made me, the world around me, and the universe! What could be better than serving God with everything that I have, knowing that in joyfully and humbly serving Him, I will know Him more and more intimately.

Am I scared that if I follow God’s commandments, I will lose my reputation? Am I scared that if I will lose those closest to me, and that I will be left with nothing? Am I scared that I don’t have enough faith? Am I scared that if my pride is broken, I will be so shattered that there is nothing of me is left?

My identity is in Christ alone, as a child of the Lord Most High. I should place my loved ones in God’s hands and pray that He will gain them as well. It is not my faith that saved me and protects me, but God’s love and His grace. The Lord despises the proud but blesses the humble.

Tell me again… why have I not wholeheartedly given myself to the Lord?

He is more than enough.

He is everything good and eternal.

He made love.

He is love.

If I have God — if I have Love — what would I lack?

Nothing.

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One question that weighed heavily on my heart tonight was why so many Christians emphasize digging into God’s Word. Why should we crave the Word? What does it even mean to crave it? Why should we read the Bible every day and hide it in our hearts? As I pondered the questions, God brought to my mind several thoughts.

We desire the Word of God because it draws us closer to His heart.

When we hear the Word of God, it inspires and rejuvenates us, sparking life within us and opening our eyes, heart, and mind to receive a refreshing drink of God’s Spirit.

When we read the Word of God, we become allured by God’s thoughts: what He desires, His joys, and what saddens Him.

When we memorize the Word of God, it becomes ingrained in the constitution of our mind and being; imprinted upon our spirit. It transforms our mind to be synoptical with that of the Lord’s; it convicts us of evil, inspires us to love, and equips us with the courageous faith God grants those who relentlessly seek after Him.

The irresistible longing for God that drives us from the inside out to seek His face and know His thoughts comes from His grace.

So take freely of it, receive it, process it, and dispense it.

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One Voice

Listening to and singing the song One Voice, I’m constantly convicted and moved by the powerful truth behind its words.

In my life, my parents have exposed me to a variety of churches throughout the years. I’ve met strong baptists, Amish-like people, house churches, local churches, conservative churches, charismatic churches, etc. it was not until I came to my school and came into contact with the Lord’s Recovery (a nondenominational ‘church’ network known for their slightly unorthodox methods of worship and Bible study) that I really began to ponder how much variety is in the Body.

I was also struck by the realization of how large the Body of Christ is. If every one of my schoolmates were a genuine believer, which they all claim to be, that’s already over 100 fellow brothers and sisters going to school with me every day.

Add that to your church, and throw in all the conferences you’ve been to. Multiply that by the many ministries, organizations, and churches across the nation and all over the world.

It’s huge.

The other day I was talking with an older brother, and we somehow ended up on the topic of the church; more specifically, how our church functions, how the Evangelical Formosan Churches (EFC’s) (my church’s fellowship affiliation) function, and how different church chains have different requirements for affiliation. We also discussed our roles in the church, how every single person has something to contribute. We need to work together as a youth group in order that our church can function, the EFCs work, and the worldwide Body grow. It all starts by how each individual works for the Body.

This thought brought me to ponder something: if every person counts, and only through cooperation will the church grow… Just how important is the way we treat each other?

Looking at my youth group, it is true (and a bit shameful) that we’ve formed cliques. There are (informal yet exclusive) events that occur where only some people are invited, such as certain outings. There are activities that are exclusive. Also, whenever we socialize, groups tend to form where everyone is crowded around intent on a conversation.

In observing my classmates, who have grown up together since junior high, I’ve been a bit appalled at the way they interact. Some of the stuff they say can be really damaging, but they’re oblivious to it because they think the offended knows that the offender is just teasing. Looking at my youth group from this perspective, I can see that we have the same problem as well. Perhaps not as extreme, but definitely still existing.

As Christians we really need to watch how we interact. Be determined to build each other up, and observe boundaries when we’re making jokes. We also have to be wary of becoming exclusive, because really, people will get or feel hurt. If the church depended on the interaction between its members, we need to be bearing each other’s burdens, pray for and counsel each other, expressing love, humility, and a servant’s spirit. We are not to belittle each other, make inappropriate jokes, or discuss topics that may hinder or stunt younger believers, but move towards being a family in Christ.

I like the illustration someone I know used before, which states that if God is the Father, then the Church is the Mother. You, every individual believer, are THE church, since the church consists of individuals. Therefore, we should nourish and care for each other. Change will only happen if each person is wary and convicted of monitoring the way they interact with other believers.

Here’s the song One Voice:

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Most men struggle with purity. Whether it be manifested through thoughts or actions, lust is a powerful temptation that destroys and dominates many lives. In fact, modern society is currently being overtaken by a whirlwind of immoral media of all sorts. Pornography is widely available; just one click away on the Internet. Women dress in the most immodest clothing imaginable.

What are single Christian men to do in such a dirty world? Being the authors of the ever-popular Every Man series, Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, along with Mike Yorkey, have come up with a discussion guide to be used as a companion to their popular titles Every Man’s Battle and Every Young Man’s Battle. While Every Single Man’s Battle draws its excerpts from Every Man’s Battle, both books are useful while you go through this guide. It is written especially for those unmarried, divorced, or widowed men who want to seek out guidelines for celibacy and purity. As such, this book gives practical tips on overcoming lust, pornography, and masturbation, as well as staying away from unhealthy relationships and staying celibate.

I have personally found each of the aforementioned three titles useful in my war against immorality. This guide opened my eyes to key truths in the word that I can practically apply into my life and live out in purity. A must read for sure.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

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I’ve attended many, many conferences over the last few years. I’m thankful for the opportunities to mingle with believers of all denominations (or none) and of all backgrounds and walks of life. What strikes me throughout these events, however, is how close our Christian beliefs — especially in the same God — can bring everyone so close together. And this not only happens at conferences, but in churches as well.

I can honestly say that nowhere else in this world have I seen such close relationships between older and younger believers. I love watching the older, 20+ year old brothers and sisters playing, talking, and giving advice to those half their age.  It definitely has a strong effect on how fast and properly the younger ones grow and mature.

There is such joy in being with other believers. My youth group is very close, as most of us grew up together since we were kids, and have interacted with our youth leaders since they were teens.  It has become easier over the years to join the youth group (ages 12+) and the Bible studies, challenges, and retreats/conferences such a membership includes.

Honestly, my church is where I grow the most. If I need to be with or talk to  someone, usually I can find them here. The majority of my friends are also from here.  (I attend a very small private school so there aren’t too many friendship opportunities). If one is really known by what company they keep, then I’m pretty sure I’m on the right path to properly reflecting the image of God. 🙂

With the positive aspects addressed, I now come to the problems that plague and undermine true Christian fellowship.

Perhaps the foremost problem is hypocrisy. I know some people who live differently at church events/weekends and at home/throughout the rest of the week. I am guilty of this behavior myself sometimes. I hit a sort of spiritual high during church services or events, then fall apart in sin for the rest of the week, neglecting my relationship with God. Then when the weekend rolls around, I pull myself together and attend church to once again reach that spiritual high. It’s an unhealthy habit that harms not only me, but also people around me. They’re fooled into thinking I’m what I’m not, that is: a strong believer who maintains a close relationship with God every day. I’m not saying I never have a close walk with the Lord, but there are times, many times, when I don’t.

Living in hypocrisy also prevents you from learning lessons God may have wanted to teach you. For example, the ability to understand scripture. The more you read the Bible, the better you get at uncovering truths in the words. It’s a matter of time, habit, and practice. But when you neglect regular Bible study, it’s a bit hard to contribute to group Bible studies and other such gatherings when they roll around. You just become rusty, so to say.

Hypocrisy is also fooling yourself. You think you’ve got it all together with God and your walk with Him, but really you’re only connecting with Him every so often. You miss out on so many chances to encounter God, to embrace what He has to show you; to hear what He has to say.

In relation of this with fellowship: you won’t be able to give as much to your fellow brothers and sisters as you could have. There are unique truths that God reveals only to certain people, and you could have been the one to share God’s message with your Christian community. Also, people may be fooled into thinking you’re a stronger and wiser/more knowledgeable believer than you really are. You may also unconsciously act this way. This is detrimental when it comes to helping other believers with spiritual problems and struggles. If anything, you may be bringing more harm to them than helping them move towards the light.

Hypocrisy will eventually come to light. And when something bad is revealed, problems and conflicts tend to arise. People feel cheated and fooled, even ridiculed in some cases. Your image and reliability will falter, and no one knows if they can really trust you anymore for a while. Relationships may fall apart, and mending them will prove difficult and many times painful. Of course, this all depends on the severity of the hypocrisy, but there are always consequences nevertheless that harm you and those around you.

A good resource I found on the topic of hypocrisy is a sermon by Ed Allen for Gateway Community Church, entitled “The Dangers of Hypocrisy”. The message outline can be found here.

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Recently I was at a market, shopping for anything that caught my eye. I found myself drawn to a lot of clothing styles I’ve always admired but never worn. After an hour or two, I walked out of the stores with new clothes and an elated spirit.

Only to have my spirit crushed  when I found out just what I’ve done.

*      *      *

Clothing and fashion trends are admittedly pointless. If you think about it, trends are people trying to look the same way by wearing the same style. Although there might be minor diversities, there is a reoccurring theme in most peoples’ attire (i.e. Converse/Vans shoes) . But the point is: who really cares? Who really thinks twice about what you’ve worn that particular day at school? Who even remembers how new your shoes or jacket are after a week or two? Sure, you might look nice, but catching peoples’ attention with that certain article of clothing will only last a couple of days at most before they ignore the fact that it’s new.

Therefore, why bother with clothing trends so much? The classic polo + jeans look for guys is enough (I’m not sure for girls) for almost any occasion. Looking good brings assurance only to your ego; it does nothing for real confidence. I’s like finding confidence in what you wear instead of something Greater. Something more Important. Something more Fulfilling.

Something like God.

Okay, I know, you aren’t obsessed over clothes like that poor girl down the street. But it has come to my understanding that some people spend quite a bit on clothing. And they are sadly drawn into finding comfort in the fact that they are dressed well and people are complimenting them. I find that pretty sad… mainly because I’ve done it myself a few times.

One strange thing that happens is that whenever I dress a bit better for church activities (and no, I don’t mean nicer as in more formal and stuff. Nicer as in more popular street clothing), I feel a whole lot more self-conscious than I would if I just threw on some basic clothes. It’s harder for me to carry on conversations, it’s harder for me to worship, and much harder for me to keep my clothes clean if we’re doing some more strenuous activities.

The reason? Because I’m thinking about what I look like. I’m ignoring the fact that God made me as I am. My clothes don’t define me. I could be wearing dirty rags and He’ll still see me the same way. And really, His point of view is much more valuable than anyone else’s.

I resolve to take the time I would normally send thinking about how I look to focus more on developing who I am inside. True beauty is found on the inside, for beauty is only skin deep — I’m sure many of you have hear. So if people know me as a godly young man bent on serving God and carrying out His well, who cares about the way I dress?

I’m not saying people should take all their clothes, toss them in a box, and dump them all in the local Goodwill donation center, but I am saying that we should assess our priorities on what really matters, the outside or the inside. I know this is a bigger struggle for girls, but hey, guys have problems with it too. But we can all find comfort in the fact that character trumps trends, and that in the Body of Christ, how much you love and serve God is what really accounts for who you are.

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I attend the youth ministry at my church, and like many youth groups, we play contemporary Christian music. I notice that these songs can often be much more stirring to sing than the old hymns, and more heartfelt at times.

One big problem, however, occurs when we sing new songs or get too focused on singing a song well. Personally, I find it difficult to sing from my heart a song I’ve never seen before. I’m unfamiliar with the tunes and the lyrics, leaving me to stay silent as I try to get used to the song. Also, there are times when I’m conscious of my singing or my voice – such as those times when I have a bad cold and a hoarse voice – where I get too distracted trying to sing well. The rest of the time I’m so busy singing, I actually forget what I’m singing in the first place – because I’m so used to the song. It then becomes easy to lose focus of what worship is truly about: standing before God, acknowledging His presence, and letting my praise flow to Him in music.

However, new songs can be excellent at times. If the song is really well written, you can read the lyrics – not busy trying to sing – and understand the songwriter’s motives behind writing it. Often times when I sing a very familiar song, I kind of forget the whole meaning of it… unless of course I know the words really well and sing them as an extension of my thanksgiving to God, experiencing the words in their full power.

Every once in a while, I find it extremely helpful and encouraging to just be silent as the music plays. Read the lyrics and meditate on them, and try to figure out if there are any subliminal, deeper meanings between the words. Silently pray ad talk to God, acknowledging the words and presenting them to God in prayer as your praise. It’s a completely different experience than from singing the words. Your worship might become more real, with the knowledge that you aren’t simply singing… you are actually giving to God all the praise and glory He deserves.

With that, I urge you to give this a try. Whether you sing hymns or contemporary songs, take a minute or two to really think on the words, and honestly present your praise to God in full adoration of who He is.

If you do so with a heart full of thanksgiving, you will surely reap heartwarming results.

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