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Monday, June 21, 2010

how to live holy in youth to serve lord jesus in youth days.what god is accepting from my youth life?

I received the above question on Formspring, a site that allows people to ask questions of others. You may have heard about it on the news; in some places teenagers are using it to heckle other teenagers. I'm not using it for that, as you can see below.

The book of Ecclesiastes says "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them' " ( 12/). The writer of Ecclesiastes tried everything he could think of to make himself happy - entertainment, money, superior knowledge, sex, everything. What he discovered was that anything you do in your life apart from God is meaningless. The point of the book of Ecclesiastes is to start out early, when you are a young person, following after God's will for you... and then when you get older, you won't have to look back and say, "Well, THAT was a waste of time!"

Now, as to "how" to follow God so that you don't one day look back and say that... I'm afraid that's not a question that can really be answered for you by somebody else. You probably know some of the key things you can do: learn everything you can about God's Word, spend time praying and worshiping God, that sort of thing. Another key is found in 2 Timothy 2:22 - "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." ( Tim 2:22/ ) By "youthful passions" Paul wasn't just talking about sexual passion (although that certainly qualifies) but he meant that you should remain cool-headed and not make big decisions based on the emotion of the moment. Check every decision against the Word of God and the voice of the Holy Spirit within you (meaning, pray about it and then listen to what God says back) and you won't spend your life messing up.

It also means that there are times when you literally should "flee" something that you know better than to get mixed up in. Recently a woman was telling my wife and me about how proud she is of her teen-aged daughters, who have a habit of calling or texting their mom when they are with friends and it looks like things might go in the wrong direction. "Mom, call me and tell me I have to come home right now!" is a text message she's received several times from her girls. They are fleeing from a situation they know they don't want to be in. A famous example of this "get out of there!" strategy is found in Genesis 39:1-23. ( 39:1-23/ )

I would advise you to read that passage in Genesis, and also take a look at Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes can seem quite depressing (because the author was kind of down when he wrote it), but you need to look at it as an example of what will happen if you do not choose to follow God. I can't tell you step by step exactly what to do to serve Jesus - I don't know your situation (where you live, what needs might be around you that God might call on you to fill, what your gifts and talents might be, etc.) but I do know that young people face temptation (old people do too!) and need to resist it. And I do know that God had something in mind for you when He placed you on Earth, and He has no intention of keeping it a secret from you. Hook up to him - plug in like plugging lamp into a wall socket - by getting your mind filled with what the Bible says and by spending time in His presence in prayer and worship, and when the time comes for you to make a decision about what to do with yourself, make your decision based on God's counsel and not your own "youthful passions" and you will do just fine.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Return of the Study Bible Junkie

A few days ago, I fed the monster. I bought not one, but two study Bibles!

Actually, to be fair to myself, one of them IS a gift. I promised my niece-in-law Olivia that I would buy her a nice new copy of the Apologetics Study Bible for Students; it was on sale at Lifeway so I picked it up there. It's an awesome HCSB Bible that's full of supplemental articles covering tons of issues that young people are likely to run into in college (or even in high school). How about an article on "If I Can't See God, How Do I Know He's Real?" or one about "Does the Bible Contain Errors?" or maybe "How Important Is Darwinian Evolution?" or "Aren't All Religions Basically the Same?" or "Can God Make A Rock So Big He Can't Lift It?" The answers are well thought out, logical, and meaningful. Here's a little more about this Bible:

While I was there, I took advantage of another sale that was going on... I picked up a hardback copy of The ESV Literary Study Bible for ten dollars(!) You can't beat a $35 Bible for a ten-spot, and if you read my previous Study Bible Junkie post, you already know that I was planning on picking one of these up anyway. So I saved myself some cash and picked it up early!

Am I an addict? Is this bad? Am I just buying multiple Bible so I can be smug about my Christianity? Well, I haven't bought them because it makes me feel more Christiany; I've bought them because it gives me multiple ways to learn about God's Word. I haven't read all of them yet... but I will. The old joke... the only useful Bibles are the "red" ones, because if you don't read 'em they can't help you... these will all eventually be "read" Bibles. And hopefully I'm modeling a reverence for God's Word for my children, and at the same time making a resource available for them when they are old enough to use it.

I have maybe three or four more "study Bibles" in mind that I would like to get my hands on, but I'm in no hurry to buy more of them. The ones I have will literally take me years to get through without ever reading the same one more than once (although I'll be looking at the ESV translation twice, because I have two different study Bibles with that translation) and when I run out, there will be something else new to check out... but even if I make it through all of them and study Bibles have suddenly stopped being made, we have enough Bible knowledge in just the six study Bibles in our library to start again at the beginning and learn all new stuff. In the United States of America in the year 2010 we are so blessed in the amount of sheer Bible knowledge that is available to us for very limited amounts of money. Some people graduate from seminary knowing less about the Bible than the information on my one bookshelf. What a blessing!

I'm going to go read my Bible now!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Speaking in Faith

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
(2 Corinthians 4:13-14 ESV)

I believed, even when I spoke,
      “I am greatly afflicted”;
(Psalm 116:10 ESV)

I grew up in the "faith movement." In that system of thought, you find out what the Word of God says about your situation, seek His will through prayer, and then because you believe you have revelation of God's will in the situation, what you say matches what you believe. If you believe that God heals people, you will of course say that you believe God heals people and will heal you if you get sick. Some would say that if you don't yet believe that you will be healed, you should speak like you do believe it until you convince yourself. And don't you dare ever say that you are sick! Because, you know, that means you're not "in faith."

But Paul, who is talking about the persecutions he has experienced for the Gospel, quotes a Psalm in which the thing spoken is not "By His stripes I am healed," but "I am greatly afflicted!" The Psalmist seriously thought he was going to die, and he wasn't afraid to say that there was something wrong. And God delivered him anyway! How about that?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 ESV)
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus wept.
(John 11:32-35 ESV)
Everybody who was ever a kid in Sunday School who could earn a reward by memorizing Scripture verses knows that "Jesus wept." I wonder how many of those kids ever learn what it is that He was weeping about?

To give a little bit of background, Jesus had just arrived at the grave of his friend Lazarus. But Jesus wasn't crying for Lazarus. Lazarus was dead. He wasn't suffering. Besides, Jesus knew that He was about to bring Lazarus back to life! Jesus didn't weep because Lazarus had died; He wept because "he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled" because "Jesus saw her weeping." Jesus was weeping not for the death of the departed, but for the grief of the surviving. But Mary was weeping about her brother's death, and Jesus did not stop her. He let her grieve her loss, even though He knew He was about to give her brother back to her alive.

The Scripture I quoted above says that we as Believers in the resurrection of Jesus do not "...grieve as others do who have no hope," but it does not say that we "do not grieve." We do grieve. We grieve I think on two levels: on a conscious level, we grieve because we miss the loved one who has died, but on a spiritual level, we grieve because we know that death is an enemy. Dying is not something that was supposed to happen; it's not God's plan for the human race. And Jesus defeated Death when He rose from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:20-26). I think we have a visceral understanding that something isn't right about dying. I think that grieving over dead Believers is part of the groaning that Christians experience during life on this world (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Even doctors and psychologists will tell you that human beings need to go through a grieving process after the loss of a loved one. The Word of God does not disagree with this. If you've lost a loved one, do not grieve as those who have no hope... but do grieve. Even Jesus wept. It's OK for you to weep, too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A New Suit Of Clothes

For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
(2 Corinthians 5:2-4 ESV)

I turned 40 years old last week. To me, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal... it's a different number, but I'm essentially the same person I was the day before, the week before. I'm probably a bit wiser than I was at 35 and 30; I understand things better, I know how to do things I didn't know how to do before, I have friends I didn't have before, but I'm basically the same guy I was then. But when you turn 40, people love to kid you about getting old, and I was no exception. My own wife, who insists that she loves me, presented me with a gift bag which contained Polident and Epsom Salt. There was some discussion about what kind of walking cane I would be needing. And my so-called "friends," Robert and Sandra, proudly handed me a package containing one of the ugliest suits I've ever seen.

It's not actually a complete matching suit; it's a plaid suit jacket of a green color that clearly was invented in the seventies to not show a stain if you spilled pea soup on it. The pants are kind of a sandstone brown color, also plaid, but with a noticeably different pattern. The sleeves of the jacket are a good two inches too short for my arms. The pants are too short, too, and the inside of the waistline says "HAGGAR EXPAND-O-MATIC." I put the suit on, and it was positively hideous! My children were in the room; I'm sure I have lost their fashion respect for the rest of my life (as if I had any fashion sense at all anyway!) Robert and Sandra's dog was nowhere to be seen; I'm pretty sure he had run out of the room in terror, tail between legs. I modeled my stylin' new outfit, a picture was taken, everybody had a good cackle, and then I took the "suit" back off. I actually seriously considered wearing it home, just to be silly, but it doesn't fit that well, and it was kind of hot and scratchy for summertime. If I had worn it home I would have been uncomfortable, and it just wouldn't have been right.

A few days ago as I was looking at the body of my sweet, beautiful sister-in-law lying there in her coffin, although she looked quite pretty (her loving daughters had brought one of her nice dresses and done her makeup just like she wore it in life), compared to heavenly body she is "clothed" with now, that body is just a mismatched, outdated, uncomfortable suit that doesn't fit quite right. She couldn't wear that body home; if she could somehow have tried, it would have been uncomfortable, and it just wouldn't have been right. When one day I get to join Theresa in Eternity, I know I'm going to say, WOW girl, you look INCREDIBLE! I'm sure she'll say the same about me. I probably looked quite a bit better yesterday when I took off my new suit and was in my regular clothes again, but not as much better as I will look when I take off this mortal, decaying body of mine, and put on immortality!

I call this shot "Snazzy!"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Second Home

         For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
         So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
(2 Corinthians 5:1-9 ESV)

For a season several years ago, my wife's brother Kevin and his wife Theresa were owners of two restaurants by the same name, one in Tulsa and one in Oklahoma City. It's about a two-hour trip between the two cities, and they would be at each one for several days a week, which meant, on days when they were needed in Oklahoma City, an awfully long commute from their house in Tulsa. Add to that the fact that the restaurant business is a late-night thing (many times the staff of a restaurant that serves dinner is still there well after midnight, even if they close at 9 or 10, cleaning everything up and getting ready for the next day) and you've got a seriously grueling late-night drive going on. Instead of trying to go back to Tulsa after a late night at the Oklahoma City restaurant, Kevin and Theresa simply rented an apartment in Oklahoma City to stay at on those late evenings over there. When they left their home in Tulsa, they had another home in Oklahoma City. But when they left their temporary home in Oklahoma City (which, when the restaurant was closed years later, they did not continue to rent), they could come home to their real home in Tulsa.

About a week ago, Theresa left her temporary home in Tulsa for her real home in the presence of Jesus. The wonderful thing about that trip is that there's no two-hour commute, and there's no rent to pay. She didn't leave without a fight, but once the fight was over, she was immediately away from the home she had in her body and instantly entered her home with the Lord!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why Do Christians Die?

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. ...[We are] always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3, 4:10-11 ESV)

Whenever a Believer dies, particularly if they die early, the question people ask is "Why?" Believe me, I know. In the past five years, my wife has lost her aunt, her mother, her grandmother, her cousin, and within the past two months, we've lost my grandfather, her father, and her still-in-her-40s sister-in-law. Obviously our minds have been spending a lot of time on the subject of human mortality; I've been thinking quite a bit about some of the chapters early on in 2 Corinthians, and this morning as I was mowing the lawn and listening to an audio version of 2 Corinthians, these two passages stood out to me. Here's what this Word said to me this morning:

Your life is a love letter to the World. We are here to show the World what God is like. What comes at the end of every letter? Every letter ends with a signature. Our death shows that we are frail; we can be wounded and killed. We are not indestructible. Our death proves that our life was lived not by our own power. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints," Psalm 116:15 tells us. The death of one of His precious saints is the signature on the love letter. When we die, it completes the letter. It proves that the power that was at work in us during our lifetimes was not from us, but from God. It's our final chance to give glory to Him. So when I die, one day hopefully many years from now, I hope that the world hears the words: "With all my love, Jesus."