Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Total Surrender

As I head into my speech and debate tournament, which is Thursday to Saturday, I always pray the same prayer, “Lord I surrender this tournament to You, whether I win or lose, whether I break or get last, I surrender it to you” I pray this prayer especially with my favorite category Apologetics, which is defending the faith. In Apologetics there are 121 questions, three of which you will be asked, and you will pick one to do, it could be anywhere from Define and Defend the significance of the Immutability of God, to, How could Jesus be both God and man? People prepare 6 minute speeches on these topics, on 4 by 6 index cards. My personal opinion is that this event is the one that will last a lifetime. But one question I have to ask myself is, “Am I absolutely surrendered in and out of these tournaments?” I believe this is a question all Christians should ask themselves. The Bible over and over tells us to live for God and God alone, as Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We are called to be living sacrifices for God, totally surrendered to God, it is our reasonable service, because it was God who gave us new life. We are also called not to be conformed to the sinful world. As Matthew 16:24-25 says, “Then Jesus  said to his disciples, ‘ if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny  himself, and take up His cross and follow Me. For whosoever desires to save His life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” We are called to deny ourselves of our flesh and follow with all our heart after Him. In the Jewish culture, a rabbi’s disciple followed so close to their rabbi that they would want to be covered with the dust of the rabbi’s feet. Are we following so close to our Lord that His dust covers our face? But know that we will suffer persecution, as 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” We will suffer persecution in this life, because we are living for Christ, but remember Jesus’ words in John 15: 18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of this world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of this world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” But also remember the words of James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” In trials we are sanctified to be more like Christ. Luke 14:33 says, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” We have to be in absolute surrender to God in all of our lives. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We live by faith and not by sight for Christ, because our old self was crucified with Christ when we accepted Him as savior in our lives. If we trust in the Lord with all our heart, He will direct our steps (Proverbs 3:5-6) but not only will he direct our steps, but He will bless us (Psalm 34:8) and we need to commit our works to the Lord and our thoughts will be established (Proverbs 16:3) When we surrender, we may plan out things, but the Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9) We are called to glorify God in Everything we do. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are Gods.” To think that God literally dwells in us is so awesome (awe-inspiring) But knowing this, we are to glorify God in everything we do. Colossians 2:6 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” We are to walk and abide in Him, but what happens when you abide in Him, John 15:5 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” We will bear fruit for Christ. But what happens to a branch that bears fruit, God prune it to bear more fruit (John 15:2b) We will go through tribulations so we may bear more fruit for Christ. One of my favorite songs is In Christ Alone, sung by Brian Littrell, the words say, “I can stop and count successes, like diamonds in my hand, but those trophies could not equal to the grace by which I stand…In every victory let it be said of me, my source of strength, my source of hope is Christ alone” May we truly surrender our lives to Christ and to give all glory where it is due.

Five Smooth Stones

Romans 12:1-2

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Our New Man

“that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

As we were learning these verses at my Wednesday night youth group, I couldn’t help but think, “Am I truly putting off my old man, and walking in my new man.” I believe this is a question we as Christians need to ask ourselves every day. When we wake up every morning we have a choice either to walk in the flesh (old man) or walk in the spirit (new man). Let’s start off with the exodus story:  When the Israelites moved to Egypt, they started to expand and become a bigger nation (Exodus 1:7). A Pharaoh rose up who did not know why the Israelites were in Egypt  and for fear of the Israelites overtaking them He put them in hard bondage (Exodus 1:8-14). But God heard the cry of His people and delivered them by Moses, who was a Hebrew himself, and God brought them to the desert (Exodus 13-19). Now after wandering in the desert for over forty years God finally led them to the promised land, Israel (Joshua 1:10-11).
Why do I bring in this story, because we can see the gospel message throughout it: We, as sinners, are in bondage to sin, but when we cry out to God to save us and to be our Lord and Savior, He sent Jesus to be our Savior and our Mediator, and we will go though the wildernesses and trials before God brings us home, to our promised land. Romans 6:6 says, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Once we accept Christ as our Savior, our old man is crucified with Him, and just like the exodus story, we should no longer be slaves to sin. Now you may be asking, “How do we walk in our new man?” The best answer is to reflect Christ in our lives.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” Our old self has passed away, we have become a new creation, created to reflect Christ in everything we say and do. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We are called to live by faith in Jesus especially in trials; because it is in those trials we are sanctified. Now what is sanctification, in the simplest form it is God molding us to be more like Him. Consider the analogy of silver: Silver is purified by fire. When the silversmith puts the silver in the fire, all the impurities rise to the top, and the silversmith wipes away the dross, now let’s see this analogy in real life: The silver is us, the fire is transformation through trials, and the Silversmith is God. How does the silversmith know when the silver is completely purified? The silversmith knows when the silver is purified of all dross when he can see his reflection in the silver. It’s the same with us and God, God knows when we are fully sanctified when we reflect His Son, Jesus. Colossians 3:8-10 says, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” We can see that the new man is according to the image of Him who created him. Now you may be going through a trial right now, whether temptation or the world hating you because you are Christian, do not be afraid, Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” Jesus has already overcome this world, so trust in Him, knowing that we find peace in Him alone. Jesus also said that the world hated Him before it hated you and the world hates you because He chose you out and just as He suffered persecution, we will also (John 15:18-20). But knowing that Christ is our everything, and that we find perfect peace in Him, we can rest in Him, knowing that He alone is our Rock. Also know that through these trials and tribulations, this is the time God sanctifies us to be more like Him. One thing we have to remember: we cannot just take off our old man in front of people and put it back on when we are alone, We have to crucify it every day, because God says that if we are lukewarm, He will spit us out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). May we truly crucify our flesh every day and walk in Christ forever, absolutely surrendered to Him and Him alone.

Five Smooth Stones

Romans 12:1-2

Jonah: a Hard-Hearted Prophet

We as Christians can a lot from the man of Jonah in the Bible. Jonah was a prophet who was called by God to preach to the most sinful city at that time to tell them that God was going to destroy their city (Jonah 1:2). But Jonah heard of all the bad things there and was afraid and right away went down to the port and found a ship going the opposite direction, to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). But God, being Omniscient (All-knowing) wasn’t done with Jonah, He sent a great storm right where the ship where Jonah was (Jonah 1:4). Now the sailors where extremely afraid and each one cried out to his god (Jonah1:5). Jonah, knowing this was God, told the sailors what he had done and told them to throw him into the sea (Jonah 1:9-15). And what happened, the water ceased from its raging, but God still wanted Jonah to preach to Nineveh, so God prepared a great fish to swallow him up (Jonah 1:17). Jonah finally realized what he had done and pray and asked for God’s forgiveness and to give him a second chance and God did and the fish vomited Him on dry land (Jonah 2:1-10). Finally Jonah went to Nineveh and preached to them and they believed and repented of their sinful ways and God forgave them (Jonah 3:1-10). But Jonah thought that God would still destroy them, so he sat down and waited for the destruction of the city (Jonah 4:1-6). Even then God was compassionate to Jonah as God grew a plant to shade Jonah (Jonah 4:6) but God, the next day, withered the plant (Jonah 4:7) and Jonah still waited for God to destroy the city because he didn’t think God would have mercy on them not knowing that God was merciful to everyone not just some people.
Now there are three things we can learn from this sad story:

1. When we are called, we go. Every person has a calling, it may be big or small, but one thing we as Christians have in common in callings is what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” We are called to preach the gospel everywhere and, as a pastor at my church once said, “decreasing the population of hell, to increase the population of heaven” This is our most important calling, but we cannot be as Jonah and run away.

2. If we run away or sin, we are to repent right away. If we run away from what God is calling us or even if we sin, we are to right away repent. As I said in my last post, David after sinning automatically repented and God forgave him. Even if we commit the biggest sin, if we whole-heartedly repent and am truly sorry, God will forgive us and make our hearts white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Another example is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32: this son took his inheritance from his father and headed out to the town and wasted his money, and ended feeding pigs. When he finally knew that he was wrong to leave his father in the first place, he came home and his father forgave him. When we repent and know we have ran away, our Father in heaven will forgive us.

3. When we do our calling, trust God. One quote I like to use a lot is, “Do your best and trust God for the rest” when we do our calling, we do it with all our heart and do it all for the glory of God for it is God who can change a heart, as 1 Corinthians 3:7 says, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but god who give the increase.” We may plant the seed in an unbelievers heart and someone might water it, but it is only God who can grow it and change it. May we not be like Jonah and know that God has mercy on everyone who calls on Him.
May we go when we are called,

Five Smooth Stones

Romans 12:1-2


Recently I was given a folder with letters from men I respected and looked up to. That night as I sat down and started to read all the letters I found that over half of them made a mentioning of David. In the Bible, the Lord said that He was looking for a "man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14) to reign over the rebellious and stiff necked Israelites. The shepherd boy David was the one God chose to reign.(1 Samuel 16:12) There are two things I learned from David: 1) Even though we may be mere shepherd boys and feel insignificant, God still has a calling for us, whether big or small, every man and woman has a calling. My mom has always told my brother and I that, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." 2) Even though David was called a man after Gods own heart, he still made mistakes, he still is a sinner, deserving God’s wrath. My mother also has told me, "David took down Goliath with one shot, but Bathsheba took down David with one look" David, though he committed sin, instantly cried out to God and asked His forgiveness and God blessed him for that. Even though we sin, we need to know that God still loves us and wants us to ask for His forgiveness, because if we do, "He is faithful and just to forgive us" (1 John 1:9) But if we don't, desire will lead to enticement, enticement will lead to sin, and sin will lead to death. There are three more things we can take away from David:

1. In temptation, we are to flee. 2 Timothy 2:22 says, "Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Psalm 32:1-2 says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit."

2. in Failure, we are to whole-heartedly repent. All men and women have given in to some kind of temptation at one point of their life, including me, and the devils tactic is to bear us down with guilt, but the great thing is we have an almighty God who is greater, stronger, mightier than the devil who lives inside us and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13) and we can stand up to the devil and say, " I know I failed, but I have a God who lives in me and is greater than you, so be gone satan" and all he can do is tremble.

3. In success, we are to give glory where glory is due. We are called to give glory to God and to God alone, for it is all His. Even centuries after David had sinned against God, Acts 13:22 titles him as a man after His own Heart. I hope that I can live out these three truths.

May God label all of us each as a man after His own heart.

Five Smooth Stones

Romans 12:1-2