If I’m Insulted, Will I Care?

“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4

I’m just going to answer that question in the title right away…

YES, of course I’ll care! I care even now…

I get all emotional and feel like I shrivel up whenever I hear people talk about the things I believe in, specifically when people talk badly about God and those who believe in God.

I mean, people have been and are killed for believing in God, in my country and others.

Whoa. Would I be willing to be killed for believing in God? Would I say ‘Yes, I believe in God’ when I have a gun to my face?

I can barely handle reading nasty anti-God comments on the internet. 

I’d like to pretend that we won’t face any kind if suffering while on this earth, but just chapter 4 of 1 Peter alone tells a different story. This book in the Bible says “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

So we’re to expect trials to come our way. YIKES. I don’t like the sound of that one bit. Who would?

But my understanding is that we have to get to that point. We have to be wiling to be insulted for our principles and beliefs. 

How do we get there? Does that faith, loyalty, and bravery happen over night?

I’d dare to say that no, it doesn’t. 

We practice our faith every day, in the big things and in the little things. 

How are you practicing your faith?

I want to end with this, this first verses of 1 Peter 4: Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

That’s how we practice our faith. We cease from sin. We cease from doing what we know is wrong, cease from breaking God’s precious law of liberty when we know better, cease from following the desires, customs, and lusts of a sinful world.

Stand up. Do what is right. Listen to God’s word and His voice.

And it’s possible. 

“Stand up, stand up for Jesus.

The strife will not be long.

This day the noise of battle, the next the victor’s song.

To those who vanquish evil
A crown of life shall be; 
They with the King of Glory
Shall reign eternally.”

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Am I Ready?

In my reading and study of Revelation 1 and 2 and 2 Timothy 3, the theme of readiness and persecution are very clear. 

I’ve talked about this before-the threat and fear of persecution. I’ve written how the idea of being derided for what I believe terrifies me. It’s crazy. I can stand up until I’m blue in the face and talk about/defend something so trivial compared to my beliefs in God, but when it comes to defending God and biblical principles I shrink back.

I’m concerned about how people will view me, how “Jesus-freak”-ish I’ll look.

Why?

Shouldn’t I be past that by now? 

In parts of the world, people are being killed for believing in God. That’s not quite happening in my sphere, but if I’m unable to stand up for Christ amongst my peers, amongst friends, family, the internet, how will I stand when death threatens me?

All of this reminds me how important it is to know why we Christians believe things we believe.

Why do we believe in God, in the Bible? Why do we call ourselves ‘Christian’? 

We-disciples of God- are to be people of the Word, studying for ourselves the principles we claim to stand for. Spewing what pastors say or only relying on paragraphs from some devotional book isn’t going to cut it.

The Word of God is a glimpse into the mind of God. Only by its study are we able to understand. 

So am I ready?

Am I ready to stand for principle, even when everyone is against me?

God’s principles never change. When we are faithful to those true principles of God, people will deride us. Even amongst other Christians, we can find ourselves pinned against a wall and persecuting one another.

So what are the right principles? What is truth and what is error? Because a belief is popular, does that make it right? Because it’s unpopular, does that make it wrong?

I’m totally guilty of being caught up in repeating what I’ve heard others say and have gotten stuck when people ask me to defend that point of view. It’s frustrating and embarrassing, but also reminds me to review why I believe certain things.

Why do you believe what you believe?

Am I ready to stand, even I’f I’m standing alone?

Are you?

Awake, You Who Sleep (Now is the Time)

Not long ago I wrote a Facebook post about being tired. I was tired of being caught in the middle of social expectations and spiritual growth. I was tired of making excuses for bad habits and bad character traits, for myself and for others. Now, not only am I tired, I’m saddened. I’m saddened by the trap we find ourselves in. I am saddened that we have resorted to accepting “this is who I am” in order to cover up our flaws and bad choices. I’m saddened by hearing this from people who say they believe in God, who supposedly believe in the changing power that He has to transform us.

Except if we say that, we don’t really believe in God’s transforming power. If we did, we wouldn’t make such excuses.

And because of that, I’m saddened.

I’m saddened because to me, those responses indicate that we really don’t believe God is powerful. Those responses indicate that grace doesn’t exist, that Christ wasn’t a good enough example or sacrifice, that people can’t change.

I’m saddened. 

 I am saddened by the idea that people would rather choose their lifestyle choices than trust in God. We’d rather deny the power God has to change us for the better in order to hold onto our lusts and desires.

That’s what makes me sad.

There is a standard for Christians and there is no excuse for sin or for breaking God’s law. And we are deceived by believing that those who hold onto sin can inherit the kingdom of God (See Ephesians 5). We, God’s people, are called out of darkness

What is grace but the power to overcome what’s impossible to overcome on our own? That is what God’s grace is all about. 

I’m not sure where this idea came from that because we are under “grace” we can do whatever we want and still be accepted as worthy to be in the presence of God and be part of God’s people. That’s not what my Bible tells me. 

My Bible tells me to not be unwise. To understand what the will of the Lord is, to be filled with the spirit, to walk in the light, to come out of darkness.

My Bible tells me God’s grace is sufficient to help us overcome sin and that we can be molded into His likeness.

Aren’t we tired of letting Satan have control over our lives?

Is that really how we want to live here on this earth? Do we want to be ensnared by an enemy who’s keen on seeing us be destroyed? Do we want to choose a path of destruction instead of a path of life? 

Do we want to live our lives making bad choice after bad choice, and then wonder why we’re not going to the glorious kingdom to be with our Redeemer for eternity?

Let us not be fooled, friends. It’s no mystery. Sin separates us from God. We cannot be in His presence for eternity if we have chosen to sin in this life.

Is whatever sin we’re holding onto really worth it?

Christ has made a provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning. Satan is jubilant when he hears the professed followers of Christ making excuses for their deformity of character. There is no excuse for sinning. A holy temper, a Christlike life, is accessible to every repenting, believing child of God. The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness.

Desire of Ages, 311

There’s POWER in Christ. Power to change. 

It’s time for us to wake up. It’s time for us to walk in wisdom, to not let ourselves be fooled any longer. 

Tomorrow isn’t promised. Let’s make our choice today.

Until next,

In Sight of Sin

Sometimes I forget.

I forget the type of person I used to be.

But other times, I remember. I remember it well.

And for those moments when I do remember, those moments when things I’ve done or used to do replay before me, I cringe. I cringe in horror. I shudder in shame. I shrink back in disgust.

That person…was me?

Sometimes when we let ourselves be consumed by whatever we feel at the moment or let ourselves be molded by what surrounds us, we become something we never thought we would ever become.

By beholding, I became.

Sometimes I feel that person still inside me. My sins spread out before me like fresh blood on a white rug. They are all there. Thankfully they aren’t displayed for everyone else to see.

But I want to say this: Something I have to consistently remember is even though I may have done those things or were part of a certain lifestyle in the past, choosing to follow Christ is what helps me keep those doors closed.

I have chosen to leave it behind.

It’s all a choice.

Anyone who chooses to follow Christ is a new creation; old things have passed away; all things have become new ( 2 Corinthians 5:17).

New.

If I were the same person I used to be, I wouldn’t be transformed. Dare I say, I wouldn’t even be a Christian. What would be the point?

Once we make a commitment to Christ, we are called to put off the old man and be renewed (Ephesians 4: 22-23), to be light bearers in a darkened world. To show there’s hope amidst what seems hopeless.

Christians hear and say this all the time, that God has an unconditional and inconceivable love for us. And He does. That love is there no matter where we are in our lives. He doesn’t love me any more or any less than he loves you.

We experience that love when we let Him into our lives. It must be an individual experience. I can sit here all day writing about God’s love and how He has changed my life. Though that can be helpful, only you can understand it fully when you experience it yourself.

Some more wonderful news is that God works in us to do good things, to change us the way we need and want to be changed.

The repercussions of my past actions are scars on my heart.

But I surrendered that part of me. And I have changed and will continue to change.

That’s the power of God.

People can say that the only reason I am different now is that I was driven to be different, and therefore can attribute those changes to the power I have within myself.

Oh boy, I can write another post about how false that is.

I don’t have that kind of power.

I do know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can overcome my propensities, practices, and habits that I know are dragging me down.

Every habit or practice that leads into sin and brings dishonor upon Christ must be put away, whatever the sacrifice.” -Acts of the Apostles, 312

When I made the decision to follow God (because I was so unhappy, broken, and miserable even though I was living with total “freedom”), there were some things I knew I needed to change. There were heartbreaking sacrfices I made. I questioned if the sacrifices were worth it and if it was even the right thing to do.

Was it worth it? I don’t even think I have to answer that. But I will. Yes.

So when I am burdened and stand in sight of my sins, I remember how faithful God is. I find hope in the promise that Christ will perfect our faith, perfect our characters. If we choose to serve God and let Him lead us, He will not lead us astray.

Triumph.

 

Until next,

Yes, I have loved you

How is everyone doing on this fine night? Well, it’s nighttime where I live in sunny SoCal. Maybe it’s morning where you are, or maybe it’s afternoon. Either way, thanks for being here.

So I’ve been thinking about how sometimes I get really caught up in being perfect in my walk with God that I skim over what drew me to Him in the first place.

Love.

I don’t say that lightly or even as a cliché Christian catchphrase. It really was and is and will always be His love.

I’ve realized that maybe one reason people don’t like the idea of God, or any single infinite being, is that they think about some tyrant in the sky who has no other interest other than making people afraid, condemning people to death, and watching them suffer on earth.

Because that’s what they hear, isn’t it?

Or they hear that all is love, love, love, love that the term starts sounding like an overplayed tune. Or how I like to say it, a flavorless and over-chewed piece of gum.

Except here’s the thing. When I reflect on texts like Jeremiah 31:3 and Hosea 11:4, I can’t help but feel peace about the choice I’ve made in believing in and following God.

It was love that drew me to Him. Not the promise of immortality or someday walking on streets of gold, but love. The love He has for everyone. Everyone. Not just Christians, not just me, but everyone.

And it’s only when I started to listen to His call on my heart that I began to see and accept His love for me.

You know, if I had to condense my conversion in one paragraph, it would be this:

I was doing everything and anything I wanted to do in my life. I lived purely for pleasure. And it felt good…for the moment. Deep down I was miserable. I needed something more, and I knew it. It was only by choosing to attend Bible studies and choosing to let God into my life that I started to feel meaning and purpose. I started to feel less and less empty.

And I want to share that joy with others, with you.

I can’t tell you how your experience will be. I can’t guess what your experience has been. But I do know that becoming a Christian does not happen overnight. It’s a process of learning, of growing, of accepting.

It starts with one choice.

 

Even though the struggle of temptations is very real, I could never go back to my old life. Never.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love…with lovingkindness I have drawn you…”

It is that lovingkindness, that deep tenderness and consideration, that keeps me tied to God.

It’s what keeps me tied to my choices. Even when they go against the popular scientific belief of the non-existence of God. Even when I chose to follow something I know is right when everyone else tells me I’m wrong.

And I pray that it is that love that always will keep me tied to Him. For me, for you, for all of us.

Remember, it starts with a choice.

Until next,

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And Then I Heard a Story

We’ve all heard it before: There’s always two sides to a story.

Except I have found that usually there’s even more.

Confession time: I’ve been totally guilty of creating scenarios and stories in my head (that are probably completely wrong) about people and their situations. What they’re thinking, why they’re thinking it, and what they’re doing about what they’re thinking…

Yeah, I’ve figured it all out.

But the thing is, I haven’t. I never completely figure anything out. *Mind=blown*

And I keep learning this lesson over and over and over again.

We often don’t know the whole story, especially if we have only heard one side of it.

Or maybe we haven’t even heard any side of it (remember those scenarios I create in my head.)

For years I’ve harbored very awful and ugly feelings about something, and I thought I could never gain any peace about it, ever. There was a war raging inside of me. I needed, I yearned for, I cried for peace.

And then I heard a story.

I heard a story that changed my outlook and my feelings about what I felt awful and ugly about.

And I would have never known about any of this information had that story never been shared, had that moment and timing and circumstances been different; I could have lived forever with those feelings. But by God’s divine timing of that shared-story time, the way I felt, something I thought would never change, actually did change.

And there is probably even more to the story I still don’t know.

I know for a fact I don’t want those ugly and awful feelings I had to come back, and I pray they never do.

 

That story was a missing piece of my peace puzzle.

There are no coincidences.

It makes me wonder…how often do we go about our days thinking we know it all? How often do we make assumptions and spread ideas that could, in fact, be wrong?

I want to know the other side. I want to know the true story.

Instead of thinking I know, I actually want to know.

 

How many stories are out there that we could afford to hear?

To pay attention and listen?

There are so many sides to a story. So many opinions. So many changing elements…

 

Maybe there’s a part of a story you’re missing. Maybe there’s a piece, and some peace, you’ve been longing for that can only be found by making peace.

 

Until next,

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A Battle, a March

I think some of you know that I teach bible lessons to a class of teens/young adults. A questioned I asked them—and ask you— is this:

If I asked you if you were 100% committed to Christ, what would you say?

Christians often say that because we’re sinners/live in a sinful world, we cannot really be in control of our actions.

“No one is perfect,” they say.

Usually, such things are uttered immediately following (or immediately before) they did or said something they inherently knew was wrong.

They say something really mean about someone: “Well, I’m not perfect.”

They curse and gossip and cheat: “That’s just who I am.”

To me, that response diminishes God’s power and tells me the God you say you serve is a God that truly isn’t all that powerful.

If I am trying to represent the God I serve and the Christ I follow, I’m not going to talk like the rest of the world talks. I’m not going to cheat like the rest of the world cheats. I’m not going to lie like the rest of the world lies. I’m not even going to eat like the rest of the world eats (well, at least the rest of the world where the standard Western diet prevails). Plain and simple.

I digress. The point I’m trying to make here is that instead of coming up with excuses to why we curse/cheat/lie/steal/mistreat our bodies/sin, we should own our mistakes, switch gears, and say “You know, that was wrong. I messed up. I shouldn’t have done/said that. But God is able to help me with this.

Yes!

I get it. We struggle.

But who said this life would be easy?

“The Christian life is a battle and a march. In this warfare there is no release; the effort must be continuous and persevering. It is by unceasing endeavor that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. Christian integrity must be sought with resistless energy and maintained with a resolute fixedness of purpose.”

“Wrongs cannot be righted, nor can reformations in conduct be made by a few feeble, intermittent efforts. Character building is the work, not of a day, nor of a year, but of a lifetime. The struggle for conquest over self, for holiness and heaven, is a lifelong struggle. Without continual effort and constant activity, there can be no advancement in the divine life, no attainment of the victor’s crown.” Ministry of Healing, page 452 & 453

It’s a struggle because we live with sin all around us. Temptations are rampant. Traumas tear our hearts. The good news is, we have a hope!

“You need not go to the ends of the earth for wisdom, for God is near. It is not the capabilities you now possess or ever will have that will give you success. It is that which the Lord can do for you. We need to have far less confidence in what man can do and far more confidence in what God can do for every believing soul. He longs to have you reach after Him by faith. He longs to have you expect great things from Him. He longs to give you understanding in temporal as well as in spiritual matters. He can sharpen the intellect. He can give tact and skill. Put your talents into the work, ask God for wisdom, and it will be given you.” Christ’s Object Lessons, page 146

Hebrews 12:3-10 talks about what it means to love God, to allow him to transform us, to develop love to obey and willingness to let Him change our hearts.

Titus 2:11 talks about the importance of God’s grace in overcoming sin and temptation and Ephesians 2:8 talks about the importance of growing our faith.

1 Thessalonians, James, and 1 Peter all talk about trials faced throughout the Christian life.

Christ’s righteousness comes by faith (Romans 3:22), and nothing is impossible for us to achieve (Philippians 4:13). He came to change our sinful hearts, to help us obey his law in love, to overcome sin. We can do nothing without the transforming power of Christ ( John 15:5)

The test of true Christian sincerity is not in our words, but in our actions.

That said, it absolutely matters what we do—how else can we develop a heart/character fit for heaven?

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow….if you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.” Isaiah 1:18-20.

Okay, this last verse sounds a bit scary. But I included it because there is a deep message here. Not meant to be scary, but definitely meant to be serious. As Christ’s disciples, we must serve Him out of love and commitment (just like a marriage). But if we refuse to obey the commitment we made and rebel against that commitment, there are consequences (just like a marriage).

Just because I make mistakes in my Christian life (and marriage) does not mean I am less committed. If I give up, then yes, I am less committed. Press forward with love and faith!

Don’t. Give. Up.

Trust in God’s power to help you overcome. (And get a brain scan if you’re really struggling. I type this to be a little humorous, but I’m actually pretty serious.)

In the end, I believe we Christians should be able to say we are 100% committed to Christ. And if we’re not, we need to ask ourselves why.

Until next,