Mind Blown

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
-Luke 2:46-52 ESV

Finally, we get to Jesus' first recorded words (chronologically) in the New Testament! 

So Mary and Joseph traveled 1 day's journey, saw Jesus wasn't with them, traveled back to Jerusalem (1 more day's journey), and searched 3 days to finally find Jesus in the temple talking with a group of Rabbi's who were amazed at His understanding. What's funny is the greek word used to describe this understanding. ἐξίστημι literally means to amaze, to astonish, throw into wonderment, to be out of one's mind, besides one's self, insane. You have to understand that these Rabbis were experts of the ENTIRE Old Testament! It's like some 12 year old going into NASA and a better way to travel through space and how to go light speed. You could imagine what NASA would think!  *MIND BLOWN*

And then there's his parent's reaction. They were astonished, but at the same time his mom said, "Were you trying to worry us to death?!?" (That's my paraphrase...) In on sense they were elated that He was alright, but at the same time they were upset He was missing. 

Jesus, at 12 years old, knew who he was and who his Father was. And the best thing was he didn't abuse that power. He submitted when his mom said they're leaving. And he did it willingly. 

This may be oversimplifying things, but it's like when you're given a car. That car is yours. You can do what you want with it, go where you want, and leave when you want. But you still have to obey the law, and your parents. If dad says be home by 10, we tend to argue. Jesus didn't use the argument that everything was created for him (1 Col 1:15-20), or they weren't the boss of him. No. When she said go, he obeyed without question.  I think we can learn a lot from him. (Understatement of the century?)


Who are you searching for?

So Sunday we covered Jesus' birth, the shepherds in the field, Harrod, and all the other stuff. We're now moving closer to Jesus' ministry. But before that happens, Luke tells an interesting story about Jesus as a boy. 

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.  
 -Luke 2:41-45 ESV 

I said he's a boy, because according to jewish custom, he is still a child. Even today's standards say 12 year old is a boy. It's important to note that by his next birthday Jesus would be considered a man. When we turn 18 we're considered an adult. But that's not how it was back then. You have to consider that when Mary became betrothed to Joseph and gave birth to Jesus, she was between ages 14 and 15. So I'd say those were pretty adult. So, the 12th year was the final year of preparation before he entered full participation in the religious life of the synagogue. Up until that time his  father was teaching him the Torah, but at the end of the 12th year the child goes through a ceremony, the bar mitzvah or "son of the commandment," and becomes a man.

  So why didn't Mary and Joseph notice Jesus pulled a Home Alone?   

His parents didn't hop in a car, drive to Jerusalem, then after the feast ended, hopped back in and headed home. It was a caravan of an entire Jewish community traveling together to Jerusalem. So imagine 100 or more people with mules carrying enough stuff to support their families for a couple weeks. So, imagine ALL THAT STUFF. And among all that your most trusted, oldest child is more than likely with a neighbor or cousin ahead of them.

Mary and Joseph loved Jesus. Any parent loves their child. That's why God passionately pursues us. We were lost, and God didn't wait for us to clean ourselves up and come back to him or to find our way to Him, but He sent Jesus to bring us back to Him. 

God loves you.

  Do you believe it?  


That is why you fail

First off, I just want to say Happy Star Wars Day, and May the 4th be with you!

Now for a semi-inspired Star Wars lesson.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
-Luke 1:30-34

I read these verses and immediately one thing pops out at me. In the previous verses Zechariah struggled believing that Elizabeth would conceive and at a quick first glance it seems to some like Mary might be doubting as well. 

But let's think about it. Zechariah said, "How shall I know this?" (Luke 1:18), but Mary said, "How will this be?" (Luke 1:34). Notice the difference? Both are questioning God, right? But do both doubt? Zechariah was cursed for his doubt, right? 

Zechariah pretty much said, "How can I know this will really happen?" or "How do I know this to be true?". His doubt was in God. This priest who studied the scriptures and memorized at least the first five books of the Old Testament, (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) so he knew what God did. He knew it, but he didn't believe it.

Is this a reoccurring theme in our life? We know the scriptures, we have a head knowledge of it, but when it comes right down to it we don't believe? 

When Luke Skywalker landed in the dagobah system, he couldn't believe a little green guy named Yoda could train him. He knew this guy was a great trainer, Obi-Wan's spirit said so! But seeing a little green guy is different. Then after training with him, he is instructed to lift his crashed X-Wing out of the swamp. He couldn't. Yoda did. The picture below sums up the interaction.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
-Jeremiah 29:11-12 ESV

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
-Romans 8:28 ESV

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
-Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
-John 3:16 ESV

You know these verses, right? But do you believe it? But Mary said, "I know and believe this will be, but how?" She knew the capability of God, and that He could do it! She knew he could, but just didn't know how. 

Do we know it with our heads, or hearts?


Shut your mouth

Yesterday we covered Zechariah, soon-to-be father of John the Baptist, being told he was going to have a son, and his son would bring the people back to the Lord. I personally think he was floored. He's old, and he's going to have a son. But he's also a priest of the Lord, and the angel told him that his son would bring his people back to the Lord.

Here's Zechariah's response:

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”
-Luke 1:18-20 ESV

I think the birth thing was the easiest thing to disbelieve at first. He's old, and he says his wife is "advanced in years". I don't know much, but I do know this. Don't comment on a woman's weight, her make-up, or her age. Those are BIG no-no's. So Zechariah is saying, "Have you seen my wife? She is OOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLDDDDDDDD." But what he's really doing is questioning God's ability to do something about his situation. 

I feel like we all get in situations like this. We read something in the Bible that says one thing about us and we deny in. We're called a "new creation" and we don't live like it. We can't believe it's true. We don't see things how God sees them. 

If Zechariah easily disbelieves the birth thing, which is directly tied to the bringing Israel back to the Lord thing, he disbelieves the bringing Israel thing too!

If I said you have a present and it had a million bucks in it, but you don't believe there's a present, what else don't you believe? Hmmm...

If you're told that Christ lived a perfect life, died for your sins, rose again, and if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that you'd be saved and it was by grace and not works,but you don't believe in Christ, you negate all of that. Or if you believe in Christ, but you believe you can earn salvation, then you negate everything he did! You're saying what I did is SOOOOOO much better than what He did! My attendance to church is better than Jesus dying on the cross?!? NO WAY!

So Zechariah, a priest of God, is doubting God and everything He could do. So God shut his mouth.


You're doing WHAT?

I feel lead to start another long series. I feel like nowadays people have a skewed outlook on who Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God are. So I want to take a good look at what the gospels says. At times things are going to get tough. They're going to be messy. Jesus will say things we don't want to hear. He'll say things that (if we didn't know Jesus said it) we'd reply with, "That's not very christian like."  So we're going to call this series (as of right now) the "Red Letters" series and we're going to discuss the tough things He says.

So lets start at the beginning. In Luke's gospel, he doesn't start immediately with the birth of Jesus like Matthew, which may surprise you, but it starts with a guy named Zechariah.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
-Luke 1:8-17 ESV

That little bit is cram packed with info. Zechariah is a jew, and because we see he's a priest, we know he's a Levite. The only jews allowed to be priests were those who were of the tribe of Levi. Priests should not be confused with Pharisees and Sadducees. Pharisees and Sadducees could be from any tribe. He also only served around 4 to 6 weeks a year. He served 1 week every 24 weeks, so that's about twice a year, plus the days of highly religious holidays, like passover.

This passage also talks about how the child to be named John, A.K.A. "John the Baptist", would be filled with the Holy Spirit and have the spirit (or attitude and presence, not the literal "spirit" or "soul") and power of Elijah. And John will turn the Israelites back to God and prepare the way for the Lord. John is often referred to as the forerunner to Christ.

This probably doesn't make Zechariah happy. He's a priest! It's like Gabriel the angel was calling him a failure! Like he's not doing his job! How would you feel in that situation? Zechariah doesn't believe this! He begins to question the angel, and not believe him. But we'll pick up with that tomorrow...


What is my purpose?

This is Taylor once again posting. We are steering away from James since in Sunday school Elliot will be wrapping it up this week.

I wanted to focus on a question that teens may not say aloud, but often are thinking of subconsciously. Teens are actually determining their purpose quite a bit when they decide on a career, college, their girlfriend/boyfriend, sports they participate in, and even their participation level in school.

Growing up I wanted to define my worth, and I did so through my grades, recreational activities, and my leadership in the youth group. I wanted to make God proud, of course, but I did alot of these things to give myself worth and purpose as well. I never knew how me choosing my purpose would not always bring glory to God.

It is hard as human beings to not seek selfish desires and to let God show us His plan for our lives. No, He won't give us every detail and decision, but He can present us with that still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. We have to be quiet and listen for it.

God has a purpose for us and it has already been set in motion for us to seek His will, and not our own. Proverbs 19:21 (KJV) "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand."


Really, I swear

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
-James 5:12 ESV

Have you ever got in a situation where you had to make tons and tons of promises in order for someone to believe you? What got you to that point where you had to do that?

I remember when I was a kid my mom told me to clean my room. So I'd sit, and procrastinate, and play with toys, and then mom would say, "I'm checking your room in 5 min!" So me and my brothers would rush and shove everything under the bed and in the closet. We'd then yell to mom, "It's clean!!!" She'd come check the room, and instantly she'd pull everything out from the closet and out from under the bed into the middle of the room. We'd clean it for real the next time, but for whatever reason she didn't believe us... Hmmm.

James understood this. He pretty much said stop the lying. There's no need to swear on anything, or by anything. If your yes' are always yes, and your no's are always no, then you don't need to swear.

Sorry today's blawhg isn't long, but sometimes it's just simple and doesn't need an explanation...


Where's the gold?

The beginning of James 5 is a little hard to mull over. I'll admit, this kind of stuff isn't necessarily my favorite to read. But it's there for a reason.

Have you ever seen the show Hoarders on A&E? It's difficult for me to watch. The things these people put themselves through is appalling to me. It's just gross. These people will pack their refrigerators with meat, forget it's there, and buy more meat, then place it beside the expired meat. They cling to things that remind them of someone, or a better time, and they become so attached to things. It's all worthless junk. Trash. What's hardest for me to watch is when the family comes to help and the family says to the hoarder, "It's your choice, me or the stuff," and a lot of the time they choose the stuff. Breaks my heart...

James is speaking specifically to a certain group in the early church when he writes this:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
-James 5:1-6 ESV

The problem with the rich people here was they valued things over God. They placed value on earthly things, things that wouldn't stick around forever. Things that were already rotting and decaying. Their church life may have been awesome, but God wants more than that.

When we got saved, we surrendered our whole life over to God. We have slowly began to take parts back, saying, "God, I want that," or, "God, you can't do that." We don't allow God to change us in such a radical way that it affects every aspect of our life! We don't experience that "new creation" feeling. God doesn't want a percentage of your life, He wants the whole thing! We're boxing God up and replacing Him with something else.

We have to allow God in all areas of our life or we will start to act like these hoarders and value and store up worthless junk instead of pursuing a fulfilling relationship with God.


I'm a Pepper!

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
-James 4:11 ESV

James sums up the past chapter and a half with this thought. Don't speak evil. It's so easy to speak evil. So easy to judge. Just don't do it. Have you ever tried that?

I feel like speaking evil is like a bad habit. Have you ever tried to break a bad habit? I've been trying to stop drinking soda for a long time, but I love Dr Pepper too much. Taylor and I went to Wal-Mart yesterday and she asked if I needed more Dr Pepper. I had a killer caffeine headache, but I said no, I'm giving it up. I was doing well, until I went to Chili's last night and had five glasses of it. Once we get used to something, it's hard to give it up. Speaking evil is like that.

But how much harder is it to build someone up? To compliment someone? I dare you to build someone up this next week. Speak life into people, and don't destroy them with your words. Compliment, encourage, bear someone's burdens, don't hate, fight, and belittle. It's not your job. The world already does that, true christians don't need to.


Uhhh, no, I'm really not...

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
-James 4:4-5 ESV

I think we like to avoid uncomfortable situations. I know I do.

Occasionally I'll watch The Office. The other week one guy wanted to break-up with his girlfriend. Break-ups are uncomfortable to begin with, but then doing it at the girlfriends friend's bachelorette party? Way worse. And I was watching it. I told Taylor I couldn't watch, but there I was, watching it...

I think that's why it's easy for us to sometimes avoid certain texts in the Bible. First, James calls the church adulterous people. (Uncomfortable) I think we can think of some more modern terms for that. In essence, those words are what he's calling them. These people are choosing earthly things over God. Earthly things can be a variety of things. Sleep, sports, children, fishing, etc. There things aren't in and of themselves bad things, but when we put them in front of God, they become bad.

Then James describes God as jealous, saying "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.". God being described as jealous has confused many people. Oprah and Bill Maher are just a few. Jealousy, like many other words, has two meanings, a positive and negative.

In Gal 5:20 jealousy is listed as an act of a sinful nature. But in 2 Cor 11:2 Paul refers to a jealousy for others, indicating a relationship that he is zealous to keep. This positive attribute would certainly be consistent with a Perfect God.

I am jealous for Taylor. Not of her. What's hers is mine, so I don't have to be jealous of what she has because it's mine too. (Oprah heard God was a jealous God and it turned her away from christianity. She thought God was jealous of her and the things she had, not for her and her best interests.) But if someone is hitting on Taylor and they are trying to steal her attention away from me and our marriage, I have a right to be jealous for her. I want her, what's best for her, and I definitely don't want some other guy around her.

In the same way God wants us. He wants what's best for us. And when something comes around trying to steal our attention away from Him, and we give into that thing, we are going outside of our relationship with God for satisfaction, and in a very real way cheating on God.

I know this was a long post with little humor (I hoped the pictures helped), but the idea of God being a jealous God has confused many and turned them away from God, and I want you to understand the concept.


πόλεμος looks like gibberish

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

-James 4:1-3 ESV

Is it strange that christians fight? Not only fight, but war? The greek word πόλεμος (translated to quarrels in the ESV) also means to war, battle, or fight. So why were they warring? Their passions were at warring with them. And these passions weren't the good kind, like I'm passionate about sports, or dancing or whatever, but more like lusts, stuff that we shouldn't be desiring.

We all have those things in our lives. Things we ask from God that we know we shouldn't necessarily be asking for. Like, "God, give me the answers to the test, and sorry for playing video games all last night." Or, "Please God, if you do this, then I'll do that." We're not asking right. We're asking selfishly and we're focused on ourselves. Jesus taught us how to pray, and how to ask. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10 ESV)

When we start seeking God first in all we ask and do, these wars and fights won't matter. This week, seek God first, and ask for His wisdom and will for your life, and see what happens.


Taming the tongue

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
-James 3:8-9 ESV

I think this is cool how James connects our dichotomous nature to the old testament. In the beginning God created the heavens and earth. Then he created us in His image. We then turn and kill, hate, and curse others who are created in God's image. And then turn and praise God. 

Curse God's image then praise Him? We can't do that! How dangerous and evil is the tongue? And we have that weapon with us. Everyone does. That's 6.5 billion weapons all over the world. It's an uncontrollable evil. 

Be careful of the fires you start this week. They can be ones to bring others closer to God, or drive them away.


Sticks and stones

I'm honestly not much of a farmer. Or rancher. Or anything agriculturally related. So I've never milked a cow, or goat, or plowed a field, or even shucked corn (until Sunday afternoon). But I have ridden a horse and been on a boat, so when James talks about horses and boats, I get it.

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
-James 3:3-5 ESV

What we say often directs how we are perceived. It's amazing how something as small as our tongue can do so much damage. It can easily ruin a person's day, or build someone up.

The rudder is a very important in a ship. As small as it is, it dictates where the ship will go. The entire ship and all it's parts! Our tongue is a powerful little weapon.

Last week we talked about beliefs and actions, this week it's about words. Watch what you say. Facebook and twitter can be powerful tools to show people Jesus, or a tool bent on destroying your testimony. Be careful.


Called to Teach?

This is Taylor posting a blog today about teaching since Elliot felt I am already very passionate about this particular field. 

My first day in college I had a teacher who said that it was her responsibility to teach me and if she failed at her job then she would one day answer for her disobedience to God. The subject she was teaching was speech, my all time hated subject. I dread standing up in front of people and speaking, and how funny it is that I am a certified teacher feeling called to teach for the rest of my life. 

I never understood what that teacher meant until I began to teach. When God "calls" us to fulfill a purpose and we do not fulfill it to the fullest then we are ultimately failing God. 

James writes in chapter three verse one and two he states, 

"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."

James is saying in the first verse that those who are called to be masters, also known as teachers, will receive greater condemnation. Those who teach are to have stronger convictions, expectations, and greater rewards as well as consequences. He is not saying God loves those who teach or are called any more than those who do not. He means that those who are called to teach have a greater responsibility, therefore have greater expectations placed on them.

In the second verse James then says that all men will mess up while being masters - teachers - and the man who does not mess up is perfect. Well we obviously know that Jesus Christ was the only man who never stumbled and he was a referred to in scripture as a teacher. So our greatest example and role model teacher is Jesus Christ. We may have the responsibility and calling to teach, but that does not mean we will not stumble. It is actually expected of us, but it is what you do after you stumble. Do you restore yourself through God's Word and lean on the Lord for reconciliation? Or do you take matters into your own hands? Hopefully you do the first. 

Teaching, in any way, shape, or form is an honor. When God calls us to teach His Word think of it as a double honor. Not everyone is called to teach and be masters. When God has us teach then we are given a beautiful gift and a great responsibility. We are held to high expectations and we are to live in such a way or our consequences become far greater than others. 

Be encouraged by God's love for us and His will for your life. Make Him proud by striving to work hard, teach in love, and uphold the morals and values the Bible clearly states.


Dead men can't walk

This is going to be it for the week. I've decided that I'll be posting these on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays only. Otherwise, I'll get overwhelmed and it'll end up like last week... Sorry for that...

Now back to the point. 

Every day you demonstrate faith. You may not realize it, but you do. Just the act of getting out of bed is a step of faith. By just doing that, you're saying with your actions that you believe that the ground beneath your feet will hold you, that your legs won't give out on you, and you'll be able to support yourself and stay balanced. And that was just the act of getting out of bed. Talking in class while the teacher is talking shows others that you don't care what they are saying, and you're more important that them. 

We have a tremendous capacity for faith. Our actions are always showing others what we believe. James understood this, that's why he said this:

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
-James 2:26 ESV

We cannot separate the two. I cannot show faith without my works, and I cannot work without having faith. I can't stand without believing that the ground will be there. If I didn't believe anything, I'd be in a constant panic and I'd be too afraid to move.

You will always be witnessing either for or against Jesus by what you do. You may never have to say a word for others to know what you believe. I'm begging you, live in such a way that if others don't know God but know you that they may come to know God because they know you.



But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
-James 2:18 ESV

I kinda like that James is a smart-aleck. I don't know if you read it like that, so let me explain.

I imagine he has someone in mind, let's call him Steve, and Steve is always trying to argue with James. So james, knowing this, replies to Steve before he even said anything. He knows what he'll say, so he quotes him, and I imagine he would have said it like this, "But one of you smart guys (Steve) will say to me, 'I have faith and I have works and they work great separately. I don't think faith should ever be involved with work.'"

So, James, being the kind of guy he is immediately replies with, "Oh yeah, smart guy? You show me you believe in something without doing anything and I'll show you what I believe by doing it." James understood that you couldn't truly show others your faith passively. You had to be active. Teaching someone how to run and showing them are two different things. Both may believe that they're teaching correctly, but only one is showing that what they're teaching is actually real, that it's effective, and it has results. The other is full of hot air.

James follows up with this:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
-James 2:19 ESV

Let me rephrase. "You believe in God, Steve, and that's fine and dandy to say you do. But Even the demons believe in God and are able to talk about Him, but when they do, even they have a physical reaction to Him and shudder in fear!"

Don't be like Steve this week and be a Facebook Christian. Live out your Christianity!


Cheer up

I love Peanuts. Not the actual peanuts, but the comic strip. My favorite is Garfield, but Peanuts is a close second.

How often do you see something like this? Someone is in need physically, and all we do is give words? I feel bad for Snoopy. Charlie and Linus did nothing to help him. He isn't any warmer. He is still in the same place doing the same thing.

I think we often see someone in need and don't know how to help. God doesn't ask us to go beyond what we're capable of. People came up to John the Baptist and asked him what they should do.

And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
-Luke 3:11 ESV

He's saying give what you can, do what you can, and show them with your actions that you care. Saying it doesn't help. Doing it does.


Pull the chute

I hate heights. I cannot for the life of me pinpoint where this fear originated from, just one day I felt this way.

When I was in middle school, my friend Alex's dad owned a Skydiving Ranch. I would go stay the night at his house, and the next day we'd work at the hangar. There were some weird guys working out there. There was a guy with purple hair named Marco, but everyone called him Polo, another guy with a green mohawk nicknamed Fetus, and a 7 foot tall canadian, but I forget his name. These guys would go skydiving everyday with a camera strapped to their helmet and they'd film people diving. After they finished, Alex and I would take the footage and edit it, then add music, and make a print of the cassette (I know, old school). I so badly wanted to go diving. I told my mom that when I turned 16, as long as I had her permission, Alex's dad said he'd take us diving.

But 16 rolled around, and I knew there was something wrong with jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. I wouldn't do it. I must have seen at least 100 jumps, and I knew the chutes wouldn't fail (they never had before). I knew what would happen. The plane would take off, I'd tandem jump, at a certain footage I'd pull the chute, and we'd land. But saying I know it and doing it are 2 different things. Saying I know it but not doing it still means I didn't do it.

And even if I did jump, no matter how many times I say the chute will save me won't make it true. I have to pull the chute.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
James 2:14 ESV

Our actions must always reflect our words because our words won't do anything.


Junk car

Have you ever felt like you were on the outside? Like you just didn't fit in or belong? Where did you feel like that? Home, school, church? Why? Was it the place, the things, or was it the people?

I never liked being an outsider. In high school, I wasn't really an outsider. I hung out with everyone. I was in football and theater, AP classes and super easy computer classes. The one place I felt like an outsider, though, was the first church I started attending. In my first youth group, we didn't have a youth pastor. We had three men who rotated teaching the class. One week, after much prayer, two of those men left the church due to some doctrinal issues, leaving one behind to take over. He became the dictator of the teen ministry. The one teacher left behind was the one who encouraged a "seniority rules" attitude, who encouraged pranks on the weaker and younger, and had an "if you're not for me, you're against God" kind of attitude. Because I wasn't for him, I was on the outside. Instantly the youth knew they could pick on me and nothing would happen. I didn't have the nicest car, so everyone knew they could make fun of me for that. I remember times that the teens would jump on top of my hood, take things out of my car, and one time the youth guy used my car as an example of a junk car in one of his lessons! Four months later, we left and I was able to join one of the best churches ever. Droo, who was the youth pastor at this new church, will still contact me today and check up on me, and I've been out of his youth group for 6 years!

People may not have been making fun of other's cars 2,000 years ago, but they weren't nice to those less fortunate, outsiders, or sinners. But Jesus said this to their religious leaders:

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.
-Mark 2:15-17 ESV

Remember this, those who are less fortunate, poor, outsiders, or sinners still need love, and they still need a Savior. Don't kick them when they're down, but pick them back up and show them the love of Jesus!


Smell my feet

So, if we had to be honest with ourselves, is there a group to the left that you'd hang out with? Whatever group we picked, there is a reason we picked it. It's new, it's familiar, my family is like that, they like what I like. We picked it because of our life experiences with people who looked like them and either we want to associate with them or we don't.

But what can you tell me about those people? We could make guesses. The ones to the top don't bathe, the ones in the middle are stuck up, and the ones to the bottom are wanna-be's. But is this fair? If we picked one group over the other, would we treat the other groups differently? Would we look down on them? Would our group now be the best and everyone else sucks?

Now what about their home life? Are their parents married? Do they have brothers or sisters? Are they the oldest? Youngest? Here's the question I really want you to answer. What can you tell me about their souls? Are they saved? 

We start a slippery slope when we start to judge people. We start to assume things that aren't true, and our assumptions start to influence our attitude towards them.

It's so easy to make judgments based on appearances. And it's not a new problem. In the Bible, James talks about this idea.

For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
                                                      (James 2:2-4)

Think about that this week as you go through your school and ask yourself, would I give up my seat for them, or make them stand in the back?