Jesus is Better Than…. Part 1

Sorry it has been so long since I updated this. I feel like that is what almost all people who blog say at one time or another. I had some problems with the website but have it back running correctly so I thought it’s about time I share some thoughts with you all.

There has been somewhat of a theme lately in much that I have been studying, hearing and reading about. Whether it was from a book called “Future Grace” by John Piper, listening to sermons by Pastor Matt Chandler, or watching a Christian Conference from the US, it seems like everyone is talking about this common idea.

It’s a good thing too because the Bible talks a lot about it as well! So these guys must be on to something. What is so important that all these different people and groups are saying the same thing? Well, it’s Jesus of course! But not just Jesus, the guy who heals, helps, saves and forgives. It’s more about Jesus than about what He does for us, even though the things He does for us are pretty stinking amazing too.

This week I wanted to share some thoughts based on a lot of stuff I have been studying about how we view Jesus. It has greatly helped me and I hope it will help you too.

The thing we need to realize about Jesus is He is more than just what He did or does for us on a daily basis. Yes, Jesus forgives you of your sins past, present and future. Yes, He allowed you into heaven even when you deserved hell. Yes, He took the punishment on His perfect back for you. Let us never forget these things!

But let us also not forget that our love and our faith in Him is not merely based on what He did but more so on who He is. That is why I titled this message “Jesus is Better Than…” My goal and hope is that you can see that Jesus is better and to be more desired that anything in this universe. In two weeks I will talk about why Jesus should be desired more than anything else, but this week let’s look at what happens when we desire Jesus more than anything else.

First, it helps us battle sin. Psalm 119:9-10 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” You see that if we are to keep our lives pure and free from sin we must live according to God’s Word. But how can we do that? By seeking Him with all our heart.

Sin is a lie. It promises satisfaction and fulfillment but never comes through. So when we sin we are basically claiming that the promise of the sin is greater than the promise of God. It’s the same trick Satan used on Eve in Genesis 3. Satan put temptation and doubt in Eve’s head completely contradictory to what God had said. That’s what sin does. It causes us to either believe that God is enough or that this sin will bring us joy.

That’s why realizing that Jesus is better than anything else will help combat sin. When we truly know and believe that Jesus is better than jealousy, pride, arrogance, selfishness, or any other sin we struggle with, we stop following that sin’s lie and it loses power over us.

Do you have some sinful habit you just can’t seem to shake? What lie are you believing about that sin? Repent and realize that Jesus is greater and more desirable than whatever that sin falsely promises. Realize that your true joy and hope comes from God alone and that by trusting in any counterfeit joy you will only be let down in the end.

Second, it’s brings purpose and passion to your life. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” You see, when you aren’t living with the right meaning and purpose in life it brings emptiness and despair.

But foolishly, we keep trying to find our purpose and joy in life in other things. Watch TV and every advertisement is an ode to how great you are or how great you could be by using that product. The world tells us to pursue what is focused on us but forgets to mention that that path leads straight to emptiness and eventually hell (Matthew 7:13).

This isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, people trying to find their purpose in anything but God has been happening since Creation! However, one of the best examples of this type of living can be found in the life of Solomon. You can read his story of his various pursuits in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Basically Solomon had or pursued anything and everything that our world falsely promises to provide joy. You want power? Solomon had more. You want wisdom? Solomon was the wisest in the world. You want women? Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines. You want money? Solomon had a massive palace with tons of gold. You want friends and approval? Solomon had massive parties with tons of people.

But after Solomon mentions each of these things he makes an interesting statement. He says that each is “vanity and a chasing after the wind.” These are the things you are wrongfully pursuing in hopes of finding joy. Solomon had them and saw that they don’t fulfill. That is why he made that statement in Ecclesiastes 12:13. Only Jesus gives your life true purpose, passion and joy.

Why do so many rich and powerful seem so sad? Because they have what you hope will bring joy but they still don’t have joy. You at least have hope because you don’t have it yet, but these people have it and still feel empty. We see the rich, the famous, the popular all commit suicide or talk about wanting more. Why? Because they have put their purpose in a lie.

Only putting your faith and hope in Jesus can give your life passion, purpose and joy. Everything else will promise much but deliver little. That is why my challenge for each of you is to remember than Jesus is better than (insert anything here). He is better than money. Better than power and fame. Better than friends and popularity. He’s better than life!

Again, in two weeks I will tell you why that is. But this week just stop and contemplate what it would mean for your life if you truly believed and lived as if Jesus was better than anything else. May we see that Jesus is better than anything and everything and may that set us free from sin and give our lives true passion, purpose and joy.

Kids Wearing Daddies Clothes

I think at some point every kid does it. They sneak into Mom and Dad’s room and try on all of their clothes. Then they run out to show their parents how amazing they look. Mom and Dad take some pictures, post it on Facebook and everyone comments how cute they look. And when a 4-year-old does it it is cute.

Not so cute when someone much older does it. In fact it’s not cute at all, it’s just sad. The truth is, there are many old people playing this game right now. They are wearing “grown-up” clothes but the truth is they are still children. You see, it is not age, marital status, a good job, money or having children that makes you an adult. It’s maturity. I know people younger than I who are definitely grown-up and I know people older than I that are still just big children.

The problem is our culture dictates what we consider to be grown up. So you are 18 or 21 and now, according to the law, you are an adult. Yet, most 18-21-year-old’s don’t really act mature like an adult. Sadly, many of these same kids continue to be kids in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s because they have decided that lifestyle is somehow mature. Beer commercials do a great job of trying to get us to buy into the drink their beer and act like an idiot and you will be a mature, accepted and cool adult.

Again, this is not what maturity is. Maturity is rather a heart condition. It has to do with your relationship to God, not to the world or it’s possessions. And that is why I want to look at three verses today that describe maturity to us so that we can leave behind foolish worldly maturity and seek after true maturity.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11). Now this doesn’t mean you can’t be an adult and still have fun. That is what some cultures do and it is wreaking havoc, (many Asian cultures try to convince people that adults must be serious all the time and the result is very extreme and dangerous ways of expressing themselves through various sinful activities). You can be mature and still fun. Rather, it means giving up immature and foolish sins because you have grown-up.

For example, many high school student’s think it is cool to curse. Saying bad words is the cool thing to do at that age. But that is childish. It is sad when you hear a 40-year-old drop five F-bombs in a sentence and try to sound like he is 15 again. Many high school student’s just want to hook up and find as many girls or boys as they can. Again, this is childish immaturity, but we sadly see many so-called adults who do the same. These people still speak, think and reason like children even though their age has grown.

Rather, we must repent of these follies and leave them behind. We need to grow to desire our Lord more than childish, fleeting pleasures. We must reject what the world tells us to do for acceptance and instead seek after Him who accepts us as we are. So my first challenge is that we would all repent of any childish behavior we are currently doing and instead seek to live a mature life that represents our true growth in Christ.

“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Many kids pretending to be mature have this issue. They don’t take time to study, learn and grow. People graduate from college and are glad they never have to study again. The problem with this attitude is that it stunt’s your growth and you remain a big, immature kid rather than moving on to maturity.

Rather, if we are to mature as Christians but even just as people, we need to feed ourselves with solid food rather than milk. Instead of wasting our times watching TV why don’t we dive into the Bible? Instead of always talking with our friends about money, work and football why don’t we try to speak and discuss about the more weighty, heavenly things?

My challenge is that we could humble ourselves and to become students as we become teachers. That we would redeem our free time with solid food and more life-giving subjects rather than the milk of movies and TV that our culture uses to keep us numb and immature. That we would grow instead of what happened to these people: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Hebrews 5:12-13).

“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:14-15). We need to be more solidly grounded in God. Grounded in God, not yourself! The lie culture tells us about maturity is that we need to become self-sufficient, completely able to take care of and deal with all of our problems ourselves.

The problem is we cannot possibly do what culture demands of us. We can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t be the lone ranger and we most certainly cannot save ourselves from our sin. If we could overcome our sin problems ourselves we wouldn’t need Jesus. But you and I can’t. I guarantee there is at least one sin that no matter how hard you try, it keeps coming back (If you claim there isn’t then I already know which sin it is that you struggle with). You can’t deal with this yourself. You can’t overcome. Not something the media would ever try to make a movie out of. But it is true. Only God can do it.

When we are not standing firm on Jesus or building our life upon Him, (Matthew 7:24-27), we tend to be thrown into confusion, doubt and anxiety a lot easier. We are tricked into believing whatever new doctrine comes out as long as the speaker is able to present it charismatically. Remember there will be many wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), and thus we need to be mature in our faith so we will not be “tossed to and fro.”

My final challenge to us is that we would put our trust in God, not ourselves. That we would stand firm on Jesus as our Lord and that we would not be so easily deceived by new doctrine that is only lies of culture, (“The Secret” is a great example of lies that can sway those not growing with Christ).

So I hope that we can all grow up. We can stop pretending that we are mature and humble ourselves before God, repent and allow Him to truly help us mature. May we stop living in childish habits but instead grow into a mature life. May we stop living off of the food of infants and grow into mature people who need solid food. And may we not be tricked into the deceptions our culture proclaims to us daily, but instead be solidly founded in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Antiques

This summer my beautiful wife and I walked around an antique store. The store was massive with hundreds or maybe even thousands of items from decades long ago. And what struck me as I was looking at all these amazing relics of the past was that at some point in time, someone had worked very hard to make enough money to buy these beautiful objects. Maybe they had worked overtime just to make enough money for their family to enjoy such an object. And years later here it was, in an antique store.

So my question for each of us today is: what are you working for? It’s a question deeper than just the love of money but rather what is the reason you work and earn a salary? Why do you have a job and for what purpose do you work hard? Today I’d like to discuss two wrong motivations and two right motivations for our hard work.

The first wrong motivation is to put all your hard work and dedication into something that is temporal. When I say temporal I mean something that will not last or will fade with time. Solomon has the same thing to say in Ecclesiastes 2:18-26. Here he basically realizes that for him to work hard to earn nice things and money only to have those nice things and money go to a “fool” when he dies is a waste. Why should he, or we for that matter, work our whole lives only to earn some stuff that will end up in an antique store one day?

This usually plays out in one of two ways. For men, this will be electronics, tools, cars, or something else that he is interested in. While owning stuff isn’t a sin it can become one when we make that thing our pursuit and it becomes an idol and we end up working our lives to gain future garage sale items. For women, this usually plays out in purchasing things for your appearance. Clothes, shoes, purses all end up at Goodwill eventually.

And this even translates into how much emphasis you put into your physical beauty. While I do appreciate that my wife does wear makeup and does look nice for me I never want her to invest all her time, money and energy into trying to stay young a beautiful because that would be focusing on a temporal thing. I once had a student tell me her biggest goal in life was to always look young and beautiful. I told her a story I once heard of a wise man who picked up a pile of dirt and said, “this was once the most beautiful woman in the world.” This student had the wrong motivation.

Now before any of you accuse me of being irresponsible with my savings let me make a note. I do believe that each of us should have a job and earn money based on the gifts God has given us, (Paul is a great example of this in Acts 18:3). We also are to save accordingly for the future and to provide necessary, (key word here is NECESSARY), things for our family, (1 Timothy 5:8). But we cannot use these things, (being responsible with my money, saving, etc…), as a crutch or an excuse to use our money primarily for temporal things.

The opposite of working for the temporal is the good motivation for our hard work and dedication. This is working for the everlasting. Notice that no product or vacation is everlasting, (and memories don’t count cause they die when you do). That means for us, our ultimate goal is not something but rather some purpose. Jesus says it clearly in Matthew 6:19-20. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Making your life about stuff only adds worry. You are worried your stuff, (your car, house or the stuff in it), might break, get stolen or get lost. And if your purpose is tied to your possessions you only end up brokenhearted when they inevitably fade. But Jesus offers us the chance to spend our time, money and energy on something greater. These “heavenly treasures” he speaks of are our chance to use our resources to reach out to those around us with the Gospel of Jesus. Use your house as a place to invite people to study God’s Word. Use your car to drive people to Church. Use your money to fly overseas and hand out Bibles and clean water to those who have neither.

When we choose to invest in the eternal rather than the temporal we find joy not in our possessions but rather in how they can be used to bring glory to God. This leads to the second wrong motivation for why we work, and that is to purchase unnecessary wants that end with us. What I mean is when we spend our resources just trying to gain other resources to make our lives greater or more comfortable we have missed the mark.

Rather, a healthy motivation is to use our hard work and resources to gain other resources that can spread to others. It is basically multiplication versus addition. And if you are older than 3, you know that multiplication will always yield the greater result. When we work hard just to gain stuff to add to our collection we only do addition. But when we work hard to use our resources on others we see multiplication. This is because we cannot serve two masters as Jesus says in Matthew 6:24. We either will serve Jesus and thus use our resources to multiple His glory or we will serve Mammon, (or money, possessions, etc…), to attempt to add to our stockpile of goods.

I saw a great example of this firsthand when I was in college. I went to a Christian conference with a group of men from my Church. I was the youngest guy there and as a college student, didn’t have a lot of extra income to spend. I had a job though and felt I was able to afford anything on the trip that was needed. The night before the conference we went out to dinner and a man from our Church named Dennis offered to pay for my meal. I told him I had a job and could afford it and that he didn’t need to do that. But he insisted and said, “When I was younger an older man at Church did this for me, so now I am doing it for you. And one day, you will do it for others.”

And since then I have had the chance to do the same thing for others. Dennis could have saved his money and bought something nice for his house with it. He could have just put the money in the bank or towards a nice vacation. But rather he decided to use his money that he had worked hard for to take care of someone and his influence was multiplied.

So my hope is that we don’t spend our short time on earth chasing after future antiques. And that we don’t spend our limited time just gaining things that only add up when we have the chance to use our resources to multiply God’s Kingdom. So may we rightly understand why we work and use our resources for the eternal. May we always seek to multiply our resources by using them on others rather than just adding to our stuff collection. And may we do it all for the glory, honor and praise of Christ Jesus our Lord.

We have an Enemy- Part 2

Last week we acknowledged the fact that we are all in need of a Savior. We cannot save ourselves and we are all the furthest things from heroes, (even though our culture wishes to tell us otherwise). And while we do have a hero Jesus Christ our Lord, we also have an enemy.
上周我们认识到事实是我们需要一个救世主。作为人类我们不能凭借自身的力量去拯救自我,相反,人类本身要成为英雄是遥不可及之事,(尽管我们的文化却希望告知我们相反的事情)。同时,当我们有基督耶稣作为我们的英雄的时候,我们同样有一个共同的敌人。

As much as we all wish it wasn’t true, there is someone who hates us and will stop at nothing to see our ultimate destruction. His name is Satan and he is a fallen angel whose goal is to get as many to hell as possible. This is the first truth we must all realize this week. Satan and hell are real. We find it so easy to talk about heaven, (even non-Christians), but few of us like to admit or consider the reality of Satan and hell.
尽管我们希望这不是一个事实,但确实有一个憎恨我们,并且会不惜一切代价地希望看到我们最终毁灭的存在,他就是撒旦。撒旦是一个堕天使,他在世界的目的就是尽可能地使更多的人下地狱。这个就是我们这周的分享里要认识到的事实。撒旦和地狱是确实存在的。尽管人们在谈话中很容易就会谈到天堂(即便不是基督徒),但却只有少部分人承认撒旦和地狱的存在。

We learn a bit about Satan in a few places in the Old Testament. We learn he is a fallen angel who introduces sin to mankind and is constantly looking for ways to trip up God’s people, (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:13-19, Genesis 3:1-15, and Job 1:6-2:7). And while my purpose this week is not to show the history of Satan I think it is important that we all have an understanding of his background a bit. So check out the verses above before going on.
在圣经的旧约里面,我们可以在某些章节里面了解到一点关于撒旦的描述,我们可以知道撒旦他是一个堕天使,引诱人陷入罪的里面,并且不断地使上帝的儿女绊倒(圣经中的以赛亚书14:12-15;以西结书28:13-19;创世纪3:1-15;约翰福音1:6 – 2:7) 。我这周分享的目的并不在于告诉你们撒旦的历史,我觉得重要的是要让你们知道一点关于撒旦的背景,所以我希望你们在继续读下去之前,可以翻开圣经去查阅一下上面提及的章节。

My goal today is for each of us to see what Satan’s attacks look like, and how we can be prepared for them. But before we look at how Satan attacks us and what the Bible tells us to do in response, I think it is important to note two vital mistakes we make when it comes to Satan.
我今天的目标是让你们看到撒旦是如何把他的魔掌伸展进我们里头,而我们又应当作怎样的准备来应对。但是,在说撒旦如何攻击我们以及圣经里面说的如何应对撒旦之前,我认为当我们提及撒旦的时候,要注意我们经常犯的却又是至关重大的两个错误。

The first is that we try to ignore or hope he isn’t real. To pretend an enemy doesn’t exist doesn’t make them less powerful, but actually allows their work to be done in relative ease. We have to admit and understand that we have an enemy named Satan who is real in order to combat him. The second vital mistake we make is that we either give Satan too much respect and thus live in fear, or too little respect and are easily deceived.
第一个错误就是我们一直尝试忽视或者希望撒旦并不是真实的存在,而假装敌人的不存在是不会使敌人的力量有所削减,反而会使敌人的行动更加的轻松。我们必须承认和明白我们有一个名为撒旦的敌人,他是真实存在的,我们也需要与他作战。第二个错误是我们或过多的敬畏撒旦以至于一直生活在恐惧中,或对撒旦存在过少的尊重以至于我们很容易被引诱。

We are told not to fear because our Hero, Jesus Christ, is greater than our enemy Satan and has overcome. Romans 16:20 says “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Also Revelation 20:10 says “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” We know the end of the movie. God wins, Satan loses. So we need not fear because we know our Hero is greater than our enemy.
我们说我们并不惧怕撒旦是因为我们有一个共同的英雄,他就是基督耶稣,耶稣比我们的敌人撒旦更加的强大并可以战胜撒旦。罗马书16章第20节中说:“赐平安的神,快要将撒旦践踏在你们脚下。愿我主耶稣基督的恩常和你们同在。”启示录20章第10节又说:“那迷惑他们的魔鬼被扔在硫磺的火湖里,就是兽和假先知所在的地方。他们必昼夜受痛苦,直到永永远远。”我们知道最终的结局是神胜利了撒旦,因此我们无需害怕,乃因我们的英雄比我们的仇敌更强大。

At the same time, this does not give us an excuse to like arrogantly, as though we did not have an enemy. The truth is that Satan has been around much longer than you and me. He knows the Bible, God and Jesus far better than we do. So to be as arrogant as to think that we can take Satan on by ourselves is quite a foolish endeavor indeed. In John 8:44 Jesus calls Satan “the father of lies.” While we need not fear Satan because we have a Savior in Jesus, a healthy respect for Satan is good in order to be prepared for his deception.
与此同时,这并不意味着给了我们一个借口,可以自负到仿若当撒旦不存在。事实上,撒旦存在这个世界的时间比你我长得多,它知道圣经、神和基督耶稣的东西比任何一个人都多,因此,假若有人自负到认为仅凭自我的力量就可以战胜撒旦,那他绝对是愚不可及的。在约翰福音第8章44节里,耶稣称撒旦为“说谎人之父”。而我们无需害怕撒旦乃因我们有一个救世主,他就是基督耶稣,而对撒旦有适当的尊重则可以使我们随时做好准备以应对撒旦对我们的欺骗。

Now that we understand our enemy a little better we can look at the primary ways he attacks us and how we as servants to Jesus can respond. The first way that Satan attacks the children of God is through lies. Satan will tell us anything to get us distracted from God. Genesis 3:4 says “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” This is only a few verses after God had told them not to eat of the fruit or they would die. Satan uses deception to get Adam and Eve to eat the fruit. And this he still does to us today. He puts little lies into our thoughts, our culture or our friends and family members. Lies like, “God can’t exist in this scientific age, you are the top of the evolutionary chain.” Or “You can do what you want because you know what’s best.”
现在,我们对我们的敌人有了更深一步的认识,我们就可以看看撒旦是如何攻击我们的,而我们作为基督耶稣的仆人,又是怎样应对。撒旦攻击神的儿女,第一种方式就是通过谎言,它会告诉我们虚假的事实以使我们远离神。创世纪第3章第4节记载:“蛇对女人说:“你们不一定死。”。”这是一段记载上帝告诉亚当和夏娃不要吃那果实,否则你们会死后发生的事情。撒旦用谎言欺骗了亚当和夏娃,让他们吃了那禁果。而今天撒旦仍继续用谎言来欺骗人类,它将一点点谎言渗透入我们的思想里、文化里,或是我们的朋友里,乃是家人里,这里谎言譬如有“上帝在这科学的时代里是根本不存在的,人类是进化论里面最顶端的环节”,又或是“你尽可随心所欲地做任何你认为是好的事情”。

Satan’s lies are many and they continue to lead us astray. So what can we do? We can respond the same way Jesus does to Satan in Matthew 4:1-11. Each lie Satan told Jesus, Jesus responded with a Biblical truth. So in order for us to combat the lies of Satan we need to know our Bibles. Read it. Memorize it. Ask Biblical teachers about it. And then when a lie comes to you, (through your thoughts, the media, your friends or family, etc…), have those verses on your mind and ready to combat Satan.
撒旦撒了很多谎,并且不断地使人误入歧途,那我们可要做什么呢?我们可要效仿在马太福音第4章1到11节里,基督耶稣面对撒旦时所做的事情,每一次撒旦想要欺骗基督耶稣时,基督耶稣就会以圣经上所记载的事实回应撒旦的谎言。因此,为了与撒旦作战,我们必须清楚地了解圣经,为此我们要不断阅读、背诵以及询问牧师圣经上的内容,以当撒旦企图欺骗我们时(通过思想、媒体、朋友、家人等途径),你所熟悉的经文就会出现在你的脑海里,以让你准备好与撒旦战斗。

Secondly, Satan tricks us with pleasure. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says “In their case the god of this world, (Satan), has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Satan tells us that pleasure is the ultimate purpose to our lives. This tactic of his has been widely successful over the last 100 years as modernization has made getting pleasure much easier. People devote their entire lives to getting money in order to pursue sex, material possessions, travel, or whatever else they think may bring them pleasure.
第二,撒旦会通过感官上的快乐来欺骗我们。哥林多后书第4章第4节记载:“此等不信之人被这世界的神(撒旦)弄瞎了心眼,不叫基督荣耀福音的光照着他们。基督本是神的像。”撒旦告诉我们获得感官上的快乐是我们活着的最终目的,自过去的100年以来,随着现代化的推进,人类更容易获得感官上的快乐,使得撒旦的这一阴谋得以更成功、更广泛地传播开去。人们会花费他们一生的时间不断地追求金钱,以供他们享受情欲上、物质上、旅游或其他方面,一切能给他们带来感官上快乐的东西。

In order to combat this desire for pleasure, we need to look at some of the great examples from our King and also from His Word. Verses from Jesus about this include Matthew 6:19-21 and 24-34, Matthew 13:44-46 and Luke 18:24-25. Paul gives us some other great ideas in Philippians 3:7-8 and 4:11-13. The book of Ecclesiastes is also quite helpful in combating this attack. Ultimately, we need to learn to desire Christ and His Kingdom more than any pleasures this world could possibly offer.
为了与感官上的快乐对抗,我们需要通过看地上的君王以及他们的言语,关于这些言语,我们可以在马太福音第6章19到21节,24到34节,马太福音第13章44节到46节,以及路加福音第18章第24节到25节;而保罗在腓立比书第3章7到8节以及第四章11到13节中亦给了我们其他的很好的意见。而传道书同样有益于我们如何去与感官上的快乐战斗。最后,我们需要做到渴求基督耶稣与他的国胜过这世上其他所有一切感官上的快乐。

Finally, Satan also uses pain to hurt the children of God. Satan may give someone a disease like cancer in hopes that through this disease or pain they would lose their trust in God. Satan knows that many of us can believe and trust God when everything is good, but when some kind of pain or hardship comes many will turn their back on Christ. These people only trusted Christ for what He could do for them. This ideas basically turns you into your own God and Jesus into your servant whose job is to take care of you.
最后,撒旦同时亦会用痛苦伤害神的儿女。撒旦可能会给予某人例如癌症等一些疾病,企图通过疾病或痛苦这种方式使人们失去对神的信任。撒旦知道我们中的许多人在当所有事情都很美好的时候才会相信基督,但当痛苦和不愉快降临的时候,他们就会扭过脸,把背对着基督。这些人只相信基督会给他们做事情,这种想法究其深处,就是他们把他们自己当作了神,而基督只是照料他们的仆人。

If you are struggling with pain and maybe even questioning God, there are some great places in the Bible for you. The first is the entire book of Job, especially the end where God speaks and shows Job that he cannot fathom the ways of God and instead needs to be silent and trust. Also, having a mindset that we are only here temporarily but the afterlife is eternal can often help those who are suffering right now.
如果你挣扎与痛苦甚至质疑神的话,在圣经里面有很多章节可以解答你的疑问。第一个地方就是整本约伯记,特别是在最后的部分记载到神告诉约伯,约伯他是不可以看透神的计划,相反,约伯需要的是静心依靠和相信神。同时,我们需要有一个“我们在这个世上是短暂,但是,那些现今受苦的人在死后却得着永恒的生命”的心态面对这个世界。

Next week we will consider what our job is in all of this. If Jesus is our Hero and Satan our enemy, what is our role? The verses I have listed above are just a small amount. Open your Bible and find more. The Bible is full on the topic of our enemy and his attacks. Also, a few good books about this problem are “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis and many of the autobiographies of some of our Christian ancestors.
下周我们会细想一下我们在这世上应当做什么?如果基督是我们的英雄,撒旦是我们的敌人,那我们的角色又是什么?我曾经听到的关于以上这个问题的回答只有很少的一点。打开你的圣经去找到更多关于这方面的记载,就会看到整本圣经的一个很重要的主题就是关于我们的敌人以及它对我们的攻击。同时,关于以上这个问题亦有一些很好的书籍可以给大家参考,例如C.S. Lewis写的《The Screwtape Letters》 以及其他的很多关于基督徒的自传。

Whether it is lies, pleasure or pain may we stop falling victim to the attacks of Satan and learn how to stand strong in Christ. As Paul says, may we put on the full armor of God.
无论是谎言、快乐抑或痛苦,我们都不应当跌倒以成为撒旦攻击下的牺牲品,想反,我们应当学会靠着基督而坚强地站立起来,正如保罗所说:“要穿戴神所赐的全副军装。”

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. -Ephesians 6:10-18
以弗所书 6章 10-18节:
我还有末了的话:你们要靠着主,依赖他的大能大力,作刚强的人。要穿戴神所赐的全副军装,就能抵挡魔鬼的诡计。因我们并不是与属血气的争战,乃是与那些执政的、掌权的、管辖这幽暗世界的,以及天空属灵气的恶魔争战。所以,要拿起神所赐的全副军装,好在磨难的日子抵挡仇敌,并且成就了一切,还能站立得住。所以要站稳了,用真理当作带子束腰,用公义当作护心镜遮胸,又用平安的福音当作预备走路的鞋穿在脚上。此外又拿着信德当作藤牌,可以灭尽那恶者一切的火箭。并戴上救恩的头盔,拿着圣灵的宝剑,就是神的道。靠着圣灵,所时多方祷告祈求,也为我祈求,并要在此警醒不倦,为众圣徒祈求,也为我祈求,使我得着口才,能以放胆,开口讲明福音的奥秘,我为这福音的奥秘作了带链锁的使者,并使我照着当尽的本分放胆讲论。

What Surface are you?

Please note two new links I have added to the side of the page. Both are named Secret Church. One is in Chinese and one in English. Both have great teaching on many different aspects of the Christian faith.

So today while I was doing my daily devotion time, I read a well known Christian story. If you haven’t been around Church that long I will give you a little background of the story first. When Jesus came to earth he often spoke in parables. These are story’s that use earthly terminology to describe something heavenly. Commonly, Jesus would use terms from farming or fishing, common jobs at the time, to allow people to understand an important heavenly truth. But Jesus also spoke this way so that only the elect could truly understand their meaning, (Matthew 13:10-17). So it was very common for Jesus to speak this way, and it was also common that many people wouldn’t understand, (again, Jesus did this knowing that they would not grasp the heavenly implications).

So the parable I read today is called the parable of the sower and goes like this:

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:1-9

Now after reading this parable some of you know exactly what each of the four surfaces mean. Again, if you aren’t really sure what each means go to Matthew 13:18-23 and read Jesus’ explanation of the four different soils. My purpose today is not to try and explain the parable. Jesus has already done that and I can not do better at explaining something that God has already explained. Rather, my goal today is for us to take a deeper look at ourselves and try to see which path we may find ourselves on.

I say this because I believe every person, (Christian and non-Christian alike), who reads the above parable assumes they are the good soil. We all assume we are on the right track. While most people will say they aren’t perfect, few will admit they aren’t even good. So my challenge to each of us today is to really examine ourselves. For non-Christians this means looking deeply at whether or not you truly believe you are “good” enough on your own, or if you are in need of a savior. And for Christians, this means examining whether or not you truly know Christ. Paul says “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

So let’s examine the 3 other types of surfaces and see whether or not you pass the test. The first type Jesus describes is those who have heard, but don’t really understand and so they just don’t try to understand. To me, these people sound arrogant and prideful. It seems as though, because something is difficult for them, they excuse it as rubbish rather than admitting they might not have all the answers. Instead of seeking after truth, they leave it alone and go on with their everyday, self-indulgent life.

Is that you? Are you someone who has never even really given Jesus a chance? Maybe someone told you about Jesus and you scoffed at them because you feel like Christianity, the Bible and Jesus don’t match up with modern science and your own intellect. Or maybe you were interested but couldn’t understand, so instead you went back to something easy to grasp. Or maybe the idea that ultimate truth does exist and can be known scares you, so you have avoided seeking the meaning of life in exchange for self-exaltation.

Or possibly you relate to those on the second surface. These people receive the Gospel message with joy. They look “born-again” and people all around start to see amazing evidence of it. But inside they know they were never born again. This second group sounds like selfishness is their sin. They like Jesus for His forgiveness, but choose not to read any part where He says we will suffer. They chose Jesus because He makes them happy and provides hope and joy for them now. But as soon as their life is anything but comfortable and easy they curse God or ask why He has abandoned them.

Is that you? Did you choose Jesus just as a “get out of hell free card?” Did you choose Him because you think He will make your life comfortable and smooth? Are you hoping that He will bless you with all you want and need? Are you willing to listen and suffer with Jesus or only choose Him as long as it benefits yourself?

The third group of people are those who have heard of Jesus, but have decided that the pleasures of this world are far greater than what Jesus can offer. These people tend to struggle with materialism and covetousness. They find their worth in their possessions, their pleasures and most likely, their money. They can’t understand verses like Matthew 13:44-46. Jesus promises heaven, but He says we have to give, suffer and sacrifice on earth. These people would much rather get, party and seek pleasure than anything else.

Is that you? Are you so focused on seeking pleasure, (money, possessions, sex, comfort, etc…), that you care little for anything else? Have you decided the pleasures of here and now are better than those offered after death? Does the idea of giving all you own to the poor terrify you?

In all honesty, we really probably relate to all three types of soil. Sometimes I struggle with my pride, other times my selfishness and still other times with materialism. How could I be the good soil? Well thanks be to God that I am not meant to be good soil on my own. Only through the cross can I possibly overcome these temptations to sin and instead produce “hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Christ has made me into the good soil.

Non-Christians, my prayer is that you will realize that no matter how hard you work or how much you try you can never be the good soil. It is like a patch of dirt becoming a garden. The dirt can’t cause this to happen on its own, but rather needs a farmer to come and work the ground, plant the seeds and care for it. May you see that Jesus has come and has offered to do this with your life.

Christians, may we test ourselves. May we not grow comfortable thinking we are the good soil when pride, temptation and future suffering are waiting for us. May we realize that each soil represents our life and that for us, we must cry out to Jesus. May we humbly run to Him who made us good and continue to cling to Him forever.

Tis the Season for Change

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. For many of us that means food, family and football. But for others of us it means the last day before the big Christmas season kicks off. I have always wondered why they call it black Friday. Yes it is the biggest shopping day of the year, so maybe for men it is also the darkest/saddest day of the year.
感恩节将至。对于很多人来说意味着食物,家庭和足球。 但是对于其他人来说是圣诞节前的最后一个节日。 我经常疑惑为什么人们称之为黑色星期五。 的确,它是一年中最大的血拼日。很多男士也称之为一年中最黑暗的日子。

But I want to challenge us all this year to make a change. I know it has almost become cliche, but I really feel like we have all lost touch with what the Christmas season is really supposed to be about. “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35). We have all heard the second half of that verse even if we have never opened our Bible, but rarely does the whole idea put forth in this verse make it into our Christmas festivities.
我建议你们挑战自我来次新的转变。我知道这很迂腐,但我还是感觉到我们都渐渐遗忘了圣诞节本应具备的意义。 我凡事给你们做榜样,叫你们知道应当这样劳苦,辅助软弱的人,又当纪念主耶稣的话:施比受更为有益。(使徒行传20:35)

Christmas is a time to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate because the King has come into the world. And then we follow our King’s example. We serve. We give. We sacrifice. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45). My question to you is, are you really serving, giving or sacrificing?
圣诞节是记住我们的主,我们的救世主降生的日子。我们庆祝因为我们的君王已经来到这个世界。我们要跟随祂。我们付出,我们牺牲。“因为人子来,并不是要受人的服侍,乃是要服侍人,并且舍命,做多人的赎价”(马可福音10:45)

Here’s what I mean. Did you know that 1% of annual Christmas sales in the US could lead to more than 1 million rescue operations for those trapped in forced labor or the sex slave trade? (http://www.ijm.org/content/advent-conspiracy#). Just a puny 1%. That tells me we are spending a whole lot on things we don’t really need while neglecting some of the most glaring needs of this generation.
这是我们的理解。你知道每年1%圣诞节的销售业绩需要花费1百万美元支付那些大规模的劳动力。只是1%呀。 这告诉我们我们在一些不必要的事情上花费很多,却忽略了这一代最重要的东西。

We do give. Problem is we are busy giving to those who can and will give back to us. I buy a gift for you so that or because you bought a gift for me. We buy each other more stuff that we think we need today but will end up in the trash, the garage or that random junk drawer within five years. Worse yet, we teach the next generation that having more stuff or materialism is what is important. Christmas is not the time to teach materialism, it’s the time to teach the Gospel message through giving and service to those most in need.
我们也会付出。问题是我们忙于为那些会给予我们回报的人付出。我买礼物给你因为你曾经送给我。我们为彼此送我们需要的礼物,但是五年内我们会把它们遗弃。更糟糕的是,我们教我们的下一代得到更多的东西,唯物主义才是最重要的。圣诞节不是教孩子们物质的时候,而是通过付出,给予去传授福音。

So I am proposing something radical because that is exactly what kind of life Jesus calls us to lead. As you are making a Christmas list or sharing with your loved ones what you want, I want you to check out this website: https://secure3.convio.net/ijm/site/SPageNavigator/HGC_Home.html. This is a charity I give to and can say they are doing some great work in the world. They have numerous needs and opportunities for you to help.
所以我现在提出一些比较激进的想法因为那才是耶稣想让我们去实现的。当你在计划圣诞行程时候,我希望你能看看这个网页。 这是我奉献的慈善机构,我敢说他们真的为了这个世界做了很多 很好的事情。 他们有很多地方需要你帮助的。

What I am proposing is that you ask others to donate to a need instead of buying you a gift. Now I am not telling to to donate instead of buying gifts for others. You still need to buy your family and friends gifts as they have asked. But maybe instead of asking for an iPhone you could ask that someone receives emergency medical attention. Instead of a new bike, how about a bike for someone who desperately needs one in order to get to work or school. Instead of more PS3 or Xbox games, how about freedom for someone caught in slavery against their will.
我的建议是你可以请求别人捐赠而不是给你买礼物。我的意思不是说叫别人捐赠不叫别人买礼物。如果需要你同样需要为家人朋友买一些东西。但是你可以请求别人捐赠一些紧急的医疗用品而不是Iphone。 相对于一辆新的自行车,那些急需自行车去上班去上学的呢?相对于PS3等游戏机,想想那些为自由而奋斗的困在奴隶?

And this is just one great charity. There are numerous others that have needs that you could help with. I find it interesting that when the economy isn’t good, giving, especially charitable giving decreases. However, I don’t feel like Christmas spending has decreased much. Woe to us if we are a generation that continues to indulge in pleasures while millions are in desperate need. And that goes for me as well. If any of you are looking to get my anything for Christmas, you can find my list here.
这只是其中一个慈善机构。还有很多的机构很多的人需要我们去提供帮助。我发现有时候很有意思,当经济萧条的时候,奉献,特别是慈善奉献会减少。但是,我从来没感觉到圣诞节的支出费用会有多大的减少。 哎,我们还是处于一个沉湎于享乐而很多人却在受苦的年代。如果你们从我这里得到圣诞礼物,你可以看看我的单子。

So may we no longer celebrate Christmas by celebrating the false gods of materialism and pleasure. Rather, may we be willing to give without expecting in return. May we will be willing to sacrifice our comfort for another’s freedom. May we stop following culture’s command for more, and rather follow Jesus’ command to give. Let’s start a new tradition this Christmas season and write a Christmas list full of treasures in heaven on it, (Matthew 6:19-20).
所以我们应该不要继续敬拜物质与享乐的神了。 愿我们大家都能发自内心的不求回报的付出。愿我们都能真心的为了别人的自己牺牲自己的舒适。 愿我们都能停止跟随文化,而去跟随耶稣基督。让我们一起开心新的一切,开始新的圣诞传统,积累天上的财富。 (马太福音6:19-20)。

Be a True Worshiper

Sorry for the two week hiatus. Getting engaged and going on vacation will do that to a guy I guess. Anyways, I have had a very fun and busy two weeks, but have felt a bit of a void. I do truly enjoy writing these blogs. I think they are actually more helpful for me than anyone else! So I am glad I can get back on track this week and hopefully will get back to my once a week post.

This week I wanted to talk about something I think we all either take for granted or just flat out don’t understand. Worship. If you grew up in a Church, you probably think that it is a 20-30 minute block of time each Sunday morning when we sing. If you didn’t grow up in Church, you probably think that is a negative word used to show when someone is too in love with someone or something else. Either way, you are wrong.

Worship is so much more than what we take it for. We try to water it down in order for it to be a part of our lives, but the truth is our entire life IS worship. It is not just something you do but rather a way you live. Problem is that we often forget that we were made to worship. So we get busy and start to lose sight of worship, and soon we feel distant from God. Or even worse, we start to worship something or someone other than God. The truth of the matter is that right now you are worshiping something. It could be money, family, success, material possessions, comfort, relationships, pleasure or anything else we spend our time and money on. But while all these things may be good, none of them were made for our worship.

“Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:22-23). Now that couldn’t be us, could it? When we see a third world country worshiping a tree or a monkey we just feel sad for them because they are not as wise as us and don’t understand that what they are worshiping is no God. But are we any different? Don’t we worship our TV’s on Saturday and Sunday? Don’t we worship ourselves with comfort and pleasure through the palaces we build for ourselves? Don’t we worship money by sacrificing relationships and time just to get a little more? People who worship trees look at us and think we are sad that we would worship small green paper or something as ridiculous as ourselves!

While many of us worship wrongly, others of us take worship for granted. I often find myself in this category. I know worship is important, but I think I sometimes forget how to worship. It’s like I put worship in a box and only allow it to come out on Sunday’s or at a Bible study. Then I feel distant from God and start wondering where He has gone. The problem is that I have taken worshiping the creator God for granted. So, how do I rightly worship?

The obvious first thing is you must be worshiping the right God. As I said above, many things in this life try to distract us or demand our attention or worship. As long as you are busy trying to chase after or worship these other things, your worship will always be meaningless and will leave you feeling empty. Solomon, regarded as the wisest man, (other than Jesus of course), said “And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

We often think if we just have a little more of what we are wrongly worshiping we will be satisfied. But the entire book of Ecclesiastes shows that this idea is false. We must remember to worship God and Him alone.

Second, we need to know how to worship. Psalm 100:1 says “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” This is why we sing songs of praise to our King. And while singing songs is one great way to worship, (I would suggest you not only do it on Sunday’s, but make singing worship songs a regular part of your everyday life), it is not the only thing we do to worship God.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1). Our lives and every moment each day can be worship to King Jesus. But most of us don’t live this way. We only see ministry or Church activities as worship. The truth is everything you do can be worship to the Lord.

There are a thousand mundane things we have to do each day. From showering to driving to eating, we all have our own little routine. In this routine we find comfort, and that is the danger. Often, when we get comfortable doing something, we actually forget why we are doing it in the first place. We just follow the repetition, not for any purpose, but because it has become so routine to do otherwise would throw our lives into disarray.

Rather than just living each day and it’s mundane activities for ourselves, we should be living them for Jesus. Paul tells us that our spiritual worship is found in using our bodies, (and our actions and lives), in a holy and acceptable way for God. We are to keep his commandments and seek his glory even in the most mundane of circumstances. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

So my challenge is that each of us would recognize where we are spending our time and money to see what we are worshiping, and if we are worshiping anything other than Jesus, that we would realize that it will only lead us to emptiness and vanity. Also, I hope each of us can find time to sing praises to our King each and every day. And last, may we all see each day of our lives and every moment and mundane activity of each day as an opportunity to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-34).

Money in the Bank

So as promised, I will be talking about money this week. I feel like money is one of those subjects we all have an opinion about, but also are worried to talk about very openly. It seems like everyone has some great plan or perspective on money, but in reality, most of our words don’t match up with our actual monetary transactions. Because money is such an important part of our lives, I feel like how we view, earn and spend money reflects where our heart really is.

Our culture has much to say about money. Advertisements continually try to convince us that money and stuff will lead to happiness. So many of us have bought into the idea of “Work hard, play hard” or “My best life now” that many of our lives center around money. Now as Christians we know that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” (1 Timothy 6:10), but I feel like we Christians use this verse to defend our lifestyles. We claim we don’t love money, (because that would be evil!), but our actions tell a different story. Or, we err on the other side and become so tight with our money people wouldn’t describe us as “joyful givers” (2 Corinthians 9:7), but rather as stingy misers.

So what does the Bible have to say about money. Well actually the Bible has a TON to say about money. But being from a baptist background, I am going to focus on three key points I think each of us need to practice.

The first is the idea of good stewardship. This is for those people out there who can’t seem to save any money. The Bible teaches us that God gives each of us different blessings, (talents, finances, etc..), that he expects us to use for His Kingdom and glory. In Matthew 25:14-30, we read about three men. Two men used their blessings while the other just wasted it. We can see that God expects us to use whatever He has blessed us with to yield an even better return.

In order to do this, we cannot just be frivolous spenders or stingy savers, but must learn how to invest and grow the blessings God has given us. Some practical things you can do to help you use your finances in order to grow them and yield a better return for the Kingdom are to make a budget, plan ahead and distinguish between needs and wants. I feel like these three things will help you plan, invest and utilize your financial blessings for the King. A good website to help with some financial planning from a Christian perspective can be found at crown.org.

Secondly, we need to be generous. I feel like Christian generosity and giving has decreased greatly since America’s economy has worsened. Christians, when times get tough, we need to be the ones on the forefront of giving. Yes you need to be responsible with your money, (as I said above in being a good steward), but I feel like we often use stewardship and responsibility as an excuse not to give.

Isn’t God in control, (Ephesians 1:11)? Isn’t God the one who gives and takes away, (Job 1:21)? Rather, most of us live like this man: “And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry!” (Luke 12:18-19). Sounds kinda like retirement or the American dream doesn’t it?

We have become so consumed with safety that we are unwilling to do bold things with our money for Christ. Again, we need to be good stewards and provide for our families first, but does my family really need an SUV when a minivan will do just fine? Do we need a 6 bedroom house when only 4 of us live there? Do we really need all those things in our garage, spare bedroom or shed? My guess is Christians are just as over indulgent as those outside the Church, we just do it in a less obvious way.

Finally, we need to remember to be content. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” We are so busy “keeping up with the Jones’” that we have forgotten that it is completely unbiblical to do so! Instead, Jesus tells some to sell all they have, (Matthew 19:21), and to not lay up treasures on earth but rather focus on treasures in heaven, (Matthew 6:19-21). I feel like we identify more with the rich young ruler mentioned in Matthew 19:16-24 than we want to admit.

While I don’t know how this will look in your specific life and situation, I do what to challenge to you take a long hard look at how you are using your finances. Are you saving for the future? Are you investing so that money earned today can be used to serve the Lord in the future as well? Are you content with the old car you have, or do you have to get that nice new BMW? Are you living within your means or even BELOW your means so you can give more money away to those who are really in need?

I want to close with the story of George Mueller. Mueller was a Pastor who lived with his wife in England in the 19th century. He noticed that there were many children on the streets, so he decided to open his home as an orphanage to them. He never asked for any support or money from anyone. He just saw a need and met it. George and his wife prayed to God to provide rather than asking others. Well over their lifetimes, the Mueller’s opened five orphanages and housed over 10,000 orphans! They also were able to fund all of these houses on donations they never even asked for! Rather than fund raisers and asking others, they went to their Heavenly Father who “knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8). May we be willing to do the same and live radically with our money for the glory and praise of our King.

Are You a Doer or a Hearer?

So last week I spent some time reading through the book of James. If you haven’t read James in a while I suggest you stop reading my blog and go read it. It is a very challenging book and one that always convicts me. And this week I wanted to talk about something I think we Christians all struggle with greatly.

I think we have all become really good hearers these days. I mean, look at how we gauge what a good Christian look likes. If I attend Sunday morning Church every week, attend as many small groups or Bible Study’s at my Church as possible, make sure to be at Sunday School and then read my Bible everyday people think I am some sort of super Christian. For some reason, we have equated attendance with spirituality. But that flies in the face of what James says in James 1:22. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Church and Bible study attendance are very good ways of helping us hear the Word and learn, but these do not make a person a Christian. I fear that many Christians today have lost sight of this. We are now content being hearers, going to get “recharged” or seeking fellowship for ourselves. Rather, the Bible tells us that this kind of faith is really no faith at all, (see the countless examples in the Gospels regarding the Pharisees).

So how do we become doers instead of just hearers? Well I am glad you asked! First, we have to remember that Church, the Bible and everything else isn’t about us. It’s all about God. The problem is that we think Church and the Bible are tools used to help me. I go to Church to get my recharge or I read my Bible to gain useful knowledge that can help me live a better, happier life. This is not Christianity, only extreme arrogance and selfishness! We go to Church to see and worship Jesus Christ. We read our Bible to know God and how we can love, serve and glorify Him. “So whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). As long as you are going to Church or reading your Bible for your gain or your glory, you will only be a hearer. Rather, do all things, ALL THINGS, for the glory of God if you want to be a doer.

Secondly we need to learn how to apply what we learn, not just learn more information. Now I am going to suggest something a little controversial here, but stay with me. I think we need to stop going to so many Bible Study’s, Sunday School’s and Churches. Yes you need to be going somewhere for fellowship each week, but some of us are getting ridiculous. I met a few people who attend a study every night! Now we first hear that and think they must really love the Lord, (which I believe they do). The problem is that all of this study leaves little or no time to learn how to practically apply this knowledge.

The Bible is useful in our lives when it produces fruit. We see in Luke 13:6-9 that if you are not bearing fruit you may get “cut down.” I don’t take this verse to mean you can lose your salvation, but rather that if you are busy collecting knowledge but not actively applying it you may have no root to begin with just as the Pharisees didn’t, (see Matthew 23:1-36). The Bible also teaches us that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” (1 Corinthians 8:1). I don’t have an answer for how many Bible study’s we should attend each week, but I will say over attendance can be just as dangerous as under attendance. My advise is find out how many study’s you need so you can learn and apply what you are learning in your every day life.

This is why we see so many “Sunday morning Christians,” (if they truly are even Christians), out there. They come to Church and Bible study’s for the love and encouragement, but once they walk out those Church doors back into the “real world,” you could not tell the difference between them and a non-Christian. This is what it means to be a hearer but not a doer.

And this is the last thing I think we need to do in order to be doers. We need to live radically. I feel like most Christians I meet are more marked by the culture they live in than by the God they live for. Jesus said in Luke 9:26, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

This goes back to the idea of being light in Matthew 5:14-16. If you have the light of Jesus in your life, why would you hide it? Why would you be ashamed of this amazing light just because there is so much darkness around? Like I have said before, light is most effective in the darkest places. So instead of trying to fit in with the culture and society around you we Christians should be living above and beyond our society and culture. How can Christians drive $250,000 cars and own $3 million houses when there are millions who are starving each day? How can we be so consumed with our own lives when so many have yet to hear of this Gospel of Grace?

Next week I will be talking about money. I feel like how Christians approach money is very important, and often we Christians err on one side or the other. My goal is that even our money would show the world that we are doers not just hearers, and that it would shine Jesus’ light to the nations. So let us all stop just hearing and instead begin doing. Let’s be so in love with Jesus that it changes the way we see our everyday life. Let’s use our knowledge for love rather than for self. And most importantly, let’s remember that it’s not about us, it’s all about God.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

For some reason, we seem to think that Jesus isn’t enough for us in our modern world. We seem to think that in order to find joy we need Jesus and something else. This week, I heard a pastor speak and it bothered me. He spent around two hours explaining how God wants to financially bless us. He talked about how if we give a monthly 10% tithe to the Church, God would rain down blessings from heaven for us. He talked about how if we tithe, God would give us promotion after promotion. He said if we gave back to God, God would want to give us abundant financial blessings.

At first glance, this sounds to me like a sly way to get people to give money to the Church. If I tell people that they need only give 10% of their monthly income and God will bless them abundantly, then I promise you that giving will increase. But giving is not our focus, God is. We do not give money to the Church because of what God will bless us with.

Rather, we give money back because it isn’t ours to begin with! Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” It’s all God’s anyways, so we give back to share in God’s work. Secondly, we do it out of gratitude. We should not be giving money so that God will bless us, instead we should be giving money because of how much God has ALREADY blessed us. Finally, we give money back because we want to see the Gospel spread. Just as we support a charitable organization and want to see them help others, we give money back to the Church so that it can be used to help and equip the Body of Christ.

So while I do advocate giving money to your Church and to charities, I want us to to think a bit about our motives. If you have believed the lie that you give to get, then there are some questions I want you to think about.

1. What is a blessing? The problem I had with this pastor and many other Christians today is that they talk as if material blessings are the most important. However, I believe some of the greatest blessings from Jesus are the lessons he allows us to go through on a daily basis. Read Matthew 5:3-12. Jesus promises blessings for those who trust and follow him, yet none of these blessings are material. The kinds of blessings Jesus offers us in these verses are for the life yet to come. A great new song by Laura Story called “Blessings” ends like this:

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

2. Can we praise God when he gives AND we He takes away? The problem with believing that God will always financially bless you if you give back to Him meets a big problem in the book of Job. Sometimes, people give back to God, and God does not financially bless. And so, if you equate financial blessings with God’s love, then when you suffer harm, you start to question if God really loves you. Rather, we must look at each and every situation as Job did. “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21. Also, read what happened to Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24-29 to see that giving does not always get us material rewards.

3. What happens when I give but God doesn’t bless me financially or give me that promotion? The problem here is that we try to make God into a magic genie. All we need to do is put some money in and wait for our reward. If that’s the case, then God is no longer God. If God’s blessings are dependent on our tithes, then we have made ourselves to be God. We are here for God, God is not here for us.

4. Are we content? Read what Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13. The point here is that as a Christian we are to be content and praise God at all times. When God blesses me with a promotion or a new job then I am to praise God. When God blesses me by taking my job away, (which from our view may not look like a blessing) I am to praise God. If you are giving to get, then are you really content and praising God when you abound and when you are brought low?

5. Do we love Jesus or do we only love the gifts or blessings he can give us? The problem is that most of us love the gifts offered, but scarcely love or truly know who is offering them. This would be like if I love my mom because she buys me things, but not because she is my mom. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38. We take up a cross not to gain material blessings or even eternal life, but rather because it means we get to follow Jesus who alone is worthy of our love and praise.

What if Jesus died for you, but never promised you eternal life? Would you still love, serve and praise Him for who He is and what He has done? Thanks be to God that we do have eternal life, but that is only the secondary blessing. The primary blessing is that we get to personally know God as our Father and have a relationship with Him.

I want to end with the story of Horatio Spafford. Most of us don’t know him, but he is the person who wrote the beautiful hymn “It is well with my soul.” But do you know the story behind this hymn? In 1871, his only son died at the age of 4. Soon after, the Great Chicago fire ruined him financially. Then in 1873, his wife and four daughters were crossing the Atlantic when their ship sank and all four of his daughters drowned.

As Spafford was later crossing the Atlantic near where his daughters had drowned he wrote these words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

May we all realize that Jesus has already done so much for us. May we learn to be content with the amazing blessings God has given. May we tithe in gratitude and service, not to gain more for ourselves. And most importantly, may we see and savor the fact that Jesus is more than enough for us. May the fact that we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ make us say “It is well with my soul.”