Friday, February 17, 2012

The Sheep and the Goats 2/15/2012

Tonight's discussion started with a question of our resposibility to help those in need.  What if they are abusing the system or not really in need?  What if they are going to use our help to do something wrong?  Does all that matter?  What has God called us to do?  To figure all this out we looked at the passage in Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats.

Before I even get going on this I want to make one thing clear.  No matter what you think you read or think I am trying to say here remember this one fact:  We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9).

In this passage Jesus says that the sheep and goats are judged for what they did and didn't do.  Any time you help someone who is less fortunate you are actually helping Jesus.  If you deny them the help they need, you are denying Jesus that help.  It's that simple.  Whatever we do to each other it's as if we are doing that to Christ.  Maybe that will get us to think twice about the way we treat each other.  Judgment is guaranteed for everyone after they die (Heb 9:27).  Scripture is very clear that judgment will be the result of what we do as well (2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:11-15; Rev 22:12).  Each of these passages says that God will judge according to our deeds.  So does that mean God is sitting up there with a balance weighing our good deeds against our bad deeds to see if we make it into heaven?  How does this fit with that whole saved by grace idea up in that disclaimer?

Faith and Works:
Believe it or not this all works together perfectly.  To really understand it we need to look to the discussion James has about faith and works in James 2.  Pay close attention to verses 14-26.  The bottom line here is that our works are not what save us, but are works are there because we are saved.  In other words if you are truly following Jesus you will automatically do good works because of your love for Him and for other people.  It's not the works that save you, but it's the works that tell us that you are actually saved.

If that doesn't make sense think of it this way.  How do I know an apple tree is an apple tree?  I can tell by the fruit hanging off the branches.  That's the same way you can tell someone is a Christian.  You can tell by the fruit that is produced in their life.  If you are a Christian the fruit will naturally grow.  That's where the sheep and the goats come in.  How can you say you love Jesus and not care about His people?  If we truly love Jesus we will help the poor, the sick, the homeless.  We can't possibly turn them away because of our love for God.  The opposite is also true.  If we do turn them away then we clearly don't love them and we obviously do not love God.  This is a heaven and hell issue.  Jesus says the goats will go into eternal punishment and the righteous will go into eternal life.  You can't earn your salvation by doing good works, but if you don't do good works you aren't really saved.

Don't be a goat!!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Idol Worship (Junior High) 2/8/2012

The Junior High group tonight had some really good questions.  They went all sorts of directions, but ultimately rested on one main theme.  As you read through this, ask yourself if you have any idols in your life.  Here's the list of questions:  Is it a sin to get high off of something like markers or glue that isn't an illegal drug?  Is it a sin to miss church because of work?  If I lie to someone do I have to tell them the truth in order for God to forgive me?  So, let's take them one at a time.

High on a Marker:
I guess if we're going to really understand this point we have to understand what would motivate someone to do it.  So I asked the group why do people get high.  Answers:  it feels good-to avoid problems or hurt-everyone else is doing it-it's cool.  I'm sure there are other reasons, but those are some of the ones they threw out there.  So, let's address the "if it feels good, do it" mentality.  Of course sin is fun for a little while.  If sin wasn't fun nobody would do it.  The problem is that fun is short lived.  The pain and consequences of sin last a lot longer.  Sniffing a permanent marker can cause slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness.  Unfortunately, the chemicals that cause these effect can also make you sick, kill your brain cells, and damage your nerves.  Some have even died from this.  The Bible is very clear that God doesn't want us causing this kind of damage to our bodies.  We're supposed to take care of them (1 Cor 6:19-20 This passage is specifically talking about sexual sins, but I think the principle still applies).  If you're just sniffing markers to get away from problems or look cool.  That is an issue of not trusting God with the things you're dealing with.  Or it's an issue of placing more importance on what others think than what God thinks.  In either case you've made something more important than God in your life.  That would be an idol.

Skippin Church to Work:
This one is a matter of priorities.  It's a question that needs to be decided in your heart NOW!  I know there are people out there who have to work to provide for their families and sometimes that means missing church.  Those situations started off with small decisions that lead to where they are today.  If you decide now that any job you have will have to fit around your commitment to Christ and not the other way around God will honor that.  He will provide for your needs.  If you can make that decision now, you will be ready to make it when it's on a greater scale and the consequences are greater.  The principle will always be the same.  Put God first in all you do and He will take care of you (Mt 6:32-34).  If you choose job over church you just bowed to the almighty dollar.  That would be an idol.

This one is very simple in principle and very hard in practice.  In other words it's easy to say and hard to do. If I lie to someone can I just ask God to forgive me and not have to tell them the truth?  Think about that.  If you lie to someone and never correct that lie aren't they believing that lie every day.  Isn't that, in essence, lying to them every day.  Each time you see them they are believing something that isn't true because of what you told them.  You might as well just lie to them every time you see them.  You have to make it right if you want to be right with God.  Matthew 5:23-24 talks about what you're supposed to do if you are in the middle of offering a sacrifice and remember there is something between you and a brother.  You leave the altar, go make it right and then come back and make things right with God.  This one it tough.  It's a lot easier to ask God to forgive us than it is to ask a friend or relative to forgive us sometimes.  However, this is the right thing to do.  Doing the right thing sometimes isn't fun (for a while), but the pain is short lived.  The blessings of doing the right thing last a lot longer.  It's the opposite of sin.  This one doesn't really come down to idol worship, but it does force us to ask who we will serve.

In this life you have the freedom to choose who you will make yourself a slave to.  Will it be sin, popular opinion, a good feeling?  Or will you choose to become a slave to Christ?  It's your choice.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fruity Pebbles and Weird Girls! (High School 2/8/12)

Why are girls so weird?  That was a question asked by not a boy....but a girl. I am still trying to decide if that question opened a can of worms or it was actually a good conversation.   Let me think some more.  Hummmmmmmmmm.....I guess it was good conversation for the most part.  For a moment the debate was heated and I wasn't sure if I would make it out alive.  

Hahahaha maybe the question would have been better if it was asked, "why are girls different than boys? or why do girls act strange sometimes?"  

I guess the simple answer is, "That is just how God made us!"   
The problem is when we try to figure out each other and forget that we are all different.   We are different because of so many reasons such as: personalities, gender, ethnicity, culture, passions, faith, family circumstances, the list can go on and on.  

Here are some of the things that make us weird!  LOL

How We Think
When I learned how boy's thought processes worked and how mine worked, what an "AHH HA" moment.  Discovering that men think entirely different then girls really made sense and helped me not to expect them to understand how I feel.  They may simply not understand and that is okay and that same statement is true in reverse. What we need to be careful of is to not see it as a negative but rather God's unique way of accomplishing great things for His glory.  I will explain later in this post.  

Our Personalities
We talked about different personalities. What is my personality?  Do they need to change?  Are different personalities better than others?  We discovered that the unique part of us, which makes us unique, is the very personality God created us to have.  We each provide a different approach to life and accomplish great things for His glory....oh and once again I will explain below.  

It was fun trying to remember the four types of personalities, or also known as temperaments, that science has divided them into.  Commonly temperaments are divided into four: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. (Or if you like animals the Lion, Beaver, Otter and Golden Retriever)  You can be a combination of temperaments; but you are mostly likely to be predominantly one.  Go here to print a short personality test.

Sanguine (Otter)

The sanguine temperament is fundamentally impulsive and pleasure-seeking; sanguine people are sociable and charismatic. They tend to enjoy social gatherings, making new friends and tend to be boisterous. They are usually quite creative and often daydream. However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when they pursue a new hobby, they lose interest as soon as it ceases to be engaging or fun. They are very much people persons. They are talkative and not shy. Sanguines generally have an almost shameless nature, certain that what they are doing is right. They have no lack of confidence.

Choleric (Lion)

The choleric temperament is fundamentally ambitious and leader-like. They have a lot of aggression, energy, and/or passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were choleric. They like to be in charge of everything. However, cholerics also tend to be either highly disorganized or highly organized. They do not have in-between setups, only one extreme to another. As well as being leader-like and assertive, cholerics also fall into deep and sudden depression. Essentially, they are very much prone to mood swings.

Melancholic (Beaver)

The melancholic temperament is fundamentally introverted and thoughtful. Melancholic people often were perceived as very (or overly) pondering and considerate, getting rather worried when they could not be on time for events. Melancholics can be highly creative in activities such as poetry and art - and can become preoccupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world. Often they are perfectionists. They are self-reliant and independent; one negative part of being a melancholic is that they can get so involved in what they are doing they forget to think of others.

Phlegmatic (Golden Retriever)

The phlegmatic temperament is fundamentally relaxed and quiet, ranging from warmly attentive to lazily sluggish. Phlegmatics tend to be content with themselves and are kind. They are accepting and affectionate. They may be receptive and shy and often prefer stability to uncertainty and change. They are consistent, relaxed, calm, rational, curious, and observant, qualities that make them good administrators. They can also be passive-aggressive.  

Our Age
Where we are at in our own growth is a huge determining factor on why we may be weird...hahahaha. If you are a junior higher, you are going through HUGE hormonal changes which definitely are going to play into how you act.  If you are in high school you are beginning to level out but still you are growing mentally and physically.  Our age most certainly plays into the big picture of things. 

Lastly Our Background!
There are so many other things that make us who we are.  We may have a great family or maybe we don't.  We may like basketball or maybe we like art.  We may like to write poems or maybe math is more your style (personally yuck...math).  Maybe, you grew up in a Christian home or maybe you are the only Christian in your family.  Maybe, you are German or Chinese.  There are a lot of different things that make you unique.

Alright, alright we get it...we are different! So, What????

Well, before you go right someone off as weird or strange; maybe, you can now see them in a different light. God has given each of us our own talents, abilities and personalities for a purpose.  It would be a very boring world if we were all like me.   We would be painting and eating chocolate all day.  Hummmmm maybe that is not so bad.   Then again maybe it would, we would be colorful and fat.  Hehehehehehee We need people who are leaders.  We need people who are workers. We need people who are friendly.  We need people who are dependable.  All these different types of people are a part of God's Big Plan!

I love this passage that talks about how God made us.

Psalm 139:13-18

New Living Translation (NLT)

 13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body 
      and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! 
      Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 
 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, 
      as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 
 16 You saw me before I was born. 
      Every day of my life was recorded in your book. 
   Every moment was laid out 
      before a single day had passed.

 17 How precious are your thoughts about me,O God. 
      They cannot be numbered! 
 18 I can’t even count them; 
      they outnumber the grains of sand! 
   And when I wake up, 
      you are still with me! 

God made you and He has a plan for you.  God's plan is for us to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  We need leaders to preach.  We need missionaries to work.  We need evangelist to spread the gospel.  We need lay workers to get the job done.  We need all those personalities, men and women, all ages, and all backgrounds to fulfill the "Great Commission".  Bottom line God likes to use everyone....even the weird ones.  

Keep in mind God is calling you. He wants to use you for His glory.  God uses men and women alike. Are there things about your personality that is negative that needs God to come in and change?  Do you think you are too young? Are there things about your background that are holding your back?  Allow God to do something amazing in you today!  All it takes is for you to let Him in!

Oh and to answer the other question asked last night….

Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles are brands of breakfast cereal introduced by Post Cereals in 1971. 
The Flintstones is an animated, prime-time American television sitcom that screened from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966, on ABC.

So, the answer is The Flinstones came first.   It is nice to know that they came way before me and I am not as prehistoric as all of you think I am.  I am even younger then the cereal...not by much though.  Bwahahahahahaha  

I do love a good bowl of Fruity Pebbles....

Thank you wikipedia for the 4 personalities definitions and Fruity pebbles and Flinstones answer.  heheheheheehe

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lose Your Life 2/1/2012

Tonight’s discussion started off with a question about Mark 8:35.  They asked what it meant for someone to want to save his life?  Does that mean if I enjoy my life or love life that I’m doing the wrong thing?  This lead us to a really good discussion of the total passage.  To really understand this verse you have to look back at the previous verse.  It’s a critical verse to really understand what it means to be a Christian.  Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

Deny Yourself:
To deny yourself is not a simple thing.  It requires real sacrifice.  God is calling us to set aside our desires and dreams to pursue His purpose.  To some that may sound like a terrible thing.  Trust me the trade off is well worth it.  When we begin to put what God wants first in our life everything else begins to fall into place.  We live in a completely selfish culture.  It’s all about ME in America.  It’s time for Christians to stand up and counter the culture and live a life that is all about HIM (that’s God in case you missed it).  It’s time we grabbed hold of the heart of God for lost sinners and lived a life that reflected that heart.  It will change the way we think.  It will change the way we act.  It will change the way we talk.  It will change the way we live.

Take up Your Cross:
What does that mean today?  First, what did the cross mean to Jesus?  It meant humiliation, sacrifice, suffering, surrender, torture, obedience and love.  Jesus endured incredible suffering and pain to purchase our salvation.  He was beaten beyond recognition before being nailed to the cross and crucified for our sins.  He obeyed His Father’s will even to the point of death on the cross (Phil 2:5-11).  So, for us, we may have to suffer a little.  We might be teased and ridiculed for being a Christian.  The Bible says to rejoice in those moments (Mt 5:11-12).  You might have to suffer for following Christ.  The time may come when following biblical principles will be against the law.  You may think that’s not possible here in America.  Just read the headlines.  Our first amendment freedom of religion is under fire even now.  Who knows what the future will bring?  To take up your cross mean you live a life of total surrender to the will of God.  You can’t do this thing half way.  There is no such thing as an almost Christian or a mostly Christian.  You either are or you aren’t.  Finally, the cross was all about love.  Jesus loved you more than His own life.  Will you return the sentiment?

Follow Him:
This is simple to understand, but a challenge to accomplish.  This requires you to study His word (Bible) and get to know Jesus.  It’s time that we develop a loving relationship with a real God.  Spend time with Him in prayer.  Listen for His voice.  He will speak to you.  And then do what He says.  Again, simple in principle and challenging in reality.  To follow Christ means to live a life of obedience to Him.  It’s the same call Jesus gave to each of His disciples.  It’s the same call He gives to you today.  Will you follow Him?  Even more will you deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him?

That is what it means to lose your life for Christ.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  Are you up for the challenge?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friends with Gay People, Bullies & Hearing from God???? (High School 1/11/12)

Is it a sin to be friends with someone who is gay?
I found this on our Assemblies of God web site and I think it sums up nicely what we discussed.  Go here to read the full article.

“Friendship is the selfless, mutual sharing between two persons. It typically grows out of participating or cooperating in common activities or endeavors, or simply through acceptance of others as equals. Friendship is also fostered through shared views or possessions. The highest form of human friendship is based in acceptance and mutual respect for who and what each friend is as a person. This includes their actions, ideals, and commitments.

Recognizing the important and powerful influence friends have in one’s life, the Assemblies of God encourages Christians to be concerned about the influence and relational level of their closest friends. Ultimately, all close friendships affect one’s character either for good or bad. For this reason it is essential that Christians discern the spiritual impact of their friendships.

Generally it is risky for Christians to build deep friendships with those who do not share a spiritual bond in Christ. If the friendship has no deep spiritual unity, it is then based on secular values, material interests, and views of the world. In such instances the negative spiritual toll on the Christian is significant as one’s spirit is constantly dulled through repeated exposure to worldviews and ideas. Few Christians are able to live consistent holy lives when unequally yoked in deep friendships with unbelievers. Proverbs says, "A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray" (12:26).

Christian friendships have an added ingredient. Both individuals have friendship with Jesus—a friendship that enriches and strengthens human friendship. When two friends also enjoy friendship with God, they add permanence and beauty to their human friendship. They understand and share standards and priorities for their lives. Christian friendships are often closer than family and blood relationships because of this strong spiritual bond (Proverbs 17:17). Therefore our closest friends should be other Christians (Proverb 13:20).

God's plan for reaching the world with the message of salvation requires a level of friendship with non-Christians. Jesus said we are to be salt and light to our world (Matthew 5:13-16). In other words we are to be shining examples before our communities of God’s grace and goodness. This is not accomplished from a distance, but rather through loving friendships. While such friendships must be genuine, the level of closeness should be guarded. The direction of the friendship should ultimately lead toward God and His ways. As the Christian spends time with, talks at some depth with, and is somewhat open and vulnerable with non-Christian friends, the opportunity to lead a friend to Christ can become a reality. Almost everyone who has become a Christian did so because a Christian friend directed him or her to Christ. If a Christian has no non-Christian friends, the opportunity for effective witnessing is very limited. But in those situations of mixed friendships including believers and non-believers, the Christian must be the leader (the one who sets the moral course), not the one led. Only then do we fulfill the scriptural instruction of being salt and light.

God is love (1 John 4:16), and as such He is mankind's greatest Friend. He is a Friend of sinners as well as of Christians. "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" (John 3:16). The Old Testament patriarch Abraham believed God, "and he was called God's friend" (James 2:23). The Bible says "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4). From these scriptures it becomes apparent that our friendship with God is a matter of spiritual life or death.”

Is it okay to bully people?
This was not actually a question; but, it is a topic that came out of the first question.  We talked about that it is not okay to bully people EVER!  We even discussed that you can be a bully by remaining silent when someone is being bullied by another.  It is time for all of us to realize that we are all created by God and we should never put down a person no matter who they are or what they do.  God wants us to treat others as we would want to be treated. 

Matthew 7:12 “The Golden Rule”

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Mark 12:30-31

30 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

If you are being bullied…get help!  It will never get better if you just ignore it…it will only get worse.  If you get help it may get worse and then get better….but it will get better.   Stand up for yourself, you are worth it!!!!  Always remember that the only person who's opinion that truly matters is ......God's!!

How do I know when God is talking to me?
I think most of us would like to have God speak to us in a very loud voice!
“Hey, you….Yeah, you!!!!.....I’m talking to you…..Yeah, it is me God and I am talking to you…. so listen up!!!!” 
Most of us would love it if God talked to us like that on a regular basis.  Well, maybe some of us.  Hahahahaha   But God does not speak to us normally in an audible booming voice from heaven that sounds like James Earl Jones….nope that would be Mufasa from the Lion King. 

I love the story of Elijah and how God speaks to him in a very unexpected way.  We find that story in I Kings 19: 9-13.  Elijah probably expected God to speak to him in the wind, the earthquake, or in the fire; but, it was in the still quiet voice that God reminded Elijah that He was in control. 

I found a great article written by Alton Garrison “Hearing from God”.  Go check it out! 
Here are his 4 common ways God can speak to us:
  1. Through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16, Ps. 119:105)
  1. Through His Church (Eph. 3:10, Rom. 12:6)
  2. Through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26 just like that still small voice in I Kings 19)
  3. Through various circumstances (Ps. 119:67, 71-72)

Attention Disclaimer:  Do not forget that God WILL NOT contradict His word.  So, whatever you feel God is saying to you it should match up with what the Bible says.  If it does not….it is not from God! 

Remember this week that it is God alone who helps us....

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Where do We Draw the Line? 1/4/2012

Happy New Year!  We were back to our discussions on Wednesday night.  This post will be quite different.  I've come across another blog that addresses the issues we discussed on Wednesday, so I'm just going to post the link.  We talked about what kind of standards we need to have for our entertainment as followers of Christ (TV, movies, books, music, etc.).  This blog addresses the issue perfectly.  It's not from a teenage perspective, but I think you'll get the point.  Check it out:

Do you love Jesus more than your own entertainment?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Demons 12/7/2011

Tonight we had a whole discussion about demons.  Are they real?  What about demon possession?  Can they kill?

Are Demons Real?

Yes demons are real.  Demons are fallen angels.  So when it comes to what they are and what they can do they would have much the same characteristics as angels do.  Demons are messengers of Satan just like angels are messengers of God.  The Bible gives several scriptures that deal with the reality of demons (Mt 8 and 9; Mark 5; Luke 10).  In these scriptures we see Jesus encounter people who are dealing with demons.  Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we are engaged in a spiritual war with powers we cannot see.  1 Timothy 4:1 warns that in the last days people will turn away from God and listen to the teachings of demons.  They are real.  They do exist, and they are still trying to deceive people today.

Can Christians be Demon Possessed?

No they can't.  God is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4).  If you are a Christian your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  God lives inside of you.  It's not possible for demons to also live inside of you.  Jesus talked about this when he talked about a demon coming back and finding the house empty.  If the house is empty and Jesus is not living there then the demon can come back and live there (Luke 11:14-28).  If we are living in Christ we are protected from demon possession.  We can still be attacked, but we cannot be possessed.

Can a Demon Kill You?

I am backtracking from my original statement on this.  I originally looked at the provision in Job where God told Satan he could do anything to Job except kill him (Job 1:12) as indicating that under normal circumstances Satan would have the power to kill.  But in rethinking this I think God was setting a limit on the power of Satan and his demons here.  God is still in control.  I believe demons can mess with our minds to the point where we will hurt ourselves, but they don't have the power to physically kill us.  God has still given us free will and He is ultimately in control.  Although we have power through Christ to overcome demons, they are not something little to be messed with.  We must be prayed up and in a right place with God.  There was an account in the gospels where the disciples could not cast out a demon.  Jesus said that kind came out only by much prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).  There's also a story in Acts where some people tried to cast out demons just cause they saw other people doing it.  This is really dangerous.  They were not Christians and the demons attacked them (Acts 19:13-16).  Notice the demons did not kill them though.

In all of this remember that demons are a very serious matter.  We need to be careful to not open ourselves up to even the littlest amount of demonic activity.  When we mess with ouiji boards, or horoscopes, or witchcraft, or literature that might lead in that direction we are opening ourselves to demonic activity.  That is a dangerous place to be.  We should strive for holiness in Christ.  We should not see how close we can get to sinful activity without being consumed by it.  Take their power seriously, but know that we serve the God of all creation and He is much greater than anything Satan can throw at us.  He will ultimately be victorious.  Demons are not something to be messing around with, but we should also not be afraid because God is on our side.