Sunday, December 9, 2012

Honoring God's Law and Design

This is the last day of my MedComm series.  Hope you enjoyed it!


Honor God’s Law Meditation Commentary
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” —Matthew 5:17-18
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—II Timothy 3:16-17
            We hear a lot about living under grace and not under the law, because of a lot of Paul’s discussions about this topic in New Testament letters he wrote.  The truth is that we are to live by the spirit of the law, and not the letter of the law, because God’s design is not bound by the law—it supersedes it, and the laws He gives show us the parameters that He has set in place for us to live according to His design.  Paul explains this in Galatians.  “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Galatians 3:19)  God gave His law to show His people exactly how He wanted them to live, but the focus was supposed to be on His ultimate design, which was encapsulated in the law.  
A mentor of mine explained it this way once: the law was intended as a safety net to catch those who were sliding farther back away from God, as a warning that they were stepping out of the boundaries of His design, but their focus was still supposed to be focused on Him, reaching and striving to know Him deeper.  The Pharisees messed up by turning their focus away from the God they were supposed to be developing a relationship with, and began focusing on the safety net as the standard which they were striving to attain to, not realizing that Jesus was the goal, and the law was there to keep them from straying too far from Him.  Honoring God’s law means more than following the law to the letter—it means respecting it in its original purpose and design.  To honor God’s law means to recognize the spirit behind what was commanded, and to respect and follow it because we understand that God’s design is best and we want to glorify Him by living the way He wants us to live.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Generosity and Design


Generosityvs. Stinginess
Generosity is demonstrating the nature of God by wisely reinvesting the resources that He has entrusted to us.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” —Luke 6:35-36, 38
God’s design for the body of Christ has to do with community.  In the very beginning, God saw that it was good at the end of each day, and the first thing God said was NOT good was that Adam was alone.  (Gen. 2:18)  To align with the way God has designed our community, we are supposed to depend on each other, and generosity is essential to a dependent community.  God’s whole design for the way we operate is not living a selfish lifestyle.  If we live selfishly we will self-destruct and implode into little puddles of selfish goo.  Rather, He has designed us to live our lives pouring out ourselves, because this is His nature.  Philippians 2 says we should have the same mind as Christ Jesus, who made himself of no reputation even though he was in the form of God, and took the form of a servant, and humbled Himself even to the point of death.  ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ is one of the principles behind generosity that is woven into God’s design for our lives.  When we are generous, we are blessed.  We reap what we sow.  But the beautiful thing about the way God designed us is that it is in the very act of generosity that we are blessed.  In other words, we do not get the blessing if we give generously to get something out of it for ourselves, (which is a selfish motive) but we are blessed by giving for the simple reason that that is how God designed us to be blessed.  We thrive when we live the way God designed us.  We operate best under His principles.  One of those principles is generosity, and when we live generously, we fulfill His goals for our lives.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Letting Your Light Shine and Design


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” —Matthew 5:14-16
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”—Daniel 12:3
            There is a reason God did not create us all perfect beautiful, athletic, intelligent, talented, muscular, exemplary models.  God gave each of us a unique design, and fashioned our personality, ethnicity, heritage, height, birth date, etc., all for a reason—His glory.  Each of us has been uniquely designed by God for a particular reason.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained for us to do.”  To clarify, if there are any changeable features about ourselves that are not in accordance with God’s design, which could hinder us from displaying Him and His works, we should change them.  Most of us also have unchangeable features about ourselves that we do not appreciate, but if they are unchangeable, we must determine the best way to use them for God’s glory.  He gave those features to us for a reason, and we must display His glory through them.  Even things that do not seem to make any sense at all, like an accident that paralyzes someone from the neck down, or an army invading your country and persecuting Christians, or getting stuck in a swamp in the middle of an Indonesians jungle, surrounded by snakes, and bugs, and unfriendly natives, if handled in the proper way, can be used to display God’s glory.   The way we respond to situations and how we act in them is what determines whether or not God’s light will shine through us.  Paul describes this concept in 2 Timothy 2:20-21: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  (21)  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.”  God’s designs are always for a purpose, and He will use us for His glory, but we can determine if we are a vessel used for honor or dishonor by the way we react to the design He has given us. We should use the aspects of God’s design to shine as lights for Him.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Joyfulness and Design


 Joyfulness vs. Self-Pity
Joyfulness is the bright spirit and radiant countenance that come by being in full fellowship with the Lord.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” —I Peter 4:12-14
            Self-pity and joyfulness are not determined by circumstances…they are determined by perspective.  A person could accept God’s design for their life, yet still feel self-pity, because of a twisted concept of destiny.  Unless a person understands the character of God—that He loves us and wants what is best for us—he may pity the fact that he cannot change the way he was created.  Furthermore, if a person has a proper love for Jesus and who He is, the focus will be on how He can be glorified and how we can please Him.  If our focus is on our own features and the way we are designed, a certain amount of self-pity is inevitable because there will always be someone we perceive to have better features than us.  It is important to remember, though, that God designed us the way we are for His glory, and the way He designed us will glorify Him in some way.  If our love for God is genuine, this fact will bring us joy, because the focus is not on us anymore, but on God.  An acronym that has been used thousands of times in Christian teachings about joy is clich├ęd, but remains true nonetheless.  Putting Jesus first, focusing on others afterwards, and thinking of ‘you’ last, is the best recipe for joy.  This little acronym: Jesus, Others, You, is still a good way to remember the best way to overcome self-pity.  Joyfulness is an inherent part of God’s design for us.  He desires for us to have joy, and it is one of the fruits of His spirit. (Galatians 5:22)  Following His commands and walking in His spirit will produce joy in our lives that cannot be obtained by anything else in this world.  Just like real peace is not the absence of conflict, but calmness despite conflict, real joy is not the absence of sadness, but happiness in and trust and peace in the midst of sadness.  Thank God for joy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rejoicing and Design


“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
—Matthew 5:10-12
            Rejoicing as Christ wants us to rejoice is linked with design in a very important way.   Until we accept God’s design for our life, and acknowledge Him as the Designer, we will never be able to follow this essential command of being able to rejoice.  Of course, everyone wants to rejoice.  We want to have joy in our lives.  If we refuse to be content in the way we are designed, that attribute is unattainable.  Joy is not dictated by our circumstances.  If it was, we would be on a constant roller coaster because circumstances are always changing.  However, if we trust that God has designed us a certain way, and relinquish control to Him over the way we look, the situations we are in, and certain unchangeable things, we will be able to have consistent joy.
            I heard the story of a family from the perspective of one of the daughters in the family, after she was grown up.  You may have heard the story before.  There were several children in the family, but the father had died, and they lost their main source of income.  Yet, they were always joyful.  They lived in a small house, and did not have much, but what they did have, they appreciated.  There were only three forks to split amongst seven people, so they made it a game to see who would get a fork each night.  One Sunday at church, the pastor announced that the church would be collecting money for a poor family in the congregation.  The pastor told the congregation to be generous and sacrificial since this family really needed their help.
            When the family left the church, they talked over what they could do to help the family.  They did not have a lot of money, but perhaps if they cut their food bill, and only had potatoes for supper for the next month, and did not use lights at night, or listen to the radio, to save money on electricity, they could donate the saved money to the poor family.  That month was one of the happiest times the family had.  They kept thinking of ways to get more money for the poor family, and imagining how excited the family would be to receive it.  The Sunday the money was to be given to the poor family, this family walked to church, singing and talking excitedly.  It was raining, but they hardly noticed.  Joyfully, they put the money in the offering plate.  They had saved 80 dollars.
            At home, when they were talking, the doorbell rang.  The mother went to answer the door, and returned quietly with an envelope.  She dumped the contents on the table.  It was 97 dollars.  Suddenly, they realized that they were the poor family the minister had talked about.  Nobody said a word.  Were they really poor?  They had not realized it before.  Did the other people in the church know?  What about the kids at school?
            The next week was miserable.  The children were ashamed to go to school, and did not want to show up at the church again where everyone knew they were poor.  But that Sunday, the mother still made them get up and get ready.  The sun was shining, but nobody felt like talking, and when the mother tried to rouse a song as they walked to church, nobody joined in.  That day there was a missionary at the church, raising money for people’s roofs in a foreign country.   He told them a hundred dollars would get someone a roof.  The pastor told the people to be generous.  The family members looked at each other and smiled, and dropped the money they had been given into the offering plate.  After service, when the money had been counted, the missionary was ecstatic.  There was 117 dollars. The congregation was small, but, “You must have some rich people in your church,” he told the pastor. The family suddenly realized that they had given the bulk of the money, and they were the ones the missionary was talking about.  They must be rich, because the missionary had said so.  And, once again, they were joyful.
            I believe that is the secret to rejoicing.  Do not let other people’s opinions and views of you drag you down.  God designed you and the circumstances you are in for a reason.  Agree with the apostle Paul shortly after he told us to rejoice in Philippians chapter 4, and say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.”   That is the secret to real joy.

(By the way, this little story was originally found by my friend Pastor Tony Skinner in the book: Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul.)  
Canfield, Jack, and Mark Victor. Hansen. Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart & Rekindle the Spirit. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1993. Print.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Security and Design


Security vs. Anxiety
Security is structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away.
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” –John 10:28-29
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation read to be revealed in the last time.” –I Peter 1:3-5
DesignUnderstanding the specific purposes for which God created each person, object, and relationship in my life and living in harmony with them. Thanking God for my design brings Self-Acceptance.

                Design certainly has the potential to bring security if one thinks about it in the right way.  Knowing that we are designed, rather than haphazardly compiled by random chance, is very comforting to Christians who believe in a loving God.  The very word ‘design’ implies careful effort and a plan.  If someone is going to go to all the trouble of designing something, that person will also make an effort to protect the thing he or she has designed.  If I were to design a new machine, or plans for a house, or a story idea for a book, I would make an effort to make sure it was safe and make any alterations necessary to make my designed product the best it could be.  This is even truer concerning God.  Since the God of the Bible is a brilliant Creator, and also a loving Father, we can have the utmost confidence that even in our sufferings and hardships, if we follow our Designer’s plan, we will be protected and safe.  In the Designer’s hands, we are safe.  No one can pluck us out, once we are there.  In fact, the only way we can lose our security, is if we walk away from that security.  The concept is similar to if we have the best designed security system in our house that can detect and eliminate any threat, and we decide to turn it off.  Or perhaps a better analogy is if we have a security team, who is looking after us, and caring for us, and truly has our best interests in mind, and has simple instructions for how we are to live to be protected from our enemies, and we ignore those instructions.  I was reading Isaiah 30:15-16 this week, which says, “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.  (16) But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.”  Our rest is in returning to God, and resting in Him, and in quietness and confidence in Him is our strength.  He knows what He is doing.  But if we persist in choosing our own way, making our own plans, and relying on our own strength, we will have no rest, because we have to make all the plans.  Our security rests solely in trusting the Designer’s plans, rather than making our own.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Being Born Again and Design

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” –John 3:5-8


The meditation commentaries have followed a very nice theme so far that all weaves together to form a whole picture, each concept building on the last.  We understand that God designed us according to Scripture a certain way, and wants us to operate within a certain paradigm so that we can function best.  However, we have been born into this dying race which constantly does things against God’s commands.  Even worse, we have a natural inclination to do those things that rebel against Him, His design, and His commands!
But, just as God originally designed us to function a certain way, and Adam messed it up, He also designed a plan of redemption—a beautiful plan of redemption!   Since we have been born into Adam’s race of sinful creatures, we have an inclination to sin and are subject to the law of sin and death.  In order to return to God’s original design, we must be born again, back into His plan, and into His family.  When we are born again, He adopts us as sons and daughters, and leads us into new life!
 God has very clear instructions about how to do this according to the Scriptures.  As we see in the Scriptures above, Jesus told Nicodemus that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Until a person is born again, he or she cannot even see or comprehend or understand or grasp the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus naturally asks the question, “How is this possible?”  The wonderful thing is that Jesus has the answer, because God already had a design in mind for how this would happen.  Therefore, Jesus clarifies that except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  The process is not abstract, confusing,  or unclear, yet it always astonishes me that people want to come up with a design other than what God laid out.  Throughout the book of Acts, in the birth of the church, we see example after example of people being born again, and they are always born of the water and of the spirit—that is, they are always baptized with water in the name of Jesus, and are filled with the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
When we talk about the concept of design and the command to be born again and how it relates to God’s design, it is important to remember that we not only need to be born again to fit into God’s design, but we also need to follow God’s design for how to be born again.  Nicodemus was a master of Israel and did not understand these things, but it is easy to find out.  Search the Scriptures, for they contain the plan that God designed for being born into His kingdom...in them you find eternal life.  (John 5:39)  It must be by water and of the spirit, or part of the process has been lost.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Humility and Design


Humility is recognizing and acknowledging my total dependence upon the Lord and seeking His will for every decision.

•““A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.”
—Proverbs 29:23
•“For thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”—Isaiah 57:15
There is an order to God’s kingdom and way of doing things that the above verses bring out.  Humility is one of the attitudes and character qualities God designed with certain consequences and ramifications that come with applying it or not applying it to our lives.  If there were no designer, humility would not be an issue.  If we somehow created ourselves, and worked by our own design and genius and intelligence, then we may have a right to be proud, and do things the way we want to do them, and put a lot of stock in our own opinions.  But the very fact that we are designed demands humility.  We have to realize that God knows what’s best since we are His creations.  The Bible shows the irony of this in Isaiah 45:9: “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?”  Since God made us, it makes sense to humble ourselves before our Creator and figure out what He thinks is the best way for us to live our lives.  There will be no peace or harmony unless we exercise this humility.  It reminds me of something like the story of Frankenstein, in which the designed creation begins doing its own thing against the intent of the designer.  Everything ends up falling apart.  Another example is in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes when he lets his imagination run away with him.  In one plot line, he ‘makes’ replicas of himself, which end up doing their own thing, and it causes disaster for them.  A car that decides it wants to fly will end up crashing.  The same thing will happen to us, if we become prideful and think we do not need our Designer.  But if we humble ourselves before the only High and Lofty One—the One who lives in eternity, and knows quite a bit more than we do—we will dwell with Him, because then He is able to use us in the way we were designed to be used.  It is important, even for our own well-being, to keep this verse in mind, in closing: Psalm 100:3 “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”  The LORD is God.  We are not.  We have nothing to be prideful about, and every reason to show humility.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What's a MedComm Anyway? (Repentance and Design)

While I was a college, I had to write what they called a 'meditation commentary' every week.  The college staff chose a general theme for the whole semester, and then each week would give us a character quality or one of the commands of Christ and ask us to relate that concept to the the theme of the semester in a 300-word essay.  I wrote about 9, and while some are better than others, (or maybe I should say some are worse than others), I thought I would do a short 9-day series on my blog and share one each day.  These are a little more formal than my usual posts, because they were written for assignments, but hopefully, y'all will be able to get something out of them!

The theme for the term was 'design'.  Sometimes I try to relate the message in my blog post to some current event or the season we are in...this time, I got nothing.  I'm just being lazy and posting things I've already written.  Any rate, here it is.


Design
Understanding the specific purposes for which God created each person, object, and relationship in my life and living in harmony with them. Thanking God for my design brings Self-Acceptance.



Repentance Meditation Commentary

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” —Matthew 4:17
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third dayAnd that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46-47


Design is an interesting concept in the Bible, particularly in relation to repentance.  On the one hand, there is the implication that since God created us, we should be content with how we are.  However, the way God designed us was to live according to His laws and commandments.  Our bodies function best when we follow His rules.  God set up certain guidelines and boundaries, whether it is in regard to food, clothing, lifestyle, sex, etc., and within those boundaries, we thrive.  Sin is the very opposite of that.  Sin is stepping outside those boundaries, and working against the way we were designed.  That is why repentance is the first crucial step in understanding design, and why it is the first thing that Jesus preached, and told His apostles to preach.  Following God's Word is in our best interests, because when we begin doing things His way, we are working in accordance with the way we were designed to work in the first place.  Repentance is the act of changing our thinking about the way we are supposed to live, and bringing us in accordance with God's thinking, which is what will give us long life, and bring us into step with His Design.  It is the same concept as restoring a building that has been run down and full of rats, pigeons, gangs, etc., to the thing it was originally designed to be. Perhaps the original design of the building was as a church in which to glorify God, or as a hotel.  But because the building ceased to be used for its intended purpose, it began to be used for other purposes.  Maybe gangs used it as a place to exchange drugs, or to hide illegal contraband.  Perhaps the wall was used for target practice, or pieces of wood were ripped out of the floor to be used elsewhere.  Spiders could have used it to build their webs, and small animals could have used it for shelter.  But that is not what the building was designed for, and unless it is returned to its original purpose, it will be condemned.  The idea that everybody should be able to stay exactly how they are, and accept themselves for who they are once they have been saved, is ludicrous in light of God's Word.  What did He come to save us from, if not sin? To be clear, it is very Biblical to accept things about the way God made you that you cannot change.  However, there should be no self-acceptance of sin.  Acceptance and self-esteem are good things, but only if the acceptance is of an attribute of God’s design.  The concepts of repentance and design go hand in hand, and repentance is necessarily the first step in accepting God's design.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tips on How to be Fashionable

Okay...now that you're done laughing out loud, I'll admit it may seem strange that I, of all people, would be giving advice on how to be 'fashionable.'  As you may have noticed from my choice of thrift store clothes, keeping up with the latest fashions is not high on my list of priorities.
But let's think about the word fashionable for a minute.  I was pondering this word once while I was walking through a clothing store (if you count Wal-Mart as a clothing store ha!).
As a verb, according to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fashion, the word 'fashion' means:

tr.v. fash·ionedfash·ion·ingfash·ions
1. To give shape or form to; make: fashioned a table from a redwood burl.
2. To train or influence into a particular state or character.
3. To adapt, as to a purpose or an occasion; accommodate.
So logically, it follows that if you are fashionable, that means you are able to be fashioned by something, right?  In the way we use the word, it means you are able to be defined by what the culture considers to be trendy or attractive when it comes to clothing.  You are able to be fashioned by celebrities, fashion designers, friends, Hollister and American Eagle.  (If those are even fashionable anymore...I don't know.)
Am I taking the word a little out of context?  Maybe.  But bear with me.
Thinking of the word in this way, I thought, do I really want to be fashionable?  Do I want to be able to be fashioned by the fashion industry or anyone else?  The answer is no and yes, actually.  I do NOT want to be able to be fashioned by culture, retail stores, magazines, or TV stars...but there is Someone I want to be able to be fashioned by.
As I have been at college, I have done a lot of self-evaluating and had to consider who I really am when you strip away all the external things that I DO.  What manifests itself that's in my heart?  How do people see me who do not already have preconceived notions about me based on the things I've done?
I realized that at home, I was starting to become defined by the things I was doing like Bible studies, teaching at church, youth group or Sunday school, acting in drama groups, working on radio dramas, writing, Bible Quizzing, etc.  I derived value from the way my friends, family, and people at my church saw me.  But put me in a situation where I don't really know anybody, and more importantly, where nobody knows me, and what comes out?
What I've come to realize through this self-evaluation is that I have so much room for growth.  I know the Bible says those that compare themselves among themselves are not wise, but sometimes, it's helpful to evaluate yourself based on where other people are at.  I have imagined myself in different situations in the future, like in a career, marriage, living on my own, settling down with a family, teaching, or working creatively, and in each setting I imagine myself, I keep seeing over and over that I fall way short right now of what I could be in each of these situations.  "But Michael," you say, "you aren't in those situations!  You don't have to measure up to what you're supposed to be in those environments right now."  That's true.  But I want to be workable so that God can mold me into the person He wants me to be right now, so I'll be prepared for those situations.  I see need for growth, and my constant prayer is that God will 'fashion' me into the person He wants me to be.  (Were you wondering when the 'fashioning' part of this blog was going to come back into play?)
Looking at how the word fashion is used in Scripture is an interesting study.  I thought of a few headings for these verses to help us gain an understanding of what it means to be fashioned by God.
He already created and fashioned us with an intent in mind...to bring glory to Him.
Job_31:15  Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?
Psa_33:15  He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.
Isa_29:16  Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? 
Isa_45:9  Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? 
Isa_64:8  But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. 
Jer_18:6  O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. 
We were created with an intent in mind, but because of sin, we fall short of that, yet God gives us instructions on how to return to His idea for how we should be fashioned.  Check out these verses about fashioning:
Gen_6:15  And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. 
Exo_26:30  And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount. 
Exo_37:19  Three bowls made after the fashion of almonds in one branch, a knop and a flower; and three bowls made like almonds in another branch, a knop and a flower: so throughout the six branches going out of the candlestick. 
1Ki_6:38  And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it. 
Psa_119:73  JOD. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. 
Eze_42:11  And the way before them was like the appearance of the chambers which were toward the north, as long as they, and as broad as they: and all their goings out were both according to their fashions, and according to their doors. 
All these verses talk about specific plans God gave to people so that they would fashion things according to His plan.  Of course there are also examples of people fashioning things according to their own plans, or according to the ideas of the world.
Exo_32:4  And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 
2Ki_16:10  And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.
Isa_22:11  Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago. 
Isa_44:12  The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. 
We also have warnings of how quickly those things pass away...
1Co_7:31  And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. 
Jas_1:11  For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. 

I may talk more about design in future posts.  At college, I had to write what they called a 'meditation commentary' every week on a different subject and how it related to a design, so I thought about publishing those short essays on the blog every day for about 9 days in the near future.

But back to the topic at hand...
My point with all this is that there are many things we can be fashioned by.  Scripture warns that the companion of fools will be destroyed and that evil company corrupts good character, and I don't want any part of that.  But the greatest fear for me is that I will become so hard-hearted and stuck in my ways that God can't work with me.  I never want to become hardened clay like that.  I always want to be fashion-able by God.
Some of my favorite verses in psalms talk about God changing our heart, like Psalm 51:10: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."  Another is  Psalm 139:23-24  "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  (24)  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  I used to think of these verses differently, but now when I pray them I cannot say it with any self-righteousness or pride by saying, "Go ahead, God!  Look and see how clean my heart is!  You got nuthin' on me, devil!"  That's not what the psalmist was trying to get across at all.  These verses are quoted right after an entire psalm about how intricately God created and knows us, and thus, it is fitting to end the psalm by asking God to continue to fashion according to His will.  I want Him to search my heart and know my thoughts, and see if there is even the slightest impurity that conflicts with His plan, and if there is, I want Him to purge it out, and continually lead me in the way everlasting.

So am I saying that it is wrong to appear in a way that is nice, and trendy, and acceptable to society?  Not at all.  I just wanted to use that term to segue into my main point.  What then ARE my tips on how to be fashionable in the right way?
1. Be humble, and recognize that you are not everything that you are supposed to be yet.
2. Search the Scriptures and find out what the model is for how we are to be fashioned.  (Jesus is the standard, by the way, in case you need a helpful hint to getcha going.)
3. Spend time with God and make sure you have a mold-able, usable, fashionable spirit that He can work with.  (which is really a sub point of being humble.)
4. Look to God for who you should be, not references in the world and among people.
5. Be content with the unchangeable things about the way God made you, and look to Him to change the rest!

Especially at the time of year when we are supposed to be giving thanks for what we have, and attempting not to become overcome by the commercialism so present the very day after, as we try not to get trampled trying to get the most fashionable stuff (ironic, isn't it?), I thought this would be a good thought to throw out there.  It has certainly been something I've been thinking about.  I want to be fashion-able by God.  My heart's prayer, as I hope yours is "That I may know Him in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death."  God bless you all!

Philippians 3:21  Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. 

1Peter 1:14-16  As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:  (15)  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;  (16)  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Just Emotion?

Just to clarify, with elections coming up, this has nothing to do with politics.  Just thought I'd get that out there to begin with.
It does have to do with our response to the King of kings though!

Lately, it seems like I've been having a lot of conversations concerning the subject of music and how it is used to glorify God.  The reason it's been coming up has to do with another thing I should get out there right now: I'm an Apostolic Pentecostal.  Wait, wait, wait!  Before you tune me out, evaluate---oh man.  You already stopped reading, didn't you?  Oh well.

For those of you still with me, an argument I've heard several times through my short life, from both Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals, is that Pentecostal worship is "just emotion."  In fact, I had a similar thought at one point in my life where things weren't going well for me spiritually...

I wasn't feeling the presence of God and couldn't figure out why.  It seemed like everything was going fine...I felt so close to God; I was walking with Him.  He was speaking to me, and I was communicating with Him.  Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it all dried up.  God simply wasn't speaking to me.  The worst part was I didn't know why.  I repented of every sin I thought I could have possibly committed, and even sins I had never committed.  I prayed, wept, cried out to God, but nothing had an effect.

During this time, I felt hypocritical for worshipping.  That's the word I used: hypocritical.  My mindset was that if I wasn't feeling the presence of God while worshipping, I shouldn't be worshipping at all, because it wasn't in spirit and in truth.  (Nor is this an isolated case--I have heard those same words from other young people who are struggling.)  Also, because of hearing critical people and disgruntled saints, I became very sensitive about whether whenever I was worshipping I was just psyching myself up with emotion, or if I was really feeling the presence of God, so I tended to try to squelch any emotion so that God could move.

However, now I believe I had the wrong perspective.  (And there's definitely more to that story, but I want to focus on the aspect of worship, so you'll have to hear that story from me some other time :) Maybe I'll post about it later.)  In fact, I think the belief is kind of ludicrous now...not to be too harsh about it, but I do, and I'll explain what I mean.

First of all, I had an improper understanding of what being hypocritical meant.  A hypocrite is one who pretends to be one thing, but whose life is very different from what he/she is portraying to people.  In the New Testament, the word for hypocrite comes from the Greek word meaning 'actor.'  It's someone who acts one way, but really lives another.  There are times when people refuse to worship or praise and try to separate themselves from any emotional response in a church service because they don't want to be 'hypocrites' or say, 'that's not God--that's just emotion.'

I agree that it's not good to be hypocritical.  But expressing enthusiasm or feeling emotional when a song plays is not hypocritical unless your life doesn't match up with what your praise communicates about you.  Several verses bring this out very clearly.

Proverbs 15:8The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

The first chapter of Isaiah also communicates something similar.  God isn't interested in 'lip-service' and people whose hearts are far from Him.  By no means should expressions of prayer or worship become solely ritualistic or activities that don't have any affect on a person's life.  I've seen this too, and it is very displeasing to God.  Coming to church and offering up expressions of praise to God, but not actually submitting to Him in the rest of our lives isn't worship.  It's an abomination to God and He hates it.  This isn't some social club or tradition!  It's a relationship with an Almighty God, who deserves honor.  Even the blind man who was healed by Jesus, who wasn't educated in the law, understood this, and equated worship with doing God's will in John chapter 9.

John 9:31Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.

One of my favorite verses dealing with this topic though comes from the book of Psalms.

Psalm 33:1Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.

Praise is comely for the upright.  That means it looks good on the upright.  It is beautifying to those who have integrity.  This is so true.  (Well, obviously, because it's in the Bible, but I mean I've seen evidence of it over and over...which makes sense because that's what you'd expect from truth in the Bible but I mean...oh never mind.)  Whenever I see someone I know is righteous, and is living for God, offering enthusiastic praise to God...when I see them lifting their hands to heaven, and tears stream down their face...when I see them leap for joy in His presence...there's something special about that.  It's comely.  It's beautiful.  Note that it isn't true for those whose lives aren't right.  It is not a beautiful thing when someone you know isn't living right is dancing around 'in honor of God' clapping their hands and shouting praises.  That makes for an uncomfortable situation, because you know it's not genuine.   But praise is comely for the upright.

So I agree with the negative feelings toward emotion in this sense only: that there shouldn't be fleeting emotional appeals that last only for a night before that person returns to a life that dishonors God.  Pure emotion without an effect on a person's life serves absolutely no purpose.  However, I strongly disagree with the assertion that emotion should play no part in praise or in worship.  That doesn't even make sense.  When a person experiences the presence of something awesome, there will always be emotion involved.  If I'm walking through the woods, and run right into a grizzly bear, I will automatically experience certain emotions.  Fear and panic, to name a few.  When a father comes home from a long absence, a child will automatically feel certain emotions when that father walks in the door, as the child runs and jumps into his arms.  Can you imagine a child whose father has been in another country serving in the army perhaps, when that father comes home, the child stands back aloof and says, "I don't want to express any emotion, because I want to make sure my relationship with you is genuine."  Whaaat???  On the contrary, don't deep emotions indicate a deeper relationship?  Yet, I've heard people say things like this when speaking about God.  They don't want certain songs to be played because it might stimulate emotion and they don't want to rely on emotion when worshipping God.  But, as my pastor once said, "God gave us emotions...what else are we going to worship Him with?"

People go to football games, the openings of Apple stores, weddings, Star Wars conventions, birthday parties, etc., and express great enthusiasm and excitement.  Yet in our relationship with God, we believe that we need to be completely devoid of emotion in the name of reverence?  Even in the Old Testament, when the Holy Ghost was not accessible to every individual, instances like 2 Chronicles 20, the book of Ezra, the book of Psalms, the time when David danced before the ark of the Lord, when Solomon dedicated the temple, when Elijah prayed before God...all of these times express great emotion and enthusiasm and physical expressions of praise and worship.  How much more with an understanding of what Jesus has done for us, should we praise and worship God with enthusiasm?

When I was in Israel, we visited Golgotha and the Garden Tomb, and as the English tour guide was recounting the story of the crucifixion in a very factual way, I glanced over and noticed one of the preachers in the group, sitting there listening, with tears streaming down his face.  My eyes were dry.  I was soaking up what the tour guide was saying for its educational value, but when I saw him crying because of what his Savior went through for him, it touched me.  The better you understand what Jesus did for you, the more it should impact you.  The closer you are to Him, the more you will be overwhelmed with emotion, realizing His incredible mercy and love!

Should we be emotional when praising and worshipping God?  Absolutely.   Everything God has done for us absolutely warrants gratefulness, love, and enthusiasm.  God bless you as you praise the One who died for you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Audio Drama Benefits Over TV

Once I heard on a Focus on the Family broadcast of a kid who was asked whether he preferred the radio dramas or television shows produced.  He promptly answered, "the radio shows!" which surprised the asker a bit.  When asked why, he answered, "Because the picture is better!"
I love that.  That's a kid whose imagination was working!  His short answer also encapsulates one of the reasons I love audio dramas.  There are other reasons though.  Don't worry--I'm not going to talking about the morality or even the health and neurological benefits, although there's significant research, to be found in other places, that audio drama is superior to TV in that respect too.  But in this little blog post, I'll explain some benefits to audio drama solely for entertainment purposes, mostly dealing with time.
Television is the most commonly used mode of entertainment.  TV captures people because it employs sight and sound, and it is addicting.  Even the worst story lines somehow capture our attention because it fixates our sight on a screen where things are happening every 2-4 seconds.  But there are times, when we simply can't look at the screen, because we're doing something else that we have to use our eyes for, and yet those things may be very mundane tasks, and we still want to be entertained.  In fact, people try to employ TV in some of these situations, and it can be dangerous...like in the car for example.  So I thought of three times when listening to audio drama is a better source of entertainment than watching TV.

1. While going to sleep.

I know people watch movies as they go to sleep.  But there are problems with this.  The chief problem involves these two facts: a) watching TV requires open eyes; b) sleeping requires closed eyes.  See the problem?  Audio dramas communicate the entire story through sound so you won't even miss anything while your eyes are closed!  Until you fall asleep, of course.

2. While driving.

Please don't watch TV while driving.  Please keep your eyes on the road!  This is for your safety and all those around you.  Of course, we all know that when you are commuting 30 minutes to an hour, things tend to get boring real quick.  Make good use of the time.  Audio dramas are also PERFECT for long road trips! Don't want to spend the money on one of those fancy little screen deals that fastens to the back of the seat?  Just pop in an adventure audio CD!  Endless entertainment.

3. While working.

Naturally, this is only for those times when you are doing completely brainless and menial tasks that require no mind power.  When I have to clean the house, I often listen to a radio drama.  When you're working outside or on the assembly line of a factory, just plug in some ear buds and let your imagination soar.

I'll provide some great links to awesome audio dramas below:

http://store.lamplighter.net/affiliates/default.aspx?Affiliate=55&Target=Store

http://store.lamplighter.net/affiliates/default.aspx?Affiliate=55&Target=Home

www.whitsend.org

www.cbhministries.org

www.radiotheater.org


Audio dramas are apparently more popular in Europe than in America, but I think they should make a comeback here, people.  There are so many advantages!  Now go practice your multitasking by listening to some audio dramas.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Old Faithful vs. New Faithless

Okay, I know I run the risk of sounding like a cranky old man (which I'm NOT...old, that is) talking about how this generation has no faith or something like that, but it IS kind of a paradox to say 'new faithful'.  Faithfulness requires time to determine if it's truly legitimate.  A person might be faithful in heart, but the test of time will show whether or not they really are.  And it can be easy in this age, with fast food, DVR, online news articles, text messaging, microwave dinners, and those incredible dryers that blast the skin off your hands and bust your eardrums but get you dry really fast, (sorry-tangent--those things are awesome though!), it can be easy to simply bail out when things get tough and find an easier way.

But there's something that stirs my heart when I hear stories of faithfulness.  When you see a couple that's been together for 50 years...or an old janitor who has worked at cleaning the church, consistently all his life, with no recognition...a person who is willing to sacrifice all for their country, no matter how bad it gets, even when under pain of torture...the love of a mother taking care of a child with more problems in functioning than most children...Christians under persecution who won't deny their Lord...there's something that touches the deepest places in our souls about all these kinds of stories.

Once, I was reading Luke 2, and although this aspect of the story isn't often emphasized, tears came to my eyes when I was reading about Simeon, and at first, I wasn't really sure why.  It's a very simple story, and not even really that exciting, at least not the calling-fire-down-from-heaven-on-Mt.-Carmel-Elijah brand of exciting.  But I think that's part of what touched me about it.  Check out these short, simple verses:

Luke 2:25-32  And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  (26)  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.  (27)  And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,  (28)  Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,  (29)  Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:  (30)  For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,  (31)  Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;  (32)  A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

This guy was waiting for years and years, just waiting for the consolation of Israel.  What faithfulness!  Look at how it describes him: as just and devout, and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  That's all.  But he had a promise from God, and as the years went on, and he grew older, and the promise still didn't come, he didn't waver.  He waited.  And remained just and devout.  Then I can't imagine how he felt when at the climax, he finally saw the child that would redeem Israel!  After waiting for such a long time!  We get a clue, of course, by what he says: "Now, I can depart in peace, for my eyes have seen thy salvation!"  I believe it was an incredibly emotional experience.

Then I read on, and came to Anna, which is the prototype for faithfulness.
Luke 2:36-37  And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;  (37)  And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

This lady was pretty old!  But she continued doing what she knew to do, her entire life!  Honoring God in the best way she knew how.   Why were these two the only ones to recognize the child when brought to His own temple, among all the scribes, lawyers, doctors, priests, etc., who knew the laws and the prophecies?  I believe it was because of their faithfulness.  Not to the temple...but to God.  That's something God loves.  I think that's part of the reason why He says the last will be first, and the first last, and the greatest must be a servant.  Love without recognition means so much more than with recognition.  (Matt. 6:5-6)

I could go on and on with examples in the Bible.  The "others" in Hebrews 11 is a good example.  Or the guy who is unknown to history, but receives a mention, by name, by Jesus in the book of Revelation as, "Antipas...my faithful martyr." (Rev. 2:13)  Rebekah, in Genesis 24, who stepped into God's will for her life, only because she was faithful in the little things.  Can you imagine if she had decided not to go to the well that day?  But that wouldn't have happened.  Why?  Because she was faithful.
Another example is the mercy God shows the Rechabites, the sons of Jonadab, just because they were faithful in obeying the commandment of their father.

Jeremiah 35:18  And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: 
Jeremiah 35:19  Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever. 

We tend to equate saving faith with belief.  I don't think that's the way the apostles thought about it.  To them, faith was a lifestyle, a consistent reaching forward, a trust and belief in God that didn't fail.  Over and over, the book of Revelation promises rewards to 'him that overcometh.'  Confessing Jesus with your mouth meant a lot more than simply saying a prayer.  It meant identifying yourself with someone you could be killed for.  It was total commitment.  It changed their lives.  Not just figuratively...literally.  Like a marriage vow...that vow means a whole lot more than a casual belief that the other person is cool.  It's a commitment to that person for life.  I love Jesus' words in Matthew 25: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."  I am willing to live my whole life just to hear those words.

If you want to be full of faith...you need to be faithful.  Those two terms are synonymous, even though we ironically think of them as separate things.

Consistency, endurance, and faithfulness are concepts God loves.  I always want to emulate those qualities...for a very good reason.  He has been faithful to me.  We love Him, because He first loved us.  THAT'S the most incredible thing about the concept of faithfulness!  How incredible and faithful GOD is to US!  In light of such grace--such unmerited favor--how could we respond any differently?

"Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed, Thy Hand has provided;
Great is Thy Faithfulness, God, unto me."

Luke 18:1-8

(1)  And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
(2)  Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
(3)  And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
(4)  And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
(5)  Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
(6)  And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
(7)  And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
(8)  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (KJV)



(By the way...this is for free!  But relates to the topic.  I heard a fantastic message by Paul Washer, and if you can access youtube or Godtube and watch it it's worth it.  Look up Paul Washer--a shocking message.  It's presented in a passionate, truthful way.  Awesome stuff.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuabITeO4l8 ) 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Helmet of Salvation

This post is a shout-out for all those headed off to college...like me.  It's that time of year, and this Saturday, I'll be going off to college in another state.  So where do I have time to write a blog post?  Uh, I'm not sure, so appreciate this! ;)
However, I do want to make it clear that this is really applicable to everybody, even though I'm talking college-ish things since that's what's on my mind, we need to use the helmet of salvation in high school, (and elementary and middle school, come to think of it!), in the work place, with friends, even in church.
Your mind is a battleground, and college is the place with the armory, war supplies, and enemy's opportunity.  Going to college means you are entering a place where there are countless different ideas, philosophies and worldviews that will have to be contended with.  Even at a Bible college, or Christian university, you will have to contend with different interpretations of Scripture, and the mentalities and assumptions of the professors and students.
A few weeks ago at a prayer thing at Nationals where lots of people prayed protection over last year quizzers, two godly women were praying for me, and when they were done they each mentioned something similar.  "The WORD," the one lady said emphatically.  "You must filter everything through the Word."  And I thought, "Okay, yeah, sure, of course I will."  The other lady was praying for me to be equipped with the full armor of God, particularly the helmet of salvation, and when she was done, she reminded me that my beliefs would be tested at college, and to keep the simple faith of a child in regard to God.
That's what triggered these thoughts and got me thinking.  Now I am very fortunate, considering what college I'm attending.  It is a small Christian college, with not very many students, but the ones who are there are generally committed Christians.  However, I'm not naive enough to believe that I won't have to protect my mind.  There will be struggles, even in simply being far away from home and on my own, which I've never had to deal with before.
But how?  How do I equip myself with the helmet of salvation?  When someone sounds and seems smarter than you, and can make their case so eloquently and convincingly, even if it's wrong--how is a person supposed to protect their mind from that?  From the little bits of falsehood that are mingled in with truth?
We were doing a Bible study on Proverbs 12, and the verses jumped out at me in a different way.  Somebody read Proverbs 12:5:

  "The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit."
 
and when I asked them to explain it, they said, "Well, it seems pretty simple and self-explanatory."  And when he said that, I said, "You know...it really is simple!"  A theme that seemed to keep emerging from that chapter is to just do what you know is right, regardless of what others think, or the cousels of the wicked, or your own desires, and God will take care of you.  A couple verse that relate to this idea are:




Pro 12:3 A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shll not be moved.



Pro 12:26 The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.


Pro 12:28 In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.

If we know what is good and righteous, we need to commit to that and God will worry about the rest.  The counsels of the wicked may be deceitful, and sound nice, and sound right, but that doesn't matter if it ISN'T right.  The devil transforms himself into an angel of light and that's why we need to be careful, but if we're keeping our eyes on Jesus, and following Him and His righteouness, then our root will never be moved.
The other verse that came to my mind was 2 Corinthians 11:3.



2Co 11:2-3

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (3) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Paul was writing in his concern that just as the serpent had beguiled or tricked Eve through his subtility and sneakiness, our minds could be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  I love that he calls it the simplicity that is in Christ.  I firmly believe we do not have to have everything figured out.  All we need to do is follow Christ.  We may not know all about textual criticism, and the Masoretic text, and the Septuagint, and hermeneutics, and all that...but there is a simplicity in Christ that we can follow, and that's what I encourage you to do at college.  Continue growing in Christ.  Put yourselves under godly authorities that can help you to grow, and just do what's right.  The philosophies and wrong ideas and all that will fade away, but God's word will not pass away.  Two sections of Scripture may be helpful in thinking about that, as you go off to college, or high school, or the work place or wherever...
Eph 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
 
That's what the church is for.  It can help you to grow in Christ, and not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  But the main thing to remember is in this next portion of Scripture:
 Col 2:1-12 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; (2) That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; (3) In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (4) And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. (5) For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. (6) As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (7) Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (9) For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (11) In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (12) Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
 
I know that's a huge portion of Scripture, but I wanted to include it all for you to look at and digest and mull over.  The main point, though, of course, is that we are complete in Christ...in him is hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Follow Christ and do what's right, and even if someone sounds smart, remember that if it's morally wrong, they are being deceitful, and will be overthrown.  Just focus on doing what's right.
I tried to use this example in my youth group the other night, and I don't know that it made sense to anybody but me, but maybe there are some fellow Narnia-lovers reading this.  If not, just stop reading where I left off with the Scriptures in Colossians haha.  But a scene in "The Silver Chair" by C.S. Lewis stuck out to me, in relation to this topic.  Two kids are sent by Aslan into Narnia to look for the lost prince who is held in this enchantment by an evil enchantress.  But when they get down there to set him free, and he's finally in his right mind, remembering who he is and about Narnia, the enchantress begins working an enchantment on all of them.  She has been holding the prince in a cavern under the ground, where you can't see the sky or the sun.  And every time they mention something like Narnia, the sun, or even Aslan, she begins questioning them about whether or not it's even real.  "What is this sun you speak of?" she asks. "Do you mean anything by the word?"
"Yes, we jolly well do!" one of the kids responds.  (Which I just had to throw in there because he said 'jolly well'...I think I'm going to begin using that phrase more often.)
"Can you tell me what it's like?" asked the Witch.
"Please it your Grace," said the Prince, very coldly and politely.  "You see that lamp.  It is round and yellow and gives light to the whole room; and hangeth moreover from the roof.  Now that thing which we call the sun is like the lamp, only far greater and brighter.  It giveth light to the whole Overworld and hangeth in the sky."
"Hangeth from what, my lord?" asked the Witch; and then, while they were all thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her soft, silver laughs: "You see?  When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me.  You can only tell me it is like the lamp.  Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp.  The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children's story."
Now the reason I bring this story up, is because as we read it, we know, of course that there's a sun.  And we're rooting for the children and the Marshwiggle and the Prince to pull out of the Witch's spell and remember it!  But for some reason, the enchantress's words seem to make so much sense, down there in her dark world, under the influence of her music and the smell of the incense burning by the fire in the room.  They can't seem to find the words to explain themselves.  And many times, it seems like that's how we are.  Maybe the person we're talking to isn't even trying to deceive us, but they've never experienced what we have.  How would you explain light to someone who's never seen or experienced it?  You almost have to know and experience it for yourself.  And so they, with eloquent explanations, and logical-sounding rationalizations, demonstrate to you with their words that there is nothing more than their world that they've experienced.  What they know is the real world.  What you believe is only made up, copied from their real world.  Everything has a very natural explanation.  And it's hard when we can't find the words to explain ourselves.
The story in the Silver Chair continues and the Witch does the same thing when they bring up Aslan.  She tells them there are no such things as lions.  They've only imagined this thing they call a lion from what are really cats.  They are about to fall completely sway to the enchantment, when Puddleglum stamps out the witch's fire, which the enchanting smell is coming from and burns his foot.  The pain clears his mind a little and he tells the witch, "One word, Ma'am.  One word.  All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder.  I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it.  So I won't deny any of what you've said.  But there's one more thing to be said, even so.  Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.  Suppose we have.  Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.  Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world.  Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one....That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world.  I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it.  So thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland."
The witch was trying to tell them by fancy words and explanations that the world they'd experienced wasn't true.  And they couldn't find the words to defend themselves, because their minds were muddled since they were on the enchantress's territory.  But because Puddleglum was committed to do the right thing, and he knew it was still right and virtuous, regardless of what she said, they were able to overcome the enchantment and escape.  That's what we need to do.  Be committed to what is right and virtuous, and keep our minds on Jesus so we don't get distracted by the hollow philosophies of empty deceit.  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  Pray for me as I go off into the world and try to implement this, and stay strong for Christ yourself.....and I hope that example wasn't too weird and made a little sense.