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I have a confession to make:
I committed adultery.
It wasn’t just once; it was often. Even now.
I am married to Christ, but I sometimes take my eyes off His face and look to the pleasures of this world. I think that an occasional foray into the world, with all its passions and desires, won’t hurt anyone, but it causes such grief to my Beloved; friendship to the world is enmity toward Him. I claim to love the Lord, yet my heart often strays to the things of this world.
My Beloved is a jealous God, desiring the entirety of my love and affection. Yet He is also full of grace; He will not force me to come back to Him. He continues loving me tenderly and waiting for me, as the father in the story waited eagerly for his prodigal son to return (Luke 15).
There is hope for me: if I but choose to submit to Him, to come near to Him, He will come near to me. When I realize the depth of my sin, the extent of my depravity; when I grieve over my transgressions and humble myself and submit to Him, He will lift me up, because He shows favor to the humble and His ears are attentive to their cry.
I can no longer attempt to serve two masters; I must make my decision as to which one I will follow, which one to whom I will pledge my life, my soul, my everything.
There is hope for me yet.
Who will you choose to serve?
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15
James 4:4-5 – “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?”
James 4:7-10 – “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Romans 8:7-8 – “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
1 John 2:15-17 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Anyone who claims that a Christian life must be timid, passive, and overly tolerant is a liar, according to this verse. It is true that if we are personally laughed at or insulted, Christ commands us to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39). But we are called to DEMOLISH the arguments of those who attack Christianity and our knowledge of our Savior. I don’t know of anyone who thinks “demolishing” is a passive action. According to the dictionary, “demolish” means: to destroy, to forcefully tear down or take apart, to damage so that [it] cannot be repaired, to strip of any pretense of merit or credit. The divinely powerful weapons we have been given are made for offense, not for sitting on.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter, “…and the gates of Hades will not overcome it [the church].” Many Christians misunderstand this verse to think that the gates of Hell are attacking the church, that we are defenders hiding in a fort as hordes of enemies attack and overwhelm us from all sides. Let me ask you a question, though: have you ever seen a pair of gates attacking a city? I trust not. Gates are built for defense against an attacking force. If you read this verse carefully, it becomes clear that, rather than Satan and his forces attacking the church, the CHURCH should be ATTACKING the gates of Hell! That doesn’t sound very passive to me. We are called to take the battle to them!
What more does Jesus promise? That those gates of Hell will not be able to withstand us, if we make every thought obedient to Christ. Even those words, “…take captive every thought…” imply “violence.” It is no easy task to put to death our flesh, with all its earthly desires and thoughts. It requires a dying to ourselves, a daily taking up of our crosses. Yet, if we make Him preeminent in our lives and unite as one Body, the Church, married to our Head, Christ, we will prevail. That’s a promise that gives us hope and not despair. Live your life with your head up, and don’t let Satan trick you into thinking he’s got the upper hand! He was defeated on the cross, and he will be defeated again; it’s good to remind him of it once in a while.
Picture of gates found via Google: http://goo.gl/PTF18m
Son of God. If you haven’t already heard about it, it’s a movie released just last week about the events of Jesus’s life, from the beginning of his ministry until his resurrection. The movie was produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, producers of the hit TV series The Bible on the History channel last year. There’s a lot of controversy going on about whether or not Christians should watch this movie and about whether or not it accurately depicts Jesus’s life and ministry; after watching it myself, I wanted to weigh in with my opinions. Note: if you haven’t already seen the movie, I’ve embedded a trailer at the bottom of this post.
To put it simply: I really enjoyed the movie and would definitely recommend it to anyone. I thought the producers managed to keep the message of the Gospel very clear while at the same time bringing scenes we’ve been reading for years “to life,” given the bounds of creative/artistic license. There were certainly things they added, changed, or moved around, as compared to a word-for-word transcription of the Bible, but overall, it flowed well together and presented a story definitely worth watching, leading to encouragement and edification. Here are some of the main pros and cons of the movie as I saw them; I won’t bother putting a SPOILER warning, considering…you already know the story (I hope!).
Mary Magdalene. In this movie, Mary Magdalene traveled everywhere with Jesus and his disciples. Now, according to Luke 8:3-1, there were a couple of women who accompanied Jesus on his travels, such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna; however, in the movie, we only see Mary, and she goes everywhere with Jesus and the disciples. Just one female traveling with 13 guys, staying the nights with them, and everything. Of course, it’s not like the producers added romance between her and Jesus or anything (they didn’t), but her inclusion felt a bit forced, as if they only put her there so the movie would appeal to a female audience. She had a good role and lines, but I don’t know how absolutely necessary she was.
Jesus’s “Revelations.” At occasional points in the movie, Jesus would suddenly pause and open his eyes wide, and we’d see images of the future flash in his vision. It was presented in such a way as to suggest that Jesus did not actually know what was going to happen to him, and was periodically receiving “future flashes” from God. However, Jesus is God, and I’m sure he already knew the future. He didn’t need the sudden flashes, as the movie portrayed.
Edited Verses. Throughout the course of the movie, some lines of Scripture were slightly edited, given to different characters to speak, or put in different situations than they were originally written. For the most part, it worked fine; in order to quote every word of Jesus in exactly the right scenario, the movie would have been at least 4 or 5 hours long. However, there was one noticeable change that I really didn’t like: in the scene of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus picked up a rock and prepared to throw it at her, then turned and said to the Pharisees, “I will give my stone to the first person who can tell me that they’ve never sinned.” Compare this to what he actually said in John 8:7 – “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” In addition, Scripture never indicates that Jesus picked up a rock to throw at her at all. Another questionable scene was during the Last Supper, when Jesus broke the bread and passed around the wine during the first Communion. Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was a very watered-down version of Scripture. Apart from these and a few other scenes, however, the movie stayed relatively true to the words of the Bible and still managed to impart the Bible’s messages and meanings.
Pilate vs. Caiaphas. In John 11:47-53, the Bible tells us how the Pharisees, led by the High Priest Caiaphas, wanted to kill Jesus because if the Jews rallied under Jesus, the Romans would come and destroy them all. The movie took this and made it one of the main elements of the plot: throughout the movie, we see a conflict between Pontius Pilate and the Pharisees. Pilate is very violent toward the Jews who are thinking about rebelling, and at one point brutally kills dozens of Jews protesting against Roman rule (not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, but certainly possible in those times). The Pharisees are terrified when they realize that thousands of Jews are following Jesus because they realize that if things start going south, Caesar will send his troops and completely destroy the temple and Jerusalem. Therefore, they constantly try to stop Jesus, whether through trick questions (“Should we pay taxes to Caesar?”) or through thinly-veiled threats. It’s not only out of fear for the destruction of the temple that they oppose Jesus, however; it is clear that they are also jealous and frightened of him, and use the potential uprising as their “cover story” in their opposition of him. Even though not all of this was spelled out in Scripture, I believe it is quite plausible, and it worked well in the movie.
Nicodemus. At the beginning of the movie, Nicodemus was one of the chief Pharisees, possibly Caiaphas’s right hand man. He starts off opposing Jesus, being sent multiple times by Caiaphas to trick Jesus into doing or saying something politically incorrect that they could use against him. In fact, he’s the one that asks Jesus about whether or not the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar. However, as he continues seeing Jesus, something changes in him, and he eventually sneaks over to where Jesus is camped outside Jerusalem, late at night and heavily veiled, so that no one will recognize him as he talks to Jesus about life. It is then that Jesus tells him about being “born again,” and he becomes a changed man. Later, when Jesus is arrested and the Pharisees are condemning him, it is Nicodemus that tries to stand up in Jesus’s defense, although he is overruled by Caiaphas. I believe this portrayal of Nicodemus, particularly of how he changed through meeting Jesus, was excellent and in line with Scripture.
Peter. The portrayal of Jesus’s disciple, Peter, was fantastic. The movie effectively showed his transition from simple fisherman to the bold leader of the disciples, but without skipping over his painfully difficult journey between. Peter is always Jesus’s staunchest supporter, and when Jesus says he is going to die, Peter tells him that he will never leave Jesus’s side, no matter what may come. As they hug, Jesus tells him that Peter will deny him three times before dawn, and Peter is shocked. Later, after Jesus is arrested, we see Peter watching on as Jesus is pushed roughly to the street. One of the soldiers, as well as a woman, point out that they’ve seen Peter with Jesus, but he vehemently denies their claims. He then realizes what he’s done, and the movie effectively shows his brokenness and sorrow; after Jesus’s death, he believes he is unfit to be a disciple. However, this soon changes when he realizes that Jesus has resurrected from the dead; he leads the other disciples in their first Communion since the death of Jesus, and eventually comes back to being their leader after Jesus has ascended to Heaven.
Visuals. From a movie-making standpoint, Son of God excels in every way. This was no cheap, low-budget production; the cast and crew worked extremely hard to make the movie look as realistic as possible, and their effort is translated onto the screen. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of sets, but rather like we were actually there with Jesus. I think the most incredible scene in the movie was when Peter stepped out onto the water from the boat during the storm; the combination of the visuals and music made for an incredible moment, one that I will always think of when I read that passage in the Bible.
There were many other pros and cons to this movie, but it would be impossible to list them all. Rather, I would highly recommend that you watch the movie. I will never say that you should watch it as a replacement for reading the Bible; this is not divinely inspired by God, it is just someone’s interpretation of Scripture. However, I believe the movie is very useful in its ability to bring parts of the Gospel to life in an enjoyable and riveting manner. In particular, while reading the Bible, we often don’t fully comprehend the pain and suffering Jesus went through when being flogged and crucified; the movie, however, makes the experience visceral and painful, as it should be. We should never undermine the pain and suffering, both physical and spiritual, that Jesus went through in order to redeem us from our sins. In the end, I applaud this movie, and I pray that God is able to work in the hearts of everyone who watches it so that they can be reminded of Jesus’s life and ministry, or told about it for the first time, if applicable.
Note: while the flogging and Crucifixion scenes were nowhere near as gory as those in The Passion of the Christ, they are still extremely painful and bloody, and I would not recommend taking little children to this movie unless you’ve seen it already and are sure they can handle it.
Have you watched Son of God yet? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.
UPDATE: Please note, there are certainly many things wrong with this movie, which you can read about here and here. However, I do still think that there are enough good things in the movie to make it worth watching, as long as you fully understand not to take the movie as Scripture, but simply as an adaptation of Scripture by a sinful, mortal, human being.
Brothers and sisters, this video truly convicted me of a major problem in my life and, I’m guessing, in the lives of many other American believers. Although we have multiple Bibles for each person in our houses (I, for one, have an “upstairs Bible,” a “downstairs Bible,” an electronic Bible, and several more), we seem to have to wrestle with our schedules and busy lives to eek out even just a few minutes each day to read our Bibles. God’s Word, his love letter to us, is sitting all over our houses and waiting to be read, yet we neglect it to attend to the things of our lives that [we think] truly matter.
These Chinese believers, however, understand what the Bible truly is. Just look at the sheer joy, reverence, and peace on their faces as they eagerly snatch up what is to them not just a fat, heavy book, but the divinely inspired instruction manual that our Creator gave us to show us how to live our lives. To them, it is the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), not just that dusty book you have to search for as you prepare for church every Sunday morning because you can’t remember where you put it after church the previous week.
To them, spending time in God’s Word is not a chore, but a privilege and a source of unending joy. They understand that reading it helps them to understand the character and nature of God, and in time, to get to know Him, not just know about Him. To them, it can be a great danger to be found reading the Bible, but they do it anyway because they know the treasure is worth the risk.
The point is: don’t take the Bible for granted. It’s not just any old book, but rather, the divinely inspired Word of God that covers every aspect of our lives and equips us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Don’t make time in your day to read the Bible; make time in your Bible reading to do everything else. Don’t just read it, either; live it, breathe it, memorize it, and hide it in your heart so that you will keep your way pure and not fall short of the glory of God (Psalm 119:11). Meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2, Joshua 1:8) as you would a love letter from your betrothed, because that’s what it is.
We have the greatest treasure imaginable in our homes, yet we willingly decide to keep it hidden. But let us choose this day to unblind ourselves and seek out that hidden treasure that is worth more than everything else we value and hold dear. Let us choose to cherish it and immerse ourselves in it, and through it, to understand Him, the Author and Perfecter (Hebrews 12:2).
Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.
Once upon a time, in a land not far from wherever you’re reading this, two birds were sitting on a branch. There they were, chattering joyfully about where to find the crunchiest seeds and the juiciest worms, when suddenly, their peace was broken by the sound of angry voices approaching.
The birds fell silent and looked toward the source of the voices. Walking down the path was a human couple. The humans were squabbling loudly and and arguing with each other about about their current and future plans. A hush fell over the forest as the humans’ bickering filled the air.
Eventually, the humans (and their noise) left, and the forest came back to life. One bird turned to the other and chirped, “I wonder why they were worrying so much? I guess they don’t have a heavenly Father like we do!”
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” – Matthew 6:25-26
[Adapted from “Finding Security in God as a Father,” by Zac Poonen.]
One of the things that shocked me the most when I started college was the vast amount of swearing and cursing that goes on in society. Probably due to my homeschooled upbringing, I was never exposed to swearing as a child. It wasn’t until I started attending my local community college at the age of 16 that I found out just how many curse words there are. I then realized that some of the movies I’d watched in the past* and enjoyed were full of cursing too; at the time I’d watched them, I didn’t have any ideas those curse words even existed.
I thought the cursing at my community college was bad, so you can imagine my shock when I started attending a major university, the University of Texas at Austin. For reference, this school was rated the #1 party school in the world a few years ago. Everywhere I go here, whether I’m in class or walking down the street, people are cursing with no care in the world.
I was doing homework in my study lounge one day when two people nearby started a conversation with each other. I kid you not, every other word from their mouths was a curse. They weren’t even talking about something horrible that had happened; they were nonchalantly chatting about their favorite video games. I sat there grinding my teeth in actual physical discomfort; however, there was nowhere to go. I knew the rest of the study lounge was full of the same kind of talking.
Another time, I was working on an assignment with two classmates. After a while, they began talking to each other about a female friend they had in common. They started objectifying her and using all sorts of crude terms to describe her at her expense, each expressing his desire to have her as his girlfriend, and worse. I waited for a while in hopes that they’d stop talking; when they didn’t, I was forced to make an excuse to leave. The worst part is, at least one of those two guys was a self-proclaimed Christian.
These are just two of hundreds of similar situations I’ve been forced to go through over the last two years. I used to hope that once I was through with college, I wouldn’t have to experience this issue any more; however, I’ve heard from many older believers that the swearing doesn’t stop when people get a job and career. I’ve come to realize that cursing has simply become a natural part of speech and life to many people, an issue not worth batting an eyelid over.
The question is: What should a godly man or woman do in such situations? Since everyone else swears, is it fine for us to swear? Some might make the argument that we need to move in accordance with the times: in past cultures, swearing was considered wrong, so Christians were not to do it, but now that it’s accepted, Christians are fine to do it.
I don’t believe this lie for one second. The Bible is absolutely clear that Christians are to keep their mouths completely pure and holy. Here are just a few out of dozens and dozens of verses to back up my opinion:
- Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
- Matthew 15:11 – “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
- Colossians 3:8 – “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
There are countless more verses like these, all of which make it undeniably clear that Christians should have no part in speaking idly, crudely, or profanely about anyone or anything. The thing is, the only reason for someone to swear is if they have evil stored up within their heart. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b). This verse makes it clear that if we store up evil in our hearts, our mouths will naturally speak evil and profane language.
What should we do instead? If we fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit and God’s love, we will bring forth “rivers of living water” (John 7:38) that will bless the people around us. “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). You cannot claim to be religious and yet not restrain your tongue: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
All these verses talk about how a believer should never curse or swear, but what about all the non-believers around us who swear? What do we do about them? Of course, we cannot force them to follow our beliefs. In the first situation I talked about earlier, the people swearing were not in my “jurisdiction,” a circle of people with whom I have authority. I didn’t even know them. In that particular situation, the best thing for me to do was to simply leave and pray fervently for the people involved.
In the second situation, where the two people were my classmates and one was apparently a Christian, I should have either graciously asked them to tone down their vulgarity or else found a way to steer the conversation into “safer” waters. Later, I should have privately confronted my friend who claimed to be a Christian and gently explained to him why Christians should never speak the way he did. Unfortunately, when this situation actually happened to me, I did neither of these options, but simply left. For this, I am extremely sorry and have prayed for the strength to do the right thing in the future.
The fact is, there will always be swearing around us. That’s just how the fallen world is. However, we, as believers, should NEVER grow accustomed to and used to it, much less participate in it. (Tweet) We should feel a mental and physical discomfort when we hear profanity. Most of the time, we can’t do anything about it because the people involved are not in our circle of authority; however, we must never cease to pray for them and ask God to reveal himself to them.
Even more, we should set an example in speech and life for the people around us. As Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” [emphasis added]. When we meet God at the Day of Judgement, let us not have any evil speech to condemn us. “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).
In the end, the only one we should desire to please is God. I would rather have the approval of God and the disapproval of man than the disapproval of God and the approval of man.
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” -Psalm 19:14
P.S. One thing I absolutely hate is when people, especially believers, substitute little “safe” phrases for curses. For instance, instead of saying the F-word, they’ll say something like “freak.” Or instead of the S-word, they’ll say “shoot.” Even if they didn’t say the exact bad word out loud, that’s what they meant in their hearts, so they are just as guilty as if they’d said the curse word out loud.
* The fact that I watched these movies was not my parents’ fault; they didn’t know about all the curse words either. Before you watch any movie, I recommend you look it up on PluggedIn; this site will explain all the bad things to look out for in movies, including language, violence, and sexuality. If you can’t find a movie reviewed there, you can also look it up on IMDB and read the Parent’s Guide.
Tis the season to
be jolly help the hungry.
I saw this billboard on my way to school this morning. Sure, Christmas has been over for a few weeks, but this message still remains true throughout the entire year. Too often, we enjoy the pleasures in our lives without thought of those who will never get to experience such pleasures. No matter how hungry we think we may be between meals, we must not forget that there are hundreds of millions of people out there who are far hungrier than us and don’t even have a meal to look forward to. I’m not saying that we should feel bad about what we have, or that we should throw away all our possessions and live in a cardboard shack, eating crackers and water; I just want all of us to be thankful for what we’ve been blessed with and find ways in which we can give to those in need.
Consider how much money you’ve spent eating out this week. Did you really need to eat out so many times? I want you to try something: over the next few weeks, set aside a dollar every time you spend money on something you don’t need, whether it be food or any material objects. After a few weeks, you’ll be surprised by how much money you’ve set aside! In addition, you might be shocked at how often you bought things that you could have lived just fine without.
Use that money to help someone in need. It could be a homeless guy on the side of the street, it could be an overseas mission. Even better than just donating money, consider donating your time by volunteering at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. If you’d like to donate money, an excellent missions program I know of is Gospel for Asia.
Remember, you never know who the poor people you’ll meet are. For all you know, they could be God is disguise.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:37-40
Here’s a video on this topic you might enjoy: The Parable of the Workmen