Sunday, September 19, 2010

Now is the time to live!

I 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 life, in love, in faith and in purity."

They are all around us.  I daresay you know some of them: young men and women who have bought into the lie that now is the time to live for yourself, now is the time to enjoy your life, to reject responsibility, and to party before the weight of adulthood is thrust upon you.  While I entirely disagree with this view, I do agree upon one point: now is the time to live!

Now is the time to live for something more.

Too often, we also buy into the lie that some future day far down the road of life after we "grow up," we'll start doing the things we should be doing, start living for Christ, start talking about him.  But I ask you to reconsider.  Habits once begun are difficult and dangerous to stop.  If you build into yourself the habit of waiting, delaying, procrastinating, you will never get around to doing it, never start living for Christ, never start boldly proclaiming his words.

I find that each time I ignore an opportunity to speak for Christ, it becomes easier and easier to be completely blind to such opportunities, to miss them entirely until it is too late.  Don't let that happen.  Don't build the habit of silence into your soul.

Ephesians 5:15-16 "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

Colossians 4:5-6 "Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Today, in church, our pastor mentioned Jeremiah 20:9.  Read it and reflect upon the words a moment. "But if I say, 'I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,' his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."  

Oh this is my prayer.  That God's word would fill me like a fire shut up inside, so that I cannot keep silent.  It is far too easy for me to make excuses, far too easy for me to simply pretend not to see the opportunity, or try to deaden myself to the holy spirit's leadings.  But that is not how it should be!  Oh Father, that your words but burned like a fire within, like a well filled to overflowing, pouring out of me, so that I could not help to proclaim your truth!  Let me be like Jeremiah who could not hold it in.  Like David who had to speak out, who could not conceal God's truth in his heart, but had to proclaim it to the assembly.  (Psalms 40:10)

I 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 life, in love, in faith and in purity."

You are never to young to live for God.  Don't buy into the lie that you are.  Don't buy into the lie that now is the time to live for self, to forsake responsibility, to deny all but your own desires.  Now is the time to live, yes, but to live for Christ!  To live so that others might live, seeing Christ in your life.  

Even though you are young, you can exemplify Christ.  You are never too young to shine Christ's glory in the midst of an evil world.  Though you are young, you are called to set an example for the other believers.  In your speech - speech that reflects God, voices that speak for Him - in your life - live for something more that yourself, live for Christ - in love - true love in action, love that is willing to die to self for others - and in purity. As temples of the Holy Spirit, we are called to be pure.  

David wrote in Psalms 8:1-2b "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens.  From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise..."

If infants are not too young to praise God, then you are not too young to start living for Him now.  I challenge you!  Don't waste your time.  Remember, every single breath you breathe, every second that you remain upon this earth is a gift!  Don't waste it.  And don't ever believe the lie that you are too young.  Don't fall into the snare.

Now is the time to live.  Not when you are twenty five... not when you're thirty... not when you're forty, fifty, sixty, seventy and so on up.  Start living now and the habits will continue throughout all of those years.  But don't waste these the freest days of your life where you have less responsibility and more time to spend serving Christ, living for Him.

~ A Servant of the King
To the praise of his glory.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Do Something this Christmas...

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 

Look after widows and orphans in their distress.  Amazing that this was once the job of Christians and the church, not the government.  The fact that the government has taken charge of this role shows that the church must have been lacking in this very area.  

So, let's start to live up to the task to which we have been called. 

Here's an opportunity for this Christmas:

I'm sure many of you know about Operation Christmas Child.  An offshoot of Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child is a ministry that seeks to "demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ."  You can find their website here - Samaritan's Purse/Operation Christmas Child.

How can you help?  Well, Operation Christmas Child seeks volunteers to assist in carrying out their mission statement.  Each year, volunteers pack shoe boxes with gifts for needy children around the world.  These boxes are collected in November (National Collection week this year is November 15-22) and sent out to the children.

If you would like to participate, Operation Christmas Child provides information on what to pack in a shoe box, what not to pack, where to send it, etc on their website - click here: How to Pack a Shoe Box.  Along with each box that you give, they ask that you also donate $7 dollars to help cover shipping costs.  

Think about it, for only a few dollars this Christmas, you can give a gift to a child who has almost nothing!  What a wonderful use of your (the Lord's actually) money.  

Here's something cool: this Christmas, Operation Christmas Child is partnering with the new Narnia movie "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" in Operation Narnia.  Read about it and watch the video clip here: Operation Narnia  I thought this was pretty awesome!

Just remember, that everything you have has been given to you, use it to give back!  

~ A Servant of the King
To the praise of His glory! 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Operation Hands and Feet

The title of this blog "Stars in the Universe" came from Philippians 2:14-16a "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life..."

This blog's goal is to be a place of encouragement and accountability for young Christians who desire to love and serve the Lord and others.  Our mission: Operation Hands and Feet - to serve Christ and live for Him, serving and loving those around us and across the world, to shine like stars in the midst of the dark world around us.

I wrote a post a little while back on my other blog Of Battles, Dragons, and Swords of Adamant  called “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love…”  (You can read it here)  This is a sort of sequel to that post.  It’s taking the next step forward – not merely a call to love, but a call to love in action.   

1 John 3:16-18 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 

It is easy to read this verse and nod your head, and then go away without thinking any more about it.  But first, please just sit still a moment and let the words sink in.  Think about the world we live in.

Right now, millions of people are starving.  There are an estimated 143 million orphans living in the world today.  In many countries, people live in conditions that we cannot even imagine, without the commonest necessities that we take for granted.  

Haiti has recently come to the forefront of many minds due to the recent devastating earthquake.  Many people are aghast at the living conditions in post-earthquake Haiti.  What I find interesting, is that the living conditions in Haiti were an issue long before the earthquake, but nobody knew or cared to know, or even think about doing anything about it.

Why is that? 

Why are we so content to live in our own little world - for the world in which we live in here in the west is so completely different from the world that many know in different countries – why are we content to live out our comfortable lives in our rich mansions (palaces, to many… we call them houses), stuffing our faces with an overabundance of food - whatever we want, whenever we want - buying, spending, amassing, living solely for ourselves without giving more than a passing thought to the outside world?  Our society is truly materialistic to the enth degree.  We have so much that we do not need, yet we constantly want more.  And not only that, we want more and we want it now. 

But while we live our plentifully abundant lives, thousands die from starvation, and no one cares enough to do anything about it. 

I did not care enough.

It is so easy to be comfortable in your own life and forget about “the rest of the world.”  It is so easy to read this (or write this) nod your head and say “yes, something must be done,” and then continue on in the same old ways and forget entirely about it.

But I don’t want to forget. 

I want something more.  So, what can we do?  I have been wondering that myself.  What can I do?  I don’t have much - not by our standards - but I have more than plenty.  All my needs are provided for and more than enough of my wants.  But what have I given to those who have nothing?

Unfortunately, I've been looking at everything all the wrong way.

I'm sure you have all read the story of the widow's gift in the Bible.  It's a very short passage, only a few verses, yet the truth enclosed in those verses is powerful.

Luke 21: 1-4 “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” 

I have been giving Christ out of my “wealth,” my extra.  And the worst of it is: I knew it.  I have looked upon my money as my own.  Can I really spare it right now?  Naw, I’ll give some other time…  But the truth is, it is not my own.  I have only been loaned it for a while, and one day, I will be called to account for how I have used what I have been given.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stand there and have to say, “Well, Lord, you see… I kept it all for myself.  I gave you the little bit of the extra I had… that extra stuff that I earned that one time and figured I could spare…”

No.  Don’t give out of your wealth, give your all, remembering that it is not yours in the first place!

Jesus, in His famous Sermon on the Mount, tells us that we can always see where our hearts are, by where we put our treasure.  Matthew 6:19-20 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Where is your treasure going?  Are you storing up treasure on earth, amassing things for yourself?  Or are you giving your earthly treasure to Christ, and gaining a far great treasure in heaven?

This is not only about your money, it's the same with your time.  Every single breath you draw upon this planet is a gift from God.  You did nothing whatsoever to give yourself life… you can do nothing whatsoever to keep yourself breathing… each second is a gift, and since it is a gift, you must use it wisely.  Every second of time that passes, is a second gone from your life.  Don’t waste it.  Remember, it is not your time, it is Christ’s.  Be ready to serve.
So anyway, back to the question.  What can we do?  The first step is realizing that there is a problem; the second, wanting to do something about it.  The third, and the most difficult, is figuring out what to do and actually doing it. 

So, here is a call to action.  Our mission in Operation Hands and Feet is two fold.

The first objective: is to do something.  To use our time and money and abilities for something more than ourselves and our own entertainment and pleasure.  To live for Christ, for others; serving Christ, serving others; changing us, others, the world.

James 2:16-17 “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 

It sounds like a pretty tall order… especially when you’re just a teenager and your bank account, time, and opportunities are limited to say the least.  But as we saw with the widow, Christ does not want our wealth, he wants our all, however little it may be.  And in the Kingdom of God – however, upside down and backwards it may sound - a little given with a pure heart is far more than a lot given begrudgingly or with the wrong motives. 

So, here’s my challenge.  This year, this month, this week – today, do something!  

Give your time and your service:
Here are some ides -
~ Join a ministry - don't waste your time; do something worthwhile with it.  Spend at least some part of your day for others.
~ Help in Awana - God's word changes lives and memorizing God's word is one of the best ways to get it in your head where it can affect your life and actions.
~ Help teach a Sunday school class - it's often said that the best way to learn anything is to try to teach it to someone.  You will grow while teaching others.
~ Work at a Christian youth camp - that's what I do all summer!  It's really fun and rewarding too.
~ Go on a mission's trip
~ Serve your family - yes this is a legitimate way to serve.  Our service should always start at home.  That is where God has placed you - it's your immediate mission field.
~ Pray - become a true prayer warrior for Christ.  Prayer is a very powerful thing.
~ Serve an elderly neighbor
~ Use the gifts and abilities that God has given you to serve Him, to serve others.

Give your money:
~ To church
~ Support a missionary
~ Sponsor an orphan or child in a third world country
~ Give to Christian charities designed to help those in need and spread the Gospel
Here are a few good ones that I know of - there are many many more;
Samaritan's Purse
Angel Tree
Gospel for Asia

Look for ways to help others with your money, rather than always spending or saving it for yourself.

Obviously don’t limit yourself to what I've put here, there are millions of options, millions of ways you can give and serve!  The point is just to do something here and now.  It doesn’t have to be huge.  Start off small.  be faithful in the little things and then in time, you will be able to do bigger things.

Here's where the purpose of this blog/group comes in.  After you have found a way to give and serve, comment here and share with us.  This is not to glorify yourself through announcing to the whole world what you've done, rather for accountability - to keep yourself accountable by letting others know what you are committing to.  And it's also for encouragement, so that we can all see that we do not stand alone, that others are committing to serving as well.  If you have decided to give your money, don't list any amounts or anything like that - again, we're not doing this to get a pat on the back - just tell where you gave and why you chose that place.

Matthew 6:2-3 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Now, to the second part of our two-fold mission.  Now, this second objective really should have been listed as the first - it must always be first, I just listed it second sort of on accident. (So really this is the first objective of Operation: Hands and Feet, the other is the second objective)  By the same token that we cannot simply sit around comfortable with our prosperity while others suffer, we cannot simply sit around comfortable knowing that we are saved while others perish  because they have not been told.  Let us stop pretending and live as true Christians, live like we believe the word of God to be true, live like we believe that it is imperative that the Gospel be preached!  In short, we must tell others the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 24:11-12 “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering towards slaughter.  If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it?  Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

Our belief in Christ must define our lives.  Our belief that He is the only way to reconciliation with God and forgiveness from sins, must affect the way we live.  We cannot simply sit around and keep the word of God secret.  His word was meant to be proclaimed, shouted from the rooftops.  My excuse is a lame one: I am  not good at speaking and sharing with others, I don't know enough, or I can't explain it well enough... someone else could do it better.  Like Moses, I'm an expert at inventing excuses.  I don't know about you, but who wants to have to state those excuses when standing before the seat of Christ.

The problem with those excuses is that you only get better with practice, not by sitting around waiting until you feel comfortable sharing the gospel.  A rusty tool won't get sharp from sitting on a bench.  But how incredibly selfish to keep eternal life hidden within, not to share it with those who will perish for eternity.  Why?

Psalms 40: 10 "I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.  I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly."

So, this must be the foremost part of our mission.  It is not enough to simply provide starving people with food, if they will be separated from God for eternity when they die.  However, it is not enough to simply throw gospel tracks to starving people and hope that they are saved before they starve to death.  There must be a balance.  That's why our mission is two-fold.  The feet that bring the gospel shall also bring the love of Christ, and the hands that meet the spiritual needs shall also meet the physical. 

Paul wrote to Timothy in I 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 life, in love, in faith and in purity.”  No matter how young you are, you are not too young to live for Christ and to serve Him!

~ A Servant of the King
To the praise of His glory!