Friday, July 30, 2010

Serving Money

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
(Matthew 6:24, New King James Version)

Serving Money

Matthew 6 is part of the great Sermon on the Mount where Jesus, himself, was sitting on a hillside instructing the people. As we continue to look at the subject of being double minded, let us consider the words of Jesus, "No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and mammon."

What is mammon? It certainly is not a word we use in our day. The following is a definition from Webster's Online Dictionary: material wealth or possessions especially as having a debasing influence.

As a teen, would you say that this is a problem in our society today? On on a personal note, is it a problem among your peers? On an even more personal note, is it a problem for you?

This is really a tough subject to keep in a proper perspective. Money is important; we need it to supply our needs. What, then, is the difference between having money and serving money. That is exactly where the problem lies.

Jesus plainly tells us that if we serve money or our possessions, we cannot serve God. That is a pretty unsettling thought when we consider the world around us. This entire world is obviously driven by greed. He who has more still wants more, and will do anything to attain it.

As Christians, we must continually go before our Lord, asking Him to graciously keep us from serving money and possessions. Money is a necessary tool, and one which can bring us much comfort and pleasure, but it cannot be the driving focus of our lives, causing us to be double minded before God.

When you are dealing with problems in your own life, ask yourself if your problems could be related to being double minded. Are you guilty of trying to serve God and money?

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Double Minded

32 So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.

34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the LORD had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, 35 with whom the LORD had made a covenant and charged them, saying: “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them; 36 but the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. 37 And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods.
(2 Kings 17:32-37, New King James Version)

Double Minded

As we consider the topic, Dealing with Problems, let us look at the subject of double-mindedness. What does it mean to be double minded? Native Americans used to express it as speaking with a forked tongue?

This is a topic that should be near and dear to the heart of every teen. Don't you just despise those who say one thing, and yet do another? Do not think this problem is reserved just for teens, however. Unfortunately this is problem you will face throughout your entire life.

I have two questions to consider. First, in our passage from 2 Kings 17, do you think the people realized that they were being double minded? Second, what was God's reaction to their being double minded?

So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places.

This sounds pretty good, does it not? The people feared the Lord. They may have added some things here and there, but it was the Lord they feared. On one hand, surely they must have realized their double-mindedness, and yet, on the other hand, I think they really thought they were being faithful to the Lord. They incorporated things in their worship that they learned from the nations around them, but it was still the Lord they served.

What was God's reaction to the people? God said very plainly, "They do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances."

Are we double minded in our worship of God today? Do we come to God with our own agendas, or our own ideas of worshiping Him? Do we treat His commandments as optional? Do we serve the Lord while at the same time worshiping the gods of this culture?

What is God's view? What does God expect from us?

The LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods.

I encourage you, as a Christian teen, to take God's Word seriously. Living for Christ is not just something for the more spiritual Christians; God requires faithfulness from all of His children.

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Judgment or Discipline?


3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:


“ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
(Hebrews 12:3-7, New King James Version)

Judgment or Discipline?

I do not like to be rebuked or corrected, nor do I like to be told what I must do. I have wrestled with this all of my life, even though I know it is the sin of pride. Do I really think I am so good, or so perfect that I never need correction?

That is exactly the message in our study today from Hebrews 12. We are implored to think of Christ, the Holy Son of God, who was rebuked by the religious crowd of His day. Then, as though rebuke was not enough, He was murdered by this same righteous, religious crowd.

We are encouraged to look at Christ and consider that the rebuke or correction we receive will not result in bloodshed. Instead, we should understand that, as true children of God, God will rebuke and chastise those whom He loves. As a matter of fact, if we do not find ourselves chastised, we should consider whether we really are a child of God.

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?

As a teen, I know that this subject is near and dear to your heart. As a Christian teen think about the difficulties you experience in life, and ask yourself, "Is this judgment or discipline?" God reserves judgment for those who never come to Him, but His own children are not judged; they are disciplined.

Pray, today, that God would give you a gracious attitude toward rebuke or correction. Understand that God is shaping and molding you, that your light should so shine before men that they would see your good works and glorify God in Heaven.

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Disaster!

13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!
16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
(Daniel 9:13-19, New King James Version)

Disaster!

As a teen, have you ever said or thought, "My life is a disaster!" It is not uncommon for any of us to look upon our life and view everything as a disaster. What is the proper response to disaster?

The children of Israel did not respond as they should have responded.

“As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth."

What happens when we ignore God? Do things get better on their own? It may seem so sometimes, but the truth is that only God can pull us away from true disaster. If we refuse Him, we have no hope that our disastrous life will not continue as such.

Daniel had a great burden for his people. Though he was drug away from his family and made to serve a foreign king, he never forgot his people. He saw the way they ignored God. Was there no hope for them? Daniel knew that if help came, it would have to come from the Lord, but that help would not come unless the hearts of God's children turned back to the Lord. Thus Daniel prayed,

18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

What is the real lesson here? Life is not about us; life is about God. We must try to view our lives from the perspective of God. What does God see when He looks upon us? Can we out sin God? Can we sin so much that we are separated from Him forever? No! Daniel's prayer is a living testimony to the fact that God is always there, and He is ready to forgive.

What is it you as teens want out of life? Joy, peace, happiness, etc.? Only in Christ will we find perfect peace and joy; apart from Christ we only find disaster! Only in Christ to we see the true mercy of God!

It is a pretty sobering though, is it not?

God Bless You,
Linda

Monday, July 26, 2010

Does God Discipline?

23 Who among you will give ear to this?
Who will listen and hear for the time to come?
24 Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers?
Was it not the LORD,
He against whom we have sinned?
For they would not walk in His ways,
Nor were they obedient to His law.
25 Therefore He has poured on him the fury of His anger
And the strength of battle;
It has set him on fire all around,
Yet he did not know;
And it burned him,
Yet he did not take it to heart.
(Isaiah 42:23-25, New King James Version)

Does God Discipline?

As we continue our study on Dealing with Problems, here is a question that perhaps you have asked. Does God Discipline? If so, why?

Our passage of Scripture today from Isaiah 42 is not a very popular portion of Scripture. As a matter of fact, it is one we would rather ignore, saying, "Teach me about a God of love, but not a God who disciplines."

The truth of the matter is that God does discipline His children because He is a God of love. Through discipline God seeks to turn our hearts back to Him when we have wandered off in the wrong direction.

23 Who among you will give ear to this?
Who will listen and hear for the time to come?
24 Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers?
Was it not the LORD,
He against whom we have sinned?

The children of Israel had turned away from the Lord; Isaiah, the prophet, is explaining what is happening to the nation of Israel (Jacob) due to their sin. He asks the question, "Who gave Jacob for plunder?" Then in answer says, "Was it not the Lord?"

Why would God do such a thing to His people? In verse 24, Isaiah continues, "For they would not walk in His ways, nor were they obedient to His law. Therefore He has poured on him the fury of His anger and the strength of battle."

We must remember that our God is a righteous and holy God; He is completely without sin, and cannot tolerate even a speck, so to speak. How, then, can we come before Him? No matter how close we come to Christ, we cannot shake away our sin nature that constantly wars with our desire to please the Lord.

That is the beauty of our salvation in Christ. When God looks upon His children, He does not see their sin, but rather the righteous blood of Christ that was shed for that sin. Does that mean He does not know that we sin? No, it does not. God knows everything! If we persist in sin, He sends obstacles to turn us back to Him. Why? It is because He truly loves us, and desires for us a life filled with peace, joy, and contentment.

Does God discipline? Yes, He does, but that discipline has a purpose--to make us more like Christ. What an amazing God we have!

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, July 23, 2010

Teen Answers

Here is a message I received from David (name changed).

I have been a christian for a couple of years. I try to tell people about Christ, and a lot of people say, "Well there are a lot of myths, and you can't really find out that its true." And I say that the Bible says it all, and then they say how do you know that the Bible is true? I mean I try to explain, and they always come back with a remark that freezes me up. Can you please help me?

Hi David,

I really appreciate your writing to me. What you are experiencing is so common; I think I have some thoughts that may help you in responding to people, and also in your perspective of their reactions. Most of all, I am happy to hear you taking your responsibility to share Christ seriously. Jesus told the disciples that the fields were white unto harvest; in other words, they are beyond ripe. He also told us that in reaping we receive fruit for eternal life. How amazing is that?

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.
(John 4:34-36, New King James Version)

Before speaking of specifics, I would like to paint a picture for you (I hope you like pictures). Picture a room full of people wearing red shirts, green shirts, or blue shirts. Now, you have something to tell these people, but your message is really only for the people wearing blue shirts. The problem is that you are wearing a blind fold; you have no idea what color of shirts the people are wearing.

What do you do? You may speak to the first person, but he says, "Why are you talking to me? I am wearing a red shirt?" Then you try another. He says, "I do not believe in blue shirts; there is no such thing." So, you realize he is color blind and only sees red and green.

Then, you stop and think about the situation; you know there are some people wearing blue shirts in this room, and you know that it is a matter of life and death that they get this message. So, you continue speaking with everyone you meet. Some will laugh at you, and some will reject what you have to say, but what about the people wearing blue shirts? They will thank you, forever, for giving the message they need that will grant them eternal life.

You probably know where I am going with this. God has prepared the hearts of His children to hear His Word. We, however, do not know which people they are. Our duty is to share the Word, knowing that those who have been prepared will receive the Word with gladness. What about the others? You realize, then, that the others are not ready; that does not mean they will never be ready, but they are not ready right now. Others will reject you, but God will use your Words to eventually bring them to Him.

Now, let us talk about the specifics. The Bible is a living Word. That means, that only those who have the Spirit of God within their heart can truly understand its message. Or, put another way, the Bible must be received by faith. The best way that I know to share the Gospel is to live the Gospel. Most people respond to someone they know, and can see that what he speaks is truly shown by example in His daily life.

A good answer to give people is, "I cannot explain why the Bible is true, but I know in my heart that it is true, and it has changed my life." That takes the discussion out of the realm of giving proof to the realm of sharing your personal experience with Christ.

Thanks, again, David. I hope this helps.

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Teen Answers

Here is a question I received from Maria (name changed).

Hi I have a question. My friend and I have not seen each other in other 2 months. We don't talk or any thing. I want to become friends with her again. But it is hard when my dad does not care for her because he says every time I come home from their house I always have a bad attitude which is true most of the time. We got in to this big fight which caused all this what should I do?

Maria, I really appreciate your comments. I know there are platitudes often given, such as "children should obey their parents." However, there is more to that verse, and I think you may find some help from it.

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:1-4, New King James Version)

Notice, we must obey our parents in the Lord. In other words, ultimately it is God who we are or are not behaving. If parents make commands consistent with the Bible, then we must be very careful about thinking of disobeying them. If they command us to do things forbidden in the Bible, then our ultimate obedience must always be to God.

So, Maria, let's talk about your situation. You obviously have done some thinking about this, as you mentioned that your attitude does seem to change after you have been with your friend. Why do you suppose that is true? What influences you the most? Are you influenced by her behavior, or maybe just the interaction between her family members.

Have you spoken with your friend about the Lord? Does she give you the opportunity to allow you to be yourself, or do you feel pressured into acting like she acts?

Now, I would like to change the perspective and talk about your father. What motives do you believe he has in wanting you to stay away from your friend? It sounds as though he really loves you and cares about bad influences that may come into your life.

Have you thought of discussing your friend more with your father. Would he be open to having her come to your house for a visit? Perhaps that would give you and your family an opportunity to be a good example for her.

Last of all, I appreciate the fact that you did not criticize your father. I am hoping that means that you do not criticize him when you are with your friends as well.

I hope these things have helped. I would really appreciate hearing from you again.

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Covetousness

5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say:


“ The LORD is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”
(Hebrews 13:5-6, New King James Version)

Covetousness

What is covetousness? What does it mean to covet? To covet is to desire what belongs to another; in its fullness it can consume our thinking. Is there room in a Christian's heart for covetousness?

In Hebrews 13, the writer comes right down to the origin of covetousness which is lack of contentment. One could say there is nothing wrong with lack of contentment, because it drives us to do better for ourselves. What do you think about that?

This is a dangerous direction to go. As Christians, what should guide our decisions and our actions? Should we be guided by our own desires to have what others have? Am I saying it is wrong to have nice things?

It is not wrong to have nice things, but it is wrong to be driven by the desire for nice things. Covetousness is never satisfied; you will never have enough.

What, then, should drive us? God. As teens, set your hearts upon God alone. Let His Word teach you and guide you in the way you should go. Only in Christ is there true contentment, but there is even more! God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that is a promise He will keep.

What, then, happens when difficulties and troubles comes? You, too, will be able to say,

“ The LORD is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”

Now that is true contentment!

What will you choose? Will it be covetousness or contentment?

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Buried Treasure

16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
(Luke 12:16-21, New King James Version)

Buried Treasure

In teaching his disciples about living a life of greed, Jesus told them a parable, or story. A certain rich man had a problem. His land was bearing so many good crops that he had no room to store them. "I know," he thought, "I will just tear down my barns and make bigger barns. I will not even need to work, but will just take an extended vacation to eat, drink, and be merry."

God looked down upon the rich man and said, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?"

Jesus concluded the story by saying, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

What a timely message for you as a teen. What are you going to do with your life? You are on the brink of adulthood, and these are questions that should be going through your mind right now. To answer that question, think about what Jesus said to his disciples. What is the purpose of your life. Are you here to just lay up treasure for yourself?

Right now, decisions you make will affect the rest of your life. The most important thing you can do in preparation is to build up your riches toward God. Immerse yourself in God's Word and spend much time in prayer and meditation; make it a daily habit to begin your day with the Lord.

You will experience many things in life; are you prepared to face these on your own? Go to Christ; implore Him to help and guide you. He will stay at your side for the rest of your life.

That is what I would call buried treasure!

God Bless You,
Linda

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hearing and Not Doing


30 “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ 31 So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. 32 Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.
(Ezekiel 33:30-32, New King James Version)

Hearing and Not Doing

I was surprised to see how much these verses sound like our world today. As a matter of fact, many professing Christians are guilty of hearing and not doing. What picture do you see in these verses? The first scene could be a typical church in our world today.

“As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.'"

That sounds pretty good! Did they come?

So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.

Yes, they did come, but what was the problem? The people heard the Word of God, but they did not obey His Word. They showed much love with their mouths, but their hearts were too busy pursuing their own interests and their own gain.

Now, look how much verse 33 sounds like our 21st century world.

Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.

How does our world perceive God? He is as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and one who can play well on an instrument. However, does the song ever touch their heart of hearts? No!

How many people, especially in America, claim to be Christians? You may be surprised to know that it is a very large per cent. Why, then, does our country seem to be rushing to a world of sin and disobedience to God? Why, then, can we not even display the 10 Commandments in our courthouses throughout our land?

It is very sobering, is it not? Who is God to you? Is He as a lovely song--one you enjoy for a time and then go away to live your life in total denial of Him? We may seem to be just one in a large crowd, but God sees our hearts; we are not hidden from Him. It is not our words, but our hearts that show our true love and faithfulness to God.

Let us pray that, when we are dealing with problems, we will not be guilty of hearing and not doing!

God Bless You,
Linda

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Sinful Woman


36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.
(Luke 7:36-46, New King James Version)

A Sinful Woman

As a teen, I am sure you have been told how important it is to have the right kind of friends. In our Bible passage from Luke 7, Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner. As you can imagine, only the most important people were invited? Then, the most embarrassing thing happened! Jesus brought a friend--a very improper friend. How could Jesus have made such a mistake the mistake by bringing a sinful woman to his house? After all, the religious were not to make friends with sinners!

Jesus, knowing Simon's thoughts, told him a little story. A business man had two clients who owed him money. One owed him $50,000, and the other owed him $5,000, but neither man was able to pay their debt. The kind creditor forgave both clients of their debts, in other words he just canceled their debts. Jesus then asked Simon, which one do you think loved the creditor more? Simon responded, "The one who owed him $50,000, because it was the greater debt."

We can already see the point that Jesus was making can we not? The religious man had no room for sinners in his church, for he was guilty of appearing religious, but not being religious. The heart of a sinful woman was made whole by the forgiveness of her sins. In her appreciation she could not help but wash Jesus feet with her tears, and wipe them with her hair.

Christ chided Simon, "This woman has washed my feet; you did not wash my feet. And, this woman has anointed my feet with oil; you did not anoint my feet with oil. When I entered, you gave me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss my feet from the time I came here."

Who do we resemble more? Are we more like Simon, the Pharisee, or are we like this sinful woman who was so grateful to Christ who saved her sinful heart and made her whole again? How much do we love our Lord? Is it evident in our daily lives?

It is a good question for us to ponder!

God Bless You,
Linda

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Image


5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
(Matthew 6:5-8, New King James Version)

Image

It is all about image, is it not? Especially in teen years, but really throughout all of life we tend to focus on having the right image. That may seem to work around other people, but it simply does not work for God.

First of all, we are transparent; God can see right through us. Oh how the religious Jews liked to pray long prayers in public so that everyone would know how holy they were. Do you think they fooled God? Do you think they even fooled the people? Their religious mockery was a stench in God's nostrils!

Are you concerned about praying properly? There is only one kind of proper prayer before God. God hears the genuine heart of the repentant and humble sinner. No matter how great our earthly position may be, where do we stand next to God?

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Our Father God sees in secret; nothing we do needs to be done out in the open, seeking the glory of men. Our goal should be to seek God's glory and not the glory of man.

I am sure you have heard this saying. You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. May I add to that, you can never fool God any of the time, and He is the only One who holds the keys to eternal life.

As we focus on the topic of Appearing Religious, I would pray that you, as a teen, would set your heart and life to focus on God alone. In dealing with the problems of life, God will never let you down.

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, July 16, 2010

Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

1 “Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God.
3 ‘ Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’


“ In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
(Isaiah 58:1-3, New King James Version)

6Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
(Isaiah 58:6-8, New King James Version)

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

As we continue with the theme of appearing religious, we turn to the nation of Israel. The Israelites had a serious problem with the Lord. Why was He continually hounding them about their faithfulness to Him? Was it not obvious that they loved Him? This is what God saw in them.

Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God.

That sounds pretty good. Why, then, was God not happy? Simply put, He told them, "You fast your way, but you do not fast my way!" What did God mean by that? He explains Himself in verses 6-8. In essence, He was telling them, actions speak louder than words.

While you fast and supposedly honor me, you oppress the wicked, you cast heavy burdens on people, you allow those who are oppressed to live under a heavy yoke, you do not feed the hungry, and you do not look at your neighbor and help him in his time of need.

Was it not enough to God that the people loved Him? No, it was not enough!

Do we do this same thing today? Do we loudly proclaim our love for God, and yet are not even concerned about the needs of those around us? Do we ignore the lost and hungry? The point God was making was, if you are truly a Christian--if you truly love God, then it will be shown by your actions.

Israel did not get away with just a show of religious righteousness, and neither do we. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart!

What a sobering thought. Go to God today and ask Him to be gracious to you. Ask Him to help you live a genuine faith that reflects the love of God in your heart.

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Appearing Religious

In the next several devotions, I would like to study problems that we deal with every day, especially as teens. Some of these are evident in the Teen Answers devotions; others are more subtle, but definitely need to be considered in your teen years, as well as the rest of your life.

13 Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”
14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
15 And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD said to me last night.”
And he said to him, “Speak on.”
17 So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? 18 Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?”
(1 Samuel 15:13-19, New King James Version)

Appearing Religious

Image -- it is all about image, is it not? How do others perceive us? Especially in the teen years we tend to be overly concerned about what others think about us. How does that reveal itself in our daily lives.

As a teen, it was very important for me to be part of a group, therefore it was easy to adapt my behavior to be accepted in each group. When with my Christian friends, I wanted to be perceived as being righteous--in other words, appearing religious. However, with my non-Christian friends this did not seem to be so important.

Saul had the same problem. Before Samuel, he wanted to appear religious. It did not take Samuel long to get at the root of Saul's problems, and to reveal God's anger in his actions. You see, Saul was not genuine; his obedience, or lack of obedience, to God was based upon his own ideas.

Do we do this to God? Is appearing religious, or righteous, more important than actually being righteous before God? Put another way, do we care more about what our friends and acquaintances think of us, or about what God thinks of us?

That is, perhaps, one of the most important questions for you to consider. Your friends will come and go, but God is there forever. True peace and happiness does not come from our friends--it only comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you find yourself appearing religious, but not caring about God's view of your life, I pray you will go to Christ now. Cry out to Him to be merciful to you, and help you to live a life of genuine love for Him.

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Teen Answers

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
(James 1:2-4, New King James Version)

Here is a question sent by Shelly (name changed).


Well I really like this guy; he goes to my church; we've known each other for quite a while. Our friendship grew more when we went to a missionary trip and we would always be together. We talked endlessly, but he is two years older than me. I'm 15 and he is 17. He shows me that he likes me and by now he should know I like him, but I need a little advice. I really pray a lot about this relationship, but what can you tell me? Are we too young? What should I do about this relationship? I mean, I want this relationship to bloom, but can you give me some advice...?


Dear Shelly,

I appreciate your prayer and thoughtfulness as you consider how to proceed with this relationship. I am going to answer your questions with a few questions of my own.

What kind of a relationship do you envision now? What type of a relationship would you envision 4 years from now? Sometimes when we are in the middle of a situation we lack the ability to step back and view it the way God sees it.

Four years from now, you might see this relationship growing into a love for each other leading to marriage. I would guess, however, that you do not have that type of a view at 15.

At 15 your most important need is Christian friends--guys and gals. I would suggest you keep this in mind; by all means encourage that friendship to grow so that you may both build one another up in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, if you let this grow into a romantic type of relationship, you will be bombarded with temptations you do not want to face.

I know many people who wished they had allowed their friendship to grow before becoming entangled romantically. Ideally, when it is time for marriage, we want to marry our best friend.

In a few years, when you are seriously ready to think of marriage, then, and only then, should you allow this relationship to grow into a romantic relationship.

This is not a popular opinion, I know. Young teens are pushed too early into romantic situations that get out of hand. This is the time in your life where you need to develop a lot of solid friendships. As you do, think about what you want in a Christian husband--the things that are nice, but optional, as well as the things that are absolutely necessary. Then, be picky.

To sum this up in one word: patience. Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Thanks for sharing with us, Shelly. I hope this helps.

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vacation

I am going on a short vacation for a few days, so will not be writing devotions during that time. Hope you will take some time looking through the archives or go to my Teen Devotionals page on my Devotional Reflections from the Bible website.

God Bless You,
Linda

The Embrace

16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16, King James Version)

Step 7: The Embrace

Today we will look at the seventh and final step in achieving stillness before God. First, however, let's review steps 1-6.

Step 1: Physical Relaxation - find a comfortable spot away from distractions, close your eyes, and relax.

Step 2: Mental Stillness - help your mind to free itself of thoughts or worries; tell your mind to be still when these thoughts try to creep in.

Step 3: Dialogue with God - Share with God just as you would your best friend; tell Him about your day - the things that made you happy or sad.

Step 4: Prayer - using the conversation you just had with God, pray, thanking God for the happy times, and seeking help for troublesome times or people.

Step 5: Worship - spend time just thanking and praising God for who He is, realizing that everything good comes from Him.

Step 6: Silent Listening - stop and listen to God; focus on the inner voice of God (your conscience).

Now, we conclude with Step 7: The Embrace.

You have spoken with God, prayed, and spent some time in worship. Now, take some time to bask in the presence and love of God. Think of yourself in the most loving experience you can imagine, and realize that God is the author of love; God is love. You may want to end this time with a song of praise to God, knowing that God is the true love of your life. He loves you now, and will love you forever.

I do pray that you will take the time each day to spend in Stillness before God. God is so good, and in Him is no shadow of turning!

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Silent Listening

9Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

(1 Samuel 3:9-10, King James Version)

Step 6: Silent Listening

It was a dismal time for the nation of Israel; even Eli no longer heard the voice of the Lord. When God called out to Samuel in the night, it was Eli who realized that God was calling to Samuel. He instructed Samuel to respond to God's call with the words, "Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth."

I think perhaps this is one of the most difficult of the seven steps involved in stillness before God. We are not used to hearing the voice of God; we are not even expecting to hear it!

However, we hear our inner voice often; we call it our conscience. Where does that conscience come from? God has implanted His Spirit in our hearts, and that Spirit speaks to us through what we know as our conscience.

In silent listening, we must quiet ourselves before God and just listen. At first all kinds of thoughts will enter our minds, but we must learn to tell those thoughts to go away. We tell them that we will deal with them later.

In this time of mental stillness God speaks to us; it will not be a booming voice calling out in the darkness, such as Samuel heard. Rather, His voice will at first be subtly and faintly perceived.
As a matter of fact, we may not hear anything at all, but God is speaking. We may not hear it or realize it, but we will recognize it slowly.

At first we will think it is just ourselves telling our conscience what to say, but as we grow in the Lord we will recognize and understand that it is God Himself speaking to us, fellowshiping with us.

Our God goes with us everywhere we go, as we develop our silent listening skills, we will be able to converse with God anytime and anywhere.

What an amazing God we have.

"Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth."

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Worship

4For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.

5For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

6Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength.

8Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.

9O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

(Psalm 96:4-9, King James Version)

Step 5: Worship

What is worship? How does it differ from prayer? After all, when we pray is not that a type of worship? These are good questions to ask, for I think it is crucial that we understand the difference.

In a sense, all worship is prayer, but all prayer is not worship! In prayer we dialogue with God, telling Him about ourselves, our day, etc., and asking for His help and guidance. In worship our focus is upon God; worship asks for nothing in return.

We all have a tendency to focus on our material life; after all, that is what consumes our lives. Unfortunately, that can really be a problem, because, let's face it, sometimes our lives are not very pretty to look at. Sometimes it seems as though everything is so bad, that nothing will ever go right again.

Worship gives us the ability to transcend or go above the daily circumstances of life. It gives us time to focus on the Lord God Almighty. We must look beyond our own circumstances for a moment, and think of some very pleasant times in our life; it is God who brought those pleasant times to us. Let us focus on being thankful to God for all of the positive things in life.

Worship also gives us the ability to see beyond the difficulties. Thank God for all of the difficulties in life! Why? It is in the difficult times that we raise our eyes to our Father God, and cry out to Him for help. We should thank Him for these times that remind us to draw near to Him, for in His love He never leaves us alone to suffer. Know that the times of struggle and suffering will end, and we will pass on to Glory where we shall forever be with the Lord.

Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. . . . . Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

God Bless You,
Linda





Monday, July 5, 2010

Prayer

9For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:9-10, King James Version

Step 4: Prayer

I know that we have discussed prayer in some rather recent devotions, but today I would like to continue with the train of thought we have been following in this series of devotions on Stillness.

Let us review what we have discussed previously.

Step 1: Relaxation - coming before God relaxed and ready to communicate with Him.
Step 2: Mental Stillness - quieting our hearts and minds from distracting thoughts.
Step 3: Dialogue with God - speaking to God as one speaks to a friend.

As we discussed dialoging with God, we noted that we should speak with God just as we would with our best friends. As we are participating in this conversation with God, we realize that we have brought up some worthy topics of prayer.

If we have just spoken about kind words that made us happy, perhaps we could ask God to use us to show acts of kindness to others, revealing the light of God in our hearts.

Perhaps we have been wounded by some unkind actions. What a great opportunity to pray for that person, that God would bring them to Him, and help them to live for God's glory. We might also pray that God would help us to show patience with others when they are unkind, and to remember that our unkind actions bring similar hurt to others.

As we express our confusion and misunderstanding in certain areas to God, we could pray that He would help us to understand, and help us to see things from His perspective.

Do you see what we have done? We have begun a conversation with God, our Friend, and we have moved naturally from that conversation to asking for His help to make us more like Him. Or maybe we have moved from things that really made us happy, to thanking Him for the good things He has brought into our lives.

For most of us, this would be the point where we would end our quiet time with the Lord. However, I hope you will not stop here, for we have three more very important steps to consider.

I pray that God would bless you, and help you to establish an intimate association with God. Can you really believe it? Our God, who has created this world is not too busy to spend time with each and every one of His children. How amazing is that?

God Bless You,
Linda