Monday, November 29, 2010

A Plead Made from a Broken Heart

We all believe in something. If you are an atheist you believe that death is the end of life, because no one knows with certainty what happens after death. As a Christian, I also cannot prove there are a heaven and a hell. We both have faith. The atheist has faith that nothing happens after death, and I have faith that there is a heaven and a hell.

But what if the atheist is wrong? What if death is really not the end of life? What if there really is a heaven and a hell?

Matthew 13:41-43 says: "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear."

All who do evil will be thrown into the furnace—which symbolizes hell. We all have done wrong. We all deserve the punishment of hell.

Even more, we are separated from God because we are covered in evil. God hates evil. He cannot bear to be in its presence. We therefore cannot be in the presence of God.

God loves you! He wants to know you and so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth. Jesus lived on the earth and He committed no evil. He was perfect, and He was the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He died the death we deserve to die! He offers us forgiveness for every evil thing we have done. His gift is FREE. It is received by FAITH. When our sins are forgotten, we can know the love of God because we are sinless in God's sight. Our evil deeds no longer separate us from Him.

To every agnostic and atheist: Look within your heart. You long for love. You long for meaning. There is emptiness within your heart and even though you may be happy at times, you do not know lasting happiness. I speak as one who has questioned and denied the existence of God myself.

Could it be possible that the emptiness in your heart is meant to be filled by God's love? The things of creation are alluring, but creation only hints at the beauty of the Creator. Apart from Christ's forgiveness we cannot know the Creator. We cannot know the source of true joy and love, and so we settle for lesser treasures.

I plead with you with everything within me: Search for the truth! Search for answers! Please do not be content not knowing the truth!

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:13

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Where is Our Treasure?

Where is our treasure? Do we treasure the things of this world or is our treasure Christ?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:21

Where our treasure is our hearts will be there also. If our treasure is this world can we truly say we love Christ? Is Christ one of the most important things, or is He the most important thing?

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” -1 Timothy 6:17-19

This world is not our home. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). Do we eagerly await Christ? Do we truly claim citizenship in Heaven? Do we live our lives as strangers here in reverent fear (1 Peter 1:17)?

We are called to be set apart. We are called to be in the world, but not of it. Do we live like that? Do we simply claim the name of Christ or do we walk in the way of the cross? Do we live for our glory or do we live to see His name exalted? Do we live religious, self-righteous lives under the guise of Christianity, or do we live in relationship with Jesus Christ?

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” -1 Corinthians 15:17,19-20

If Christ is not real we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!

Grace alone produces saving faith and grace alone unblinds our hearts to Christ’s glory. I pray that His grace would not be without effect! I pray that we would behold His surpassing greatness and hold Him as the true treasure! I pray we would not waste our lives chasing after the fleeting treasures of this world!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Living out the Gospel in America?

My heart has been unsettled recently with the way international missions are described within the American church: “I want to go on an adventure.” “I want to leave America and do something radical.” “I want to live out the gospel.”

Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him. This calling is not simply for the foreign missionary—it is for every man and woman washed in the blood of the Lamb. It is for every American believer living in America.

The United States has something many countries do not: freedom. We are not entitled to freedom—we have been entrusted freedom.

Luke 12:48 says: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Are we as followers of Christ being faithful stewards of our freedom? Are we using our freedom to radically live out the gospel? I would be a hypocrite to say I am…

May we, by grace, seek to carry our cross and follow Christ here and now. May we live radically in the freedom He has entrusted to us. May we bring the gospel to the hurting and broken in our midst.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guarding One's Heart?

I believe the phrase “guarding your heart” is misused.

Proverbs 4:23 says: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Biblical guarding is guarding from contamination/anything that could taint one’s heart. I do not believe it is referring to the outward expression of love, but rather to what enters one’s heart.

Why do we need to guard our hearts? “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts are DECEITFUL, which is why we need to bury God’s TRUTH in our hearts: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

When people refer to guarding their hearts, they often refer to guarding the outward expression of love (as opposed to guarding what enters the heart). I see immense wisdom in keeping things sacred. As followers of Christ we are called to love, and so what separates a friendship from a marriage? Intimacy. And intimacy is not merely physical—it is also spiritual and emotional. That established, true friendship involves HONESTY and TRUST. True friendship is two people SHARING life. True friendship is VULNERABLE.

Believers often live in bondage to legalism. Their actions are determined by rules. Boundaries are good if they are established through prayer and the guidance of the Word/Holy Spirit. Boundaries formed by man, however, are stifling and legalistic: “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Colossians 2:20-25).

And so, what does it mean to guard your heart? Bury God’s truth in your heart and guard your heart against contamination.

When you protect what enters your heart, you ultimately protect what leaves your heart. Your heart is the WELLSPRING OF LIFE. It is foolish to believe we merely need to guard what leaves our hearts! We need heart TRANSFORMATION. This broken world needs more love, not less.

And so, may we seek Christ. May He redeem our hearts for His glory, and may we love FULLY and FREELY.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Magnifying the Gospel through Love

I have been contemplating the way I love (or rather fail to love).

My love is conditional and imperfect. I love those who love me back, and I do good to those who do good to me. My love makes much of myself, rather than Christ.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples how to love: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:26-36).

When we love like Christ—when we die to ourselves and love unconditionally—we magnify the gospel. Why? Agape, or unconditional, love is the very essence of the gospel: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

We must not attempt to love unconditionally in our own strength. Rather, we need pursue the Lord, for He alone can bear fruit. Agape love is a natural consequence—not precursor—of an intimate and growing relationship with Christ. Let us thus seek Christ and trust Him to perfect our imperfect love for His glory!