Monday, May 30, 2011

Ready, set, go!

The day after tomorrow, Bible Bee starts! We’ve counted down the days till we can study again. We’ve guessed which book they’ll use for the sword study. We’ve told all our friends and family ages 7-18 to sign up. And now, it’s almost time!

We are obviously preparing for the Bible Bee competition. Some people have critiqued Bible Bee as being a mercenary way to get kids to study the Bible; maybe that is partly true for some people. But once you’re in the Bee, you know that the real prize isn’t just a check or a trophy–it’s having the Bible hidden in your heart! We all know that is the real prize–don’t forget what we’re working towards!

While I think that it’s wrong if the only reason someone is doing the Bible Bee is for a prize, I think that making Bible memory a competition is a good thing. The Bible often compares the Christian life as someone working towards a prize. Beyond the level of a physical prize, the Christian runs for a spiritual prize...the “imperishable crown.” Whether or not we are recognized by the world as the winner of the Bible Bee, we can have confidence and joy in the competition because we all win when we learn the Bible.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27–Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Hebrews12:1-3--Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

2 Timothy 4:7–I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Let’s not loose focus of our goal. We all know what the prize is; I pray none of us are distracted from it by anything else! Use the Bible Bee competition as a starting place in the race. We’ll all have to keep running afterward, but we can use this summer study time as an opportunity to get a flying start. Finish the race!

Monday, May 23, 2011

When black and white are turned to grey

Have you ever felt that there was no right answer? That the black was mixed with white, and the white with black, and everything was in that grey area called Conscience? I love when the Bible is clear black-and-white and the answer is obvious, but when all the Scripture passages just say that whatever your conscience allows you to do is right, what then?

My mom used to tell me a story about making decisions. One day, a man who lived in a hilly country was looking for a donkey. He needed to buy a donkey that would help him safely manoeuver the steep slopes. The first man he came to said that his donkey would take him up to a yard of the edge without ever letting him fall. The next man said that his donkey could carry him within a foot of the precipice in complete safety. Then, the man came to one last donkey seller. That man looked him in the eye and said, “Sir, my donkey will keep you as far from danger as she can.” Which was the smartest choice? The one farthest from danger. Take heed lest you fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

On the other hand, God places unique situations in our lives to teach us how to turn them around and glorify Him. Something that’s grey could be turned to a brilliant shade of white. It could be that “open door” you’ve been praying for. If it’s all a matter of conscience, do you seize the day and turn an awkward situation into something amazingly God-glorifying, or do you stay home and play it safe?

The only passages I could think of (please tell me if you know of any others!) Are from Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10:

Romans 14:12-16–So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil.

1 Corinthians 10:22-24, 31-33–All things are lawful for me, not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

What do you do?

I'm struggling with some decisions...could you please pray for me?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

He is Faithful

I've been mediating a lot about God's faithfulness recently. Here are just a few verses that have encouraged me:

1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has over-taken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."

2 Thessalonians 3:3, "But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one."

And finally this one, which I read today in my Bible time. It jumped right off the page at me!
2 Timothy 2:11-13, " This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself."

These passed few weeks, I've been reading through Paul's letters to the churches and individuals. He exhorts the people to stay strong in the faith, to root themselves in Christ, to do Christ's service wholeheartedly. He reminds them to fulfill the calling to which Christ called them. But Paul knows that we can't do this perfectly, although perfection is our standard. He knows that we will fall and sin. So, he puts in these wonderful encouragements to us; God is faithful. He will continue to work in us and continue to conform us into His image. He will always be faithful no matter how much we sin. He remains faithful. Isn't that just awesome?!

This truth about our God should inspire us to grow in our faithfulness to Him. It should motivate us to follow Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds.

"Through Lord's mercies we are not consumed because His compassion fails not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness!" Lamentations 3:22-23.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Guiding Light

The idea of Christ as the Light of the world has always fascinated me. Even the world recognizes that the “Dark Side” is evil and it takes a supernatural force to conquer it. But they leave out what kind of force it takes to conquer the dark. A light saber doesn’t cut it. All it does is glow in the dark. The world needs a light that expels darkness, turning the darkness to light–not a laser beam. Jesus is the conquering Light; He is the One who gives direction to our lives. On our own, we are helplessly lost in the dark. I remember when we were visiting my grandparents and I went down to the basement early in the morning to study. I was carrying down my laptop and a stack of books and couldn't turn on the light. I miscounted one stair. You get the picture–without a light shining on our otherwise dark path, we’re bound to mess up.

John 1:4-5 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Psalm 119:105 Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

The light which on my way once so brightly shone
First flickered, then darkened to dimmer glow
When I the wind-blown path did own.

Then I, lamp burning with flame low,
Strayed from the straight and the narrow way
To be carried about, tossed to and fro.

I knew no right or wrong; all was grey
As I blundered about in darkest night
Till I knelt down in deep despair to pray.

Then a hand struck a flame and rekindled my light
And gently leading me back to the path from which I stray’d,
Taught me not to trust again in my own might.

Today is the halfway point--six months from today, 300 Bible Bee contestants and their families will be in Nashville!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Giving back to God

On Saturday, my sister and I competed in our biggest piano competition of the year–as did several thousand other kids. The fine arts building and nearby theater building were both crowded with people rushing back and forth, hurrying to get to the next practice or event before the doors closed. Stress levels were high.

That morning, I prayed that I could play to the best of my ability and that I could glorify God. This last year, my heart has changed so much–instead of separating my music from God and being driven by success, I am trying to give God the glory through my music. Although I have been a Christian for well over a decade, it wasn’t until recently that I began to understand what it really means to give my life entirely to God. In giving my life to God, I have found fulfilment and purpose. For every disappointment I have in life, He shows me a higher and better way. Piano has been no exception. It was one of the last things I could give over to Him, one of the things that meant the most to me. Yet now that I have given it to Him, He has given it back to me tenfold. I never had so much fun playing piano in my life! When I gave my music to God, He showed me how to use it to glorify Him. How much more fulfilling is life when its purpose is to glorify God!

Matthew 25:20-22 So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

Has God given you a talent that you gave back to Him? What happened?

Friday, May 6, 2011

True Beauty

The love of God: so overwhelmingly beautiful.
The behavior of those in darkness: disgusting.
The actions of God's people: refreshing.
The actions of God's people when not aware of how close they are to wickedness themselves: in darkness, secretive, and ragged.
The actions of God's people under repentance, humility, and steadfast obedience: transformed, renewed, and full of a beautiful love.
Us: open and free.
Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful God He is! He makes and He is.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The royal wedding

Did any of you watch the royal wedding on Friday? I must confess–I woke up early to watch it (other than family movie nights, I think I’ve watched TV only one or two other times this year...). I really enjoyed it. Even though Prince William and Kate may not necessarily be strong Christians, the ceremony was full of some of the most beautiful, God-glorifying hymns they could have chosen, and they actually had Kate’s brother recite Romans 12! It was definitely worth waking up early to watch!

I imagined what it must have been like to receive an invitation to the wedding. That would be so exciting! To be able to meet real princes and princesses, to see Westminster Abbey, to hear those hymns live–I would never forget it. Wouldn’t it be fun to meet the queen? I have a friend who met her when he was younger (and I was just a bit jealous when I heard!). Then, I remembered what I had written just last week: Jesus is the King of kings, and we will get to meet Him! What is Queen Elizabeth compared to Him? As I was thinking about meeting the King of all kings, I remembered another exciting promise. We are invited to His wedding feast! Revelation 19:6-9 tells us about the wedding of the Lamb. And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” Wow! We are not the "lucky" few invited to the British royal wedding, we are the blessed believers who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! How infinitely more wonderful is that!

After watching Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding, it’s hard to imagine a bigger wedding. Perhaps we won’t see a bigger wedding on earth. But the wedding supper of the Lamb is guaranteed to be far more glorious than any earthly wedding; and, the best part about it for us is that we’ve been invited!