Monday, November 28, 2011

To live is Christ

In the Bible Bee gift bags, Voice of the Martyrs gave the senior contestants a copy of Jesus Freaks: Martyrs. A few days ago, I had a little extra time and decided to read for a few minutes. About 100 pages later, I finally put the book down.

For some of the stories, they listed the ages of the martyrs. They were teenagers–just "kids" our age! Like the Jeremiahs and Timothys in the Bible, they were not afraid to proclaim the Gospel even when they knew it would be their death sentence. Not all the "Christians" stood firm during persecution, though; some counted this life above that which is to come.

Have you ever imagined what you would say if someone pointed a gun at you and asked if you were a Christian? I like to think that I would say yes, not caring what the consequences would be. But then I think of Peter, the apostle who said that even if all were made to stumble because of Jesus, he would never be made to stumble (Matthew 26). We read Peter’s story and wonder how–after declaring how much he loved Jesus and how he would never desert him–he could be so afraid of being associated with Jesus that he told a little servant girl that he didn’t know Him. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Many of us would say that we are more than willing to die for Jesus, but how many of us are really prepared to live for Him? Jesus didn’t define a Christian as "one who will die for Me" (although being a Christian sometimes includes that), but as "one who takes up his cross daily and follows Me" (Luke 9:23, emphasis added). We’re ready to die for Jesus or suffer for Him, but we’re not always ready to take up the daily little crosses. How many times a day do you deny Christ by not wholeheartedly following His commands? I doubt I could even count how often I disobey Him. As Paul said, "For me, to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). The rest of that verse says, "and to die is gain." Sometimes it’s easier to think about dying for Him and receiving the gain of being with Him instead of present tense living for Him. If we think that saying we are willing to die for Jesus proves our love for Him when we are not willing to live for Him, we need to examine our hearts. Ask Him to help you learn to deny yourself and live for Him every day. The Greek word martys does not mean only one who dies for his faith, but also one who bears witness of his faith. You can be a martyr for Jesus while you’re still alive! Don’t wait for the day you die to prove your love for Him–let your life be a shining testimony to the world; show everyone what it means to have the Love of God alive in your heart!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

What, then, could now sustain them but the spirit of God, and His grace?  Ought not the children of their fathers rightly to say:  Our fathers were Englishmen who came over the great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity....Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good, and His mercies enndure forever.  Yea, let them that have been redeemed of the Lord, show how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor.  When they wandered forth into the desert-wilderness, out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them.  Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness, and His wonderful works before the sons of men!

(from Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford)

Monday, November 21, 2011

After Bible Bee

Rejoice!–that was the theme of the 2011 National Bible Bee. And if you are anything like my family, it was impossible to do anything but rejoice last week!! We spent almost an entire week studying the Bible, listening to people speak about the Bible, and singing hymns about the Bible. We were with hundreds of Christians who had all diligently studied the Word of God. We made lots of new friends and strengthened old friendships. It was one of the most encouraging, thrilling, and joyful weeks of the whole year.  

But now, Bible Bee is over for the year. Most of us probably had an after-Bible-Bee-is-over list. You know, when a friend or family member says, "Do you want to do _____?" And you reply, "Well, I’m really busy studying for Bible Bee, but after that’s over, I’ll do _____, _____, and _____." It’s easy to slip into the life-begins-again-after-Bible-Bee mentality. Once Bible Bee is over, we’ll have plenty of time to do lots of things because we won’t be studying the Bible all day, right? We loved studying Bible Bee for hours upon hours every day, but now it’s time to move on. The competition is over and we have other work to do.

Do you find yourself thinking that? I know I do! But when you think about it, doesn’t that take away the whole point of Bible Bee? If Bible memory is only something we’re doing for a grade or competition, it’s only getting hidden in our minds–not our hearts.

Now that Bible Bee is over, I challenge you to keep on studying the Word. We probably can’t study as much as before–we need to be developing other talents God has given us to use for His glory and kingdom as well–but please don’t stop studying! Instead of thinking of Bible Bee as a Bible memory curriculum that lasts for half a year and then you get a "winter vacation," try to think of it as a springboard to get you started on a new study. Choose another book and do an inductive study on it. Set a new Bible memory goal. Review old memory verses. Don’t ever take a vacation from studying the Bible! In 2009, Bible Bee’s motto was Learn it! Speak it! Live it! I challenge you to keep on learning, keep on speaking, and most importantly, keep on living the truth of the Bible.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not unto us

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives
("Not What My Hands Have Done," Horatius Bonar)

Psalm 115:1–Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth.

On our own, we can do nothing. We have not memorized a single verse in our own strength–everything we have learned has been by the grace of God. Let’s thank Him and give Him the glory this week at the 2011 National Bible Bee!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Compassion in Us

::Christ's people feel compassion like Christ did, and they feel the strike to the stomach, they feel the pain in the deepest places and they hurt and they bend over and they reach down and they reach out and their lives become cruciformed, shaped into the cross of Christ:: -Ann Voskamp
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

Monday, November 7, 2011


Last week I was biting my tongue, trying to obey 1 Peter and not say all the many responses that were running through my head.

Three other highschoolers and I were beginning a team project that will not be done until June. It felt more like they were a team and I was an outsider. They all go to the local public art school, and I’m "just" a homeschooler. They are all good friends and get along really well, but I’m the "different" one. I don’t mind being different or on the outside, but it’s hard feeling like I’m not wanted. Two of them are quiet and generally speak only when spoken to, but the other one talks to them but ignores me, talking to me only to critique me or blame me for making a mistake when it wasn’t my fault. It hurts to be ignored, critiqued, and treated as the outsider, especially when you are all on the same team! And so, I found myself just about bursting with all the things I really wanted to say. I didn’t do anything to deserve the comments, but I was not about to spoil my witness by venting my feelings in front of everyone. All those verses from 1 Peter 2 were coming in handy!

The other thing I was thinking about was how excited I am that Bible Bee is next week!

When I’m with other people who look down on me because I’m different, it makes me appreciate the times I’m with people who (like me) want to be different. As I hear not-so-nice remarks, I can look forward to the days when we’ll all be quoting the Word of God to with other. At my church, there are some really amazing people. After talking to them, I can’t wait to go home and read more "hard" books, study apologetics, or look up a new Bible lecture. Just five minutes of talking gets me excited to spend five hours learning! And in just a few days, we’ll have almost a whole week of learning, fellowshipping, and praising God together at Bible Bee! When the apostles wrote epistles, they referred to the recipients as the "beloved brethren" (agapetos adelphos). Doesn’t that describe the family of Christ well? The beloved brethren–not the popular, cool, awesome friends (not that y’all aren’t awesome friends–it’s just that being "beloved brethren" involves so much more than that!). They are the family members who love you, encourage you, advise and help you and when the world thinks you’re weird...the ones whose agape love makes them call you agapetos. Isn’t that a comforting thought? Even when we feel like we’re alone, we still have Christian brothers and sisters all around the world experiencing the same things!

I am looking forward to meeting you all next week! It will be a joy-filled family reunion!