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Lift Up or Tear Down

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If you spend enough time in church you will soon be enlightened to the fact that sometimes we, as Christians, are not very nice to one another. You see Christian tearing down Christian. You hear gossip from one believer about another believer. You see people in the church gang up on an individual in the church for no apparent reason other than they are human. In this crazy day and age that we live in with society turning away from God and the church no is the time to stop the madness that is tearing our brothers down. What is the point? Who really gains from hurting people that are around you, especially in the church. (Full disclosure: I was reading in I Thessalonians 5 today and it brought this post, nothing specific.)
I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up.” This is pretty straight forward. This verse starts with the word ‘therefore’ so hat was said before is important. Paul is talking about the second coming of Jesus and eternal life. Verses nine and ten say this, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but obtained salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.” Paul is saying here that a time will come when it is all over, and we are either in Christ or not, and Paul follows that up with encourage one another. Paul is telling the Thessalonians that in order to be sure that our brothers and sisters in Christ remain in the faith we need to encourage them.
One of the biggest complaints about the church is that the people within it are so judgmental and mean. I have been in church all 31 years of my life and I fully understand where that sentiment comes from. It definitely does not come from God, Jesus or the Bible. The Bible tells us over and over to encourage each other, just like in the verse from I Thessalonians that we just read. There are many others; Hebrews 3:13, “encourage one another daily.” Romans 1:12, “We may be mutually encouraged by one’s faith.” Acts 11:23, “encourage them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” On and on, throughout all of the Bible.
How great would it be if the people of the church would build up and encourage the people of the church. Instead of griping and complaining at someone they said thanks, and good job. How awesome would it be if the church was know for being welcoming and nice instead of judgmental and mean. It is the duty and responsibility of all believers; ministers, missionaries, and people that come on Sunday morning, to be encouraging and uplifting to everyone they meet, but especially to the brothers and sisters in Christ that they know.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples—if you love one another.
John 13:34-35
Until next time, God bless.

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Sing to the Lord

sing to the lordHave you ever noticed how much the Bible talks about singing? It is all over the place. The words sing to the Lord, or some form of that, appear over seventy times in the Bible. If you read just the book of Psalms it is full of commands to sing unto the Lord, which seems fitting because the word ‘psalm’ literally means song. Psalm 96 and Psalm 98 are both psalms that call for singing before God. Psalm 96 starts like this, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord and bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all peoples.” Sing. Over and over, sing.

What is the deal with singing? Why would the psalmist command us to sing to God? Why can’t we just say how great God is, why does it tell us to sing? Why can’t we just write how awesome God is, why are we commanded to sing? We are commanded to sing because music is the universal language of the world. Think about it, every culture and society has some form of singing or music, from ancient times to today. No matter where you are in the world, there is some form of singing from all peoples. Think about the differences between cultures across the earth right now, currently in 2016. From one culture to another we have different codes of conduct, ways to behave, dinner time etiquette, wedding and funeral ceremonies but one things that all cultures have is music and singing.
My Freshman year of college I went to Guatemala for the third time. Between my second and third trip I learned how to play the guitar. So the whole time I was in Guatemala that third time I was playing the guitar and the children flocked to it. They sang, they danced, they clapped; it was something that they understood.We may not have been able to speak to each other because we did not speak the same language, but we all spoke the language of music. It didn’t matter if I was playing an American praise chorus by Chris Tomlin or Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffett, the children and even the adults were into it.
The Bible calls for us to sing to God sing of His praises and His goodness. This is a very simple command that costs us nothing yet it is so powerful. All people from all cultures across all times understood music and singing, and that is why God calls us to sing a song to Him. So keep singing and praising the name of God.
Until next time, God bless

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Tomorrow

AnnieLittle Orphan Annie sang a song about tomorrow. “Tomorrow tomorrow, I’ll love ya tomorrow, you’re only a day away.” This seems so fun, light and innocent, and it is, but there is a small passage of Scripture that talks about tomorrow. This small Easter egg is found in the book of James. The Epistle of James was written (more than likely) by James, the brother of Jesus. This is a hard hitting book that reads more like a passionate sermon than a first century letter. James brings some serious illustrations that explain some big aspects of truth. James takes on testing faith, treating everyone the same, taming the tongue, worldliness, warning the rich, patience in suffering and of course the most famous from the book of James, faith without works being dead. But there is a four verse tidbit thrown into the middle of all of this that doesn’t seem to fit. But this four verse passage is such a huge part of living the Christian life.

The four verse tidbit is found in chapter four verses thirteen though seventeen. This passage says this, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” How awesome is this little bit. There are two different ways that we need to look at this passage. This first is the more obvious one, and that idea is that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Today could be it. At any point our time on earth could end. A grave medical event, a fatal accident, or a freak accident could end our lives in a heartbeat. The moral of this would be to live everyday like it is our last, don’t put off important things to the next day, and take nothing for granted. If today was your last day on earth, who would you go out of your way to say, “I love you,” would there be last minute things to tell, or would there be some one that you needed to tell about Jesus.

The other way to look at this passage is with eternity in the equation. James says that our lives are just a mist that appears and then is gone. This is a perfect way to view our lives in the scope of eternity. But here is the thing, if you are a follower of Christ then you should always be looking at life within the scope of eternity. As Christians we should have a long-term view of existence. The way we handle daily life, the decisions we make should all fit into the plan of eternity. As Christians with the promise of eternal life with God in heaven we should be focused on that. At the bottom of this blog is a link to a youtube clip with Francis Chan talking about this topic, enjoy.

Until next time, God Bless

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Pajama Jam Recap

On February 12th the Kidsview kids of HCC hosted their friends for a night of fun, food and games. The evening ended with a gospel presentation by the children themselves and worship. Thanks to all that volunteered and made this night a massive success.

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Philippians 4:13

christ-strengthens-me

One of the most quoted and known verses in the entire Bible is Philippians 4:13. It says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is a great verse, it is encouraging, it is empowering, it makes us feel good about ourselves. This verse could be summed up as, “God has my back, I can do anything.” Well that is true, but it isn’t at the same time. I grew up in a Christian home and went thirteen years to a Christian school. This verse was the Christian athlete’s battle cry. It was written on the underside of the bill of our baseball hats, it was written in sharpie on the athletic tape on our wrists, it was written on to our basketball shoes, and just about anywhere else. This verse told us that we could win any game, hit any pitch, make any shot just because it was God who was giving us strength. Honestly, God doesn’t care if the shot goes in, but He does care about us.

To fully understand what the Apostle Paul is saying in this verse we have to fully understand the context of what he is talking about. This principle applies for every verse. While studying the Bible you should know; who wrote it, who is the recipient, when they wrote it, where they wrote it (i.e. what was going on in society, in that church?), and why they wrote it. Without knowing these things it is impossible to fully understand what is written. So for us to understand Philippians 4:13 we need to know those things. First of all Paul wrote the book of Philippians, and he wrote it to the church in Philippi. Philippians was written in the year 61 A.D. This is important because of where Paul was at the time, during the time that Paul wrote this he was in prison in Rome facing certain death. The reason that Paul wrote this letter to the church in Philippi is so he could encourage and strengthen them and to teach them that true joy is only found in Christ.

So what does all of this tell us about this verse and what it really means. Throughout the first three and a half chapters Paul goes over his life devoted to Christ, joy in serving, joy in believing, and finally joy in giving. It is within this passage about giving that Paul gives his famous words. Let’s look at the context. 4:10-14, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble.” So Paul is not talking about making a shot or anything like that, he is talking about surviving in this life. He is talking about God giving him the strength to get through what he is going though. Paul wrote these words while in chains in a prison in Rome because of his faith in Christ and his proclaiming the gospel. Paul wrote these words knowing that he was soon to die. Imagine yourself in his place, would you be able to say I can do all things (sit in chains in prison and soon die) through Christ (the reason you’re in the chains) who strengthens me. God is our ultimate sustainer, no matter where we are in life. It is through Him that we can get through the most dire circumstances or the greatest of circumstances. It is through Christ and Christ alone that we have our strength.