The Blog

Hi Everybody! I am a christian teen who wishes to share his ideas on the web, and ultimately, create an online christian teen community. This blog is new, but I am hoping that you will be impacted by what I write and become a member of this online community. I have been greatly inspired by Alex and Brett Harris at www.therebelution.com and David Platt at www.radicalthebook.com thank you for reading!

Friday, March 30, 2012

HOPE

“Our hope is in Christ!”

  A wonderful, well known phrase. However, have you ever wondered about the word hope? When we hope for something, doesn’t that imply a chance of it not happening? We want something to happen, and it might not? And isn’t Jesus a definite?

  Before I go into what this means, let me give a verse. Our hope being in Christ, according to this verse, is actually biblical.

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”-Psalm 25:5 NIV

  I love this verse. But we reach the problem I brought up earlier. Our hope is in God, but God is a definite. This doesn’t make sense!

  In order to understand this, you must look at the original Hebrew. Hope, in this verse, actually means “to wait eagerly for”. In fact, the NASB version phrases it this way:

“Led me in your Truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day” –Psalm 25:5 NASB

  In the original Greek, the word for hope is elpiz┼Ź. This word is pretty much the same as the Hebrew one; it means to “wait for salvation with joy and full confidence”.



  So when we say our hope is in Christ, we are saying we are waiting eagerly for Him, with joy and confidence! There are no variables here, God is a constant, and He always keeps His promises! And He has promised us salvation in the form of His own Son that He sent down from Heaven to bear our sins so that our hope is in Him and now we eagerly, joyfully, and full of confidence wait for His return! Amen!

  

Footnotes

Greek and Hebrew references from www.blueletterbible.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Sabbath

Exodus 20:8-“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy”. One of the Ten Commandments, God instructs us to keep the Sabbath Holy, and we see many examples in the Bible of men and women refusing to work on the Sabbath. The disciples in Acts alone observed the Sabbath 85 times! Jesus showed how to keep the Sabbath by teaching others in the synagogue. The disciples did this many times, in Acts 17, Acts 13, Acts 16, and 82 other examples! Where did that go? These days we are working on the Sabbath, and it’s the cultural norm now. Is this what God wants us to do? Are we disobeying His commandment by working on the Sabbath? This is something I have been wondering about, so I’m going to dig a little into the Sabbath and how we got to where we are now.
        First the transition from Saturday to Sunday. The Bible says that when the Disciples met on the Sabbath, it was on the Seventh day, which would be Saturday. Where did that come from? The Sabbath is an Old Testament law for the people of Israel, not for the church. In the New Testament, the Sabbath is rarely mentioned. There is a reference to the first day of the week in Acts that say that the Disciples got together, but another verse indicates that what they were doing was a daily occurrence. I think that the Sabbath never actually changed but humans adopted Sunday themselves somehow. Now the Sabbath is considered Sunday (the Jewish Sabbath is actually celebrated from Friday evening to Saturday evening). How did we make this transition? For one, the early church was in a time where the pagans worshiped on Sundays, and they wanted to be separate from the Jews, who were persecuting the Christians at that time. Roman Emperor Constantine decreed a day of rest, Sunday, so over a period of about 300 years, humans slowly transitioned to Sunday. Also, the Church Council of Laodicea, a group of about 30 men and women that met from about 363-364 A.D., ordered that work be done on Saturday and religious practices done on Sunday. Please note that Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday as well, according to Mark 16:9:
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.
          The beginning of the Sabbath. Believe it or not, there is not a single reference to the Sabbath in the entire book of Genesis, just the Seventh Day that God rested. The first mention is in Exodus 16 23-30, shortly after the Israelites leave Egypt:
 Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?”See, the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day.
 Notice how God explains it. It looks like from the passage that the Sabbath is first introduced here. God’s purpose from this is to show that you can trust in Him, because He preserves the manna on the sixth day instead of letting it rot like the other days so that it is available to Israel for food on the seventh.  
          In Exodus 20:8-11, God lays out the plan for the Sabbath, saying to do no work on that day for God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 also says to not work on the Sabbath, but this time it says that He brought them out of Egypt, so keep the Sabbath holy. Please note that throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, God addresses the Israelites about the Sabbath, telling them to observe it in the Torah and making it’s observation a law.
        Jesus states in Matthew that He is Lord of the Sabbath. And He constantly does things on the Sabbath such as heal and preach. His disciples were even collecting food from the fields (Matthew 12:1-3). Does this mean that Jesus was breaking God’s law? No. Jesus is the Sabbath. We rest in Him, and He takes our burdens from us. We can put anything before Him, nothing is impossible for Jesus, our Sabbath whom we take rest in.
        Colossians 2 11:14-17 states that Jesus is the ultimate reality whether you celebrate the Sabbath or the New Moon, they are just mere shadows:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

 Galatians 4:8-11 says that the seasonal, monthly, and yearly festivals are weak. That is shocking. These festivals, including the Sabbath, are weak compared to Christ. This is what these two passages are saying. We find rest in Jesus, the Sabbath personified. This doesn’t mean condemn those who follow the true Sabbath. Romans 14:5-6 states that some keep special days sacred and some don’t, but that doesn’t mean that either should condemn the other.
        So that is an unexpected truth. Paul is saying that we find our rest in Jesus, not in any festivals or Sabbaths. However, I do not believe that this means to discount the Sabbath. God designed the Sabbath so that we may rest after a week of work, so it’s for our physical health. The fewer mentions of the Sabbath in the New Testament is interesting, but I do not think that discounts it. We find daily rest in Christ, not just once a week. Jesus was raised on the first day of the week so that we may be free and rest daily in Him.
History of the Sabbath
     In Virginia in 1610 the first of the blue laws was passed. A blue law is a law that places certain restrictions on different things. This law said that anyone who did not follow certain laws on Sunday would be deprived of food allowance for a week, and if he did it again, then he would lose food allowance for a week and be whipped. If he offended again, he would be put to death. This was America. Even George Washington got in trouble for traveling on Sunday to a worship service. Different blue laws were enacted to address different things, among them prohibition of work, recreation, travel, sweeping, making beds, even kissing!  The blue laws also banned the selling of certain things, such as alcohol and housewares like pots and pans. Some of these laws still exist today. The selling of alcohol on Sundays is still prohibited in 14 states.
          The blue laws have been deteriorating. Today, the Sabbath is included as a day of work, not rest. We do go to church, and maybe rest some, but most of us still cook or work or something similar. How can we keep the Sabbath Holy today? It is hard to keep the Sabbath Holy in today’s world. An old movie, Chariots of Fire, has a runner who wishes to race, but the big race falls on Sunday, so he refrains from racing that day. What about our race today? Can we refrain from our hectic race in order to give one day out of seven to the one true God? He is the ultimate Deity, we should give Him all our days, so why is one so hard?
        So the question now is, how can we give the Sabbath to God, besides going to church? We can start with doing as little as possible. Maybe instead of cooking, heat up leftovers, the same concept as when God instructed the Israelites to save extra food on the sixth day. Instead of doing dishes, why don’t we use plastic plates and utensils? Why don’t we get our extra work done on Saturday so we can devote Sunday to God?
      Here it gets a bit fuzzy. Do not think that I am saying that you just play all day because that is not my point. What I am saying is that instead of simply refraining from doing those things that would violate the intent of the Sabbath, use that time to pray and read the Bible and get to know Jesus. That doesn’t mean the rigorous study for 24 hours straight. You can do whatever you do to feel close to God. Some people feel close to God riding horses. Some feel close to God hiking. The point is to spend time with God to get to know Him better, and one of the best ways is to look at His Creation. So you can go ride your bike on Sunday, if that’s how you feel closer to Him. But the point isn’t to have “distractive fun” all day like playing video games or going to a party; it is to clear your day to be with God, one day out of seven for Him, in the ways that bring you closer to know His heart for you. That is the greatest fun that can be found in this world and the next!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dangers of the American Culture (Revisited)

   I walked down the aisle looking for a movie to rent. From among the different titles, a few stuck out to me. The one that stopped me in my tracks was titled “Satanic.”

   Why was a movie called “Satanic”? The more I thought of it, the more it perplexed me. As I continued the aisles of the video rental store, more titles and covers stood out to me. Some of them were inappropriate, some were just plain horrible. I then realized how awful the American media was becoming, and it inspired me to write a three part article on the dangers of American Culture.

    Now, almost a year later, I have decided to revisit the subject. I feel that the American Media is worsening, and teenagers all over the world are being influenced by it, and not for the better.

   I myself have fallen in this trap, as I stated in the first part of the original series. To be completely honest, I have played, and yes I must admit, enjoyed video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed. Now, I’m stepping back and looking at what these games actually are. The former is a charade of killing and using various weapons to kill police officers. The latter is a bloody affair that is made up of assassinations and brutal battles.

   Video games and movies can be very bloody. However, there is a couple of other types of dangers found in these too (and sometimes in music as well). Some of these things have crude and inappropriate jokes in them, and sexual themes are common in movies today, even movies directed towards teenagers. Another one is profanity. So much profanity takes place in movies rated higher than PG, it’s shocking.

    These things are found so much in American Culture it is scary. Not only that, but they are found in American teenage culture even more. In fact, there is so much, I feel like we are being desensitized to it.

   My mom likes horses. She grew up with one, and likewise I grew up around horses (even though I live in the city, we went out to the country a lot). Horses can be scared by the silliest things, such as Wal-Mart bags and rambunctious kids. So we do what we call desensitizing. We wave tarps around the horses and do other things, but slowly, building up from shaking a bag a few yards away to flying a tarp over their heads. We do this so that the horse will get used to these items, so when we are riding they barely notice them.

     Teenagers in America today are being desensitized through the media. We are getting used to violence, gore, profanity, and sexual themes.  For example, I was watching a movie that many teenagers enjoy. I had to quit because it was just too inappropriate. I looked it up on Google. One review site said you should be 11 to see it. Some other people said 8 year olds can see it, and that it wasn’t very inappropriate. I was shocked. Are we really so desensitized that this doesn’t seem inappropriate? Has it gotten so bad we don’t even notice these things anymore?  Could these people have voiced what thousands of teenagers all over the country think day by day? Here is what Paul Asay, a Christian movie reviewer, says about the movie:

Dirty jokes and double entendres about intercourse and virginity abound, as do references to sexual body parts. The police captain says he's raising a bisexual son. Suggestive language implies that somebody's watching some sort of cartoon porn on his laptop. Prostitution and pimping are talked about quite a lot… Almost 50 s-words—not counting the expletives embedded in the background music. We also frequently hear such words as "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "d‑‑n," along with misuses of God's name (including one pairing with "d‑‑n").”

            Profanity. Gore. Horror. Sexuality. All of these are so common now. It frightens me. Teenagers are being desensitized to evil and impure things, myself included. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praise worthy-think about such things.” Could people assassinating each other be called noble? Is profanity considered pure and lovely? Are inappropriate and sexual things right? Are movies titled “Satanic” true and admirable? There answer to all these is no. And if the American media says that these are true statements, then could it be better to just stay out of the media? Especially for Christian teens all over America?

    Bear with me for a moment. This may sound radical, but due to the evidence I have just given, not only in American teenage culture, but in myself as well, wouldn’t it be reasonable to not indulge in these earthly pleasures? Would it be better to keep your mind pure? For after playing assassin’s creed I find myself thinking about bloody things. We are influenced by what we choose to expose ourselves to. And I have been on both sides (I was a “late bloomer” and wasn’t exposed to profanity or gore or sexual themes, specifically in the media, until I was a bit older) and honestly, I wish I had stayed pure, for I was much happier then. It may be difficult, but could it be better to limit what music we listen too? What video games we play? What movies we see? Instead of desensitizing ourselves to the things of this world so they become normal, what would happen if we chose to turn from them? So when we see it actually happening, instead of being so desensitized that we don’t care, we are shocked and reminded of the evil of the world. Is it too much to ask to limit ourselves?

    The answer many teenagers, and Christian teenagers, give to this question is yes, it is too much to ask. I myself didn’t want to give up these things, until just recently God opened my eyes to them, and I decided to only watch PG movies (and only mild PG-13, If at all), listen to pure music, and play video games that exclude the sexual and gory things. For, just as Philippians 4:8 says, focus your mind on pure things. And after focusing on some impure things, I have found that it is not better for me, and it pollutes my mind. So now, I’m going to take a leap of faith. I am going to focus on pure things that uplift me and bring me closer to God, not things that draw me further from Him. I am going to keep my mind free of toxic pollution.

    Are you ready to take that leap? To trust in God and keep your mind pure? If you are not sure, just try it for a little while, maybe a week or a month. See what happens. If you don’t want to continue, that’s fine. But if you find yourself more pure and you like that way, keep on going. Romans 8:5-6 says this: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” I’m challenging you to a month of only seeing PG movies, only playing E video games, to not listen to music with profanity and sexual themes. This is what I call housecleaning. Cleansing your mind of impure things, and instead filling it with things that please God.

Are you ready?