Why should we question what we believe?

As Christians, we are supposed to have a firm foundation in Christ. But do we know what our foundation consists of? Have we ever stopped to consider what we have simply accepted from our peers and  authorities as the truth? I don’t agree with everything that my friends, family, or even my church tells me  is right. I’m not being opinionated or stubborn about it; I’m just being analytical, in the sense of figuring  out why I believe what I do.

So why should we question what we believe? Why should we not take everything we hear at face value?  Well, why do we make decisions? We make choices based on what we think is right. Even if we make  the wrong choice, we know why it’s wrong and we know that it is wrong; so we still do it knowing what is right.

It’s the same with questioning what we believe. We question all we’ve known to determine what’s right  and what’s wrong. We don’t want to believe lies; who likes to know that someone’s been lying to them?  But if we don’t question what the world is telling us is true, how do we know we aren’t being lied to?

It wasn’t until this year that I started questioning my own beliefs and started forming my thoughts on what  was right and wrong. It’s important for us to discover what we think is right, so we can grasp that  understanding of why it’s right, instead of believing everything we hear; but our source of information  needs to be the Bible. I can tell you all day long it’s not right to steal, but how will you know if I’m telling  the truth or not? Without the Bible, we have no standards, no guidelines, and no applications for daily life.

Once we know the truths the Bible presents, we can then face the world. With our truths in mind, we need  to analyze what others present as truth. I have grown up in church my whole life. I’ve heard many, many  sermons. I’ve been to contemporary churches and traditional churches. I’ve also heard many different  arguments over the same point. Like contemporary Christian music. This one is a big one for me. Hearing  all these sermons, all these viewpoints, all these arguments, I’ve been exposed to different ideas as to  what’s right and what’s wrong. Obviously, only one is the truth. Only one viewpoint can be right. So then,  how do we determine which one is true? We take the truths from the Bible and compare them to what  we’re hearing.

It’s hard to discern the truth, though. It’s not as easy as comparing what the Bible says to daily discussions.  There are many theologians that disagree with one another on the same points in the Bible. They’re both  talking about verses in the Bible, which we know are true.  But they both can’t be right. So how do we know which one is true?

You go back to the truths you discovered from the Bible. There are some questions we will never have  answers for, and that’s okay. But you need to have answers for the big questions in life. And with these  answers, you can combat all that you know is false.

So now I go into why we shouldn’t take everything at face value. Everybody has ideas they accept as truth, and they will be happy to tell you why they’re right. This is EXACTLY why it is so important to know what you believe and why you believe it.  If you have simply accepted “truth” without understanding why, then you will be unable to defend your beliefs.  They will never stand against the convincing arguments that others can and WILL make and that makes you susceptible to falling for falsehoods that can lead you in a wrong direction.  I believe that that is why so many young Christian people “fall away from the faith”.  They have never taken the time to work through their beliefs and are not grounded enough to withstand the lies of the world when they are old enough to make their own decisions.

We need to question what we’ve grown up with as well. Nobody has all the answers, not even your  authorities. Therefore, if we never question what we’ve accepted as our own beliefs, we could very well be  believing lies. I know some people who follow exactly what their parent’s beliefs are. They never are willing  to accept any other viewpoints on anything, and they are positive that their parent’s ways are correct  without stopping to ponder it, and they reiterate what they’ve been taught when faced with questions.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with questioning your parents’ ways; you should always trust your  parents – they’ve been around a lot longer than you. But stop and think about what you have accepted as  your own belief. If you don’t determine for yourself what is right, you will never realize why you believe  what you believe. Don’t believe what you do just because someone tells you to. Analyze it, ponder it,  determine if it matches up with the Bible. Then base your beliefs on your conclusion. This isn’t meant to  be an excuse to rebel against authority; we are to “be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no  authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  (i.e. parents) Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has  instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Rom. 13:1-2) I’m just saying to  determine your own beliefs on what someone, anyone, says is true, that you may fully understand the  foundation you have set for your faith, and you may be a better testimony to Christ, the One you believe in.

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The Christmas Lie

My goal in this blog is not to run people down, to preach at them, or to make them do something just  because I said they should. My goal is to share things I’ve learned, to encourage and build up other believers, and be an arrow pointing to Christ. But in the process, I want to bring light to the lies we’ve  deceived ourselves with, big or small. I want to discover truth.

So I want to bring out the (obvious) lie we tell ourselves when it comes to Christmas. We tell ourselves that Christmas is the time of year we’re supposed to set aside to remember that Jesus came to earth as  a baby and was born in a stable. We do the Christmas plays, sing the Christmas hymns, read the  Christmas story. But what have we actually taken to heart?

Christmas has turned into a selfish tradition where we make it into a materialistic party, satisfying our greed.  People make their “Christmas lists”. They attend parties. Then they stress out because they have all these  gifts to buy and it’s two days until Christmas. And we haven’t even realized what we’ve done. Now, I have done all of these things, and none of them are wrong in themselves. But we’ve put our greed, self, and  wants where Christ should have been all along. “Christmas” means “More Christ”. What we’ve turned it into is “Stuffmas”. We focus more on getting and even giving than what God gave to us.

What did God give us? He gave us the key to His kingdom. He gave us light, life, and unending joy. He  gave us power over darkness through His only Son, whom He freely gave for us wretched sinners to be  crucified and slain. And we’ve corrupted the day that this life was brought to us.

We’ve treated this miraculous, undeserved gift with disregard. We’ve neglected this special love and  ignored it to pick up the stress and the chaos and self-focus. Shouldn’t we be ashamed? Shouldn’t we be embarrassed that we – yes, we Christians – have neglected our Savior? What sort of testimony do we  live, that we would take the birth of Christ and use it to gain more stuff?

One of my favorite, overlooked Christmas passages is in John 1. “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world did  not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him… The Word  became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,  who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 9-11, 14)

He came into the world for us; not because we deserve it, but because He was full of grace. And we did  not receive Him. Do we even receive Him today?

Think about that for a minute – His grace. We are so undeserving of this life, and yet He sent His only son to die a cruel, merciless death on a cross, like a common, ordinary thief, to pay the price for what you and I have done to separate ourselves from God. His coming for us truly is an act of grace.

Yes, Christmas is remembering the birth of Christ. We believe that this is what Christmas is about. But do  we act on that belief? Do we honestly remember Him more than what we still have left to buy? I can’t even  admit to doing that. I still work on making Jesus my first love, on putting Him first in everything. But I  believe this is a test of our love, our faithfulness. We need to stop lying to ourselves. Who do we love more: ourselves, or Christ?

Where Does God’s Master Plan And Our Free Will Meet?

God knows all things. He knows how our life will play out. He knows what will happen ten years from now; every choice you make, every step you take. He has a plan for your life. His plan is to make us prosper, to give us hope and a future.

So, if His plan is for us to prosper, how come so many of today’s generation is growing up to commit suicide, commit murders, do dumb stuff, wind up in jail, and eventually die after living a worthless life?

Because of something called free will. We have a choice to choose right over wrong. God’s plan for us is always right; we have the choice to mess it up. Look at the Garden of Eden. God’s plan was for humans to literally walk with Him in a perfect paradise He created for them. But Adam and Eve sinned, they went against His master plan, and marred human life for forever. And they went against His plan for salvation. God desires that every one on earth believe in Him and live with Him forever in paradise. But even so, our world is still filled with atheists, agnostics, and the like. People still reject Him and go against His ultimate plan. God’s plan is perfect, and He doesn’t plan for us to go to hell. We have the choice to either reject Him or receive Him. This is an example of our free will and God’s plan.

God has our life planned out, yes, but that doesn’t include drugs, jail, suicide, etc. He has a prosperous, hopeful future for us, whether we view it as such or not. Yet, He knows what path we will take. He knows if we will choose His way or our own. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. This is why there are so many failures in the world. We reject Him. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:4-5)

Me, Myself, and I

In writing these posts (the published, unpublished, and never-to-be published), I have noticed that so, so many of our sinful actions, thoughts, and words boil down to one point: self. So many of the sins we commit are derived by a self-centered focus.

Why is that?

We are born with a sinful nature; it is naturally in us to do anything to please ourselves, to satisfy the flesh. We’re not perfect and never will be. Yet, though we are born with this sinful nature, there are ways to deal with it. It doesn’t take a genius to know not to play with a prowling lion. Even the most simple-minded people (should) know as much. Therefore, we as humans, in all of our simplicity, should know not to heed the devil’s temptations. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” We should be grounded in the truth, to withstand the fiery darts Satan throws at us. If we are not grounded in God’s word, we cannot stand against any temptation that comes our way.

What does temptation have to do with me being selfish?

Since we are naturally born selfish, we have two options. We can either succumb to it, to give in and indulge in whatever we wish to do to appease ourselves; or, we can turn it around, surrender our sins to the Lord, and oppose ourselves. If we choose to give in, this will only open the door to whatever Satan wishes to throw our way, and there is no escape. If you have surrendered to yourself, there is no way out. But, if we surrender ourselves to Him, then He promises a way out when we are tempted. He is our answer. Aside from Him, we are, and can do, nothing.

But Satan will want us to think we are something. He will want us to feel the need to prove ourselves, or to make a point about ourselves, to make us feel good. This is where self and pride collide. He makes us feel proud about what we accomplish, causing us to forget in Whose strength we accomplished it. So Satan tempts us to turn to ourselves, to rely on our own strength, and to feel proud when we succeed. Temptation has everything to do with selfishness, when you think about it.

What do we do about this selfishness?

What is the opposite of selfishness? Love for others. Think about it: selfishness is loving ourselves, doing what is best for us, what we feel like doing, what would most benefit us. If we loved others more than ourselves, we would put their needs and wants above our own, therefore defying our selfishness. In order to diminish our self-centered attitude, we need to develop an attitude that focuses on others.

How do we develop this love for others? We have to have a sincere desire to put others above ourselves, to want what’s best for them before us. If it’s not sincere, everything you do to “put others first” will be irrelevant. To have a sincere love for others, we have to have a sincere love for Christ. This is something that nobody else can do for you. I can tell you a hundred times a day to love Christ, but that won’t make you do it. It has to come from your heart.

What if we don’t feel like loving others? If you wait until you feel sincere, we may never love others. Sometimes, we have to put the actions first, and let a love grow from the repeated actions.

If you abolish the self-centered feeling in your heart, all other prideful or selfish words, thoughts, or actions will cease. What comes from your mouth comes from your heart. (“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” Matt. 15: 18) A sincere, honest love for Christ will overflow into a love for others. This is also obeying Christ’s commands: “If you love me, you will obey what my commands,” John 14:15. And John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

To sum it all up, there is nothing we can do on our own. You can’t battle your own selfishness without Christ’s help. You can do nothing in your own strength. But we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Phil. 4:13), and with God, nothing is impossible. (Mark 10:27)

Why do I feel so alone?

I absolutely love having friends. I love having people to laugh with, to joke with, to talk to, to hang out with. I love being able to spend time with friends, and I love the ones God has blessed me with.

However, I honestly don’t have many friends, and even fewer that I would call close friends. I have grown to be more discerning in my friend choices, and I have my own standards and criteria for what I look for in a good friend. This has forced me to look at my friends with a different perspective. How many of my friends build me up in Christ? Encourage me to get in the Word? How many of them lift me up and encourage me when I’m in need of encouragement, or in a spiritual rut?

Quite frequently, I feel alone. I often feel like I don’t have anyone I could pour my heart out to. Really there aren’t a lot of people I feel that I could open up to who wouldn’t be tapping their feet, glancing at their watch, and mentally devising an excuse to escape. Every now and then, I wonder if there’s something different about me that makes people avoid me instead of want to be around me.

The answer is yes, there is something different about me. There is a huge difference between me and everyone else. (Not just my warped sense of humor) I am a Christian. I am living in this world, but strive not to be of it. I strive for something far beyond what others hope to gain. I don’t live here just to have fun. I live here to make a difference. My purpose in being here is to be a light to those around me and point the way to Christ. This automatically singles me out as “different”.

When you choose Christ over the world, you take the persecution with it. Persecution doesn’t necessarily mean being tortured or martyred, as many have made it out to be; although they are forms of it. It is defined as, “harassment, maltreatment, bullying, singling out, discrimination”. Of course, being martyred and tortured are the most obvious and cruel forms of persecution, but it doesn’t even have to be that extreme. In Mark 13:13 it says, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Everyone (the world) will hate us because we bear the name of Christ; but the one who stands firm to the end, the one who isn’t defeated by the harassment, discrimination, will be saved from this world of persecution.

This is the explanation for why we are alone. Because we are Christians, the world will hate us. This is what we should expect. This is the cost of following Christ.

Now you cry, “Seriously? Christ wants us to feel lonely and rejected?”

No, Christ does not want us to feel lonely and rejected. He wants us to feel loved and accepted by Him. He wants to draw us in to Himself, instead of turning from Him to gain the world’s acceptance. He doesn’t want us to meet the world’s approval. He wants us to strive for His. To follow Christ means total abandonment to the world, and total surrender to Him. We leave the world to follow Him.

This is hard to accept sometimes. This is hard for me to accept. But He will meet our needs. He is all that we need.

But yes, you will be avoided by the world. It will be harder to find friends, because our standards for life are different; we won’t “fit in”. Because I don’t have a phone, because I don’t have Facebook (like so many kids my age and even younger do), because I don’t attend many of the activities that so many people do, because I don’t dress, act, and talk like everyone else, and because I’m not connected with the world via social media, I don’t have friends like everyone else. But I don’t want that. I don’t want friends like everyone else. I want friends like Christ.

Now, I know that one of the problems I deal with is that I don’t like to meet new people. I don’t like reaching outside of my comfort zone to say hi to the new girl sitting off in the corner. I’m actually kind of shy when I’m around people I don’t know. Therefore, I usually don’t make the effort to reach out to others.

I was really convicted a few months ago, though. A new family started coming to our church, and their two daughters that are around my age are very shy. That was when my conscience started pricking me. Go talk to them, Lauren. Go say hello. I battled with myself, making excuses. No! I don’t even know their names. Besides, I want to go talk to my friends. Maybe some other day. But then I remembered when I first started coming to church, and how for a few months I sat all by myself every week, alone and wishing there was someone to come and talk to me. So I finally quit fighting with myself and have made an effort since to reach out to them like I had wished for when I first started coming.

How are we going to have any friends if we don’t make an effort? This is something I’m terrified at the thought of. I don’t want to go meet new people, I don’t want to reach outside of my cozy comfort zone. And yet, I still have a pity party because “I feel lonely”. Step outside of your comfort zone and say hello to the new kid at church, or the lonely girl off to the side. This is something I’m still working on.

On a closing note, God brings certain people into our lives for certain reasons, even if we can’t see it at the time. I know there have been people in my life to be a friend to me when I had no one, others to build me up in Christ, others for me to encourage in Christ. Whatever the reason, God does place people in your path, whether for you to leave an impact on their life, or for them to leave an impact in yours. But ultimately, God is in control. He knows your needs far before you realize them. He will meet your needs. He is all you need.