Throw off the Chains of Lawlessness, Teens

(The puppy here is saying “ah, lawless, of whom I am the worst.”)

Lawlessness. The whole thing fills me with rage at times. I certainly have experience with being lawless, and I ain’t perfect, but for someone who has struggled with doubting the validity of the claims of Christ, lawlessness in the Church and lawlessness in churches across the USA (however real or Bible-believing those churches are) certainly does not help. Yes, it’s the old “hypocrite” tagline of the rebellious rejecting Christ. But… sometimes it’s true.

The sad thing is, despite the new generation of millennials thinking they had it all down, they only find new ways to be lawless. While they criticize “the old people” for being legalistic and uncaring, they are busy watching terrible TV shows, making fun of the righteous, listening to music that flies in the face of what Christianity stands for, making up reasons to justify drinking, making up reasons to justify doing drugs, makng up reasons to justify their lack of a prayer life, and making up reasons to justify their spiritual ignorance. Go ahead. Every other generation did it before you.

What has been is what will be,

   and what has been done is what will be done,

   and there is nothing new under the sun.

Thank you, Solomon.

But. If you want to be different. If you want to prove yourself. If you want to be a real Christian that is a shining example of Christ… Change.

When you look at a TV show, (before getting into the plot) ask yourself “is this good for my spiritual walk?” You could even ask “is this something Jesus would watch and enjoy?” If you have good, Christian parents or grandparents, try to imagine if they would watch it. I know, like, that leaves two shows that are both cheesy and have terrible acting. (Yes, I am talking about When Calls the Heart. I hate that show.) But maybe the point of this life isn’t to watch TV shows and talk to your friends about them (just maybe). Maybe you can find a book, or get into a hobby that doesn’t depend on sinful creators.

When you see people who seem really spiritual, don’t immediately doubt them. Sure, lots of people are proud or plain-old hypocrites. (Take me, for example.) But you might still be able to learn from them. The minute you criticize is the minute you stop learning. Criticism is the enemy of learning. And also the enemy of worship. I feel like I heard that somewhere. Hmm…

When you listen to music, listen to the words. If they swear, you might just throw it out (whoa!). Obviously, popular songs are hard to avoid. But you can push them out of your own life. Here are a few music substitutes if you need something to listen to:

  • Celtic music. You can find this really easily on Spotify or Pandora. Yes, some of the songs have little bits of pagan traditions, and sometimes the words are just weird, but often you can’t hear the words well or they’re in another language. Also, French love songs are nice, because they’re really beautiful, but you don’t know what they’re saying.
  • Jewish music. I specifically listen to The Jewish Starlight Orchestra. Most of the songs are really upbeat and sound very fun and innocent. Most of them are in Yiddish. Don’t tell people you listen to this kind of Jewish music because they’ll look at you weird, but do try it out, you might enjoy it.
  • Native American Whistle. Yay, more pagan music! But seriously, it’s super calming and makes a good background.
  • Good-old classical. I love classical music, and currently it’s kind of hip (so is reading) so jump on the bandwagon and love it.
  • And, if you don’t have an eclectic ear like I do, just go with a good Owl City, or someone even more Christian. There is a ton of good music out there.

Before I get onto the next bit, I want to say that this problem, of the ones listed here, is probably the most frequent rearing of the head of lawlessness in my life. It’s so easy for me to listen to songs that just aren’t good, and I’m trying to work through it. These are my substitutes, and they work good if I can get myself to ignore other music I might want to listen to at the time.

If you have friends who justify alcohol, or if you want to justify it… just don’t. Sure, I can’t nail down what the Bible says about it, and maybe it’s okay if you just don’t get drunk. But alcohol ruins lives. You don’t need it. Drink grape juice. Drink ground-up weeds (if you’d like to substitute for beer). Drink pop. (Hey, we have great pop in America.) And, while we’re on the topic of drinking, don’t get addicted to caffeine. Christ is master, nothing else.

On drugs… You don’t need to go very far to realize that it’s not what Christ wants you doing. Just say no. Hey, Nancy is still relevant today. And probably still wearing Reagan Red in Heaven.

Reagan

Now on to things we should be doing.

Prayer is important. It works. Not really, God works, but you know what I mean. I neglect it  on a daily basis. I know I should pray, but I’d rather listen to a podcast. I know I should talk to God, but I really just want to read before I fall asleep. Here’s how I temporarily get back into prayer (it’s not really a long-term answer, but it works.) I confess my sin. If I’m not really willing to confess a certain thing, I’ll just ask him to teach me about it, to soften my heart, and to make himself real to me. Most of these confessions just end with a lot of crying, so it really softens me up to talk to God more. Then sometimes I remember to pray for other people. So, it isn’t perfect, and I’m not where I want to be, but I am growing and changing and staying being humbled about it.

If you are ignorant about spiritual things, don’t stay that way. Figure stuff out. Read the Word. Choose a short book of the Bible and read through the whole thing in a nice, romantic, sunny afternoon. You might choose Philippians or James or a minor Prophet. If you have more time (which you will, if you free yourself from terrible TV shows in your life), you can even read Ecclesiastes in one sitting or the Gospel of John. Why read books all at once? Well, first of all, it keeps you from having to stick to a daily, list-checking ritual that can get really boring, and it also helps you understand the whole of a passage better. After you start reading, try memorizing (it’s not that hard and there’s something really enjoyable about it).

You don’t have to look like every other worldly teen. You can be different. I can be different. We can change. It may not always be hip. It may not always win you points. But it will be pleasing to God, and if you call yourself a Christian, that should mean something to you.

And, on a personal note, I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal and tell you how you can be like me. I am a terrible person, and that is why I need Christ. I have struggles just like you do, and that’s why I can relate. So, if I come across as proud… well, I guess I am a fairly proud person, probably even more than I realize. But, I’m sorry, and I’m not trying to be mean, just give you what I can.

This is my last real blog post as I will be leaving for the Summer months. Thank you for reading.

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Do you want to meditate on the Psalms for 21 days?

Hello! My cousin, Zach, posted a list on his blog titled 20 Psalms You Can Pray. While I personally think he should have titled it ’20 Prayable Psalms,’ I was still intrigued by this, and have decided to practice praying Psalms. (Too bad the ‘P’ in Psalms in silent, ’cause that could have just been triple alliteration right there.)

And I also thought; why don’t I just ask a bunch of people if they want to do it with me?

As I pondered more, I thought that it would be really neat to memorize the Psalms for and in prayer. But sometimes memorization can just feel like a chore, even though it’s awesome for your brain and good for your spirit. So instead of telling myself to memorize it, I thought I should just stick to meditating on Psalms and then if I happen to memorize some, then that could be a bonus.

Sound good? Here’s what we’ll do.

For three weeks, we will memorize meditate on one Psalm each week. That makes 21 days of Psalm meditation.

What are the chosen Psalms?

Psalm 130, Week One:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
    O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive (read more)

Psalm 3, Week Two:

Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying (read more)

Psalm 138, Week Three:

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down (read more)

They are each eight verses only, so you can focus your thoughts instead of running through a huge, detailed chapter.

Here’s the weekly meditation procedure that I just made up: (Day One would represent Monday and Day Seven would represent Sunday.)

  • Day One: read the passage a few times
  • Day Two: ask how the passage relates to your life circumstances
  • Day Three: write the passage out on paper
  • Day Four: try to imagine the surroundings and circumstances of the author as they wrote it
  • Day Five: read the passage out loud to someone
  • Day Six: pray the Psalm (even if you’ve already done this)
  • Day Seven: read the passage a few times

You can copy paste and print that, or write it down somewhere, or completely disregard it and make your own plan.

If you’re gonna be meditating and praying these Psalms with me over the next three weeks, please comment and tell me. I will post a little update about this at the end of each week to keep you (and myself) motivated.

So go read Psalm 130, then start meditating on it on Monday. You can comment on this post anytime, or email me, or send me a telegram, or fly a banner across the US to share your thoughts on the Psalm.

Oh, one last thing: if this is something you think your friends and family would like to get in on, just share this post on your FaceBook and/or Twitter by clicking the buttons below.

5×5: 5 Tips to Memorize a Verse (A Guest Post By Zachary Pierpont)

This is a guest post by my friend and cousin, Zachary Pierpont, who blogs over at zacharypierpont.wordpress.com, where this article was originally posted. Read More

Discussion: Which has always been easier: prayer or Bible reading?

A lot of people consider prayer and Bible reading to be like the two big spiritual disciplines. And I think that idea makes sense. Reading your Bible is receiving Word from God, and prayer is talking to God. It’s basic communication. Read More

5×5: 5 Verses to Memorize and Preach to Yourself

When things aren’t going the way we want them to go, we have a tendency to talk to ourselves and think about how bad everything is going. Instead of listening to the lies that tumble around our minds in times of weakness, we should reach out to truths of Scripture to comfort us and teach us. Here are five Scripture verses that can be really helpful to memorize and preach to yourself. Read More

5×5: 5 Sources of Joy in God/How to Not Be Sad

Lots of people feel depressed these days. I am a very “rollercoaster emotions” kind of guy, and I’ve definitely had seasons of feeling blue. But I’ve also had seasons of joy. Here are five biblical cures for depression/sadness/bad feelings. Read More

5×5: 5 Bible Passages to Read When You Don’t Want to Read the Bible

For months, reading the Word was a drudgery. And often, it still is. I am in no way saying that there is a super secret power to always loving the Bible. But there were Scripture passages that helped me appreciate the Bible more. These Bible passages can help fix your motives for reading. Read More

True Faith Shows Through Works: A Look at James 2

Awhile ago I wrote a post called “Count it All Joy: A Look at James 1.” You can find that here. Today, I’d like to continue that little Bible study. Please open your Bible to James 2 and read along as I talk about each part. Read More

Wednesday Word: 1 John 2:1-6

This Wednesday I want to share another passage from this book of 1 John. (Last week I shared 1 John 1:5-7, you can see that post here.)

These verses talk about how we have a mediator/advocate with the Father. Because of this, all we need to do is confess our sin to Him! John goes on to say that the way we know we are disciples of Jesus is if we follow His commandments. Examine yourself in the light of this passage. Do you love people?

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:1-6)

God bless you as you “grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

LeviGrant

Studying and Meditating on the Word of God (The Spiritual Disciplines-Part 3)

Today I will cover the last two spiritual disciplines surrounding the Bible. These disciplines are (1) studying the Word and (2) meditating on it. I think these are very similar, but not exactly the same. Studying the Word (I think) is more about checking cross-references, figuring out what things meant in the original language, and using study Bibles and other tools. Meditating on the Word seems to be simpler, and more about direct application. I’ll share some tips I’ve found helpful about each.

How-To Study  the Word

-Use a Study Bible

If you have one, use it, and if you don’t, there are many free resources online. My mom and dad have always used the MacArthur Study Bible, but there are other good ones too. My sister (Lissy) has a nice ESV Study Bible that has contributions from many Bible scholars. When I use one, I use the family Bible, which is a MacArthur. Study Bibles offer things beneath the surface that common people like us would likely miss.

-Use Google

When studying a passage of the Bible, search the reference! You can usually find a ton of interesting things about it with that.

-Look Up Cross-References

Most Bibles have cross-references at the bottom or middle of the page. When studying, go ahead and look these up. They often give good insight into what the passage means.

-Listen to Sermons

There are many great podcasts from good pastors who unpack the Word in an easy-to-understand way. Here‘s a post where I share some podcasts that do this.

-Think Through Things

Ask yourself questions that will help you understand the meaning better. Here are a few:

  • Who was this written to?
  • Why did they write it?
  • Who wrote it?
  • When was it written?

And lastly,

  • How can I apply this?

You can search online to find the answers or look them up in a book.

How-To Meditate on the Word

-Read the Passage Many Times

Take a small passage, and read it over and over. Read it once on one day, once on the next day, and then another time on the day after that. You might get a different perspective for each reading, and you’ll definitely think about the passage more throughout the day.

-Ask “How”

Once you’ve read the passage, look for the “how.” Try to figure out, from the passage, how you can apply it to your life. For instance, at the end of Jesus’ talk about abiding, He says:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

(John 15:7-12)

So, the how of this passage, which tells us how to abide, says “Keep my commandments.” Of course, we could go to other places to answer the how of keeping His commandments, and we could go to more places to answer the how of those passages.

-Apply It

Some people think that two different people can get two (correct) interpretations of the same passage. While I do not believe that’s true, I do believe that two different people can get different applications. This is because of the Holy Spirit. So next time you’re reading a passage, ask the Holy Spirit to apply it to your life (if He hasn’t started already).

-Memorize It

Sometimes nothing works better than just sitting down and memorizing whatever you’re meditating on. The repetition helps, plus the fact that your head is so drenched in the Scripture.

How-To Apply the Word

Applying the Word is essential to growth, and it’s probably the most important spiritual discipline. If you only take this one, many of the others will bloom out of it. So why do I have so little about it here? Because it’s simple. Here’s the basic idea of application:

Look at a passage, and try to understand what it means. Then try to understand what action God wants you to take out of that passage.

Sometimes the action will be as specific as making something right with someone you’ve been at odds with for a while. Sometimes the action is as general as being kinder. In any case, do what you know you should do.

I am not saying one particular passage can have different correct interpretations. I’m saying they can have different applications. Passages mean the same thing, but they can lead everyone to different actions. Take this passage, for example:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

One person may apply this by quitting their high-paying job and moving away to Africa to be a missionary. Another may decide to start tithing from this. Someone else might completely dedicate their platform to promoting the message of Christ. All these applications have the same theme, but they’re all different. See what I mean?

Conclusion

The main difference between meditation and study is this: when studying a passage, you’re going to be pulling from resources apart from your own knowledge. When meditating on a passage, you’ll usually just be pulling from what you already know and trying to contemplate the meaning and the application. In short, meditation pulls from what you already know, and study pulls from what other people know. Obviously, you use much of your own knowledge in study, so meditation fits inside study.

If you only remember one thing from this entire series, this is what I would want that to be:

All disciplines surrounding the Word are about application. If you don’t apply the Word while you’re busy reading it, listening to it, memorizing it, and all that stuff, you fail miserably. His Word is given for change! And if you do not let it change you, you are mocking it and using it to make yourself feel better. God’s power in His Word is realized through applying it to your life.

Many of these things I’ve shared are probably things you already knew, but I hope I’ve helped you understand what meditation and study are, and the difference between them.

God bless you as you seek to walk with Him and let His Word transform you!

-LeviGrant