Thursday, December 31, 2015

Colossians One

Now, finally getting started on blogging about what I started out to do in the first place--memorize the entire New Testament and learn it by heart. When trying to decide what New Testament book to start out with, I wanted to do a shorter one, like one of the epistles. Colossians stuck out to me as a book of the Bible I didn't know too well. So...I have been in Colossians for about a month. So far...I have memorized the first twenty verses...not too bad. But, there has been two parts in these first twenty verses that have really stood out to me and which God has used to grow me and amaze me. The first one comes from vs. 9-10. It says, "For this reason also, since the day we have heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. The part that really convicted me was in the middle where is talks about Paul praying for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God's will SO THAT they may walk in a manner worth of the Lord. For me, personally, as a a Christian, I have a desire to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, but I often falter at that part. So often, I can be hampered down and over-crowded with worries and temptations, especially to lust, and I end up faltering in sin and feeling guilty. Colossians 1:9-10, though, gives me a way out. I must increase in the knowledge of God. If I am increasing in the knowledge of God, then I am growing in Him, will become more in the likeness of Him, and will walk more blamelessly. This is the hard part, though. It takes a lot of discipline to be in the word every day. This is something I need to work on. I want to be in the word every day, but so often I skip a day or days. Thankfully, I do not have to depend upon my own strength and might. It says a little further down in the same chapter, "strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience joyously." I can depend upon God for the strength to do what He wants me to do--be in His word every day!

The second and last thing that I have been learning in Colossians is related to Christmas and the description of Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20. It states, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or ruler or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church, and he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven." By itself this is a great passage. It is an even better passage, though, in the context of Christmas. The Christmas season has just passed, and it was my one apprehension to not get too caught up in all the gift-giving and really focus on the true meaning of Christmas--the sending of God's Son. So, I would pray for this. As I have been reading and memorizing Colossians, the Lord has really brought to my attention that this very same one who is described in Colossians 1:15-20 is the same Jesus who was sent to the earth in human form. He is the very image of God. All those who saw Jesus here on this earth saw God himself in human form. He created all things. Better yet, all created things hold together in His grasp. He is head of the church, all fullness dwells in Him, and, most of all, he came to reconcile all humanity to Himself through the shedding of His own blood. I am going to give a bit of a spoiler alert and share a verse with you that comes from the second chapter of Colossians, Colossians 2:13-14. It astoundingly says, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven all our sins, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile us; and He has taken it all out of the way having nailed it to the cross. Wow! What a description! It is purely amazing! The law language that is used is magnificent, and yet this is what a baby clothed in a blanket and lying in a manger came to do. Last Sunday, I heard a sermon on Joshua 10, which talked about God holding the sun and moon in place so that His people could have victory over their enemies. And the preacher made the connection that the very same God who has the power to hold the galaxies in place is the same God who humbled himself and became man to humble himself even more by dying on a cross. I can not overstate the miraculousness of this message. It is a message that needs to go across the world, near and far!

My Testimony

Before diving into the journey with you, I felt it necessary to tell you just a little about myself, more specifically, about my testimony. I grew up, like many people these days, in a Christian family. Perhaps, it was this fact and my own stupidity that led me to believe that I was a Christian. Then again, there was the other time that I did one of those pray-a-prayer acts where you "accept Jesus into your heart," and everything's ok after that! For a long time, I was stuck in this quick-sand of sure failure. I would go through the motions so often. I would feel guilty or know that I was not a Christian at times, and then I would cry, confess sin, acknowledge Jesus as Savior, and believe, or so I thought. After a while when I was around 10-12, God made the amazing decision to rock my world. God had been working on my parents hearts to have more children and let Him decide upon the number, and they were ready to commit to doing this. When I heard about it, I was ecstatic and overjoyed! However, miscarriage upon miscarriage upon miscarriage wreaked our whole family. When I heard about the second one, I distinctly remember running up to my room between sobs and getting down on the floor and telling God I still loved Him. But, this wasn't true. If anything, my heart went further and further away from Him. I was frustrated and angry with God and my heart became hardened. Around this time, my rebellion towards God had begun to really manifest itself. As any man knows, getting into the young teen years is a dangerous time for young men. Lust can become a real problem at this age, and it became an all-consuming desire for me. I do not want to go into any specifics or delve deep into my sin at this point; one thing I do know, however, is that God saw all of this, and He saw it all as direct rebellion against Himself. Three years later at 15, God decided to directly alter my life once again. All throughout my life, I have struggled with anxiety problems. Worry has always been part of my nature. As a young kid, I remember worrying about family members arriving safely home at night or getting to sleep on time. But this time, it was something different. I worried about being saved. The worry wasn't something that I just thought about every once and a while; it was something that completely consumed me! I remember trying to do homework and not being able to because my heart was pounding so quickly, and I had butterflies in my stomach. At other times, panic and anxiety would shake me to tear upon tear. I was a mess. However, God, who is a merciful, gracious, loving, great, all-powerful God, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, was working within my heart during this time. I can't exactly pinpoint a specific time when I can say with confidence that I became a Christian, but I can remember one time right around this period. I was reading an assignment for school, and it was a clear presentation of the gospel and why the Son of God would need to come down from heaven and die on a cross. After reading this article, everything seemed to click. It made sense to me why Jesus would have to come down from heaven. Before, I thought that I could have gotten on the cross and died for sinners. After that moment, though, I knew that that was impossible. Only God in human flesh could made atonement for His enemies on the cross. Following this time, my life has changed. I have been able to walk away from some of the lustful practices I did before being saved. Also, I have a desire to be in God's word. Since then, there have been times when I let the doubts and worries of the world crowd in and make me think that I somehow am not saved. But, I can say with confidence that these are all lies and temptations to sin from Satan because I actually am a child and sheep of God! I hope daily to grow in the knowledge of God, and, even more, to grow in the likeness of my perfect Savior. I hope my commitment to memorize the entire New Testament only helps and assists that process!

Why that Title?

The title of this blog, At His Right Hand, comes from a verse in the Bible. The verse comes from the great book of Psalms; it is Psalm 16:11. In the NASB translation that verse says, "You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Hmmm, it says in your right hand there are pleasures forever. Personally, that verse and the language it uses is amazing. The Hebrew word for pleasure that is used in Psalm 16:11 is the word na'iym. This word can stand for several things; it can be physical, outward beauty, sweet sounds, or delight, in and of itself. Altogether, though, this accounts for the only pleasures that we will ever need in this life. God, Himself, is the only thing that we ever need to be happy on this earth. There is so much that we see in this world to try and fulfill our desires for pleasure, though. These temporal items extend anywhere from large 70'' flat-screen televisions, to sporty cars, to iPhones, to apple watches. Whatever it may be, we lust and crave for it, thinking that it and it alone will satisfy all our cravings, longings and desires. Don't get me wrong; these things can be enjoyed as good and gracious gifts from a loving God, but we tend to place them above God as the sole thing that can bring us pleasure. When we get them, they always turn out to be below our pleasure-seeking expectations, and they do not satisfy our cravings for pleasure. Often, when we learn that a certain item has failed to satisfy our demands for pleasure, we go to the next big thing that promises to fulfill all our desires. Maybe, we try upgrading from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 6 plus because we think that a bigger screen will fulfill all of our demands for pleasure. In the end, though, we will end just as we have begun. We still crave, hunger, and thirst for more than anything temporal in this world can bring us; we long for God. If you are reading this and find that it does not apply to you because you are a Christian already, don't think that you can get off the hook so easily. Even as Christians, we have a tendency to try and fulfill our pleasure-seeking demands with something other than God. As Christians, we should be more on guard against these idols of pleasure because they break our communion with God, and we have been given the ability to truly delight and find pleasure in God, having been saved. If this is our tendency and our problem, what is our solution for combating the problem. Well, if God is pleasure and the Bible is about God, then the best place to get pleasure from God is to be in his word.  I can't tell you how much I have begun to realize this this fall. Every summer since it has started, I have been doing something called Bible Bee. It is a program dedicated to getting the next generation of Christian young people involved in digging deep into and memorizing the word of God. It starts with a summer bible study and a few passages to memorize; this past year it was on the first six chapter of the book of John. Going into it, I saw that it was going to be a lot more work than previous years due to some changes they had made. Rather than motivating me to do it even more, this fact made me kind of sluggish in the study. I slumped off on it and wound up cramming a bunch in the final weeks. At the end of each summer of study, there is a test to determine who will go on to Nationals. This past year was the first year that they decided to do it on computers at home. Taking the test I was not as prepared as I should have been and ended up placing below the requirements necessary for Nationals. I was close but not close enough. Being pretty confident that I had made it, I was disappointed to learn I had fallen short. About a month later on a Friday morning, I chanced to get a call. It was the Bible Bee informing me that I had qualified to go to Nationals if I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Thinking over the proposition, I had mixed feelings. Nationals would mean tons of study--a Bible study of John 7-12 that I would have to do on my own and the memorization of 880 Bible verses. Then again, I thought; this opportunity would allow me to dig deep into God's word, hide it in my heart, and grow closer to Him. Being a lover of traveling, I also realized that agreeing to go would mean the excuse to go on a vacation in the middle of the school year to San Antonio, Texas. After some thought and prayer, I made the agreement to do it. This was one decision I will never regret and always cherish. For roughly 2 1/2 months I tried to juggle Nationals study, tons of school, a part-time job, and activities with friends. It was a hard task. At times, I felt frustrated because I was not doing enough Nationals study or trying my hardest. But, through it all, I was growing closer to the One who had saved me. November 15, 2015, two days before my day I would leave for the big contest, I was burned, trying to cram as many more verses as I could down my brain and trying to learn John as well as I could. To my great disdain, I lost focus of why I had begun this journey in the first place. It had been started so that I could grow closer to Him and delight more in Him, not so that I could get all 880 verses! Ready or not, my dad and I set out on our long day of traveling from Arizona to Texas. We flew to Dallas and then drove four and a half hours to San Antonio. Overall, at the contest, I didn't do that well. The written test that I took; I did not score very high on. On the accompanying oral round, I had three passages to recite. I didn't know one of them, butchered the other, and  nailed just one of them. I did not move on to the semifinal round. But...was that my goal in the first place. No! It wasn't! For all that I care, I did it so that I could know my God more. If this was my true goal, then I succeeded amazingly. One of the speakers at Nationals had a great impact upon me. He said that he had committed to memorizing the entire New Testament. THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT! Well, good for him, right? No, as I heard him speak, I wanted to do the very same thing that he had set out to do. Will it take a while? Yes! But, my hope and joy is in the fact that while I am doing it, I will be able to grow closer to God, learn more about Him, and delight in this great pleasure of mine.  So, this is the purpose of my blog. I want to blog about a journey I have embarked upon, a commitment I have made, I promise I have kept to myself about a trail toward trying to know the Word of the Lord more and truly delight in the pleasures that he can give--Himself. I invite you to join in my travel. It is guaranteed to take awhile, but you won't be the same person when you come back!